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deemer. No inferior, no less elevated motives, will actuate the whole man, and impel him to a steady and consistent course of exertion. Here, and here only, lies, if I may so express myself, the whole art and mystery of practical holi
I have now considered the subject before us under the two divisions I proposed ; but, before I conclude this discourse, I think it proper,
I. TO INTERPOSE A CAUTION, for which some of the preceding remarks may possibly give oca casion.
For there may be a danger lest those remarks should be so misinterpreted as to excite needless scruples or despondency in some tender and conscientious minds. Despair is the enemy of all exertion; and, when scruples ou matters really indifferent harass and perplex the conscience, the effect is often rather unfavourable to a progress in practical religion than otherwise. I would therefore observe that we are not to suppose that every occasional error or infirmity amounts to what we have been considering as an evil habit; for imperfection cleaves to every Christian in this world. Nor are we to conclude that we are declining in religion because the first warmth and vividness of our religious impressions have in some measure worn off.
“ Passive impressions,” says Bishop
Butler, " by being repeated grow weaker, whilst practical habits are formed and strengthened by repetition. Active habits may be gradually forming and strengthening by a course of acting upon such and such motives and excitements, whilst these motives and excitements themselves are less sensibly felt. Active principles therefore, at the very time that they are less lively as to our perception of them than they were at first, are found to be somehow wrought more thoroughly into the temper and character, and become more effectual in influencing our practice. Perception of danger, for instance, naturally excites fear which is a passive habit, and caution which is an active one: by being inured to danger habits of caution are gradually increased, at the same time that those of fear are proportionably lessened. Perception of distress in others is again a natural excitement to pity which is passive, and to beneficence which is active, but let a man set himself to attend to, inquire out and relieve distressed persons, and he cannot but grow less and less sensibly affected with the various miseries of life with which he must become acquainted, when yet at the same time, benevolence as a practical principle of action will strengthen. So also, at the same time that the daily instances of men's dying around us give us daily a less sensible passive feeling or
apprehension of our own mortality, such instances greatly contribute to the strengthening a practical regard to it in serious men; that is, to forming a habit of acting with a constant view to it.”
It should appear therefore that our religious impressions may be expected to become somewhat less intense and lively, in proportion as we become more familiar with them, whilst at the same time, if we are carrying these impressions into act, our Christian virtues will be still growing more confirmed and vigorous. This suggestion may afford considerable relief to a timid and conscientious Christian.
Such a Christian, however, will endeavour to remedy this particular effecť of use on our passive habits, and to assist his sensitive by his rational and spiritual nature. He will aim at correcting this unfavourable action of a general and most beneficial law of our being. He will no more surrender himself to the mechanism of his frame, than to the impulse of his passions *. He will endeavour to revive his original impressions of religious truth by a deeper sense of his obligations to his Saviour, by a more frequent recollection of the grounds on which those obligations rest, by prayer for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and by a diligent use of all the
* See Dr. Paley on 1 Cor. ix. 27.
other means of grace; thus in every way striving that, by the blessing of God on his exertions, his faded affections may be revived, bis piety re-animated to its former warmth; and that the stupendous truths of revelation and redemption may again stand exhibited to his mind in all the freshness of a first discovery,
II. In the next place I would deduce from the subject which we have been considering, AN IMPORTANT LESSON ;—that of CHARITY as to others and of HUMILIATION as to ourselves.
In judging of our Christian brethren we can scarcely exercise a CHARITY too exuberant. The consciousness of our own defects and the remembrance of the astonishing force of habit even in good men, should check all basty opinions of others, and should lead us to put the most favourable construction upon their actions. We know little of ourselves, and much less of our neighbours. We are no fair judges of their duties, their temptations, their early prepossessions, their designs, their circumstances. Perhaps, in their situation, we should have fallen into habits still more questionable than those which we censure in them. There still
be in them a divine life, little as we think of it -Lateat scintillula forsan. If God bears with them, surely we may. A tender and charitable spirit is, at any rate, far more likely to amend
them, if they are indeed wrong, than the language of austere, peevish, or imperious censure.
Instead, then, of harshness towards our fellow Christians, let us each learn HUMILIATION as to ourselves. O, what cause have we for shame and self-reproach! How defective are we as to the improvement of our moral and religious faculties! The best of us are still, as it were, unformed, unfinished creatures ; deficient and unqualified, from a want of knowledge and experience, for that mature state of life, which was the end of our new creation. Let us then prostrate ourselves before the throne of our Saviour. Let us not only talk of humility, but really feel that we are mere children and infants in understanding and holy habits. Let us unreservedly repose our hope only on the sacrifice and merits of our divine Lord. Let us contrast his infinite grace with our utter unworthiness. Let us cultivate an unaffected lowliness and teachableness of heart; and thus aim at discovering and confessing our various unfavourable habits of mind or conduct.
But we must not stop here; a lesson of charity and humility is not enough; I must be allowed, in the last place,
III. To ANIMATE THE CHRISTIAN TO NEW
REMAINING EVIL HABITS.