Page images
PDF
EPUB

the decrees of Councils and Popes, from acts of uniformity and articles of faith, we appeal to the Bible. Let us study that with a sincere and honest intention to arrive at the truth; let us make our creed bend to the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures to our creed, and we have reason to hope that the Divine blessing will accompany our labours.

I will only add, in conclusion, my request that those persons who may read this Leiter will do me the favour to read your Sermon also. They will find in it much to admire and to applaud. They will see in it the piety, the sincerity, the benevolence, the eloquence of a Christian minister. I trust I have not misrepresented the opinions it endeavours to support. Certainly I have not done so willingly. But it is impossible for any body to have our arguments on both sides fairly before him, without reading all that each of us has said.

I am, Reverend Sir,
With very sincere respect,
Your obedient Servant,

EDWARD TAYLOR. Norwich, June 28, 1825.

THE END.

Printed by Richard Taylor, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street.

THE

TRIUMPH OF TRUTH:

BEING

AN ACCOUNT

OF THE

TRIAL OF MR. ELWALL,

Disa about 1745, vamad. BEFORE JUDGE DENTON,

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

PRINTED FOR THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN NITARIAN ASSOCIA

TION, 3, WALBROOK BUILDINGS, WALBROOK; SOLD ALSO BY R. HUNTER, 72, st. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD.

This Trial is printed from the Author's second edition, even without altering such phrases as are peculiar to that devomination of Christians with whom he generally associated, and whose style he adopted ; and certainly the Quakers ought to think themselves honoured even by this kind of relation to Mr. Elwall. Such firmuess in the cause of Truth, and such presence of mind in asserting and vindicating it, as appear in this Trial, are truly apostolical, and have had but few examples since the first promulgation of Christianity. It is impossible for an unprejudiced person to read this account of it (which is written with so much true simplicity, perspicuity, and strength of evideuce) without feeling the greatest veneration for the writer, the fullest conviction and love of the truth, and a proportionable zeal in maintaining it. I should even think it impossible for the most prejudiced person to read it attentively, but, if he use po violence with his own mind, he will receive some favourable impressions both of the author and of that cause which he supports with such becoming dignity, and with a temper and dispositiou of mind in every respect worthy of a true Christian.

So great was the force of truth on this memorable occasion, that Mr. Elwall was honourably discharged, though he had certainly acted contrary to the express laws of this country, according to which this glorious man ought to have been sentenced to a serere punishment, as a convicted and avowed blasphemer. What must a lover of truth, and of free inquiry, as subservient to truth, think of such laws, and of the ecclesiastical constitution of the countries in which they are [were] in force !

It is to be wished that such a mouument of the TRIUMPH OF TRUTH might be constantly held out to the view of all mankind, and particularly in this couutry, where it was exhibited.

The Dedication of the treatise on account of which Mr. Elwall was prosecuted, is dated the eighth day of the second month, 1724; he speaks of his trial in a treatise entitled, A Declaration aguinst all Kings and Temporal Powers under Heaven, printed iu 1732; and Judge Denton, before whom he was tried, went the Oxford circuit in 1726 and 1728. From these circumstances it may be concluded, that the former of these years is the date of this remarkable trial, especially as, in some part of the same year, 1726, Mr. Elwall published another defence of the Unitarian system, in a treatise which he entitled, Dagon fallen before the Ark of God, which would probably have been mentioned in the course of the trial, if it had been published at that time.

Since the writing of the above, the Editor has had the pleasure of knowing many of Mr. Elwall's acqnaintance, and particularly Mr. John Martin, of Skilts Park, between Birmingham and Alcester, who was present at the trial. He is now in his eighty-fourth year, and perfectly remembers that it was in 1726, and he thinks it was the summer assizes, because the weather was very hot. The reputation of the trial drew many persons to hear it, and himself among the rest; and, being acquainted with some of the sheriff's men, he got a very convenient station, at about an equal distance from the Judge on his left hand and Mr. Elwall on his right, where he saw and heard to the greatest advantage. The trial, he says, was in the morning; and the figure of Mr. Elwall, who was a tall man, with white hair, a large beard, and lowing garments, struck every body with respect. He spoke about an hour with great

gravity, fluency, and presence of mind, but what is printed is the substance of what he said. The Judge gave the most obliging attention to him; and the confusion of the clergy, when he paused and waited for their answer, as mentioned in the trial, was very visible. During the trial, Mr. Martin says he was struck with the resemblance of it to that of Paul. He does not recollect that the jury brought in any verdict, but the Judge said he was at liberty to go where he pleased. It is possible that the trial might not come to a regular termination, on account of Mr. Elwall not having had a copy of the indictment, as mentioned in this account.

TRIAL, &c.

BECAUSE so many persons have earnestly desired to read this trial, I have here published a third edition of it, in order to encourage all honest men, who have the eternal law of God on their side, not to fear the faces of priests, who aregenerally the grand adversaries of liberty and truth, and the bastions and bulwarks of all ceremonies, fopperies, and absurd doctrines thatare in the world.

I do this for the glory of the Most High God, and for the honour of his sacred law, and for the good of all my fellow-creatures; that they may obey God, and not man; Christ, and not the pope; the prophets and apostles, and not prelates and priests: and God knoweth this is my sincere desire, that all religion and spiritual things may be perfectly free, neither forced nor hindered ; this being the true liberty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise authority, but it shall not be so with you.”

About fourteen years ago, I wrote a book, entitled, “A True Testimony for God and his Sacred Law; being a plain, honest Defence of the First Commandmentof God, against all the Trinitarians under Heaven, Thou shalt have no other Gods but me.'' I lived then at Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire, where my ancestors have lived above eleven hundred years, ever since the Saxons conquered the Britons.

When this book was published, the priests in the country began to rage, especially the priests of Wolverhampton, who had a great hand in the several troubles I underwent, In short, they never ceased till they had

procured a large indictment against me at the Stafford assizes; where I felt the power of God, enabling me to speak before a very great number of people, being accused of heresy, &c. But I truly answered, as my beloved brother Paul did in his day, viz. “In that way which some call heresy, so choose I to serve the God of my fathers, believing all that is written in the law and the prophets.”

After the long indictment was read, I was asked if I pleaded guilty, or not guilty. I said I was not guilty of any evil, that I knew of, in writing that book; but if they meant whether I wrote the book or not (for they had quoted many pages of the book in that indictment), I owned I did write it; and that if I might have liberty to speak, I believed I should make it manifest to be the plain truth of God.

Then the Judge stood up and said, “Mr. Elwall, I suppose you have had a copy of your indictment?” I told him I had not had any copy of it. Upon which he turned towards the priests, and told them that I ought to have had

copy of it. But they not answering, he turned to me, and said, that if I would give bail, and be bound to appear at the next assizes, he would defer my trial till then. But I told him, I would not give bail, neither should any man be bound for me; that if the Prince of Wales himself would, he should not; for, said I, I have an innocent breast, and I have injured no man; and therefore I desire no other favour, but that I may have liberty to plead to the indictment myself.

Upon which he said, very courteously, You may. The Judge having given me liberty of pleading to the indictment, I began my speech with the sacred first commandment of God, viz. “Thou shalt have no other Gods but me." I insisted upon the word Me being a singular; and that it was plain and certain that God spake of himself as one single person or being, and not three distinct persons. And that it was manifest, that all the church of God, which then heard those words, understood it in the same plain obvious sense as I do; as is most evident from the words of the prophet Moses, who said to Israel

« PreviousContinue »