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To Mrs. Webb, on her Birth-Day, (Nor feels the lapse between,)
Preserves the image deep imprest,
In all its charms within my breast,
And seventy appears but seventeen.
But few can boast at such late hour, Muse, string the lyre this day to softest Midst soft'ning shades, to charm, such tove,
pow'r : And sing a life far dearer than my own ;
Thy virtues shall embalm For, Muse, this is the natal day,
Those charms within that won my heart; And this demands her votive lay.
May Heav'n still act its gracious part, What tho' hoar Time with envious wing
And grant our evening a propitious
Of life we've spent-its devious way
We've trod with equal feet : Affection still, with magic charm, And Hearen, I trust, will gently slope Can his destructive scythe disarm, Our downward path, whilst Faith and Her fruits not time can e'er devour:
Hope And sweet Remembrance, that still bears Lead to the 'seat of bliss again to lo mind the charms of youthful years,
Memoir of Dr. Benjamin Spencer, every thing to which he directed his at.
late of Bristol, born at Southwold, tention, the good sense he displayed on in Suffolk, died at Hackney, Nov.
all occasions so great, his seriousness so 5, 1822, aged 67.
deep, and his general demeanour so ex
emplary, that he attracted the particular The power of religion to develope and notice of Dr. Caleb Evans, then the resiexpand the faculties of the human mind dent tutor, who soon ceased to treat him has seldom been more strikingly illus- as a pupil, and made him his companion trated than in the subject of the present and friend. memoir. To a singular train of events, On leaving the academy, Dr. Spencer which led him at an early period of life was choseu the pastor of the Particular to investigate with seriousness the doc- Baptist congregation at Alcester, in Wartrines and duties of the Christian religion, wickshire. Here he resided several years he owed the awakening of intellectual in great harmony with his people, inuch faculties of no ordinary strength : the respected as a man of sound judg:neut, growth of the religious principle and the and universally considered by his brother developement of the powers of the under- ministers as an acute and able reasoner. standing were strictly correlative: the His manuer of conducting an argument former was the immediate cause of the was excellent; he was precise, logical, latter, and this he was accustomed to guarded, and rarely lost his temper. His acknowledge with deep gratitude. style of preaching was somewhat singular.
The early habit of reflecting on a sub- It was generally an exposition of a pasject containing such powerful sources of sage of Scripture, rather than a discourse emotion as religiou, by a mind naturally from a single text, which latter method contemplative and strong, was likely to he cousidered better calculated to keep absorb it, and to render it comparatively men in ignorance of the sacred books, indifferent to every other concern. Ac- than to elucidate what is obscure, and to cordingly, he soon conceived the desire of register in the memory a clear and condevotiog himself to the Christian ministry, nected ac vunt of what is certaiu and in which he perceived that he should not important. His usual plan was to give only have ample opportunity, but in which what he conceived to be the precise it would become the business of his life meaning of the passage selected for con. to investigate the most interesting sub- sideration; then to state, to explain, and jects : and as his friends recognized in perhaps to defend the doctrine it might him indications of taleot which would each; and, lastly, to deduce and to enrender him capable of filling the office force the moral precepts it might conwith usefulness and honour, combined tain. with a gravity of deportment which pro- In the comparative seclusion in which mised to secure his steadydevotedness to it, he was placed he had much leisure; he they warmly encouraged his wish. Circum- visited but little, and he had few books. stances had led him to unite himself with His active mind thirsted for fuller infora society of Particular Baptists: hence he mation on many of the doctrines which received the theological part of his edu- are usually considered essential parts of cation at the Baptist academy at Bristolthe Christian system, and on this account When he first arrived at this institution, he regretted his distance from those the students were warmly engaged in the sources of knowledge which larger towns discussion of, what to many will seem a afford; but at length it occurred to him, very singular question, namely, Whether that all the real knowledge on these sub it be the duty of all men to believe in jects which men possess, and which they the gospel of Christ? He entered with have recorded in their writings, must earnestness into this controversy; he took have been derived from a study of the the affirmative side of the question, and Scriptures, and that this great source of he soun saw that it would lead him far, instruction was as open to him as to though he did not at first suspect how them. Immediately, and with great ar. far, from Calvinism.
