Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Trial of William Whiston, Part 1

The following satirical tract was first published in 1740. It is about William Whiston on trial for speaking against the Trinity. Whiston was allowed to defend himself, cross-examine Trinity supporters, and call in his own witnesses (which even comprised of some of the apostles!)


This tract has been attributed to William Whiston or Alexander Pope, depending on the source. Pope is most certainly incorrect, for he was a Catholic. This work is not listed under Whiston's works in his biography. So the author remains unknown to me at this point.


William Whiston was an 18th century scientist and Bible scholar. He created controversy for denying the Trinity. He was a colleague of Sir Isaac Newton. Unlike Newton, he went public with his non-Trinitiarian beliefs, which adversely affected his career. He is now most popularly known as the translator of the works of Josephus.


This work is already freely available online. However, its original format makes for hard reading. This edition modernizes the text:


1) The original had few paragraph breaks, presenting the reader with a wall of text. This new version has more paragraph breaks.


2) Older spellings have been modernized. For example, the title was "The Tryal of William Whiston," which was changed to "The Trial of William Whiston."


3) When the phoneme "s" was used, the obsolete letter "ʃ" was used. This reads like an "f" for a modern reader, and drastically slows down reading time and comprehension. For example, Whiston's name was spelled "Whiʃton." The word "must" was spelled "muʃt," and so on. The "ʃ" has been replaced with the modern "s."


4) Every noun was capitalized. The new version reflects standard capitalization.


5) Finally, the original was too fond of the comma and semi-colon, many of them have been eliminated to smooth out the reading.




(First published in 1740
Reformatted for modern readers)

The Trial of William Whiston, Clerk. 

For Defaming and Denying the Holy Trinity 

Before the Lord Chief Justice Reason




Clerk of the Arraigns - Cryer, call over the jury.

Cryer - 

(Irish Jesuits)
Alexander MacRaigh, Esq;
Patrick O'Neal, Esq;
Macdonal O'Connor, Esq;

(Welch Nonjurors)
Shenkin ap Thomas,
Robert ap Reese,
Owen ap Tudor,

(Scotch Rebels)
Archibald Mackintosh,
Tory Carnegy,
Duncan Kinlough, Esq;

James Guthrie, Clerk, Chaplain to the Thieves in Newgate.

His Grace Roger Gaynham, Archbishop of the Hundreds of Drury.

Signor Cazzo, His Holiness's Pimp.

Clerk of the Arraigns - Sir, if you have a mind to challenge any of the jury, you must do it as they come to be swore?

Mr. Whiston - My Lord, I except against them all, and I defy the whole Roman conclave to produce a knot of greater villains. I am sure the jury must be packed, for is it possible to imagine that three Irish Jesuits, three Welsh Nonjurers, three Scotch Rebels, the Chaplain of Newgate, and the Pope's Pimp, should all meet by chance?

Judge - Take care, Sir, how you throw the least slur upon the sacred character of the gown. But that you may not have the least pretense to charge me with partiality, I will enquire into it, though I think it scarce possible that men, so zealous in support of the Church, and so rigid and scrupulous in points of faith, can be guilty of so foul an action.

Who gave you the names of this jury Mr. Sheriff?

Sheriff - The Reverend Dr. Codex.

Judge - This is the most scandalous proceedings that ever was heard of in a court of justice. Sir, it little becomes a man of your sacred function, to be packing of juries. Let me have no more of these diabolical, inquisitorial arts. For the honesty of a layman will not bear it. Call another jury, and take particular care that no parson creeps into it.


[The new jury being swore, the Clerk reads the indictment as follows]

William Whiston, Clerk, you stand charged, with having maintained, propagated and published, most horrid, damnable and blasphemous tenets against the doctrine, worship and majesty of the blessed Trinity; expressly contradicting the Nicene Creed, and defaming the Athanasian; impiously asserting them to be the inventions of the priests, to pervert and confound the understandings of mankind. This is what you are to answer, and God fend you a good deliverance.

