Two Calvinistic Methodist Chapels, 1743-1811: The London Tabernacle and Spa Fields Chapel. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1975.
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By invitation from Lady Huntingdon and at her expence a great number of ministers and students in her Ladyship's Connection together with the committees, or deputations from the committees, of several congregations both in town and country dined together at Mr Dupont's in Aldersgate Street, the whole number being about 72 or 73. Before dinner there was an examination of several students designed for ordination tomorrow, and after dinner some of them related some particulars of the progress of the gospel in different parts of the kingdom where they had been labouring, which the Revd Mr Wills took down in writing. Our committee were all present but Messrs Silver and Baker.
The ordaining ministers were the Revd Messrs Wills, Taylor, Knight and Beaufoy, besides whom were present: Revd Walter Shirley, Revd David Jones, Revd Nathaniel Rowlands, Revd Samuel Phillips, Revd Mr Bradford, Revd Mr Williams, Revd Mr Johnson, and a great many of Lady Huntingdon's students and committees.
[f. 27r.] Mr Wills apologised for not calling upon the other five from the great lapse of time, and after singing the 3d and 4th verses of hymn 129th, delivered the ordination prayer, immediately after which they proceeded to the imposition of hands.
There was also preaching on those days at the Mulberry Gardens and at the meeting house late Mr Maxwell's in Princes Street, Moorfields to which Mr Calvert belongs and which is joined to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connection.
Agreed to make an annual collection at our respective chapels for the support of the traveling fund, and the same to be recommended to all the chapels in the country under Lady Huntingdon's patronage that are in a capacity to bear it.
All the collections to be remitted to our committee and the account to be subject to the inspection of the ministers and committees at the annual general meeting intended to be held in London or elsewhere, as her Ladyship shall appoint. Agreed that Whitsuntide is the most eligible season of the year for such annual association.
We made our collection for the traveling fund, on which occasion Mr Jones of Llangan preached two sermons: in the morning on Mark 16, 15 and in the evening on Isaiah 53, 11. The collections, with some subscriptions intended to be annual, amounted to £150 6s. 3d.
A pretty long time has elapsed since I had occasion to write to your Ladyship. I have now to acquaint you that last month we lost a worthy and useful member of the committee, Mr Robert Hughes, who we have no doubt is gone to glory. To fill up the vacancy we have unanimously made choice of Mr Richard Butterworth, a gentlemen whose modesty and diffidence overcame our pressing sollicitations to accept the office on former vacancies, but who is now prevailed on by Mr Wills, whose entire approbation I apprehend is a sufficient recommendation to your Ladyship. To which it is but bare justice to add that we have on all occasions found Mr B's heart and purse open in every labour of love for the glory of God and the good of souls: we have no doubt therefore your Ladyship will approve and confirm our choice.
Dear Mr Wills preaches sweetly and evangelically with much life and power, and his divine master owns and blesses his [f. 28v.] ministry. It is not without much concern we think of parting with him so long a season as he talks of. He has just begun the long wished for society here. Tuesday last was the first meeting, which was pretty numerous considering that none are admitted without tickets, to obtain which a previous examination is required. Next Tuesday the sacrament is to be administered to the society only.
206. The petition from Wigan is under consideration here. Something will be done for them, tho' perhaps not equal to what may be expected. Applications in London are so frequent that few individuals can be very liberal on any one occasion. From hence, as desired, it shall go to the Mulberrygarden.
I don't know whether your Ladyship has been informed that no congregation contributed any thing last year to the traveling fund besides ours, except Bristol £20 11s. 1d. The noble example of Spa-field not being followed by other places, 'tis to be feared that fund, instituted for the best of purposes, will dwindle to nothing for want of zeal or ability in other congregations to assist in its support. (fn. 1) Will your Ladyship excuse my reminding you of the expences at Mr Dupont's? Towards which you proposed making me a remittance, which if convenient would come in with propriety before our next annual meeting, when that account will be audited.
