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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 another year.
December 30th, 1817.
me to fear that his dissolution was nigh, I was much affected when the news of that event reached me. We had been long and intimately acquainted; our acquaintance and friendship commenced in peculiar circumstances, which united us the more firmly, and rendered our mutual attachment the stronger and more last ing. Many subjects in theology did we investigate together; our minds were opened to each other without reserve; we took sweet counsel together; our plans and projects for promoting the cause of truth and righteGusness, were communicated to each other; and, as much as the distance of our places of residence would admit, for several years we acted in concert, and our labours and exertions were much connected. I shall ever esteem my intimacy with this good man, as one, and not the least, of the manifold blessings which the Almighty, in his bountiful providence, hath bestowed upon me. Now, alas! my beloved friend is no more, his labours are finished, he rests in the tomb, but his works will follow him, his reward is sure. We shall meet again in brighter scenes and happier circumstances, where friendship will be renewed and perfected, and usefulness and happiness no more be interrupted. My acquaintance with Mr. Vidler commenced in the year 1798. I was then a very low Sabellian, or more properly an Unitarian; but still reaining a few modes of expression which were inconsistent, and in becoming clearly and avowedly an Unitarian, I had only to change a few phrases, not a single idea either re
specting the Trinity or the person of Christ. He was at that time a Trini tarian, but so completely liberal, and so candid in conversation, that I soon discovered that any difference of sentiment that existed between us, would
timacy. We were both of us Universalists. The doctrine of the final happiness of all men, the Divine character and perfections, providence and government, and dispensations of grace, as well as the whole work and ministrations of Jesus Christ, as connected with this great subject, which seemed to us to involve all the best interests of the universe, then occupied our chief thought and attention; and to its promotion, and the making known its important uses in vindicating the character and ways of God, establishing the truth of Divine revelation, and the moral good of the world, almost the whole of our labours and exertions were directed. This became a solid ground and strong bond of union between us.
In the year 1797, Mr. Vidler began to publish a periodical work, called the Universalists' Miscellany. In the latter part of this year, I sent him a communication, which was the first of the Ten Letters on Election, since published separately by my friends in Scotland. I was then totally unknown to him. I sent three or four letters, in succession, before he discovered who or what I was. At length learning that I was a minister, and resided in Wisbeach, he wrote to me, requesting I would visit him, and spend a few weeks with his congregation, while he went on a journey among his old friends in Sussex. With this invitation I complied.
I arrived at his house on a Saturday morning, and Mr. Vidler set out for Sussex the following Monday morning. The two days we spent together, so far as the public services on the Sunday left us at leisure, were employed
in conversation on a variety of topics in religion. We conversed with evident caution, anxious to discover, as far as possible, each other's thoughts, sentiments, and feelings, and to form a correct estimate of each other; desirous of laying a solid foundation for close and lasting friendship, and cooperation in the same cause. We had both read, thought and preached ourselves out of our former religious connexions, and stood alone as ministers; nor did we then know of any other connexion of ministers, or churches, who would receive us, and with whom we could be comfortably connected. Finding each other thus situated, and that the circumstances we had passed through had been a good deal similar; feeling that it was unpleasant to be cut off from all religious connexions out of a particular society, we were anxious to realize, if possible, the prospect which had opened to us of union and co-ope
I have been the more particular in stating how my acquaintance with Mr. Vidler commenced, because it was the beginning of a new era in my life, and led, not only to my improvement, but to the religious connexions I have since had the pleasure of forming, and the scenes of public labour in which I have been engaged: and I think it had some influence on his subsequent progress and course.
