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CARTER-LANE, DOCTORS'-COMMONS.—English Presbyterian.
December, 1734. The sermon preached by the Doctor upon this occasion, was published. Here he continued his labours with growing reputation, for about twelve years, when he was removed by death. Since the time of Dr. Wright, the congregation has gradually declined, and is at present in rather a low state. In point of property, however, it is still respectable, and the annual collection made for the Presbyterian fund, is very considerable.
This church, like those of the Presbyterian denomination in general, was constituted upon principles strictly Calvinistical, and the pastors prior to Mr. Newman, were moderate Calvinists. That gentleman, as well as his successor, Mr. Pickard, is generally supposed to have followed the scheme of Dr. Clarke; but they were both, in many respects, very valuable and useful ministers, and well esteemed in their day. And here it may not be amiss to remark, that Arianism at that time, differed most essentially from what has usually passed under that name during the last twenty years, which, as far as we can perceive, differs in a very trifting degree from the Socinianism of former times; for during the period just mentioned, even these latter sentiments have undergone a material revolution. The present pastor, in principle, as well as in spirit, is supposed to approach nearer the nonconformists of the former age. The afternoon preacher is considered an Arian.
The meeting-house in Little Carter-lane, is a large, substantial, brick building, of a square form, and contains three galleries of very considerable dimensions. The inside is finished with remarkable neatness; and in point of workmanship, is scarcely equalled by any place of worship among the Dissenters in London. The sombre appearance it exhibits, arising partly from the colour of the pews and galleries, immediately arrests the attention, and appears much better suited to the solemnity of divine worship, than the theatrical style of decoration adopted in many of our modern chapels. The Society now under consideration, has, from its earliest state, invariably enjoyed the assistance of two
CARTER-LANE, DOCTORS'-COMMONS.- English Presbyterian.
ministers, who were formerly called pastor and assistant, but of late years morning and afternoon preachers, of whom the former sustains the office of pastor. The latter resembles, in some measure, the afternoon lecturer at our parish churches, and has but little connexion with the minister of the place. Though the morning congregation is far from being large, yet the afternoon audience is considerably smaller, and presents the melancholy spectacle of a noble place of worship nearly deserted.
The ministers of Carter-lane meeting, and of the Society before it met at that place, have been as follows:
As Pastors. As Assistants.
Edmund Calamy, D.D..
1746 1758 1718 1746 1758 1778 1746 1758
1760 17661 11778 18.. 1767 1778
1778 1789 1785 1796 1797 1799 1804/18,
Matthew SYLVESTER.-This pious and excellent minister was born about the year 1637, but at what place we are no where informed. He had the misfortune to lose
CARTER-LANE, DOCTORS'-COMMONS.- English Presbyterian.
both his parents while young; but meeting with friends, was sent at a proper age, to St. John's College, Cambridge. There, his diligence and humility, his affable and obliging behaviour, attracted general notice ; but through the straitness of his circumstances, he was compelled to leave the university sooner than he would otherwise have done. After spending some time in the country, in the close pursuit of his studies, he was presented to the living of Gunnerby, in the county of Lincoln; whence he was ejected by the Act of Uniformity, in 1662. The learned Dr. Sanderson, then bishop of the diocese, who was his relation, sent for him, and treated him very courteously, but strongly urged his conformity, with the offer of considerable preferment. But he frankly told his lordship, that lie could not go into the church with satisfaction to his conscience, and must, therefore, be excused. The points he most scrupled were, the unfeigned assent and consent—the renunciation of the solemn league and covenant-reordination-and the power of the church to decree rites and ceremonies. His principles he maintained with great moderation, and though he could easily foresee that they would expose him to considerable hardships, yet he often declared,“ that he never had one repenting thought as to his nonconformity.”
