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Title: Thirty years' history of the church and congregation in Prince's street chapel, Norwich
Author: Alexander, John L.
Language: English
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CHURCH AND CONGREGATION IN PRINCE’S STREET CHAPEL, NORWICH***


Transcribed from the 1847 Josiah Fletcher edition by David Price.



                          THIRTY YEARS’ HISTORY
                                  OF THE
                         CHURCH AND CONGREGATION
                                    IN
                         PRINCE’S STREET CHAPEL,
                                 NORWICH.


                                * * * * *

                            BY JOHN ALEXANDER,
                                 Pastor.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                 NORWICH:
                    JOSIAH FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET,
                          AND JARROLD AND SONS.
                       LONDON: JACKSON AND WALFORD.

                                  1847.



PREFACE.


THE following history was read to the congregation of the Rev. John
Alexander, at a tea party in St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, on Tuesday
evening, April 6, 1847, which was held for the purpose of celebrating the
thirtieth year of his ministry.  It is now published in compliance with
their request, and in the same style of personal address in which it was
originally delivered.  After it had been read, several members of the
congregation addressed the meeting; and the following resolutions were
unanimously passed:—

I.  Moved by Mr. Thomas Banks, seconded by Rev. J. Bryan.

    “That the history of the Church and Congregation connected with
    Prince’s Street Chapel, during the last thirty years, which has now
    been read, should awaken in our minds devout gratitude to God for
    graciously enabling us to overcome the various difficulties which
    have arisen in our course; for the enlargement, peace, and prosperity
    which have been granted to the Church, and to the Institutions
    associated with it; and for bringing us together at this time under
    circumstances which are calculated to awaken encouraging hope for the
    future.”

II.  Moved by Mr. Joseph Colman, seconded by Mr. Thomas Brooks.

    “That on this Thirtieth Anniversary of the residence of our beloved
    Pastor in Norwich, we are devoutly grateful to God for having first
    directed him hither, and for having permitted him to labour so long
    and so successfully amongst us: that we affectionately thank him, for
    his constant and faithful devotedness to the work of the ministry and
    the welfare of his people; and that we earnestly pray, that for yet
    many years to come, he may be spared to enjoy richly the blessings of
    the gospel, which he dispenses to others.”

III.  Moved by Mr. Frederic Pigg, seconded by Mr. Charles May and Mr.
Josiah Fletcher,

    “That an increased acquaintance with the doctrines and influence of
    the gospel of Christ, deepens our conviction of the importance of
    steadfastly adhering, in our Christian profession and practice, to
    the great and essential truths of evangelical religion, as declared
    by this church at its formation; and of promulgating them
    universally, in connection with those principles of ecclesiastical
    polity, which we believe to be alike in accordance with sacred
    scripture, and with religious liberty.”

The speeches delivered on this interesting occasion were reported in the
_Norfolk News_ of April 10, 1847, and the following account of the
meeting is extracted from its columns:—

    “On Tuesday evening the congregation of Prince’s Street Chapel,
    Norwich, held a Soirée in St. Andrew’s Hall, for the purpose of
    celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the ministry of the Rev.
    John Alexander.  About eight hundred persons of all ranks, and
    including some of various religious bodies, were present, in
    testimony of one who has earned in no common degree, the esteem of
    his fellow citizens.  We may refer to this tea party as an admirable
    example of the mode in which occasions of public interest may be made
    the means of stimulating social sympathies, and of promoting that
    harmony between the wealthy and the poor, which in England has been
    so long and so unhappily interrupted.  We may refer also to the
    review of the history of Prince’s Street chapel, and of the church
    and congregation assembling there, which was read by Mr. Alexander,
    as a narrative not only full of interest to all who desire the
    advancement of religion, but full of instruction to all who question
    the power of the voluntary principle.  Here we have an account of a
    chapel raised, of a church formed, of a congregation collected to the
    number of 1000 persons, of missions planted in two neighbouring
    hamlets, of a large Sunday school established, and of the active and
    efficient maintenance of all these during thirty years, by a
    comparatively poor body of persons, at an expense altogether of
    upwards of twenty-two thousand pounds.  Such a result is no mean
    proof of the efficacy of willinghood, when called into exercise by
    the ministry of a faithful and zealous pastor, and exerted by an
    affectionate and devoted people.”

The history which our esteemed minister read at the meeting, and which is
now printed from his manuscript, it is hoped will be an interesting and
useful document, especially to his own church and congregation, because
it will call to their remembrance “all the way which the Lord their God
hath led them” these thirty years; and, as a few additional copies will
be published for the use of the public, it may serve to show to persons
in general, the principles and working of a congregational church, during
a long and varied period of its existence.

Some beautiful verses composed for the occasion, are inserted at the
conclusion of the history.

                                                             JOHN VENNING,
                                                  Chairman of the Meeting.



THIRTY YEARS’ HISTORY.


THIRTY years are an important period in the history of an individual, and
even in the history of the world; and during the last thirty years, many
events have occurred, especially in this country, by which society has
been materially and extensively affected.  Civil and religious liberty
has been advanced; parliamentary representation has been reformed; Test
and Corporation Acts have been repealed; Catholics, and Protestants of
all denominations, have been rendered equally eligible for civil offices,
and for senatorial seats; slavery, throughout the British Colonies, has
been abolished; commerce has been brought into fellowship with freedom;
the power of steam has increased the facilities of manufacturing and of
travelling a thousand fold; and various institutions, for benevolent and
religious purposes, have been established in our land.  But, during these
thirty years, while these remarkable changes and improvements have been
taking place, a whole generation of human beings, not less in number than
eight hundred millions, have finished their earthly course, and have
passed into eternity!

