Nathaniel Ponder of Rothwell

 

Fresh Light on the Publisher of “The Pilgrim’s Progress’’”

By ALFRED CHAMBERLAIN, B.A.

On October 15th, 1934, a paper was read before the London Bibliographical Society by Dr. Frank Mott Harrison on “Nathaniel Ponder, the publisher of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress.’”The town of Rothwell has been in existence at least a thousand years, for when the Domesday Book was completed, eight hundred and fifty years ago, the town was then a well organised community with two mills and its meadow and ploughed lands all estimated as to extent and owned and let and cultivated according to the then prevailing custom. Yet during the whole time since the founding of the town, of all the thousands born within its boundaries, how few have left behind them any memory of personality or life work done.

Of these few notable Rothwellians, Nathaniel Ponder is certainly one. By accident or design he hitched his business waggon to a star of the first magnitude in the literary firmament and the brilliant radiance which crowned John Bunyan as the writer of “The Pilgrims Progress” was shared in a lesser degree by Ponder and still, all these years after, sheds a mild halo over the name of the man who published the immortal allegory and gave it forth to the world.

The Bibliographical Society concerns itself more with writing about books and their publication than it does about the author’s work within their pages and this special interest of the Society attaches itself naturally more to Ponder than to Bunyan.

Dr. Harrison, a gentleman living at Hove, and an authority on bibliographical matters, has for a long time been keenly interested in the life and work of Nathaniel Ponder. His essay, which has been reprinted since by the Oxford University Press in “The Library,” contains the results of many years labour in time and thought given to his attempt to find out all that could be known about Ponder especially concerning his publication of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and the numerous law proceedings which followed the success of that remarkable work.

Dr. Harrison has made enquiries on the spot at Rothwell and all the other places connected with the object of his search, and has carried out close research in law court and other legal records and in the registers of the Stationers’ Company. This effort has brought to light much fresh information to supplement the scanty personal details of Ponder’s life known before.

But Dr. Harrison is as much interested in the writer of the book as he is in Ponder, the publisher. He is the foremost Bunyan scholar of the present day. From his unique knowledge of both the writing and the printing of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” he was chosen at the Bunyan Tercentenary in 1928 to revise and edit with additions the tercentenary or fifth edition of the late Dr. John Brown’s “John Bunyan, His Life, Times and Work,” which contained the results of forty years’ research on the part of the Bedford minister. To this are now added the conclusions of the new editor, obtained after many years’ devotion to Bunyan literature and lore In this way, Dr. Harrison’s work has secured a permanent place in the literary history of our land.After all the endeavours, however, made to acquaint us with Nathaniel Ponder’’s

The corner of Fleet Street and Chancery Lane in 1656The corner of Fleet Street and Chancery Lane in 1656.

life we are still in the dark regarding many portions of it. It is no easy matter to get a complete view of the life of this man who left Rothwell in 1656 to be apprenticed in London to the publishing trade. A few years later he started in business for himself. Success attended his efforts and by 1672, six years after the Great Fire of London which scorched his abode but did not burn him out, he had obtained a position of both reputation and influence in the great city. This is proved by the fact that people in Rothwell and other towns in Northamptonshire and elsewhere were writing to him in 1672 as to one with power to get them help from State authorities in connection ‘with changes being made in laws relating to religious matters.Ponder’s life in London covered forty three years. It is to enlighten us in regard to this period and the problems arising from it that Dr. Harrison has striven with no small success. The publisher’s earlier years in Rothwell, too, have claimed attention and this first part of his life has interest for those fond of looking into the too often obscure pages of our past local history.

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Carey’s Patch

 

Carey's PatchThe phrase describes the geographical area comprising Northamptonshire and the surrounding counties in which the Nations Team at Wellingborough is based and from which the gospel was launched to the ends of the earth with a fresh emphasis through William Carey just over 200 years ago.

is the theme of this series of simple leaflets that we have prepared to further strengthen the rising tide of prayer and action in Carey’s Patch.

Today, we are praying in faith for a move of God in our communities and churches tomorrow! How many of us realise or know of the ways and the people through whom God has moved in this area’s yesterdays?

“Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham” Gen 26v18

What God has done before, He can do again.

 We want to celebrate our heritage in Him by reflecting on the impact made on society in past generations through the translators, hymn-writers, teachers and emancipators raised up in this area.

Just over two hundred years ago, a major move of prayer in churches across Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas resulted in a deepening concern for the un-reached “ends of the earth”, the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society and the departure of William Carey and others for India. From this platform, the great Protestant mission movement from the UK and other western countries would develop.

