« AnteriorContinuar »
by Mr Combe, it is necessary to state, that the latter are not only vague and imperfect so far as they go, and infinitely inferior in distinctness and precision to those simple and sublime rules of conduct delivered to us by the inspired writers; but that they are defective in so far as they omit one whole branch of our duties, and that the most important of all. The very highest rules, if rules they can be called, which are stated by Dr Spurzheim or Mr Combe as the guides of our conduct, regard merely our intercourse with our fellow-men, or the improvement of our own faculties.
of our own faculties. They are altogether silent with regard to another, and a higher branch of duty,—that, namely, which has reference to our connection and intercourse with our Divine Creator, and which regards another and a future state of existence. This is the more inexcusable, inasmuch as, according to the system of mental philosophy which they have adopted, and which they conceive to be so much superior to any thing that has hitherto been proposed, a particular class of faculties has been given, expressly, as it would appear, to connect us with the invisible world. These are, the faculties of veneration, hope, and wonder, which are placed by themselves among the highest of the faculties peculiar to man, and whose objects and purpose must therefore be of the highest dignity and importance ; and yet, according to them, no functions are assigned to these faculties of the smallest practical utility.
If there be, as I hold undoubtedly there is, a faculty of veneration, its highest, and indeed its only proper object, must be the Supreme Being, who alone possesses all the qualities to exercise and to gratify such a feeling in the fullest extent.
If there be a faculty of hope, giving us the desire of future and distant good to ourselves and others, then its highest and only proper gratification must have reference
to a future state of existence. It is impossible that such a feeling-so strong and irrepressible, so sweet in the enjoyment it conveys, and so insatiable in the desires and aspirations it gives rise to, -could have been conferred, if all these aspirations were to be confined to the present short and unsatisfactory state, and its gratification finally crushed by the prospect of an event, which is close at hand with every one of us — the inevitable fate which awaits us all -- the natural death of the body.
If a faculty of wonder has been conferred, to direct our attention to matters which we cannot thoroughly understand to things which we see but in part, and know but in part, and which we can here.only contemplate as through a glass, darkly, and which inspires the most intense desire and curiosity to know those things more thoroughly,— this, I conceive, affords a proof, that in some way or another, and if not now, in some other state of existence, these desires will be more fully grati-fied—when that which is now dark will be more plainly revealed, and that which is now mysterious will be more fully explained and when new causes of wonder will. arise in endless and inexhaustible succession.
These are the natural hopes, feelings, and desires, to which these faculties give rise; but for them the system of Mr Combe has provided no gratification, no exercise, no intelligible use. He has assigned, and according to his principles, by which he confines himself strictly to the present visible world, and the province of our bodily senses, he can assign no laws for their exercise, as he points out no objects upon which they can be adequately exercised.
But what is wanting in Mr Combe's system, is supplied by revelation. The proper and legitimate objects of these faculties, and the laws by which they are to be exercised, have both been revealed, and in that revelation.
are placed in the first rank. : As the moral laws are superior to the physical and organic, so those laws which relate to our connection with the things which are unseen and eternal, are superior to the moral. Their obligation is in the strictest sense supreme. Obedience to them is to be sought in the first place, because it includes, or necessarily leads to all other obedience.
The first great law having relation to the Divine Being, is that which has already been quoted, —“ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” This includes the whole; but in condescension to human weakness and ignorance, it has been enforced by three great practical commands,-forbidding the acknowledgment of other gods—the worship of idols—and the irreverent or unnecessary use of the name of the Supreme Being. The purpose of these commands is obvious, as guarding against the three great offences into which mankind are liable to fall in relation to this subject, — polytheism, idolatry, and blasphemy. A fourth injunction is added, which has a double reference to things divine and human, — the setting aside one day in seven, as a day of rest from secular employments, and to be devoted principally to the worship of God, the study of his law, and the contemplation of the wonders of his works. These four laws, if steadily observed, will not fail to cherish and keep alive in our hearts that reverence towards God, admiration of his wisdom, wonder at his greatness and power, and gratitude for all his mercies, that go to form the complex feeling which we express by the words worship and adoration. This feeling is imperfect, unless all our faculties are more or less engaged in it, all the feelings which can be brought into harmony with respectful love and reverence, all our hopes and fears, all our feelings of attachment, of confidence, of firm and abiding faith, — all these must be
called into activity in order to the right performance of an act of adoration, and are necessary to a compliance with the command to love the Lord our God with all our heart.
This, we are told, is the first and great commandment of the law. We do not rise to a compliance with this by first obeying other laws; but if we are able to attain this, it of itself will lead to all other obedience. If we love God, we must desire to please him, and to avoid whatever is contrary to his will, and, consequently, the love of God leads necessarily to all righteousness. He himself has said, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments, and this is my commandment that ye love one another;" and if we love one another, we will, of course, do no wrong one to another, but rather good, bearing one another's burdens. If we love him, and feel a constant sense of reverence towards him, we will endeavour to maintain personal purity, that we may be able to render him acceptable service. Personal purity, and zeal and activity in well-doing, lead to a clearness of the understanding, and a sound condition of all the faculties, and this to attention to all minor points by which these may be best cultivated and preserved.
If, therefore, we would improve the condition of man, the true mode of proceeding is to begin by improving, exercising, and strengthening his religious sentiments, and directing them to their proper objects. From this, as from a pure and hallowed fountain, will naturally flow every other kind of improvement. The diligent and persevering use of those means which have been pointed out as enabling us to obtain the aid of spiritual influences, has been experienced to be effectual in promoting this improvement in the case of individuals, and that to a degree amounting to a complete change of character ; and if this has been the case in individual instances, no
MAIN DEFECT OF MR COMBE'S SYSTEM,
reason can be stated why the same effects may not follow in regard to the race in general, if the same means were diligently applied, and steadily and consistently persevered in through a series of ages; and hence, no bounds can be set to the improvement of the world, which may be finally expected from the universal diffusion of Christianity.
ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN FACULTIES, CONSIDERED IN RELATION
TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OBJECTS.
Man is composed of an organized body and a reasonable soul, and is endowed with capacities and powers, animal, rational, moral, and religious.
Mr. Combe has considered his constitution in all these different respects except the last. He considers man merely in his relations with external objects in the present life. He looks exclusively to what is within the province of the bodily senses. He confines his views, as to space, to the surface of the earth which we at present inhabit ; and, as to time, so far as regards the individual, to the miserable span of seventy or eighty years, which, so far as mere sense is concerned, appears to comprehend the term of our existence.
There would be less objection to this mode of considering the subject, if he were merely silent in regard to those mighty themes which are suggested by the ideas of an unseen and a future world; but this, I am sorry to say, is not the case. He alludes to them, no doubt, and most properly states that they belong to the province of