Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
We come now to our second general inquiry in regard to the phenomena of the sensibility,an inquiry which respects those states of mind which have generally been regarded as simple feelings, but which, in reality, are complex states, composed of certain feelings associated with the action of the intelligence or will, or both.
In approaching this subject I would first direct attention to a few fundamental principles connected with the inquiry before us, and upon which all our subsequent conclusions will be based.
1. The spontaneous and necessary phenomena of the sensibility and intelligence, are alike destitute of all moral qualities.
2. We are accountable for voluntary states of mind only, i. e. for those states the existence and perpetuity of which depend, either directly or indirectly upon our will.
3. In respect to all complex states of mind, which are characterized as right and wrong, the moral and voluntary elements are always identical, the other elements being right or wrong, not in themselves, but because their existence depends upon the other or voluntary element.
Hence, we clearly perceive,
4. The error of certain philosophers and divines who place all that is right or wrong in moral agents, in right or wrong feelings; whereas feelings, in themselves, are neither right nor wrong. Also,
5. The error of those who attempt, from the above proposition, by appealing to complex phenomena of the mind as if they were simple states, to prove, that feelings, in themselves, as mere spontaneities of the sensibility, are possessed of a moral character.
Attention is now invited to a consideration of some of the complex phenomena of the mind above referred to.
That we do often regard such states of mind as possessing of a moral character is a matter of universal consciousness. Desiring and wishing are often, in common parlance, used synonymously, and as such, a moral character is often and with propriety attributed to each. But desire properly speaking, as shown in a former chapter, is simply an impulsive state of the sensibility, in reference to certain objects, a state necessarily and in itself destitute of all moral qualities. A wish on the other-hand, is a desire perpetuated, by a concurrence of the will with the desire. Now when this desire is thus perpetuated and directed towards a required or forbidden object, this complex state of mind designated by the phrase, I wish, assumes a positive moral character.
Lusting considered simply as a state of the mind, irrespective of external actions, is the concurrence of the will with the impulse of desire, when directed towards a forbidden object. The external act is only this choice of the will acted out. The guilt of the act rests in the previous wish or choice.
This is a concurrence of the will with the impulse of desire, when directed towards that which belongs to another. As such it is the parent of crime, and consequently its prohibition is numbered among the fundamental prohibitions of the divine law.
HOLINESSVIRTUE AND VICE.
At this place I deem it important to point out the nature of holiness and sin, virtue and vice, and those characteristics by which one is distinguished from the other. Holiness and virtue, which are in reality but different names for the same thing, consist in the subjection of the will to the dictates of conscience,in other words, to the divine will, so that all our other powers and principles are subjected to this one principle. Sin and vice, on the other hand, consist in the subjection of the will to other impulses of our nature in opposition to conscience or the will of God. A sinner is a creature of mere impulse. The strongest feeling, for the time being, controls him. A holy or virtuous being is one who subjects all the impulses of his nature to the will of God, as apprehended by the conscience. All the forms of virtue are expressed in the Bible by the word love. The opposite word, on the other hand, expresses all the forms of vice or sin, to wit, selfishness. Of the nature of love, as above presented, we will inquire in subsequent chapters. Attention is now invited to a few general remarks upon the nature of
Selfishness as very generally understood, consists in a supreme regard for our own happiness. To say in this sense that all men unrenewed by the grace of God, are supremely selfish, is contradicted, for example, by all the instances of parental affection which may be seen throughout the world. But the selfishness of such persons, in the sense of the word above explained, will readily appear when the strong action of parental affection is met by some principle of duty, in the ready subjection of the latter to the former. In this sense, all unrenewed men are supremely selfish. They regard their own gratification above all other considerations. In whatever direction the stronger impulse of the sensibility directs them, thither they go, regardless of right, regardless of their own, or of the general well being of others. We have already considered two forms of selfishness; to wit, lusting and coveting. Attention is now invited to a third.
HATRED, WRATH, MALICE.
In a former chapter we have seen, that whenever another individual is contemplated as exerting his power in opposition to our purposes or interests, a strong feeling of displeasure, called anger, necessarily arises in our minds, a feeling impelling us to prevent the injury by destroying his power to inflict it. Now this feeling will be temporary or permanent, just as the opposition in question is regarded as permanent or temporary. When the will coincides with this impulse and thus perpetuates its existence, the complex state of mind thus induced is called hatred. When directed towards personal objects it is the hatred forbidden in the Bible. Wrath and malice are hatred, in its more excited forms; the former in what maybe called the more tempestuous, the latter in the more deliberate form.
This has been commonly defined to be excess in the use of food. Considered as a state of mind, it is the subjection of the will to the impulse of appetite, and that in opposition not only to the dictates of conscience but also of self-love.
Considered in the form of lust, consists in the unrestrained license to sin, and in the unlimited concurrence of the will with this impulse, whatever its direction may be. In reference to such persons, nothing but the absence of the impulse, and of the possibility of indulgence, will prevent the commission of adultery or fornication. "Their eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin."
