New Church Worthies

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley


And the Accrington Society

SO corrupt and demoralised had society generally become in the last century, that the clergy of the Church of England in this country were loose in their habits, to an extent scarcely credible at the present day.

The journals of Wesley and the early Methodists, Thackeray in his Early Georges, and S. C. Hall in his Retrospect of a Long Life, abound with evidence and illustrations of this state of things, which continued very much even to the commencement of the present century. Peers and Prime Ministers would drink two or three bottles of wine to dinner, and a party would commonly end by all lying under the table, except such as were carried upstairs. Princesses, and ladies of the highest rank, would interlard their conversation with oaths which now would shock us from an ignorant mechanic. In my youth, old men at Accrington and elsewhere have told me, that almost every church within ten miles round in their early days had a clergyman more or less subject to drunkenness. Happily an immense change has been wrought, which we must all hope will go on, until the idea of a minister making free with intoxicating liquors, except as a necessity or as medicine, will be a thing regarded as impossible.

In parishes afflicted with clergymen such as we have mentioned, there would sometimes be a few pious people who would meet together and read the Bible, and pray with each other for heavenly blessings, when they could obtain no assistance from their official spiritual adviser.

This was the case at Accrington in the year 1800. A few met together for mutual edification, including Joseph Cronshaw, the grown-up son of the parish clerk. They invited their clergyman to meet with them, but he refused. They heard, however, that there was a pious and spiritually-minded clergyman at St. Paul's, Blackburn, four miles away, Mr. Dean, and they sent a deputation to invite him to meet with them, with which he was kind enough to comply. They were delighted with his explanations, and his Christian demeanour, and after several visits they learned that he, as well as the Rev. Mr. Clowes, of Manchester, was a reader of the Writings of Swedenborg. He placed some of these in their hands, and they were eagerly read and approved.

This gentleman, whom we have mentioned in a previous article, visited them occasionally until he went to take the ministry in the New Church at Peter Street, Manchester. A Rev. Mr. Gardner also came at times to commune with them, and strengthened them about the same period.

In 1801, Mr. George Haworth, the brother of Mr. Adam Haworth, more recently and widely known, who had been living away from Accrington, but whose father had kept a school in that small town, returned and took the school on the death of his father. The young man, by trade a printer and bookbinder, was of a vigorous mind, fond of investigation, who by reading the works of such writers as Volney, Voltaire, and Paine, had landed in the desert of deism.

Becoming more settled in life, and his spiritual cravings unsatisfied by hugging a lamp without a light, he turned his attention to the doctrines of the New Church, which his father had previously accepted, and found there a New Heaven and a New Earth. He began to read with eagerness the translated works of Swedenborg, and then the originals, and the works of Mr. Clowes. He soon ventured to speak to the other friends with whom he met weekly, and gradually came to be looked upon as their leader, though another worthy man, named Garsden, for a while was felt to be a very edifying helper too.

In the first three years of his awakened interest in the New Church writings he is said to have read the Arcana Caelestia through five times, and it continued to be his favourite work. During his life, besides desultory reading, he is said to have perused it systematically through thirteen times. It was from this habit, he was always full of spiritual matter, and the Rev. D. Howarth, who had been well acquainted with Mr. G. Haworth, on several occasions observed to me that the latter had the readiest perception of the spiritual sense of any part of the Divine Word, taken off-hand, of any gentleman he ever knew.

Encouraged by the zeal, earnestness, and wisdom of Mr. Haworth, the friends ventured on building a small place of worship, in 1805, so constructed that it might if necessary be turned into a cottage. They found themselves so augmented in numbers, that they erected a larger place, but with the same cautious feeling, so shaped that if needful it could be made into two cottages. This latter was opened, as we have elsewhere related, in 1807, and sufficed for the whole term of Mr. G. Haworth's leadership, nearly twenty years.

A minister's house was built next door during his life, and the basement room was used as a Sunday School.

Mr. Haworth's clear expositions, his vigorous defence of the doctrines, and his abilities as a preacher, which were of a superior kind, sustained and increased the society; but the chapel, which was twelve yards square inside, was quite sufficient for their accommodation during his life. No gallery was needed until 1829, in the ministry of the Rev. D. George Goyder, afterwards the Rev. Dr. Goyder, who was located at Accrington for about three years.

