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It has been already stated that there himself of too much error to hold these was a society within the congregation or any other principles by a blinil, inat Parliament Court known by the plicit faith. He had invited discussions name of the Church. In this society in his own Magazine which urged liis a spirit of free inquiry was encouraged, mind forward in the path of inquiry. and no one appeared more ready to He commenced in that work a conabandon an error or embrace a truth troversy in which he maintained the than Mr. Vidler himself. He observed Deity of Jesus Christ, but soon dropped with peculiar pleasure the promise of it, apparently convinced that he load taleuts in the younger inembers, and underiaken a task beyond his powers, delighted in bringing them forward as and that this was a subject on which speakers. The aspiring and ungover- it behored him rather to inquire than nable temper of one or iwo individuals, to decide. He gave up. neither this however, hindered the good effects of nor any other article of his creed with Christian fellowship, and occasioned rashness, for his maxim was never to distractions in the Church, which con- surrender an opinion which he could postinued eren after their own secession sibly hold: but from the moment at with the small party which they had least of his becoming an Universalist, contrived to raise. By these Mr. Vidler he entertained a strong dislike of theowas much harrassed and impeded in logical dogmatism and presumption, his usefulness for years, till at length and an increasing disposition in favour he and the congregation were com- of free inquiry and religious liberty. pelled for self-preservation to resolve He accounted human creeds, his own that there should be no other Church as well as others', nothing, and held than the congregation, that the Lord's that every opinion and every systein, supper should be open to all, and that however ancient or popular, or with the New Testament, interpreted by whatever awe it was regarded, must every one for himself, should be the be brought to the test of Scripture, and only rule of Christian communion. that Scripture can be interpreted only
For some time the congregation by the understanding of every individual fourished in spite of the factions of Christian. the Church, and would in all proba- His views and habits in these rebility have continued to flourish more spects are well described avd illustrated and more, had not the enlargement of to the writer's hand by Mr. Teulon, Mr. Vidler's inind and the proportion- who was one of his earliest acquainate diminution of his creed alarmed tances in London, who for years went the greater part of the members, in- with himn side by side in his religious cluding some of his best friends, and progress, and, who haring for a short raised even in this heretical society the period, under a misconception, withcry of heresy against their minister. drawn bis religious intimacy, is now Ai first he held with the universal anxious in the true spirit of Christian doctrine the tenets which are generally frankness and magnanimity to bear his accounted evangelical, such as thie testimony to the virtues of his deceased Trinity, atonement, hereditary depra- friend. *** Truth,” he says, "made na vity and the special agency of the Holy hasty impression on his mind; as far Spirit: but he had already convicted as l'observed it was extremely gradual,
but when it entered, it took full posto customers, however casual or however session. I remember this on the subinconsiderable their purehases. As a ject of faith: in a discourse he publicly proof of this it may be mentioned that on declared that it was the gift of God, one occasion Mr. Maurice, of the British and that a man who had not the true Museum, passing Mr. Vidler's door in a faith could no more convert another to coach, and observing stationery advertised, the faith, than any other than a human called to buy a sheet of paper to tie up being could be the parent of a human some old books; when the readiness and evident pleasure with which Mr. Vidler offspring. After this discourse, at supserred and assisted him, so impressed this per on the Sunday evening, I referred gentleman that he became a good customer
him to his words, and asked him if it and presented the first volume of his was not grace that was the gift of God ** Indian Antiquities," then just pub- and not faith, and if the apostle would lished, to Mr. Vidler's eldest son, and have rejoiced at the gospel being proebotinued afterwards to send the remain- claimed out of strife and contention, if ing volumes as they appeared.',
he had not known that though pro
elsimed from the worst of motives, it and which the greater part of his reliz was itself the means, and only means, gious associates considered highly danof transforming man into the image gerous. The exercises of his mind of God. He fell into a study, then were now serious and trying. He took his hat and walked out, and on examined and re-exaniined his faithr, the next Sunday morning published in and in every stage of the process found his sermon his changed sentiment. that he had lost some of the arguments
