« PreviousContinue »
I AVAIL myself of the practice of prefixing a preface to a publication, to advert to two circumstances connected with it ; one of which seems to require an apology, and the other an explanation. With regard to the first, it refers to the title of it, namely, a Treatise on Man, which it may be thought too presumptuous a one, as implying a more thorough acquaintance with human nature than one situated as I am can have any well-founded pretensions to claim. Now, with regard to the title, I beg to observe, that it was with some doubt and hesitation that I selected it; but after a good deal of consideration, it seemed to me not ill suited to the nature of the work, which treats of the rise, operations, opposition, and result of our motives. For when we attentively reflect upon them, they will appear, I · doubt not, a part of ourselves, not endued with vitality or active life, and of an independent exist. ence, and over which we have no control, but excitements within, emanating from the intellectual qualities of the mind, or appetites and propensities
by means of caloric, from a solid to a fluid or a gas. We can simplify them and combine them, analyse and decompose them, and restore their combin ations. We can gain some knowledge of their structure by mechanism, and apply the material world to many useful purposes.
Whereas the mind is not to be thus examined, or any information thus derived respecting it. But it by no means follows, that because the qualities of the mind cannot be examined in the same way that matter is, that therefore it eludes all investigation. This is so far from being the case, that there are many indications, not only of the reality of its existence, but of its qualities and operations. The more violent passions of the mind are often manifested in real life, as well as made the subject of the imitative arts, and more especially of theatrical exhibitions. The features and gestures, and even the hue of the complexion and its variation, from the paleness of fear to the high Aush of anger and indignation, convey some notions of what is passing within the mind. Cowardice and fortitude, temperance and licentiousness, hope and despair, have, with other feelings and affections, their appropriate and discriminating aspects, fitted and adapted to them, by the Creator of them, for the wisest purposes.
But the most decisive outward intimations and declarations of the inward feelings, temper, and
disposition, are a man's words and actions. These are of so indubitable a character, that they are referred to by the benevolent Author of our religion.
When reproving the superstition of the Jews, which they attempted to vindicate by their traditions, he says, “ Not that which goeth into the mouth, but that which cometh out of the mouth, defileth a man ;” and afterwards explaining to his disciples his meaning, “ Out of the heart," says he, “ proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
Elsewhere we read, that “ Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things.” And to show how much our actions are indicative of our thoughts and affections, we may advert to the comparison our Saviour draws betwixt them and the fruits of a tree: “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” So that we have revelation, as well as reason and observation, to assure us, that though the mind is neither visible nor tangible, yet there are outward signs which are subject to the senses, and which afford satisfactory proof of the reality of the qualities within it.
On the whole, we conclude, that since our motives, passions, desires, and aversions, are so intimately interwoven in our frame, as to form a component part of it, and as we could form no notion