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MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM SALT, OF LICHFIELD.
AT the close of the last century, most of the small cathedral towns of England were very far behind other towns of equal size in public spirit, in social improvement, and in religious freedom, energy, and activity. These cities were types of the conservative spirit of the age, as it regarded both politics and religion.
LICHFIELD was precisely of this character. Its ancient lofty cathedral, with its three beautiful spires, standing on a rising part of the city, on the border of a fine piece of water, was, as it still is, the chief object of attraction and of admiration. In this sacred fane were daily performed, in a perfunctory manner, the prescribed ecclesiastical services.* Nonconformity, in this city, was a thing unknown; and evangelical religion within the circle of the Establishment altogether ignored. Uniformity and formality,-one creed, one service, one ritual, held an undivided, undisputed sway.
In the year 1790, however, a few
By the Act of Uniformity, in 1662, two Nonconformist ministers were ejected from their livings in this city. One was from St. Chad's-Mr. Thomas Miles. Calamy says:"He suffered much by his Nonconformity. He continued in the town till the Oxford Act came out; when he was forced to leave his family, though he had a dangerous cold upon him. He did not see his wife and children for eleven weeks, nor durst he come to them in eighteen months. Having no certain dwelling, he travelled about from place to place, nearly 800 miles, on foot. If, at any time, he stole home by night, he durst not stir out of his chamber; and when he went out, it was either very late or very early, for fear of being taken. He was once sent for by a magistrate who lay sick, and continued his night visits for a fort. night. The evening before his death, Mr. Miles was sent for in haste by daylight; and, being seen to go into the house, was com plained of to the chief magistrate of the town, by a curate, which made him hasten away the next morning. This gentleman, who had been twice applied to for a warrant to apprehend him, was so kind as to send notice to his wife
religious and zealous persons in the
In the year 1802, several nonconformists having come to reside in the city and neighbourhood, re-opened the chapel, and re-established religious services. The assistance of ministers in the vicinity was obtained; among whom were the Revs. T. Grove, of Walsall; J. Gawthorn, of Derby; and J. Evans, of Coventry.
[that he should be safely conveyed away.] He
The other minister-Mr. John Butler, M.A., of Edmund Hall, Oxford, was ejected from St. Mary's. Of this good man, Calamy states that "He rarely preached after being silenced, un less sometimes in his own house. A gentle man in Lichfield, who was in good circum stances, was very kind to him and his family; set up one of his sons in trade, and sent another to the University. . . . Mr. Butler died about 1670, aged about fifty. He was a good and pious man."-Nonconformist's Memorial, pp. 235, 230.
Circumstances now began to wear a | more favourable aspect; the congregation increased, and in 1805, the Rev. John Guard, who had been one of the Missionaries to the South Seas in the ship Duff, was invited to become their more stated minister. He remained two years, and then removed to Cornwall. One of the principal persons employed in the commencement of this good work, was Mr. Wm. Daniel, who was elected deacon. To his counsels and services the cause of Christ was much indebted. Another friend was an excellent lady-Miss Fanny Singer, a woman of eminent piety, superior intelligence, and ardent zeal. A third, was Mr. Henry Fairbrother, who still survives a venerable octogenarian.* Severe and bitter persecutions of various kinds and degrees were endured by the little flock in the early days of their history: but these only cemented their union, fanned their zeal, and stimulated their exertions. "The bush burned with fire, but was not consumed."
Their minister, Mr. Guard, having removed, a student of Hoxton College, London, came as a supply: this was the Rev. WILLIAM SALT, the subject of the present memoir. To him the destitute congregation presented a cordial invitation to become their pastor; with which request he complied.
