« PreviousContinue »
are specified, which are guarded by the law of the land in like manner; now it may possibly have been imagined, that because this act is in force against those who shall have been EDUCATED IN, or PROFESSED the Christian religion, who shall act against its injunctions, that any not so educated, or not having made such profession, are at liberty to act as shall seem good unto them, and to deny the divine authority of the New Testament, and to speak or write, or print whatever reproachful words they please against the great author and finisher of our faith, Heb. xii. 2.The act of King William does not revoke the common law of the land, it only EXTENDS it in particular instances :—“ Blasphemy against the Almighty, 66 by denying his being or providence”—" or by con66 tumelious reproaches of our Saviour, Christ” "s profane scoffing also at the Holy Scripture, or ex" posing it to contempt and ridicule."-" These are “ offences punishable at comMON LAW, by fine and 66 imprisonment, or other INFAMOUS CORPORAL 66 PUNISHMENT, for CHRISTIANITY IS PART 66 OF THE LAWS OF ENGLAND." Black. stone's Com. vol. iv. page 59.
These things should have entered into the confideration of Dr. Priestley before he presumed to throw down the gauntlet to the Jews. We know that they do not consider the New Testament as of divine authority; we know that they do not consider our Lord Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, as we do. He who created the heavens and the earth, in whose hands are their breath and being, he bears with thema
The law of the land also tolerates them in thcir opinions, handed down to them from their ancestors ; and as long as they conduct themselves with the
propriety which they do; as long as they are contented to keep their sentiments within the pale of their own community, so long they will be regarded with sympathy, with tenderness, with benevolence, by Christians; so long will they be cherished by the liberal-minded legislature of this land, and I trust, also, vindicated and protected in the enjoyment of their comforts, in the liberty of their persons, in their property, and what they are taught to regard as dearer to them than the liberty of their persons and the enjoyment of their property, nay even as far dearer than life itself, the undisturbed enjoyment of their religion.
But, on the other hand, were they to attempt to make profelytes; were they to so far forget their situation among us, as to interfere with our religion ; were they to forget the TERMS upon which they were permitted to return to this land which they love; to this nation, which they respect; the consequences would be such as I cannot contemplate without agony, I will therefore turn away from it. This dreadful evil to the Jewish nation, should have entered into the estimate of Dr. Priestley. His challenge was cal. culated to bring this dreadful evil upon them. Notwithstanding Mr. David Levi might be said, at the bar of the public, to make good his cause, and to indisputably prove that he was invited by Dr. Priestley to an amicable discussion of the evidences of Christianity; yet this would not have been admitted as a
good good plea on behalf of Mr. David Levi, if he had been called in question on account of those expresfions, which were contumacious calumniations against our blessed Saviour. He would have been told that no invitation to discussion, no incitement, could be admitted in our law as an excuse for the commission of an unlawful act : much as it might have outraged the feelings of the Jury, the fact being proved, he must have been convicted of a breach of the law. The judge would have told them that they were not called and sworn to make or to mitigate laws, but to execute them: however painful it might have been lo the judge ; however ardently he might have wished that he were about to pronounce sentence upon Dr. Priestley, the author of the mischief, instead of Mr. David Levi, whom the Doctor had decoyed into the trap, he must, according to his oath, have pronounced the sentence of the law
him. All these things should have entered into the contemplation of Dr. Priestley before he gave the challenge to debate. We justly ABHOR duelling; but would not our abhorrence be greatly increased; would not our indignation be more strongly aroused, if a strong and active man were to challenge to single combat, with swords, a venerable old man, a stranger and sojourner amongst us, who had never injured him ; would it not excite our indignation against the challenger, if it should have appeared that at the time the challenge was given, a law was in existence whereby this venerable old man would be subject to
fevere PUNISHMENT for every wound his hand might give to his challenger ?
Instead, therefore, of inviting the Jews to this difcussion, the very utmost that he should have presumed to do should have been to have laid any arguments before them, and even this should, in honour, in charity, nay more, in common humanity, have been accompanied with a CAUTION to beware how they conducted themselves in consequence of his address; that if urged, by veneration for their parents and predecessors to reply, either in writing, or even by advised speaking against him whom Christians believe to be the true Messiah to any but a Jew, they would by the law of the land subject themselves to be punished by FINE, by IMPRISONMENT, by pilo LORY, or other INFAMOUS CORPORAL PUNISH
It did not suit the purpose, or possibly it did not enter into the thoughts of Dr. Priestley to proceed further than throwing out his paper serpents; but if he had proceeded so far as to open a meeting to preach to such Jews as might be inclined to hear him, a board, containing this CAUTION in large characters, should have been placed on each side the door, and in the front of each gallery; and to guard against the possibility that some might not be able to read, it should also have been proclaimed from the pulpit.
I have now done with Dr. Priestley; I leave you to draw the inferences, and hope that you will have the candour to see my motive hath been to lay the
true fate of the case before you, in the way which appeared to me to be least calculated to excite anger or to give offence, either to yourself or to the London Society.
I shall now proceed to that part of your letter in which I am more particularly interested; and in the first place let me assure you, that I do sincerely forgive the very CONTEMPTUOUS language in which you speak of me and of my book. It is plain you have not read it, or you would not have expressed yourself in the manner you have done ; you say, “ I s have not the honour of knowing that gentleman, or 6 the means he has had of acquiring literature ;” if you had read the book you would have perceived that I do not pretend to have acquired literature; but in many parts of the book I speak of myself as an unlearned man--I am so- I never had further means of acquiring literature than those which are now fo common amongst us, a boarding school education, and like by far the major part of those thus educated, who are not afterwards in the habit of employing what little they have acquired; I am not ashamed of confeffing, that, from want of use, I cannot now WITH PLEASURE read
mother tongue; but I have not so far forgot my Latin as to deprive me of the ability (if I wished to avail myself of it) to add a Latin motto to my book, or to intersperse a few Latin sentences here and there to gain the attention of the grossly ignorant, and thus to assume consequence; but far be it from me,