Our team, now based in Wellingborough, within the area that we refer to as “Carey’s Patch”, have felt that with the passage of time the “wells” of prayer and missionary vision in the local church have become somewhat blocked. Equally strongly, we feel that their unblocking could in some way help facilitate the growth of the new mission movements now emerging in India and the other nations originally evangelised by Carey and those who came after him.

Much of our activity has been aimed at the re-opening of these spiritual wells locally, and within the last few years we have been involved with people from different churches particularly in helping develop new prayer groups and movements across the county.

Our desire is to see Carey’s Patch revived with a fresh passion for the un-reached, at home and abroad. We are pursuing two main goals: firstly to play our part in the spiritual revival of this area and secondly for its ‘live’ connection with the ends of the earth to be renewed.

“That day Isaac’s servants came to him and told him about the well they had dug. They said: ‘We’ve found water!’ He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.” Gen 26:32-33

The account in Genesis 26 of how Isaac re-opened the wells dug by his father Abraham, in the face of enemy opposition, was a foundation scripture when the Nations team was first formed in Earls Barton.

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William Carey

 

This article, written by an Indian lady, Ruth Mangalwadi, shows the breadth of William Carey’s missionary ministry.

William Carey

  • was the botanist who discovered ‘Carey herbacea’ In the Jungles of the Himalayan foothills, an Indian variety of Eucalyptus now bearing his name.
  • was the founder of the Agri-Horicultural Society in the 1820’s. 30 years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established In England. He did a systematic survey of agriculture In India, wrote for agriculture reform in Asiatic Researches, and exposed the evils of the Indigo cultivation system two generations before It collapsed. He did this because he was horrified to see 60% of India had been allowed to become an uncultivated Jungle abandoned to wild beast and serpents.
  • was the first to write essays on forestry In India 50 years before the government made Its first attempt towards forest conservation. Believing that God had made man responsible for the earth, he both practised and vigorously advocated the cultivation of timber, advising on how to plant trees for environmental, agricultural and commercial purposes.
  • was the publisher of the first books on science and natural history in India, because he believed the Biblical view ‘All thy works praise Thee, O Lord’. Nature was declared ‘good’ by the Creator. it Is not ‘maya’ (Illusion) to be shunned. Carey frequently lectured on science and tried to inject a basic scientific presupposition Into the Indian mind that even lowly insects are not ‘souls In bondage’ but ‘creatures worthy of our attention’.
  • was the father of the printing technology In India, building the nation’s largest press. Most printers had to buy their fonts from his mission press at Serampore.
  • was the first to make indigenous paper for the publishing industry.
  • established the first newspaper ever printed in any Oriental language, because of his belief that ‘above all forms of truth and faith, Christianity seeks free discussion’. His English-language Journal, ‘Friend of India’, was the force that gave birth to the Social Reform Movement In India in the first half of the 19th century.
  • was the first man to translate and publish great Indian religious classics into English. He transformed Bengali -considered ‘fit only for demons and women’ – Into the foremost literary language of India. He wrote gospel ballads In Bengali, to bring the Hindu love of musical recitations to the service of his Lord. He also wrote the first Sanskrit dictionary for scholars.
  • began dozens of schools for Indian children . girls and boys – of all castes and launched the first college in Asia at Serampore, near Calcutta. He wanted to develop the Indian mind and liberate it from the darkness of superstition.
  • was a British shoemaker who became a professor of Bengali, Sanskrit and Marathi at the Fort William College in Calcutta where the civil servants were trained.
  • introduced the study of astronomy into the sub-continent because he cared deeply about such destructive cultural ramifications of astrology as fatalism, superstitious fears, and the Indian inability to organise and manage time. He did not believe that the heavenly bodies were deities that governed our lives, but were created to be signs or markers – dividing space Into north, south, east and west, and time into days, months, seasons and years. They made it possible for us to devise calendars, to study geography and history, to be free to rule instead of to be ruled by the stars.
  • pioneered lending libraries in the sub-continent In order to empower the Indian people to embrace Ideas that would generate freedom of mind. He wanted to encourage the creation of an Indigenous literature In the vernacular. He believed Indians needed to receive knowledge and wisdom from around the world, to catch up with other cultures, and made worldwide Information available through lending libraries.
  • was the first Englishman to introduce the steam engine to India, and encouraged Indian blacksmiths to make indigenous copies of his engine.
  • introduced the concept of a ‘savings bank’ to India, to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury.
  • was the first campaigner for a humane treatment for leprosy patients, who were often buried or burned alive because of the belief that a violent end purified the body and ensured the transmigration into a healthy new existence, while natural death by disease resulted In tour successive births, and a fifth as a leper.
  • was the first to stand against the oppression of women, including practices like polygamy, female infanticide child-marriage, widow-burning (sati), euthanasia and forced female illiteracy – ‘religious sanctions’ virtually synonymous with Hinduism in the 18th and 19th centuries. While the British rulers accepted these social evils as irreversible and an Intrinsic part of India’s religious mores, Carey researched and published, and raised up a generation of civil servants who changed the laws.
  • was the father of the Indian Renaissance of the 19th and 20th centuries, challenging the grip which asceticism, untouchability, mysticism, the occult superstition, Idolatry, witchcraft and oppressive beliefs and practices had on the nation. His movement culminated In the birth of Indian nationalism and of India’s subsequent independence. His ‘this-worldly spirituality’, with a strong emphasis on Justice and love for fellow men, next to love for God, marked the turning point of Indian culture from a downward trend to an upward swing.
  • also happened to be the pioneer of the modern missionary movement of the West reaching out now to all parts of the world; the founder of the Protestant Church In India; and the translator or publisher of the Bible In forty Indian languages.
  • was an evangelist who used every available medium to illumine every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth. He is the central character In the story of the modernisation of India.

