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mind from God. If we ought to act upon probabilities in the affairs of this life, where, after all, little is to be gained or lost, much more ought we to act upon probabilities, “without expecting certainty,” (if it is not to be found in things which regard the life to come,) where our all is at stake. If men regard the flimsy sophisms of the sceptics, only so far as to neglect their heavenly interests, while they move not one step the less for all the arguments against motion which Bayle and other sceptics have heaped together, it is evident that, though they are wise in the affairs of this fleeting life, a deceived heart has deprived them of understanding in the concerns of that life which is future and unending.
Much has been said of the innocence and purity both of the life of Bayle, and of other infidels, with as much justice as a confirmed miser might be praised for his habitual temperance. They had no time for gross and vulgar vices; their lives were expended in weighing and studying the thoughts of other men, in undermining, as they conceived, the foundations of Christianity, and establishing their own reputation upon its ruins. But if they were free from vicious actions, they were not free from vicious thoughts. Their polluted pages, contaminating the mind of the unwary reader, will bear witness against them to the end of time, and at the day of final retribution.
WI. If Bayle is remarkable for the vast variety of his reading, and the minute and subtle casuistry by which he makes it all turn to the profit of scepticism, Hume is still more eminent for striking at the root of all opinions, and for appearing to found a system of absolute pyrrhonism in the nature of the human understanding itself. Hume is certainly the great and unrivalled sceptic of modern times, nor, even throughout antiquity would it be possible to find his equal in acuteness. His writings must always be an object of great interest to every one, who even in remote ages shall make the history of speculative opinions his study. He has given their death wound to the theories of his predecessors, and his scepticism is the point of departure from which the more modern systems commence their course. The philosophy of Kant is an attempt to outflank the scepticism of Hume by ascending to higher ground, while the same scepticism gave rise to Reid's Inquiry into the Mind upon the principles of inductive discovery.
As a writer of genius, Hume deserves the highest regard, less indeed for what he has done himself, than what he has been the means of stirring up others to do. But he has many disciples whose blind admiration is paid to his infidelity rather than to his genius, who have the folly to follow him, where he is only making a feint of leading them, and the credulity to believe whatever he advances, without inquiring what were his real opinions. These servile admirers are not aware that Hume has both an inner and an outer doctrine. His real opinions are contained in his earliest work—his Treatise of Human Nature. In his Essays, the extent of his scepticism is concealed, and is made to bear against particular objects, instead of appearing to undermine, as it actually does, the whole fabric of knowledge. His system has been admirably denominated by Kant, phenomenism. His scepticism is the extension of the acute remark of Berkely, that no external or material object can have any resemblance to a thought, and deducing from this, that a material world, (such as it is generally supposed) is an impossibility. The same line of reasoning may be extended both to the existence of the Deity and of our own souls; there remains nothing, therefore, but thoughts or ideas, and their various changes and combinations. God is an idea, matter is an idea, the soul is an idea, space is but an idea; the belief of its existence involves numberless absurdities. Time, it is equally evident, is but an idea also. Reasoning is only the comparison of ideas. “All kinds of reasoning consist of nothing but a comparison.” Causation is also only a relation of ideas, it is merely the perpetual priority of one idea to another. Belief consists merely in the liveliness of our ideas; thus a theist has that idea which we call God, in a lively manner, and therefore believes in it. The atheist, on the other hand, has but a faint idea of the Deity, and therefore denies the divine existence. Again, Hume says, “all probable reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation, 'tis not solely in poetry and music we must follow our taste and sentiment, but likewise in our philosophy.” Thus, when a man has a turn for paradoxical reasoning, it only shows that he has a turn for an odd “species of sensation.” Hume does justice to his own views when he calls his notion about causation “the most violent of all the paradoxes which I have had, or shall hereafter have occasion to advance in the course of this treatise.” According to Hume, the only true philosophy of man is also the philosophy of beasts, and upon this latter point he lays a great stress. “Now, let any philosopher,” says Hume, “make a trial, and endeavour to explain, that act of the mind, which we call belief, and give an account of the principles from which it is derived, independent of the influence of custom on the imagination, and let his hypothesis be equally applicable to beasts as to the human species; and after he has done this, I promise to embrace his opinion. But, at the same time, I demand, as an equitable condition, that if my system be the only one which can answer to all these terms,” (that is, if it be equally applicable to beasts as to the human species) “it may be received as entirely satisfactory and convincing.” But how any thing can be received as entirely satisfactory, demands an explanation which cannot easily be given, for Hume has an ingenious method of annihilating at last the greatest certainty, merely by the repetition of doubts. “Having found in every probability, besides the original uncertainty inherent in the subject, a new uncertainty, derived from the weakness of that faculty which judges; and having adjusted these two together, we are obliged by our reason to add a new doubt, derived from the possibility of error, in the estimation we make of the truth and fidelity of our faculties. This is a doubt which immediately occurs to us, and of which, if we would closely pursue our reason, we cannot avoid giving a decision. But this decision, though it should be favourable to our preceding judgment, being founded only on probability, must weaken still further our first evidence, and must itself be weakened by a fourth doubt of the same kind, and so on in infinitum ; till at last there remain nothing of the original probability, however great we may suppose it to have been, and however small the diminution by every new uncertainty. No finite object can subsist under a decrease repeated in infinitum ; and even the vastest quantity which can enter into human imagination, must in this manner be reduced to nothing. Let our first belief be never so strong, it must infallibly perish, by passing through so many new examinations, of which