Thomas Binney was born on April 30, 1798, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. The author of Great Modern Preachers (1875) (a curious volume where the author’s name is nowhere mentioned), Thomas Binney is described as “one of the greatest non-conformist preachers of these 40 years …” (page 81).
For 40 years he pastored the King’s Weigh House Chapel (Congregational) in Eastcheap, London … “his powerful preaching making it one of the most influential churches in the United Kingdom” (Famous Birthdays, by G. Powell, page 61).
Twice he was elected president of the Congregational Union. He wrote 50 books … and pioneered liturgical services, introducing anthems and chants into non-conformist churches …
One of his hymns is still found in today’s hymnals:
Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be,
When, placed within Thy searching sight
it shrinks not, but with calm delight
can live, and look on Thee.
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Binney was a forthright an conscientious man, who claimed the right to criticize everything national, including the Church of England. He was credited with saying that ‘the State Church damned more souls than it saved’ and his outspoken denunciations had great influence in the formation of the Tractarian movement.
He strongly advocated universal fellowship among Christians, seeking to reform and unite the Christian church. And he was keenly interested in political issues, including the British colonies; Australia in particular.
By 1833 his Weigh House chapel had to be extended, as his practical and forthright preaching drew growing crowds. His preaching motivated men to go to the colonies, such as John Brown, Robert Gouger and RD Hanson who won prominence in South Australia, and John Fairfax (newspaperman), David Jones (retailer) and John West in New South Wales. In 1836 Binney was the virtual founder of the Colonial Missionary Society which by 1856 had supplied nearly three-quarters of the Congregational ministers in Australia and Canada. His name became known to thousands of emigrants by his published sermons and by petitions from the Weigh-House in support of colonial self-government.
When he visited Australia in 1858/59 he met with overwhelming acceptance, from religious and political leaders, as well as the general population, from the well-to-do to shearers and simple country folk.
He wrote devotional verse and several of his published sermons circulated widely. He also influenced improvements in the form of worship of Noncomformist churches.
Dr Thomas Binney died in 1874.
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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