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It may easily be imagined, that this opened a door to much dispute, and determined the conversation for the remainder of the evening to this subject. The dispute ran through almost all the particulars mentioned in Woolston's pieces; but the thread of it was broken by several digressions, and the pursuit of things which were brought accidentally into the discourse. At length one of the company said pleasantly, Gentlemen, you do not argue like lawyers; if I were judge in this case, I would hold you better to the point. The company took the hint, and cried, they should be glad to have the cause reheard, and him to be the judge. The gentlemen who had engaged with mettle and spirit in a dispute which arose accidentally, seemed very unwilling to be drawn into a formal controversy; and especially the gentleman who argued against Woolston, thought the matter grew too serious for him, and excused himself from undertaking a controversy in religion, of all others the most momentous. But he was told, that the argument should be confined merely to the nature of the evidence; and that might be considered, without entering into any such controversy as he would avoid; and, to bring the matter within bounds, and under one view, the evidence of Christ's resurrection, and the exceptions taken to, it, should be the only subject of the conference. With much persuasion he suffered himself to be persuaded, and promised to give the company, and their new-made judge, a meeting that day fortnight. The judge and the rest of the company were for bringing on the cause a week sooner; but the counsel for Woolston took the matter up, and said, Consider, sir, the gentleman is not to argue out of Littleton, Plowden, or Coke, authors

to him well known; but he must have his authorities from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: and a fortnight is time little enough of all conscience to gain a familiarity with a new acquaintance; and, turning to the gentleman, he said, I will call on you before the fortnight is out, to see how reverend an appearance you make behind Hammond on the New Testament, a concordance on one hand, and a folio Bible with references on the other. You shall be welcome, sir, replied the gentleman; and perhaps you may find some company more to your own taste. He is but a poor counsel who studies one side of the question only; and therefore, I will have your friend Woolston, Tindal, and Collins, to entertain you when you do me the favour of the visit.

On this we parted in good humour, and all pleased with the appointment made, except the two gentlemen who were to provide the entertainment.


THE Company met at the time appointed: but it happened in this, as in like cases it often does, that some friends to some of the company, who were not of the party the first day, had got notice of the meeting; and the gentlemen who were to debate the question, found they had a more numerous audience than they expected or desired. He especially who was to maintain the evidence of the resurrection, began to excuse the necessity he was under of disappointing their expectation, alleging that he was not prepared; and he had persisted in excusing himself, but that the strangers, who perceived what the case was, offered

to withdraw; which the gentleman would by no means consent to. They insisting to go, he said, he would much rather submit himself to their candour, unprepared as he was, than be guilty of so much rudeness, as to force them to leave the company. On which one of the company, smiling, said, It happens luckily that our number is increased: when we were last together, we appointed a judge, but we quite forgot a jury; and now, I think, we are good men and true, sufficient to make one. This thought was pursued in several allusions to legal proceedings; which created some mirth, and had this good effect, that it dispersed the solemn air, which the mutual compliments on the difficulty before mentioned had introduced, and restored the ease and good humour natural to the conversation of gentlemen.

The judge perceiving the disposition of the company, thought it a proper time to begin, and called out, Gentlemen of the jury, take your places; and immediately seated himself at the upper end of the table. The company sat round him, and the judge called on the counsel for Woolston to begin.

Mr. A. counsel for Woolston, addressing himself to the judge, said,-May it please your Lordship, I conceive the gentleman on the other side ought to begin, and lay his evidence, which he intends to maintain, before the court; till that is done, it is to no purpose for me to object. I may perhaps object to something which he will not admit to be any part of his evidence; and therefore I apprehend, the evidence ought in the first place. to be distinctly stated.

Judge. Mr. B. what say you to that?

Mr. B. counsel on the other side,-My Lord,

if the evidence I am to maintain were to support any new claim-if I were to gain any thing which I am not already possessed of,-the gentleman would be in the right: but the evidence is old, and is matter of record; and I have been long in possession of all that I claim under it. If the gentleman has any thing to say to dispossess me, let him produce it; otherwise I have no reason to bring my own title into question. And this I take to be the known method of proceeding in such cases: no man is obliged to produce his title to his possession; it is sufficient if he maintains it when it is called in question.

Mr. A. Surely, my Lord, the gentleman mistakes the case. I can never admit myself to be out of possession of my understanding and reason, and, since he would put me out of this possession, and compel me to admit things incredible, in virtue of the evidence he maintains, he ought to set forth his claim, or leave the world to be directed by

common sense.

Judge. Sir, you say right, on supposition that the truth of the Christian religion were the point in judgment. In that case it would be necessary to produce the evidence for the Christian religion. But the matter now before the court is, Whether the objections produced by Mr. Woolston, are of weight to overthrow the evidence of Christ's resurrection? You see then the evidence of the resurrection is supposed to be what it is on both sides; and the thing immediately in judgment is, the value of the objections; and therefore they must be set forth. The court will be bound to take notice of the evidence, which is admitted as a fact on both parts. Go on Mr. A.

Mr. A. My Lord, I submit to the direction of

the court. I cannot but observe, that the gentleman on the other side, unwilling as he seems to be to state his evidence, did not forget to lay in his claim to prescription; which is perhaps, in truth, though he has too much skill to own it, the very strength of his cause. I do allow, that the gentleman maintains nothing, but what his father and grandfather, and his ancestors, beyond time of man's memory, maintained before him: I allow, too, that prescription in many cases makes a good title; but it must always be with this condition, that the thing is capable of being prescribed for: and I insist, that prescription cannot run against reason and common sense. Customs may be pleaded by prescription; but if, upon showing the custom, any thing unreasonable appears in it, the prescription fails; for length of time works nothing towards the establishing any thing that could never have a legal commencement. And if this objection will overthrow all prescriptions for customs, the mischief of which extends perhaps to one poor village only, and affects them in no greater a concern than their right of common on a ragged mountain; shall it not much more prevail, when the interest of mankind is concerned, and in no less a point than his happiness in this life, and in all his hopes for futurity? Besides, if prescription must be allowed in this case, how will you deal with it in others? What will you say to the ancient Persians, and their fire-altars? nay, what to the Turks, who have been long enough in possession of their faith to plead


Mr. B. I beg pardon for interrupting the gentleBut it is to save him trouble. He is going into his favourite commonplace, and has brought us from Persia to Turkey already; and if he goes

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