Images de page
PDF
ePub

ciety were Mr. John Cue, a very tolerable Hebrew scholar, of warm passions, a Sandimanian and Trinitarian, a benevolent good man; Mr. Richard Clarke, late Rector of St. Philips Charlestown, South Carolina, a very aged gentleman, a polite and classical scholar, an Hebrician and a Mystic; and a Mr. Edmund Clegg, author of an Essay on the Two Witnesses. The whole three held the doctrine of the restoration of all fallen intelligences. In 1783, Mr. Clegg left this little band of friends for America, and on his arrival at Philadelphia he introduced himself to Mr. Winchester; and on that gentleman's leaving Philadelphia for London, Mr. Clegg's son gave him a line of introduction to his brother, John Clegg, and his few universalist friends at Shoreditch. Through this introduction, Mr. Winchester preached twice at Blacks'-fields, Southwark. The elegant simplicity of his plain nervous language, its richness in scripture truth, its energy, its persuasiveness, together with the unaffectedness of his manners, convinced and subdued; his hearers became friends and intimates, and were led at last to the taking of Parliament Court Chapel.

The intimacy of Mr. John Cue and bis friends with Mr. Winchester led them to become part of the congregation, on Mr. Winchester's consenting that they might assemble in the vestry instead of thus meeting as before in Shoreditch. Here they formed themselves into church fellowship, and had their officers, and brake bread every Sunday afternoon. Mr. Winchester frequently attended their meetings, and always approved of them, but constantly declined wholly to unite in fellowship with them, either fearful it might contract his public sphere of action, or bring over again those unpleasantnesses he had formerly met with in church-fellowship. But such a society, that had lasted for years before Mr. Winchester's coming to England, could not be called a small party in the congregation considering themselves as the Church. The propriety of the agreement perhaps is not defensible: though at the time it was useful, it certainly at last became im perium in imperio.

When Mr. Vidler first came to town he lived at Mr. Lee's, in Paternoster

Row, Spitalfields; it was not till a considerable time after that he came to live with me in Houndsditch; but I am proud to bear my testimony for the many years we did live together, to the tenderness and irreproachable excellency of his character and conduct. His principal failings were, an unbounded confidence till suspicion was excited, and a weakness of benevolence which too often made him the victim of imposition. He was the father, brother and friend; and I can truly say, I place the time we lived together among the white days of my earthly existence; and, differing perhaps from all his friends, I always considered him as a most excellent tradesman. He was honest, industrious and obliging; and that he was not successful in business when in the Strand, did not arise from a deficiency in ability as a tradesman, but from being over persuaded by a speculative man to embark in business with him in a concern he had no knowledge of, and which was foreign to all his pursuits. In three months, the greater part of which time he was ill, nearly to death, a dissolution of partnership took place, and he was left to struggle with a heavy rent, and a large debt incurred solely by the madness or wickedness of this speculation, when at the commencement of it he had accumulated property more than sufficient to pay every debt that he owed in the world. This was, indeed, the beginning of his troubles; his after removal to Holborn could not retrieve what had been done, but left a great man and noble mind depressed and clouded through the remainder of his life with a weight which deadened all his exertions.

It is said [p. 198] that Mr. Vidler never completely recovered. This language is not, I think, strong enough: this unfortunate circumstance, of the overturning of the post-chaise literally bottom upwards, destroying from its effects all his former activity, and ever after disabling him from walking without intense pain. He always supposed he had injured the hip-boue as well as some of the finer blood-vessels about the neck and chest. He had a long and painful struggle, endeavouring to walk and dig in his garden for exercise, under the most acute sufferings; those sufferings at length overcame

his exertions, and as his very habit turned every thing into fat, this tendency increased his appetite, and the pain of this eternal craving compelled him to gratify nature, and by so doing feed his disease; but this was but at the close of life. I can speak of years of abstemiousness, when he would seldom eat more than one meal a day, and that was dinner, not for want of appetite, for he was always hungry, but because he would not give way to it.