It is an interesting circumstance that when the New Church doctrines are unfolded in a neighbourhood, they attract certain minds that seem to have been waiting for them, and are awakened by their divine light; but after they have obtained a certain footing and progress, and the novelty has worn off, the power of apathy, custom, and prejudice make a dead weight against them, and their progress is very slow.

The number of members during the whole period of Mr. G. Haworth's leadership was never more than thirty. At the end of Mr. Goyder's time (1831), though the attendance had much increased, the members were still only about thirty, and when the present writer took the Society, in 1835, the members had but slowly advanced to forty-three.

The Sunday School had, however, much increased. In the procession of Sunday Scholars to celebrate the Coronation of George the Fourth, in the year 1820, the New Church Sunday School, with its sixty scholars, was the smallest in number of the various schools present.

Three teachers, two young calico-printers and an engraver, Bradshaw, West, and Dixon, in their years of early zeal, thought that this was not at all the proper condition as to numbers. They resolved to give up all recreation, for this one thing. They would teach a Night School one or two nights a week. They addressed the scholars, and promised a halfpenny to every scholar who brought a new pupil. They made the teaching and singing agreeable, and in six months they changed the number from sixty to two hundred. Their Sunday School now numbers nearly 1,000. They gave a great start to the Society.

The cultivation of music had for some years been a great feature in the Society, under the direction of one of the members, Mr. John Pickup, a man thoroughly well read in the doctrines, of steady and powerful character, and at the same time of great musical ability and solid worth in every respect. He was the author of several very popular hymns and tunes. The New Jerusalem Choir, of Accrington, under him, was renowned far and wide, and in great request on public occasions. His house too was one of the chief places where friends would meet to talk about the truths of the church, which they called "having a camp." He kept a provision shop, and the customers were sure their articles would be genuine if they had them from him. He was a long time before he would countenance coffee in which there was any chicory. I question if he ever did. He would sell them coffee, and he would sell them chicory, but separate, so that the people knew absolutely what they bought. From the New Church principles, the clear and straightforward preaching of the leader, Mr. Geo. Haworth, and the sterling worth of the most prominent people, the character of the Society for uprightness was high. The members were made overlookers and managers, and were placed in positions of trust and responsibility, and this became later a great element of progress. Good old Joseph Cronshaw, a warm friend of music, humble, earnest, excellent in every way, with his loving wife and large, admirable, virtuous family, was a grand cement of the Society. And there were an increasing number of others, too numerous to mention, adorned with every excellence, whose names are embalmed in the memories of the present generation, but too recently to be mentioned here. There could not possibly be better teachers than the Grimshaws, Cunliffes, Barnes, Rileys, Bridges, Greenhulghs, Kenyons, and many others. Some had not missed their classes in School, or their place in Church, for seven, ten, or twenty years.

From these circumstances, when from the great fatigues of a missionary journey of many weeks, he took to Scotland, at the request and at the expense of the Manchester Missionary Society, Mr. Haworth, whose health had long been feeble, became seriously ill, and at length he departed this life, in 1823, at the early age of 48, the Society kept well together.

His life and death had been to them all of inestimable value. As a preacher, his abilities were of a very superior kind. His intellect was clear, and of firm grasp. The logical management of his discourse was close and connected. He was fertile in illustrations from analogy, grounded in the works of God, elucidating his subjects by rational argument, and supporting his positions by scriptural evidence. On doctrinal points he was acute, and he would often lecture on these subjects from the apostolical writings, because he considered the epistles to constitute the Bible of the common professors of religion. He always spoke extemporaneously.

The writings of the Rev. John Clowes he valued very highly, and the Gospel of Luke, illustrated and edited by that gentleman, was his death-bed companion.

He himself interleaved a quarto Bible, and wherever he found an explanation of any passage in the Writings of Swedenborg, he inserted it verbatim against its proper chapter and verse. This work he always considered to be of great utility.

He had received a knowledge of Latin and Greek under the instruction of his father, and in his after studies he applied himself to Hebrew, his esteem for which increased with his attainments, and he considered a knowledge of that language the greatest auxiliary to the understanding and explanation of the Holy Word.

Like his Master, he had some deep troubles towards the end of his pilgrimage. To an intimate friend he said, shortly before his career on earth was ended, "I have suffered much in body and mind. The devil, within these few days, has given me a severe handling, but it is now over." He conversed with his friends until within a few moments of breathing his last. He offered up a few ejaculatory sentences to his God and Saviour, and passed away in calmness and peace.

