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Others have not only attended to all the materials of knowledge with which the mind is furnished; but have considered particularly the connexion, relation, similitude, and association of objects or ideas, and shown how one suggests and leads to another in a regular train or series. And on the principle of suggestion, resemblance, or association, have formed their system of classification. This view of objects has not been attempted in the following essays.
Again. In forming distinct classes in the views taken of the mind, different methods may be adopted. For instance, we may classify the operations of our faculties, and also the objects of the mind. This is a double classification, which serves to confuse, instead of elucidating the subject of the mind. It is also needless. For the objects with which we are acquainted are already formed into distinct classes, including both the genus and species. Hence, to give a systematic view of the mind nothing more is requisite, than to form its operations under each faculty into distinct classes. The plan adopted in these essays, of confining the attention to the faculties and operations of the mind itself, excluding a consideration of the objects of perception, feeling, and volition, as far as could be done with perspicuity, presents the mind with all its operations to view in a much narrower compass. And the more concisely any subject is discussed, if it is done perspicuously, the more easily, and distinctly will it be understood by the reader.
If it be admitted, that the animal, vegetable, and inanimate creation are three general classes, which include all the individuals of the material creation with which we are acquainted ; the addition of another general class would be needless, and serve to confuse and lead the mind away from the truth. When these are divided into species, the work is done, and all material existences are clearly and systematically arranged. In doing this, there is no need of considering the faculties or operations of the mind.
So in relation to the mind, when the number of faculties with which it is endued, and the operations of each faculty with the real difference between them are known, the way is then prepared to form them into general and specific classes. And in doing this, there is no need of attending to the several classes into which the material world is divided.--And if perceptions, sensations and affections, and volitions, include all the operations of the mind; these three general classes are
sufficient. Form these three general classes into their specific divisions ; then the work of classifying is finished, and a systematic view of the mind is formed. And this seems to be the only rational plan for accomplishing that end.
The existence of an eternal, independent, absolutely perfect being, is the first principle in divinity, and the foundation on which the whole superstructure rests. Every doctrine, then, in theology, must be explained in consistency with his character. But how can this be done, by any person, unless he has just, clear, and distinct views of the character of God? Hence, generally, all, who teach divinity, begin with proving the existence of God, and giving a description of his character. If any err concerning the character of Jehovah, errors will prevail through their whole system of sentiments, in a greater or less degree. And all we know of God is by the revelations, or displays he has made of himself in his works and word; or by actions and declarations. These are the signs by which he is made known. All existences produced by him are either material, or immaterial, or what we call spiritual. The material creation contains but a comparatively faint display of his character. Here we see no communications of his nature, or moral attributes. We behold goodness displayed, but see no inherent principle of goodness in any material being. We discern no inherent principles of action ; nothing, which constitutes intelligent agency. Hence material existences, however great, are not viewed as rational agents, or as rewardable for any of their operations.
But God is an agent worthy of love, service, and praise, on account of the various operations of his agency. And no where do we find, through the vast extent of his works, a real resemblance of himself, but in immaterial, spiritual beings. Such beings are rational agents. And the mind or soul of man is the most perfect agent in kind or nature, to be found in this world. Man sustains the highest rank among all creatures on earth, which have life in themselves, from the lowest, smallest insect, through every rising grade. In him, then, we may expect to find the most perfect, and entire resemblance, in kind, of Jehovah. It must, therefore, be evident to every reflecting mind, that we cannot have just, and correct views of God, as the first, eternal, and infinite agent, any farther than we form just, and correct ideas of man, as an agent. Hence the study of man is the most important,
and interesting, and useful study. He, who knows himself correctly, may have just conceptions of God.
Man is an agent. He is endued with such powers, and is capable of such operations, as to be considered a moral agent ; a being, who is a proper subject of praise and blame, and of future and endless rewards. Hence arises the interesting, and important inquiry, what powers, qualities, or faculties, are necessary to render a moral agent worthy of praise or blame, and of final rewards ?--This inquiry will lead to the discussion of many very interesting subjects; such as the following: In what does agency properly consist? Is it some inherent, abiding, primary principle of action ; or no more than a simple exercise ? Can all our actions be traced back to some primary active principle in us, from which they all proceed? What is the difference between the natural and moral powers of the mind ? What powers, or faculties are necessary to constitute a complete moral agent ? And when these are ascertained, then the question arises, why are they requisite to make such an agent ? This is a question which I have, as yet, never found answered, in any systematic, or satisfactory manner, by any author, who has published on this subject. Yet it is one of the most important subjects to be clearly understood in the whole range of subjects, which relate to moral agency; and one which reflects by far the most light on this inquiry. In what does that liberty consist, which is considered necessary in a moral agent ; and why, for what reasons, is it requisite ?
