The Lawyers Complaint
Seasonable Reply to a Restless
ATTORNEY AND CO.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him,... Luke x. 25.
..they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. Jer. xxx. 16.
..Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!.. Luke XI. 46.
The produce of a twelvemonth's study, according to report, is at last fallen into my hands: but it is not voluminous, though it has been elaborate; which serves to convince me that the pen of the author, like the wheels of Pharaoh's chariots, dragged heavily; and no wonder when a Lawyer is willing to justify himself, Luke x. 29.
You need not have told me that you was an Attorney; your title-page proves that. It is a common saying, that a Lawyer will tell a lie for a crown; and you have not only confirmed the proverb, but have fallen the price, for you give us to know that you will tell one for a groat.
Your excellent piece is entitled, 'A Dialogue between Mr. Latitat and Mr. Huntington.' But, to tell the world that you carried on a dialogue with me, when you know that I never saw nor heard of you, is an absolute falsity. Besides every one who knows me knows that I would have no more fellowship or correspondence with an un-renewed lawyer, than I would with the devil, or Balaam the wizard.
'You sometimes amuse yourself with the study of anatomical subjects.' I have no doubt but you speak the truth, sir: I believe anatomy is your chief, if not your only, study. Gentlemen of your profession have ever been noted for that; and many a poor widow, orphan, idiot, lunatic, and inheritance, has been pillaged, plundered, dissected, swallowed up and devoured, by them. Hence we read of their eating up a man and his heritage; of their devouring widows' houses; and, for a pretence, making long prayers, for which they have received a singular promise.
My Arminian Skeleton is in the world; nor have I any objection to its being viewed or criticised by Mr. Latitat; for it is cognoscible, if you have cognoscence. A wise man will never set himself against it; and, as for the fool, he can neither overthrow nor understand it.
I do not suppose you pay any regard to conciseness when you enter an action at the pocket: you are more laconical, I take it, when you demand the fee; then it is multum in parvo, much in a little; much money, little disputing to get it, and less work for it.
What you call learning has been called ignorance and foolishness ever since the wisdom of God in a mystery has been published. Real learning consists in a saving experimental knowledge of God, and of an interest in his favour. Unlearned men are empty professors, who are ignorant of God, and wrest his word to their own destruction.
Far be it from me ever to expect either truth or satire from you: not truth, for want of grace; nor satire, for want of wit. The Scriptures say nothing about the charity either of Arians or Lawyers. The former rob Christ of his glory, and his church of the dignity of an everlasting righteousness: and the Saviour hints that some of the latter will be employed to sue his disciples out of their cloke; and, knowing that a cloke will hardly suffice, he tells them to give the coat also.
It is not subscribing to a creed that will make a man a Christian, any more than a scrap of Latin will make a man a lawyer. There is but one faith; that comes from God, and leads to him: and if you could prove your own faith, you would not disapprove of mine.
It is a truth, the Bible is very scanty of honest lawyers, though they are to be found in almost every body's mouth in our days. The scriptures give us an account of the church of God for upwards of four thousand years; and there is an account of one Zenas the lawyer walking with Apollos, who was to be brought on his journey and be supplied by Titus; but what he was, or where he was going, I know not; there is nothing said about his grace or his honesty.
I once spent an evening with one of the best lawyers that ever I met with; and he gave me a humorous reproof for my throw at honest lawyers; and told me that he believed there were such things in being, and that himself was one. 'For instance,' said he, 'a man of property came to me, to make his will; and having but one child, a daughter, who had married against his will, and without his consent, he was determined to disinherit her. I reproved him, and refused to make his will; and is not that a proof of an honest Lawyer? I asked him if the human laws that he handled would allow a man thus to cut off a child, and him to make such a will? He replied 'Yes;' but he could not in conscience do it. I then told him he must not palm his honesty upon law, but upon equity: he was not a lawyer, but an honest equitarian; for conscience prohibited what the law allowed.
