ART. VIII.—Random Recollections of Exeter Hall in 1834-1837. By one of the Protestant Party. London: Nisbet. 1838.

[British Critic, vol. 24, July 1838.]

{190} RELIGION is a social principle; it cannot exist without fellow-feeling, nor can fellow-feeling be maintained without assemblies and celebrations. It is very well to maintain its more private and personal nature in a treatise for the closet or a discussion to serve a purpose; but the notion of strictly independent, secret, isolated religion is unreal and theoretical. He who believes in a Maker and Governor believes that he is Maker and Governor of others besides himself; and (if we may so parallel the sacred text) he who regards Him who made, regards them also who are made by Him. And, moreover, in a world of sin, the current of which runs strongly against the voice of conscience, and the high but delicate instincts of truth and purity, human nature, conscious of its weakness, will ever, in mere self-defence, look out for sympathy and co-operation in its arduous duty of maintaining what is unseen against what is seen.

When then men talk of religion being a secret thing between each man and his Maker, as being too sacred for co-operation, and too peculiar and individual for sympathy, they are either letting their words outrun their ideas or they are mere sceptics and men of the world, catching at any excuse which offers and promises well, in order to get rid of a subject they do not like. Men who are well content with things visible, and wish to frame the materials which this world supplies into a perfect system, who have their summum bonum upon earth, and who feel that it is attainable by means which are of earth, consider the religious {191} principle as nothing more or less than a principle of disorder, as the cause of infinite disarrangements and perplexities in that view and method of life which they would fain pursue; and the religious element in our nature as a troublesome and vexatious phenomenon, which they cannot deny to exist, and to require satisfying, though they console themselves by a plain denial of its being a primary or essential part of our nature, or more than the result of education and association, and accordingly do their best to bribe it into quietness as cheaply and as expeditiously as they can.

Such is the case with those who deny that religion is a social principle, because they wish it expelled from society; but others, and the mass of persons, who deny it, deny it in theory only, for party reasons, from bad education, or from other unsatisfactory causes; and they convict themselves of inconsistency, and show that they are using words for ideas, by forthwith proceeding to act against their own doctrine. They resolutely maintain that each individual man must be ultimately dependent for his religious opinions on himself; and yet in spite of this, by societies, and meetings, and tracts, and united movements, and celebrations, they do bring to bear upon him an extrinsic and external influence, an authority distinct from the sacred volume and from his personal and private inquiry into it, and calculated to overawe and to over-persuade him. They set up a power, the same in kind as the visible Church, to impress and seduce his imagination, in advance or in prejudice of his reason. In theory they maintain the right of private judgment, and the supremacy of Scripture without note or comment; yet by all the enthusiasm of social feeling and all the excitement of a struggle, by those means which the Church uses openly and avowedly, they strive, without avowing them, to oppose them when avowed, to oppose them in the Church.

Even a system (of external worship we cannot call it, but) of ceremony and circumstance, is in course of formation, at the shell of testaceous animals, being at once the development and protection of that New Religion, which it has been the fashion among us of late years to substitute for the Ancient Faith. By the ancient religion we mean that which Popery corrupted; by the new religion we mean that which Luther founded in his new definition of faith, and his new dogma, that justification by faith only is the one fundamental truth of the Gospel. The old religion had its pageants, rites, and festivals; and the spirit of destruction which has been unchained in these last centuries declared that such observances were heathenish and idolatrous. The old religion had, or rather it has, its discipline, its monuments, and its ritual, as (by a good Providence) they are still preserved to us; and these {192} were, or rather still are, represented by its enemies as unlawful persuasives, yokes, beggarly elements, instruments of bondage, or rags for the vanity fair of the great Babel. It had its solemn services; and what were these forsooth but mummeries, the fruit of idle legends, of pious frauds, representations ad captandum, evil doings that good might come, or exaggerations of what was true, or occasions of unduly exalting individuals, some poor, frail, and fallible being, who after all was but a man of like passions with the rest? It had its religions societies; and what were these but unscriptural, because not prescribed in Scripture? It had its convocations of clergy; and how could a hundred heads be infallible when laid together, when each separately was not so? It had its processions and litanies, and what were these but accurate and deliberate copies of Pagan customs? The most virtuous feelings were displayed, and the most touching delicacy, and the most jealous indignation at religion, which is a thing of the heart, being made so outward, so unspiritual, so unchristian.

It is said that nature will always revenge herself when outraged, and what is true of nature in the general holds good also as regards her religious workings. This pseudo-evangelicism, which is so alarmed at undue influences and yokes of bondage, is now acting over again, only with new dresses, what in many times and places it has already performed since Calvin set up his platform at Geneva. After destroying forms it is introducing others, which bear the same relation to the true ones as the tyranny of a usurper to the legitimate authority of the dethroned monarch. Well, indeed, were it for this king of the barricades if it could assume the venerable character of a father and judge; but, as was to be expected, being set up in rebellion, it has no where been able to preserve reverence, and for no long while to maintain even order. And at the present day, and among ourselves, it presents perhaps the most singular aspect which it has yet shown, and to which the small volume we have prefixed these remarks will enable us to direct attention. While it still retained in its bosom some of its mother's warmth and its mother's fear, there was a sort of solemnity and seriousness in its movements. The Puritans were not triflers, nor the Covenanters cowards; but now, in a time of prosperity, when there is little to season our faith, and of scepticism, when there is much to sap it, while it professes more than ever the pomp of externals, and the impressiveness of combination, yet (most remarkable it is) it has stripped these instruments of influence, almost altogether of their sacred character, aims at religious objects by means which do not even pretend to religion, offers to God "the sacrifice of fools," and pleads for Him in the garb of the world. {193}

