Page images

ment, with others of a more pleasing nature, aim to fix serious impressions on their hearts. Aim to produce a religious concern, carefully watch its progress, and endeavour to conduct it to a prosperous issue. Lead them to the footstool of the Saviour; teach them to rely, as guilty creatures, on his merits alone, and to commit their eternal interests entirely into his hands. Let the salvation of these children be the object to which every word of your instructions, every exertion of your authority, is directed. Despise the profane clamour which would deter you from attempting to render them serious, from an apprehension of its making them melancholy, not doubting for a moment that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that the path to true happiness lies through purity, humility, and devotion. Meditate the worth of souls; meditate deeply, the lessons the scriptures afford' on their inconceivable value and eternal duration. While the philosopher wearies himself with endless speculations on their physical properties and nature, while the politician only contemplates the social arrangements of mankind and the shifting forms of policy, fix your attention on the individual importance of man as the creature of God, and a candidate for immortality. Let it be your highest ambition to train up these children for an unchanging condition of being. Spare no pains to recover them to the image of God; render familiar to their minds, in all its extent, the various branches of that “holiness” without which “none can see the Lord." Inculcate the obligation, and endeavour to inspire the love, of that rectitude, that eternal rectitude, which was with God before time began, was embodied in the person of his Son, and in its lower communications will survive every sublunary change, emerge in the dissolution of all things, and be impressed in refulgent characters on the new heavens, and the new earth, “in which dwelleth righteousness.” Pray often with them, and for them, and remind them of the inconceivable advantages attached to that exercise. Accustom them to a punctual and reverential attendance at the house of God: insist on the sanctification of the Sabbath by such a disposal of time as is suitable to a day of rest and devotion. Survey them with a vigilant and tender eye, checking every appearance of an evil and depraved disposition the moment it springs up, and encouraging the dawn of piety and virtue. By thus" training them up in the way they should go,” you may reasonably hope that “when old they will not depart from it.”

We congratalate the nation on the extent of the efforts employed, and the means set on foot, for the improvement of the lower classes, and especially the children of the poor, in moral and religious knowledge, from which we hope much good will accrue, not only to the parties concerned, but to the kingdom at large. These are the likeliest or rather the only expedients that can be adopted for forming a sound and virtuous populace; and if there be any truth in the figure by which society is compared to a pyramid, it is on them its stability chiefly depends: the elaborate ornament at the top will be a wretched compensation for the want of solidity in the lower parts of the structure.


GREEN. [MR. GREEN is one of the most distinguished Surgeons and Anatomists of our own day. In a course of Lectures delivered by him at the Royal College of Surgeons, and published in his work entitled • Vital Dynamics,' he has grappled with the difficult subject of Instinct in a manner at once original and conclusive. This passage of the Lecture is reprinted in the Appendix to Coleridge's · Aids to Reflection.')

What is instinct? As I am not quite of Bonnet's opinion, “ that philosophers will in vain torment themselves to define instinct until they have spent some time in the head of the animal without actually being that animal,” I shall endeavour to explain the use of the term. I shall not think it necessary to controvert the opinions which have been offered on this subject—whether the ancient doctrine of Descartes, who supposed that animals were mere machines; or the modern one of Lamarck, who attributes instincts to habits impressed upon the organs of animals by the constant efflux of the nervous fluid to these organs, to which it has been determined in their efforts to per form certain actions to which their necessities have given birth. And it will be here premature to offer any refutation of the opinions of those who contend for the identity of this faculty with reason, and maintain that all the actions of animals are the result of invention and experience ;—an opinion maintained with considerable plausibility by Dr. Darwin.

Perhaps the most ready and certain mode of coming to a conclusion in this intricate inquiry will be by the apparently circuitous route of de termining first what we do not mean by the word. Now we certainly do not mean, in the use of the term, any act of the vital power in the production or maintenance of an organ: nobody thinks of saying that the teeth grow by instinct, or that when the muscles are increased in vigour and size in consequence of exercise, it is from such a cause or principle. Neither do we attribute instinct to the direct functions of the organs in providing for the continuance and sustentation of the whole co-organized body. No one talks of the liver secreting bile, or of the heart acting for the propulsion of the blood, by instinct. Some, indeed, have maintained that breathing, even voiding the excrement and urine, are instinctive operations; but surely these, as well as the former, are automatic, or at least are the necessary results of the organization of the parts in and by which the actions are produced. These instances seem to be, if I may so say, below instinct. But, again, we do not attribute instinct to any actions preceded by a will conscious of its whole purpose, calculating its effects, and predetermining its consequences; nor to any exercise of the intellectual powers of which the whole scope, aim, and end are intellectual. In other terms, no man who values his words will talk of the instinct of a Howard, or of the instinctive operations of a Newton or Leibnitz, in those sublime efforts which ennoble and cast a lustre, not less on the individuals than on the whole human race.

