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of Dr. Priestley. But what has been done in this country ought not to be depreciated, more especially as it came from a person so nearly related to Dr. Priestley, and so well acquainted with all circumstances.
“With respect to my labours on the subject, I was actuated by honourable and upright motives, a desire of doing justice to Dr. Priestley's theological productions, and making the world better acquainted with their worth and useful tendency; and I derive no emolument whatever from the sale of the publication.
“For the politics of this country, I refer you in general to the American newspapers which are sent over to England, and I suppose you may have an opportunity of seeing. The laying on of the embargo and its continuance has been approved by the generality of the people of the United States, as is evident from the late elections, which have been carried by great majorities in favour of the present administration. Some opposition has been made in New England ; but it is even thought there that a majority of the people will discover the propriety and necessity of the measure.
“The same religious denominations exist here as in Great Britain. These all in general adhere to the tenets of their respective sects ; nor is it an easy matter for any opinion, new to them, however true and ancient in itself, to make an impression upon them; guarded as they are by Articles, Liturgies, Confessions, or by prejudices of long standing. A benevolent and generous mind, however, must contemplate with pleasure that Religion labours under no restraint in this country, that all sects with respect to civil rights are on an equal footing, and that the most numerous and wealthy have no prerogative over the smallest and least opulent.
“My Dissertations were published and advertised near three months ago in four different papers in this city. Including subscribers and purchasers, there are about seventy copies in circulation. I have reason to believe that they have made some favourable impressions on individuals; and their effect, I apprehend, will be greater hereafter, and when their author is removed from this world.
“The Unitarians in Church Alley, I understand, keep up their meetings regularly, and they have had (I am informed) this winter, as well as the last, evening lectures, in which they assert and defend the principles of Unitarianism.
“For my part, though I can never give up my Christian liberty and yield to their usurpation, and must ever continue to disapprove of what I think to be wrong, when I am led to speak upon the subject; yet, as preachers and propagators of divine truth, I wish them every degree of success. have acted extremely wrong in some respects, and yet be highly useful and beneficial to their fellow-creatures in other important particulars.
“Wishing you and all our friends in England the most eminent and lasting success in your pious and useful undertakings, I remain, Rev. Sir, yours in the faith of the Gospel,
WILLIAM CHRISTIE." From Mr. James Taylor.*
· Philadelphia, May 8, 1809. “Dear Sir,“On the 3rd of January, I replied to your much-esteemed
* Mr. James Taylor was by birth a Scotchman. He emigrated to America about 1791. He was to the close of his life a frequent correspondent of Mr. Aspland's. To the Monthly Repository he contributed, amongst many other things, a series of articles, exhibiting varied talent and a very amiable spirit, entitled, Critical Synopsis of the Monthly Repository, by an American, commencing with Vol. XÌX. He undertook to assist Mr. Éddowes in the latter years of his ministry, and after Mr. Eddowes' withdrawment from the pulpit he continued his ministry. He died at Philadelphia, where he had resided upwards of fifty-two years, April 30, 1844. He was described by the United States Gazette as a clergyman who had preached as he believed, and practised as he preached
favour of 27th May, and have the satisfaction to learn from my friends, to whose care I addressed my letter, that it arrived safe.
“At that time, opportunities for Great Britain were exclusively confined to the sailing of the British packets, which rendered it difficult to send any parcels or packets across the Atlantic. Happily, a great change in our political relations has taken place, as you will learn from the daily prints. In consequence of this, the commercial intercourse is again restored; and we have at present the additional satisfaction of hoping that an amicable arrangement will also be made with France. To all who love peace and abhor violence, this must be good news.
“Mr. Wood, son of the late Rev. Mr. Wood, of Leeds, who sails for England to-morrow, will convey this to you. At the same time, you will receive a discourse by my good friend Mr. Eddowes* on the early treatment of children, of which I beg your acceptance. Mr. E. is a layman, like the writer of this scrawl; he is related by marriage to Mr. Belsham. I hope he will soon find it convenient to furnish you with an account of our little society. It continues to flourish, and gradually to increase. We have no wish to attract the gaze of the crowd. It is our aim to engage the attention of those who are willing to think for themselves, and to induce those who perceive the truth, openly to avow it, and, by their example, to illustrate its excellence."
