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upon this subject, it is one of so much importance as to deserve a more particular and distinct consideration.
We all know that habits are formed by repeated acts, and that every faculty is invigorated by exercise; this is eminently true respecting the Will. Let a child be suffered for sometime to do as he pleases, and we see him become heady and violent, indignant at the least opposition, and de-. termined to pursue every object that strikes his fancy. Nor is it absolutely necessary that the object be naturally desirable; the will can lend it attractions by the mere act of choosing it, though before indifferent. And in things pleasing in themselves, it is an infusion of self-will which often gives them an additional relish. Nay, what is still more strange, such is the malignant potency of this principle, that it can transform even misery itself into something more desirable than happiness, when flowing from obedience and due subordination. “ Better (says satan) to reign in hell, than serve in
heaven.” It must therefore be highly dangerous for
a creature, naturally depraved, to be left without restraint; and should we consider political government in no other light than as a moral discipline, it would be found of no small importance,
The chief misery of man is, that he is set up for himself, affects to be his own lord, and would act in disdain of all authority whatsoever. To reclaim this spirit, and reduce it to a proper submission, is one happy tendency of a well-ordered policy. Under such a regimen a man finds himself perpetually controled by salutary restrictions, and is obliged at every turn to yield up his own to the will of his lawful superiors. Thus he acquires a habit of proper subjection, and the frowardness of his nature becomes partly corrected.
Nor is the prince or chief magistrate, in a limited government like our own, deprived of this advantage arising from a submission to just authority; for though there is no other branch of the state to which he is responsible, he is still under a regular control from the laws and constitution of the country; an advantage which may serve no
less to secure his own virtue, than it is neces. sary to the safety and welfare of the people.
Again : To man, as he is now disposed, an unrestrained liberty (to omit the danger arising from it to his future happiness) would contribute much less to his present enjoyment than might at first be imagined. Persons who can do as they please, are often at a loss to know what they would please to do; half their time is wasted in idle suspense, and the other in wandering from one design to another, without prosecuting any to good effect; and all that satisfaction which arises from a useful plan of life early adopted and successfully pursued, is commonly lost by those who are not strictly confined to their object by the authority of their superiors, or the urgency of their circumstances : hence it is often seen, that younger brothers, who are obliged to apply themselves to a profession, pass more comfortably through life than the heir of the family; who, from being left to indulge his own humour, becomes capricious and restless, uneasy to himself and to to all around him.
. There are few situations more undesirable than that of a man left to himself, and condemned to rove in his own uncertainties*. As in taking a journey, when we have to cross a spacious plain, the eye after a while grows weary with wandering, the spirits become feeble and scattered, and we are glad to enter an inclosed country that presents us with objects on which both the eye and the mind may rest, and be refreshed; so in the journey of life, those parts which confine us to definite and allowable pursuits, are commonly more agreeable than others where we are left to roam at large.
Further: If we compare a condition of moderate subjection with what is looked upon in the world as a state of independence, the former will appear preferable for these twoʻreasons; first, because it is less liable to anxious deliberation; and secondly, because it is less responsible for consequences. When a man's conduct is prescribed to him
* It is finely observed by Tacitus of the Armenians, after they had thrown off the government they were under, that they became, incerti, solutique, et magis sine domino quàm in libertate. An. lib. 2.
by his lawful superior, he has nothing to do. but practically to attend to it, provided what is enjoined be neither contrary to any divine command, nor to any law of immutable morality; whereas he who has others and himself at his disposal, is frequently subject to the perplexity of dubious counsels, and to the uneasiness arising from the consideration, that he is answerable for every measure he adopts, and for every command he imposes. All this must be felt by every man of principle and reflection; and should bis conscience happen to be delicate and scrupulous, must sometimes be felt by him in a manner very painful and distressing*.
# If we consider this, we shall not wonder to find many persons in the Romish church committing them selves to such as may direct them in ambiguous cases. When a tender conscience unites with a diffidence of temper, it naturally seeks repose in this way. As the danger however is great of mistaking its guide, and as those men who are best qualified for so difficult an office will be the least forward to undertake it, the Protestants have properly dismissed, with other peculiarities of popery, this scheme of direction, as more likely to be abused to the stupifying of conscience, than improved to the relief of groundless scrupulosity.