Hannah More.

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asoription is * to the only wUe God»' Amdher in
triumphant strains overflows with transport at
the consideration of the attribute on which we
have been descanting: *0 Lord, who is like
onto Thee, there is none holy as the Lord.' —

* Sing praises unto the Lord, oh ye saints of his,
and give thanks unto him lor a remembranoe of
his lK>liness.'

The prophets and apostles were not deterred
ftom pouring out the overflowing of their fer-
vent spirits, they were not restrained fVom cele-
bratinff the perfections of their Creator, through
the ooM-hearted fear of being reckoned enthu-
siasfts. The saints of old were not prevented
firom breathing out their rapturous hosannahs to
the King of &ints, through the coward dread
of being branded as fanatieaL The coneeptione
of thbir minds dilatinfi^ with the view of the
glorious oonstellatitm of the Divine attributes ;
and th6 aflfocttons of their hearts warming with
the thought, that those attributes were all con
oentrated in mercy — they display a sublime
oUivion of themselves-— they forget every thing
bat God. Their own wants dwindled to a point
Their own concerns, nay the universe itself,
shrinks into noUnng. They seem absorbed in
the effulgence of Detty, lost in the radient beams
of infinite glory.


On the ccmparatively 9auillfauU9 and virtueM.

ToB * Fishers of men, as if exclusively bent
on catching the greater sinners, often make the
interstices of the moral net so wide, that it can-
not retain those of more ordinary sise, which
every where abound. Their draught might be
more abundant, were not the meshes so large
tba the smaller sort, aided by their own lubn-
eity escape the toils and slip through. Happy
to find themselves not bulky enough to be en-
tangled, they plunge back again into their na-
tive element, enjoy their escape, and hope they
nay safoly wait to grow bigger before they are
in danger of being eanght

ft is of more importance than we are aware,
vr are willing to allow, that we take care dili-
gently to practice the smaller virtues, avoid
•erapolMHly tfa« lesser sins, and bear patiently

inferior trials ; for the sin of habitually yielding
or the grace of habitually resisting in coropa
ratively small points, tends in no inconsiderably
degree to produce that vigour or that debility of
mind on which hangs victory or defeat

Conscience is moral sensation. It is the hasty
perception of good and evil, the peremptory de-
cision of the mind to adopt the one or avoid the
other. Providence has furnished the body with
senses, and the soul with conscience, as a tact
by which to shrink from the approach of danger ;
as a prompt feeling to supply the deductions of
reasoning ; as a spontaneous impulse to precede
a train of reflections for which the suddenness
and surprise of the attack allow no time. An
enlightened conscience if kept tenderly alive by
a continual attention to its admonitions, would
especially preserve us from those smaller sins,
and stimulate us to those lesser duties which
we are falsely apt to think are too insignificant
to be brought to the bar of religion, too trivial
to be weighed by the standard df'Soipture.

By cherishing this quick feeling of rectitude,
light and sudden as the flash from heaven, and
which is in fact the motion of the spirit, we
intuitively reject what is wrong before we have
time to examme why it is wrong, and seize on
what is right before we have time to examine
why it is right Should we not then be careful
how we extinguish this sacred spark ? Will any
thing be more likely to extinguish it than to ne-
glect its hourly mementoes to perform the
smaller duties, and to avoid the lesser faults,
which, as they in a ^rood measure make up the
sum of human lifo, will naturally fix and deter-
mine our character, that creature of habits?
Will not our neglect or observance of it,* incline
or indispose us for those more important duties
of which these smaller ones are connectin.^

The vices derive their existence from wild-
ness, confusion, disorganization. The discord
of the passions is owing to their having different
views, conflicting aims, and opposite ends. The
rebellious vices have no common head ; each is
all to itself. They promote their own operations
by disturbing those of others, but in disturb
ing they do not destroy them. Though they
are all of one family, they live on no friendly
terms. Profligacy hates covetousness as much
as if it were a virtue. The life of every sin
is a life of conflict, which occasions the torment,
but not the death of its opposite. Like the fa-
bled brood of the serpent, the passions spring
up, armed against each other, but they fail to
complete the resemblance, for they do not efiect
their mutual destruction.