Consists in the subjection of the will to the love of hoarding in reference to money; or to those objects for which money is commonly exchanged.
Revenge is sometimes used to designate the operation of the principle of justice, the operation in which deserved retribution upon criminals is not only wished, but sought. As such it is attributed to God, and instead of being wrong, it is to be numbered among the brightest virtues. But revenge, as prohibited in the Bible; consists in that kind of concurrence of the will with the spirit of anger, wrath, and hatred, in their forbidden forms, which were described above,a concurrence in which a gratification of this spirit is sought by inflicting upon an individual or individuals an injury corresponding to an injury, real or supposed, received from them. I receive a blow or an injury from some individual. Instead of suppressing the feeling of displeasure thus excited, I yield to its influence by seeking to inflict a corresponding injury upon the offender. This is revenge. The ways in which the infliction of the injury may be sought, are various; as, directly through our own instrumentality, or by imprecating the interposition of divine power, or by endeavoring to associate the influence of others with our own, against the object of our displeasure. In the last sense, revenge most commonly assumes the form of slander, detraction, defamation, and evil surmisings, evil speaking, etc.
Pride and humility are defined by Dr. Brown, as "those vivid feelings of joy and sadness, which attend the contemplation of ourselves when we regard our superiority or inferiority, in any qualities of mind or body, or in the external circumstances in which we may be placed." Again: "When I define pride to be that emotion, which attends the contemplation of our excellence, I must be understood as limiting the phrase to the single emotion that immediately follows the contemplation." If this is pride, it is certainly a very innocent feeling and we may well wonder that such heavy denunciations are made against it in the Bible. The command also, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted," must be considered as a direct command to be proud. Lost spirits also, we must infer, will be very humble at the resurrection; for it is declared that they shall be filled with shame in view of their conscious degradation, the very essence of humility, as defined by the above named author. No wonder also, that this writer represents pride not as "excusable merely, but praiseworthy."
Pride, as defined by others, consists in inordinate self-esteem. If so, I reply it is a mere blunder, a misjudgment. Further, the consequent or the effect, has, in the above definition, evidently been mistaken for the cause. The misjudgment is evidently caused by pride pre-existing in the mind.
What then is pride? I answer: It, is the subjection of the will to the control of the desire of esteem, or the love of power, or both united. Its very essence consists in choosing, or willing as the supreme good, our own exaltation. "Thou shalt be as gods." Choosing this as the great good, is pride, and as such is the essence and cause of almost all sin. When this end is thus chosen, the subject may very easily assume that he is what he really desires to be, and hence pride and inordinate self-esteem are very commonly united. But this is by no means the case universally. Pride is often attended with conscious degradation, and thus as we say is mortified. When an individual judges himself to have obtained the elevation desired, and the judgment is based upon the possession of things great in themselves, such as wealth, knowledge, or power, this judgment is attended with a feeling of joyful exaltation, which, with the concurrence of the will with the feeling in question, induces the individual to assume those lofty airs denominated haughtiness. When the judgment in question is based upon the possession of trifling excellences, such as a superior equipage, a beautiful face, or a graceful form, the concurrence of the will with the feeling thus excited, constitutes what is called vanity. Again: When an individual under the influence of pride, perceives in the possession of others that which he desires as the means of self-exaltation, or when the possessions of such individuals are regarded as a barrier to the attainment of the desired object, the concurrence of the will and the feeling of regret and hatred thus excited constitute envy.
Envy in its turn, becomes the fruitful cause of heart burnings, detraction, slander, and evil speakings, and a host of other nameless crimes, of which pride, is the root and fountain.
When other individuals are seen to possess that which secures to them the esteem desired, pride induces its subjects to seek a superiority in respect to the same possessions, as a means to the end desired or willed. In this form pride assumes the aspect of emulation.
Ambition is only one form of pride, and differs from emulation only in respect to its objects. It consists in willing not only a superiority to others as a means of self-exaltation, but everything else which may be regarded as a means to that end. Ambition, when its control becomes supreme, is perfectly reckless of means. All things are lawful which contribute to the end in view. As such it is not only incompatible with the existence of virtuous principles, but of virtuous action, when the individual becomes subject to strong temptation. No principle is so dangerous in the education of the young as an appeal to ambition, and the spirit of emulation in the pupil. As far as the pupil yields to the influence brought to bear upon him, the formation, not merely of a religious, but in the common acceptation of the term, of a virtuous character, becomes an absolute impossibility.
Jealousy is the twin sister of envy. As envy induces the subject to take from others that which, in our possession, will exalt us or, if possessed by others, will prevent our exaltation, jealousy leads one individual to suspect in others the same designs which he is cherishing towards them. To the envious mind all beings are enemies, either as possessing that which makes him wretched, or as designing to take from him that which he values above all price.