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beings, or of animated nature, that bore a closer analogy to the mind, or afforded an apter similitude; and therefore that something artificial must be resorted to, as the best example, to illustrate the nature and operation of the noblest sublunary work of God, -the human intellect.
Some writers have displayed their eloquence in describing the wonderful constitution of the mind, its faculties, affections, passions, and propensities; but if we take our notions of its capabilities from the similes just noticed, we shall have but a mean idea of its powers, and, I am disposed to think, an erroneous idea of the manner in which they are developed.
I have insisted the more on this point of fixing a proper analogy; because upon it the just conception and clear understanding of the origin of human knowledge seems to depend. It is, indeed, easy enough to conceive how a white sheet of paper, or clear marble tablet, should be covered with legible characters; or how an empty cabinet may be filled with different classes of assorted materials; or a dark room may be gradually illuminated with pictures of external things figured upon its walls. But not to mention that only one of the external senses-that of vision-can represent outward objects by a sort of image, and consequently that impressions made upon the other senses cannot be considered as images conveyed to the mind; it is plain that the powers by which these invisible materials of thought are recalled, associated, compared, generalized, separated, and combined, so as to form
truth and knowledge, and the curious vital process by which these wonderful operations are carried on, are entirely overlooked in this theory. So that, after all, it is as difficult to explain how any speculative or moral truth is produced and appropriated, as it was before.
The assimilating powers of the mind, if I may so express myself, are analogous to the assimilating powers of the body, or of a seed; but according to the simile of a dark room, or white sheet of paper, they are absolutely incomprehensible; and the relations to the latter appear quite incongruous. For a seed might as fitly be compared to a dark room, because it has an implanted or original tendency to germinate by the contact of earth and moisture; as the human mind, because it has an innate tendency to expand its powers by the impulse of external things acting on the senses, and awakening the dormant faculties. It is the impulse of external things which excites the living powers of the seed, and of the embryo to develope themselves: and it is the impulse of external things which gives the first occasion to exercise, and calls into activity, the innate energies of the mind.
In explaining this point, I am aware that I am liable to be led into some diffuseness, and perhaps into repetition, from a desire to be perspicuous; but as many of the subsequent reasonings depend upon the view now taken and the explanation here given,
I have to intreat a little indulgence, should this be
After what has been said, therefore, to speak of the mind as a dark room, or tabula rasa, can scarcely be. thought correct. For, in this state, it must be supposed to be destitute of those living energies, which, though in the strict sense of the terms, they may not be denominated original characters, or innate ideas, inscribed by the finger of God, yet are they innate propensities and original determinations to good and to evil-to act and to be acted upon, according to the laws of its constitution.
One could hardly have believed that the human mind, with implanted capabilities far above the most wonderful powers of the brute animals, would have been reduced, as it is by this theory, to a state so much resembling an inanimate substance, as a dark cell ready to receive the images of external things, or white paper on which any ideas might be inscribed. Every one must perceive that it is an active and intelligent principle, complex, and admirable in its make and qualities, containing within itself, as it were, in embryo, what may be termed susceptibilities, capacities, sensibilities, faculties, or figuratively, seeds, talents, elements, waiting for expansion and for outward objects on which to exert their native power, and by which to grow to their full developement.
It is impossible, as I before observed, to find words except those borrowed from outward things to de
scribe the powers of the mind; and therefore we must always use some analogy to express what we mean; and that perhaps will do it imperfectly. But, as a seed, that, with certain inherent properties, only waits the suitable adaptation of outward circumstances, as earth and moisture, and afterwards access to light and air, to answer the intentions of nature, cannot be supposed to have any analogy to a room or a cabinet; so the mind that has more wonderful capacities than a seed, is still farther removed in resemblance from these objects to which it has been compared by the theory in question.
Now, so far as material and visible things may be compared with invisible and immaterial;—and we have no means of knowing the relations of one but by the other;-there appears to be the strictest analogy between the outward natural seed and the internal constitution of the mind. And, indeed, if I may be at liberty to anticipate what will come more in order in another place, we have, in confirmation of this analogy, the very highest authority to which man can appeal, even that of the Divine Founder of Christianity; whose instructions to his hearers were mostly illustrated by some simile or parable, as of a seed, a grain, a root, a branch, a vine, and that not supposed to be originally formed or planted by man but by his Maker.
According to the outward circumstances in which the mind is placed, it will indeed vary its complexion; but it will still exhibit the grand lincaments of hu
man nature, as well as the peculiar shades and dispositions which diversify human character: and as we have power by cultivation and change of soil to change the appearance of the plant, so have we power to vary the complexion of the mind. We may train it by wholesome discipline so as to exhibit the fruits of virtue; like the vine planted in a good soil and well watered and skilfully pruned, and removed from all hurtful things: or, we may place it in an ungenial situation, and suffer vice like noxious weeds to spring up and to rob it of all moral beauty, and render it baneful to society. All this we may do with the mind, as we do with the plant. But in all this process, we only check or bring into action powers already existing; and either give them a right direction, or turn them aside from that natural perfection to which they would ultimately tend.
Upon these principles it would be as incorrect to say of a seed planted in the ground, that culture was the foundation of its growth and increase, as to say of the mind that "experience was the foundation of all its knowledge."* The foundation of every thing which has life and living faculties, and has the power to expand itself morally or physically, is the talent, seed, rudiment, or spark, formed at first by the Creator, and by Him endowed with inherent tendencies, which no human power can bestow, though it may alter. Now, in the circle of natural operations, there is not a single instance, where we have improvement or
* See Locke.