On a peculiar Difficulty in the Study of Mind which attends not the Study of External Nature.
1. WHAT we have already said will at once suggest a
distinction in Moral Science, between the objective and the subjective part of
it. Virtue may be looked to abstractly and in itself; or it may be looked to as
exemplified by a human being, when the topic of contemplation may be that whole
process of thought, and sentiment, and purpose, and finally of deed or
execution, that is undergone by him. It is obvious that we cannot rightly
acquit ourselves of this latter, that is the subjective part of Moral Science,
without drawing upon Mental Science, without taking cognizance, not of the
nature of virtue, but of the nature of man, - his moral nature, or the
machinery of his moral judgmeats, and feelings, and efforts, and performances.
Now in these we behold so many operations or phenomena of mind ; and, in other
words, there are certain questions in which the two philosophies, the Moral and
the Mental, however distinct and distinguishable from each other, are
2. There are two of the human faculties wlueh stand alike distinct from each other ; and it is remarkable, that the same confusion has taken place in our view of the faculties, that we have already coniplained of as having taken place in our view of the objects of them. These are Conscience and Consciousness - the one being the faculty that is cognizant of the morally good and the morally evil; the other the faculty that is cognizant of what passes in the breast, or rather that by which a man becomes privy to what has taken place in the history of his own life, as well as to the feelings and phenomena of his own mind. This latter faculty has been denominated the faculty of interim! observation. It is by this faculty that we are imagined to take an immediate view of the world that is within - even as by the senses, we take an immediate view of the world that is around us.
3. This has given rise to the conception of a certain peculiar difficulty in the study of Mind, to vhich we are not exposed in the study of external Nature.
4. But let it be remembered that all Philosophy consists in the classification of facts; and that therefore, when we study the Philosophy of Matter, we must look towards matter and take note of the facts and the phenomena which it exhibits with a view to their classification. And in like manner when we study the Philosophy of Mind, the mind is regarded by us as the subject of certain facts and certain phenomena, which we arrange as we do those of matter according to the resemblances that are between them. A law of material nature is not the expression of a general fact - so that when we affirm the law of gravitation, we only affirm of every piece of matter subject to this law, that it moves towards other matter at a distance from itself. And, in like manner, a law of mental nature is also the expression of a general fact - such, for example, as that which has been termed the law of association, or that law by which when my two objects have in thought been present together in the mind, then the thought of the one object at any future time suggests the thought of the other also. It is thus that the mind is the subject of certain sequences, just as matter is. And the investigation of these laws or sequences is just the physical investigation of the mind, or of the mind considered as the subject of phenomena that follow each other in a certain order of succession - even as we currently observe such an order in external nature around us.
5. Now in the prosecution of this study let me try, to use an illustration of David Humes, let me try to make myself acquainted with some one of the mental affections as anger and, on the moment that I turn my eve inwardly for that purpose, the thing which I am in quest of takes flight and disappears. It is not so when I examine the properties ot any substance in Natural History. I can direct a steady gaze. for example, on the colours of any plant or plumage or beautiful insect that is submitted to me - and they remain steadily and unchangingly within the field of my vision. They stand my inspection - and I,.looking again and again, can mark and register all the varieties of hue or of shading which occur in the various specimens that are before me. It is so with the matters of external, but not so with those of internal observation. To have full advantage for ascertaining the nature and varieties which there are in the feeling of resentment - one would like that he had its permanent characteristics inscribed, as it were, on the walls of the mental chamber; and that he might repeatedly, or any time when at leisure, give successive acts of attention to this inner tablet, just as he would do to a medal or a picture or a piece of mineralogy. But truly it is not in this way that the mind can be studied, or that the nature and law of any one of its affections can be ascertained. So soon as the eye of consciousness can be turned towards them, they are supposed to evanish before it.
