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thought and consideration, the voluntary denying ourselves many things which we desire, and a course of behaviour far from being always agreeable to us, are absolutely necessary to our acting even a common decent and common prudent part, so as to pass with any satisfaction through the present world, and be received upon any tolerable good terms in it; since this is the case, all presumption against self denial and attention being necessary to secure our higher interest, is removed. Had we not experience, it might, perhaps speciously, be urged, that it is improbable any kind of hazard and danger should be put upon us by an infinite Being, when every thing which is hazard and danger in our manner of conception, and will end in error, confusion and misery, is now already certain in his fore-knowledge. And indeed, why any thing of hazard and danger should be put upon such frail creatures as we are, may well be thought a difficulty in speculation, and cannot but be so till we know the whole, or, however, much more of the case. But still the constitution of nature is as it is.) Our happiness and misery are trusted to our conduct, and made to depend upon it. Somewhat, and in many circumstances a great deal too, is put upon us, either to do or to suffer, as we choose. And all the various miseries of life which people bring upon themselves by negligence and folly, and might have avoided by proper.care, are instances of this; which miseries are beforehand just as contingent and undetermined as their conduct, and left to be determined by it.
These observations are an answer to the objections against the credibility of a state of trial, as implying temptations, and real danger of miscarrying with regard to our general interest, under the moral government of God; and they shew that, if we are at all to be considered in such a capacity, and as having such an interest, the general analogy of Providence must lead us to apprehend ourselves in danger of miscarrying, in different degrees, as to this interest, by our neglecting to act the proper part belonging to us in that capacity. For we have a present interest, under the government of God which we experience here upon earth. And this interest, as it is not forced upon us, so peither is it offered to our acceptance, but to our acquisition, in such sort as that we are in danger of missing it, by means of temptations to neglect, or act contrary to it; and without attention and self denial must and do miss of it. It is then perfectly credible that this may be our case, with respect to that chief and final good which religion proposes to us.
Of a State of Probation, as intended for Moral Discipline and,
FROM the consideration of our being in a probation state, 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 dificulties. 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 helonging 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 alloted a condition, out of which so much wickedness and misery, so 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
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 importance 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 distinetly 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 circumstances. 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 had 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 condi. tion; 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 notice, 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 particular 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 capable, 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
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. However, 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 powers of memory 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 nieans of their having been there before, seems a thing of the same sort as readiness in any particular kind of action, proceeding from being accustomed to it. And aptness to recollect practical 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 involuntarily 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 if all other associations of ideas not naturally connected, might be called passive hábits, 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 car. rying 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, i. e. inward act; for such intention is an act. (Resolutions also to do well are properly acts. And endeavoring 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 other's 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 passsive 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. Perceptions of distress in others is a natural excitement, passively to pity, and actively to relieve it; but let a man set himsell 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, considered not as a passion, but as a practical principle of action, will strengthen; and whilst he passively compassionates the distressed less, he will acquire a greater aptitude actively to assist and befriend them. 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, i. e. to forming an habit of acting with a constant view to it. And this seems again further to shew, that passive impressions made upon our minds by admonition, experience example, though they may have a remote efficacy, and a
ery great one, towards forming active habits, yet can have this efficacy no otherwise than by inducing us to such a course of action; and that it is, not being affected so and so, but acting, which forms those habits; only it must be always remembered, that real endeavors to enforce good impressions upon ourselves, are a species of virtuous action. Nor do we know how far it is possible, in the nature of things, that effects should be wrought in us atonce, equivalent to habits, i. e. what is wrought by use and exercise. However, the thing insisted upon is, not what may be possible, but what is in fact the appointment of nature; which is, that active habits are to be formed by exercise. Their progress may be so gradual as to be imperceptible in its steps; it may be hard to explain the faculty by which we are capable of habits throughout its several parts, and to trace it up to its original, so as to distinguish it from all others in our mind; and it seems as if contrary effects were to be ascribed to it. But the thing in general, that our nature is formed to yield, in some. such manner as this, to use and exercise, is matter of certain experience.
Thus, by accustoming ourselves to any course of action, we get an aptness to go on, a facility, readiness, and often pleasure in it. The inclinations which rendered us averse to it grow weaker; the difficulties it not only the imaginary but the real ones, lessen; the rea. sons for it offer themselves of course to our thoughts upon all occasions, and the least glimpse of them is sufficient to make us go on in
course of action to which we have been accustomed. And practical principles appear to grow stronger absolutely in themselves by exercise, as well as relatively with regard to contrary principles, which, by being accustomed to submit, do so habitually and of course. And thus a new character in several respects may be formed, and many habitudes of life net given by nature, but which nature directs us to acquire.
III. Indeed we may be assured, that we should never have had these capacities of improving by experience, acquired knowledge and habits, had they not been necessary, and intended to be made use of. And accordingly we find them so necessary, and so much intended, that without them we should be utterly incapable of that which was