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at my uncle's, I asked Anthony, whether or not he succeeded in persuading John Wilkins of the possibility of living without spirits and strong beer.
“No, sir,” said Anthony, shaking his head, “it is hard to convince a man against his will. John could not be induced to try whether or not he could live without those things; but, poor fellow ! he finds now that he cannot live by them. Without being what is commonly called a drunkard, he has taken enough to ruin his health, and is now apparently very near his end : he has not been able to work for a long time, and his family would have been almost starved, but for the kindness of our master. Poor John! he falls a martyr to thinking he could not live without it, and leaves his family destitute of many needful comforts, which have been sacrificed to keep him supplied with his unnecessary indispensable ; and then, what is worst of all, it is to be feared, he thought more about indulging his pleasure, than about saving his soul. Whenever trifles are treated as matters of great importance, it almost always follows, that things of real importance are regarded as trifles ; and, for that reason, a wise man will be very jealous of the thing of which he thinks he cannot live without it.”
The case of poor Wilkins was several times spoken of in-doors as well as out. My uncle was, in every sense of the word, a kind friend to him as long as he lived, and to his family after him. Wilkins had been a general favourite. He was a fine athletic man, active, clever, and obliging : every one of the servants spoke well of him, for his kind willingness to serve and assist them; and
Frank and myself remembered him as having often contributed to our pleasures. He had the good will and the good word of every body. My uncle, as well as old Anthony, thought it the more necessary to interpose a caution where his example might be dangerous. I recollect his saying, how very different matters would have been, if John Wilkins, instead of indulging the notion that he could not live without it, had, formed and maintained the resolution that he would do without it. This he illustrated by two facts that had come under his own cognizance. “ A somewhat celebrated man, with whom,” said my uncle, “in my youth, I was more than once in company, had been for many years a great snuff-taker. He never forgot his snuff-box many minutes together, and fancied that it was absolutely essential to his comfort, if not to his very existence. But he was convinced to the contrary, and wisely acted on his conviction. Whether he accidentally lost his box, or whether his pocket was picked, so it was, that, going along St. Paul's church-yard, he missed his snuff-box, and instantly resolved that he would never take another pinch of snuff ; nor did he ever suffer himself to break that resolution. I need not say,” continued my uncle," that he was never the worse for it; and thai, when the first effort of self-denial was achieved, the inclination to resume the nasty habit gradually subsided, and left him at full liberty to enjoy his moral triumph. He who has commenced a practice that has grown into a destroyer of his time, or that in any way enthrals his energies and resources, if he desire to end it, must snap it in an instant. If he strive to abate it by degrees, he will find himself relaxing by
degrees. Delusions, strong as hell, will hold him fast, unless he achieve, not the determination to destroy, but the act of destruction. The will and the power are two. S. knew this; and therefore, when he resolved to break off snuff-taking, he never allowed himself to take another pinch. Had he taken one, he might, in all probability he would, have taken one more, and then only another; and afterwards only a little bit in a paper, —and then he would have died, as he lived, a snuff-taker. No, he appears to have discovered the grand secret, that a man's self is the great enemy of himself;' and hence his intolerance of self-indulgence even in a small degree.' interested in this example of strength of mind, and I hope learned from it to aspire after that ascendency over ourselves, without which, true greatness and goodness of character cannot exist. My uncle gave us another instance.
“ Some years ago,” said he, a most malignant and contagious fever broke out in this neighbourhood. Its ravages were chiefly confined to the poor in a particular district, characterized by some unfavourable local circumstances, and still more by the dirty and depraved habits of the families resident there. Several deaths had occurred, and fearful apprehensions were entertained of the spread of the calamity, when our medical men suggested the desirableness of attempting to stop the contagion, by removing all the inhabitants, and thoroughly cleansing and purifying their dwellings, clothing, and persons. A liberal subscription was immediately raised, and two buildings, remote from each other, and from the seat of infection, were fitted up ; one for the reception of the sick, where
they were supplied with every comfort, and attended by nurses from the county hospital, under the direction of the medical men; who thus gained a fair field for the exercise of their professional skill, by the patients being removed from an infected atmosphere, from the real privations of poverty, and from the improper indulgences of self-willed ignorance. Most of them, under proper treatment, recovered. The other new building was appropriated to the reception of the apparently uninfected inmates of the dirty cottages; for that was the name which their dwellings had acquired. On their entrance at the asylum provided for them, their persons were subjected to ablutions, to which most of them had been entire strangers : all woollen garments were destroyed, and linen ones washed ; and every thing needful was furnished for cleanliness and comfort. Meanwhile, the dwellings were cleaned and whitewashed ; a stagnant pond cleared out; each cottage furnished with drain, tank, and other appliances of decency, of which they had before been destitute. Every thing was attended to that could stimulate and encourage the occupants, when they should reassemble in their dwellings, to commence a course, of which it might be supposed they had now tasted the comforts and advantages, as compared with their former habits.
“During their temporary residence at the asylum, which lasted several weeks, until it was considered that all remaining danger of infection had passed by, the people were liberally supplied with wholesome food; but they were restrained from some improper indulgences to which they had been accustomed. At this, most of them at first
raised bitter complaints; declaring, like poor Wilkins, that they had been used to their drop of spirits,' and could not live without it. However, by firmness and conciliation on the part of those who had the management of the concern, they were reconciled to their privations, and soon assumed a hue of health, vigour, and cheerfulness, unknown before. Some, indeed, only waited for the removal of present restrictions to return to their former courses ; but in the case of two families, it proved the turning point of life. "We thought,' said one of the parties to another, 'we thought we could not live without it; but now we know the difference; it would be better to die than to return to it.' There is reason to believe, that the resolution was taken up on good grounds; it has hitherto been steadily maintained; the aspect of both the families is, in every respect, completely changed by it ; and their dwellings, at least, are redeemed from the disgraceful epithet of • the dirty cottages.'
The expression of the poor woman, that it would be better to die in forsaking bad habits, than to live in adhering to them, led Mr. Mortimer to mention a case which had come under his own knowledge, of a highly talented gentleman, who had suffered himself to be beguiled into the seductive and dangerous habit of taking opium. By the pointed, affectionate, and well-timed remonstrance of a friend, he was led to perceive the criminality and danger of the course he was pursuing. He possessed Christian principle, and he was enabled to call it into exercise. When once his eyes were opened to the truth, he stedfastly resolved, in the strength of Divine grace, to break the snare, coute