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Rev. Dr. Robert Holley, now of London, has published, in two octavo volumes, a very valuable work, entitled, “ Lancashire: its Puritanism and Nonconformity.” He repeatedly refers to MSS. of Dr. Raffles, containing collections for a history of the Nonconformist Churches of Lancashire.
Dr. Raffles had been settled in Hammersmith about three years, when the Rev. Thomas Spencer, the youthful and gifted minister of Newington Chapel, Liverpool, was drowned while bathing in the river Mersey. The congregation, thus bereaved, requested him to supply their pulpit for a few Sabbaths, which he agreed to do, without entertaining, as it would appear, the remotest idea of ever becoming their minister. His labors, however, resulted in his settlement over them, for they invited him to become the successor of Spencer, and, after seeking the path of duty with much prayer and anxiety, he consented, and began his pastorate among them in the month of April, 1812. This conspicuous position he held for very nearly fifty years; and it may be doubted whether any Nonconformist pastor in England ever occupied a more important sphere of ministerial exertion and usefulness. At the time of his retirement from his stated ministry in Great George Street Chapel, in 1861, he was the patriarch of his denomination in the county. All his seniors who had occupied prominent positions had passed away, one by one, while he still survived, honored and beloved by all at the close of a long and laborious career, which had, throughont, shed lustre upon the religious body to which he belonged.
Before the death of the Rev. Mr. Spencer his congregation bad begun to erect a new chapel in Great George Street, calculated to contain two thousand people. This was finished shortly after Dr. Raffles' settlement, and on the occasion of its opening, sernions were preached by the Rev. Wm. Jay, of Bath, and the Rev. Dr. Collier, of London. There were in Liverpool many members of the Established Church of Eng. land—and a few of them survive to this day—who gratefully acknowledge the debt which they owe to the faithful ministry of Dr. Raffles within the walls of Great George Street Chapel. For, at the time of his settlement in Liverpool, the state of religion was very different from what it subsequently became.
VOL, XLII.-NO, II. 13
Owing to the want of evangelical preaching in the pulpits of the Established Church, many persons, avowedly holding the principles of that church, were in the habit of attending the ministry of Dr. Raffles.
His chapel immediately began to be crowded, and churchmembers constantly increased in numbers. And while his labors were blessed to the spiritual benefit of the hearers who composed his own charge, he was permitted to be useful to many others; for, in consequence of his popularity as a preacher, his services were constantly sought throughout the neighboring counties. And this gave him frequent opportunities of preaching the essential doctrines of Christianity to the ignorant masses, an employment in which he delighted. In looking over some parts of this volume, one almost fancies he is reading the life of an itinerant missionary.
With such frequent absences, his home duties were necessarily crowded into a briefer space, so that it would have been impossible for him to get through them had he not been an early riser and extremely methodical in all his arrangements.
He had been settled in Liverpool two years, and was but twenty-five years old, when he received an invitation to preach one of the annual sermons before the London Missionary Society. The invitation, which, after some hesitation, he accepted, came almost at the last moment for preparation, in consequence of the failure from illness of the gentleman who had been appointed to preach. It is interesting to read his own recollections of the occasion, written in old age, at the request of others. He says: “The missionary sermon was preached in the Tabernacle, Moorfields, in 1814. The cause of Inissions was at that time comparatively new to our churches, and there was a freshness and a power connected with it then, of which people now can scarcely form an adequate conception. The congregation on that occasion was immense. The spacious chapel had been crowded since four o'clock in the afternoon. A sermon was preached at the same time in the chapel-yard to the multitudes who still lingered there. I cast myself on the Divine help, and went to the service with a feeling of intense anxiety. The crowd was so great, and the people were so thoroughly dovetailed one into the other, that it was with great difficulty, and only after a considerable lapse of time, that I could reach the pulpit. Then, when I ventured to open my eyes and look around me, the scene was truly overwhelming. The leading men in the religious world of that day were there gathered from all parts of the United Kingdom, and hundreds of ministers who seemed completely to fill the galleries, and who, with their sable costume, and, in many instances, venerable countenances, presented an appalling appearance to me, the pale stripling who was about to address them. Many a fervent prayer was, I believe, presented for me.
After the first five or ten minutes, every thing like trepidation passed away. I obtained a perfect composure and entire mastery of my theme, and the vast audience was held in perfect and profound stillness and attention to the end. The delivery of the sermon occupied about an hour and twenty minutes. In another year it will be half a century since that sermon was preached, but the scene and all connected with it, is as fresh in my memory as though it were only yesterday, and my impression is that the challenge which I ventured to give at the close of the sermon was not premeditated, but the suggestion of the moment. I have often wondered how I could have had the boldness to utter it. I had been for some time occupied in answering objections to the missionary enterprise-at that time of day it was necessary on snch occasions to deal with them--when I suddenly paused and said, ' And now is there still an objector in this assembly? if there be, let him rise! Pardon me, my reverend fathers and brethren (turning to the venerable group of the founders of the Society, who sat leaning over the front of the gallery behind me), your cause is bad if it will not stand this test. I wait the objector's charge !' For some moments I was silent. The stillness of the grave pervaded the vast assembly, and I resumed: “What, none! then I congratulate you, ye directors of this noble institution! To be approved by so many thousands as are here assembled, must be animating to your ininds. I congratulate myself; my work is done. But I am surrounded by friends; you are all true men to the cause I have this night espoused, and to attempt to
plead with you would be only to insult yonr understandings and your hearts.”
