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I am much afraid that all the proof, which can be drawn either from observation or consciousness, is against it. Of other men we must judge by observation; of ourselves by consciousness. What happens then to gradual reformation ? Perpetual relapses, perpetually defeated and weakened resolutions. The principle of resistance is weakened by every relapse. Did the mortification of a defeat incite and quicken men to stronger efforts, it would be well. But it has a contrary effect; it renders every succeeding exertion

; more feeble. The checked indulgences, which, in the progress of our fancied amendment, we allow ourselves, are more than sufficient to feed desire; to keep up the force and strength of temptation : nay, perbaps, the temptation acquires more force from the partial curb which we impose upon it. Then, while the temptation remains with unabated, or perhaps augmented, strength, our resolution is suffering continual relaxation ; our endeavours become unsatisfactory even to ourselves. This miserable struggle cannot be maintained long. Although nothing but persevering in it could save us, we do not persevere. Finding not ease, but difficulty increased, and increasing difficulty, men give up the cause; that is, they try to settle themselves into some mode of thinking which may quiet their consciences and their fears. They fall back to their sins : and when they find their consciences easier, they think their guilt less ; whereas it is only their conscience that is become more insensible; their reasoning more treacherous and deceitful! The danger is what it was, or greater ; the guilt is so, too. Would to God we could say that gradual reforms were frequently successful! They are what men often attempt: they are, alas, what men usually fail in. It is painful to seem to discourage endeavours of any kind after amendment: but it is necessary to advertise men of their danger. If one method of going We only

about an important work be imposing in expectation,
and yet, in truth, likely to end in ruin, can anything
be more necessary than to set forth this danger and
this consequence plainly? This is precisely the case
with gradual reforms. They do not very much alarm
our passions ; they sooth our consciences. They do
not alarm our passions, because the absolute rupture
is not to come yet. We are not yet entirely and to-
tally to bid adieu to our pleasures and indulgences,
never to enjoy or return to them any more.
have in view to wean and withdraw ourselves from
them by degrees; and this is not so harsh and for.
midable a resolution as the other. Yet it sooths our
consciences. It presents the semblance and appear.
ance of repenting and reforming. It confesses our
sense of sin and danger. It takes


it would fain encourage us with the hope of delivering ourselves from this condition. But what is the result? Feeding in the mean time and fomenting those passions which are to be controlled and resisted ; adding, by every instance of giving way to them, fresh force and strength to habits which are to be broken off ; our constancy is subdued before our work is accom. plished. We continue yielding to the importunity of temptation. We have gained nothing by our mise. rable endeavour, but the mortification of defeat. Our sins are still repeated. The state of our salvation is where it was. Oh! it is a laborious, a difficult, a painful work to shake off sin; to change the course of a sinful life; to quit gratifications to which we have been accustomed, because we perceive them to be unlawful gratifications; and to find satisfaction in others, which are innocent and virtuous. If in one thing more than another we stand in need of God's holy succour and assistance, of the aid and influence of his blessed Spirit upon our souls, it is in this work of reformation. But can we reasonably expect it, whilst

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we are not sincere ? And I say, again, that the plan of gradual reformation is in contradiction to principle, and so far insincere. Is there not reason to believe that this

may in some measure account for the failure of these resolutions ?

But it will be asked of us, what better plan have we to offer ? We answer, to break off our sins at once. This is properly to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. This is truly to do what, according to the apostle, the grace of God teaches us to do. Acting thus, we may pray, we may humbly hope for the assistance of God's Spirit in the work and struggle through which we have to go. And I take upon me to say, that all experience is in favour of this plan, in preference to that of a gradual reform ; in favour of it, both with respect to practicability, and with respect to ease and happiness. We do not pretend but that a conflict with desire must be supported, but that great resolution is necessary : yet we teach that the pain of the effort is lessened by this method, as far as it can be lessened at all. Passions denied, firmly denied and resisted, and not kept up by occasional indulgences, lose their power of tormenting. Habits, absolutely and totally disused, lose their hold. It is the nature of man. They then leave us at liberty to seek and to find happiness elsewhere, in better things to enjoy, as well as to practise, virtue; to draw comfort from religion ; to dwell upon its hopes ; to pursue its duties : to acquire a love, a taste, and relish for its exercises and meditations.

One very general cause of entanglement in habits of sin is the connexion which they have with our way of life, with our business, with the objects that are continually thrown in our way, with the practices and usages which prevail in the company we keep. Every condition of life has its particular temptation, And not only so, but when we have fallen into evil

habits, these habits so mix themselves with our method of life, return so upon us at their usual times and places and occurrence of objects, that it becomes very difficult to break the habit, without a general change of our whole system. Now, I say, whenever this is a man's case, that he cannot shake off his sins, without giving up his way of life ; he must give up that, also, let it cost what it will : for it is in truth no other sacrifice than what our Saviour himself in the strongest terms enjoins, when he bids his disciples to pluck out a right eye or cut off a right hand (that is, surrender whatever is most dear or valuable to them), that they be not cast with all their members into hell fire. If a trade or business cannot be followed without giving in to practices which conscience does not approve, we must relinquish the trade or business itself. If it cannot be followed without bringing us into the way of temptation to intemperance, more than we can withstand, or in fact do withstand, we must also relinquish it, and turn ourselves to some safer

If the company we keep, the conversation we hear, the objects that surround us, tend to draw us and do in fact draw us, into debauchery and licentiousness, we must fly from the place, the company, and the objects, no matter with what reluctance we do so or what loss and inconvenience we suffer doing it. This may appear to be a hard lesson: it is nevertheless what right reason dictates, and what, as hath already been observed, our Saviour himself enjoins, in terms made as strong and forcible as he could make them.

Sometimes men are led by prudential motives, or by motives of mere inclination, to change their employment, their habitation, or their station of life. These occasions afford excellent and invaluable opportunities for correcting and breaking off any vicious habits, which we may have contracted. It is when


many associations, which give strength to a sinful habit, are interrupted and dissolved by the change which has taken place, that we can best resolve to conquer the sin and set out upon a new course and a new life. The man who does not take advantage of such opportunities, when they arise, has not the salvation of his soul at heart: nevertheless, they are not to be waited for.

But to those sudden changes which we recommend will it be objected, that they are seldom lasting? Is this the fact? Are they more liable to fail than attempts to change gradually? I think not. And there is always this difference between them. A sudden change is sincere at the time: a gradual change never is such, truly and properly: And this is a momentous distinction. In every view and in every allowance and in every plea of human frailty we must distinguish between what is consistent with sincerity, and what is not. And in these two methods of setting about a reformation, by reason of their different character in this respect, the first may, though with fear and humility, expect the help of God's aiding Spirit; the other hardly can. For whilst not by surprise and unpremeditatedly we fall into casual sins, but whilst by plan and upon system we allow ourselves in licences, which, though not so many or so great as before, are still, whenever they are indulged, so many known sins; whilst, in a word, though we imagine ourselves to be in a progress of amendment, we yet deliberately continue to sin, our endeavours are so corrupted, I will not say by imperfection, but by insincerity, that we can hardly hope to call down upon them the blessing of Almighty God.

Reformation is never impossible; nor, in a strict sense, can it be said to be doubtful. Nothing is, properly speaking, doubtful, which it is in a man's power

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