Imatges de pÓgina

that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me and saying, in the Hebrew tongue, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goads." And I said, “Who art thou, lord ?" And he said, " I am ·Jesus, whom thou persecutest; but arise, and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister, and a witness both of these things thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from this people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Whereupon, O king Agrippa! I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea; and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having there. fore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come,—that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto this people, and to the Gentiles.

(And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said, with a loud voice, “ Paul, thou art beside thyself; much Jearging doth make thee mad.”. But he said,-)

I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness; for the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely : for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

King Agrippa! believest thou the prophets ? I know that thou believest.

(Then Agrippa said unto Paul, 5 Almost thou per. suadest me to be a christian.” And Paul said,-)

I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both ainiost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

X. Speech of the honourable Thomas (now 1,0RD)

Erskine, for the prosecution against Williams,
publisher of Paine's Age of Reason.


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The charge of blasphemy, which is put upon the record against the printer of this publication is not an accusation of the servants of the crown, but comes before you sanctioned by the oaths of a grand jury of the country. It stood for trial upon a former day; but it happening, as it frequently does, without any imputation upon the gentlemen named in the pannel, that a sufficient number did not appear to constitute a full special jury, I thought it my duty to withdraw the cause from trial, till I could have the opportunity which is now open to me of addressing myself to you, who were originally appointed to try it.

I pursued this course, however, from no jealousy of the common juries appointed by the laws for the ordinary service of the court, since my whole life has been one continued experience of their virtues; but because I thought it of great importance that those who were to decide upon a cause so very momentous to the public

, should have the highest possible qualifications for the decision. That they should not only be men capable from their educations of forming an enlightened judgement, but that their situations should be such as to bring thein within the full view of their enlightened country, to which in character and in estimation they were in their own turns to be responsible.

Not having the honour, gentlemen, to be sworn for the king as one of his counsel, it has fallen much oftener to my lot to defend indictments for libels, than to assist in the prosecution of them. But I feel no embarrass. ment from that recollection; since I shall not be found to-day to express a sentiment, or to utter an inconsistent with those invaluable principles for which I have uniformly contended in the defence of others. No. thing that I have ever said, cither professionally or pero sonally for the liberty of the press, do I mean to-day to

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contradict or counteract. On the contrary, I desire to preface the very short discourse I have to make to you with reminding you, that it is your most solemn duty to take care that it suffers no injury in your hands. ' A free and unlicensed press (in the just and legal sense of the expression) has led to all the blessings both of reli. gion and government, which Great Britain or any part of the world at this moment enjoys, and is calcnlated still farther to advance mankind to higher degrees of civilization and happiness. But this freedom, like every other, must be limited to be enjoyed, and like every other human advantage, may be defeated by its abuse.

Gentlemen! the defendant stands indicted for having published this book, which I have only read from the obligation of professional duty, and which I rose from the reading of with astonishment and disgust. Standing here with all the privileges belonging to the highest counsel for the crown, I shall be entitled to reply to any defence that shall be made for the publication. I shall wait with patience till I hear it.

Indeed, if I were to anticipate the defence which I hear and read of, it would be defaming by anticipation the learned counsel who is to make it. For if I am to collect it, even from a formal notice given to the prose. cutors in the course of the proceedings, I have to expect, that instead of a defence conducted according to the rules and principles of English law and justice; the foundation of all our laws, and the sanctions of all our justice, are to be struck at and insulted. What is the force of that jurisdiction which enables the court to sit in judgement? What but the oaths which his lordship, as well as yourselves, have sworn upon the gospel to fulfil. Yet in the king's court, where his majesty is him. self also sworn to administer the justice of England,in the king's court--who receives his high authority under a solemn oath to maintain the christlan religion, as it is promulgated by God in the holy scriptures, I am nevertheless called upon as counsel for the prosecution to produce a certain book described in the indictment to be the holy bible

No man deserves to be upon the rolls of the court, who dares, as an attorney, to put his name to such á

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notice. It is an insult to the anthority and dignity on the conrt of which he is an officer; since it seems to call in question the very foundation of its jurisdiction. If this is to be the spirit and temper of the defence; if, as I collect from that array of books which are spread upon the benches behind me, this publication is to be vindicated by an attack of all the truths which the christian religion promulgates to mankind, let it be remembered, that such an argument_was neither suggested nor jus. tified by any thing said by me on the part of the prose. cution.

In this stage of the proceedings, I shall call for reve. rence to the sacred scriptures, not from their merits, unbounded as they are, but from their authority in a christian country--not from the obligations of con. science, but from the rules of law. For my own part, gentlemen, I have ever been 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 greatest consolation of a life which, as a shadow, must pass away; and without it, indeed, I should consider my long course of health and prosperity (perhaps too long and too uninterrupted to be good for any man) only as the dust which the wind scate ters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing.

Moch, however, as I wish to support the authority of scripture from a reasoned consideration of it, I shall repress that subject, for the present. But if the defence shall be as I have suspected, to bring them at all into argument or question, I shall then fulfil a duty which I owe not only to the court as counsel for the prosecution, but to the public, to state what I feel and know con. cerning the evidences of that religion, which is reviled without being examined, and denied without being un. derstood. I am well aware that by the communications of a free press, all the errors of mankind, from age to age have been dissipated, and dispelled; and I recollect that the world, under the banners of reformed christi. anity, has struggled through persecution to the noble


eminence on which it stands at this moment, shedding the blessings of humanity and science upon the nations of the earth.

It may be asked, by what means the reformation would have been effected, if the books of the reformers had been suppressed, and the errors of condemned and ex, ploded sa perstitions had been supported as unquestion. able by the state founded on those very supersitions for. merly, as it is at present upon the doctrines of the estab. lished church. Or how, upon such principles, any reformation, civil or religious, can in future be effected. The solution is easy :-let us examine what are the general principles of the liberty of the press, as they regard writings on general subjects, unconnected with the per. sonal reputation of private men, which are wholly foreign to the present enquiry. They are full of simplicity, and are brought as near perfection, by the law of Eng. land, as perhaps is consistent with any of the frail insti. tutions of mankind.

Although every community must establish supreme authorities, founded upon fixed principles, and must give higher powers to magistrates to administer laws for the preservation of the government itself, and for the secu. rity of those who are to be protected by it: yet, as infallibility and perfection belong neither to human establishments nor to human individuals, it ought to be the policy of all free establishments, as it is most peculiarly the principle of our own constitution, to permit the most unbounded freedom of discussion, even by de.

errors in the constitution or administration of the Very government itself, as that decorum is observed,

every state must exact from its subjects, and which imposes no restraint upon any intellectual composition, fairly, honestly, and decently addressed to the consciences and understandings of men. Upon this principle I have an unquestionable right (a right which the best subjects have exercised) to examine the principles and structure of the constitution, and by fair and manly Teasoning, to question the practice of its administrators. I have a right to consider and to point out errors in the ong or in the other; and not merely to reason upon their existence, but to consider the means of their refox mation.



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