But without union the Christian graces could
not be perfected, and the smaller virtues are the
threads and filaments which gently but firmly
tie them together. There is an attractive power
in goodness which draws each part to the other.
This concord of the virtues is derived from their
having one common centre in which all meet
In vice there is a strong repulsion. Though
bad men seek each other, they do not love each
other. Each seeks the other m order to promote
bis own purposes, while he hates him by whom
his purposes are promoted.

The lesser qualities of the hiuo^n character
■igitizedby VjOC



tre like the lower peo|4e in a oouBtrj ; they are
numerically, if not individaally important If
well reflated they become TuaaUe from that
very circumstance of numbers, which, under a
negligent administration, renders them formi-
dable. The peace of the individual mind and
of the nation, is materially afieotod by the disci-
pline in which these infbrior orders are main-
tained. Laxity and neglect in both oases are
eabrersive of ail good government

But if we may be allowed to glance fVom earth
to heaven, perhaps the beauty of the lesser virtues
may be still better illustrated by that long and
luminous track made up of minute and dmost
imperceptible stars, which though separately
too inconsiderable to attract attention, yet fVom
their number and confluence, form that soft and
shining stream of light every where discemaMe,
and which always corresponds to the same fixed
stars, as the smaller virtues do to their concomi-
jMnt great ones. — ^Without pursuing the meta^
phor to the classic fiction that the Gahucy was
the road through which the ancient heroes went
to heaven, may we not venture to say thatChria-
tians will make their way thither more pleasant
by the consistent practice of the minuter vir-

Every Christian should consider religion as
a fort which he b called to defend. The mean-
est soldier in the army if he add patriotism to
valour, will fight as earnestly as if the glory of
the contest depended on his single arm. But
he brings his watchfulness as wdl as his con-
rage into action. He strenuously defends every
pass he is appo^^ted to guard, without inquiring
whether it be ^reat or small. There is not any
defect in reUgion or morals so little as to be of
no conseauience. Worldly things may be litt^
because their aim and end may be little. Things
are great or small, not according to their osten-
sible importance, but according to the magni-
tude of their objeqt, and the importance of their

The acquisition of even the smallest virtue
being, as has been before observed, «n actual
conquest over the opposite vice, doubles our mo-
ral strength. The spiritual enemy ha» one ob-
ject less, and the conqueror one virtue move.

By allowed negligence in small things, we
are not aware how much we injure religion in
the eye of the world. How can w» expect peo-
ple to believe that we are in earnest in great
points, when they see that we cannot withstand
a trivial temptation, against which resistance
would have been comparatively easy ? At a
distance they hear with respect our general cha-
racters. They become domesticated with us,
and discover the same failings^ littleness, and
bad tempers, as they have been accustomed to
meet with in the most ordinary persons.

If Milton, in one of his letters to a learned
foreigner who had visited him, could congratu-
late himself on the consciodsness that in that
visit he had been found equal to his reputation,
and had supported in private conversation his
high character as an author; shall not the
Christian be equally anxious to support the cre-
dit of holy profession, by not betraying in fii-
Wiliar life any temper meonsistent with reli-

It is not difficult to attract it>ipect on gmm
occasions, where we are kept in order oy know-
ing that the public eye is fiixed upon us. It is
easy to maintain a regard to our dignity in a
' Sympoeiack, or an academical dinner ;* but to
labour to maintain it in the reeessee of domestie
privacy requires more watchfulness, and is no
less the duty, than it will be the habitual praa.
tioe, of the consistent Christian.

Our negleet of inferior duties is particularly
injurjoue to the mind of our dependants and ser
vanta. If they aee us * weak and infirm of por
poee,* peevish, irresolute, capricious, paasi ona te;
or inconsistent, in our daily eonduet, whicb
comes under their immediate observation, and
which eomes also within their power of jud||fing,
they wiU not give ms credit fer those higher
qualities which we may possess, and those su-
perior duties which we may be more careful to
fulfil Neither their capacity nor their opportu-
nities, may enable them to judge of the ortho-
doxy of the head ; but there wiU he obvioasaBd
decisive proofs to the meanest capacity, of the
state and temper of the heart Our greater
qualities will do them little good, while our les-
ser but incessant faults do Uiem much injury
Seeing us so<lefective in the dailj coarse of do^
mestic conduct^ though they will obey ns be
cause they are obliged to it, they will neither
love nor estsem us enough to be influenced by
our advice, nor to be governed by our insirae-
tions, on those great points which evenr oon-
scientious head d*a family will be carefiu to ia-
cnlcato on all about him. It denmnds no lest
circumspection to be a Ckrittittn than to be a
* kerot to one's valet de oharabre.'

