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Habits of Study.—Early Productions.-Notes on the Mind.
THE Habits of study, which Edwards formed in very early youth, were not only strict and severe, and this in every branch of literature, but in one respect, peculiar. Even while a boy, he began to study, with his pen in his hand: not for the purpose of copying off the thoughts of others, but for the purpose of writing down, and preserving, the thoughts suggested to his own mind, from the course of study which he was pursuing. This most useful practice, he commenced in several branches of study very early; and he steadily pursued it in all his studies through life. His pen appears to have been, in a sense, always in his hand. From this practice, steadily persevered in, he derived the very great advantages of thinking continually during each period of study; of thinking accurately; of thinking connectedly; of thinking habitually at all times; of banishing from his mind every subject, which was not worthy of continued and systematic thought; of pursuing each given subject of thought as far as he was able, at the happy moment when it opened spontaneously on his mind; of pursuing every such subject afterwards, in regular sequence, starting anew from the point where he had previously left off, when again it opened upon him, in some new and interesting light; of preserving his best thoughts, his best associations, his best images, and then arranging them under their proper heads, ready for subsequent use; of regularly strengthening the faculty of thinking and reasoning, by constant and powerful exercise; and, above all, of gradually moulding himself into a thinking being-a being, who, instead of regarding thinking and reasoning as labour, could find no high enjoyment but in intense, systematic and certain thought. In this view of the subject, when we remember how few students comparatively, from the want of this mental discipline, think at all; how few of those, who think at all, think habitually; how few of those, who think habitually, think to purpose; and how few of those, who think to purpose, attain to the fulness of the measure of the stature, to which, as thinking beings, they might have attained; it will not, I think, be doubted, that the practice in question was the principal means, of the ultimate developement of his mental superiority.
I find four distinct Series of these manuscript Notes or Remarks, which, from the hand writing, as well as from other evidence, were obviously commenced by him, during his collegiate life; and, as nearly as I can judge, in the following order. The first, entitled, "THE MIND," is a brief collection of discussions and remarks in Mental Philosophy. The second is without a title, and consists of NOTES ON NATURAL SCIENCE. The third is entitled, "NOTES ON THE SCRIPTURES." The fourth is entitled, "MISCELLANIES," and consists chiefly of observations on the Doctrines of the Scriptures. The two last, he continued through life.
The Series of remarks, entitled, "THE MIND," judging both from the handwriting and the subjects, I suppose was commenced either during, or soon after, his perusal of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding. It contains nine leaves of foolscap, folded separately, and a few more, obviously written at a later period. The arrangement of subjects, in these papers, is less perfect, than that which he subsequently adopted in other writings. It is as follows. The word, proper to express a given subject, is written at the commencement of the paragraph, which introduces it, in very large letters. Where several subjects are found on one page, they are numbered, 1, 2, 3, &c. These numbers, with that of the page, furnish the reference in the index. A few passages will enable the reader, to judge of the character and habits of his mind, at that period of life.
"PLACE of minds. Our common way of conceiving of what is spiritual, is very gross, and shadowy, and corporeal, with dimensions, and figure, &c.; though it be supposed to be very clear, so that we can see through it. If we would get a right notion of what is spiritual, we must think of thought, or inclination, or delight. How large is that thing in the mind, which they call thought? Is love square, or round? Is the surface of hatred rough, or smooth. Is joy an inch, or a foot, in diameter? These are spiritual things; and why should we then form such a ridiculous idea of Spirits, as to think them so long, so thick, or so wide, or to think there is a necessity of their being either square or round, or some other certain figure?
*When a boy, his writing was round or circular, to an unusual degree, and very legible. At the age of twenty, it was more angular and less distinct, though much improved in appearance. From the time when he began to preach, in all his papers intended for his own inspection, his hand became more and more careless, and less and less legible; though, even to the close of life, his Letters were always neatly and legibly written. He appears to have had one hand for himself, and another for his friends.
"Therefore, Spirits cannot be in place, in such a sense, that all within the given limits shall be where the spirit is, and all without such a circumscription, where he is not but in this sense only, that all created spirits have clearer and more strongly impressed ideas of things, in one place, than in another, or can produce effects here, and not there; and as this place alters, so spirits move. In spirits, united to bodies, the Spirit more strongly perceives things where the body is, and can there immediately produce effects; and in this sense, the soul can be said to be in the same place, where the body is. And this law is that we call the union between soul and body. So the soul may be said to be in the brain, because ideas that come by the body immediately ensue, only on alterations that are made there; and the soul most immediately produces effects no where else.
"No doubt that all finite spirits, united to bodies or not, are thus in place; that is, that they perceive, or passively receive, ideas, only or chiefly, of created things, that are in some particular place at a given time. At least, a finite spirit cannot thus be in all places at a time, equally. And doubtless the change of the place, where they perceive most strongly, and produce effects immediately, is regular and successive; which is the motion of spirits."
