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added to his faith courage, and in this instance that courage assumed an almost heroical aspect. All must admit that it was a bold undertaking—some may even deem it foolish and presumptuous—to take a lease of a large piece of ground, and give orders for a chapel ca. pable of affording accommodation to upwards of 2000 persons, knowing at the time of but few individuals who would attend ; yet he acted with judicious forethought and prudent consideration. He knew that the ground he was about to take was surrounded by a dense and teeming population, chiefly of the middle class, a large proportion of whom would probably be disposed to attend, when they saw a respectable and handsome chapel erected in the midst of them. He did not act rasbly and unadvisedly in doing what he did. He well knew the lamentable deficiency in the means of evangelical instruction provided for a vast number of inbabitants in Oxford Street, and the numerous streets on either side of it; and, a providential opportunity presenting itself for securing suitable ground in the very centre of this populous district, he seized the favourable moment to obtain a sufficient portion for the erection of a spacious chapel.'pp. 320, 321.
Thus was furnished an unprecedented exemplification of a noble spirit of Christian enterprize. Within ten years, almost entirely at his own expense and at a cost of more than £25,000, Mr. Wilson erected three large chapels, where about 5,000 persons are now in constant attendance, and the gospel is faithfully, earnestly, and successfully preached. The son may well be proud of such a father, and point to this unique achievement as
specially worthy of honourable memorial.' When the names of our heroes and statesmen have passed away; when our poets cease to charm and our philosophers to instruct; when their works have perished with them, and all ephemeral distinctions are lost in the one grand and pervading element of eternity, the unostentatious services we have recorded will be had in lasting remembrance, and thousands of grateful hearts, made happy by them, will render thanks on their behalf to 'the God of the spirits of all flesh.'
Mr. Wilson's labours were not restricted to London. With the sound practical judgment which was one of his most marked qualities, he was accustomed to say, 'London has the first claim upon me.' He was right in this, and his selection was as wise as it proved useful. But he did not, as most men would have done, refer to his labours in the metropolis as a ground for refusing pecuniary aid to the country. On the contrary, his gifts to the latter were sufficient to make the reputation of a score of ordinary liberal men. We can only specify a few of these, and that in the barest form. To Ipswich, in 1825, he gave £1500; to Northampton, in 1829, £2100; to Richmond, in 1830, £2000; to Oxford, in 1831, £500; to March, in 1836, £400, and three years afterwards, £200 more; to Chatteris, £350; to Leatherhead, about £400; to Dover, in 1838, £1,780; and to Derby, £500. In innumerable other cases he gave smaller sums, on which we need not dwell, and which our space prevents our detailing. We have said enough to show that in the appropriation of his property to this department of religious service, Mr. Wilson was unparalleled. None preceded him and he has had no successor. He occupied a sphere of his own, not so much from an indisposition to co-operate with others, as from his plans being larger, and his scale of contribution more generous. Without much general enlargement of mind, he was eminently generous here. It was as though his spirit operated with an intensity in proportion to its limited range; as though he accumulated on this field of labour the expansiveness and liberality .which in other directions seemed foreign from his character.
The question of trust deeds naturally arises in connexion with that of chapels, and we should have been glad to be supplied with information respecting the course adopted by Mr. Wilson concerning them. This was the more advisable from circumstances which have recently occurred in the case of some of his London chapels. Rumour has been busy on the point, and it would have been well if our biographer had expounded his father's views, so as to have guarded his procedure from misapprehension, or to have pointed out the errors-should there be any — into which he incidentally fell. We have been at some pains to inform ourselves on this point, and our conviction certainly is that such errors were committed, and that great practical interests are involved in a full and thorough investigation of the question thus suggested.* We need scarcely say that nothing is more remote from our design than to impugn
* The great importance of this subject has recently been shown in the case of the Congregational Church at Holloway, to ihe history of which Mr. Joshua Wilson refers (pages 287, 289). After a long period of depression, this interest has been revived, under the able ministry of the Rev. J. A. Morris, and a new chapel has been built, towards the cost of which it was natural and right that the sum realized by the sale of the old place should be appropriated. To this course, however, every obstruction which his legal position permitted, was offered by one of the trustees, bearing the name of Wilson ; and nothing but the hopelessness of wresting the place from the church appears, at length, to have induced the abandonment of opposition. The church at Holloway did right in refusing to surrender the old chapel. The property was its own, and the proceeds of its sale were therefore righteously at the disposal of the society. Such an attempt would awaken our reprobation in any case, but more especially so when directed against a ministry pre-eminently distinguished by talent and fidelity. Few of our churches are privileged like that at Holloway. May the improvement of its members be proportioned to their advantages !
the excellency of Mr. Wilson's motives. We are as free from any approach to this as his son and biographer can be, and should resent any such attempt as a wrong to his memory, and an injury to the Christian profession. But in proportion to the respect in which we hold Mr. Wilson, is our solicitude that his errors in matters of public interest should be pointed out, lest others, stimulated by his example, may be induced to imitate them, and their baneful influence be thus widely extended. The errors of obscure men are of little importance. They die with them, and others, therefore, are not affected. But the errors of the wise, the good, the influential, are infectious. They become patterns, are adopted as examples, and frequently survive to distant generations, through the reverence with which we cherish the memory of the dead. The early corruptions of the church,--the obscuration of its faith, the overlaying of its simple worship by the mummeries of superstition, the introduction and growth and ultimate domination of the priestly power,—were all assisted in this way. The virtues of the fathers gave weight and authority to their errors, and so it has continued to the present hour. Bearing this principle of human conduct in mind, we are sorry that Mr. Joshua Wilson has not said one word on the subject to which we refer. He doubtless regarded it as uncalled for and inexpedient; but, as already intimated, there are in our judgment important practical interests involved, and we must therefore detain our readers for a moment.
