Editor's note - There are thirteen churches included in this history; they are: Sutton-in-the-Elms, Arnsby, Foxton, Sheepshed, Belvoir Street, Husband's Bosworth, Blaby, Rugby, Monk's Kirby, Loughborough, Oadby, Charles-Street Leicester and Countesthorpe. - Jim Duvall
History of the Baptist Churches in Connection with the Leicestershire Association
The Circular Letter read before the Messengers of the
Associated Churches, at Monk's Kirby, Whit. Tuesday, 1865
It is impossible to discover with certainty the period at which Baptist principles first took root in this county; but the following facts, which may be relied on, are interesting: -
Mr. Hansered Knollys, one of the earliest Baptists of distinction in this country, of whom there is any record, held a church-living at Humberstone, in Leicestershire; but on being convinced that the Baptist principles and practice were in accordance with the teaching of the Divine Word, he resigned his living in the year 1636. This took place fourteen years before the formation of the oldest church in the country; but perhaps not, as may be shown hereafter, before the nucleus of that church existed in persons scattered about in the district holding Baptist principles, who, on becoming known to each other, and as their opinions became diffused, united themselves together in church-fellowship. The Rev. Richard Adams also, a successor of the Rev. H. Knollys in the rectory of Humberstone, was one of the 2,000 who were ejected from their livings in 1662, and became afterwards a Baptist minister in London. The following account of him is taken from "Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial": -"After his ejectment in 1662, he married a wife at Mountsorrel, and there set up a meeting in his own house. At first many persons were afraid to appear at it, but afterwards it greatly increased, and he continued it about fourteen years. Justice Babinton, who, though a sober man, was very zealous against the dissenters, and oppressed them more than all the other justices in that county, was very severe again him. He fined him twelve pence per day, and sent to the officers of the parish to make distress for it. The poor men were so troubled in conscience that they knew not what to do. At length upon the justice threatening them, they seized his pewter ans sent it to the peweter's, who refused to buy it. After this the justice sent for Mr. Adams, and told him he was not against his keeping school, but if he would not leave off his meetings he must expect to be troubled. Soon after this the justice died of excessive bleeding. Mr. Adams went to London, and, being of the Baptist denomination, succeeded Mr. Daniel Dyke, at Devonshire-square. He was a man of great piety and integrity. He lived to a great age; and some years before his death was disabled from preaching. Mr. Mark Key, his assistant, succeeded him."Mr. Adams was a friend of Mr. Richard Farmer, to whom the church at Arnsby owes its origin.
In giving a brief sketch of each church in the Association separately, only two feasible methods presented themselves; either to take the churches in alphabetical order or in historical order, i.e., according to the date of their formation, beginning with the oldest and proceeding onwards to that which is of most recent date. To have attempted to arrange the churches in the order of importance would have been invidious. The first method, the alphabetical order, seemed to be a purely arbitrary one, which nothing could justify except the advantage of easy reference; but as the number of churches in the Association is small it would be no advantage in the present case. The other method appeared to be the natural one, and has therefore been adopted. If to some churches a larger space has been devoted than to others, it has not arisen from any desire to magnify the former at the expense of the latter, but simply because the materials at hand were much scantier in some cases than in others.
The oldest church in this Association, and without exception the oldest Baptist church in Leicestershire, is that of Sutton-in-the-Elms. It was founded in the year 1650, the same year in which the church at Bedford was formed, in the society of whose pastor and members John Bunyan received so much help and encouragement when earnestly seeking the way of salvation, of which church he became a member in 1655, and over which, after his release from his twelve years' imprisonment in Bedford jail, he presided for many years as pastor. Before this date, however, there was a number of persons holding Baptist principles scattered throughout this district of the county, who, although they occassionally met at other places, made Sutton the place of their general assemblies.
The great abundance of elm trees which formerly covered the surrounding country, and from which the village Sutton-in-the-Elms took its name afforded the means of secresy necessary in those troublous times when persecution raged against all who did not conform to the Established Church. The spot is still pointed out where, under the shelter of the trees, these persons met to worship God, to mediate upon His holy word, and for the communion of saints. From a curious note in the old church book it would appear that at this time and for more than a century afterwards singing formed no part of the religious service; this arose, doubtless, from the secret character of their meetings. It was not thought advisable, under the circumstances, to run the risk of discivering to others the place of their retreat by uniting with loud voice in singing the praises of God, but this practice of carrying on their worship without singing continued long after the necessity fro concealment had ceased to exist; and, when the service of song was introduced, it was opposed by some of the older members of the church. In the year 1650, these scattered people formed themselves into a church under the pastoral care of mr. Thos. Townsend, their services being held alternately at Sutton, Willoughby, Bitteswell, Leire, and Frolesworth. From the facts that the deacons and members of the church wee scattered about in the neighbouring towns of Leicester, Lutterworth, and Hicnkley, it is supposed that Sutton became the place of meeting in consequence of the "Five-Mile-Act." For like reasons, the Quakers or "Friends" had formerly a meeting-house in the village, the burial gound attached to which has ceased to be used only within the memory of the oldest inhabitants. Of Mr. Townsend's ministry little is known except the fact that he held the pastorate of the church forty-nine years, until 1699, and then on account of infirmity resigned his office, and died at Sutton, five years after, at an advanced age. On the resignation of Mr. Townsend, Mr. Benjamn Moore became pastor, and died at Sutton, having held his office there forty years. From a covenant in which the members of the church pledged themselves to withdraw from any member who should transgress the Divine rule of marrying "in the Lord" -- a covenant which was not uncommon in our oldest chuches -- drawn up during Mr. Moore's pastorate in the year 1709, and signed by the members of the church, it would appear that the number of members at this time was about sixty. In 1739, Mr. Robert Gilbert succeeded Mr. Moore, and after a brief ministry of two or three years, was cut off suddenly in the flower of his age. After his death the church was without a settled pastor for about eight years.
