Page images

and evil; and by which he is enabled to feel the obligation of duty to God and to his fellow creature; in which power may be included the first principles or seeds of moral truth, the sparks of a divine intelligence in the soul, the light that enlighteneth every man-from the necessity of the case, changing the metaphor to express the meaning more fully; also variously denominated "the law written in the heart,"*" connatural moral instincts"-" the first rudiments of natural justice, charity and benignity."+

[blocks in formation]




Of the nature of the Mental Faculties.

As it is my intention to make some general observations on the developement of the various powers of the human mind from their original rudiments or seeds, I shall take this opportunity of premising a few particulars, by way of illustration, on the elements both of our rational and moral principles. For, if it be proved, or deemed highly probable, that in order to constitute the power of Reasoning, some original seeds, or, as they have been called, "inchoatae intelligentiae," must be presupposed, as already implanted in the mind by the Author of our being; we cannot wonder that the same thing should be true, but in a more eminent degree, of the moral principle and its seeds, or instincts.

And, by adopting this method, I flatter myself, that we shall be better prepared to examine and appreciate the tendency of a very celebrated writer's opinion on this subject,-a man whose name cannot be mentioned but with respect and admiration, both for his virtues and his genius, I mean, the enlightened Locke. In laying this foundation, I conceive it to be particularly important to produce such a coincidence of unbiassed authorities before my reader, as, while it qualifies him to determine what degree of deference may be due to these authorities, may enable him also to judge how far the notion is consistent with sound analogy, which assumes, that the human mind, in its infant or undeveloped state, may with propriety be compared to "a white sheet of paper" or "to an empty cabinet." I propose therefore to adduce some testimonies on this point; and first relatively to the ground-work of reason; which, as before remarked, I use in the signification with which I set out in the beginning of this Essay. I shall afterwards proceed to consider the elements or seeds of moral sentiments.

Now, as we can have no true conception of the nature, constitution, or essence of the mind, but from its powers or faculties and the phenomena of their enlargement,-in like manner, as we can know nothing of the rudiments or original state of the body, but from the position and developement of its limbs and organs,-I am well aware that in attempting to describe the elements or principles of human thought,

it is extremely difficult to use proper expressions, in as much as they must all be borrowed from material objects. Hence, in endeavouring to give correct notions of what is meant by a seed, first principle, primary tendency, instinct, or original impulse of the mind, influencing its judgments or its moral conduct; it is possible there may be great variety of expression, and yet that one and the same class of phenomena may be distinctly referred to under all this variety, as different authors may have laid hold of one analogy or another. And this is evinced by the different appellations above recited, given to the same thing; just as the understanding is considered to be capable of containing within itself either originally, the seeds or elements, fountains, germs, or rudiments of knowledge, or of being furnished in a secondary way with its materials, like a dark room with pictures or images, representing external things, successively painted on its walls. It can hardly be doubted that the enlargement of the intellect and the developement of the mental capacities, bear some analogy to the evolution, growth and expansion of the several parts of the ovum and of a seed or germ. For it would seem as unphilosophical to suppose that immaterial knowledge should be conveyed into the mind, wholly from without, in the mechanical way that shells are conveyed into a cabinet or wine into a cask, as to expect that the shell of a nut, without the organized kernel, would form a tree; or that the mere husk of a grain of wheat, with all the care of outward culture

that could be bestowed upon it, would appropriate to itself nourishment, and shoot up into the stem the blade and the ear. Every rudiment, or seed in nature, has inherent in itself certain appetencies by which it draws and attracts to itself something without. These appetencies are its own; and though some tendencies may be acquired, it has, notwithstanding, strong native tendencies towards the purposes of its creation. And the more its design in the creation is fulfilled, and the ends of its being accomplished, the more do these original appetencies display themselves to the praise and glory of the great Author. Do the materials of knowledge bear a different relation to the mind, from that which the outward elements, air, earth, heat, and moisture, bear to the seed or plant? If they bear the same relation, it is obvious, that the mind must have originally in itself, all the rudiments of all its capacities, the germs of its propensities, the latent spark of intellect, the fountain of its benevolent affections, the dawning light of its immortal affinity and seed of divine Truth; ready to be opened, expanded, enlarged; or to remain closed, obscured, contracted, according to the neglect or care of cultivation.

But to return to the consideration of a suitable phraseology, as it will be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish in effect between the original implanted instinct, influencing the will by an immediate impulse to action, and the acquired rule or motive secondarily produced by tradition or intellectual

« PreviousContinue »