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I. The Origin of Habit. Habit may be conceived to arise in this way. When, in the revolution of time of the day, or the week, or the month, or the year the point comes round at which we have been thinking of anything, or have done anything, by the law of the association of ideas we think of it again, or do it again. For instance, when day dawns we awake. We get out of bed because we have done it at that time before. At a later hour we take breakfast, and go away to business, for the same reason; and so on through the day. The more frequently anything has been done, the stronger is habit, and frequency acts on habit through something else. Frequency gives ease and swiftness to the doing of anything. It is not only the mind that is involved in habit. Even the body is subdued to its service. Do we not recognize the soldier by his gait, the student by his stoop, and the merchant by his bustle? And in the parts of the body that are invisible the muscles and nerves there is a still greater change due to habit. Hence the counsel of the philosopher, and I think it is a very profound counsel: 'Make your nervous system your ally instead of your enemy in the battle of life'.
II. Excessive Habit. Habit, even good habit, may be excessive. It tends to become hide-bound and tyrannical. There is a pharisaical sticking to opinions once formed, and to customs once adopted, which is the principal obstacle to human progress. Yet, on the whole, there is no possession so valuable as a few good habits, for this means that not only is the mind pledged and covenanted to good, but the muscles are supple, and even the very bones are bent to what is good.
III. Desirable Habits.
1. Self-control; that is, the power of getting yourself to do what you know you ought to do, and to avoid what you know you ought to avoid.
2. Concentration of mind.
3. Really working when you are at work.
IV. The Tyranny of Evil Habits. Evil habits may be acquired through simply neglecting to acquire good ones. Like weeds they grow up wherever the field is uncultivated and the good seed is not sown. For example, the man who does not work becomes a dissipated loafer.
The tyranny of evil habit is proverbial. The moralists compare it to a thread, at the beginning, but as thread is twisted with thread, it becomes like a cable which can turn a ship.
V. The Problem of Christianity. In the work of overcoming evil habits, is there available for man a power outside himself that when his own power fails, will stand him in stead, not, indeed, by pushing his own powers aside, but by entering into compact with them, and raising them to the strength necessary for the occasion? I say that is the problem of Christianity, and nobody can have any doubt what the answer is which Scripture gives to it Is it not also the answer of experience, the experience of tens of thousands of men who have tried in vain to reform themselves, but have found in the Gospel the power of God unto salvation; the experience of men in whom the power of evil habit was so strong that it seemed as impossible to overcome it as to reverse the course of Acheron, and yet who, by the grace of God, were made humble and progressive Christians? There is no force of evil with which the Saviour cannot cope.
James Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 198.
References. XIII. 23. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2536. A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 205. L. T. Dodd, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 88. E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, p. 51. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 274. XIV. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2745. XIV. 3, 4, 22. Ibid. vol. xxxv. No. 2115. XIV. 7-9. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 281. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1661. XIV. 8, 9. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 1. XIV. 9. Ibid. Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 9. XIV. 22. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2745. T. K. Cheyne, The Hallowing of Criticism, p. 83. XV. 4. W. Lee, University Sermons, p. 262. XV. 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 993.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19