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This meeting-house, which is still standing, is situated in Middlesex-court, and was part of a large old building called Middlesex-house. In its present appearance, it wears the evident marks of great antiquity ; but, at what period, and by whom it was erectéd, and to what purpose it was originally devoted, there remain no records to determine. Its contiguity to the Priory of St. Bartholomew, renders it 110 unreasonable conjecture, that it was originally a dependant upon the canons of that foundation, and, perhaps, devoted to the purposes of religious worship. The conventual church adjoining to it, belonged to a priory of Black Canons, founded in 1102, by one Rahere, minstrel, or jester, to Henry I. who, quitting his profligate life, became the first prior of his own foundation. Legend relates that he had a most horrible dream, out of which he was relieved by St. Bartholomew himself, who directed him to found the house, and dedicate it to him. He lies buried there under a handsome monument, beneath an arch, divided by elegant tabernacle work. His figure is recumbent, with an angel at his feet, and a canon in a great hood, kneeling on each side, as if praying over him. The good works of Rahere continue to this day. For, to him we are indebted for the first foundation of Bartholomew's Hospital, which has continued through every succeeding reign. To this priory Henry II. granted the privilege of a fair, to be kept annually in Smithfield, for three days, at Bartholomew-tide. When the moVol. III.
nasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, this shared the common fate, and was given to the citizens for a parochial church.
In former times there was a window which opened from the meeting-house into the adj. i.!!!g church. It was situated directly opposite to ih ni, in the latter building; so that a person in the gallviy vi the meeting-house could clearly (liscern the congregation in the church, and watch the different parts of divine worship. This singular aperture has not been closed up more than half a century.
In a corner of the meeting-house there used to be seen, some years back, a very antique sculpture, representing the figure of a Popish priest, with a child in his arms; and there are several arches which appear to have been formerly titted up with the same sort of trumpery. Underneath
several vestiges of an antique chapel, though now used for no higher
purposes than a cellar.
From these remnants of ancient superstition, there is
every reason to suppose that, in the days of Romish ignorance, this place was devoted to the purposes of religious worship. At what time it was first converted into a meeting-house by the Nonconformists seems uncertain, though it must have been pretty early. It is not improbable but that during the interregnum, it was occupied by one of the numerous sects that abounded in that period. During the persecuting reign of Charles II. it was certainly in their hands, and, on account of the obscurity of its situation, was admirably adapted for purposes of concealment. In several parts of the building there is every appearance of private doors, supposed to have been made to facilitate the escape of the worshippers, in that season of affliction. When Mr. Rowe's church was cast out of Westminster Abbey, at the Restoration of Charles II. he preached to them frequently at the meeting-house in Bartholomew-Close ; and it was probably occupied by other ministers occasionally, as the rigour of the times would alloy.
The Presbyterian congregation that assembled here for nearly fourscore years, was gathered towards the latter end of the reign of Charles II. by Mr. John Quick, the ejected minister of Brixton, in Devonshire, and the famous author of “ The Synodicon.” His church continued to meet here under a succession of ministers till the year 1759, when, in consequence of its reduced state, it was dissolved, and most of the surviving members united with the church at Pinners'Hall, to which place their last minister, Dr. Caleb Fleming, had been invited to succeed the learned Dr. James Foster. After this event, the meeting-house passed into the hands of the Methodists, and has been occupied in succession by various ministers who have been the means of forming distinct societies, and in a course of time removed to other places. The particulars of these various changes shall be recorded at the close of the article. The Presbyterian congregation, it is apprehended, was never large, nor indeed, would the size of the meeting-house admit of it; but latterly it declined very fast, by deaths and desertions, nor did others appear to take their places. In the times of the latter ministers, there was an equal declension from the doctrines of the reformation. The earlier ministers were decided Calvinists ; Dr. Fleming it is well known was a zealous Socinian. The meeting-house is a small inconvenient building, and is accessible by a flight of several steps. There are three galleries of tolerable depth ; and the roof is supported by large beams, after the old manner. The whole building appeara in rather a ruinous condition; and evidently wears the marks of a venerable antiquity.
The ministers of the old Presbyterian church, from its rise to its consummation, were as follows:
JOAN Quick, M. A.—This valuable Divine was born at Plymouth, in Devonshire, in the year 1636; and descended of parents who were in the middle rank of life, and eminently pious. It pleased God to work a saving change upon his heart, when very yonng, which inclined him to devote himself to the work of the ministry. In 1650, being about fourteen years of age, he was sent to Oxford, and entered at Exeter College, in which he became servitor in 1653. The rector of the college, at that time, was the learned Dr. Conant; and his tụtor, Mr. John Saunders, a fellow of the college, and reader of rhetoric. Of both these gentlemen, who were afterwards ejected, Mr. Quick spoke in terms of particular respect. After taking his first degree in Arts, in 1657, he left the university, and returned to his native country. His first labours were at Ermington, in Devonshire ; from whence he was called to be minister of Kingsbridge and Churchstow, in the same county. He was ordained at Plymouth, Feb. 2, 1658. He afterwards removed to Brixton, in the same county, where the Act of Uniformity ejected him in 1664. In taking his lot with the Nonconformists, he did not make up his mind without previous study, and deliberate examination. Being convinced
that it was his duly not to conform, he preferred contempt, poverty, and bonds, rather than a compliance with what his conscience disapproved. He refused several preferments offered him, if he would conform, and one of three hundred per annum.
His people being earnestly desirous of his labours, he continued preaching to them after Bartholomew-day, till he was seized in the pulpit in the midst of his sermon, Dec. 13, 1663, and by the warrant of two justices committed to gaol, for preaching without episcopal ordination, and that after excommunication. Being brought to the quarter sessions for the county, Jan. 15, 1664, he passed under a long examination from the justices, and the court interrogated him by what authority lie dared to preach in defiance of the law? To which he answered, “ He did it not in despite of any authority, but from a sense of duty, and the necessity laid upon him by his ordination to preach to his flock, which had otherwise been wholly destitute.” They then asked him who were his ordainers? Ile mentioned four, who had then conformed. His counsel urging that there were errors in the indictment, the bench allowed the plea, and unanimously declared his commitment illegal. But upon a motion made for his discharge, the court insisted on sureties for his good behaviour, or else his promise to desist from preaching. After a long altercation, he freely told them, “ He must obey God rather than them; and that he could not look God in the face with comfort, if he should make such a promise after his ordination.” Upon this he was remanded to prison, where he lay in close confinement eight weeks longer, til! discharged at the assizes by the lord chief baron Hale.
Afterwards Bishop Ward ordered two indictments to be laid against him, for preaching to the prisoners in jail; and he was tried upon them, but acquitted. He used to observe the goodness of God to hini in and after that confinement, in many respects. He had but five pounds in the world, besides his books, when he was seized; but a kind Providence