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METHOD OF FORMING

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, that is inward act; for such intention is an act. Resolutions, also, to do well, are properly acts. And endeavouring to enforce 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 faculty of habits, passive impressions, by being repeated, grow weaker. Thoughts, by often passing through the mind, are felt less sensibly; being accustomed to danger, begets intrepidity, i.e., lessens fear; to distress, lessens the passion of pity; to instances of others' mortality, lessens the sensible apprehension of our own. And from these two observations together, that practical habits are formed and strengthened by repeated acts, and that passive impressions grow weaker by being repeated upon us, it must follow that active habits may be gradually forming and strengthening, by a course of acting upon such and such motives and excitements, whilst these motives and excitements themselves are, by proportionable degrees, growing less sensible-i.e., are continually less and less sensibly felt, even as the active habits strengthen. And experience confirms this; for active principles, at the very time that they are less lively in perception than they were, are found to be, somehow, wrought more thoroughly into the temper and character, and become more effectual in influencing our practice. The three things just before mentioned may afford instances of it. Perception of danger is a natural excitement of passive fear and active caution; and by being inured to danger, habits of the latter are gradually wrought, at the same time that the former gradually lessens. Perception of distress in others is a natural excitement-passively to pity, and actively to relieve it; but let a man set himself to attend to, inquire out, and relieve distressed persons, and he cannot but grow less and less sensibly affected with the various miseries of life with which he must become acquainted; when yet, at the same time, benevolence, considered not as a passion, but as a practical principle

of action, will strengthen; and whilst he passively compassionates the distressed less, he will acquire a greater aptitude actively to assist and befriend them. So, also, at the same time that the daily instances of men's dying around us give us daily a less sensible passive feeling or apprehension of our own mortality, such instances greatly contribute to the strengthening a practical regard to it in serious men-i.e., to forming a habit of acting with a constant view to it. And this seems again further to show that passive impressions made upon our minds by admonition, experience, example-though they may have a remote efficacy, and a very great one towards forming active habits-yet can have this efficacy no otherwise than by inducing us to such a course of action; and that it is not being affected so and so, but acting, which forms those habits; only it must be always remembered, that real endeavours to enforce good impressions upon ourselves, are a species of virtuous action.

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PRACTICAL PRINCIPLES OF ACTION.

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'Thus, by accustoming ourselves to any course of action, we get an aptness to go on; a facility, readiness, and often pleasure, in it. The inclinations which rendered us averse to it grow weaker; the difficulties in it-not only the imaginary, but the real ones-lessen; the reasons for it offer themselves, of course, to our thoughts upon all occasions; and the least glimpse of them is sufficient to make us go on in a course of action to which we have been accustomed. And practical principles appear to grow stronger, absolutely in themselves, by exercise, as well as relatively, with regard to contrary principles, which, by being accustomed to submit, do so habitually, and of course. And thus a new character, in several respects, may be formed; and many habitudes of life not given by nature, but which nature directs us to acquire.'

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We can add nothing, either of explanation or illustration, to this admirable passage; and shall simply point out a few of its practical consequences. It enables us at once to detect the two opposite errors which produce the failures in education already noticed, and which are probably at the bottom of every unsuccessful attempt at self-training. Either the external acts are exclusively watched and controlled, without regard to the inward principle or motive whence they spring; or the teacher rests contented with having excited virtuous emotions, and lets them pass away without being carried into action. In both cases, the habit formed is just as likely to be the very opposite of the one

'Analogy of Religion, Nat. and Rev.," Part I., ch. v.

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CORRECTION OF BAD HABITS.

aimed at. The child on whom a mere routine of duty is imposed, may follow it with the regularity of a machine, whilst inwardly cherishing a dislike to authority and disregard of duties which will show themselves in open insubordination as soon as the external restraint is removed; on the other hand, where the only aim has been to excite the feelings, we shall often be startled by the painful contrast of virtuous sentiments and vicious actions, passive admiration of what is good and true, and practical neglect of all goodness and truth.

There is no moral habit more important than that of preserving the due connection between our good feelings, as motives, and our actions. It is only by maintaining this connection, and carrying each virtuous emotion into immediate act—at least so far as to resolve to act upon it—that it can be trained into a practical principle. This, again, gives us a rule for correcting bad habits; for if we steadily refuse to carry the evil_passion into act, and exert the mind in a contrary direction, by fixing attention upon different and higher motives, it will gradually die away, and be replaced by an active principle of virtue.

