There is one late writer, David Hume, Esq. who, it must be confessed, hath excelled all that went before him in an extraordinary account of the nature of virtue. I have taken no notice above of his principles, if they may be called so, because I think both him and them worthy of the highest contempt; and would have disdained to have made mention of his name, but that it affords me an opportunity of expressing my sense of the wrong measures taken by many worthy and able men, who, in sermons and other discourses, give grave and serious answers to his writings.
As to himself, that man must be beyond the reach of conviction by reasoning, who is capable of such an insult upon reason itself and human nature, as to rank all natural advantages, mental and corporeal, among the virtues, and their contraries among the vices. Thus he hath expressly named wit, genius, health, cleanliness, taper legs, and broad shoulders, among his virtues; diseases he also makes vices; and, consistently enough indeed, takes notice of the infectious nature of some diseases, which, I suppose, he reckons an aggravation of the crime.
And, as to mankind in general, if they were at that pass as to need a refutation of such nonsense, as well as impiety, it would be in vain to reason with them at all. If I were to contrive an answer to this writer, it would be a visible, instead of a legible answer; it would be to employ a painter to make a portrait of him from the life; to encompass him with a few hieroglyphics, which it would not be difficult to devise; to inscribe upon his breast these words:
HEALTH, CLEANLINESS, and BROAD SHOULDERS
and to put the following sentence in his mouth, which he hath adopted from a French author:
FEMALE INFIDELITY, when it is known, is a small matter; and when it is not known, it is nothing.
This would be very proper when applied to his writings, who as well as his friend and coadjutor without a name, makes “our most important reasoning upon many subjects, to rest ultimately upon sense and feeling.”
It is probable some over-delicate persons will think this is not treating him with sufficient decency; but till there be a plan agreed upon, of the measures of decency due from infidels to Christians, and from Christians to infidels, whether he does not deserve far worse treatment from any who believes the gospel, I leave to the judgment of those who will read his writings.
John Witherspoon, footnote in “An Essay on the Doctrine of Justification”
Response to Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals