Instinct gave place temporarily to a system of habits, each one of which became contingent, their convergence of which became contingent, their convergence towards the preservation of society being alone necessary, and this necessity bringing back instinct with it. The necessity of the whole, felt behind the contingency of the parts, is what we call moral obligation in general - it being understood that the parts are contingent in the eyes of society only; to the individual, into whom society inculcates its habits, the part is as necessary as the whole.
Sentiment and principle are often mistaken for each other, though, in fact, they widely differ. Sentiment is the virtue of ideas; principle the virtue of action. Sentiment has its seat in the had; principle, in the heart. Sentiment suggest fine harangues and subtle distinctions; principle conceives just notions, and performs good actions in consequence of them. Sentiment refines away the simplicity of truth, and the plainness of piety; and "gives us virtue in words, and vice in deeds."
With our finite minds we cannot presume to know if there is a Purpose. We sense, however, the presence of something greater than we can comprehend, a force as yet unknown to us - perhaps even to be unknown. So we accept our situation, learn from it, and do the best we can, resting on faith, despair, or cynicism, depending on the individual. Overriding all this must be an obligation - self-imposed or externally impressed - to do the best one can for others, to relieve suffering and to exercise compassion. We are all in this together, for life is a common, not an individual, endeavor.
Your awareness of your self-worth is not a contradiction to the obligation to be humble. Humility is not a lack of awareness of your positive accomplishments and abilities. Only a fool is not aware of what he really is an this is not humility. Humility is the internalized awareness with every fiber of your body that everything, yes everything, you have is not your own. Rather it is a gift from the Almighty who bestowed His kindness on you. The more a person actually feels that what he has is a gift the greater is his humility.
Life in this world is a very important reality, but it is not the ultimate reality... True growth in this world always calls for a dying to my own sinfulness, individualism and selfishness so that I might come closer to my true self in relationship to all others and to God. Thus, in the end, life and death are not diametrically opposed. Life involves a dying and dying is a way of life.
I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure personages is the only thing that can lead us to fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always irresistibly tempts its owners to abuse it.
There is no man but for his own interest hath an obligation to be honest. There may; be sometimes temptations to be otherwise; but, all cares cast up, he shall find it the greatest ease, the highest profit, the best pleasure, the most safety, and the noblest fame, to hold the horns of this altar, which in all assays, can in himself protect him.
All times are great exactly in proportion as men feel, profoundly, their indebtedness to something or other... A feeling of immeasurable obligation puts life into a man and fight into him, and joy into him.
In the highest selflessness lies the greatest power. Ultimately, neglect of duty is due to selfishness. Because of selfishness we omit the good and commit the bad. Selfishness makes us shrink from the fulfillment of our life-task. The humble person with integrity has no trace of selfishness, his self-sacrifice is not obstructed by egotism. He is always ready to use the last spark of his energy and the last fiber of his being in doing good. He feels he has been granted life only to use his every breath for the energetic fulfillment of the good. His entire sojourn on earth, regardless of the length of its duration, is true living. When he has departed from the world, one may say of him: He was alive.