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ever was composed, and which, if I am not greatly mistaken, is destined to have yet a much wider influence in the Philosophy of the Mind than it has hitherto acquired. As its eminent author says of it, it originally fell dead from the press, and very few people since have taken the trouble to read it with any attention. The Essays into which it was afterwards broken down, however elegantly written, by no means do justice to the deep thinking of the original work. Mr Hume would have been a greater man if he had not courted popularity by aiming at giving a smart, lively air to his opinions, when he found them neglected in the simplicity of their first dress. He ought to have let them find their own level, as their intrinsic value was ultimately secure of being acknowledged. This unfortunate desire of present fame was, I believe, too, the cause of that strong infusion of infidelity, with respect to revealed religion, which, at the time, gave a zest, but is now generally felt as a disgrace, to the Essays. It was the fashionable tone of the times. The original treatise is written in a higher spirit. It is certainly not the work of a friend to Revelation any more than of Natural Religion; but there are no paltry sneers in it; and, whatever doubts are thrown upon the principles of Religion, they come in only by the way, and as the necessary concomitants of the doubts which it diffuses over all human knowledge. I should say that it was the work, not at all of a vain man, or of one who was not writing in perfect good faith, but simply that of a downright and fearless philosopher, who follows out his principles in a perfect contempt of consequences, and who takes for his motto, (certainly a very dangerous maxim) "Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum."
than attempting to untie it. Mr Hume was conscious of his own power while his countrymen were making him a theme of their uncouth derision, and he seems to have had a prescience that he had not yet gathered all his fame. In his last Will he leaves a direction that there should be inscribed on his monument simply the words,-DAVID HUME;-" Let Posterity," he says, "add the rest." The addition, indeed, will not be exactly what he expected, but I am much mistaken, if the name of this profound thinker does not yet receive the encomiastic epithets of a grateful posterity, and if, when his errors have passed away, he does not yet come to be universally regarded, as the Philosopher who has made the most penetrating and successful researches in the intricate science of Human Nature. He is a cool anatomist, who has dissected it throughout every fibre and nerve; and he may be pardoned, perhaps, if, in this sort of remorseless operation, he has lost sight of the principle of its moral and intellectual life. * That is wanting, indeed; but it can easily be supplied to his system; and the great beauty of Mr Hume's analysis is, that, in every step, we may distinctly see where this principle applies, and what light it throws upon the dreary regions of that scepticism which so gloomily spread around, as the necessary result of its absence. As the dead subject from which our knowledge of the anatomy of the body is derived, soon becomes putrescentand horrible to every sense-so the mind, under the knife of this great mental anatomist, loses, indeed, all its divinity and living form; but, notwithstanding, he conducts, his dissection so much in the true spirit of science, that we are rewarded by the knowledge of a structure which is again ready to start into life, if we only suppose the restoration of the vivifying principle.
In some of my former papers I have, I think, distinctly announced what that principle is; and, now that I have fairly put myself to school to Mr Hume, I am much more satisfied that I am right, and that, although he did not himself know it, he has, in fact,
These consequences, indeed, were such, that it was quite to be expected the work would be generally distasteful. Human reason is naturally very unwilling to be told that it is no reason at all; but it would have been better to have treated with respect, and some degree of deference, a system which was so wonderfully well connected in all its parts, and which bore so singular an impress of truth, even in its most shocking paradoxes, than to have held it up to ridicule, or to have been satisfied with cutting the knot rather
principles, and he edifies the faith of
in his speculations, given the skeleton
MARKS ON THE INTERNAL EVI-
such an one may be to the science EXTRACT FROM MR ERSKINE'S RE-
If there is any merit in those Dialogues which I have sent you at different times, it is chiefly in the perseverance with which this principle is kept in view in them. In their style and spirit they are fitter, I am well aware, for a former age than the present. We do not now like to have our religion brought before the microscope of a minute philosophy, and we are in the right; but these dialogues may still be of some use, if it is recollected that they are rather meant for sceptics than for ordinary people.
There is a very excellent little treatise on "the Internal Evidence for the Truth of Revealed Religion," just published by a most exemplary lay gentleman, who has hit the happy medium of being equally useful and delightful to all descriptions of read
He philosophizes with those who are fond of tracing things to their
"MANY persons, in their speculations on Christianity, never get farther than the miracles which were wrought in confirmation of its divine authority. Those who reject them are called infidels, and those who admit them are called believers; and yet, after all, there may be very little difference between them. A belief of the miracles narrated in the New Testament, does not constitute the faith of a Christian. These miracles merely attest the authority of the messenger,-they are not themselves the message: They are like the pa tentee's name on a patent medicine, which only attests its genuineness, and refers to the character of its inventor, but does not add to its virtue. Now, if we had such a scientific acquaintance with the general properties of drugs, that from examining them we could predict their effects, then we should, in forming our judgment of a medicine, trust to our own analysis of its component parts, as well as to the inventor's name on the out
* Waugh and Innes. Edinburgh, 1820.
side; and if the physician whose name it bore was a man of acknowledged eminence in his profession, we should be confirmed in Gur belief that it was really his invention, and not the imposture of an empiric, by observing that the skill displayed in its composition was worthy of the character of its assigned author, and that it was well suited to the cases which it was proposed to remedy. And even though the name should be somewhat soiled, so as to be with difficulty deciphered, yet if the skill were distinctly legible, we should not hesitate to attribute it to a man of science, nor should we scruple to use it ourselves, on its own evidence, if our circumstances required such an application.