During that important period, it has been my privilege to reside in this
city, and to exercise my ministry among you the members of my church and
congregation; and the close of such a period, affords a suitable
opportunity for presenting you with a brief history of the erection of
our place of worship, of the formation and advancement of the church, and
of other circumstances, connected with our spiritual and ecclesiastical
affairs.

Early in the year 1817, while I was pursuing my studies preparatory to
the christian ministry, in the college at Hoxton, now removed to
Highbury, I received an invitation to visit Norwich, and to preach, for a
few Sabbaths, in the Tabernacle.  This invitation, being sanctioned and
urged upon me by the Committee of the Institution, I accepted for a
period of three weeks, and I left London, by the Day Coach, on the
morning of Good Friday, April 4th, 1817.  It was a cold and comfortless
journey; the North-east wind blew bitterly; a passenger on the coach
filled me with anxiety and alarm by his account of the state of things in
the Tabernacle; and a few miles before we reached the city, we were
informed that, just as the Packet was starting to Yarmouth that morning,
the boiler had burst, and eleven of the passengers had been frightfully
mangled and destroyed.  On arriving at the city, I went, as I had been
directed, to the Tabernacle house, where Mr. Phillips, the aged minister,
resided, and where I expected to lodge.  The good old man and all his
household had gone to bed; and when, after loud and long knocking at the
door, I awoke him from sleep, and told him my name and my object in
coming, he replied, “I really don’t know you, Sir,” and instantly shut
down the window.  This reception, or rather rejection, though afterwards
in some measure explained and apologized for, was sufficiently
discouraging; but as it was impossible to return to London that night, I
determined to sleep at the Inn, and to wait for the disclosures of the
morrow.  I was then introduced to a few of the people, who received me
kindly.  The good old minister, too, interested and amused me by his
lively and picturesque descriptions of his ministerial life; and I began
to think that perhaps I might remain till the three weeks had expired.
On the first Sunday evening, I preached a sermon in reference to the
Steam Packet catastrophe, which had happened on the Friday.  The text was
Matthew xxiv, 44: “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye
think not, the Son of man cometh.”  The place was crowded.  The Lord
himself stood by me and strengthened me.  The congregation listened with
impressive silence and attention.  Many minds seemed to be deeply
affected; and I left the pulpit that night, thanking God, and taking
courage.  On the two following Sabbaths, the congregations were equally
large; and when they were over, I returned to London, partly to pursue my
studies, and partly to prepare an oration on the subject of Ancient
Heathenism, which I had been appointed to deliver at the anniversary of
the college; but, before I left, I promised to return, and to preach
during the whole of the Midsummer vacation.

My labours at the Tabernacle were resumed on Sunday, July 6th.  During
this visit, the congregations were very encouraging; and the people were
so earnest in requesting me not to return to London at the end of the six
weeks’ vacation, that, after consulting with my tutors, I agreed to
remain till the legal opinion was given, which would determine whether
the pulpit and the place of worship were under the control of the church,
or of the Trustees.  That opinion did not arrive till the fourteenth of
December.  It was the sabbath day.  On going to the Tabernacle, I was
informed that the decision was in favour of the Trustees; and as I had
been invited, not by them, but by the church and congregation, I had
therefore no legal right to continue to occupy the pulpit.  I had
prepared two sermons for the day.  The text in the morning was, 2
Corinthians iii, 18: “We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the
glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  At the close of the service, I
informed the congregation of the legal decision which had been given by
the Barrister to whom the question had been referred, and I gave notice
that my last sermon in the Tabernacle would be preached in the evening.
A very large congregation assembled, and much excitement and perplexity
prevailed.  My text was, Psalm xxx, 5: “Weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning.”  That text, it was often said afterwards,
built the new chapel.  The people felt as if the language was prophetic;
and amidst their night of weeping, they began to look forward to the
morning joy.  My own mind was, however, rather relieved by a decision
which seemed to open the way for my retirement from Norwich.  I had
received the most affectionate kindness from the people; they were
evidently exceedingly desirous to secure me as their minister; and they
were willing to make any sacrifices to induce my continuance.  But the
prospect of having to build a chapel; to re-organize the church; to
instruct and train up the people in congregational principles; to
originate Sunday Schools, and other institutions; to control and calm the
feelings which had been excited by the collision with the Trustees of the
Tabernacle; and other circumstances, led me to shrink from an undertaking
for which I felt I was incapable, owing to my youth and inexperience.
The invitation to become their minister, which was given me, and which
was signed by four hundred persons, was therefore declined on the second
of January, 1818; and I took my place in the coach, to return to London,
on my way to Kidderminster, where I had been requested to supply.  But on
the day of my departure, a deputation from the people waited on me, and
pressed upon me the invitation with such affectionate earnestness, and
with such assurances respecting the building of a new chapel, that I felt
the appeal to be irresistible, and I promised to lay the whole matter
before my tutors and friends, and to make it the subject of serious and
prayerful re-consideration.  The result was, a determination to return;
and I did return to preach my first sermon in the Lancasterian School, on
the twenty-fifth of January, 1818.  The text was, “O Lord, I beseech thee
send now prosperity”—a prayer which, from that time to the present, the
God of mercy has abundantly answered.  In that school room we worshipped
twice on the Sunday, and in the French church on the week evenings, for
nearly two years.  The congregations on the sabbath, and especially in
the evening, were as large as the place could contain; many “times of
refreshing” were granted to us from the presence of the Lord; and we
often said, “This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of
heaven!”

