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A MEMORABLE ROOM.
“ Jesus, where'er Thy people meet,
There they behold Thy mercy-seat;
office at the disposal of the governing bodies of
I had for some time been anxious to identify this house and this room. It was generally supposed that the house, like several of its neighbours, had been destroyed. In the year 1801, there were thirteen houses in Old Swan Stairs, and the greater number of them have since been pulled down, in three or four instances other buildings having been erected in their stead. I could not help being struck by the appearance of one of the houses, which is now occupied by Messrs. John G. Rollins & Co., American merchants. Even from the outside, it appeared to me exactly to correspond with the description of his office which Mr. Hardcastle had given. It bore the look of an old house built in the last century. It was constructed on strong wooden piles placed upon a stone foundation, and there were stone facings, which were observed by an eye-witness
when the old warehouse on the west was pulled OLD SWAN STAIRS.
down in 1874, and the present warehouse was erected in its place.
The house is most substantially built, the walls
being very thick, and some of the beams being FTER long search, I have been successful in made of stout oak. The entrance is through a
door on the north, the farthest side from the the early meetings of the Committees of the river. On either hand of this door is a pillar with London Missionary and Religious Tract Societies a Corinthian capital, evidently the work of the were held, and in which the first idea of the eighteenth century. Above the capitals are two British and Foreign Bible Society was originated. stone rosettes. It is well known that Mr. Joseph Hardcastle, one My conjecture regarding the antiquity of the of the merchant-princes of London, who felt that he house was completely confirmed when I entered it. could not show his zeal in the service of his Lord Ascending a winding staircase, I gained adin a better way, placed the counting-house of his mission to the counting-house through a door on
the right, in which is inserted an oval glass window. A similar door straight on leads into a small side office. The counting-house is a large and airy apartment. It is nearly square, being about twenty-seven feet by twenty-four, and the height being about eighteen feet. There is an ornamented cornice all round the upper part of the walls, and the very appearance of this cornice plainly proves that the room is not a modern one. At the back there are two windows overlooking the lane, and a third window facing the west. On the south there are three windows looking out on the river; and the view from them on a fine day, when the sun is lighting up the waters of the Thames, must, as Mr. Hardcastle himself described the view from his house, be “extremely pleasant.” The tower of St. Saviour's Church, on the other side of London Bridge, is a marked feature in the landscape. The fourth window is that of the small office to the left, which is divided from the counting-house by a light partition. Apparently there must have always been a partition in this place, because the cornico round the top of the wall is continued over it, thus clearly defining the original size of th3 counting-house. A little iron balcony runs just outside the four windows. In the early years of this century, before the present pier was constructed, the vessels on the river must have often passed close under these windows; and various boats and barges plying to and fro must have presented a picturesque and animated scene.
Turning again to the interior of the room, two substantial old safes are observed let into the wall on each side of the spot where the fire-place used to be. The wall here is at least a yard thick.
Feeling much indebted to the courtesy of the manager in permitting me to go over this room, I left with the full persuasion that this was certainly an old house containing a room which closely resembled the one occupied by Mr. Hard
Hardcastle, who had, in his boyhood, been several times in his grandfather's office, was alive, I wrote to him for information, and he replied that he had no reason to believe the house had been destroyed. At the same time he drew a rough sketch of the building froin recollection, which was very like the house I had been over. He added the information that, when his grandfather removed, it was tenanted for many years by Mr. Richard Thornton, a well known wealthy merchant. I then applied to the owner of the premises, who informed me that, although he was ignorant of their previous history, they had for a great number of years been occupied by Mr. Richard Thornton before they were taken by his present tenants, Messrs. J. G. Rollins & Co. The information thus obtained from Mr. Hardcastle's grandson and from the owner of the house showed that they were both referring to the same building
This evidence was clenched by an examination of the rate books of the Ward of Bridge from the beginning of the century to the time when the house passed into the occupancy of the present tenants. The result is that I am able to identify the house with the greatest clearness and precision. The rateable value of this house and of the adjoining warehouse on the west, which appears to have been all along in the same occupancy, shows that it is the building that I wanted to identify. The warehouse is next to the Old Swan Stairs, which are still visible under the pier, and opposite the Old Swan Inn, which is on the other side of the lane. It was built, as already stated, in 1874, on the site of the old warehouse. In the year 1807, Messrs. Joseph Hardcastle & Co. were entered as the ratepayers of this house and warehouse. In 1816 they were succeeded by Mr. John Mann, the designation of whose firm was, in 1822, changed to that of Messrs. Kearton and Mann. In 1823, part of the premises was occupied by Messrs. Richard Thornton & Co. In 1868 the ratepayer was Mr.
