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public worship, what, in truth, is only the effect of new impressions. Now, by how much a lay-frequenter of religious worship finds himself less warmed and stimulated by ordinary than extraordinary acts of devotion, by so much it may be expected that a clergyman, habitually conversant with the offices of religion, will be less moved and stimulated than he is. What then is to be done? It is by an effort of reflection; by a positive exertion of the mind : by knowing this tendency, and by setting ourselves expressly to resist it; that we are to repair the decays of spontaneous piety. We are no more to surrender our. selves to the mechanism of our frame than to the impulse of our passions. We are to assist our sensitive by our rational nature. We are to supply this infirmity (for so it may be called, although, like many other properties which bear the name of vices in our constitution, it be, in truth, a beneficial principle acting according to a general law)-we are to supply it by a deeper sense of the obligations under which we lie; by a more frequent and a more distinct recollection of the reasons upon which that obligation is founded. We are not to wonder at the pains which this may cost us; still less are we to imitate the despondency of some serious Christians, who, in the impaired sensibility that habit hath induced, bewail the coldness of a deserted soul.
Hitherto our observation will not be questioned; but I think that this principle goes farther than is generally known or acknowledged. I think that it extends to the influence which argument itself possesses upon our understanding; or, at least, to the influence which it possesses in determining our will. I will not say, that, in a subject strictly intellectual, and in science properly so called, a demonstration is the less convincing for being old : but I am not sure
that this is not, in some measure, true of moral evidence and probable proofs. In practical subjects, however, where two things are to be done, the understanding to be convinced, and the will to be persuaded, I believe that the force of every argument is diminished by triteness and familiarity. The intrinsic value of the argument must be the same; the impression may be very different. .
But we have a disadvantage to contend with additional to this. The consequence of repetition will be felt more sensibly by us who are in the habit of directing our arguments to others : for it always requires a second, a separate, and an unusual effort of the mind to bring back the conclusion upon ourselves. In constructing, in expressing, in delivering our arguments ; in all the thoughts and study which we employ upon them ; what we are apt to hold continually in our view is the effect which they may produce upon those who hear or read them. The farther and best use of our meditations, their influence upon our own hearts and consciences, is lost in the presence of the other. In philosophy itself, it is not always the same thing to study a subject in order to understand, and in order only to teach it. In morals and religion, the powers of persuasion are cultivated by those whose employment is public instruction ; but their wishes are fulfilled, and their care exhausted, in promoting the success of their endeavours upon others. The secret duty of turning truly and in earnest their attention upon themselves is suspended, not to say forgotten, amidst the labours, the engagements, the popularity of their public ministry ; and, in the best disposed minds, is interrupted by the anxiety, or even by the satisfaction, with which their public services are performed.
These are dangers adhereing to the very nature of our profession : but the evil is often also augmented by our imprudence. In our wishes to convince, we are extremely apt to overstate our arguments. We think no confidence with which we speak of them can be too great, when our intention is to urge them upon our hearers. This zeal, not seldom, I believe, defeats its own purpose, even with those whom we address; but it always destroys the efficacy of the argument upon ourselves. We are conscious of the exaggeration, whether our hearers perceive it or not; and this consciousness corrupts to us the whole influence of the conclusion ; robs it even of its just value. Demonstration admits of no degrees ; but real life knows nothing of demonstration. It converses only with moral evidence and moral reasoning. In these the scale of probability is extensive; and every argument hath its place in it. It may not be quite the same thing to overstate a true reason, and to advance a false one: but since two questions present themselves to the judgment, usually joined together by their nature and importance, viz. on which side probability lies, and how much it preponderates; to transgress the rules of fair reasoning in either question, in either to go beyond our own perception of the subject, is a similar, if not an equal, fault. In both cases it is a want of candour, which approaches to a want of veracity. But that, in which its worst effect is seen ; that, at least, which it belongs to this discourse to notice; is in its so undermining the solidity of our proofs, that our own understandings refuse to rest upon them; in
1 vitiating the integrity of our own judgments; in rendering our minds as well incapable of estimating the proper strength of moral and religious arguments, as unreasonably suspicious of their truth, and dull and insensible to their impression.
If dangers to our character accompany the exercise
of our public ministry, they no less attend upon the nature of our professional studies. It has been said that literary trifling upon the Scriptures has a tendency, above all other employments, to harden the heart. If by this maxim it be designed to reprove the exercise, to check the freedom, or to question the utility of critical researches, when employed upon the sacred volume, it is not by me to be defended. If it mean simply to guard against an existing danger, to state a usual and natural consequence, the maxim wants neither truth nor use. It is founded in this observation : when any one, by the command of learning and talents, has been fortunate enough to clear up an obscurity, or to settle a doubt, in the interpretation of Scripture ; pleased (and justly pleased) with the result of his endeavours, his thoughts are wont to indulge this complacency, and there to stop: or when another, by a patient, application of inferior faculties, has made, as he thinks, some progress in theological studies; or even has with much attention engaged in them; he is apt to rest and stay in what he deems a religious and meritorious service. The critic and the commentator do not always proceed with the reflection, that, if these things be true, if this book do indeed convey to us the will of God, then is it no longer to be studied and criticised alone, but, what is a very different work, to be obeyed, and to be
At least, this ulterior operation of the mind, enfeebled perhaps by former exertions of quite another nature, does not always retain sufficient force and vigour to bend the obstinacy of the will. To describe the evil is to point out the remedy; which must consist in holding steadfastly within our view this momentous consideration,—that however laboriously, or however successfully, we may have cultivated religious studies; how much soever we may
have added to our learning or our fame, we have hitherto done little for our salvation : that a more arduous, to us perhaps a new, and, it may be, a painful work, which the public eye sees not, which no public favour will reward, yet remains to be attempted; that of instituting an examination of our hearts and of our conduct, of altering the secret course of our behaviour, of reducing, with whatever violence to our habits, loss of our pleasures, or interruption of our pursuits, its deviations to a conformity with those rules of life, which are delivered in the volume that lies open
and which, if it be of importance enough to deserve our study, ought, for reasons infinitely superior, to command our obedience.
Another disadvantage incidental to the character of which we are now exposing the dangers, is the moral debility that arises from the want of being trained in the virtues of active life. This complaint belongs not to the clergy as such, because their pastoral office affords as many calls, as many opportunities for bene. ficent exertions, as are usually found in private stations; but it belongs to that secluded, contemplative life, which men of learning often make choice of, or into which they are thrown by the accident of their fortunes. A great part of mankind owe their principles to their practice ; that is, to that wonderful accession of strength and energy which good dispositions receive from good actions. It is difficult to sustain virtue by meditation alone ; but let our conclusions only have influence enough once to determine us upon a course of virtue, and that influence will acquire such augmentation of force from every instance of virtuous endeavour, as, ere long, to produce in us constancy and resolution, a formed and a fixed character. Of this great and progressive assistance to their principles, men who are withdrawn from the