The old religion thinks it scorn to appear before men except as God's minister. Its outward forms are but the type of what it is within. Within it is calm and serene, as the sea spread before the throne of God, reflecting in its bosom the stars of heaven and giving to view "the jewels of the great deep" which lie beneath. And such as this is the garb which, at its Master's command, it has put on from the beginning. Though its coat was of many colours, yet it was woven from the top throughout; though made with much cunning work and many a curious device, yet it was "fine linen, clean and white," like the inward "righteousness of saints." Such was the sanctity, the comeliness, the gravity of those ancient forms, which as being imbued with what they represented resembled it, and while they resembled it promised it. The order of the ministry, the descent and relationship of the churches, the ritual of worship, the precepts for governing, evangelizing, protesting, suffering, all spoke of that inward heaven which exists in its degree in the soul of every true Christian, and has its perfect unapproachable prototype in that of his Divine Master. What Christians were in private in the beauty of holiness, such were they when they met together in one, each member knowing his own place, as each faculty of his soul its own function. In the religious man, reason, will, conscience, affections, and passions do not struggle together, or settle in some compromise or "social compact" one with another; but each recognizes and takes what is its own by nature. And, in like manner, if we would see what true social religion is, we must betake ourselves to the various forms in which it is presented to us in antiquity, and not the least to that form which was the most formal and august of all, and the type of all in their several degrees, its synodal meetings. We shall betake ourselves, for instance, to Eusebius, and there read the account of the great Nicene Council: how the Emperor of the World provided for the Bishops a great hall in his palace, in the capital of Bithynia, where above 300, from all parts of the world, assembled at his charge; how they seated themselves each in his place in silence, waiting his arrival, and how, when he entered robed in his imperial purple, he gravely stood in the middle of the fathers till they called on him to take his seat. Or we may consult the following formulary for the opening of a Spanish council, which Mr. Keble has lately printed from Hardouin.

"At the first hour of the day, before sunrise," says this document, "let all be cast out of the Church, and the entrances being barred, let all the door-keepers stand at the one door, through which the prelates are to enter. And let all the bishops assembling go in together, and take their seats according to the time of their consecration. When all the bishops {194} have come in and taken their places, next let those presbyters be summoned whose admission the nature of the case in hand seems to warrant; and let no deacon intrude himself among them. After these may be admitted the more eminent among the deacons, whose presence is required by the regular form of proceeding. And a circle being made of the bishops' seats, let the presbyters sit down behind them; those, namely, whom the metropolitan has selected to be his successors, such of course as may act with him both in judging and pronouncing sentence. Let the deacons stand in sight of the bishops; then let the laity also enter, who, by choice of the council, have obtained the privilege of being there. Moreover, the notaries must also come in, as is directed by the regular form, for reading documents and taking notes. Then, the doors being fastened, and the prelates sitting in long silence, and lifting up their whole heart to the Lord, the archdeacon shall say,—'Pray ye!' and presently they shall all fall on their faces to the earth, as well the bishops as the presbyters: and they, continuing long in silent prayer, with weepings and moanings, one of the elder bishops shall arise, and pronounce a supplication aloud unto the Lord, they all lying still on the ground ... The supplication being ended, and all having answered 'Amen,' the archdeacon says, 'Stand ye up.' Immediately let all arise, and with all fear of God and orderly discipline, let bishops and presbyters both take their seats. And thus, all in their places, sitting silently, a deacon, wearing the albe, bringing forward in the midst the Book of the Canons, reads aloud the chapter on the manner of holding councils ... And the extract from the Canons being ended, the metropolitan bishop shall address the council with an exhortation."—Keble. Postscript to Serm. on Trad. p. 86.

Or if we would see how matters were conducted in the very rudiments of the Church, we may read in the book of Acts how "the apostles and elders," the bishops and priests, "came together to consider of" a matter in dispute, and "the multitude" or laity "kept silence," "giving audience" to their superiors in the Church; till after discussion ended, the presiding apostle summed up and gave judgment, and then all together, bishops, clergy, and laity drew up a declaration founded upon it. These are different forms of one and the same orderly discipline, types of one and the same inward harmony; of what St. Paul calls the Church's "order and steadfastness of faith." On the other hand, if we would know what kind of proceeding was not Christian, we shall find it in Tertullian's well known description of the heretical assemblies, which will stand as a specimen of many besides it, which the early writers contain. "They are destitute," he says, "of gravity, of reverence, of rule, so as to correspond with their creed. First, who is catechumen, who believes, does not appear; one and all are admitted, one and all hear, one and all pray; nay, though the heathen were to come in, they would cast their holy things to dogs, and their pearls, their false pearls, to swine. This {195} break up of discipline they call simplicity; our care of it they call corruption. Moreover, they are friends with all persons promiscuously; no matter what their private differences, so that they can combine together against the One Faith. They all are pompous, all consider themselves enlightened. Their catechumens are perfect first, and taught afterwards."—De Pręsc. fin.

Such is the difference between the outward forms of truth and falsehood in the high and public functions of teaching and propagating the faith; and what it is on the largest scale, such is it in all, however reduced, wherever there is combination for religious ends. If, on the other hand, we would know what it is in private and individual duties, we shall detect truth by the same marks of simplicity, sobriety, staidness, and sanctity. What the ceremonial of a Synod is to a body of Christians, such is the ceremonial of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, as the most Sacred Authority enjoins them, to the private Christian; such is the vision of charity and humility as developed and typified in the Apostle's instances of "attending on strangers," "washing the saints' feet," and relieving the afflicted;"—duties all of them of a severe and grave character, bearing upon them the impress of the inward principle from which they spring. And of a like solemn nature have hitherto been the outward forms of every popular religion, true and false; they have been religious forms. Far different is the religion which has become popular in this day. It is its peculiarity, that, though professing to be very high and warm and influential, it acts by instruments which do not even affect seriousness or reverence. For washing the saints' feet it has substituted charity bazaars, and for synods it has its May meetings; so that it is scarcely too much to say, that as former ages of the Church have been called, one the gnostic age, another the scholastic, another the synodal, this, in like manner, has earned the title of the sęculum joculare.