The struggle against bad habits is generally the first and most painful step in self-education. Few, indeed, are those whose early training has left them only the care of maintaining the good habits already implanted! The reverse is usually the case; and the good seed has to be sown in a neglected soil, where weeds have long taken root and flourished. It will be well to enter upon the task without delay, for the evil habits of early life are, to those of maturity, as the slender fibre of the seedling to the wide-spread roots of the forest oak; whilst, in the very inverse proportion is the hopeful energy of youth to the feeble will of a mind long unused to self-government, and shrinking from any conflict with the power to which it has through life passively submitted. It is a common mistake to allow the force of habit only with regard to the past, and to overlook its possible influence over the future. We are glad to plead it as a justification for what we know to be wrong, but tacitly deny its efficacy as an instrument of improvement. Young persons are very apt, in this way, to consider any bad habit engendered by their education as an invincible evil, which must be submitted to by themselves and their friends, as they would submit to any bodily infirmity. They profess, indeed, to lament over it, and to wish that it were otherwise; but we are inclined to think that, if the regret were sincere, it would be accompanied by active exertion to remove its cause, and earnestness in applying the means of self-improvement. Ostentatious lamentations over faults we never attempt to correct, are only the clumsy artifices of vanity

IMPORTANCE OF SLIGHT THINGS.

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to conceal our real indolence and apathy in the pursuit of excellence.

Those who are in earnest in their wish to improve, will find in the principles laid down by Dr. Butler, rules for correcting bad habits, no less than for forming good ones. One instance of this has been given above. There is, indeed, no effectual way of correcting a bad habit, but cultivating the good one most opposed to it. To refrain from external acts will not change the habit of the mind, unless the inward principle be changed also. A remarkable instance of this is given by Dr. Abercrombie* in the case of a man who had bound himself by oath to abstain for time from intoxicating liquors; and who, in consequence, observed the most rigid sobriety for five years, but was found in a state of intoxication the very day after the period of abstinence had expired.

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In the same manner, a passionate person may be restrained from acts of violence by the usages of society, regard for his character, or fear of the law; but this external restraint will leave the temper unaltered. That can only be improved by an active effort to resist the impulse of passion, and to fix attention on the motives to patience, forbearance, and selfcommand, which, if carried into action, will form corresponding habits.

The importance of individual acts as tending to form habits, is another point to be attended to in the regulation of daily life. Actions which, taken singly, are insignificant, lead, if often repeated, to habits which materially influence health and happiness. 'It matters, probably, little, whether we rise to-day or to-morrow at seven or at nine, spend our leisure hours in reading a novel or a history, gratify or repress a whim; but it is far from indifferent, whether we acquire habits of indolence or activity; whether we habitually feed our minds on fiction or on truth; and whether we learn to control instead of indulging each idle caprice. It is to be observed, also, that the habits thus unconsciously formed by the frequent repetition of actions in themselves apparently harmless and trifling, are generally, if not always, bad, and tending to the deterioration of character. Our proneness to bad habits, and our difficulty in forming good ones, has been too universally acknowledged and lamented by the good and wise of all ages, to need our insisting upon it here. But we believe that it may be in a great measure, at least, accounted for by the nature of habit and its mode of operation, without resorting to the fearful supposition of an inherent love of evil in the

☛ “On the Moral Feelings."

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human heart. If we trace the greater number of bad habits to their origin, we find them to arise from the indulgence of desires and passions in themselves blameless, and even necessary to the preservation of individual and social existence, but becoming evil in their excess, and when yielded to against the voice of reason and conscience. We may instance the desire of property, which is the basis of every social edifice, and the wish to better our condition, to which we owe all the blessings of civilization; but which have both in their excess been the source of cupidity, inordinate ambition, and consequent crime. By the very conditions of our existence on earth, the objects which excite these passions are constantly and prominently forced upon our attention; a great part of our time is necessarily spent among them, and we are in constant danger of allowing them to engross the whole. The advantages of wealth are ever present to tempt us to cupidity, the trumpet voice of fame stirs us to ambition; luxury assails every sense, and woos us to self-indulgence; the world spreads its gaudy toils around to lure us into "the madding crowd's ignoble strife.' Need we seek for any other cause to explain why the passions, so continually excited, move the will more readily and frequently than those higher desires, the objects of which are unseen and spiritual; and why bad habits are so easily formed, and too often lead to vice, and from vice to crime, ere we are aware that we have done more than indulge a natural and innocent inclination?

INFLUENCE ON HAPPINESS.

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The motives and rewards

Not so is it with virtuous habits. of virtue lie remote from the re of sense, in the regions of the unseen and the eternal, and ere it can discern them, the mind must forcibly abstract itself from the obtrusive claims of visible and tangible objects. We may, indeed, passively admire virtue when brought before us; but, to follow her, requires an active exertion, a steady and continued effort; and thus true philosophy agrees with true religion, in declaring that the just must "live by faith, and not by sight."

The difference between passive impressions and active exertion, has, also, apart from the consideration of influence upon character, an important bearing upon our happiness. Since repetition weakens passive impressions, those pleasures which consist entirely in their excitement must necessarily be the shortest-lived. A perpetually stronger stimulus will be required to produce the same amount of enjoyment, till the power of enjoying is itself worn out, and leaves nothing but the craving for excitement which can no longer be satisfied. It is scarcely possible to imagine a more deplorable state, unless it be that of the person forced to endure its evil effects in another, doomed, as Madame de

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