Mr. Solicitor General Codex - My Lord, Heaven is my witness, with how much sorrow and reluctance I appear this day, to make good so dreadful a charge, against this our unfortunate, apostate brother. But when our holy religion is concerned, and our Church is in danger, compassion would be impious, and humanity is a crime. For experience daily teaches us that lenity and tenderness would prove our ruin. And surely, if ever there was a case that cried out for rigorous justice, it is certainly this before us; which is no less than robbing the Church of one of its most valuable mysteries; and the Deity itself, of two thirds of its dignity and power. For it is to this sacred mystery that mankind made the first sacrifice of their understandings. To this we owe the implicit faith of the laiety, our own wealth, dignities and power. And to this alone, we owe the spiritual monarchy of the Church.

Oh thou inexplicable three-one! Thou woundrous Son! Subject, yet equal; generated though eternal! And thou most Holy Spirit, inconceivably distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet the same with both! There stands the wretch that would destroy the God that was made man, to redeem him; and denies that God which which came down to sanctify him. Can a Christian hear this without horror, or a priest forbear to tear his heart out! Amazing mystery! For though God can be seen by no man, yet God the Son has appeared at sundry times to the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and condescended to be born of a virgin, and to live in the man Jesus, distinct from the Father, yet one God. 

These are the divine Truths this execrable monster has denied, and for which I hope to see him suffer the most exquisite tortures the zeal of churchmen can invent. And now, my Lord, I shall beg leave to call in the witnesses to prove the fact.

Judge - Who would you call in first?

Mr. Sollicitor - Call in Dr. Tr—p.

Mr. Sollicitor- I desire Sir, that you would inform the court what you have heard the prisoner say concerning the ever-blessed Trinity.

Dr. Tr—p - My Lord he had the insolence to tell me to my face that it was the most impudent piece of nonsense that ever was imposed upon mankind. And that they who compel us to receive it are the most inhuman of tyrants.

Mr. Sollicitor - Did you hear him say nothing else?

Dr. Tr—p - No Sir, for I immediately knocked him down, and raised the mob upon him, in hopes that he would have been tore to pieces.

Court - Call in Dr. W-nd.

Mr. Sollicitor - What discourse have you had with the prisoner about the Trinity?

Dr. W—nd - Sir, while the prisoner was orthodox and pure in his faith, no man was more intimate with him, or valued him more than I did. But when I found him examining the Scriptures, and reasoning upon mysteries, I profess, I was extremely apprehensive, that some great mischief would happen to the Church. Nor was it long before he broke out into this fatal error. My concern was such, that there is nothing which I would not have done to have saved his immortal soul. I begged him for his own sake, and for the sake of his innocent brethren, to have pity on a falling Church. Nay, I assured him of a couple of the fattest livings in the Kingdom, if he would but seem to recant. But the vile wretch was so far from being reduced to a Christian temper, by this spiritual encouragement, that he had the ill manners to tell me that he would have nothing to do with such a parcel of hypocritical, base rascals, and that the Trinity was nothing but a piece of roguery invented by the Church.

Mr. Sollicitor - Was that all that passed between ye?

Dr. W-nd - Yes, Sir.

Mr. Sollicitor - Did not you knock him down too?

Dr. W—nd - Sir, I happened to be very much weakened with a small runing at that time. But had my strength been equal to my indignation, I should have knocked his brains out.

Judge - Have you any more witnesses?

Mr. Sollicitor General - Call in Dr. R—rs.

Mr. Sollicitor - Pray, Sir, acquaint the court with what you know of the prisoner, in relation to his defaming, ridiculing, or denying the Holy Trinity.

Dr. R—rs - Sir, as I and several other orthodox Divines were gravely discoursing upon tithes, fine ale, pluralities, and such like spiritual matters, the prisoner happened to be by, when on a sudden there entered a very comely old gentleman, who cried out with an audible voice:

"The mystery of mysteries unfolded, to the utter confusion of all arians, infidels and heretics; One is three and Three are one, not only made visible, but even palpable. For here, gentlemen, you shall not only seek, but feel it. Observe then, here is but one ball. Now, Gentlemen, you shall see this one ball send forth two other balls out of itself, as big as itself, and yet not lose one atom of its weight and grandeur. Hocus Pocus Reverendissimi Spectlatores, the one is three. Now, gentlemen, be pleased to observe the miracle reversed. Pilluli Pittuli congregate, presto presto unite; osservate Signori Dotttssimi, the three are one."