One phenomenon, indeed, is found amid the Ultra-Protestantism of this day, which certainly has a deep and earnest character; but has not yet made way in the body of the English community—and may it never!—We allude to the observance, habit, occurrence, or by whatever more suitable name it is to be called, of Revivals, as they exist on the other side the Atlantic. Something, indeed, of the kind seems to flourish among the Wesleyans in some parts of this country; but their proper field has hitherto been North America,—in those vast regions where the Church is not, or sits in feebleness as a stranger or outcast, where a Christian people are like sheep without a shepherd, and where Christian life is a fever, an ague, or a spasm, barely sustaining itself by such intermittent and convulsive throes, which, in a state, {196} of healthy action, are but a disarrangement, not an exercise of its functions. Long, indeed, may such dreary and miserable exhibitions be confined to the "dry places" in which they originated, the solitudes of heresy and sectarianism; and speedy, so be it! may the deliverance of the poor captives be from the iron yoke which their forefathers have forged for them, instead of the "light burden" of the Church Catholic. But still, after all, such manifestations are of a religious nature; they correspond to the object from which they profess to arise; they speak about serious things in a serious tone; they carry upon them marks of enthusiasm, moral power, nay, and sometimes issue in permanent fruits. They cannot raise a smile; they excite respect, fear, sorrow, compassion. Far removed, as they are, from the sweet and equable calmness of the Church, yet they are an approximation to her temper, so far as this, that they indicate earnestness. Such then is the most favourable specimen at this day, under which, what may be called the ceremonial of the New Religion presents itself, as seen in America; but here, while it cannot dispense with forms and festivals, any more than across the water, one need not look very far to be convinced that its principle, as it exists, is not deep enough to be dark, nor vehement enough to be troubled, nor real enough to be violent. It has not life enough in it to give birth to deeds of the same nature as its professions. While in America it has developed itself in the hideous reality of revivals, it supports an artificial existence here on such expedients as have been mentioned, upon the mirthful, brilliant, and varied paraphernalia of charity bazaars and May meetings.

Now here we must make ourselves clearly understood, lest we convey an impression which we do not mean. When we condemn these instruments of religious undertakings, we have no intention whatever of implying any thing disrespectful towards this or that individual who engages in them, whether as provider or purchaser, speaker or listener. If, indeed, such things are evil, as we verily believe them to be, evil of course there must exist some where or other, in those who take part in them, whithersoever we shift or however we divide the blame; but there are very many at all times, perhaps the majority, who take those forms of religious operations which they find at hand, as the menus of their own exertions, and have no time, no opportunity, no taste for inquiring whether these are the best possible, or intrinsically defensible. The most venerated names have before now appeared on the platform of religious societies; the kindest hearts have worked for bazaars; the most innocent curiosity, and the most guileless zeal have listened to the speeches which Scotch or Irish talent circulates through the country. We feel all this most fully; and should {197} be sorry to seem to feel otherwise; and yet we maintain that, although there be some who, as they did not cause, so are not hurt by the evil they take part in, still in the majority this hearing, speaking, buying, and vending, either originates or results, more or less, in that lower and less religious state of mind which is the soul of the system itself.

Dropping then individuals, and looking simply at the system, which they support, we see in this day this remarkable fact, that the New Religion, while it has recourse to externals, shrinks from religious externals. Much might be said in illustration from the case of charity bazaars, did our present subject lead us to consider it. Certainly it infuses sad suspicion that such methods of raising money are an evidence of the decay of genuine piety. What have the elegant nothings displayed on such an occasion to do with contributions for the serious matters of Church building or supporting hospitals? What do they intimate, when rightly interpreted, but this,—that bare charity or piety is too austere and imperative for men of this generation; and that Christians will not submit now to be beguiled of their alms or offerings, except by sweetening an unpalatable duty? Were they, indeed, but additional to large sacrifices freely made on the altar of Christian love, they might be taken as specimens how to convert all we do and are, even the elegancies of life, to the service of religion; but, being what they are, and working as they do, assuredly they are not a raising of the world to the Church, but a degradation of the Church to the world. And, moreover, were the subject before us, much might be said of the potent influence exerted on such occasions by the young ladies who ofttimes take their station at the booths and vend their charity. Aged bishops are said, of old time, to have exerted an arm of force, and to have compelled others to enjoy the privileges, and undertake the duties of the Christian Church;—but now-a-days, bright eyes and tasteful bonnets are found more effective, and, though we do not pretend to be connoisseurs in the matter ourselves, we certainly have read in the public prints that, whatever their advantage in the ball-room our charming countrywomen never look so well as in a morning dress.

And, while the bazaar is the realm of feminine beauty, the platform is the region of manly eloquence, and still with the same object of propagating religion by means not religious. The societies which are there advocated are engaged always in benevolent, often in the most sacred and serious religious objects; this should be attentively considered. The Bible Society is formed for giving to individuals the sacred volume, which moreover it considers to be the one means of spiritual life. The Church Missionary Society is for the conversion of the heathen; the Jews, as its name {198} denotes, for that of the once chosen people; the Reformation Society for withstanding errors which their agents in their printed papers declare to be worse than paganism. Objects higher and more momentous cannot be conceived; and individual speakers confess that they are such, and treat them accordingly; and yet, on the whole, strange to say, the anniversary and other meetings, which are the most formal image of these societies, are essentially not religious. They cannot be made religious, for the attempt to make them so would be the signal for private judgment to insist through a thousand separate voices upon a thousand separate varieties of creed or form; and they will not be made religious, because their supporters hold that what inspires respect is a degradation of religion, a superstition and a mummery, and that forms are only safe when variable and secular. The temple of this new system is Exeter Hall; its holytide is "the London season;" its chancel is a platform; its cathedral throne is the chairman's seat; its ministers are the speakers; for holy salutations it uses "Ladies and Gentlemen;" for benedictions it has "cheers;" for a creed it maintains the utility of combination; and for holy services and godly discipline it proclaims civil and religions liberty throughout the world.