And the reason of this is, that, to uphold any particular affection, there must be present to the mind, either in remembrance or in reality, the particular thing or object which excited it. One ceases to be angry, so soon as he ceases to think of the provocation. Let there be an attempt then, on the part of the mind, to study the phenomena of anger - and its attention is thereby transferred from the cause of the affection to the affection itself - and so soon as its thoughts are withdrawn from the cause, the affection, as if deprived of its needful ailment, dies away from the field of observation. There might be heat and indignaney enough in the spirit, so long as it broods over the affront by which they have been originated. But whenever it proposes, instead of looking outwardly at the injustice, to look inwardly at the consequent irritation, it instantly becomes cool - and we are somewhat in the same circumstances of disadvantage, as if we wished to examine the flame of a candle of which we had but one look, but were not permitted to look on, till it were dipped in a vessel of mephitic air, by which it was extinguished. How can we find that which is dissipated by the very act of seeking after it ? - or which glides away like the spectre that is seen by flits and momentary glances, but recoils from the intense and steady observation of human eyes? A thermometer could give no information to him, whose eye had the Medusa property of congealing all that it looked upon insomuch that the mercury instantly and at all times fell to zero under his gaze. And it is somewhat so when we try to ascertain, what may be called the moral temperature of any feeling or emotion within us. The mind ceases to feel, when it ceases to think of that which caused or perpetuated the feeling. But it ceases so to think when it looks inwardly upon itself, and begins to analyze its own phenomena or its own processes. When I am thinking of my anger, I am not thinking of the man who mademe angry - and the more that I concentrate my thoughts upon the one, with the view perhaps of a thorough and close inspection of it - the more do I abstract my regards from the other. And thus, unlike to other subjects of examination, the more that I fix my attention upon its lineaments, the more do they fade away from my observation - and the darkness thickens, as it were, with every effort that is made of intenser discernment.
6. This holds true not merely of anger, but of all the other emotions whereof the mind is susceptible. To feel hatred, there must be something present to the minds eye that is hateful. To feel esteem, there must be something present to the minds eye that is estimable. To feel gratitude or pity or moral approbation something must be within notice, and be noticed : - a benefactor must be seen or thought of - a sentient creature in suffering must be adverted to - a virtuous person, or a virtuous deed must have the eye of contemplation fastened upon it. These are the objects either of perception or of memory, at the time of the emotion in question; and the mind is the subject of the emotion. Now it is in turning from the object to the subject, that the emotion vanishes. If it be true of the mind that it can only think of one thing at a time - then it cannot at the same instant look with intentness on that which is lovely, and reflect with intentness on the love that is felt for it. The love is felt when it is not reflected upon, - and why? Because the mind is otherwise employed - even in gazing on that which is lovely. And again when it is reflected upon it is not felt - and why? because the lovely object is then out of view the mind having turned away from it, to look at the impression which it maketh upon itself. But then the impression fades into evanescence, even by the momentary leave which the mind takes of the object-and can only be renewed again by another visit as it were, by an act of recurrence that shall again bring the mind and the object into contact.
It is when the eye looks openly and directly outward on external nature - it is only then that the whole scene of contemplation is pictured forth on the retina behind. But should the eye attempt to see this picture; and, in turning round upon its socket, withdraw the pupil from its original exposure to the objects that were before it- the retina would instantly be darkened - and all that was looked for there would cease to be. And thus it is, with every attempt to explore the recesses of the mind. The desire, and the aversion, and the kindness, and the blame, and the approval, and all the other feelings that spring up there, do so, as it were, at the touch of certain objects of which the mind is then taking cognizance - and, when passing from the objects, it proceeds to take cognizance of the feelings themselves, they go into dissipation, and leave a blank over which the eye of consciousness wanders and seeks in vain to be satisfied.
7. It is this fugitive character of the mental phenomena which attaches a difficulty to the study of them. Were the mind isolated from all converse with that which is without, there would be no phenomena - no principles to make up a Philosophy, because there would be no facts - and it would be utterly in vain to look to the mind for its elementary conceptions for example of grandeur or of beauty, when they had never been called forth by its communion with external Nature. It is when the eye rests on some scene of loveliness, or when, by an act of memory, a secondary reflection of it is held forth to the eye of the inner man - it is then that the mind gives to it the responding homage of its grateful and delighted admiration. It is the presence, either by vision or by remembrance, of the objects of taste, which gives rise to the emotions of taste - and when the mind takes leave of the objects to look at the emotions, then as at the turning of a mirror - the whole reflection hath disappeared. So long as the minds gaze is outwardly from itself - all the internal principles of taste may be in vivid and busy operation - and the rapt enthusiast, while inhaling the utmost enjoyment from the scene that lies before him, may be not only in warmest but in most legitimate ecstacies - the inner tablet of his heart carrying upon it an accurate as well as a bright exemplification of the whole philosophy of the subject.