"If Alexander the Great could, by his own skill, have discovered, in the cup presented to him by Philip, certain natural causes restorative of health, his confidence in the fidelity of his physician would have had a powerful auxiliary in his own knowledge of the subject. The conviction of his friend's integrity was, in his case, however, sufficient by itself to overcome the suspicions of Parmenio. But if, by his own knowledge, he had detected any thing in the cup which appeared to him decidedly noxious, his confidence in his friend would have only led him to the conclusion that this cup was really not prepared by him; but that some traitor, unobserved by him, had infused a poisonous ingredient into it.
"In like manner, if we discern that harmony in the Christian revelation which is the stamp of God upon it, we shall find little difficulty in admitting that external evidence by which he attested it to the world. And even though our opportunities or acquirements do not qualify us for following the argument in support of miracles, yet if we are convinced that the remedial virtue of its doctrines suits the necessities and diseases of our nature, we will not hesitate to assign it to the Great Physician of souls as its author, nor will we scruple to use it for our own spiritual health.
come from God. At this point, the importance of the internal evidence of revelation appears most conspicuous. If any intelligent man has, from hasty views of the subject, received the impression that Christianity is an absurdity, or contains absurdities, he is in a condition to examine the most perfect chain of evidence in its support, with the simple feeling of astonishment at the ingenuity and the fallibility of the human understanding. On a man in this state of mind, all arguments drawn from external evidence are thrown away. The thing which he wants, is to know that the subject is worth a demonstration; and this can only be learned by the study of the Bible itself. Let him but give his unprejudiced attention to this book, and he will discover that there is contained in it the developement of a mighty scheme, admirably fitted for the accomplishment of a mighty purpose: He will discover that this purpose is no less than to impart to man the happiness of God, by conforming him to the character of God: And he will observe with delight and with astonishment, that the grand and simple scheme by which this is accomplished, exhibits a system of moral mechanism, which, by the laws of our mental constitution, has a tendency to produce that character, as directly and necessarily as the belief of danger has to produce alarm, the belief of kindness to produce gratitude, or the belief of worth to produce esteem. He will discern, that this moral mechanism bears no marks of imposture or delusion, but consists simply in a manifestation of the moral character of God, accommodated to the understandings and hearts of men. And lastly, he will perceive that this manifestation only gives life and palpability to that vague though sublime idea of the Supreme Being, which is suggested by enlightened reason and conscience.
"No one who knows what God is, will refuse to receive a system of doctrines which he really believes was communicated by God: But then, no one in the right exercise of his reason, can, by any evidence, be brought to believe that what appears to him an absolute absurdity, did ever in truth
"When a man sees all this in the Bible, his sentiment will be," I shall examine the evidence in support of the miraculous history of this book; and I cannot but hope to find it convincing: But even should I be left unsatisfied as to the continuity of the chain of evidence, yet of one thing I am persuaded, it has probed the disease of the human heart to the bottom; it has laid bare the source of its aberration from moral good and
true happiness; and it has propound ed a remedy which carries in itself the proof of its efficiency. The cause seems worthy of the interposition of God: He did once certainly display his own direct and immediate agency in the creation of the world; and shall I deem it inconsistent with his gracious character, that he has made another immediate manifestation of himself in a work which had for its object the restoration of innumerable immortal spirits to that eternal happiness, from which, by their moral depravation, they had excluded themselves?
"The external evidence is strong enough, if duly considered, to convince any man of any fact which he has not in the first place shut out from the common privilege of proof, by pronouncing it to be an impossibility. This idea of impossibility, when attached to the gospel, arises generally, as was before observed, from some mistaken notion respecting the matter contained in it. A very few remarks may be sufficient to show that this is the case. Those who hold this opinion, do not mean to say absolutely that it is impossible to suppose, in consistency with reason, that God ever would make a direct manifestation of his own immediate agency in any case whatever; because this would be in the very face of their own general acknowledgments with regard to the creation of the world: They must, therefore, be understood to mean no more, than that, considering the object and structure of Christianity, it is unreasonable to suppose that it could be the subject of a direct interposition from Heaven. We are thus brought precisely to the argument which it has been the intention of this Essay to illustrate.
