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Memoir of the late Rev. W. Vidler. are now about one hundred and fifty (Continued from p. 72.)
in communion. We have for several
years past met in a small old incetingM
R. VIDLER set out on this house, which was not onr own pro
journey, which was important periy, but by reason of our increase we to him in inaay respects, in the month could no longer meet in it without of May, 1791. Passing through Lon- manifest damage to our health and don, he went to Abingdon, where he bindrance to the success of the gospel met with a cordial reception from Mr. among us. We have therefore built D. Turner, the Baptist minister, and a new house of a convenient size, Ms. W. Tomkins, by whom he was which has cost us upward of L700 : introduced to the Independent congre. we have raised among ourselves £100, gation of the same town, and to the which though it may seem Jiule to our mixed congregation at Oxford; all of number, yet is really great for our cirwhom united by their liberality to make cumstances; the greater number of the traveller's journey appear hopeful. the members being either servants or Henext went, again by way of London, day-labourers with great families. to Northampton, where Mr. Ryland Dated May 1, 1791." (the present Dr. R. of Bristol), gave To this case the ministers present him the right hand of fellowship, and checrfully affixed their signatures by introduced him to the venerable Mr. way of recommendation. Hall, of Arnsby, father of Mr. Robert Mr. Vidler was now introduced to Hall, of Leicester ; thongh in both the leading ministers of his denomiplaces he was unsuccessful in the nation, of whose character and talents great object of his visit, the harvest he formed an accurate judgınent. He having been just reaped by another's was a penetrating observer, and by a sickle. From Northampton he walked few glances caught the prominent feawith Mr. Ryland to Olney, to attend tures of men's minds. Of the persons the Baptist association, in the religious whose acquaintance he now gained service of which he was called to take he considered Mr. Andrew Fuller the a part. Here he saw for the first time most distinguished, on account both Mr. Andrew Fuller and heard him of his strong intellectual powers, and prcach. “On the Thursday evening, of his stirring, resolute disposition. after supper,” he says in his Journal, Fuller, also, whose cast of mind was “I presented my case to the messen. in sonie respects similar to Vidler's, gers and ministers. Mr. Ryland read marked the stranger with curiosity and it, and Mr. Hall requested me to re- discovered that he was no ordinary late the dealings of God, at Baule, man. The two brethren approached with myself and people; which I did, each other with respect, which before and all present glorified God for what they parted grew into attachment; they heard." The case which he pre- neither of them suspecting that they sented was as follows:
should in a few years appear before “ Brethren, God who is rich in the public as theological opponents on grace, having called a few of us froin one of the most important controdarkness into light, we sat down in versies which divides' the Christian gospel order on the 28th of March, world. Before they separated, they 1780, being then only thirteen in num- pledged themselves to a literary correber, but by the blessing of God in his spondence, as we gather from the folword to the conversion of sinners, we lowing memorandum in Mr. Vidler's, VOL. XII.
Diary: “ Mem. To write to Mr. Ful- pains and protracted sofferings, and in
ments with divine comforts and hea.
duced its effect; the churlish contriWhether the agreement to corre- butor was softened by it, and taking spond was fulfilled by either or both Mr. Vidler by the hand thanked him of the Baptist brethren, and to what for his faithfulness and earnestly and degree, we have no means of deter- cordially invited him to his table. mining; no letters remaining among The fruits of this collecting tour Mr. Vidler's papers but such as have were not equal to the expectations of been made public. His relation of the pastor and his flock : ihe debt conhis experience, or religious conversion tracted in such strong hope, was in and progress, and, above all, his reality but liitle diminished: in another thoughts on “ the consequences of way, however, the journey was exceed. Sociniamsm" would be extremely in- ingly profitable to Mr Tidler, for it teresting now that we have seen the introduced him to a large circle of reconclusion of his life and carthly his- ligious acquaintance, amongst whom tary, and have witnessed the happy were many dissenters from what he effect of his “Socmian" belief in stupe himself considered as the orthodox porting him in the midst of acute s faith. He has himself described his
visit to an heretical people in Lincoln- deny), “ the truth of these doctrines, shire, which may have been the occa- as commonly received among the orsiou of his inquiring more earnestly thodox : but I do intend to consider than he had hitherto thought neces- them both more minutely : and as I sary into the truth of his religious desire to have nothing but truth, I system, and which shall therefore be intreat God to direct me and keep me related in his own worels. “Ac Wis- from error." This resolution 'was beach," where he preached for Mr. strengthened by the death of his father Freeston in the General Baptist Meet- about this time, for whom he possessed ing-house and collected " a few shil. a strong affection, but in whom he lings," he says, “I heard of Mr. John saw no signs of such a conversion as Atkins, who was some years ago mis on the Calvinistic scheme would wara nister at Tenterden, in Kent. I took a rant the hope of his future happiness. resolution to go and see him at Long The strugglc between the feelings of Sutton, in Lincolnshire, where he his nature and the dictates of his creed was minister of a General . Baptist was painful, almost to distraction. people. Accordingly on Friday after. The result was an indistinct hope, n:oon I went to Tid-Goat, to a Mr. which he is said to have expressed in Stanger's who is a farmer and a mem- the funeral sermon which he preached ber of a General Baptist church at for his father, that good men would Fleet, about three or four miles from be finally saved, even though they Sulton. I was received very coure might not clearly apprehend what teously though a stranger and of a dif- the reputed orthodox lerined saving ferent communion from Mr. Stanger. faith. The next day he invited me to preach
