« FöregåendeFortsätt »
those unacquainted with English nonconformity, but to confound prejudice, whether it arise from education, ignorance,
Another of Mr. Watts's friends was numbered with the dead in the course of this year—the Rev. Matthew Clarke, of Miles's Lane meeting, by whom he was highly respected and beloved. During a dangerous illness, nearly twenty years before, Mr. Clarke desired that his friend might be sent for to pray with him, apprehending that his end was near. Mr. Neal observes that “that excellent person observed in him a sweet calmness and composure of mind, a firm and steady reliance upon the merits of Christ alone for his salvation, and a humble resignation of himself to the will of God whether for life or death. He then assisted him in his devotions, and as a person departing out of the world, recommended him to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”+ In his last affliction Mr. Clarke removed to Stoke-Newington, for the benefit of the country air, and here he was visited by Mr. Neal and several of his ministerial acquaintance. The divisions among his brethren, occasioned by the trinitarian controversy, wounded the spirit of this good man, and excited painful apprehensions that the vital power of religion would disappear from the churches. On the morning of the earthly sabbath, March 26th, he commenced the heavenly rest. A neat monument at the east end of Bunbill Fields, marks the place of his interment and witnesses the friendship of Watts, who honoured his virtues in an elegant Latin inscription. His biographer ranks him among the best and most useful divines of the age in which he lived; and the hand that traced his portrait upon his tomb, exhibits him as not only faithful and laborious, but, which was not always the case at that period,
• Williams's Life. p. 180.
+ Neal's Memoirs of the Rev. M. Clarke, p. 27.
“inter Theologorum dissidia, Moderatus et Pacificus ;” among the controversies of divines, Moderate always and Pacific.*
The literary labours of Watts were now not only appreciated in his own country, but his name was popular upon the continent and in America; his theological works were widely circulated among his countrymen across the Atlantic; and his Hymns and Psalms were gradually coming into use among the New England churches. A tribute of respect was paid to his genius and piety by one of the Boston divines, in some verses which may here properly be introduced. The author was Dr. Mather Byles, pastor of one of the churches in that city,
“TO THE REV. MR. WATTS ON HIS HORÆ LYRICÆ.
“ Feb. 1, 1727.
Forbids the waves to roar,
And charms our list’ning shore?
“What angel strikes the trembling strings?
And whence the silver sound?
Or Watts on lower ground?
Plays soft along the floods;
* The parents of both Watts and Clarke, were tasting the cup of sorrow, at the period when the children were born. Witness with reference to the one, the prison at Southampton, and as it respects the other, a solitary house on Leicester Forest, where his father, the ejected clergyman of Narborough, was compelled to retire by the violence of persecution, the scene of the birth and childhood of his son. The inscription speaks of him, as
“Patris venerandi filius cognominis
Nec ipse minus venerandus."
+ Appendix G.
Thy notes the answ'ring hills inspire,
And bend the waving woods.
A smiling verdure show;
The tuneful breezes blow.
V. “Such artful sounds, such flowing grace,
E'en the roagh rocks regale;
Of ev'ry laugbing vale.
“And thou, my soul, the transport own,
Fird with immortal heat;
In cheerful motions beat.
“Long as the sun shall rear his head,
And chase the flying glooms,
The gallant bridegroom comes ;
VIII. “Long as the dusky ev'ning flies,
And sheds a doubtful light, Till shadows thick’ning round the skies,
Vest half the globe with night,
“O Watts! thine heav'nly lays so long,
Shall ev'ry bosom fire;
To speak thy praise conspire :
“When thy fair soul shall on the wing
Of shouting seraphs rise,
“Still as thy gentle numbers flow,
Melodious and divine,
The deathless chorus join :
“To our far shore the sound sha!l roll,
As Philomela* sung,
Th' eternal tune prolong."
The only production of this year was a third volume of Sermons, which appeared, March 25th, designed for the sabbath-evening worship in families. At that period the majority of the dissenting meeting-houses were only open in the morning and afternoon; the evening was generally devoted to catechetical exercises and domestic instruction. . In the fifth edition of the Sermons, the three volumes in 12mo. were reduced into two in 8vo. and the prefaces were abridged and united. Several of the discourses in the last collection, are beautiful meditations upon the right improvement of the death of friends and kindred, originally addressed to the mourning family of Mrs. Abney, and largely amplified when delivered from the pulpit.
It was at this period that the dissenting ministers in the metropolis formed themselves into a voluntary association, in order to promote the interests of their body. They had frequently united to preserve their religious liberties from the aggressions of arbitrary power, and in their collective capacity on various occasions had addressed the throne; but no society had been regularly formed for the purpose of mutual advice and co-operation. A meeting of the three denominations was accordingly held at the George, in Ironmonger Lane, July 11, 1727, the Rev. Mr. Boyce in the chair, when several resolutions were passed, which formed into a body all approved min
isters, whether presbyterian, independent, or baptist, living within ten miles of the cities of London and Westminster. It was also agreed that a committee should be chosen to conduct the affairs of the general body, consisting of seven presbyterians, six independents, and six baptists. At the first meeting Mr. Watts was not present, but at a second, on the 25th of September, when the Rev. Mr. Asty presided, his name in connexion with some others in addition occurs. The committee appointed to represent the congregational ministers consisted of Messrs. Ridgley, Watts, Bradbury, Hurrion, Lowman,
A meeting of congregational ministers, twenty-nine in number, was held at Mr. Watts's meeting-house, Dec. 5, 1727, when he presided. The proceedings of this meeting are thus reported in the minutes :
“All the minutes of this book being first read over, and the design of this meeting represented, there was a considerable debate about the rule or method by which the list of the congregational ministers should be settled. The two most consid. erable opinions proposed and urged were these: 1. That those only should be accounted congregational ministers who somehow or other manifested their agreement to the Savoy Confession of faith and order of congregational churches. 2. That the rule by which the ministers were admitted, Sept. 25th, to give their vote for the choice of the committee, should be the rule by which the list of the congregational ministers should be determined and settled, viz. those who had been known and approved preachers, and chose to be ranked among the congregational ministers, and did not design to vote in the body of the Presbyterian or Baptist ministers. After much time spent, and many arguments on both sides, it was agreed nem. con, that the rule by which the ministers were determi. ned to have a vote for choosing a committee of a third body
protestant dissenters, on Sept. 25th last, be followed in ad. mitting any minister into the list of that body, to vote with it