If we seem to have said more than the case warrants, we beg objectors to suspend their judgment till they have read the little book which has given occasion to our remarks, or at least such extracts as we are proceeding to lay before them. It consists of a series of lively and graphic descriptions of the leading speakers in Exeter Hall, for the sake of those who, not being resident in London, "have no opportunity," as it says, "of becoming acquainted with their manner, style, and appearance;" in the number of which occur names, which are little worthy of the notoriety it has given to them, and towards which men of the most opposite views must feel a reverence not to be destroyed even by Exeter Hall. At the same time we are bound to say that, except in one or two instances, there is nothing ill-natured in the author's pleasantry; he seems to have had no intention of doing more than drawing an entertaining sketch of what takes place in the great meetings of the religious world, and to have been most benevolently inclined to the actors in them whom he describes. If he is satirical, he cannot help it; it is the fault of his subject. Indeed, the tone of his volume, if we are right in estimating it, is a curious illustration of the point which we bring its contents to prove. He seems, that is, to have set about his task with a high notion of what he undertook to relate; but having not a grain of reverence for a system which is not calculated to impart any, and writing as people write, when they think they may make themselves {199} at home with their subject, he has, without intending or fully knowing it, drifted off from seriousness to satire, and from praise to blame, leaving the reader quite at a loss how to draw the line between these opposites, or how far he means the one, how far the other. Ridicule certainly is not the test of truth; the most serious things may be made ridiculous. Exeter Hall and its religion would not be a joke merely because a lively pen had made them so. But when a professed admirer cannot help unawares passing from panegyric to mockery, then the suspicion does fairly cross one, whether such a result is not the legitimate termination of the system, and the person instancing it is not merely following out the reductio ad absurdum which fairly attaches to it.

The author's own state of mind is most singularly illustrated by his Title-page, Dedication and Introduction. He calls his book "Random Recollections of Exeter Hall, by one of the Protestant Party." Is this joke or earnest? Again, his Dedication is to "Mrs. ———, one of the best of women and tenderest of mothers, these pages are inscribed as a token of filial love." This of course is most serious earnest; yet surely not of the most respectful kind. And again, he says he has "thrown together some recollections of several among the principal characters who appear before the audiences of Exeter and Freemasons' Hall, or the Hanover-square Rooms;" or in other words, we suppose, who "appear" on the London (religious) boards "before" over-flowing houses. And he has been led to do so by a publication called "Random Recollections of the House of Lords." The House of Lords is a most august assembly; but we never heard it claimed as a religious one; nor do we see that, if its members may be treated in a "random" way, that therefore the same treatment may be applied to those who take part in high religious matters, such as the propagation of Christianity and controversy with the Romanists.

With this introduction of the author let us first avail ourselves of his description of the large room of Exeter Hall itself.

"The large room of Exeter Hall was built to contain 4000 persons, with a splendid range of raised seats, to the left of the main entrance, a spacious area in front of it, and a platform, which of itself will accommodate 500 persons, to the right. At the back of the platform were formerly two sunk galleries, like the side-boxes of a theatre, which were opened or closed at pleasure, by means of moveable planks, which may be put aside during the progress of a meeting. They are now thrown completely open. The platform itself is elevated about six feet above the floor of the area, or central seats, and is finished in front by a handsome iron rail; the large and ornamental bars of which, placed about one foot from each other, are connected at top by a thick mahogany {200} spar. In the centre of its front row stands the chair, which in form much resembles that of King Edward the Confessor, in Westminster Abbey. It is of handsomely carved mahogany, with massy open elbows, and is cushioned, in the seat and back, with purple leather. Its dimensions are very large, and any gentleman of small, or even of moderate size, who may preside, can never be said to fill it. Very few chairmen appear to advantage there; some seem lost in it, others, at a loss how to occupy it, and where to sit in it, whether backwards or forwards, upright or lounging, to the right or to the left. Those who have seen it tenanted by Lord Winchelsea, will agree that few sit there with greater dignity, or appear more advantageously to themselves.

"To the right and left are common mahogany chairs for the speakers, and behind these are rows of high-backed benches, rising gradually above each other, and intersected by two flights of steps, which extend from the front row up to the entrances at the back. At upper corners are covered staircases, communicating with these entrances, the tops of which formerly joined the sunk galleries, and were often occupied by rows of ladies, more adventurous or less punctual than the rest. The platform is nominally appropriated to gentlemen, but the more curious sex seldom fail to get admittance there, in limited (or sometimes in large) numbers."—pp. 7-9.

"When the room is quite filled, the finest view of it is from the deep recesses behind the platform. The scene visible from thence is truly magnificent. Below you lies the platform, slanting downwards, and, extending into a crescent shape, with its crowds, sitting or standing; beyond them is the large flat surface of the area, its close benches all filled, and the avenues among them occupied by chairs, or by persons who are fain to stand, for want of sitting-room. Behind this are the raised seats, gradually appearing one behind another, and equal to half the size of the whole room; all again fully crowded, and the descending steps among the benches filled by the standing multitude. Over their heads, the whole scene is crowned by the back gallery, at a height of many feet, behind the crimson draperies which extend among the pillars, and this is completely full also. Those who wish to realize the saying of "a sea of heads," should take this view of Exeter Hall, on some popular occasion. When such an assembly rises, for prayer or praise, at the beginning or end of a meeting, the sight is still more stupendous; and the degree of sound they are able to produce, in the way of cheering or singing, is almost incredible. There have been occasions when that vast room has rung with the voices of those assembled within its walls; and a second peal of cheers succeeding, before the echoes of the first have died away, the noise altogether has been of a nature that few persons could bear unmoved."—pp. 10, 11.

Under this, it seems, there is a second room for meetings, and the inconvenience resulting is thus described:—

"The plaudits of the upper and larger audience frequently drown the voices of those who are addressing the smaller one below; as they are situated immediately under the right side of the large Hall. Should the applause over-head not be very loud, it seems to arise from the lower {201} room, and many an inexperienced speaker has paused for his hearers to cease their cheers, when in reality the noise came from above, and had no reference to him whatever, but was addressed to some orator upstairs, perhaps expressing opinions diametrically opposed to his own."—p. 13.

A sketch of the Hanover-square Rooms, which follows, adds the effect of light and shade to the above descriptions.

