Though it blow ever so gently, a prevailing wind will give the sapling a lean which is retained even until the day when, a mighty tree, it thunders to its fall. So, too, though men pride themselves upon the spontaneity of their unbiased judgments, it does not escape the thoughtful that the average life is for the most part a register of aggregated habits. Its decisions and consequent conduct are directly traceable to the inertia of past doings and beliefs. Some impulse, influence, or experience has begun a little round whose repetition presents the more comfortable line of least resistance, which, pursued, soon becomes customary if not invariable, and thus in some domain of physical or mental activity there is established the effective rule not of the choice of to-day, but of the choice of yesterday.

Holmes has humorously suggested that in bringing up a child it is well to take him in hand a hundred years or so before his birth, and in this he gives us a valuable hint as to the best way to manage a tendency; but Epictetus' thought has more practical significance when he says, 'Practise yourself, for heaven's sake, in little things, and then proceed to greater." The value of some daily exercise in moral discipline, the doing and doing well of some needed thing which we would not have chosen, and for the simple sake, if no other, of getting into the way of doing it,—this is above rubies. It means the molding of habit; more, it means that gentle emergence into Spirit to which Mrs. Eddy so wisely and lovingly commends us. (See Science and Health, p. 485.) To create a tendency that is after the pattern shown in the Mount is to inaugurate the ideal.

In general thought the relation of habit to life is much more frequently associated with evil than with good, and it is therefore thought of as a hindrance rather than a help. This may explain the epigrammatic advice of the statesman who said, "Never acquire a predisposition." If habit be regarded as a mere inertia, then it must be thought of as indifferent to the nature of that which it perpetuates, and for those who look upon the continuance of evil as natural and lawful it may become a very demon of destiny, to whose fateful decrees they yield obedience with the self-excusing and wholly unworthy plaint, "I can't help it."

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October 19, 1907

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