But his doubts were never so com. at Fleet on the following Sunday as pletely roused as on this journey, in chat place was destitute of a minister, which he set out a Calvinist and reOn Saturday, I went to Tidd St. turned an inquirer. Among the me. Mary's, to call on a Mr. Hursthouse, moranda of his tour, we find these, where I was received in the saine strongly indicative of the state of his affectionate manner, and in the after, mind: “ Three things to be done by noon went to Fleet to a Mr. William the abettors of final restoration, before Stanger's, who received me with their scheme can be received; Ists the same openness. I preached on Prove that the prophecies and promises the Sabbath morning at Fleet, and applied to this subject are to be taken in the afternoon at Sutton, for Mr. in that extensive sense. 2nd, Obviate Atkins. I found many lively, good those plain passages that speak of the and generous people in these parts, perpetuity of future punishment in the many of whom are in the scheme of Old Testament and especially in the final restoration, as taught by Mr. New. 3rd, Prove that ihere is a plain Winchester."
account of a dispensation to take place Some of the persons to whom Mr. after the day of judgment.-Note, To Vidler was now introduced proved investigate the doctrine of atonement friends for life, and especially Mr. before I consider the scheme of final Hursthouse who shewed him sub restoration. Dr. Edwards has written stantial kindnesses ou various occa- an answer to Dr. Chauncy. I must sions.
Intercourse with Christians of va: His inquiries were now regularly rious persuasions could not fail to but cautiously pursued. produce a strong effect upon a mind exhibits great restlessness and indecia, like Mr. Vidler's, not formed to re- sion of min.l. At one time he seems main long in a passive state. So to satisfy himself in his old creed ; at early as the year 1784, he appears froin another le perceives in it difficulties the following entry in his Journal, to and perplexities without number; and have entertained doubts on the Cal- once, ai least, he ventures to ask wheas vinistic system: "I have lately had ther he do not deceive himself
" by some serious thoughts on two impor- faith in divine revelation. Through tant points in divinity-the godhead these doubts and anxieties his mindof Christ, and the eternity of hell-zor was soll inaking its way toward truth, ments. At present I do not doulit" and the change of his opinions though (he should raiher have written I do not gradual was al length complete. xis
The publications of the late Mr. almost every pulpit in the kingdom Winchester in favonr of universal re would be shut against him ; but nonc storation had found their way into of these things moved him; he had Sussex, and liad made considerable already borne and was still willing to impression at Battle and the neigh bear evil report ns well as good for the bourhood. Great alarm was raised sake of truih and a good conscience. amongst the believers in Calvinism: Letters of expostulation and reproachi Mr. Vidler would not have been al. poured in upon him from many lowed, if he had been disposed, to be sources : his apostacy was the thenie an idle spectator of the contest : he of general discourse amongst the Bapwas indeed for some time silent, but tists; and in the summer of 1793, he he was busily engaged during this and his church were formally excluded period in correspondence with friends from the Kent and Sussex Yearly Asupon the subject, in reading and espe- socialion; the presiding elder of the cially in examination of the Scriptures. Assembly, which was held at ChalAt length, he remarks, "1792. Au. ham,* pronouncing the sentence of gust 22. Lord's Day. It is long since excommunication on Mr. Vidler, who I wrote any thing of the state of iny was present, and in true papal style soul.--I have been lately much stirred fulminating an anathema under the up again by reading Mr. Winchester guise of a benediction : his wish for on the final restoration of all things, the disowned brother was that the hell which doctrinc (upon a consideration which he advocated might be his portion. of several years, and inuch fear and On the Sunday after this synod had prayer for direction), I am constrained been held, Mr. Vidler preached a serto say I believe. I preached this mon designed to encourage his promorning from the parable of the scribed friends, from a passage of pounds, Luke xix. and found myself Scripture, which both minister and much confined in speaking, as I have people appropriated to themselves, always found myself when treating on viz. Isaiali lxiii. 16, Doubtless, thou art sucli passages. I suspect I have soine. our father,--though Abraham be igthing wrong in my sentiments which norant of us and Israel acknowledye 1 ought to get rid of. O Lord! I de- us not : thou, O Lord, art our Father, sire to have no sentiment but what I our Redeemer ; thy name is from everreceive from thy word."