I am intimate with another of the profession, who served an apprenticeship in the country, finished his studies in town, and began to practise his profession; but, as soon as convicting grace reached his heart, he left it, declaring that he could not keep a conscience for God and get his bread by that: he therefore cast it off; and exposed himself to numberless difficulties, rather than have anything to do with it; nor has he to this day.
As to conscience, there is as much difference between people's consciences as there is between their principles. Some consciences are as tough as a bull's hide, and some are as tender as an oyster. We read of some being seared with a hot iron; and some, like David's, will smite for the least offence, as his smote him when he only cut off the skirt of a murderer who sought his life. If you had a conscience like the former, you could swallow an oath, a bribe, or a lie, with more ease than another could make a will.
Government itself seems to have had an eye to the account that the scriptures give of Iawyers, by appointing an universal guardian for widows, orphans, and lunatics; besides a high court of equity, and an inferior court of conscience: these, like the ancient cities of refuge, are to shelter widows, orphans, and property, from the endless suits of lawyers, as those did the manslayer from the pursuits of the avenger of blood.
To expect Christian patience to be acted where no Christian principles are implanted, is as great a paradox as to expect honesty from a dishonest lawyer.
Why you should call yourself a rogue and an impostor, and palm it upon me, in your dialogue, I know not. And how can you dream of being inevitably damned, and at the same time intimate the practicability of keeping a good conscience towards God in the pursuit of your profession? Damnation and a good conscience can never go together. Indeed, sir, you give me room to suspect that conscience does not subscribe to all you write. Let a man be a lawyer, a quack doctor, or what he may; without repentance he will inevitably perish. But if God should give repentance even to a lawyer, he would save his soul; for the scripture intimates that he would then despise the gain of oppressions, shake his hands from holding of bribes, stop his ears from hearing of blood; and shut his eyes from seeing of evil, Isai, xxxiii. 15; which are things that accompany salvation.
I never murmur, sir, against paying either dues, customs, or taxes. God has given us one of the most fruitful and best countries in the world; and if it be involved in a war, every one that has sinned has had a hand in it; and therefore ought to do his utmost against an invading enemy, who would rob us of the inheritance which God gave to our fathers. And for my own part, I would sooner pay ten pounds in taxes towards the support of a defensive war, than two mites for the name of a client, knowing there is so little law for a farthing.
You do me wrong, sir, you make your fancied antagonist speak what you please, and then palm it upon Mr. Huntington. I never said the Lord was your Saviour; nor did I ever entertain such a thought. I always endeavour to bring my matter wholly from the Bible; and God forbid that I should pervert scripture to justify you! I never read that an honest or a converted lawyer was once named in all the book of God, nor you neither; and, therefore, what could I bring from thence to prove your justification?
I think your dialogue has been carried on between Mr. Latitat and Conscience, instead of Mr. Huntington; and it appears to me that conscience has given you a good flogging. No doubt but you are guided by reason and religion; reason first, and religion afterwards; that is, you will follow that religion that you have reason to think will produce you the most clients. Yours is a reasonable obedience, sir: it is not like Abraham's, who left the homestall behind, and obeyed in going out, not knowing whither he went.
The Saviour's wo to the lawyers seems to hang heavy upon your mind, as you bring it in upon every occasion. If your conscience is as good as you would have us believe, and if you have never laden men with burdens grievous to be borne, that wo will have no more weight upon your conscience than a sinner's causeless curse has upon mine.
I never once thought that a gentleman of your profession spun out an argument for the sake of prolixity; or any such worthless thing. I am inclined to think you have better things in view, and that it is done entirely for money.
Your antagonist has handled you very faithfully; "Wo unto you lawyers," &c. &c. and has left you to make the application, like an honest divine. And he is justifiable in calling you, as you have made him, a serpent and a viper; because lies are palmed, by the Saviour, upon the old serpent, the father of lies; whose trade you follow, by asserting that between twenty and thirty pounds were paid for my son, when full thirty were paid: and, had a lawyer been employed, no doubt sixty would have been paid, but nothing left for my son. The lawyer got but thirty pounds ten shillings for the Sunbury suit, instead of near forty.
