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of the following work. Mr. ERSKINE's name is there, men-, tioned with honour. But as he hath since come forward in, a manner more direct and full in behalf of Religion and the Sacred Writings, I cannot do the religious reader a greater, pleasure, or render the deistical one a more important service, than by presenting him in this place, with the substance of the SPEECH which this celebrated ORATOR delivered upon the trial of WILLIAMS, in the Court of King's Bench, for publishing THOMAS PAINE's Age of Reason, on the 24th of June 1797, before Lord KENYON and a Special Jury.
"GENTLEMEN! the Defendant stands indicted for having published this book, which I have only read from the obligations of professional duty, and from the reading of which I rose, with astonishment and disgust.-For my own part, GENTLEMEN, I have been ever deeply devoted to the truths of Christianity, and my firm belief in the Holy Gospel is by no means owing to the prejudices of education (though I was religiously educated by the best of parents,) but arises from the fullest and most continued reflections of my riper years and understanding. It forms, at this moment, the great consolation of a life, which, as a shadow, must pass away; and without it, indeed, I should consider my long course of health and prospe rity (perhaps too long and too uninterrupted to be good for any man) only as the dust which the wind scatters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing.
"This Publication appears to me to be as mischievous and cruel in its probable effects, as it is manifestly illegal in its principles; because it strikes at the best, sometimes, alas! the only refuge and consolation, amidst the distresses and afflictions of the world. The poor and humble, whom it affects to pity, may be stabbed to the heart by it. They have more occasion for firm hopes beyond the grave, than those who have greater comforts to render life delightful. I can conceive a distressed but virtuous man, surrounded by children looking up to him for bread when he has none to give them, sinking under the last day's labour, and unequal to the next, yet till looking up with
confidence to the hour when all tears shall be wiped from the eyes of affliction, bearing the burden laid upon him by a mystericus Providence which he adores, and looking forward with exultation to the revealed promises of his CREATOR, when he shall be greater than the greatest, and happier than the happiest of mankind. What a change in such a mind might not be wrought by such a merciless publication?”
But it seems, this is an Age of Reason, and the time and the person 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 reason, and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak. le
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 foundatoin sofwhose knowledge of it was philosophy: Not those visionary and arrogant presumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon 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!”elseɔmii,use dood oli ta puh ↑
ToʻaBut this extraordinary man in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors which a minuter inves tigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his CREATOR.
What then shall be said of the great Mr. BOYLE, whe 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 Gop. Yet the result of all his contemplation was the most confirmed and devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition."
'But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of 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 Lighest pitch of devotion and adoration, a Christians Mr. Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the fountains 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 ratiocination, 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 its fruits in man, administering 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 hut out from all recurrence to them, he poured 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 pass'd the bounds of flaming space,
But it was the light of the body only that was extinguished; 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 from his finished labours, and the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world:
"A Virgin is his Mother, but his SIRE,
power of the MOST HIGH; he shall ascend
Mr. E. next entered most forcibly and deeply into the Evidences of Christianity, particularly those that were founded on that stupendous scheme of prophecy, which formed one of the most unanswerable arguments for the truth of the Christian
Piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer
Religion. "It was not," he said, "the purpose of God to destroy free agency by overpowering the human mind with the irresistible light and conviction of revelation, but to leave men to collect its truths, as they were gradually illustrated in the accomplishment of the divine promises of the Gospel. Bred as he was to the consideration of evidence, he declared he considered the prophecy concerning the destruction of the Jewish nation, if there was nothing else to support Christianity, absolutely irresistible. The division of the Jews into tribes, to preserve the genealogy of CHRIST; the distinction of the tribe of Judah, from which he was to come; the loss of that distinction when that end was accomplished; the predicted departure of the sceptre from Israel; the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, which imperial munificence in vain attempted to rebuild to disgrace the prophecy: the dispersion of this nation over the face of the whole earth; the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world; the persecutions of its true ministers, and the foretold superstitions which for ages had defiled its worship." These were topics upon which Mr. ERSKINĘ expatiated with great eloquence, and produced a most powerful effect on every part of the audience*.
Lord KENYON then, in addressing the Jury, among other important things, said, "I sincerely wish that the author of the work in question may become a partaker of that faith in revealed religion, which he has so grossly defamed, and may be enabled to make his peace with GOD for that disorder, which he has endeavoured to the utmost of his power to introduce into society. We have heard to-day, that the light of nature, and the contemplation of the works of creation, are sufficient, without any other revelation of the divine will. SOCRATES, PLATO, XENOPHON, TULLY-each of them in their turns professed they wanted other lights; and knowing and confessing that GOD was good, they took it for granted the time would
* Though I greatly admire the defence of Mr. ERSKINE in this oration, I am not clear that the prosecution can be justified upon the genuine principles of Christian liberty.