lasting On the last Sunday in this year, at In addition to these religious trouthe annual church meeting, Mr. Vid. bles, Mr. Vidler was at this period ler openly declared his mind in favour subject, in common with his brethren of universal restoration, and entered throughout the kingdoin, to some aninto an explanation and defence of noyance on the ground of political that doctrine in an address which opinions. He was indeed far from occupied three hours in the delivery. being a political partizan, but it was The church, which now consisted of suspected that the Dissenters as a body nearly two hundred members, was were friendly to the French Revolution, divided in opinion, and a separation and inimical to the war declared by ensued : the majority adhered to their the monarchies of Europe against the pastor; the minority, including some infant republic of France, and hence of the oldest members, formed them- without any proof of disaffection to selves into a Particular Baptist church, the government or any cause of offence which exists, though not in a Moue to the public, they were treated by the rishing condition, to this day. In the populace in various places with rudemidst of the agitation and affliction of ness and even violence. Battle was mind which this event brought on, not exempt from the contagious poliMr. Vidler consoled himself and animated bis friends with the rich truths
Mr. Wright has already given an of the gospel. He had counted the cost of heresy; though as yet he had account of the proceedings of this ecclerenounced Calvinism only so far as it makers and Dissenting tryers of heresy.
siastical council, Nonconformist creed. respected the efficacy of the death of M. Repos. XII. 2. The assembly WAS Christ and the extent of redemption, held at Chatham as is recorded above, and he foresaw that he should be disowned not at Lewes, as Mr. Wright, through a by his religious connexion, and that slight forgetfulness, bas stated.
tical fersour; the supposed leader of a contradictious and disputatious the advocates of French freedoin was disposition, and that an equal zeal burnt in effigy by the mob of that on hehalf of Unitarianisın inay subtown; and Mr. Vidler escaped insult sist with all the varieties of political and outrage only by his fortitude and feeling. good humour. +
Mr. Vidler's embracing the UniThroughout the whole of his life, versal doctrine led him into acquaintMr. Vidler was a decided friend of ance with Mr. Winchester, the liberty, civil and religious, but he apostle of that faith, who had come was not an habitual, indiscriminate over 10 England from America, his opponent of the ineasures of govern- native land, to make it known. By ment. Latterly, he displayed a great bis popular eloquence, Mr. Winleaning to the political sentiments of chester had already made many conthe majority of his countryinen. No verts and established a considerable man regarded the late extraordinary congregation at Parliament Court, Ruler of France with a stronger. or Artillery Lane, London. He did not more honest detestation. His hopes confine himself to London, but trawere particularly high with regard 10 velled into various parts of the country, the Spanish nation, and he confi- as openings for the Universal doctrine dently foretold from the beginning of presented themselves. Amongst other the unprovoked contest which Na- places he now risited Batile, and poleon carried on with that people, from this time a warm intimacy ihat 'the invader would be repelled subsisted between him and Mr. Vid. and overthrown. He even vindicated ler. The churches also, at Battle Great Britain in the recent quarrel and Parliament Court, were brought with the United States of America, into correspondence by nieans of their and anticipated a result very different pastors. At the joini request of Mr. from that which history will describe. Winchester and his people, Mı. In all these opinions he was moved Vidler was invited on account of Mr. by the purest feelings; and they are Winchester's infirin health to adnyirecorded, not because they agree en- nister the ordinance of baptism, by tirely with the sentiinents of the immersion, to some candidates in the writer of this meinoir, but because congregation at Parliament Court: he they shew that Mr. Vidler's ha. accepted the invitation and accordingly bits of thinking were not formed by came up to London and officiated in
this service on the oth of February,
1794, which was the first time of his + Thomas Paine, the author of "The Rights of Man," was burat in effigy at
appearing in the metropolis under Battle, as well as most other large towns. his heretical character. His preachThe loyal procession which surrounded ing was highly acceptable to his the man of straw in its progress through
new friends, and on Mr. Winchester's the town stopped at the doors of the prin- sudden departure for Aunerica, in cipal Dissenters and others suspected of the same year, he was unaniniously bolding free political principles, and de- chosen to succeed him. manded that they should cry No Paine. It may be supposed that Mr. Vidier, A halt was made before Mr. Vidler's could not be easily induced to desert bouse, and the ruciferations of the popu- his interesting charge at Barile. The lace seemed to threaten mischief.
He congregation was wholly of his own stepped forward, and, with the greatest raising, and he was with them as a self-possession, congratulated them on
father amongst children ; they had their good spirits and on the ingenuity gone on together in the road of relie which they had shewnio making their effigy: gious inquiry and had jointly borne They demanded to know whether he was for Paine: He promptly replied, "No, much shaken by the late disputes, the
reproach and persecution ; though my lads; be assured I have no liking for church was in a promising, if poc a pain, I am for ease." This well-timed pun put the mob into good humour; and Aourishing condition ; and in addition they pronounced him a hearty fellow, gave
10 all this, a coosiderable delt yet him three cheers, and proceeded with
remained on the new place of wortheir victim to the pile, prepared for the ship, which nothing bui the union of destruction of the representative of the the pastor and the people and the wicked republicana.
prosperity of the whole society figilled