INSTITUTES OF THEOLOGY.
PRELIMINARY METAPHYSICS AND MENTAL PHYSICS.
I. METAPHYSICS have been variously defined - as first, the
science of the principles and causes of all things existing. We conceive Lord
Monboddos description of this science, and which might be accepted for a
definition of it, is still more comprehensive - that its province is to
consider that (Greek) existences only as existences. It looks to all the things
which be, but not in their special properties by which each is distinguished
from all others; for on descending to these, we touch on some of the secondary
or subordinate sciences. It looks to them in their common property of
existence, and considers what is involved in the one universal attribute "to
be." Our reason for saying of this view that it is more comprehensive than the
first one, is, that it includes properties and relations as well as principles
and causes. For example, we might affirm, or at least discuss the question,
whether all existent things, in virtue of existence alone, have not a relation
to, or do not exist both in space and time, neither of which, let them be
viewed either as substantive elements in themselves, or as mere elements of
thought, can be regarded as the principle or cause of anything existing. Still
metaphysics, so far as yet described, may be reckoned as but the science of
entity; and as such it were exclusive of certain topics which never can be
discussed without being viewed as metaphysical. For example, neither
mathematics nor ethics, when treated abstractly, have to do with things
concrete - the one being the science of quantity, and the other, alike without
the limits of ontology, whose category is the quid est, being the
science of deontology, whose altogether distinct category is the quid
oportet. The mathematical relations of the first science, and the moral
relations of the second, have an independent truth in themselves, although
there were no existent being in the universe to substantiate or exemplify
either of them.
The propositions of mathematical science depend not for their truth on the existence of matter; and the propositions of moral science depend not for their truth on the existence of mind - though ere, perhaps, we could conceive of them, both matter and mind must be thought of or have a hypothetical existence given to them. And yet we could not affirm thus of these two sciences without being charged with speaking metaphysically. They also, therefore, must have to do with metaphysics; and, indeed, it is currently held of every science that it has a metaphysics, whether it be within or beyond the province of ontology. We should therefore regard it as a better adjustment, a more convenient distribution of the objects of human thought, if we should adopt, as the strict definition of metaphysics. what it is often called - not the first philosophy, for besides not being in all respects true, this would not serve the purposes of a definition so well as another ascription which has been givep to it - the science of sciences. We confess our preference for such a definition to any of the former ones.
Each science sits as arbiter on its own proper objects - its office being to ascertain and to record the specific characters of every distinct individual, as well as the similarities and differences which obtain amongst them. Now the proper objects of the metaphysical science are distinct from the objects of any or of all the others; for, in truth, the proper objects of metaphysics are the sciences themselves. It, as being the scienlia scienhiarum, sit as arbiter over all the sciences; and its office is to assign the peculiarities by which each differs from the rest, and the generalities in which two or more of them agree - rising to higher and higher generalizations in proportion to the number of sciences which are under survey and comparison at the time. Should we ever be able to arrive at the one generalization which belongs to them all, we shall then have reached the loftiest possible abstraction, the point or summit of highest transcendentalism.
2. Accordng to this view of metaphysics, it stands related to all the sciences in the way that each particular science is related to all the individual objects wherewith it is conversant. To divest the mind of all philosophy even to its first beginnngs, or in its earliest rudiments, one would need to be so constructed as to be capable of knowing all the things within his sphere of observation only as individuls; and we are not sure if idiots or the inferior animals can attain to more. Should ten objects have the same property, or ten events fall out by the same process, then, from the moment that one takes cognizance of this sameness, he enters on the work of philosophy, the proper business of which is to form individuals into classes, by grouping them according to their resemblances. The man who can tell me of ten different things, whether he be a peasant or an academician, that they are all of a white colour, or all possess the common property of whiteness, is pro tanlo a philosopher.
And thus it is, that throughout the popular mind, and in the business of human society, there is in current and fanliliar exercise an essential philosophy, though it be not so named. The only difference between the philosophy of common sense and the philosophy which men have agreed to call such, is, that the latter has to do with larger generalizations, and more especially, if to extend the generalization, much labour has to be bestowed. All men are aware of a very general resemblance amongst falling bodies at the surface of the earth; and in having thus generalized, they acted the real part of philosophers, although they are not styled such; but when Sir Isaac Newton extended this generalization, and made palpable the likeness between a body falling towards the centre of the earth, and the moon deflecting towards it in its orbit, this was honoured as a high achievement in philosophy; and he became the very prince of philosophers on the discovery of a still wider generalization, even that all matter gravitates towards all matter.
This law of gravitation is a very general fact, far more general than that all bodies at the earths surface are possessed of weight, so that if left without support, they will fall towards the earths centre. But each law of nature has been well defined the summary expression of a general fact; and the proper function of philosophy is to view all objects and all events according to their resemblances, so as to ascertain and to registrate these laws. But the work of philosophy, like every other, is expedited by subdivision; and so it is separated into sciences; each having to do with those narrower generalities that lie within the limits of its own proper domain, and by which all the individual objects of that department are grouped or classified, in so far as they have any of those properties in common which it is the office of that science to investigate.
