Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Introductory Lecture.--No. 2.
1. All reasoning implies the existence of a reasoning faculty.
2. Of a reasoner, possessing such attributes as are suited to the exercise of reasoning.
3. All study therefore assumes, or presupposes the existence and attributes of a student.
4. The study of Theology implies and assumes his existence and attributes of a student capable of knowing God.
5. Our first inquiry then is, on what evidence are these assumptions based?
6. That they are no mere unsupported assumptions will appear if we glance at.
1. The existence of man.
(1.) The fact of our existence is not an assumption
(2.) It is a direct and positive affirmation of reason, founded upon the testimony of consciousness. Consciousness is the mind's recognition of its own exercises or states. I am conscious of thought, volition, emotion, and consciousness is to my own mind the highest possible evidence.It cannot be doubted. Upon this testimony, reason affirms and cannot doubt the fact of my own existence; or that thought implies a thinker; reasoning a reasoner, etc.
(3.) This truth is so certainly known by us, that to doubt it implies its truth, because doubt implies the existence of a doubter.
(4.) Pretended doubters of their own existence, therefore, always and necessarily assume the fact which they profess to doubt.
(5.) We have therefore a right to assume in the outset, the fact of our own existence.
(6.) We are conscious of certain mental impressions or states, the causes of which we necessarily refer to objects without ourselves. These states or impressions we call sensations.
(7.) Sensation informs us of the existence of those around us who exhibit the same phenomena of which we are conscious. Hence reason affirms, and cannot doubt the existence of our fellow men.
(8.) In the presence of this evidence, we can no more doubt their existence, than our own.
2. Nature of man.
(1.) Man has a body.
a. By consciousness we know that man has
a body or a material habitation.
b. Of the substratum, or ultimate elements or element of body, we know nothing.
c. We call that body or matter which exhibits the phenomena of solidity, extension, form, divisibility, etc. These phenomena are all we know of matter, and our any means of knowing its nature.
d. Consciousness forces upon us the conviction that we have a body.
e. We can no more doubt it than we can doubt our existence altogether.
f. This truth never was seriously doubted, and pretended doubters have taken as much care of their bodies as others.
(2.) Consciousness itself implies or presupposes the existence of mind. We are conscious of thought--thought implies a thinker, or something that thinks. Besides, consciousness itself presupposes a subject, or that something is conscious.
a. We know nothing of the substratum or essence,
or ultimate element of mind any more than of matter. We are
in utter ignorance of what
the essence of either is.
b. We call that mind, which exhibits the phenomena of thought, volition, emotion. etc.
c. The phenomena of matter and mind are entirely distinct and dissimilar exhibiting no evidence that their substrata are identical.
d. The phenomena of matter and mind exhibit the highest evidence that their substrata, or natures, are distinct and diverse.
e. We can no more doubt that we have mind, than that we think.
f. But some maintain that mind is only thought, volition, emotion, etc., and that these are the result of exquisite cerebral organization. In other words, that the brain, or matter, thinks, when thus organized.
Their argument runs thus:
1. No thought is manifest where there is no brain.
2. But where there is living brain, there is always thought.
3. The perfection of thought, intelligence, volition, is in proportion to the amount and perfection of the cerebral substance. Hence the inference that matter, in the form of brain, thinks.
But this only proves what all admit, that brain is the organ of mind, and the only medium through which it can manifest itself in this state of existence--that the capacities of mental development must, and do depend upon the perfection of the cerebral organization.
To the fact that the phenomena of mind and matter, are entirely distinct and dissimilar, and that therefore it is unphilosophical to infer identity of essence, they reply, that chimistry[sic.] affords many illustrations and confirmations of their views. The union of chimical[sic.] elements, and the action of inorganic affinities often, nay, always result in the production of substances differing entirely from either of the elements of which they are composed.
To this it may be replied,
1. That the result, so far as we have any light from chimistry[sic.], is always material and therefore does not differ essentially, or in essence from the elements of which it was composed
2. Consciousness of continued personal identity proves that the brain is not the thinking agent or mind. It is a well settled truth, that the particles of which the human body is composed are perpetually changing, and that the substance of the entire body is changed several times during the period of an ordinary life. If then mind and matter are identical--if the brain or any other part of the body, or the whole body, is the man, the thinking agent, we are not the same person at any two moments. But consciousness testifies to our continued personal identity. The body then can only be the organ or instrument of the mind, and not the mind itself.
3. That there is nothing in natural science at all analogous to that for which they contend, the unvarying results of all combinations of matter being material and exhibiting only the phenomena of matter and that continually. Man therefore is a compound being, uniting in one person two distinct natures, called Body and Mind.
3. Attributes of man.
(1.) Of Body.
a. The body of man possesses all the attributes
or properties of matter.
b. The attributes of an organized being.
c. The attributes of an animal body.
d. Subject to decay of course.
(2.) Attributes of mind.
The mind of man has natural and moral attributes.
The Natural Attributes are what we know of the nature of mind, some of which are.
a. Intellect, or the power to think or reason.
b. Will, or the power of volition.
c. Reason, or the power to distinguish truth from error, good from evil, or to deduce just inferences from facts or propositions.
d. Conscience, or the power to pass judgment upon the moral qualities of actions and to approve or condemn accordingly.
Consciousness testifies to the existence of these and other natural attributes of the mind of man.
Their existence cannot be doubted.
The Moral Attributes of mind are its voluntary but permanent and controlling moral dispositions, or preferences, such as selfishness or benevolence, justice or injustice, etc. The existence of these is a matter of consciousness and cannot be doubted.
4. Man is an Agent, i.e. He originates his own actions. Proof. Consciousness.
5. Man is a Free Agent, i.e. he possesses intelligence with the power and liberty of choice.Proof.
(2.) Agency implies freedom.
(3.) The fact that men are governed by motives implies liberty of will.
(4.) We are as sure that we are free as that we exist. That we act freely as that we act at all.
6. Man is a Moral Agent.
Moral agency implies the possession of intellect, reason, will, conscience. A susceptibility to pleasure and pain, with some degree of knowledge on moral subjects.
Man is conscious of possessing these. He therefore knows himself to be a moral agent. The moral agency of man is further proved by the following considerations:
(1.) All government is founded upon the universal
recognition of this truth.
(2.) All praise and blame which all men award each other is founded upon the universal acknowledgment of this truth.
(3.) It cannot be and never was seriously disbelieved. The pretended doubters of it are as ready as others to praise or blame those around them for their actions.
(4.) The actual influence of moral considerations upon men, demonstrates their moral agency.
7. Man is an Immortal Agent.
Only a few of the proofs of this will he adduced in this place.Proof.
(1.) Life of mind is not dependent on the body,
for nearly every part of the body has been destroyed in different
persons, and yet
the mind lived.
(2.) When the body is dying the mind often possesses full vigor.
(3.) General belief of all nations and generations.
(4.) Man's capacity for endlessly increasing in virtue and enjoyment.
(5.) If man is not immortal, his moral capabilities are inexplicable.
(6.) As man is capable of endless improvement, economy demands his immortality.
(7.) If man is not immortal, his moral powers are worse than useless.
(8.) If man is not immortal, God is not just, as he does not reward man here according to his conscious character.
(9.) Conscience refers retribution to a future state. We must not anticipate the bible argument in this place as we have proved neither the existence of God, nor the truth of the Bible.