In all that relates to God and to himself the
Christian knows of no small fiiults He oonsi.
ders all allowed and wilful sins, whatever be
their magnitude, as an ofienoe against his Ma>
ker. Nothing that oflends him can be insignifi-
cant Nothing that eontributes to Asten on
ourselves a wrong habit can be trifling. Faults
which we are accustomed to consider as small
are repeated without compunction. The habk
of committing them is confirmed by the repeti-
tion. Frequency renders us at fitrst indifiRsrenl,
then insensible. The hopelessness attending a
long indulged custom generates carelessness,
till for want of exercise Uie power of resistance
is first weakened, then destroyed.

But there b a still more serious point of vie^
in which the subject may be considered. Do
small faults, continually repeated, always retain
their original diminotiveness 7 Is any axiom
more established than that all evil is of a pro-
gressive nature ? Is a bad temper which is ne-
ver repressed, no worse afler years of indnl-
genoe, than when we at first gave the reins to
It f Does that which we first ^owed sorsehFes
under the name of harmless levity on serious
subjects, never proceed to pro&nenees 7 Does
what was onee admired as proper spirit, never
grow into pride, never swell into insolence?
Does the habit of incorreet narrative, or loose
talking, or allowed hyperbole, never lead to
falsehood ; never settle in deceit 7 Before we
positively determine that small fiiuUs are inno-
cent, we must undertake tojprovethat they shall
never outgrow their primitive dimsiiMnnB : we

Digitized by




BifMt aioertun that the infant shiD nerer be-
eoine e giant

Proentslinatimt ia reckoned among the meet
venial of our faults, and aits ao lightly on our
minda that we acaroely apologize for it But
who can assure us, that had not the askance
we had reaohred to give to one fKend under dis-
tress, or the advice to another under temptation,
tOi^aj, been delayed, and from mere sloth and
mdolenoe been put oiBT till to-morrow, it might
not have preaerved the fbrtunea of the one, or
saved the soul of the other ?

It is not enough that we perfbrm duties ; we
must perform them at the right time. — We mnst
do the duty of every day in its own season.
Every day has its own imperious duties; we
must not depend upon to-day for fulfilling those
which we neglected yesterday, for to-day might
not have been granted us. To-morrow wiU be
equally peremptory in its demands; and the
•ucoeeding day, if we live to see it, will be ready
with its proper claims.

Ifuffcmon, though it is not so often caused
by reflection as by the want of it, yet may be
as mischievous ; for if we spend too much time
in balancing probabilities, the period for action
is lost While we are ruminating on difficulties
which may never occur, reconcilmg differencea
which pertiaps do not exist, and poising in op-
posite scales things of nearly the same weight,
the opportunity is lost of producing that gixyd
which a firm and manly decision would have

ldUne$$^ though itself • the most unperfbrm-
ing of all the vices,' is however the pass through
which they all enter, the stage on which they
all act Though supremely passive itself, it lends
a willing hand to all evil, practical as well as
speculative. It is the abettor of every sin who-
ever commits it, the receiver of all booW, who-
ever is the thief. If it does nothinjr itself; it con-
nives aX all the mischief that is £ne by others.

Vanity is exceedingly misplaced when ranked
as she commonly is, in the catalogue of small
ftults. It is under her character of harmless-
ness that she does all her mischief. She is in-
deed often found in the society of^ great virtues.
She does not follow in the tram, but mixes her-
•elf with the company, and by mixing mars it
The use our spiritual enemy makes of her is a
master stroke. When he cannot prevent us from
doing right actions, he can accomplish his pur.
pose almost as well *by making us vain of
them.* When he cannot deprive the public of
our benevolence, he can defeat the effect to our-
•elves by poisoning the principle. When he
eannot rob others of the good efl^ct of the deed,
he can gain his point by robbing the doer of his

