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is hazard and danger in our manner of conception, and will end in error, confusion, and misery, is now already certain in his foreknowledge. And, indeed, why anything 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 show, that, if we are at all to be considered in such a capacity, and as having such an interest, the general analogy of Pro.vidence 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 neither 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 Improvement. 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 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, 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 of it, is impossible to say. But as our present condition can in nowise be shown 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 distinctly show 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.
I. 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 Ecelene
against another, as an ancient writer expresses it. Our vermod nature corresponds to our external condition. Without this 1.5? correspondence, there would be no possibility of any such
thing as human life and human happiness; which life and
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 power of the last two 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 means 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 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 if 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 exertions of inward practical purposes ; 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 an 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 endeavouring to force 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 a 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 a habit of insensibility to all moral considerations. For, from our very faculties of habits, passive impressions, by being repeated, grow weaker. Thoughts, by often passing through