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find that they look into their books, or try to settle their accounts: people in these circumstances have been known never to have looked into a book, or kept an account, for years before they failed. Now I would ask whether their affairs went on the better for never looking into-whether the danger was the less for shutting their eyes against it-whether they were longer before they failed-whether they failed in less debts, or whether people were more lenient towards them, or whether their friends were the better for their conduct? and I would also ask whether, if it had been possible to have retrieved their fortunes, it would have been done any other way than by taking up and searching into their accounts? Now this case and that of a sinner are perfectly similar; except in one circumstance, that a man's worldly affairs are often so far deranged, that no future care or diligence could restore them; whereas the sinner's condition is never desperate, while there is life.
This is all to show the use of self-examination. The next inquiry is into the proper subject of it. And upon this head I shall confine myself to a small part of what might be delivered, in order that this small part may be remembered. Now every one that has attended at all to mankind has observed, and very justly, that the better part of both our virtues and vices are habits-that it is the habit of this or that sort of behaviour or discourse; and not one or two, or a few single acts of virtue or of vice, which constitute the character. The truth is, we are all
the servants of our habits-governed much more by habit than by reason, or argument, or reflection; that is to say, ten actions of our lives spring from habit, for one that proceeds from deliberation. There is no living in the world without falling into habits. Since then we must fall into some habit or other, and since our moral character, our good or bad life, and by consequence, our happiness or misery hereafter, depend upon the choice and formation of our habits, upon the good or bad ones getting possession of us, it leaves the chief and principal business of self-examination to watch our habits, to mark what evil custom is growing upon us, to descry the first setting in of a vicious habit, and break it off before it becomes strong and inveterate. The management of our habits is all in all
the end of
and as these
religion, and the great business of life are to be managed only when they are young and pliant, at least ordinarily speaking, it becomes of the last importance from time to time to review our conduct, to seek out what new habit is stealing upon us-whether it is fit or not to be tolerated; if not, then we know our enemy, and we know our work; we know in what quarter to keep watch, and where to turn our force and resolution. A man who does
not do regularly something of this sort, but thinks it unnecessary or too troublesome, will find himself entangled, before he is conscious of it, in some pernicious habit or other, which he will live to lament as the greatest calamity of his life, but possibly may
never live to break through. When a Christian re. tires, therefore, to the business of self-examination, I will suppose his first care will be to inquire and look back upon the state of his habits-to inquire how it stands with them-whether growing better or growing worse-what new ones are stealing upon him-whether he has been able of late to manage and discipline the old ones. Now it may give a sort of method to his examination, to remind him that there are habits of acting, habits of speaking, and habits of thinking; and that these all must be taken into the account and estimated. In his habits of acting, such for example as drunkenness, he will ask himself whether his excesses of late in that way have been more or less frequent; whether his ardour after such indulgences be not grown stronger than he remembers it to have been. If he finds the inquiry turning out against him, that such a habit is insensibly advancing, though ever so slowly, upon him, as I said before, he knows his enemy and his business he knows that if he does not get the better of such a habit in its infancy, it will be in vain to contend with it when fastened and confirmed. He may repeat the same process with respect to all other licentious vices-whether he has fled from opportunity and temptation, or whether he has not courted and sought out for them-whether he has the command and mastery of his passions, or they of him-whether the guilt and danger, and final consequence of any criminal pursuit are as much in his
thoughts as formerly, or less, or at all-whether the remorse and accusation of his conscience be not wearing away by such arguments as are to be found in justification of them, only by practising a little self-deceit. If a man deal faithfully with himself, he will learn the truth of his spiritual condition, and where in any respect he finds matters growing worse, there, if he have his salvation at heart, he will take the alarm, and apply all the diligence, and all the resolution he is possessed of. When he has done with the class of licentious vices, he may turn to the class of mercenary vices-whether his self-interest and worldly concerns be not more in his mind than any thing else, and whether it is not more and more there-whether over-reaching tricks and contrivances are not more frequent with him than heretofore, and less thought of-whether he be not sliding into some unlawful dishonest course of gain, of unfair dealing, or of unfair concealment whether he has been able to forego profit for conscience sake-in a word, whether his honesty has stood firm and upright. And let him apply to these inquiries that very just and affecting observation of St. John: "If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.'
But as there are habits of acting, so are there habits of speaking; habits of lying, which is as much a habit as any one thing I can mention; of slander, which is as often habit as it is malice, or (more properly speaking) though it begins in malice, it soon be
comes so habitual as to be almost involuntary. There are habits of captiousness, ingenious in perverting what others say-of censoriousness, unable to discover or acknowledge a favourable point in any character except those of our own party, or to speak candidly of any thing in any person. These are all the effects of habit, and the point is to perceive when the habit is setting in. Now the circumstance which discovers this, is when any fault of any sort happens to have been committed oftener than before, and when it is each time committed with less and less uneasiness, then is it time to look to this point of our character. But thirdly, as there are habits of acting and speaking, so are there those of thinking. These habits are of all others the hardest to be rectified-for the imagination can draw upon her own fund when she pleases, without waiting for opportunity or assistance. Her wanderings are under no control of other persons, because they cannot be known by them. They do not break forth into outward acts; so we practise them almost without knowing it. They creep upon us insensibly. We think only to indulge a momen, tary pleasure; till by frequent repetitions it grows into a habit, rendering us incapable of entertaining any other subject whenever the humour sets in for that. The thing is, that vanity, pride, ambition, covetousness, romantic schemes of pleasure, ruinous projects, revenge or lust, take so strong hold upon us, that those operate most powerfully and involuntarily upon our thoughts. One great part, therefore,