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VISIT TO LONDON. DR. BOWRING. DR. BATEMAN. 193
counts of supernatural events as fables. They were Deists. One I found who declared his disbelief in a future life. There was a gradual incline from the almost Christian doctrine of Carpenter and Channing, down to the principles of Deism and Atheism.
While in London I became acquainted with Dr. Bowring, afterwards Sir John Bowring. He was one of my hearers at Stamford Street Chapel, and complimented me, after the sermon, by calling me the modern John Bunyan. He had been pleased with the simplicity of my style, and the familiar and striking character of my illustrations. He invited me to his house, showed me a multitude of curiosities, which he had collected in his travels round the world, made me a present of part of a skull which he had taken from an Egyptian Pyramid-the skull of a prince, who, he said, had lived in the days of Joseph,—he also made me a present of his works, including five volumes of translations from the Poets of Russia, Hungary, and other countries, and some works connected with his own eventful history. Dr. Bowring was a member of Parliament, and he took me to the House of Commons, introduced me to a number of the members, got me into the House of Lords, and did all in his power to make my stay in London as pleasant as possible.
Another London gentleman who was very kind was Dr. Bateman, the Queen's Assistant Solicitor of Excise. He took me to several assemblies, at one of which, besides a number of the great ones of the land, I was introduced to a New Zealand chief, a strong-built, broad-set, large-headed, lion-looking man. It was hinted that he knew the taste of human flesh, and was probably thinking at that moment, what rich contributions some of the youthful and well-fed parties who were paying their respects to him, would make to a New Zealand feast. At one of those assemblies there was a tremendous crowd, and I lost my hat, and some body else must have lost his, for I got a magnificent and strange-shaped head-cover, that might have distinguished, if not adorned, the greatest magnate of the land.
Dr. Bateman and Dr. Bowring showed me kindness in other ways, obtaining for me and my friends large grants of books, contributing to the fund for the purchase of a
steam press to be presented to me, and inducing a number of their friends to contribute. I was also introduced to Dr. Hutton, minister of Carter Lane Chapel, and preached and lectured in his pulpit. And I visited the meeting-place of the Free-thinking Christians, was introduced to the leading members of the society, and was presented with their publications. I preached at Hackney Chapel, where I had William and Mary Howitt as hearers, who were introduced to me after the sermon, invited me to spend some time at their house, showed me the greatest possible kindness, and did as much as good and kind people could do to make my stay in London a pleasure never to be forgotten.
A meeting was called in the Assembly room of the Crown and Anchor, or the city of London Tavern, to give me a public welcome to London, and a great number, the principal part, I suppose, of the London Unitarians met me there, to give me a demonstration of their respect and good wishes. I spoke, and my remarks were very favorably received; and so many and kind were the friends that gathered round me, and so strange and gratifying the position in which I found myself, that I seemed in another world. The contrast was so great between the treatment to which I had so long been accustomed in the New Connexion, and the long-continued and flattering ovation I was receiving from so large a multitude of the most highly cultivated people in the country, that if I had lost my senses. amid the delightful excitement it could have been no matter for wonder.
But it was more than I was able to enjoy. I longed for quiet. I wanted to be at home with my wife and children, and in the society of my less distinguished, but older and more devoted friends. I fear I hardly showed myself thankful enough for the honor done me, or made the returns to my new friends to which they were entitled. They must have thought me rather cool in private; but they knew that I had been bred a Methodist, a plain Methodist, and had lived and moved among Methodists of the plainer kind, and never before been fairly outside the Methodist world. And some of them knew that I had not much time for pleasure-taking, sight-seeing, and the current kind of chat, or even the multiplication of new friends and acquaintances. They knew too that I had a business which required my at
CALLS TO ALL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.
tention, and a vast quantity of letters to answer, and parties calling for my help in almost every part of the country.
I was happy at length to find myself at liberty to leave the metropolis, and my many new, agreeable and generous friends and acquaintances there, and return to quieter and calmer scenes, and more customary occupations, in the country.
