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THE CHRISTIAN PIONEER.
GLASGOW, MAY 1, 1833.
DURING the last winter, a course of Seventeen Lectures on Doctrinal Subjects, has been delivered at the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, by the Rev. W. J. Bakewell, to very numerous and highly attentive congregations. To express in a slight degree their sense of the benefit conferred on Unitarianism, by the able manner in which the various subjects had been treated; their appreciation of the talent, research, and zeal, evinced by their pastor, and their affectionate gratitude for the benefit and pleasure they had themselves derived from his voluntary exertions, some of the congregation presented Mr. Bakewell with a purse, containing above £27, which was presented to him by a deputation.
At the Annual Meeting, the treasurer, Rev. T. Drummond, after presenting a satisfactory report of the state of the Society, read the following letter from Rev. W. J. Bakewell, addressed to the Members of the Octagon Congregation :
“ My Christian Friends, I return you my sincere thanks for the additional mark which I have lately received of your candour, kindness, and generosity, conveyed to me in a manner most gratifying to my feelings, for the assurances which accompanied your handsome present, of your approbation of my lectures, and your affectionate interest in my welfare, are a source of the purest and liveliest satisfaction to my mind. The conviction imparted by numerous testimonies, of your approbation of my services, has operated as a powerful stimulus during my extra exertions, and will animate me to secure that good opinion which it is my happiness at present to possess.
“ So long as the principles of Unitarian Christianity are widely misunderstood, and grossly misrepresented, it is the manifest duty of every Unitarian minister, to endeavour to disabuse the public mind, and to contend fearlessly for what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus. And though he may not, by two or three courses of Lectures, gain a numerous list of converts, he will by persevering exertions, diffuse far and wide a spirit of inquiry, he will make perceptible inroads on the dark kingdom of prejudice and intolerance, and prepare the way for the triumph of Christian truth and liberty.
“ I remain, my Christian Friends, with every sentiment of respectful gratitude, your much obliged pastor, “ March 8, 1833.
W. J. BAKEWELL.”
Moor-Lane Anniversary, Bolton.-On Sunday and Monday, the 7th and 8th of April, was held the Eleventh Anniversary of the opening of the Unitarian Meeting-house, Moor-Lane, Bolton. The services on Sunday were conducted by the Rev. William Smith, minister of the congregation, who preached in the morning from the words, “ A three-fold cord is not quickly broken,” dwelling upon the necessity and advantages of union and co-operation among the members of a Christian Society. The sermon in the afternoon, was on the utility of Sunday-schools; it was attentively listened to by a numerous audience. The collection on the occasion, in aid of the Sunday-schools attached to the Meetinghouse, amounted to upwards of £20.
The members and friends of the congregation met to dine together on the Monday, in the large room of the Town-ball; the nuniber present was 106, male and female. Mr. Smith presided. Among the many friends who addressed the meeting, were the Revds. Smith, Beard, Baker, May, Hort, Wicksteed, and Messrs. Brandreth, F. Duffield, C. J. Darbishire, F. Darbishire, Peter Heywood, Taylor, Hulme, Barrow, and Boardman. The meeting was characterised by the same spirit of Christian zeal and harmony, for which, we are happy to say, all the preceding Anniversaries have been distinguished. There was the same zeal and spirit on the part of the speakers, the same candour and earnest attention on the part of the hearers. On this occasion, however, there were some respects in which the meeting possessed a peculiar interest. During the proceedings, Mr. Smith's acceptance of the warm and unanimous invitation of the congregation, to become their minister, was announced, and the enthusiastic manner in which it was received, sufficiently testified the attachment of his friends at Moor-Lane, to their deservedly respected minister.
It was particularly pleasing, also, to observe the kind spirit with which the chairman proposed “ Prosperity to the Bank-Street Congregation,” and the frank and truly Christian temper in which that wish was responded to by the Rev. F. Baker, and Mr. C. J. Darbishire-a manifestation of friendly feeling which may justly be regarded as a bright omen of the success likely to result from the united exertions of these zealous and popular ministers in the cause of truth and virtue.
In connection, also, with this Anniversary, another very interesting meeting was held on the Tuesday, when the children of the Sunday-school attached to the Moor-Lane Meeting-house, were regaled with an economical dinner. And after having been shortly and kindly addressed by the Revds. Smith, May, and Wicksteed, were dismissed to spend the remainder of the evening in company with their disinterested and benevolent teachers, in innocent recreation.