Mr. Salt was himself a Staffordshire man; having been born at Cannock, in that county, Sept. 11, 1783. His mother died while he was very young, and his father, soon afterwards, removed with him to the Staffordshire Potteries. Here he was apprenticed to a porcelain manufacturer. In the 19th year of his age, he was induced to attend the ministry of the Rev. W. Moseley, at the Tabernacle, Hanley. At that time, Mr. Moseley was delivering a series of lectures on the Assembly's Catechism. Mr. Salt heard the explanation of the answer to the first question in that catechism, which produced a deep and permanent impression on his mind. The father of the Rev. W. Fairbrother, late Missionary to China.
From that period, 1802, he became an earnest inquirer after the way of salvation. Being at that time a runaway apprentice, and reflecting on the homage and obedience due to Jehovah, he began also to consider the obligations that were due to his master. He at once honourably surrendered himself to his employer, and served him faithfully to the end of the term of his apprenticeship. He shortly after this united himself with the church assembling in the Tabernacle, and soon began to preach in the surrounding villages.
On August 4th, 1804, Mr. Salt, having been recommended by his pastor and the church, was admitted into Hoxton College, then under the presidency of the Rev. Dr. Robert Simpson. Having honourably terminated his course at College, he went in December, 1807, to supply the destitute congregation at Lichfield. His services being approved, he accepted, as before stated, the invitation presented to him to take the oversight of them as their pastor. A few months after his settlement he received a letter from his kind patron and friend, Thomas Wilson, Esq., then treasurer of Hoxton College; in which occurs the following passage:"I trust the time, the set time, is come to favour' Lichfield with the free proclamation of the Gospel. It is an important station; and, doubtless, you will reap, if you faint not.' Satan will be very active to injure the work in some way or other. May you not be ignorant of his devices!'" late father," says Joshua Wilson, Esq., in his "Memoir," "seems to have written almost prophetically. . . . for it appeared, only a few months after the date of this letter, [May 21, 1808,] that the great adversary of God and man had been very active' in stirring up the spirits of certain persons to injure the work of God. A young man [in a morbid state of mind] who had been present at one of the parish churches in the afternoon of the Lord's-day, Nov. 6, 1808, attended in the evening the service at the Independent Chapel
in Lichfield, and heard a sermon preached there by Mr. Salt, from Luke xxii. 61, 62 (Peter's repentance). On the next day, this young man committed suicide (by poison), and the ' verdict' of the jury who sat on the coroner's inquest ascribed his lunacy to the effect produced upon his mind by 'the doctrines which he had heard at the meetings of the persons called Methodists.'" The tragical event created great sensation, and the enemies of Dissenters were anxious to make it appear that the dangerous doctrine to which he had listened at the conventicle was the cause of its occurrence. At the same time, Mr. Salt's life was considered to be in danger. In the midst of this excitement, Mr. Salt announced that he should preach the same sermon again on the following Sabbath evening. When the time for the service arrived, great numbers assembled to hear the sermon repeated. The result was, not only a complete acquittal of Mr. Salt from all blame in causing the calamity, but a considerable increase to the number of his regular hearers. But the matter did not end here. The press was employed; a paper being published, and circulated the next market-day, entitled "A Serious Warning to the Inhabitants of Lichfield: with an Appendix on Religious Melancholy." Mr. Thomas Wilson, in a letter to Mr. Salt, dated Nov. 21, 1808, says, "I have been with the Rev. Geo. Burder this morning. He has engaged to write a reply to the Warning.'* You must circulate a thousand copies-getting a person upon whom you can depend to leave one at every house.. I have no doubt all will be overruled for great good . . . I trust this bustle will be a great help towards a new chapel in Lichfield. It surely should hasten the building, and induce the greatest liberality on the part of those who love Christ. You
This was shortly afterwards published under the title, A Vindication of the Dis
senters in Lichfield from the charges brought against them in a paper entitled, 'A Serious Warning, &c.'"