" It would have been interesting to read an account of this discourse, and of the effect which it produced, from the pen of some one who heard it. Much of course is left untold. Judging from all we have heard of Dr. Raffles, he must have possessed in an eminent degree a lively susceptibility of emotion, and this of itself was sufficient to make his speaking impressive. Such preachers of the gospel, and their number is not large, are highly favored. They have greatly the advantage of others. The preacher may be sincere, and he may have no little zeal and fire, but this peculiar susceptibility of which we speak cannot be acquired. It is a gift. But it is curious to remark the mistake into which people are sometimes led in regard to eloquent men who show much emotion in speaking. We once heard a lady eulogize the character of an able speaker, who, in this way, was apt to be deeply and tenderly moved, by saying, “he is a man of great feeling;" whereas those whose acquaintance with him was more intimate, knew that the nobler traits did not preponderate in his character, and that he was not remarkable for tenderness of heart, nor for much feeling for others. We cannot decide upon the character of any one from bis transient emotions. But the nobler traits were prominent in the character of the subject of this biography, and, moreover, we fully credit the assurance of the author that popularity itself failed to change his loving and genial nature.
Dr. Raffles was settled for half a century over his church in Liverpool, and the labors of each year were greatly blessed. There was a steady, quiet ingathering of svuls, without what we in this country call revivals. There was constant enlargement, and believers were not only " added to the Lord,” but they grew in grace. This was a result which miglit have been expected from his ministrations, for his preaching was from first to last not only earnest, but thoroughly evangelical. Moreover he visited his people, not by tits and starts, but regularly and without ceasing, up to the very close of his ministry. Some idea of his zeal and faithfulness, as well as of his success as a Christian minister, may be
obtained from the following extracts from a few of his letters:
"If I appear at present to neglect you, you must not complain, for if ever a poor mortal was driven by the multiplicity of his cares and concerns almost to desperation, I am he. Think for a moment of my situation. Two thousand people demanding my attention and time; three sermons every week to make and preach ; sick every day to visit; Bible to prepare (for the printer) and the press almost every day to correct; innumerable letters to write, in answer to various applications from London and other places about preaching-I may say innumerable, when I wrote upward of ninety letters in the course of the last fortnight; I say, lay all these things together and you will have a picture of my present situation. I go to bed weary and rise unrefreshed; day and night, mind and body are all on the rack. ... The world envies me, and in my exertions I am the envy of all; but my personal comfort is resigned; yet I labor in a good cause, and I acknowledge the hand that sustains me."
4 - This afternoon I was called to visit one of Mr. -'s people. It was at his earnest request I was sent for. He is fast wasting away in a consumption. On my asking him how he felt in the prospect of death, he told me he was very composed; he had not committed any great crime, he had not done anybody any harm, and he had made up his account with God.
I let him go on and tell his own tale, and then asked him whether he found the account balanced, or whether in any thing he found he was deficient? He said, 'Yes, for no man could say he was without sin; but still he had never done his neighbor ang harm, and always endeavored to conduct himself with propriety. I said, * Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' is the second commandment, what is the first? 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;' have you kept this ? Not perfectly, he acknowledged, though he had always striven to reverence the Supreme Being. “Then,' said I, is it safe to stake your everlasting salvation on the second command, when you confess that you have failed in the first ?' He paused, and was evidently confounded, and I embraced the opportunity to preach to him Jesus; when, after insisting on the depravity of the buman heart, and the necessity of an atonement, I said, ' And now what is your hope ?' 'I have no hope,' he said, “but in Jesus Christ ?' 'Do the things that I have said, then,' I rejoined, commend themselves to you as truth?' 'Yes,' said he, they do.' I was much astonished at his altered tone, talked further with him, and my satisfaction increased as I conversed. I prayed with him, and left him with the promise that I would see him again.”
Visited Mr. C again. His mind is still fixed on Christ."
I have little worth communicating to you in the way of news. My ministry here, I hare reason to believe, is still useful, and certainly the congregation, both parts of the day, has been much greater than in any former summer. Our church also still increases."
It is Monday morning, and, after preaching three times and administering the sacrament yesterday, I feel more fit for a pillow, than for pen and paper. But my orders are, Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.' And, indeed, I have every encouragement to work, for the numbers that attend, and the success that, under God, crowns my ministry, are