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I BEGIN, dear sir, with a few observations on the Apology for the Life and Writings of David Hume, Esq. drawn up soon after that work came out, but reserved in expectation of Mr. Hume's posthumous tracts.
With difficulty I am able to persuade my friends, that this author and myself have not written in concert; for his Apology and my Letter fit each other like two tallies?. In his dedication, he expresses his apprehension, that “the CHRISTIAN clamour “ would be raised afresh.” A clamour is accordingly raised by “one of the people called Christians.” Elsewhere he intimates his expectation that Mr. Hume's "affectionate Dr. Smith” would come in for his share. A letter is accordingly written to that very doctor.
You see, dear sir, how I have done my best to fulfil his predictions. Let us now inquire, whether he may not have returned the favour, and been equally kind to me.
In my advertisement I ventured to suppose that, by a late publication, the adınirers of Mr. Humne
a 'The apology was written before the publication of the Letter, though sent into the world after it. VOL. IV.
imagined religion to have received its
grace, and that the astonished public was utterly at a loss to conceive, “ what they, who believed in God, “ could possibly have to say for themselves.” To convert my supposition into matter of fact, he opens his Apology with a kind of funeral oration, most solemnly pronounced over Christianity as a breathless corpse, about to be for ever interred in the grave of Mr. Hume.
“ David Hume is dead! Never were the pillars of “ Orthodoxy so desperately shaken, as they are now “by that event !” And, at p. 9, he speaks of the
particular circumstances of this event" as "increas. " ing the aggregate of our consternation!”
Here the distempered imagination of the apologist sees Mr. Hume, like another Samson, bowing himself with all his might between the pillars, and slaying more at his death, than all that he slew in his life. He sees the believing world aghast, the Church tottering from its foundations, and Christians assembling in an upper chamber, with the doors shut, for fear of the philosophers. What may be the state of religion upon earth, before the end shall come, we cannot tell. We have reason to think it will be
But let us hope, notwithstanding all which has happened in Scotland, that the Gospel will last our time.
Thus, again: I scrupled not to assert, that the end proposed, in giving an account of Mr. Hume's life and death, was to recommend his sceptical and atheistical notions. Dr. Smith indeed was wary and modest. He gave us a detail of circumstances,
and then only added, that, “as to his philosophy, , “ nen would entertain various opinions, but, to be
sure, all must allow his conduct was unexception
able,” &c. But the apologist has blotted it all out at once-David Hume's life was right, and therefore his system cannot be wrong. My friend Dr. Smith will take him to task for this, as sure as he is alive.
And now for another piece of complaisance on my side. P. 9. He “wishes only out of curiosity to “ know the unaffected state of our feelings," on perusing the account given by Dr. Smith. As if I had been privy to his thoughts, the wish was no sooner formed than gratified by my Letter, which communicated to him, and to the public, the state of our feelings, and in a manner, I do assure him, perfectly unaffected. But it is a difficult matter to please him; for now he hath seen me, he doth not like
At the close of the Address, he tells me that, “after
accurately examining my Letter, and carefully re“considering the whole subject of the preceding
Apology, in consequence of it, he sees no occasion “ to alter a single sentence." Let us therefore take a view of the Apology, which is pronounced to be unaffected by it.
Page 11. " It is less the design of these papers to “ defend Hume's principles, than to show, upon the “best authority, that he was earnest in what he “ wrote; and that, through every part of his life,
even to the very moment of his death, he made pre. cept and practice go hand in hand together.”
But, surely, if the principles are not to be defended; if they are, as they have been represented, sceptical and atheistical; does the man, who propagated them during his life, and took the requisite measures that they should be propagated after his death-does such a man deserve commendation, because he was in earnest ? An Apology of this kind may be offered in behalf of every felon executed at Tyburn, provided only that by dying hard, he make precept and practice go hand in hand together. And the apologist very judiciously observes as much.
Page 10. Many, indeed, will think, that this, “however perspicuously proved, will be doing him
no real honour; since in proportion to the clear
ness of the evidence upon this matter, it will only “show his impiety and obstinate infidelity the “plainer; thereby, in the end, incurring upon him a more general disgrace." Truly he has hit the mark. This is the
objection, which caused a friend of mine, on reading his book, to say, he should think it a less misfortune, to have the disgrace of banging incurred upon him, than to have such an apologist. And yet, in the case before us, he had a reason for making this Apology, namely, that there was no other to be made. The only question is, whether it might not have been better, if he had said nothing, and suffered things to take their chance? However, it is now too late. The objection is fairly stated, and we all stand, arrectis auribus, in expectation of the answer.
“I am of a different opinion. The terms infi
delity, impiety, and atheism, should not be lavishly “ trusted from the lip.”. Such a sentence (by the way) should not have been lavishly trusted from the pen.
" We should not presume
“ To deal damnation round the land
Sir, your very humble servant. I most heartily wish you a good night. Here was the jugulum causa, the precise point to be argued, over which I hoped to have had the honour of his good company for the evening; when, in the twinkling of an eye, he slips through my hands, like an eel, and is out of sight in the mud.
We are not about to deal damnation on any man. But are there not such things as infidelity, impiety, and atheism ? And are not the writings of Mr. Hume justly chargeable with them? These are the question.
The apologist knows, as well as I do, that Mr. Hume's Essays contain arguments downright Epicurean against the being of a God. Some of them are mentioned in the Summary, at the end of the Letter to Dr. Smith, and no notice is taken of the matter. In the Natural History of Religion, Dr. Hurd thought our philosopher was approaching towards the borders of theism. But I never could find that he penetrated far into the country. These same arguments stand to this bour unretracted; the Essays, which contain them, are published and republished with the rest; whether, at the hour of