have arrived at high honour-to suffer for Christ. He will help and encourage you." Mr. Salt, in referring to these circumstances, in a letter to Mr. Joshua Wilson, in 1846, says, "Your late honoured father took a deep interest in this event, and afforded me much encouragement, as well as counsel and sympathy. Some time after, when I took the Chapel case to London, he requested me to preach the notorious killing sermon at Hoxton Chapel. the close he stood forward and spoke to this effect::-'My friends, the sermon you have just heard has been charged by the verdict of a jury in Lichfield as the cause of urging a young man to suicide. You can judge whether it has that tendency, and how much the gospel is needed in that city to enlighten the people. Mr. Salt is now in London collecting money to build a new chapel there."" He then invited persons disposed to contribute, to go into the vestry after the service was concluded. A considerable sum was obtained.* The late Rev. Matthew Wilks was also a kind friend to Mr. Salt, and rendered him great assistance in procuring contributions for the new chapel. Mr. Wilks happened to be at Bristol when Mr. Salt was collecting donations in that city; and he wrote in the collecting book the following characteristic lines:-"If there be a city in England that needs the gospel more than any other, it is Lichfield. If there be a city in England which has opposed the preaching of the gospel more than any other, it is Lichfield: but there the gospel now is; and there may it continue! &c."
On June 13, 1808, a meeting was held in an upper room in Dam-street, when a Christian church, consisting of six members, was regularly organized, The congregation, increasing in numbers, required more ample accommodation; they therefore purchased a piece of ground in Wade-street, on which they erected a commodious chapel, with
"Memoir of the Life and Character of Thos. Wilson, Esq." By his Son. Pp. 248-51.
out galleries. On March 18,1812, it was opened for public worship; and at the same time, the ordination of the pastor took place. Mr. Hudson, of West Bromwich, read the Scriptures and prayed; Mr. Boden, of Sheffield, delivered the introductory discourse; Mr. Williams, of Stone, offered the ordination prayer; Mr. Brewer, of Birmingham, gave the charge to the minister; Mr. Brook, of Tutbury, addressed the church and congregation; and Mr. Hammond, of Handsworth, concluded with prayer. In the evening, prayer was offered by Mr. Gawthorn, of Derby, and a sermon preached by Mr. Boden.
For many years, by plain statements of Divine truth in the pulpit, by kind and friendly intercourse with his flock, and especially by a consistent and exemplary conduct in the world, the worthy pastor pursued "the noiseless tenor of his way;" living "blamelessly and harmlessly," "blessed and made a blessing." The congregation increased; galleries were erected, and many were added to the church. A neat little parsonage house was erected behind the chapel in 1813, at the expense of a kind Christian lady, from the high esteem she entertained for Mr. Salt.
But uninterrupted peace and prosperity is the lot of few. A worm is often at the root of the most flourishing gourd. So was it in the present case; disaffection was manifested on the part of a few members of the church towards their pastor. This so irritated and chafed his tender spirit, that he was induced, after twenty-four years' labour, to retire from the city, and seek a pastorate elsewhere.
During this period of Mr. Salt's ministry at Lichfield, he was useful not only in connexion with his immediate charge, but also in the vicinity. He was zealously alive to the religious destitution which prevailed in neighbouring towns and villages. For many years he regularly preached on the Sunday afternoon at Longdon, and on
week-day evenings at the villages of Burntwood and Whittington. He also took great interest in the commencement and progress of the congregation at Armitage; and was one of the principal founders of the Independent Church at Tamworth. For the spiritual interests of the inhabitants of that place he felt deeply concerned, devoting much of his time and energy, and sacrificing no small portion of his limited property, to the establishment and maintenance of evangelical religion in that town.