The hundredth Anniversary of the birth of Dr. Priestley was celebrated in London, on 25th March. Dr. Babington, one of the most distinguished of the medical profession, was in the chair. The company consisted of two hundred individuals, representatives of the science and talent of Great Britain. On “ the University of Oxford” being proposed, Professor Daubeny bore testimony to the importance of the discoveries of Dr. Priestley, in connection with the elucidation of modern systems of philosophy, more especially that which showed that the carbonic acid gas, so prevalent in animals, was also the food of plants. “The University of Cambridge” being given, Professor Cumming apologised for his inability to award that praise due to the inestimable merits of Dr. Priestley, on account of indisposition. He would say, that when he saw before him the man who had extracted lightning from the dor
mant magnet, he had hopes that the discoveries of Dr. Priestley were not thrown away, but would be followed up by worthy successors, so as to produce great and beneficial results. Some persons, much to their own disgrace, had called Dr. Priestley a mere experimenter. Far different, however, was his character. His theories were based upon a strict investigation of facts; but his penetration was most conspicuous; and, what others would have passed by unnoted, led, by being submitted to the process of his investigation, to the most important results. His quickness of perception was wonderful, and perhaps it was owing to this very quickness of perception, that he was incapable of systematizing the results. Indeed, it might be said, that it required different orders of minds to make discoveries, and to systematise them. He regretted those disgraceful proceedings by which Dr. Priestley had been driven away from this country, and congratulated the company, that they had lived to an age when such occurrences would be hardly credited. He beheld before him men of different religious and political opinions, but all were united in the endeavour to do honour to a man who was unhonoured in his age and his country. On the part of the University of Cambridge, which he so unworthily represented, he returned them most sincere thanks.
On the 29th March, a similar commemoration took place at Birmingham. The dinner was held at the Royal Hotel in that town,-Rev. John Corrie, President of the Birmingham Philosophical Society, was chairman. Nearly two hundred individuals were present. After various toasts had been given, Mr. Corrie said, it now became his duty to propose the memory of the great man, the centenary of whose birth they were assembled to celebrate. An attempt systematically to eulogise Dr. Priestley were vain. In what capacity or how should it be done? To give a narrative of his life, would be the most appropriate eulogy. But, to speak of him only in his philosophical character, it would be impossible, on the present occasion, to give even an outline of his claims on their admiration. It would be recollected, that to detail the course of his discoveries, had occupied six lectures delivered in this town last year, by Mr. Phillips. Dr. Priestley had opened a new field in science. He stood forward as the founder of Pneumatic Chemistry.
He drew to himself the admiration of all Europe; at a time, too, when such men as Black, Cavendish, Lavoisier, and Scheele, were ardently pursuing chemical science. One part of the philosophical character of Dr. Priestley was, the moral feeling which attended it; the purity and simplicity of his objects. He was actuated by no selfish motive in all he had done; he never turned his inventions to pecuniary profit. The discovery of the mode of impregnating water with gases, was his own; and, as soon as made, he communicated it freely to the Admiralty, under the impression, that the fluid so medicated, would be efficacious as a cure for the sea scurvy, but he never expected nor ever received for his communication any reward whatever. He did not seem even to be actuated by that “last infirmity of noble minds”—the love of fame simplyfor, as soon as he had made a discovery, he gave it to the world, without waiting to introduce it in its perfection with pomp and circumstance. If he thought there was a chance of its being useful to mankind, he wished that it should be immediately made so. His own idea of the philosophic character, might be gathered from the admirable preface to his “ History of Electricity;" and it might with truth be showed, that the picture he there drew was verified in himself. It had been imagined by some, that the character of the philosopher was incompatible with that of the divine. Dr. Watson, when made Bishop of Landaff, had burned his chemical papers, under this idea. But Dr. Priestley had combined the two characters during his whole life. Philosophy and theology had perfectly harmonised in him. In truth, there was no better foundation of religious knowledge than philosophy. Nothing tended so much to a perfect knowledge of the word of God, as a knowledge of his works. It had been by men absurdly said, that “ignorance was the mother of devotion.” To this it had been well replied, that, if so, she was such a mother as Medea, who strangled her children. If we took up the Sacred Volume, each one read the same words, but how different was their effect upon the uninformed, and upon the instructed eye and ear. The common reader, perusing the words, “ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” received from the word heavens no idea beyond that of the visible concave above him, spangled with stars, or illuminated by the sun and the moon. The mind of the philosophic reader conceived the idea of an infinite universe, in which the system of our sun, and moon, and world, formed a part so inconsiderable, that if the whole were at once annihilated, the loss would be no more perceived than would be the abstraction of a single mote from the
myriads that floated and glittered in the sun's beams. He would offer another illustration. The discoveries of Dr. Priestley showed, that by the breathing of all animals, and by the combustion of matter, that quality of the air which supported life and flame was destroyed.
