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the infinite Disorders consequent upon it; our CHAP. being made acquainted with Pain and Sorrow, V. either from our own Feeling of it, or from the Sight of it in Others; these things, though some of them
may indeed produce
produce wrong Effects upon our Minds, yet when duly reflected upon, have, all of them, a direct Tendency to bring us to a settled Moderation and Reasonableness of Temper : the contrary both to thoughtless Levity, and also to that unrestrained Self-will, and violent Bent to follow present Inclination, which
be observed in undisciplined Minds. Such Experience, as the present State affords, of the Frailty of our Nature; of the boundless Extravagance of ungoverned Passion ; of the Power which an infinite Being has over us, by the various Capacities of Misery which he has given us; in short, that Kind and Degree of Experience, which the present State affords us, that the Constitution of Nature is such as to admit the Possibility, the Danger, and the actual Event, of Creatures losing their Innocence and Happiness, and becoming vitious and wretched; hath a Tendency to give us a practical Sense of things, very different from a mere speculative Knowledge, that we are liable to Vice, and capable of Misery. And who knows, whether the Security of Creatures in the highest and most settled State of Perfection, may not in part arise, from
PART their having had such a Sense of things as
1. this, formed, and habitually fixt within them, Min fome State of Probation. And passing
through the present World with That moral Attention, which is necessary to the acting a right Part in it, may leave everlasting Impressions of this Sort upon Our Minds. But to be a little more distinct: Allurements to what is wrong; Difficulties in the Discharge of our Duty; our not being able to act an uniform right Part without some Thought and Care; and the Opportunities which we have, or imagine we have, of avoiding what we dislike, or obtaining what we desire, by unlawful Means, when we either cannot do it at all, or at least not so easily, by lawful ones ;
These things, i. e. the Snares and Temptations of Vice, are what render the present World peculiarly fit to be a State of Discipline, to those who will preserve their Integrity: because they render being upon our Guard, Resolution, and the Denial of our Passions, necessary in order to That End. And the Exercise of such particular Recollection, Intention of Mind, and Self-government, in the Practice of Virtue, has, from the Make of our Nature, a peculiar Tendency to form Habits of Virtue ; as implying, not only a real, but also a more continued, and a more intense Exercise of the virtuous Principle; or a more constant and a stronger Effort of Vir
tue exerted into Act. Thus suppose a Per-CHAP. son to know himself to be in particular Dan- V. ger, for some Time, of doing any thing
yet he fully resolves not to do: Continued Recollection, and keeping upon his Guard, in order to make good his Resolution, is a continued exerting of that Act of Virtue in a high Degree, which need have been, and perhaps would have been, only instantaneous and weak, had the Temptation been fo. It is indeed ridiculous to assert, that Self-denial is essential to Virtue and Piety: But it would have been nearer the Truth, though not strictly the Truth itself, to have said, that it is essential to Discipline and Improvement. For though Actions materially virtuous, which have no Sort of Difficulty, but are perfectly agreeable to our particular Inclinations, may possibly be done only from these particular Inclinations, and so may not be any Exercise of the Principle of Virtue, i. e. not be virtuous Actions at all; yet on the contrary, they may be an Exercise of that Principle: and when they are, they have a Tendency to form and fix the Habit of Virtue. But when the Exercise of the virtuous Principle is more continued, oftener repeated, and more intense; as it must be in Circumstances of Danger, Temptation and Difficulty, of any kind and in any Degree; this Tendency is increased pro
PART portionably, and a more confirmed Habit is
1. the Consequence.
This undoubtedly holds to a certain Length: but how far it may hold, I know not. Neither our intellectual Powers, nor our bodily Strength, can be improved beyond such a Degree : and both may be over-wrought. Poffibly there may be somewhat analogous to this, with respect to the moral Character ; which is scarce worth considering. And I mention it only, left it should come into some Persons Thoughts, not as an Exception to the foregoing Observations, which perhaps it is ; but as a Confutation of them, which it is not. And there may be several other Exceptions. Observations of this Kind cannot be fupposed to hold minutely, and in every Case. It is enough that they hold in general. And these plainly hold so far, as that from them
may be seen distinctly, which is all that is intended by them, that the present World is peculiarly fit to be a State of Discipline, for our Improvement in Virtue and Piety: in the fame Sense as some Sciences, by requiring and engaging the Attention, not to be sure of such Persons as will not, but of such as will, set themselves to them; are fit to form the Mind to Habits of Attention.
Indeed the present State is so far from
СНАР. . ving, in Event, a Discipline of Virtue to the V. Generality of Men, that, on the contrary, they seem to make it a Discipline of Vice. And the Viciousness of the World is, in different Ways, the great Temptation, which renders it a State of virtuous Discipline, in the Degree it is, to good Men. The whole End, and the whole Occasion, of Mankind's being placed in such a State as the present, is not pretended to be accounted for.
That which appears amidst the general Corruption, is, that there are some Persons, who, having within them the Principle of Amendment and Recovery, attend to and follow the Notices of Virtue and Religion, be they more clear or more obscure, which are afforded them; and that the present World is, not only an Exercise of Virtue in these Persons, but an Exercise of it in Ways and Degrees, peculiarly apt to improve it: apt to improve it, in some Respects
, even beyond what would be, by the Exercise of it required in a perfectly virtuous Society, or in a Society of equally imperfect Virtue with themselves. But that the present World does not actually become a State of moral Discipline to many, even to the Generality, i. e. that they do not improve or grow better in it, cannot be urged as a Proof, that it was not intended for mo