Mr. Isaac Woodman was the next pastor of the church. He has been described as "an amiable and venerable man." During his pastorate the church at Harvey-lane, Leicester, was formed by 13 members from the church at Sutton. In consequence of the great depression of trade throughout the county, they removed to Leicester for better employment; but, on settling there, they were dissatisfied with the preaching which generally obtained in the town, as not setting forth in their view distinctly and prominently the gospel of Christ. On this account they resolved to form a new church and to open another place of worship, and obtained use of a barn in Harvey-lane, on the site of the chapel which has recently been re-opened for worship in connection wiht the Denomination. Mr. Woodman, who was not only a man of sterling worth but in easy corcumstance, took a very active interest in the new church, and in many ways laboured to promote its welfare. He died suddenly in 1771, in the twenty-second year of his pastorate. The year following, Mr. William Butler, who was a member of the church at Arnsby, became pastor, and continued in this office eight years. Soon after his removal, Mr. Thomas Edmonds commenced his ministry at Sutton, and remained there till the year 1793, when he removed to Upton. In the same year, Mr. B. Evans became his successor, and held the pastoral office for nine or ten years, when he removed to Enderby; and was pastor of the church at Blaby for many years. Mr. C. M. Crachroade succeeded him. In the fourth year of his ministry there, he died very suddenly, after having preached at Leire, on Sunday morning, with his accustomed animation, from the Saviour's words: "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke xix.10). He was highly esteemed, and his name is still held in affectionate remembrance.
In the year 1810, Mr. Cheney Burdett became the pastor of the church, and remained forty-two years - the whole of his ministerial life. he was a man of kind and genial spirit, and was much respected by all who knew him of every party. The present chapel was enlarged at his settlement at the cost of L300, the whole of which sum was raised in one day. It appears that about 100 persons were added to the church during his ministry. He died, after a long illness, in 1852. In the next year Mr. J. J. Gough began his ministry, and laboured there for upwards of four years, when he removed to America. During his ministry, a goodly number of members was added to the church. He was succeeded, in the autumn of 1857, by the present pastor. During the past year the chapel and chapel-house underwent extensive repairs and alterations. The church now enjoys a good degree of prosperity.
In estimating the services which such a church as this, which has never contained very many members, has rendered in the establishment of the Redeemer's kingdom, we must consider its peculiar character and position. For many years after its formation, it was the centre of a circle whose circumference was about 60 miles, i.e. the members of the church and congregation were scattered up and down, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9 miles in various directions from Sutton, and thus exerted a wide-spread influence. The circle has been gradually becoming smaller, as new chapels have been built and new churches formed; but as the circle of the church's influence has become smaller, the church has contributed to the forming and strengthening of other churches. As the Nile, when its overflowing waters begin to subside, leaves, as it retires to narrow limits, a blessing behind it; so it is with this and kindred churches. They enrich others, whilst they themselves are impoverished. The church, throughout its whole course, has been distinguished as a peaceful church. The only temporary discord in the olden time arose out of that which was intended to bring harmony, viz., the introduction of singing. In later years it has again and again afforded a quiet and peaceful retreat for those who have fled from the unhappy strifes of other communities. (pp. 708-711.)
The church at Arnsby, at its original formation, met at Kilby, a small village about two miles north-east nearer to Leicester. Thid church was formed about the year 1667 by Mr. Richard Farmer, who, according to Crosby, was a very affectionate and acceptable preacher, wwho applied closely to his studies with great success. He lived on terms of intimate friendship with three ministers who were ejected from their livings in the county by the Black Bartholomew Act in 1662, viz., Revs. Richard Adams, J. Shuttlewood, and Matthew Clark. Mr. Adams has been already mentioned as ejected from his living at Humberstone, and becoming some years afterwards the pastor of the Baptist church, Devonshire-square, London. Mr. Shuttlewood was a man of considerable ability and learning, as well as of deep and earnest piety, and was accustomed to preach in Leicestershire and Northampton, as opportunity offered. He educated young men for the ministry, some of whom afterwards rose to distinction. He suffered much persecution - the spoiling of his goods and imprisonment - for the sake of the Gospel. Mr. Matthew Clark, who was ejected from the living at Narborough, was an indefatigable student, and well-versed in the classics and Oriental learning, his fondness for which was such, that he learned the modern Persian after he was 66 years of age. He preached in various places throughout the county, and formed the independent churches at Narborough, Wigston and Market Harborough. He was imprisoned three times in Leicester jail. With these thee companions in labour and in suffering Mr. Farmer was accustomed to meet. They frequently kept days of prayer together at Mr. Woolaston's, at Loseby.
Mr. Farmer possessed a small estate; but he suffered much in the persecution which raged during the reign of the second Charles. Distress was made upon his goods, and property to the value of L100 was taken from him in a single year. Two of his violent persecutors - one of whom boasted of the gains he intended to make by informing against him - met their death under peculiar circumstances, which the people at the time regarded as a manifestation of the divine judgment, which sometimes overtakes wicked and abandoned men in this world. One of them was drowned in a very shallow brook; the other died from a swollen tongue, he having (as was believed) taken a false oath against Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer's pastorate lasted about 20 years, until his death, which took place in 1687. Two of the original members of the church, Mr. Henry Coleman and Mr. Benjamin Winckles, succeeded him. About the year 1694 a division took place, in consequence of some slight theological differences, which at that time and for many years afterwards were discussed with undue warmth, as may be seen in the bitter controversy between Wesley and Toplady. The minority, adhering to Mr. Coleman, seceded; meeting for worship and communion at Mowsley, from whence they removed, and laid the foundation of the church at Foxton. The majority of the members continued under the pastorate of Mr. Winckles, at Kilby. For an account of his courtship and marriage, by which he came into the possession of property that enabled him the better to serve the church at Kilby and Arnsby, the curious in such matters are referred to the "History of the Arnsby Church," by the late Mr. W. Bassett. After his marriage Mr. Winckles lived for some years on the borders of Huntingdonshire; but although thirty miles constituted a great distance at that time, he was constant in his ministrations at Kilby. In the year 1701, he bought a close at Arnsby, and built himself a dwelling-house, in order to be nearer the sphere of his ministerial labours. Soon after this, the church discontinued their meetings at Kilby, and began to worship in a malting at Arnsby, and in 1702, Mr. Winckles built the first chapel at Arnsby, a relic of which still exists, forming a part of the stable adjoining the chapel-house. The first account in the old church-book of their meeting at Arnsby is in May, 1702, the year in which the chapel was built. At this time the members were scattered over a wide district; and church-meetings for the breaking of bread and the reception of members were sometimes held as far off as Coventry and Northampton, as well as at Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, and other places in the Fens. The ministry of Mr. Winckles was very successful. The church was, for that time, large; and the church discipline very strict. One rule, which was rigidly enforced during Mr. Winckles' ministry, was that of forbidding any member to be married at the Established Church. When the fierce and bitter persecutions received at the hands of the clergy and their adherents are remembered, and the then condition of that, which is acknowledged to have been but a slight improvement upon Roman Catholic times, is considered, our surprise will be greatly diminished; but our reading the sentences pronounced upon the members of the church who violated this rule, couched as they are in the Scriptural phraseology so common to our puritan forefathers, but which has now well-nigh died out, one cannot resist a smile. One instance will suffice. In 1714, a member was cut off from church-fellowship for "going to Babylon to be married," - meaning, of course, the Spiritual Babylon, the Church of England. Mr. Winckles not only preached and ministered to the people gratuitously, but always kept bread and cheese and beer ready for the refreshment of the poor who came from a distance. A man of spotless integrity and true piety, he did justly and walked humbly with God. By will he devised the chapel to the church, and in the dwelling-house with a year-land in Arnsby field to his second wife for her life, and after her decease to the church to the support of their future minister for life. He died in 1732, in the 79th year of his age, after a pastorate of between 30 and 40 years. The number of members in the year 1706, living in 35 villages and towns, was 104, besides those at Ramsey, who in 1709, amounted to 24. The number of members received into the church during Mr. Winckles' ministry was 128. After his death, the church remained without a settled pastor for two years.
