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THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST. On separate points we may be deceived, but the entire harmony and consistency of Christian virtues can never mislead us in the judgment we form of our own character. Let -us sit down, then, to this matchless picture, let us fill our minds with its beauties, and then copy it touch by touch. More especially let us follow those parts of the example which we should naturally be most ready to omit. Above all, let our character be amiable and natural; let our religion be easy and engaging; let us implore more feryently the grace of the Holy Spirit to assist us; let us acknowledge with shame our continual defects ; let us rely on the atonement of our Lord for pardon and acceptance before God: and let us eagerly desire the time, when we shall be perfect, as our Father which is in heaven is perfect, and be like our Saviour, because we shall see him as he is.
THE FORCE OF HABIT.
JEREMIAH, XII. 23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leo
pard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Such are the emphatic words in which the force of evil habit is described by the inspired Prophet. The sinner, drawn on by a long course of transgression, and involved in the labyrinth and toils of corrupt usage, becomes at length hardened and incorrigible. A deceived heart turns him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ? It cannot fail, therefore, of being a most important subject to endeavour to trace out something of the process by which men arrive at this fearful state, to describe the general nature of our habits as moral and accountable beings, to give a specimen of the various dangers to which they expose us, and to warn those of their · peril, who are insensibly advancing to the brink
of the precipice. I therefore propose to enter on the subject in the present discourse; with the design, under the divine blessing, of awakening the secure and careless sinner from his fatal lethargy, of enforcing on him the necessity of an immediate and thorough conversion, and of showing the extent and magnitude of that work of almighty gracę, by which the habits of sin and sensuality are made to give place to those of Christian obedience and holiness. Let us then consider,
I. The nature of our habits generally.
II. The consequences arising from sinful habits in our fallen state.
III. The extent and magnitude of that conversion to God which is therefore necessary,
Habit is an aptitude or disposition of mind or body acquired by the frequent repetition of the same act. What we have done once, we do a second time with more ease and readiness. As we become accustomed to the performance of any action, we have a proneness to repeat it on like occasions, the ideas connected with it being always at hand to lead us on and direct us; so that it requires a particular effort to forbear it, but to do it demands often no conscious act of the will at all. This sensibility to the
power of habit is a part'of our original constitution as framed by our Creator, for the wisest and most beneficent purposes. We are formed to contract a facility and bias by use and exers cise. To describe, indeed, the phenomena of this remarkable principle of our nature fully and in detail, would be difficult; but its gene-' ral features are sufficiently obvious.
Habits of body are produced by repeated external acts, as agility, gracefulness, dexterity in the mechanical arts. Thus the arm of the labourer is hardened for toil, and the hand of the mechanic is practised for skill: the racer acquires his swiftness, and the wrestler his strength. Habits of mind are formed by the repeated exertion of the intellectual faculties, or the inward practical principles. Thus the powers of apprehension, memory, imagination, reason, attention, acquire force in proportion as they are exercised. Hence the advances of man in the finer arts and the more profound sciences; the triumphs of the scholar or the metaphysician over the most difficult depart. ments of literature, or philosophy; the commanding ascendency of the orator or the statesman overthe feelings, the affections, and the opinions of mankind. To the class of mental habits belong the moral virtues, as obedience, charity, patience, industry, submission to law, self-government, the love of truth. The inward
practical principles of these qualities, being repeatedly called into exertion, and acted upon, become habits of virtue : just as, on the other hand, envy, malice, pride, revenge, the love of money, the love of the world, when carried into act, gradually form habits of vice.
Habit is in its own nature therefore indifferent to vice or virtue. If man had continued in his original righteousness, it would have been, what the merciful Creator designed it to be, a source of unspeakable moral strength and improvement. Every step in virtue would have secured further advances. The understanding would have proceeded to unlimited degrees of light, to extraordinary quickness of perception, and correctness of judgment; the will would constantly have been directed by truth and goodness; the affections would progressively and indefinitely bave increased in purity, fervour, and expansiveness; the appetites would have obeyed and followed the superior faculties; whilst the body, trained and strengthened by habitual temperance, would ever have proved the active and ready minister of the virtues of the soul.
To what point man might at length bave reached by the effect of use and experience thus acting on faculties made for enlargement, it is impossible to say, and it is vain to inquire. For we are lost creatures. Woe unto us, the crown