Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/51

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SIR JOHN LESLIE. 421


22nd, 1805, in which he thus expressed himself : " It was ray lot to receive a most virtuous and religious education, in the bosom of a family eminently dis- tinguished by its exemplary lives ; and the impressions of my early years, no distance of time, or change of circumstances can ever efface. If my mind is more enlarged by culture, I have likewise learned to see more deeply the im- portance of those truths which bind men together in society, and which, visiting their inmost recesses, appal the guilty and hold forth comfort to the wretched. I have ever been a sincere lover of peace, of decency, and good order. My time has been almost wholly spent in abstract researches, and the study of the sublime operations of nature. The questions, so much agitated of late, served with me only to amuse a few leisure moments ; and even at that eventful period, when the minds of men, and particularly of young men, were so violently in- flamed, I escaped in a great measure the contagion. I sighed, indeed, for the improvement of our species ; but the slightest appearance of tumult, or popular violence, was most abhorrent to my temper. I never had the remotest connex- ion with any party or political association whatever. In the spirit of mildness, I endeavoured to think and act for myself. My sentiments of loyalty had been confirmed by what I had seen during a short stay in America, where I witnessed the disgusting and pernicious influence assumed by an ignorant, licentious, and dissolute rabble. * * It is our native island that presents the truly cheering picture of equal laws mildly administered, and holds up a body of religious in- stitutions at once rational, decent, and impressive. I venerate the great princi- ples of our Christian faith, and am solicitous to mark, by my external beha- viour, that respect which I cherish. Raising my affections above this little spot of earth, the restless scene of intrigue, and strife, and malice, I look forward with joy and expectation to that better country beyond the grave."

Among the most powerful speakers on the side of Mr Leslie was Sir Henry Moncrieff, who observed that the question expressly and simply referred to a civil right of the Edinburgh ministers. This right, he showed, had never been before exercised in the election of a professor of mathematics, and in all proba- bility would be confined by a court of law to the professorships existing at the institution of the university, of which that of mathematics was not one. The right, however, if right it was, had in reality been exercised : the clergy had gone to the council and given their advice, and, though it had not been follow- ed, still it had been received. Sir Henry also commented in strong terms upon the fact, that the whole of this prosecution, threatening so much to Mr Leslie, had been conducted in such a way as to allow him no possibility of appearing in his own defence. " It is a circumstance," further continued this nervous orator, " which I cannot help mentioning, that the ministers of Edinburgh, in their zeal to find any sort of heresy in Mr Leslie's note, have unfortunately an- nounced a doctrine in opposition to that which they would fix on him, which is capable of an interpretation more hostile to religion than any thing that they have imputed to his book. In asserting ' such a necessary connexion between cause and effect as implies an operating principle in the cause,' they express a doctrine of which I can scarcely mention the pernicious tendency. If the ne- cessity is applied to the first cause, it is not far from blasphemy. If it is restricted (as I suppose it was meant to be) to the second cause, it is substantially the doc- trine of materialism, and leads directly to atheism. [Here Mr Ritchie interrupt- ed the speaker, to remind him that he had qualified the expression, and restricted his meaning to a conditional or contingent necessity.] True, sir, he did so. He did the very thing which he will not allow Mr Leslie to do. He gives an explanation for himself and his friends, when he perceives the consequences of the original expressions they had employed. He qualifies the necessity they