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the earth, until at last it was taken from them. Solitary confinement, when inflicted as a punishment, is considered a very severe one; but such persons inflict it on themselves, - living for years alone, and at last unable to go out, even if they wish to do so.
So people who do not give, lose at last the power of giving. I have known rich men who were absolutely unable to give, because they had not kept up the habit of regular and continued generosity. The only way to escape that malady - for it is a real disease — is to give away, regularly and on principle, a certain proportion of one's income. And this law applies to all, - to those in moderate circumstances no less than to the wealthy. It was the man who had only a single talent who hid it in the earth, not the one who had five. If you do not give now, when your means are small, what reason have you to think that you would do better if you were wealthy? If every poor man in Boston gave according to his means, all the charities of the city would be amply supplied. Let us never forget the epitaph on a tombstone, which teaches the true law on this subject: “What I spent, I had; what I kept, I lost; what I gave, I have still."
So, likewise, those who do not care to see the truth, lose at last the power of seeing it. I have known lawyers, to whom justice and truth were supreme; honorable, high-minded men, who never condescended to any low cunning, but used arguments which were convincing to themselves in order to convince others. The bar of this city has always had such lawyers, — men whose wish and effort it was “to execute justice and to maintain truth.” Such men, as they grow older, grow wiser, stronger, greater. They love truth, and truth is given to them, and they have abundance.
But I have known others, nembers of this same grand profession, whose only object was to win their cause, and that in any way. They said, not what they believed true, but what they thought they might make seem true to others. Their object was not to convince; but to deceive, to confuse, to bewilder; to mislead, to win their cause by appeals to prejudice, to ignorance, to passion. And so at last they confused their own sense, and lost the power of distinguishing between truth and falsehood, right and wrong. They had buried their talent in the earth, and it was taken from them.
Truth is such a sacred thing, so holy, so venerable, that we must not trifle with it. In public speech and in private conversation some persons talk for effect, regardless of accuracy. They say what will produce an impression, assert extraordinary facts, aim at excitement, and at last lie unconsciously and automatically. They are called liars; but it is a disease, not a wilful purpose. They do not know, at the time, that they are saying what is not true. Such is the evil which results from talking merely for effect, merely to produce an impression.
Truth-telling becomes a habit, and at last the man cannot help telling the truth. So untruth-telling becomes also a habit, and the man cannot help lying. Profanity becomes a habit. The child of God, made by him for immortality, and blessed every day by his goodness, living and moving and having his being in God, goes about from morning till night blaspheming the name of his protector and friend, calling down damnation on himself, and profaning everything sacred with oaths and curses. And perhaps all the time he does not know that he is doing so.
This habit has become automatic and unconscious. He has deadened in his soul all sense of the reality of spiritual things, until they have become empty names, with which he fills up the gaps in his speech while he is trying to think of something to say.
We may state the law thus: “Any habitual course of conduct changes voluntary actions into automatic or involuntary actions.” This can be illustrated by the physical constitution of man. Some of our bodily acts are voluntary, some involuntary; some partly one and partly the other. The heart beats seventy or eighty times a minute all our life long, without any will of ours. Whether we are asleep or awake, the heart drives the blood, by its steadily moving piston, through all the arteries and veins, more than a hundred thousand times every twenty-four hours. The heart beats thirty-six million times every year, without
any will of ours; and if it suspends or relaxes its action for a few moments, we faint away and become unconscious. If it stops its action for a minute, we die. The lungs, in the same way, perpetually inhale and exhale breath, whether we intend it or not; and if the lungs should suspend their action, we should die. But we can exercise a little volition over the action of the lungs; we can breathe voluntarily, taking long breaths. Thus the action of the lungs is partly automatic and partly voluntary, while the mechanical action of the heart is wholly automatic, and the chemical action of the digestive organs is the same. But some acts, voluntary at first, become by habit automatic. A child, beginning to walk, takes every single step by a separate act of will; beginning to read, he looks at every single letter. After a while, he walks and reads by a habit, which has become involuntary. He does not exercise a separate act of will in taking each step or looking at each letter. He walks and reads unconscious of the separate steps in the process.
So, also, it is with man's moral and spiritual nature. By practice he forms habits, and habitual action is automatic action, requiring no exercise of will except at the beginning of the series of acts. The law of association does the rest.
So to him who hath shall be given. As voluntary acts are transformed into automatic, the will is set free to devote itself to higher efforts and larger attainments. After telling the truth awhile by an effort, we tell the truth naturally, necessarily, automatically. After giving to good objects for a while from principle, we give as
a matter of course. Honesty becomes automatic; self-control becomes automatic. We rule over our spirit, repress illtemper, keep down bad feelings, first by an effort, afterwards as a matter of course. Temperance becomes automatic; it costs a good deal of effort and self-denial at first, but at last it takes care of itself.
Possibly these virtues really become incarnate in the bodily organization. Possibly goodness is made flesh and becomes consolidate in the fibres of the brain. Vices, beginning in the soul, seem to become at last bodily diseases; why may not virtues follow the same law? One purpose of the body may be thus to receive and retain the results of past effort, that spiritual acts may be anchored and accumulated by physical organization. Thus the body may be the best servant of the soul, packing away and watching like a faithful steward all its master's treasures, and in the future life the risen or spiritual body may retain them all.
If it were not for some such law of accumulation as this, the work of life would have to be begun forever anew.
Formation of character would be impossible. We should be incapable of progress, our whole strength being always employed in battling with our first enemies, learning evermore anew