James Alexander Haldane Establishes Congregationalism in Scotland

James Alexander Haldane died on February 8, 1851. James, along with his older brother Robert, left an indelible mark upon Christianity in Scotland.

Born in Dundee on July 14, 1768, orphaned at the age of 6, and educated at Edinburgh University, young James joined the navy at the age of seventeen, as a midshipman aboard the East India Company’s “Duke of Montrose”.

After four voyages to India and China, he was appointed Captain of “The Melville Castle”, in 1793. The ship’s sailing was delayed, however, leaving James time for more reflective pursuits.

It was during this period that “he commenced to read the Scriptures from a sense of propriety rather than any concern about his soul” (Cyclopaedia of Modern Religious Biographies, page 241).

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He sought out a Dr David Bogue, a pastor in the vicinity of Portsmouth, and requested that he might partake of the Lord’s Supper. Dr Bogue was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society and he pressed upon Haldane the claims of Christ upon his life.

Haldane quit the navy before The Melville Castle sailed, choosing to take up a religious life instead of his captaincy. That was 1794.

Sometime in the next two or three years he found the salvation for which so long he had sought. He left the established Church of Scotland when the General Assembly of 1796 refused to promote aggressive evangelisation.

At that time he became acquainted with Charles Simeon of Cambridge. In his company Haldane toured Scotland 1797, distributing tracts and trying to awaken spiritual interest. In May 1797 he preached his first sermon, at Gilmerton near Edinburgh, with encouraging success.

That same year he and brother Robert founded The Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home, which gave the impetus for the development of the Congregational Churches. James was ordained as a Congregational minister in Edinburgh.

James Haldane married twice in Edinburgh, in 1793 and, his first wife having died, again in 1822.

In 1799 James was ordained pastor of a large independent congregation in Edinburgh. That group was the first to be known as a Congregational Church in Scotland.

After his brother inherited the family wealth, he built a church or Tabernacle, for James’ Congregational church in Edinburgh in 1801. From 1801 until his death James Haldane preached prodigiously and “counted it his privilege for nearly 50 years to preach the Gospel …” in the Tabernacle, Edinburgh’s largest church. In 1808 James and his famous brother Robert “embraced Baptist principles” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 447).

James Haldane contributed to current theological discussions with articles on church order, refutations of heresy and exploration of various Bible books and doctrines.

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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

Robert William Dale at Carr’s Lane Birmingham

Robert William Dale was born in London, UK, on December 11, 1829. Bobbie’s father made hat trimmings and his mother was determined that he would be a preacher. In his mid teens he engaged in philosophical discussions, being an assistant school-master at age fourteen. He came to faith in Christ through reading James’s “Anxious Enquirer” on his knees, coming to a total confidence in Christ’s atoning work.

Dale began preaching at fifteen, showing the potential of a great preacher. During his preparation for ministry he learned literary style from Henry Rogers, who wrote for the Spectator. The brilliant Birmingham preacher, George Dawson, exemplified for Dale commitment to social ideals from the pulpit.

Dr John Angel James, pastor of Birmingham’s important Carr’s Lane Congregational Church for fifty years, saw Dale as a worthy replacement. When Dale achieved his MA from London University, Dale was made assistant pastor, then co-pastor with Dr. James. When James died in 1859 Dale was made sole pastor at Carr’s Lane, holding that position for 36 years.

During that time he became a major force in English Congregationalism – and through his writings his influence circled the globe.

He threw himself behind the Moody-Sankey revival in 1875. He encouraged a young Campbell Morgan. He wrote volumes on Bible doctrine, which made him a household name in the Christian world of his day. Many key figures were greatly influenced by Dale, including a young Andrew M. Fairbairn, the future principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, who went to Birmingham to meet the author of sermons that profoundly impacted him.

Dale was Birmingham’s greatest preacher and one of the world’s most influential voices in the pulpit. He blended the theism of his Puritan roots, with deep personal experience of God, from the revivalism of Wesley. He eloquently resisted the message of the Tractarian movement, which sought to elevate the authority of the church. Dale also resisted the moral view of the work of Christ, popularised in Bushnell’s Vicarious Sacrifice, which saw Christ’s work as to influence men, not to pay the penalty demanded by God.

Dales Theology, however, had some insufficient elements, for which he is criticised, including belief that sinners are annihilated, rather than punished eternally in hell. However, he came to his thoughts from a sincere attempt to be Biblical and to create a consistent theory of salvation. He was keen to see theory developed to support what we know to be Biblical fact.

