Page images

meeting-house was built. He fell asleep in the Lord, March 24, 1676 ; the celebrated Benjamin Keach preached his funeral sermon in the chapel in Gravel Lane, on which occasion many ministers were present, and the place would not contain the numbers that pressed to hear the sermon. Mr. Norcott was the author of a small work on baptism, which bears his name, and has many times been reprinted. He had a fellow-labourer with him in the ministry at Gravel Lane who did not succeed him in the pastorate, and his name is not known. Mr. Hercules Collins was chosen by the church as the successor of Mr. Norcott, and was settled as their pastor in 1677. A few years after this the Lord permitted the powers of this world again to put forth their hands to vex the Church of Christ, and Mr. Collins was committed to Newgate, with other ministers, for preaching the Gospel ; the chapel in Gravel Lane, and all others, were shut up for more than two years, and the congregations scattered. On his deliverance from prison in 1686, Mr. Collins returned to his work with renewed ardour; he died October 4, 1702, having been pastor at Gravel Lane about twenty-five years. His funeral sermon was preached by Mr. John Piggott, of Little Wild Street, from the words “Be ye also ready,” &c., the death of Mr. Collins having been very sudden and unexpected.

Mr. Collins published a funeral sermon for two ministers, his fellow-prisoners in Newgate, Messrs. Bampfield and Ralphson, who died during their imprisonment and in consequence of it, he himself being in prison at the time of publication. He also wrote an excellent work on baptisın, which he published in 1692 The year following Mr. Collins' death the church invited Mr. Mark Key, assistant minister at Devonshire Square Chapel, to become their pastor, but at the earnest request of that church he respectfully declined the invitation.' No further information respecting a successor to Mr. Collins is obtainable until the year 1715, when Mr. Edward Elliott was pastor, who died a year or two after that date. In 1719 or 1720, Mr. Clandon Dawkes became pastor, under whose ministry the church greatly declined, as, it seems, did several others over which, unhappily for them, he subsequently became pastor. He appears to have been a learned man who paid more attention to his books than to the needs of his flock, taking of their substance and not feeding their souls. He resigned the pastorate at Gravel Lane at Christmas, 1725, upon which the church immediately invited Mr. Samuel Wilson, a young minister of popular talents, then assistant to the pastor at“ Tallowchandlers' Hall,” who accepted the invitation, and was ordained at Gravel Lane about the year 1726, Dr. Gill, Mr. Wallin, and other ministers taking part in the service. At that time the church was in a low state, but under Mr. Wilson's ministry it greatly revived, so that it became desirable to build a larger meetinghouse. The spot chosen for the erection was then called Rosemary Branch, now Little Prescott Street. Some of the members objected to this removal, and, when Mr. Wilson, with the majority of the church, went to the new chapel, remained at the old place, and got another pastor. This was a Mr. John Rhudd, who was ordained over them in 1731 or 1732, but soon after, adopting erroneous views on the all-important doctrine of the Trinity, he was inmediately removed from his office, his flock remaining faithful in their allegiance to their Great Shepherd and King A few years afterwards, being unable to meet the necessary expenses, they dissolved their church state, and their meeting-house in 1739 was used by the Independents. Thus the first chapel built in London for Particular Baptists was lost to the denomination.

The meeting-house in Little Prescott Street was erected in 1730, about four years after Mr. Wilson's settlement as pastor with the church. His ministry continued to be very successful, his labours being greatly blessed to the conversion of many sinners, and the comfort and edification of the whole church, which at his death was in a very prosperous condition. He died October 6th, 1750, in the forty-eighth year of his age, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. Dr. Joseph Stennett delivered an oration at the grave and Dr. Gill preached the funeral sermon, the text being Acts xx. 38. Both the good doctors spoke in the highest and most affectionate terms of the departed. Nine brethren were called out to the public, ministry of the Word by the church during Mr. Wilson's pastorate. He was the author of the well-known “Scripture Manual on Baptism " which bears his name, and of several published sermons.

