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For JANUARY, 1797.
LIFE OF THE REV. SAMUEL BREWER, B.D.
Late Paftor of the Independent Church at Stepney.
Suffolk, on the 17th of June, 1723, was the second son of serious and reputable parents, who, watching over his youth with the most tender folicitude, brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
His father, Mr. Philip Brewer, was a man of more than common understanding, of exemplary piety, and very inftrumental in promoting the interest of Christ in the place where he resided. For many years he reputably filled the office of deacon, in the church of Christ at Rendham *, and thereby purchased to himself a good degree and great boldness in the faith. He had an excellent gift in prayer, and was remarkable for his fervency in that exercise; and, singular as it may appear, it is certainly a truth, that many of the sermons, delivered by the paftor, were the composition of the deacon.
While his wife was pregnant with Mr. B., he felt an ardent defire that he might have a son, and that God would set him apart from the womb for his own immediate fervice. The impreffion was fo ftrong, that he made it a mata ter of frequent and earnest prayer, vowing to the Lord, that, if he would graciously answer his request, the child, on being renewed in the Spirit of his mind, thould be devoted to the work of the ministry. Therefore, after the example of Hannah, he “ called his name Samuel," affigning the same
* This Church was originally formel, and, previously to the year 1750, met, at Swiftling, a village about a quarter of a mile distant from Rendham, VOL. V.
reason, reason, “ because I asked him of the Lord.” In conducting his education, he uniformly kept this folemn engagement in view; but he perceived a growing aversion in the mind of his fon to the ministerial character, which perhaps inight be partly occasioned by the unmerited severity of his claffical tutor, the Rev. Mr. Wood, of Rendham, afterwards Dr. Wood, of Norwich.
When Mr. Brewer attained the age of fourteen, the time appointed for his going to London to enter on his academical studies, he used every argument with his father, and passionately intreated him, with many tears, that he would not persist in a measure so repugnant to his feelings. His father, unwilling to relinquith his favourite object, persuaded him to go for one year, assuring him, that if, at the expiration of it, he continued so averle to the ministry, he would drop his design, and place him in fome line of life more congenial to his disposition. On this condition he complied with his father's will, and, as soon as the necessary preparations were made, accompanied him to London.
In their way to town, they passed through Stratford, a small village, on the borders of Essex, about three miles from Saxınundham. At that time there was a Latin inscription on the church porch, to which his father particularly directed his attention : “My fon,” says he, “read this." He did." Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” It affected him much: And, though it did not immediately produce a saving conversion, the impreffion was lasting ; for he frequently remarked to his friends, that he feldom, if ever, read or repeated the passage without recollecting this circumstance.
Now the prayers of this good man began to be answered ; and, before the probationary year expired, he had the unspeakable pleasure to find, that his dear Samuel had been brought to the saving knowledge and enjoyment of Chrift, under the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Guyse, and, having now given up his heart to the Lord, was willing to devote his life to the work of the sanctuary.
His first tutor was the Rev. Dr. Taylor, of Deptford. While there, he used to attend, together with the now Rev. Thomas Towle, and such other fellow-students as were zealoutly attached to the Methodists, the preaching of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ, the late Rev. Mr. Whitfield, at Kennington Common, and other places ; which time an intimacy commenced, which continued uninterrupted till the death of that great man. But his at
tachment to the ministry of this celebrated preacher being offensive to his reverend tutor, he experienced much perfecution *
; though, it is highly probable, a foundation was laid for his own affectionate address and subsequent usefulness by that very circumstance; as it was impoffible for a person of his discernment not to perceive the difference between that frigid orthodoxy, which depopulates congregations, and the attractive eloquence zeal inspires, collecting and animating the breafts of thousands.
He removed afterwards to London, under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Hubbard and Dr. Jennings ; and was always punctual in attending the lectures at the tutor's house, where the students, who then lodged and boarded in private families, were expected to assemble at let hours. One morning the clock had ftruck seven, and all rofe up for prayer; but the tutor looking round, and perceiving that Mr. Brewer was not yet come, paused awhile. Seeing him now enter the room, he thus addressed him, “ Sir, the clock has struck, and we were ready to begin; but, as you were absent, we supposed it was too fast, and therefore waited.” The clock was actually too fast by fome minutes.
He generally spent his vacations at his native place; and, before he returned to the academy, his good father conftantly invited about half a dozen members of the church, men famous in their day for faith in Christ and zeal for the distinguishing truths of the Gospel, to set apart a day in praying for a blessing on his preparatory studies, and on the labours of the important office for which he was designed. For this church he ever retained the warmest affcction, and often acknowledged he was indebted, under God, to their prayers for much of his future usefulness and comfort.
Having finished his studies, he received honourable teitimonials of his ability for the ministry, strongly recommending him to the church of Chrift, dated April 23, 1746, and signed by Dr. Guyse, Dr. Jennings, and Mr. Peter Goods
Soon after he was invited to preach, on trial, by the church at Stepney, which, at that time, confifted of only feven male and twenty-five female members ; and, a fingu. lar circumstance procuring him an unanimous call, he was ordained pastor the 23d of O&tober following.
* To such an excess did the Doctor carry his resentment, that once, on their return from ennington, he actually inflicted a sefiri corporal punish: ment on Mr. Brewer and Mr. Towle, and sent them fasting to their rooms, Naturam expellas furca licet, usque recurret. Hora
When the church met to consult on the subject, it appeared, that all approved of Mr. Brewer's character and abilities, and were very desirous of inviting him to accept the pastoral office, except one of the deacons, who observed, that as he was a young man, and had been so Thort a time among them, it would be prudent to have a longer trial before they proceeded to a final determination. Upon which the sisters of the church withdrew, one and all, into the yard ; and, sending for the good man, they burst into tears, and intreated him, as they had been long without a paftor, and as their affections at length feemed to unite in Mr. Brewer, that he would not obstruct their wishes for an immediate settlement. Viewing this as a call of Providence, he withdrew his objection, and Mr. Brewer received the most cordial and unanimous invitation. He used, therefore, jocosely to say, he was chosen paftor of the church by the Sisters.
As this is one of the most flourishing and important churches in the Diffenting Interest, we presume a brief account of its rise and progress will not be unacceptable to the public.
From a careful perufal of Dr. Calamy's Account and Continuations, and Mr. Neale's History of the Puritans, it appears, this Christian Society was first collected under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Greenhill, Rector of Stepney, who, in the year 1644, in the reign of Charles the First, took his feat among the venerable assembly of divines as one of the dissenting brethren. He was a worthy man, and much vaIued for his great learning and unwearied labours; and was pitched upon to be chaplain to the King's children, the Dukes of York and Gloucester, and the Lady Henrietta Maria. After he was ejected from his rectory, the serious persons, to whom his ministry had been bleffed, being affectionately attached to him, met in Ocean-street, in the fame parish, and for many years enjoyed the advantage of his labours.
Dying the 29th of September, 1671, he was succeeded, before the year expired, by the famous Mr. Matthew Mcad, who, having been ejected from the living of Great Brickhill, Bucks, went over to Holland ; but, on the liberty granted to the Dissenters, returned, and was settled over this people. Mr. How, in his funeral sermon, stiles him an eminent servant of Christ, whose praise is still in all the churches." Poffefsing very popular talents, he attracted a numerous auditory, and had not been long in this situation, before it
was judged expedient to erect the present capacious building. It was opened in the spring of 1674, and in this year he preached for the first time a May-day Sermon to young people, which has been continued ever since, without intermiffion, and always attended by a vast concourse of people. This building, as is well known, has all the appearance of a large dwelling-house; and was so constructed, that, in case the king thould revoke his licence, it might easily be converted into an habitation. The roof is lupported by four noble lofty pillars, which were presented to Mr. Mead for that purpose by the States of Holland. But the congregation still increasing, three very deep galleries were erected : These were completed the 25th of March, 1688, the year of the Revolution; but the pulpit is evidently of modern date.
This great man lived till the 16th of October, 1699, when he was removed to his eternal reft at the age of feventy : And the providence of God so ordered it, that the very last discourse he preached was on the May-day preceding.
Mr. Mead was assisted for several years by Mr. Richard Lawrence, a gentleman of amiable manners and of great learning and piety; who, after his ejectment from the living of Trunch, in Norfolk, found an asylum in Holland, and was pastor of a church at Amsterdam. At the time he was cast out of his living, he had a wife and fix children ; the facrifice he made for conscience-fake was, therefore, the more to be admired. He had invitations from several churches to settle over them, and upon Dr. Owen's death, was particularly solicited to supply his place, but could not be prevailed on to leave Stepney. Though he survived Mr. Mead two years, he could not succeed him, having been, for fix years previous to his departure, entirely disabled from preaching. Amidst the infirmities of age this good man used to say, “ He longed to know what heaven was.' When he was expiring *, he faid to his daughter,
er, “ Now, hild, flesh and heart fail; but (raising his voice considerably) God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
Mr. John Gilpin, who preached Mr. Laurence's funeral sermon, was the immediate successor of Mr. Mead; but we have been able to collect no other account of him, than that he was the son of an ejccted minister, and demised the 24th of November, 1712.
November 19702, aged 75 yeart.