OF THE KNOWLEDGE GAINED BY HUMAN EXPERIENCE

We have seen that there are only these sources of human knowledge, viz.,
the _intuitive truths_, _human experience_, _reasoning_, and
_revelation_. We have alluded to the nature of intuitive knowledge; we
will now inquire as to the nature of the knowledge gained by human
experience, firstly, in regard to the _constitution of mind and the laws
of that system in which it is placed_. We restrict our inquiries to
those points which have the most direct bearing on the great questions
to be discussed.

As it respects the nature of mind, then, as exhibited by experience, we
learn, in the first place, that it is constituted with desires and
propensities for various kinds of enjoyment. These are the
gratifications secured by the senses, the pleasures of taste, the
happiness of giving and receiving affection, the various intellectual
pleasures, and the still higher enjoyment resulting from our moral
nature. All these are common to the race, though in varied degrees and
combinations. The mind is also constituted with susceptibilities to pain
and suffering from all the sources from which enjoyment may spring.

With these susceptibilities are combined an all-pervading and constant
_desire_ to gain enjoyment and to escape suffering. This desire is the
grand _motive_ power to the mind, as the main-spring is to a watch. For
this reason, awakened desires to gain any particular enjoyment or escape
any pain are called _motives_. And so, also, all those things that cause
these desires are called motives.

Next, it is seen that the mind is endowed with intellect, or the
intellectual powers, by which it can perceive the nature and relative
value of various kinds of enjoyment, compare the present with the
future, and judge both of what is most valuable and of the proper modes
of securing it.

To this add the power of choice or volition, by which, in view of any
two or more kinds of enjoyment, the mind decides which shall be secured
and which be denied.

Thus constituted, the mind comes into action in a _system of law_.

By this is signified that in every direction in which man can seek
enjoyment there is a right course, or one that secures the good sought
in such proper degrees and at such times as that the enjoyment designed
is the result. At the same time there is a wrong course, or one in which
the enjoyment sought is not secured, or, if gained, is combined with
pain and disappointment.

Thus there are right and wrong modes of seeking all the multiplied kinds
of enjoyment, while to the right course is attached the reward of
pleasure, and with the wrong course is connected the penalty of pain,
either immediate or remote.

Again, our minds come into existence in a _social_ _system_ so
constituted that the rewards and penalties of law extend, not merely to
the good and evil doer, but to those connected with him. Thus each mind
is made dependent for happiness on the well-doing of those around almost
as much as on its own obedience to law. The penalties for the sins of
parents fall on their children, and the sins of children are visited on
their parents, and thus in all the other relations of life. Equally so
are the rewards of obedience shared by all who are connected with the
well-doer.

Thus it appears that in this life _happiness_ is the joint product of
the obedience of each individual and the obedience of all connected with
him to the laws of the vast system in which we are placed.

Again, each mind comes into this system of law in perfect ignorance of
the right and wrong courses to be pursued. At the commencement of being
there has been no knowledge of good or of evil to call forth desire or
fear, while the only conceivable way in which such a being can be taught
law, and its penalties and rewards, is by _experience_. Good must be
tasted before the desire for it can come, and evil must be felt before
the fear of it can arise.

After there has been some experience of pleasure and pain, and such
advance in knowledge as that others around can teach the new-comer what
are the right and wrong courses, then _faith_ or _belief_ becomes the
leading mode of safety. From this time happiness or suffering will be
proportioned to the _truth_ of the instructions given, to the _faith_
accorded, and to the _obedience_ rendered.

In this complicated system of law, it is found that the great Author of
all is never moved to modify or suspend the penalties of wrong-doing by
commiseration for the inevitable ignorance of inexperienced beings, nor
by pity when wrong instructions are given, nor by sympathy for the pain
inflicted. _Obedience_, exact, constant, persevering–this is the only
mode of securing the enjoyment and escaping the pain that are the
sanctions of law.

And not only so, but it is often the case that disobedience to some law
in only one instance will destroy the comfort and usefulness of a whole
life. Nay, more, the neglect or the mistake of a parent sometimes will
bring the penalty of violated law on some innocent child, whose whole
life will thus be made miserable.

