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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

Lecture VI. On Polygamy: fidelity to the Marriage Vow ! Divorce: Duties of Parents to their Children

Lecture VI. On Polygamy: fidelity to the Marriage Vow ! Divorce: Duties of Parents to their Children.

Polygamy not founded in nature—Fidelity to the marriage vow a natural institution—Divorce—Objections to the law of England on this subject—Circumstances in which divorce should be allowed—Duties of parents—Mr Malthus' law of population, and Mr Sadler's objections to it, considered—Parents bound to provide for their children, and to preserve their health—Consequences of neglecting the laws of health.

The remarks in my last Lecture related to the constitution of marriage. Moralists, generally, discuss also the questions of polygamy, fidelity to the marriage vow, and divorce.

On the subject Of polygamy, I may remark that it is pretty well ascertained by statistical researches that the proportions of the sexes born, are thirteen males to twelve females. From the greater hazards to which the male sex is exposed, this disparity is reduced, in adult, life, to equality; indeca, in almost all Europe, owing to the injurious habits, and pursuits of the men. the balance among adults is turned the other way, the females of any given age above puberty preponderating over the males. In some Eastern countries more females are born than males; and it is said that this indicates a design in nature, that there each male should have several wives. But there is reason to believe that the variation from the proportion of thirteen to twelve is the consequence of vicious habits in the males. In the appendix to the "Constitution of Man," I have quoted some curious observations in regard to the determination of the sexes, in the lower animals; from which it appears that inequality is the result of Unequal strength and age in the parents. In our own country and race, it is observed, that when old men marry young females, the progeny are generally daughters; and I infer that, in the Eastern countries alluded to, in which an excess of females exists, the cause may be found in the superior vigour and youth of the females; the practice of polygamy being confined to rich men, who enervate themselves by disobedience to the natural laws, and become, by that means, physically inferior to the females.

The equality of the sexes, therefore, when the organic laws are duly observed, affords one strong indication, that polygamy is not a natural institution; and this conclusion is strengthened by considering the objects of the domestic affections. Harmonious gratification of the three faculties constituting the domestic group, in accordance with the moral sentiments and intellect, is attended with the greatest amount of pure enjoyment, and the most advantageous results: but this can be attained only by the union of one male with one female. If the male have several wives, there is an excess of gratification provided for the cerebellum, and a diminution of gratification to Adhesiveness and Philoprogenitiveness; for his attachment, diffused among a multitude of objects, can never glow with the intensity, nor act with the softness and purity, which inspire it when directed to one wife and her offspring. The females also, in a state of polygamy, must be deprived of gratification to their Self-Esteem and Adhesiveness, for none of them can claim an undivided love. There is injustice to the females, therefore, in the practice; and no institution that is unjust can proceed from nature. Farther, when we consider that in married life the pleasures derived from the domestic affections are unspeakably enhanced by the habitual play of the moral feelings, and that polygamy is fatal to the close sympathy, confidence, respect, and reciprocal devotion, which are the attendants of active moral sentiments,—we shall be fully convinced that the Creator has not intended that men should unite themselves to a plurality of wives

Regarding fidelity. Every argument tending to shew that polygamy is forbidden by the natural law, goes to support the obligation of fidelity to the marriage vow. As this point is one on which, fortunately, no difficulty or difference of opinion, among rational persons, exists, I shall not dwell on it, but proceed to the subject of divorce.

The law of England does not permit divorce in any circumstances, or for any causes. In that country, a special act of the legislature must be obtained to annul a marriage, which rule of course limits the privilege to the rich; and we may, therefore, fairly page 32 say that the law denies divorce to the great majority of the people. The law of Scotland permits divorce on account of infidelity to the marriage vow; of non-adherence, or wilful desertion, as it is called, by the husband, of his wife's society for a period of four successive years; and of personal imbecility. The law of Moses permitted the Jewish husband to put away his wife; and under Napoleon, the French law permitted married persons to dissolve their marriage by consent, after giving one year's judicial notice of their intention, and making suitable provisions for their children. The New Testament confines divorce to the single case of infidelity in the wife.

The question now occurs—What does the law of nature, written in our constitutions, enact?

