Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

centrated and powerful when the eye is closed, or when darkness surrounds us, than when in the broad glare of day, when every sense is awakened and employed ; just as the rays of light are scattered in open space, instead of being assembled into one condensed focus.

It is a well-known fact in the natural history of man, that he possesses some sentiments and propensities in common with the brute creation; whilst others are peculiar to his nature, and are possessed by no other living being; and, in proportion as the inferior, or the superior, class happens to predominate, so is the measure of the moral excellence, or depravity, of the character.

It will be found, I believe, that the superior sentiments which attach exclusively to the nature of human beings, when peculiarly developed, ait, generally, in the way of restraint and control, upon the excessive indulgence both of the intellectual faculties and the propensities.

Thus ConscienTIOUSNES3 will restrain cupidity. A conscientious man, however much he may desire to possess those objects which administer to his gratification, will take possession only of those to which he is justly entitled : instances of this character are numerous. ---Mankind, for wise purposes, are constructed with a strong disposition to accumulate : without such a disposition, it is probable that few improvements would have been effected, and industry would scarcely have had an existence. If man bad taken no pleasure in treasuring up the fruits of his labour, he would not have bestowed the labour : if it had afforded him no gratification to behold the progress of his exertions, he would have made nope. No social advancement would have taken place. We should have remained “unaltered and unimproved." This principle, therefore, of accumulation,--this desire to possess, -this spirit of gain, which has been despised and ridiculed, appears to be an important element in the constitution of

Abused in a small degree, it becomes covetousness : and, when carried to excess, and uncontrolled and unrestrained, it is, in its secret practice, fraud; and in its open and violent prosecution, robbery. That which is good, useful, and excellent to a limited extent; becomes bad, pernicious, and detestable, when it passes beyond its prescribed boundaries. It is so, indeed, in all nature. Moderation is the golden law. Every gift of Heaven,--every boon that a bountiful Providence has bestowed upon us, partakes of the same quality. The niost rational enjoyment, every moral and every intellectual pleasure, becomes debased by excess.

There are many instances in society which might be adduced in support of this part of the system : men who, with

לל

man,

a strong desire to heap up the advantages within their reach, have shewn the strictest devotion to probity and justice.

Conscientiousness will act, not only upon the desire to accumulate, but will restrain, also, other propensities. It is the sentiment of rectitude : it constitutes the moral sense ; and its tendency is to control the unjust exercise of every power and faculty of erring humanity: it contemplates the rights of others with a sacred regard. However strong the disposition may be of some of the lower faculties to seek their personal gratification, it maintains its moral dominion, and, when connected with firmness, constitutes exalted excellence and dignity of character; its result is inflexible justice, and an integrity which no temptation can corrupt.

To take another example, we may refer to BenevOLENCE, in connection with a combative and violent disposition. The existence of such heterogeniousness cannot be disputed. The most careless observer must allow that there are men of passionate temper, but of humane feeling,-furious in enmity, and equally warm in friendship: so the most reekless warrior,

when the fight is done,” often displays the mildest feelings of generosity; and the conqueror terminates his victory by acts of the most exalted clemency. These are unquestionable facts, exhibited in real life, and stand enregistered upon the pages of every history, in ancient and modern times.

The sentiment of Benevolence gives birth to acts of charity and philanthropy; and, besides controlling the disposition to combat and destroy, it restrains, in some instances, the tendency to covet, wherever the indulgence of the latter propensity will injure others.

It will also restrain the malevolent exercise of the faculties. It will prevent the sarcastic application of wit, and of the talent of imitation, whenever they have a tendency to occasion pain to the feelings of other persons.

Its influence on other sentiments is likewise of the most amiable kind. It will restrain the assumptions of pride, and the displays of vanity, whenever they are calculated to wound the sensibility of less fortunate individuals.

The sentiment of VENERATION may operate, and produce, in some characters, a similar effect. It is the feeling of respect, a conscious sense of at least partial inferiority; it naturally tempers passion, and subdues arrogance.

Its influence on the intellect will be peculiar and striking : associated with the most superior and most highly cultivated faculties, it still gives an air of deference to the manner, and restrains the free and bold exercise of the lofty mind, with which it is connected. It will control the self-sufficiency which otherwise too often accompanies the possession of emi

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

nent talent, united to general success. Over other sentiments it will, also, have its measure of sway and dominion ;-it will moderate the exuberances of Hope ;-- it will give delicacy to the exercise of the benevolent" feelings. In conferring a benefit, it will temper the superiority of the patron with a nice conciliation of the patronized, --soothing a sensitive temperament, and enhancing, beyond all measure of estimation, the favour conferred. Whilst the absence of this feeling of respect, and especially when connected with a want of Benevolence, will generally lead to a contemptuous view of all those who hold a humbler rank and station, or are inferior in refined accomplishments or intellectual acquisitions.

Hope will naturally counterpoise 'Fear, or excessive Caution, and elevate Circumspection to confidence and activity. • FIRMNESS, associated with the sentiment of Conscientiousness, is peculiarly important to every branch of our moral and intellectual nature. It imparts decision of purpose, constitutes determination, and contributes greatly to steadiness and perseverance of pursuit. In excess, it may lead to obstinacy, or to infatuation; but the abuse is .owing to a deficiency in some other department of the moral or intellectual system.

