the following pages
I have attempted to compress into small
compass an account of the life of one of the most illustrious Scotsmen
of last century.
Notwithstanding Hume's vast ability and many services, his name has
hitherto awakened the dislike of the majority of his fellow-countrymen,
because of his openly avowed scepticism concerning views reverently
cherished by Christian men.
this date, however, we may claim to have reached the period when it is
possible to survey the writings with more of the historic spirit, or at
least, with that ' freedom from prejudice' for which Hume pleads; with
enlarged views as to liberty of thought, and with perhaps greater
indifference to the disturbing influence of the opinions so
characteristic of the Historian.
keen antagonism of the religious men of the time induced the country to
regard Hume as an 'Infidel,' a 'Philistine,' and an 'Arch-Sceptic,' a
good man who had gone astray. Now, when the enmity against him has in
great measure become traditional, it seems possible to place him in a
truer light, to shew that he is not an Infidel, that he scorns even the
name of Deist, and that the man who himself challenged the evidence for
belief in miracles maintains [Essays
II., sec. x., p.
147] 'that the Christian religion not only
was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be
believed by any reasonable person without one.'
readers may be willing to consider afresh the scepticism and the
religious faith; and they may even be able to find, in Hume, a witness
for Christianity whose testimony is in some respects the more valuable
since beset with so many and such grave doubts. Going further than this,
it is probable that a renewed study of Hume's writings may lead us to a
fairer interpretation of the attitude of those, in our own day, whose
avowed doubts have induced earnest men to classify them amongst the
the time of Professor Calderwood's death, the MS. for this volume was
all but complete, and it has been printed as it was left by him.
Unfortunately, however, only a rough shorthand draft of the preface had
been drawn up, and, while every effort has been made to convey the
thoughts expressed, I am not certain that the wording is in strict
accord with the author's intention. W.L.C.]
Edinburgh, February 1898.