Page images
PDF
EPUB

I am that I did not spend more of the days of youth and health in this much-loved land. I have no time to write to the Church now, but mean to do it shortly. Let this be considered as addressed to them, as well as to you; and I request you to read it to them the first opportunity. I shall be ready to render them and you any service of which they and you think me capable, as diligently and faithfully as at any former period.

W. R.

From an obliging letter which the writer of this Memoir has had recently sent him by Mr. Durrant (for that venerable gentleman is still living) written as a reply to an enquiry on what ground MR. RichARDS gave up his pastoral charge ; it appears that ill health alone occasioned it. Indeed Mr. D. expresses a high regard for him, having had from him several letters, “ breathing the purest friendship,” during his stay in Wales—and having lived together as Brethren for twenty years.It is impossible not to revere such a man's memory! I was anxious to ascertain the cause of his leaving so long a Church for which he entertained a strong affection. It will, however, be soon seen, that what indisposition began calumny completed. This is no uncommon circumstance in the history of ministers and their people. Nor ought it to be matter of surprise --it is the ordinary condition of humanity.

Mr. Richards not returning to Lynn till March, 1798, he was somewhat recovered—but preached only occasionally. His much esteemed friend, Mr.Timothy Durrant, took care of his Church. Mr. RichARDS had sent in his resignation as Pastor more than once—but the people refused to accept it. Having been, however, unable to shake off wholly his complaints, he was again bent upon trying the invigorating air of his native country. He accordingly returned to Wales the latter end of 1799, or the commencement of the year 1800. It was during this stay in the Principality that MR. RICHARDS brought · over some Calvinistic ministers and their people to the denomination of GENERAL BAPtists.

It is the wish of the writer to detail this event without giving just offence to the opposite party. The Calvinists are a respectable body—and every denomination has individuals amongst them who disgrace their cause by ebullitions of intolerance and bigotry*.

* The Calvinistic Baptists are entitled to the highest praise for the translation of the Holy SCRIPTUREs into the Asiatic Languages, by means of their missionary, Dr.Carey, in the East Indies. The writer of this Memoir wishes also that it may be particularly remembered, that whatever objections he has to the Calvinistic System, he indulges no personal disrespect towards any CALVINIST, and has never questioned their practical benevolence or their piety.

Mr. Hall tells us, in his Terms of Communion, (page 183), that Sir Isaac Newton, “if we may believe the honest Whiston, frequently declared to bim his conviction that the Baptists were the only Christians who had not symbolised with the Church of Rome.”

The Baptists, both Particular and General, have been the intrepid advocates of Civil and Religious LIBERTY. May this spirit animate all the disciples of Jesus to the end of time!

Upon a former occasion Mr. Richards had been active in checking the progress of the Jumpers which he details with his usual energy in the following short but impressive epistle :

DEAR FRIEND,

Sept. 15, 1801. “ You hear heavy tidings,” you say, “ from Wales, that one half of the Welsh Baptists are carried away with Free will, Sabellian, and Socinian notions." This, I believe, is very far from being true. A secession indeed has taken place among the Welsh Baptists, owing more to the intolerance and want of forbearance among the rulers of the Association than to any real heterodoxy or heresy among the seceders. Enthusiasm had been carried on here by a pack of roaring, bellowing, and raving orators to the most unexampled pitch of extravagance. A few of us (the time I was in the country before) set our faces against these mad proceedings; and as our opponents could not contend with us by argument, they raised the hue and cry against us, charging us with HERESY! And though I have been publicly calling upon them for these two years, and inviting them to come out fairly and shew us our mistakes, and point out to the world our errors—no attempt of the kind has been made.

Enthusiasm, however, seems to have had a sore blow-even their Meeting-houses are now far from being the BEDLAMS they were three or four years ago. For many years before you could never see in a madhouse more madness than in the places of

worship of these people, where there would be such jumping, dancing, tumbling, embracing, roaring, raving, &c. as was scarce ever equalled, and never exceeded, among the most frantic lunatics!

I am, my dear friend,

Yours truly,

W.R. To D. S. Jones, Lower Dubliv, America.

Strangers may think that Mr. RichARDS has given too deep a colouring to this account of the JUMPERS—but the writer of this Memoir can bear witness to its fidelity. He saw once, in the year 1785, near Newport, Monmouthshire, a scene which exhibited a group of bedlamites rather than an a ssembly of the professors of Christianity! The preacher (who belonged to Lady Huntingdon's Connection) stood upon a chair in the open air, on a fine summer evening, and electrified his hearers into jumping, through a most incoherent harangue. They separated near midnight, with a shout, vociferating, while they pointed to the sky, We soon meet to part no more !The moon shone brightly, and by the mildness of her rays seemed to reprove the unholy turbulence of those children of fanaticism and folly. Happily we hear no more of these paroxysms of religious insanity amongst my good countrymen in the Principality.

But it was not the Jumpers only that had been repressed; the progress of Calvinism was arrested. Intent upon vindicating the honour of the divine

character, impeached by the doctrines of election and of reprobation, Mr. Richards acknowledges, in a letter to a friend, that he was occupied in writing and circulating tracts on the subject. His zeal, however, on this occasion created a host of enemies, and brought a torrent of obloquy upon him, as well as upon bis friends. The subsequent letter of his truly excellent friend Mr. William Williams, of Cardigan, will illustrate the subject; it is attached to a Welsh letter, signed W. Richards, 1802, by way of postscript :

DEAR FRIEND,

When the different interpretations expositors have given to the various controverted texts of Scripture, received and accredited among Christians are considered, how can two thinking men be of the same opinion on difficult subjects, expressed in trope, metaphor, figure, or parable ? With what propriety or consistency can any one man, or body of men, direct or prescribe what others should believe as terms of their fellowship? —What possible right has such to prescribe or interfere with the faith of others? What standard have those, who do not agree, by which they can settle their difference ? How is the Controversy to be decided ? All refer to the SCRIPTURE: all claim the teaching of the Spirit. If the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Elect is to decide ; the Elect think differently about the sense ; their various and contradictory sentiments cannot be ascribed to the

« PreviousContinue »