Mr. Daniel Hill succeeded him, and continued as pastor about 16 years; but, although he was an excellent and devoted man, the church dwindled away during his time, which greatly discouraged himself and the people. On his removal, Mr. Joseph Edmonds, of Coventry, supplied the church once a fortnight for two years.
In the year 1750, a trustee for the chapel and chapel property was appointed by two persons, in opposition to the wishes of the other members. Having secured the title-deeds and church-book, he took possession of the chapel-house as his private dwelling, and devoted the proceeds of the chapel property to his own private use. On this account, some years passed away before the settlement of another pastor. In 1753, Mr. Robert Hall took the oversight of the church. At that time the church and congregation were greatly reduced, the church numbering only twenty-six members, all of whom were aged, and some of them living in other counties. For six years Mr. Hall laboured under the most painful and trying circumstances. Shut out from the chapel-house, and for a time from the chapel itself, by the trustee who had taken possession, and deprived of the profits of the chapel property, his income did not amount to L15 a year; but, notwithstanding these and other trials and difficulties, he never abandoned the field of his labours, but spent thirty-seven years at Arnsby, the whole of his ministerial life. By his bright example and devoted labours the church was greatly increased and strengthened. He was a man of considerable mental ability, but of deficient education: but, although he lacked the graces of style and diction which are sometimes induced by a classical education, he wrote various small treatises which were very useful. The little book, "Help to Zion's Travellers," grew out of a sermon he preached at Northampton, and passed through several editions. Until his time the Hyper-Calvinism of Dr. Gill seems to have been the standard of orthodoxy in the Denomination. Mr. Hall was the first to beat out that better way, more in accordance with the Divine word and human nature, which is generally styled "Moderate Calvinism." He began the assault upon Hyper-Calvinism, Arianism, and Socinianism, which was so successfully carried on by his disciple, Andrew Fuller. His son, the more celebrated Robert Hall, who acquired a world-wide fame as the prince of preachers, was born at Arnsby, and in his fifteenth year, was baptized by his father. After spending about two years at Bristol College, he was set apart to the work of the ministry by the church at Arnsby in 1780.
After Mr. Hall's death, there was an interval of two years, at the close of which Mr. Thomas Blundell was ordained minister, and retained the office eleven years. During his pastorate the present chapel was built, which was opened for worship in 1799. During the five years that followed the removal of Mr. Blundell, the church was supplied by students from Bristol College and Olney, whose labours were successful. In 1810, Mr. W. Cuttriss, from Bristol College, was ordained as pastor of the church, and remained eight years. Mr. James, a native of Wales, succeeded him, and continued until 1833. In the following year, Mr. Isaac New began his ministry there, and laboured with great acceptance and a considerable measure of usefulness until the spring of 1837. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Webb commenced his ministry at Arnsby, which was characterized by great fidelity and usefulness. In 1843, he resigned his pastorate, and was succeeded by Mr. Davis, who held the office nearly eleven years. His ministry was, during a part of this time, very successful; but, on the decline of the former prosperity of the church, he resigned his office. In the following year, the present esteemed pastor, Rev. Shem Evans, accepted the charge, and his faithful and zealous labours have been attended with a good measure of success.
Several useful ministers have been sent forth from the church at Arnsby, amongst whom may be mentioned the Rev. T. Horton, of Devonport. In the year 1853, Mr. Charles Carter, a member of the church, after passing through the usual course at Horton College, was set apart for missionary work in Ceylon, where he has laboured with success as a missionary, especially in the work of translating the Scriptures into the idiomatic language of the Cingalese. (pp. 711-714.)
There is no clear and distinct account of the formation of the church at Foxton; but it probable, from various entries in the church-book, that it was a branch of the Baptist church meeting at Mowsley, which, as has been already shown, was a secession from the Arnsby church then meeting at Kilby. The church at Mowsley has been long extinct. Mr. Benjamin Boyce appears to have been the pastor at Foxton. In July, 1716, he was called by the Church to exercise his ministerial gifts, and to administer the ordinance of baptism among them. After holding the pastorate about 14 years, he died, and was buried in Foxton chapel, where his coffin was found in excellent at the recent demolition of that old place of worship. During his ministry and that of his successor, the church appears to have met both at Foxton and Mowsley. In 1731, the year following Mr. Boyce's death, Mr. Joel Streeton undertook the pastoral office, engaging to preach at Sheepshed once a month. After having served the church nearly thirteen years, this vigilant and successful pastor died. During his ministry, about 63 members were added to the church. For nearly seven years after Mr. Streeton's death, the church appears to have been without a pastor, until the year 1751, when Mr. John Evans began his ministry there, which lasted thirty years. The ordinance of baptism, during the ministries of Messrs. Boyce and Streeton, and probably also during that of Mr. Evans, was generally administered at Marston Mill. It appears from a letter addressed to the church at Foxton about the year 1788, that seventeen of their members, then residing in Clipstone, united in a request to form themselves into a separate church, and were dismissed for that purpose. In the decline of life, Mr. Evans resigned the pastoral office at Foxton, and retired to Northampton. During his ministry it is said that about 47 members were added to the church. He was the intimate friend of the venerable Mr. Hall of Arnsby.