The proper distinction then, I apprehend, between metaphysics and the other sciences, is, that it has to do with higher and wider generalizations than any of them. It views the sciences as individuals, and takes note both of the differences and the likenesses between them. In so doing it will group, not the objects of one science only, but the objects of several, and at length of all the sciences, by a wider generality, by a higher generic quality, comprehensive of a far larger number of. individual objects than come within the view of the mere cultivators of any of the separate sciences. The work, then, of the metaphysician is essentially of the same kind with that of the ordinary philosopher; and the only difference is, that he has to do with larger and higher generalizations. We have already seen how common sense graduates into philosophy; and we may now see how philosophy graduates into metaphysics.
3. Let us illustrate our meaning by one or two examples taken from the physical sciences. I will first advert to the distinction laid down by Professor Robison of Edinburgh, between the two sciences of natural philosophy and chemistry - the subject of both being inorganic matter, but of the one the changes induced in it by motions which are sensible and measurable; and of the other, the changes induced by motions not sensible and not measurable. According to our conception of metaphysics, the Professor was acting the part of a metaphysician when thus arbitrating between these sciences, and assigning the property common to both, as well as the peculiarity which belonged to each of them. But in making this statement to one of the ablest and profoundest of my literary friends, it was his obvious feeling that metaphysics had its place in a region of loftier and larger generalities than any involved in the classification as now given of these two sciences.
I then instanced another of Dr. Robisons fine generalizations, by which he assumed a more comprehensive meaning for natural philosophy than was just now assigned to it. He partitioned the whole philosophy of matter into two sciences - the first being what he termed the science of contemporaneous nature, and the second of successive nature - the one being conversant with the objects of the material universe, the other with the events of the material universe - the one having to do with properties all existing together, and of. which cognizance could be taken in one instant by a being of perfect intuition, and who had the whole system of things spread out in space before him; the other having to do with processes for the development of which the element of time had to be introduced, that so those changes might be evolved which fell within the contemplation of the second of these two sciences.
Now the first, or the science of contemporaneous nature, he called natural history; the second, or science of successive nature, he called natural philosophy. On asking my friend whether in this new adjustment of the scheme of human knowledge, metaphysics were at all concerned, he seemed willing to admit their share in the fabrication of it, though I cannot see why they should have been refused a part in the former classification, and allowed it in the latter, but for the greater and lesser degrees of generality in the circumstances both of similarity and distinction, on which the two classifications turned - matter, space, time, being terms of far wider generality than motion, sensible and measurable, or motion not so.
We retain, therefore, our preference for that view of metaphysics, as having the office of sitting in judgment on the sciences, and pronouncing on the relations which subsist between them; and if when performing this office on the lower subdivisions of human knowledge, there seemed to be a descent among ideas too limited and palpable for that science-which has been ennobled by the title of the first philosophy, this will be amply compensated when rising to higher divisions, and so to larger generalities, we shall find in the midst of such categories as space, and time, and causation, and power, and all the other terms whereof the nomenclature of abstract speculation is composed, that we have not missed, but at length got our way, to a region as transcendental and full of undoubted metaphysics as any schoolman could desire.
4. Our definition, then, of metaphysics is, that as scientia scientiarum, her proper office is to assign the relations, whether of resemblance or distinction, which subsist between the various branches of human knowledge.
5. Theology draws on many of the sciences - nay, so many of them enter more or less into the composition of her entire system, that for the full accomplishment of a theological student, his pursuits must be exceedingly various, and to discriminate these, there must be a call for metaphysics in the sense now given. You will not be surprised therefore, if in assigning, for example, the respective functions of scripture criticism and systematic theology, we shall so explain the difference between these and the bearing of the one upon the other, that in the terms of our definition it may be said that we are attempting to give forth the metaphysics of scripture criticism and the metaphysics of systematic theology. This is not the time, however, for dwelling upon these subjects, nor shall we offer now to present you with more than one theme under the head of preliminary metaphysics - we mean the distinction between the ontology and deontology of our science - a theme which we have already expounded and expatiated on under the more familiar title of the distinction between the objects of theology and the ethics of theology.
6. I trust that a few sentences will suffice to make palpable what the distinction is. The difference between an ethical, and what may be termed an objective proposition in theology, must be quite obvious. The greatest object in theology is God; and the proposition that God is, is an objective one - while the proposition that we, the creatures of His hand, owe to Him, our Creator, all love and service, is an ethical proposition. In like manner, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is an object; and that He exists, is one of the greatest of those objective truths which are presented to us in the theology of Scripture; while that from us, His redeemed, are due to Him, our Redeemer, the grateful homage of our whole hearts, the dedication of all we have and all we are to His will, stands forth in the ethical system of the New Testament as one of the greatest of all moral obligations.
