Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/42

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
412
CHARLES LESLIE.

the Roman catholic persuasion, could not have taken the oaths necessary to qualify him for the office, and that therefore his nomination was illegal. This doctrine he afterwards held at the quarter sessions, where the case came to be decided, and so effectually did he urge his objections, and that in the presence of the sheriff himself, that the bench unanimously agreed to commit the pretended officer for his intrusion. Mr Leslie thus placed himself in conspicuous opposition to the dominant party, and openly declared that he no longer considered James as the defender of the faith.

Notwithstanding, however, of his hostility to the papists, he continued a staunch supporter of the exiled family at the revolution in 1688, and refused to take the oaths to king William and queen Mary. The consequence of this fidelity was the loss of all his preferments.

When Ireland became disturbed in 1689, Mr Leslie removed with his family to England, where he employed himself in writing political pamphlets to serve the cause which he had embraced; but, though opposed to the existing government he continued a zealous and active supporter of the church of England. About this time he entered into a controversy with the quakers, which is said to have arisen from the circumstance of his lodging with a family of that persuasion. This family he converted. The first of the several treatises which he wrote against the quakers is entitled, "The Snake in the Grass." It appeared in 1696, and soon ran into a second edition. It was answered by George Whithead in a pamphlet entitled, "An Antidote to the Snake in the Grass." In his second edition Mr Leslie noticed this answer; but he was again assailed in a production called, "Satan dissolved from his Disguises of Light," which also appeared in 1696. To this, and several other attacks, Mr Leslie replied at great length in "A Defence of a book entitled the Snake in the Grass." This again provoked a host of answers, amongst which was one by the quakers, entitled "A Switch for the Snake." To this Mr Leslie again replied in "A Second Defence, or the third and last part of the Snake in the Grass."

The most celebrated works of Mr Leslie, though these just enumerated discovered singular ability, were those which he wrote against the deists. The first of these was published, in 1697, in a letter to a friend, and was entitled "A Short and easy Method with the Deists." The friend alluded to in the title was a lady, though the work bears that it was a gentleman. Having been thrown accidentally into the company of infidels, she applied to Mr Leslie for "some short topic of reason, without running to authorities and the intricate mazes of learning." The treatise was effectual, and Mr Leslie, although it was not his original intention, was prevailed upon to publish it. This work he enlarged considerably in a second edition. No answer appeared to the Short and Easy Method till 1710, when it was replied to in a treatise entitled "A detection of the true meaning and wicked designs of a book entitled," &c. Mr Leslie replied to this attack in "The Truth of Christianity Demonstrated," to which was prefixed, "A Vindication of the Short Method with the Deists." These works against deism produced a powerful effect, and amongst others the conversion of a person of the name of Gildon, who had acquired considerable celebrity as a member of that persuasion. This man not only professed himself convinced of his errors, and publicly retracted them, but wrote a book against the opinions which he had formerly entertained, entitled "The Deist's Manual, or a rational Inquiry into the Christian Religion."

Encouraged by the success of his attack on deism, Mr Leslie, in 1699, produced his "Short Method with the Jews," a work which was first suggested by a similar circumstance with that which had given rise to his Short Method with the Deists. An eminent Jew had been converted by his reasoning, and had inti-