After the removal of Mr. Evans the church was destitute of a pastor about eight years, and during that interval was mainly dependent upon the alternate services of some of the neighbouring ministers, particularly of Mr. Morris, of Clipstone, and Mr. Bullock, of Ashley. Mr. T. Evans resided and preached at Foxton a short part of this period, as did also Mr. Hatch, but the congregation continued in a low state, with very little hope of obtaining a settled minister. Mr. Joshua Burton commenced his labours at Foxton in October, 1790, when the church consisted of only eighteen members, all of whom were deceased in the year 1823. After a pastorate of forty years, about the same number remained at the time of his death, which took place in 1830. Of the next seven years, comprising the ministries of Mr. Bottomley and Mr. Liddell, not a single entry is made in the church-book. The Rev. James Blackburn took the oversight of the church in 1837. He died in December, 1863, without leaving in the church-book any record of his labours. In the closing years of his life, however, there were indications of an awakening to a better state of things. He began to reap the fruits of his labours, and to gather the converts into the church. The present pastor, Mr. Carryer, entered upon his work in the year following, and has not laboured in vain. During the past month a beautiful Gothic chapel, built on the site of the old one, was opened, where it is hoped that many more than have met for years past in the old chapel, will assemble for worship and instruction in the Word of God. (pp. 772-773)
It was about the year 1700 that the preaching of the Gospel was introduced into Sheepshed by the Baptists; a Mr. Boyce in the first instance, and afterwards a Mr. Boyer, are recorded in the church-book as having kindly rendered occasional service in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. There can scarcely be a doubt from the date and close connection that is seen to have existed shortly afterwards between Sheepshed and Foxton, that this Mr. boyce, the first Baptist Minister who went to preach occasionally at Sheepshed, was the first pastor of the church at Foxton. If this be so, as Foxton church must trace its descent from Arnsby church, so Sheeshed must asknowledge Foxton as its parent church. The church was formed about 1730, under the pastoral care of Mr. Joel Streeton, who afterwards removed to Foxton; but it will be remembered that when he was invited to the pastorate at Foxton, it was with the stipulation, that he should preach once a month at Sheepshed. Duirng the time of Mr. Streeton's connection with the church at Sheepshed, Mr. William Christian, an ancestor of the three respected brethren who bear that name and are now deacons of the church, was co-pastor with Mr. Streeton, but sustained the pastoral office alone for some years after. He died very suddenly.
On the New Year's day of 1765, several ministers met at Sutton-in-the Elms, and Mr. Christian preached there from Rom. xvi.10, "Salute Apelles, approved in Christ." The evening meeting was held at the neighbouring village of Whetstone, and Mr. Evans of Foxton preached from Ps. lxxi.17, 18: "O God, thou hast taught me from my youth, and hitherto have I delcared they wonderous works: now also when I am old and grey-headed, O god, forsake me not." The sermons were highly interesting and appropriate, and were listened to with great attention. Both the preachers afterwards went to a lone farm-house belonging to Mr. Summerfield of Whetstone, accompanied by Mr. Hall of Arnsby and Mr. Woodman of Sutton. Supper being ended, and the family having retired to rest, the ministers and the master of the house drew around the fire for conversation, which turned upon several interesting subjects, and engaged them to a later hour than was expected. Among other topics, one of the company proposed for discussion a passage in Job ix.23: "If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent." Great solemnity pervaded the conversation while each minister gave his thoughts upon the text, which involved the important question whether sudden death was to good men an object of desire or dread. When it came to Mr. Christian's turn to speak, he dwelt upon the subject of feeling, and expatiated upon the delightful syrprise attendant on an instantaneous transition to the world of blessedness. A flood of rapturous tears followed; he leaned his head on the back of the chair; and while the words yet faltered on his tongue, his spirit passed away. The brethren did not at first perceive that he was dead, but thought that the strength of his feelings had denied him utterance. He sat upright in his chair; and the ministers, unwilling to disturb the family, sat up all night with the lifeless form of their departed brother still remaining in that position, and spent time in solemn prayer. The poet Edmeston wrote some touching lines on this event, beginning -
"Which is the happiest death to die?"
Mr. Christian was a dilgent student of the Word of God, and a man of eminent piety.
In the following year the Rev. John Morton was ordained to the pastoral office, and after serving the church seven years removed to London. He is said to have possessed deep and genuine piety, and excellent talent for preaching. The Rev. W. Guy succeeded hiim, and died suddenly in the ninth year of his pastorate. His piety and zeal were extraordinary, and his name is still fragrant in the church where he laboured. His successor was the Rev. Robert Mills, who continued in the office twenty-nine years. Of him the inspired words may be truthfully used, "The memory of the just is blessed." He died in 1814. The Rev. Samuel Peters had the oversight of the church for ten years, and was succeeded by the present pastor, the Rev. J. Bromwich, who has ministered to the people for upwards of thirty-seven years. At the commencement of his ministry, the church and congregation were in a very low state; but his labours have been atttended with a good measure of success; and now in the closing years of his life there are pleasing indications of progress. (pp. 773-774.)
5. Belvoir Street
(Orginally meeting in Harvey Lane), Leicester
This church was formed in 1760; but it was not the first Baptist church established in the town of Leicester. The church at Friar Lane, which was formed about the year 1655, towards the close of the protectorate, bears the palm of anitiquity. It does not appear to have ever belonged to the Old Connexion of General Baptists, or to have been Arminian, but of the same faith and order as the churches of this Association. There is evidence that John Bunyan, in one of his visits to the town, preached in the little obscure place of worship. His first visit to Leicester was as a soldier in the parliamentary army, his second as a soldier of the Cross. Down a long narrow dark entry, leading from the street, the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress" made his way to the humble meeting-house, where a small company of anxious hearers were waiting to hear him, with his simple but powerful eloquence, speak to them "all the words of this life." The question may arise, Why did not this little band that founded the church at Harvey Lane unite themselves with the church at Friar Lane? The only answer that can be given is, that there is evidence in the record of Friar Lane church, that that church was then well-nigh extinct, and that a minister visited them only five or six times a year. The Friar Lane church was some time afterwards resuscitated by some of the leading General Baptists of the New Connexion, and thus it became united to their association. The Harvey Lane church was, as has been already shown, a branch of the Baptist church at Sutton-in-the-Elms, and was formed into a distinct church when the Rev. Isaac Woodman was pastor at Sutton, in January, 1760. The church at its formation consisted of thirteen members, who were dismissed from the church at Sutton to form the new church at Leicester. The history of this church furnishes us with a striking illustration of the truth of the Saviour's parable, that "the kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed a great tree, and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it."