How, then, was it, that after so many ages, the vital principle was not entirely extinct? Further researches showed, that what animal life was consuming, vegetable life was reproducing; that every leaf on which the sun shone, exhaled the salubrious component. Thus chemical philosophy showed how the balance in creation was kept up; thus it diffused a light on the wisdom and power of the Creator. The philosophical works of Dr. Priestley comprised but a few volumes, but how they teemed with experiments! A single volume, a single section, would seem to give employment to an ordinary life! and thus it was, that to the active mind of Dr. Priestley, a glimpse of the truth almost always led to magnificent results. He illustrated in himself, a beautiful simile which appeared in one of his works. “ The progress of knowledge,” said he, “ is like the increase of a circle of light, which, as it enlarges, increases the number of points on which it touches, and influences the surrounding circle of darkness. And here it might be observed, that though not remarkable for the quality of mind called imagination, Dr. Priestley, in the course of his writings, gave frequent proofs of original and lively fancy, and even of poetical taste. The same might be remarked of other philosophers of high eminence. Such evidences of the existence of fancy, were frequently discoverable in the works of Locke and Bacon. Dr. Priestley was not only a natural but also a moral philosopher; but this part of his character would be noticed by other gentlemen present. In fact, his varied works and varied life, presented numerous points of instruction and contemplation to the inquirer. He lived here in comparative obscurity. It was not power, place, or rank, which conferred distinction on him. He ended his days in exile; but his whole life presented a monument of imperishable fame; and to him might be well and aptly applied two eloquent lines of Milton, referring to Shakspeare:
“He now sepulchred in such pomp doth lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.” Yes! the name of Priestley was, indeed, embalmed in the recollection of multitudes who honoured him for his great talents so usefully exerted. Happily it was now safe to eulogise such a man; no fear of pains and penalties was now before the eyes
of his friends, yet such times had been. If, however, their present assembling was uninfluenced by fear, it was equally free from all interested considerations. They were called together, not with any idea of gain or selfish views. They congregated there, in order to do justice to their feelings, on an occasion when a generous principle was affected. He might, perhaps, have occasion, in the
course of the evening, to renew his observations on the character of the eminent person they were commemorating; at present he would request them to drink, in solemn and reverential silence, and standing up,
“ The memory of Dr. Priestley—the illustrious man, the centenary of wbose birth we are this day to celebrate.'
Mr. Joseph Parkes acknowledged the honour justly and gratefully paid to the memory and character
of Dr. Priestley. He said, that used as he might be to public speaking, he never experienced greater difficulty in satisfying his own feelings, or more inability to do justice to the subject of the meeting. He greatly regretted that the duty of acknowledging the generous and gratifying honour then paid to the moral and intellectual merits of Dr. Priestley, had not been discharged by Mr. Joseph Priestley—a son worthy of such a parent, and whose filial respect and intimate knowledge of his father, so much better qualified him to expatiate on Dr. Priestley's private virtues, extraordinary talents, and singular acquirements, than he (Mr. Parkes) could pretend to do. He was extremely sorry that Mr. Priestley was prevented by circumstances, and especially his deafness, from enjoying the pleasure of attending the meeting, and of returning thanks in person to so numerous and respectable an assemblage, on an occasion so interesting and honourable to the memory of his father. Mr. Parkes then read a letter from Mr. Priestley, expressing his deep sense of the honour paid to his father's memory in London and Birmingham, and his congratulation that Dr. Priestley's public services in the cause of science and political and religious truth, were now duly and publicly appreciated by his country, and especially, that all classes of Christians now allowed Dr. Priestley " the merit of being an enlightened advocate of revealed religion.” After reading the letter, which was warmly applauded, Mr. Parkes said, that he would content himself with a few brief remarks on the character of Dr. Priestley, which, in every relation of private and public life, was now justly estimated, and stood out before his country clear from the prejudices of the age in which he lived. The purity of Dr. Priestley's personal character, and his private virtues, were never even questioned by a virulent press or the tongue of slander. Dr. Priestley was indebted to his own single exertions, unaided by factitious circumstances of birth or fortune, for his distinguished literary eminence and scientific reputation. To use the language of the Roman, Dr. Priestley was “born of himself,” and could boast no aristocratic lineage he was essentially a self-educated man, who had derived no advantages from academical education. His own zealous love of truth and science raised him to celebrity. Mr. Corrie and the recent meeting of the first men of science in London, had done ample justice to his promotion of science and philosophy. He (Mr. Parkes) did not wish to involve the unanimity of the meeting by any illtimed or illiberal allusion to Dr. Priestley's particular political or religious opinions; but it was due to that illustrious man to say, that truth was the great and single object of all his intellectual exertions that the freedom of discussion and opinion which he claimed for himself, he desired to extend to all mankind—and that he boldly maintained civil and religious liberty, in the most unrestricted sense, to be the right of all men in all countries. The war of opinion which burst out on the first French revolution, involved the characters of many great public men in temporary prejudice and persecution, but the political opinions of Dr. Priestley were now the practical views of the present generation, and to Dr. Priestley was especially due the merit of exciting public attention to the injustice of the civil disabilities of the Protestant Dissenters, now 80 happily erased from the statute-book of England. Mr. Parkes then referred to the labours of Dr. Priestley in the cause of religion, which, he said, would be doubtless ably reviewed by other gentlemen-that it was impossible on such an occasion to give any analysis of his numerous