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taken in every Unitarian congregation. He makes this statement with the more confidence, from knowing that of the present sale a great number of copies are taken by individuals in other denominations.
However gratifying the success of the Monthly Repository would be to the Editor personally, he is conscious of higher feelings in this appeal ; for he can say, with perfect truth, that whatever loss would be sustained by the Unitarian body in the cessation of the work, he himself would be a gainer by such an event in most of those points that are of importance to one who has numerous drafts upon his time and labour and health.
If the Unitarians generally entertain a fellow-feeling with the Editor, he has said enough; if they do not, he has said too much. He, therefore, commends his readers and his work to the Divine blessing; willing, in humble dependence upon the Power which has the keys of futurity, to try the event of
December 30th, 1817.
Religious History and Character of the specting the Trinity or the person of late Rev. William Vidler.
Christ. He was at that time a Trini[la a Letter from the Rev. R. Wright to tarian, but so completely liberal, and tbe Editor.)
so candid in conversation, that I soon Sir,
discovered that any difference of sen-": THOUGH the state of Mr. Vidler's timent that existed between us, would
me to fear that his dissolution was timacy. We were both of us Univernigh, I was much affected when the salists. The doctrine of the final hapnews of that event reached me. We piness of all men, the Divine character had been long and intimately ac- and perfections, providence and goquainted ; our acquaintance and friend- vernment, and dispensations of grace, ship commenced in peculiar circum- as well as the whole work and minisstances, which united us the more trations of Jesus Christ, as connected firmly, and rendered our inutual at- with this great subject, which seemed tachment the stronger and more last- to us to involve all the best interests of ing. Many subjects in theology did the universe, then occupied our chief we investigate together; our minds thought and attention, and to its prowere opened to each other without motion, and the making known its reserve; we took sweet counsel toge- important uses in vindicating the chather; our plans and projects for pro-racter and ways of God, establishing moting the cause of truth and righte. the truth of Divine revelation, and thre Gusness, were communicated to each moral good of the world, almost the other; and, as much as the distance whole of our labours and exertions were of our places of residence would ad- directed. This became a solid ground mit, for several years we acted in and strong bond of union between us. concert, and our labours and exertions In the year 1797, Mr. Vidler began were much connected. I shall ever to publish a periodical work, called esteem my intimacy with this good the Universalists' Miscellany. In the man, as one, and not the least, of the latter part of this year, I sent him a manifold blessings which the Al. communication, which was the first mighty, in his bountiful providence, of the Ten Letters on Election, since hath bestowed upon me. Now, alas! published separately by my friends in my beloved friend is no more, his la- Scotland. I was thén totally unbours are finished, he rests in the tomb, known to him. I sent three or four but his works will follow him, his re- letters, in succession, before he discoward is sure. We shall meet again in vered who or what I was.
At length brighter scenes and happier circum- learning that I was a minister, and restances, where friendship will be re- sided in Wisbeach, he wrote to me, newed and perfected, and usefulness reqnesting I would visit him, and and happiness no more be interrupted. spend a few weeks with his congre
My acquaintance with Mr. Vidler gation, while he went on a journey commenced in the year 1798. I was among his old friends in Sussex. -then a very low Sabellian, or more With this invitation I complied. properly an Unitarian ; but still re- I arrived at his house on a Saturday iaining a few modes of expression morning, and Mr. Vidler set out for which were inconsistent, and in be- Susscx the following Monday morning. coming clearly and avowedly an Unita- The two days we spent together, so rian, I had only to change a few far as the public services on the Sunphrases, not a single idea either re- day left us at leisure, were employed
in conversation on a variety of topics in his congregationi al Baule, or whom in religion. We conversed with evi- he happened to meet with in that part dent caution, anxious to discover, as of the country, which made imprese far as possible, each other's thoughts, sion on his mind, and led to new trains sentiments, and feelings, and to form of thought. He told me, more than a correct estimate of each other ; desi- once, that when he set out on a long sous of laying a solid foundation for journey to collect money. for the buildclose and lasting friendship, and co. ing of ihe new meeting house at Batoperation in the same cause. We had tle, he was a Calvinist, and that he both read, thought and preached our- returned home from that journey with selves out of our former religious con. very different sentiments. This change nexions, and stood alone as minis. he ascribed to wbat he had heard in ters; nor did we then know of any conversation, and the books which other connexion of ministers, or caine in his way in the course of that churches, who would receive us, and journcy, connected with some impreswith whom we could be comfortably sions he had received as already menconnected. Finding each other thus tioned. He gave me a very interesting situated, and that the circumstances account of the meeting at Lewes, when we had passed through had been a he was expelled from the particular good deal similar ; feeling that it was Baptist connexion for becoming an unpleasant to be cut off from all reli- Universalist. He had been appointed gious connexions out of a particular to preach the Association Sermon that society, we were anxious to realize, if year; lo prevent his doing this, the possible, the prospect which had ininisters met the preceding day, and opened to us of union and co-ope- expelled him from the connexion.ration,
His old friend Middleton, of Lewes, I have been the more particular in who it seeins highly esteemed him, stating how my acquaintance with Mr. was appointed to preach the AssoVidler commenced, because it was ciation Sermon in his stead; this was the beginning of a new era in my a sort of excommunication sermon. life, and led, not only to my improve. Mr. V. finding that he and his supment, but to the religious connexions posed heresy were the subject of the I have since had the pleasure of form- discourse, rose up and continued standing, and the scenes of public labour in ing during its delivery. In the course which I have been engaged : and I of it, after insisting on the pernicious think it has some influence on his nature and tendency of heresy, Mr. M. subsequent progress and course.