A brief notice of the circumstances connected with the origin of the Independent Chapel in Tamworth, might here be recorded. In the year 1826, Mr. Salt, the late Mr. Miller of Atherstone, and the writer-all residing in the vicinity-met together in the town to make inquiries for a suitable room in which to hold public worship. No such accommodation could at first be obtained except the theatre. Before this, however, could be engaged, it was found necessary to secure the consent of the first Sir Robert Peel. He was waited upon, for this purpose, at his seat at Drayton Manor. He was found in his library with a large Bible open before him. The object of the interview having been stated, the aged baronet gave his consent; but expressed several objections to the theatre being used as a place of worship, and added that he could himself provide better accommodation; namely, a large room in a cotton manufactory, about to be vacated. At the same time he kindly stated, that if the attempt to raise a congregation succeeded, he would grant an eligible piece of land, at a nominal price, should it be required, for the erection of a chapel, and give a donation of five pounds. He then entered into free conversation respecting the zeal and activity of Dissenters. "But," said he, "I think you Dissenters are sometimes zealous overmuch. Now I have just been reading the life of the Apostle Paul; and I really think he sometimes went too far!" This was a question-the baronet versus the Apostle,
which his visitors did not presume to determine. As the result of this pleasant interview, the room was taken, the land purchased, the donation given, and the chapel erected.*
the door has been shut. It was not altogether so, however, with Mr. Salt. His old flock at Lichfield, by unhappy changes, and untoward circumstances, had been greatly reduced. Some of In 1831, Mr. Salt received and ac- its most valuable and influential memcepted a unanimous invitation to the bers had been driven away. The pastorate from the church at Erding- church being without a pastor, and ton, near Birmingham. Here he was their first old pastor being prospectively much respected and beloved. While at without a flock, some mutual inquiries this place, he exerted himself, with a and overtures were made,which resulted brother minister, in promoting the erec in an invitation being given to the tion of a chapel at Coleshill. This ob- latter by the former to reoccupy the ject was accomplished chiefly by the pulpit, and to reassume the pastorship. munificence of the late Mrs. Glover and He returned, therefore, to Lichfield, Miss Mansfield, of Birmingham. He April 22nd, 1849, and continued to remained at Erdington five years; but preside over the church, and to disin March, 1837, removed to Hinckley, charge the duties of his ministry, till in Leicestershire. The church in this within a few days of his removal to the place at the time was in a low and di- rest and rewards of eternity. After a vided state, but by his peaceful and short but painful affliction, he peaceprudent conduct order and harmony fully departed to be with Christ, June were restored, and he enjoyed a happy | 1st, 1857, in the 74th year of his age, course of ministration among the people and the 50th year of his ministry. for twelve years. His labours were greatly blessed in the conversion of souls. About ten persons joined the church each year while he was there. Six or seven young men, members of the churches at Lichfield and Hinckley, during his ministry at these places, became devoted to the Christian ministry; most of whom are now occupying important spheres of usefulness.
Being now in the 66th year of his age, and feeling increasing infirmities, Mr. Salt entertained serious thoughts of retiring from the regular ministry, and of preaching occasionally, as his services might be required. But Lichfield, the object of his "first love," and the sphere of his first labours, was ever upon his heart. And how many instances have been known of a minister, who has left his first charge, after a few years, longing and sighing to return to it! In the bitterness of his soul has he said to himself" I would go and return to my first husband; for then it was better with me than now!" But
* See "Independency in Warwickshire." By J. Sibres and M. Caston. P. 340.
The high estimation in which he was held was manifest in the general sympathy that was cherished towards him in his last illness. He received the visits of two clergymen of the Established Church. One of these was the venerable Archdeacon Hill, who called upon him repeatedly. Mr. Salt said to him, on one of these visits, "I have no triumph, but I feel myself safe upon the Rock." The Archdeacon said to his bereaved widow, when speaking of the closing scene of his life-"His end was one which you and his bereaved flock may look back upon with thankfulness, illustrating the passage, 'Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."" At a Bible Meeting held soon after the death of Mr. Salt, the Archdeacon expressed the pleasure he felt in the Bible Society, as the means of bringing together the ministers of different denominations; and added-" But for the Bible Society, I should never have known Mr. Salt, nor should I have had the pleasure of ministering to his comfort in the last illness of that excellent minister." The other clergyman, the