The distinction is in every way as real as that which obtains in natural philosophy between the mathematics of the science and the objects of the science. All that is mathematical in this science would be true, although the universe were desolated of its matter, and no bodies existed between which lines could be drawn, either to compose actual solids or to present actual surfices fbr the contemplation of the geometer. With but the conceivable lines and surfaces and solids of empty space, geometry would still remain as stable a science, and with all its propositions as entire and irrefragable as ever. And it is precisely thus that the ethics of theology are separable, and might be viewed apart from the objects of theology - the moral relations, or rather the moral proprieties grounded on those relations, abiding unchangeable, whether they have been suggested by the thought of only conceivable beings, or by the sight and knowledge of actual beings, to give them a substantial and living exemplification. But to complete our idea of this distinction, it must be added that facts or events are existences, as well as what are properly termed objects - the fact that God created the world, as well as God Himself viewed as the object of our contemplation; the event that Christ died for our sins, as well as Christ Himself viewed in like manner as an object of contemplation. When we speak then of the distinction between the objects and the ethics of theology, we extend the meaning of the term objects beyond its usual acceptation - making it comprehensive of historical events, as well as of substantive beings - whatever, in short, of theology that comes within the category of quid est, in contradistinction to which we place the ethics of theology as comprehensive of all that comes within the category of quid oportet. With these explanations, there should be no difficulty in apprehending the distinction between the ontology of the science and the deontology of the science.
7. Now, though not aware that this distinction has ever been adverted to, or far less, made use of by former theologians, we cannot but regard it as one of prime importance in the science of theology. The whole peculiarity of the science, in fact, may be said to lie in its objects - for its ethics are essentially the same with those which are in busy play and exercise amid the familiar relations of human society. The duty which we owe to God is the same in kind, though immeasurably greater and higher in degree, than that which we owe to an earthly benefactor. But the truth that God is, is as essentially distinct from the truth that man is, as any information respecting the existence of one being is distinct from the information that there exists another and a wholly different being. In ascending from the visible platform of things before and around us, to the contemplation of heavenly and divine things, we do not ascend to a different ethics, but we ascend to a different set of objects from before. And the ethics are not more distinct from the objects than the respective faculties of our nature are by which we take cognizance of these - the one being the faculty of observation, by which we come at the knowledge of existences; and the other the moral faculty, by which we obtain the knowledge of duties. But for the various applications which might be made of this distinction, we must refer to our separate treatise on Natural Theology.
8. Each science has its own individual objects, which it classifies according to certain relations and resemblances. The individual objects of metaphysics are the sciences - of which therefore it may said that the office is to classifv on a large scale all the objects of human knowledge; because not taking cognizance of these, till the sciences had previously grouped them into very extensive genera, in the contemplation whereof it has to deal with wider and larger generalizations than any of them. If each science be regarded as the general over its own individuals - then metaphysics, as being general over the sciences, may be regarded as the generalissimo over all knowledge. After that each science had appropriated and is now cultivating its own section, the -proper office of metaphysics is to form the sections into provinces, and the provinces into one vast empire or territory of human thought.
Now it could scarcely be thus employed, that is, in assigning the objective relations between the different branches of human knowledge, without adverting to the different mental powers that are called forth in the prosecution of each of them. In other words, it naturally behoved to have been thrown back, or in a reflex direction, from such a consideration of the objects of knowledge to the consideration of the knowing faculties. It is this, we believe, which in the progress of speculation has caused such a merging of the metaphysical into the mental philosophy. And so this metaphysics, this scientia scientiarum, whose proper office it is to ordain the place and the boundaries of all, has come down from her high superintendence, and in taking account of the powers and processes of the mind, given herself with almost exclusive care to the work and labour of but one of the sciences.
9. For in truth the science of mind is as distinct from metaphysics as are any other of the sciences. Mind is the subject of certain phenomena, even as matter is. These phenomena are cognizable just as the others are, by observation - only by a different instrument of observation, by consciousness instead of sense, and which has been well called the faculty of internal observation. All its phenomena of the same kind are reducible to laws, and by the very process of generalization which leads to the discovery and announcement of the laws of the material universe. In a word, mind, as belonging to the category of the quid est, or to the order of existences, presents us with both the objects and the events which are included in this category, with an object of contemplation in its own properties and substantive being, and with a succession of events, in the various states of thinking and feeling and willing through which it passes. In other words, mind, like every other existent thing, has a nature or physiology of its own, the investigation of which is a physical investigation; and so Dr. Thomas Brown tells us, and tells us rightly, of the physics of the mind, of both the facts and the laws of the mental physiology - a science which stands as separately out from metaphysics as do any of the physical sciences in the department of the material world.