These eyes of mine, my Lord, were witnesses of the fact. And upon one of the company's expressing an uncommon satisfaction, and saying that this ingenious gentleman might be of signal service to the Church, this execrable traitor had the impudence to declare that we juggled with the Deity, as this conjurer did with his cups and balls, and that the blessed Trinity was only an ecclesiastical Hocus Pocus; which blasphemous insult upon our holy order being sufficiently proved, we have nothing more to do than to deliver him over to the secular arm, which, I hope, will make such an example of him as will satisfy the vengeance of an offended Church.

Judge - You have heard, Sir, what is laid to your charge. And now the evidence against you has done, you may make your defense.

Mr. Whiston - My Lord, as nothing could be more fortunate to me than this opportunity of defending the truth, before so impartial a Judge; so it must be the highest satisfaction to a free people, to see it maintained with that candour and fairness it deserves. Notwithstanding the violent clamours that have been raised against me, your Lordship must necessarily see that my only crime is that of differing from the rest of my brethren in a speculative point. But a point of such importance, I must confess, that no less than the tyranny of the priesthood, and the liberty of the laity depend upon it. My cause, my Lord, is that of truth, and I hope I shall be allowed the liberty of asking those learned witnesses such questions as will be most likely to discover it, and to set it in the clearest light.

Judge - Sir, you may take your own method in your defense.

Mr. Whiston - I desire then to know of the ingenious Dr. T—p, whether the divine essence can be separated from any of the persons in the Trinity?

Dr. T—p - We hold that it cannot.

Mr. Whiston - Then I desire to know whether the second person was sent with the divine essence, or without it?

Dr. T—p - We maintain that it was sent with it.

Mr. Whiston - Sir, I desire that you would inform the court whether you can conceive it possible for any being to be sent, and at the same time not to be distinct and separate from the being that sends it?

Dr. Tr—p - God damn him! [aside] My Lord, I beg leave to observe that this is a sophistical and ensnaring question, and does not admit of a direct and categorical answer. For we say, that although the divine essence is in its own nature inseparable, it must necessarily be the same essence, said to be sent indeed, but not sent, according to human conception of sending; but sent in an ineffable manner, agreeable to the nature of God, but inconceivable to men. And it is that that makes the mystery, which is nothing else but the inconceivableness of the manner, wrapped up in the revelation of the fact. And in the implicit and hearty belief of your inconceivableness, lies the true secret of a meritorious and saving faith, and this is the true doctrine of the Church.

Mr. Whiston - The true doctrine of the Church then is that perfect unity and real separation are compatible in the same subject, and at the same time! — But, to proceed — I beg the learned doctor would inform the court, to what intent and purpose the second person in the Trinity was inseperably united to the man Jesus, since it never gave the man Jesus the least assistance in any one act. For he attributes every virtue and power to the Father which is in Heaven?

Dr. Tr—p - As nothing can be a greater insult upon the divine majesty, than to censure his conduct, and to call his wisdom in question. So nothing can be more incumbent upon his vicegerents than to support his dignity, and to justify his ways with men. Was it not infinite goodness in the Almighty to live among us, to be a witness to all our wants, to overlook the man Jesus, to give a private account to the Father of what passed, and to hinder him from doing any harm, though he did not afford him the least assistance to do any good? Such actions as these, Sir, may be highly expedient in the Trine-economy, perfectly agreeable to the distinct operation of harmonic union, and absolutely necessary to the execution of the wondrous scheme.