The first fact that presents itself to our consideration, is, that in persons of well-constituted minds, Nature not only institutes marriage, but makes it indissoluble, except by death: even those lower animals which live in pairs, exemplify permanent connection. In regard to man, I remark, that where the three organs of the domestic affections bear a just proportion to each other, and where the moral and intellectual organs are favourably developed and cultivated, there is not only no desire, on either side, to bring the marriage tie to an end, but the utmost repugnance to do so. The deep despondency which changes, into one unbroken expression of grief and desolation, the whole aspect even of the most determined and energetic men, when they lose by death the cherished partners of their lives; and that breaking down of the spirit, profoundly felt, although meekly and resignedly borne, which the widow indicates when her stay and delight is removed from her for ever;—proclaim, in language too touching and forcible to be misunderstood, that, where the marriage union is formed according to Nature's laws, no civil enactments are needed to render it indissoluble during life. It is clear that life-endurance is stamped upon it by the Creator, when He renders its continuance so sweet, and its bursting asunder so indescribably painful. It is only where the minds of the parties are ill-constituted, or the union is otherwise unfortunate, that desire for separation exists. The causes which may lead married individuals to wish to terminate their union, may be briefly considered.

1. If, in either of them, the cerebellum predominates greatly in size over Adhesiveness, Philoprogenitiveness, and the organs of the moral sentiments, there is a feeling of restraint in the married state, which is painful.

To compel a virtuous and amiable partner to live in inseparable society with a person thus constituted, and to be the unwilling medium of transmitting immoral dispositions to children, appears directly contrary to the dictates of both benevolence and justice. Paley's argument against permitting dissolution of the marriage tie at the will of the husband, is, that "new objects of desire would be continually sought after, if men could, at will, be released from their subsisting engagements. Supposing the husband to have once preferred his wife to all other women, the duration of this preference cannot be trusted to. Possession makes a great difference; and there is no other security against the invitations of novelty, than the known impossibility of obtaining the object." This argument is good, when applied to men with unfavourably balanced brains, viz. to those in whom the cerebellum predominates over the organs of Adhesiveness and the moral sentiments; but it is unfounded as a general rule; and the question is, whether it be desirable to deny absolutely, to the great body of the people, as the law of England does, all available means of dissolving connexion with Such beings. It appears not to so. The husband, certainly, should not have the power to dissolve the marriage tie at his pleasure; but the French law seems more reasonable which permitted the parties to dissolve the marriage when both of them, after twelve months' deliberation, and after suitably providing for their children, desired to bring it to a close.

The same argument applies to the voluntary dissolution of marriage in cases of irreconcilable differences in temper and dispositions. "The law of nature," says Paley, "admits of divorce in favour of the injured party, in cases of adultery, of obstinate desertion, of attempts upon life, of outrageous cruelty, of incurable madness, and, perhaps, of personal imbecility; but by no means indulges the same privileges to mere dislike, to opposition of humours, and inclination, to contrariety of taste and temper, to complaints of coldness, neglect, severity, peevishness, jealousy: not that these reasons are trivial, but because such objections may always be alleged, and are impossible by testimony to be ascertained; so that to allow implicit credit to them, and to dissolve marriages whenever either party thought fit to pretend them, would lead in its effects to all the licentiousness of arbitrary divorces."—" If a married pair, in actual and irreconcilable discord, complain that their happiness would be better consulted, by permitting them to determine a connection which is become odious to both, it may be told them, that the same permission, as a general rule, would produce libertinism, dissension, and misery among thousands, who are now virtuous, and quiet, and happy in their condition; and it ought to satisfy them to reflect that, when their happiness is sacrificed to the operation of an unrelenting rule, it is sacrificed to the happiness of the community."

If there be any truth in Phrenology, this argument is a grand fallacy. Actual and irreconcilable discord arises from want of harmony in the natural dispositions of the parties, connected with differences in their cerebral organizations; and agreement arises from the existence of such harmony. The natures of the parties in the one case differ irreconcilably; but to maintain that if two persons of such discordant minds were permitted to separate, thousands of accordant minds would instantly fly asunder, is as illogical as it would be to assert that, if the humane spectators of a street fight were to separate the combatants, they would forthwith be seized with the mania of fighting among themselves.

In point of fact, the common arguments on this subject have been written in ignorance of the real elements of human nature, and are applicable only to particularly constituted individuals. Married persons may be divided into three classes: First, those whose dispositions naturally accord, and who, consequently, are happy; secondly, those in whom there are some feelings in harmony, but many in discord, and who are in the medium state between happiness and misery; and, thirdly, those between whose dispositions there are irreconcilable differences, and who are, in consequence, altogether unhappy in each other's society.

