« VorigeDoorgaan »
generally Unitarian, even this relic of Presbyterianism is laid aside, and all things are directed by the popular voice. The only real Presbyterians in this kingdom are those who adopt the principles and polity of the national Church of Scotland—of the Free Church or of the United Presbyterian Church, of all which, especially the second, there are many congregations south of the Tweed.
THE OLD MEETING CONGREGATION.
Mr. Turton's ministry appears to have been eminently successful, and the number of Nonconformists was rapidly augmented in Birmingham. Mr. Wreford, in his “Sketch,” says, “At this period and for a long time after by far the larger part of the population of the town were dissenters.” And he also states that the population consisted of about ten thousand. I cannot help thinking he is a little mistaken in his statistics, both as regards the population of the town and the increase of dissenters, giving too high a number for each. Hutton makes the population to be only about eight thousand; and it appears not very likely that by far the larger part of even these were dissenters; for if this were the case they would have needed more accommodation for public worship than they appear to have possessed.
The first annoyance and disturbance which the Nonconformists of this town experienced, after the passing of the Toleration Act, occurred in the year 1715, when, on the death of Queen Anne, a Tory rage was kindled against the dissenters as the most zealous friends and supporters of the Hanoverian succession. The Old Meeting-house was attacked, and the interior almost entirely destroyed by fire. The sanctity of the Sabbath and the solemnities of public worship afforded no check to the passions of the mob, for these scenes of violence occurred on the Lord's-day. At that same time the meeting-house at Bromwich was pulled down to the ground. The mob then proceeded to Oldbury and rushed into the place of worship while the minister was in his sermon, so that the people had scarcely time to escape before the house was on fire. The tide of mischief then rolled on to Dudley, Stourbridge, and Cradley.
This happened in the last year but one of the venerable Mr. Turton's holy and peaceful life and useful ministry. In 1716 he closed his earthly career, and passed to that scene of untroubled repose, where the strifes of party and the ebullitions of malevolence and bigotry have no place; where all the air love, and all the region peace.
At his death Mr. Brodhurst, and for a short season Mr. Greenwood also, remained as joint ministers, who took under their care the congregation of Protestant dissenters which had been formed at Oldbury. Mr. Brodhurst continued his ministry till the year 1730, and then died. If we may judge from the volume of sermons published after his death, it could have been no ordinary privilege to enjoy the ministry of such a preacher of “the faith once delivered to the saints." He was buried in St. Philip's church-yard, and as a proof, both of the illiberality of those times, and also of the happy change which has since come over the spirit of the English Church, I may mention that the then rector of the parish refused to the friends of Mr. Brodhurst the melancholy satisfaction of inscribing an epitaph on his tomb. I can well imagine with what pleasure such a request would have been granted by the present rector; with what respect the Honorable and Reverend Grantham York would have looked the sepulchral urn of such a man as Mr. Brodhurst; and how often as he passed his grave he would pause to read the inscription which perpetuated his memory.
What bigotry refused, friendship supplied, for a mural monument was erected in the front of the New Meeting-house, bearing a Latin inscription from the pen of Dr. Watts, of which the following is a translation :
This marble calls to our remembrance
A person of superior skill in divinity,
An impartial enquirer after truth,
A preacher that excelled
A pastor vigilant beyond his strength
Over the flock committed to his charge :
A man adorned with many virtues,
Go, reader, expect the day
How deserving a person
The church on earth bemoans,
Well done good and faithful servant.' Mr. Brodhurst was followed in succession by Mr. Mattock, Mr. Wilkinson, and then Mr. Howell. It was under this last mentioned gentleman the secession took place which led to the formation of the church in Carr'slane.
The following is Mr. Wreford's list of the ministers of the Old Meeting-house, in the order of their succession, and to the present time :Rev. W. Turton
From 1686 to 1716
1714 1730 D. Mattock
1732 1746 J. Wilkinson
1739 1756 W. Howell
1746 1770 S. Clark
1756 1769 R. Scholefield
1772 1799 N. Nichols
1779 1784 J. Coates
1785 1801 R. Kell ..
1801 1821 J. Corrie
1817 1819 S. W. Browne
1819 1821 H. Hutton
The following list shows their connexion with each other :
1686 Rev. W. Turton 1716 with 1700 Rev. D. Greenwood 1730 1714 E. Brodhurst 1730
ditto 1739 J. Wilkinson 1756 1732 D. Mattock 1746 ditto
1746 W. Howell 1772 1757 S. Clark 1769
ditto 1772 R. Scholefield 1799 1779 N. Nichols 1784 ditto
1715 J. Coates 1801 1801 R. Kell 1821 1817 J. Corrie 1819 ditto
S. W. Browne 1821
Mr. Kell was the last of the Arian ministers of the Old Meeting-house, and Mr. Corrie the first of the Unitarians. The Rev. Hugh Hutton is the present minister of the Old Meeting-house.
THE NEW MEETING-HOUSE, MOOR-STREET, It has been already shewn that there were two congregations of Nonconformists in Birmingham, during the latter part of the time of the Stuarts, and at the commencement of the reign of William III. That of which Mr. Turton was pastor built the Old Meetinghouse in 1689; where they met before this, from the time of James's indulgence, we are not told. But where did the other assemble? Of this, as to their early history, we are entirely ignorant : but we find that in 1692 a second place of worship was erected in Digbeth. On the subject of this second place there is conflicting testimony. Hutton makes the place in Digbeth the first and original seat of Nonconformist worship, and affirms that the Old Meeting was a subsequent erection. Dr Toulmin, in his Memoirs of Mr. Bourn, and Mr. Wreford after him, state the contrary, that the Old Meeting was the first erection, and that the place in Digbeth was occasioned by the increase of the congregation in the Old Meeting, part of which seceded and built the house in Digbeth. I am inclined to think, with Dr. Toulmin and Mr. Wreford, as to the date of the two erections, but that the congregation in Meetinghouse-yard was a distinct and separate congregation, else how shall we account for Calamy's language in reference to Mr. Turton's settlement over one of the congregations at Birmingham ?" A part of the building in Dig. beth converted into a workshop, and bearing more resemblance to a private dwelling than to a place of worship, is still remaining. It is situated in the lowest part of its locality, in a somewhat mean and dirty court, the approach to which is by a low dark gateway. Both the situation and remains of the building give no very impressive idea of its original magnitude or architectural taste, for nothing can be more unprepossessing. This, from its locality, was called "The Lower Meeting-house," while the other in Old Meeting street was for the same