The first minister who paid more than a passing visit to the church was the Rev. Christopher Hall, the brother of the Rev. Robert Hall, of Arnsby. He began his ministry there in 1760, and continued only a year and a quarter. Upwards of four years before this date, the chapel in Harvey Lane was erected, for the completion of which the labours of the Rev. Isaac Woodman were crowned with success. The ground was bought of Mr. Joseph Coltman, for L50, 7s, 6d.; this included a barn on the spot, where the congregation worshipped until the chapel was built. The chapel contained at first neither vestry nor baptistry. Some time after Mr. Hall's removal, Mr. Gregory, a member of the church at Cannon-street, Birmingham, became pastor, and continued about five years. He was succeeded by Mr. Lloyd, who, after a pastorate of five years, resigned his office to go to Norwich. During this time a considerable number of members were added to the church. On the resignation of Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Wildbore, an Independent minister, supplied the pulpit for six months; after which Mr. Butler, from Bedworth, came on probation and stayed nearly a year, but was not ordained. After this Mr. Wilkes ministered to the church for little more than a year, when Mr. Blackshaw, from Bewdley, was chosen pastor by the unanimous call of the church; and after nine years' ministry he resigned his office as pastor, but still remained a member of the church. Six months after his resignation of the pastoral office, however, the church was under the painful necessity of excluding him from its fellowship, he having unhappily become a victim of intemperance. The church at this time is said to have been sunk in the slough of Antinomianism; and this is perhaps the explanation of that sad event which cast dishounor upon the people. Evil doctrines had brought forth evil fruits in the pastor as well as in some of the members.
The following summer William Carey, "to whose energy and example," it has been said, "the Protestant missions of the nineteenth century owe their origin," then the minister of a small church in the village of Moulton, Northamptonshire, was invited to supply the pulpit at Harvey Lane with a view to the pastorate. He accepted the call of the church, and settled in Leicester; but after strenuously endeavouring to root out the errors of doctrinal and practical Antinomianism which largely prevailed amongst the people, he resolved upon the bold step of dissolving the church and forming a new community. A church covenant of faith and practice was drawn up, and those who would not subscribe to it were no longer regarded as members. There are forthy-nine names attached to this covenant. Some refused to sign it, and became the bitter enemies of the pastor and people; but the declaration accomplished its purpose. The church was purged for the most part from the old leaven, and entered upon a new stage of prosperity. The congregation increased, so that it was found necessary to build a front gallery in the chapel. Andrew Fuller, speaking of Carey's ministry in Leicester, says, "Mr. Carey's zeal and unremitted labours in preaching the Word not only in Leicester, but in the villages near it, endeared him to the friends of religion, and his thirst for learning rendered him respected by others." But some years before his settlement in Leicester, Carey had pondered the benighted condition of the heathen world, and he yearned to carry the light of divine truth into the dark places of the earth. This desire grew with his growth and strengthened with his stength; and therefore after a brief pastorate of less than four years, he resigned his charge at Harvey Lane, in order to enter upon missionary work in India. The minute in the church-book, simple and touching as it is, is worthy of quotation, "March 24th, 1793. Mr. Carey, our minister, left Leicester to go on a mission to the East Indies, to take and propogate the Gospel among those idolatrous and superstitious heathens. This is inserted to show his love to his poor miserable fellow-creatures. In this we concurred with him, though it was at the expense of losing one whom we love as our own souls."
After twelve months' probation and a day spent by the church in fasting and prayer, Mr. Cave received the unanimous call to the pastorate. His early ministry was useful to many; but there followed one of those trying seasons which occur in the history of churches as of larger communities, when iniquity abounds and the love of many waxes cold. There were religious strifes and divisions in the town. In the course of ten years, no fewer than eight new places of worship were erected, and Harvey Lane suffered much.
Immorality abounded, and many were cut off from church-fellowship in consequence of gross sins. On this account Mr. Cave resigned his charge, and was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Hall, who had aleady gained distinction as a preacher. He held the pastoral office at Harvey Lane for nearly twenty years. Under his ministry the church recovered a healthy tone of piety, and 240 members were added to it, only ten of whom were afterwards excluded. Three devoted themselves to the work of the ministry, and others were dismissed to form a new church at Oadby. There were also a band of paedo-baptists, called the "little church," who met at a different time for communion at the Lord's table. In the spring of 1826, amid the sincere and deep regrets of all, and against the earnest petitions of the people entreating him to stay with them, Mr. Hall resigned his pastoral office at Harvey Lane to succeed Dr. Ryland at Broadmead, Bristol. In the summer of the same year, the present highly esteemed pastor, the Rev. J. P. Mursell, was invited to the pastorate, and consented to undertake the work for twelve months, beginning his ministerial labours with the new year. In the following autumn he accepted the unanimous invitation of the church to become the settled pastor. It is almost unnecessary to add (what is so well known) that for the period of nearly forty years he has ministered the word of life with much honour to himself and great advantage to the church, which has been increased and strengthened year by year. At the beginnning of 1827, the church, whose communion until this time was restricted to baptized believers, resolved to admit other Christians to the Lord's table, still reserving the full rights of membership to the baptized. In the autumn of 1845, the Belvoir Street chapel was opened by Drs. Harris and Cox. In November, 1803, a Sunday School was formed in connection with Harvey Lane, during the ministry of Mr. Cave; and in the following April it is recorded that there were seventy children taught in it. This has grown to such dimensions that there are now two large schools, the one at Harvey Lane, the other at Belvoir Street; and these have been very useful. Last year Harvey Lane chapel, after repairs and improvements, was re-opened for public worship in connection with the Belvoir Street church. The Rev. T. French ministers the word of life to the people. A congregation is being gathered, and the work of the Lord seems to be steadily advancing. (pp. 774-777)
6. Husband's Bosworth
This church is a branch of the church at Arnsby. In 1793, after the death of Rev. Robert Hall, sen., this church was formed, and consisted of seven members dismissed from Arnsby. Mr. William Steans was the first pastor, during whose ministry a goodly number were added to the church; but trials awaited this infant church in its very cradle. In less than four years after the formation of the church, the minister declared in preaching that it was the duty of sinners to repent and believe the gospel, and that it was the practice of Christ and His Apostles to call sinners to repentance; on account of which statement such a storm of persecution broke out, that the meeting-house was obliged to be given up, and twenty-two disaffected members were excluded. Mr. Steans resigned the pastorate in 1803, the pulpit being supplied by various ministers for thirteen years, after which Rev. J. Heafford held the pastoral office for three years.
After the interval of three years, the Rev. Mr. Craps became the pastor, during whose ministry the chapel-house was built. His ministry appears to have been successful; but in 1826 he resigned his office, and was succeeded by the Rev. G. Hall. Mr. Hall's successors were Revs. James Harris and John Smith, of whose labours there is no record. In the autumn of 1845, Rev. W. Williams undertook the pastorate; after whose time the Rev. A. Ibberson ministered to the church. His ministry was acceptable, but his work was hindereed by personal affliction. The present pastor, the Rev. M. Shore, succeeded him in the year 1860, during whose ministry the church has revived and gathered strength, notwithstanding the many opposing forces with which it has to contend. The present chapel was built in 1807; and during the present pastorate it has been renovated and greatly improved. The Sunday-school was formed in 1798. (1866, pp. 11-12.)