According to common report, Mr. Wilson's form of trust-deed was open, more or less, to two objections; the creation of a power independent of the church ; and a specification, descending even to the minuter points of doctrines to be received and rites to be practised, by the associated body. If this be som and none will be more gratified than ourselves to have the report authoritatively contradicted-much evil may be apprehended ; not immediately, perhaps, but as surely, however slow the process, as effect follows cause. Both points are, in our judgment, infractions of the first principle of our ecclesiastical polity; and it is marvellous that the latter has so long eluded detection and exposure. According to our principles, the church is the conservator of truth. God has committed it to her; it is her high and special vocation; and every appeal from her to the magistrate, of whatever order, indicates want of faith in God's arrangement, and a leaning, however unconsciously, to the appliances of secular policy. We are no more justified in making the Lord Chancellor the protector of our purity of doctrine, than we are in constituting our civil rulers the upholders and extenders of the truth. The argument which justifies the former, will go far to establish the propriety of the
latter. Both partake of the same essential spirit, and are parts of a system which must stand or fall together. As we look to the civil ruler for the protection of our persons simply, so his province in relation to our chapels is merely to prevent their alienation to private purposes. They are the property of a society, and should be protected as such. Instances may no doubt occur in which the application of this principle affords occasion for partial and temporary evil; but viewed on a large scale, and in relation to an extended period, we have the fullest confidence in its results. On the present occasion, we can do no more than indicate, incidentally, what we deem the sounder course, and must leave to another opportunity the fuller exposition of our views.
As it respects the immediate occasion of our remarks, an illustration directly in point is furnished in the Memoirs of Dr. Fletcher of Stepney, just published by his son.* From these "Memoirs' we learn that, in 1816, Dr. Fletcher was invited to take the pastoral oversight of the church assembling in the new chapel at Paddington. Mr. Wilson cordially concurred in this invitation, assuring Dr. Fletcher, in a letter dated June 6th, • My opinion is decidedly in favour of your acceptance thereof.'t The latter was naturally anxious to know the nature of the trust-deed that was to be executed, and wrote to Mr. Wilson for information on this point. You will not be surprised,' he says, 'at my inquiry respecting your intentions as to placing Paddington Chapel in the hands of trustees, and the principles on which you have resolved to act in the arrangements of that business.'i In reply to this inquiry, a draught of the proposed deed was forwarded ; in reference to which Dr. Fletcher remarks, under date of June 27th,— It is, I conceive, the characteristic principle of Independent or Congregational churchgovernments, that it recognises the authority of the church in all the acts of its administration; that from the church all official power is immediately derived, and that matters purely spiritual lie exclusively within their jurisdiction. I look upon the trustees as a mere civil delegation, appointed by the church for the guardianship of its property, and to secure its appropriation to the purposes for which the place was erected. You
* We regret not having yet been able to give that notice of these Memoirs, and of the volumes which accompany them, to which they are entitled. We hope to do so next month; and in the meantime record our high sense of the amiable disposition, ministerial eminence, and enlightened dissenterism of one of the most esteemed and beloved members of the Congregational
will not be surprised if, under these impressions, several points in the draught you sent me appear exceptionable.'
Such a principle,' he subsequently remarks, alluding to the selection of trustees, 'immediately affects the independence of the church at Paddington; and this idea is confirmed by a third circumstance, which appears to be inconsistent with all the views I have ever held on this subject. I allude to the power of removing a minister, which the projected deed vests, in the first instance, in four of the trustees, not belonging to the church at Paddington. His fourth objection refers to the last of the two we have named, and we are glad to avail ourselves of such an authority. It is of the more weight with us as it did not arise from any objection to the doctrines stated. Allow me, also,' says Dr. Fletcher, 'to state, in the fourth place, that I conscientiously object to the requirement of subscription; not because I do not cordially approve of all the particulars you have specified, but because subscription is unnecessary when more legitimate and satisfactory methods of ascertaining a man's sentiments may be adopted, and has been proved by experience and observation to be altogether insufficient for the purpose.'
I should consider,' it is added, in a postscript, the actual existence of a trust on the principles of your draught a sufficient reason for instantly determining in the negative.'* The whole of this letter is highly honourable to the writer, and the manner in which it was met by Mr. Wilson, though indicative of imperfect views on the points mooted, and not entirely free from chagrin, was yet consistent with great worth and the most sin. cere devotion to religious interests. He offered to concede various points, and pleaded a misapprehension of his meauing on some others. The following sentence, however, is decisive of the fact that he mistrusted the popular character of our churches, and designed to impose a check not warranted, as we believe, by the divine rule. "I wish,' he says, 'to do for the best ; but I will not hesitate to allow that, though I am a decided Dissenter, yet, from the experience I have had of much evil arising from the improper conduct of ministers, and the want of management in churches, that I am not warmly attached to Independency as at present constituted.'+
The issue of the negotiation is well known. Dr. Fletcher remained at Blackburn, though it is due to his correspondent to state that he admitted his objections, so far as the trust-deed was concerned, to have been completely removed. Whether his suggestions were finally adopted we know not. For the sake of our common independency we hope they were. If not the
• Memoir of Dr.Fletcher, pp. 216–218. † Ib. p. 219. .