Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

mankind know it by an inward consciousness, SERM. which is the surest evidence, that the motion II. takes its rise from, being constantly and uniformly produc’d by, a self-determining power within.

Here then is a plain familiar example, directing us to form an idea of a mind acting upon matter, a percipient, self-determining, principle, moving bodies only by a volition. By this the supreme first Mover has left us a witness within ourselves, which confounds the cavils of Atheism. Shall it be said, that the whole system of the universe, and all it contains, is to be resolv'd into mechanism, without a directing immechanical principle : that the being of such a principle, which is the spring of thought and active operations on unthinking matter, is unintelligible, and that no motion can be conceiv'd to be effected but by a material impulse? All this, which Atheists call absurd, is exemplified in that little system, a single animal. Shall we not acknowledge that he who form’d this percipient self-determining power, the ruler of the body which it inhabits, yet unknowing how it exercises its dominion ; that he, I say, is poffess’d of superior intelligence and power? And is it not easily conceivable, that such intelligence and power may have a command over large ma

terial

D 3

Serm.terial systems? This animal life, tho' far more II. excellent than inanimate nature, which yet is

none of it without the characters of the author's perfections stampt upon it, gives us but a faint notion of the Deity : Let us rise to Something higher, and which carries in it a brighter and more illustrious image of the divine understanding.

What I mean, are the intellectual powers of the human nature, far transcending the sensitive, both in the excellence of their kind, and the extent of their exercise. When fense and understanding perceive the same object, it is after a very different manner. The former discerns what we call the sensible qualities of material objects; that is, those objects, by effluvia from them, or by the intervention of some corporeal medium, make such impressions on our organs, as are the occasion of exciting certain ideas in the mind; and here the capacity of sense terminates, it can go no further. But we are conscious of another power which can review those ideas, examine their nature and relations, and, by comparing them together, discover truths concerning them, which the merely animal capacity does not reach to. For example; when a coloured object is presented to us, the idea of red, white, black, or any other colour is rais'd: Here the report of sense

stops,

ftops, and many unattentive persons, too hasti-Serm. ly forming a judgment upon it, conclude that

II., these are qualities really inherent in the bodies themselves. But

But upon a more close attention and careful enquiry, others are satisfied that they are really no more than our own sensations, caused by some particular disposition of parts in the surface of the coloured body, giving such a determination to the rays of light, , that they form those images in the organs of fight, which are the nearer object of our perception. Our reasoning in this and many other instances upon sense, shows a power superior to it in the mind, which apprehends the same objects after a quite different manner. We have thoughts concerning them, which sense could never have suggested; we consider their relations, their fimilitude and diffimilitude; we form general notions, wherein the mind abstracts from individual existence, which the sensitive faculty is not capable of; we discern the agreement or disagreement of our own ideas, their connexion and dependence; we form propositions upon them, affirming and denying, distinguishing between truth and fallhood, and having clearly perceiv'd some truths, we proceed in our search after more, by consideration and arguing. Now, tho' the occasion of all these and other modes of D4

think

.

SERM. thinking, may be introduc'd by the senses,
II.

every one who attends, must be convinced,
that the exercise of the mind in them is very
different from sensation,

But there are other objects of the under-
standing, not deriv'd either immediately or re-
motely from the senses. Consciousness is no
image or representation of any thing without ;
That clear intuitive knowledge we have of our
being and our own powers, with all their va-
rious exercises and acts, (such as perceptions
of every kind, sensations, reflections, remem-
brance, judgment, reasoning, self-determina-
tions, affections, desire, fear, hope, forrow,
joy ;) all these are accompanied with a con-
sciousness in the mind, which does not nor
possibly can proceed from any eternal object; ex-
for an external object can only imprint some-
thing of itself, nothing at all of the inward
active discerning self. Besides, the sensation
we are now considering, as different from, and
inferior to understanding, still takes in the
qualities of passive matter, extension, divisi-
bility, figure, &c. but there are other ideas
in the mind as real and distinct, which do not
represent extended, figured, divisible sub-
stance, nor have the least relation to

any

of its properties or modifications; such as the ideas of virtue, of honesty, benevolence, gratitude,

justice,

2

justice, compassion, which have no manner SERM. of affinity with sensible qualities, yet are of II. great importance to the purposes of our being, the objects of strong affection, and a consciousness of them yields the most solid and subftantial pleasure to the soul. We reason

upon them as clearly, perceive truths concerning them, and draw consequences, in which the mind rests as much satisfied of their evidence, as in its knowledge of the figures, gravity and other affections of matter. And thus it plainly appears, that there are in the human soul intellectual powers, superior to, and different from the sensitive, both in respect of the objects about which they are conversant, and the nature and manner of their exercise, when the objects are the same.

If it be so, we have a more clear discovery than the animal powers can give us, of selforiginal intelligence in the universe. For, either the understandings we find ourselves pofsess’d of must be eternal and unoriginated, which no mortal ever imagined, or they must be originally derived from an intelligent Author, to whom these characters belong.

The reasoning of Socrates on this subject feems to be very strong and convincing, as it is related by Xenophon*. After he had en

deavoured * Memarab, Socrat. Lib. I.

« VorigeDoorgaan »