10. And this is not the only instance in which the mental has been blended most inappropriately, and therefore most injuriously - for what can injure true philosophy more than a confounding of the things which differ, or of certain of the sciences with other sciences? Surely to tell what is right and what is wrong is one thing; and to tell what are the facts or phenomena, and from these what are the laws of mind, is another - yet have the mental and the moral been amalgamated into one; and so the ethical professor must lay down his map of the human faculties ere he will enter on the proper, or rather the only business of his chair, which is the philosophy of duty. In like manner, he who tells us what is good or bad in argument, is employed on a different subject altogether from him who tells us of the properties or processes of mind; and yet the logical professor will often think it incumbent to take a walking survey over the whole territory of mind, ere he enters on the work of his own proper calling, which is the act of ratiocination. These colleagues, when they thus expatiate, it may well be said, are each of them walking abroad - for certain it is that each has ventured forth beyond his own premises; and sometimes when they do meet in this outer field, which they have converted into a sort of common, it is not always on the most friendly and harmonious terms - for it has been known that with adverse mental theories they, to the great edification of their scholars, have actually fallen out by the way. The way to save this conflict - and could I command but an infinitesimal of the millions expended on war or luxury, it should be done - were to endow a complete university, where keeping each professor within the limits of his own veculiurn, I would erect a separate chair for the mental physiology, or for the science of mind, viewed as the subject of certain processes and phenomena, which fall within the domain of observational truth, and have really no more to do with the question of what is sound in argument, or sound in morals either, than of what is sound or demonstrative in algebra. And what is more, I should not look on this living encycloprndia of chairs and professorships as fully consummated, unless besides those of logic and ethics and the mental physiology, there was one of metaphysics to the bargain - the proper and distinct office of which is to take cognizance of the characteristic peculiarities, and the connecting relations both of these and of all other sciences.
11. We are nearly done with these generalities - now that you must understand the reason why, in the title of this Chapter, we have added to preliminary metaphysics, preliminary mental physics. The real distinction between these we take for granted must by this time be quite palpable; and let us now therefore point out certain things in the working and procedure of the human faculties, which are of fit and useful cognizance at the outset of your theological studies.
12. The first doctrine in the mental physiology which I would select for consideration is, the dependence of the attention on the will. We do not need to perform the analysis by which this has been conclusively established, and for which we refer more especially to Dr. Thomas Brown. It is a fact which, even though it had never been dealt with scientifically, we should have been entitled to proceed upon in the treatment of our own questions. It is manifest to the familiar experience of every one, that at the bidding of our own will, we may turn our attention to one object of thought, and withdraw it from another. Doubtless there are topics which, on the moment of their being presented, will force themselves upon our attention without any distinct or sensible effort upon our part. It is not the less true, however, that the will has a command over the exercises of this faculty; and we are often conscious of the volition by which, as if by a word of command, the attention is given to one thing, and taken off from another. But for this there could be no just anger felt at the misunderstandings or misapprehensions of other men. Nothing is the legitimate object of anger which is not willful. We often feel anger at the mistakes of our fellows; but it is not a rightful anger, unless the mistake could have been avoided, had the party chosen to attend to the matter in question The mere intellectual error or perversity of another, we ought not to be angry at, if it proceed altogether from the constitution of his intellect, or from the circumstances by which he is surrounded. The understanding is not the proper object of a resentful feeling for any of its acts, but the will is.
13. And it is thus, and thus alone, that opinion comes within the scope of a moral reckoing; or to express it otherwise, that man is responsible for his belief. The ethical principle which has been already stated by us, that nothing is virtuous or vicious which is not voluntary, is that for any act to be susceptible of a moral designation, it must have originated or had its consent in the will - is the essential element in this question. After this, we have only to determine the part which the will has in the conclusions of the understanding. That there can be no belief without evidence, is just as true as that there can be no vision without a visible object, and light to behold it in. But to work the belief it is not enough that the evidence be presented - it must also be perceived, which it may never be unless it is attended to. The final act of belief may be as much the necessary or organic result of the evidence at the time within the minds contemplation, as the picture on the retitina of the eye is the organic result of all the light which shines upon it from an external object. The will may have nothing to do at this last step of the process, and yet have had much to do athe previous steps of it; inthe one case when attending to th evidence which never could have been perceived unless brought by the exercise of this faculty within the sphere of observation; in the other, when looking to the visible object which it were impossible to see, had the spectator chosen to turn away from it, or to shut his eyes.
