Page images
[blocks in formation]

and classification of our various faculties and powers as they are related to ends.

In this aspect the faculties or powers may be divided into two great classes:

I. Those which are instrumental for the attainment of ends beyond themselves. This is the first class. Here we find,

1st. Those which indicate ends. These are the Instincts, the Appetites, the Desires, and the Natural Affections. And,

2d. The Intellect, in the light of which we pursue ends. These are the Instrumental Powers, and do not necessarily imply a moral nature. They require to be governed.

II. The second great class of powers are those in whose activity we find ends beyond which there are no others. These are our Moral Nature. By them we elect and sanction ends. They govern, or, at least, ought to govern. These are the powers that belong to man as a person. They are Reason, Moral Affections, and Free-will.

The Instrumental Powers are neither good nor bad in themselves, but as they are used. Generically we share them with the animals, but they are much modified by being taken into connection with a higher nature.

Let us, then, first consider those powers which indicate ends.

In the conception of an end the primary element is not intellectual. If there were no original, no rational apprehension of good involving desirableness, congruity, automatic tendency, impulse, appetency or craving, revealing some want to be satisfied, or capacity of enjoyment to be met, we could have no conception of an end. In our analysis in this direction this is the last thing that we reach, and so is conditional for all the rest. The intellect is im

for us.

plied. There must be consciousness. Every mental operation, whether perceptive or impulsive, must take place in the light of that. But consciousness being given, the impulse towards an end or the apprehension of it as having in it a good, is the primary element in our conception of an active, as distinguished from a contemplative being. Without such impulse or apprehension, the objects we now seek might be known as they are in themselves, but not as ends

There would be no motive for the voluntary exertion of the intellect even. As a part of our nature, these impulses are generically the same in all men, but reveal themselves in different proportions, and in them we find what have been called the active powers of man. By this it is not meant that the contemplative powers are not active, but that they do not, and these do, lead to action.

The powers which indicate ends are commonly, and, as it seems to me, correctly divided into the Instincts, the Appetites, the Desires, and the Affections. Of these there is no question respecting any except instinct, the existence of which in man has sometimes been doubted.

Instinct, which we shall first consider, is defined by Paley to be “a propensity prior to experience, and independent of instruction.” It leads animals obviously destitute of either understanding or reason to perform the same acts as if possessed of those powers in the highest degree. In building her cells the bee proceeds on the principles of mechanics and of the abstruser mathematics. In incubation the hen seems to have a knowledge of the doctrine of different specific gravities, and turns her eggs over regularly because the yolk is slightly heavier than the white. Animals with migratory, and those with acquisitive instincts, proceed on an apparent knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies for months in the future.

[blocks in formation]

In all animals of the same species instinct is mostly uniform, and, as we descend in the scale of creation, becomes, in the inverse ratio of understanding and reason, more uniform, more blind, and more perfect. A pure and unperverted instinct may always be trusted implicitly. A marvellous and a beautiful thing it is to see “the stork in the heaven knowing her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming." Surely, here “He leadeth the blind in a way that they know not.” Here extremes meet — the perfection of reason and the perfection of ignorance.

But as the light of understanding and reason increases, the glimmerings of instinct seem lost. Accordingly, most writers on morals have not noticed this as one of the active powers, or, if they have, have spoken of it as confined almost wholly to animals. But if instinct is needed by rational creatures we shall be sure to find it, for God does not care less for them than for the ant and the bee. It would be in accordance with all we have hitherto seen of the order of the universe, and of the mode in which its unity is secured, if we should find this, like gravitation, passing up and blending itself with the activity of the very highest power of its own order. Or, if any should suppose that this, the lowest form of intelligent action, cannot blend with those intuitions of reason which it so much resembles, it is yet pleasing to see in its certain guidance the best analogon and symbol of perfect reason, just as gravitation, which is the lowest motive power, is the best symbol of love, which is the highest of all.

I suppose, however, that something of instinct does blend with the activity of our highest powers. For this, it is not necessary that we should be under the guidance of any specific instinct, for wherever there is a tendency in our nature that is automatic, there we find the instinctive element. Hence we may, and do, speak of rational instincts. In every created nature, however high, there must be tendencies and yearnings by which the true end of the being shall be revealed to itself, and in which the first movements towards that end shall originate. That a good of any kind should begin to be sought in any other way, is not conceivable. And so the Scriptures represent it. They speak of thirsting for God; and the Saviour said, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.”

Our associations with instinct may be low; but it is really a high and sacred thing. In it we see the Highest stooping to the lowest, and illustrating that care and guidance of which they may feel secure who follow the promptings of any nature that is unperverted, and as it came from his hand.

We now proceed to the Appetites. These are those cravings of the animal nature which have for their object the well-being of the body and the continuance of the race.

These are to be distinguished from a desire for those pleasures of the palate, for example, with which they become so intimately associated that they are seldom thought of separately. The craving is purely instinctive, and, as such, has in a healthy state the infallibility of instinct, both in indicating and measuring the wants of the system; but the pleasure of eating and drinking will be according to the quality and condiments of the material taken. This pleasure may be perpetuated far beyond the point at which the craving is satisfied; and the modes of causing it may be reduced to a system and a science. The science of cookery will be useful as it fits substances to satisfy the craving, and so for assimilation; it will be injurious as it merely stimulates the palate. If the substance

[blocks in formation]

stimulate the palate slightly, or not at all, as water, the craving is simply satisfied, and there is no danger of excess; but the more stimulating the substance, either to the specific sense connected with the appetite, or to the nervous system generally, the more danger there is of excess from confounding the excitement of the sense, or the nerves, with the demand of the system.

According to Stewart, the appetites are distinguished by three circumstances. 1st. They take their rise from the body. 2d. They are periodical. 3d. They originally imply an uneasy sensation, afterwards, upon experience, a desire for their appropriate objects.

The appetites are usually said to be three, - hunger, thirst, and the appetite of sex. But there are tendencies and cravings that may more properly be classed with the appetites than elsewhere. These are the craving for air, for exercise, for rest, and for sleep. These all take their rise from the body, are periodical, and originally imply an uneasy sensation; afterwards, upon experience, a desire of their appropriate objects. They also require to be regulated on precisely the same principles as those commonly ranked as appetites; and it may be well to place them here, as bringing them nearer the conscience, since all concede that the regulation of the appetites is a duty.

The necessity of the appetites for the accomplishment of their immediate ends is well stated by Reid. “Though a man knew,” says he, “ that his life must be supported by eating, reason could not direct him when to eat, or what, how much, or how often. In all these things appetite is a much better guide than reason. Were reason only to direct us in this matter, its calm voice would often be drowned in the hurry of business or the charms of amusement. But the voice of appetite rises gradually, and at

« PreviousContinue »