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Of a State of Probation, as intended for Moral

Discipline and Improvement.

From the consideration of our being in a probationstate, of so much difficulty and hazard, naturally arises the question, how we came to be placed in it. But such a general inquiry as this would be found involved in insuperable difficulties. For, though some of these difficulties would be lessened by observing, that all wickedness is voluntary, as is implied in its very notion, and that many of the miseries of life have apparent good effects, yet when we consider other circumstances belonging to both, and what must be the consequence of the former in a life to come, it cannot but be acknowledged plain folly and presumption, to pretend to give an account of the whole reasons. of this matter; the whole reasons of our being allotted a condition, out of which so much wickedness and misery, só circumstanced, would in fact arise. Whether it be not beyond our faculties, not only to find out, but even to understand, the whole account of this ; or, though we should be supposed capable of understanding it, yet, whether it would be of service or prejudice to us to be informed of it, is impossible to say. But as our present condition can in no wise be shewn inconsistent with the perfect moral government of God; so religion teaches us we were placed in it, that we might qualify ourselves, by the practice of virtue, for another state, which is to follow it. And this, though but a partial answer, a very partial one indeed, to the inquiry now mentioned, yet is a more satisfactory answer to another, which is of real, and of the utmost impor-tance to us to have answered the inquiry, What is our business here? The known end, then, why. we are placed in a state of so much affliction, hazard, and difficulty, is, our improvement in virtue and piety, as the requisite qualification for a future state of security and happiness.

Now, the beginning of life, considered as an education for mature age in the present world, appears plainly, at first sight, analogous to this our trial for a future one; the former being, in our temporal capacity, what the latter is in our religious capacity. But some observations common to both of them, and. a more distinct consideration of each, will more distinctly shew the extent and force of the analogy between them, and the credibility, which arises from hence, as well as from the nature of the thing, that. the present life was intended to be a state of discipline for a future one.

1. Every species of creatures is, we see, designed for a particular way of life, to which the nature, the capacities, temper, and qualifications, of each species, are as necessary as their external circumstan

Both come into the notion of such state, or particular way of life, and are constituent parts of it. Change a man's capacities or character to the degree in which it is.conceivable they may be changed, and he would be altogether incapable of a human course of life and human happiness; as incapable, as

- if, his nature continuing unchanged, he were placed in a world where he bad no sphere of action, nor any objects to answer his appetites, passions, and affections of

any sort. One thing is set over against another, as an ancient writer expresses it. Our nature corresponds to our external condition. Without this correspondence, there would be no possibility of any such thing as human life and human happiness; which life and happiness are, therefore, a result from our nature


and condition jointly; meaning by human life, not living in the literal sense, but the whole complex notion commonly understood by those words. So that, without determining what will be the employment and happiness, the particular life of good men hereafter, there must be some determinate capacities, some necessary character and qualifications, without which persons cannot but be utterly incapable of it; in like manner as there must be some, without which men would be incapable of their present state of life. Now,

II. The constitution of human creatures, and indeed of all creatures which come under our notiee, is such, as that they are capable of naturally becoming qualified for states of life, for which they were once wholly unqualified. In imagination we may indeed conceive of creatures, as incapable of having any of their faculties naturally enlarged, or as being unable naturally to acquire any new qualifications ; but the faculties of every species known to us are made for enlargement, for. acquirements of experience and habits. We find ourselves, in partieular, endued with capacities, not only of perceiving ideas, and of knowledge or perceiving truth, but also of storing up: our ideas and knowledge by memory. We are capablo, not only of acting, and of having different momentary impressions made upon us, but of getting a new facility in any kind of action, and of settled alterations in our temper or character. The power of the two last is the power of habits. But neither the perception of ideas, nor knowledge of any sort, are habits, though absolutely necessary to the forming of them. How ever, apprehension, reason, memory, which are the capacities of acquiring knowledge, are greatly improved by exercise. Whether the word habit is applicable to all these improvements, and, in particular, how. far the

and of habits may be powers of the same nature, I shall not inquire. But that perceptions. come into our minds readily and of course, by means of their having been there before, seems a thing of the same sort, as readiness. in any


of memory

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particular kind of action, proceeding from being accustomed to it. And aptness to recollect practicat observations of service in our conduct, is plainly habit in many cases. There are habits of perception, and habits of action. An instance of the former, is our constant and even involuntary readiness in correcting the impressions of our sight concerning magnitudes and distances, so as to substitute judgment in the room of sensation, imperceptibly to ourselves. And it seems as all other associations of ideas, not naturally connected, might be called passive habits, as properly as our readiness in understanding languages. upon sight, or hearing of words. And our readiness in speaking and writing them is an instance of the latter, of active habits. For distinctness, we may consider habits as belonging to the body or the mind, and the latter will be explained by the former. Under the former are comprehended all bodily activities or motions, whether graceful or unbecoming, which are owing to use ; under the latter, general habits of life and conduct, such as those of obedience and submission to authority, or to any particular person ; those of veracity, justice, and charity; those of attention, industry, self-government, envy, revenge. And habits of this latter kind seem produced by repeated acts, as well as the former. And in like manner, as habits belonging to the body are produced by external acts, so habits of the mind are produced by the exertion of inward practical principles ; i.e. by carrying them into act, or acting upon them, the principles of obedience, of veracity, justice, and charity. Nor can those habits be formed by any external course of action, otherwise than as it proceeds from these principles ; because it is only these inward principles exerted, which are strictly acts of obedience, of veracity, of justice, and of charity. So, likewise, habits of attention, industry, self-government, are, in the same manner, acquired by exercise ; and habits of envy and revenge by indulgence, whether in outward act or in thought and intention, io. e. inward act; for.

such intention is an act. Resolutions also to do well are properly acts : And endeavouring to enforce upon our own minds a practical sense of virtue, or to beget in others that practical sense of it which a man really has himself, is a virtuous act. All these, therefore, may and will contribute towards forming good habits. But, going over the theory of virtue in one's thoughts, talking well, and drawing fine pictures of it, this is .so far from necessarily or certainly conducing to form an habit of it in him who thus employs himself, that it may harden the mind in a contrary course, and render it gradually more insensible, i. e. form an habit of insensibility to all moral considerations. For, from our very faculty of habits, passive impressions, by being repeated, grow weaker. Thoughts, by often passing through the mind, are felt less sensibly; being accustomed to danger, begets intrepidity, i. e. lessens fear; to distress, lessens the passion of pity ; to instances of others' mortality, lessens the sensible apprehension of our own. And from these two observations together, that practical habits are formed and strengthened by repeated acts, and that passive impressions grow weaker by being repeated upon us, it must follow, that 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, by proportionable degrees, growing less sensible ; i. e. are continually less and less sensibly felt, even as the active habits strengthen. And experience confirms this ; for active principles, at the very time that they are less lively in perception than they were, are found to be some how wrought more thoroughly into the temper and character, and become more effectual in influencing our practice. The three things just mentioned may afford instances of it. Perception of danger is a natural excitement of passive fear and active caution ; and by being inured to danger, habits of the latter are gradually wrought, at the same time that the former gradually lessens. Perception

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