But when he turns himself round to look at that philosophy and to expound it - he looks upon a tablet that is blinded and bereft of all its characters. The chamber which he now tries to explore has become a camera obscura, whose opening has just been averted from the light of day, and from the irradiations of that landscape with the reflection of whose graces and whose glories it had been so recently illuminated.
8. But hitherto we have spoken in terms of the common opinion, as if the phenomena of mind were the objects of immediate perception to the faculty of consciousness. Now to us it seems quite clear that if so, the study of these phenomena would not be difficult merely but altogether impracticable. At least this were the unfailing consequence, if it be- indeed true, that the mind can only think of one thing at the same instant of time. If, on the one hand, anger must be felt and present to the mind, ere it can be thought of; and, on the other, it cannot be felt unless its provocative or the object which awakens it be thought of - then either must the mind be able to think of two things at once, or it cannot possibly have the thought or the perception of anger at all. Now we get quit of this difficulty by adopting Dr. Thomas Browns view of consciousness. It is not that faculty by which we become sensible of the feelings that are present to the mind; but that by which we remember the feelings that have recently passed through it. The act of consciousness, to make use of his own expression, is a brief act of the memory. In the study of anger the mind is busied, not with its sensations of the present, but with its recollections of the past. It is true that these recollections may have faded and become indistinct: and that to repair this disadvantage, the mind must light up again its feelings of resentment by recalling some object of them; and thus may have the benefit of a more recent, and therefore, of a more vivid recollection to guide and to inform it - the recollection of a few moments back, instead of a few days or a few weeks in its past history. We can remember the sensation of hunger without feeling it; and, in like manner, might we not remember the emotion of anger without feeling it? Or, in other words the various states and susceptibilities of the mind come within the range of the memory. To explore its secrets one does not need to look inwardly into himself, as into a kind of magical chest that is carried about at rustic fairs, and where through an aperture we are made to behold some microcosm of curious and varied imagery. It is not thus that we obtain our acquaintance with the feelings of the human mind, any more than by the microscopic examination of its texture, we obtain acquaintance with the various susceptibilities of the human skin. It is first through the medium of experience, and then through our recollections of that experience, that we come to know and learn to distinguish the varieties either of physical or of mental sensation. By memory alone, we can make distinction between the pain of a puncture, and of a lash, and of a bruise, and of a burn, and of a heavy and obtuse blow. And so by memory alone, we can make distinction between the emotions of the mind - its fear, and its compassion, and its grief, and its anger, and all the other feelings of which it is susceptible.
9. The one view of consciousness however leads to the same practical conclusion with the other, as to the way in which our knowledge of the mind is to be acquired. It is not by looking to the mind, apart and in a state of disjunction from all that is without- but by looking first to those objects which are addressed to its various feelings and faculties, and by which they may be brought into living play; and it is thus that the mind will announce its own character and constitution to the conscious owner of it. We must not think to master its philosophy, by so isolating the mind, as to put it into a state of inertness - for all the materials of this Philosophy are gathered from what we feel and from what we remember of mind, when put into a state of activity. It is doubtless true, that a certain freedom from the glare and time disturbance that is without, is essential to the business of the understanding. But that is no reason why we should try to read a difficult author in the dark - and as little why, for the sake of the silence and abstraction that might be thought indispensable to the study of mind, we should close all its loopholes of communication with external Nature - for this would in fact be to draw a screen over the characters of the internal tablet - this would he to make the mind itself invisible.
10. We are persuaded that the science of mind wears an air of far more hopeless and inaccessible mystery than rightfully belongs to it. All the primary phenomena of mind are of mind as operated upon by objects which are separate from itself; and the direct method of placing these phenomena distinctly and legibly before us, is, in the first instance by close and busy converse with these objects. When we want, for example, to see the law and the nature of that mental sensibility which is denominated compassion, let us try the vivid conception of some unhappy sufferer, let us bethink ourselves of some malefactor under an agony of fearfulness, because of his approaching execution, or of a mother exercised by deaths when the trying hand of Providence is upon her family let us remember how we felt when a scene of distress was actually before us; or, by a briefer act of the memory still, ascertain how we feel now, when we have set a picture of distress before the eye of our imagination. It is only by keeping up a busy interchange between the world of sense and the world of spirit that the mysteries of the latter will at length be unravelled - not by descending empty handed to the cell that is within, but by first going forth on the peopled region of life and observation that is without -and, instead of formally sitting down to some fruitless and fatiguing work of abstraction with nought but vacancy to gaze upon, we shall learn and almost without an effort what be the responses from the one to the representations which are offered from the other.
