Thomas Binney Preaches with Power

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.

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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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Torial Joss Whitfield’s Associate Preacher

This is the day that … Torial Joss was born in Scotland, in 1731.

After his father’s death, young Joss ran away to sea and was captured, and imprisoned, by the French.

Back in Scotland – aged 15! – he was press-ganged on to a man-of-war – escaped, and at a place called “Robin Hood’s Bay” (on the north-east coast of England) he read Bunyan – and was converted.

John Wesley met and encouraged him in his preaching.

Again he went to sea and rose to the position of Captain of the “Hartley Trader”. Whitefield contacted him on his arrival in London and Joss was told that he would be preaching at (Whitefield’s) Tabernacle. He was then 34 years of age.

So impressed is the great revivalist that he made Joss one of his assistants “and great crowds waited upon his ministry full of converting power and ripe with chequered and tragic experience” (Whitefield – the Awakener, by Rev. A. Belden, page 195).

The records of the Tabernacle include: One of the several people who ministered to the Church was an evangelical sea-captain named Torial Joss. Captain Joss was not ordained but he administered Communion. The Methodist Synod of 1790 objected to this. However, the Church refused to dismiss Joss. One of its members bought up the mortgage and locked the doors of the building. It was then re-opened as a Congregational Church.

His itinerate ministry saw multitudes converted. He usually spent four or five months of each year itinerating in England and Wales. The Welsh delighted in his simple eloquence. Many came twenty miles on foot to hear him.

And because of his pulpit ministry at Tottenham Chapel he was dubbed “Whitfield’s Archdeacon of Tottenham”. And there he was buried, in 1797.

After preaching the Gospel more than thirty years he was smitten down by sudden disease. “Oh the preciousness of faith!” he exclaimed to the groups around his deathbed. “I have finished my course. My pilgrimage is ended. Oh, thou Friend of sinners take thy poor old friend home.”

As if rapt in visions of the celestial world he at last uttered the word, “Archangels!” and expired.

His biographer describes him as a good man, mighty in the Scriptures and faithful to the end.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Antoinette Brown America’s First Woman Minister

This is the day that … Antoinette Louisa Brown was ordained to the Christian ministry in America in 1853 … the first woman minister of a recognised denomination in the United States. The place was the First Congregational Church, Wayne County, New York.

Luther Lee, a Wesleyan Methodist, preached the ordination sermon on Galatians 3:28. The charge was given by Rev. Gerrit Smith, a Presbyterian.

Nicknamed “Nettie”, Antoinette was born the seventh of ten children on May 20, 1825, in a log cabin in Henrietta, New York. Her parents were Joseph, a farmer, and Abby (Morse) Brown. Brown spent her childhood in a fieldstone house near the site of the log cabin where she was born.

Her parents were very religious and, while she was a child, they were inspired by the Rev. Charles G. Finney and many of the revivals sweeping through upstate New York at that time. By the time she was nine she had spoken out publicly to proclaim her faith at the Congregational society and had been accepted by the elders there as a member.

Brown taught for a few years before deciding she wanted to continue her education. Her father financed her “literary course” at Oberlin College – “the first co-educational college in the world” – many of the students being converts of the evangelist, Charles G. Finney.

She graduated in 1847, and then wanted to pursue a theological degree. The faculty at Oberlin (as well as her family) were against this. Brown was adamant and finally, as a compromise, they allowed her to attend lectures and to accept invitations to preach. However, they did not give her a license to preach and she was not allowed to graduate once she had completed the course in 1850. She was later vindicated and in 1878 Oberlin granted her an honorary Master of Arts (A.M.) degree, and in 1908 they awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) degree.

While a student at Oberlin, Brown became increasingly involved in the women’s rights, temperance, and anti-slavery movements.

Finney had been her Professor of Theology – “often putting names in a hat, drawing one out and asking that student to extemporise for as long as possible on the subject at hand”! Antoinette Brown found that such teaching methods sharpened her mind and skill as an orator.

After pastoring in Congregational churches for 15 years, she finally joined the Unitarians in 1878 … a ‘church’ that denies the deity of Christ and other fundamental doctrines.

She married Samuel Charles Blackwell and gave birth to seven children, two of whom died in infancy. She withdrew from public life while raising the children, but later returned to public lecturing, following a reversal in her husband’s fortunes.

She spent much of her life as an activist and speaker for women’s rights.

Antoinette Brown died on 5 November, 1921, at the age of 96.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Much Loved Wit

This is the day that … Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in 1809.

His father, Abiel Holmes, pastored the First Congregational Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and young Oliver grew up “in a library where he bumped about among books.”

And whilst still a youngster he would accompany his father in the horse and jig as they spent the weekend going to various preaching appointments. Along the way father Holmes indoctrinated his son with a rather stern Calvinism.

At the age of 10, however, Oliver “was still afraid of the devil, but the doctrines of transmitted sinfulness, justification, or sanctification, meant no more to him than the mystic syllables by which his friends counted each other out in their games” (Gospel in Hymns, page 520).

On entering Harvard University, from which he would graduate in arts and medicine, Oliver forsook the religion of his parents and embraced the Unitarian heresy. This teaching that reduced the Lord Jesus to a mere example and denied His substitutionary Atonement, was making powerful strides in America at this time.

Even Abiel Holmes was deposed from his church, and the Unitarians took over.

By the age of 29 Oliver was professor of anatomy and physiology at Dartmouth College. Then, in 1847, he went to Harvard Medical School, where he was professor for the next 35 years.

His book, The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, was first serialized in the Atlantic Monthly (1857). It brought him fame in the literary world.

“Essayist, novelist, poet, wit, humorist, humanist and the raciest of talkers, he became one of the best known and best loved men on both sides of the ocean (Handbook to Church Hymnary, page 374).

He wrote a famous hymn in 1858:
Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Centre and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

O.W. Holmes died on 7 October, 1894. One writer tells us: “in his later years he fell back for spiritual comfort on the great evangelical hymns…”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.