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ry to support his own opinions. His object is to illustrate, as far as he proceeds, the true theory of the human mind; and avoid all disputation, as far as can be done consistently.
In the essays on the mind, he means to take facts, experience, and common sense for his guides. He does not design to form a system on any other principles, than those which are self-evident, or capable of demonstration. Whatever opinions respecting the mind he may advance, which do not agree with experience, with facts, and the word of God, are to be rejected. For principles, which contradict daily experience, cannot be true. Principles, which do not agree with the lives, and conduct of mankind, are not to be received. And if they do not accord with what the word of God teaches us concerning the characters of sinners and saints, they are false. All the external, visible actions of mankind, whether virtuous or vicious, may be traced back to first principles in the mind. By these principles we can account for the conduct of all men, or for the events which take place in the moral world, as well as we can explain the phenomena of nature, by the first principles in natural philosophy. Hence no hypothesis is to be admitted as true, which does not agree with experience, with facts respecting our visible conduct, and with the word of Jehovah. Again. As
every science is founded on what may be justly termed first principles, so this is especially true with respect to the science of theology. And no person can be considered as understanding systematically any science, if he is unacquainted with its first principles. And whosoever will examine the subject carefully, and candidly, will find, that intelligent existence contains the first principles of divinity. It is generally granted, that if a person does not understand the subjects of moral agency, and liberty, there are many other subjects connected with these, of which he cannot have a consistent view, and which he cannot satisfactorily explain. Of course he is not a systematic, or good divine. But a knowledge of moral agency and liberty involves a knowledge of the principles and operations of the mind. Hence these principles and operations are the foundation of divinity. Without a knowledge of these, a person is not acquainted with the foundation on which divinity, considered as a superstructure, rests. This shows the importance of a thorough acquaintance with the first principles, and the operations of the mind.
These essays therefore, are designed as an introduction to divinity. The author's great object, in explaining what appears to him to be the true theory of the mind, is, to assist the student in acquiring a systematic and consistent knowledge of divinity. He does not purpose to attend to any questions, or disquisitions relative to the mind, which are not necessary to answer this end. Whatsoever will not, in his view, serve to reflect light on subjects in theology, does not come within the compass and design of his plan.
It has been found by experience, that the classing of objects assists the memory, and renders the acquisition of knowledge more easy, and rapid. This is the plan the author designs to adopt with respect to operations of the mind. If certain qualities are found to belong to a number of individual existences, they are classed together, and denominated by some general name.
For instance: We find many individuals are endued with life and motion ; they are formed into a class, and called animals. Though these properties are common to them all, yet some of these individuals possess properties, which others do not ; for this reason a general class is divided into a number, called species. Man is one species of animals; beast, bird, and so on, are other species. Hence, among individual existences, according to the various qualities with which they are endued, there is a generic and a specific difference. In like manner, the operations of the mind are not all of one kind, but they differ from each other; for which reason they ought to be formed into distinct, general classes; and these general classes may be divided, according to their specific differences. This method will give a systematic arrangement to the several divisions of mental operations. It will greatly assist the memory; and help the student in acquiring a clear, and distinct knowledge of the principles and operations of spiritual substances.
Authors have pursued different plans in the study of the human mind. Some have not only attended to its faculties and operations, but have in connexion with them attended to all the objects with which the mind is ever conversant. This leads them into a very extensive field, in which a student is in danger of being lost. In these essays, the author has pursued a different course. He has attended, as far as possible consistent with perspicuity, to the faculties of the mind, and their operations, without describing the numerous objects of perception and choice.
Others have not only attended to all the materials of knowledge with which the mir.d 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 saggestion, 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 divia sions ; 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 disa plays 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 ageat ? 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