Изображения страниц

and in their midst, honoured and mourned, he was called to his eternal reward. The estimate in which he was held by his immediate Predecessor, is incidentally noticed, in the Sermon, which Mr. Aspland preached on the death of Mr. Belsham, in 1829, in which he states, "May I be pardoned for saying that it is soothing to my feelings to reflect, that this Father in our Israel was partly instrumental to my receiving the honour, and enjoying the happiness of being placed in this pulpit; and that after the lapse of nearly five and twenty years during which our intercourse was uninterrupted, he gave it in charge to me, as a token of confiding friendship, to perform the last offices of religion, over his mortal remains."

So successful was Mr. Aspland's ministry at Hackney, that in four years from his connection with that Society, it was resolved, to leave the old, inconvenient, and dilapidated building, in which the congregation, had, from its origin, assembled, and erect a place of worship, more suited to its increasing numbers, intelligence, and station: The Oration delivered in 1809, on laying the first stone of the New Gravel Pit Meeting House, is a model of truthful Christian eloquence, an impressive and beautiful digest of Christian principle.

Gratefully do I remember, that during that and the two following years, Mr. Aspland's was my Sabbath Home. Well do I recollect, listening with rapt attention to the clear and forcible Vindication of Unitarian Worship, which to a crowded and overflowing audience, he delivered, on the opening of the new place of meeting in 1810. Its effect on the hundreds who were on that day gathered together, can never be effaced from my memory; nor the instructive and pleasant hours passed under his hospitable roof, and the intercourse which I there enjoyed with many of the excellent of the earth, who delighted in the free interchange of thought, and loved and laboured for their race.

But our Friend was no monopolist of Christian truth. He knew its nature too well to confine it to a class. In its own spirit of universality, it was his aim and labour, that all should know and share its blessings. He therefore projected, and with the year 1806, began on his own responsibility, the publication of the Monthly Repository; a work devoted to Theology and General Literature; open to papers from all denominations, and maintaining in the midst of differences of opinion, candour and charity to every party. That periodical, he conducted with unvarying im

partiality, and single mindedness of purpose, till 1826, a period of twenty one years. It is a work, fraught with valuable information; rich in Biography; Scriptural Criticism; Statistics of the progress of religious inquiry, both in our own country and other lands.

Satisfied too, that though the Press was a valuable instrumentality, the living voice, was more potent still, in stirring up the mind to inquiry, and that Books, however good, would prove but a dead letter, unless the people were stimulated to their perusal, Mr. Aspland, joined by a few like minded, in the March of the same year, 1806, formed the UNITARIAN FUND, for the diffusion of the pure truths of the Gospel, by means of popular preaching; the employment of Missionaries; the gathering together into Congregations of scattered individuals entertaining these principles; and by the distribution of plain tracts, suitable to plain and honest minds, disabusing the public mind of popular errors, and disseminating in their stead, the enlightening and benevolent principles of the everlasting Gospel. From 1806, to 1817, Mr. Aspland continued the indefatigable and unwearied Secretary of the Unitarian Fund, conducting its varied machinery with consummate judgment and discretion. By its labours a large amount of good was effected. To its Committee, aided by the Senatorial labours of the late highly estimable Member for Norwich, William Smith, was mainly attributable the preparation, and the passing into a Law in 1813, of the Bill which exempted impugners of the doctrine of the Trinity from the penalties of confiscation of goods, imprisonment, and death.

With the same Committee, originated in 1819, the institution of the Association for the Protection of the Civil Rights of Unitarian Christians, menaced by the prosecution in the Wolverhampton Chapel case; and the declarations made by the Judges in that case, that Unitarians were still indictable at Common Law.

In 1812, in order more thoroughly to carry out the plans of the Unitarian Fund; and to raise up a succession of men, who should carry the pure truths of the Gospel to the Cottages of the Poor, the Unitarian Academy was formed, Mr. Aspland undertaking the charge of Theological Tutor. The plan was excellent; and during the five years of its continuance, faithfully and unremittingly did he fulfil his duties towards it, training up in that time several young men, who have proved themselves to be workmen, who need

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The subsequent discontinuance of the Institution was mainly owing to causes, which human power could not control, the deaths of valued coadjutors, and the impossibility of obtaining suitable and efficient successors. It was a noble and praiseworthy effort, and its failure deeply to be regretted.

In addition to his labours as Editor of the Monthly Repository, Mr. Aspland, in 1815, projected and began, in a duodecimo form, the Christian Reformer, a periodical designed for the masses of the people. It was a highly useful and meritorious publication, and was continued in that form till the completion of the 19th volume in 1833; when the Monthly Repository having passed from the Association into other hands, and became devoted to other purposes. Mr. Aspland was induced, by the solicitations of his Christian brethren to enlarge the shape of the Christian Reformer, and from 1834 to 1844 conducted it on the same plan and spirit with his original periodical work. At the close of that year he committed it to the Editorship of his Son, the Rev. R. Brook Aspland, of Dukinfield, by whom it is still continued, and becoming increasingly worthy the support of the denomination whose distinctive Christian principles it unfolds and defends, whilst at the same time, it advocates the plans which its Editor deems calculated to advance the true and lasting moral and spiritual interests of mankind

In 1825, the Unitarian Fund, the Civil Right Association, and the Book Society merged into one institution, with the title of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association, Mr. Aspland the Secretary. That office he sustained till repeated attacks of illness compelled him, in 1841, to relinquish a post, which, with little cessation, he had maintained with vigour and fidelity, for nearly thirty-five years.

