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Smith, do you believe, or would you have us to believe, that it is Charon, who calls us out of the world, at the appointed time? Doth 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 would 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 or 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 be 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 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
h Life, &c. p. 59.
of God and his dispensations; all faith in his kind providence 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 comforts, in time of sorrow, derived from these fruitful and perennial sources? Did a good man think himself able, by the force of metaphysic incantation, 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 any the most imperfect and shadowy prospect into futurity, that Tully declared, no man should ravish it from him. And surely, Tully was a philosopher, as well as Hume. 0 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 with"out the belief of a God, and the hope of immortality, "the miseries of human life would often be insupport"able. But can I suppose them in a state of total and "invincible stupidity, utter strangers to the human heart "and to human affairs? Sure, 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, pam"pered 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
iQuod si in hoc erro, quod animos hominum immortales esse credam, libenter erro; nec mihi hunc errorem, quo delector, dum vivo, extorqueri volo. De SENECTUTE, ad Fin.
"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 po"verty, racked with disease, scourged by the oppressor, "whom nothing but trust in Providence, and the hope "of a future retribution, could preserve from the agonies "of despair. And do they, with sacrilegious hands, at66 tempt to violate this last refuge of the miserable, and to "rob them of the only comfort that had survived the ra"vages of misfortune, malice, and tyranny? Did it ever "happen, that the influence of their execrable tenets dis"turbed the tranquillity of virtuous retirement, deepened "the gloom of human distress, or aggravated the horrors "of the grave? Is it possible, that this may have happened " in many instances? Is it probable, that this hath happened "in one single instance?-Ye traitors to humankind, ye "murderers of the human soul, how can ye answer for it to
your own hearts? Surely, every spark of your genero"sity is extinguished for ever, if this consideration do not "awaken in you the keenest remorse, and make you wish "in bitterness of soul-But I remonstrate in vain. All "this must have often occurred to you, and as often been "rejected, as utterly frivolous. Could I enforce the pre"sent topic by an appeal to your vanity, I might possibly "make some impression. But to plead with you on the "principles of benevolence, or generosity, is to address you "in a language ye do not, or will not, understand; and as "to the shame of being convicted of absurdity, ignorance, "or want of candour, ye have long ago proved yourselves "superior to the sense of it.-But let not the lovers of "truth be discouraged. Atheism cannot be of long con“tinuance, nor is there much danger of its becoming uni"versal. The influence of some conspicuous characters "hath brought it too much into fashion; which, in a "thoughtless and profligate age, it is no difficult matter to
"accomplish. But when men have retrieved the powof serious reflection, they will find it a frightful phantom; and the mind will return gladly and eagerly "to its old endearments. One thing we certainly know; "the fashion of sceptical and metaphysical systems pass"eth away. Those unnatural productions, the vile effu"sions of a hard and stupid heart, that mistakes its own restlessness for the activity of genius, and its own captiousness for sagacity of understanding, may, like "other monsters, please awhile by their singularity; but "the charm is soon over; and the succeeding age will be "astonished to hear, that their forefathers were deluded, "or amused, with such fooleries."
You, sir, have read the preceding paragraph before; but this Letter may come into the hands of many who have not. It is the alarum bell to the admirers of Mr. Hume; and should be rung in their ears, till succeeded by the last trumpet.
And now, sir, will you give me leave to ask you a few questions? Why all this hurry and bustle, this eagerness to gratify the pretended "impatience of the pub"lic," and satisfy it, that our philosopher lived and died perfectly composed and easy? Was there, then, any suspicion in Scotland, that he might not, at times, be quite so composed and easy as he should have been? Was there any particular book ever written against him, that shook his system to pieces about his ears, and reduced it to a heap of ruins, the success and eclat of which might be supposed to have hurt his mind, and to have affected his health? Was there any author, whose name his friends never dared to mention before him, and warned all strangers that were introduced to him, against doing it, because he never failed, when by any accident it was done, to fly out into a transport of passion and swear
k Preface to Life, &c.
ing1? Was it deemed necessary, or expedient, on this account, that he should represent himself, and that you should represent him, to have been perfectly secure of the growth and increase of his philosophic reputation, as if no book had been written, which had impaired it; it having been judged much easier to dissemble the fall of Dagon, than to set him upon his stumps again? I am a South Briton, and, consequently, not acquainted with what passes so far in the opposite quarter. You, sir, can inform us how these things are; and likewise, when the great work of benevo lence and charity, of wisdom and virtue, shall be crowned by the publication of a treatise designed to prove the soul's mortality, and another, to justify and recommend selfmurder; for which, without doubt, the present and every future age will bless the name of the gentle and amiable author.
Upon the whole, doctor, your meaning is good; but I think you will not succeed, this time. You would persuade us, by the example of David Hume, esq. that atheism is the only cordial for low spirits, and the proper antidote against the fear of death. But surely, he who can reflect, with complacency, on a friend thus misemploying his ta
"I was a man of mild disposition, of command of temper, "little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions. Even my love of literary fame, my ruling passion, never soured my temper." Life, p. 32. Yet even by what is said of the reverends and right reverends Bishop Warburton, Bishop Hurd, the Zealots (that is, the Christians), and of the resolution once taken to " change his name and to "settle in France," because his writings did not meet with sufficient encouragement-by these circumstances, I say, there seems to have been something of the irritable in his constitution. But these are trifles. My quarry lies not this way, at present. I fly at nobler game. The atrociou wickednesss of diffusing atheism' through the land, is a subject which concerns every body.