It is thus, in fact, that some of the most delicate and important of our moral questions may be determined. We might dive among the recesses of the heart; and there rummage in vain for the principles that we are in quest of. But if, instead of this, we should fasten our eye on some moral exhibition that is without us; if we should look, for example, to the man who at the shrine of justice made some generous and high-minded sacrifice; who, though in the hands of a merciless creditor, could not stoop even to the easiest and most pardonable disguise, though it were to save his children from famishing; but, who spurning at the distinction between a venial and an atrocious lie, stood forth in the perfect simplicity of truth, resolved to give up all and to suffer all, - we do not need to turn from this spectacle, that we might read our own hearts, as if we could gather from an inscription there - whether truth and justice be virtues of original and independent rank, or utility be the only substratum that they rest upon. The heart hath already issued forth its unbidden voice, and already hath announced the homage that is due to the virtues which we are contemplating - and it is thus that Moral Philosophy may be learned - it is by a direct survey of life and conduct in all their variety that its principles may be determined.
11. Let such be conceived to be the powers and the resources of our language, that a nomenclature could be found for a hundred of those various sensations that are impressed by all different substances on the human palate. Then it is not by the anatomy of this organ, but by the application of it to each of these substances, and the classification of all the resulting tastes; many of which, instead of having to be nicely and laboriously marked, will vividly and by their own force announce themselves to our feeling it is thus that the philosophy, if it may be so called, of this subject will be completed. And, in like manner, it is not by an anatomy of the mind, treated apart, as it were, from the objects by which it is affected - it is not by the application of a dissecting metaphysics, wherewith one probes and penetrates his way among the vesicles or the arcana of an organ that would be else inscrutable, that the phenomena of our moral taste or moral judgment are to be verified and arranged, and reduced to the general expressions of philosophy. Bring the deed or the dispositions either by report or by actual exhibition, to the view of the observer; amid, in most instances, the voice that is within will promptly and powerfully characterize it. The moral judgment will come unbidden; and, when thus brought forth of the hiding place in which it slumbered inert and motionless from the mere absence of that appropriate object to the presence of which it never fails to respond then is the time at which it may be seized upon, and embodied in language, and have a name and a local habitation given to it among the truths of philosophy not fetched up by the hand that groped for it through the latent depositories of the mind but, like the electric spark, announcing itself patently and in the face of day, because elicited by the affinity that there is between the action that is without and the sentiment that is within. It is thus that the region, not of the Moral, but even of the Mental Philosophy, is far from being that land of shadows or impracticable subtleties which many do imagine - that a clear experimental light is diffusible over it - and, instead of so many evanescent abstractions that have no tenacious hold upon the human understanding nor admit of being familiarly applied to the homes and the business of humanity, it deals in such feelings as are naturally called forth by such phenomena in the life and in time affairs of men as are actually exhibited.
12. We are not sure that the term Physiology, recently applied to Mental Science, has not invested it with a more hopeless obscurity than in truth belongs to it. It has led many to imagine a work of dissection, of intense and internal scrutiny, to which they know not how they should address themselves, and to which therefor they feel that they are utterly incompetent. They conceive of the term as applied to a plant - where it is the office of physiology to explore all those mysteries of secretion, and assimilation, and growth, and other equally recondite processes, which go on within the recesses of its organic structure. And it is thus they apprehend that metaphysicians, those men of transcendental power, whom they despair to follow, can probe their way through the inner chambers and profundities of the mind, and evolve from thence the secrets of a hidden territory which is to them inscrutable. In studying the physiology of a plant, we look to the plant itself; and to it we direct our eyes and our microscopes and all our instruments of observation. And it is indeed a most natural imagination, that, as of one physiology, so of another. For the phenomena of mind, and the right classification of them, whither can we turn ourselves but to the place which is the seat of these phenomena? What else can we do, but abstract ourselves from the things of sight and of sense, and look inwardly? It is with thoughts and feelings and fancies that we want to acquaint ourselves; and what other possible way is there, than just to pore over the characters of that mental tablet upon which all these are graven ? Looking to a plant, when we study the laws of vegetable nature; but also looking to a man, and to the inner man too, when we study the law of Moral or Intellectual nature.
