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Hume says, upon a like occasion, “I ought not to judge on that subject,” have a quicker relish for the productions of genius, and the beauties of composition. It is, therea fore, as little in my intention, as it is in my power, to prejudice the literary character of your friend. From his History of England I have received great pleasure; and I have ever esteemed it to be a noble effort of " matter and motion." But when a man takes it into his head to do mischief, you must be sensible, sir, that the public has always reason to lament his being a fellow."
I hope it will not be deemed vanity in me likewise to say, that I have in my composition a large proportion of " the milk of human kindness." I have never known what envy or hatred is; and I am ready, at all times, to praise, wherever I can do it in honour and conscience. David, I doubt not, was, as you affirm, a social, agreeable person, of a convivial turn, told a good story, and played well at “his favourite game of whist." I know not that John the Painter did the same. But there is no absurdity in the supposition. If he did not, he might have done it. Doctor, be not offended; I mean no harm. I would only infer thus much, that I could not, on that account, bring myself absolutely to approve his odd fancy of firing all the dock yards in the kingdom.
Concerning the “philosophical opinions" of Mr. Hume, you observe, that “men will, no doubt, judge variously.” They are certainly at liberty so to do, because the author himself did the same. Sometimes, to be sure, he esteemed them ingenious, deep, subtile, elegant, and calculated to diffuse his literary fame to the ends of the world. But, at other times, he judged very differently. “I dine," says he, “I play a game .at backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when, after three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, so strained, and so ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.” Now, sir, if
you will only give me leave to judge, before dinner, of Mr. Hume's philosophy, as he judged of it after dinner, we shall have no farther dispute upon that subject. I could indeed wish, to have a scheme of thought, which would bear contemplating, at any time of the day; because, otherwise, a person must be at the expense of maintaining a brace of these metaphysical hobby-horses, one to mount in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.
After all, sir, friend as I am to freedom of opinion, (and no one living can be more so,) I am rather sorry that men should judge so variously of Mr. Hume's philosophical speculations. For since the design of them is to banish out of the world every idea of truth and comfort, salvation and immortality, a future state, and the providence and even the existence of God, it seems a pity, that we cannot all be of a mind about them. And I could have been well pleased to have been informed by you, sir, that, before his death, he had ceased to number among his happy effusions, tracts of this kind and tendency.
Let me come a little closer to you, doctor, if you please, upon this subject. Do not be under any apprehensions :
: my name does not begin with a B. sure, and can you make us sure, that there really exist no such things as a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments? If so, all is well. Let us then, in our last hours, read Lucian, and play at whist, and
droll upon Charon and his boat; let us die as foolish and insensible, as much like our brother philosophers, the calves of the field, and the asses of the desert, as we can. But, if such things are, as they certainly are, is it right in you, sir, to hold up to our view as perfectly wise and virtuous," the character and conduct of one who seems to have been possessed with an incurable antipathy to all that is called religion; and who strained every nerve, to explode, suppress, and extirpate the spirit of it among men, and that its very name wight no more he had in remembrance? Are we, do you imagine, to be reconciled to a character of this sort, and fall in love with it, because its owner was good company, and knew how to manage his cards? Low as the age
is fallen, I wilt venture to hope, it has grace enough yet left to resent such usage as this.
You endeavour to entertain us with some pleasant conceits that were supposed by Mr. Hume to pass be. tween himself and Charon. The philosopher tells the old gentleman, that, “ he had been endeavouring to oper the eyes of the public; that he was correcting his works for a new edition,'
” from which great things were to be expected; in short, “ if he could but live a few
years longer, (and that was the only reason why he would wish to do so,) he might have the satisfaction of seeing the downfal of some of the prevailing systems of superstition."
We all know, sir, what the word Superstition denotes, in Mr. Hume's vocabulary, and against what Religion his shafts are levelled, under that name. But, doctor Smith, do you believe, or would you have us believe, that it is Charon, who calls us out of the world, at the appointed time? Does not He call us out of it, who sent
us into it? Let me, then, present you with a paraphrase of the wish, as addressed to Him, to whom it should, and to whom alone, with any sense and propriety, it can be addressed. Thus it runs: “ Lord! I have only one reason why I should wish to live. Suffer me so to do, I most humbly beseech thee, yet a little while, till mine eyes shall behold the success of my undertaking to overthrow, by my metaphysics, the faith which thy Son descended from Heaven to plant, and to root out the knowledge and the love of thee from the earth.”
Here are no rhetorical figures, no hyperboles, nor exaggerations. The matter is even so. I appeal, in the face of the world, sir, to yourself, and to every man, who can read and understand the writings of Mr. Hume, whether this is not, in plain, honest English, the drift of his philosophy as it is called; for the propagation of which alone he wished to live; and concerning which you are pleased to say coolly, “men will judge variously, every one approving or condemning these opinions, according as they happen to coincide or disagree with his own." Our thoughts are very naturally carried back, upon this occasion, to the author of the first philosophy, who likewise engaged to open the eyes of the public. He did so; but the only discovery which they found themselves able to make, was that they were naked,
You talk much, sir, of our philosopher's gentleness of manners, good nature, compassion, generosity, charity, Alas, sir, whither were they all fled, when he so often sat down, calmly and deliberately, to obliterate from the hearts of the human species every trace of the knowledge of God and his dispensations; all faith in his kind provi, dence and fatherly protection ; all hope of enjoying his grace and favour, here, or hereafter ; all love of him,
and of their brethren for his sake; all the patience under tribulation, all the comfort in time of sorrow, derived from these abundant and perennial sources ? Did a good man think himself able, by the force of metaphysic in, cantation, in a moment, to blot the sun out of heaven, and dry up every fountain upon earth, would he attempt to do it?--Tully had but a faint glimpse of the country to which we are all travelling: yet, so pleasing was even an imperfect and a shadowy prospect into futurity, that he declared, no man should ravish it from him. And surely, Tully was a philosopher, as well as Hume. O had he seen the light which shone upon Hume, he would not have closed his eyes against it; had the same cup been offered to him, he would not have dashed it untasted from him!
Perhaps our modern sceptics are ignorant, that without the belief of a God, and the hope of immortality, the miseries of human life would often be insupportable. But can I suppose them in a state of total and invincible stupidity, utter strangers to the human heart, and to human affairs ? Surely, they would not thank me for such a supposition. Yet this I must suppose, or I must believe them to be the most cruel, the most perfidious, and the most profligate of men. Caressed by those who call themselves the great, engrossed by the formalities of life, intoxicated with vanity, pampered with adulation, dissipated in the tumult of business, or amidst the vicissitudes of folly, they perhaps have little need and little relish for the consolations of religion. But let them know, that in the solitary scenes of life, there is many an honest and tender heart pining with incurable anguish, pierced with the sharpest sting of disappointment, bereft of friends, chilled with paverty, racked with disease,