224. To Isaac Wood Address: Mr. Isaac Wood, | High Street, |Shrewsbury. Pub. Christian Reformer, Nov. -- Dec. 1834, p. 838. Shrewsbury, Jan. 19, 1798 Dear Sir, 'Freely have ye received, freely give,' is a precept in which the practice and spirit of every Christian Minister ought to be moulded. I do not hesitate to affirm it as my opinion, that both Christianity and the preaching of Christianity would exist in a much purer state, if, like St. Paul, we made tents for our bread, and preached the Gospel for conscience' sake. There is a congruity, not wholly fanciful, in purchasing things necessary for the body by the labour of the body, and things necessary for the mind by the labour of the mind. Food, raiment and lodging seem the appropriate remunerations for manual industry; respect, esteem, affection, and the consciousness of doing good for knowledge, or learning, or piety, or disinterested zeal. But, alas I this beautiful order of things, if not rendered impossible by the present state of society, is in most instances incompatible with our present modes of education. I will instance my own case. A scholastic education, continued to the age of twenty-three, made my bodily faculties obtuse and weak in proportion as it had given variety and acuteness to my intellectual -375- powers, and, of course, presented insuperable objections, both of mind and body, to my obtaining sustenance for myself and a family by my labour either in the manufactory or the field. At this time I formed those religious and political opinions which exclude me, I thank God, from the Law and the Church. The profession of Physic remained; but I could not afford the previous expenses, and (to avail myself of a vulgar proverb) 'the horses would have starved while the grass was g Rowing.' There lay before me, then, either the Press as a trade, or the Ministerial Office. (By the Press as a trade, I wish you to understand the writing for newspapers, reviews and magazines -- all those literary exertions in which I proposed neither my own reputation nor the permanant good of society, but only as innocently as possible to gain such a salary as might enable me to do both the one and the other on my vacant days.) Perceiving, or appearing to myself to perceive, that some general evils, and some particular discomforts would result from my becoming a salaried minister, I adopted the former. But I soon discovered my mistake. I did not indeed alter my opinion essentially respecting the nature and consequences of hired preaching, but I saw more clearly the nature and consequences of hired writing. I found it the situation of all others in which a delicacy of moral feeling and moral perception would with the greatest difficulty be preserved. I found that the temptations to do evil were many, and the anxieties and uncertainties of the occupation so great, that they would soon have sapped the very faculties by which alone that occupation could be made profitable to myself, and on which alone can be founded my future utility to my fellow-creatures. I therefore subdued the struggles of reluctance, and with the purest motives possible on such an occasion, I determined to choose the ministry, not as in itself an absolute good, but as far more innocent, far more useful than the other mode of employment; and at that time my choice lay only between these two, and one or the other of them I was under the immediate impulse both of duty and necessity to choose. Still, however, I should have conformed so far to that precept with which I commenced my letter, that I should have regarded the salary I received, not as payment for my particular services to the congregation from whom I received it, but only as the means of enabling myself to pursue a general scheme of Christian warfare, of which those particular services would have formed only a part. Within these few days the state of my circumstances has been altered; and with the simple and cottage life to which I have accommodated my habits, I am enabled to defend that cause to which I have solemnly devoted my best efforts, when and how and where it appears best to me; and, as I have received the gospel -376- freely, freely to give it. Of course I retire from the candidateship for the ministerial office at Shrewsbury; and have deemed it proper to inform your society. of it, before I placed myself within the contingency of their election, and antecedently to my being accepted or rejected. I have an humble trust, that many years will not pass over my head before I shall have given proof in some way or other that active zeal for Unitarian Christianity, not indolence or indifference, has been the motive of my declining a local and stated settlement as preacher of it. My friends Mr. Howell and Dr. Toulmin are both in the descent of life, and both at a small distance from me; and it is my purpose to relieve one or the other every Sunday. -- You will be kind enough to convey this information to the society in the way you think best. I have developed my motives to you with all the openness and simplicity of a confidential and private letter; but I have not the least objection to your communicating it publicly. As this, my dear Sir, may very probably be the close of our short-lived correspondence, I cannot conclude it without expressing my great and unfeigned esteem for you, as sincerely believing you to be a man whose natural dispositions have made him a wellwisher to his fellow-men, and whose zeal and clearness of intellect have enabled him to be in no ordinary degree their benefactor. -- May God bless you, and S. T. Coleridge