The church at Blaby grew out of a Sunday-school, established nine years before. As there was no Dissenting place of worship in the village, and the gospel was not preached in the Established Church, some poor men were accustomed to go on the Lord's-day to the neighbouring places to hear the Word of God, some to Arnsby, others to Foxton, and others to Leicester. Seven of them had families; and finding that their children were neglected during their absence, they resolved to stay at home alternately, gather their children together in one house, and give them the best instruction they could. Upon this the neighbours requested that their children also might be taught, which request was acceded to, and on Sunday, December 8th, 1798, they met in the cottage of one of them, John Vale, fifty children being present on the first day of meeting. The house in which they met being small and inconvenient, they sought in their perplexity Divine direction, the result of which is recorded in their own words as follows: -"Finding that house not convenient, prayer was made, and the Lord answered our prayer, and provided a place, only we must pay L1 10s. per year for the same."These good men pursued their work under many difficulties, the difficulty of straitened circumstances not being the least, having occasional preaching and prayer-meetings until their place of meeting became too strait for them, when they again sought Divine guidance, the result of which is thus chronicled: --The chapel was opened in October, 1807. The school prospered, and the pulpit was supplied by various local preachers until November, 1808, when Mr. Iliff of Leicester, became the minister. He resigned in the autumn of the following year, when a stranger, of Hyper-Calvinistic tendencies, preached for several Sundays; but as his doctrinal teachings were not favourably received, he was dismissed.
"The Lord put it into the heart of Mr. Joseph Simpkin to give them a piece ofr ground on which to build a chapel, and also L50 towards its erection, he becoming also responsible for the whole cost, L138 17s 6d."
A short time before, seven persons formed themselves into a church, on what they called an "open-bottom communion," two of them being chosen as deacons. At the end of the year, Mr. Simpson, of Leicester, a General Baptist, became pastor; but as his theological opinions did not harmonize with those of the people, he resigned his charge. On his resignation, the church sought counsel of the Rev. Robert Hall, of Leicester, and by his advice they resolved to have a fixed creed; and as the opposite extremes of Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism were offensive to them, they formed themselves into a Particular Baptist church, holding the same faith and order as the denomination generally. At this time Mr. Evans was recommended to them; and, after probationary labours, was ordained pastor in 1812. The following year the chapel was enlarged to its present dimensions. Mr. Evans was pastor for twenty-eight years, and in the early part of his ministry was very successful. He baptized between eighty and ninety persons. On the resignation of Mr. Evans in 1839, the Rev. John Barnett, the present devoted and highly esteemed pastor, commenced his ministry. In the beginning of 1840, by the advice and liberal aid of the Association, the minister's house was erected; and in the following year the chapel was entirely renovated, and the vestry and school-room built at a cost of about L700. When Mr. Barnett began his ministry at Blaby, there were only thirty members enrolled in the church book, and several of them did not attend. About 150 persons have since been baptized. Ten or twelve years ago the chapel at Whetstone, built by the General Baptists, was purchased, when repairs were made and a new school-room erected. (pp. 12-13)
The Baptist church at Rugby had its origin in the evangelistic labours of the late Sir Egerton Leigh, Bart., towards the close of the last and the beginning of the the present century. Sir Egerton having come to reside at Little Harborough, about the year 1793, opened his drawing-room for the preaching of the gospel; and in fine weather addressed large congregations beneath the shady branches of a tree in his park, the trunk of which still remains. The surrounding villages, most of which were in a state of the grossest spiritual darkness, shared in his benevolent exertions, and heard the gospel from his lips. Churchover, Brownsover, Hill-morton, Thurlaston, Draycott, Bretford, Wolston, Long Lawford, and Rugby were regularly visited by him; in doing which he not unfrequently had to encounter the fiercest opposition and bitterest persecution. A chapel was erected by him at Long Lawford, which was opened October 12th, 1796, on which occasion twenty-seven ministers were present. To this chapel a portion of land was also annexed as a burial-ground.
On the 9th of May, 1797, Sir Egerton was ordained at Holywell Mount Chapel, London, to an "itinerant ministry," the ordination prayer being offered by Rev. Matthew Wilks, and the charge given by Rev. Rowland Hill. In 1803 the Baptist chapel at Rugby was built by Sir Egerton, and about a quarter of an acre of ground purchased for a minister's house and garden. The foundation stone, which was laid by Lady Leigh, was discovered in 1859, while the chapel was undergoing repairs and alterations. It was a slab-stone of about twelve inches by fifteen, on which was inscribed, "Foundation laid by Lady Leigh, 1803." It now rest beneath the pulpit. On the erection of the chapel at Rugby, the chapel at Long Lawford was taken down, and Rugby became the mother church, of which Sir Egerton Leigh and his wife Lady Leigh were among the first members. Sir Egerton continued to be the pastor of the church till July 16th, 1811, when the Rev. Edward Fall was ordained sole pastor, the Rev. Robert Hall, of Leicester giving the charge. During his course at Bristol College, Mr. Fall's preaching was instrumental in the conversion of "Blind Jones," so well remembered by many generations of Bristol students as an excellent and useful man, and for many years a kind of lay bishop at Brick-street chapel, in that city. Mr. Fall remained the laborious, faithful, and honoured minister of the church till 1848, during which time the chapel was enlarged, pewed, and a school-room built, when he resigned, and was succeeded by the Rev. H. Angus, the present respected minister of the place. During Mr. Angus's ministry the church and congregation have greatly increased; the chapel both outside and inside has undergone great alterations and improvements. The Sunday-school was established in 1803, Sir Egerton providing the morning scholars with a basin of bread and milk each, which was sent up from the hall at Brownsover every Sunday morning. Two members of the church became faithful ministers of the gospel, Henry and James Jones, who were baptized in 1812, and sent to Bristol College. The former was settled for some time at Tamworth, and died in Manchester, being then chaplain of a cemetery. The latter, well known to the Association for many years, spent the greater part of his ministerial life at Monk's Kirby. (pp. 13-14.)
9. Monk's Kirby
Mr. John Billings, of Withybrook, is regarded as the founder of the Baptist cause at Monk's Kirby. From the first he subscribed L20 a year for the support of the ministry; and, for many years before he died, he increased it to L30, which he continued till his death in 1830. He subscribed L100 towards the erection of the Kirby chapel, lending L150, at 5 per cent. interest, to aid in paying off the original debt. This he at length gave, together with the interest, to the church. At his death he left L40 a year for five years for the support of the ministry. His munificence is worthy of record, as it is of imitation.
