Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

kind. Here also he prepared a new edition of the works of that profound divine and acute mataphysician, Jonathan Edwards, of New England; the notes to which contain some of the deepest reasonings on the subject of theology to be found in the English language. This was followed by a work entitled “Equity and Sovereignty," the great object of which is, while it goes through the whole range of the Calvinistic and Arminian controversy, to shew the harmony between the general proclamations and invitations of the gospel and its fixed and definite ends. In this work, as well as in his notes on Edwards, he was thought by many to have adventured with too bold and hazardous steps into regions of enquiry never intended, at any rate in the present world, to be explored by mortal ken.

About this time a desire was expressed, and an attempt made, to form a general union, for practical purposes, of the Congregational Churches; into this scheme, Dr. Williams cordially entered, and published a pamphlet on the subject, and thus afforded another proof that the man of the study and of deep thought, may be also a man of public spirit and active exertion. Through a mistaken view of the nature of Independency and the groundless jealousies of many of its supporters, the scheme entirely failed. Let us be thankful that what was unaccomplished in the last, has been achieved by the present, generation, and that now a flourishing Congregational Union for England and Wales happily exists in full and successful operation.

The last, and by many considered the best, production of Dr. Williams's pen, was “The Defence of Modern Calvinism,” in reply to Bishop Tomline's elaborate work, entitled “A Refutation of Calvinism." Every page of this reply to the Bishop of Lincoln bears the impress, not only of the gentleman, the scholar, and the divine, but of the philosopher and the Christian : it is redolent with the odour of sanctity, and adorned with all the beauty of Christian charity. To shew how conversant his mind was with these profound topics, and how easy composition had become to him, it is only necessary to inform the reader that it was commenced in September and published by Christmas, and was chiefly written, it is reported, at night, after supper.

Such labours, however, wore down his constitution, and after struggling with disease for several years, he expired at Masbro' on the 9th of March, 1813, in the sixty-third year of his age.

Such was Dr. Williams, one of the former pastors of the church assembling in Carr’s-lane chapel-not only blameless, harmless, and without rebuke, but eminently holy, spiritual, and devout. Serene in intellect, affectionate in disposition, and ever diplaying the meekness of wisdom, he was as much beloved as he was revered. His theology, though profound, was richly evangelical, and at the same time eminently practical. He, and his great contemporaries, Andrew Fuller and Scott the commentator, did immense service to truth by clearing away from Calvinism the encrustations by which, for ages, it had been partially concealed and still more disfigured, not only by a direct and positive antinomianism, but also by that warped and narrow-minded view of the doctrine of grace which was taken by many who would repudiate all predilection for antinomianism. As a Professor, Dr. Williams was eminently successful in the men he trained for the work of the ministry, among whom stands pre-eminent Dr. John Pye Smith, the Theological Professor of Homerton College, one of the most eminent general scholars and controversial divines of the age, as will be seen by his most learned and able work on "The Scripture Testimony to the Messiah."

The following is a list of Dr. Williams's literary labours :

THEOLOGICAL AND CONTROVERSIAL.—“Antipædobaptism examined,” 2 vols. 1789—“Letter to Dr. Priestley, to David Levi, and to Mr. Belsham,” 1790—“Essay on Equity and Sovereignty,” 1809 -Second edition of this work, entirely rewritten, 1813—“Modern Calvinism," 1812.

HOMILETICAL.—"Influence of Religion on Enquiries after Truth,” 1791–Ordination Charges to Fleming, to first Missionaries, to Bradley, to Hawkesley-Sermon "On glorying in the Cross,” 1801—“On the Resurrection," 1802—“On Predestination to Life,” 1804–Sermon before the Missionary Society, 1805 -On the Union of Churches,” 1808—"Apostolic Benevolence towards the Jews,”—six Posthumous Sermons.