Some guy, this Carey!

Biography

William Carey was born in the village of Paulerspury, 10 miles south of Northampton, on 17th August 1761. As a young man he became a shoemaker’s apprentice at Piddington. His discovery of a Greek New Testament commentary on the shoemaker’s shelf was the beginning of a career which led him to become one of the notable scholars of his day. He was converted at the age of 18 after long discussions with a fellow apprentice.

In 1779 Carey transferred his apprenticeship to Thomas Old of Hackleton where he met and married Dorothy Plackett on 10th June 1781. Along with others he started a Congregational church and being influenced by the Baptists was baptized in 1783 by John Ryland in the River Nene close to Doddridge’s church in Northampton.

The Careys knew grinding poverty for their early years together. Their first child died, and Carey was left almost bald after a serious illness. In 1785, they moved to Moulton where Carey became the schoolmaster. He taught himself several languages and later became the Baptist pastor in the village, while continuing as schoolmaster and shoemaker.

Carey was influenced by the lives of Wesley, Whitefield, Doddridge and Wilberforce and when reading a book by Captain Cook about the unreached peoples of the Pacific Islands, Carey heard the Macedonian call, ‘Come over and help us!’.

Following the Prayer Call of 1784, initiated by John Sutcliff, church leaders in the region established regular meetings to pray for revival and the spread of the Gospel. The fruit of this prayer led Carey, with the support of Andrew Fuller [Kettering], John Ryland [Northampton], John Sutcliff [Olney] and Reynold Hogg [Thrapston] to launch the Baptist Missionary Society in Kettering on 2nd October 1792.

In June 1793, Carey set sail for India with his wife and four children. He never returned to England.

William Carey is widely regarded today as the ‘father’ of the modern mission movement

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Clipston Revival

 

July 10th 1800

An account & remarks of the revival in the congregation at Clipston derived from the Church Records.

Last year was most remarkable for the church. Zeal and service for God had declined. Everybody was dejected and dismayed. There was so much deadness, carnality and inattention that many of us were greatly discouraged, fearing our usefulness was finished.

Often some of us would talk about the unpromising state of the congregation and lament to see so little fruit arising from our labours. It was particularly affecting to behold the spirit and conduct of the youth. Many were brought up in church the children of pious parents. They attended church but were unimpressed, untouched and indifferent. Some were trifling and indecent in behaviour at church and disrespectful and rude.

The minister gave an annual address to them every year. However, their profligacy and profanity amidst so many ineffectual works for their spiritual improvement so disheartened him he could not face speaking to them. Such was the state of things amongst us we were sinking into deep despondency. Amidst all these discouragements however, there were those amongst us whose hearts trembled for the work of God, were fervent in prayer and joined in endeavours to promote the interests of true religion. We frequently set apart days for solemn prayer by the whole church, these times bought refreshment and comfort amidst our bondage. At such times we hoped we should live to see better days, and greater things than these.

During January 1800, one young man, John Gulliver, had for some time been under religious impressions, was now awakened by a deep sense of religion by the death of his mother

He became serious and fervent and stirred up others to a great diligence and fervency in the ways of God. Our monthly prayer meetings attendance grew, the conversation at those meetings was how to promote religion, the general state of the churches at home and abroad, and sharing what God was doing elsewhere. The attendance at prayer grew.