13. But this may be gone about in such a way as to darken the whole field of contemplation. The laws of vision can only be studied by the eye looking to visible objects - and not by the eye looking to itself. Even the physiology of a plant is learned, by our looking to the phenomena that have their residence in the plant itself, under all varieties of exposure. The same is true of the mind - but what are the exposures necessary, for eliciting its phenomena and its laws? That the mind become acquainted with itself, it must go forth, in busy and active exercise on objects which are separate from itself. To learn the phenomena of thought, it must be provided with something to think about. To learn the phenomena of taste, there must be offered to its notice that which it admires. To learn, the phenomena of moral feeling,- the varieties of human life and character must be submitted to its contemplation and never can it know the philosophy of its own affections, without having had objects of desire, and hatred, and esteem, and fear, set before it. In a word it is the mind that is most practised among externals, which is most crowded with materials for the philosophy of its internal processes - and we again repeat that the way to be guided through the arcana of our subject, is, not to descend into mind as into a subterranean vault and then shut the door after us - but to keep open communication with the light of day, which can only be done by a perpetual interchange of notices between the world of feelings that is within, and the world of facts and of illustrations and of familiar experience that is around us. the
14. It might lead us to a truer conception of the way in which the mind becomes acquainted with its own phenomena, if we reflected that the mental feelings are the objects of remembrance, just as our bodily feelings are. And if so, then, to recollect any of the mental emotions such as fear, we have as much or as little need of looking to the mind, as, to recollect the pain of a burn, we need look to the skin; or, to recollect the taste of an apple, we need look to the palate. To remember the sensations aright, it is not necessary that we should think of the organs of sensation; or, far less, to take a microscopic survey of their anatomy and texture. And so, to remember the mental emotions aright, it is not necessary to think of the mind; and, -far less, to deal with it as the subject either of a complex anatomy or of a deep and intricate physiology. All that is known, all that can be known of the mind, is the various states, whether of intellect or of emotion, into which it passes, and to which states it is primarily brought by converse, not with itself, but with objects apart from itself. Of these states we have a consciousness at the first, and a remembrance afterwards, or rather, a briefer or longer remembrance according to the time that has elapsed from the moment of our undergoing them. According to this view, it is memory which supplies us with all the materials of the Mental Philosophy; and the sole office of this philosophy, is to classify the states which we thus remember agreeably to their resemblances, and to describe the circumstances in which they arise.
15. Whether we regard then the mental phenomena as objects of instant perception or of remembrance, as it is mainly by converse with the external world that they come into being, so also, in the study of them, must we often recur to the objects of the external world, that they might start anew into existence, and be again presented before the eye of consciousness or of memory. There is a sense in which it may be said of every science, that all its principles are lodged within the mind; but, in studying the principles of Moral Science, instead of going in search of them within and leaving the world of life aid of society behind us, we should rather call them out to view, by the presentation of such plain historical cases, taken from the familiarity of human affairs, as are fitted to excite and develop them. And, besides, it is not true, that, from our own hearts alone, we gather all the lineaments and characters of our subject. We read them in the countenance of our fellowmen. We can see them in the crimson blush of detected and exposed villany. Through the medium, not of articulate language only, but also of the natural signs, we can hear what morality is, in the ready and indignant disavowals of him, who hath been injuriously charged with some deviation from its pure and rectilinear path and on those dread occasions, when the energy of the public voice falls in thunder on the head of some unhappy delinquent, there is a lightning along with the thunder, that often flashes a fearful manifestation on the innermost shrines and recesses of this philosophy. And should we be guided by an ascending path, from the interests and the moralities of this earthly scene, to view the righteousness of Him who sitteth on high_then, instead of having to probe a darkling way among the penetralia of our own bosom, the truth will emanate directly upon us from that galaxy of moral splendour which encircles his throne.
