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take care of themselves. I think we may coin a moral maxim, containing not less wisdom, to the effect that if we take care of the little sins the great sins will take care of themselves. He who is economical with a penny is not very likely to be extravagant with a pound. Similarly, he who is conscientious about his words and his thoughts and the minor details of his life, is surely in a fair way to act conscientiouwly upon the most important and serious occasions. Whereas, a man who acts foolishly or wrongly in regard to what may seem trivial matters, is almost certain, from the mere force of habit, to act foolishly and wrongly in regard to the most momentous. Our habits depend upon the way in which we comport ourselves, not in great and startling emergencies, but rather under the simple, common circumstances of our common daily life. It is scarcely conceivable that circumstances could arise in which you or I should feel tempted to commit a murder. On the other hand, it is quite as difficult to imagine that a day could ever elapse without our being tempted to say something which it would have been better to leave unsaid. The oft-recurring circumstances of daily life bring with them oft-recurring opportunities to sin. The temptations may not at first be very

strong, but they are constantly present with us, and they are strengthened in proportion as we yield. A sin may imperceptibly become the predominant habit of a man's life. Before he is aware of it, it may become his second nature.

“ Ill habits gather by unseen degrees,

As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.”

A man would think twice before he deliberately made over his soul to the devil after the manner of Faust. But the bargain may be completed, though more slowly, yet quite as effectually, by a series of partial transfers.

To the thoughtful man there can be nothing little, least of all in the moral sphere. It was a favourite idea with Leibnitz that every particle of matter reflected in a manner, and carried latent in itself, the history of the entire universe; that is to say, if we knew all that could be known about any single particle, we should be omniscient. Everything influences, and is in turn influenced by, the infinite whole. From this point of view how unspeakably solemn appears our human life! Almost every moment brings with it at once an opportunity to do right and a temptation to do wrong. Everything we do or say leaves us somewhat different from our former

selves, and is productive of good or evil to numbers of our fellow-men. Every action we perform, every word we utter, every thought we think, has widespreading, far-reaching effectseffects that will eternally endure. Let us stand in awe and sin not.

98

The Formation of Character.

IV.

THE LAW OF HABIT.

“If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”—GENESIS iv. 7.

TF the angels weep, as they are said to do, over 1 human follies and shortcomings, there can be nothing which more frequently elicits their tears than the ignorance and thoughtlessness of men in regard to the laws of their own nature. It is strange that they should know, and care to know, so little of the world they live in ; that many of them should leave it without having made much more acquaintance with its laws than could be achieved by an unthinking brute. But it is still more strange that thousands should live and die in almost equal ignorance of themselves. The knowledge of human nature should

be the first business of education, but it is usually the last, if indeed it be not altogether ignored. And yet the old Delphic maxim,“ Know thyself,” was one of the wisest ever uttered. He who does not know himself will inevitably make a failure of his life. Just as the labour of a mechanic will be good, bad, or indifferent, according to his knowledge of the material upon which, and the instruments with which, he works, so the value of your life-work and mine will depend mainly upon the amount of attentive consideration which we have given to the laws of our own nature. For that nature is at once the material upon which we work — since all our actions change it for the better or the worse; and it is also the instrument with which we worksince the actions that change us originate from ourselves. Bacon, you remember, urged men to the study of the world without, on the ground that knowledge was power. Would that some moral philosopher would urge us, with the same earnestness and success, to the study of the world within! In both cases it is possible to turn the very same forces to a good or to a bad account. And the goodness or the badness of the use we make of them will depend very mainly upon the state of our knowledge. The more men know

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