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David Hume And His Mother

( Originally Published 1851 )

Hume, the historian, received a religious education from his mother, and, early in life, was the subject of strong and hopeful religious impressions; but, as he approached manhood, they were effaced, and confirmed infidelity succeeded. Maternal partiality, however alarmed at first, came at length to look with less and less pain upon this declension, and filial love and reverence seem to have been absorbed in the pride of philosophical skepticism ; for Hume now applied himself with unwearied, and, unhappily, with successful efforts, to sap the foundation of his mother's faith. Having succeeded in this dreadful work, he went abroad into foreign countries ; and as he was returning, an express met him in London, with a letter from his mother, informing him that she was in a deep decline, and could not long survive ; she said she found herself without any support in her distress ; that he had taken away that source of comfort upon which, in all cases of affliction, she used to rely, and that she now found her mind sinking into despair: she did not doubt that her son would afford her some substitute for her religion ; and she conjured him to hasten to her, or at least to send her a letter, containing such consolations as philosophy can afford to a dying mortal. Hume was overwhelmed with anguish on receiving this letter, and hastened to Scotland, travelling day and night ; but be-fore he arrived his mother expired.

No permanent impression seems, however, to have been made on his mind by this most trying event ; and whatever remorse he might have felt at the moment, he soon relapsed into his wonted obduracy of heart. SILLIMAN's Travels in England. A story like this requires no comment. Thus it is that false philosophy restores the sting to death, and gives again the victory to the grave !

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