Page images
PDF
EPUB

"Know first, that heav'n and earth's compacted frame,
And flowing waters, and the starry flame,
And both the radiant lights, one common soul
Inspires and feeds-and animates the whole.
This active mind, infus'd through all the space,
Unites and mingles with the mighty mass.
Hence men and beasts the breath of life obtain,
And birds of air, and monsters of the main ;
The etherial vigour is in all the same;
And every soul is filled with equal flame-
As much as earthy limbs and gross allay
Of mortal members subject to decay,
Blunt not the beams of heav'n and edge of day.
From this coarse mixture of terrestrial parts,
Desire and fear by turns possess their hearts,
And grief and joy; nor can the groveling mind
In the dark dungeon of the limbs confined,
Assert the native skies, or own its heavenly kind."
Dryden's Virgil.

[ocr errors]

Justin Martyr gives the following summary of the opinion of Pythagoras: viz. "God is one; he is not as some conjecture, exterior to the world, but in himself entire, pervades the universal sphere, superintends all productions, is the support of all nature, eternal, the source of all power, the first simple principle of all things, the origin of celestial light, the father of all, the mind and animating principle of the universe, the first mover of all the spheres."*

* See Aikin's General Biography-Justin Martyr.

SECT. II.

Perfection of Instinct in its operations.

It seems evidently to be the design of nature, that not only the vegetable kingdom, but the different tribes of the animal, should be subservient to the uses of man; for whom we may legitimately presume they were created, because we see no other animal superior to ourselves. We find therefore that the preservation and perpetuation of the several species have been guarded and secured by an Intelligence more vigilant and active, and more perfect than the most enlightened human reason. And this Intelligence, operating in the brutes from the highest to the lowest, for these special purposes, we have been accustomed to designate by the term of Instinct. But from every thing we can discern, it does not appear, that brutes themselves in accomplishing those purposes for which they were obviously designed, have any rational notions of the end of their own works. It simply appears, that by the direction of this powerful principle, in obedience to certain modes of structure and bodily sensations prompting them to act, they pursue, blindly and without foresight, those ends or operations, on which, as far as they are individually concerned, the integrity of the whole scheme of nature and its

durability depend. It is obvious, that to harmonize and order aright so many thousand created things; varying infinitely in structure, in habits, and propensities; interfering too continually in their several objects and mutual wants; supporting and destroying one another; nothing short of the most comprehensive and exalted Intelligence would be required. We have, therefore, the evidence of wisdom in each, as well as in the whole;-in the individual fibre and the entire animal ;—in each animal separately, and in its relations to every thing around it,—to the complete circle of animated beings.

What I aim, therefore, to impress, is this, that every thing which regards the administration of the physical government of the world, the Deity has reserved to his own keeping: so that whatever is of supreme importance to the general good; whether in the unconscious elements, the vegetating plant, the moving reptile, or the living animal; whether in the highest order of thinking brutes, or even in the physical economy of man himself; is under the immediate controul and superintendence of Divine Wisdom, and not of human Reason.

Where Reason, therefore, would be a feeble and uncertain guide, sometimes ready for service, and sometimes slumbering at its post, Instinct is ever found to be a prompt minister, faithful to its trust.

Say, where full Instinct is the unerring guide,
What Pope or council can they need beside ?
Reason, however able, cool at best,

Cares not for service, or but serves when prest.
Stays till we call, and then not often near,
But honest Instinct comes a volunteer.
This too serves always, Reason never long;
One must go right, the other may go wrong.

But if the brute is thus directed by a wise and unerring principle, in fulfilling the design of its creation-a principle which we can only regard as an emanation of Divine wisdom; are we to consider that the better part of man is left to a secondary and inferior guidance the faint and fluctuating reflected light of Reason? That man, the noblest of sublunary existences, created for the purpose of his Maker's glory, can be conducted by this light to the completo summit and full attainment of the objects of his Being?

I take it for granted that the main and ultimate objects of his being are not like those which concern the brute :-neither the mere provision for the body, nor yet provident care for his offspring;—but essentially different, and rising far above animal sense. I take it for granted that neither the rational enjoyments of life, nor the rational pursuits of science, can, in themselves, prepare and fit the human mind for an immortal union with its Maker.

We have already partially considered the chief ends and subordinate uses of the lower animals in the

creation, and how these are accomplished-viz. by pure Instinct. It would be a grave and elaborate inquiry to consider the chief ends of the creation of man himself; and how these are to be accomplished: -viz. by what lights, intuitions, and notices from his Maker, and through what means, he is best instructed in his moral duties.

I may neither be qualified for such an arduous undertaking, nor may this be a suitable occasion to enter upon it. But as a subject of natural investigation, it is certain, that it has been liable to much difference of opinion.

The question is simply, whether it be the faculty of Reason, as it is above defined, that can elevate Man to the perfection of his Being; or a divine emanation, somewhat analogous to that in brutes, by which he is enabled to follow the path of undeviating rectitude, and to claim reverential affinity to his Maker.

It is necessary to be understood, that "we are now discoursing," as Sir Matthew Hale expressed himself on a similar occasion, "in the outward court of the Gentiles." We are not availing ourselves of those helps which Revelation offers to us; because, in a natural inquiry, those who rest on outward notices, are apt to slight supernatural manifestations, through whatever medium they may be offered.

Considering the analogy of Reason's incompetence in the physical relations that have come under our notice, we should be led to infer a priori that Reason

« PreviousContinue »