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off their proper poise and balance. But this is not all. The faculties are not only ill balanced, they are all individually imperfect. None of them act spontaneously as they ought, nor perform their functions at once with ease and satisfaction. Some are dormant and sluggish, some are over-active. Some require to be stimulated, some to be restrained. The phrenological doctrine of their alternate activity, of their becoming active seriatim, and requiring alternate periods of exertion and rest, is of itself a proof of degeneracy, and a necessary cause of irregular manifestation. In order to perfection, they ought to be constantly in a state ready for use; never exerted when not required, and never wanting in power when the occasion for action occurs. Is this the case with the human faculties now, in any individual, or is there any probability that it ever will be so?
The necessity which is universally acknowledged, of the cultivation of the mental powers by means of education and moral training, and the utter sterility of mind which appears when this education is neglected, is a proof of degeneracy. The same appears in the necessity of applying, to a great part of our race, the active restraints of law; the impossibility of preventing crimes by all the modes of inculcating moral and religious duty, or even, when these fail, by all the terrors of punishment; the necessity of a constantly renewed appeal to the higher sentiments, through the institutions of religion, by exhortation, by preaching, by an application of all the moral motives that can operate upon the feelings of men. And, perhaps, even the strongest proof of all is the astounding fact, that even the revelation of a Saviour, and a free offer of pardon to sinners, has yet only partially succeeded in reclaiming the race, and that a large, by far the larger portion still obstinately reject and loathe
a method of unmerited salvation, the only one suited to their present condition, and the only one capable of bringing them back to that God whom they have forsaken.
The present and past depravity of man is a fact universally admitted; but another question remains, — Is our nature capable of rectification by the development of its own elements? This is the real point to be determined, for all the rest is too obvious to admit of dispute. Divines deny that man is capable of rectifying the disorders of the world by his own exertions. Mr Combe maintains that he is, and that a knowledge of phrenology, and the natural laws, will enable him to do so. As all that is to be done in this way is still to be spoken of in the future sense, it is impossible for Mr Combe to prove how far this assumption is correct, and to what extent the condition of man may be improved by the means alluded to. We can only speak from probabilities, and from experience of the past; and these are all against the assumption that any great or decisive improvement is likely to be effected in this way on the generality of mankind. With every disposition to think highly of the doctrines of Phrenology, believing them to be substantially true, and that they will ultimately come to be considered as of high importance, I cannot see any rational grounds for believing, that, taken by themselves, these doctrines will be more successful than those of other philosophical systems, in remedying the numerous disorders that have crept into the world. Some of these systems have been founded on truths equally undeniable as those of Phrenology and, on comparing them carefully together, many of the principles they inculcate are identically the same as those now maintained by the phrenologists; but they have failed, and Phrenology will fail also. Granting, what I can by no means admit, that the natural laws, as
expounded by Mr Combe, are calculated to lead to clearer views of duty than other systems; this is but a small part of what is wanted. The great questions are, What are their sanctions? and supposing them to be known, What is the probability of their being obeyed? The great desideratum is, to supply sufficient motives to act up to the views of duty we possess.
The answer to the first question must be, that the natural laws, properly speaking, have no sanctions. They carry with them, to be sure, certain consequences, that is to say, if we act in a certain way, we shall reap a certain quantity of enjoyment, and if we act otherwise, we shall be visited with a certain portion of suffering; but as these are to occur in the present life, and as (the laws being known) their amount would be clearly foreseen and determined, the whole would, of course, become matter of calculation, and it would be left to every one's choice to obey them or not, every one being at perfect liberty to disobey any particular law, provided he made up his mind to endure the penalty.
This being the case, supposing the whole "natural laws" to be at this moment engraved on tables of brass, and made known to every individual of the human race -supposing all the difficulties of discovering them to be got over, and that they were ascertained and demonstrated as clearly as the rules of geometry in Euclid, is any one so ignorant of human nature, as to believe that they would on that account be universally obeyed, or that the knowledge of them would be in all cases made use of, to promote the good of the species?
Mr Combe has himself anticipated this question, and answered it in the negative. He admits, in one passage,* - what, indeed, he could not reasonably deny — that a
* Constitution of Man, people's edition, p. 10, col. 2.
mere knowledge of the natural laws is not sufficient to ensure observance of them. But is not this at once admitting, in substance, that his system is radically and incurably defective? He says, that "practical training, and the aid of every motive that can interest the feelings, are necessary to lead individuals to obey the natural laws." What motives does he here allude to, that are not included in, or do not necessarily arise from, a knowledge of the laws themselves, a knowledge of our own constitution, and of the relations subsisting between it and external objects? If such constraining motives do exist, is it not evident, that in these, and not in a mere knowledge of the natural laws, lies the true and only hope of raising man from his present state of ruin and degradation? He goes on to say — “Religion, in particular, may furnish motives highly conducive to this obedience." Then why, it may be asked, does he exclude from his system all considerations of a religious nature? Why does he exclude those considerations which even natural religion is calculated to furnish, and which have been admitted even by heathens,-the belief in a future state, and the sanctions of future rewards. and punishments? These, it seems, do not fall within the object of his book; * but why do they not? Is it not evident, that by omitting them, he has voluntarily, and of set purpose, founded his system on a defective basis, and excluded that which is alone capable of supplying the defect?
The real question, after all, is a question of motives. We are not so destitute of the knowledge of what is right, as of inclination to act up to the knowledge we possess. For one who acts wrong from ignorance, there are hundreds who do so from the perversity or weakness
This complaint is as old as the time of
of their nature. Horace:
Video meliora proboque.
It is echoed by St Paul,
"The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members warring against the law in my mind, and bringing me into captivity unto the law of sin," &c. †
But one fact is worth a thousand arguments and general statements; and, accordingly, Mr Combe lays great stress on individual cases. In particular, he refers to the case of a benevolent individual, who, in his anxiety to carry into practical effect the views of Mr Owen, injured his constitution so far by severe labour, as to bring on spitting of blood. He states that, "being now unable for such severe exertion, he gave up his whole time to directing and instructing the people, and for two or three weeks spoke the whole day, the effusion of blood from his lungs still continuing." The consequences were such as might have been expected. This mode of treatment brought on a confirmed pulmonary disease, of which he died in the course of a few months.
It will at once be admitted that the conduct of this person was in the highest degree irrational. The excuse of ignorance can hardly be received; at least it is believed, that examples of such extreme ignorance are But granting that, in this instance, the error was caused by ignorance, what will be said of the case I am now going to state?
I see the right, and I approve it too;
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue.
† Rom. vii. 19, 22, 23.
Constitution of Man, p. 38, col. 2.