New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
MR. WILLIAM CORDIN,
of Salford, Manchester;
CHILDREN the Astronomer;
and JOHN THE BEGGAR
THE manner of Mr. Hindmarsh's being induced to remove from London, in 1811, and settle for thirteen years in Lancashire, is related with copious particulars in his admirable History of the Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church, pp. 203 and elsewhere. He was prevailed upon to come and assist the Rev. Wm. Cowherd in a project to translate and print the philosophical works of Swedenborg; but in three months he was convinced that he must separate from a spirit so turbulent and dogmatic as that of Mr. C., if he sought for progress and peace in heavenly things. He was about to return to London, but several worthy people, including Messrs. Barge, Goadsby, and Joseph Lockett, urged him to commence a new Society, and they would assist heartily.
He made a beginning in a room in Clarence Street, Princess Street, and for two years public worship, preaching and lectures were continued in this modest accommodation; and the attendance was so encouraging that in 1813 the Temple was erected in Bolton Street, Salford, and opened by Mr. Hindmarsh on Sept. 19th the same year.
Some years after, I was induced as a youth to attend, and recollect quite well the clear and interesting sermons and addresses of Mr. Hindmarsh, and his kind, intellectual and venerable appearance. I remember the sorrow of the greater portion of the congregation when advancing age made it necessary that Mr. Hindmarsh should retire from the labours of the ministry, in 1823, and live in a very quiet way at Milton, near Gravesend, where the upright stone over his remains may be very distinctly seen.
The Rev. D. Howarth, who succeeded Mr. Hindmarsh, instituted a weekly meeting for considering the doctrines, at first taking the work on Heaven and Hell, chapter by chapter; then subjects chosen from the Word, and illustrating and explaining them. Mr. Howarth was an admirable expounder, and he was assisted by several intelligent friends who could speak well; Mr. John Atkinson, Mr. Leeming, Mr. D. Taylor, but by far the clearest and most forcible of those speakers was the gentleman whose name is at the head of this paper—MR. WM. CORDIN.
He was a friend of Mr. Howarth, and of my father; and through him a portion of my family was led to the Temple. He had a clearness of perception, and a power of placing a subject before his audience in the most lucid and telling manner. His gentlemanly and amiable bearing made him especially a man to be esteemed and beloved by young men; and when he had explained and enforced a subject, there was little more to be said. It was as clear as daylight. Meetings of this character are of great value to a Society. A certain number of intelligent speakers should attend to keep up the interest, and never let it flag. There are always young people, and there are always novitiates. At such meetings explanations can be afforded and doubts removed; and all who attend are strengthened. It is good to have a break in the middle of the week, to raise the mind into the element of spiritual thought.
Such weekly meetings are also training places for young speakers, giving them the opportunity of acquiring readiness in giving their thoughts and impressions on spiritual subjects; and with such men as Mr. Cordin to assist, it is like a school of the prophets.
Mr. Cordin was also a valued missionary for the small country Societies. He was welcome everywhere.
In a Manchester Missionary Report for 1823, the year in which Mr. Hindmarsh returned to the south, there is a letter from Mr. Cordin, in which he writes: "Feeling confident that every circumstance calculated to promote the interests of the New Church will be received by you with pleasure, I venture to lay before you the following particulars. About two years ago, our indefatigable and respected friend, Mr. R. Boardman, began to visit a family of receivers of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg who reside at Rhodes, a small village near Middleton, for the purpose of conversing with them on the doctrines of the New Church; and being desirous that the public might be benefited by his visits, as well as the family at whose house he visited, he proposed that regular service should be performed once a month, and that strangers should be invited. The plan was accordingly adopted, and has since been continued; a great number of persons attend regularly at the meetings, and I have no doubt much good will result from these labours of our worthy friend. On the 13th instant, at the request of Mr. Boardman, I paid a visit to the place of meeting at Rhodes, and found the room crowded with persons anxiously waiting to hear the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church again preached. There were upwards of forty persons present, and many more were desirous to hear, but they could not gain admission. After service about thirty persons remained, with whom I had some interesting conversation, and all of them seemed well satisfied. I distributed about 120 tracts that had previously been supplied by the Manchester Printing Society, which were very thankfully received. From the marked attention which the audience paid to the subjects, and the lively interest they manifested, I have reason to believe that a considerable impression was made upon their minds, and that a society is likely to be permanently established in that neighbourhood."