Paley's views, if applied to persons who are bordering on the middle line of like and dislike towards each other, would be sound. To hold up to such persons extreme difficulty or impossibility in obtaining a dissolution of the marriage tie, will present them with motives to cultivate those feelings in which they agree; while to offer them easy means of terminating it, might lead to a reckless aggravation of their quarrels. But this is only one class, and their case does not exhaust the question. Where the union is really accordant in nature, the facility of undoing it will not alter its character, nor produce the desire to destroy the happiness which it en- page 33 genders. Where it is irremediably unsuitable and unhappy, the sacrifice of the parties will not mend their own condition; and as the happy are safe in the attractions of a reciprocal affection, the only persons who can be said to be benefited by the example of the inseparability of the wretched, are the class of waverers to whom I have alluded. I humbly think that Nature has attached not a few penalties to the dissolution of the marriage tie, which may have some effect on this class; and that these, aided by proper legal impediments to the fulfilment of their caprices, might render the restraints on them sufficient, without calling for the absolute sacrifice of their completely unhappy brethren for the supposed public good.

Such a conclusion is greatly strengthened by the consideration that the dispositions of children are determined, in an important degree, by the predominant dispositions of the parents; and that to prevent the separation of wretched couples, is to entail misery on the offspring, not only by the influence of example, but by the transmission of ill-constituted brains—which is the natural result of the organs of the lower feelings being maintained, by dissension, in a state of constant activity in their parents.

The argument that an indissoluble tie presents motives to the exercise of grave reflection before marriage, might be worthy of some consideration, if persons contemplating that state possessed adequate means of rendering reflection successful; but while the law permits matrimonial unions at ages when the parties are destitute of foresight (in Scotland, in males at 14, and in females at 12), and while the system of moral and intellectual education pursued in this country furnishes scarcely one sound element of information to guide the judgment in its choice, the argument is a mockery at once of reason and of human suffering. It appears to me, that until mankind shall be instructed in the views which I am now advocating (in so far as experience shall prove them to be sound), and shall be trained to venerate them as institutions of nature, and to practise them in their conduct, they will not possess adequate means of acting rationally and successfully in forming marriages. While sources of error encompass them on every side, they ought not to be deprived of the possibility of escaping from the pit into which they may have inadvertently fallen; and not only divorce for infidelity to the marriage vow, but dissolution of marriage by voluntary consent, under proper restrictions, and after due deliberation, should be permitted.*

Having now considered the general subject of marriage, I proceed to make some remarks on the duties of parents to their children.

Their first duty is to transmit sound constitutions, bodily and mental, to their offspring; and this can be done only by their possessing sound constitutions themselves, and living in habitual observance of the natural laws. Having already treated of this duty in discussing the constitution of marriage, I shall not here revert to it. It is of high importance; because, if great defects be inherent in children at birth, a life of suffering is entailed on them: The iniquities of the fathers are truly visited on the children, to the third or fourth generation, of those who hate God by disobeying his commandments written in their frames. The empirical condition of medical science is one great cause of the neglect of the organic laws in marriage. Not only do medical men generally abstain from warning ill-constituted individuals against marrying, but many of them deliberately form unions themselves, which, on well ascertained physiological principles, cannot fail to transmit feebleness, disease, and suffering to their own children. It is sufficient here to disapprove of the selfishness of those who, for their own gratification, knowingly bring into the world beings by whom life cannot fail to be regarded as a burden.

In the next place, parents are bound by the laws of nature to support, educate, and provide for the welfare and happiness of their children. The foundation of this duty is laid in the constitution of the mind. Philoprogenitiveness, acting along with Benevolence, gives the impulse to its performance, and Veneration and Conscientiousness invest it with all the sanctions of moral and religious obligation. When these faculties are adequately possessed, there is in parents a strong and never slumbering desire to promote the real advantage of their offspring; and in such cases, only intellectual enlightenment and pecuniary resources are wanting to ensure its complete fulfilment. Neglect of, or indifference to, this duty, is the consequence of deficiency either in Philoprogenitiveness, in the moral organs, or in both; and the conduct of individuals thus unfavourably constituted, should not be charged against human nature as a general fault.