Mr. Whiston - Since you have given so curious an account of the nature and offices of the Deity, and seem to be so intimately acquainted with his secrets, pray, what do you think of the Devil's hurrying the Almighty into the wilderness, then tossing him up upon the pinacle of a temple, and, lastly, of his having the assurance to bid him fall down and worship him? Now, Sir, according to your principles, the very story itself is incredible, for his excellence, the Devil, seems to fall as short of the high opinion the Church has of his cunning, in not knowing whom he had to deal with, as he surpasses the limits they have set to his power, by his ruling the omnipotent. You hear my objection, Sir, and I beg the favour of you to answer it to the court.

Dr. Tr—p - That Christ was carried by the evil sprit into the wilderness, the holy Scriptures do indeed declare; but then he was carried as man, not as God. God indeed, for wise purposes, permitted the man Jesus to be hurried away, and to be tempted, and attended him as a witness of his virtue. For I beg your Lordship to observe, that although the divine nature was inseparable from the human, the divine nature might give the Devil heave to run away with the human, and at the same time voluntarily accompany it, so that the divine nature might act with the utmost freedom, while the human was driven by cumpulsion. And as to the other difficulty, it is but supposing the Divinity's being incognito; and then, how could the Devil know a word of his being there? And consequently does not deserve the invidious reflections this gentleman is pleased to throw upon him.

Mr. Whiston - Since the doctor has resolved the last difficulty with such extraordinary subtlety, and has brought off the Devil so ingeniously, I must beg the favour of him to explain one knotty point more, and so proceed to the examining my witnesses. I desire him therefore to declare, whether he thinks the supreme God deficient in knowledge; and whether Christ has not expressly declared the second and third person in the Trinity to be deficient in knowledge, by positively affirming that the first person only, which is the Father, knows the Day of Judgment?

Dr. Tr—p - That there is such an expression in holy Writ, the Church does not deny, and is also so fair and candid, as to admit that according to the common acceptation of words, and the most regular process of human reasoning, the Son and holy Ghost are absolutely excluded, by that knowledge being confined to the Father only. But then she says that the person being inseparable from the essence, and the Father knowing by his essence, and not by his person, the Son being acknowledged by the Church to be of same essence, he must, in respect to his essence, necessarily have the same knowledge, though he had not in any other respect. For the attributes being the same, the powers will be the same also. Though the Church does hold some tenets indeed, which are of a pretty hard digestion. Yet gentlemen will find themselves prodigiously mistaken, if they think she wants arguments for her defense.

Mr. Whiston - If the Doctor calls this arguing, he may go on indeed 'till Doomsday. And as he has given your Lordship a sufficient specimen of his ridiculous trifling and solemn nonsense, that I may not provoke him to trouble your Lordship with any more of it, I will beg leave to call in my witnesses, that you may hear what they have to say in my defense.

Dr. Tr—p - Solemn nonsense, you Dog! My Lord, such usage is not to be bore. Shall men of my sublime character be used thus? Shall the representatives of God, and the fellow labourers of Christ, who have a power superior to angels and archangels, be exposed to the scoffs and insults of Libertines and Deists? If I cannot have justice from the court, I will have it from the people. Fire; Murder; the Church is in Danger; down with the Heretics; tear them to pieces; beat their Brains out; knock —

Judge - I would have you consider, Sir, that you are not at Oxford, or in convocation, but before an impartial court of justice, which is the guardian of our liberties; which will maintain its authority, and commands decency and respect. And let me tell you, Sir, the people are not to be moved by the bellowing of a priest; for they know you too well, to be your tools any longer.

Dr. Tr—p - I little expected, that a man of my dignity and order should have been brow-beaten, for using a pestiferous heretic as he deserves. Heresies, my Lord, are of too virulent, obstinate and exuberant a Nature, to be exterminated by disputes. Such plagues are to be cured by nothing but fire and sword. For believe me my Lord, the unity and peace of a Church depends upon its power. Nor will it ever be safe and happy till we can crush the malignant, cruciate the obstinate, and cut off the rebellious from the face of the earth, and —

Judge - Sir, You must not disturb the court with your seditious harangues. Let the prisoner proceed to call his witnesses.





(Go to Part 2)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent exposé of the false Trinity doctrine.

    ReplyDelete