John G. Rollins was recorded as the tenant, together with Messrs. Knight and Morris; and, in 1889, Mr. Rollins first began to pay the rates. Mr. Richard Thornton appears to have been the ratepayer for some forty-five years during the middle of the century. The evidence, therefore, that the house now occupied by Messrs. Rollins & Co. is the same as that taken by Mr. Hardcastle in 1801, seems quite conclusive.
When I was standing in this memorable room, imagination took me back to that dark December morning when the idea of the Bible Society, the most important event, perhaps, that ever occurred within its walls, was conceived. I am in the very room where the Committee of the Religious Tract Society were assembled on December 7, 1802. The Rev. Matthew Wilks is in the chair. The Rev. Joseph Hughes, the Secretary, is seated by his side ; and round the table. are grouped men whose names are still familiar to us as household words in the Tract and Bible Societies, such as, Steinkopf, Reyner, Townsend, Alers Hankey, Cowie, and Tarn.
I hear the Rev. Thomas Charles, of Bala, narrate the affecting story of the little Welsh girl who, owing to the inclemency of the weather, had been unable to take her weekly walk of seven miles over the hills to read the chapter from which he had taken his text on a certain Sunday before his present visit to London. I hear him plead that a Society similar to theirs may be founded to supply Bibles for his native land. I observe the rapt attention with which all are listening to his simple narrative and his earnest, pleading words. I hear the rapid and slightly confused discussion that ensues ceases. I catch the words that fall from the lips of Mr. Hughes, which have never been forgotten :“Surely a Society might be formed for the purpose; and if for Wales, why not also for the empire and the world ?” I then see Mr. Hughes draft the resolution, which still remains on record in the minute-book of the Religious Tract Society :
which is mentioned in his biography. This meeting is important, because many persons imagine, from the entry in his journal there given, that the Bible Society was resolved upon then and there, and that Mr. Wilberforce was its founder ; but this, as we have seen, was very far from being the fact.
Here several meetings of the Bible Society's Sub-Committees were held during the first few years after its foundation at the Old London Tavern, in March 1804. This room was frequented by such distinguished men as Lord Teignmouth, for some time Governor-General of India and first President of the Bible Society, Mr. Zachary Macaulay, father of the celebrated historian, essayist, and poet, and that peculiarly sweet and guileless soul, Granville Sharp. Several times during the years 1804 and 1805, Mr. Charles, of Bala, attended to give the Sub-Committees the benefit of his counsel and advice.
Mr. Hardcastle was the treasurer of the Missionary Society. He was unanimously elected to this post when that Society was founded just a hundred years ago.
When the Board of Directors was being formed on September 25, 1795, and a Treasurer was required, "Prayer having been offered,” it is quaintly remarked, "the meeting proceeded to elect a Treasurer. To Joseph Hardcastle all eyes were directed.” As the holder of this office, he generally presided at the annual meetings of the Society; and most of the more. important documents issued by it, such as instructions to missionaries, annual reports, and public addresses, were written by him. He seldom took the chair at the meetings of the directors, as it was the custom for a different chairman to be chosen at each meeting. He seems, however, to have been admirably fitted for such a position, and we cannot refrain from giving one anecdote illustrating the beautiful command which he had over his temper.
“On one occasion,” it is said, “ being charged rather uncourteously, as well as unjustly, with finesse, he replied, ‘On entering the Missionary Society, I made this resolution in the name of the Lord,-never to be offended; and I have, by the
grace of God, endeavoured to maintain it; I shall therefore take no notice of the remarks just made, but proceed to the business before us.'”
