ePub 版

accompanied very sensibly affected his spirits.* By medical skill, and domestic kindness and attention, bowever, he rallied again and again, so far as, at times, to flatter bimself with the bope of ultimate recovery ; but he was at length compelled to yield to the undermining influence of complicated maladies. For a fortnight previous to his de, cease he was confined to a sick bed, from which he never

In the awful prospect of approaching dissolution, he sustained the depressing effects of increasing debility and pain with Christian patience, and resignation to the will of Providence, in whose appointed time he was released from a state of suffering ; and finished the course of an useful and unostentatious life in peace, in the exercise of trust and holy reliance, of Christian consolation and liope.




Dear Sir,

Horncastle, March 21, 1828. BEFORE my removal from Wiltshire, I gave several friends, in different places, reason to expect from me, through the medium of the Christian Reformer, some acçount of my connexion with that district, what I did dui. ring the five years I resided at Trowbridge, and my reasons for removing from that place. Various circumstances have prevented any doing this sooner ; bnt if the following remarks find a place in your useful : Miscellany, the sort of pledge whicho I gave, as referred to above, will be rer deemed, and, perhaps, the communication inay be found acceptable to many


readers. 1. In the year 1822, when it was known that l'intended relinquishing my office as a missionary, and settling with a congregation as their pastor, besides the invitation to

* At the close of the year 1823, Mr. Harris received notice from the Managers of the Royal Institution, for which he was wholly unprepared, that his services as librarian would no longer be required"; and accordingly, in the ensuing year, 1824, those official duties, which he had faithfully discharged during a period of more than twenty years, were brought to a termination, and he retired without further notice.

Since that time, Mr. H. has been succeeded in this office by the ingenious Mr. Singer, a gentlenian in high estimation, and well known in the literary world.

Trowbridge, I had a pressing one from another congregation, and, I believe, should have had a third, had it not been known, in the quarter from which it would have come, that I could not attend to it: what determined ne to accept the invitation from Trowbridge, in preference to any other I might receive, was the hope I cherished of being useful in that town and its vicinity. I thought that the good I might do in another place, to which I was invited, would probably be done quite as well by another minister as by me ; and that at Trowbridge, where written services seemed not to be acceptable, however unreasonable the prejudice against them, I inight do more good than

any other minister the people there were likely to obtain at the time,-in particular as I had been much accustomed to officiating among people of the same, or a similar, rank in society, and was not unused to some difficulties which I knew to exist among them. Had I been able to carry into effect, in any good degree, the plans of useful ness which I had projected in the outset, for the improvement of the congregation at Trowbridge, and for the promotion of the cause in its vicinity, it is highly probable I should have spent the rest of my days there, without ever thinking of removing ; but my comfort and continuance there depended upon my success.

II. It will be proper to notice the state in which I found things, as soon after my fixing in Trowbridge as I had time to look around me and form an estimate ; and I must say I found them much less favourable than I had apticipated. To begin with the congregation:

1. I found the pumber of regular hearers much smaller than I had been taught to expect I should find it; considerable part of those called regular hearers very irregular in their attendance. No small proportion of those called members, i. e., communicants, were aged persons, and died during my residence in Trowbridge. I found the people who considered themselves as belonging to the congregation, not only very illiterate,--some of them not capable of reading, but, generally, very little informed respecting the doctrines they professed, and destitute of scriptural knowledge; and but very few of them inclined to serious conversation on such subjects.

2. But what affected me most, indeed greatly distressed ine, was the general want of union and of the true Christian spirit, and the bad moral state of many persons in the con

and a

gregation. These things were a source of pain to me doring the whole of


among them. 3. I found the congregation without any proper organization. There was no committee; no officer of any kind, excepting a pew-opener ; no person, besides the minister, appointed to act for the congregation in any matter: if any individual acted officially, he did so without appointment. A very few children were collected in the vestry on the Sunday, before the afternoon service, to be taught reading ; but without plan, order, or proper teachers. The singing was as bad as it could be, to be called at all by that name.

4. There had been painful occurrences in the congregation, of which I had no knowledge previously to my becoming the ininister ; and though a number of years bad elapsed since, the injury they had done had not been repaired. Things bad long been in a low state, and prejudice and general .feeling in the town ran like a mighty torrent in opposition to that meeting-house, the congregation, and whoever might officiate among them.

5. I found the state of society in the town and its vicinity, extremely unfavourable to my success, The people were generally quite illiterate, very ignorant in every respect, in religion greatly bigoted, and their moral state bad. I had no idea of such rank and rampant bigotry remaining any where in England, as I found in Trowbridge and its neighbourhood.