Again, it is found that the sources of enjoyment are of different
relative value.

In the commencement of existence pleasure is secured mainly through the
senses. Next come the higher social and domestic pleasures; then follow
the intellectual enjoyments, the various gratifications of taste, and
all the multitudinous resources open to a highly-cultivated, virtuous,
and religious man.

The greater the number of these sources, and the more elevated the
nature of each, the greater the degree of happiness gained.

Such, also, is the nature of things, that the lower kinds of happiness
are placed first within our reach, and then, as the higher modes of
enjoyment come, we often find them incompatible with the others, so that
to obtain these we must, to some extent, relinquish the humbler classes.
Thus, when a child begins to find the value of intellectual attainments,
he sees they can not be gained without a sacrifice of many indulgences
that are of an inferior value.

We now come to the _grand law_ of the system in which we are placed, as
it has been developed by the experience of our race, and that, in one
word, is

SACRIFICE!

Each mind finds that it has conflicting desires, so that one class must
constantly be sacrificed to another of superior value. And the rule in
reference to individual enjoyment is “_always to sacrifice the lesser
for the greater good, having reference to the future as much as to the
present_.”

This is the lesson of self-denial and self-control first taught to
infancy and childhood, and just as fast as the reasoning powers are
developed, the extent of this far-reaching rule is impressed on the
mind. At first this rule is applied to the young child himself, and he
is trained chiefly to understand what will injure or benefit himself.

But gradually a new and higher law begins to appear. As soon as the
child can be made to understand that he is surrounded by other minds,
who can suffer and enjoy by the same rules that regulate his happiness,
he begins to learn the other and still higher law of _sacrifice_; and
that is, that “_the lesser good of the individual is always to be
sacrificed to the greater good of the many, having reference always to
the future as much as to the present_.”

Thus life commences with desires that are to be _controlled_ and
_denied_, first by parental power and influence, and next by the
intellect and will of the child. And the farther life advances, the more
numerous and complicated are the occasions where intellect must judge
what is best for self, and what is best for the commonwealth, whose
interests must have precedence.

And as self-denial always involves more or less pain, it becomes a fact
that happiness is to be gained only by more or less _suffering_.

Moreover, the greater the good to be gained, the greater is the
self-denial and suffering involved in its attainment. Though there are
exceptions, this certainly is the general rule.

The history of an individual is a history of self-conquest. It is a
history of the self-denial and suffering involved in subjecting the
physical to the intellectual, and both to the moral nature.

In like manner, the history of the race, from infancy through its stages
of barbarism, heathenism, civilization, and Christianity, is a process
of _suffering_, as the lower principles of humanity are gradually
subjected to the higher, while men learn to give up lower gratifications
for the more elevated, and to sacrifice the lesser good of the minority
to the well-being of the majority.

But the cheering aspect of the case is that the effects of suffering are
salutary and tonic. The child who is trained to bear cold bravely, to
undergo toil, and to meet crosses, becomes strong in body, and
enterprising and energetic in spirit; while a course of ease and
indulgence debilitates both mind and body. This is true most decidedly
when such a course is cheerfully and voluntarily assumed, and is not
forced merely by fear of penalties.

The same is true of communities. Those people who live in a cold climate
and on a hard soil become vigorous, industrious, and enterprising; while
a soft climate, and such abundance as requires no self-denial and toil,
tend to national debility and decay.

Another fact is still more cheering, and that is, that the more a habit
of self-control and self-denial is formed, the easier they become, so
that what at first was severe and painful may become a pleasure. Such
may be the progress of a virtuous mind, that, ultimately, acting right,
or conscious rectitude, may become more desirable and agreeable than any
other mode of enjoyment.

The history of mankind thus far shows that as a race we are progressing
to higher and higher happiness. As we take the history of each nation
from its origin, we find it a development of progress from lower to
higher degrees of enjoyment. Then we find periods of retrocession and
decay. Still, the experience of one age is transmitted more or less to
another, so that, on the whole, the race has been gaining, both as to
the number of sources of enjoyment received and as to the relative value
of the enjoyments sought. The proportion of persons who secure the
higher class of enjoyments is certainly greater now than at any former
period of the world’s history.