I cannot say that I think the memoir [p. 193] does justice to Scarlett's Testament. This work was projected by Mr. Scarlett; the translation was made by Mr. Creighton, a Clergyman of the Establishment, but in the Wesleian Methodists' connexion. Mr. Scarlett, who was an ox in the labours of literature, made all the divisions and the titles of them, and collated all the various translations. Once a week Mr.Creighton, Mr. Scarlett, Mr. Vidler and Mr. Cue met at Mr. Scarlett's, at an early hour, breakfasted and compared Mr. Creighton's translation with all Mr. Scarlett's collations, and with the Greek, and disputed on them till they could agree; when they continued to differ, the place was taken home and privately reconsidered, their opinion sent, and most votes carried it. It was a long and arduous undertaking, carried on for a long length of time with much labour and great integrity, excepting that Mr. Creighton and Mr. Cue leaned too much to the Trinitarian scheme: however, with all its faults, it is a very Improved Version, being the most elegant in the English language, and the best ground-work for a more perfect translation. I believe, that, during their whole labour, excepting the first and last day of it, they allowed themselves no refreshment between an early breakfast and tea, that nothing might interrupt the work or take off their attention.

A Note in page 198, says, "When he first settled in London he was of a lean and spare habit of body, and so weakly as to be constrained to preach sitting." When he came to London he was comparatively lean to what he was for some years before his death; but this circumstance was some time before he came to London, soon after he began preaching; and I think I have heard him say, that at that time

he was so bad as to be constrained at times to be carried into the pulpit to preach, and out of it when service was over.

No person could possibly shew more fortitude than he did at his commencing preacher; it was for a long time never without opposition, and frequently at the hazard of his life. To him, in this instance, the promise, Be not weary of well-doing, for in due time thou shalt reap if thou faint not, was most amply and unexpectedly realized. In a letter to me, dated 12th March, 1798, he says, "I daily experience the truth of that saying, 'When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.' In my native place and neighbourhood, where I have formerly suffered nothing but scorn and reproach for the truth's sake, I now meet with almost universal respect. And though in the time of my reproach I had many to attend my ministry, yet I have now a great many more. Last Wednesday evening at Battle there were above a thousand persons at the meeting: and though the house is very strong, yet the congregation was so large, that it was thought proper to put pillars under the gallery to prevent its breaking down. I preached twice on Lord's day at Battle, to a great company, and walked to Siddlescombe in the evening and preached to above 300 people in a private house." Another letter says, "The affection of my friends in the country seems unbounded: I have access to their hearts, and can say any thing to them which God hath communicated to me. there are full houses of attentive hearers, and universal respect from men of the world. Thus the scene of usefulness opens before me. I am to preach to-morrow, Lord's day, at Battle three times, and break bread with the brethren; Monday evening I meet the church; Tuesday preach for the last time at Battle; Wednesday at Staple Cross; Thursday at Northiam; Friday at Rolvendon; take horse on Saturday morning to meet the coach at Flimwell; and hope, by the good hand of my God upon me, to reach the Borough at six o'clock."

Wherever I go

As I am transcribing from his letters, I cannot, though I have made a longer letter than I intended, forbear making

another extract, as it shews the tenderness of his friendships as well as the elegance of his mind. It is dated July 3, 1798: "Found my aged mother and numerous friends well. The country is beautiful. The extensive and variegated prospects cheer my heart. The corn and hay are abundant; fruit is in great plenty, parti cularly cherries. I have every thing here to make me happy, save the want of an amiable friend, J. Weeks. His death is esteemed a general loss in this neighbourhood. I shall visit his widow in her forlorn abode this evening. He was buried in the meeting. yard last Saturday, amidst a great concourse of sympathizing friends and neighbours. I am to preach a funeral discourse next Sunday afternoon on the sad occasion. It will be a trial to me. I love my friends, and feel the separating stroke most severely. He was cut off in his 27th year. I shall see his face no more on earth-no more hear his friendly voice-no more tread with him the pleasing paths of science—no more have his example of faith and unshaken integrity to stimulate my sluggish heart in the path of duty-no more shall I take sweet counsel with him-no more mingle my soul with his in the sacred exercises of friendship! Like a rose half blown, forcibly torn off by the east wind, so his fine form is blasted by the hand of death! I now, for the first time, feel the full meaning of that saying, Thy friend that is as thine own soul. O how severe is the pang of parting from such! But I correct

the feelings of my heart-I adore the wisdom and goodness of Him who giveth and who taketh away, as seemeth best to himself. But sure his goodness will not blame me for the involuntary exercise of those feelings which he has implanted in my nature. But I must lay my hand upon my mouth, I must be silent. The pleasures of memory are in some circumstances great; but there are pains of memory also: he who has a heart to enjoy the former, must also take a portion of the latter;-well, be it so, the account is wisely balanced. I take that which is allotted to me, and say, 'Father, thy will be done.'