“ Whilst he believed in the doctrine for the popular opinions on which hè of the Trinity, he brought me one step had nuost securely rested. Though not towards Unitarianism. We were con. terrified, he was completely frumbled. versing on the Triniiy. He asked me in his last illness he assured the writer for my strongest arguments in its fa- that no language could describe the vour: we discussed and be overturned self-distrust which he felt when he several. I at last, as my only resort, perceived that his whole religious sysbrought forward the Hutchinsonian tem was unscriptural. Ile seemned to system of fire, light and air. • Brother,' himself to know nothing: preaching die replied, must you and I build was an insupportable burden: he our theology on human philosophy?' would have cheerfully embraced any Many months after this we had at ihe situation, however low or laborious Conference, Phil. ii. 6,7,1V ho being that he could have procured, which in the form of God, ci'i several ex would both hare furnished bread for plained the passage in various ways, his table and have allowed him to fill but chiefly on the Arian and Unitarian the place of a Christian learner. His systems : he began to sum up and post, however, was assigned biin ; he reply to the evidence with observing, was obliged to appear before the public that he might say with the Prophet, as a teacher; bot as he could not dis? I have nourished and brought up children semble his opinions or feelings his and even they have rebelled against me, 3erinons consisted of doubts and iri. and then went on replying to the ar- quiries; and his preaching, though gunents in the spirit of love, thanking unsatisfactory to many of his hearers God that he lived to see the day that and painful to himself, was at once so many speakers could deliver their the instrument and the record of his sentiments without uttering an unkind religious improvenient." He had beword or reflection on each other. coine an Unitarian before he had lost
“ No man ever did so much in a his aversion to Unitarians, whom he church of society to encourage freedom had always been taught and accusof thought and speech as he did át tomed toʻregard as a mere philosoParliament Court; and every liberal phical sect, destitute of the simplicity, idea that the members of that church piery and real that characterize the held was derived from him : their en true disciples of Christ. He knew lightened thoughts were his; their none indeed of that denomination, and unfounded jealousies, their criminating whilst his inquiries forced him into an language and their domineering tein- acquaintance with their writings, he pers were derived froin their own heads perused them with great caution and and the Corresponding Society. Not with a secret resolution that whatever that he was at all times gentle ; for if conviction they might produce upon he saw any one, though his dearest his understanding they should not friend, infringe his right of judgment, alter his religious character, which he or if he did but suspect it, he towered flattered himself was of a superior cast over him in the inajesty of insulied to that of these authors. As his famiindignation, and poured upon hiin a liarity with Unitarian books increased, thunder-storm."
he was surprized to fiod in them, conIn asserting Christian liberty, Mr. trary to the popular reproach and to Vidler hazarded nothing wiih his his own expectation, a marked defeHock, who had been obliged to learn rence to the authority of Holy Scripthis doctrine before they could become ture, and a system of biblical interpreUniversalists, and who were obliged tation which was built upon a thorough to hold it up consłanily in self-defence: and critical knowledge of the sacred but he feli that he had the painful volume, and which approved itself to duty to discharge of exercising his all the maxims of common sense and understanding on topics which had all the principles of true learning. No hitherto engaged only his affections, less was his astonishment to perceive
that the authors of these decried books, liarly zealous Trinitarians, and these whilst they preserved themselves from he should estrange for crer by the prothe theological jargon of the schools fession of the Unitarian doctrine, and the degrading folly of the times, without the possibility, at his time af set the highest value upon Christian life, of gaining other friends to take wisdom, and recommended their their places. scheme of truth as the means of more Such were Mr. Vidler's prospects exalted piety, and purer virtue. He on becoming an Vuitarian. ' Had he was now ready to accuse his own pre. been worldlv-minded, or careless of judice which had so long blinded liim religion, or hypocritical, they would to these treasures of Christian excel- have checked him in the course of lence. He saw that if soine Unitarijns inquiry and induced him to reil bris had been phi losophers, they had not doubts and to hide his convictions been worse but better Christians on under a mysterious phraseology, which that account. His mind underwent, has in so many cases kept up the in short, a complete conversion; he appearance of “orthodoxy" when the began to breathe a different air, and to reality has long vanished. But his live a new spiritual life; nor had he make of mind and heart would allow any higher ambition than to follow him neither to deceive nor to be des Lardner, Priestley and Lindsey, in ceived. He looked about carefully their imitation of the one common and patiently for the path of duty, master, Jesus Christ.