EDITORIAL.—“Maurice's Social Religion,” abridged, 1786— “ Abridgment of Owen on Hebrews," 4 vols. 1790—“The Christian Preacher,” 1800—“Doddridge's Works,” with notes, 10 vols. 1802—“President Edwards's Works," with numerous notes, 8 vols. 1806.

On the removal of Dr. Williams, the congregation invited Mr. Jehoiada Brewer. Mr. Brewer was born at Newport, in Monmouthshire, in 1752, of highly respectable parents. His conversion to God was effected at Bath, by the preaching of Mr. Glascott, one of Lady Huntingdon's preachers. Soon after this, in the ardour of his “Arst love” and newly-kindled zeal, he commenced, under the sanction of this gentleman, a course of itinerant labours in the neighbouring villages. His preaching excited considerable attention, so that before he was twenty-two years of age he became a very popular preacher in Monmouthshire and the neighbouring counties. His intention, at that time, was to enter the national church, to prepare for which he placed himself under a clergyman to recover and improve the classical knowledge he had received at school; but being denied ordination, on account of his calvinistic sentiments, his methodistical spirit, and his preaching irregularities, he became a dissenter. His first settlement was at Rodborough, in Gloucestershire, where the way had been prepared for him by the labours of Whitfield, whose preaching led to the erection of the Tabernacle in that village, and on the most exquisitely beautiful spot of that lovely scene. Mr. Brewer remained at Rodborough about three years, and removed, in 1783, to Sheffield, where his popular talents as a preacher drew together a large congregation. Here he rendered himself a little obnoxious to some of his friends, about the time of the French Revolution, by the somewhat excessive zeal and fervour with which he threw himself into the political vortex of that stormy period of our history, and which led to his removal. From that time he became more cautious in expressing his opinions; and in addressing charges at their ordination to his younger brethren, he gave them very solemn cautions on this particular subject. On removing from Sheffield he received an invitation from the church at Carr's-lane to become their pastor, which he accepted, and settled in this town in the year 1796. With this church he remained till 1802, when an unhappy occurrence took place which caused his resignation of the pastorate in that community. He then withdrew, with a large portion of the church and congrega. tion, to a building in Livery-street, which had been erected for an amphitheatre, but which had been occupied afterwards by the united congregations of the Old and New Meeting-houses, during the re-erection of their places, destroyed in the riots of 1791. Here he attracted a large congregation, and was much admired by his followers. Towards the close of his ministry, his friends, suffering increasingly the inconvenience and annoyance of their place of worship in Livery-street, resolved to erect a new chapel, and for that purpose purchased a site in Steelhouse-lane. At the time of commencing the building Mr. Brewer was rapidly declining in health. On laying the foundation-stone, in 1816, he delivered an address, in the course of which he said, “You are going to build a chapel here for the exercise of my ministry, and with the hope and intention that I should labour in it; and yet most probably when you meet again for the purpose of opening it, you may have to walk over my sleeping dust.” This solemn and affecting anticipation was realised, for he died before the building was finished, and his ashes lie in a handsome tomb erected in front of the chapel.

It is a little remarkable that Mr. Brewer should have had a new chapel erected in Carr's-lane for him, in which he preached but one Sabbath before his removal to Livery-street; and that he should have had another commenced for him in Steelhouse-lane, the completion of which he did not live to witness.

Mr. Brewer was a man of strong intellect, and passions as strong. Commanding in person, and possessed of a good voice, he was fitted to be what he really was, a very striking and popular preacher. He published only a Pastoral Charge to Mr. Gardner, at Stratford-onAvon ; an Introductory Discourse at the ordination of Mr. Evans, at Foleshill; a Sermon before the Missionary Society in London; and an Oration at the interment of Mr. Pearce, of Cannon-street meeting.

After his removal, Mr. Joseph Berry, who had just completed his studies at Hoxton College, occupied the pulpit for about eight months, when the congregation gave an invitation to Mr. Bennet, of Romsey, Hants, subse

« VorigeDoorgaan »