We were now anxiously occupied in seeking for a suitable piece of ground
on which to build our chapel; and after long delay, and many
difficulties, the present site was purchased, and I laid the foundation
stone, on the 16th of March, 1819.  An address was delivered on the
occasion, which was afterwards published; and the following inscription
was engraved on a brass plate, which was laid on the top of the stone, in
the centre of which were deposited several specimens of current coin:
“This plate was deposited the sixteenth day of March, one thousand eight
hundred and nineteen, and in the fifty-ninth year of the reign of George
the Third, in the foundation stone of a Protestant Dissenting Chapel,
erected on a piece of freehold ground, in the City of Norwich, and in the
parishes of St. Michael at Plea and St. Peter Hungate, by the
congregation attending the ministry of the Rev. John Alexander.”  The
building was completed in about eight months; and the time drew near for
us to enter it.  The last sabbath which we spent in the Lancasterian
school room, was on November the 28th, 1819.  The last text, was the
prayer which Moses addressed to God, in Exodus xxxiii, 15: “If thy
presence go not with us carry us not up hence.”  During our meetings
there, we had enjoyed many tokens of the divine presence; the cloud of
his glory had blessed and sanctified the place; and the preacher and the
people unitedly felt, that it would be better to remain in that humble
dwelling, God being with us, than to enter our new and beautiful chapel,
unaccompanied with his presence.  On the Wednesday following, December
1st, 1819, the chapel was opened for divine worship.  The sermon in the
morning was preached by Dr. Raffles, of Liverpool, and many of us
remember how our hearts glowed with holy delight when he read his text,
Exodus, xx, 24: “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto
thee, and I will bless thee.”  On leaving the School Room, we offered up
the prayer, “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence;” on
entering the chapel we received the gracious answer, “I will come unto
thee, and I will bless thee;” an answer which has been verified from that
day to the present.  In the evening Dr. Leifchild preached a most
impressive sermon from Hebrews, xii, 25: “See that ye refuse not him that
speaketh.”

Having thus entered the chapel, our attention was soon directed to the
desirableness of forming a church.  After much deliberation and prayer on
the subject, thirteen persons of good report among us, agreed to unite
together in christian fellowship, believing each other to be the
disciples of Christ, and having the sanction of the minister, and of
various christian brethren.  On the 8th of March, 1820, they held their
first ecclesiastical meeting in the vestry of the chapel.  The Rev.
William Hull, of the Old Meeting, Norwich, and the Rev. Alexander Creak,
of Yarmouth, presided.  After prayer and the reading of the scriptures,
Mr. Creak described the nature and duties of a christian church; after
which Mr. William Parkinson, one of the members, read the following
declaration.

    “Having invited your presence, as ministers of Jesus Christ, to
    recognize and acknowledge our formation into a christian church, we
    deem it proper to give you a brief account of those doctrines of
    religion which we profess to believe and to experience.

    “While we disclaim all regard to doctrines derived merely from the
    word of man, we find that the religious sentiments we profess, and
    which we receive as the word of God, correspond with the doctrines
    commonly called Calvinistic, and that our sentiments respecting
    church discipline correspond with those which are maintained by the
    body of Protestant Dissenters commonly called Independents.

    “The doctrines contained in our religious creed, and which we firmly
    believe to be recorded in the scriptures of truth, comprise the
    being, perfections, and unity of God; the union of the divine and
    human natures in the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; the
    personality, deity, and influences of the Holy Spirit; the fall of
    man, and its awful consequences in the universal depravity of human
    nature; the atonement made for sinners by the obedience and death of
    Jesus Christ; the sovereign and gracious election of the people of
    God to faith, and holiness, and eternal life; their justification by
    faith in ‘the Lord our righteousness;’ their regeneration and
    sanctification by the Holy Spirit; their adoption into the family of
    heaven; their certain perseverance in grace, and final acceptance
    with God; the resurrection of the body at the last day; and the final
    judgment of all mankind at the bar of God.

    “We consider a christian church to be a congregation of believers,
    voluntarily assembling together, and submitting, in all things, to
    Jesus Christ, their only Lord and Master.  Such a church we desire to
    become; recognizing a pastor and deacons as our only officers, and
    asserting our exclusive right to make our own independent choice of a
    minister, to watch over us in the Lord, and of deacons, to attend to
    our temporal concerns.

    “The ordinances of the church we consider to be Baptism and the
    Lord’s Supper.  The former to be administered to unbaptized and
    believing adults, and also to their infant offspring; and the latter
    to be administered to those only who profess their faith in Jesus
    Christ, and are joined in fellowship with his people.

    “Having made this declaration of our faith and practice, in which we
    all most cordially unite, we confess that, as guilty sinners, our
    only hope is in the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and having, we
    trust, first given ourselves to the Lord, we desire now in your
    presence, and in the presence of Almighty God, to unite together in
    church fellowship, that we may enjoy the communion of saints, and
    walk in the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blamelessly.”

This declaration having been read, the ministers present acknowledged the
persons assembled to be a church of Christ, and gave to them the right
hand of fellowship; after which, the members shook hands with each other.
My dismission from the Independent Church in Liverpool, under the
pastoral care of the Rev. P. S. Charrier, was then read, on which I was
received into membership with the newly-formed church.  Of the fourteen
persons who thus composed this infant church, seven are alive and remain
unto this day: six hundred and sixty-eight persons have since been added
to them making the whole number six hundred and eighty-two; an increase,
for which devout gratitude is due to Him by whose gracious power alone
sinners are constrained first to give themselves to the Lord, and then to
his people according to his will.

