Yet such people as these often deserve pity as much as blame: they are, perhaps, unconscious of the degree in which habit has made them insensible to the perversion of truth in their statements; and even now they scarcely believe that what seems to them so true should appear and really be false to others. The intellectual effects of such habits are equally injurious with the moral ones. All natural clearness and distinctness of intellect becomes gradually obscured; the memory becomes perplexed; the very style of writing acquires the taint of the perverted mind. Truth is impressed upon every line of Dr. Arnold’s vigorous diction, while other writers of equal, perhaps, but less respectable eminence, betray, even in their mode of expression, the habitual want of honesty in their character and in their statements.
In your case, none of the habits of which I have spoken are, as yet, firmly implanted. A warm temper, ardent feelings, and a vivid imagination are, as yet, the only causes of your errors. You have still time and power to struggle against them, as the chains of habit have not been added to those of nature. But, before the struggle begins, you must be convinced of its necessity; and this is probably the point on which you are entirely incredulous. Listen to me, then, while I help you to discover the hidden mysteries of a heart that “is deceitful above all things,” and let the self-examination I urge upon you be prompt, be immediate. Let it be exercised through the day that is coming; watch the manner in which you express yourself on every subject; observe, especially those temptations which will assail you to venture upon greater deviations from truth than those which you think you may harmlessly indulge in, under the sanction of vivid imagination, poetic fancy, &c. This latter part of the examination may throw great light on the subject: people are not assailed frequently and strongly by temptations that have never, at any former time, been yielded to.
I have reason to believe that, as one of the preparations for such self-examination, you entertain a deep sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and feel an anxious desire to approve yourself as a faithful servant to your heavenly Master. I do not, therefore, suppose that at present any temptation would induce you to incur the guilt of a deliberate falsehood. The perception of moral evil may, however, be so blunted by habits of mere carelessness, that I should have no dependence on your adhering for many future years to even this degree of plain, downright truth, unless those habits are decidedly broken through. But do not, from this, imagine that I consider a distinct, decided falsehood more, but rather less, dangerous for the future of your character than those lighter errors of which I have spoken. Though you may sink so far, in course of time, as to consider even a direct lie a very small transgression of the law of God, you will never be able to persuade yourself