Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/49

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SIR JOHN LESLIE. 419


The note alluded to was one in reference to the unph ilosophical theories which once attempted to explain the phenomena of gravitation by means of invisible jetliers. Mr Leslie, in treating this point, found it convenient to refer to Mi- Hume's theory of cause and effect, in which, as is well known, he makes use of certain generally received doctrines to invalidate the argument for the exist- ence of the Deity. In making the reference, it did not seem to Mr Leslie to be necessary that he should condemn the ultimate use made of these doctrines by Mr Hume, since he was only engaged in a physical examination. His note, therefore, stands as follows : " Mr Hume is the first, so far as I know, who has treated of causation in a truly philosophic manner. His Essay on Necessary Connexion seems a model of clear and accurate reasoning. But it was only wanted to dispel the cloud of mystery which had so long darkened that im- portant subject. The unsophisticated sentiments of mankind are in perfect uni- son with the deductions of logic, and imply at bottom nothing more in the rela- tion of cause and effect, than a constant invariable sequence." From these words, however, it was evident, in the opinion of his clerical opponents, " that Mr Leslie, having, with Mr Hume, denied all such necessary connexion between cause and effect, as implies an operating principle in the cause, has, of course, laid a foundation for rejecting all argument that is derived from the works of God, to prove either his being or attributes."

When Mr Leslie was informed of the grounds on which the Edinburgh min- isters rested their opposition, he addressed a letter to the Rev. Dr Hunter, pro- fessor of divinity, and one of the few clergymen of the city who were not opposed thim, laying before him some explanations of the note, to which he begged him to call the attention of his brethren. These explanations were chiefly what are stated above, and are thus followed up: "I have the fullest conviction that my ideas on the question to which the note refers, would appear to coincide, in every essential respect, with those of the most enlightened adversaries of Mr Hume's philosophy. But, limited as I am to a few moments of time, I can only disavow (which I do with the greatest sincerity and solemnity,) every infer- ence which the ingenuity of my opponents nmy be pleased to draw from the partial view I have taken of the general doctrine, to the prejudice of those evi- dences on which the truths of religion are founded. If I live to publish another edition of my work, I pledge myself to show in an additional paragraph,, how grossly and injuriously I have been treated on this occasion. * * It is pain- ful to be called on, after the habits of intimacy in which I have lived with the most exemplary characters in both parts of the island, to repel a direct charge of atheism ; but whatever may be the effect of such calumnies on the minds of strangers, it affords me much consolation to think, that they will be heard with contempt and indignation by those who know the real state of my sentiments, and particularly by such as are acquainted with the strictness of those religious principles in which I had the happiness to be educated from my earliest years."

This letter was laid before the ministers at a meeting held by them on the 12th of March (1805) ; but being, to use their own phrase, by no means satisfied with it, they appointed a committee, consisting of Dr Grieve, Mr David Black, Mr David Dickson, and Dr Inglis, to proceed to the town-council and protest against the election of Mr Leslie. As the council was to be that day engaged in the election, the committee went accordingly to their chamber, and presented a protest which had been prepared, in which, besides stating the grand objection of the note and their inferences from it as to Mr Leslie's religious principles, they stated that, " in the event of his being elected, notwithstanding this repre- sentation, they reserved to themselves full power of questioning the validity of such election, and of employing whatever means may, to them, be found compe-