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The scepticism of Hume may, therefore, be very satisfactorily explained by reference to either of these two circumstances; his ignorance of the evidences of the Gospel, or the tendency and character of his intellect. But, for the present, we rest satisfied with referring it to the first cause alone, The most vigorous and robust powers of reasoning with which mortal man was ever endowed, would not suffice to enable him to form a right judgment as to the truth or falsehood of an alleged fact, while he remained in ignorance of the strength and consistency of its evidence. And the man who has not examined and weighed the whole body of proof, according to that order and coherence in which it is laid before us, but who argues from a minute view of one part of it, that a belief in the fact propounded is inconsistent with reason, is entitled to no sort of authority. His belief or disbelief in the fact are equally unimportant, so far as authority is concerned, and must, as they regard other persons, be looked upon with equal indifference, because he is ignorant of that which could alone enable him to form a correct judgment.

Having thus chosen for our consideration the most distinguished sceptic of modern times, as an instance that his mistake as to religion was founded on ignorance, we have destroyed the interest which would arise, from inquiring how far any of his fol lowers or adherents have erred from the same cause. All the rest of the same school, are men in every way far inferior to Hume in intellect and in learning. We cannot contract ourselves to scan their petty attainments, after viewing the master sceptic of the age. But this we shall say of them, that we verily believe their faith in the arguments of Hume-be those arguments good or bad-is as little founded in reason as he thought the faith of Christians; and that when such of them as have faculties sufficient for the task, shall try his arguments by the test of reason, they will find them to be wanting; and that by a thorough examination of the evidences of the divine revelation, a sober and settled conviction of its truth will be established in their minds, in the stead of an indolent, unenquiring, and foolish faith in the logic and learning of David Hume.

Let us turn to another sceptic of our own country, whose talents and attainments were such, that we may contemplate them with much admiration, even after our view of David Hume. The name of Gibbon must rank high in the literary history of the country. He was inferior to Hume in most of his faculties, but not in the extent and depth of his learning. His imagination was perhaps more powerful, but it was governed by a taste much less refined, and less correct. His powers of reasoning and his judgment, were not so strong nor so acute. His talent

for composition was in every way far inferior. His style is not only not original, but is formed on the model of an impure and affected taste. There are, however, some by whom it is admired; but it has never been approved by the best judges as suitable either for didactic or historical pieces, because all strength and clearness are lost beneath its cumbrous and costly ornaments. Nevertheless, even his style has its merits, and may be referred to as the finest specimen of its peculiar kind. His learning was of prodigious extent, but it was of that unregulated and discursive kind, which, in him, as in all other such cases, was by no means very accurate. In short, take him for all in all, his talents and his learning are such, that he must remain distinguished in the history of an age fruitful of illustrious men.

The adventures of Gibbon's literary life are very well worthy of attention. They are not indeed of an unprecedented kind, for the course which he pursued towards scepticism was but similar to that into which many others of a similar construction of mind have fallen, both before and since his time. He was born and educated in the Protestant religion. At Oxford his ardour for study was unhappily not directed in the proper course, but he was left to turn it in whatever direction accident or inclination might prompt. It happened very strangely, that he lighted upon those most learned and ingenious works of the Roman Catholic divines in their doctrinal controversies with the Protestant church. His young and ardent imagination was excited and gratified by these works-his tender powers of reasoning and his judgment were overcome by them; and thus, without farther inquiry, or experience, or advice, he came privately to London-went to the house of a priest who lived near Covent Garden, and then and there made his confession and renunciation of heresy-received absolution-and was admitted into the bosom of the Catholic church. Nor can we doubt that he was fortified with as much learning and logic in support of the doctrines of the church of Rome, as falls to the share of most of the laity, and even clergy, by whom its faith is professed.

When the story of his conversion was made known, it excited the utmost surprise among his friends, and was a great grief to his father. But the plan which was adopted for his future education and re-conversion was exceedingly injudicious. No fair appeal was made to his reason and his judgment. He was treated as one who had given the highest offence to his father, and was sent in disgrace to be boarded with a poor Calvinistic priest at Lausanne, to be there convinced of the corruptions of the popish faith; or, if not that, at any rate to learn, that, while he per

sisted in continuing to profess that faith, he must submit to a scanty and penurious diet, and to banishment from friends, relations, and home. During this exile, the young Gibbon was plied with all the arguments of the Calvinistic theology, and at length became a convert to the Protestant faith. But his love of study led him after this to the writings of the pagan philosophers. He had studied the writings of the Catholic divines, and became a convert to their doctrines; he had studied the works of Protestant theologists, and to their truth, in turn, his judgment assented; he finally betook himself to the doctrines of the learned heathens, and to them, in their turn, he yielded himself without any hesitation.

All these changes are very easily accounted for by the character of this man's mind. His faculty of reasoning and his judgment, not being very vigorous by nature, were unimproved, perhaps even impaired, by the wide range of learning to which they were applied, and thus acquired such pliancy, that they finally became perverted by any ingenious argument against the most acknowledged truth. No man can doubt, from his history, that if the order of his studies had been inverted-if he had proceeded from infidelity to popery, and from popery to the faith of the Protestant church, in that faith he would have rested his final conviction.

To what cause then are we to refer the scepticism of such a man as Gibbon ? We need not here refer it to ignorance of the evidence on which the truth of Christianity rests, because there is another more obvious cause. For the sake of argument, let us grant that the whole of that evidence was examined by him ;but was he gifted with so sound a judgment that his decision against it is to be received as an authority? Is there any infidel, who would support his opinion by the judgment of a man who had decided successively in favour of the religion of the Catholic, the Protestant, and the heathen? His is the case of a scepticism which was occasioned by the weakness and fallibility of his judgment, in whatever manner this is to be accounted for.

We have said so much in praise of the extent of Gibbon's learning, that if we were to attribute his scepticism to ignorance, it might be objected, that we are precluded by our own admis sions. Above all, there is the more obvious reason for this objection, because we have admitted his great knowledge on theological subjects. It is, however, to be remarked, that the only part of theology in which Gibbon seems to have been conversant was the controversies on points of doctrine and discipline among the Christian churches. There is no proof either in his writings or in the minute and accurate diary of his studies, which

has very fortunately been preserved, that he ever applied himself to weigh the great evidences in favour of the Christian religion. But we have not in his case, as in that of Hume, a wilful and open avowal, that those evidences had not been examin ed by him; and therefore, however strong ground there may be for the presumption, that Gibbon was ignorant of the real weight due to the evidence from an accurate examination of it, we shall not resort to it. The cause of his scepticism is too sufficiently and satisfactorily explained by the undoubted facts which we have mentioned, to make it necessary, that any thing should at present be presumed against him beyond that which, in the memoirs of his life, he has told us of himself.

When we look into the history of the sceptics of other countries, we find that the most learned and ingenious among themthe most distinguished for brilliant fancy and happiness of invention, have shewn the same weakness and fallibility of the faculties of reasoning and judgment. Bayle, who excelled in subtlety, and acuteness, and learning, all the other sceptics of his own nation, was a man remarkable for the mutability of his opinions. He was born a Protestant, but, falling into the society of a Romish priest, who pressed him with the arguments on which the doctrines of the Catholic church are supported, he was convinced of their truth, and became a believer in its doctrines. His brother, who was an ecclesiastic in the Protestant church of France, afterwards reasoned with him on his religious tenets, and having placed before him the arguments in favour of the Protestant faith, Bayle was sensible of their truth, and returned to his belief in the reformed religion; finally, he studied the writings of the older sceptics, and adopted their doctrines, the more readily perhaps for this, that he found some comfort in doctrines which imputed to the faculties of reason and judgment in all other men the very weakness and fallibility of which he was conscious in his own. As an authority against the truth of the gospel, the opinions of such a man as Bayle can have no weight. Who would trust the judgment of a man who, having reasoned himself into the notion that human reason is insufficient for the discovery of truth or error, yet trusts to his own wisdom when he disbelieves the gospel?

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The history of these, the most eminent sceptics of modern times, sufficiently developes the causes of their disbelief in the Christian religion. But, with respect to the two last, it leaves this question, which has startled many worthy men-" is the evidence of the truth of our religion so intricate a matter, that men of the most shining parts have abandoned their belief in it?

Can no man be satisfied of its truth unless he have a stronger judgment than such renowned philosophers as Gibbon and Bayle? On this point every man may set his mind at rest. Judgment is, of all the faculties, that with which mankind are most equally gifted; and it never errs, but through the misapplication or perversion of the other faculties. In all those cases in which it has erred, as to the truth of religion, the error will be found to have proceeded from this cause. To every man of sound intellect and unbiassed judgment, the evidences in favour of religion are found, after an unprejudiced examination, to afford a thorough and settled conviction of its truth. On a question to be determined by evidence, the judgment of any plain man of sound intellect and adequate information, is as much to be trusted as that of the most subtle logician that ever lived.

But if the truth or falsehood of our religion is to be determined, not by a fair appeal to the judgment, not by a thorough inquiry into the evidence in its favour, but by a reliance on the authority of others,-the choice must be made between that of men, who decided professedly without examination of the whole body of evidence, or who, by the misapplication of their faculties, had wholly unsettled their judgments, and that of the bulk of great and good men, who have lived in all the ages of the world, whose knowledge of the evidence must be admitted, who had the greatest interest in its impartial examination, and whose judgments on all other matters, have been sober, and sound, and accordant to the immutable standard of common

sense.

It is time that we should return to the view which Mr. Rennel has taken of the intellectual causes of scepticism. Though it be much more concise than the remarks which have now occurred to us, it is in general very much the same. Or, if it should be thought that we have mentioned instances of scepticism proceeding from a different cause than ignorance, or the imperfection of human knowledge, (which are the only two intellectual causes to which he has referred,) the difference does not lie in any thing substantially affecting his views. This will appear the more strongly, from the following passage in that part of his work where he treats of the imperfection of all human knowledge, as one of the causes of scepticism.

"Habits of very minute inquiry in any department of philosophy have a tendency rather to contract than to enlarge the understanding As we proceed upwards in the stream of science, we find a thousand little channels multiplying themselves in every direction; in the pursuit of which we often suffer our attention to be so far absorbed as to forget the ends, while we are investigating the sources of things around us. We study parts rather than the whole; and what we gain in our powers of division, we

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