"There is much of the private drawing-room style about it, which might keep a less polished auditory in good order; but the sex and station of those who fill the chief part of the place are so unfavourable to loud acclamations, or any noise whatever, that stranger-speakers are sometimes quite daunted at the silence in which they are heard; and mistaking the well-bred attention bestowed upon their addresses for indifference, they seem to long for the tumultuous approbation of Exeter Hall. A few friendly cheers on his rising and his concluding, a gently swelling murmur of applause, or a subdued laugh during his speech, are all that an orator at the Hanover Rooms must expect to call forth. I think I have never heard a hearty, noisy round of cheers bestowed there upon even the most popular favouritcs of the day, those who would elsewhere have been received with a deafening uproar of delight."—p. 14.

But, to return to Exeter Hall.

"The conformation of the Hall is not favourable to the larger class of human voices, and there are but few speakers who make themselves well heard throughout the room: the generality speak too low, or have too little power of lungs to be heard far beyond the centre of the area; while others, who almost deafen the sitters near them, are equally unintelligible to those at a distance, from the echo of the place itself. Thus the gentle speeches of Lords Cholmondely and Chichester, and the thundering oratory of Dr. Duff are nearly all alike pantomime to the occupants of the raised seats; though from diametrically opposite causes, for the Doctor speaks just as much too loud as their Lordships' voices are too low. Perhaps Lords Winchelsea and Roden, Captain W. Wellesley and Mr. J. E. Gordon, are four of the most universally audible speakers we have. Their voices, though widely differing from each other, are all loud, clear, and equal-toned, and may be well heard from an upper raised seat, or even from the gallery; while, in order to hear agreeably an address from Mr. John Hockin, I should prefer to be in one of the outer passages, or perhaps even in the Strand itself."—pp. 16-17.

The various feelings under which the audience are brought together are next described; and we insert the passage to show how much in earnest the author is on the whole, a fact which needs impressing again and again on the reader's mind, while he turns over the pages which follow.

"Perhaps the truth may be more accurately stated by saying, that although many among the hearers, especially the younger part of them, may be drawn together by the love of a holiday, a crowd, and some fine speaking, with a peep at public proceedings, yet numbers who attend the {202} anniversaries of our societies are attracted thither chiefly, if not solely, by a desire of information as to the progress of religious and moral truth, and the wish to improve their own zeal by kindling their torches from those of the most devoted servants or Missionaries of the Cross.

"Of these latter exemplary persons, it will not be too much to say, that though some of them, unknown to their hearers, and it may be, unknown to themselves, may cherish within them feelings of self-complacency, or a desire to shine in the public eye; yet the major part, whether noblemen, clergymen, or others, are simple-hearted, straight-forward benevolent men, whose chief desire, in addressing public assemblies, as well as in the other actions of their lives, is to spread civilization and Christianity among their fellow-creatures, and to promote the worship and the glory of their God."—pp. 19, 20.

The volume is divided into six chapters, in which are successively discussed "Noble Speakers," "Clerical Speakers," "Parliamentary Speakers," "Naval and Military Speakers," and "Various Lay Speakers;" among which are to be found, the Duke of Newcastle, Lords Cholmondely, Roden, Brougham and Ashley, Rev. Baptist Noel, Drs. Cooke and Croly, Rev. Messrs Wolff and Cunningham, Mc Ghee and O'Sullivan, Benson and Beamish, Mc Neile and Bickersteth. A short account is given of their person, manner, dress, attitude, voice, and style of speaking, and of any special occasion which has distinguished them for the better or the worse. The delineation is not only playful and good natured, but displays a good deal of nice discrimination, and is very little overcharged. Incidentally too it brings out the peculiarities of the place to which it relates; and is a most conclusive witness to two points concerning these meetings, which were antecedently to be expected; first, that their end and object as meetings, is not an act of thanks or praise where it is due, not a contemplation of religious subjects, not even the spread of information on religious subjects, but an exhibition of persons and oratory; and through this the advancement of such ulterior ends as have better claim to a religious parentage. Publicity and money are gained for the objects to which the respective societies are devoted on the consideration of a certain quantum of entertainment given or received,—on the terms of seeing a number of noble and other personages, and hearing a number of celebrated or eloquent speakers. And next, as was to be expected, it clearly appears that variety and novelty are principal conditions of these exhibitions, whether they be secured by the judicious admixture of Scotch and Irish eloquence, or of men of rank and men of name, or of old favourites and of strangers, and of native Englishmen and South Sea Islanders or Kamschatkans.

The author, as we have seen, is anxious to supply for those who do not live in London some portion of that treat, which none {203} but Londoners can fully obtain; and therefore serves up before his readers a number of distinguished persons from various professions and ranks of life. Men are hard to please; we suspect some will be angry that they are left out in the bill of fare; but we are quite sure there are others who will be disgusted at being inserted. However, it is the fashion of the day to sacrifice private property to what may be called the railroad system; and we at least who profess no acquaintance with Exeter Hall are gainers by our author's adoption of it. But for this volume we should not know that Lord Downshire's "eyes are blue with an expression of gravity, his nose long and somewhat sharp, but the greatest peculiarity of his countenance is a nervous twitch in its muscles when he speaks. It gives you the idea that the right side of his face is jesting with one half of his audience, at the expense of the other, upon the sentence he has just uttered."—p. 30. Nor would they know that Lord Roden's "gesture is energetic, sometimes vehement, and without much variety," consisting "chiefly of a powerful wielding of the arm."—p. 32; nor of Lord Winchelsea, that "the first remark you would make on seeing him is, 'How clean he looks,' and the second, 'How honest!'"—p. 37; nor that his action consists in "a short start back, an indignant stamp with the foot, and a repelling motion of the right arm, with a most indescribable energetic shake of the whole person."—p. 39; nor that while he declares the "zeal for the good cause which burns within his breast," "he bestows, at the same moment, a far-fetched stroke, like that of a sledge hammer, which would nearly destroy a less firmly built frame than that which receives it."—p. 40; nor that Lord Chichester's "hair is dark brown, long and bushy, as well as his whiskers, and as he often dresses in a suit of the same shade," he sometimes looks "as nearly as possible all of one colour from head to foot."—p. 42; while his speeches "are of that quiet, pious kind which are best described by the common saying, 'It is as good as a sermon to hear them.'"—p. 43; nor that "a speech from Lord Mount Sandford is very much like what he often describes himself to have been in his youth, 'a harum-scarum chap.'"—p. 54.

