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AUL'S-Alley is situated on the south side of Barbican, nearly opposite to Bridgewater-square. The meeting-house at the upper end is an ancient building, but the precise date of its foundation cannot be ascertained. The late Mr. Daniel Noble, who preached there about half a century ago, has been heard to say, that it was built originally for a play-house ; but that the government would not licence it. Upon this it was taken by the General Baptists, who converted it into a meeting-house. It is a large, square brickbuilding, with three deep galleries, coveniently fitted up, and substantially built. In 1716, a baptisterion, with suitable appurtenances, was erected. The Baptists had been for many years in great want of a convenient baptizing place, and after many inquiries, at length fixed upon Barbican as the most eligible place, on account of the size of the meeting-house, and the large vacant space behind it, upon which three good rooms were built, for the convenience of dressing and undressing. The expence of these alterations amounted to more than six hundred pounds, and was defrayed chiefly by Thomas and John Hollis, Esqrs. who were good friends to the Baptists. Crosby has given the following description of this baptistery: “ This Baplisterion, or cistern, is fixed just before the pulpit, the sides and bottom of which are made with good polished stone, and round the top is put a kirb of marble, about a foot wide; and round it, at about a foot or two distance, is set up an iron rail, of handsome cypher work, Under the pulpit are the stairs that lead down into it, and at the top of these are two folding doors, which open into the three rooms behind the meeting-house,
PAUL'S-ALLEY,- General Baptist, Extinct.
In the meeting
which are large, and handsomely wainscotted. Under one of these rooms there is a well, sunk down to the spring of water ; at the top of this there is a leaden-pump fixed, from which a pipe goes into the bason, near the top of it, by which it is filled with water ; at the bottom of the bason there is a brass plug, from whence there goes another pipe into the said well, to empty it again.” house was kept a register of all the persons baptized, and by whom it was performed.
The society in Paul's-Alley was of ancient date, being collected during the time of the civil wars, by the Rev. John Gosnold, who is mentioned by Dr. Calamy among the silenced nonconforming ministers. His church appears to have met at this place from their very origin as a society, and continued so to do till their numbers were so greatly reduced, as to render it expedient to dissolve their church state. In the earlier part of its history, this society was in a very flourishing condition. Mr. Gosnold is said to have had frequently nearly three thousand auditors, and among ihem some persons of consideration. This occasioned an application, after the fire of London, from the officers of the parish of Cripplegate, to request a collection for the poor, who abounded in that parish. The request was complied with : a sum of fifty pounds and upwards was raised, and the church voluntarily continued the collection for twenty years afterwards. Though they were frequently scattered by persecution, yet when liberty returned, they again collected together, and resumed their former places in considerable numbers. In 1695, the Barbican church received a considerable accession by the union of the church at Turners'-Hail, where Mr. Richard Allen had preached, and who henceforward became pastor of the united society. It is at this period that the church books now in existence commence; but with the assistance of other materials, we
Crosby's English Baptists, vol. iv. p. 166,
PAUL SALLEY-General Baptist, Extinct.
shall be enabled to deduce the history of the Barbican church from its origin. A good abstract of the records just mentioned, drawn up by the Rev. John Evans, was published in “ The Universal Theological Magazine," for January, February, and March, 1803. In the article of union between the churches at Barbican and Turners'-Hall, one psalm is ordered to be sung during divine worship. It was with great caution, and only by degrees, that the pleasing exercise of singing in public worship was introduced among the Baptists. It is but lately that it has been received into some churches of the General Baptist" denomination, and we believe there are still some who cleaving close to the prejudices of their ancestors, exclude harmony from their devotions. In 1719, it was agreed by the Barbican church, that there should be singing twice in the afternoon service.