and when he had found it, no conTo a mere student in the closet, sideration could turn hini aside : consuch a change as this would have been verring his resolution into prayer, of the highest importance: in his own his language, familiar to the ears of case Mr. Vidler foresaw that it would his religious friends, was, Take not be productive of fearful consequences. the word of truth utterly out of my His heresy on one point of faith had month; for I have hoped in thy judga raised against him a tumult which it ments: 50 shall I hare wherewith to required all his strength of mind and answer him that reproachelh me, for I all' his faith to become able to disre- trust in thy word : 50 shull I keep thy gard; what might he not expect when law continually for ever and crey: And he should abandon all the tenets on I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy · which the prejudices of the religious precepts. world are fastened and on which their The first sermon in which Mr. passions feed and invigorate them- Vidler explicitly renounced the docselves! His congregation which had trine of the Trinity . proved that his experienced some vicissitudes was now apprehensions of the consequences in a high state of prosperity, and the were too well-founded. Great alarm growing number and affection and was instantly excited and inany of his ability of the members might justly oldest and inost opulent friends disa embolden him to rely upon an in- solved their connection with the con creasing provision for the decline of gregation. Their secessiou weakened life; but his avowal of what was the bond of union, and the divisions. called “Socinianism” would inevit- which prevailed amongst the mem. ably divide and perhaps disperse the bers who remained in communion at society, and deprive him of all oppor. Parliament Court deadened the zeal tunity of acting in the character of a of the society and it appeared fast Christian teacher. The universal doc- sinking into decay. The salary which trine was likewise spreading through. Mr. Vidler received during the last out the kingdom, and he was looked year that he preached the Trinitarian up to as the head of the rising sect; doctrine was not less than £250: his but all his influence would be in a annual stipend dwindled soon after moment annihilated by his abandon- his change of opinions to £30, and ment of reputed arthodoxy, on the at this lo:v point it continued for reception of which in its more essen- many years. This alteration in his rial iples the Universalists, no less circumstances deprived him of many than others, placed the salvation of comforts and of the means of useful the soul. Some of his niost devoted ness, and necessarily threw him into a friends, too, on whose liberality he state of irksome dependance upon bis mainly relied in the present state of private friends ; but it did not quench: his worldly circunstances, were pecu- his thirst after tryth, tuuch less destroy
is śpitit of independence. He con. arose, as the event shers, from no tinued to inquire and to study and 10 extravagant, self-valuation or mortified çommunicate the result of his investi- ambitiour, but solely from his ardent gation to his people; often indeed wish to serve the canse of truth, and doui:ful of the result, but alwars his anxiety to dovole 10 it those relying upon Divine Providence, and powers wlich he had throughout the determined never to relinquish his whole of an active life employed in post while he could find the neans the promotion of error. of subsistence, and a sufficient number About the time of his becoming an of hearers could be preserved to do- Uuitarian, his church applied for fray me expences of the chapel. adniissinn into ihe Assembly of the
His total change of creed rendered General Baptists. The application bis past pulpit studies in great mea. was strenuously resisted by the inore sure useless; he had almost every " orthodox" part of that denominathing to unlearn as well as to learn; tion, on the ground of the church his old phraseology adopted from the professing the universal doctrine. The Calvinists clashed with his newly case was referred to all the churches formed faith and witla the Scriptures: in connection, and the nyajority of his public duties were on these ac votes was in favour of the almission. counts more laborious, but his prepa- On this decision, the minority with rations for them at home were prom drew from the assembly and formed a portionably diligent, and thus happily distinct association. Nir. Vidler was his mind was relieved from the burden then and probably continued to the of thoughts, more anxious and less close of his lite a decided Baptista improving
though he evidenily sair in the evid for a long time, Nr. Vidler felt that there were more difficulties than himself a stranger in the new con he had once been willing to acknow. nection into which he had entered. ledge, attending the question of the At the period when he made the perpetuiry of baptism. arowal of his Unitarianism, which Desirous of inaking erery effort for was about the year 1802, there were the promotion of his opinions, which few societies of persons professing that had cost hin so much and doctrine established for its pronio. valuable to him in proporsion 10 their tion, and none which could call into cosi, he instituted in the spring of the action the services of a popular year 1804, a Thursiiay Evening Leto preacher and compensate by their iure, at the chapel in Leather Lane, support for the loss of other oon Holborn, assisted by the subscriptioiis Dections. To some Unitarians it was of a few friends who had formed even inattor of doubt whether their theinselves into an “ Unitarian Ivan. system could yet be laid before the gelical Society." But the attempt was people with any chance of success. not sufficienuly successfui to justify i13 An extempore preaclier was scarcely renewal. known in the denomination and was In the year 18.16, Mir. Vieller's not likely to be generally welcoined. parental feelings were severely tried The Presbyterian stiffness bound up by the loss of liis second daughter, in the body and rendered it averse to thic eighteenth year of her age, who all zealous, exertion. Mr. Vidler was justly endeared in lier parents had tberefore exchanged systems ra and family by her virtues, and whose ther than parties : he found that the mental endowments gave a prowice of party was still to arise with which he much respectability and usefulnese. could co-operate
Sonie respectable Her father displayed on this, as on and leading individuals amongst the other similar occasions, the streng!): Unitarians, it is true, gave him coun- of liis mind and that entire coinmand tenance and support, but he receired of his feelings which was a peculiari patronage rather than fellowship, and feature of his character, by oiliciating the feeling upon his own mind which at her interment in Bunlull Fields, he strongly expressed a little before and afterwards, preaching a funeral he died was that he was tolcrated serion for hier in his own pulpit. amongst his new friends, but not The establishment of the Unitariani Estuvated according 10 his measure of Fund in 1800 was an event most glaub public talents and his capacity of use- dening to Mr. Vidler's heart.
