« VorigeDoorgaan »
the church and himself. It has been affirmed, and in some cases not without truth, that ministers of religion, whether curates in the Church of England, or pastors of dissenting churches, are but ill provided for in the cold and wintry season of old age; that their flocks, when these servants of God can no longer benefit them by their active services, leave them amidst the infirmities of declining years to the bounty of others, or to penury and want. Such was not the conduct of the church in Cannon-street towards their venerable pastor on his resignation. A most affectionate correspondence took place on his laying down his office, and a resolution was promptly and generously passed to allow him an annuity for life of one hundred pounds per annum, which was ever punctually paid. *
On his resignation of the church in Cannon-street, Mr. Birt retired to Hackney, where for a few years he preached the evening lecture at Dr. Cox's chapel. But this soon proved too much for his declining strength, and he relinquished it, and only preached occasionally ; thus clinging to his beloved employ, and reluctantly retiring from it before the steady advance of the last enemy. When confined to the house, and familiarising himself with death and eternity, his mind was calm and cheerful, as will be seen by a letter written almost with a dying hand :—“My strength evidently declines, and I expect soon to go the way of all the earth; but I trust, through rich and sovereign grace, that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved I shall be admitted to the building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. This good hope keeps me calm, and patiently waiting for all the will of God concerning me. Never was I more, I might say, never was I so, sensible of my entire unworthiness and insufficiency. I look to our Lord Jesus Christ, saying,
* Precisely the same thing had been done for Mr. Kell, by the Old Meeting congregation, on his resignation. Happily such cases are not uncommon among dissenters; but still we say, O si sic omnes.
• A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall;
My Saviour, and my all! My support and peace are derived from his kindness, ability, and faithfulness alone : if he should fail me, I am undone; but he has said, I will never leave thee, and his presence and his favour constitute all my salvation and all my desire.”
In such a frame, and with such views, he came to the close of his labours and sufferings on November 1st, 1837, in the eightieth year of his age.
Mr. Birt was no ordinary man. His preaching was richly evangelical, energetic, and attractive. His gift in prayer was extraordinary for fluency, variety, and unction; while as a pastor his wisdom and faculty of government were unrivalled. It was my privilege to be on terms of peculiar intimacy with him, and as he was not altogether without his church troubles he made me, his frequent counsellor, and reposed his anxieties with one whom he deemed, and not without reason, a faithful friend. Among the pleasant recollections of the past are the hours I spent, and the intercourse I held, with this eminent and holy servant of our Lord Jesus. Honour to his memory! Mr. Birt published only a tract or two.
On the retirement of Mr. Birt, the church directed their attention to Mr. Swan, the present pastor. Mr. Swan received his ministerial education partly at the Baptist College, Bristol, and partly at the University of Edinburgh. He was then earnestly requested to proceed to India, as tutor of theology in the Serampore College, which was connected with the Baptist Mission, under the superintendance of Drs. Carey and Marshman. After three years he resigned this office, and received, through the venerable Carey, a testimony of their respect and affection, of which the following is an extract:“By the desire of the Committee I now write to say, that we unfeignedly regret your resolution to leave us, to whom personally you are very dear, and the college in which your labours have been decidedly useful.” On his arrival in England, Mr. Swan received a general and cordial invitation from the church in Cannon-street to become their pastor, which he accepted, and entered on the full discharge of his duties in 1828. His ministry has been very useful, as nearly a thousand members have been admitted to the church during his pastorate. He has published two or three discourses, one on the death of Mr. Hall, a second on Relative Duties, and a third on the Right Formation of Character.
The church in Cannon-street has been active in promoting the spread of the gospel in surrounding villages, and has within the last few years expended about £1200 in the erection of village chapels. It is numerous, and peaceful under their present pastor, and has sustained and still sustains a high place in the denomination to which it belongs. It has been singularly honoured in the number of its members who have been called out into the work of the ministry, of which a list is here
1657 Samuel Soden, Wolverston, in Suffolk
John Edmonds, Guilsborough
: 1781 John Edmo
1785 Edward Edmonds, Bond-street, Birmingham (their first pastor)
1786 Thomas Edmonds, Sutton-in-the-Elms, Leicestershire 1794 Benjamin Cave, Leicester
Thomas Uppadine, Hammersmith, near London
Mark Wilkes, Norwich
Thomas Carryer, Canada 1848 Jerrard Blakeman, Student at Bristol College.
The following is a chronological list and arrangement of its pastors :1737 Thomas Craner, 1738 1 1782 Henry Taylor, 1788
1790 Samuel Pearce, 1799 1751 James Morley, 1753 1802 Thomas Morgan, 1811 - Tolley,
1814 Isaiah Birt, 1825 1755 James Turner, 1780 | 1829 Thomas Swan
BOND-STREET MEETING-HOUSE. During the ministry of Mr. Taylor of Cannon-strret, three brothers of the name of Edmonds were called out
by the church to the work of preaching the gospel. Mr. Edward Edmonds* had been occasionally employed in this way under the sanction of his pastor, and after a short course of study at the Baptist College in Bristol, commenced his ministry at Wotton-under-Edge, in Gloucestershire. He soon left that place and returned to Birmingham. His own account of the foundation of the church shall now be given in his own words, taken from the archives of the society in Bond-street:
"About November, 1784, I, Edward Edmonds, began to preach in Deritend, and also at brother Isaac Downing's. Many persons were brought under concern for their precious souls. In the summer of 1785 the house became too small for the congregation, and I preached out of doors, morning and evening, for months together : but as winter approached, my friends became anxious, and seventeen persons, all of whom earned their bread by the sweat of their brow, subscribed fifty pounds towards the erection of a place of worship. We were advised to hire a roomt during the winter, and to postpone building till the next year. In the mean time several persons applied to me for baptism, and under the sanction of the Rev. James Butterworth, of Bromsgrove, on the 11th day of September, 1785, I had the honour of baptising twenty-three of these candidates, at the meeting-house in that town. These twenty-three, at the same time, were formed into a church, and by their choice I was called and settled over them as their pastor. The Lord grant it may be for his own glory, and the salvation of poor sinners. Amen and amen. .“ After this, seventeen persons were baptised at the
* The father of Mr. Edmonds, the Town Clerk of this borough.
+ This was at the top of Needless Alley, St. Philip's church yard.