Page images

First, That seeing many of the natural operations of the lower animals are so complicated, yet so perfect and invariable, it is almost irrational to suppose them acquainted with the rules of the arts which they practice so skilfully or the ends for which they operate; and therefore, that they are guided by an instinctive power, only known to Him who thus directs them unerringly in all their ways.

2d.-Taking Instinct therefore to be a principle in the constitution of animals, given them by their maker for the purpose of preserving the individuals and continuing the kind; its accommodating itself to circumstances and situations, is no argument against its existence, nor a good proof that it is always the result of reasoning. Because He who made it a part of the constitution of his creatures, knows that the same ends must be often sought by different means; especially when times, places, and circumstances, are altered. For if this accommodating property were not imparted to Instinct, it would not produce the effects for which it seems intended; as we know that it is impossible that similar means should produce similar effects, when circumstances, climates, and situations, are different. The accommodating variations only occur where the disadvantages exist, against which the Instinct is intended to provide.*

Therefore, so far as I can judge, the examples which have been given,—and they are chiefly selected from the Zoonomia of Dr. Darwin,-as proofs of this

* See Rees' Cyclop. article Instinct.

accommodating faculty, are not strong enough to weaken the force of the general definition of Instinct. These examples serve rather to show that instinct in the brute is not so mechanical in its operation as to admit of no possible deviation: and that animals themselves, unlike pieces of mechanism, are capable of being instructed by circumstances, in what immediately concerns their well-being. For it is to be understood, that in the wise economy of nature, no species of animal can be detached from the rest without more or less disorder; and that its well-being is subservient to the whole scheme of Providence in the outward creation.

3dly. That as the natural senses in man, by necessity and particular modes of life, are often possessed in high perfection, so likewise are the natural senses in the lower animals; and as we do not confound our own natural senses with our instincts, so neither ought we to confound the perfection of the natural senses in animals with their instincts, nor yet with that conscious intelligence they sometimes display in their intercourse with man.

4thly. That some animals do, notwithstanding, show indications of a sense which is quite anomalous and inexplicable, yet scarcely to be classed with instinctive propensities, as was spoken of in the bat, in some migratory tribes, and even in the sheep and dog.

And lastly. That by education and training, in their intercourse with man, many of the higher orders

of brutes are rendered capable of important changes, and display signs of uncommon sagacity and reasoning: but while they acquire knowledge and many useful qualities, fitting them to be our companions, they lose their instincts or natural propensities, or may even be brought to act in a manner directly contrary to these instincts.

Upon the latter qualities in the lower animals,especially their docility and intelligence, it may be useful to subjoin a few remarks, with which I shall conclude this outline of a very extensive subject. By means of their docility, we may perceive, to what important purposes they are subservient in the economy of human society: and yet their intelligence or power of comparing and drawing conclusions, and adapting means to ends, is so wisely limited by, divine Providence, that they are prevented from ever combining or rebelling in concert to injure their protector, who sometimes proves their oppressor; while they are capable of such a measure of reasoning, as qualifies them to know our wants and desires, to comprehend the reliance we place upon their ready service, and to afford their prompt assistance in extricating us from danger. It is easy to perceive that they are fixed by an unalterable decree to a subordinate station in the world, and that they are hence incapable of rising above a certain rank in the creation. But if we adopted Darwin's opinion, there is no saying how far their fancied progressive improvement might reach. Within this limited range, therefore,

their powers of reasoning extend. It seems as evident to me, says Locke, that some animals do, in certain instances, reason, as that they have sense; but it is only in particular ideas, just as they receive them from the senses." Locke is not disposed to allow them the power of abstraction. It is however well observed by the writer of the article Instinct in Rees' Cyclopædia, that "there are many facts from which it is evident, that brutes on some occasions exhibit proofs of this faculty." And to this opinion I assent.*

Now, if we compare our own mental constitution with that of brutes, however we may excel them, as we certainly do, in some noble capacities and principles, exclusively belonging to our moral nature ;— yet we possess many faculties and powers precisely analogous to theirs; and the motives and combined operation of these, it is often as difficult to understand, as it is those of the lower animals. So that it might be as hard a matter to prove that many acts of human volition were deliberate acts of the reasoning faculty in its abstract sense, as many actions of the lower animals:-such a variety of motives and im

* In allusion to the reasoning of animals, Milton says,—

"Is not the earth

With various living creatures, and the air
Replenished, and all these at thy command

To come and play before thee? Know'st thou not
Their language and their ways? They also know
And reason not contemptibly. With these
Find pastime."

pulses may govern the decision of a human being, prompting him to act, not according to the standard of reason, but according to the scale of sense or passion, and low desire. For, how rarely does enlightened reason, setting aside the higher influence of moral duty, determine the conduct of man!

In common with the brutes we have our instincts, our imitative powers, our natural senses perfect or imperfect according to their use, our capabilities of improvement by discipline and education, our animal propensities and passions, our feelings benevolent and malevolent, our faculties of remembering and of comparing or judging. Perhaps also they may par

take with us in some others. But these are sufficient to show what a compound is man,—of mean and noble -of evil and good-how prone to the impulse of nature from his very constitution, like the brute, and how rarely asserting the prerogative of his superior rank in the creation, by purifying his rational and moral decisions and general conduct from the contamination of sordid motives, so as to reason and act like a being formed after the image of the Deity.

« PreviousContinue »