lle (ulness. . The foeling in this case assisted the institution of the society
and was mainly instrumental to its piest that he had known since he left first successes. In promosing the nbe Baule, and in one respect happier ject he was willing io be or 'to do than any be had ever experienced, for whatever was proposed. lle user his creed was not row at variance with ook many journeys as a missionary; his understanding or his feelings. Ile and bis services in this capacity will saw around bin a society united in iis long be remembered with gratitude views of truth and zealous for the and delight.* From the moment of cause which was near his heart. lie ilie forination of the society he pro- could rely upon the co-operation of nounced that a new era had arisen his neighbouring brethren in the mit amongst the Unitarians, and he always mistry, obciseen whow and himselt confidently predicted that Divine Pro- there was a cordial sympathy. And vidence would smıle upon it, and bless he was sụpported in all bis plans for it and make it a blessing.
the success of the congregation by On quiting business in 1804, Mr. several affectionate and liberal friends, Vidler had retired to the rural village who fulfilled his wishes from the joint of West Ham, where he ocenpied motives of affection for hin and reapartments in the house of a widowed gard to the interests of iruuh.. If there sister, whose aflection and kindness be any thing to regret with regard to contributed essentially to his comfort. this period of Mr. Vidler's connection In one of the rooms of his house he with the congregation, it is that the carried ou for several winters an even- members generally were not sufficiently ing lecrure which was well attended. alive to olie temporal interests of their le resided at West Ham until his minister, but allowed him io stand in Jast illness.
need of the more private assistance of Jo the latter end of the year 1808 some individuals amongst thein, which Mr. Vidler experienced a new and in addition to his salary would have severe bercavement in the death of his prored inadequate to his wants in a wife, in the 56th year of her age, 10 state of declining health, it his wants whom he had becii married twenty- had not been anticipated by a few eight years. This was the only death members of his family, whose kinde in his family that allected bis feelings mess was measured by their affection 100 much to allow him to perforun the and not by their opulence. On this customary funeral rites. On this oc- subject, Mr. Vidler himself uuered no casion he solicited the services of Mr. complaint; hut his patience and disJohn Evans. When Mrs. Vidler was interestedness onghi not lo impose seized wil bier mortal illness, he was silence upon his biographer, who writes abscot in Cambridgeshire on a mis for tlic benefit of survivors. sionary journey. Being suminoned
Mr. Vidler's great and increasing. Jack or ä leiter, he set out from "lis- corpulency had for a considerable pebeach in a postchaise on his return, ried indicated disease. li caused him after dark, and was unhappily over- great personal inconvenience, and in lurued down a steep bank : lie received the winter and spring seasons he sula i serere shock in the fall, from which fereel extremely under an asthma. To be perer completely recovered. reduce his bulk he denied bisnself the
After being for a long time in a lan- sustenance which nature demanded, guishing state, the congregation at and took laborious exercise in working Parliamen: Court revived; some that Had left tie chapel returned, several
+ Ulis constitution at different periods Unitarian families in the neighbour- ran into opposite extremes. When he hours connected with other congre- und spare habit of body, and so weakly as
first settled in London he was of a leau Gutions contributed to the evening to be constrained to preach sitting. He Tectures, and many strangers were
had the usual symptoms of consumption : attracted to the place and lead to settle of whichi, however, he was cured, Mr. 31.it as habitual' worshippers box Mr. Tealon says, by smoking tobacco, in order. Viller's able preaching. The last few
to promote expectorativo, on the recomyears of his public like were the hap- niendation of a French minister who said
that he bimself and his predecessor in the * His Leliers in the Secretary of the ministry had both been cured of the same Unitarian Fuusd, eritten on these journeys, disorder by this practice. When Mr. frosu Kridlings and other places, may bese Vidler had effected bis cure, he laid aside kter secibe light.
the pipe, and substituted the suuf-box.