PRIDE, or Self-esteem,-however unamiable when it rises beyond a moderate extent, and however disgusting when excessive,-- is eminently beneficial in the general constitution of the human character. Without the possession of some share of it, the sentiment of respect would degenerate into selfabasement, to pusillanimous humility, or fawning subserviency. Thus, 'in every step, we perceive how admirably adapted is each particle of human nature to produce the great results of the whole singular and curious design. Without some restraint imposed, by the reserve of pride, how ridiculous would vanity become !

Its operations on several of the propensities must also be obvious, preventing the degradation of the character by improper indulgence,-moderating anger, and subduing the excesses of lawless passion.

On the faculties of the mind it also possesses its measure both of control and excitement. It stimulates to exertion, in order to ensure that home-felt satisfaction which results from a favourable comparison of ourselves with others.

VANITY, the love of approbation, or the desire of applause, in its proper and limited sphere, has the merit both of stimulating to good, and of controlling evil. It excites to the exercise of the faculties and the action of the senti

VOL. I. PART I.

D

ments, in order to obtain the suffrages of kindred beings. Such a motive may not be the highest in the moral scale; but, when restrained within reasonable bounds, it is equally useful and agreeable. Associated with Benevolence, it produces, often, a very amiable and social character.

The PROPENSITIES, considered in their effect upon each other, as well as upon the sentiments and faculties, are also, with respect to some of them, of an inciting and stimulating nature, whilst others have a tendency to control and rer strain.

It appears, that some of the Propensities give a steadiness and pertinacity of pursuit to the mental powers, which they would otherwise not possess. A being, endowed with the highest intellectual faculties, may never exhibit, in action, the extraordinary capacity he possesses, unless excited to exertion by the humble, but powerful, impulse of the lower propensities. No part of the human structure can be in vain; and, in the instances referred to, the organization has not merely a subordinate purpose to accomplish, but, in its collateral operation, it has an important influence, and an essential effect. Indeed, in every view we take of the means by which nature accomplishes her objects, we discover new causes of wonder in the admirable and curious methods by which she produces the most complex results from the most simple combinations. An individual, endowed with the most exalted intellectual capacity, indicated by the ample expansion of the forehead, may not display those powers which we should naturally be induced to expect: the cause of this appears to be connected with deficiency of excitement; the pas sions have remained dormant, and the correspondent organs have continued inert and undeveloped.

In persons remarkable for energy of purpose, and con tinuous exertion,--who are intimidated by no difficulties, and awed by no impediment--who steadily march on their way, and possess a resolution that enables them to devote all life to the accomplishment of their end; such persons are distinguishable from others of an opposite character, by the prominency of the middle of the back part of the head : in this situation we find the organ which has been denominated « Concentrativeness."

The strong emotions which accompany the dispositions to combat and destroy, may, also, it is not improbable, possess some considerable influence in the direction and exercise of the intellect. They evince a state of physical energy, which, however it may be undervalued, when unconnected with higher endowments, is of essential importance in all those

[ocr errors]

pursuits, the ultimate success of which depends upon long enduring exertions, and a bold and daring spirit of enterprize.

Let us proceed, next, to consider the influence of the INTELLECTUAL FACULTIES upon each other, and on the Sentiments and Propensities.

In proportion to the degree in which the superior faculties are developed, will be, of course, the measure of their influence. The mere perceptive faculties cannot be expected to possess a very extensive effect; they receive impressions, but do not reason or speculate; they lead the mind away into no unknown region of doubt or conjecture; they are content with a surface-view of passing objects, and are untroubled by combinations, either of a difficult or an impossible character.

But there are some minds which have a tendency to Scepticism, and a disposition to seek for unattainable perfection. These are qualities of the intellect which will have an obvious effect on the department of Sentiment.

The Sceptic has a diminished degree of veneration. He who habitually doubts of the wisdom and goodness of the schemes around him, will feel less of reverence for those wonders which excite the admiration of others. He who entertains fancied views of perfectibility, will probably disdain the poor pretensions of mortality, and the sentiment of respect will be proportionably diminished.

The faculties, consequently, which lead to philosophic comparison, and the search into causes and reasons, indicated by the organs of Comparison and Causality, have the effect of controlling the feelings of veneration.

Such also will be, in some respect, the consequence of an eminent degree of wit.

It may also be observed, that the excessive cultivation of the higher faculties may so absorb and engross the attention, that the kindly feelings of Benevolence may be partially disregarded

The effect of the Intellectual System upon the Propensities must be obvious upon a very cursory glance. Whilst the mental faculties are in full employment, the lower department is proportionably suspended. We combat difficulties in science, instead of exercising our pugnacious tendency against our fellow-beings. We overthrow the objections to truth, and destroy the sophistry of falsehood, instead of warring against humanity, and destroying the life we can neither give nor save. Intellectual avocations also diminish the excesses of passion, whilst they elevate its objects; and the superior faculties have a natural tendency, by enlarging the sphere of

« ZurückWeiter »