14. Let us apply this at once to Christianity. Should a message stamped with the likelihood of having come from an earthly friend be brought to our door; and still more, should it bear not the pretension only but the aspect of having come from the best and highest friend of all, our Father in heaven - then to turn away from it, and to refuse the examination, both of its credentials and its subject-matter might be to risk our landing in a state of unbelief, which not only in itself is intellectually, but which when viewed in connection with the antecedent volition which gave it birth, is morally wrong. It is not the incompetency of all the evidence we saw to work conviction that will justify our want of it. What we have to be reckoned with for, is our inattention to those premonitory signals which, if they did not bear this evidence fully and legibly inscribed upon them, at least pointed out the quarter where it lay; and which, had we explored, might have brought us within the observation of what we did not see, because we would not seek after. We see not, because we care not. We have fallen short of belief, not, for aught we know, from the want of evidence, but clearly in our case, whatever the evidence, from the want of an attention that we choose not to bestow. It is this precisely which makes the unbelief criminal, and affixes a moral characteristic to our intellectual state. It is on this ground that our Saviour Himself pronounces on the culpability of unbelief, and resolves it into the evil state of mens affections, and that again into the evil of their doings. The condemnation of it is, that men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John ii. 19.) And that they searched not the Scriptures, becausethey were not willing to come to Christ that they might have life. (John v. 39,40.) Let a professed message from the upper sanctuary have but the verisimilitude of this high claim; and this confers upon it the real and rightful claim, if not of being forthwith believed, at least of being forthwith inquired into. To regard it with neglect, even at this initial stage, is to incur the tremendous hazard of having neglected a great salvation - because the hazard of a willful, and therefore a criminal, ignorance of such doctrines as God wills us to believe for our everlasting peace, of such precepts as He wills us to perform for the habits and the services and the enjoyments of an everlasting blessedness in heaven. It is the office of attention, as the intermediate link which connects the moral and intellectual departments of our nature, or as the ligament which binds them - that explains how the state of our convictions may often be the fit subject of a judicial cognizance; and how, resolvable as it may often be into an indifferency to God and to His will, it may become the matter of our most emphatic condemnation.
15. And what is true of the intellectual is to a great extent true also of what may be called the emotional states of the mind. If belief be the necessary or the organic result of the evidence wherein we see any given object of contemplation, emotion may be as much the necessary or the organic result of those characteristics which belong to it, and which are present at the time to the mind of the observer. When he looks to a landscape spread out before him, he might no more help the sense that he has of its beauty than the sense that he has of its reality. When he thinks of the kindness of a friend, the consequent gratitude may come as much unbidden into his heart as does the conviction that he exists into his understanding. And so of the recoil which is felt at the sight of some loathsome creature, which may be as little a thing of will, and as much a thing of physical constitution, as is the sensation which its color impresses on the retina of the eye. How then is it that we become responsible for our emotions - for our desires and our aversions and our resentments, and our various other mental susceptibilities, which seem to be no more things of choice than the felt taste of any given food when brought into contact with our palates, or the felt heat of the fire when we approach our hands to it?
16. The responsibility of man for his emotions is made out in the same way that the responsibility for his belief is. It is true that he cannot bid immediately the required love into his heart, or bid away from it the denounced and forbidden hatred. But what he cannot do immediately, he can do mediately. He cannot will the emotions so as that at the mere word of command they shall arise in his heart at any given instant; but he can summon to the presence of his mind their counterpart objects, which may then work their appropriate influence upon his feelings. He can give his attention to one set of objects, and force it away from another. In short, the objects are the instruments he works by, when he wants either to waken or preserve in his bosom their correspondent feelings; and attention is the faculty by which he keeps his hold of these instruments, and brings them to bear on the subjective mind, so as to put their own proper impress on the sensibilities of our nature. I can think of Gods love to me in Christ Jesus; and if I think believingly, my heart will be thereby warmed into the love of God back again. Or my mind can cease from thinking of the injury that would excite me to revenge, when my heart will cease from its fierce and fiery agitations. Even should it be impossible to view with the love of moral complacency the enemy who has done me wrong - still by looking in another direction, by shifting my regards from his character to his state, I might view him with the love of compassion - nay, with the love of kindness: And as I dwell in thought on the certainty of his coming death, and the possibility of its unrepentant horrors - instead of resenting the injustice of his short-lived triumph, I may be led to pity and to pray for him. And thus it is that attention, or consideration, or reflection, which, term it as we may, is an intellectual exercise under the wills control, and for which, therefore, we are liable to be judicially dealt with - is so mighty as an implement of culture, whether in the natural school of morality for the discipline of the heart, or for the lessons of spiritual and experimental Christianity in the school of the gospel.