dour, he applied himself to the study of While at the academy he applied him- the Greek of the New Testament : he self with diligence to the study of the read through, in a convected manner, Greek and Hebrew languages, and to the the four Gospels, next the Acts of the ordinary, but very limited course of Apostles, and then their various epistles; instruction pursued in that institution. and where one author has written sereral His progress was so steady and rapid in epistles, he always read these in succes
sion. In this manner, he read through with a few interruptions, have regularly the New Testament sereral times with met together for public worship. great care: explained, as well as he could, Dr. Spencer had continued thus pub. scripture by scripture; interpreting what licly to read and expound the Scriptures, was obscure by what was clear, and for the space of about two years, when a registering and arranging as he went on gentleman, a resident of Glasgow, hap. the passages which appeared to favour or pened to hear him, who was so much to disprove the doctrines which are com- pleased with the service that he invited monly received as true. At the end of him to Glasgow, and requested him to this process, to his no smali astonish- · repeat the same service in that city. Ou ment, he found himself a Unitarian. acceding to this request, he was heard in Here, then, is an instance in which a Glasgow with so much acceptance, that man of a sound judgment, of sincere he was earnestly solicited by sereral perpiety, influenced by an ardent love of sons to fix his residence there, and, as truth, pursuing it with that patient in- an advantageous offer was at the same dustry and in that manner which are time made him which would enable him most likely to discover it, and with all to pursue his medical studies with satishis prepossessions in favour of Trinitari. faction to himself, he readily yielded to anism, becomes a Unitarian simply by the wishes of his friends. Thus he bene reading the New Testament in the lan. came the public and avowed preacher of guage in which it was originally written. Unitarianism in Glasgow, and although He perused no other book : he consulted his style of preaching was peculiarly scripno expositor: he was guided to the con- tural, the way in which he stated his clusion in which he rested by nothing but opinions guarded and jndicious, and the the language of scripture, operating on a manner in which he defended them unmind as favourably circumstanced as can commonly mild, yet so great was the well be conceived to interpret it aright. sensation produced, and so violent the Rarely, indeed, does there happen a con- opposition excited, that bis very life was currence of circumstances so favourable in danger. Several fanatics threatened to the discovery of the real meaning of to lay violent hands on him; and his Scripture; and therefore both the fact friends, though not himself, were under and the consequence deserve to be re- serious apprehension that the menace corded. He often expressed his surprise would be executed. He fearlessly contithat Arianism should so uuiversally be nued his labour : the ferment gradually considered as the direct route, the half- subsided. By his mild and judicious way house, as it has been termed, from manner, some of his most violent oppoTrinitarianism to Unitarianism: and he nents were iuduced first to examine and who considers what the most extraordi- next to believe; and he had the honour nary and astonishing doctrines of Ari. of sowing that seed which, though at anism are, and contrasts them with the several periods it seemed to be lost, has simple and calm and cold language of the since sprung up abundantly, and is now evangelical narratives, will understand tourishing. the ground of his wonder.
After finishing his medical studies in On this change of opinion, after having Scotland, Dr. Spencer removed to Brisdistioctly stated to his congregation the tol, where he settled as a surgeon, and vature of it, the process which conducted by those who best knew him, and were to it, and the considerations which pro. best able to appreciate his worth, was duced it, he resigned the pastoral office, esteemed a inost judicious practitioner. aud finally determined on studying medi. He had indeed studied his profession with cine; intending still to perform the duties a diligence of which there are few exaniof a Christian teacher, should he be ples, and his knowledge was not only placed in a situation in which his services uncommonly extensive, but precise and would be useful. In conformity with scientific. Yet he never neglected to culthis resolution, even while he was pur- tivate his prior, and perhaps his favourite, suing his professional studies at Edin- pursuit, that of theology. He possessed, burgh, he couducted a regular religious more in cousequence of extraordinary laservice iu his own lodgings every Sunday. bour than as an original endowment of This service was commenced in the year nature, a great facility in acquiring lan1791, and he was occasionally assisted by guage, and he had an admirable method Mr. Fyshe Palmer, with whom he had of teaching whatever he knew. It was formed an intimate friendship, whose his custom to reduce every subject he attalents and excellences he respected and tempted to teach to its first or most siin. loved, and whose cruel persecution he ple principles ; to begin with the inculcanever ceased to deplore, From that pe- tion of these, aud then, in a regular riod, Edinburgh has never been without series, to advance to the higher and more a number of avowed Unitarians, who, complicated parts : and this he did in so