That the great head of the Church may abundantly bless all your designs and endeavours for the extension of the knowledge of himself and his salvation, and add many years with multiplied comforts to your valuable life is the unfeigned prayer of the committee, etc.
Mr Fidler produced a letter he had received from the Countess of Huntingdon dismissing him from being a member of the committee. Messrs Astle and Towers declared that as this dismission was for no fault whatever, nor for any other cause than that of expressing pretty plainly his disapprobation of some tunes used in the chapel, they thought it their duty to retire with him.
Mr Fidler having been dismissed and Messrs Astle and Towers having sent in letters of resignation to her Ladyship agreeably to their resolution the 26th ultimo, there are now three vacancies in the committee.
The Revd Mr Bradford, Knight, Porter and Stumphausen ordained John James and Charles William Milton in the presence of a large congregation to go as missionaries to New Brunswick in America. (fn. 2)
The Countess of Huntingdon sent the Revd Mr Wills a letter dismissing him from his services at the chapel. The ground of this dismission was Mr Wills's refusal to accede to the plan of a society lately formed for perpetuating her Ladyship's college in Wales after her decease. (fn. 3)
Dr Lyon having resigned his place in the committee in consequence of Mr Wills's dismission, whereby the number of the committee is reduced to ten, and Mr Fidler having been dismissed without just cause, [f. 30r.] resolved unanimously, to request the Countess of Huntingdon to send a letter to the former members of the committee, Messrs Fidler, Astle and Towers, inviting them to join us again.
Another special meeting of the committee for the purpose of receiving our three former brethren—Messrs Fidler, Astle and Towers, who came and were cordially welcomed by Messrs Oldham, Weatherill, Dupont, Carr, Silver, Hodson, Langston, Batley. Spent the whole time in prayer and singing.
The Countess of Huntingdon having summoned the committee to meet at the chapel house this evening to consider of forming an association to relieve her and take management of the whole Connection on themselves, being advised by Dr Lettsom to retire and throw off the burden.
All the committee met except Mr Langston and there were present five ministers, viz. Revd Mr Priestley, Rowlands, (fn. 4) Myers, Revd Mr Platt, Kirkman. Also three or four from Holywell Mount and the Mulberry [f. 30v.] Gardens of their committees or managers.
4. That the management, direction and controul of the whole Connexion should devolve on the association, whose view and intention was to keep it together and maintain it with energy after the decease of the Countess.
216. The minutes of the meeting were to be laid before her Ladyship and her answer to be reported at the next meeting, agreed to be held on Thursday December 3, and all present to be summoned by written notices.
These notices to our committee were neglected or purposely omitted, and the meeting on the 3d December was attended by only 4 ministers, 2 of our committee [f. 31r.] viz., Messrs Weatherill and Batley, and 2 from Holywell Mount. Nevertheless this small meeting formed themselves into an association, altho' the answer from the Countess to the requisitions of the first meeting was, not to lay the state of the chapels, etc. before us.
This conduct begun and persevered in, occasioned a meeting on Monday the 21st December at Mr Dupont's at which were present: Messrs Oldham, Carr, Silver, Dupont, Fidler, Astle, Hodson, Towers, Butterworth, Langston. When the following letters were agreed on and signed by all present.
We the undersigned, members of the committee of the said chapel, beg you will please to present our thanks to the gentlemen of the association for their civility in augmenting their intended number in order to make room for us.
But as the sentiments declared and unanimously approved at the first meeting held the 23d of November are not made the basis of this association; as it was formed at a small meeting when we was not summoned [f.31v.] by written notices as was agreed; as the object it professes to have in view is no other than might have been obtained without such an association; and as it does not appear to us to be calculated to promote the great and important ends our ideas of an association went to accomplish; we do not see it right to join it.
These are the real motives which influence us in our conduct on the present occasion, and we hope your Ladyship will not take it ill if our sentiments on this business differ from those of your Ladyship.
