THIS ancient church is the mother church of the Midland Association. The precise year of its formation cannot now be determined, but it is probable that it rose somewhere between 1650 and 1660, as it is known that Mr. Eccles preached both here and at Bewdley during those years. He had been baptized at the latter place by the celebrated John Tombes, who, though a clergyman in the establishment, both preached and administered baptism by immersion, and formed in Bewdley a separate church of baptized believers which continues to this day. Under him Mr. Eccles was called to the ministry, and began to preach when about 15 or 16 years of age. In consequence of his youth he was called “the Boy preacher,” and
appears to have been very popular. In an elegy, which was written on his death, his youth, popularity, and success are referred to in these lines:
“With fervent zeal the gospel seed he sows,
Which Bromsgrove, Bewdley, largely from him mows;
In active youth and manhood, there his charge,
Christ's work he plies with approbation large "
For many years this laborious minister preached regularly both at Bromsgrove and Bewdley, and it would appear that this continued to be the case until about 1688 when Bromsgrove became his sole pastorate, it having been formed into a separate church about the year 1670. Mr. Eccles did not wholly escape persecution, as the history proves (see page 32); but his ministry was eminently successful notwithstanding. In 1670 there were 97 members in the church. Mr. Eccles attended both the general assemblies held in London in 1689 and 1692, and it was between these years, in 1690, that the Association was reconstructed, and Bromsgrove became one of its churches. About 1692, David Crossley was called to the work of the ministry, who afterwards became pastor at Currier’s Hall, London. In the same year the Rev. Richard Claridge, M.A., who had been Rector of Peopleton, was baptized and sent forth to the work of the ministry. He also removed to London and preached among the Baptists, but eventually joined the Society of Friends. In 1695 part of the church and Mr. Eccles differed on some point that is not clearly stated, and their mutual harmony was disturbed. The dispute was carried to the Association who decided against Mr. Eccles, and pronounced him and his adherents guilty of “schism.” Eccles appealed to London, and the celebrated Benjamin Keach, with his brethren in the Metropolis, vindicated Mr. Eccles and his friends, and so far reversed the decision of the Association. Notwithstanding this unhappy dispute, the church continued to entertain a high regard for him, which was proved by their repeatedly refusing to accept his resignation when tendered. This however was done in about 1697, after which Mr. Eccles retired to Coventry, where he preached some years, and died in 1711, aged 76 years, having been a minister of the gospel for 60 years or more. Crosby says of him that “He was a man of worth, and much given to hospitality." After Mr. Eccles' retirement the church remained without a
pastor for several years, being dependent on supplies. But for about a year and a half they appear to have had the ministry of the Rev. John Moore, who removed into Northamptonshire November 9th, 1699. He was connected with the Baptist church at Rosendale in Lancashire, and had received a liberal education. Dr. Ryland, in giving an account of the Baptist church at Northampton, of which Mr. Moore had been pastor from 1700 to his death in 1726, says, he had read a volume of printed sermons by Mr. Moore, in which “There was also prefixed, though printed in 1722, God’s Matchless Love to a Sinful World; the substance of several sermons, preached at Bromsgrove, in Worcestershire, May 22 and 29, 1698." It would be worth an effort on the part of the Bromsgrove church to obtain a copy of these sermons.
The next Pastor was “Brother William Peart" from Pershore, who settled at Bromsgrove about 1708 or 1709, and continued pastor until 1717, when, according to Dr. Ryland, he left for America. A grandson of Mr. Peart was baptized in 1759, and became a deacon of the church, which office he sustained for half a century. In 1717 the church members were 82. “Brother George Yarnold" who had been ordained an elder in 1716, succeeded Mr. Peart in the pastorate, and during his ministry, and chiefly by members of the Bromsgrove church, the first Birmingham Baptist church was formed in Cannon Street, in 1737. Mr. Yarnold was present on that occasion, and assisted in the interesting services. His pastorate continued about 30 years.* In 1755 he was succeeded by Mr. James Butterworth, who was ordained June 29th, 1757. During his ministry, which continued nearly forty years, the members signed a “Covenant” in 1764, as a token of their adherence to the great doctrines which the church considered it a sacred duty to maintain; to this Covenant 89 names were attached. In 1787 Mr. William Crowther was dismissed to Upton, he having been called to the pastorate over that church. In 1790 Mr. E. Edmonds brought from Birmingham, (there being no baptistery at
* The Bromsgrove Trust deed was framed in 1744, and signed June the 12th in that year, by the following, whose names it bears, Philip Jones (Upton), Benjamin Beddome (Bourton), Benjamin Belcher (Henley-in-Arden), John Pointing (Worcester), John Overbury (Alcester), James Kittilby (Bewdley.) In 1770 the meeting house near Howe Lane was built.
