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ON THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THE STUDY OF
WE receive pleasure from the contemplation of nature only as it suggests in one way or other, some attribute of mind; and when the natural philosopher is most deeply engaged in his researches, the high satisfaction which forms the stimulus and the reward of his labour, is the result either of the successful exercise of his own faculties, or of observing the continual manifestation of that Supreme and Eternal Mind which gave matter its being and its laws. The forms of nature, however beautiful or sublime, are only interesting as they suggest some pleasing images with which they are directly or remotely associated, and as they awaken in us the thoughts of the power, and the wisdom, and the goodness of an Almighty Creator. What were a universe of matter but shapeless magnitude, without the living spirit of such a Being to beautify and arrange it, or without the existence of intelligences capable of deriving pleasure from the view
of its varied aspects of grandeur, and loveliness, and sublimity ?
For what are all
Such is the interest connected with the subjects of our inquiry in metaphysical and moral science. To every mind capable of reflecting in any degree on its own operations, it possesses attractions of a high and permanent order.
That it tends, in a high degree, to improve and elevate the mind, will, I am persuaded, be universally admitted. It may, I am aware, be urged, that the same remark holds true of every branch of science, and that the mere exercise of our mental faculties, either in the acquisition or communication of knowledge, tends to their improvement; and that, on this ground, the study of natural philosophy, or history, or chemistry, has precisely the same claim on our attention. I am cordially willing to concede that even, in this view, the physical sciences, and especially astronomy, which raises the mind to the consideration of the movements and the laws of other worlds, should occupy a distinguished place in every system of education ;-that the varied and magnificent objects which they bring within the range of observation cannot fail to enlarge and invigorate the intellectual powers; and that by accustoming the mind to continued processes of reasoning, to compare and arrange its ideas, they are most conducive to the evolution of all its faculties. But it requires a still greater degree of abstraction to reflect on the subjects of our consciousness, to mark the different operations of our mind, our trains of thought, and the laws by which they are regulated; and to analyze and classify the various workings of the immaterial part of our nature. The habits of clear discernment and close reasoning on all subjects, and especially on subjects connected with moral and political science, must be greatly confirmed; and the very niceties of speculation to which metaphysical science, more than any other, will always give rise, must communicate a facility of embodying in language and in reasonings, the silent reflections of the mind. That such a faculty is of the first importance to all who are called to the high situation of communicating the benefits of knowledge to others, is sufficiently obvious.
* Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination.
The next advantage which I shall mention as resulting from the study of moral philosophy is, an enlarged acquaintance with human nature; and who is there possessing any share of liberal curiosity for whom such a subject has no interest? or, in what situation of life is it possible to be placed where its advantage is not very obvious? If the proper study of mankind is man, if that branch of knowledge which closely concerns the usefulness and the happiness of every one,
and especially of such as are appointed to direct the views and the prejudices of others, consist in an extended acquaintance with the operations of the human mind, and the habits of human nature, there cannot, in this case, be too much attention bestowed on that science whose object it is to consider man as a sensitive, an intelligent, a moral, and a social being. How very different in its effects on the understanding and the heart is the knowledge of human nature acquired in the exercise of those liberal views and kind dispositions which are congenial to youth, from that which is the result of a partial acquaintance with the worst part of the species, and which so generally sours the temper, and dries up the springs of generous affections! The Philosophy of the Human Mind leads us to study the elements of morals, to view the principles and tendencies from which the complex phenomena of the moral world proceed, and to teach us to regard with benevolence and candour a nature whose endowments and whose weaknesses are our own, and on which the Deity has so visibly impressed his image. Whilst it gives us the knowledge of ourselves, and of mankind, it gives us that which is of still higher value, an affection and reverence for that common nature which we inherit; and by fixing our thoughts on the powers and susceptibilities of man, we are reminded of the immortality to which, by his Creator, he has been evidently designed.
Though the Philosophy of the Human Mind conferred no greater benefit than this, it would be well deserving of our attention ; since it would prevent us from being misled by those partial, and consequently