After his being silenced, Mr. Sylvester lived sometime as domestic chaplain with Sir John Bright, and afterwards in the same capacity with John White, Esq. of Nottinghamshire. In both these families he met with many civilities, and abundant respect. After the fire of London, Mr. Sylvester removed thither, and gathered a private congregation; but though he suffered in common with other Dissenters, he was never imprisoned. Here he cultivated a good correspondence with several Divines of the Church of England, by whom he was greatly respected; particularly by Dr. Tillotson, and Dr. Whichcot. But no man valued him more than the excellent Mr. Richard Baxter, who was a good judge of men ; and his esteem for Mr. Baxter ran as high
CARTER-LANE, DOCTORS'-COMMONS.----English Presbyterian.
as was consistent with propriety towards any
mortal man. He desired to be known to posterity, as he doubtless will, by the character of Mr. Baxter's friend. Never was there greater harmony between two colleagues, though Mr. Sylvester was pastor, and Mr. Baxter only his assistant; nor were any people ever happier in two ministers. Mr. Baxter shewed his respect to Mr. Sylvester dying as well as living, by leaving him his History of his Life and Times, and other manuscripts; and could his influence have prevailed, none of his friends would have deserted him. The loss of so many was a great discouragement; but Mr. Sylvester looked higher than man. And thought he was not admired and flocked after as some others, yet he found that declaration verified, Them that honour me, I will honour. He had, therefore, to the last, as great a share of real esteem and respect, from the lovers of God and true goodness, as most men. He often signified to his friends his earnest desire, and it was his frequent request to God in his family prayer's,
that his life and usefulness might expire together. He would often say, “ It was a happy thing to slip out of this world into eternity.” And in this respect God granted him his desire : for he preached on the last Sabbath of his life, which also proved the last day of his mortal career ; and he ascended from the pulpit to the throne. Having reached the age of seventy-one, God withdrew him on a sudden, and he expired without the usual formalities of death, on the 25th of January, 1707-8, going immediately from his beloved work to his reward. Dr. Calamy preached the funeral discourse to his small, but well tempered Society, at Blackfriars, on Matt. xxiv. 41. Therefore be ye also ready, &c.
The character of Mr. Sylvester, as drawn by Dr. Calamy, appears in every point of view amiable and exemplary. He was an able Divine, a good linguist, no mean philosopher, an excellent casuist, and an admirable textuary. His genius was elevated, his fancy rich and copious, and he possessed
CARTER-LANE, DOCTORS'-COMMONS.--English Presbyterian.
great depth of thought; to which had there been joined a suitable elocution and expression, he would have been esteemed one of the greatest Divines of the age. In the exercise of his office as a minister, he was skilful, diligent and faithful. The solemnity with which he performed the several parts of divine worship, was very remarkable, and calculated to excite the most serious attention. He was a person of extraordinary humility, entertained low thoughts of himself, and greatly admired the freedom of divine grace, as displayed in the salvation of sinners. In private life, his conversation was grave, prudent, and instructive; and very ornamental to his profession as'a Christian, and as a minister. He well deserved the character given of him by Mr. Baxter,
“ He was a man of excellent meekness of temper, sound and peaceable principles, and godly life, and great ability in the ministerial work.” For a more particular account of his excellent character, we refer to the discourse of Dr. Calamy, who has done it ample justice.* A list of his writings shall be given below. (s)
RICHARD Baxter. Of this extraordinary man, it will be impossible to give the reader a full idea, within the limits prescribed to us in this work. To delineate the actions of his life, and draw a portraiture of his character, would fill a volume of no ordinary dimensions; we must, therefore, content ourselves with a mere sketch of the prominent features.
• Dr. Calamy's Sermon on the Death of Mr. Sylvester, p. 35-45. (s) Works.-1. A Sermon upon being for ever with the Lord.-2. Eli-' sha's Cry ofter Elijah's God : a Sermon on 2 Kings, ii. 14. occasioned by the Death of the Rev. Richard Baxter. 1691.-3. A Sermon to the Societies for Reformation of Manners.-4. The Christian's last Redress, illustrated by some Considerations upon Rev. xxi. 4. at the Request of the Relicts of Mrs. Sarah Petit. 1707.-5. Four Sermons in the Morning Exercise.-6. Sermons on the twelfth Chapter of Hebrews. 2 vols. 8vo. with a Portrait of the Author. 1708. He also published Mr. Baxter's History of his Life and Times; and wrote prefaces to the writings of several authors.