The views of Mr. Malthus on population may be adverted to in connexion with the duty of parents to support their families. Stated simply, they are these :—The productive powers of healthy, well fed, well lodged, and well clothed human beings, are naturally so great, that fully two children will be born for every person who will die within a given time; and as a generation lasts about 30 years, at the end of that period the population will of course be doubled :—In point of f act, in the circumstances here enumerated, population is observed actually to double itself in 25 years. This rate of increase takes place in the newly settled and healthy states of North America, independently of immigration. To become aware of the effects which this power of increase would produce in a country of circumscribed territory, like Great Britain, we need resort only to a very simple calculation. If, for example, Britain in 1800 had contained 12 millions of inhabitants, and this rate of increase had taken place, the population in 1825 would have amounted to 24 millions; in 1850 it would amount to 48 millions; in 1875 to 96 millions; in 1900 to 192 millions; and in 1925 to 384 millions; and so on, always doubling every 25 years. Now Malthus maintained that food cannot be made to increase in the same proportion; we cannot extend the surface of Britain, for nature has fixed its limits; and no skill or labour will suffice to augment the productive powers of the soil in a ratio doubling every 25 years. As the same power of increase exists in other countries, similar observations are applicable to them. He, therefore, drew the conclusion, that human beings (in the absence of adequate means of emigration, and of procuring food from foreign countries) should restrain their productive powers, by the exercise of their moral and intellectual faculties; in other words, should not marry until they are in possession of sufficient means to maintain and educate a family; and he added.

* * The revised statutes of Massachusetts (chapter 76, sect. 5) permit divorce "for adultery, or defect in either party, or when either of them is sentenced to confinement to hard labour in the state-prison, or in any jail or house of correction, for the term of life, or for seven years or more; and no pardon granted to the party so sentenced, after a divorce for that cause, shall restore the party to his or her conjugal rights." This last is a just and humane provision; for it is calculated for the relief of the innocent partner of a confirmed criminal. When will the law of England contain a similar enactment? The class which makes the laws in Britain is not that which supplies criminals to jails or penal colonies, and it is often long before the mere dictates of humanity and justice prompt them to relieve an inferior order from an evil, the pressure of which is not experienced by themselves.

page 34 that if this rule were generally infringed, and the practice of marrying early and exerting the powers of reproduction to their full extent became common, in a densely peopled country, Providence would check the increase by premature deaths, resulting from misery and starvation.

This doctrine has been loudly declaimed against; but its merits may be easily analyzed. The domestic affections are powerful, and come early into play, apparently to afford a complete guarantee against extinction of the race; but along with them, we have received moral sentiments and intellect, bestowed for the evident purpose of guiding and restraining them, so as to lead them to their best and most permanent enjoyments. Now, what authority is there from nature, for maintaining that these affections alone are entitled to emancipation from moral restraint and intellectual guidance; and that they have a right to pursue their own gratification from the first moment of their energetic existence to the last, if only the marriage vow shall have been taken and observed? I see no foundation in reason for this view. From the imperfections of our moral education, we have been led to believe, that if a priest solemnize a marriage, and the vow of fidelity be observed, there is no sin, although there may be imprudence or misfortune, in rearing a family for whom we are unable to provide. But if we believe in the natural laws, as institutions of the Creator, we shall be satisfied that there is great sin in such conduct. 'We know that nature has given us strong desires for property, and has fired us with ambition, the love of splendour, and other powerful longings; yet no rational person argues that these desires may, with propriety, be gratified when we have not the means of legitimately doing so; or that any ecclesiastical ceremony or dispensation can then render such gratification allowable. Why, then, should the domestic affections form an exception to the universal rule of moral guidance and restraint?

Mr Sadler, a writer on this subject, argues, that marriages naturally become less prolific as the population becomes more dense, and that in this way the consequences predicted by Malthus are prevented. But this is trifling with the question; for the very misery of which Malthus speaks, is the cause of the diminished rate of increase. This diminution may be owing either to fewer children being born, or to more dying early, in a densely than in a thinly peopled country or district. The causes why fewer children are born in densely peopled countries are easily traced; some parents, finding subsistence difficult of attainment, practise moral restraint and marry late; others who neglect this precaution are, by the competition inseparable from that condition, oppressed with cares and troubles, whereby the fruitfulness of marriage is diminished—but these are instances of misery attending on a dense state of population. Again, it is certain that in such circumstances the mortality of children is greater; but this also is the result of the confined dwellings, imperfect nutrition, depressed energies, and care and anxiety which, through competition, afflict many parents in that social condition. If the opponents of Malthus could shew that there is a law of nature by which the productiveness of marriage is diminished in proportion to the density of the population, without an increase of misery, they would completely refute his doctrine. This, however, they cannot do. A healthy couple, who marry at a proper age, and live in comfort and plenty, are able to rear as numerous and vigorous a family in the county of Edinburgh, which is densely peopled, as in the thinly inhabited county of Ross. Mr Malthus, therefore, does well in bringing the domestic affections, equally with our other faculties, under the control of the moral and intellectual powers.