17. This law of the mental physiology, this relation between the understanding and the heart, or between the objects of an intellectual contemplation, and the emotions which are excited thereby, is of the utmost theological importance, and evinces a most beautiful and beneficial harmony between the constitution of the human mind and the doctrines of the Christian revelation. We might have extended the operation of the law to the appetites as well as the emotions - for though it be not thought of food which calls forth hunger, or of water which calls forth thirst, certain it is that the appetency for an intoxicating beverage may in this way be whetted and fomented; and that we must turn away our sight and eyes from viewing vanity, as well as our thoughts from the very imagination of it, in order to shake off the most hurtful and degrading of those passions which war against the soul. This only gives a wider generality to the statement, that the intellect must be rightly occupied, in order to right affections or right desires of any sort having practically the dominion over us. We shall thus understand the place of ascendency, or of presiding guardianship and command, which is assigned to faith in the moral dynamics of the New Testament; and will recognize the sound philosophy as well as scriptural authority of such sayings as "sanctified by faith," "renewed in knowledge," "living a life of faith on the Son of God," "sanctified by the truth," "walking in the truth" - regenerated by the power of it, or, "born again by the incorruptible seed of the word," receiving power to become new creatures, or to become the sons of God through the operation of our belief in Christ Jesus. There is no man deeply read in the philosophy of our nature, if he but make a study of our present lesson, who will not perceive of this belief that it is the turning-point of a new character, as well as of a new condition and new prospects - that there must be a moral along with the intellectual change; and that if in virtue of the one he be indeed translated out of darkness into marvellous light, then as the sure and unfailing consequence in virtue of the other, he will be translated from the spirit of bondage and fear into love and liberty, and the generous inspiration of all goodness. It is thus that the most effectual preachers of faith are also the most effectual preachers of righteousness; and such is the sure concatenation between the enlightenment of the understanding and enlargement of the heart, that, let a man but know God as a Friend and reconciled Father, and from that moment he is on firm vantage-ground for the services of a grateful and willing obedience.
18. The next law of the mental physiology that we recommend for special consideration to the theological student, is the law of, habit. There are certain of its applications so very obvious that we need scarcely advert to them - as in the business of the pulpit, when employed by the preacher for giving emphasis and urgency to his calls of immediate repentance - seeing that every day of perseverance in the spirit and ways of ungodliness strengthens the inveteracy of this natural and universal disease, and makes the moral recovery of those on whom all this earnestness is thrown away still more hopeless and impracticable than before. At present we view it more as the indication of a natural regimen, the establishment of which seems to evince the purposes of Him who is at once the Creator and Governor of men, or what may be termed the policy of the divine administration. To explain our meaning it is not required that we shall enter on the analysis or philosophy of habit; for any conclusion which we mean now to offer is grounded on the most palpable of its phenomena - which are, first, the increasing facility of virtue to those who resolutely, and in the face of every temptation, keep by its lessons and its laws; and secondly, the more prone and headlong tendency, aggravated and confirmed at length into the helpless necessity of sinning on the part of those who, given to self-indulgence, become the votaries of disobedience and vice. It is not of any reward for the one or punishment for the other coming ab extra that we now speak - of a local heaven, teeming with the means of enjoyment, or a local hell, where pains and sufferings are inflicted as the wages of iniquity. We speak of the effect which virtue and vice respectively have on the mind and character of their respective followers, in that they tend so to fix and establish their own influence over them, that after a time they who have been righteous are righteous still, or they who have been unjust and unholy are unjust and unholy still. It is of this subjective operation only that I am now speaking, and not of any other doom than the unchangeable moral doom which awaits the good and the evil. Men live long enough to see the exemplification of it even in this world, though perhaps it was greatly more patent in antediluvian times, though only realized there on one side of the picture, when the period of discipline extended to nearly a thousand years; and, as if in conformity with this, we read that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, which was corrupt and full of violence; and also, as if to restrain our species from ever rising here, at least to such heights of irreclaimable profligacy, the natural life was shortened to a hundred and twenty years by Him whose Spirit would no longer strive with men, now advanced to a wickedness more enormous than could be any longer tolerated in the world.
19. This view might afford even to natural theology the glimpse of our coming futurity in another state of being. Suppose that there had been no death, but that an immortality on earth had been alike stamped on two different societies - one of the virtuous and another of the profligate among mankind - the one ripening and expanding and confirming more and more every age towards the perfection of moral excellence, and the other in like manner towards the perfection, if we may so call it, of moral depravity - till the certainty of each abiding by its own specific and now fixed character, had become absolute and irrevocable. Had such been the arrangement, that terrestrial pandemonium which was realized before the flood would have been perpetual, and every new cycle of time would have brought an accession to its atrocities and its horrors. Now, to conceive of this as the real immortality which is in reserve for the wicked, we have only to imagine that they bear the identical habits and tendencies of their present life across the grave with them to the place of their everlasting destination. We speak not now of their physical condition in respect of pain or pleasure there, but of their moral character in respect of worth or wickedness there; and it does afford, even apart from revelation, a dubious, it may be, but still a likely perspective of the final issue of things - when, on the side of the upright, we shall behold an indefinite ascent in the ethereal heights, which never terminate, both of greater holiness and greater love; and, on the side of the reprobate, an always deepening hue of fouler depravity, of more fell malignity and defiance and rebellious hatred and hardihood than before. This were but the continuance or further development of a progression now before our eyes; and as such not improbable, even with no other lights to guide us than those of naked and unassisted theism - certainly strengthened, however, by the intimations of Scripture.