To what kind or mode of action shall we then look for the legitimate application of the term ? In answer to this query we may, I think, without fear of the consequences, put the following cases, as exemplifying and justifying the use of the term instinct in an appropriate sense. First, when there appears an action, not included either in the mere functions of life, acting within the sphere of its own organismus; nor yet an action attributable to the intelligent will or reason, yet at the same time not referable to any particular organ; we then declare the presence of an instinct. We might illustrate this in the instance of a bull-calf butting before he has horns, in which the action can have no reference to its internal economy, to the presence of a particular organ, or to an intelligent will. Secondly, likewise (if it be not included in the first) we attribute instinct where the organ is present, if only the act is equally anterior to all possible experience on the part of the individual agent; as for instance, when the beaver employs its tail for the construction of its dwelling; the tailor-bird its bill for the formation of its pensile habitation; the spider its spinning organ for fabricating its artfully woven nets; or the viper its poison fang for its defence. And lastly, generally where there is an act of the whole body as one animal, not referable to a will conscious of its purpose, nor to its mechanism, nor to a habit derived from experience, nor previous frequent use. Here with most satisfaction, and without doubt of the propriety of the word, we declare an instinct; as examples of which, we may adduce the migratory habits of birds; the social instincts of the bees, the construction of their habitations, composed of cells formed with geometrical precision, adapted in capacity to different orders of the society, and forming storehouses for containing a supply of provisions; not to mention similar instances in wasps, ants, termites, and the endless contrivances for protecting the future progeny.

But if it be admitted that we have rightly stated the application of the term, what, we may ask, is contained in the examples adduced, or what inferences are we to make as to the nature of instinct itself, as a source and principle of action? We shall, perhaps, best aid ourselves in the inquiry by an example; and let us take a very familiar one, of a caterpillar taking its food. The caterpillar seeks at once the plant which furnishes the appropriate aliment, and this even as soon as it creeps from the ovum; and the food being taken into the stomach, the nutritious part is separated from the innutritious, and is disposed of for the support of the animal. The question then is, what is contained in this instance of instinct ? In the first place, what does the vital power in the stomach do, if we generalize the account of the process, or express it in its most general terms ? Manifestly it selects and applies appropriate means to an immediate end, prescribed by the constitution, first of the particular organ, and then of the whole body or organismus. This we have admitted is not instinct. But what does the caterpillar do? Does it not also select and apply appropriate means to an immediate end prescribed by its particular organization and constitution ? But there is something more; it does this according to circumstances; and this we call instinct. But may there not be still something more involved? What shall we say of Huber's humble bees ? A dozen of these were put under a bell-glass along with a comb of about ten silken cocoons, so unequal in height as not to be capable

of standing steadily; to remedy this, two or three of the humble-bees got upon the comb, stretched themselves over its edge, and with their heads downwards fixed their forefeet on the table on which the comb stood, and so with their hind feet kept the comb from falling: when these were weary others took their places. In this constrained and painful posture, fresh bees relieving their comrades at intervals, and each working in its turn, did these affectionate little insects support the comb for nearly three days, at the end of which time they had prepared sufficient wax to build pillars with it. And what is still further curious, the first pillars having got displaced, the bees had again recourse to the same manquvre. What then is involved in this case? Evidently the same selection and appropriation of means to an immediate end as before, but observe! according to varying circum. stances.

And here we are puzzled; for this becomes understanding. At least no naturalist, however predetermined to contrast and oppose instinct to understanding, but ends at last in facts in which he himself can make out no difference. But are we hence to conclude that the instinct is the same, and identical with the human understanding ? Certainly not; though the difference is not in the essentials of the definition, but in an addition to, or modification of, that which is essentially the same in both. In such cases, namely, as that which we have last adduced, in which instinct assumes the semblance of understanding, the act indicative of instinct is not clearly prescribed by the constitution or laws of the animal's peculiar organization, but arises out of the constitution and previous circumstances of the animal, and those habits, wants, and that predetermined sphere of action and operation which belong to the race, and beyond the limits of which it does not pass. If this be the case, I may venture to assert that I have determined an appropriate sense for instinct: namely, that it is a power of selecting and applying appropriate means to an immediate end, according to cir. cumstances and the changes of circumstances, these being variable and varying, but yet so as to be referable to the general habits arising out of the constitution and previous circumstances of the animal, considered not as an individual but as a race. · We may here, perhaps, most fitly explain the error of those who contend for the identity of reason and instinct, and believe that the actions of animals are the result of invention and experience. They

« PreviousContinue »