A reflected light of the intentions of nature in regard to man, may frequently be obtained by observing the lower animals. Almost all the lower creatures have received powers of increasing their numbers far beyond the voids made by death in the form of natural decay. If we consider the enormous numbers of sheep, cattle, fowls, hares, and other creatures, in the prime of life, that are annually slaughtered for human sustenance, and recollect that the stock of those existing is never diminished, we shall perceive that if every one of these animals which is produced were allowed to live and propagate, in a very few years a general desolation, through scarcity of food, would overtake them all. It is intended that these creatures should be put to death, and used as food. Now man, in so far as he is an organized being, closely resembles these creatures, and in the instincts in question he is constituted exactly as they are. But he has obtained the gift of reason, and instead of being intended to be thinned by the knife and violence, like the animate, he is invited to increase his means of subsistence by his skill and industry, and to restrain his domestic affections by his higher powers of morality and reflection, whenever he reaches the limits of his food. As the mental organs may be enlarged or diminished in the course of generations by habitual exercise or restraint, it is probable that, in a densely peopled and highly cultivated nation, the organs of the domestic affections may diminish in size and activity, and that a less painful effort may then suffice to restrain them than is at present necessary, when the world is obviously young, and capable of containing vastly more inhabitants than it yet possesses.

The next duty of parents is, to preserve the life and health of their children after birth, and to place them in circumstances calculated to develope favourably their physical and mental powers. It is painful to contemplate the extent to which human ignorance and wickedness cause this duty to be neglected. "A hundred years ago," says Dr. A. Combe, "when the pauper infants of London were received and brought up in the workhouses, amidst impure air, crowding, and want of proper food, not above one in twenty-four lived to be a year old; so that out of 2900 annually received into them, 2690 died. But when the conditions of health came to be a little better understood, and an act of Parliament was obtained obliging the parish officers to send the infants to nurse in the country, this frightful mortality was reduced to 450, instead of 2600 !" In 1781, when the Dublin Lying-in Hospital was imperfectly ventilated, "every sixth child died within nine days after birth, of convulsive disease; and after means of thorough ventilation had been adopted, the mortality of infants, within the same time, in five succeeding years, was reduced to nearly one in twenty." Even under private and maternal care, the mortality of infants is extraordinary. "It appears from the London bills of mortality, that between a fourth and a fifth of all the infants baptized die within the first two years of their existence. This extraordinary result is not a part of the Creator's designs; it does not occur in the case of the lower animals, and must therefore have causes capable of removal."* It is the punishment of gross ignorance and neglect of the organic laws. Before birth, the infant lives in a temperature of 98, being that of the mother: at birth it is suddenly ushered into the atmosphere of a cold climate; and among the poorer classes through want, and among the richer through ignorance or inattention,*

* Physiology applied to Health and Education

page 35 It is often left very inadequately protected against the effects of this sudden change. In the earlier stages of infancy, improper food, imperfect ventilation, deficient cleanliness, and want of general attention, consign many to the grave; while in childhood and youth, great mischief to health and life are often occasioned by direct infringements of the organic laws. In a family which I knew well, two sons, of promising constitutions, had slept during the years of youth in a very small bed-closet, with a window consisting of a single pane of glass, which was so near to the bed that it could never be opened with safety to their lungs during the night. Breathing the atmosphere of so small an apartment, for seven or eight hours in succession, directly tended to bring down the vigour of their respiratory organs, and to injure the tone of their whole systems. The effect of this practice was to prepare the lungs to yield to the first unfavourable influence to which they might be exposed; and accordingly, when such occurred, both fell victims to pulmonary disease. Similar cases are abundant; and the ignorance which is the root of the evil is the more fatal, because the erroneous practices which undermine the constitution operate slowly and insidiously, and even after the results are seen, their causes are neither known nor suspected. For many years, a lady known to me was troubled with frequent and severe headache, which she was unable to get rid of; but having been instructed in the functions of the lungs, the constitution of the atmosphere, and the bad effects of improper food and a sedentary life, she removed from a very confined bed-room which she had long occupied, to one that was large and airy,—she took regular exercise in the open air, and practised discrimination with respect to her food; and after these precautions, her general health became good, and headache seldom annoyed her. This improvement lasted for upwards of ten years, when a severe domestic calamity overtook her; brought back the disordered action of the stomach and head, and consigned her at last to a premature grave.