Dale was also active in civic matters, leading to his involvement in politics as well. He also did much to promote education, along with his extensive writings, which were published around the world. He travelled to Australia, America and Palestine.

He died at the age of 76 (March 13, 1895) and all Birmingham and England mourned his passing. Thousands lined the streets and stood outside his funeral service to honour this man who had lived a life of amazing energy and versatility and a life of great achievement.

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

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.

John Owen Pens Puritan Prose

This is the day that … John Owen died in 1683, at the age of 67.

He has been called “the Calvin of England” and “the theologian of the Puritan movement”.

James Packer writes, “In an age of giants, he overtopped them all” (Quest for Godliness, page 191).

His writings, “weighty with learning”, fill some 28 large volumes. Many of these have been reprinted in our day by the Banner of Truth.

Born in Oxfordshire in 1616 (the exact date is unknown) where his father was a Church of England clergyman, young Owen entered Oxford University at the age of 12 and graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees seven years later, on 27 April, 1635.

Ordained by the Church of England, but not converted, it was some years before he came to know the Saviour. He attended a Presbyterian Church to hear a famous preacher of the day, Edmund Calmany, only to discover a substitute preacher was in the pulpit. Nevertheless, the sermon based on Matthew 8:26 found its mark. Conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. He married Mary Rooke – had 11 children – left Anglicanism to join the Congregational Church, and in the 1640’s found himself “reluctantly” a chaplain in Oliver Cromwell’s army (History of Preaching, by E. Dargan, Volume 2, page 178). He buried seven of his children before losing his wife as well.

With the advent of King Charles II to the throne, Owen found himself ejected from his position as Dean of Christ Church (for not being an Anglican!).

One year after his wife died he married a wealthy widow (21 June, 1677), which enabled him “to keep a carriage and a villa” (Puritan Profiles, by W. Barker, page 299).

In the closing six years of his life he devoted himself to writing. His massive commentary on Hebrews is “a work of gigantic strength as well as gigantic size”, wrote Dr Chalmers (quoted by Spurgeon, Commenting on the Commentaries, page 188).

And his The Death of Death in the Death of Christ sets forth the “classic Calvinistic statement of the atonement”, that Christ died only to save the elect (Puritan Profiles, page 297).

John Owen, like many other famous non-conformists, is buried in Bunhill Fields, East London … in “unconsecrated ground”, because he was not a member of the Church of England.

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.

Philip Doddridge Speaking into Lives

This is the day that … Philip Doddridge was born in 1702, the 20th child of a London tradesman.

“So feeble the spark of life that he was first laid aside as dead” – until a servant girl noticed a movement … and the child lived. Except for sister Elizabeth, all the other children did die in infancy.

By the age of 13 he was orphaned, and a prosperous gentleman named Downes became his self-appointed guardian. He grew up in a godly environment, both at home and school. “Although he could never tell when he was first conscious that Christ was his Saviour, he knew that he loved Christ and was in fellowship with Him…” (Life of Dr P. Doddridge, by H.J. Garland, page 14). He “openly confessed his Lord and joined the Church” (of England) on New Year’s Day, 1718.

The Duchess of Bedford offered to send him to university and pay all fees for his theological training. But by this time Philip Doddridge had swung to the non-conformists (those who did not ‘conform’ to the state church or ‘conform’ to the rules of the Prayer Book).

Thus it was that he became pastor of the Chapel Hill Congregational Church in Northampton for 22 years, during which time he opened an Academy where 200 young men were trained for the ministry. It is said that he had a student read to him, even whilst he was washing and shaving…” (Gospel in Hymns, by A. Bailey, page 66).

He married Miss Mercy Maris on 22 December, 1730 … and he wrote The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, which is mentioned in the biographies of William Wilberforce, C.H. Spurgeon, Henry Martyn and Mary Slessor as having an influence upon their lives.

He wrote 364 hymns, many of which are still to be found, and used, to the present day. One of the best known is …

O happy day, that fixed my choice
on Thee, my Saviour and my God …

Others include :

Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve
And press with vigour on …

Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes
The Saviour promised long …

O God of Bethel, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed …

His hymns were usually written to be sung after his sermon, “given out by the presentor and sung a line at a time” (Life and Hymns of Doddridge, by H. Garland, page 30).

Philip Doddridge died in Lisbon, Portugal, on 26 October, 1751. Among his final words, spoken to Lady Huntingdon, were: “My tears are tears of joy. I can give up my country, my loved ones and friends into the hand of God; and as to myself, I can as well go to Heaven from Lisbon as from my own study in Northampton. I am more afraid of doing wrong than of dying” (ibid, page 53).

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.