Equally interesting and not more reverent are his descriptions of reverend speakers. Of Mr. Baptist Noel he says, "Whatever be his subject, he always touches it with the same accomplished refinement. I have heard him describe a meal on the hind leg of a kangaroo with as much grace and dignity as he would have dwelt on the destiny of an empire."—p. 78. On the other hand, the Master of the Temple is said to be "the coldest looking man I ever saw; not cold in feeling but in bodily aspect. He seems as if he had been frozen up, and was endeavouring to regain his {204} vital warmth."—p. 85. Again, we learn that Dr. Croly "is built in the Cyclopean style of architecture;" that his gait, movements, expressions, ideas, are all in the gigantic style; that there is something vast and mysterious about him; that "his countenance has a strange antique appearance, well according with the antediluvian kind of majesty which clothes his figure;" that he is like "a thoroughbred gentleman just come from the moon;" that "to comprise his general exterior in a few words, he is very like a brother of the Three Fates from the Parthenon."—pp. 87-91. Dr. Croly is drawn not only as an orator on the platform but in the pulpit, where ordinarily "he stands nearly motionless, or, resting his hands on the sides of the pulpit, he swings to and fro, with his head projected forward, almost in the manner of a Roman catapult on its side supports."—p. 89. Of Dr. Duff, of the scotch Kirk, we are told that he is "the brightest star that has appeared in the mouth of May for some years. No single speaker attracted so much attention, nor drew forth such perpetual plaudits during the last season."—p. 95.

The variety of these sketches is not their least merit, as we have prepared our readers to expect. Different from all the foregoing speakers is the celebrated Mr. Wolff. We are informed that "he is far from tall, and his person is very stout. His hair is of a deep red colour, very thick and long, often falling on his collar;" his complexion is very dark, his eyes small and twinkling, his English unintelligible to many ears, his utterance rapid and his delivery in a shrill chanting tone.

"His action is wild and exuberant in the extreme: he frequently assumes a kind of dancing movement, holding up both his arms to their full extent, and shaking all his fingers; then he clasps his hands on his breast, and steps quickly backwards and forwards; then, perhaps, lays hold of some friend, whom, in the warmth of the moment, he almost embraces, immediately starting away with a loud exclamation, and renewing his dancing action."—p. 102.

Mr. Stowell, of Manchester, presents a remarkable contrast with this singular man. "His face is large and broad;" "his eyes blue and laughing," and "his mouth, which is very wide, garnished with splendid white teeth." We are told that "his images are striking, sometimes rather coarse, and his style often the most jocular, even to broad comic effect;" that "no speaker more frequently sets the Hall in a roar," and that it is a question "which makes the most noise in proportion, Mr. Stowell or his audience."—pp. 112, 113. We are further told,

"Those who have heard Mr. Stowell will allow that no man is more completely calculated for popularity among mixed audiences. His zeal for the Established Church, his vehement Protestantism, his free, {205} strong mode of speaking, his loud voice, merry face, and humorous anecdotes, give him a perpetual untiring interest with them. He appears every year, and at almost every meeting, yet no man is a greater favourite; they are never wearied with applauding him, and always cheer him rapturously."—pp. 113, 114.

Other sketches are equally brilliant, as of "that splendid binary star, M'Ghee-and-O'Sullivan;" of Mr. Cumming, with a person not exceeding five feet four or five," and a "complexion resembling alabaster with a deep damask colour;" of "good Mr. Seymour," who tosses his head up and down, when speaking, with such animation, that a young lady observed, that he looked "as if he had been half scalped by the Indians, and had forgotten to have it fastened down again;" of Sir Andrew Agnew, whose features express "despair," and who confesses "in a piteous tone" that he is "accounted the offscouring of all things;" of Sir Edward Parry, who "looks emphatically a fine fellow;" of Captain Gordon, whose voice is heard "distinctly above the tumult of two or three hundred men," and who "seems as if he could outroar a lion as easily as he would out-argue a Jesuit;" and of Mr. Stewart, (whom no one can mention without regretting that he with other excellent men should appear in such mixed company,) who "has a way of rising on tiptoe, with his arms elevated above his head, which has a peculiar effect, especially with his long, slender figure, and in this position he moves very much as if he were going to take wing and fly away."—p. 124. But we must not allow ourselves to enlarge on these and other inviting topics, lest room should be wanting for two or three extracts at length, which will give a much more vivid idea of the state of the meetings and the impressions they create than any thing that has yet been said.

The first shall be "one of the perpetual favorites of our London audiences, the Rev. H. H. Beamish, Minister of Trinity Chapel, Conduit Street."

"His popularity as a speaker is indeed well merited, for his talents are as varied as they are delightful; and in the two opposite departments of the pathetic and the humorous he has but few superiors.

"In person he is about five feet nine or ten inches high, and stout, but not inelegant, with a handsome countenance and a very gentleman-like aspect. His hair is dark and thick, his complexion good, and his features well cut. He has dark blue eyes, full of the most vivid and various expression; I seldom see him without thinking of the poet's address to his country—

"Erin! the smile and the tear in thine eyes
  Blend like the rainbow that hangs in thy skies.

"And not only is this the case with Mr. Beamish's own countenance, but he has an irresistible way of producing the same effect on yours. {206} His humour is so keen and natural, yet so refined, and his pathos so tenderly touching, that few speakers more frequently mingle 'the smile' with 'the tear' in the eyes of their hearers.

"He is always fluent and eloquent; his ideas are graceful, and his language appropriate, but his great forte lies in anecdote. He tells a story better than any one I know, (always excepting Dr. Cooke,) and he has at command an inexhaustible fund of them, Irish and English, tragic, comic and romantic.