[ocr errors]

Should a life of Mr. Vidler be ever written, what an excellent opportunity would it be to consider the general state of Christianity prior to the year 1791, and the new era of liberality in sentiment and practice that has taken place since that period, and of the great influence the teaching of Mr. Winchester and Mr. Vidler had in producing it by their widely extended preaching of the doctrine of the Universal Restoration; which, by leading Christians to search the Scriptures as the fountain-head of religious instruction, has laid a foundation for the knowledge of the Unity of God, and the removal of every obstacle to the reception of pure Christianity throughout the world! Thanking you for your indulgence in admitting these addenda to the memoirs of my late much respected friend, I remain, &c. T. A. TEULON.

ORIGINAL LETTERS.

From the late Rev. Edward Evanson to the Rev. Thomas Howe. SIR, Bridport, Nov. 8, 1817. BOUT fifteen years ago was,

A I was

friend, introduced to the late Rev. Edward Evanson, and afterwards had the happiness of many interviews with him. Our conversation was generally on theological subjects, and though I was obliged frequently to differ from him in the positions he advanced, yet I always did it with that deference which I knew to be due to a gentle

man so superior to myself in erudition and literary attainments. Acquainted also with the noble sacrifice he had made to the dictates of his conscience, in resigning his valuable living and all his flattering prospects of preferment in the Established Church, the respect with which I viewed him was raised even to reverence for his Christian fortitude and inflexible integrity. I considered him as a sincere believer of Christianity, though I could not but lament that he thought so lightly of some of the proofs of it, which

were very satisfactory to my mind, I mean its external evidences as exhibited particularly by Dr. Lardner. In the beginning of the year 1803, when he resided at Lympston, receiving from him a present of his ingenious pamphlet, entitled "Reflections on the State of Religion in Christendom at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century of the Christian Era," with a request that I would not only read it with attention, but also favour him with such remarks as occurred to me in the perusal, I readily complied, and this led to an epistolary correspondence between us. Some of his letters I have unfortunately lost; two of them, however, which are preserved, I have transcribed (with the omission of a few things of merely a private and personal nature), for insertion in the Monthly Repository, should it meet with your approbation. I did not take copies of my letters to him, but recollect, that in the communication which gave occasion to his remarks contained in the first letter, I expressed my surprise at his not vindicating the authenticity of the Apocalypse of John by any external evidences. 1 gave my reasons for differing from him in the opinion of the necessity of a person's understanding this mysterious book, before he can be qualified to distinguish pure Christianity from its corruptions. I was led to acknowledge, with respect to myself, that after many years of attention to it, I was not sure that I entertained clear ideas of some of its symbolical representations. I thought I might, in general, be more usefully employed in the pulpit, by proving and illustrating the plain doctrines and enforcing the pure precepts of the gospel, than by endeavours to explain to my hearers the visionary symbols of Daniel and John, though the latter, I admitted, might with propriety be occasionally done. I also expressed a doubt, whether the Apocalypse was written at so early a date as my worthy correspondent had given it, referring him to the researches of Lardner and Lowman. These things it seems proper for me to state, as being the ground on which his remarks in the first letter were founded. These remarks of Mr. Evanson led me to illustrate my views of the subject more

largely in my reply. None of the epistles of the Apostle Paul furnished to my mind unequivocal evidence that he must necessarily have seen the Apocalypse of John. The account which the former gives, for instance, of the rise, reign and destruction of the man of sin in 2 Thess. ii. might have been communicated to him by supernatural inspiration, and after some years more particulars of the same events presented to the view of the latter by visionary representations, and also others in addition to them. The hypothesis of Mr. Evanson (previously advanced by Sir Isaac Newton in his Observations upon the Apocalypse of St. John, p. 239), of the apostles Paul and Peter sometimes alluding in their Epistles to the Apocalypse, I take the liberty to recommend to some of your learned Correspondents, as a subject of curious, useful and important discussion in the pages of your valuable Repository. If it can be maintained, it must establish, beyond doubt, both the authenticity and early date of this sublime and wonderful production, and tend to illustrate some of its mysterious passages. THOMAS HOWÈ.