Again, the history of the world teaches us that while the race gains in
knowledge of the laws of the system and in obedience to them, there are
vast multitudes to whom, as individuals, this life is a _total failure_.
Their career has involved such frequent and fatal violations of the laws
of the system, that their progress is constantly downward; and, so far
as past experience gives any data, we must infer that continued
existence would prove a continued downward progress. The glutton, the
drunkard, the miser, the sluggard, the licentious, the selfish,
malignant, and cruel–all these are binding their spirits with the
_chains of habit_, rendering obedience to the laws they are violating
more difficult and improbable.

But then, as a counterbalancing result, it is seen that these losses to
individuals are made available to the protection and improvement of the
race, and seem indispensable to it; for it is the example of the evils
suffered by wrong-doers that is constantly exercising a preservative
influence to deter others from similar courses. Thus good is constantly
educed from ill, even in the most melancholy cases.

We have seen that it is the desire of good and fear of evil that is the
motive power in causing all mental action, and we have the history of
man to teach us also what kinds of motives prove the most effective in
securing that obedience to law which is the only way to true and perfect
happiness.

Our only mode of learning the nature of a thing is to observe how it
acts and is acted upon. This is as true of mind as it is of material
things. What, then, has the experience of our race taught as to the
nature of mind in reference to the kinds and relative influence of
motive that secure obedience to law?

In the first place, then, we learn that _fear of evil is indispensable_.
As soon as children in the family, or adults in society, find that no
harm comes from gratifying their desires, all restraint is removed. So
strong is this necessity, that when natural penalties seem uncertain or
far off, parents and civil rulers find it imperative to add those which
are more immediate and discernible.

But with this we learn that fear alone is not a healthful stimulus.
Children and slaves who have no motives to action but fear of penalties
are never so successfully led to obedience as when other more agreeable
influences are combined. A mind that is constantly goaded to action by
fear of evil becomes torpid, or irritable, or despairing, or all
together. The hope of good, or rewards, then, are as indispensable to
secure obedience to law as penalties. The proper balancing of the
motives of fear of evil and hope of good is the grand art of controlling
mind, both as it respects individuals and communities.

In reference to those motives that are pleasurable, there are two
classes which it is very important to recognize. The first class are
those sources of enjoyment which are sought for the gratification of
self without any reference to another. Of this class are the pleasures
of the senses, the enjoyment of acquiring knowledge, the exercise of
power, the pleasures of taste, and others that need not here be
specified.

The second class are those in which the enjoyment is secured by
producing happiness for others, and is sought solely in reference to the
enjoyment of another. The most decided illustration of this kind is that
of a mother who is providing for her offspring. This and all true love
has, as its distinctive feature, the pleasure found in conferring
happiness on the beloved object. Gratitude, also, has for its main
element the desire to make some returns of enjoyment to one who has
conferred a favor.

Experience has shown that the most powerful of all motives in securing
obedience to law is that of _love_.

When love is awakened toward a superior mind–when this superior mind
knows what are the true rules of right and wrong, and is deeply
interested to guide and aid the inferior mind–when this interest is
expressed by all winning and attractive methods, nothing has ever yet
been found so successful in securing obedience to the rules of right and
wrong.

The power of this principle is greatly enhanced when the superior mind
is a benefactor. The bestowal of kindness excites a desire to make some
returns of good, and when it is seen that such a benefactor is gratified
by leading a dependent mind to right action, it proves a most powerful
motive to obedience.

Still more is the power of this principle increased when the favors
bestowed are purchased by self-denial and suffering on the part of the
benefactor. The more noble the benefactor, and the greater the good thus
purchased or the evils thus averted, the stronger is the principle of
gratitude leading to such returns of obedience.

Again, experience has shown that the advance of the race has been by the
agency of teachers and confessors who secured light and elevation to
their fellows at the expense of labor, toil, and self-denial of the
severest kind.

These are the leading points in the results of human experience as to
the nature of mind and the laws of the system of which it is a part.