The meetings of the Board of Directors of the Missionary Society were held, from the foundation of that Society until the autumn of 1801, at several places in the City ; but from that time they were almost invariably held in Mr. Hardcastle's office at Old Swan Stairs, until it was found more convenient for the directors to have premises of their
The first meeting that took place there was on November 23, 1801. Mr. Hardcastle was present, but not in the chair. This meeting was interesting, because certain business was transacted at it which links together both the work of the Missionary and Tract Societies and also of the future work of the Bible Society, which was yet unborn. Mr., afterwards Dr., Bogue read a letter from a correspondent in Paris describing the deplorable state of religion in Italy and France, and pointing out means for facilitating the Society's intention of printing and distributing a translation
“Mr. Charles, of Bala, having introduced the subject, which had been previously mentioned by Mr. Tarn, of dispersing Bibles in Wales, the Committee resolved that it would be highly desirable to stir up the public mind to the dispersion of Bibles generally, and that a paper in a magazine to this effect may be singularly useful. The object was deemed sufficiently connected with the object of the Society thus generally to appear on their minutes; and the Secretary, who suggested it, was accordingly desired to enter it."
Here several meetings of the Religious Tract Society's Committee were held to consider the same engrossing subject. Here was passed the well-known minute in which the happy idea of the present terse and brief title of the new Society was suggested, and it was stamped for ever as the British and Foreign Bible Society. Here, on April 21, 1803, William Wilberforce, who had previously been approached to obtain his powerful assistance in starting the Society, had an interview with the Committee of the Tract Society,
terrible picture of the condition of religion in France at that time. It was resolved that an edition of two thousand copies of tho French New Testament with Dr. Bogue's preface should at once be printed, and 8481. were sanctioned for the diffusion of Christian literature in Italy and France. This took place only six weeks before the gathering in the same room when the thought of a Bible Society was first started, and I do not wonder that Mr. Hardcastle and others rejoiced when it was actually founded.
Many interesting occurrences took place in this room connected with the London Missionary Society. I mention two only. At the last meeting but one, on August 15, 1814, a letter was read from Mr. Morrison, of Canton, stating the encouraging fact that he had completed the translation of the New Testament into Chinese. At the very last meeting there, on August 22, it was resolved to present a handsome gold repeating watch to Admiral Bustamente, then in London, for kind hospitality shown at Monte Video to certain of the Society's missionaries who had been captured by a “Buonaparte Privateer.” Next week the letter of thanks from the Directors to Mr. Hardcastle from which I shall afterwards quote, was written from rooms in another place. The long series of pleasant gatherings in this pleasant room had come to an end.
The first meeting of the Religious Tract Society held in this room appears to have been on May 25, 1802. The chief business on that day was the consideration of the necessity for a good and simple tract on the great principles of the Christian religion ; and the Secretary was requested to see whether the Catechism of Dr. Watts could be made “the ground of a Tract calculated to inform the Ignorant of the principles of Christianity.” At the next meeting, on June 8, 1802, the thanks of the Committee were very cordially presented to Messrs. Hardcastle and Reyner for the kind and liberal accommodation they continued to afford for the meetings of the Committee. The meetings had hitherto been held at their old offices in Duck's Foot Lane, and the continuation of their hospitality in the new premises was evidently thus recorded. Mr. Reyner was the Treasurer of the Tract Society, and regular'y attended its Committee; but Mr. Hardcastle, though a member of the Committee, was hardly ever present, and, in fact, his name appears only twice in the years 1802 and 1803, namely, on December 14, 1802, when Mr. Charles was present, and on April 21, 1803, at the interview which made such an impression on Mr. Wilberforce's mind. Mr. Reyner seems to have dissolved partnership with Mr. Hardcastle in 1809, when he transferred his office to Mark Lane.
Mr. Charles was present at the meeting in this room on November 9, 1802, when the following interesting little minute was passed : “ A set of the Tracts was voted to Mr. Carey with a letter from the Secretary expressing the cordial concurrence of this Committee with the general object of the East Indian Mission."
In a few years the Societies which had so greatly benefited by Mr. Hardcastle's kindness in placing
THE HOUSE FROM THE RIVER.
