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constant pursuit of all holy conversation and godliness. This will become at length a fixed habit, and will be accompanied by a sacred ambition of improvement, which, enlarging its prospects in proportion to its progress, will correspond with the unlimited increase of the capacities of the soul through every period of an endless existence.
THE FORCE OF HABIT.
PSALM CXxxix. 23, 24. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try
me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked
way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. SELF-SUSPICION is necessary to our growth in grace. The influence of habit, acting on the corruption of our nature, and aided by the temptations around us, is perpetually tending, either to seduce us back into sinful or doubtful practices once abandoned, or to form us by imperceptible degrees, to some new course of spirit or condnct unfavourable to our progress in Christian knowledge and virtue. Even in the best persons, the force of this tendency is so great, and its operation so insidious, as to expose them, without a continual watchfulness on their part, to the greatest dangers. It was evidently under a deep sense of this truth, that the Psalmist uttered the prayer in the text. Filled with apprehension lest some improper habit should insensibly have been formed in his
life and character, and feeling the utter inability of bis own unassisted efforts either to detect or to expel the latent evil, he fervently implored the aid of that divine grace which alone could sufficiently enlighten his understanding and fortify his holy resolutions: Search me, O God, and know my heart; "try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any
in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. The subject is of the greatest practical importance, and calls for the most serious attention. In contemplating it, let us consider,
I. The operation of unfavourable habits on true Christians.
II. The means of preventing the formation of such habits, or of discovering and overcoming them when formed.
We begin by noticing,
I, THE OPERATION OF UNFAVOURABLE HABITS ON TRUE CHRISTIANS.
If we examine our hearts and lives with a due diligence, even the best of us will be satisfied that, in too many instances, the force of habit proves prejudicial to our most valuable interests. In some cases, former habits imperfectly subdued, regain a partial ascendancy over us. In others, one or two casual deviations from the strictness of Christian practice, are imperceptibly matured into a system. In order to form
just conceptions on this subject, it may be necessary to consider in detail a few of the points in which the excellence of the Christian character ought peculiarly to display itself, and to inquire how far that obligation is actually fulfilled in the practice of the generality of those who profess' a supreme attention to the concerns of religion.
If, in the first place, we select the most extensive topic which the subject comprises, I mean the Christian's ADVANCE IN GRACE AND IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND Saviour Jesus Christ, it will be easily admitted that nothing can less befit the character of a true Christian than a readiness to acquiesce in his present measure of attainments, and to be satisfied with mediocrity. And yet perhaps there are few of us who are not secretly injured in this way. At the commencement of our religious course, we are anxious to attain, if by any means, to the resurrection of the dead. We proceed a given length in repentance and faith, in love and obedience. But after a period we gradually become less solicitous, and are more easily satisfied with the evidences of our safety. Indolent habits are in some degree formed as to our religious duties and progress. Instead of striving after perfection, we are content to model ourselves by the opinions or practice of such persons about us as have the repute
of piety. It is remarkable that, in the apostolic churches, the Gentile and Jewish Christians, though on the whole sincere and earnest in their Christian profession, yet retained a considerable tincture of the habits of thinking and of acting familiar to them in their unconverted state. Thus in the present day too many of us are Christians, but not saints. We are sincere, but not exemplary. We love our Saviour, but we do not love 'him enough. We cultivate prayer, but we do not sufficiently delight in it. We are separated from the world in the ordinary sense of the term, but we are not crucified to it. We resist the deeds of the body, but we do not thoroughly mortify them. We are alive, but have not our senses, by reason of use, exercised to' discern both good and evil. Our religion is tame, languid, sickly. We flatter ourselves that we are in a safe state. We imagine that we repent truly of sin, are justified by faith in the righteousness of God in Christ, and are living a holy life ; but we are not lively and devout and flourishing Christians; we could not say like St. Paul, This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. On the contrary, we sink at times into a mere form of knowledge and of godliness. Too much of self-will, self-in