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PAPERS OF THE LATE MISS POPPLE. SIR, In your No. for October 1847, p. 634, there appeared a brief memoir of the late Miss Popple, more familiarly known to your readers under the name of Miriam; and it having fallen to my lot, as one of the trustees named by her in her last illness, to look over the manuscripts which she left behind her, I beg to forward some of them to you, for insertion, if you please, in the Christian Reformer. Her papers were very voluminous, consisting of an account of her change of opinion; Reasons for not attending the Public Worship of the Established Church ;* copies of letters to those whom she wished to interest in the affairs of her infant church and school; remonstrances, firm yet courteous, against the bigoted interference of those who would not allow her to do good in her own quiet way; comments on passages of Scripture; sermons, prayers, essays, and a great number of poems. The latter are chiefly occasional, and shew with what depth of feeling she entered into all the great public questions of the day, and what a happy facility she possessed of clothing in appropriate verse the sentiments of a sympathetic and a finely-toned spirit. One of the best of these pieces is “The Negro Mother's Appeal,” which I inclose, and which will enable your readers to judge for themselves of her poetical powers.
The Negro Mother's Appeal.
Lend awhile thine ear to me;
To a Father dwelling there. This will be offered to the Committee of the Unitarian Association, in the hope of its being published by them as a tract.
But, lady, when thy look so mild
I would but when thy babe is prest
Draw down a blessing on his own.” Besides this, “ The Mother's Grave,” “The Condemned,” “ Lines to a Calvinistic Friend on presenting me with a Lily of the Valley," and some “ To the Memory of Mrs. Barbauld,” are among the best : they all bear evidences of a feeling heart, a wakeful and observant spirit, and a mind familiar with the classical models of our language.
There is among her papers, as I have already intimated, an account of the process by which she was led to doubt the truth of the sentiments in which she had been brought up, and at length fully to embrace, and openly to profess, the Unitarian faith. The casual reading of Belsham’s “ Memoirs of Lindsey" first shook her faith; and meeting soon after with Grundy's “ Lectures” and Dr. Carpenter's “ Unitarianism the Doctrine of the Gospel,” she was not long in yielding assent to the truth of what they advanced. In this paper, and in others which will be quoted, the struggles of her mind as to how she should act when her first impressions were changed into convictions,-her unwillingness to absent herself from public worship, and to run counter to the known wishes of those whom she loved, and the strong and unwavering determination, at which she at length arrived, to abstain from it altogether in the Church of England, rather than give even a tacit sanction to doctrines which she could not believe,-these are all so beautifully depicted, that every candid reader will readily acknowledge that there was in her a purity of feeling, a strictness of principle, a depth and warmth of piety, and a high regard to the interests of truth, which would have done honour to the firmest martyr that ever suffered at the stake. The paper above referred to begins thus :
“Wise, indeed, and mysterious, are the ways of that overruling Providence which directs all our actions, and various are the means by which it silently, perhaps, yet surely, accomplishes its designs; and how little are any of us aware at our entrance into life of the changes that may await us in our progress through it! How should I have been shocked a few years since at the bare possibility of my ever wishing to dissent from the communion of the Established Church, or embracing principles which now appear the result not only of reason, but of revelation, principles which now form the chief happiness of my life, and for which I daily thank that God 'from whom cometh every good and perfect gift.' I can even remember the time when I regarded a meeting-house with contempt, and Dissenters as needless disturbers of the harmony of the Christian world, and as having no right to separate from that Church, which I forgot was only established by human laws. “But my attachment to what I had been accustomed to consider as the essential doctrines of Christianity, did not arise from a conviction of their truth; it was the prejudice of education and habit. I was a member of the Established Church because my father was a minister of it; and it never occurred to me that what I had learnt in my Catechism, and repeated every Sunday in my Prayer-book, what was inculcated in every sermon which I read or heard, could be otherwise than true, or that it was necessary to examine whether the Scriptures agreed with it, which of course was taken for granted.
"I was, indeed, inclined to read and reflect on religious subjects ; not that I ever thought of doubting any of the established articles of faith, but sometimes endeavoured to comprehend them. Often have I tried to imagine the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit and the union of two natures in Christ; and after having placed the doctrine of the Trinity in various lights, and endeavoured to find some existing resemblance, which might render it intelligible, bewildered in the vain attempt, have given it up as a mystery I was bound to believe, but which in this world must for ever remain so. My ideas of the meek and blessed Jesus were very confused: he appeared a being to whom I owed a kind of indefinable reverence; but with whom, from the distance between us, I could not connect so many practical associations as at present.
