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FOR JANUARY, 1797.
LIFE OF THE REV. SAMUEL BREWER, B. D. Late Paftor of the Independent Church at Stepney.
HIS venerable fervant of Chrift, born at Rendham in Suffolk, on the 17th of June, 1723, was the second fon of ferious and reputable parents, who, watching over his youth with the moft 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 intereft of Chrift in the place where he refided. For many years he reputably filled the office of deacon, in the church of Chrift 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 exercife; and, fingular as it may appear, it is certainly a truth, that many of the fermons, delivered by the paftor, were the compofition of the deacon.
While his wife was pregnant with Mr. B., he felt an ardent defire that he might have a fon, and that God would fet him apart from the womb for his own immediate fervice. The impreffion was fo ftrong, that he made it a matter 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 miniftry. Therefore, after the example of Hannah, he "called his name Samuel," affigning the fame
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,
reafon, "because I asked him of the Lord." In conducting his education, he uniformly kept this folemn engagement in view; but he perceived a growing averfion in the mind of his fon to the minifterial character, which perhaps might be partly occafioned by the unmerited feverity 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 ftudies, he ufed every argument with his father, and paffionately intreated him, with many tears, that he would not perfift in a measure fo repugnant to his feelings. His father, unwilling to relinquish his favourite object, perfuaded him to go for one year, affuring him, that if, at the expiration of it, he continued fo averfe to the miniftry, he would drop his defign, and place him in fome line of life more congenial to his difpofition. On this condition he complied with his father's will, and, as foon as the neceffary preparations were made, accompanied him to London.
In their way to town, they paffed through Stratford, & finall village, on the borders of Effex, about three miles from Saxmundham. At that time there was a Latin infcription on the church porch, to which his father particularly directed his attention: "My fon," fays he, "read this." He did." Seek ye firft the kingdom of God and his righteoufnefs." It affected him much: And, though it did not immediately produce a faving converfion, the impreffion was lafting; for he frequently remarked to his friends, that he feldom, if ever, read or repeated the paffage without recollecting this circumftance.
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 faving knowledge and enjoyment of Chrift, under the miniftry of the Rev. Dr. Guyfe, and, having now given up his heart to the Lord, was willing to devote his life to the work of the fanctuary.
His firft tutor was the Rev. Dr. Taylor, of Deptford. While there, he used to attend, together with the now Rev. Thomas Towle, and fuch other fellow-ftudents as were zealously attached to the Methodists, the preaching of that eminent fervant of Jefus Chrift, the late Rev. Mr. Whitfield, at Kennington Common, and other places; at which time an intimacy commenced, which continued uninterrupted till the death of that great man. But his attachment
tachment to the ministry of this celebrated preacher being offenfive to his reverend tutor, he experienced much perfecution; though, it is highly probable, a foundation was laid for his own affectionate addrefs and fubfequent usefulness by that very circumstance; as it was impoffible for a perfon of his difcernment not to perceive the difference between that frigid orthodoxy, which depopulates congregations, and the attractive eloquence zeal infpires, 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 houfe, where the ftudents, who then lodged and boarded in private families, were expected to affemble at fet hours. One morning the clock had ftruck feven, and all rofe up for prayer; but the tutor looking round, and perceiving that Mr. Brewer was not yet come, paufed awhile. Seeing him now enter the room, he thus addreffed him, Sir, the clock has struck, and we were ready to begin; but, as you were abfent, we fuppofed it was too faft, 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 Chrift and zeal for the diftinguishing truths of the Gofpel, to fet apart a day in praying for a bleffing on his preparatory ftudies, and on the labours of the important office for which he was defigned. For this church he ever retained the warmest affection, and often acknowledged he was indebted, under God, to their prayers for much of his future usefulness and comfort.
Having finished his ftudies, he received honourable teftimonials of his ability for the miniftry, ftrongly recommending him to the church of Chrift, dated April 23, 1746, and figned by Dr. Guyse, Dr. Jennings, and Mr. Peter Good
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 circumftance procuring him an unanimous call, he was ordained paftor the 23d of October following.