Two or three young people attending these meetings wanted to pray more often, they started a prayer meeting among themselves. Soon after these meetings began, accounts were received of revival happening elsewhere. This news caused the sparks which had been kindled in the bosom of a few to burst into a flame which spread from heart to heart.

The young people meeting for prayer now increased and outgrew the meeting place so they met elsewhere. They then began to meet every evening, the meeting became so well attended they started to meet in the church building.

It is very common with the young people to have several meetings of a more private nature. Late in the evenings after coming from public worship half a dozen of them will retire to one friend’s house and half a dozen to another for the purpose of sharing their thoughts and feelings more freely. Some times a few of them have met together in the vestry to pray at four o’clock in the morning for mutual prayer. At noon hour some of them retire into the fields and spend a little time in prayer and spiritual conversation before they return to the labours of the day.

We had not really rejoiced over this work due to our fears as to whether or not it was genuinely of God and many of the impressions false. However, we have had time for observation and have concluded that the work is of God. The work has not been accompanied by noise and excitement but with repentance and prayers.

Meeting for Prayer was the cause of this revival more than preaching, Preaching however has led many to inquire about the way of salvation. The youth Invited others to church meetings and many who came were deeply touched. In tears and weeping they have sought the way to Zion.

This work has effected a change among the youth in Clipston. Their behaviour is now mild and gentle. The streets during summer evenings were thronged with misbehaving idle youth, now they are silent and still. They walk together in groups praying and talking about religion.

The effect is mainly among the youth.

The Clipston congregation experienced considerable growth averaging 700 – 800 people in a service.

In 1803 a new church building was commissioned.

Pastor Sean Carter Clipston Baptist Church

In 1792 the leadership of Clipston Baptist Church reported how that Sutcliff’s reprint of Jonathan Edwards’ “Humble Attempt” had been a tremendous encouragement to them in the whole matter of praying for revival. The congregation decided to set aside 25th February 1795 in particular for prayer and fasting for revival in their locality.

Psalm 85:6

Will You not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you?

To pray for Revival implies decline, that as the covenant people of God we are not experiencing what we should be as the psalmist realised in this case.

Revival is from God!‘

will YOU not revive us again.’

It is the church and God walking together in covenant relationship which releases His power through us. When the church lacks the power of God for service and ministry, it is then God stirs us to pray the above prayer.

In our church record books there is such an occasion when the church had experienced much decline and staleness, yet in answer to public and private prayer –

God brought revival!

Let us learn the lessons here and seek God for similar today.

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Download our leaflets

 

All of the material on this site is from our range of information leaflets that are freely available for non-commercial purposes.  You can download any of the leaflets from here.  Right click on the Icon and “Save Target As…”

You will require a free PDF reader to view these files.

Carey’s Patch

William Carey

The Moravians

Philip Doddridge

Clipston Revival

Prayer Call of 1784

John Sutcliff

The Puritan influence in Northants

All these files are less than 70kB so should download quickly.

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John Sutcliff

 

People readily recall the name of William Carey as the father of modern missions. But how many remember the name of John Sutcliff, without whom Carey may never have entered either the Baptist ministry or the Indian mission field?

John Sutcliff was born on August 9, 1752, at Strait Hey, a farm near Todmorden in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Raised by godly parents, he came to personal faith in his teens and encouraged by John Fawcett, was baptised and became a member of Wainsgate Baptist Church, near Hebden Bridge.

Sutcliff’s hunger for spiritual and academic knowledge gave evidence of his suitability to the pastoral ministry. Commended by the church at Wainsgate, Sutcliff entered the Bristol Baptist Academy in 1772. That he walked the entire 200 miles from home to college, gives an idea of his financial circumstances. It was at Bristol that Sutcliff was influenced by Caleb Evans and encountered the writings of Jonathan Edwards. From Edwards, Sutcliff learnt how to combine his commitment to Calvinism with a passion for evangelism and revival.

After gaining preaching experience in Trowbridge, Shrewsbury and Birmingham, Sutcliff was called to the pastorate of Olney, a market town in North Buckinghamshire bordering both Northants and Bedfordshire. His acceptance was somewhat reluctant, but he remained there from 1775 until his death in 1814. He was ordained in 1776, a year after his arrival.

The Baptist cause in Olney dates back to the 1660s. When Sutcliff arrived, the congregation had good numbers (the meeting-house having been enlarged in 1763), but was characterised by division. The church had joined the Northamptonshire Baptist Association, founded in 1765. The evangelical cause in Olney was strong.

