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reasoning, I know not; for I had them before I can remember; but I am sure, they are parts of my constitution, and I cannot throw them off."*

Dr. Watts well observes, in reference both to first principles in mathematics and in religion-" That it is the vain affectation of proving every thing, that has led geometricians to form useless and intricate demonstrations to support some theorems, which are sufficiently evident to the eye by inspection, or to the mind by the first mention of them."-" Some things have more need to be explained than to be proved, as axioms, or self-evident propositions; and indeed all the first great principles, the chief and most important doctrines both of natural and revealed religion; for, when the sense of them is clearly explained, they appear so evident in the light of nature or Scripture, that they want no other proof."+

"Our perception of this self-evidence in any proposition, is called Intelligence. It is our knowledge of those first principles of truth, which are, as it were, wrought into the very nature and make of our minds; they are so evident in themselves to every man who attends to them, that they need no proof. It is the prerogative and peculiar excellence of these propositions, that they can scarce ever be proved or denied."

“These propositions are called axioms, or maxims, or first principles; these are the very foundations of all improved knowledge and reasonings, and on that

*Reid's Inquiry, pp. 136 and 324.

+ See Logic, part iv. ch. 2.

account these have been thought to be innate proposilions, or truths born with us."*

Dr. Beattie asserts, that "All mathematical truth is founded on certain first principles, which common sense, or instinct, or the constitution of the human understanding, or the law of rational nature, compels us to believe without proof, whether we will or not." Hence, according to this writer, "there is a power in the mind which perceives elementary truths or first principles, and commands implicit belief, not by progressive argumentation, but by an instantaneous and instinctive impulse; derived neither from education, nor from habit, but from nature;" and he concludes, "that except we believe many things without proof, we never can believe any thing at all; for that all sound reasoning must ultimately rest on principles intuitively certain, or intuitively probable.”+

* Logic, part 2. ch. 2. §. 9.

Even Locke himself admits, that "In intuitive knowledge consists the evidence of all those maxims, which nobody has any doubt about, but every man (does not, as is said, only assent to, but) knows to be true, as soon as ever they are proposed to his understanding. In the discovery of, and assent to these Truths, there is no use of the Discursive Faculty, no need of Reasoning, but they are known by a superior and higher degree of evidence."-Essay, book 4. ch. 17.

+ Beattie on Truth, part 1. ch. 1,


Of the primary elements of Moral Feeling.

I apprehend the authorities I have last quoted will be deemed sufficient to establish the position that the elements or first principles of reasoning, belong essentially to every rational being. And, though it is likely, some use will be made of the preceding conclusions, in our subsequent speculations; yet it is of far more importance to be determined, that the fundamental principles of morality and religion also are deeply laid in the constitution of the human mind. For, as the first only relate to the good and convenience of the present rational life; so the higher and eternal interests of the soul are deeply involved in the last. We are therefore to consider that as we cannot even attain to any speculative knowledge without building our reasonings upon certain rational instincts, implanted truths, primary elements, or first principles, as they are variously denominated; so we cannot attain to any practical virtue without building upon the fundamental principles of morality and religion, which we have reason to think are laid originally in the mind by the great Author of our being. In what manner such original elements of truth are inscribed, how their roots or seeds are im

planted, or in what way they are developed, we can never know. But if the concurring testimony of the wisest men can avail any thing to establish a position, we seem justified in drawing the foregoing conclusion. I am, indeed, aware of a notable exception, that the opinions of Locke and others are opposed to this view of the subject; but these I must leave to be considered hereafter. I may, however, premise, that, from the peculiar nature of the argument, if it be impossible by natural reasoning to arrive at demonstration one way or the other, then, in order to decide. the question, we must place authority against authority; and to whatever side the sanction of Holy Scripture more especially leans, the triumph must be awarded.

In reference to the following, and many other quotations, brought forward to illustrate the different parts of this Essay, I take this opportunity of stating my conviction generally, that there is no more certain way of attaining a distinct notion (provided the subject will admit of it) of any moral or speculative Truth, than in looking at it under that variety of aspect, which different minds of acknowledged depth and clearness, will naturally take in describing the same mental phenomena. I have no doubt that more real service would be done to philosophy, if systematic writers would give due credit to those who have preceded them, and candidly avow their obligations; and if they were more disposed to lean to the concur ring sentiments of men of enlightened minds, when

these all tend to a given point, than to the single efforts of their own unassisted genius. I know it is often a boast with some that they have spun out every thing in their lucubrations, from their own store, by diligent inspection of their own minds. But, when we consider the liability of all to adopt some favourite hypothesis, and to push it to its utmost limits, this exclusive reliance on their own energies is little to be commended. For, it is too much the practice, for those who feel, or imagine that they are, capable of thinking for themselves in every point, to slight or overlook the conclusions of others, and to give the world their own system as the consummation of the subject; when perhaps, if carefully examined, there would be found but few original ideas, really their own. I do not, at the same time, pledge myself to support every opinion in these quotations.

The remark of Lord Bacon is short and apposite. "It cannot be doubted (says he) that a great part of the moral law is too sublime to be reached by the light of nature. Nevertheless, it is most truly declared, that even from the light and law of nature men receive some knowledge of virtue and vice, right and wrong, good and evil. It must, however, be stated that the light of nature is to be taken in a twofold signification. In the first place, as it arises from sense, induction, reason, argumentation, according to the laws of heaven and earth. Secondly: as it shines upon the human soul by an internal instinct, according to the law of conscience: which is, as it were, the

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