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And from hence results a rule of life of confiderable importance, viz. that many things are to be done, and abstained from, solely for the fake of habit. We will explain ourselves by an example or two. A beggar, with the appearance of extreme distress, asks our charity. If we come to argue the matter, whether the distress be real, whether it be not brought upon himself, whether it be of public advantage to admit such applications, whether it be not to encourage idleness and vagrancy, whether it may not invite impostors to our doors, whether the money can be well spared, or might not be better applied ; when these considerations are put together, it may appear very doubtful, whether we ought or ought not to give any thing. But when we reflect, that the misery before our eyes excites our pity, whether we will or not; that it is of the utmost consequence to us to cultivate this tenderness of mind; that it is a quality, cherished by indulgence, and soon stifled by oppofition: when this, I say, is considered, a wise man will do that for his own fake, which he would have hefitated to do for the petitioner's; he will give way to his compassion, rather than offer vio. lence to a habit of so much general use.
A man of confirmed good habits will act in the same manner without any consideration at all.
This may serve for one instance : another is the following. A man has been brought up from his infancy with a dread of lying. An occasion presents itself, where, at the expence of a little veracity, he may divert his company, set off his own wit with advantage, attract the notice and engage the partiality of all about him. This is not a small temptation. And when he looks at the other side of the question, he sees no mischief that can ensue from this liberty, no Nander of any man's reputation, no prejudice likely to arise to any man's interest. Were there nothing farther to be considered, it would be difficult to show why a man under such circumstances might not indulge his humour. But when he reflects that his scruples about lying have hitherto preserved him free from this vice; that occasions like the present will return, where the inducement may be equally strong, but the indulgence much less innocent ; that his scruples will wear away by a few transgressions, and leave him subject to one of the meanest and most pernicious of all bad habits, a habit of lying whenever it will serve his turn: when all this, I say, is considered, a wise man will
forego forego the present, or a much greater pleasure, rather than lay the foundation of a character fo vicious and contemptible.
From what has been said may be explained also the nature of habitual virtue. By the definition of Virtue, placed at the beginning of this chapter, it appears, that the good of mankind is the subject, the will of God the rule, and everlasting happiness the motive and end of all virtue. Yet in fact a man shall perform many an act of virtue, without having either the good of mankind, the will of God, or everlasting happiness in his thoughts. How is this to be understood ? in the same manner as that a man may be a very good servant, without being conscious at every turn of a particular regard to his master's will, or of an express attention to his master's interest ; indeed your best old fervants are of this sort ; but then he must have served for a length of time under the actual direction of these motives to bring it to this : in which service his merit and virtue consist. • There are habits, not only of drinking, swearing, and lying, and of some other things, which are commonly acknowledged to be habits, and called fo; but of every modification of action, speech, and thought. Man is a bundle of ha
bits. There are habits of industry, attention, vigilance, advertency; of a prompt obedience to the judgment occurring, or of yielding to the first impulse of passion ; of extending our views to the future, or of resting upon the prefent ; of apprehending, methodizing, reasoning; of indolence and dilatoriness; of vanity, selfconceit, melancholy, partiality; of fretfulness, suspicion, captiousness, censoriousness; of pride, ambition, covetousness; of over-reaching, intriguing, projecting. In a word, there is not a quality, or function, either of body or mind, which does not feel the influence of this great law of animated nature.
II. The Christian religion hath not ascertained the precise quantity of virtue necessary to falvation.
This has been made an objection to Christianity; but without reason. For, as all revelation, however imparted originally, must be transmitted by the ordinary vehicle of language, it behoves those who make the objection to shew that any form of words could be devised, which might express this quantity ; or that it is possible to constitute a standard of moral attainments, accommodated to the almost infinite diversity
which subsists in the capacities and opportunities of different men.
It seems most agreeable to our conceptions of justice, and is consonant enough to the language of scripture, * to suppose, that there are prepared for us rewards and punishments, of all poffible degrees, from the most exalted happiness down to extreme misery; so that “ our labour “ is never in vain;" whatever advancement we make in virtue, we procure a proportionable accession of future happiness; as, on the other hand, every accumulation of vice, is the “ treas “ suring up of so much wrath against the day “ of wrath.” It has been said, that it can never
*“ He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; « and he which foweth bountifully shall reap also bounti« fully.” 2 Cor. ix. 6.-" And that servant which knew his “ Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did accord“ ing to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes ; but he “ that knew not, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Luke xii. “ 47, 48.-" Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to « drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I « say unto you, he shall not lose his reward;" to wit, intimating that there is in reserve a proportionable reward for even the smallest act of virtue. Mark ix. 41.-See also the parable of the pounds, Luke xix. 16, &c. where he whose pound had gained ten pounds, was placed over ten cities ; and he whose pound had gained five pounds, was placed over five cities.