16. This distinction between the objective and the subjective is of main use and application in Christianity. Here, if any where, it is to the objective that the subjective owes, if not its being, at least all its alirnent. There must be a contemplation of truths apart from the mind of the contemplator, ere the mind is put into a right state, not only of intellect, but of emotion. The objective is the fountain-head of the subjective. It is by looking outwardly on the love of God to us, that we are made to feel inwardly a love to God back again. It is the view of His good will which awakens our gratitude; of His greatness which awes and solemnizes us into deepest reverence; of His moral perfections which calls forth our love of esteem and disinterested admiration. The felt affection in these and all other instances, as being subjective, is in the mind; but, with the single exception of self-love, its bearings are towards the objective, or to something that is out of the mind. In other words, the mind to obtain a right state, or to rectify itself, must go forth of itself. They are external things which meet the greatest part of its internal desires, and yield to it the greater part of its internal satisfactions. When it is in a state of felt want, it is after the objective that it hungers and thirsts - when in a state of complacent fulness and gratification, it is by the objective that it is satisfied. When the soul of the Psalmist thirsted, and thirsted vehemently, it was after the living God; and it passed from the state of desire to the state of attainment, when made glad by the light of His countenance. We are sensible that to christianize the mind, something more than an objective presentation of the truths of Christianity is indispensable. There must be a subjective preparation in the mind itself. It must be put into a right state of correspondence or of recipiency. The objects without the counterpart susceptibilities are of no avail. It is not enough that the seed of the word of God be deposited in the heart: The heart must be made a good and honest one, for the entertainment and development of its truths. It is not enough that living water be made to descend on us from the upper sanctuary: For the reception of this water, a well must be struck out in the heart of regenerated man, springing up unto life everlasting.
17. Still with every admission of the previous need of a subjective operation upon time soul, that it may be put into a right state of susceptibility changed, to use a scriptural image, from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh - with every admission of the necessity for such a renewal on the subjective mind; still, it is with things objective, that, in all its moral and spiritual aspirations towards a better state, the mind has properly to do. To obtain a capacity for right emotions, all, it appears to us, which we can do is to pray for it. But fully to realize the right emotions themselves, we must go forth on their counterpart objects; for without the meeting of these, the mere susceptibility remains latent and unknown because unevolved. It is by the application of a kindling from without, that we test the difference between the combustible and the incombustible; and it is by the like application of a truth or object from without, that we test the difference between a soul that is quickened and a soul that is dead in trespasses and sins. The teachers of Christianity should give themselves wholly to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. , It is through prayer, that the people are made willing in the day of Gods power - and it is through the ministry of the word, that the now susceptible will is evoked into actual volition, and the new man is prompted to new obedience. It is by a subjective operation that the heart is made alive to every good impulse: It is by the objective that the impulse is given. It is by the subjective that the mind, before inert and immoveable, becomes capable of being moved: But the moving force comes from the objective; and time great office or design of preaching is to bring this force to bear upon the people. Doubtless they must look to themselves, as well as to the law, that they may have the conviction of sin. But still it is the majesty of the law which solemnizes them. It is the view of the Lawgiver seated on His august and inviolable throne which overawes them. They are the threatenings, the dread penalties of a fixed and uncompromising law, which fill them with the apprehension, that if they have only time law to deal with they are undone.
Thus far it is with the objective mainly that we have to do; and it is with the objective altogether, when we pass from the ministry of wrath to the ministry of reconciliation; when we bid the now agonized sinner look to the Saviour on the cross, to the spectacle of God so loving the world as to lay on His own Son the burden of the worlds propitiation. It is then that the objective has all the achievement and all the triumph it being the exhibition of right objects which gives rise to the excitement of right affections. The mind is plied with calls and overtures from without; and it is in the act of looking away from itself, not downwardly amongst the mysterious recesses of its own constitution, but upwardly to a beseeching God and an all-sufficient Saviour, that it passes from a state of turbulence and terror into the harmonies of its own new creation, into a state of peace, and love, and joy.
18. It were well that we proceeded more on the power and precedency of the objective, in the work of Christianization - that, instead of the fatigue and the fruitlessness of those efforts, by which we vainly attempt to grope a way among the intricacies or the hiding-places of our own spirit, we opened this dreary prison-house to the light of day - the light of that outward manifestation which beams upon us so gloriously from heaven. It is not by its own reflex view upon itself, that the radiations of beauty are made to descend upon the soul; but by looking directly forth on the smiling landscape that is before it. And in like manner, it is not by a darkling plunge, as it were, among the mysteries and the metaphysics of his own mental constitution, that man will awaken any good affection within its receptacles. It is by external converse with the objects that are fitted to awaken them. It is a wretched spiritual guidance for the perplexed and labouring inquirer, when sent to search and scrutinize among the secrecies of his own dark and distempered bosom. This is the worst initial direction that can possibly be given to him. Many are the times and seasons of his spiritual history, in which it may be said, that, when looking to himself, he is looking the wrong way. This, at least, is not the attitude, in which any affection for God or for goodness can ever be awakened. To stir up within him the love of God, he must look without him to the manifested loveliness of the Godhead - the graces and glories of the divine character. To establish within him a right faith, he must look, not within him, to the act of faith; but openly and outwardly to Christ, the object of faith. The comfort and the confidence do not spring from beneath; but come down in floods of descending light from the upper sanctuary. It is by a radiance from without, that the distrust and darkness of Nature are dissipated; and when the spirit, finding no remedy within itself, would sink into despair, it is the voice from without which reassures it - of one who calls on the weary and the heavy laden to come unto Him that they may have rest.