It is pity any man should be sued for making improvements, while others can get such ample fees for making inroads; but some may steal a horse sooner than another look over a hedge. There is utterly a fault in going to law; but I was on the defensive. Nor is the fault in the law, but in them that handle it. The law calls for justice, but lawyers for money. And so they wrap it up.
Far be it from me to call the man knavish; I think he acted wisely: he made a good job of it, and got his money; and, what is still more, the person who employed him as his agent, being in his debt, he could not trust, but made me pay him. He paid himself, and left his employer to strike the balance: which shews that lawyers agree with me in judgment concerning honesty. I never said that I had suffered by lawyers; far from it: what they demanded Providence sent in, and it was paid willingly; and I confessed that God gave, and that he took away.
You should leave divine charity and the Saviour's meekness out of your jargon. Uttering falsehood and slander, and upbraiding a pardoned sinner for the sin of his youth; jumbling these things with the love of God and the compassion of the Saviour will sound no better, in the ears of a judicious Christian, than the liberal pretensions of Judas, who reproved waste in Mary only to get the price of the funeral ointment into his own bag.
"Charity suffereth long." True, sir, rather than give up the religion of Jesus, faithfulness in his cause, or the truths of his word. It is kind to all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, and to one's fellow-creature; but never kind to slander, oppression, opposition, nor scurrility. It believeth all things that God hath said, and hopeth for all things that he has promised. Is not easily provoked at any thing but sin; at which God himself was provoked, in rebellious Israel, for forty years together. Thinketh no evil in God's word, works, or ways; nor evil in a good man; nor ever plotteth evil against the wicked: but thinketh no good in devils; nor in a scorning lawyer, as appears by the fountain of charity; "Wo unto you, Lawyers! How can ye, being evil, speak good things?"
'None so meek and lowly as the Saviour.' And to those whom he came to save he always sheaved it, unless when reproof was necessary; then he sometimes chewed divine displeasure. But, when he had a taunting lawyer to deal with, he appeared the lion of the tribe of Judah, and spake like an angry judge: for after he had reproved the religious order with a - "Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are as graves which appear not;" one of your profession was offended. "Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying, thou reproachest us also. And he said, Wo unto you also, ye lawyers; for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be born, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Wo unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge. And, as he said these things unto them, they began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things." Thus the fountain of charity has been provoked by a lawyer.
When the Saviour said "Wo unto you, lawyers," it was without restriction; conscience was left to second the motion, and make application. And, when the proverb says, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" every one who has got such a blessing may stand forth, and say, 'I can.'
The Saviour's wo is to whom it may concern. He once told a lawyer that he was not far from the kingdom of God; but we do not read of his getting into it. He had told the Lord that to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, was more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices: which was a true confession; but faith in the heart, and faith in Christ, were wanting. With the heart man believeth, and with the tongue confession is made.
There may be such characters as honest lawyers in the world, though the bible doth not give us express account of any. And, if I was to ask 'Who can find one?' I should put no more contempt upon the cloth than the proverb that says, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" casts upon the female sex, which is a larger body corporate than that of the lawyers: or else wo be to us, and to all the world. And the proverb; "Every one," like you, sir, "will proclaim his own goodness, but a faithful man who can find?" you might say is a contempt of all the human race, which are not all lawyers, for there are some who are partakers of grace; and yet the proverbial challenge has a meaning, all being concluded in unbelief.
For my own part, I would as soon undertake to find a faithful man, or a virtuous woman, as an honest lawyer; and, if compelled to undertake an endless search after the latter, I would not choose to begin with you; for, though you have got the word love in your confession, as the lawyer in the gospel had in his, which is the greatest thing in the kingdom of God; yet your heart may be as far from it as his was. Your great outcry gives room for suspicion. The lawyer who first cried out in behalf of the fraternity, in the gospel, was the first that received the denunciation. "Thus saying, thou reproachest us also. And he [Jesus] said, Wo unto you, lawyers."
