In the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Christianity and Law, Paul Miller and I are contributing a chapter on “Christianity and Equity.” We’ve just posted a substantially revised version of the chapter. The new version has less coverage of Aristotle, but it adds a section on equity in the Hebrew Bible, has a bit more on canon law and the Magisterial Reformation, and has new sections on the early modern Chancery and post-seventeenth-century developments. You can read the new version here.
One thing we found but were not able to include was this amazing quotation from John Wesley about the decadent equity pleading of the eighteenth century:
A bill in chancery was originally a simple letter or petition to the chancellor. It grew bulky and complex for no good reason, until finally it reached the form in which countless students of equity in law schools have had to learn about it?the division into nine parts, the telling of the same story three times over, the charge of some “confederacy” on the part of perhaps quite innocent, and possibly even friendly, defendants. We do not draw bills in equity like that nowadays. It was a bill of the old kind about which John Wesley wrote in 1745: “I called on the Solicitor I had employed in the suit lately commenced against me in chancery, and here I first saw that foul monster, a Chancery Bill. A scroll it was of 42 pages in large folio to tell a story which needed not to have taken up forty lines, and stuffed with such stupid senseless improbable lies, many of them, too, quite foreign to the question, as I believe would have cost the compiler his life in any Heathen Court either of Greece or Rome, and this is equity in a Christian country.”
The quote is in Charles P. Megan, “In Chancery,” 13 ABA J. 106, 107 (1927).