From 1823 to 1828 the Society was assisted by the Manchester Missionary Society, one of the members reading a sermon, chiefly from the works of Mr. Clowes, when they were without a supply. They endeavoured to obtain a minister by requesting Conference to send them one, stating their ability to contribute to his comfort to the extent of £16 per annum. The Conference was unable to find a suitable person at the time. It must have been during this period that, as the old men have related the matter to me, a person resident at Newcastle-on-Tyne, having learned their application to Conference, and being pretty confident of his own qualifications, resolved to walk across the country, and offer himself.

There are occasionally persons well disposed, but not very capable of true self-knowledge, who for want of humility will push themselves forward, and this was one. The friends learned afterwards that he was a man fond of arguing; religious disputation was commoner in public-houses at that time than it now is. He presented himself at the Chapel House on Saturday afternoon, where Mrs. Haworth, the mother of the late leader, still resided, and told her his errand. He said he was known in Newcastle as "The Bright Star of the North." Mrs. H. sent round to some of the committee, and gave the visitor some refreshment. In due time a committee meeting was assembled, and the visitor stated his views and wishes; lie desired to be their minister, and he was satisfied he was the right man.

It was evident that when he set off on his journey he was very barely clad, and his three days' tramp had probably not brightened his appearance. His worn habiliments, the committee thought, were rather unusually threadbare, but some of them muttered to the others that the Conference had probably sent there one at the price. Nevertheless, they decided he should be lodged, and he could preach the next morning. This he did, but the service and the sermon were such that the committee concluded they would give him a small sum they collected among themselves, and wish him God-speed in his journey home; but not trouble him further, not even in the afternoon.

The Rev. D. G. Goyder ministered in Accrington nearly three years, and under a deafness, becoming gradually worse, and other difficulties, laboured hard for the good of the church, with a fair amount of success; but at length an increasing family compelled his removal to Hull, where a somewhat larger stipend offered a more liberal supply of comforts. In his time a new gallery was erected, to meet the demand for seats.

About this time Mr. Adam Haworth, brother of their former leader, Mr. George Haworth, returned from Valparaiso, South America, where he had realised a respectable fortune as agent for a great calico-printing house, and though he had been many years away from the church, his early attachment to it revived on coming to England, and especially on returning to his native town; and he gave himself so devotedly to spiritual things that he began to speak freely, and he was invited to become their leader. He passed four useful years among them, and was extremely serviceable both in the pulpit and in private life. His health, however, required change, he thought, and he went for a time to reside in Paisley, then in Jersey, having strongly united with the Society he was leaving to request the present writer to give himself to the ministry in that Society, which he did in 1835.

From that time, by the blessing of the Lord, during twenty years, very great prosperity attended the schools, the church, and the town. Several severe controversies took place from attacks made on the New Church, but ending with great success to the party attacked. A large new school was erected, and filled; a branch school was built two miles away, and also filled. Societies were commenced and established in several neighbouring towns, Haslingden, Warren Lane, Blackburn, Preston, Burnley, and Clitheroe, and were aided and encouraged from Accrington. One or two became weak and ceased, but the rest are doing well. A splendid New Church was erected, the largest and handsomest of the buildings in the kingdom dedicated to the service of the New Jerusalem Church. A more numerous membership than any other Society continues to be a blessing to the church and the town, by promoting glory to the Lord our Saviour, and goodwill towards men.

Many favouring circumstances have contributed to the progress of the New Church at Accrington, but the one predominating all others has been the appreciation of the Society all along of the fact that, not only has the Sunday School been one of the grandest results of the Lord's Second Advent, but is the right hand of New Church operation.

The leading families have encouraged their Sunday School with visits and liberal support; their sons and daughters have been steady and excellent teachers. One hundred and twenty teachers have willingly given their time to their classes, and from the young people, as junior members, have sprung Mutual Improvement Societies and supporters of all that is good, cultivators of thought and music, and excellent members of the church. The teachers have taught themselves in teaching others.

Long may this example continue, not only to strengthen the church in that town and neighbourhood, but to be a beacon to light other Societies to the grand lesson—LOOK WELL TO YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOLS, AND SPARE NO LABOUR IN YOUR STEADY, LOVING CARE AND HELP.

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