For some years Mr. Cordin was engaged in that work for which he was so admirably fitted, and I and many other young men enjoyed an interesting, edifying friendship with him, until declining health interfered with his active labours.
I was privileged to be often at his bedside, and to read him selections from the Arcana. He would often enlarge upon them, in a manner most valuable to me as a young man.
On one occasion, when a young friend had been with me to make arrangements for the then annual meeting at Eccles, and in conversation had lightly used an expression of Scripture, in joking language, on casually mentioning this to him, Mr. Cordin drew my attention very feelingly to what is said by Swedenborg in A.C. 582 and 1878, which he requested me to read; and cautioned me against ever using the Word lightly, in a way I never forgot. "The Word," he said, "is the appointed source of comfort to us, in all our distresses; but if light jokes are associated with it in conversation, when the passages come to mind the lightness comes also, and weakens the power to console. How sad it would be now, when the Word is my constant consolation, if when comforting passages are suggested, frivolous jests were to come too." This caution I have always felt to have been valuable to me through life.
"There are," says Swedenborg, "some who in the life of the body had despised the Word, and some who, by a ludicrous application of Scripture phrases in common discourse, had abused it; some too who had imagined the Word to be of no consequence but to keep the vulgar in awe, some who had plasphemed the Word, and some who had profaned. The lot of those in the other life is miserable, of every one according to the quality and degree of his contempt, derision, blasphemy, and profanation. For, as was observed above, the Word is esteemed so holy in the heavens, that it is as it were heaven to those that dwell there. Wherefore, as in the other life there is a communion of the thoughts of all, it is not possible for such spirits to be in company with the angels, but they are separated."
When he passed away a most admirable guide and helper was lost to the Temple and the country Societies, but in the memory of a very few of our oldest friends will still linger a tender recollection of excellent William Cordin.
MR. CHILDREN THE ASTRONOMER.—About the same time of my life, I met a gentleman whose career, as related to me by himself, led me to appreciate the many wonderful and little-known ways by which Divine Providence acts in the introduction and spread of truth in unlikely places. It is written, "I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight."
This Mr. Children was a lecturer on the solar system, with illustrations by the magic lantern. His route was chiefly, as I understood him, in the parishes and small towns on the east and south coasts. He had pursued his career for many years, and the course he laid down for himself was as follows. He requested from the clergyman of each place where he sought to give his lectures the use of the national or parish school. There was rarely any difficulty in obtaining permission. When he had completed his series, he ascertained the sum he had realised, and he made it a point of conscience to give away in the parish or small town as many of the smaller works of Swedenborg as a quarter of his receipts would purchase. He commenced his distribution with presenting one to the clergyman himself.
In this way a large diffusion of truth, in a very quiet manner, must have been effected; and a fragrance must have been felt by many an appreciative soul, like that of the sweet violets which, hidden under the plants of larger growth, shed their sweet sphere around.
Still more peculiar, and unlikely, is the influence of a singular person whom some of the very aged people whom I knew in the early days of my ministry informed me was the one from whom they received their first impressions of New Church truth. His name was John Saxon, and they called him John the Beggar. He was an aged man—a sort of Edie Ochiltree person, who wandered from place to place in North Lancashire, chiefly I believe in the district known as the Forest of Rossendale. He was past the period of steady manual labour, but was a spiritually-minded man, and was welcomed by the poor cottagers of many poor districts for a night's rest. He paid for their hospitality by holding a meeting where their neighbours could assemble, and he would give them a little sermon and exhort them to live for heaven. He would explain the days of the week as stages of the regenerate life, and go over Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on, in a very edifying manner, and tell the people that God formed the week into seven days that they might never forget these heavenly things. On other occasions he would explain the meaning of sun, moon, and stars, and show how these also are intended to invite the soul to things higher than themselves—to a sun that will never go down, and a moon that will not withdraw itself, when the Lord shall be our everlasting light, and our God our glory, and the days of our mourning be ended.
In this way, many a humble old man has told me he received his first inward impressions from this old pilgrim, John the Beggar.