another meeting, held on May 17, 1802, it was resolved to send a deputation to Paris to make inquiries on this subject; and Messrs. Hardcastle, Dr. Bogue, and two other gentlemen went thither for this purpose. The Parisians, very naturally, considering the time it was paid, but very absurdly, when we remember the character and the earnestness of the men who went, regarded this visit as political. The deputation presented their report, which was evidently written by Mr. Hardcastle, on October 25, 1802. It required, they said, a search of four days to find a single copy of the Bible in Paris, which fact in itself gives a
this room at their disposal, grew in public estimation and considerably extended their borders. The managers, therefore, found it imperatively necessary to procure offices of their own, both more capacious and situated in more central positions. The London Missionary Society withdrew in 1814, and the Religious Tract Society in 1815; and the Secretary of each wrote Mr. Hardcastle a graceful letter expressing the cordial thanks of his Committees for the great service he had rendered them by affording them this accommodation. I give some extracts from these appreciative letters. That from the Missionary Society is dated August 29, 1814:
“I scarcely ever pass over London Bridge,” he wrote, “ without glancing my eye towards those highly-favoured rooms appertaining to our departed friend's countinghouse, and feeling a glow of pleasure at the recollection that there so many Societies formed their plans of Christian benevolence, on which divine Providence has so signally smiled. This pleasure is greatly heightened when I also recollect that in those favoured rooms was brought forth that gigantic agent of moral and spiritual good, the British and Foreign Bible Society. These rooms, in my judgment, are second to none but that in which the disciples met after their Master's ascension, and from which they went forth to enlighten and to bless a dark and guilty world."
“ The directors,” it was said, “ beg leave to take this opportunity of tendering to you their most sincere and cordial thanks for the kindness and generosity with which you have favoured the Society for many years past, by accommodating them with the use of your rooms at Old Swan Stairs, and for the refreshments perpetually offered to the Directors at their meeting there. The Directors, Sir, feel obligations which they are absolutely incapable of expressing; it is impossible for them to find any words adequate to their grateful sentiments; they can only entreat you to accept this sincere declaration of their gratitude, accompanied with wishes equally sincere and cordial, that you may continue to enjoy, in the fullest measure, the rich blessings of that glorious Gospel which you have long promoted by your counsel, your example, your fortune, and the friendly accommodation afforded to the Missionary Society.”
In acknowledging the receipt of this letter, Mr. Hardcastle feelingly said in reply :
“Your acceptance of the humble accommodations in which you have been accustomed to conduct the concerns of the Missionary Society, has always been regarded by me as conferring a distinguished privilege and honour, which I could not relinquish without the utmost regret, were it not for the hope that the convenience of many of the Directors, and the general interests of the Society, may be promoted by the change you have made. In resigning, however, a pleasure and an honour which I have so highly valued and so long enjoyed, I shall cherish, to the close of my life on earth, the recollection that these humble apartments have been consecrated by the associations of many eminent servants of God for sacred consultations; by the various measures of Christian benevolence which originated there; by the elevated devotion which has ascended thence to heaven; and by the condescending presence of Christ, which I believe has been in the midst of you.”
Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us."
" I CANYOT pray unless Thou givest me,
( Giver of all gifts, the words I need ; I have no faith, unless Thy charity
Bestows that sense which proves Thee near indeed. I have no light, unless Thou pourest in
Thy gladness to this earth-bound soul of mine, That soul obscured by selfishness and sin;
And no good thing have I, that is not Thine.
And yet my Saviour and my Lord most sweet,
Whom every year and month and day and hour I should adore and praise, and gladly greet
And evermore proclaim with might and power; What are the thanks, which I on Thee bestow,
What love to Thee who lovest such as I ? What do I for Thee? Shamefacedly and low, I own :
I too cry out the “Crucify!”
My sins are still unconquered, though I slay
My dearest Lord thereby; I count not dross The things of earth, and often I delay
To bring my pleasures to Thy precious cross. When I should watch with Thee I take my ease,
When I should follow Thee I lag behind, And like the ancient scribes and Pharisees
I hear and see, and yet am deaf and blind.
The letter from the Committee of the Religious Tract Society was dated January 22, 1815. I quote only two sentences from it.
“The members of the Missionary Society," wrote Mr. Hughes, “have thanked you with all the cordiality with which the Committee of the Tract Society have employed me to express. Well may sentiments of equal warmth resound from all the nations of the earth, when it shall be told them that the plan of the British and Foreign Bible Society was proposed, and advanced far towards its mature state, on your premises."
O Jesus, when Thy face I see, and meet
Like Peter who denied Thee—those sweet eyes, Shall I not fall down weeping at Thy feet,
Lest Thou shouldst drive me forth from Paradise, Unworthy to be near Thee—Thee, adored
By myriad hosts? O King and Master, no. For Thou wilt heed my low, “I love Thee, Lord,"
And say, “I love thee, child. Thou shalt not go.”