Your Ladyship's faithful and humble (fn. 5) servants,
Mr Dupont went to prayer: after which Mr Oldham represented to the committee that altho' several attempts had been made by some of us as individuals to effect a reconciliation between the Countess of Huntingdon and the Revd Mr Wills, the committee had not attempted it jointly. He therefore wished to take the opinion of us at this meeting whether it did or did not appear a duty incumbent on us to wait on the Countess in a body and try if a reconciliation could not be brought about.
In conversing freely on the subject the first difficulty started was the meeting which Mr Wills had taken on a 21 years lease in Silver Street and on which it was said £700 had been laid out. But a greater obstacle than this arose, which was Mr Astle's determining to resign if Mr Wills should return: therefore we resolved not to heal one breach by making another; so the design was dropped.
The Revd Mr Rowlands having begun a collection for erecting a new chapel at Haverfordwest (fn. 6) and the Revd Rowland Hill having heard of the same and declared it to be unnecessary for that no new place was wanted there, (fn. 7) having also wrote Mr Rowlands desiring a conference which was refused, Mr Hill printed some hand bills and had them distributed at Spafields chapel this day tending to discourage the collection for the intended chapel. Lady Huntingdon, by Dr Ford, in the evening patronized and encouraged it.
After canvassing the matter at large it was agreed to desire a conference with Mr Rowlands this evening, for which purpose we sent to Sion chapel requesting to see him at Spafields immediately after evening service. He came, and the principal point in dispute seemed to be the administering the sacrament by Mr Joss and other lay preachers in the Tabernacle Connection, which Mr Rowlands objected to, saying it was administered only by clergymen in all the chapels in Wales. (fn. 8)
Messrs Oldham and Hodson waited on Mr Hill and had a long conversation with him. He said the Tabernacle at Haverford having been built on the broad bottom of admitting both churchmen and dissenters, the administration of the sacrament by the latter could not be given up. He contended there was no necessity for a new place of worship and in conclusion agreed to refer the matter to the Revd D. Jones, Mr Griffith and Mr Charles, three ministers of the Church of England in the Countess of Huntingdon's Connection and Mr Rowlands's own friends. Messrs Oldham and Hodson thought the proposal a fair one, and the next morning, January 4, Mr Hodson waited on Mr Rowlands at the chapel house to communicate it to him, but he did not accede to it, which occasioned the following letter to Mr Hill:
Sensible of the great injury the cause of God suffers from the differences of Christians, and especially of ministers, we and our brethren the committee of Spafield chapel, should have rejoiced to have been the happy instruments of terminating amicably the disagreements between you and Mr Rowlands. But we are sorry to say that your proposal of referring the matter in dispute to Mr D. Jones, Mr Griffiths and Mr Charles is not accepted by Mr Rowlands. We can therefore only lament that our interference was not successful and must leave the affair to the great head of the Church [f. 34v.] who knows how to overrule even divisions for his own glory, and to bring good out of every evil.
The committee being summoned to attend this morning after service in the committee room, the following members were present, viz. Messrs Weatherill, Oldham, Silver, Fidler, Astle, Butterworth, Hodson, Towers, Langston, Batley.
Messrs Oldham and Hodson related what had passed between them and Mr Hill and Mr Rowlands's refusal of the proposal Mr Hill had made. After some conversation the following resolution was agreed to with only Mr Batley's dissent:
Resolved that this committee, as lovers of peace [f. 35r.] and without partiality, disapprove of the measure of building another meeting at Haverfordwest considering it as unnecessary and tending to create divisions and disturbances in the church of Christ.
Sunday morning Mr Haweis preached from Prov. 10, 7—The memory of the just is blessed. Evening, 1 Thess. 4, 14—For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Sunday 26, morning on Acts 2, 42—And they continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. Evening on Luke 16, 31—If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The funeral set out about a quarter before eight from the chapel house in Spafield where she died, consisting of a hearse and six, and three coaches and six (two of them at the committee's expence), (fn. 9) but no escutcheons; and went through Islington, Highgate, etc.
Revd Mr Haweis, Revd Dr Ford and John Lloyd, esqr.