But I never was permitted to confine myself within my old circle of acquaintances, and my old sphere of labor, after my visit to London. Accounts of my London meetings were given in the Unitarian newspapers and periodicals, and spread abroad through the whole country. The result was, I received invitations to preach and lecture from almost every town of importance throughout the kingdom, and from many places that were not of so much importance; and many of those invitations: I was induced to accept. I visited Bristol, and had a welcome there as gratifying and almost as flattering as my London one. I was introduced to all the leading Unitarians there, and had a grand reception, and a course of lectures in the largest and most splendid hall in the city. And the place was crowded. I visited Bridgewater, Plymouth, Exeter, and Tavistock, with like results. And then I had calls to Yarmouth, Lynn, Bridport, Northampton, Taunton, Birmingham, Sheffield, Hull, Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Stockton, and other places without number. And everywhere I found myself in very agreeable society, and in every place I met with real, hearty, and generous friends. It is true I met with some who had little of religion but the name; but I met with others, and that in considerable numbers, who really feared and loved God, and who were heartily desirous to promote a living practical Christianity among their neighbors. These were delighted to see and hear a man who, while he held to a great extent their own religious views, was full of Methodistical zeal and energy, and who had power to attract, and' interest, and move the masses of the people. They regarded me as an Apostle of their faith. They believed the millennium of enlightened and liberal Christianity was at hand. They hearkened to my counsels, and set to work to distribute tracts, to improve their schools, to establish new ones, to organize city missions, to employ
local preachers, and to circulate books of a popular and rousing character. And both they and I believed that a great and lasting revival of pure unadulterated religion was at hand. And it took some time to dissipate these pleasant hopes, and throw the well disposed and more pious part of the Unitarians down into the depths of despondency again. But the melancholy period arrived at length.
You cannot kindle a fire and keep it burning in the depths of the sea. And it is as hard to revive a dead or dying church, especially when its ministers and schools are supported by old endowments, and when many of its most influential members have caught the infection of infidelity, and become mere selfish, flesh-pleasing worldlings.
And this was the case with Unitarians. Many of the trustees, and a considerable portion of the wealthier members, cared nothing for religion. Others had no regard for anything about Christianity but the name and a little of the form. Some had such a hatred of what they called Methodist fanaticism, that they shrank from any manifestation of religious life or earnestness. And they had such a horror of cant, that they canted on the other side. Their talk about religion was little else but cant. Their talk about cant itself was cant. They had quite a dislike of any thing like religious zeal, and had a dread of any one who had been a Methodist, especially if he retained any of his Methodistical earnestness. The word unction was a term of reproach, and the rich, invaluable treasure for which it stood was an offence. They wished to enjoy themselves in a quiet, easy, self-indulgent, fashionable way, and have just so much of the form and appearance of religion as was requisite to a first class worldly reputation. They had no desire to be regarded as skeptics or unbelievers; that would have been as bad as to have been reputed Methodists; but they would have nothing to do with any schemes or efforts for the revival of religious feeling in their churches, or with any interference with the customary habits or quiet worldliness of their peaceable neighbors. Some, and in certain districts many, even of the poorer members, were utterly indifferent, and in some cases even opposed, to any religion. In some cases both rich and poor had become grossly immoral. Their churches had degenerated into eating and
drinking clubs. The endowments were spent in periodical feasts. There were also cases in which the chapel and school endowments had fallen into the hands of individuals or families, who looked on them and used them very much as private property. The schools and congregations had disappeared, and even the chapels and school-houses were rapidly hastening to ruin.
And there was everywhere a tendency downward from the Christian to the infidel level. If churches do not labor for the conversion of the world, and endeavor to become themselves more Christ-like and godly, degeneracy, and utter degradation and ruin are inevitable. And the tendency, at the time to which I refer, throughout the whole little world of Unitarianism was downwards to utter unbelief. In many minds there was as much impatience with old-fashioned moderate Unitarianism, as with old-fashioned Christianity or Methodism. They wanted preachers who would openly assail the doctrine of the divine or special inspiration of the Bible, and the supernatural origin of Christianity, and try to bring people down or up to the pagan or infidel level of mere sense and reason.
The Unitarians required no profession of faith; so that deists and atheists had the same title to membership as believers in Christ. They administered the Lord's Supper, but they had no church discipline, so that people defiled with the filthiest vices had the same right to communicate as people of the rarest virtues. Even the ministers were not required to make any profession of faith, so that deists and atheists were admitted, not only into the churches, but into the pulpits.
I was not aware of these things when I first became identified with the Body. It is possible that the Body was not so corrupt at that time as it was after. Any way, at the time of my return from infidelity to Christianity, both deists and atheists were among the ministers. If any find it hard to believe these things, let them read my pamphlet on Unitarianism, where they will find testimony from leading Unitarians themselves, to the truth of these statements.
Whatever encouragement therefore certain portions of the Unitarian Body might give to a man like me, the influence of the Body generally was sure to render my labore