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I cannot be aware whether the opinions, or feelings less definite than opinions, of readers who have had the advantage of hearing Mr. Hall, will coincide with the observations ventured in these latter pages. Those who have heard him but very occasionally, will be incompetent judges of their propriety. I remember that at a time very long since, when I had not heard more perhaps than three or four of his sermons, I did not apprehend the justness, or, indeed, very clearly the import, of a remark on that characteristic of his preaching which I have attempted to describe, when made to me by his warm friend, and most animated admirer, Dr. Ryland; who said that Mr. Hall's preaching had, with an excellence in some respects unrivalled, the fault of being too general; and he contrasted it with that of Mr. Hall's father, who had erred, he thought, on the side of a too minute particularity.—But whether these strictures be admitted or questioned, I will confidently take credit with every candid reader, for having, as in the character of historian, and disclaiming the futile office of panegyrist, deliberately aimed at a faithful description of this memorable preacher, as he appeared during that latter period of his public ministrations, to which my opportunity of frequent attendance on them has unfortunately been confined.
I can hardly think it should be necessary to protest against such a misunderstanding of these latter pages as should take them to imply, that Mr. Hall's preaching was not eminently useful, notwithstanding those qualities of it which tended to prevent its being so in full proportion to the mighty force of mind which it displayed. Its beneficial effect is testified by the experience of a multitude of persons, of various orders of character. Intelligent, cultivated, and inquiring young persons, some of them favourably inclined to religion, but repelled by the uncouth phraseology, and the meanness and trite commonplace illustration, in which they had unfortunately seen it presented; some of them under temptations to scepticism, and others to a rejection os some essential principle of christianity, were attracted and arrested by a lucid and convincing exhibition of divine truth. Men of literature and talents, and men of the world who were not utterly abandoned to impiety and profligacy, beheld religion set forth with a vigour and a lustre, and with an earnest sincerity infinitely foreign to all mere professional display, which once more shewed religion worthy
to command, and fitted to elevate, the most powerful minds; which augmented the zeal of the faithful among those superior spirits, and sometimes constrained the others to say, “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Men of sectarian spirit were cheated of a portion of their bigotry, or forced into a consciousness that they ought to be ashamed of it. And, as a good of a more diffusive kind, numbers of people of the common order were held under a habitual impression of the importance of religion; and the enumeration would, I believe, be very considerable if it could be made, of individuals indebted to his ministry for those effectual convictions which have resulted in their devotement to God, and their happiness in life and death.
It is very possible, that those parts which I have so much dilated on, with the view of representing how a different manner might have been more useful, will, by some persons, be acknowledged to be correctly described as matter of fact, without agreeing with my opinion as to the degree in which they were defective for usefulness. But at all events, and whatever the just exception may be to an unqualified eulogy, it is exactly by those whose discernment the least permitted them to be undiscriminating in their admiration, that the deepest regret is felt for the departure of that great and enlightened spirit. The crude admiration which can make no distinctions, never renders justice to what is really great. The colossal form is seen through a mist, dilated perhaps, but obscured and undefined, instead of standing forth conspicuous in its massive solidity and determinate lineaments and dimensions. The less confused apprehension of the object verifies its magnitude while perceiving its clear line of circumscription. The persons who could see where Mr. Hall's rare excellence had a limit short of the ideal perfection of a preacher, would, by the same judegment, form the justest and the highest estimate of the offerings which, in his person, reason and genius consecrated to religion-of the force of evidence with which he maintained its doctrines, of the solemn energy with which he urged its obligations, and of the sublimity with which he displayed its relations and prospects.
By those persons, the loss is reflected on with a sentiment peculiar to the event, never experienced before, nor to be expected in any future instance. The removal of any worthy minister, while in full possession and activity of his faculties, is a mournful occurrence; but there is the consideration that many such remain, and that perhaps an equal may follow where the esteemed instructor is withdrawn. But the feeling in the present instance is of a loss altogether irreparable. The cultivated portion of the hearers have a sense of privation partaking of desolateness. An animating influence that pervaded, and enlarged, and raised their minds is extinct. While ready to give due honour to all valuable preachers, and knowing that the lights of religious instruction will still shine with useful lustre, and new ones continually rise, they involuntarily and pensively turn to look at the last fading colours in the distance where the greater luminary has set.
Ν Ο Τ Ε.
