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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Charles Leslie

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CHARLES LESLIE (1650-1722), Anglican nonjuring divine, son of John Leslie (1571-1671), bishop of Raphoe and afterwards of Clogher, was born in July 1650 in Dublin, and was educated' at Enniskillen school and Trinity College, Dublin. Going to England he read law for a time, but soon turned his attention to theology, and took orders in 1680. In 1687 he became chancellor of the cathedral of Connor and a justice of the peace, and began a long career of public controversy by responding in public disputation at Monaghan to the challenge of the Roman Catholic bishop of Clogher. Although a vigorous opponent of Roman Catholicism, Leslie was a firm supporter of the Stuart dynasty, and, having declined at the Revolution to take the oath to William and Mary, he was on this account deprived of his benefice. In 1689 the growing troubles in Ireland induced him to withdraw to England, where he employed himself for the next twenty years in writing various controversial pamphlets in favour of the nonjuring cause, and in numerous polemics againstthe Quakers, Jews, Socinians and Roman Catholics, and especially in that against the Deists with which his name is now most commonly associated. He had the keenest scent for every form of heresy and was especially zealous in his defence of the sacraments. A warrant having been issued against him in 1710 for his pamphlet The Good Old Cause, or Lying in Truth, he resolved to quit England and to accept an offer made by the Pretender (with whom he had previously been in frequent correspondence) that he should reside with him at Bar-le-Duc. After the failure of the Stuart cause in 1715, Leslie accompanied his patron Into. Italy, where he remained until 1721, in which year, having found his sojourn amongst Roman Catholics extremely unpleasant, he sought and obtained permission to return to his native country. He died at Glaslough, Monaghan, on the 13th of April 1722.

The Theological Works of Leslie were collected and published by' himself in 2 vols. folio in 1721; a later edition, slightly enlarged, appeared at Oxford in 5832 (7 vols. 8vo). Though marred by persistent arguing in a circle they are written in lively style and show considerable erudition. He had the somewhat rare distinction of making several converts by his reasonings, and Johnson declared that "Leslie was a reasoner, and a reasoner who was not to be reasoned against." An historical interest in all that now attaches to his subjects and his methods, as may be seen when the promise given in the title of his best-known work is contrasted with the actual performance. The book professes to be A Short and Easy Method with the Deists, wherein the certainty of the Christian Religion is Demonstrated by Infallible Proof from Four Rules, which are incompatible to any imposture that ever yet has been, or that can possibly be (1697). The four rules which, according to Leslie, have only to be rigorously applied in order to establish not the probability merely but the absolute certainty of the truth of Christianity are simply these: (1) that the matter of fact be such as that men's outward senses, their eyes and ears, may be judges of it; (2) that it be done publicly, in the face of the world; (3) that not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward actions be performed;, (4) that such monuments and such actions or observances be instituted and do commence from the time that the matter of fact was' done. Other publications of Leslie are The Snake in the Grass (1696), against the Quakers; A Short Method with the Jews (1689); Gallienus Redivivus (an attack on William III., 1695); The Socinian Controversy Discussed (1697); The True Notion of the Catholic Church (1703); and The Case Stated between the Church of Rome and the Church of England (1713).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Charles Leslie'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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