“Philadelphia, Nov. 21, 1809. It is greatly to be lamented that too many Unitarians do not lay sufficient stress on instrumental duties. While many of the reputed orthodox appear to regard them as substitutes for virtue, if not as really superior to the fruits of righteousness, not a few of those who wish to be accounted rational, act as if they imagined that in religion the end may be attained without the use of means, and as if the injunctions of our Lord to confess him before men, and similar precepts, were a dead letter as regards those who lived after the days of the apostles. I am not sorry that some of the old nominal Unitarians are going off the stage: however exemplary their private characters may have been, their public services were worse than useless, while the warmth of their political principles was but a miserable substitute for the frigidity of their religious zeal. "Mr. Lindsey was a noble example to the contrary, therefore his memory will live in the hearts of generations yet unborn. You were peculiarly happy in your choice of a subject for so interesting an occasion, as well as in the introduction of the direct address which is found in the body of your discourse, the perusal of which at once refreshed and delighted both Mr. E. and the writer of this--nor will its circulation stop here; for I mean to put it into the hands of a number of my friends.
“I have now the Repository for August, and look with no small degree of anxiety for the account of Mr. Wright's missionary labours in Scotland.
* Mr. Ralph Eddowes became the minister of the first Unitarian society in Philadelphia, after Mr, Christie's retirement from the office. He was a native of the city of Chester. He was educated at Warrington. He took a very distinguished part in the public proceedings of that city. He asserted successfully, by an appeal to the House of Lords, the rights of his fellow-citizens, in a long struggle respecting the validity of the Charter of the Corporation. In 1793, to the lively regret of the people of Chester, he emigrated to America and settled at Philadelphia. He continued to be the minister of the little congregation at Phi. ladelphia (for some time jointly with Mr. James Taylor, the writer of the letter given above) till the autumn of 1820. In then tendering to them his resignation of the ministerial office, he desired them to record in the archives of their church that he was thankful to God that he had been “led to a more diligent inquiry into the grounds of the Christian revelation, his firm and deliberate conviction of its general truth, and more particularly of those views of it to which the great and fundamental doctrine of the Divine UNITY either directly or collaterally leads.'' Mr. Eddowes published a volume of Sermons, which were characterized by vigour of thought.
Mr. W. is a man beyond all price; and in Scotland he will probably do more good than in any other place. Here, the people have neither the same degree of curiosity, nor the same spirit of religious investigation as with you. The American character is cold, and the
perfection of our religious liberty produces indifference to religious subjects. The episcopal clergy are sensible and judicious, moderately orthodox, complete Arminians, but cold and frigid ; while, among the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists, you meet with all the Puritanism of the 17th century, both as to quaintness of language and illiberality of sentiment; and these sects are the great and overpowering, majority.
"I do not believe that any Unitarian preacher could make his living here by keeping a school. A Roman Catholic is not objected to, but an Unitarian is a monstrous being. However, as our services are gratuitous, we cannot be starved into silence. I am the more particular in stating this, because it is a circumstance that ought to be known on your side of the Atlantic. Some of my brethren would wish much that we had a large church and a popular preacher; and they are sanguine in their expectations that a gentleman of popular talents might form a numerous society. I wish this were practicable at present, but I do not believe it, and therefore I would not be guilty of holding out prospects which I do not believe would be realized. To draw a great number of people together, the preacher must have a strong voice and an impassioned manner; he must speak without book, and be sure to repeat the cant phrases : without these qualifications, whatever might be his learning, his talents, his eloquence, or his respectability of character, he would meet with obstacles which would require an independent fortune to enable him to surmount. In illustration of these remarks, I might advert to the case of Mr. John Sherman, a gentleman (as I am credibly informed) of pleasing manners and exemplary character; and, as I know from actual correspondence and the perusal of
some of his discourses, of superior talents as an investigator of truth and a teacher of Christian morals. Yet this worthy man is at this moment a preacher to two congregations in a sequestered part of the State of New York, and with means of support so scanty, that his own manual labour is necessary to enable him to provide for his family. He informs me that the sale of the Improved Version, which was re-published at Boston, has excited much alarm among the Evangelical believers.'