In this collection of Mr. Hall's works, every thing is inserted that was published with his sanction, and that is known to have been written by him, with the exception of a single letter, which he many years ago engaged to suppress. But, on inserting the letter in reference to the Serampore Missionaries, (Vol. IV. p. 415,) I inadvertently omitted to mention, that it received a place in consequence of the general rule thus adopted, and without asking the concurrence of Mr. Foster. I therefore think it right to insert a letter from Mr. Foster, relative to what he regards as Mr. Hall's misapprehension of some main points in a most painful subject of discussion. The controversy between the London Committee and the Serampore Missionaries, I have always deeply deplored. Yet, I have an entire persuasion that the Committee did every thing in their power to avoid it, and abstained from making it public until they were compelled to do so by a feeling of duty to the Society, with the management of whose concerns they are entrusted.
TO DR. GREGORY. My Dear Sir,
I observe you have admitted into the fourth volume of Mr. Hall's works, very possibly without having had time, amidst your various and important engagements, for a deliberate consideration, a letter written by Mr. Hall to the “ Committee of the Baptist Missionary Society,” in March, 1827, on the occasion of a request from the Serampore Missionaries, for a certain annual grant of money from that Society. As that letter is calculated to injure the character of those Missionaries in the estimation of the readers of Mr. Hall's works in times to come, allow me to submit to you, whether it be not a claim of justice that you should give a place, in the concluding volume, to an observation or two which I have to offer.
Some of the points alluded to, with implied censure, in that letter, (those respecting the constitutional terms of the relation which had subsisted between the Society and those Missionaries) will be matters of small account in the view of the future generation of readers. But the main purport and effect of that letter must be, in the apprehension of those readers, to fix a dishonourable imputation on personal character. It is charged upon the Serampore fraternity (as well collectively as in their representative, Dr. Marshman) that they were rapacious of money; that they were apparently practising to see how much of it they could extort, on the strength of their reputation, as presumed by them to be of essential importance to that of the
Society; that they were already exceeding the utmost pardonable advance of encroachment; that they were likely to be progressive and insatiable in their exactions; and that their possession, at the very same time, of “an extensive revenue,” “ large pecuniary resources,” rendering needless to them the assistance applied for, stamped a peculiar character of arrogance on that attempt at exaction.
Suppose a reader at some distant time to form his judgement exclusively on this representation, as an authentic and sufficient evidence; and what can he think of those men, but that they must have been, to say no more, some of the most unreasonable of mankind ?—that though they did perform things which remain memorable in religious history, they were not worthy of their high vocation, for that the merit of their performanc
inces was spoiled by a grasping selfishness and an exorbitant arrogance? This supposition, that the document in question may have on the judgement of readers an effect inimical to the memory of those original Missionaries, long after they are dead, is authorized by the probability that Mr. Hall's writings will retain a place in publie attention and favour, long after the occasional productions of the present time, in explanation and defence of the conduct of those Missionaries, shall have
gone out of knowledge. Now, my dear Sir, let me appeal to your sense of justice whether it be right, that this unqualified invective, written for a temporary purpose, without probably the least thought of publication, and written, as I shall prove to you, under extreme error, should be perpetuated in a standard work, as a stigma on the character of those men, without the admission also into the same work, for equal permanence, of a brief notice adapted to correct the wrong. 'The wrong is no less than this—that the charge, such as I have described it in plain conformity to the document, is made on men who, having prosecuted a course of indefatigable exertions in the christian cause, one of them for more than a quarter of a century, and another a much longer time, during more than twenty years of which they had not received or asked any share of the Society's income—having supported themselves, and performed their great literary, and their other missionary operations gratuitouslyhaving, besides this, expended in the christian service, during a long period, several thousand pounds a-year from resourses created by their own diligence—and having also contributed very largely by their high reputation to the public credit and success of the Society itself-could not, after all this, conceive it to be an unreasonable "exaction,” or “extortion," to request the aid of a sixth part of the Society's annual income, when at last their own had become greatly diminished, chiefly in consequence of the establishment of other printing offices and schools in the neighbouring city.
But the case being so, it may be asked, with some surprise, how Mr. Hall could be betrayed to write such a letter. I can assign what must have been the chief cause. He believed he had reason to place implicit confidence in testimony, which assured him, that the Serampore Missionaries were at that very time in the possession of superabundant wealth; and he happened not to be in communication with informants, who could have proved to him that the contrary was the fact, to a painful extreme. It is from my own immediate knowledge that I make this statement. In a long conversation, just about the time that the letter to the Committee was written, he affirmed to me and