In the furtherance of the Repeal of the Test and Corpo. ration Acts, in 1828, Mr Aspland was mainly instrumental. His energy, and tact, and aptitude for business were so marked and extraordinary, that to him, as with one consent was awarded the pre-eminence in the struggle which bigotry maintained for those bulwarks, as they were accounted, of the Established Church. And when the conflict ter minated in victory, Mr. Aspland, by unanimous acclaim, was appointed by the body of delegates, consisting of every variety of religious belief, to speak on their behalf in that glorious gathering which celebrated the triumph of freedom, in the British Metropolis, under the presidency of the late Duke of

Sussex to the sentiment. "The Protestant Dissenting Ministers, the worthy successors of the ever memorable Two Thousand who sacrificed interest to Conscience." That appointment was a noble tribute to his mental and moral power, and nobly he redeemed the choice. The plaudits ring still in my recollection which greeted his outburst of fervent, patriotic Christian eloquence on that ever memorable occasion, delivered as it was before probably one of the most august assemblages of talent which the Legislature or Commonwealth of Britain could have congregated.


But I must hasten to a close, or I might dwell on his efforts in the attainment of the Dissenters' Marriage Act in 1836; his labours and journeyings in connection with the Fund for the preservation of the Chapels of the English Presbyterians; his devotedness in the preliminary proceedings of the Dissenters' Chapels Bill; his judicious administration and earnest solicitude as Trustee of the foundations of Dr. Daniel Williams, and the Rev. John Holt; his repeated ministrations at the Anniversaries of the local Associations, East, West, North and South; and his thirty or forty occasional publications of Sermons and other works in defence of Christian truth; in exposure of prejudice and bigotry; memory of those he honoured and venerated whilst living; for the instruction of the young; for the consolation of the aged and afflicted; for the practical improvement and benefit of all, of every season of life. Much more I could readily have said, and yet have fallen far short of doing ample justice to the diversified labours, the great talents, the ceaseless energy and promptitude, the vital power of this ardent, devoted friend of liberty, righteousness and truth. Less I could not have uttered in justice to my own sense of gratitude for his personal friendship; admiration of his character; love of his virtues; appreciation of the benefits he has conferred on the Christian denomination to which he belonged; on the Nation, for whose real welfare, blessedness and freedom, his soul longed. I say of him as he said of Dr. Abraham Rees, whose funeral sermon Mr Aspland preached in 1825, " His heart was always right. His Christian principles never forsook him They had been the guide of his youth, and the distinction of his mature life; and they were the stay of his age. His trust was fixed on the mercy of God through Christ, and he was not afraid to die." Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours and their works


do follow them." "Be ye followers of them who through their faith and patience inherit the promises." Amen.



ONE satisfactory proof of Design in any department of the vast Creation is as good as a thousand, for the man who can examine with candour and attention (bringing at the same time to the investigation a sound and ordinarily furnished understanding) we will not say an entire animal, with its numerous and complex parts, but one of its organs of sense merely, and, tracing how the external world is adapted to it, and it adapted to convey intelligence to the mind within, can yet fail to perceive contrivance and to infer a Contriver, would be impregnable to conviction, however multitudinous the instances wherewith his Reason might be assailed. Select the human Eye, for example, which although it has been so well treated of by Paley, possesses so many attractions, and fills us with such wonder and delight, that we cannot avoid recurring to it again and again. Mark the strong bony lodgment in which it is located; and by which it is so efficiently protected from violence, whether threatening above or below, on the right hand or on the left. Observe the flexible curtain which is suspended over it, as a preservative from harm of another character; and which can be lowered or raised with such ease and celerity. Scan the curious little cisterns, provided for moistening the overheated ball, and washing out any particles of dust by which it might be incommoded or injured; with the pipes for carrying off the superabundant waters. Watch how cords are affixed to it on all sides, for drawing it upward or downward, in this direction or in that; so that we can turn the portion at which the rays of light enter to whatever point of the landscape we desire to see most distinctly. Consider how quick and sudden these motions not unfrequently are; and then observe the velvety cushion on which the globe reposes, to prevent any pain or other evil that might arise from friction. Having noted all these admirable provisions for the defence, preservation and motions of the little globe itself; remember next, that Light is subject to certain fixed and immutable laws, among which are its travelling in straight lines, and its capabilities of being decomposed, reflected, refracted, and absorbed; then call to mind that all the coatings and linings of the Eye are constructed with a direct

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »