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HISTORY AND ANTIQUITIES
N Meeting-house-yard, Silver-street, and in the parish of St. Albans, Wood-street, and St. Olaves, Hart-street, stands a meeting-house, formerly one of the most celebrated among Protestant Dissenters. The date of it we cannot ascertain with precision; but suppose it to have been erected soon after the fire of London, or upon King Charles's Indulgence, in 1672. In its original state, it was a small oblong building, with three galleries, and plainly fitted up; but it now retains nothing of its former appearance. As it was shut in from the street, concealed from observation, it was admirably adapted to times of persecution; and this was the case with most of the Dissenting places of worship, built in the reign of Charles II.
The congregation that originally assembled at the meetinghouse in Silver-street, was collected soon after Bartholomew-day, by Dr. Lazarus Seaman, an eminent Divine of the Presbyterian denomination, who was ejected from the
living of Alhallows, Bread-street. He was one of those Divines who set up private meetings after the fire of London, when the hand of Providence had, in a most awful manner, scourged the inhabitants, and deprived them of those churches from which they had but a little before driven away their faithful pastors, and of which they now became unworthy. His congregation consisted chiefly of persons who had been his hearers at Bread-street, and still considered him as their spiritual shepherd. Dr. Seamen was followed in the care of his church by a succession of Divines as eminent for piety, for learning, and for pastoral duties, as any in their day. A Jacomb, a Howe, a Spademan, and a Rosewell, are names familiar to many of our readers, and will continue long to be remembered by the church of Christ. By the labours of these men, the Society in Silverstreet was established and built up in the faith once delivered to the saints, and continued long in a prosperous and flourishing state. The congregation was numerous, and consisted of many persons who were distinguished by their rank and property, or by filling important stations in society. Many of the nobility and gentry of those days, who had been educated under puritanical tutors, retained, amidst the general defection, an attachment to religious principles, and still patronized the Nonconformists, by attending their places of worship, and receiving them into their houses. Some of these considered it an honour to sit under the ministry of the great Mr. Howe; and many wealthy citizens likewise attended. That ornament to religion, and true patriotism, Sir Thomas Abney, Knt. alderman and Lord Mayor of London, attended regularly with his family, at the meetinghouse in Silver-street. As he was a member of this church, and dissented from principle, he went publicly during his mayoralty, in 1701; but, to shew his liberality, attended preaching sometimes in the established church. This liberal conduct gave great offence to the high-church party, and was the occasion of the controversy upon the subject of
occasional conformity. This church always ranked with the Presbyterian denomination; and down to the time of its dissolution, the ministers have invariably been reckoned moderate Calvinists. The church in Silver-street continued together, under a succession of ministers, till after the death of Mr. Bures, in 1747, when the remaining members joined the society in Jewin-street, under the pastoral care of the Rev. Roger Pickering, and the united church henceforward met in Silver-street. Of this society we will present the reader with some account, after having first dispatched the former church.
"The following is, we believe, a pretty accurate list of those ministers, who served the Presbyterian society, in Silver-street, both as pastors and assistants:
Lazarus Seaman, D. D. .
Daniel Williams, D. D.
Samuel Rosewell, .
William Langford, D. D.
LAZARUS SEAMAN, D. D.-This learned Divine was a native of Leicester, but in what year he was born seems uncertain. His parents were in but low circumstances, which proved of some disadvantage to him in his education. At a proper age he was sent to Emanuel College, in Cambridge, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1627, and that of Master in 1631. But he continued at College only a short time, being forced to leave it, in order to procure a livelihood by teaching school. But though our Divine was, in a great measure, a selftaught scholar, yet by diligence and perseverance, he attained to that eminence in literature, especially in a knowledge of the learned languages, that very few acquire by a long course of study, under greater advantages. Upon his coming to London, he became chaplain to the Earl of Northumberland, and was chosen into the lectureship of St. Martin's, Ludgate, through his preaching an occasional sermon there. The reputation he acquired as a preacher in this station, procured him to be chosen pastor of Alhallows, Breadstreet, to which living he was presented by Archbishop Laud, in 1642, by order of parliament. Laud told the Earl of Northumberland, by way of compliment, that before the receipt of this order, he had designed Mr. Seaman for the above benefice.* Our Divine had now ample scope for his abilities, which he exercised to advantage, and which gained him the respect and admiration of the leading men of those times. This occasioned his being chosen in the following year, a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, where he appeared very active, and discovered great skill in the management of theological controversies. About this time, a certain right honourable lady, who was at the head of a noble family, was often solicited by some Romish priests to change her religion; but before she consented, it was thought fit, for further satisfaction, that a dispute should take place, in the presence of the whole
• Calamy's Account, p. 16.
family, between some of the most able Divines of both communions. The lady being advised to make choice of Mr. Seaman, on behalf of the Protestants, he met two Romish priests, with whom he engaged in a dispute upon the subject of transubstantiation. These soon discovering the learning and abilities of our Divine, endeavoured to evade the question, and so completely did he foil them in argument, that they at length gave up the controversy, and the whole family was preserved stedfast in the Protestant religion.
In the year 1644, when the Earl of Manchester visited the University of Cambridge, and removed such of the fellows and heads of houses as opposed the parliament, Mr. Seaman was made Master of Peter-house, in the room of Dr. John Cosins, who retired to France, and after the Restoration became Bishop of Durham. This nomination of our Divine gave great satisfaction to the parliament, and to the Westminster assembly; and on the 11th of April, he received the solemn investiture of his office.+ In this station. he acquitted himself with abundant honour. It was about this time that he proceeded Doctor of Divinity, by performing the usual exercises appointed by the statutes of the university. The position which he defended with great learning upon this occasion, was designed to assert the providence of God in the disposal of political governments; a point till that time but little studied, though afterwards better understood. In the year 1645, Dr. Seaman was appointed a member of the committee of accommodation, set on foot by the parliament, in order to bring about a comprehension with the Independents, denominated in the assembly, The Dissenting Brethren. But if the union was found impossible, the committee was charged to find out, "how far tender consciences, who cannot in all things submit to the
* Mr. Jenkyn's Sermon on the Death of Dr. Seaman, p. 51-2. + Neal's Puritans, vol. ii. p. 87. Mr. Jenkyn's Sermon, ubi supru.