Imágenes de páginas

attempts, till they were joined by these men, who both instigated them to mischief and directed them how to proceed in the shortest and most effectual manner."

"The exultation of the high-church party, not only in Birmingham, but through the kingdom in general, on the success of this crusade, was undisguised and boundless. All the newspapers both in town and country, in the conduct of which they had particular influence, were full of the grossest abuse of the Dissenters, and especially of myself, and such narratives of the proceedings were published as cannot be accounted for from mistake or misapprehension, but must have been wilfully fabricated for the worst of purposes.

There were many of the high-church party who did not hesitate to say that, if the mischief had terminated with the destruction of my house, and every thing belonging to me, all had been well. Some openly lamented that the mob had not seized me, or that I had not perished in the conflagration. One clergyman in a public assize sermon called our sufferings wholesome correction ; and another declared that, if all my writings were put together, and myself were placed on the top of them, he should rejoice to set fire to the pile.

Many of the high-church party were so far from lamenting my sufferings, or complaining of the illegal manner in which the mischief was done, that they scrupled not to justify it, on the pretence, though absolutely groundless, that my writings were hostile to the state; if not directly, yet indirectly so, as being hostile to the church."

"But though many of the clergy expressed the most rancorous sentiments against us, there have appeared on this occasion among them men of the most liberal minds and principles, who expressed the greatest abhorrence of the conduct and sentiments of the rest of their body, and who | together with some generous-minded laity of the Establishment, were among the first to afford me the most substantial assistance."

The following letters written at this time are interesting, as helping to display the character of the occasion and of the man.

"To Rev. T. Lindsey.

Dudley, July 15, 1791. Dear Friend,

When I wrote my last, little did I foresee what soon after happened; but the will of God be done.

The company were hardly gone from the inn, before a drunken mob rushed into the house, and broke all the windows. They then set fire to our meeting-house, and it is burned to the ground. After that they gutted, and some say burned, the old meeting.

In the mean time, some friends came to tell me that I and my house were threatened, and another brought a chaise to convey me and my wife away. I had not presence of mind to take even my MSS.; and after we were gone, the mob came and demolished every thing, household goods, library, and apparatus. Indeed, they say the house itself is almost demolished, but happily no fire could be got, so that many things, but I know not what, will be saved.

We thought that when it was day, the mob would disperse, and therefore we kept in the neighbourhood; but finding they rather increased, and grew more outrageous with liquor, we were advised to go off, and are now on our way to Heath. My wife behaves with wonderful courage. The recollection of my lost MSS. pains me the most, especially my Notes on the New Testament, which I wanted only five days of getting all transcribed. But, I doubt not, all will be for good in the end. I can hardly ever live at Birmingham again.

In great haste, with my wife's best respects, yours and Mrs. Lindsey's most affectionately.

I am impatient to hear from you and my son at Manchester. We left William safe, though he had been in the mob." "To Mr. Russell.

London, July 29, 1791. Dear Sir,

I Am willing to hope, from the account of Mr. Lewis and others, that your inquiry goes on pretty well, though not so well as you once expected. Everything I find, as I expected, depends upon yourself, and I much fear your health will suffer by your constant exertions. I hope, however, you are apprised of this, and that you are not insensible how much depends upon your valuable life. May God preserve you, and give a happy termination to this affair.

On Wednesday I dined with Mr. Sheridan, in order, as he said, to meet Mr. Fox, who, however, was not there, but desired Mr. Sheridan to tell me that he was ready to take the matter up in the House of Commons in whatever manner we should think proper. They conceive that the encouragement given by the court to the high-church party was intended to crush Mr. Fox, and those who took our part, and to intimidate both them and us. I cannot, however, think that there is much in this, and I am very unwilling to connect our cause with that of any political party, as, upon the face of it, it is evidently of a purely religious nature. I therefore differ from most of our friends here, and wish, with you, to show no distrust of government, since our end will be answered, whether they appear in earnest to redress our grievances or not. Our tribunal is our country and the world; and before this our court, as well as ourselves, must appear, and we cannot doubt an equitable decision.

The same bad spirit pervades the whole kingdom, though the storm was, I doubt not, directed to break out here. Had Dr. Price been living, it is taken for granted that Hackney would have suffered as much as Birmingham, and that the College would not have been spared. Mr. Walker's letter, which I enclose, and which I wish you to preserve, will show you the spirit that prevails at Manchester, and we have similar accounts from all the west of England. It is, indeed, an alarming crisis that things are come to. But we cannot doubt that a wise and good Providence superintends and directs the whole. I long to be with you on many accounts. Mr. Keir thinks it had better be soon than later. It may, however, be, advisable to defer it, till the legal inquiry be over.

With my earnest prayers and best wishes, and with respects to all my friends, especially my fellow-sufferers, I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely."

No reflection need be made on this disgraceful history excepting in the words of Robert Hall, who says, that "to the unenlightened eyes of posterity it will appear a reproach, that in the eighteenth century, an age that boasts its science and improvement, — the first Philosopher in Europe, of a character unblemished and of manners the most mild and gentle, should be torn from his family, and obliged to flee an outcast and a fugitive from the murderous hands of a frantic rabble; —but when they learn that there were not wanting teachers of religion who secretly triumphed in these barbarities, they will pause for a moment and imagine that they are reading the history of Goths or of Vandals."

But there were every where some to be found to sympathize with the sufferer, and addresses of condolence and respect were made to him from public bodies, religious, political, and scientific, both in England and in France. Of all these, none, he says, gave him so much satisfaction as those from his late congregation, and especially from the young persons belonging to it who had attended his classes for religious instruction. His whole correspondence with them is delightful and affecting. The following extract of the second letter from the young people is a specimen.

"From The Young People Of The New Meeting.

Birmingham, August 22, 1791. Dear And Respected Sir,

Permit Us to indulge our feelings in again addressing you.

When assurances of gratitude and attachment are not necessary, there is a gratification in expressing the prevailing sentiments of the heart; and when you, Sir, are the object, we feel no common ardor. We have too much confidence in your goodness, and have had too many proofs of your affectionate regard to our happiness, to imagine you will think us troublesome.

We have received your affectionate and animating letter. Our tears spoke our feelings. We cannot express them. Language is feeble and inadequate. But we will bind your instructions to our hearts. While we remember whose pupils we have been, we cannot act unworthily. We can never sufficiently express our sense of the obligation you have conferred upon us, but we dwell upon the subject with too much pleasure to omit any opportunity of renewing it. To you, Sir, we are indebted for the desire of improvement. You have given us habits of employing our leisure hours in the cultivation of our understandings, in pursuits that afford delight and advantage, and which are calculated to raise us higher in the scale of being. The love of virtue you have implanted in us by precept and example. We will guard and cherish it; and while we enjoy the fruits of it, our souls exulting shall bless you. You have deprived adversity of its sting, and have enabled us to extend our views with satisfaction beyond the world, by impressing our minds with the strongest evidence of the great truths of Christianity. These advantages, Sir, we have received from you. We feel their importance, and will diffuse them as far as our influence extends. It shall be our grand object to endeavour to follow your example in a firm adherence to what we believe to be the cause of truth, in preserving our minds open to convictiou, and in the cultivation

« AnteriorContinuar »