The choice of a suitable successor to Mr. Wilson proved a matter of considerable difficulty. After several ineffectual attempts to obtain the services of men of approved ability and standing in the ministry, the attention of the church was directed to a young man, just called out to preach by Dr. Gill's church, who supplied the pulpit for several months. This resulted in a unanimous invitation to preach for six months as probationer for the pastoral office, at the end of which the vote of the church was taken, when there were sixty-seven yeas and sixty-one moes on the question of Mr. Fall being pastor--that is, very nearly half the church were adverse to his settlement. Had Nr. Fall been an older and wiser man, he would certainly have at once declined to act upon such a result of his six months' probation, which, commencing by the unanimous wish of the church, ended with nearly half of them being opposed to him. For what prospect would there be, in such a case, either of usefulness or comfort among the people ? However, on being asked if he would accept the office, he hesitated, desiring time to consider the matter, which reply being reported, it was proposed that he should occupy the pulpit until he felt himself able to give a definite answer. This was not permitted, the deacons and trustees no doubt considering that there was nothing but confusion, discomfort, and division to be looked for, with a pastor having half his flock opposed to him. Those who voted for Mr. Fall, however, would not give him up, and he became their pastor, and was ordained as such on March 28th, 1754, in the Independent meeting-house, Crispin Street, Spitalfields. Mr. Fall's father, a worthy Baptist minister at Watford, conducted the services, giving his son the charge, from Zech. xi. 4, “Feed the flock of slaughter,” &c. The account of the proceedings of the church was read by one of their deacons, Captain Thomas Best. Mr. Amos Harrison, of Croydon, united with Mr. Fall in the ordination of the pastorand three deacons, Messrs. Best, Morgan, and Woodfield. Until a suitable place could be built, the church met for worship in private houses. They lost no time, however, in erecting a meeting-house, which was opened June 25th, 1754, being the chapel in Little Alie Street, ever since occupied by the same church. The Messrs. Fall appear to be the only ministers engaged at the opening services.

Mr. Fall's ministry at Little Alie Street was but short, as he died in October, 1756 ; Mr. Potts, a neighbouring minister, preached his funeral sermon. succeeded by Mr. William Dowers, a minister from the country, whose church, not being able to support him, gave him a letter of general recommendation to any church that might wish for his services. _Mr. Dowers was ordained at Little Alie Street, September 15th, 1757, a Mr. Thomas Davis, where of does not appear, officiating on the occasion. Of his ministry at Alie Street nothing very particular seems to be recorded, except that it continued many years, and was the means of reducing the church almost to nothing ; he died July 1st, 1795. It seems Mr. Dowers was a very methodical preacher, dividing his discourses under a great number of heads, as many as twenty or more. Sermons with so many heads could have had but little heart in them, and therefore not likely to interest the hearers very greatly, and the result being a nearly empty chapel is not at all surprising. The marvel is that any minister with a spark of correct feeling in him should have thus stayed on under such circumstances, and that the deacons, supposing there to have been any, should have allowed him to do so.

After the death of Mr. Dowers, the cause being so very low, one Lord's-day the shapel had to be shut up, no one coming to worship. A good man, a member at Lit:le Prescott Street, passing by, seeing the desolation of Zion, was deeply

He was



affected, and earnestly, entreated the Lord on behalf of His cause at this now apparently forsaken place; the prayer was heard. During the following week the good man was introduced to Mr. William Shenston, a member of the church at Eagle Street, Holborn, who had recently been called to the work of the ministiy by that church. He asked Mr. Shenston to preach at Alie Street on the following Sabbath, April 2, 1797, which he did. Only twenty-three persons were present on that occasion, but the Word was attended with Divine power, and Mr. Shenston continued to preach there with so much success that he was invited to the pastorate, which he accepted, and was ordained January 23, 1798. So great a blessing attended his ministry that in a few years the members of the church amounted to a very considerable number, and during the whole period of his ministry, thirty-five y.ears, 680 persons were added 'o the church. His last sermon was preached on the last Lord's-lay in 1832; he peacefully slept in Jesus June 27, 1833, aged sixty-two, and was buried behind the vestry of the chapel. In 1815 he published a small volume entitled “Vestry Hymns," consisting of 102 original compilations on experimental subjects, and considered by their author particularly adapted to prayer-meetings. These, with a memoir of Mr. Shenston prefixed, were republished shortly after his death.

Mr. Shenston's ministry was spiritual, savoury, and experimental, combining doctrine, experience, and practice in happy union and delightful harmony. He was greatly favoured with a copious, gracious gift in prayer, and it has been stated that his public prayers were made as much a means of blessing to hearers as his sermons.