“ As Mr. Mellis has undertaken to procure some particulars respecting Thomas Paine, who died some time ago at New York, I will only remark, that he had long ceased to be respected by those of sober habits and correct deportment.--I will endeavour to get Mr. Eddowes to commit his thoughts to paper now and then for the Repository; but you will see from our tracts, a set of which, so far as we have gone, you will receive with this, that we have taken many articles from you, not, however, without acknowledging the obligation.
“Mr. Christie, as I understand, continues to read proof-sheets. His family attend us regularly. His secession from us was fortunate in one respect; for he was so unpopular, that no stranger went more than once or twice to hear him, and we were reduced to a very small number. Since he discontinued his services, we have gone on harmoniously and have gained ground.
“ Last Sunday evening Mr. Christie attended us for the first time since his secession. The text was 2 Kings v. 18, 19; the subject, the duty of exercising candour and forbearance towards those who frankly lay before us their convictions, although we may be unable to prevail on them to go so far as we might wish or deem necessary, concluding with an address to Unitarians, urging on them consistency of religious conduct. I mention this occurrence, because this was the precise point on which Mr. Christie and I split. He was for denouncing Trinitarians as idolaters, whereas I deny that we have any right thus to brand them. It is enough that we try, in the spirit of meekness, to convince them that they are in error. Their consciences ought to be respected. It is our business to judge ourselves, to beware of sinful conformity, and to avoid every approach to that illiberality in our own language and conduct which appears to us so absurd and reprehensible when we perceive it in others.”
“Philadelphia, Oct. 27, 1810. “In my last, I mentioned that the re-publication of the Improved Version in this country had excited much alarm among the makers of silver shrines.' One of them in particular, filled with wrath, and armed, or at least supposing that he is armed, with the thunderbolts of Heaven, has not only sent us to hell, but attributed to us the most diabolical of motives. I send you now the arti: cle alluded to (the author of which is Rev. J. M. Mason, D.D., of New York), with some remarks thereon by my friend Mr. Eddowes; also the 9th and 10th Nos. of our tracts. The volume was completed by the re-publication of the 1st part of Mr. Wright's excellent work, entitled the 'Anti-satisfactionist,' which is doubtless in your possession.
“Having been in habits of intimacy with Dr. Mason, I first tried to convince him that, even supposing the sentiments of Unitarian Christians to be erroneous, unless he could first substantiate either his own claim to infallibility and to a knowledge of the hearts of others, or could convict them of immoral conduct so as to fix on them the charge of duplicity and treachery, he was not justified in making such strictures. To this he replied, not by a reference to the Improved Version, but by giving his verdict on Socinianism. I then asked him to point out the chapters and verses in which there had been either the suppressions or the mutilations which he had spoken of, and called on him to produce evidence in support of his assertion that the editors and circulators of the Improved Version were an Iscariot band,' &c., quoting the words of the paragraph and note. In about a fortnight he wrote, saying, that the whole system of Socinianism was a complete subversion of the gospel, except as to the doctrine of the resurrection; that his remarks applied to the whole volume, including the notes as well as the text; and that he had said nothing about any man's motives or conscientiousness in circulating the Improved Version, nor is there a syllable in the paragraphs of the Magazine alluded to which requires such a construction.' 'He then, forgetting Judas, talks of Paul before his conversion, and says 'we need be no worse than him in his sincerity before his conversion to perish eternally.'
“On mature reflection, as Dr. M. is a man of very high standing in what is called in Scotland the Burgher Church, and as he had so egregiously committed himself,--and, besides, as he would neither retract what he had asserted, nor come forward to defend it, for you see how he flies from the ground,-it was deemed advisable to print 1000 copies of this little tract, not for sale, but for dispersion, in the hope that some service might thereby be done to the cause of truth, by exhibiting the true spirit and genius of Calvinism.