20. And there is a harmony altogether worthy of observation between the law of habit, which forms part of the natural economy of the human spirit, and a certain part or process in the revealed enonomy of the gospel. In virtue of the former, let there to-day be a struggle between temptation and the sense of duty; and should conscience, or this sense of duty, be overborne, then on the morrow conscience will offer a feebler resistance than before, and so temptation, still surer of the mastery, will at every renewal of the assault, speed onward with all the greater certainty, and effect the work of moral deterioration. Now, in keeping with this, we are told in the Bible, that it is the Spirit of God who operates on the spirit of man, to stimulate both his aspirations after all that is good, and his resistance to all that is evil. Let us imagine, then, that instead of complying with the suggestion of this heavenly visitant, we stifle and withstand it; then the distinct intimation of Scripture is, that the Spirit is grieved by such a treatment - that He is alienated more and more the longer we persevere in this neglect of Him and of His warnings - that He at length ceases to strive, and all His influences for good are withdrawn from a heart within which they had so often sought a lodgment, and as often been quenched and extinguished. And so at last grace gives up the contest with nature - leaving it to the wild misrule of its own unchecked propensities, that it may be filled with the fruit of its own ways. It is thus that in the moral history of every unrepentant sinner, these two laws - the law of habit and the law of the Spirit of God - fit in as it were to each other, and act conspiringly together towards the same fearful result - a creature abandoned to itsehf and left without any counteractive influence to stay or to mitigate those evil passions which had been fostered through life; and which, with all the tenacity of an undying worm, will cleave to him as their prey and their victim through eternity.
21. But ere that we have finished this contemplation, we must have recourse to another law of the mental physiology. We have already seen that the affections of our nature, whether good or evil, are strengthened by indulgence, till at length, through the operation of habit, they become the fixed and irreversible principles of our character, with full ascendency over us. Now, couple with the force of this moral necessity the undoubted fact of the happiness, the inherent and essential happiness, which lies in the exercise of our good affections; and the wretchedness alike inherent of every spirit that is corroded or tempest-driven by the venom or violence of bad ones - and out of these elements alone both a heaven and a hell can be imagined, where either virtue is its own reward, or vice its own self-tormentor through eternity. We dispute not the possibility or even the likelihood of other ingredients - of the physical delights and gratifications which a beneficent Father might shower down among the habitations of the righteous; of the physical discomforts and agonies which are ministered in ceaseless vengeance throughout the region of the ungodly. But there lies a great theological lesson, not only in the effect of repeated acts to stamp a perpetual character, but in the effect of character alone and of itself, of our state of enjoyment - whether we look, on the one hand, to the hearts ease, the complaceiy, the oil of gladness, the thousand pleasurable sensations attendant oh the love of God and the happy consciousness of His favour, the sweets of charity between man and man, and, along with the sunshine of their mutual confidence, the play of those mutual sympathies which- act and react, when gratitude and good-will come together, in cordial and confiding fellowship; or, in contrast with these, the reverse influences of a distempered morale, when envy and suspicion and hatred and discontent fret and tumultuate in every bosom, and ever and anon break forth in storms of fiercest controversy - where all is darkness above them, among creatures thus living in the state of defiance to an angry God, and all is moral anarchy around them, among these same creatures fired with licentious or vindictive passions against each other. There is, we say, - a lesson of soundest theology to be gathered from such a contemplation. It demonstrates of how little avail justification were for the happiness of our eternity if not accompanied by sanctification. It tells us that though the righteousnessof Christ were made judicially ours, so as to invest us with a full and valid title of entry into heaven, yet our salvation is incomplete unless the graces of His character become personally ours, so as to qualify us for heavens exercises and heavens joys. The gospel has not broken up the connection between love and enjoyment on the one hand, between hatred and misery on the other. These abide the unrepealed, the invariable sequences of our spiritual economy - so that to make good the happiness of heaven, it is as indispensable as ever that we acquire the spirit and the character of heaven. This we know from the distinct and repeated averments of holy writ; but it is well that on the foundation of mental science we can raise another invincible barrier against the errors of Antinomianism.
22. To obey God is followed up by the greater facility of obedience - to sin against Him is followed up by the greater necessity of sinning. In the one case we become every day more proficient and accomplished than before, as the scholars of righteousness - in the other more helpless and degraded than before, as the slaves of iniquity. This might well be called a regimen of moral rewards and moral penalties; and when we join with it the consideration that virtue has its own native pleasures, and vice its own native disquietudes and pains, then do we behold in the spirit of man, constituted as he is, a self-working mechanism by which the sanctions of law are executed, and the government of a holy Lawgiver is upholden. Under such a discipline as this, which is in perfect analogy with all that passes before us, we might see in the eternity of hell-torments - not, as has been represented by the enemies of the Christian faith, a monstrous disproportion between the punishment and the crime - not a wretchedness that never ends in return for the wickedness of a brief and ephemeral life-time - but we see a wickedness confirmed and unrepented of here carried with all its acquired tendencies and habits across the grave, and perpetuating itself there in new and multiplied and ever-recurring transgressions. The sufferings are bound up with the sins; and the one is eternal just-because the other is eternal. The creature suffers everlastingly just because he sins everlastingly: and in his awful destiny we behold, not an endurance that never ends in remuneration for the offences of a few years, but the continued operation of that law by which sin and suffering do constantly follow each other, whether in the present or in a future state of existence. It is not because we like to indulge in a cold-blooded speculation that we give forth this argument; but because of its urgent and immediate bearing on practical Christianity - seeing that it would slacken the operation of every motive to flee from the coming wrath, if men were untaught the lesson that now or never was the alternative on which their eternity was suspended; and that in striving to be right and religious here, they in truth were striving for their all.