Messers Weatherill, Astle, Hodson and Mr Hinde, one of Sion chapel committee
Messrs Silver, Towers, Langston, Batley
and in Mr Haweis's own coach, Revd Mr Kirkman, Mr Best her Ladyship's secretary and Mr Dodd, apothecary. [f. 35v.] At Highgate Mr Haweis, Dr Ford and Mr Lloyd quitted the mourning coach and returned to town in Mr Haweis's. Mr Best, Mr Dodd and Mr Kirkman proceeded in the first coach, out of which the others had alighted. Mr Dupont, undertaker, went on horseback to Highgate and then got into a chaise.
Mr Weatherill went on with the funeral to Ashby de la Zouch (fn. 10) with Messrs Kirkman and Best, the rest of us returned home in our two coaches.
Mr Haweis reported that Lady Huntingdon's debts were about £3000 of which £1200 is on account of Sion chapel. That her freehold houses at Bath, Brighton and Hereford must be sold to pay those debts, as far as they will go. That she has left £200 per annum in annuities to be paid to Lady Ann Erskine, Mr Best, etc. That she had strongly [f. 36r.] recommended the college to be kept up, but had left no funds for that purpose. (fn. 11)
Mr Haweis proposed keeping up a strong ministry at both chapels as the only means of making them productive, and said if we had the best ministers we must pay them liberally. He mentioned 3 guineas per week and the ministers to provide their own table, but in an after conversation it was thought best for the housemaid to provide and keep a book of expences— the ministers of Spafield and Sion chapels to be both accomodated in Spafield chapel house, and the committee of Sion chapel to pay half the housekeeping. The allowance to ministers to be 2 guineas per week, and what shall be thought right, according to the distance, for their traveling charges.
Mr Jones preached the funeral sermon in the morning on Gen. 50, 24 —I die, and God will surely visit you. Mr Haweis in the evening on 2 Cor. 5, 8—We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Her Ladyship was buried in the family vault at Ashby on Thursday the 30 June. (fn. 12)
The service began at 6 o'clock with singing, 'Ye servants of God, your master proclaim,' etc. Mr Ford then prayed for the Lord's presence and blessing, after which were sung the two first verses of, 'Blow ye the trumpet, blow,' etc.
Mr Kirkman then delivered an introductory discourse on the authority from scripture and the practice of the apostles and ministers in the primitive church for thus solemnly setting apart for the work of the ministry such as appear to be called by the great head of the church to that office.
He then called on Mr Thompson to relate his christian experience, which he did in a very satisfactory manner, saying that he was brought out of darkness into light by the instrumentality of the Revd Mr Browning, one of the ministers in this Connection: and when he had been brought into gospel light and liberty he found a strong desire to communicate what he knew of the grace of God to his fellow sinners; but strove to evade the thoughts of going into the ministry till at length advising with Mr Browning he was encouraged, and Mr Browning wrote to Lady Huntingdon on his behalf, who received him into the Connection.
230. Mr Thompson then read the 15 articles which he declared his assent and consent to: which having done he gave out, 'If so poor a worm as I,' and the following verse. He then came down from the seat on which he [f. 37r.] stood, and kneeling at the rail of the communion table, the three ministers laid their right hands on his head, and Mr Caldwell imploring the Lord's blessing in a short prayer; Mr Kirkman put the Bible into his hands, saying dear Brother Thompson take thou authority to preach the word of God and administer his holy ordinances, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
That verse was then sung, 'Give reward of grace and glory,' etc. Mr Caldwell then went into the desk, Mr Thompson standing before him, and delivered a most excellent charge from 1 Tim. 6, 20—O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust.
After which the 1st and 3d verses of, 'Captain of thine enlisted host,' were sung, and Mr Kirkman concluded with prayer and singing, 'Blessings for ever on the lamb,' etc. It was just nine o'clock when the service ended.
