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fined; but the intention of the well-dressed, learned, comfortable, high-bred, and gentlemanly philosopher is perhaps exaggerated. It seems to the present writer that the intention of Hume was to lull the conscience to sleep; to make life “comfortable" by relieving it of its most pressing duties, and of its most intense and active faith. As we do not and cannot know whither we are going, is it not better to stand still? Such would be the natural reflection of the sceptic of Hume's way of thinking. “In drawing his metaphysical theories and distinctions Hume seems to have been unmoved," says a writer,“ by any considerations of consequences.” Philosophers generally are so. He saw that they would lead to universal scepticism, to doubts that would shake all inductive science to pieces, and would, in fact, if driven to their utmost bound, put a stop to the whole business of life. For what is a man to do when he doubts everything? “His theories led up,” says another writer, “to the absurd contradiction in terms
-a belief that there can be no belief,” and he was content to wander in the maze of speculation and doubt. Yet he is not to be shunned. The true way to subvert Hume is to reason him right out and reason beyond him. He thought like many men like Burns, for instance, that the goodness of actions depends upon their consequences; or, to put it in another way, “that the virtue of actions depends upon their utility;" and even in our own day he has a numerous class of followers who are to be treated with respect. Dr. Adam Smith ridiculed this doctrine humorously enough when he asked, “Have we no other reason for praising a man than that for which we should commend a chest of drawers ?" But Hume's theory, so far as applied
man, and interpreted by Adam Smith, is exactly that which is used in the Parable of the Talents,—“ Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed,” and requiring of man especially that he should be of use to his fellow-man. It is, no doubt, in great part true, and if construed with the additional rule that man must ever be subject to an inner guidance, and refer to the Great Taskmaster, God Almighty, the highest system of morality will be obtained.
In 1742, Hume, who lived in elegant society, and was a well-born, warm-hearted, and very pleasant Scotch gentleman, who seems to have lived to the delight of himself and his friends, and to have set priests and parsons of all kinds, much to their
and disgust, at a very low value, published his “Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary;" a volume often reprinted by anti-theological booksellers, and very amusing it is, well calculated for popular reading if read with care. His other works, which were not published till after his death, are “ An Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals,” “ The Natural History of Religion," and "Dialogues on Religion;" about which neither the Christian nor the sceptic need trouble himself very much. There is a certain mysterious deadness in most anti-Christian treatises (and these, though well-disguised, are so) that causes such works to become oldfashioned in a very short time, and to die out more rapidly than other works do. The reason is not far to seek. The constant attacks on Christianity are preeminently similar in this, that they are obliged frequently to shift their base of operations; the defenders an the walls, and in this Holy War soon answer or
expose their enemies. Then it is that a new leader, glittering in philosophical armour, comes forward, and all sceptics flock to him : his name is exalted, his power is magnified, and the besieged city trembles. So Toland, Tindal, Hume, Paine, and the French encyclopædists have died down, and the men who have filled their places in our own day will in their turn be forgotten in a few years. But Hume's argument against miracles is still of force, and is produced and re-produced, just as infidelity was anticipated in the year thirty-and-three of the Christian ministry. Hume's theory, which seems to us to be substantially the same as that of modern scientific sceptics, is this : that it is more probable that the witnesses or reporters of what they conceived to be a miracle should have been deceived than that the laws of nature, which are unchangeable, should be interfered with. Let us boldly admit this, and what remains ? Medea superest. “Man,” says Bacon, who had himself put down in one book all the difficulties of the Christian faith, and this amongst them, “is the servant and interpreter of nature ;" therefore we may rely on the counter-argument of Dr. George Campbell,
as we have equally to trust to human testimony for an account of those laws as for a history of the transactions which are considered to be an exception from them," the testimony on either side is equal, and the objection nil.
Hume is, beyond his gentlemanly and easy philosophy, an acute clear writer, worth reading, if wisely read, and always to be honoured for the lustre he threw on literature, and the esteem in which he held it. “There is,” he says, “speaking of the reign of James I., “such a superiority in the pursuits of literature above
259 every other occupation, that even he who attains but mediocrity in them, merits the pre-eminence above those that excel the most in the common and vulgar professions." The scholar and the student should honour Hume, if only for that proud sentence.
These are often unfairly despised; but those who despise them do not consider what immense effect they have on the happiness of mankind. It is possible philosophically to object to the dictum generally assigned to Jeremy Bentham, that it is the duty of Government to assure the greatest happiness of the greatest number;" but, if we accept it (and as there are thousands upon thousands by whom the principles of true philosophy never can be understood—even if the wise few could agree upon those principles—we may as well do so), we must remember that novels, of a higher or lower order, form the mental food of a large number of male readers, and of an infinitely larger proportion of female readers. For them the romance, either in three volumes, or in weekly or monthly numbers, furnishes not only mental nourishment and instruction,