: The above remarks are thought necessary, as an introduction to the remaining part of my account. I proceed,

III. To state what I did during my residence in Wiltshire, how far I succeeded, and wherein I failed.

1. My pulpit services I laboured to adapt, both as to matter and manner, to the capacities and the moral state of the hearers. Whilst I made it my aim to inform their judgments, I used all possible ineans to rouse their consciences and improve their moral state. I found it necessary to insist much on practical subjects, and on the Christian teasper, and to preach whole discourses on particular vices in a plain and pointed manner; and I hope my labours in this way produced some good effects. But there were some persons who were far from relishing such preaching. They would have preferred my bringing for, ward politics. in my sermons, or the insisting on controversial points: still it gives me pleasure to recollect, that there were others who fully approved what was practical,

and came home to the heart and conscience. I delivered at Trowbridge different series of discourses, on most of our Lord's parables, on his sermon on the mount, on the Lord's prayer, on the ten commandments, and at different times on the evidences of Christianity; frequently, I preached on the providence and government of God, bis fatherly character, his omniscience and omnipresence, and on repentance, death, and future judgment. I delivered a series of discourses on the death of Christ, and another on his resurrection and that of mankind. Forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, the nature and design of the gospel, and salvation, were frequently subjects of my discourses. I cannot now enumerate all the subjects on which I addressed the congregation at Trowbridge, and the list would be too long for this communication ; but I may safely say, that there are very few that would be proper for å discourse in the pulpit, that I did not bring before them. Besides the services on the Sunday, I explained some part of scripture to as many of them as I could get together, on some evening in the week.

2. Knowing something of the state of parties in Trow. bridge, from the commencement of my ministry there, I carefully avoided, so far as integrity would permit, whatever might look like hostility towards any of them, both in the pulpit and out of it. From the first I began to circulate tracts; but not such as could fairly be said to contain any attack on either them or their sentiments. However, I soon found that bostilities were determined on by theun. Having put into circulation a small tract, called, "An Answer to the Question, Why do you go to the Unitarian Chapel ?" one of the same size was soon published by a Mr. Kent, a Calvinist minister in the town, called, “ An Auswer to the Question, Why do you not go to the Unita. rian Chapel ?" in which Unitarians were grossly misrepresented, and not a little abused. In consequence of this unfair attack, I published a pamphlet called, “The Trinitarian and Unitarian ;' in which I inserted Mr. K.'s tract, and answered it. la reply to this, Mr. K. published, wbat eren some of his own party, I was informed, thought ą scurrilous and abusive pamphlet ; but in which he was compelled to make one important concession, i. es, that he could not express the Trinitarian doctrine in the words of scripture, without addition or comment, as I had done the Unitarian doctrine. To this pampblet of Mr.K.'s I

[ocr errors]

published a reply, which ended the controversy between us. After which, Mr. K. seems to have been very still upon the subject, until he left the town, which was a few months before my removal from it.

This controversy seemed to have done some good in Trowbridge and its viçivity, and from that time Unitarians appear to have been viewed rather more favourably than before by the more respectable part of the inhabitants. There was an old minister at Trowbridge, who officiated in the chapel where Dr. James Foster once was minister. This old gentleman was liberal in bis sentiments, and I had hoped to find him a pleasant neighbour ; but, after a short time, be broke off all acquaintance with me, and he assured me it was out of no disrespect, but because he could not do as he would he had no alternative, but either to break off his acquaintance with me, or to become an outcast from all orthodox society in Trowbridge. The good old man died a considerable time before my removal. Before I left Wiltshire, I was, informed, that on my first settlement there, three Dissenting ministers called on the clergyman of the parish, a well-known writer and a truly liberal man, to request that he would shew me no kind of respect, but that he would try to convince me of my errors; but this gentleman would not countenance their illiberality—from him I never met with any thing but what was candid and respectful. I could give various other proofs of the extreme bigotry and illiberality of the orthodox Dissenters in Trowbridge and its vicinity, were it necessary. To the time of my leaving the town, there was not a. minister among them who would know me. What was most against my success was, that the town is almost entirely dependent on the manufacturers, and that most of these are Calvinists; the consequence was, those whom they employed were, generally, too much afraid of losing their employment to venture to hear me.

3. As soon as I commenced my residence at Trow. bridge, I obtained: permission to re-open the Unitarian meeting-house at Bradford, where the congregation was extinct, and we had not had regular service for about ten years, but the place had been lent to the Calvinists. I thought it important to recover, re-open, and preserve, a good old meeting-house, in a populous manufacturing town, and which has some little property belonging to it. Accordingly, I preached there regularly on a Sunday morning during the five years, and at Trowbridge in the

[blocks in formation]
« 上一頁繼續 »