The late highly-esteemed and universally respected pastor, the Rev. James Jones, on leaving Bristol College, settled as minister at Monk's Kirby, the first Sunday in June, 1817. In the following August the church was formed, consisting originally of eighteen members, who gave to each other the right hand of fellowship, and earnestly commended each other to the grace of God by prayer and supplication. There was much persecution during the early period of the existence of this church. Mr. Jones continued his labours until May, 1841, when he left to go to Syston; but, after three years' absence, during which the Rev. W. Jones held the pastorate for a time, he returned to Monk's Kirby, and continued his ministry there until his death in 1860. Thus, for the space of forty years, with affectionate fidelity, he ministered the Word of Life; carefully and diligently studying the Scriptures, that he might instruct and edify the people of his charge, and be wise to win souls. - In the year 1843 a branch chapel was built at Pailton. Since the formation of the church, 188 persons have been or are members in communion. The present pastor, the Rev. J. W. Moore, whose ministry is valued by the people, succeeded Mr. Jones at the close of the year 1860. (p. 14.)
The Particular Baptist church, Sparrow-hill, originated in a seccession from the General Baptist church under the care of the Rev. T. Stevenson, then meeting in Woodgate chapel, Loughborough. The separation arose from a difference of opinion respecting an act of church discipline. There being no church within a convenient distance with which the seceders could conscientiously unite, in the year 1815, a small place of worship, 30 feet by 21, was erected, and opened by the Rev. Robert Hall, of Leicester. In November of the same year they were formed into a church, and, in the following year, the Rev. George Capes became their pastor. His ministry having been attended with considerable success, the place was found to be inconveniently small; and, therefore, in the year 1818, the present chapel was erected and opened. In 1826, after ten years' ministry, Mr. Capes resigned his pastorate; and, in 1828, was succeeded by the Rev. Isaac New, student from Bradford College. The flourishing state of the congregation rendered necessary the erection of galleries, which were opened at the close of the same year. In 1829 the number of members was 58. After a pastorate of three years Mr. new resigned his office, when the pulpit was supplied for some months by the Rev. Joshua Gray, who left during his probation to go to Cambridge. In 1832 the Rev. George Aveline became the pastor, and retained his office until the year 1837. During this year the church was considerably affected by the general mortality [morality?] that prevailed. In the summer of 1837, the Rev. W. P. Scott became the pastor, remaining till the close of 1844. He was a man of kind and gentle spirit, and his ministry was attended with a good measure of success.
At the beginning of 1845, the Rev. Charles Stanford succeeded him; and in the same year the practice of open communion with the members of the Paedo-baptist churches was adopted. The grace and charm of Mr. Stanford's eloquence in proclaiming the truths of the gospel of Christ rendered his ministry attractive to many; and his removal in December, 1846, was a loss to the town. At this time the church numbered 71 members. In 1848, the Rev. J. Cooper, late student of Bradford College, received the unanimous call of the church to the pastorate; and, after whose removal the church was dissolved and the chapel almost closed.
In the year 1856, after considerable alterations and repairs, the chapel was re-opened and a new church formed under the pastoral care of the Rev. W. Pechey, M.A., consisting of nine members. He gained respect of all classes, and his preaching was very acceptable. After two years' labours he resigned his office, the church then numbered sixteen members. In August of the same year, the Rev. T. Bumpus became the pastor, and still continues zealously prosecuting under many difficulties his work of faith and labour of love. The church now numbers 38 members. The Sunday School contains about 140 children, and the various institutions for the spread of the gospel in connection with the church and congregation are in successful operation.
The town which gave birth to the prince of puritan divines, John Howe, was the native place of one who holds a distinguished position in the history of the Baptist Missionary Society. William Yates, afterwards Dr. yates, was a member of the church at Sparrow-hill; and, endowed with special gifts for the acquisition of languages, became the worthy successor of Dr. carey in translating the Scriptures into the languages of India. (pp. 101-102.)
The introduction of Baptist preachers into Oadby was in May, 1795, when Mrs. Waldren had her house licensed for the preaching of the gospel. Mr. Cave, the pastor of the church at Harvey-lane, Leicester, and Mr. Davies, pastor of the Independent church, Wigston, both preached once a month. The congregations were very small, and sometimes so disorderly during the time of service, that it was found necessary for the restoration of peace and quietness to read the license. In the year 1800, the same lady had a barn converted into a place of worship, which led to an increase in the number of hearers, and to more frequent preaching. Very few, however, attended the prayer meeting, and only two or three exercised the gift of prayer in public. On one occasion there was only one person to engage in prayer, after which the prayer meeting was for a time given up.
In the year 1806 the prayer meeting was revived, the assemblies for the ministry of the word were more numerously attended, and the proclamation of the gospel was blessed to the conversion of some and the edification of others. As the old meeting-house was fast going to decay, in the year 1815 the present chapel was erected, but not pewed until seven years afterwards. In 1822 Mr. Harris, of Cranfield, Bedfordhsire, began his ministry, during which the congregations were so greatly increased that the chapel was enlarged by building a vestry and a gallery above it. After a ministry of two years, Mr. Harris resigned his office, and was succeeded by Mr. Brooks, during whose pastorate (in May, 1825) the present church was formed, consisting of thirteen members, who were dismissed for that purpose from the church at Harvey-lane, Leicester; and before a year had elapsed, eighteen others were added to the church.
At Michaelmas, 1826, Mr. Brooks resigned the pastorate, and, after a short interval, was succeeded by Mr. Miller, whose ministry lasted three years, during which eight members were added to the church. His successor was Mr. Burdett, who continued his ministry until the beginning of 1838, when, after an interval of eight months, Mr. Webb accepted the charge, and remained until March, 1842. At the close of 1843, Mr. Price, of Loughborough, commenced his labours, and spent his last days at Oadby. During his brief pastorate of little more than three years, twenty persons were added to the church, but it does not appear that due care was taken in the reception of members, as many of them declined from the ways of godliness and brought disonour upon the church.
For eleven years after Mr. Price's death the church was without a settled pastor; during this interval, in 1849, Mr. Horsepool paid his first visit to Oadby. For about two years he supplied the pulpit once a month, and after this time, until 1857, every other Sunday. For years the church had appreciated very highly the labours of Mr. Horsepool, in consequence of which, a mutual attachment sprang up between them, so that in October, 1857, he was earnestly and unanimously invited to accept the pastorate. He complied with this request, and from this date commenced the happiest period of the history of the church. Under his ministry peace and unity prevailed, the Christian was instructed and edified, anxious souls were wisely directed and counselled, and sinners faithfully warned and entreated to be reconciled to God.