When you study this subject with a view to practice, you will find that the principles which I laid down in the fourth Lecture, are of great importance as guides—namely, that each organ of the body has received a definite constitution, and that health is the result of the harmonious and favourable action of the whole. Hence, it is not sufficient to provide merely airy bed-rooms for children, if at the same time the means of cleanliness be neglected, or their brains be over-exerted in attending too many classes, and learning too many tasks :—The delicate brain of youth demands frequent repose. In short, a practical knowledge of the laws of the human constitution is highly conducive to the successful rearing of children; and the heart-rending desolation of parents, when they see the dearest objects of their affections successively torn from them by death, should be viewed as the chastisement of ignorance or negligence alone, and not as proofs of the world being constituted unfavourably for the production of human enjoyment. In this matter, however, parents should not look to their own happiness merely; they are under solemn obligations to the children whom they bring into the world. Improper treatment in infancy and childhood, at which period the body grows rapidly, is productive of effects far more prejudicial and permanent than at any subsequent age;* and assuredly those parents are not guiltless who wilfully keep themselves in ignorance of the organic laws, or, knowing those, refrain from acting in accordance with them in the rearing of their children. The latter have a positive claim (which no parent of right feeling will disregard or deny) on those who have brought them into existence, that they shall do all in their power to render it agreeable.

Perhaps some may think that the importance of obedience to the organic laws has. been insisted on more than the subject required. Such an idea is natural enough, considering that an exposition of these laws forms no part of ordinary education, and that obedience to them is enjoined by no human authority. There is no trace of them in the statute-book, none in the catechisms issued by authority of the Church; and you rarely, if ever, hear them mentioned as laws of God, by his servants who teach his will from the pulpit. Nay, even the general tongue of society, which allows few subjects to escape remark, is silent with regard to them. Hence, it is probable that the importance of obeying the organic laws may to some appear to be over-estimated in these lectures. But the universal silence which prevails in society has its source in ignorance. Physiology is still unknown to nineteen-twentieths even of educated persons, and to the mass it is a complete terra incognita. Even by medical men it is little studied as a practical science, and the idea of its beneficial application as a guide to human conduct in general, is only now beginning to engage their attention. If to all this we add, that until Phrenology was discovered, the dependence of mental talents and dispositions on cerebral development was scarcely even suspected,—and that belief in this truth is still far from being universal,—the silence which prevails with respect to the organic laws, and neglect of them in practice, will not seem unaccountable.

On this subject I would observe, that there is a vast difference between the uncertain and the unascertained. It is now universally admitted, that all the movements of matter are regulated; and that they are never uncertain, although the laws which they observe may, in some instances, be unascertained. The revolutions of the planets can be predicted, while those of some of the comets are still unknown; but no philosopher imagines that the latter are uncertain. The minutest drop of water that descends the mighty fall of Niagara, is regulated in all its movements by definite laws, whether it rise in mist and float in the atmosphere to distant regions, there to descend as rain; or be absorbed by a neighbouring shrub, and reappear as an atom in a blossom adorning the Canadian shore; or be drunk up by a living creature, and mingle with its blood; or become a portion of an oak, which at a future time shall career on the ocean. Nothing can be less ascertained, or probably less ascertainable by mortal study, than the revolutions of such an atom; but every philosopher, without a moment's hesitation, will concede that not one of them is uncertain* The first element of a philosophic understanding, is the capacity of extending the same conviction to the events evolved in every department of nature. A man who sees disease occurring in youth or middle age, and whose mind is not capable of perceiving that it is the result of imperfect or excessive action in some vital organ, and that imperfect or excessive action is just another name for deviation from the proper healthy state of that organ, is not capable of reasoning. It may be true that, in many instances, our knowledge is so imperfect, that we are unable to discover the chain of connection between the dis-

* * The principles which should guide parents in the treatment of children are stated and enforced in Dr A. Combe's work on the Physiological and Moral Treatment [unclear: is] Infancy.