In addition to the Baptists, John Newton had come to the parish church in 1764 where William Cowper, hymn writer and poet, became a member. (Newton and Cowper were responsible for the publication, in 1779, of the Olney Hymns.)

In Olney, there was also an evangelical Congregationalist church practising infant baptism.

Cross-denominational relations were surprisingly good for the period. Newton attended Sutcliff’s ordination and when the Northamptonshire Baptist Association held its annual meeting on at least two occasions in the large parish church, Newton was invited to attend and participate. All three churches participated in a shared annual youth service. However, relations between Sutcliff and his congregation were not quite so affable, especially in the early years of Sutcliff’s pastorate when there was friction between minister and congregation.

The Baptist Church, like so many others at the time, held to the doctrine of High Calvinism. Sutcliff preached a more moderated evangelicaI Calvinism. However, he worked hard to unify the church and all of the High Calvinists who had left the congregation before his arrival were restored to membership by 1782.

In 1783 Sutcliff publicly declared his commitment to evangelical Calvinism. This he set out in The First Principles of the Oracles of God, presented in a Plain and Familiar Catechism, For the Use of Children. His views were shared by his two close friends Andrew Fuller and John Ryland.

In the following year these three men Issued the Prayer Call of 1784 (leaflet No 6). Following Fuller’s sermon to the Association, Sutcliff called upon churches to meet and pray monthly for ‘the revival of real religion, and the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world’. The Prayer Call was taken up not only by Baptist churches in the Association but by churches – Baptist and otherwise – across the land. There can be little doubt that It was this Prayer Call that led to the revival of the Baptist cause in England and the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.

It was soon after the Prayer Call that Sutcliff was to be influential In the life of William Carey. Carey had been preaching as a layman at both Hackleton and Earls Barton. When the latter considered calling him as their minister, Carey sought the advice of Sutcliff who urged him, out of concern that he be sent into the ministry from a more solidly established work, to become a member of Olney. In 1785 Carey preached before the congregation at Olney, but his preaching was not considered good enough for him to proceed to ordination. Under Sutcliff’s care, Carey’s gifts were nurtured and he preached again the following year, this time with a positive result. Carey was, of course, the first to leave England’s shores under the auspices of the new missionary society.

From the end of the 18th century much of Sutcliff’s time was taken up away from Olney. In places as far afield as Scotland, he promoted and raised funds for the Society. While others went overseas, he, Fuller and Ryland were the ‘ropeholders’.

On the domestic front, Sutcliff did find time however in 1796 to marry one Jane Johnston. They had no children. She was to die just 11 weeks after her husband, her death hurried on no doubt by a broken heart.

In 1798 Sutcliff formed a seminary for missionary and ministerial students. The seminary was in a rented house adjacent to Sutcliff’s own home and over the coming years, a total of over three dozen such students came under Sutcliff’s expert academic and pastoral tutelage. As well as teaching them and providing them with access to ‘one of the finest libraries in the country’, he also gave them practical training. Preaching in local villages was a regular requirement of their duties.

One of the first that Sutcliff trained was Daniel Brunsden who later wrote to Sutcliff from India, giving an eye-witness account of the baptism of Krisha Pal, the Missionary Society’s and Carey’s first convert. What a joy it was to Sutcliff to see his training efforts rewarded and his prayers answered!

In the closing years of his life and ministry, Sutcliff retained an ecumenical outlook. He was an evangelical first and a Baptist second. As well as maintaining a close relationship with Newton and his successors, he also supported, for example, the Bedfordshire Union of Christians, a co-operative venture between Baptists and Congregationalists working together in the common cause of village Gospel preaching. But one of the last public acts of Sutcliff was his presence in London in 1813 when he preached at the annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society and attended the inaugural meeting of the Baptist Union.

Sutcliff’s health, never robust, failed him in February 1814. The evidence suggests he had a heart attack and died on June 22. Andrew Fuller preached the funeral address and concluded on a clear evangelistic note. Sutcliff would have approved.

This is part of a written tribute to Sutcliff that Fuller asked Robert Hall of Arnesby to compose:

‘Few men took a deeper interest… in the genera! state of the church and the propagation of the Gospel abroad. The future glory of the Kingdom of God end the best means of promoting it were his favourite topics and usurped a large part of his thoughts and his prayers; nor was he ever more in his element than when he was exerting his powers in devising plans for its extension.’