But though a church had thus been formed and recognized by the pastoral
representatives of other churches, and though I had become united with
it, my membership did not, of course, constitute me its pastor; but, on
receiving an invitation from the church to sustain that office among
them, I at once accepted it, and it was agreed that my ordination should
take place at the end of May.  The independent ministers in the county,
and some of those in the neighbouring counties, were invited to attend on
the occasion, as the representatives of their churches, in order that
their sanction might be given to our proceedings; and the following
extract from the Church Book will shew the manner in which the service
was conducted.

    “The solemn service of Mr. Alexander’s ordination to the pastoral
    office over the church assembling for divine worship in Prince’s
    Street Chapel, Norwich, took place on Wednesday morning, May 31,
    1820, in the following order.

    “The Rev. Isaac Sloper, of Beccles, implored the divine presence and
    blessing by a suitable prayer, after which he read the third chapter
    of the first of Timothy.

    “The Rev. Thomas Craig, of Bocking, delivered the introductory
    discourse, which contained a statement of the reasons of dissent, and
    of the principles of a christian church.

    “A brief account of the circumstances which led to Mr. Alexander’s
    residence with the people was then read by Mr. Gurney, one of the
    members of the church; after which all the members testified, by
    holding up the right hand, that they had unanimously invited Mr.
    Alexander to the pastoral office.

    “In reply to questions proposed by Mr. Craig, Mr. Alexander gave an
    account of his religious experience, and stated his motives for
    entering the christian ministry; his reasons of dissent from the
    Established Church; his cordial acceptance of the call of the church;
    his determination, by the help of divine grace, to approve himself as
    a minister of Christ; and his belief in the great doctrines of the
    everlasting gospel.

    “The Rev. George Collison, of Hackney, then offered up a most solemn
    and impressive ordination prayer, connected with the imposition of
    hands; after which each of the ministers present gave to Mr.
    Alexander the right hand of fellowship.

    “The Rev. Peter Samuel Charrier, of Liverpool, Mr. Alexander’s late
    pastor, addressed to him a very affectionate and appropriate charge,
    from Acts xx, 24: ‘So that I might finish my course with joy.’

    “The Rev. Edward Hickman, of Denton, very affectionately and suitably
    addressed the church and congregation, from Philippians i, 27: ‘Only
    let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.’

    “The Rev. Richard Fairbrother, of Dereham, read the hymns selected
    for the occasion; and the Rev. John Dennant, of Halesworth, concluded
    the service with prayer.

    “The above service was conducted in the presence of a very numerous
    and attentive congregation, and evidently in the enjoyment of His
    presence, who says to his ministers, ‘Lo! I am with you always to the
    end of the world.’  It was indeed a time of refreshing from the
    presence of the Lord; and never may the minister, and never may the
    people forget the vows which they then formed, nor lose the
    impressions which they then received.  May the union, thus solemnly
    and publicly recognised, continue uninterrupted and unbroken till
    terminated by the stroke of death; and may the pastor and all the
    people hereafter meet and dwell together in that holy and happy
    world, where sin, and death, and sorrow, shall be known no more.”

A church needs however not only a Pastor, as its Bishop, who is to “give
himself continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word,” but
Deacons also, to superintend its temporal affairs, and “to serve tables.”
The church therefore, in the first instance, chose two of its members to
that office; a number which has been increased again and again, as the
necessities of the church required.  In addition to the meetings of the
church for devotional purposes, it has always held a meeting once a month
for general business, and these meetings have been chiefly occupied in
the reception of members.  Sometimes, when a member has been going to
reside in some other town, we have had to grant him a letter of
commendation and dismission to the church with which he has wished to
unite, and on which that church has received him.  Sometimes, we have had
to discuss questions relative to the best mode of proceeding in the
election of officers, and in the transaction of other business.  And
sometimes, we have had to investigate charges against character, and
solemnly to exclude an unworthy member.  And when a church can keep “the
spirit of the world” from mingling with its proceedings, its very
discussions, as well as its devotions, are highly beneficial, and
contribute to the acquisition of “manly piety,” and to the exercise of
holy wisdom and of brotherly love.  On such occasions, when every brother
is free to hold, and free to express his own convictions, it is a degree
of liberty which, though liable to abuse, is one of the invaluable
privileges of the church of Christ; and when used in his spirit, and in
accordance with his directions, is one of the sources of its strength and
security.  Amidst the great variety of proceedings in which, as a church,
we have had to engage, it has been our mercy “to keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace.”  The people have been “kindly affectioned
one towards another, and towards their pastor, in brotherly love;” so
that, amidst our many imperfections and infirmities, God has dealt very
graciously with his servants, and the cloud of his glory has continued to
rest over our assemblies.  Our church meetings, from the beginning, have
been seasons of much spiritual enjoyment and edification.  The letters
which have been read to us, from such candidates for communion as have
been disposed to write them, and the reports of the faith and experience
of the various candidates, which have been related to us by the brethren
who have visited them, have often filled our hearts with gladness and our
eyes with tears, and have been, beyond all description, edifying and
animating to our souls.  Hundreds of those letters, still in the
possession of the pastor, many of them from the hands of beloved young
persons, and some of them written by hands which have long since “forgot
their cunning,” are among the richest rewards of pastoral labour, and the
strongest attestations to the power and excellency of the gospel of
Christ.