PeevUhneu is another of the minor miseries.
Human life, though sufiiciently unhappy, can-
not contrive to furnish misfortunes so oflen as
the passionate and the peevish can supply im-
patience. To commit our reason and temper
to the mercy of every acquaintance, and of every
servant, is not making the wisest use of them.
If we recollect that vidence and peevishness are
the common resource of those whose knowledge
b small, and^ whose arguments are weak, our
vitrr pride might lead uf to subdue our passion,

if we had not a better principle to resort to.
Anger is the common refuge of insisnificanoo.
Peoi^e who feel their character to be slight, hope
to give it weight by inflation : but the blown
bladder at its fullest distention b still empty
Sluggish characters, above all, have no ritht to
be passionate. They should be contented with
their own congenial faults. Dullness however
has its impetuosities and its fluctuations as well
as genius. It is on the coast of heavy BcBotia
that the Euripos exhibits its unparalleled rest*
lessness and agitation.

Trifting is ranked among the venial fituhs.
But if time be one grand talent given us in or-
der to our securing eternal life; if we trifle
away that time so as to lose that eternal life, on
which by not trifling we might have laid hold,
then will it answer the end of sin. A lifb de-
voted to trifles not only takes away the inclina-
tion, but the capacity tor higher pursuits. The
truths of Christianity have scarcely more influ-
ence on a frivolous than on a profligate charac-
ter. If the mind be so absorbed, not merely
with what is vicious, but with what is useless,
as to be thoroughly disinclined to the activities
of a lifb of piety, it matters little what the cause
is which so disinclines it If these habits can-
not be accused of great moral evil, yet it argues
a low state of mind ; that a being who has an
eternity at stake can sbandon itself to trivial
pursuits. If the great concern of life cannot be
secured without habitual watchfubess, how is h
to be secured by habitual carelessness 7 It will
affi)rd little comfort to the trifler, when at the
last reckoning he gives in his long negative ca-
talogue, that the more ostensible ofiender was
worse employed. The trifler will not be weigh-
ed in the s^e with the profligate; but in the
balance of the sanctuary.

Some men make for themselves a sort of code
of the lesser morals, of which they settle both
the laws and the chronotegy. They fix *the
climacterics of the mind ;** determine at what
period such a vice may be adopted without die
credit, at what age one bad haWt may give way
to another more in character. Having settled
it as a matter of course, that to a certain age
certain fiiults are natural, they proceed to act as
if they thought them necessary.

But let us not practice on oursehea the gross
imposition to believe that any failing, much less
any vice, is necessarily appended to any st^te or
any age, or that it is irresistible at any. We
may accustom oursehres to talk of vanity and
extravagance as belonging to the joong ; and
avarice and peevishness to the old, till the nejct
step win be that we shall think ourselves justi-
fied in adopting them. Whoever is eager to
find excuses for vice and foUy, will feel his
own backwardness to practise them much di-

C* eti le premier pa$ qui eotUe. It is only to
make out an imaginary necessity^ and then we
easily fall into the necessity wo have imaged.
Providence has established no such association.
There is, it is true, more danger of certain faults
under certain circumstances ; and some tempta-
tions are stronger at some periods : but it is •

^ Dr. Jolmson.

Digitized by




proof that they «re not irrMiotible became all
do not fall into tbem. TliB evil is in ouraelvet,
who niiti|rate tbe diaore^t bj the aapposed ne-
cessity. The prediction, hke the dream of
tbe astrologer, creates the event instead of fore-
tailing it. Bat thare is no supposition can be
made of a bad case which wiU joetif^ the ma-
king it our own : Nor will general positions ever
serve for individoal ap<^gies. — ^Who has not
known persons who, though they retain the
■onnd health and vigour of active Ufe, sink pre-
maturely into sloth and inactivity, solely on the
cround that these dispositions are &ncied to
M nnavoidably incident to advancing years.
Thev demand the indulgence before tbe^ feel
the Infirmity. Indolence thus forges a dismis-
sion from doty before the discharge is issued
out by Providence. No.«»Let os endeavour to
meet ibe evils of the several conditions and pe-
riods of life with submission, but it is an offence
lo their divine dispenser to fi>restall them.