From Mr. Price's death in 1846 until 1857, twenty-three persons were added to the church; and, from the beginning of Mr. Horsepool's pastorate to its close, twenty-four persons were added to the church by baptism and letter. Mr. Horsepool's labours terminated in May, 1863, only a few days before his decease. His loss is deeply felt and lamented. During his ministry the chapel was purchased and a large school-room erected at a cost of more than L420, little more than L80 still remaining unpaid. The pulpit has since been supplied by local preachers. (pp. 102-103.)
12. Charles-Street, Leicester
The church was formed from the church in Harvey-lane, in January, 1831. The nucleus of it consisted of fourteen persons, the more prominent of whom were Messrs. James Cort, Richard Harris, and John Carryer.
The present chapel, which was erected on the same site as one formerly occupied by a body of Methodists called Kilhamites, at the cost of L3,759 11s. 4d., was opened January, 1831. The Rev. B. Godwin, now Dr. Godwin, of Bradford, and Dr. McAll, of Manchester, took part in the opening services.
Four ministers have successively occupied the pastoral office in connection with this church. The first pastor, the Rev. D. M. Williams, entered on his duties February 3, 1832, and resigned in December of the same year, on the adoption by the church of open communion. The Rev. James Simmons laboured successfully from July, 1834, to February 21, 1842; and the Rev. John Green, with a considerable measure of usefulness, from May 30, 1842, to June 22, 1847. On Mr. Green's resignation, the church was unhappily divided, and many of the congregation left the place.
The present highly esteemed minister, the Rev. Thomas Lomas, entered upon his duties in January, 1848, since which time the church has increased year by year.
In the year 1861, the chapel was enlarged and improved at a cost of L1,600, the whole of which is now defrayed. The chapel will now accomadate about a thousand persons.
A branch interest exists in Thorpe-street, which is sustained by the liberality of one of the deacons. This chapel will accomodate two hundred and fifty persons, the pulpit being occupied by the Rev. John Myers.
The total number of children in both Sunday-schools is 700, and of teachers 60. The church now numbers 358 members, and all appearances indicate a prosperous future. (p. 103.)
The first Baptist in Countesthorpe of whom there is any record, was John Gumbley, who became a member of the church at Arsby about the year 1737, duirng the pastorate of the Rev. Daniel Hill. For more than half a century a member of the Arsby church, he resided the whole of that time at Countesthorpe. As far as can be ascertained, he was at the time of his becoming a member, the only dissenter, and of course the only Baptist, in Countesthorpe. He was elected deacon twelve years after he joined the church, and seven years later he began to preach. It was his habit for several years to walk over to Lutterworth, to preach to a small company of Baptists living there. He died in 1790, after he had been a member fifty-two years, and had sustained the office of deacon forty years. The old chuch books at Arsby speak of him in high terms as a man singularly active and useful in the church, not possessing great talents, but having great grace, and eminent for peace and purity.
In the year 1754, there were three members of Arnsby church living in this village. In 1790 Mrs. Burley, who had been a member eighteen years, and was at this time about eighty years of age, opened her house for prayer. It was a courageous step to take; and the faithful few, who were accustomed to meet together, were scoffed and sneered at, and sometimes pelted, as they went to and from the place of prayer.
From that time the cause of Christ has been advancing there. Four years later, Joseph Humfrey and his wife jooined this little band; and two years afterwards John and William Elliot.
About the beginning of the present century, several members of the Independent church at Wigston came to reside at Countesthorpe - viz., Mr. Moore, Mr. Benjamin Christian, and Mr. Simeon Iliffe. These, together with mr. George Beale, a member at Arsby, and others, used to meet for prayer, and soon afterwards opened their houses for the preaching of the Gospel. This led to the erection of a place of worship, which, in the year 1829, was pulled down and rebuilt by Mr. William Christian and other friends. Mr. Christian could not bequeath it to the dissenters, but generously left the sum of L300 to his executors, towards maintaining the preaching of the Gospel; and, on the death of his widow, the chapel and houses adjoining, which had been purchased at the same time, were invested in the hands of trustees for the use of the Baptist dissenters in Countesthorpe.
Until nearly the close of the year 1860, the ppulpit was supplied once a day by the ministers of Arnsby, Blaby, and Wigston. In addition to these, Mr. William Bassett, whose name is still fragrant as a consistent and upright Christian, was in the habit of preaching with acceptance, in this and neighbouring villages, which services thorugh a long course of years were rendered gratuitously.
Soon after his death in October, 1860, it was decided to have services twice every Lord's-day, and to invite the neighbouring ministers and laymen to preach; but, after much anxious deliberation and fervent prayer, it was deemed advisable to have a settled minister. After a short probation in the early part of 1861, the Rev. Rhys Evans, of Usk, received a unanimous invitation to labour there, and occasionally to assist the Rev. Shem Evans at Arnsby. This invitation was accepted in July; and in the same summer, owing to the increasing congregations, it was found necessary to enlarge the chapel.
At the beginning of the year 1863, the members of the Arnsby church residing at Countesthorpe, after much consideration, wrote a letter to the church at Arnsby, asking for their dismission, in order to form a separate church at Countesthorpe. The Arnsby church cordially acceded to the request, and thirty-three members were dismissed for that purpose. On the 17th of February, a special service was held at Countesthorpe, when Rev. T. R. Evans was invited to become the pastor of the newly-formed church, which invitation he accepted; after which the Lord's-supper was administered, the members of the infant church communing together in their recently formed fellowship for the first time, the Rev. J. P. Mursell presiding, and afterwards preaching an appropriate sermon from the words - "These are they that follow the Lamb."
As the congregation continued to increase, and the Sunday-school flourished, so that there was not sufficient accomodation for the scholars, it was wisely resolved, instead of building new school-rooms, to erect a new chapel, and to convert the old chapel into a school. This was done at a cost of L900. The new chapel was opened in October of the same year; and, when the opening services were concluded, not a farthing of that sum remained as a debt. The church still continues to prosper and increase under the zealous labours of the Rev. T. Rhys Evans. (pp. 103-105.)
[From The Baptist Magazine, 1865, pp. 708-711; 711-714; 772-773; 773-774; 774-777; - 1866, 11-12; 12-13; 13-14; 101-102; 102-103; 103-105. The document is from Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library, Ohio. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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