34. An acquaintance with these princi• pies leads us to the direct method of con firming associations which are essential to our well-being ; suppose, for instance, the connection of a regard to the will of God, with our conduct, we should endea vour to connect as much as possible those pleasurable feelings which have a tenden cy to strengthen the links of union ; we should cultivate the connection by fre quently and continually bringing it into action, and we should carefully cultivate those related states of mind which have a tendency to foster and strengthen the con nection. To avoid weakening it, we should be careful not to associate any contrary trains of ideas (for instance, we should never attach feelings of ridicule with any thing connected with religion), and should carefully avoid those breaks in the associ tion which will follow neglect in its culti vation. And it is a most satisfactory idea, that if vicious associations may be formed so strongly as to lie beyond the power of the individual to annihilate them, virtuous associations may also be formed so strong and permanent, as to bid defiance to time and to temptation. These shall survive the wreck of nature, and shall adorn the mental fabric, when this world, and all its sorrows and enjoyments, shall be no more.
2. Disunion of Connections.
35. As connections are necessarily form. ed, and frequently without any volition on the part of the individual, by the before mentioned circumstances, it is another very important law of the associative pow er, that these connections are not inde structible.—We observe then, that an as sociation may be destroyed either by the formation of other contrary associations, or by the repetition of it being in some way or other prevented. Thus, for in stance, if we wish to destroy the associa tion by which we have attached ideas of merit to those spurious ideas of courage which lead a man to sacrifice the life of a fellow man, and perhaps the happiness of several, to the dictates of offended ho nour, our aim must be to associate all the dreadful consequences of his conduct with the conduct itself; to call to mind the in jury to society, resulting from the viola tion of its laws and the deprivation of an useful member ; the injury resulting to the connections of the individual from the cruel breach made in their peace, and among their means of happiness ; the in jury to the individual himself, by hasten• ing him, unprepared, into the presence of his Maker, with this additional act to an swer for : even the injury to the avenger, by cultivating the feelings of resentment, by loosening the restraints of passion,may be added to the already numerous evils resulting from this exercise of private re venge. These, frequently brought into view, would destroy the incorrect associa tion which we had formed ; would asso ciate demerit instead of merit with the oonduct of the duellist ; and attach the idea of merit strongly to him who nobly resisted the opinion of the world of ho nour, and declined obedience to the laws which it imposes, where those laws were in contradiction to the laws of his conscience and of his God.—So, in numerous other
instances, where an association unfortu nately exists in the mind unfavourable to the formation or exercise of good disposi tions, it may be weakened gradually in deed, but certa•ly weakened, and at last destroyed, by the steady culture of oppo= site associations. That conduct to which pious benevolence prompts may acquire so attractive an appearance, that ideas of difficulty, of pain, of ridicule, which may have been attached to it, and which may have impeded its exercise, will gradually give way to those which the divine appro bation affords, of present peace and future happiness.—But there is not always time for this slow procedure. It may be ne cessary, for individual happiness, that the baneful association should be destroyed, without one repetition of it to confirm its power. To the general culture of oppo site associations must then be added a steady careful prevention of the introduc tion of the connected ideas. Situations must be avoided, words disused, company shunned, which have a known tendency to introduce a train of thought leading to the first link of the chain which we wish for ever separated.
36. When we hold it out as a grand law of association, that connections may be disunited by forming opposing asso ciations, and by preventing their repeti tion, we would by no means represent it as in general an easy, or as in all cases a practicable task.—When associations have been long formed, and often repeated, particularly where they accord with the general bias of the mind, they often bid defiance to the most strenuous exertions of the individual. If he could for a long time prevent their repetition, and suc cessfully cultivate opposing associations, the most inveterate associations Auld by degrees loosen their power ; but when associations have been strengthened for a long period of time, by being frequent ly brought into play, and connected with other active associations, and at the same time accord with the prevailing disposi. tion of the mind, the prevention of their repetition, and the culture of opposingas sociations, is scarcely practicable.—These things may be viewed in various lights, some gratifying to the mind, some which must urge every thoughtful person to shun the formation and culture of those associations which he must some time or other wish to break. While they teach us to be assiduously careful to prevent all such, they also shew us that those which we must wish to cherish may, as well as others of a contrary character, become invincible ; and while they direct those who have the care of the young careful ly to cultivate those tendencies to feeling and action, that is, those associations which may serve as a check upon impro per associations, while they direct them carefully to prevent those which may ac quire a despotic rule in the mind, to the destruction of peace and virtue, they also diminish the anxiety which we are some times prone to feel, when we find our selves unable to mould them exactly to that standard of thought and feeling which we wish.