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Indeed the whole subject of the preservation of virtue is vastly too much neglected, in other circumstances, as well as this. A virtuous and vicious character does not so much consist in one or two, or a few single acts of virtue, or of vice, but in such a plan and rule and habit of living, as is suited to promote the one and guard against the other. I allow that the greater part live without any such plan, rule, or habit; and what is the effect? They commit themselves to every situation that presents itself, without reserve, fear, or caution; and they trust that if a temptation to vice assault them, they shall find firmness and reflection enough in themselves at the time to guard against it; and upon the strength of that persuasion, they either lay themselves out for such situations as furnish temptation and opportunities of vice, and are inviting on that account; or they enter heedlessly into such situations; or they fancy the time for exercising their morality is not yet come; as yet there is no harm; and when they fall, as they are almost sure to do, into the snares, why then,
they were surprised and taken off their guardthey were overpowered by allurements which no one could resist the reason they depended upon was perhaps grown dark-the resolutions, which were so stedfast and unconquerable, melted away like snow before the fire; and he surely, who knows whereof we are made, will condescend to excuse the passions which he himself has implanted, and not condemn with severity our fall, which no human fortitude could
prevent." In which train of thinking the error is, that we do not carry back our minds to that which composes, perhaps, the greatest part of our offenceour leading ourselves into temptation, our either seeking it or suffering ourselves to be drawn into it, or falling upon such a course of life as exposes us to it; which we might have prevented, and which surely we had powers, enough to have withstood. "But surely this delusion can happen but once. A man may be once drawn in, and entangled for want of experience; but he will escape, when he does escape, like a bird out of the hand of the fowler, not to return, one would think, to the snare. Just the contrary is the fact. The same process is renewed-the same often dangerous situation or heedlessness about entering into it-the same weakness in yielding; and the same excuses and palliations will be no longer necessary; till a confirmed habit of vice be formed, "when we work uncleanness," as the Apostle expresses it, "with greediness," and without any further molestation from the rebukes or checks of conscience.
Having said thus much upon the necessity of looking after the preservation of our virtue in time, and laying out such a plan of life as may best keep us from temptation, and fortify us against it, I now proceed to propose what appear to me the most effectual preservatives against the sins of lewdness, which of all others most easily and most violently beset us during the early and best part of human
life; and these are, employment, temperance, choice of company, and the regulation of the thoughts.
The first precaution against those vices is constant employment. There are few who can bear leisure; that is, whom leisure does not lead into vicious attachments. When a man looks about him, and finds nothing for him to do, all his evil thoughts and propensities are directly setting themselves to work ; and when once the attention has got hold of any criminal indulgence, it is not easily set loose. Resolutions against these serve only to rivet the thoughts the faster upon our minds, and there are few who can hold out against the continual teazing of such thoughts. The only way was, at first, to have kept our attention better employed; and it is still the only way, to convert it to something else. This account is confirmed by observation. I do not say that the active and the diligent are always free from these vices, for a man may be vicious, in spite of every thing; but I think you will find few exceptions to the remark, that the idle are generally dissolutethat those who have no business, or do not take to their business, are commonly a nuisance to the neighbourhood they live in, in this very respect. Let those, then, who are to live by their labour or business, receive this additional reason for sticking close to their occupation that they can hardly fail of success, or of a comfortable livelihood however that they make their employment, by sticking to it, easy, which otherwise is sure to become irksome
and fretting. Besides both these reasons, they are taking the most reasonable method, and perhaps the only one, of passing their time innocently here upon earth, and procuring thereby the happiness they look for hereafter. As to those who have no employment, they have great reason to lament the want of one as a misfortune, if it was only on the account abovementioned; but a man must be very low in understanding, as well as left very short in his education, who cannot contrive some method of bestowing his activity and thoughts which may procure him advantage or credit, or at least an innocent amusement, as well as make him of some service to the neighbourhood he lives in.
The next safeguard against the vices of lewdness is temperance, especially in drinking. Was drunkenness nothing more than a brutality for the time, every one who had a concern for his duty would avoid it; but the mischief is seldom over so soon. The consequences are too often fatal to virtue in another respect--not only to the drunken man's, if he had any, but to the virtue of some poor sufferer who falls in his way. Drunkenness, in reality, both inflames men's passions, and confounds and deadens the reason and reflection, and every principle that can restrain them; so that it always destroys the balance, as one may say, which was intended in the human constitution: and if men of the best and ablest sort can scarcely control their passions, it is not expected they should retain much command over
them when such an advantage is thrown into the wrong scale. Now if to these you add a notion, which men in general take up, that drunkenness is an excuse for what men do in that condition, and which notion in effect amounts to this that when men find themselves drunk, they are at liberty to do what they please: if you lay all these considerations together, it cannot, I think, be reasonably supposed that men will preserve a constant regard to morality and religion in the government of their natural passions, who do not lay a restraint upon themselves in the article of drunkenness.
The next great point to be attended to by those who are anxious for the preservation of this virtue from the allurements of criminal pleasures, is the choice of company. Companions, however they differ in other respects, commonly resemble one another in their vices. The influence of a good man's example may not possibly be always able to make those who associate and converse with him good; but the contagion of a vicious man's life will seldom fail to infect and draw in all who keep him company and the reason is, it is in one case against the stream, in the other case with it-in the one case, the example has to combat with our natural propensities in the other case, it aids and assists them. Nothing so soon and so effectually wears off that horror and shrinking back of the mind from any vicious actions, with which good education and good principles have inspired us, as the practices of our