"His voice is sweet and powerful, and his Hibernian accent is of the most polished order.

"He is, like most of his countrymen, what the old writers call 'a man of parts, that hath a subtle and a ready wit;' for he is never at a loss, cannot be taken by surprise, and cannot be put out of countenance. Twice only, in the innumerable speeches I have heard him make, have I ever seen him at all in perplexity, and one really enjoyed the sight, from its rarity.

"The first time was in a long self-defence, in which he laboured hard at a troublesome task, with but limited success; the second occasion was very amusing, for he got really set fast in the middle of an Irish love story. Simplicity is one of his characteristics; a compound feeling or action is not in his line, and he then had to set forth the attachment of a Protestant girl to a young Roman Catholic, in the light of a very pathetic affair, in which he wished us all to be deeply interested; and yet he had, at the same time, to keep up our horror of Popery itself; so that between compassion and blame, he got quite into a labyrinth, and hesitated considerably, a most unusual event.

"He saw also that his hearers were more amused at himself than distressed for his heroine, which a little annoyed him; though amidst his dilemma, he could scarcely help laughing. He persevered, however, till he got past the marriage of the ill-assorted pair, and then, as if to take his revenge upon us, he changed his style, and claiming an undeniable right to our sympathies, wound up one of the most tragic tales I ever heard, of persecution, misery, and madness, in his most harrowing manner.

"He is very fine in his style whenever he attempts it; but, perhaps, I may refer to his speeches at the Naval and Military Bible Meetings, as specimens of his most truly touching anecdotes; while his addresses at the various Irish anniversaries are equally good, as samples of drollery and real wit. I well remember, at a meeting in the west of England, when Mr. Beamish first came over as a speaker, the great amusement he excited by his definition of the word 'boys.' He was describing a visit he had paid to a mine or colliery, and speaking of the men employed there. 'So, when I saw the creatures all coming about us, I said, Now boys, sit down, and I'll tell ye something; for we call every thing boys in Ireland, old women and all, ye know.'

"Mr. Beamish, at his first settlement in London, had the Irish chaplainship of the West Street Chapel, St. Giles's, which belongs to the Irish Society; he had, indeed, relinquished his preferment at Kinsale, for the express purpose of preaching to his poor countrymen in their {207} dear native tongue. In 1832, however, he gave up the Irish preaching, in consequence of his declining health; but why he has never resumed that interesting employment, since he has become so well capable of doing it with renewed strength, remains a mystery to most persons, notwithstanding the long self-exculpation before-mentioned. Some of his private friends declare themselves equally in the dark on this subject.

"Mr. Beamish's private character is amiable and delightful; he is an accomplished scholar and musician, and I cannot but think that he must be a poet, though I never heard the fact stated."—pp. 124-128.

As a suitable set-off to the above, we select the sketch of "Mr. John Hockin, more familiarly known as 'the Brummagem Blacksmith.'"

"I have heard loud voices, powerful voices, nay, stentorian voices; but none ever greeted my auditory nerves which could merit to be called more than moderate when contrasted with his. Even Captain William Wellesley's speaking-trumpet of a voice will not stand a comparison with it. It has, moreover, this wonderful peculiarity, that the louder it is raised, the more distinct becomes its articulation. At the greatest distance every word is as perfect as though spoken into your ears."—p. 178.

"I had gone into the Hall in the beginning of the day, with a friend, who was anxious to see some expected speaker. We saw the Bishops of London and Chester, Lord Teignmouth, and others, but not the person we sought; and as some inaudible gentleman was speaking, we soon departed, glad to escape the excessive crowd and want of air. We then passed some time in the Lower Hall, where another meeting was going on, and after an excellent speech from Mr. Beamish, we left the room to return home; but we had scarcely reached the main cross-passage, when we became sensible of an extraordinary sound, as though some energetic proclamation were being made in our very ears. We stopped to listen, but could not determine whence the noise came. We only knew that we had never before heard a similar one. We went up stairs, thinking that something extraordinary was taking place in the first-floor gallery; but we were astonished, on reaching that spot, to find the voice as far of as ever.

"We now turned towards the Great Hall and found that it was a speech being delivered there, and of which we clearly heard some words, we being on the outside of its walls. Determined to examine into the phenomenon, and knowing that the best approaches were too full to be attempted, we ascended the upper stairs, and on entering at the top of the raised seats, we found that the immense volume of sound proceeded from a dark, active little man, who stood on the platform, haranguing the multitude in tones of living thunder; bestowing, at the same time, by way of emphasis, such tremendous blows on the platform-rail with his clenched fist, as he had been wont to deal upon his anvil, in the way of his calling; for it was indeed no other than John Hocking, the chain and anchorsmith, the reformed drunkard, and at that time the over-whelming cheval de bataille of the Temperance Society. {208}

"We looked at each other, sat down, and listened.

"His language was plain and course, but not ungrammatical, and he continued to detail facts, and to put vehement interrogatories to his hearers, all at the same pitch of voice; so that if we had remained on the outside, we need not have lost one word of what he said.

"Some of his narratives had a sufficient lack of refinement about them, and as others almost trenched on the confines of propriety, nothing could be more amusing than to watch the effect on those around him.

"The Bishop of Chester was in the chair, and while some looked up in amazement, and some looked down in a vain pretence of not hearing what the deaf must have beard, while some looked fatigued, and some looked annoyed, (amongst whom Lord Teignmouth's curly hair, uneasy look, and fidgeting movements were conspicuous,) the good Bishop, in the best possible spirit, laughed, nodded, and cheered, and evidently regarded the exhibition as quite unique, and admirable in its kind.

"Place the Bishop of Chester where you will, he always finds his proper level, and always keeps it; he takes all in good part, and never loses either his temper or self-possession. I doubt, however, whether his Lordship's ears have ever forgotten Mr. John Hockin.

"I only wonder how he, after the other sitters of that platform, survived the infliction, without a permanent deafness.