In connection with this abundant degree of peace and prosperity, our
course has however been attended, externally at least, with difficulty
and tribulation, and we have had to build the walls of our Zion in
troublous times.  It was no easy thing for a young and inexperienced
minister to have the formation and guidance of an infant church committed
to his care, and at the same time to have to give attention to reading;
to have to prepare three, and afterwards four sermons every week; besides
visiting the sick; attending a weekly prayer-meeting; conducting two
separate Bible classes, which at one time he had in charge; preaching
occasionally at Thorpe and at Trowse, two village stations in connection
with the chapel; and attending the committees and public meetings of
various religious institutions in the city and county.  In the earlier
periods of these labours, the debt which remained on the chapel began to
press with most burdensome weight; and those who had advanced the largest
sums of money, became more than wishful for repayment.  Once, the income
of the minister was taken for the payment of the interest; but it was
immediately returned to him, doubled in amount, by an affectionate and
sympathizing congregation.  One difficulty became, however, the
forerunner and progenitor of another, as is generally the case when a
chapel is burdened with an oppressive debt; and at length the state of
things became so harassing and intolerable, especially to the pastor’s
mind, that after many struggles and much mental suffering, he wrote a
letter resigning the pastoral office, and sent it to the church on
February 4th, 1825.  That letter, though sent, was never opened; for just
as the church assembled, an arrangement was completed by which the burden
of debt was diminished, and by which some persons, whose pecuniary claims
had been urgently pressed, were satisfied.  Thus our extremity became
God’s opportunity; and the minister and the people, instead of being
separated, became, through mutual suffering, still more closely and
affectionately united.

As the congregation had become pledged to raise between eight and nine
hundred pounds in five years, to effect the proposed liquidation of the
debt, every hand became engaged in the work, and great labour and
liberality were manifested.  But our troubles were not yet terminated.
At the end of two years, out of the five, it was discovered that the roof
of the chapel, which had been constructed on a false principle, was
giving way, and that it, together with the upper part of the walls, must
be taken down.  The expence of doing this would be full three hundred
pounds; we had yet to raise more than that sum towards the debt; how was
it possible to do both? especially as the congregation must, for some
time at least, leave the chapel, and perhaps be irrecoverably dispersed;
for it was now the beginning of winter, and four or five months must
elapse, before the place could be repaired, and rendered fit for our
return.  We were perplexed, and almost in despair.  But again, by God’s
great mercy, our light rose in obscurity, and the night of weeping was
followed by the morning joy.  The Lancasterian School, the Old Meeting
House, and the French Church, were kindly granted to us, for our Sunday
and our week-day worship; the congregation, instead of sinking into
despondency, was roused to exertions the most zealous and liberal; our
Christian friends in the Old Meeting, and in St. Mary’s Chapel—Baptists
as well as Independents, affectionately sympathised with our
circumstances; and in the course of a few days presented to us the noble
sum of upwards of a hundred guineas; the walls were re-built; a new and
substantial roof was raised; and we returned to the place on the 16th of
March, 1828, with as large a congregation as we had when we left it, and
which from that time continued to increase till every seat was occupied!
Then too, the God of all grace began to enrich us with a greater increase
of spiritual prosperity.  Many sinners were converted; the church was
enlarged, and confirmed, and edified; our Sunday Schools were
invigorated; our interest in the place, and in each other, was
strengthened; and God himself seemed again to repeat his gracious
promise, “I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.”

Since that period we have made several alterations and improvements in
our place of worship; and on one of these occasions, in 1842, we
worshipped in the Dutch Church for the space of two months.  Our own
service was in the morning and evening; and the service of the Church of
England, conducted by the clergyman of the place, was in the afternoon.
On one of the afternoons, the service was conducted by the venerable and
excellent Bishop of the Diocese, who preached from the same pulpit that
had been occupied in the morning by the Dissenting minister; and during
our stay there, we had sermons from ministers belonging to almost every
evangelical denomination of the Christian church.  In our own place of
worship too, it has often been our privilege to contribute, in some
degree, to the general communion of saints; especially at the Lord’s
table, the first place at which Christians should meet, and the last at
which they should separate.  There we have been joined by Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, who have eaten with us of the
same bread, and who have drank of the same cup, in devout remembrance of
Him, who purchased the church with his precious blood.

One of the objects to which we directed our attention, soon after the
opening of the chapel, was the formation of a _Sunday School_.  Several
young persons, of piety and zeal, offered themselves as teachers, some of
whom continue to the present day, honourably and usefully employed in the
beneficial work.  We began in July 1820, with eighty-one scholars.  The
pastor advised the teachers to form the committee out of their own body;
to have no more rules for the regulation of the school than circumstances
rendered necessary; to conduct all their affairs religiously; and to
apply to their minister, whenever they needed help or encouragement.
This undertaking, which has been pursued with unabating ardour and vigour
to the present day, has been abundantly prospered by the divine blessing.
Not less than three thousand children have, from time to time, received
from it some degree or other of religious instruction.  Many of these
children have become teachers; some of them have died in the Lord; and at
our Sunday School anniversaries, we have listened to many affecting and
spirit-stirring details of the resignation and the joyful hope, which
they have expressed in the prospect of death and heaven.  The school too,
has been a fruitful nursery for the church.  For many years past, we have
seldom had a church meeting without receiving some one as a member, whose
religious impressions were either derived or deepened from his education,
or from his employment, in the school.  At this time, in addition to
twenty-three youths in the monitorial class, preparing to become
teachers, there are no less than a hundred and twenty, chiefly young
persons, belonging to the church and congregation, who are actually
engaged as Sunday School Teachers in Prince’s Street, and in our other
schools; and though, during nearly the last thirty years, they and their
predecessors have conducted the general business of the schools entirely
by themselves, yet they have co-operated steadily and cordially; no root
of bitterness has sprung up to trouble them; and, by the grace of God,
they still continue to feel and to manifest “how good and how pleasant it
is, for brethren to dwell together in unity.”  Such an institution, it
will easily be perceived, must have afforded great help to the interests
of religion in the congregation, and great encouragement to the pastor.
It has indeed often been his solace in adversity, and one of his chief
joys in prosperity; and his heart is glad of the opportunity, which this
festival affords, to acknowledge the large circle of Sunday School
Teachers, by whom he is surrounded, as his fellow labourers in Christ,
and as the joy and crown of his ministry.