When questions of this complexion are answered correctly, then a person knows what things are needful to constitute a perfect, moral agent; and he also clearly discerns the reasons why they are necessary.
A person may then, and not before, be said to understand the subject of moral agency; and the ground on which praise and blame may be predicated of man; and why final rewards suited to his character are perfectly just and proper. This knowledge will enable him to form just views of the being and character of Jehovah. He can then explain and unfold to view the divine character ; and describe in a consistent, and systematic manner all the doctrines and precepts of the Bible. But, until he is acquainted more or less distinctly with the subject of moral agency in the light above exhibited, his mind must be full of darkness, confusion and uncertainty respecting the leading, and fundamental doctrines of the gospel.
These observations are sufficient to show, and impress on every ESSAY I.
On the Faculties of the Mind. All existence, as far as human knowledge extends, is either material, or immaterial ; corporeal, or spiritual. And though it is generally granted, that certain properties, aside from their operations, are essential to matter, yet this is not acknowledged to be true, by some, with respect to the mind. It becomes, therefore, necessary to inquire whether the mind has properties, or faculties, antecedent to the operations of thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinct from them. However, what is meant by a faculty of the mind ought to be, in the first place, explained. There was a time, when the word faculty was first used. It was then used to express some idea which the speaker then had. What was it? If the original meaning of the word is retained in our language, it was at first used to signify a preparedness in the mind for certain operations. It communicates no more than a simple idea. Hence it does not admit of a logical definition.
The way many have taken to evade truth, and silence an antagonist, has been to request a definition of words; and if they cannot be defined, they are said to be used without any meaning. Many do not consider, that some words are incapable of any definition, and yet may be well understood. This is true of every word which conveys only one simple idea. Would it not be impertinent for any person to ask another, to define the terms pain and pleasure ? The reason is, they are terms, which convey simple ideas. All such terms are incapable of any logical definition. There is but one way to explain them, which is to use some other terms, of the same meaning, which are better understood, if there are any of this class. The word faculty is a term, which conveys a simple idea, and can no more be defined, than we can define the word pain. Yet it no more follows from this, that no such property, which is called a faculty, exists, than it follows, that there is no such thing as pain, because it cannot be defined. And there is no If all per
propriety in asking for a definition of simple terms. sons would keep in view the difference between simple and complex terms, they would never ask for a definition of the former, nor deny the reality of a thing merely because it cannot be explained by a definition. There is reason to think, that some reject certain truths because the words, which convey truth, cannot be defined. This appears to be one reason, why some disbelieve the existence of faculties, as antecedent to exercises, because the word is undefinable. Some do not believe in the existence of faculties, because they have not, what they call, a consciousness of their existence. They are conscious of their fruits, or operations, and this is sufficient. Will any person affirm that pain has no cause, has nothing which occasions it, when he has no consciousness or knowledge of that cause, or antecedent? No ; be infers, from the pain he feels, the existence of something which produced it. And he may as safely infer the existence of faculties, from their operations or exercises. Hence, candor will admit the existence of faculties or properties of the mind, though they cannot be defined, and though we have no consciousness of them except by their operations.
By a faculty, then, I mean a preparedness, a fitness, a capacity, or an adaptedness of the mind for those various operations, of which we are daily conscious. And I would here give notice, that I shall use the term operations in these essays, to denote all the thoughts, feelings or affections, and volitions of the mind. Every thought is an operation ; every affection, and every volition, is an operation of the human mind. I shall generally use the word in this extensive sense. And now the inquiry is, whether there is in the mind a faculty or preparedness for thinking, a preparedness for feeling, and a preparedness for willing ; or whether there is not ; and whether these faculties are antecedent to every operation of the mind, and objects of distinct consideration. Some believe that faculties and operations are as distinct objects, as motion and the body moving ; and that the former are antecedent to the latter. Others, in philosophical discussions, deny this distinction. Some arguments will now be adduced to show, that such a distinction ought to be admitted.
1. This distinction is so obvious to common sense, that it has been admitted by all nations, in every age of the world. This is evident from the general construction of languages. In ev