Your counsel, like that of Ahithophel, is not good. You seem to be a stranger to the root of the matter. Besides, a man who will give me counsel must not upbraid me with the sins of my youth, after repentance obtained, and a public and private confession made. This is not acting like God, who giveth liberally, and upbraideth not; but like the devil, who accuses for what is past and pardoned. If I was to be stoned tomorrow by a lawyer that is innocent in thought, word, and deed, I should expect no great danger from you. Those who accused the adulterous woman all fled when the Saviour described the executioner. "He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her," was sufficient. There were many accusers, but not one to execute the sentence; conscience flogged them all out of court as soon as the Judge bid them do their office. And, if I was to be brought forth, he would serve you the same, and I should be, as she was, left alone with Jesus; for neither devils nor lawyers can prevail against a sinner at the feet of the wonderful Counsellor, and the Judge of all the earth.
You seem to take offence at a single word or two, in my writings, without understanding my scope. I seldom or ever mention or interfere with the world. "What have I to do with them that are without?" My business is chiefly with those who are within. It is professors that I have to do with. Lawyers and counsellors, who mind only their own employments, and let religion and the gospel of Jesus alone; who never come within reach of the gospel sound; keep without the pale of the church, and come not under the notice or cognizance of the gospel ministry; I have nothing to do with: it is professing lawyers that Christ pronounced his wo against, who were professors of the Jewish church. My book of the Skeleton is written to professors of whatever calling or denomination, whom it may concern; and to grace-less professors in particular, to shew them their errors, and to caution others against such as lie in wait only to deceive.
I shall obey your voice; if they sue me for my coat or cloak, they will most surely have it. I shall bear the cross with all the patience I can, exhort the unruly, pray for my enemies, and give such seasonable admonition as the Lord shall furnish me with; and if even a professing lawyer should stand in the way of my ministry, I shall use sharpness, according to the power given me. An attorney who minds nothing but law, and lets the gospel alone, acts in character; but the man who carries on the following things, which you mention, under a cloak of religion, is no more like the former character than Simon Magus was like Nicodemus.
'Are there not many particulars, such as fictitious pleading and statement of facts, to be observed, which you are aware do not exist?' You puzzle me, sir, with your learning. If your statements and pleas be nothing but fictions, how can they be facts? If you state things against a person which have no existence, then you lay things to his charge that he knows not; and instead of pleading against a man his own reproach, you either bear, or countenance, a false witness against your neighbour. And can you do these things under a profession of religion?
If you undertake causes for your clients which you know you cannot possibly succeed in, as you say, then it is clear that, for the sake of mammon, you set yourself against God, against truth, law, justice, and equity; and would reduce a family to poverty for a little ill-gotten wealth. "He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool." If your conscience be clear of these things, you needed not have brought them forth; and, if guilty, your conscience will make a faltering answer at the great tribunal.
'You still persist to include the whole profession in the bondage of iniquity.' I deny the charge. My book is written against the Arminians; and if it contains any thing against your profession, it is delivered in the Saviour's way, without restriction. "Wo unto you, lawyers." He cloth not say, Wo unto some; nor, Wo unto all; those words are left out: but, "Wo unto you, lawyers;" wo unto them whom the wo may concern.
'I shall experience the satisfaction that arises from an upright heart.' This is a great thing for a lawyer to say; and, for my part, I am slow of heart to believe. Besides, telling your readers that you have had a dialogue with me is a falsity; and ripping up the sins of my youth, and speaking falsely about them, is slander. Lying and slandering do not proceed from the good treasure of an upright heart.
'That unlawful advantages are not peculiar to professors of law, any more than to those of the gospel,' will not be easily credited; though a mere profession of the gospel will never change the heart or practice of one that is given to extortion, but a real possession of the grace of the gospel will.
'The law is founded on reason.' I always thought that law was founded on truth; but, as for reason, she sometimes calls evil good, and good evil; and puts darkness for light, and light for darkness, Isa. v. 20; and often contradicts truth. I am inclined to think that your code of reason's laws, and yourself too, will be arraigned and tried by laws founded on truth; and by the God of truth, whose judgment is according to truth: which are things that few carnal reasoners care to hear of, and which, with great violence, they often reason against.