Rev. David Dewey

Bibliography

Principal source: ‘One Heart and One Soul’, by Michael Haykin, Evangelical Press, 1994.

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Moravians

 

Thank God for the Moravians! ……Who? ……Why?

Carey…   Doddridge…   Arnold… all men that God used to extend His Kingdom in Northampton and beyond and who had been influenced by a group of believers based in Germany, led by Count Zinzendorf.

As a community, they committed themselves to pray twenty-four hours a day for every day of the year for the evangelisation of the world and this continued for over 100 years. To reach slaves, two became slaves so that “the Lamb might receive the reward of His sufferings.”

No wonder Carey quoted from their reports to reinforce his case for modern missions to be initiated, in the meeting at Kettering in 1792.

Doddridge corresponded with the Moravians regularly. When his daughter was seriously ill a member of the Moravians came and prayed for her healing and the Lord restored her to Doddridge’s delight. He had seen members of his church joining the Moravian congregation because of the ‘life’ there. Thomas Arnold of Castle Hill was born into a Moravian family and was noted for his ministry to deaf mutes in the town, as well as his preaching.

The Moravians exerted an influence out of all proportion to their numbers and were ‘salt and light’ in Northampton. They preached to the prisoners in the County gaol in the town, where up to 200 prisoners were kept and there are records of 1,500 hearing the gospel in the yard of the gaol (total population of Northampton at

that time, the 1780’s, was about 10,000). They found acceptance because of their charitable work and the influential citizens of the town, such as Mr Thursby of Abington (Thursby Road) invited them into their homes.

They sought to be self-supporting; creating businesses that not only supported them but brought them into intimate contact with people. If the circumstances did not allow this then other Moravian communal settlements with their crafts and industries would support them out of their profits.

Local Moravians were helped financially by the large Moravian Community in Bedford which also sent over preachers who helped found churches in Woodford Halse, Culworth and Eydon in the west of the county. Their lively singing attracted people to their meetings which were held, from 1769, in their church building at 11 St Giles Street (now under the Town Hall extension). They also had a school.

Their mission was evangelism across the world — “we do not wish to draw people away from their own churches but to preach with the divine promised presence the common salvation of lost sinners through the blood of the Son of God”. It was rooted in prayer and evidenced in ‘doing good’ without regard to denomination.

It is little wonder that God used them in challenging Wesley — who was going to evangelise in America before being converted himself. “I went to America to convert the Indians but oh! who shall convert me?” In 1738 the gospel was preached to John Wesley at the Moravian Church in Fetter Lane, London. The famous entry in his journal records: ‘/

felt my heart strangely warmed, / felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’

The Countess of Huntingdon, another prominent Christian who financed preachers and churches in the eighteenth century was also brought to Christ through Moravians. What is the significance of these people who received public thanks, from the mayor and other prominent people for their works in the town?

  • They were rooted in prayer.

  • Christ was their focus and goal.

  • They recognised God’s heart for the world and were therefore mission minded.

  • They showed the gospel went hand in hand with ‘doing good’.

  • Young people were taught the Bible systematically.

  • They sought fellowship with all who loved the Lord and His Word.

  • They demonstrated life in their worship.

They were just one group of Christians in late eighteenth century Northampton that acted as a catalyst for change.

God’s principles do not change, though congregations come and go.

He honours dependency on Himself!

The Moravian Church

Led by Count Zinzendorf [1700-1760], began in 1734 a mission work that was to have profound effects throughout the Christian world. They were noted for their prayerful, patient approach as ‘assistants to the Holy Spirit’.

Their German home base was called Herrnhut [the Lord’s watch], famous for being the centre for over 100 years of ‘Prayer Wall’; 24 hour, 7 day a week prayer.

Sixty years before Carey went to India and over 100 years before Hudson Taylor went to China, two Moravian missionaries landed in the Caribbean. Twenty years later in 1752, Moravians were in Algeria, Sri Lanka, China, Iran, Ethiopia and Labrador.

The Moravians were weak in developing leaders, planting churches and their missionaries short on adequate preparation. They had some ‘different’ theological perspectives. If you met them today you might choose to write them off but perhaps this quote sums up what we can team from them:

“The Moravian Church was the first among Protestant churches to treat this (missionary) work as the responsibility of the church as a whole instead of leaving It to societies or specially interested people.” J.R.Weinlick.

Moravian missionaries were purposely sent to the most despised and neglected people and like many missionaries since, faced disease and possible death. In Guyana, 75 out of the first 160 missionaries died from tropical disease. A line from a hymn written by a Greenland missionary expressed their heart:

“Lo through ice and snow, one poor lost soul for Christ to gain; Glad we bear want and distress to set forth the Lamb once slain”.