23. Many other applications of the mental physiology might be adduced, and of its service in conducting to a right and a wise deliverance on theological questions. At present, however, we shall give but one specimen more, and which we select as among the best of these adaptations. We are indebted for it to the admirable sagacity of Bishop Butler, who first dtinguished between each of the special affections and that more general affection which is the love of self; and then pointed out the difference between what he calls the terminating object of a special affection, and that accompanying pleasure which is felt in the indulgence of it. Take compassion for an example of this. The proper object of this affection is the relief of misery, in the fulfillment of which object it rests and terminates. It is obvious that the more intense the compassion is, the more intently will it be set upon its object, to the exclusion for the time being of everything else from the mind - having all its regards monopolized, as it were, by the wretchedness which is before it, and actuated by no other desire at the moment than that of doing it away. It is thus that he demonstrates the disinterested character of this, and indeed of every special affection whatever - it being quite clear of every such affection, that it is wholly distinct from the love of self; and that the stronger it is, the mind is all the more thoroughly engrossed with its own proper object, and so more away from the consideration of self, the gratification of which, or the advantage of which, forms no part at the time of its aim or of its thoughts. And yet this does not hinder, but that in the indulgence of this affection there might, and indeed from the very nature of affections we think that there must be, an accompanying pleasure. Nay, the stronger the affection, the greater must be the pleasure. And yet it is not this pleasure that the mind is looking to, or laying itself out for; but, recurring to our example, it looks to anothers wretchedness alone, and lays itself out for the relief of that wretchedness alone. This has been most felicitously illustrated by Butler from the appetite of hunger - the proper object of which in the use of food is relief from its own cravings, not the pleasure of eating. As of this appetite, so of every special affection. The object to which it seeks, and in which it finds its rest and its complacent gratification is altogether distinct from the complacency itself, or from the enjoyment which accompanies the gratification. This enjoyment though felt by self is not the thing aimed at by self; and though incidental to every special affection, yet is it but an accessory or collateral, and as distinct from the object of the affection, as the way to a landing-place is distinct from the landing-place. This may appear a subtle, but is a most sound and substantial distinction notwithstanding; and of the very greatest use, particularly in ethical science, where it cuts up by the roots both the selfish and the utilitarian systems of morality.
24. But it is of value in theology also - more particularly in enabling us to adjust a question which has been raised about the disinterested love of God. Every special affection, in fact, may be said to be disinterested - and that in respect of its having a distinct object of its own, separate from the good or the advantage of self, the love we bear to which being properly the only selfish affection of our nature. In this sense, the ravenous appetite for intoxicating liquors, when looked to philosophically, is just as disinterested as is the urgent feeling of compassion - both of them being set on distinct objects of their own; and neither of them certainly having the good of self for its aim, which, properly and scientifically, is the alone interested pursuit whereof the mind is capable. And it is just so of our love to God. There is pleasure in the exercise of this special affection as in every other; but this pleasure is only the accompaniment of the affection, and not its object - the mind in the act of its indulgence being wholly away from self and wholly set upon God, or upon the graces and glories of His character. Notwithstanding then of the accompanying pleasure, it is still a disinterested affection - nay, the greater the pleasure the more disinterested it is - this pleasure, it is clear, being in proportion to the strength of the affection, which strength of affection insures that the mind at the time of its exercise is all the more intently set upon its object, and all the more away from any reflex or subjective regards upon itself. Altogether it may be said to form an exquisite principle in the constitution of the mind, that when indulging a special affection, then in very proportion as its own enjoyment is less in its thoughts, or less the object of its desire, because then engrossed with wholly another object, the greater is that enjoyment. We are not denying that the love of self is a legitimate affection, far more than very many of the special affections which could be named: we are only saying, be they good or evil, they are all of them distinct from the love of self, and that although each ministers to the gratification of self, in the act and at the time of its own gratification. Ones own happiness, which is the proper object of self-love, is a fair and right object of pursuit and calculation. Our Saviour on earth served and suffered for the joy that was set before him ; yet is it nevertheless true, that the highest of our joys in heaven never can be reached but through a disinterested medium - the love of God for Himself - the love of holiness for its own sake.
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