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Of the almost insuperable power of Habit.
The Brazilians, had been so long and so generally inured to the abominable practice of eating human flesh, that the Christian Missionaries found it less difficult to reform them of any other of their evil practices than of this. The chief joy of those savages was in their cannibal feasts ; the women and the children, as well as the men, partaking of them with equal delight; inso. inuch that nothing was harder of cure than this unnatural appetite.
Mr. Southey, in his history of Brazil, relates a story of the following tenor. No very long time after the Portuguese had obtained possession of Brazil, a Jesuit undertook to christianize a Brazilian woman of great age. He catechized her, he instructed her, as he conceived, in the nature of christianity; and finding her at the point of death, he began to enquire whether there was any kind of food which she could take.“Grandam," said he (that being the word of courtesy by which it was usual to address old women) “ if I were to get you a little sugar now, or a mouthful of some of our nice things which we get from beyond the sea, do you think you could eat it ?"_“Ah, my grandson,” replied the old woman,“my stomach goes against every thing. There is but one thing which I think I could touch. If I had the little hand of a little tapua boy, I think I could pick the little bones ;—but woe is me, there is no one to go out and shoot one for me!"
As this extraordinary morsel of history, corroborates an observation not unfrequently made, that, with some of the pagans amongst whom christian missionaries have
laboured, cannibalism has been found the most incurable of any of their vices ; at the same time it strikingly exemplifies, generally, the almost incurable nature of inveterate vicious habits. It is a counterpart to that portion of inspiration which represents it as extremely difficult, and next to impossible, for one that is accustomed to do evil, to learn to do well.
It is a proverbial saying, that habit is second nature; meaning, I conceive, that whatever of taste, appetite, inclination, or affection, we acquire by habit, it becomes as natural to us as if it were born with us. This is a thing obvious to general experience and observation.But there is one other thing near akin to it, which, though not quite so obvious, is perhaps equally true. It is this : the second nature that has grown out of evil habits cleaves to us, in some degree, as long as we live, and that notwithstanding principles of real piety at heart.
It is freely admitted that the Grandam, whose strange story has just been rehearsed, was merely a nominal christian, and but very imperfectly instructed in even the doctrinal knowledge of our holy religion. But suppose the reverse of this; suppose she had become a chris. tian indeed: What then? No doubt she would have abhorred the idea of shooting a tạpua boy, that she might pick the little bones of his little hand. No doubt she would have abhorred cannibalism as a monstrous crime : but it is not quite so certain that her appetite would at all times have been entirely free from bankerings after the unnatural food to which she had been so long accustomed, and which, of all things, was the most delicious to her taste.
The truth is, any one who contracts bad habits, ad. mits into his garrison inveterate and restless foes, which he can never entirely expel. Sometimes he may
seem to get a complete mastery of them, when, of a sudden, they muster anew their rebellious forces and quite overpower him. Or even though, by the force of moral and religious principle, along with ever-wakeful vigilance, he keep under these foes, yet they give him incessant alarm, inquietude and vexation. They are the torment of his life, and embitter his last moments. In many a virtuous bosom there is a hard struggle, between principle and propensity; between a deep sense of duty, morality and religion, and the violence of appetites and passions that had been nourished by habit till they were grown up to gigantic strength. A strug. gle, in which, though virtue gain the victory, it is gained at the expense of pains which are neither few nor small-of pains, comparable to those occasioned by cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye. So true is it, that vicious habits are either our ruin and destruction, or, at the best, they will be a plague to us, however much we may wish and strive to uproot them utterly from our minds and hearts.
It was with reference to the almost invincible force of habit, that the wise man penned the aphorism so worthy to be put in letters of gold, and hung up in the mansion of every rising family :-“ Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Upon the same principle of the power of habit, if, reversing the aphorism, you train up your child in the
way he should not go; if you countenance his faults ; if you encourage, rather than check his vices, there are many chances to one, that shame and ruin will be his portion. But though this is clearly the voice of truth and experience, yet many infatuated parents lull themselves in the expectation that the faults of their children will be cured by time: a notion no less fatal than it is false. Indeed, time may perchance cor
rect the errors of inexperience, or the mere follies of childhood and immature youth; but not immoralitiesnot real viciousness of disposition and action—not falsehood, fraud, profaneness, profligacy, or any real vice that can be named. Diseases of the mind, like those of the body, usually become the more inveterate by time. Time ripens the inceptive faultiness into habit; and time again strengthens and confirms the incipient habit. Every day adds somewhat to its strength ; every new indulgence gives it a firmer root; and it incorporates itself at last with the very fibres of the heart.
See the knurly oak, which no arm of flesh can bend, which nothing but the bolt of heaven can rive :—this same oak was once a pliant twig.
Guard, then, with utmost care, let' parents guard their children, and let all those of the young who have come to years of discretion guard themselves, -against the inceptive ingress of any and every vicious habit : for
When the fox has once got in his nose,
Of the World.
Two English poets, of eminent but very unequal ge. nius, are diametrically in opposition to one another in their descriptions of the same great object-The World.
The following lines of Milton give only the bright side of the picture.
" Wherefore did nature pour her bounties forth
And give unbounded pleasure unto man !'' On the contrary, the disappointed Dr. Young, contemplating the World through the spleen and gloom of his own humour, describes it as an abode altogether dismal.
“ A part, how small, of this terraqueous globe
Such is earth's melancholy map!" A melancholy map indeed; but, thank God, not the true one.
There are some who seem to make it a point of conscience to speak disparagingly of the world they live in, as if they thought it were honouring the Maker to despise his workmanship. True enough, it is an evil world ; and why? It is not so of itself, but by reason of the evilness of the race of moral beings that inhabit it. It is the moral, rather than the natural map of the world, that is unamiable and hideous.
The original frame of the world was good : a commodious, beautiful and superb mansion, altogether fit for the abode of an order of sinless creatures compounded of the rational and the animal natures. And notwithstanding the frightful change it underwent by means of the apostacy, it is still in itself, a good world; that is to say, it is a building well adapted to the condition of the guilty tenants- prisoners of hope”-who are destined to pass a short residence in it. What though the thorn and the thistle," the noxious weed