Their missionary obedience was essentially glad and spontaneous, motivated by a deep passion and love for Christ. This led them to face the most incredible difficulties and dangers with remarkable courage.

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Philip Doddridge

 

When Philip Doddridge was born on 26 June 1702 he appeared stillborn. Already out of his 19 brothers and sisters only one, a sister, had survived infancy. Yet a slight movement of the body indicated a breath of life and he survived. Born somewhere in London, Doddridge was taught by a devout mother, so that he was familiar with Bible stories depicted on the glazed Delft tiles of the fireplace long before he could read.

The death of his mother when he was only eight followed by his father four years later left him an orphan. Even his dear uncle Philip from whom his name was derived died in 1715. Taken under the care of a guardian who squandered his inheritance, Doddridge was eventually cared for by the Rev Samuel Clark, a Presbyterian minister from St Albans, who helped him secure a place in the Dissenting Academy at Kibworth in Leicestershire. Doddridge had joined Clark’s church at the age of sixteen.

Since the Great Ejectment from their posts of Puritan ministers, university dons and schoolmasters in 1662, many had established schools. These Dissenting Academies brought about a flowering of education with a broad and exciting curriculum. The Kibworth Academy was of high quality and Doddridge relished his life as a student, reading widely and enthusiastically. He established the practice of rising early at 5am to begin the day which he occupied with varied and useful activity; it was a habit which he continued throughout his life.

Once training for ministry was completed in 1723 Doddridge accepted the pastorate in Kibworth then moved to Market Harborough. In an age when death from illnesses such as tuberculosis and smallpox was common Doddridge was soon called upon to undertake the principalship of the Academy itself, as its young principal had died. Agreeing to this and preparing to set up the Academy in Market Harborough Doddridge astounded everyone by announcing his move to the Castle Hill Church in Northampton.

He duly arrived in the town on Christmas Eve 1729 and set up home in the manse in Marefair at the comer of Pike Lane. The academy students were to live in the house with him. Thus began an energetic ministry, ambitious in its scope and remarkable in its effectiveness. Doddridge’s ministry had many facets. His work in the Academy later moved to Sheep Street (part of the building still survives) and produced many able ministers, lecturers and others from all denominations.

The rules of the Northampton Academy were copied by the developing universities such as Yale and Princeton in the United States. Students were taught to write in shorthand which itself influenced the development of Pitman shorthand. Doddridge encouraged a school for boys in Bridge Street and had plans for developing education for girls. He was greatly exercised in bringing Scripture into the home, making parents responsible for spiritual teaching, and influencing children and young people to build up the church of the future.

The Castle Hill meeting house saw him in action as a minister who taught with passion and tenderness. Illustrating his sermons with hymns Doddridge became an important influence upon the development of hymnody as a vehicle for the social implications of the Gospel. Influenced by his friend Isaac Watts, Doddridge helped in establishing congregational hymn singing as an acceptable part of worship. Doddridge also published sermons at his own expense in order to influence society more widely.

His daughter died in infancy and he published his funeral sermon for her in order to help other parents who were similarly suffering.

In publishing a pamphlet written by one of his own students who had died of smallpox Doddridge succeeded in changing public opinion in favour of inoculation against disease. It is to Doddridge that Northampton owes the foundation of the General Hospital as well as its defence against the invasion by the Jacobites in 1745. He was a defender of religious liberty and became nationally famous for his defence of the rights of Dissenters to have schools. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Aberdeen University in 1736.

In the time between getting up at 5am and having his breakfast Doddridge pursued a literary career, writing influential books. Considered one of the greatest works of the 18th century his Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (still in print) influenced many people. One such was the antislavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Another of Doddridge’s great writings was The Family Expositor, a translation of the New Testament with commentaries and devotional exercises, the first work of its kind, remained popular for over a century. William Carey made use of it when translating the New Testament into Bengali. Carey himself had been baptised in the River Nene, having made use of Doddridge’s vestry at Castle Hill because of its proximity to the river. Carey was undoubtedly influenced by Doddridge’s passion for overseas mission.

A generation before Carey, Doddridge had preached on The Evil and Danger of Neglecting the Souls of Men; such passion was to re-emerge in Carey’s famous Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens and the formation of the BMS in 1792.

Carey by single-minded determination brought Protestant missionary endeavour to global dimensions, yet it was men like Doddridge who prepared the soil and first sowed the little grain of future enterprises.