Our Sunday School operations however, have not been confined to the
chapel in Prince’s street.  We have supplied Teachers to the school in
_Pockthorpe_, two of whom were mainly instrumental in raising money for
the erection of the present spacious building, which is used for an
Infant School during the week, as well as for a Sunday School; and we
have also supplied Teachers to the school in _Stepping Lane_, and to some
others, while we have entirely supported the schools and the chapels in
the villages of Thorpe and Trowse.  Mr. Alexander began to preach in a
Room at _Thorpe_ in the year 1819, which, several years afterwards, began
to be supplied by some of the members of his church.  The attendance
there became at length so numerous and encouraging, that it was
determined to build a chapel; and after encountering many discouraging
difficulties, a suitable piece of ground was obtained; and the present
building was erected, at a cost, including the ground of £450, towards
which one liberal friend contributed £100.  The chapel was opened for
divine worship in 1839, and the Sunday School was formed in the same
year.  Four religious services are conducted in the chapel weekly, by
members of our church; about eighty children are instructed in the Sunday
School; and there is a Vestry Library for the use of the congregation.
The Sunday School at _Trowse_ was established as early as 1821, and about
seven years afterwards, we began to preach the gospel there; but we did
not occupy the present chapel till 1830.  There is religious service in
it four times every week; a Sunday School containing a hundred and fifty
children; and a circulating Library for the use of the village.  We hope
soon to be enabled to erect another chapel there in a better situation,
which may also be used for both Day and Sunday Schools.  During the last
eight years, Mr. Barnsdale, who from the beginning has devotedly laboured
for the welfare of Trowse, has been employed by us as a Missionary in the
two villages of Trowse and Thorpe, on the plan of the City Mission; and
the Reports which he has read at our quarterly meetings, have made us
acquainted, not only with the peculiar difficulties which the gospel has
to contend with in villages situated near a large city, but also with
many blessed triumphs which that gospel has gained over human depravity,
in the regeneration and salvation of the souls of men.

Our thirty years have therefore been spent, not only in overcoming our
own difficulties, and in establishing and increasing ourselves, but also
in endeavouring to extend the knowledge and influence of the gospel in
the regions beyond.  This indeed is the combined duty of every religious
society.  The church was instituted by its divine Lord, not only for
preserving and professing the truths of the gospel, but also for
propagating them.  This, you know, has always been urged upon you from
the pulpit as a solemn duty, and though you have perhaps sometimes felt
as if you had been urged too much; and though your pastor has sometimes
been kindly warned that his own resources would be diminished, if he so
earnestly pleaded for foreign objects; yet, I trust, many of you have
found that the money you have given, and especially the personal efforts
you have put forth, for the spread of the gospel, have not been in vain
in the Lord, but have been spiritually advantageous to yourselves, as
well as to others.  As one consequence of these appeals and urgings, your
pastor has always been associated with many fellow-labourers in the work
of the Lord, who have been distributors of tracts, collectors for public
Institutions, christian Instruction Agents, Sunday School Teachers,
conductors of prayer meetings, and preachers of the gospel in the
neighbouring villages.  And by so doing, you have been the means of
converting sinners from the error of their way, and of saving their souls
from death; your personal piety and the prosperity of the church has been
advanced; your pastor’s heart has been strengthened and comforted; and
the name of Christ has been glorified.  May the Lord of the harvest never
fail to supply us with such labourers, and may all succeeding pastors and
members of the church, be constrained, by the love of Christ, “to live
not to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.”

Several other Institutions, which it is needful or desirable should be
formed in connection with a church of Christ, exist among us; some of
which are more particularly for the use of our own congregation, and
others for the general interests of humanity and religion.  The Society
for the relief of our _sick and aged poor_, was instituted in 1821, and
has all along been most economically and efficiently conducted by a
committee of ladies, who meet for business once a month, and who visit
and relieve the needy and afflicted objects.  They have thus distributed
full £330.  The _Provident Society_ was instituted in 1835, and affords
an opportunity for any person in the congregation, or for any child in
the Sunday School, to secure a sum of money weekly during sickness, and a
pension for old age, by paying a proportionate monthly subscription
during health.  It has received from these payments about £200.  The
_Vestry Libraries_, connected with the chapel in Prince’s Street, contain
nearly a thousand well-selected volumes on various subjects, but
especially on religious subjects; to which any persons in the
congregation have access, on subscribing a shilling a quarter, and to
which the Sunday School Teachers and children have access gratuitously.
Our _Christian Instruction Society_, was formed for the purpose of paying
religious visits, and for distributing tracts, in several districts,
chiefly in the neighbourhood of the chapel; and though the subsequent
institution of the City Mission has, in some measure, superseded its
labours, there are now about fifteen agents connected with it, and it
occupies a room in King-street for religious worship on the Sabbath.  We
have also auxiliaries and associations formed among us on behalf of the
_London Missionary Society_, for sending the gospel to the heathen; on
behalf of _British Missions_, embracing the Home Missionary Society, the
Irish Evangelical Society, and the Colonial Missionary Society; on behalf
of the _County Association_ for the spread of the gospel in Norfolk; and
on behalf of the _Norwich City Mission_; besides granting collections and
subscriptions to various other religious institutions, formed for
promoting the spiritual welfare of our fellow countrymen, and of mankind
at large.