The church at Little Alie Street, for many years, has been forward in works of usefulness. Their Sabbath-school was commenced so long ago as the year 1806 ; it has had a very useful and prosperous career. They have, also, a "sick society," for visiting poor persons in illness and relieving them at their own homes, which has proved a great blessing to very many.

The history of this church, both under the pastorate of the late venerable Mr. Philip Dickerson and of that of his worthy successor, Mr. Charles Masterson, having recently sufficiently appeared in these pages under various forms, it is not necessary to repeat the recital here. May the future history of this ancient church, by the blessing of God, prove equal in interest and prosperity to the best portions of the past !

Expositions, Essays, &c.


By J. WALKER. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit."-JOHN xv. 1, 2. In several passages in the Old Testament, God's ancient people, the Jews, are spoken of under the figure of a viné or vineyard—c.g., Ps. Lxxx. 8–16; Isa. v. 1–7; Jer. ii, 21. They are thus set forth as a people under the special care

of Jehovah. But in this parable our Lord Jesus Christ claims for Himself and His followers the exalted position of the “true" vine, in contrast to the children of Israel, who only, as a nation, typified the spiritual Church of Christ in all ages and amongst all nations (Rom. ii. 28, 29). Is it, then, possible for a branch in the true and living vine to prove fruitless, and so to be cut off by the Great Husbandman and be cast away? Is it possible that one united to Christ shall, after all, finally perish? As


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

this most important parable has been had been amongst them for two or three used by many as an argument against years, and it does not appear that one the comforting and establishing truth of of the eleven even suspected that they the final perseverance of the saints, I

had "devil amongst them” (John vi. propose, with the Divine blessing, to 70). One feature of the parable is very endeavour to explain its real import striking-those branches which bear no and bearing

fruit, but only waste the vital sap of the Some have tried to remove the diffi. tree, are as much a part of the natural eulty by an altered translation: “every growth of the tree as the fruit-bearing branch that beareth not fruit He raiseth branches themselves. Similarly, it is up, or supports,” thus making these the inevitable result of the preaching of fruitless branches the weak in faith, the Gospel that a motley crowd should who need extra care and attention. But

be gathered around the standard of the no learning is required to show that this Cross. The Gospel net cast into the position is untenable ; the sixth verse great sea of the world, “gathers of every establishes the translation “taketh kind” (Matt. xiii. 47-50). By these away,” beyond a doubt.

parables, therefore, and by that of the Two points must be somewhat closely tares among the wheat (Matt. xiii. 24– examined. 1. What is the particular 30), as well as by His more plain and truth which our Lord intends to teach direct teaching, our Lord designed to by this parable ? 2. What are the fruits forewarn the apostles and others of what whereby the Father is glorified ? (v. 8.) they must expect to be the result of

With regard to the first point, it their preaching. When afterwards, in must be distinctly understood that not the midst of their labours, doubtless the the saved church of Christ, not the Holy Spirit brought to their ininds election of grace, not the quickened, re- these teachings of their then absent newed, Spirit-taught believers in Christ Lord (John xiv. 26), and under His holy Jesus, but the professing church at large anointing they were able to detect such is the antitype to the figure of the vine. characters as Ananias and Sapphira, While

very many of the latter, in Christ Simon Magus, and others. by profession for a time, do sooner or 2. Another proof that the vine can. later prove to be fruitless branches, and not represent the real children of God are consequently cut off, not one of the alone, but must be viewed as a type of former shall ever be severed from Him the whole professing Church, may be to whom they are united by a true and drawn from the fact that in Scripture a living faith.