* I owe this forcible illustration to Dr. Chalmers, having first board it in one of his Ventures.

page 36 ease and its organic cause; but, nevertheless, he is no philosopher, who doubts that such a connection exists, and that the discovery of it is presented as an important practical problem to the human understanding to solve.

One cause of the obscurity that prevails on this subject in the minds of persons not medically educated, is ignorance of the structure and functions of the body; and another is, that diseases appear under two very distinct forms—structural and functional; only the former of which is considered by common observers to constitute a proper malady. If an arrow be shot into the eye there is derangement of structure, and the most determined opponent of the natural laws will at once admit the connection between the blindness which ensues, and the lesion of the organ. But if a watchmaker or an optical instrument-maker, by long-continued and excessive exertion of the eye, have become blind, the disease is called functional; because the function, from being over-stimulated, is impaired; but frequently no alteration of structure can be perceived. No philosophic physiologist, however, doubts that there is, in the structure, a change corresponding to the functional derangement, although human observation cannot detect it. He never says that it is nonsense to assert that the patient has become blind in consequence of infringement of the organic laws. It is one of these laws that the function of the eye shall be exercised moderately, and it is a breach of that law to strain it to excess.

The same principle applies to a great number of diseases occurring under the organic laws. Imperfections in the tone, structure, or proportions of certain organs, may exist at birth, so hidden by their situation, or so slight, as not to be readily perceptible, but not on that account the less real and important; or deviations may be made gradually and imperceptibly from the proper and healthy standards of exercise; and from one or other of these causes, disease may invade the constitution. Religious persons term disease occurring in this manner a dispensation of God's providence; the careless name it an unaccountable event; but the philosophic physician invariably views it as the result of imperfect or excessive action of some organ or another, and he never doubts that it has been caused by deviations from the laws of the animal economy. The objection that the doctrine of the organic laws which I have been inculcating is unsound, because diseases come and go, without uneducated persons being able to trace their causes, has not a shadow of philosophy to support it. I may err in my exposition of these laws, but I hope, I do not err in stating that neither disease nor death, in early or middle life, can take place under the ordinary administrations of Providence, except when these laws have been infringed.

My reason for insisting so largely on this subject, is a profound conviction of the importance of the organic laws. They are fundamental to happiness; that is, the consequences of errors in regard to them cannot be compensated for or removed by any other means than obedience. I daily see melancholy results of inattention to their dictates. When you observe the husband, in youth or middle age, removed by death from the partner of his love, and the other dear objects of his affections; or when you see the mother at a similar age torn from her infant children, her heart bleeding at the thought of leaving them in the hand of the stranger while they most need her maternal care; the cause of the calamity is either that the dying parent inherited a defective constitution in consequence of disobedience by his ancestors to the organic laws, or that he himself has infringed them grievously.

Again, if we see the lovely infant snatched from the mother's bosom by the hand of death, while it caused every affection of her mind to thrill with joy, and fed her hopes with the fondest and brightest visions of its future talent, virtue and happiness,—let us trace the cause, and we shall find that the organic laws have been infringed. If you see an aged man walking with heavy step, and deeply dejected mein, the nearest follower after a bier adorned with white,—it is a father carrying to the grave his first-born son, the hope and stay of his life, torn from him in the full bloom of manhood, when already he had eased the hoary head of half its load of care. The cause of this scene also is infringement of the organic laws.

Or open the door of some family parlour, where we expect to meet with peace and joy, blessing and endearment, as the natural accompaniments of domestic life, and see discord, passion, disappointment, and every feeling that embitters existence, depicted on the countenances of the inmates. The cause is still infringement of the organic laws. Two persons have married whose brains differ so widely, that there is not only no natural sympathy between them, but absolute contradiction in their dispositions. This discord might have been read in their brains before they were united for life.

Look on still another scene. You may observe several persons of each sex, in middle life, gravely sitting in anxious deliberation. They are the respectable members of a numerous family, holding consultation on the measures to be adopted in consequence of one of their number having become insane, or having given himself up irreclaimably to drunkenness, or to some worse species of immorality. Their feelings are deeply wounded, their understandings are perplexed, and they know not what to do. The cause is still the same: the unfortunate object of their solicitude has inherited an ill-constituted brain; it has yielded to some exciting cause, and he has lost his reason; or he has given way to a headlong appetite for intoxicating liquors, in consequence of one or other of his parents, or some one of their stock, having laboured under a similar influence; and it has now become an actual disease. The organic laws have been infringed; and this scene also is the form in which the Creator indicates to his creatures that his laws have been transgressed. If you make a catalogue of human miseries, and inquire how many of them spring directly or indirectly from infringement of the organic laws, you will be astonished at its extent.