19. And as it is by casting an objective regard on things which are without, that we call forth the emotions of the mind - so it is only thus, that we can possibly ascertain them. Whatever the susceptibilities of the inner man may be, it is only at the touch of that which is external to him that they are fully awakened, or at least so awakened as that we can take sure and satisfactory account of them. When there are strong susceptibilities without any counterpart objects to meet them, we can imagine a state of embryo desire of strange indefinable restlessness - of felt and tormenting vacancy -the general unsated thirst of a spirit that is the prey of its own incessant longings, for which it finds not and knows not the means of gratification. We can imagine a hell in the heart - when fired with strong propensities, yet pent up within itself, and so dissevered from all the objects of them; or, if with the capacities of enjoyment, it were cast on open space, yet empty of all that was adapted to these capacities, or that could minister to their enjoyment. We know not what cognizance could be taken, or what analysis could be performed, on the affections of a mind in this strange condition -of hopeless and insupportable vacuity. But let these affections have objects to go forth upon_then, whether it is the desire which suggests the thought of them, or the view of them when present and the thought of them when absent which suggests the desire - it is at least a distinct and definite desire, leading to a distinct and definite pursuit; and, if not disappointed, terminating in - the full complacency of a distinct and definite gratification. They are these busy reciprocations of thought and feeling - these vivid interchanges between the objective and the subjective which supply the best materials for the philosophy of human nature; and, above all, for the knowledge of ourselves. We hear frequent complaints of the difficulty of self-examination. We think there is an aggravated and mistaken sense of its difficulty, grounded on a frequent misconception of the nature and objects of this exercise - as if it were to ascertain the present state of the mind by the eye of consciousness. Now, instead of this, the practical and philosophical object of self-examination is to ascertain the past states of the mind by the eye of memory. Still, even in this view, there might be an arduous difficulty in the way of self-examination - the difficulty of remembering that which is dim or faint or indistinct; amid, still more, the useless fatigue of trying to lay hold of things by the memory, when there is nothing to remember. The more deep and discernible those lineaments are, which are graven on the tablet of memory, the easier is the work of self-examination. The more strongly felt at any time is our love of God, or our gratitude to the Saviour, or our compassion to a sufferer in distress, or our ardent desires after usefulness - then it is that these affections become all the more noticeable, because the more brightly they glow within us at the moment, the more brightly are they seen in the retrospect afterwards. And if the question be put, how is it, in order to facilitate the work of self-examination, how is it that we can make the affections we are in quest of to be more strongly felt and so more vividly remembered? Tthe answer seems obvious - by repeating more frequently and entering more closely into converse with the objects which awaken them, just as the more intensely we gaze on some fascinating landscape, not only the deeper is our own felt ecstasy, but the more distinct as well as more enduring must be our recollection of it. In a word, if we would, create the materials of self-examination, or facilitate its work by casting a greater light over that mental tablet which we want to decipher it is not by isolating the mind and putting it into a state of inertness, but by bringing it into contact with the objects of its various susceptibilities, for the development amid discovery of the affections wlmich really belong to it. Or, to express it otherwise, the mind that is most busied among externals, presents us with the richest variety of internal feelings and internal processes. We must not be misapprehended as if we meant only the externals of the material world, or even of the world of living society. The great objects of the Christian faith are all external to the mind that is exercised by them; and the man whose attention is most given to these through the day, who thinks most constantly of God, and sends up the most frequent aspirations to that Saviour who died for him - let us only suppose his views to be enlightened, and that he is engaged through the hours of his waking existence, not with the illusions of his own fancy, but with the realities of our actual revelation - then, precisely because most employed in objective contemplation, will it be found of him, that his diurnal retrospect or subjective examination of the himself is both the richest of all and the easiest of all; and it it be the habit of his well ordered life, that, ere he sinks into his nightly repose, he looks back on the history of his own spirit - then, in very proportion to his past converse with the objects of sacredness, will be his present consciousness or present recollection of the feelings of sacredness.
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