"Such a Niagara of an orator I never before heard, nor do I desire ever to hear such another."—pp. 178-181.

A third picture shall be added in a third style:—

"The painter who wishes to embody on canvass the beau ideal of a British Admiral, should paint the picture of Sir James Hillyar. His delightful countenance has all the proverbial openness, good humour, and jollity of an English tar, besides a something peculiar to itself, which makes it a pleasure to look at him.

"The happy benevolence of his round, bronzed face, and smiling blue eyes, is set off by the thick, venerable white hair, which grows in profusion about his open forehead; and his manner has all the vivacity of seventeen, though I should guess his years to be probably seventy.

"He has only spoken once, I believe, on the London platforms, and that, as might be expected, was at a Naval and Military Bible Meeting, in Freemasons' Hall.

"His lively look, his familiar style of speaking, the strangely compounded materials of his speech, the irresistible ludicrosity of his comedy, and the deep pathos of his tragedy, will not soon be forgotten by those who heard him; the ladies, especially, doted on him; they called him a lovely old gentleman, and took, in the best possible humour, his pathetico-comic addresses to themselves, under the complimentary title of "you young petticoats there!"

"He ended his speech very abruptly, and as he returned to his seat, was informed that he had forgotten to name the resolution he had been requested to move. Back he came to the front of the platform, with an indescribable drollery of eye and voice, saying, "It may seem odd, that a man so unwilling to make one speech, should come back to ye to {209} make another; but talking to the petticoats, I forgot my proper business; ah! that's always the way!" And he shook his head at the ladies, who laughed and blushed, and delighted in the old Admiral exceedingly.

"When Mr. Cumming came on, towards the close of the meeting, (for this was his Bannockburn day,) Sir James was in raptures with him. He sat just by him, and the vehemence with which he clapped his hands and applauded that eloquent address, was as great as if the young Scotchman had just captured a French ship of the line. When Cumming concluded, amid enthusiastic cheers from the assembly, he turned round to make his retreat and hide himself behind the chair; and in so doing he had to pass close to Sir James, who, raising his broad Neptunian hand, with a face that said in every feature, "Well done! my little hearty!" bestowed on Mr. Cumming's much-to-be-pitied shoulders, three such strokes of admiration as might be heard half way down the Hall."—pp. 154-156.

If we had not some confidence that the above extracts must interest our readers, we should be diffident about risking another; but, under the circumstances, we think just one more is allowable. It presents a striking subject for a tableau vivant or an H. B. At a district Visiting Meeting, Lord Chichester having to vote thanks to the chairman, Lord Cholmondeley, began to enlarge upon the benevolent exertions of the latter; the narrative proceeds:—

"Lord Cholmondeley's modesty was sadly shocked at hearing his own good deeds thus publicly set forth, and, blushing very considerably, he extended a hand to catch hold of his panegyrist, and stop any further commendations. But Lord Chichester, though looking still at the audience, contrived to see his friend's attempt, and resolved that his just tribute to retiring merit should not be interrupted; and he gently edged himself away sidelong, and pursued his eulogy. The Praisee stretched himself farther and farther, trying to seize the corner of his provoking friend's frock-coat, which hung, most temptingly, just beyond his reach; for the Praiser, with a face of the most innocent gravity, and as though quite unaware of the Praisee's efforts, kept softly stepping farther off, so as just to elude his grasp, while he continued his remarks as before. After stretching himself sideways, quite to his full length, and nearly losing his balance, Lord Cholmondeley gave up the attempt, and resigned himself to the more common-place expedient of covering his face with his hands.

"Lord Chichester concluded his speech, and then sat down, with a look that fully showed the drollery within. The Marquis rose immediately, half angry, half ashamed, and quite distressed; and disclaimed the praises bestowed on him in the humblest and most modest manner.

"Altogether it was a highly pleasing, as well as amusing scene, and those who witnessed it will not soon forget the dry, grave waggery of Lord Chichester, nor the mingled frown and laugh of the excellent Marquis."—pp. 44, 45. {210} 

Now we ask our readers whether the above passages have not abundantly proved the point for which they have been made. The religion of the day undeniably cannot propagate itself by religious means, but addresses itself to means which are not only independent, but even in violation of religion. The tawdry decorations, theatrical displays, and pseudo-mysteriousness of Romanism, at least carry with them a religions profession; but what is there of a religious character in exhibitions, which to a deaf person, or to one who was suddenly introduced to them without knowledge of the societies to which they belonged, taken at greatest advantage, would not differ at all, or scarcely, from those of any other meeting, political or other, which take place in the metropolis? Without making ridicule the test of truth, yet what is to be said when parties actually profess to be ridiculous and make fun of themselves? Though truth may be ridiculed, yet surely error alone plays the buffoon; and, with every wish to be cautious in what we say, we cannot help coming to the conclusion that, while Exeter Hall has throughout all its floors the dry rot of irreverence, some of its speakers are but stage players at best, and at worst actual drolls and merry andrews. Surely truth is not lacquied by Park and Bottom, by flibberty gibbets, and goblin pages, abbots of unreason, and boy-bishops. It is too sacred a matter to be presented to the mind under any but sacred images, and in former ages none have ever done otherwise, but heretics or the lowest rabble. We will not draw the conclusion which seems to follow, but submit with every serious, and we will add kindly feeling, the above reflections to the frequenters or the patrons of the meetings to which they relate. Voices "out-roaring a lion," language "jocular even to broad comic effect," "the hall in a roar," "dancing movements," "wild gesticulations," "fashionable English costume," "agreeable gentleman-like action," "irresistible ludicro-solemn slyness," "roguish twinkles," and "hats and handkerchiefs flying," present but a sorry contrast to the "long and silent prayer," the "weepings and moanings," the "fear of God and orderly discipline," "the Metropolitan with his exhortation," and the "deacon in his albe" of the ancient Spanish council. For ourselves, we do not scruple scruple to confess, that little as we like the playhouse, if we were compelled to go to one or the other, we would as lieve go thither as to this celebrated Hall on a show-day.

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