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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

The morning preacher being the Rev


We have seen that in the early annals of this society the name of John Robinson stood high in general estimation, but his was by no means the only honoured name. Among early members of mark was Dr. John Owen, of Queen's College, Oxford, a learned writer, and Chancellor of the University in 1652; he became Chaplain to Protector Cromwell, as an Independent. The Rev. Isaac Watts, who had been tutor to the sons of Sir John Hartop, became the popular minister of a Congregational Chapel, in Mark Lane, London, in 1693. Dr. Philip Doddridge was also a valued member, as Minister at Norwich, Northampton, Kibworth near Market Harborough, and other places. From his candour and learning he held friendly relations with the highest dignitaries of the established church; he is chiefly known for his two great works, _The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul_, and his _Family Expositor_. To the regret of many he died of consumption, at a comparatively early age, in 1751, at Lisbon, whither he had been ordered by his doctors for the milder climate. The friend and biographer of the last-named, Mr. John Orton, was another esteemed member, who published several valuable works, he died in 1783.

Another was Robert Hall, who ministered at Cambridge, Leicester and Bristol, where he died in 1831. He was a great writer and very eloquent preacher. Professedly he was a Baptist, but he frequently occupied Independent platforms, and admitted that he had more feeling of fellowship with an Independent than with a strict Baptist. {80a} None of these, however, was more highly esteemed than Dr. Isaac Taylor, of Norwich and Colchester, author of several instructive works, and commonly called "the glory of the Independents." He died in 1829.

By the year 1851 this community had grown to such dimensions that it had, in England and Wales, 3,244 chapels, with a membership of 1,002,307. {80b}

The connection of the Congregationalists with Horncastle is of comparatively recent date, and the evidence on this subject is somewhat conflicting. Weir, in his _History of Horncastle_, published in 1820, does not name them, in his list of Nonconformists, as existing here at that time, but Saunders' _History_, published in 1836, gives them with the others. Hence they would appear to have established themselves in the town somewhere between those two dates; yet there exists a curious small publication, entitled "The Confession of Faith of the Society of his Majesty's Protestant subjects (dissenting from the Church of England) called Independents, in Horncastle, in the County of Lincoln, and places adjacent, Framed in the year of Christ, 1781, by W. R. Lincoln, printed by S. Simmons." {80c}

The inference from these facts would seem to be, that, at that date, 1781, there was an Independent congregation in the town, probably small, consisting of "W.R." and his personal adherents; as the wording of the confession is said {80d} to be very remarkable, and indeed unique, "W.R." was evidently rather of an eccentric turn of mind, which led him to publish this authoritative statement of Faith.

The society, probably, in a few years became extinct, and it is not till the year 1820 that we find any sign of their revival. _The Church Book_ supplies the following details: In 1820 certain worshippers in the Wesleyan Chapel of that day, finding their religions views not in accord with general Wesleyan sentiment, decided to erect a chapel of their own; and for this purpose they selected a site in East Street, at the north west corner of Foundry Street, where now stands the house, 42, East Street. This building was opened for public worship on March 22, 1821; the morning preacher being the Rev. B. Byron of Lincoln, the Rev. John Pain, a Hoxton student, preaching in the afternoon, and the Rev. Thomas Hayes of Boston, in the evening.


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