Several proofs may be very different class of images is employed brought forward in support of this by the inspired writers to set forth the view. 1. Our Lord was about to be eternal, indissoluble union between taken from His apostles and to return Christ and His own people, whom He to “Him that sent Him ; his apostles


saves with an everlasting salvation. We and disciples were soon to enter upon may notice first the figure of a family their mission to “preach the Gospel to (Heb. ii. 11, 12; Rom. viii. 29, &c.). We every creature," and they were now have our Lord Jesus as the “first-born, listening to the last parting instructions, the elder brother, and His own peculiar warnings, counsels, and precious con- people as the younger members of one solations which fell from the lips of great family in heaven and earth (Eph. their beloved Master and Lord. He well iii

. 3—15). Now compare this with the knew what would be the result of their similitude of a vine. Many branches preaching ; He also knew their simpli- may be cut away from the tree, as being city and ignorance, and how easily they fruitless ones, and the tree suffer no loss, would be imposed upon by “false bre- but be actually benefited thereby, wherethren,” who would be foisted upon the

“vacant chair" in the family infant Church by the enemy of souls so circle is a cause of sincere sorrow to the soon as the Gospel began to attract at- survivors. Secondly, we may consider tention in the world. Judas Iscariot the beautiful figure of the shepherd and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as one

[ocr errors]

His sheep (John X., especially verses 27 splendid gifts of oratory, &c., and may —29), our Good and Great Shepherd employ them in publishing the news of will never lose one of His sheep for salvation, and may thus appear to be whom He laid down His life (Matt. xviii. bearing much fruit. But if all this 11-14), while many branches of the activity springs from any other motive vine—i.l., many mere professors-will, than love to God, wrought in the soul sooner or later, be severed from that by the Holy Spirit, "it is nothing" tree with which they never had any (i Cor. xiii. 1–3). On the contrary, vital union. But, above all, the most many of the children of God are among striking figure used in the Word of God the poor of this world, perhaps scarcely to set forth the everlasting union be- able to gain a livelihood ; and many of tween Christ and His own people is that them, as a matter of fact, are very defiof the human body (1 Cor. xii. 12 to the cient in those mental gifts of intelliend of the chapter ; Eph. y. 30, &c.). gence, discernment, language, and the Compare the vine with our bodies ; the like which enable a man to push himloss of one of the smallest, weakest self forward amongst his fellows. What members of the body is felt acutely ; the fruit can these bear to the glory of God ? body is mutilated and ceases to be How often they complain of their unperfect, because every part is necessary, fruitfulness ; how often are they ready every member has its own office to fill ; to number themselves among those who whereas the tree may be deprived of are altogether unfruitful ! But there branches without injury.

are many choice fruits which blossom No! Our Glorious Head will not and ripen in secret before God, and appear at the Great Day with an im- never come abroad, or, at most, are only perfect body ; however weak our faith witnessed by a few. How the Lord is may be, each and all of His members sometimes glorified in the sick-room ! shall live to sing :

The sufferer may be poor and unknown,

may even be in a workhouse, with, "But this I can find, we two are so joined, He'll not be in glory and leave me

perhaps, no one near who is able to behind."

sympathise with the spiritual exercises

of his heart. But there are brought Our Good Shepherd has paid too dearly forth the precious fruits of calm resig.. for our ransom ever to lose one of those nation to the Divine will, of thankful. for whom He lived and died. Our ness for surrounding mercies, of faith, Elder Brother will, in the end, appear and hope, and trust blooming into joyful before His and our Father, and will be anticipation of “the rest that remains." able to say, to His eternal honour, and Again, under some long-continued trial, to our unspeakable joy, “ Behold í and pressing heavily, it may be, for years, the children whom Thou hast given

when the child of God is enabled to Me."

hold on his way, and to adopt the lanLastly. What are those choice fruits guage of Ps. cxix. 71, when the trial whereby the Father is glorified ? Here is sanctified to his good, and he bears we must bear in mind the important the fruits of tenderness of conscience, truth that “the Lord looketh on the watchfulness of spirit, sympathy with heart," that in His sight the motives fellow-sufferers, and when he grows

into which are the secret springs of all our the likeness of Christ-what choice actions are taken into account, and that fruits are these ! consequently, in many cases,

Again, how the Lord is glorified by things that are highly esteemed among the fruit of meek, patient endurance of men are abomination in the sight of wrong! Many of the Lord's " hidden God” (Luke xvi. 15). Thus a man may

are grievously tried by the expend his substance in building and haughty, overbearing behaviour of

, endowing places of worship, almshouses, others, and if enabled to bear all with &c.; he may “give all his goods to feed meekness, certainly fruit is hereby the poor.” “Or he may be endowed with brought forth, though few human eyes

[ocr errors]


66 the


« PreviousContinue »