« ElőzőTovább »
ON THE FORMATION OF GOOD HABITS.
This is the next of the obligations which we owe to ourselves. It arises from the consideration of man's being susceptible of advancement in moral excellence and in happiness. It has been from a wise and gracious design that he has been rendered capable of forming habits,—and since he is so much the creature of habit, it is of infinite importance that this law of his nature should be turned to good account. Hence, the end of education should be, not merely the communication of knowledge—this is but one of its advantages, but the training of the mind, the calling forth of good dispositions, and the suppression of the bad, and the formation of those habits that will prepare for the successful discharge of the duties of life.
It is impossible to enumerate here the different habits to the formation of which we should give our attention. But there is one that has so direct an influence on our religious and moral improvement, on the equanimity of our temper, and on the permanence of our happiness, that I cannot forbear mentioning it ;-I mean industry. This is of the greatest value to man in regard to every thing that tends to elevate him in goodness, in greatness, or in happiness. It is industry that has brought forth from the earth its riches, that has extracted from its bosom the materials requisite for accomplishing its own purposes, that has erected on its surface not only comfortable but elegant habitations, that has procured the luxuries as well as the necessaries of life, that has so multiplied its treasures as to allow a portion of the community to disengage themselves from the labours of the field, and give their attention to the sciences, to the useful and ornamental arts. It is industry that has converted so great a portion of the earth into fruitfulness, that has enabled the same being who once plied in his canoe, fearlessly to circumnavigate the globe, and to make even the great deep bear on its bosom the mighty engines of his power;—that has raised arround us in the beauty and magnificence of architecture, in the unbounded utility of the arts, and in the progress and sublimity of science, so many monuments of the ingenuity and intellectual strength of man, and that sweeps away all the barriers that might hinder him from running the noble career of indefinite improvement.
All is the gift of industry,
PRUDENCE, OR A SUITABLE REGARD TO SELF-HAPPINESS.
This is the next obligation which man owes to himself; and in connexion with his religious and moral improvement, it is one of very great importance. Its violation is not less criminal than is the breach of those duties which he owes to God, or to man; and when suffering, as the consequence of its violation, he himself, and every spectator, pronounce him to be deserving of suffering for his folly and indiscretion. Nor is the remorse merely a sentiment of regret for having missed that happiness which we might have enjoyed. We are dissatisfied, not with our condition merely, but with our conduct; with our having forfeited by our own imprudence what we might have attained. Hence it is that the imprudence that attends the commission of sin is no inconsiderable aggravation; and that its guilt is increased by the circumstance of our hazarding our present and future happiness *.
In this respect man has a duty of the most solemn importance and awful consequence to perform to himself-a duty which the will of his Maker, the voice of conscience, the high and immortal destination of his nature, render imperiously binding. His prospects stretch far beyond the horizon of time, and extend to that futurity which the Creator has assigned to his being and enjoyment. Impressed with the greatness of those objects that have a reference to his nature, not as an animal that has a temporary connexion with this earth, but as an intellectual, moral, spiritual and religious being, capable of advancing in indefinite improvement, and who is to live for ever,--should he not conduct him. self and his plans so as to subserve their attainment ? Is it wise or prudent in him so egregiously to miscalculate, as to satisfy himself with inferior and fleeting gratifications, to the neglect of the greatest and enduring happiness ?.
• Stewart's Outlines, p. 280,
If, indeed, man were only to live for the few hours in which he dwells on earth, it would be unnecessary to give his pursuits a higher aim than the enjoyments of this short existence; and his wisdom might consist in acquiring that share of virtue which may be deemed requisite for the full participation of earthly happiness, regardless of every attainment which had an aspect beyond the grave. But man is immortal, endowed with the powers and susceptibilities which shew him to be formed for an endless existence; and the measure of moral and spiritual excellency which he attains now, will have an influence on his happiness in eternity. And being thus destined by his Creator for immortality, and being formed so as to be the instrument of his own eternal happiness or misery, constituted a moral agent and an accountable creature, no sacrifice can be deemed too great, and no efforts too laborious, to attain the approval of his Supreme Governor and Judge.
We are not left to the deductions of reason on this subject ;—though even these go far to point out the high destiny and duty of man. A Divine Messenger from heaven has diffused around us the light of heavenly truth; has given us the knowledge of ourselves and of that future existence that awaits us; and has rendered earthly objects comparatively trivial, by extending our view to the grandeur and glory of invisible realities. As the objects, which the darkness of night magnifies, appear in their proper dimensions when the light of the morning shines, so the pursuits of time, and the confines of eternity, assume a new aspect, when illuminated with the rays of that moral sun which has brought earth and heaven into nearer view, and which points out to man the glory and immortality of his being. It is not till we thus contemplate human nature in the interesting relations which it bears to God and to an endless existence, that we can feel the force and the solemn import of the question,
" What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" or, “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
There are, indeed, some situations in which the force of this inquiry is more likely to be felt than in others. When placed in circumstances which largely minister to pride and vanity, the mind is in danger of becoming insensible to the most impressive views of its chief good; and dazzled with the perishable glories that surround it, as if there were no higher sources of enjoyment to which it might aspire, it practically forgets the near approach of their termination, and the value of that state of being into which it is about to enter. But when the enchantment vanishes, and the world begins to recede from the view, and eternity occupies its proper place in the field of vision, in what a different light are the objects of time, and religion, and the soul contemplated, and how novel are the feelings and the sentiments which engage the heart! Go to the house of mourning, surround the bed of sickness and of death, hear the impressive attestations of the value of religion on the confines of eternity, witness the departure of the soul into the unseen world,