Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Of this accusation the meaning is not very easy to be found. No instrument of correction is more proper than another, but as it is better adapted to produce present pain without lasting mischief. Whatever were his instruments, no lasting mischief has ensued ; and therefore, however unusual, in hands so cautious they were proper.

In a place like Campbell-town, it is easy for one of 'the principal inhabitants to make a party. It is easy for that party to heat themselves with imaginary grievances. It is easy for them to oppress a man poorer than themselves; and natural to assert the dignity of riches, by persisting in oppression. The argument which attempts to prove the impropriety of restoring the respondent to the school, by alledging that he has lost the confidence of the people, is not the subject of juridical consideration; for he is to suffer, if he must suffer, not for their judgment, but for his own actions. It may be convenient for them to have another master, but it is a convenience of their own making. It would be likewise convenient for him to find another school; but this convenience he cannot obtain. The question is not what is now convenient, but what is generally right. If the people of Campbell-town be distressed by the restoration of the respondent, they are distressed only by their own fault; by turbulent passions and unreasonable desires; by tyranny, which law has defeated, and by malice, which virtue has surmounted.

SECTION IV.

Part of the speech of the honourable Thomas (now lord) Erskine, for the prosecution against Williams, publisher of Paine's Age of Reason. GENTLEMEN,

How any man can rationally vindicate the publication of such a book, in a country where the chris

W

tian religion is the very foundation of the law of the land, I am totally at a loss to conceive, and have no ideas for the discussion of! How is a tribunal, whose whole jurisdiction is founded upon the solemn belief and practice of what is denied as falsehood, and reprobated as impiety, to deal with such an anomalous defence? Upon what principle is it even offered to the court whose authority is contemned and mocked at? If the religion proposed to be called in question, is not previously adopted in belief and solemnly acted upon, what authority has the court to pass any judgment at all of acquital or condemnation? Under what sanction are the witnesses to give their evidence, without which there can be no trial? Under what obligations can I call upon you, (the jury representing your country,) to administer justice? Surely upon no other than that you are sworn to administer it under the oaths you have taken.

The whole judicial fabric from the king's sovereign authority to the lowest office of magistracy, has no other foundation. The whole is built both in form and substance, upon the same oath of every one of its ministers, to do justice, as God shall help them hereafter. What God? and what hereafter? That God undoubtedly, who has commanded kings to rule, and judges to decree justice; who has said to witnesses not only by the voice of nature, but in revealed commandments-thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbour; and who has enforced obedience to them by the revelation of the unutterable blessings which shall attend their observances, and the awful punishments which shall await upon their transgressions.

But it seems, this is an age of reason, and the time and the persons are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors which have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The believers in christianity are many, but it belongs to the few that are wise to correct their credulity. Belief is an act of and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak.

reason,

In running the mind along the long list of sincere and devout christians, I cannot help lamenting that Newton had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light.But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a christian! Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters cast by nature upon our finite conceptions-Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was philosophy; not those visionary and arrogant presumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting on the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie-Newton, who carried the line and rule to the utmost barriers of creation, and explored the principles by which, no doubt, all created matter is held together and exists. But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors which a minuter investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his creator.

What shall then be said of the great Mr. Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, even to the brute inanimate substances which the foot treads on? Such a man may be supposed to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine to look up through nature to nature's God. Yet the result of all his contemplations was the most confirmed and devout belief of all which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition.-But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of a due attention to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth.-Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who was, to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration, a christian. Mr.Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the foundation of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning the devious mind of man, by shewing him its whole process, from_the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of ra-

tiocination, putting a rein besides upon false opinion, by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment. But these men were only deep thinkers, and lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world and to the laws which practically regulate mankind..

Gentlemen! in the place where we now sit to administer the justice of this great country, above a century ago, the never to be forgotten sir Matthew Hale presided; whose faith in christianity is an exalted. commentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life was a glorious example of it fruits in man, adminis tering human justice with a wisdom and purity drawn from the pure fountain of the christian dispensation, which has been, and will be, in all ages, a subject of the highest reverence and admiration. But it is said by the author that the christian-fable is but the tale of the more ancient superstitions of the world, and may be easily detected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the heathens. Did Milton understand those mythologies? Was he less versed than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world? No,, they were the subject of his immortal song; and though shut out from all recurrence to them, he pour ed them forth from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew ; and laid them in their order as the illustration of that real and exalted faith, the unquestionable source of that fervid genius, which cast a sort of shade upon all the other works of man"He passed the bounds of flaming space,. Where angels tremble while they gaze; He saw till blasted with excess of light, He closed his eyes in endless light."

""

But it was the light of the body only that was ex-tinguished: "The celestial light shone inward, and enabled him to justify the ways of God to man. The result of his thinking was nevertheless not the same as the author's. The mysterious incarnation of our blessed Saviour (which this work blasphemes in words so wholly unfit for the mouth of a christian, or for the ear of a court of justice, that I dare not, and

will not, give them utterance) Milton made the grand conclusion of the Paradise Lost, the rest of his finished labours, and the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world.

Thus you find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illustrious, amongst created beings; all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if not inspired by its universal author for the advancement and dignity of the world, though divided by distant ages, and by the clashing opinions, distinguishing them from one another, yet joining as it were in one sub-lime chorus, to celebrate the truths of christianity, and laying upon its holy altars the never-fading offerings of their immortal wisdom..

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Extract from Mr. Martin's speech in the trial of Judge Chace.

Before judge Chase went from Baltimore, to hold the circuit court at Richmond, he knew that the sedition law had been violated in Virginia. I had myself put into his hands, The Prospect Before Us. He felt it his duty to enfore the laws of his country. What, sir, is a judge in one part of the United States," to permit the breach of our laws to go unpunished, because they are there unpopular, and in another part to carry them into execution, because there they may be thought wise and salutary? And would you really wish your judges, instead of acting from principle, to court only the applause of their auditors? Would you wish them to be what'sir Michael Foster has so correctly stated, the most contemptible of all characters, popular judges: Judges who look for

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »