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dulgence, ostentation, fear of man, love of praise, ambition, discontent, covetousness, mingles in our temper and conduct, and mars both our comfort and our usefulness. And whence is all this ?-habit, perhaps without our own consciousness, governs us.
We have gradually accustomed ourselves to a low standard of piety. We are habituated to the routine in which we move, and are not anxious for a sphere more elevated. To alter the whole course of our religious habits, and rise to a higher and purer order of attainments, would be an effort too arduous, too painful. I put this general case strongly, because I believe there are thousands of estimable persons who might be stimulated to vastly greater improvements in religion, if they could but be led to suspect themselves, and to examine the defects of the entire system on which they proceed.
To impress this consideration the more, let us notice the influence of habit on our DEVOTIONAL DUTIES. How is it that private prayer is often so cursorily performed, so briefly, so coldly? How is it that we have so faint an impression of the presence of God, so little solemnity, earnestness, humility? How is it that we suffer so many interruptions to impede our due discharge of the duty? How is it that we can be satisfied with having performed it, though there bas been little fervour, little con
trition of heart, little exercise of faith, of love, of hope, of joy? How is it that we can yield at times to the temptation of omitting it altogether? In family and public prayer, again, what can account for the indifference which frequently steals over us, for the wandering of our thoughts and affections, for the absence of
true and deep feeling? In confession, in sup• plication, in thanksgiving, we follow the devo
tional formularies of our church; but with how
i ask myself, whether in this vital point, some unfavourable habit has not crept upon us? I would ask whether our devotions exbibit that I ardour and delight and humiliation which are 1 characteristic of the real and eminent saint? Da would ask whether we do not sometimes startil on discovering the extent of our declension i from our “ first love” and early fervour?' I. would ask whether any thing short of the power-1" ful, influence of babit, co-operating with the 3 remains of our corrupt nature, could have produced a decáy so deplorable, or have blinded. :o our minds to its guilt and danger? Wit in ?
But I go on to another topic, THE MANAGEMENT OF OUR GENERAL CONCERNS IN LIFE. Has no wrong usage established itself in the performance of some of the numerous duties to which we are called? I speak not of particular errors to which the best are liable, nor of those infirmities which attend the execution of our purest purposes. But I speak of courses, wrong and improper in their very principle. I speak of those practices which we cannot defend, if we come out from the trammels of usage, and appeal simply to the rule of God's law; and which, though they may relate to small things as- we think, are yet decidedly unfriendly to moral discipline of mind and conduct. Is there no way of wickedness in us, to use the language of the text, wbich we do not forsake, only because negligence and inattention have made it habitual? Whatever we do in word or deed, do we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus? Do we aim, with the Apostle, at whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report? Do we-exercise ourselves to have a concience void of offence towards God and towards man? Can we say, Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace
of God, we have had our conversation in the world? Do we follow the obvious, plain, extensive, beneficial rule of our Saviour, Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them? Do we apply this maxim to all our dealings? Do we place ourselves in the situation of those with whom we are concerned, and then simply act, as we should reasonably wish them to have acted? Is there no art, no selfishness, no want of perfect candour, openness, honour, and integrity in our transactions? Do we maintain the same strictness of conduct, in secret as in public, in matters comparatively trifling as in affairs of monient? It is perfectly surprising how frequently persons, who may on the whole' be considered as sincerely religious, "are yet betrayed into considerable faults in these or similar respects. The first failure happens unguardedly. A repetition of it in one or two instances blunts their moral perception, and prepares the way for further lapses: till what was at first a scarcely 'perceptible deviation from the right path, becomes at length' a labyrinth of crror, equally perplexed and dangerous.
If,' again, we inquire what is the cause of so many inconsistencies in the orier of CHRISTIAN FAMilies, the reply must be the same, Habit, working on a corrupt nature. The whole mould and complexion, the manners, and general
management of many households, betray the silent influence of practices begun without intention, and continued by the effect of use and custom. I speak not of the omission of family prayer, or other obvious duties, because I am addressing sincere Christians, and therefore cannot suppose the existence of such irregularities ; but I speak of faults in the conduct of the domestic circle, which, though less palpable, are scarcely less reprehensible; of the bad tempers,—the discontent,--the disorder,--the insubordination, the indolence, the extravagance,--the love of company, dress, or amusements,--the unseasonable hours,--the waste of time,--the deficient observation of the Sabbath, —the unforgiving spirit,--the haughtiness to: wards inferiors,--the use of vain books,-of which too many pious farnilies afford instances. Even in these particulars, I am not to be understood as charging on Christian heads of families any such particular or gross defects as would be inconsistent with a supposition of the general sincerity of their religious profession. But I simply beg leave, to ask, if it is not possible that many very unhappy babits may, in a great degree, have sapped the life and spirituality and simplicity of religion in our families. I ask if we are walking in our house in a perfect way? if, like Joshua, unseduced by the example of