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On the nature and regulation of the Propensive Principles.

THERE is another class of principles, which may be considered for a number of reasons as coming under the general head of Desires; but which are obviously different in some respects from that modification of desire, which bears the name of the appetites. These principles, which, in order to distinguish them from the appetites, are denominated the Propensities or Propensive principles, seem to be less dependent for their existence and exercise upon the condition of the physical system, than the appetites are. Removed, in some degree, from the outward senses, which are the basis of the action of the appetites, they obviously sustain a closer acuity to the higher and more important principles of our nature; and accordingly in the general estimation, which is attached to the different parts of our mental constitution, they are regarded as holding a higher rank. Some of the principles, which come under this general head, (for it is not necessary to enumerate them all, and still less necessary to go into a particular examination of them,) are the principle of self-preservation or the desire of continued existence, curiosity or the desire of knowledge, sociality or the desire of society, self-love or the desire of happiness, the desire of esteem, and some others.

Religion can never be regarded, as having taken up its abode in the heart, and as having become a permanent and paramount element of our inward being, without reaching these principles, and without checking their inordinate tendencies and bringing them back to the original measurement of a subordinate and holy action. It is certainly not too much to say, that we are accountable to God, strictly and fully accountable, for the exercise of the social feelings, for the exercise of the principle of curiosity or the desire of knowledge, and of other propensive principles, as well as for the indulgence of the appetites, or the exercise of any other inward act or tendency, of which we are susceptible. And accordingly it cannot properly be said, in the full sense of the terms, that we live in Christ, or that "Christ liveth in us," while any of these principles retain an unsanctified influence. They do not require to be destroyed; but it is obvious, that they must be made holy.

It will be perceived, that these views are not entirely accordant with the sentiments, which have sometimes been entertained by individuals, and even by large bodies of christians. Many pious persons, at different periods in the history of the church, have maintained, that the various propensities and affections should not merely be crucified in the true scripture sense, viz. by being reduced from an irregular to a subordinate and holy action, but should be
exterminated. In accordance with this opinion, obviously erroneous as it is, many persons of both sexes, some of them distinguished for their learning and their rank in life, have avoided, by a permanent principle of action, every thing, that could please the appetites or gratify the demands of our social nature. Influenced by mistaken notions of what christianity really requires, they have literally made their abode in the dens and caves of the earth; and may be said, with too much foundation in fact, to have rejected the society of man for the companionship of wild beasts. Ecclesiastical history is interspersed with instances of this kind, from the days of the anchorets who macerated their bodies and uttered their solitary prayers in the deserts of Egypt, down to the present time. It is related, for instance, of Catherine of Cardonne, a pious Spanish lady of the 16th century, moving in the first ranks of society, and well accomplished in the endowments of intellect and education, that she retired to a solitary cavern in a remote mountainous region, and spent many years in the strictest seclusion, with no adequate clothing, and with no food but what the uncultivated earth afforded. No one can read the story of the extreme privations, to which she subjected herself, for the purpose of a more intimate communion with God, without a mixed emotion of regret for the errors of her judgment, and of profound respect for the self-sacrificing piety of her heart. [*See an account of this person in the life of St. Theresa by Villefore, (La Vie de St. Therese par M. de Villefore, Tome ll. Livre 5.)] There have been many instances of this kind.

There is some reason to think, that many of the class of persons, to whom we have reference in these remarks, placed more reliance on works than on faith. This was a great error, though a candid consideration of their lives will probably justify us in regarding it as an unintentional one. The mighty efficacy of faith, in its relation to the renovation of the human mind, seems not to have been well understood by them. And being left destitute, in a considerable degree, of the aids and consolations which so abundantly flow from that source, they pressed the principle of consecration, which, independently of faith, becomes the imperfect and unsatisfactory principle of mere works, to its extreme limits. They deprived themselves of the necessary sleep; wore garments, that inflicted constant suffering; mingled ashes with their bread; and submitted to other acts and observances of a penitential nature, either to render themselves, in their present characters, more acceptable to God, or to propitiate the divine mercy for the commission of past sins.

With feelings of entire sympathy with the sincerity, which has characterized the conduct of many humble and suffering recluses, we still feel bound to say, that we do not understand the Scriptures as requiring the crucifixion of the appetites and propensities to be carried to this extent. The Scriptures require us to become christians; but they do not require us to cease to be men. They require us, to put off the "old man," which is fictitious, a perversion of good, and a "liar from the beginning;" but they do not, and could not require us to put off the "new man," which is the same, if not physically and intellectually, yet in all the attributes of the heart, with the primitive or holy man, the man as he existed in Adam before his fall, and as he became re-existent in the stainless Savior. But Christ, who is set before us as our example, ate and drank without sin; he recognized and discharged the duty of social intercourse without sin; and he performed the various other duties, which are appropriate to human nature, in equal freedom from any thing that is wrong and unholy.

And we may make a single remark here, which may tend to relieve the minds of some in relation to this subject, viz. that it is a more difficult thing and requires more reflection and more religious principle to regulate the appetites and propensities, than it does to destroy them. And while the work of a holy regulation is to be regarded as a more difficult work than that of destruction, we may add, that it is undoubtedly more acceptable to God; although it is probably less calculated to attract notice and to secure celebrity. God expects us to do what he requires us to do; and to attempt to do more, or do otherwise than He requires, can result only from a mistaken judgment or from perverse intentions.