A vacancy was declared in the committee, occasioned by the death of Mr Towers. Mr John Cooper, Mr Fyffe and Mr J. T. Holmes were [f.37v.] mentioned, and the choice fell unanimously on Mr Cooper, who was accordingly recommended to Lady Anne and by her invited to join us, which with much diffidence of his abilities he accepted.
Mr Langston moved, and it was resolved, that Mr James Baker ought not to continue a member of the committee as he not only does not contribute to any of the extra expence of the chapel, but when last in town was so extremely mean as to refuse paying 3s. a quarter for his seat, altho' pressed and reasoned with on the subject. Lady Anne was requested to write him a dismission.
The accounts for 1794 was audited, by which there appears a balance due to the treasurer of £96 14s. 11 3/4d. exclusive of the repair, no part of which is taken into this account. (fn. 13) [f. 38r.]
Resolved also that whereas the Revd Mr Haweis is to preach a sermon in the chapel on Tuesday next, the 22d instant, to the ministers and others associated with a design to send missionaries abroad, (fn. 14) it is expedient to inform Mr Haweis previously that no collection can be made at our chapel for that society, the congregation at Spa Fields being already burthened enough.
Mr Hodson proposed, and it was unanimously agreed, that Lady Anne be requested to add Mr Butcher senior and Mr Holmes to the committee, as several of the present members seldom or never attend any of the committee meetings. All present, except Mr Oldham, waited on Lady Anne who entirely coincided with us.
Mr Butcher senior being deceased and Mr Hodson wishing to decline the treasurer and secretary's office, desired Lady Anne Erskine to invite Mr Robert Butcher the son to accept a place in the committee, with a view to succeed Mr Hodson. Mr Butcher was accordingly invited and took some time to consider of it. And on the 31st of October sent a letter to Mr Hodson signifying his acceptance.
Mr Astle reported that —— whom Lady Anne has taken into the house to visit the sick was complained of by the Revd Mr Glascott and the Revd Thomas Jones as being much employed in the domestic concerns, and so exceedingly——disposition: (fn. 15) also that the ministers had not proper attention paid them by the servants of the house.
Mr Oldham and Mr Hodson also mentioned complaints that had been made to them by other ministers that the ministers were not comfortable in the chapel house: and there was reason to believe that was the cause why the Revd Mr Griffiths and the Revd David Jones did not come again. It was also thought that the house was too full of people which makes it unpleasant for a minister or two ministers to reside in, there being four female persons besides Lady Anne, viz. Mrs Durie, Mrs Bromwich, Nanny the late housemaid and the new housemaid, besides which there had been another, an Irish woman. Add to all these Mr ——.So many people dwelling in the house necessarily occasion more noise, confusion [f. 39r.] and disorder than the committee wish, or can be thought agreeable to the resident ministers for Spa Fields and Sion chapels. (fn. 16)
5. That there be a fixt hour for the morning and evening prayers in the family. (fn. 17)
Since the death of Lady Anne Erskine, who departed this life on Friday October 5 1804, and of her successor the Revd Dr Ford, who died on Monday May 26 1806, Mr Groves also having departed this life 1 July 1806; Messrs Oldham, Butcher and Langston, who were successively chosen in their room as the devisees or trustees of Lady Huntingdon, with the Revd Dr Haweis, agreed to meet on the business of the Connection in the little parlour of the chapel-house every Tuesday at half past five, at which meetings they invited any of their brethren of the committee to attend. This evening, in consequence of a resolution which had previously passed to add two or three to the committee on account of some being removed into the country and some others being old and infirm, it was agreed to invite Mr Joseph Tarn, Mr John Moreland and Mr Edward Fleetwood, all of whom accepted the call within a few days.
Mr Edward Lake, late a student at Cheshunt College, having given proof of his ability and fitness for the ministry at Worcester, Spafields and Sion chapels, and other places, was this evening ordained at Spa-fields in the presence of a large congregation.
The Revd Mr Kirkman began with prayer. After singing the Revd Mr Bickerdike delivered an introductory discourse on the nature, authority and antiquity of ordination, and called on Mr Lake to relate the dealings of God with him in his conversion and his call to the ministry, which he did in a very full, clear and satisfactory manner, and then read out our 15 articles, to which he declared his hearty assent and consent.