The amount of money required for these various purposes and for the
support of the ministry, has of course not been small.  A careful effort
has been made, to obtain a full and correct account; but it has been
found impossible to ascertain all the items.  Since the chapel was
opened, many public collections have been made, of which there is no
record, and which are now entirely forgotten.  The following account may
be considered correct as far as it goes, and at the end of it something
may be added for omissions.

               _Expences connected with the Building_.
                                                     £      s.      d.
Cost of ground, building, frontage, and           4834       8       8
walls, 1819–1820
New roof and connected expences, deducting         200       0       0
£100 given by other congregations
Enclosing the chapel inside, and improving          91      17       9
the free seats, &c., 1832
Children’s gallery, singing pew, 1839              178       0       5
Replastering ceiling and walls, 1842               176      11       9
Quarterly subscriptions paid by the seat          8797      14       3
holders, from 1818 to 1846
              _Institutions connected with the Chapel_.
Sunday School collections, from 1821 to            533      11       3
1846
Collected at Christmas, in several years,          100       0       0
for clothing poor Sunday School children
Received and distributed by the Sick and           330      11       0
Aged Poor Society
Collected at Christmas, in several years,          153       2       0
for the poor
Collected at the Lord’s Supper, for                888       9       8
expenses, and for the poor
Purses presented to the minister                   150       0       0
Purchase, in part, of library books                 70       0       0
The Provident Society                              192      12       1
                         _Thorpe and Trowse_.
Towards the building of Thorpe chapel              250       0       0
Rent of Trowse chapel, 1830 to 1846                196       0       0
Thorpe and Trowse mission, from 1839               348       4       4
                            _For Norwich_.
Towards the erection of the school at              150       0       0
Pockthorpe
Towards the support of Pockthorpe Sunday            50      10       0
Schools, for 18 years
Towards the erection of the Peafield               140       0       0
Schools
The Christian Instruction Society                   10       0       0
The City Mission                                   450       0       0
The Norwich and Norfolk Hospital                    25       2       6
                            _For Norfolk_.
The Norfolk Association for the spread of          432      18       2
the Gospel in the county, from 1821
Towards various chapels in the county, &c.         187       4       0
                         _For Great Britain_.
Irish Evangelical Society and Irish                 50       0       0
Congregational Union
British Missions                                    68      15       0
British Society for the Jews                        22       5       8
Scotch Free Church                                  21       0       0
Nonconformist Colleges for education of             75       8       0
Ministers
Collection for the distressed Irish                166       3       6
                         _Foreign Missions_.
London Missionary Society, including sums         2381      17       3
for Baptist Missions, Moravians, and Irish,
from 1820
Tract Society                                      478      11       1

The total amount of all these sums is £22,200 18s. 4d.; and we may safely
add at least £300 for subscriptions and collections which cannot be
remembered; so that, in about twenty-nine years, there has been
collected, for various purposes, the large sum of £22,500.

All this money, it must be remembered, has come from a congregation,
which though numerous, has not been rich; and it has been contributed by
them, not as a compulsory tax, but in addition to the compulsory taxes
which they have been compelled to pay towards the Church Establishment
from which they have conscientiously dissented.  We have, therefore, “not
robbed other churches” for the support of our own; but all our
contributions have been given on the voluntary principle, and as a
freewill offering, which in many cases have, no doubt, been given as unto
the Lord, and not unto men.  It has indeed been contributed by a people
who have often been taught the duty and importance of giving both money
and personal efforts to the cause of Christ, as a testimony of allegiance
to their Lord and Master, and as a means of personal prosperity and
usefulness.  And let any people, under the influence of religion, which
is the true voluntary principle, be suitably appealed to by their
minister for pecuniary help, on behalf of institutions for the spread of
the gospel, and he will be far from injuring either them or himself.
They will become better and happier by helping others, and he and his
family will be the better and the happier too—at least such is the
testimony which the pastor of Prince’s Street can bear, relative to
himself, and to his liberal congregation.

Such, brethren, is our eventful and varied history, as a church and
congregation, during the last thirty years—a history which, on the
review, most impressively reminds your pastor of many imperfections and
infirmities, which have been connected with him as a man, a christian,
and a minister; and on account of which he finds it needful every day to
humble himself before God, and to say, “Enter not into judgment with thy
servant, O Lord;” and yet a history which, even so far as he is
concerned, has afforded many remarkable manifestations of divine love and
mercy.  He had, for many years, an abundant degree of bodily health,
which enabled him to do the work of the Lord laboriously and happily; he
has had a large share of domestic comfort and privilege, and now is
surrounded by a beloved family, most of whom are his spiritual as well as
his natural relatives, and some of whom are gone to be for ever with the
Lord; he has been privileged with a large degree of public friendship and
approbation, and has many beloved and esteemed friends in surrounding
churches, some of whom are of other denominations, and some of whom are
the fruits of his ministry; he has, above all these things, been
abundantly honoured and blessed by the Great Head of the church, in
promoting the conversion of sinners, and the peace and union of the
church, in whose affectionate confidence it has been his privilege to
live; and though latterly health has occasionally failed, and now and
then he has been admonished that his master will soon require his
services in another world, yet, thanks be to God, for that degree of
vigour and buoyancy which yet remains, and which he is more desirous than
ever should be consecrated to your spiritual welfare; and, thanks be to
God, for that good and joyful hope which he cherishes, that when his
earthly labours are concluded, he shall be gathered to the fellowship of
the redeemed and the Redeemer, in the many mansions of his Father’s
house.