“I am aware that such details as these can be no farther interesting to those on your side of the Atlantic than as they may serve to exhibit the temper of the Evangelical, or rather extra or super-evangelical, folks in this land of boasted religious liberty. I say boasted; for so far as the power of the clergy reaches, and so far as their influence can avail, many of them rule with an iron rod. I ought, however, to add that there are some honourable exceptions. Even among the Presbyterian clergy, the paragraph alluded to has been found fault with, and by some of them been pointedly reprobated.
“The excellent Bishop of Pennsylvania (Dr. White), true as he is to his own church, is a model of Christian humility, meekness and candour: he was one of those who uniformly treated the never-to-be-forgotten Dr. Priestley with attention and kindness. Towards the latter part of the Dr.'s life, his hearing was much impaired. When in Philadelphia in 1801,
as no Unitarian place of worship was open, he generally attended that episcopal church in which the Bishop preached (for this good man preaches twice every Lord'sday). Knowing the Dr. to be dull of hearing, Bishop White always spoke much louder than usual when Dr. P. was present; and one afternoon I actually saw the Bishop acting as pewopener to the Dr., the sexton not being immediately at hand. These are little matters, but they are unequivocal tokens of real benevolence, and I relate them with pleasure.”
Before resuming the extracts from the diaries, it is necessary to mention a humble but very useful Society which Mr. Aspland had the satisfaction of assisting to establish. In noticing in the Monthly Repository (III. 625) the proceedings of the Religious Tract Society (founded in 1799), he expressed his earnest wish that means could be found for the publication and distribution of moral and religious tracts, which, without being controversial, should yet accord with Unitarian principles. He invited the co-operation of those who concurred in the desire. The Rev. Lant Carpenter came forward to second the suggestion, and recommended the formation of a London Committee to carry it into execution. Mrs. Mary Hughes, of Hanwood, in Shropshire, a lady of cultivated mind and warm benevolence, whose name will hereafter recur in this Memoir, offered in furtherance of the scheme not only a handsome donation in money, but the more valuable contribution of a tract suited for circulation amongst the poor. This was her “William's Return, or Good News for Cottagers,” a delightful story, which has had, and still deservedly continues to enjoy, a wide circulation. This well-timed offering was the best practical argument for the proposed Society, which was established without delay. Mr. James Esdaile was appointed the Treasurer,* and Mr. Aspland undertook the Secretaryship, the duties of which he continued to perform during the two first years of the Society's existence, and then was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Rees. The second tract was from the pen of Rev. Richard Wright, and the third from that of Mrs. Cappe. The other writers of the early publications of the Society were Mrs. Price (a niece of Mrs. Mary Hughes) and a few others. Before he quitted office as Secretary, Mr. Aspland was enabled to report that the Society had printed 52,000 tracts, of which more than half had been put into circulation.
The usefulness of this Society has been tested by an experience of more than forty years, and there are few Unitarians accustomed to visit the dwellings of their poor neighbours who cannot call to mind some instance of pleasure and moral benefit rendered by its publications. At the time when it was established, there were comparatively few publications for the poor that were not disfigured by a sectarian spirit, or by other objectionable qualities. This, happily, is no longer the case; yet it is to be hoped that the sterling excellences of the Christian Tracts, and the increasing demand for such works, will ensure to the Society a succession of supporters as liberal and successful as were its founders. To our excellent Domestic Missionaries, the interesting tales and addresses bearing the names of the authors already mentioned, of Henry Ware, J. Johns, and of living writers of ability and piety, cannot but prove useful auxiliaries.
The original Committee of the Christian Tract Society included also Messrs. Joshua Brookes, Christie, James Esdaile, Jun., Thomas Foster, William Frend, Thomas Gibson, Ebenezer Johnston, Samuel Parkes, J. T. Rutt, R. Wainewright and Dr. Samuel Pett.