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The precepts rather than the person of Christ were the subject of their discourses, and as they spake in terms of the highest reverence of the Saviour, they excited no suspicion of their orthodoxy, from which indeed in the first instance their deviations were slight. It is not intended by these remarks to say that there was any intentional reserve, much less of deceptiveness. The Sabellianism of Job Orton the biographer of Doddridge, would excite no alarm even in many modern congregations, except among the most critical hearers and ardent lovers of a full weighted orthodoxy. It is probable that after the death of Mr. Brodhurst there was a gradual and unsuspected deflection from the strict line of Trinitarianism. It was not, however, till the time of Mr. Howell that Arianism was openly avowed and preached from the pulpit of the Old Meeting-house. In the congregation there were still some who held fast the truth of Christ's true and proper divinity, and who, in a peaceable but firm manner, contended earnestly for what they considered to be “the faith once delivered to the saints." Remonstrance was vain, for they were in the minority, and they therefore quietly withdrew. The leaders of the separatists were John Humphries, George Davies, John England, Richard Jukes, — Kendal, - Halford, Thomas Allen, Clement Fisher. These are now only names to us, for those who bore them are all forgotten.
It will be seen from this statement that we, of the Carr's-lane congregation, have no occasion to be ashamed of our pedigree, nor to blush over our parentage. We have not sprung from faction, nor were we born of strife and contention. Our ancestors and founders were not a band of martyrs, certainly, in the conventional acceptation of that term, though as certainly in its etymological meaning, for they were confessors and witnesses of the truth. Their station in society is of little consequence, but still it is well when piety and wealth are combined, as was the case with many of them. One of them, I mean Mr. England, was a benefactor by his will to the congregation, and during his life made a present to the church of its sacramental silver service, which bears his name, and which we now use. He was buried within the walls of the chapel.
The first, most natural, and most urgent solicitude of the separatists was to provide a house in which to meet for the worship of God; and that was at length built in Carr's-lane. It may not be uninteresting to the members of the church assembling there to know the derivation of a name which has become so dear and so interesting to them. I had always supposed that it had its origin in some individual who had property here, or who for some reason or other had given his cognomen to the locality: but the designation is not quite so honourable, or of such cherished remembrance, as the parentage of the church. In Popish times, when the various matters used in processions connected with the Roman Catholic religion, were conveyed to and from the mother church of St. Martin's, the vehicle in which these socalled sacred articles were carried was desiguated “God's cart,” and because the hovel in which the holy carriage was kept happened to be in this locality it was called
Cart-lane,” which became altered by the changes to which language is subject in the progress of time, into "Car-lane,"* and ultimately into “Carr's-lane." Things are strangely and delightfully altered since then, both at St. Martin's and in Carr's-lane. And this alteration extends to other subjects than those just enumerated, for the lane itself, if it cannot be dignified by calling it a "street,” which in fact I do not covet, was then only about half the width it now is: and that the congregation may duly estimate their present appearance and comfort, I also inform them that in the front of the land purchased for the site of the intended meeting-house, and for many years in front of the place of worship itself, was a row of small tenements, through a gate-way in the middle of which, the house of God was approached; while another row of tenements ran along the whole west side of the building; so that the congregation were put to much inconvenience by various noises and other annoyances. A member of the Society of Friends once remarked, in reference to the poor people who inhabited these tenements, “That if the Carr’s-lane congregation were addicted to works of mercy, they need not go far to find objects for their bounty ;" while Hutton, in his own style of levity and low wit, remarks, “The residence of divine light is totally eclipsed, by being surrounded with about forty families of paupers, crowded almost within the compass of a giant's span, which amply furnish the congregation with noise, smoke, dirt, and dispute. If the place itself is the road to heaven, the stranger would imagine that the road to the place led to something worse.” But by the mention of the site and its local appearance we have a little anticipated what follows.
* The Rev. John Garbett, Rector of St. George's, and Rural Dean, gave me this information, which he obtained by searching into some old records found among the muniments of King Edward's School, of which he is one of the Governors.
The meeting-house was commenced in 1747, and was opened for worship in the summer of 1748, when the Rev. James Sloss, of Nottingham, preached from Psalm CXXII. 1, “I was glad when they said, let us go into the house of the Lord.” The pulpit was supplied by the neighbouring ministers till November in the same year, when the church invited Mr. Wilde, then assistant minister to Mr. Sloss, to become their pastor, who was ordained in August, 1750. Why so long a time elapsed between his being chosen as pastor and his ordination, does not appear. As the new place of worship was very small, and the service was likely to excite considerable attention, the New Meeting-house, of which Mr. Bourn was then minister, was most courteously granted for the occasion. Dr. Toulmin relates, in his memoir, that Mr. Bourn was present, when he was so moved and disturbed by the sentiments advanced in the confession, which were strictly Calvinistic, “ That he made several efforts to rise and controvert them at the moment; and was with difficulty restrained from an open and immediate animadversion, by his friend Mr. Job Orton, who was sitting by his side.” “In this instance,” says his biographer, “Mr. Bourn's zeal will be thought to have transported him beyond the rules of decorum and that forbearance and deference which are due to the feelings of others, and their right to deliver their sentiments without interruption and molestation. But it will be recollected that he lived nearer to times in which it had not been unusual to controvert, at the moment and on the spot, principles advanced by the preachers in places of worship. In the preceding century, Dr. Gunning, afterwards Bishop of Ely, went, on two Lord's days, to Mr. Biddle's meeting house, accompanied by some learned friends, and publicly commenced a disputation with him. It is an improvement in modern manners that these intrusions on the order of a religious society, and attacks by surprise, are discarded."
The two first deacons of Carr's-lane church were Mr. Kendal and Mr. England. In reference to the former it is said in our ecclesiastical archives, and what richer encomium can be passed on any deacon! “He was truly the servant of the church, that employment being his delight. He was an Israelite indeed.”*
The spirit of persecution, though restrained by the Act of Toleration, was at this time malignantly bitter in the way of petty and private opposition. During the early part of his ministry in Birmingham, Mr. Wilde was exposed to many annoyances, such as having stones thrown at him in the streets by night, and his garments soiled by filth, which he bore with patience and dignified indifference.
He appears, by every account that has reached us, to have been an earnest, devoted, and popular minister, and soon filled the chapel with serious and attentive hearers of the word of life. His ministry was eminently successful, which is to be attributed not only to his preaching, but to his catechetical instructions; a method of teaching to which he devoted much time and attention. His catechumens consisted not exclusively of children, but of all the young people of his congregation, to whom as they stood round the front of the gallery he would address himself with great solemnity. He was also very impressive in his admonitions to parents when they presented their children for baptism. In short, Mr. Wilde appears to have come fully up to the idea of an earnest minister of Christ.
After labouring about sixteen years, Mr. Wilde died, November 14, 1766. It is supposed his illness was brought on by attending, when he was somewhat indisposed, the funeral of Mr. Thomas Allen. How many faithful ministers of Christ have been sacrificed by being present, when they were themselves indisposed, at the
* If I descend to some particulars in the history of my own congregation, which a fastidious taste might deem too trivial for history, it is for the sake of those who belong to it, to whom wothing of this kind will be tedious.