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It is not the only, nor even the chief, design of these sheets, to refute the reasoning and objections of Mr HUME, with regard to miracles : The chief design of them is, to set the principal argument for Christianity in its proper light. On a subject that has been so often treated, it is impossible to avoid saying many things which have been said before. It máy, however, wịth reason, be affirmed, that there still remains, on this subject, great scope for new observations. Besides, it ought to be remembered, that the evidence of any complex argument depends very much on the order into which the material circumstances are digested, and the manner in which they are displayed.
The Essay on Miracles deserves to be consider., ed as one of the most dangerous attacks that have been made on our religion. The danger results not solely from the merit of THE PIECE ; it results much more from that of THE AUTHOR.
itself, like every other work of Mr HUME, is ingenious ; but its merit is more of the oratorial kind than of the philosophical. The merit of the author, I acknowledge, is great. The many useful volumes he has published of history as well as on criticism, politics, and trade, have justly procured him, with all persons of taste and discernment, the highest reputation as a writer. What pity is it, that this reputation should have been sullied by attempts to undermine the foundation both of natural religion, and of revealed !
For my own part, I think it a piece of justice in me to acknowledge the obligations I owe the author, before to enter on the proposed examination. I have not only been much entertained and instructed by his works į þüt; if I am possessed of any talent in abstract: reasoning.: I am not a little indebted to what he has written on human nature, for the improvement of that talent. If therefore, in this tract, I have refuted Mr HUME's Essay, the greater share of the merit is perhaps to be ascribed to Mr Hume himself. The compliment which the Russian monarch, after the famous battle of Poltowa, paid the Swedish generals, when he gave them the honourable appellation of his masters in the art of war, I may, with great sincerity, pay my acute and ingenious adversary.
I shall add a few things concerning the occasion and form of the following dissertation.
Some of the principal topics here discussed were more briefly treated in a sermon preached before the Synod of ABERDEEN, and are now made public at their desire. To the end, that an argument of so great importance might be more fully and freely canvassed than it could have been with propriety, in a sermon, it was judged necessary to newmodel the discourse, and to give it that form in which it now appears.
The edition of Mr HUME's Essays, to which I always refer in this work, is that printed at LONDON, in duodecimo, 1750 *, entitled, Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding. I have, since finishing this tract, seen a later edition, in which there are a few variations. None of them appeared to me so material as to give ground for altering the quotations and references here used. There is indeed one alteration, which candour required that I should mention : I have accordingly mentioned it in a note *.
*-As this advertisement was prefixed to the first edition of the Dissertation, I was not a little surprised to observe, that the French translator declared, in the first sentence of his Avis au Lecteur, that he did not know what edition of Mr Hume's Essays I had used in this work. On proceeding, I discovered that my advertisement has not been translated by him, which makes me suspect, that, by some accident, it had been left out of the copy which he used.
The arguments of the essayist I have endeavoured to refute by argument. Mere declamation I know no way of refuting but by analysing it; nor do I conceive how inconsistencies can be answered otherwise than by exposing them. In such analysis and exposition, which, I own, I have attempted without ceremony or reserve, an air of ridicule, is unavoidable: But this ridicule, I am well aware, if founded in misrepresentation, will at last rebound upon myself. It is possible, that, in some things, I have mistaken the author's meaning; I am conscious, that I have not, in any thing, designedly misrepresented it.