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wards the companion in labour in the East with Carey and Marshman, was engaged to supply his lack of service in the pulpit and take his pastoral duties, who, in a letter to a friend, thus speaks of him :- “I am happy in the
company of dear brother Pearce. I have seen more of God in him than in any person I ever knew.” What a testimony! How terse, yet how comprehensive and how striking! The effect of a journey to the milder climate of his native place was tried, and he took a journey to Plymouth.
But the worm still continued gnawing at the root of this lovely plant, and it was borne back by his affectionate wife to droop and die in this town.
Such was Samuel Pearce, as set forth in that exquisite gem of biography, his Life, by Andrew Fuller, by which he being dead, not only yet speaketh, but liveth. The church in Cannon-street may well look with respect on his monument, and cherish with love and gratitude his memory,
every minister might be the better for his memoir, and all learn to bow with submission to the God of mystery as well as mercy, who extinguished such a light of this dark world at the early age of thirty-four.
Having in this sketch shewn the interest Mr. Pearce took in the Baptist Mission, and his connexion with Carey in originating that noble institution, it will not be out of place to introduce here a scene which occurred in this town, in which Mr. Potts, an American merchant, a deacon of Cannon-street church, and a very well known inhabitant of Birmingham, bears a part. The great idea of a Baptist Mission arose, as we have seen, in the mind of Carey, then a shoemaker at Moulton. This extraordinary man revolved, while hammering his leather upon the lapstone, or soleing the shoes that were brought to him for repairs, the mighty conception of a scheme for evangelizing the world. With his honest industry to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow, he combined the labours of a village pastor, and the study of languages. He afterwards gave up his trade for the profession of a schoolmaster. While meditating his great scheme for converting the nations to Christ, he visited Birmingham, to collect money for the meeting. house he had built at Moulton. During this peregrination he mentioned his thoughts, for his head and heart were both too full of the subject to keep silence, to some friends, who related the circumstance to Mr. Potts, between whom and Mr. Carey the following dialogue took place. Those who knew Mr. Potts, and I was amongst that number, will vouch for its accuracy by recognizing the quaint manner of that excellent but somewhat eccentric man. Mr. Potts.—Pray, friend Carey, what is it you
have got in your head about missions? I understand you introduce the subject on all occasions.
Mr. CAREY.—Why, I think, sir, it is highly important something should be done for the heathen.
Mr. POTTS.—But how can it be done, and who will do it?
Mr. CAREY.– Why, if you ask who, I have made up my mind, if a few friends can be found who will send me out, and support me for twelve months after my arrival, I will engage to go wherever Providence shall open a door.
Mr. PotTS. — But where would you go? Have you thought of that, friend Carey ?
Mr. CAREY.—Yes, I certainly have. Were I to follow my own inclination, and had the means at command, the islands of the South Seas would be the scene of my labours, and I would commence at Otaheite. If any society will send me out and land me there, and allow
me the means of subsistence for one year, I am ready and willing to go.
Mr. PotTS.—Why, friend Carey, the thought is new, and the religious public are not prepared for such undertakings.
Mr. CAREY. No; I am aware of that; but I have written a piece on the state of the heathen world, which, if it were published, might probably awaken an interest on the subject.
Mr. PotTS.—Why dont you publish it ?
Mr. CAREY.-For the best of all reasons,-I have not the means.
Mr. POTTS.— We will have it published by all means. I had rather bear the expence of printing it myself, than the public should be deprived of the opportunity of considering so important a subject.*
Mr. Potts afterwards paid ten pounds, and thus Birmingham bore a most conspicuous part in the origination of that splendid mission which was in a great measure the result of Carey's pamphlet. It is a little remarkable that Carey's attention should first of all have been directed to the same spot as was afterwards selected by the London Missionary Society for the commencement of their operations. But it was not God's intention that such a prodigy in the acquisition of languages as was Carey should be shut up within the little island of Tahiti.
Resuming the history of the church in Cannon-street, at the death of Mr. Pearce, Mr. Morgan, who had been educated at the Baptist College, Bristol, and had been supplying at Chipping Norton, Oxon, was unanimously
* History of the Baptist Mission, by Dr. Cox. This dialogue will not be uninteresting to the members of Cannon-street church, nor to any Birmingham friends of the late Mr. Potts.
chosen to be the pastor of this now large and flourishing society. He was ordained June 23, 1802. Under him the congregation continued to increase, and it was determined to rebuild the meeting-house, which was not only inconvenient, but too small for the people who wished to attend. To this fact allusion has been made in the history of Carr's-lane church. In July, 1811, Mr. Morgan resigned the pastoral charge, on account of ill health; and after living in private for two or three years became joint pastor with Mr. Edmonds of the church in Bondstreet, of which more will be said when we come to the history of that society.
After an interval of about two years, the church elected Mr. Birt, of Plymouth Dock, now called Devonport. Mr. Birt was born at Coleford, in the Forest of Dean. While a youth he was converted to God, as we have said, by the ministry of Mr. Burn, then a preacher in Lady Huntingdon's connexion, afterwards minister of St. Mary's in this town, who for a while exercised his ministry in Mr. Birt's native village. In the year 1779 Mr. Birt entered the Baptist College at Bristol, and having finished his studies, settled at Plymouth, as copastor with Mr. Gibbs. It was while preaching there he became the honoured instrument of the conversion of Mr. Pearce. As several of the members of the church at Plymouth lived at Dock, which was two miles distant, and the church had now attained to a strength which admitted of division, it was determined to form a new congregation at the latter place, and also erect another meeting-house. This was done, and the two pastors alternately supplied the two places, till it was judged expedient that each church should have its own exclusive pastor, and that Mr. Birt should become the minister of the congregation at Plymouth Dock. Here his ministry was so successful that the chapel was too small for the number who wished to profit by his instructions, and a vacant one of large dimensions was purchased, with the design of occupying them both. This rendered it necessary that another minister should be elected, when Mr., afterwards Dr., Steadman was elected. The same result now followed as had already done in a for. mer instance, a friendly separation took place, two churches were formed, one under Mr. Steadman, and the other under Mr. Birt. Here he laboured faithfully and successfully for fifteen years, till he removed, in 1813, to Birmingham. His labours, during his residence in the West, were not confined to Plymouth Dock, for besides continued itinerant services rendered to many places in the immediate vicinity, the acceptableness of his preaching and his eminent wisdom, sagacity, and tact, in practical matters, made him a kind of oracle, whose responses were sought by many.
Mr. Birt's settlement in Birmingham was a matter of choice to himself, as well as by the people, for on its being known that he wished to change the sphere of his labour, several churches sought to obtain his services. He laboured in this town with his characteristic ardour, and found himself in as much requisition by neighbouring churches as he had done at Plymouth Dock. His ministry was very successful, especially among the young, and great additions were made to the church. This lasted till the year 1823, when an alarming attack of spasmodic asthma brought him almost to the grave, from which however he partially recovered : but as his strength was much impaired by this and other disorders, he found it difficult to carry on his ministerial and pastoral labours, and therefore resigned his charge in the year 1825, in the entireness of mutual affection between