But we have still a saving clause for ourselves,
whether the evil be of greater or lesser magni-
tude. If the fiiult be great, we lament the in-
ftbility to resist it; if small, we deny the impor.
tance of so doing, we plead that we cannot with-
stand a great temptation, and that a small one
is not worth withstanding. But if the tempta-
tion or the fault be great, we should resist it on
account of that very magnitude ; if small, the
giyini^ it up can cost but little ; and tbe con-
scientious habit of conquermg the less will con-
Ibr considerable strength towards subduing the

There is again, a sort of splendid character,
which, winding itself up occasionally to certain
shining actions, thinks itself fully justified in
breaking loose fW>m the shackles of restraint in
smaller things : it makes no scruple to indem-
nify itself for these popular deeds by indulgences
which, though allowed, are far from innocent
It thus secures to itself praise and ^pularity by
what is sure to gain it, and immunity from cen-
sure in indulging the fitvourite fiiult, practically
txclaimin|r, * Is it not a little one V

Vanity is at the bottom of almost all, may we
not say, of all our sins 7 We think more of
signalizing than of saving ourselves. We over-
look the hourly occasions which occur of serving,
of obligin|f, of comfbrtinff those around us, while
we sometimes, not unwiUinglv perform an act
of notorious generosity. Tl:^ hsi>it, however, in
the former care, better indicates the disposition
and bent of the mind, than the solitary act of
•plendor. The apostle does not say whatsoever

Sreat things ye do, but * whatsoever things ye
o, do all to the glory of God.* Actions are less
weighed by their bulk than their motive. Vir-
tues are less measured by their splendor than
their principle. The racer proceeds in his
course more effectually by a steady unslackened
pace, than by starts of violent but unequal ex-

That great abstract of moral law, of which
we have elsewhere spoken,* tliat rule of the
highest court of appeal, set op in bis own bosom,
to which every man can always resort, •all
things that ye would that men should do unto

• Chspter ix.

yon, do ye also unts them '-*This law* if taitCi
fully ofwyed, operating as an infallible remedy
for all the disorders of self-love, would, by throw
ing its partiality into the right soak, establish
the right exercise of all the smaller virtues. Its
strict observance would not only put a stop to
all injustice, but to all unkindness : not onW to
oppressive acts, but to unfiMling language. £veo
haughty looks and supercilious gestures would
be iMmuhed fVom the &oe of society, did we ask
ourselves how we should like to receive what
we are not ashamed to give.

Till we thus morally transmute place, person,
and cirenmstanee with those of our brother, we
shall never treat him with the tenderness this
gracious law enjoins. Small virtues and smaQ
offences are only so by comparison. To treat a
fellow-ereature with harsh language, is not in-
deed a crime like robbing him of nis estate or
destroying his reputation. They are, however,
all the offspring of the same family. — ^They are
the same in qiwlity though not in degree. All
flow, though in streams of different magnitude,
from the same fountain ; all are indications of a
departure from that principle which is included
in the law of love. The consequences they in
vdve are not less certain ; thoii^h they are less

The reason why what are called rdigious peo-
l^e ofUn differ so little from others in small
trials is, that instead of bringing religion to
their aid in their lesser vexations, they either
leave the disturbance to pre^ upon their minds,
or apply to false reliefs for its removal. Those
who are rendered unhappy by frivolous troubles
seek cpmfort in frivolous enjoyments. But wt
should apply the same remedy to ordinary trials
as to great ones ; for as small disquietudes spring
from the same cause as great trials, namely, the
uncertain and imperfect condition of human U^
so they require the same remedy. Meeting
common cares with a right spirit would impart
a smoothness to tiie temper, a spirit of cheerlul-
ness to tbe heart, which would mightily break
the force of heavier trials.

Yon apply to the power of religion in great
evils.— Why does it not occor to yoo to ap^y
to it in the less 7 Is it that you think the ia-
strument greater than the occasion demands ^
It is not too great if the lesser one will not pro-
duce the effect, or if it produce it in tbe wrong
way ; for there is such a thing as putting an
evil out of Bight without curing it You would
apply to religion on the loss of your child — aj»-
pl^ to it on the loss of your temper. Throw m
this wholesome tree to sweeten the bitter waters.
As no calamity is too great for the power of
Christianitjr to mitigate, so none is too small to
experience its beneficial- results. Our behaviour
under the ordinary accidents of life forms a cha.
racteristic distinction between different classes
of Christians. The least advanced, resort to re-
ligion on ^reat occasions ; the deeper proficient
resorts to it on all. What makes it appear of
so little comparative value is, that the medicine

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 110 of 135)