Doddridge died at the early age of 49 years. Yet he had packed into those years a multitude of service that served as a burning and shining light to all. The Evangelical Movement owes much to his quiet yet far-reaching influence through his writings, teaching and hymns thus reaching all classes and sections of provincial society and transforming Dissent and even the Church of England. His influence lives on. The tercentenary of his birth will be celebrated in 2002.

Malcolm Deacon
Minister, Castle Hill Church

Bibliography

Philip Doddridge of Northampton by Malcolm Deacon. Published by Northamptonshire Libraries. 1980. The Church on Castle Hill by Malcolm Deacon. Published by Park Lane Publishing 1995.

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Prayer Call of 1784

 

as presented by John Sutcliff to the Baptist Association assembled on 2-3 June 1784.

Upon a motion being made to the ministers and messengers of the associate Baptist churches assembled at Nottingham, respecting meeting for prayer, to bewail the low estate of religion, and earnestly implore a revival of our churches, and of the general cause of our Redeemer, and for that end to wrestle with God for the effusion of His Holy Spirit, which alone can produce the blessed effect, it was unanimously RESOLVED, to recommend to all our churches and congregations, the spending of one hour in this important exercise, on the first Monday in every calendar month.

We solemnly exhort all the churches in our connexion, to engage heartily and perseveringly in the prosecution of this plan. And thus it may be well to endeavour to keep the same hour, as a token of our unity therein, it is supposed the following scheme may suit many congregations, viz, to meet on the first Monday evening in May, June and July from 8 to 9. In Aug. from 7 to 8; Sept. and Oct. from 6 to 7; Nov. Dec. Jan. and Feb. from 5 to 6; March from 6 to 7; and April from 7 to 8. Nevertheless if this hour, or even the particular evening, should not suit in particular places, we wish our brethren to fix on one more convenient to themselves.

We hope also that as many of our brethren who live at a distance from our places of worship may riot be able to attend there, that as many as are conveniently situated in a village or neighbourhood, will unite in small societies at the same time. And if any single individual should be so situated as not to be able to attend to this duty in society with others, let him retire at the appointed hour, to unite the breath of prayer in private with those who are thus engaged in a more public manner.

The grand object in prayer is to be, that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinners may be converted, the saints edified, the interest of religion revived, and the Name of God glorified. And at the same time remember, we trust you will not confine your requests to your own societies, or to your own immediate Connection; let the whole interest of the Redeemer be affectionately remembered, and the spread of the Gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe be the object of your most fervent requests.

We shall rejoice if any other Christian societies of our own and other denominations will unite with us, and do now invite them most cordially to join heart and hand in the attempt.

Who can tell what the consequence of such an united effort in prayer may be! Let us plead with God the many gracious promises of His Word, which relate to the future success of His Gospel.

He has said:

“I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them, I will increase them with men like a flock” Ezek 36 v 37.

Surely we have love enough to Zion to set apart one hour at a time, twelve times in a year, to seek her welfare.

Background

In October 1744 a number of evangelical ministers in Scotland had committed themselves, together with their congregations, to pray regularly and corporately for revival. Regular times were spent in prayer to God for “abundant effusion of his Holy Spirit” so as to “revive true religion in all parts of Christendom” to “deliver all nations from their great and manifold spiritual calamities and miseries” and to “fill the earth with His Glory”. These ‘Concerts of Prayer’ ran for several years.

Jonathan Edwards, the great revivalist of Northampton, Massachusetts, sought to implement similar prayer gatherings in the New England colonies. In a sermon he gave in February 1747 on Zechariah 8:20-22 Edwards demonstrated how the text supported his call for a union of praying Christians. He followed this up by writing his famous paper “An Humble Attempt to promote Explicit Agreement of God’s people in Extraordinary Prayer for the revival of real religion and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, pursuant to Scripture promises and prophecies concerning the last Time.” Edwards adopted the Scottish practice of calling for a quarterly united effort, and where possible for ministers, for a definite period each week.

“An Humble Attempt” fired the zeal of the Baptist Pastor in Olney, John Sutcliff, who undertook a reprint. This proved a tremendous encouragement to the Baptist churches of the Northamptonshire Association in the whole matter of praying for revival, and led to issuing ‘The Prayer Call of 1784’. This Prayer Call saw the launch of monthly gatherings for prayer throughout the Association which carried on well in to the following century. They also served as the foundation stone for the forming of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 and the launching of the ‘modem mission movement’ which has led to the transformation of societies and nations.

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 Posted by at 8:22 am