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matters that are not only inconvenient, but even painful, habit so reconciles us to them, or rather entangles us so closely with them, that we recur to them merely because they are habitual. I need not specify instances. They will press upon the recollection of the most casual observer, whether they consist of irregularity as to time, of awkwardness as to movement, or of pain self-inflicted. The habits may have originated in accident, and been continued from inattention to their growing ill consequences; but, when those consequences are at length perceived, they have been by long familiarity worn into our very nature. Now if such be the effect of habit, that it renders what was originally indifferent at length agreeable; and what is inconvenient and sometimes painful so familiar, as even to be necessary; what must be its effect, where we are prompted to the use by the desire of indulgence; and where we continue the practice, because we have found it productive of delight? Yet this is obviously the case with amusement extended to dissipation; with pleasure distorted into vice, and with every other species of unallowed and excessive gratification. Although the repetition may at length cause satiety, and although the effects may have become perceptibly inconvenient or even pernicious, yet the remembrance of former gratification still supplies a relish, where the sense of actual enjoyment is weakened; and, whatsoever distaste may have arisen from the want of novelty or variety, yet it must be remembered that, in every such case, the delight arising from rational gratification or virtuous practice has been long renounced.- So that the disrelish to good more than keeps pace with the growing distaste to evil.-In such an unhappy ease, all the original defect of our nature, and all its acquired propensities, concur in riveting that chain, which entwines so fast on other occasions, but, in practices of idleness or pleasure, flings indissoluble fetters upon its victims, and dooms them to intolerable bondage.That inherent defect in our moral constitution, “ whereby man is
from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil” •, produces facility in yielding to temptation, and smooths the approaches to sin.—The gratification derived from the indulgence, of whatever kind it is, whether from the pursuits of ambition, the acquisition of wealth, or the indiscriminate and inordinate love of pleasure, induces us to repeat the transgression and prolong the guilt, till at last we are familiarized with error and enamoured of folly. The habit of disregarding God's laws has “ grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength; the voice of conscience has been too long stifled; and now, when she begins to upbraid more loudly, our ears have become so blunted by reiterated acts of commission as well as omission, that we listen to her warnings and her reproaches with stupid indifference or stern inflexibility. If better feelings arise within us; and no doubt the grace of God will put into the mind good desires, will encourage it to resist that unhappy and wilful indisposition to the good pleasure of the Almighty, as well as our own true happiness ;
a Art. IX.
yet 'habit has acquired such strength, and in the exercise of its tyranny is so disposed to exert it, that it opposes itself with fatal success to these kindly suggestions of the Spirit, and leaves us powerless and enfeebled under every accustomed indulgence and every new temptation.--In fierce and avowed opposition to the law of God, in which the inward man delights ;-that law, which diligently studied, is really so agreeable to our reason, and when conscientiously practised, so delightful to our feelings; habit, baneful habit becomes “ another law in the members, warring against the law of the mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin.”—Well then may the unhappy man, who has been brought into hopeless captivity by this uncontroulable power of habit,—well may he exclaim in the affecting language of St. Paul; “ O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” a
This pathetic exclamation brings me naturally to the second head, upon which I proposed to treat ; namely; what are the most effectual correctives, if any correctives can be effectual, in such dangerous cases ?
If such correctives are ever to be found, (and I have already warned you that the difficulty is extreme,) they are to be found in the recollection and re-inforcement of those religious feelings and principles, which were once implanted in the youthful mind; although by negligence, by bad example, by compliance with foolish and even wicked fashion, by a selfish devotion to the world, by a perpetual round of giddy dissipation, or by a resolute addiction to guilty pleasure, they may have lost their influence, and for a time been obliterated. The difficulty, I repeat, is extreme; the occasions most rare, I fear, when a return to good can be effected after a long perseverance in evil.
a Rom. vii. 24.
“ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
Yet, though the difficulty be extreme, and the occasions so unfrequent, the good Spirit of the Most High is ever mighty to save, ever ready to extend His merciful protection to them who are on the point of perishing, especially if His aid be invoked in some precious moment of contrition. Some providential occurrence may be interposed in a case seemingly most desperate. Some sudden and fearful calamity may awake the most unthinking ; some awful visitation in his own person may bring him to the gates of death; some unexpected bereavement may affect him in the persons of those, whom he holds most dear; some frightful effect of his own heedless folly may appal him; some tremendous ruin caused by wild extravagance or unprincipled debauchery may flash conviction over his mind.—He starts into reflection, as if awakened from a dreadful dream; he perceives how, by the baneful power of habit, he has been led insensibly from one act of transgression to another; from casual guilt to premeditated; from involuntary to wilful; from mere negligence to determined sin; from some desire of good attractive to himself to repeated acts of ill inflicted upon others.--He finds
himself upon the brink of a precipice; he contemplates the abyss yawning beneath.-Then it is that his heart recoils with affright; then it is that he calls to mind the long forgotten lessons of youth. Then it is that the solemn truths, and awful denunciations of the Gospel strike upon his affrightened senses.— Then it is that he feels the enormity of his guilt and the full extent of his danger--and then it is that he smites upon his breast, and bitterly laments that he had ever forsaken the law of his God. These tokens of reviving reflection, these symptoms of awakened contrition, are beheld with joy by the angels in heaven. The Holy Spirit is already at hand to improve them by matured and more cheering recollections; by a renewal of the inner man ; by suggesting the delights of virtuous practice; the still, but sweet, approval of a satisfied conscience; but, above all, by unfolding the hopes and displaying the promises of the Gospel; the efficacy of repentance, the assurance of faith, the merits and the mediation of a crucified Redeemer. Such consolatory aid to the struggles of sincere repentance, such support to the reviving efforts of an humble but genuine faith, will be afforded by the operations of Divine grace, if the heart be happily touched in time to invoke and implore it; if it be smitten with due compunction for its past transgressions ; and truly resolved to make of itself the painful but necessary effort to burst at once through the chains, in which it has been so long enthralled. -For the effort, if made in the genuine wish for amendment, must be made at once and vigorously. There must be no compromise with habits of sin; no