The discipline of the Barbican church for the first seventy or eighty years was very strict, and conducted with great regularity. The members were divided into portions, according to the districts in which they lived. Hence, in their church books, we frequently meet with the Barbican, Limehouse, Southwark, Shoreditch, Westminster, and City divisions. Two, and in some cases three, persons, members and deacons of the church, were appointed to inspect and visit the respective members, in these different departments. If any member was absent from his place during divine worship ou the Lord's-day, he was sure to be visited in the ensuing week, and the cause of his absence ascertained. This was laid before the church ; and, if not satisfactory, such member was admonished, and his regular attendance enforced. Any refractory behaviour, or conduct, unbecoming the Christian character, was visited with the censure of the church ; and hardened offenders were blotted out of the society. If the discipline of the church should appear, upon some occasions, too minute and severe, this inconvenience was balanced by the good effects which resulted to the society as a whole. Towards the latter end of
PAUL'S-ALLEY-General Baptist, Extinct.
the seventeenth century, a library was formed for the use of the Barbican church ; and it accumulated from time to time, till, in the end, it became very considerable. A catalogue of the books of which it consisted, is preserved in one of the old church books; from which it appears to have been collected with judgment, and with a view to utility. In 1712, the Barbican society received a farther accession in members, by the union of the Particular Baptist congregation in Virginia-street, which took place on the 18th of May, in that year. The General Baptist fund, which is now in existence, and distributes annually the sum of two hundred pounds, was instituted at Barbican, the scheme being laid before the church meeting by Mr. Joseph Burroughs, and Mr. James Foster, July 25, 1725. It was drawn up in concert with several ministers of other congregations, as well as some private gentlemen, and was originally designed for the support of young men training to the ministry among the Baptists. Several instances of the benevolence of this society are recorded in their church books. Besides the collection after the fire of London, already mentioned, there was one made in 1711, for the repairing such meeting-houses as were destroyed, or otherwise damaged, by Sacheverel's mob. In 1732, they made a collection for the persecuted Protestants at Saltzburg, in Germany, who, to the number of two thousand, were, by their intolerant prince, expelled their country. In 1737, certain books in the library belonging to the Barbican church, were voted for the use of the academy at Trowbridge, under the direction of Mr. Thonias Lucas. The recurrence of this subject gives rise to a question, What became of these books, at the dissolution of the Barbican church? In the year 1744, an attempt was made to introduce mixed communion into the Barbican church, but it failed. In the following year, the society relinquished the afternoon service in favour of the General Baptist church, in White's-alley, under the care of Mr. Charles Bulkley; which they could the more easily do, as the congregation
was greatly decreased, and Mr. Foster, one of the ministers at Barbican, had lately resigned his connexion, and removed to Pinners'-Hall. Mr. Bulkley's congregation continued to meet at this place, till the expiration of the lease, when they united with some other congregations in building a new meeting-house, in Worship-street.
On the 15th of September, 1754, a resolution passed at a church meeting, that a subscription be opened for defending such gentlemen as the deputation have taken into their protection, against any prosecution that may be carried on, in order to oblige them to serve as sheriffs for London and Middlesex. This brings to our notice the name of a gentleman who rendered essential service to Protestant Dissenters, by defending their rights and liberties, in a contest with the city of London. We allude to Mr. Allen Evans, a member and deacon of the Barbican church, who being set down for sheriff, refused to serve the office on account of the sacramental test, which he considered a vile prostitution of a sacred ordinance. It is well known that this case became the subject of legal discussion, and was at length carried to the House of Lords, where it was given in favour of the Dissenters. On this occasion, the judges gave their solemn opinion in their favour; and Lord Mansfield declared, that every attempt to force conscience was against natural and revealed religion, as well as sound policy. Mr. Evans died in 1767, in his 82d year; and his name will occupy a conspicuous place in the annals of religious liberty. The Barbican church being greatly reduced, the surviving members agreed to dissolve, June 5, 1768. At this time, the congregation lately meeting in Glass-house-yard, under the care of Mr. Daniel Noble, being desirous of having the use of the meeting-house, in Paul's-alley, it was granted them; and the reinaining members of the Barbican church united with the said society. The lease of the meeting-house expiring at Midsummer, 1777, the two churches that met there united with two other societies of the General Baptist