Page images
PDF
EPUB

hend, sufficiently shield me from the imputation of indulging a desire for barren metaphysical discussions, and of straining my inferences unnaturally in thus passing from the one consideration to the other. As to metaphysical pursuits, purely such, they must be considered to be generally unprofitable; and I should tread with reluctance on that slippery and uncertain ground, if the nature of my inquiry did not necessarily lead me to notice several of the metaphysical writings most celebrated in the present day. I do so the more willingly, because it is with the view of extracting as much as natural reason has been ready to admit, in support of what I apprehend to be one of the most important and sacred truths in the philosophy of the human mind.

It is not meant to be implied that the sublime truths of Revelation-with which, in their purest sense, I believe the views I shall take will strictly agreeabsolutely require the support of natural reason, as it is, or can be, afforded by any of the most enlightened philosophers. On the contrary, I am persuaded, that supernatural light can gain nothing by the feeble glimmering of Reason's lamp, which is the only guide of philosophy in its outward discoveries. But, as this is professedly a natural investigation; and as I mean to go a little farther than those believers in Revelation who take the Holy Scriptures as the only revealed will of God to his creature man, I shall avail myself of any admission or discovery, which, in the present as well as in former ages, philosophers may

have either stumbled upon, as it were, unwittingly; or may have been induced to make, by fair deduction; or may have received from immemorial tradition, or from that light itself which must always bear testimony to its own sufficiency and authority, when the weakness of Reason is made manifest. I shall therefore collect these outward testimonies for these special purposes.

[ocr errors]

Sir Matthew Hale in his "Primitive Origination of Mankind" has very forcibly pointed out the analogy, above adverted to, between the instincts observable in animated nature, and the original engraven instincts of the mind. His style is, indeed, a little antiquated; but the notions are clearly expressed, only that he uses the term Discursive Ratiocination' as the word Reason is used in this Essay; and he employs the latter term to denote the whole rational nature of man as distinguished from the brute. Therefore he calls them rational Instincts, in contradistinction to the animal instincts; but clearly distinguishes them from Reason, or a mere discursive faculty, by making them antecedent to its exercise. "For," he says, "though they are truths acquirable and deducible by argumentation, yet they seem to be inscribed in the very texture of the soul, antecedent to any acquisition by industry or the exercise of the discursive faculty.”*—“That, as we see in brutes, there are lodged certain sensible instincts, antecedent to their imaginative or sensitive faculty, whereby they

See" Primitive origination of Mankind.”

are predetermined to the good and convenience of the sensible life; so there are lodged in the very constitution of the soul certain rational instincts, connaturally engraven in il-antecedently to any discursive ratiocination, whereby it is predisposed, inclined, and biassed to the good and convenience proportionable to a rational and intellectual life."*

It is proper also to notice that in the term "rational and intellectual life of man," he comprehends his moral and religious capacities: and to the "rational instincts," he adds the epithets "speculative and moral."

I have already quoted a passage from Lord Monboddo's Ancient Metaphysics, which shews the same analogy and Dr. Hartley in his work "On Man,” has compared the instinctive direction of brutes to the inspiration of the human mind.† All these authorities, therefore, justify the allusion.

I shall next consider the natural evidences or testimonies in favour of the principle in question.

Hale's Origin, cap. 2.

+"The direction in brutes, to provide for themselves and their offspring, would be a kind of inspiration, mixing itself with and helping out that part of their faculties which corresponds to Reason in us, and which is extremely imperfect in them-only this Inspiration might be called natural, as proceeding from the same stated laws of matter and motion, as the other phenomena of nature; whereas the inspiration of the sacred writers appears to be of a much higher source, so as to be termed supernatural properly, in contradistinction to all knowledge resulting from the common laws of nature. And yet it may result from some higher laws of nature. For sacred Inspiration would lose nothing of its authority, though it should appear to be within such laws, as by their fixedness might be termed nature." Hartley on Man.

SECT. II.

Of the testimonies in favour of such a principle, analogous to Instinct and superior to Reason.

Of the testimonies in favour of any moral truth or principle, when we desire to exclude all evidence but that of the most unprejudiced minds, and at the same time to reconcile that truth with the discoveries made to man by God himself with unquestionable clearness, none appear to me more striking than those of the ancient philosophers, who were totally unacquainted with a written revelation, and followed the native light of their own minds, in other words, built their conclusions upon the fundamental principles of human nature. For, whether these conclusions have been derived from a primeval revelation, by tradition, or from an internal spark of original divine light, still feebly animating the human soul, and though obscured, unextinguished, they are highly to be valued. On the subject before us, no inconsiderable authorities may be produced. My object, therefore, is simply to show, that it has been a general impression among mankind from the earliest ages down to the present time, that a principle, or guide, or light, or teacher, superior to discursive Reason, was implanted

in the human mind;-a principle which might, indeed, have the assistance of reason, the highest natural gift to man, but was antecedent to it, and above it, and had rules for government distinct from reason, evidence of another kind, and objects wholly different. For, as Reason or the natural understanding has objects-the qualities, modes, or relations of external things-fitted to its apprehension, with strict congruity between the faculty and its objects, like that subsisting between the outward senses and their natural objects, or between various other tastes and perceptions peculiar to different men, and the respective objects of these tastes; so has this principle objects, tastes, and feelings, peculiarly its own. For, to suppose that the same power of the mind may be officially engaged in ascertaining the properties of a triangle, or discovering the relations of natural things by comparison and inference, and in seeking for divine counsel in retirement, in feeling remorse for evil conduct, or in prostrating the soul in humble reverence before the throne of the Almighty Creator, would seem as incongruous as for the imagination to busy itself with the truths of geometry, or the ear to judge of the shades and beauties of colour, or the eye of odours and sounds. Every one must admit that when men of cultivated minds in different ages and nations are generally agreed in opinion upon any philosophical question, we have the strongest reason, short of revelation, to conclude, that it is founded in truth. And the opinion of a few opposed to such a

« PreviousContinue »