Now, if we suppose that it was one of the objects of the Creator, in the formation of the world, to impress upon his intelligent creatures an idea of his moral character-or, in other words, to teach them natural religion, (and that it was one of his objects, we may presume, from its having in some measure had this effect,)-it follows, that a direct and immediate agency on the part of God, is closely connected with the design of manifesting his moral character to man; and we may expect to meet these two things linked together in the system of God's government. If, therefore,
the gospel contains a most vivid and impressive view of the Divine character, harmonizing with the revelation of nature, but far exceeding it in fullness and in power, are we to be surprised at an interposition in its behalf of the same agency which was once before exhibited for a similar purpose? Thus, the object of the gospel, and its adaptation to that object, become the great arguments for its truth; and those who have not studied it in this relation, are not competent judges of the question. Indeed, if we take the truth of the gospel for granted, we must infer that this distinct and beautiful adaptation of its means to its end, was intended by its Divine author as its chief evidence; since he must have foreseen that not one out of a hundred who should ever hear of it could either have leisure or learning to weigh its external evidence. And this will explain a great deal of infidelity; for freethinkers in general are not acquainted with the substance of revelation; and thus they neglect that very point in it on which God himself rested its probability, and by which he invites belief.
"There may be also, for any thing that the reasoners of this world know, cycles in the moral world as well as in the natural; there may be certain moral conjunctures, which, by the Divine appointment, call for a manifestation of direct agency from the great First Cause; and, in this view, a miraculous interposition, though posterior to the creation, cannot be considered as an infringement of the original scheme of things, but as a part, and an essential part of it. When the world was less advanced in natural science than it is at present, a comet was considered an infringement on the original plan. And the period may arrive, and will assuredly arrive, when the spirits of just men made perfect shall discern as necessary a connection between the character of God and the work of redemption by Christ, as the philosopher now discerns between the properties of matter and the movements of the various bodies belonging to our planetary system.
"If the gospel really was a communication from heaven, it was to be expected that it would be ushered into the world by a miraculous attestation. It might have been considered as giving a faithful delineation of the
Divine character, although it had not been so attested; but it could never have impressed so deep a conviction, nor have drawn such reverence from the minds of men, had it not been sanctioned by credentials which could come from none other than the King of Kings. As this conviction and this reverence were necessary to the accomplishment of its moral object, the miracles which produced them were also necessary. Under the name of miraculous attestations, I mean merely those miracles which were extrinsic to the gospel, and did not form an essential part of it; for the greatest iniracles of all-namely, the conception, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord-constitute the very substance of the Divine communication, and are essential to the developement of that Divine character which gives to the gospel its whole importance.
"The belief of the miraculous attestation of the gospel, then, is just so far useful as it excites our reverence for, and fixes our attention on, the truth contained in the gospel. All the promises of the gospel are to faith in the gospel, and to those moral qualities which faith produces; and we cannot believe that which we do not understand. We may believe that there is more in a thing than we can understand; or we may believe a fact, the causes or modes of which we do not understand; but our actual belief is necessarily limited by our actual understanding. Thus, we understand what we say when we profess our belief that God became man, although we do not understand how. This how, therefore, is not the subject of belief; because it is not the subject of understanding. We, however, understand why, namely, that sinners might be saved and the Divine character made level to our capacities; and therefore this is a subject of belief. In fact, we can as easily remember a thing which we never knew, as believe a thing which we do not understand. In order, then, to believe the gospel, we must understand it; and in order to understand it, we must give it our serious attention. An admission of the truth of its miraculous attestation, unaccompanied with a knowledge of its principles, serves no other purpose than to give a most mournful example of the extreme levity of the human mind.
It is an acknowledgment that the Almighty took such a fatherly interest in the affairs of men, that he made a direct manifestation of himself in this world, for their instruction; and yet they feel no concern upon the subject of this instruction. Nevertheless, they say, and perhaps think, that they believe the gospel. One of the miraculous appearances connected with our Saviour's ministry places this matter in a very clear light. When, on the Mount of Transfiguration, he for a short time anticipated the celestial glory in the presence of three of his disciples, a voice came from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son; hear ye him.' He was sent to tell men something which they did not know. Those, therefore, who believed the reality of this miraculous appearance, and yet did not listen to what he taught, rejected him on the very ground on which it was of prime importance that they should receive him.
"The regeneration of the character is the grand object; and this can only be effected by the pressure of the truth upon the mind. Our knowledge of this truth must be accurate, in order that the image impressed upon the heart may be correct; but we must also know it in all the awfulness of its authority, in order that the impression may be deep and lasting. Its motives must be ever operating on us-its representations ever recurring to,us-its hopes ever animating us. This will not relax, but rather increase our diligence in the business of life. When we are engaged in the service of a friend, do we find that the thought of that friend and of his kindness retards our exertions ?-No. And when we consider all the business of life as work appointed to us by our Father, we shall be diligent in it for his sake. In fact, however clearly we may be able to state the subject, and however strenuous we may be in all the orthodoxy of its defence, there must be some flaw in our view of it, if it remains only a casual or an uninfluential visitor of our hearts. Its interests are continually pressing; eternity is every moment coming nearer; and our characters are hourly assuming a form more decidedly connected with the extreme of happiness or misery. In such circumstances, trifling is madness. The professed infidel is a reasonable man in comparison with him