“PERCEPTION of separate minds. Our perceptions, or ideas that we passively receive by our bodies, are communicated to us immediately by God, while our minds are united with our bodies; but only we in some measure know the rule. We know that, upon such alterations in our minds, there follow such ideas in the mind. It need, therefore, be no difficulty with us, how we shall perceive things when we are separate. They will be communicated, then also, and according to some rule, no doubt; only we know not what."
"UNION of mind with body. The mind is so united with the body, that an alteration is caused in the body, it is probable, by every action of the mind. By those that are very vigourous, a great alteration is very sensible; and at some times, when the vigour of the body is impaired by disease, especially in the head, almost every action causes a sensible alteration in the body."
"CERTAINTY. Determined that there are many degrees of Certainty; though not indeed of absolute certainty, which is infinitely strong. We are certain of many things upon demonstration, which yet we may be made more certain of, by more demonstration; because, although according to the strength of the mind, we see the connection of the ideas, yet a stronger mind would see the connection more perfectly and strongly, because it would have the ideas more perfect. We
have not such a strength of mind, that we can perfectly conceive of but very few things; and some little of the strength of an idea is lost, in a moment of time, as we in the mind look, successively, on the train of ideas in a demonstration."
“TRUTH. Truth is the perception of the relations there are between ideas. Falsehood is the supposition of relations between ideas, that are inconsistent with those ideas themselves, not in the disagreement with things without. All truth is in the mind, and only there. 'Tis ideas, or what is in the mind alone, that can be the object of the mind; and what we call Truth, is a consistent supposition of relations between what is the object of the mind. Falsehood is an inconsistent supposition of relations. The truth, that is in a mind, must be, as to its object, and every thing pertaining to it, in that mind; for what is perfectly without the mind, the mind has nothing to do with.
"The only foundation of error, is inadequateness and imperfection of ideas; for if the idea were perfect, it would be impossible, but that all its relations should be perfectly per
"GENUS. The various distributing and ranking of things, and tying of them together, under one common abstract idea, is, although arbitrary, yet exceeding useful, and, indeed, absolutely necessary; for how miserable should we be, if we could think of things only individually, as beasts do; how slow, narrow, painful and endless, would be the exercise of thought.
"What is this putting and tying things together, which is done in abstraction? Tis not merely a tying of them under the same name; for I do believe that deaf and dumb persons abstract and distribute things into kinds. But its so putting them together, that the mind resolves hereafter to think of them together, under a common notion, as if they were a collective substance :-the mind being as sure, in this proceeding, of reasoning well, as if it were of a particular substance; for it has abstracted that, which belongs alike to all, and has a perfect idea, whose relations and properties it can behold, as well as those of the idea of one individual. Although this ranking of things be arbitrary, yet there is much more foundation for some distributions, than others. Some are much more useful, and much better serve the purposes of abstrac
"RULES of reasoning. "Tis no matter how abstracted our notions are-the farther we penetrate, and come to the prime reality of the thing, the better; provided we can go to such a degree of abstraction, and carry it out clear. We may go so far in abstraction, that, although we may thereby in fact
see truth and reality, and farther than ever was seen before, yet we may not be able more than just to touch it, and to have a few obscure glances. We may not have strength of mind, sufficient to conceive clearly of the manner of it. We see farther, indeed, but 'tis but very obscurely and indistinctly. We had better stop a degree or two short of this, and abstract no farther, than we can conceive of the thing distinctly, and explain it clearly; otherwise, we shall be apt to run into error, and confound our minds."
"PERSON. Well might Mr. Locke say, that identity of person consisted in identity of consciousness; for he might have said, that identity of spirit too, consisted in the same consciousness. A mind, or spirit, is nothing else but consciousness, and what is included in it. The same consciousness is to all intents and purposes, the very same spirit or substance, as much as the same particle of matter can be the same as itself, at different times."
"BEING. It seems strange sometimes to me, that there should be Being from all eternity, and I am ready to say, What need was there, that any thing should be? I should then ask myself, Whether it seems strange, that there should be either Something, or Nothing? If so, 'tis not strange that there should BE; for that necessity of there being something, or nothing, implies it."
"SPACE. The real and necessary existence of Space, and its infinity even beyond the Universe, depends upon a like reasoning, as the existence of Spirits; and so the supposition of the necessity of the existence of a successive Duration, before the creation of the Universe-even the impossibility of removing the idea out of the mind. If it be asked, Whether or no, if there be limits of the creation, it be not possible, that an intelligent being should be removed beyond the limits; and then, Whether or no there would not be distance, between that intelligent being and the limits of the Universe, in the same manner and as properly, as there is between intelligent beings and the parts of the Universe within its limits?—I answer, I cannot tell, what the law of nature, or the constitution of God, would be in this case.
"Coroll. There is, therefore, no difficulty in answering such questions as these, What cause was there, why the Universe was placed in such a part of space; and why created at such a time. For, if there be no space beyond the Universe, it was impossible, that the Universe should be created in another place; and, if there was no time before the Creation, it was impossible, that it should be created at another time."
TRUTH. After all that has been said and done, the only
*He soon discovered this mistake.