SOME FAMOUS PREACHERS IN BRITAIN.
Binney.—Hamilton—Guthrie.—Hall.—Spurgeon.—Duff and others
In attempting to recall my recollections of the eminent preachers whom I have known, I hardly know where to begin, or where to call a halt. I shall confine myself entirely to those who are no longer living, except as they may live in the memory of the service they wrought for their Divine Master and their fellow men. When I first visited London, in early September, 1842, the two ministers most widely known to Americans were Henry Melvill and Thomas Binney. Melvill was the most popular preacher in the Established Church. His place of worship was out at Camberwell, and I found it so packed that I had to get a seat on one of the steps in the gallery. He was a man of elegant bearing, and rolled out his ornate sentences in a somewhat theatrical tone, but the hushed audience drank in every syllable greedily. The splendid and thoroughly evangelical sermons which he orated most carefully were exceedingly popular in those days, and even yet they are well worth reading as superb specimens of lofty, devout and resonant oratory. On a very warm Sabbath evening I went into the business end of London to the “Weigh House Chapel” and heard Dr. Thomas Binney. He was the leader of Congregationalism, as Melvill was of the Church of England. On that warm evening the audience was small, but the discourse was prodigiously large. Binney had a kingly countenance, and a most unique delivery. His topic was Psalm 147th, 3d and 4th verses. “God is the Creator of the universe, and the comforter of the sorrowing.” He thrust one hand into his breeches pocket, and then ran his other hand through his hair, and began his sermon with the stirring words: “The Jew has conquered the world!” This was the prelude to a grand eulogy of the Psalms of David. He then unfolded the first part of his text in a most original style, made a long pause, scratched his head again, and said: “Now then, let us take some new thoughts, and then we are done.” The closing portion of the rich discourse was on the tender consolations of our Heavenly Father.
Thirty years afterwards Dr. Binney was invited to meet me at breakfast at the house of Dr. Hall, with “Tom Hughes,” Dr. Henry Allon and other notabilities. The noble veteran chatted very serenely, and offered a most majestic prayer while he remained sitting in his arm-chair. His physical disabilities made it difficult for him to stand; and very soon afterwards the grand old man went up to his crown. When I was spending two delightful days with Dr. McLaren, of Manchester, I described to him Binney’s remarkable sermon. “Were you there that night?” inquired McLaren. “So was I, and though only a boy of sixteen, I remember the whole of that discourse to this hour.” It was certainly a rare pulpit power that could fasten a discourse in two different memories for a whole half century.