'There is an etiquette to be observed, which,' to such an one as myself, 'may seem absurd and ridiculous, and a violation of reason and truth; and yet perfectly consistent with both, and with justice too: for, from the vicissitudes of the times, and occurrences of new circumstances, fictions have for a long time been thought necessary, and allowed of in many cases.' This is a strange paragraph! but I understand it; and have no doubt that at times you find these things necessary in some occurrences of new circumstances; such as, when a villainous plaintiff aims at the reputation or property of his neighbour, and the injured defendant produces a number of stubborn facts to vindicate his right and expose the villain; then it becomes necessary to have recourse to etiquette and fiction, in order to puzzle, perplex, and involve the subject; to furnish an advocate with a thousand arguments, which serve to baffle a simple and honest witness; enrage the defendant, that he may hastily utter something to be caught at, which may serve to confound the jury, weary the judge, and multiply extra fees; which is the attorney's end and the client's wo.
The Saviour's similitudes and lawyers' fictions, in your opinion, are nearly synonymous. No; in my opinion, they widely differ. The Saviour's similitudes have, or have had, existence, but lawyers' fictions never had. The Lord's similitudes convey truth; lawyers' fictions convey lies. The Saviour's similitudes instructed the people; lawyers' fictions blind and confound them. Christ conveyed spiritual treasure to the heart; the lawyer draws treasure from the pocket. Christ fed the mind; the lawyer pinches the belly. Jesus saves the soul; the other often starves the body. Therefore the Lord's similitudes and your fictions are no more synonymous than Pharaoh's fat and lean kine: one class fed on their common food, and looked well; the other devoured their fellow kine, but never looked the better. The one fed on grass, and throve; the other on flesh, and starved.
But do, sir, explain the ambiguous phrase, etiquette; for you are a barbarian unto me. It is like speaking into the air: you may speak well, but I am not edified; and is it not better to speak one word to edification, than ten thousand in an unknown tongue?
You tell me 'there is an etiquette to be observed, which, to a man unversed therein,' as you presume me to be, 'may seem absurd and ridiculous, and a violation of reason and truth, and yet consistent with both.' If it be any thing that lies within the compass of natural reason and truth, why should I be so unversed therein? And, if consistent with the principles of reason and truth, why should it appear to me absurd, ridiculous, and a violation of both? Either I must be destitute of common sense and reason, or else etiquette must be something that goes beyond the common abilities given by the God of nature. I always thought that human learning sprung from the abilities which God gives to men; but according to you, it is otherwise; for there is something in etiquette consistent with reason and truth, that to a man of truth and reason may seem absurd, ridiculous, and a violation of both. You should let such words alone, unless you understand them. It exposes a man's ignorance to bring in a word that in its genuine original signification means simply a note or ticket on a bag, as Boyer's French Dictionary informs every schoolboy, and then to couple it with fictions. A ticket is one thing, a lie is another; however, the tickets in the lawyer's bag are generally contrived to take the notes out of his client's money-bag; and so far the allusion is more applicable than the writer himself seems to have been aware of.
However, though I understand not the mystery of fiction, it is plain from this piece of yours, that it has been exploded by some who have understood it: for you tell me that Fictions were formerly termed an abuse of law; but, from the vicissitudes of the times, and occurrences of new circumstances, they have been a long time thought necessary, and allowed.' Times are changed indeed, if abusive fictions are become necessary! Either the ancients had more conscience, and less duplicity; or else modern wisdom has made them fools, by consecrating their abuse to a necessary good. To be plain: the term fiction, in opposition to fact, means a lie; and fact, in opposition to fiction, means the truth. I am inclined to think this is a jargon peculiar to yourself, Gipsies have their own gibberish; and every juggler has his own dialect, which serves to puzzle the wise, confound the ignorant, and blind the judicious. A fiction may be necessary to muddle a man's brains, and plunder his purse; but there is no call for it to bring iniquity to light, condemn the wicked, or justify the righteous. Therefore the ancients in terming it an abuse of law, sheer their honesty; its being now allowed of, shews the corruption of the present times; and they who use it are no better than time-servers: so that you may with justice adopt the motto of the poet; Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis; As the times change, so change we.