On the commencement of our acquaintance, I discovered that Mr. Vidler, liberal and candid as he was, regarded what is called Arianism and Socinianism, with some degree of alarm, Intimations of this kind some times escaped him when he wrote to me; but his mind was not formed to be kept in ignorance, nor to resist evidence on any subject. He could not help reading, thinking, and conversing freely on all subjects, and was sure to follow the convictions of his mind, and openly profess what he believed to be
I have heard him relate many circunstances which operated upon his mind, and led him to embrace the doctrine of the restoration, which prove that he was always disposed to think freely and admit the force of evidence: I cannot recollect them now, so as to state them with accu. racy; but some of them were questions asked, or remarks made, by persons
in his congregation at Battle, or whom he happened to meet with in that part of the country, which made impres sion on his mind, and led to new trains of thought. He told me, more than once, that when he set out on a long journey to collect money for the building of the new meeting house at Battle, he was a Calvinist, and that he returned home from that journey with very different sentiments. This change he ascribed to what he had heard in conversation, and the books which came in his way in the course of that journey, connected with some impres sions he had received as already mentioned. He gave me a very interesting account of the meeting at Lewes, when he was expelled from the particular Baptist connexion for becoming an Universalist. He had been appointed to preach the Association Sermon that year; to prevent his doing this, the ministers met the preceding day, and expelled him from the connexion.His old friend Middleton, of Lewes, who it seems highly esteemed him, was appointed to preach the Association Sermon in his stead; this was a sort of excommunication sermon. Mr. V. finding that he and his supposed heresy were the subject of the discourse, rose up and continued standing during its delivery. In the course of it, after insisting on the pernicious nature and tendency of heresy, Mr. M. seemed apprehensive some of the hear ers might conclude that those who maintained such dangerous, heresy, must be bad men, cautioned them against this, and said, "so far from it, heretics are sometimes the holiest and best of men; but they are the more dangerous on that account." On his saying this, Mr. V. bowed. He afterwards went with the ministers who had expelled him, and dined with them and their friends at the inn. After the dinner, a suspicion was whispered round the room, that Mr. Middleton, on account of some, things he had said in his sermon, was tinetured with the same heresy as Mr. V. This coming to Mr. M.'s car, he rose and appealed to Mr. V. whether he believed such a suspicion to be well founded; on which Mr. V. rose, and declared to the company, that to the best of his knowledge and belief, Mr. M. was perfectly clear of the heresy with which himself stood charged.
Another circumstance which Mr.
Vidler mentioned as making a deep impression on his mind, was, Mr. Winchester's saying, as they were walking together," a number of things which are thought sacred truths will be found to be erroneous; and many things which are thought errors will be found Divine truths." Mr. V. requested him to state to what points he referred; this Mr. W. declined, and only added, " Go on, and you will find it all out in due time."
meeting house. The excellent discourses he delivered, which were both doctrinal and practical, and frequent conversation with him, removed their prejudices, and reconciled them to sentiments which before gave them so much alarm.
I visited Mr. V. again in the summer of 1799, and I think it was at this time we spent, at least, a fortnight together. He lived near Bethnal-green, and we had frequent opportunities of walking together where we were free from interruption. During this visit we investigated a number of subjects, examined the Scriptures together, and discussed freely a variety of points on which our views were different. I recollect, in particular, the existence of the devil was one of the subjects on which we entered. It was proposed to examine the passages of Scripture one by one, in which such a being is supposed to be mentioned, and to endeavour to ascertain,
During Mr. V.'s stay in Wisbeach, we had large parties, including persons of different religious sentiments, for the free discussion of subjects, almost every evening; and these discussions were of great use. He had at this time given up Trinitarianism, but still maintained the pre-existence of Christ. On this subject he was hard pressed in argument, in particular as the subject has a bearing on the perfect suitableness of our Lord's example, the reality of his temptations, obedience, sufferings, and death. To some questions asked him, he was so ingenuous as to acknowledge he could not reply. I remember he said one evening, when going from a large party, where there had been much free conversation and debate, "If I stay here long you will make a Socinian of me." I can never forget the many pleasing hours we spent toge
by attending to the context, and what-ther, in various places, from which I derived much information and profit.
ever might assist us to understand the design of the writer, the real meaning of each passage. Before we got through with this investigation, Mr. V. acknowledged, that by this mode of proceeding, the passages which are supposed to teach the popular notion, began to appear to him in a different light. I found during this visit he was making rapid progress in what is called heterodoxy; and the more I knew of him, the better I thought both of his understanding and his heart.
Mr. Vidler visited Wisbeach and the parts of Lincolnshire adjoining, several times, and had always large congregations: his company was much sought, his conversation much listened to, and he was highly respected by all the friends in the different places he visited.