To such an excess did the Doctor carry his resentment, that once, on their return from Kennington, he actually inflicted a disgraceful corporal punishment on Mr. Brewer and Mr. Towle, and sent them fasting to their rooms. Naturam expellas furca licet, usque recurret. HOR.
When the church met to confult on the fubject, it appeared, that all approved of Mr. Brewer's character and abilities, and were very defirous 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 fo fhort a time among them, it would be prudent to have a longer trial before they proceeded to a final determination. Upon which the fifters of the church withdrew, one and all, into the yard; and, fending for the good man, they burst into tears, and intreated him, as they had been long without a pastor, and as their affections at length feemed to unite in Mr. Brewer, that he would not obstruct their wifhes for an immediate fettlement. Viewing this as a call of Providence, he withdrew his objection, and Mr. Brewer received the moft cordial and unanimous invitation. He ufed, therefore, jocofely to say, he was chosen paftor of the church by the fifters.
As this is one of the most flourishing and important churches in the Diffenting Intereft, we prefume a brief account of its rife and progrefs will not be unacceptable to the public.
From a careful perufal of Dr. Calamy's Account and Continuations, and Mr. Neale's Hiftory of the Puritans, it appears, this Chriftian Society was firft collected under the miniftry of the Rev. Mr. Greenhill, Rector of Stepney, who, in the year 1644, in the reign of Charles the Firft, took his feat among the venerable affembly of divines as one of the diffenting brethren. He was a worthy man, and much vaTued for his great learning and unwearied labours; and was pitched upon to be chaplain to the King's children, the Dukes of York and Gloucefter, and the Lady Henrietta Maria. After he was ejected from his rectory, the ferious perfons, to whom his miniftry had been bleffed, being affectionately attached to him, met in Ocean-ftreet, in the fame parish, and for many years enjoyed the advantage of his labours.
Dying the 29th of September, 1671, he was fucceeded, before the year expired, by the famous Mr. Matthew Mead, who, having been ejected from the living of Great Brickhill, Bucks, went over to Holland; but, on the liberty granted to the Diffenters, returned, and was fettled over this people. Mr. How, in his funeral fermon, ftiles him "an eminent fervant of Chrift, whose praife is ftill in all the churches." Poffeffing very popular talents, he attracted a numerous auditory, and had not been long in this fituation, before it
was judged expedient to erect the prefent capacious building. It was opened in the fpring of 1674, and in this year he preached for the first time a May-day Sermon to young people, which has been continued ever fince, without intermiffion, and always attended by a vaft concourfe of people. This building, as is well known, has all the appearance of a large dwelling-house; and was fo conftructed, that, in cafe the king fhould revoke his licence, it might eafily be converted into an habitation. The roof is fupported by four noble lofty pillars, which were presented to Mr. Mead for that purpofe by the States of Holland. But the congregation ftill increafing, three very deep galleries were erected: Thefe 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 fo ordered it, that the very laft difcourfe he preached was on the May-day preceding.
Mr. Mead was affifted 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 afylum in Holland, and was paftor of a church at Amfterdam. At the time he was caft out of his living, he had a wife and fix children; the facrifice he made for confcience-fake was, therefore, the more to be admired. He had invitations from several churches to fettle over them, and upon Dr. Owen's death, was particularly folicited to fupply his place, but could not be prevailed on to leave Stepney. Though he furvived Mr. Mead two years, he could not fucceed him, having been, for fix years previous to his departure, entirely disabled from preaching. Amidft 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, "Now, hild, flesh and heart fail; but (raifing his voice confiderably) God is the ftrength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Mr. John Gilpin, who preached Mr. Laurence's funeral fermon, was the immediate fucceffor of Mr. Mead; but we have been able to collect no other account of him, than that he was the son of an ejected minifter, and demised the 24th of November, 1712.
November 1702, aged 75 years.