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thing,—while, in these very instances, the symptoms of them may be quite apparent to the eye of an impartial observer.
Nor can we go far in accounting for these evils, on the principle that their victim is young; for, were they peculiar to youth, we might ascribe them to that hasty shooting forth of passion which belongs to the immaturity of his age, but which the slower growth of reason and experience would, in due time, restrain and rectify. Such a solution, however, is opposed by fact. Reason does grow up, and experience grows up; for the dullest man, who is exempted from absolute idiocy, is placed in circumstances which constrain an advance in both. But the evil is not cured. Propensity retains the control, and either allures the understanding into its measures, or prosecutes inclination in defiance of her dictates. A comparison of the child with the man of years, may
indeed show us, that, in the case of the latter, the disease has passed under various modifications, and, of course, has assumed an altered complexion; and from this, it
may be loosely inferred to have altogether disappeared. On a closer inspection, however, it will be found, that such an inference is untenable, and that scarcely any thing has been gained by the superadded strength of faculty which elevates the man above the infant, but a corresponding accession to the power of his mental malady. The workings of injurious predilection in the mind of the child, although violent and impetuous, may be combated with some hope of success; because they have neither the firmness of purpose, nor the obstinacy of habit, which, if unresisted, they are afterwards to acquire.
But the same
workings the mind of the man are more deeply seated; and just because they have been longer in the soul, and have the mastery there over a greater power of intellect, is it harder to subdue them. The boy may be found who is ready to part with his title to a rich patrimonial inheritance, for the means of a transient gratification ; but the man is as easily found who is prepared to sacrifice, not his patrimony alone, but his health, and character, and conscience along with it, to the idol of his pleasure. In this latter case there is more of intellect than in the former; and, as the thing done is usually effected by a process, and not a single act, a greater degree of plan, and purpose, and practical energy, is required to achieve it: but, for this very reason, there is more of absurdity in the process, and of misery in the result.
Nor let it be thought, that because the instance referred to may be called an extreme one, it is therefore inapplicable to the general principle; for it is nothing more than a fair specimen of that tendency of passion to sophisticate reason, which pervades the whole of human nature. The man whose secular wisdom is the greatest, and who, of course, has made the most of his outward circumstances, may be safely called upon to decide whether, in the few instances in which he has erred, (many in fact, but few in comparison,) the error has not been the same in kind with the one referred to, and differing from it only in the degree of its absurdity; that is, whether in every one of these instances, his experience does not bear him testimony, that “inordinate affection” was, in one shape or other, the germ of the evil. we are not speaking of the calculations of business,
or science, or politics, although event these come under the sweep of the principle to a greater extent than is always allowed, but of the common use of common things; and in this department it must be conceded, that the verdict of all experience is distinct and uniform. The evil shows itself even in those individuals whose moderation is the most exemplary; and, therefore, it must be held as universal. But why is it so ? Nay, why do such pernicious wanderings of desire display themselves at all among the sons of men? By what strange fatality does it come to pass, that while beasts, and birds, and fishes, and insects, in all the multitudes of their tribes and families, are guided so securely to their native enjoyments, man alone has the faculty of perverting that system of provisions which is so finely adapted to his wellbeing, and of turning it, in defiance of his thirst for happiness, into a ministration of sorrow? Is it true that the understanding of man, after all the dominion in which its Maker enthroned it on the day when he gave it being, and all the eulogy which sages have heaped upon it in the glow of their admiration of its high capabilities, is yet so inferior to instinct, for the great purposes of earthly existence, as to give him reason to regret that he was not created a beast?
It is not true. The darkness of atheism begins to lower over the very conception of the thought, and forewarns us to put it down, as we value our confidence in the theology of nature. The understanding of man, as a guide to sublunary comfort, is just as much superior to that mysterious something which is law to the appetites of animals, as it surpasses that something in its resemblance to him who is God over all: and to give up with this thought, would be virtually to surrender the great principle which renders a belief in the Deity of any practical benefit to us. On the recurrence of the question, then, Why are the appetites of man, though placed under the guardianship of reason, so precarious guides either to the sources of earthly good, or in the fruition of that enjoyment ? we are forced on the conclusion, That man is not now what he has been—that he has fallen from his primitive greatness—that some malignant influence has blasted and enslaved him—and that this same influence, whatsoever it be, or whencesoever it has come, has its seat in the affections of his heart. Thus it is, that looking at him simply as he is in this world, without any reference to his higher relations, we cannot account for the thing which troubles him, without admitting the depravity of his nature : nor can we be acquainted with that depravity, in the mode of its noxious operation, without observing that it uniformly bewilders the capacity of thought, by previously poisoning the spring of feeling.
These considerations, if duly pondered, might be sufficient to redeem the religion of the heart from that disrepute, which is so scornfully cast upon it by men who arrogate a high standing for intelligence and wisdom. They might show such men, that in pure respect for their own understandings, this species of abuse, at least, ought to be left to those drivellers in impiety, who are as ignorant as they are profane. It is a truth which ought to strike them, that a man must be trained to the use of his affections, in order to exercise his reason, or to keep his place in civilized society. Nor can it be easily denied,
that those ancients were men of wisdom, had they not overdone there own maxim, who, with no eye to Christianity, and with little concern about religion of any kind, regarded the discipline of the passions as the grand secret of human education. But it is not in the things of this life merely that man feels
a law in his members warring against the law of his mind," nor is it in this department at all that the licentiousness of appetite inflicts the sorest injury on his ultimate well-being. The same susceptibility of misleading impression which distresses him in the things of this world, rises from what is secular to what is sacred, and, in the worst of its consequences here, we see but an image of its mightier devastations on his prospects for immortality. These things must be conceded by every man who admits the great principles on which Christianity is founded, and with no other man have we any concern at present; but, if they are conceded, they make it manifest that the writer who goes into the science of religious affections, or inculcates a practical attention to them, is not, on this account, a visionary, but proceeding on principles which, in civil life, are held essential to the right formation of human character.
In studying such a subject, he is not gazing at the spectres of a sickly brain, but conversant with solemn realities, which are bound up in close and intimate alliance with the eternal destiny of every human soul. That nothing childish, or absurd, or visionary, has ever been written on this subject cannot be asserted; but, if the abuse of a thing be a reason for despising it, then farewell to all that is excellent among the subjects of human thought.