seemed apprehensive some of the hear. On the commencement of our ac- ers might conclude that those who quaintance, ļ discovered that Mr. maintained such dangerous heresy, Vidler, liberal and candid as he was, must be had men, cautioned thern regarded what is called Arianism and against this, and said, “ so for from Socinianism, with some degree of it, heretics are sometimes the holiest alarm, latimations of this kind some and best of men; but they are the rimes escaped him when he wrote to more dangerous on that account.” On me; but his mind was not formed to bis saying this, Dr. V. Lowed. Hie be kept in ignorance, nor to resist evi- afterwards went with the ministers dence on any subject. He coull not who had expelled him, and dined help reading, thinking, and conversing with them and their friends at the inn. freely on all subjects, and was sure to After the dinner, a suspicion was follow the conrietions of his mind, and whispered round the rooni, that Mr. openly profess what he believed to be Middleton, on account of some things true.
he had said in his sermon, was tincI have heard him relate many cir- tured with the same heresy as Mr. V. cunstances which operated upon his This coming to Mr. M.'s ear, he role mind, and led him to cinbrace the and appealed to Mr. V. whether he doctrine of the restoration, which believed such a suspicion to be well prove that he was always disposed 10 founded; on which Mr. V. rose, and think freely and admit the force of declared to the company, that to the evidence: 'I cannot recollect them best of his knowlerige and belief, Mr. now, so as to state them with accu. M. was perfectly clear of the heresy racy; but some of them were questions with which himself stood charged. asked, or remarks made, by persons Another circuipstance which Mr. Vidler"mentioned as making a deep meeting house. The excellent disimpression on his mind, was, Mr. courses he delivered, which were both Winchester's saying, as they were doctrinal and practical, and frequent walking together, * a number of conversation with him, removed their things which are thought sacred truths prejudices, and reconciled them to will be found to be erroneous ; and sentiments which before gave them go many things which are thought errors much alarm. will be found Divine truths." Mr. V. During Mr. V.'s stay in Wisbeach, Tequested him to state to what points we had large parties, including perhe referred; this Mr. W. declined, sons of different religious sentiments, and only added, “ Go on, and you for the free discussion of subjects, alwill find it all out in due time."
inost every evening; and these dis- I visited Mr. V. again in the sum- cussions were of great use.
He had mer of 1799, and I think it was at at this time given up. Trinitarianism, this time we spent, at least, a fori- but still inaintained the pre-existence night together. He lived near Beth- of Christ. On this subject he was nal-green, and we had frequent oppor- hard pressed in argument, in partitunities of walking together where we cular as the subject has a bearing on trere free from interruption. During the perfect suitableness of our Lord's this visit we investigated a number of example, the reality of his temptasubjects, examined the Seriptures to- tions, obedience, sufferings, and death. gether, and discussed freely a variety To some questions asked him, he was of points on which our views were so ingenuous as to acknowledge he different. I recollect, in particular, could not reply. I remember he said the existence of the devil was one of one evening, when going from a the subjects on which we entered. It large party, where there had been was proposed to examine the passages much free conversation and debate, of Scripture one by one, in which “ If I stay here long you will make a such a being is supposed to be men. Socinian of me." I can never forget tioned, and to endeavour to ascertain, the many pleasing hours we spent togeby attending to the context, and what ther, in various places, from which I ever.might assist us to understand the derived much information and profit. design of the writer, the real meaning Mr. Vidler visited Wisbeach and the of each passage. Before wegot through parts of Lincolnshire adjoining, sevewith this investigation, Mr. V. ac- ral times, and had always large conknowledged, that by this mode of pro- gregations : his company was much ceeding, the passages which are sup- sought, his conversation 'much lisposed to teach the popular notion, be tened to, and he was highly respected gan to appear to him in a different by all the friends in the different places Jight. I found during this visit he he visited. was making rapid progress in what is It was when, on one of his visits called heterodoxy; and the more I to Wisbeach, in the year 1802, he knew of him, the better I thought both came forward to Boston, to assist at of his understanding and his heart. the seulement of the then newly