“Whether inquiry would ever have succeeded to reflection, whether I should ever have dared to examine for myself the principles of Christianity, I know not, had not chance, or rather the All-wise Disposer of events, excited the spirit of investigation. My attention was attracted by some publications which fell in my way, in defence and explanation of the principles of Unitarians-a sect of which till then I knew little but the name, and certainly not much in their favour. * The first which I met with was a work dedicated to the memory of Theophilus Lindsey, a name I have since learned to venerate, as connected with every thing favourable to truth, piety and liberty of conscience. The name of the author I cannot remember. I opened it, as I frequently did any thing relating to the subject of the Trinity or the doctrines of different sects, far from suspecting the consequences that were to follow; and could not avoid being struck with the force of argument drawn both from reason and scripture, though prejudice did not then allow them their due weight. But neither willing nor quite sure that I was at liberty to be convinced, I only read occasionally; but as I proceeded, my curiosity at least was awakened; doubts succeeded; and by the time the book was gone, I regretted not having read the whole. An impression, however, was made, never to be erased; though perhaps at first, in proportion as the force of truth sank deeper, the more fearful and reluctant I was to acknowledge it. Not at all inclined to renounce on slight grounds principles rendered sacred by habit, I wished to hear all that could be advanced in opposition to them; and an opportunity soon occurred. I met with two other works on the same subject, -one by Dr. Carpenter, entitled, 'Unitarianism the Doctrine of the Gospel ;' the other, A Course of Lectures' by the Rev. J. Grundy. As I read these more attentively, I began unconsciously to take a delight in them. They seemed to speak the simple language of the gospel; and while they inculcated the superiority of practice to mere speculation, they taught me to consider the importance of truth, and the obligation all are under to examine the Scriptures and think for themselves. And let me not be considered as unjustly biased, if
the pure, exalted spirit of benevolence which beamed in every page led me to regard with complacency the principles that produced such fruits.”
After explaining the principal grounds of her sentiments, discussing the question of attendance on Trinitarian worship, and vindicating the boldness of her inquiries, she thus concludes :
“I thank God that my attention has thus early been led to this important subject. Whatever anxiety I may have experienced in the inquiry, has been fully compensated by the result. My persuasion of the truth of Christianity, my admiration of its beauty and simplicity are such, that, as a Unitarian Christian, I could wish that all were as I am, except the circumstances which at present prevent me from joining in public worship formed on what I conceive to be the genuine Christian system.”
This paper is dated April 20, 1817. The Prayers which I shall now quote shew through how many years the painful struggles of her mind still continued, and with what an “admirable spirit of conscientious truthfulness” she sustained them.
“ Make me ever grateful to Thee, O my Heavenly Father, that in my early years, ere yet my mind was too deeply involved in error and prejudice to give way to the light of truth, Thou didst graciously call me out of great darkness into Thy glorious light; that through the appointment of Thy guiding hand, I was disentangled from the inextricable and perplexing mazes of the Trinitarian doctrine, and led to the pure and simple faith of Jesus as it is delivered in the Scriptures, to the acknowledgment of Thee, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; that Thou hast caused me to know that there is indeed but one God, even Thee, O Father, and not, as men have vainly imagined to themselves, a threefold compound Deity, a Being of which the human mind in vain endeavours to form to itself a conception sufficiently clear for the purposes of adoration.
“How beautiful, how sublime in comparison of this, is the true revelation Thou hast made of Thyself as One God and Thy name One,' the Creator of heaven and of earth, who wilt not
give thy glory to another! As the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as the God and Father of Jesus, as the God and Father of all his faithful followers, O! be thou indeed my God. Grant that, having been called to the knowledge of this truth, I may walk worthy of this vocation; that I may not disgrace the profession of this holy faith, but be enabled to bear my testimony to its supporting, its ennobling, its purifying influences. So, fortified by a conscience void of offence, may I boldly make my profession to the world, and dare to encounter calumny and reproach under every form rather than not confess and maintain the truth I have received. So may I be supported by Thy strength through the trial which lies before me ; overcome every temptation to duplicity, hypocrisy and inconsistency; and, withdrawing from that worship which my heart and understanding condemn, await with patience the reward of the victory I have accomplished.”—Oct. 5, 1827.
“I see before me the path which I ought to pursue, and with God's help I will pursue it; yet forgive me, O my God, if a few tears of human weakness are shed over what seems to me the prospect of human trouble which my conduct may produce. I know, indeed, that none could in the end be benefited by my sin, by the forfeiture of my integrity. I know that I may not do evil that good may come, even to my dearest connections; that I should be following a false and blind path if I attempted to serve them by such means. And yet pardon me, 0 Thou compassionate and gracious Being, if the thought of the present unhappiness I may bring on any, is sometimes almost enough to shake my resolution. O support me, lest the trial be too hard for my faith!
“ I ask not that Thou wouldest save me from the calumny, the reproach, the misconstruction which may be put by the world upon my conduct and its