The Revd Mr Jones then delivered an affectionate charge and the Revd Samuel Franklin concluded with prayer. The solemnity began at half past five o'clock, it concluded soon after eight. All the trustees of the college were present.
Mr John Cooper, a member of the committee at Spa-fields chapel, died at Ashbourn. (fn. 18)
Some time was then spent in conversation, where it was considered that Spa-fields chapel being the head and centre of the Connection, it is expedient at all times to keep up there a strong and effective committee; that although the present number is nominally 15, yet as Mr Weatherill and Mr Fidler are become incapable of attending, Mr Silver never attends, Mr Holmes is gone to reside in the country, and some others are growing old and infirm, it is advisable to make an addition of two or three who have been many years members of the congregation.
This being the sense of the meeting, Mr Oldham proposed Mr Henry Fyffe, Mr William Pontin and Mr John King, who being unanimously approved of, they were invited, and after taking a little time for consideration, they all accepted the call.
The committee therefore comprises the following names, viz. Mr Oldham, Mr Weatherill, Mr Carr, Mr Silver, Mr Dupont, Mr Fidler, Mr Astle, Mr Hodson, Mr Butterworth, Mr Langston, Mr Batley, Mr Holmes, Mr Butcher, Mr Tarn, Mr Moreland, Mr Fyffe, Mr Pontin, Mr King.
Mr Robert Butcher was unanimously elected, but as Mr Astle could not possibly attend this meeting, it was thought a mark of due respect to acquaint him and have his approbation before Mr Butcher was informed. Mr Astle entirely concurred with his brethren, and Mr Butcher, after some hesitation and persuasion, accepted the office.
At this meeting a conversation also took place about filling up the vacancy in the general trust for the Connexion, when Mr Batley was unanimously fixed on, but he was not now formally elected because Mr Butcher, one of the electors, was not present. Mr Butcher, when spoken to, approved and Mr Batley, with some persuasion, consented.
Messrs James Bridgeman and Thomas Griffiths, who had been students at the college, were ordained at Spa-fields chapel by the following ministers, viz. the Revd Dr Draper, the Revd Messrs Kirkman, Thomas Bennett, Robert Stodhart and John Griffiths. At half past 5 the service commenced thus: after singing Mr Kirkman prayed. Dr Draper addressed the very numerous audience on the nature and antiquity of ordination and called on the two candidates to relate their call by grace and to the ministry, which they did very satisfactorily. Mr Bridgeman then read the 15 articles, to which their assent and consent was required and given. The Revd Mr Bennett then prayed the ordination prayer and they were ordained by imposition of hands. Dr Draper gave an excellent charge grounded on Acts 20, 28, and Mr John Griffiths concluded with prayer.
In the fornoon, the service commencing a quarter after ten, Mr Thomas Nuccol Miller and Mr Thomas Keyworth, late students at the college, were ordained at Spa-fields chapel. After singing the first three verses of the first hymn, the Revd William Mather began with prayer; then the Revd Edward Lake delivered a very suitable discourse on the subjects who are proper for ordination and the qualifications absolutely necessary thereto. Mr Miller first, and then Mr Keyworth, related in a very satisfactory manner God's gracious dealings with them in their conversion and call to the ministry, and declared their assent and consent to the 15 articles of faith which were read by Mr Keyworth. The Revd Thomas Jones prayed the ordination prayer, his hands being at the same time on the heads of the two candidates, after which the Revd Josiah Jehoiada Richards, tutor of the college, went into the pulpit and delivered an excellent charge grounded on 1 Timothy 3, 15— That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God. The Revd John Mather concluded with prayer.
250. It should have been noticed before that the trustees of the college had a special meeting on Wednesday the 11th of April to elect a trustee in the room of Mr Weatherill deceased, when Mr James Carr, one of the oldest members of the committee, was chosen.