Page images
PDF
EPUB

48. TO THE JURY IN THE CASE OF J. A. WILLIAMS FOR A LIBEL

ON THE CLERGY OF DURHAM.--Brougham.

The Church of England has nothing to dread from external violence. Built upon a rock, and lifting its head towards another world, it aspires to an imperishable existence, and defies any force that may rage from without. But let its friends beware of the corruption engendered within and beneath its massive walls, and in that corruption let all its well-wishers, all who, whether for religious or for political interests, desire its stability, beware how they give encouragement to the vermin bred in that corruption, and who stick and sting against the hand that would brush the rottenness away! My learned friend sympathizes with the priesthood of Durham; and innocently enough laments that they possess not the power of defending themselves through the public press. Let him be consoled; they are not so very defenseless; they are not so entirely destitute of the aids of the press, as through their council they affect to be. They have largely used that press, I wish I could say “as not abusing it”—and against some persons very near me, I mean especially against the defendant, whom they have scurrilously and foully libeled, through that very vehicle of public instruction, over which, for the first time, among the other novelties of the day, I now hear they have no command. Not, indeed, that they have wounded deeply, or injured much, but that is no fault of theirs—and, without hurting, they have given annoyance. The insect nestled in filth, and brought into life by corruption-I mean the dirt-fly,--though its flight be lowly, and its sting puny, can buzz and storm, and irritate the skin, and offend the nostril, and altogether give nearly as much annoyance as the wasp, whom it aspires to emulate. So these reverend slanderers—these pious backbiters—devoid of force to wield the sword, snatch the dagger ; and destitute of wit to point or to barb it, and make it rankle in the wound, steep it in venom to make it fester in the scratch. Those venerated personages, whose harmless and undefended state is now deplored, have been the wholesale dealers in calumny—the especial promoters of that vile traffick of late the disgrace of the country—and now they come to demand protection against retaliation, and shelter from just exposure; and, to screen themselves, would have you prohibit all investigation of the abuses by which they exist, and the malpractice by which they disgrace their calling. If all existing institutions and all public functionaries must henceforth be sacred from question among

the people ; if, at length, the free press of this country, and with it the freedom itself, is to be destroyed-at least let not this heavy blow fall from your hands—leave it to some profligate tyrant; leave it to a mercenary and effeminate parliament -a hireling army, degraded by the lash, and the appointed instrument of enslaving its fellow-citizens ; leave it to a pampered House of Lords; a venal House of Commons; some vulgar minion, servant of all work to an insolent and rapacious court—some unprincipled soldier, unknown, thank God, in our times, combining the talents of an usurper with the fame of a captain—leave to such desperate hands and such fit tools so horrid a work! But you, an English jury, parent of the press, yet supported by it, and doomed to perish the instant its health and strength are gone ; lift not you against it an unnatural hand-prove to the country that her rights are safe in your keeping; but maintain above all things the stability of her institutions by well guarding her corner-stone ; defend the church from her worst enemies, who, to hide their own misdeeds, would veil her solid foundations in darkness; and proclaim to them by your verdict of acquittal, that henceforward, as heretofore, all the recesses of the sanctuary must be visited by the continual light of the day, and by that light all its abuses “be explored!"

a

49. PAINE'S AGE OF REASON.-Erskine.

It seems, gentlemen, this is an age of reason, and the time and the person are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors that 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. In running the mind along the numerous 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 assumptions 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.

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 through nature up to nature's God.” 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 driveling 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 highest pitch of devotion and adoration a Christian. Mr. Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the fountain of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning the devious mind of man, by showing 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 traffick of the world, and to the laws which partially regulate mankind. Gentlemen, in the place where you 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 Mr. Paine, 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 bis immortal song; and though shut eut 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 passed the bounds of flaming space,
Whère angels tremble while they gaze;
He saw, till blasted with excess of light,

He closed his eyes in endless night.” 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.

Thus, gentlemen, you find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illustrious, among created beings, all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if not inspired by their 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 sublime chorus to celebrate the truths of Christianity, and laying upon its holy altars the never-fading offerings of their immortal wisdom.

[blocks in formation]

Real war, my friends, is a very different thing from that painted image of it, which you see on a parade, or at a review; it is the most awful scourge that Providence employs for the chastisement of man. It is the garment of vengeance with which the Deity arrays himself, when he comes forth to punish the inhabitants of the earth.

Though we must all die, as the woman of Tekoa said, and are as water spilt upon the ground which cannot be gathered up, yet it is impossible for a humane mind to contemplate the rapid extinction of innumerable lives without concern. To perish in a moment, to be hurried instantaneously, without preparation and without warning, into the presence of the Supreme Judge, has something in it inexpressibly awful and affecting

Since the commencement of those hostilities which are now so happily closed, it may be reasonably conjectured that not less than half a million of our fellow-creatures have fallen a sacrifice. Half a million of beings, sharers of the same nature, warmed with the same hopes, and as fondly attached to life as ourselves, have been prematurely swept into the grave; each

a

We can

of whose deaths has pierced the heart of a wife, a parent, a brother, or a sister. How many of these scenes of complicated distress have occurred since the commencement of hostilities, is known only to Omniscience : that they are innumerable, cannot admit of a doubt. In some parts of Europe, perhaps, there is scarcely a family exempt.

In war, death reigns without a rival, and without control.War is the work, the element, or rather the sport and triumph of death, who glories not only in the extent of his conquest, but in the richness of his spoil. In the other methods of attack, in the other forms which death assumes, the feeble and the aged, who at the best can live but a short time, are usually the victims; here it is the vigorous and the strong.

To confine our attention to the number of those who are slain in battle, would give but a very inadequate idea of the ravages of the sword. The lot of those who perish instantaneously, may be considered, apart from religious prospects, as comparatively happy, since they are exempt from those lingering diseases and slow torments, to which others are liable. not see an individual expire, though a stranger or an enemy, without being sensibly moved, and prompted

by compassion to lend him every assistance in our power. Every trace of resentment vanishes in a moment; every other emotion gives way to pity and terror.

In these last extremities, we remember nothing but the respect and tenderness due to our common nature. What a scene then must a field of battle present, where thousands are left without assistance, and without pity, with their wounds exposed to the piercing air, while the blood, freezing as it flows, binds them to the earth, amidst the trampling of horses, and the insults of an enraged foe!

But we have hitherto only adverted to the sufferings of those who are engaged in the profession of arms, without taking into our account the situation of the countries which are the scene of hostilities. How dreadful to hold every thing at the mercy of an enemy, and to receive life itself as a boon dependent on the sword. How boundless the fears which such a situation must inspire, where the issues of life and death are determined by no known laws, principles or customs, and no conjecture can be formed of our destiny, except as far as it is dimly deciphered in characters of blood, in the dictates of revenge, and the caprices of power.

Conceive but for a moment the consternation which the approach of an invading army would impress on the peaceful villages in this neighborhood. When you have placed your

« PreviousContinue »