Mr. V. first visited Wisbeach and Lincolnshire, after he had given up Calvinism, in the year 1801, and had crowded congregations whenever he preached. No preacher was more popular in those parts of the country. His visit to Wisbeach was peculiarly seasonable. Some of my most respected friends in that town had been so alarmed by the sentiments I had openly avowed, that they had not dared to come to hear me for several weeks, though they still continued to respect me, and went to no other place of worship. Their friendship and Christian disposition, led them to invite Mr. V. as my friend, to their houses, and brought them again to the
It was when, on one of his visits to Wisbeach, in the year 1802, he came forward to Boston, to assist at the settlement of the then newly formed Unitarian church and its minister, on which occasion 1 accompanied him, he delivered an excellent introductory address, explanatory of the nature of a Christian church, and the principles of Christian liberty. He afterwards delivered an address to the minister, in which among other things he stated what a Christian minister is not that he is not a successor of the apostles; the apostles had no successors, their office and work was peculiar to themselves :— that he is not an ambassador of Jesus Christ; he has now no ambassadors in the world; ambassadors had the seal of miracles to accredit their mission: --that he is not a steward of
mysteries; there are no mysteries in religion for him to be steward of, these were opened by the apostles, and are now plainly revealed in the gospel: -that he has no claim to the least degree of dominion over the faith and consciences of others, nor the exercise of authority in matters of religion. Then turning to the young minister, he said, you will ask me what you are: and replied, you are a brother among your brethren, a servant among your fellow servants; but they think you endowed and qualified for the work of the ministry, and have therefore called you to take the lead among be their minister. Then he gave the young man much suitable advice respecting the course it would be proper for him to pursue, and the manner in which he should conduct himself in the office to which he was called.
From Boston, Mr. V. went to the marshes of Lincolnshire, where a few persons had been excommunicated by the Methodists, for doubting eternal punishment, who had written to him requesting he would visit them. He preached in the Town Hall at Louth, and in several places in the marshes in one of the latter, there was a contest about the meeting-house, of which one of the expelled persons was trustee. Mr. V. refused to enter the meeting-house except the Methodists gave their free consent to his 'doing it: the calm and truly Christian manner in which he conducted himself, and his endeavours to calm the perturbation of others, excited the admiration of all parties. He preached in a private house, and had many hearers, and was the first person who began to sow the seeds of Unitarianism in those marshes. Though his visit there was short, and never repeated, the few friends who knew him, have ever remembered him with affection. It was when preaching in country towns and villages, and acting as a missionary, that Mr. V. most excelled. In crowded assemblies he deeply fixed the attention, and the hearers were generally both pleased and instructed. Though some would be alarmed, and even irritated, even this produced good. An instance of this kind occurred at Lutton; a serious and pious man was so alarmed and irritated with the sentiments Mr. V. delivered, as to express himself
immediately after in the most violent manner; yet the discourse which so displeased him, took such hold of his mind, that it issued in his becoming an Unitarian, which he ever after continued, and died a member of the Unitarian church at Lutton.
The above are the principal things which occur to me as proper to communicate respecting my late much valued friend, Mr. Vidler. Your's respectfully,
Stourbridge, Dec. 31, 1816.
LTHOUGH a tribute of respect to the memory of the late Rev. Benjamin Carpenter has already been forwarded to you, and a funeral discourse by his colleague has appeared from the press; yet by desire of some friends of the deceased, the following biographical memoir is presented to you for insertion.
The Rev. B. Carpenter was born at Woodrow, near Bromsgrove, April, 1752. Mr. John Carpenter, grandfather of the deceased, resided at this place till his death, at the age of 45; he was brother to the Rev. Joseph Carpenter, of Warwick and Worcester.
Philip, father of the subject of this memoir, pursued the occupation of a husbandman at the same place: he married a daughter of Mr. Lant, a respectable farmer, near Coventry, (her sister married Mr. Campion, of Newbold, near Leamington ;) he died May, 1780, aged 66, his widow survived him fourteen years: a tribute of filial respect was paid to her memory by the deceased, which was published 1794 she attained the age of 73.
Of their twelve children, Benjamin was the seventh: another inheriting the paternal name was a youth of extraordinary promise; he was suddenly cut off at the age of 23, when apparently on the point of entering on an advantageous concern in the silk manufactory of Spitalfields. Catherine, who died at the age of 29, was
See succession of ministers in those Joseph Carpenter occurs in the account congregations subjoined. The name of book of the Dissenting congregation in Stourbridge 1706 to 1781: the accounts from 1718 to 1720, are in his hand wri ting.