Needless Alley at that time,) seven men, and seventeen women, and baptized them at Bromsgrove as members of his own church in Birmingham. Mr. Butterworth's ministry at Bromsgrove terminated in 1794, he having rendered himself obnoxious to the “Church and King’ party, by uttering his honest convictions respecting the French Revolution. He took refuge in Coventry where he ended his days. During his ministry Mr. Palmer, who was subsequently the useful pastor at Shrewsbury, Mr. Amphlett, afterwards pastor at Towcester, and Mr. Miles, a. gentleman in priest's orders and master of the Kidderminster Grammar School, were baptized. Mr. Edmonds, the successful Pastor at Bond Street, Birmingham, is also reported to have been awakened under the ministry of Mr. Butterworth. - In 1795, Mr. Palmer was dismissed as Pastor to Shrewsbury in which town and neighbourhood he was eminently useful, and originated several churches. In 1798 the late venerable John Scroxton became the minister, and was ordained April 16, 1800. In 1801 the members were but 28, - in 1808 they were 40, in 1809 the advanced to 48, and in 1835 they stood at 87. In 1802 Solomon Young, who afterwards became a tutor at Stepney College, was called to the ministry. Mr. James Grudge, formerly of Dr. Rippon's church, was also called to the ministry in 1810. He became pastor at Bythorne, near Thrapstone. In 1814 the meeting house in Worcester Street was built. * Mr. Scroxton’s ministry continued with some assistance until 1834, when Mr. Benaiah Hoe was invited by the church to supply the pulpit. He remained until 1837 when he left for Rochdale, and was succeeded in 1838 by Mr. Blakeman, who in 1842 was followed in the pastorate by Mr. T. Davis. In 1848 Mr. Davis resigned, and emigrated to the United States, and was succeeded by Mr. Sneath whose ministry continued until 1851. The labours of these two brethren were encouraging and profitable to the church, the members having increased in one of the years to 164. After an interval Mr. Sneath was succeeded by Abraham Jones, who at the close of a brief ministry was followed by Mr. Aikenhead. This excellent brother, whose residence here was not of two years' duration, has recently removed to Wantage, and the church is again left without a pastor.
* The present chapel was opened in 1828.
In 1854, May 21, the venerable John Scroxton departed this life, at the advanced age of 89 years. Few men have ever exhibited more of the genuine simplicity of Christ and pious humility, than this excellent minister. All who enjoyed the pleasure of his acquaintance (and the writer was one) could not avoid loving him; and when he departed to his reward the manifestations of respect to his memory by all the denominations in the town, attested his worth more impressively than can be done by the most laboured eulogium. Since his resignation of the ministry, no pastorate at Bromsgrove has been of any considerable duration, and this is all the more painful as standing in direct contrast with its early history. From 1655 to 1835 a period of 180 years, there were but five pastors, whose united ministries averaged 36 years each. Since 1835 to 1855, a period of 20 years, six ministers have been pastors of the church. The materials for establishing a solid and useful cause are yet at hand for the work of a wise master-builder for Christ. May the Great Head of the Church provide Bromsgrove with such a man, that this birth place of souls and of several eminent ministers, may even yet surpass its former honour in preserving and spreading the pure gospel of the grace of God. Its present members, as reported in the last Circular Letter, (1855) are 103; - and the Sunday School contains 160 children. It is (some say unfortunately) an endowed church.
[From The History of the Midland Association of Baptist Churches, 1855, pp. 52-56. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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