As a minister of the gospel, I have a right to use my liberty, and to drop a word against a dishonest lawyer or any other dishonest man, and leave conscience to apply it. And, however censorious you may think me to be, this is no new opinion. One who probably knew more of law, and lawyers too, than ever I did, or perhaps ever shall, has gone beyond me, and left his judgment of the profession in general in a very singular epitaph, which I heartily recommend to your perusal, leaving you to make your own application. The epitaph alluded to may be seen in the burying-ground of St. Pancras, to the following effect:
This stone is inscribed to the memory of Mr. Thomas Abbot, of Swaffham, in the county of Norfolk, Attorney at Law; who died lamented by his friends, (enemies he had none) after a painful and tedious illness, which he bore with the patience, resignation, and fortitude of a dying man. He departed this life August 16, Anno Domini 1762. Aged 48.
Here lieth one, (believe it if you can;)
Who, though a Lawyer, was an honest Man.
The gates of Heaven to him will open wide,
But will be slant to all the Tribe beside.
I think it is a pity that you introduce the scriptures into your empty harangue. You might have shot your bolts at me, and let the word of God alone; for it is but a parable in the mouth of a fool at best. "Jonathan, David's uncle, was a counsellor, a wise man, and a scribe." He might belong to David's privy-council, be a wise politician, and a secretary of state, and yet be destitute of that wisdom which makes a man wise to salvation. We read of God's taking the wise in their own craftiness, and carrying the counsel of the froward headlong. Graceless counsellors, however wise, instead of inheriting Solomon's better portion, are entitled to the worst: "The wise [in Christ] shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools." Ahithophel was one of David's counsellors, 1 Chron. xxvii. 33; "and the counsel which he counselled was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God," 2 Sam. xvi. 23. He was David's equal, his guide, and his acquaintance; with whom he took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God: yet all this did not entitle him to glory; nor was his end like that of the perfect and the upright, which is peace.
There were scribes who were writers and expounders of the law of God; such as Ezra, who stood in a pulpit, and read, gave the sense, and caused his audience to understand the reading, Neh. viii. 4, 8. These were spiritual lawyers, who handled the weighty matters of the law, and carried on a holy suit between God and conscience. And there are such still, who are spiritual scribes, instructed unto the kingdom of God; who bring forth things out of their treasures, new and old. These are scribes and wise men that the wisdom of God sends; who are to be persecuted by the wicked, that they may fill up the measure of their wickedness by doing it. These spiritual scribes handle the law of God lawfully, and the law of faith evangelically; and, by their life and doctrine, plunder the devil's kingdom, and are useful to souls, and of more value to Christ than many sparrows. But there are another sort of lawyers, who handle the laws pertaining to civil justice, and to personal right and property; such as Samuel's sons, who perverted justice and took bribes. These are men who sue at law, not to rescue souls from Satan, but to strip the bodies of men of their cloaks and coats; who judge for hire, and look for gain every one from his quarter; that prey upon the widow, and rob the fatherless; who cast truth down in the street, and forbid equity to shew her face; who turn judgment into wormwood, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock. These sit at times in the gates of the city, watching for the prey as the spider in the web; who catch at every mite as she does at the fly; who fill their tables with spoil, and their bellies with plunder; who say, "Let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." These are the lawyers at whom the Saviour's wo is levelled; who judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked; who abuse their godlike office, as devils did their dignity and habitation; who are compared to a bowing wall and a tottering fence: therefore it is no wonder if they die like men, and fall like one of Satan's princes.
If you make a second appearance, do not come forth like Sanballat, an enemy in the bush; nor like Mr. Latitat; he lies hid. Shooting in secret may become you as a lawyer, but not as a hearer at the Lock. I am for plain dealing, but no friend to a cunning hunter. Mr. Latitat is not hid: I know where he lives, and his friend too; but wish no acquaintance with either.