Mr. V. first visited Wisbeach and formed Unitarian church and its miLincolnshire, after he had given up nister, on which occasion I accomCalvinism, in the year 1801, and had panied him, he delivered an excela crowded congregations whenever he lent introductory address, explanatory preached. No preacher was more po of the nature of a Christian church, pular in those parts of the country. and the principles of Christian liberiy. His visit to Wisbeach was peculiarly He afterwards delivered an address to seasonable. Some of my most re- the minister, in which among other spected friends in that town had been things he stated what a Christian so 'alarmed by the sentiments I had minister is not:-hat he is not a openly avowed, that they had not successor of the apostles; the apostles dared to come lo hear me for several had no successors, their office and weeks, though they still continued to work was peculiar to themselves :--respect ine, and went to no other place that he is not an ambassador of Jesus of worship Their friendship and Christ; he has now no ambassadors Christian disposition, led them to in- in the world; ambassadors had the site Mr. V. as my friend, to thưir seal of miracles to accredit their mishouses, and brought them again to the sion : -- that he is not a steward of mysteries; there are no mysteries in immediately after in the most violent religion for him to be steward of, manner; yet the discourse which so these were opened by the apostles, and displeased him, took such hold of his are now plainly revealed in the gospel: mind, that it issued in his becoming -that he has no claim to the leasi de- an Unitarian, which he ever after gree of dominion over the faith and continued, and died a member of the conscicnces of others, nor the exercise Unitarian church at Lutton. of authority in matters of religion. The above are the principal things Then turning to the young minister, which occur to me as proper to comhe said, you will ask me what you municate respecting my late inuch -are: and replied, you are a brother valued friend, Mr. Vidler. among your brethren, a servant among Your's respectfully, your fellow servants; but they think
R. WRIGHT. you endowed and qualified for the work of the ministry, and have there- Stourbridge, Dec. 31, 1816. fore called you to take the lead among SIR, then, to be their minister. Then he Alpibe memory of the late Rev.
L'THOUGH a tribute of respect gare the young man much suitable advice respecting the course it would Benjamin Carpenter' has already been be proper for him to pursue, and the forwarded to you, and a funeral dis. manner in which he should conduct course by his colleague has appeared himself in the office to which he was from the press ; yet by desire of some called.
friends of the deceased, the following From Boston, Mr. V. went to the biographical memoir is presented to marshes of Lincolnshire, where a you for insertion. few persons had been excommuni- The Rev. B. Carpenter was born at cated by the Methodists, for doubting Woodrow, near Bromsgrové, April, eternal punishment, who had written 1752. Mr. John Carpenter, grandto him requesting he would visit them. father of the deceased, resided at this He preached in the Town Hall at place till his death, at the age of 45; Louth, and in several places in the he was brother to the Rev. Joseph marshes : in one of the latter, there Carpenter, of Warwick and Worwas a contest about the meeting-house, cester. of which one of the expelled persons Philip, father of the subject of this was trustee. Mr. V. refused to enter memoir, pursued the occupation of a the meeting-house except the Metho- husbandınan at the same place: he dists gave their free consent to his married a daughter of Mr. Lant, a doing it: the calm and truly Christ- respectable farmer, near Coventry, ian manner in which he conducted (her sister married Mr. Campion, of himself, and his endeavours to calm Newbold, near Leamington ;) he died the perturbation of others, excited the May, 1780, aged 66, his widow suradmiration of all parties. He preached vived him fourteen years: a tribute of in a private house, and had many filial respect was paid to her memory hearers, and was the first person who by the deceased, which was published began to sow the seeds of Unitarian- 1794 : she attained the age of 73. ism in those marshes. Though his
Of their twelve children, Benjamin visit there was short, and never re- was the seventh : another inheriting peated, the few friends who knew the paternal name was a youth of exhim, have ever remiembered him traordinary promise ; he was suddenly with affection. It was when preach- cut off at the age of 23, when appaing in country towns and villages, rently on the point of eutering on an and acting as a missionary, that Mr. advantageous concern in the silk V. most excelled. In crowded assem- manufactory of Spitalfields. Cathe. blies he deeply fixed the attention, rine, who died at the age of 29, was and the hearers were generally both pleased and instructed. Though some
See succession of ministers in those would be alarmed, and even irritated, even this produced good. An instance Joseph Carpenter occurs in the account
congregations subjoined. The name of of this kind occurred at Lutton; a
book of the Dissenting congregation in scrious and pious man was so alarıned Stourbridge 1706 to 1781: the accounts and irritated with the sentiments Mr. from 1713 to 1720, are in his hand wri. V. delivered, as to express himelf tiug.