LETTER I.

Lympston, April 6, 1803. DEAR SIR,

AFTER your obliging politeness in sending me a copy of your excellent discourse upon "the Commencement of the New Century," I thought it incumbent on me to trouble you with one of my late publications. It would have given me great pleasure to find, that my little pamphlet had given you the same entire satisfaction that I received from the perusal of yours. You do me justice, however, in supposing me to be influenced only by conscientious motives, and performing what I regard as a very important duty to the cause of true Christianity, and the temporal and eternal happiness of my fellow-creatures. And to a mind so impressed, the censures or more serious consequences of the malice of any interested, mistaken men, seem quite undeserving notice.

Firmly persuaded as I am, that there is no other sufficient evidence of the divine authority of the Christian

1

covenant, according to the plain dic tates of reason and the word of God, besides what arises from the completion of that prophetic, anticipated history of the great leading events (which have produced all the important changes in civil and ecclesiastical affairs from Nebuchadnezzar's time to our own), contained in those visions of Daniel, of which the Apocalypse professes to be both a continuation and more diffuse explanation, and that, without understanding the Apocalypse, it is not possible to distinguish the truths of Christ's gospel from the superstitious errors of the antichristian apostacy, I am sincerely grieved to find you avowing, that, after ten years' particular attention to that important Scripture, you cannot understand it. * If, indeed, you have accustomed yourself to endeavours to discover the meaning of certain isolated detached passages, without considering them as parts only of one whole history, and therefore closely connected with those parts which both precede and follow, the dissatisfaction which must arise from such a mode of study is sufficiently obvious. The same process, I believe, would render every human history unintelligible. As Sir Isaac Newton, a century ago, demonstrated the futility and falsehood of the slight unfounded report of Irenæus, that John wrote the Apocalypse in the reign of Domitian, I did not imagine that any one could now suppose it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem. The passages, however, I have quoted out of Paul's Epistles, written certainly before the end of Nero's reign, some of which cannot be understood upon any principles of divine revelation or of common sense, without supposing them to refer to the Apocalypse, surely afford an external testimony of John's having written that invaluable Scripture in or before the reign of Nero, far more respectable than the evidence deduced from the whole host of fathers of the apostate

I recollect stating, that though I thought I perceived the general drift and purport of the prophetic history of the Christian church contained in the Apocalypse, the meaning of some of its symbolical descriptions I could not clearly understand.

VOL. XIII.

church. This, indeed, would be the case, if instead of disagreeing with each other, as they do, they were all unanimous in their testimony. To have attempted to establish its authenticity, would have appeared to me the most idle waste of time and the reader's patience; because there can be but one proper satisfactory criterion of the divine authority of any prophetic scripture, I mean that infallible one of the absolute certainty of the regular strict completion of its predictions, so that each antitype corresponds with the emblematical type in order, time and place. If my explanation has not shewn that they do so, it has done nothing; and as I know by the experiments I have made upon the unsatisfactory parts of the interpretation of other expositors, my errors may, from their inconsistency with other essential points of the prophecies, be most easily proved to be such. Should my well-intended "Reflections on the State of Religion in Christendom," attract so much notice as to induce any body to undertake such a work, I shall rejoice, be the consequence to myself what it may; because the very discussion must lead people in general to think more seriously and attentively of that most important of all the sacred books, than they seem at present inclined to do. All I wish for is the prevalence of truth, genuine unsophisticated Christian truth, as the sure and only meaus of making mankind wise, virtuous and happy. I am,

Dear Sir,

yours very sincerely, EDWARD EVANSON.

LETTER II.

Lympston, April 21, 1803.
DEAR SIR,

So far are the remarks which you did me the honour of making upon my late publication from standing in need of any apology, that I think myself much obliged to you for your friendly frankness in making them; and should be still more so, if, by pointing out the reasons of your objections to any particulars, you would enable me to perceive those errors, which, according to the common lot of humanity, it is highly probable I may have fallen into.

« PrécédentContinuer »