But, beloved brethren, the history of the last thirty years affords many
subjects for grateful and humbling review to yourselves, as well as to
your pastor.  You have erected a noble chapel, which will be, I trust,
during future years, as it has been during the past, the spiritual
birthplace of immortal souls; you have had a Christian church formed
among you, in which “one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are
brethren,” and which, through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, has
increased, from fourteen, to nearly seven hundred members; you have
enjoyed, amidst the services of the sanctuary, many a time of sweet and
heavenly refreshing; you have, in connection with your own place of
worship, many valuable institutions, conducted by zealous and laborious
individuals, and which are the salt and savour of the church; you have
two very important and interesting village stations under your care, in
one of which you have built a chapel, and in both of which you support a
worthy missionary, preach the gospel, and teach Sunday Schools; you have
cheerfully and sufficiently supported your own minister; you have paid
your own congregational expences; and you have contributed to various
religious objects and institutions the noble sum of twenty-two thousand
five hundred pounds; and now, at the close of the first thirty years of
your ecclesiastical history, you have assembled together, to review the
past with humble gratitude to God; to testify your unabated attachment to
the pastor of your voluntary choice; and to enter upon another thirty
years, which, as they roll along, will bear away many of you, and me
also, into the eternal world.  “LET THY WORK, O LORD, APPEAR UNTO THY
SERVANTS, AND THY GLORY UNTO THEIR CHILDREN.  AND LET THE BEAUTY OF THE
LORD OUR GOD BE UPON US; AND ESTABLISH THOU THE WORK OF OUR HANDS UPON
US; YEA, THE WORK OF OUR HANDS ESTABLISH THOU IT.”



THE GOOD PASTOR.


   THIRTY years have rolled away,
   Since that holy, happy day,
   When amongst us first he came,
   In his Master’s cause and name,
   Hearts to gladden—souls to win
   From the power of death and sin.

   Thirty years their dews have shed
   On his loved and honoured head,
   Since, in all the glow of youth,
   Champion of celestial truth,
   He his hallowed task began,
   Holiest work of fallen man.

   Since that holy, happy day,
   Many a soul hath passed away—
   Many a soul that listened long,
   To the pleadings, soft, yet strong,
   From his kindled lips that fell,
   For the Lord he loved so well.

   Since that holy, happy day,
   Who amongst us all can say—
   Say how many hearts have felt
   Stubborn pride within them melt,
   As, with tenderness and love,
   In the Saviour’s cause he strove?

   Who shall say how many a mind,
   Erewhile erring, weak, and blind,
   Hath, beneath his guiding hand,
   Sought and found “the better land,”—
   Seen its darkness flee away
   In the blaze of gospel-day?

   This we know and this we feel:—
   Something of his quiet zeal;
   Something of his holy love,
   (Likest that which blooms above)
   Ever quick to soothe and bless
   With its tones of tenderness;

   Something too we all have known
   Of that wisdom—all his own,
   Wherewith in our darkest day
   He can guide us on our way;
   Something of his genial heart,
   Wherein all the world hath part.

   Spare him Lord! and spare him long!
   In thy strength may he be strong.
   Spare him still to lead us on
   To the fight that must be won.
   But as thou wilt one day, Lord!
   Take him to his high reward,
   Unto us and him be given,
   One eternal home in heaven!

                                                                     R. B.



BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


THE PREACHER PROM THE PRESS.  Sermons to explain and to recommend the
Gospel of Jesus Christ.  2 vols., cloth boards, Price 6s.

THE DEATH OF A MINISTER AN EVENT OF PECULIAR IMPORTANCE.  A Funeral
Sermon for the Rev. JOHN SYKES, of Guestwick.

THE MOURNING CONGREGATION REMINDED OF THE WORK OF THEIR DECEASED
MINISTER.  A Funeral Sermon for the Rev. JOSEPH KINGHORN, of Norwich.

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.  An Appeal to Christians on the Duty and Importance of
Communion with the Church.

THE OBJECTS AND MOTIVES OF MODERN NONCONFORMISTS.  A Sermon preached at
the Opening of Hingham Chapel.

THE BAPTISM OF THE PRINCE.  A Sermon preached in anticipation of the
Baptism of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

APOSTOLIC WAYS IN THE CHURCH.  The Introductory Discourse delivered at
the Ordination of the Rev. ANDREW REED, B.A. in the Old Meeting House,
Norwich.

THE CHRISTIAN SERVING HIS OWN GENERATION.  A Sermon occasioned by the
lamented death of J. J. GURNEY, Esq.

BRIEF MEMOIR OF J. J. GURNEY, ESQ.  With Portrait.  Tenth Thousand.

                                * * * * *

                                 NORWICH:
               PRINTED BY JOSIAH FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET.





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