If, therefore, we desire to diminish this class of calamities, we must study and obey the organic laws. As these laws operate independently of all others, we may manifest the piety of angels, and yet suffer if we neglect them. If there be any remedy on earth for this class of evils, it is obedience to the laws of our constitution, and this alone. If, then, these laws be fundamental,—if the consequences of disobeying them be so formidable, and if escape be so impossible, you will forgive the anxiety with which I have endeavoured to expound them.

I might draw pictures the converse of all that I have here represented, and shew you health, long life, happiness, and prosperity, as the rewards of obeying these and the other natural laws, and I should still be justified by philosophy; but the principle, if admitted, will carry home these counter results to ! your own understandings. I beg permission farther to remark, that all philosophy and theology which have been propounded by men ignorant of these laws, may be expected to be imperfect; and that, therefore, we arrogate no undue superiority in refusing to yield the convictions of our own judgments to the dictates of such guides, who had not sufficient data on page 37 which to found their opinions. The events of human life, viewed through the medium of their principles, and of the philosophy which I am now expounding, must appear in very different lights. In their eyes many events appear inscrutable, which to us are clear. According to our view, an all-wise and beneficent Creator has bestowed on us, the highest of his terrestrial creatures, the gift of reason, and has arranged the whole world as a theatre for its exercise. He has placed before us examples without number, of his power, wisdom, and goodness; prescribed laws to us in external nature, and in our own constitutions; and left us to apply our faculties to study and act in harmony with them, and then to live and be happy; or to neglect them and to suffer. Each of you will approve of that system which appears to be founded in truth, and to tend most to the glory of God. I ask no man to yield his conscience and his understanding to my opinions; but only solicit liberty to announce what to myself appears to be true, that it may be received or rejected according to its merits.

In concluding, it is proper to add one observation. Mankind have lived so long without becoming acquainted with the organic laws, and have, in consequence, so extensively transgressed them, that there are few individuals in civilized society, who do not bear in their persons, to a greater or less extent, imperfections derived from this source. It is impossible, therefore, even for the most anxious disciples of the new doctrine, all at once to yield perfect obedience to these laws. If none were to marry in whose family stock, and in whose individual person, any traces of serious departures from the organic laws were to be found, the civilized world would become a desert. The return to obedience must be gradual, and the accomplishment of it the result of time. After these laws are unfolded to a man's discernment, he is not guiltless if he disregard them, and commit flagrant violations of their dictates. We are all bound, if we believe them to be instituted by God, to obey them as far as is in our power; but we cannot command all external circumstances. We are bound to do the best we can; and this, although not all that could be desired, is often much; nor shall we ever miss an adequate reward, even for our imperfect obedience.

It is deeply mysterious, that man should have been so formed as to err for thousands of years through ignorance of his own constitution and the laws under which he suffers or enjoys; but it is equally mysterious that the globe itself underwent the successive revolutions revealed by geology, destroying myriads of living creatures, and extinguishing whole races of beings before it attained its present state! It is equally mysterious, also, why the earth presents such striking inequalities of soil and climate—in some regions so beautiful, so delightful, so prolific: in others so dreary, sterile, and depressing ! It is equally mysterious that men have been created mortal creatures, living, even at the best, but for a season on the earth, and then yielding their places to successors, whose tenures will be as brief as their own. These are mysteries which reason cannot penetrate, and for which fancy cannot account; but they all relate, not to our conduct here, but to the will of God in the creation of the universe. Although we cannot unravel the counsels of the Omnipotent, this is no reason why we should not study and obey his laws. What he has presented to us we are bound to accept with gratitude at his hand as a gift; but in using it, we are called on to exercise our reason, the noblest of his boons; and we may rest assured that no impenetrable darkness will hang over the path of our duty, when we shall have fairly opened our eyes and our understandings to the study of his works. There is no difficulty in believing that man, having received reason, was intended to use it,—that, by neglecting to do so, ho has suffered evils,—and that, when he shall duly employ it, his miseries will diminish; and this is all that I am now teaching. It may be inexplicable why we should not earlier have gone into the road that leads to happiness; but let us not hesitate to enter it now, if we see it fairly open before us.