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PETTY-FRANCE.--Particular Baptist, Extinct.
-France, so called from the number of French inhabitants, 'was situated between Bishopsgate-street and Moorfields, but the name is now lost in that of New Broadstreet. Here stood formerly a meeting-house, appropriated to the Particular Baptists, but the precise spot cannot be ascertained. The church that assembled there was one of the earliest of that denomination, but much information as to its history, is not now to be expected. During the time of the civil wars, a confessiou of faith was published by seven churches in London of this persuasion ; and it is not unlikely that this was one of them, though we cannot now identify it with precision. The first mention we find of the church in Petty-France is in 1662, when the meeting was disturbed, and the minister, carried to Newgate. In a pamphlet published in that year, entitled, “ Behold a Cry; or, a true Relation of the inhuman and violent Outrages of divers Soldiers, Constables, and others, practised upon many of the Lord's People, commonly, though falsely called ANABAPTISTS, at their several Meetings in and about London," meet with the following passage : “ On the fifteenth of June, 1662, the soldiers came with great fury and rage, with their swords drawn, to the meeting in Petty-France, where they very inhumanly wounded a boy almost to death ; it was doubtful whether he would recover. They took away him that preached, and carried him to Newgate, and never had him before any magistrate, where he remained till the sessions, and from thence was returned to Newgate again, where he yet remains. On the twenty-ninth of June, soldiers came to Petty-France, full of rage and violence, with their
PETTY-FRANCE.-- Particular Baptist, Extinct.
swords drawn. They wounded some, and struck others, broke down the gallery, and made much spoil,"
In the year 1675, Mr. William Collius, and Dr. Nehemiah Cox were ordained joint elders of the Baptist church in Petty-France. Upon the death of Dr. Cox. Mr. Thomas Harrison was chosen assistant to Mr. Collins. It appears from an ancient manuscript, that the church was again under persecution, in 1683, and deprived of their meeting-house, In the month of April, 1701, the congregation quitted their meeting-house in Petty-France, and removed to another in Artillery-street, Spitalfields. About a year previous to this removal, an attempt was made to introduce singing into public worship; but without effect. However, after the death of Mr. Collins, in 1702, the attenipt was renewed with somewhat better success, though it caused a division, The discontented went off and fornied a separate society at Turners'-Hall, where they chose Mr. Ebenezer Wilson, of Bristol. A little before this, the society in Spitalfields received a considerable augmentation, by the union of another church of the same persuasion, at Lorimers'-Hall. As the church in Spitalfields, after the death of Mr. Collins, assumed somewhat a new form, and became General Baptist, we shall here confine ourselves to the history of it prior to that event. The only ministers, whose names we find upon record, are the following:
MR. WILLIAM Collins was a minister of learning and eminence among the Anti-Pædobaptists, towards the latter
PETTY-FRANCE.-- Pirticular Baplist, Extinct.
end of the seventeenth century; but the time and particulars of his birth are no where mentioned. He appears in carly life to have discovered an inclination to study and books, and to have made a quick progress in the various branches of knowledge. To these he combined a serious attention to the things of religion, and was affected betimes with a sense of his condition as a sinner. When he had passed through the usual forms of grammar-learning, and had obtained the approbation of the learned Dr. Busby, one of the profoundest critics of the age, Mr. Collins, with a view to enlarge his information, passed over to the Continent, and visited several foreign countries. He remained a considerable time in France and Italy; where he pursued the course of his other studies preparatory to that of theology, to which he closely applied himself upon his return to England.
It does not appear under what tutor he received his academical learning; in this however, he made so good proficiency, that upon his appearing in public, he gave abundant evidence of his being well qualified by nature, learning, and grace, to shine with no ordinary lustre, in that profession to which he had devoted himself. It is some proof of his worth and abilities that, at his setting out in life he received encouraging offers to join with the national church, which he judiciously refused; it being conscience and not humour that made him a Dissenter. He first exercised his ministry in the country, in an occasional way; but after labouring in this manner a short time, he received an invitation to settle in London, as elder of a church of the Particular Baptist persuasion, whose meetingplace was in Petty-France. It is somewhat remarkable, that the very day he received the letter, inviting him to London, he had solemnly kept by himself in fasting and prayer, for direction about the disposal of himself in the constant exercise of his ministry; and receiving this in the close of that particular day, he looked upon it as an answer to prayer, and therefore consented to pay a visit to the metropolis. Here his preaching was very acceptable, and
PETTY-FRANCE-Particular Baptist, Extinct.
the church having had sufficient proof of his real piety, as well as of his gifts and abilities, they gave him an unanimous call to the pastoral office. He was ordained joint elder with Dr. Nehemiah Cox, July 21, 1675.
Besides those branches of knowledge that related more immediately to his profession, Mr. Collins had directed his attention, in early life, to the study of physic; in which he acquired no inconsiderable skill. But his attainments in this science were made subservient to the duties of his ministerial character, for the performance of which, he was furnished with a rich stock of experience, as well as of useful knowledge. These gave him great readiness and fluency in his public performances ; and enabled him, upon any sudden emergency, when disappointed of expected help, to go into the pulpit and preach an excellent sermon, without previous application. But though his excellent furniture enabled him to do this, it was by no means his habitual practice. His character was remote from that of a lazy, careless Divine; and he applied himself to close study for every sermon, as far as his health would permit. The subjects he usually insisted on in the course of his ministry, were the great and important truths of the gospel, which he handled with great judgment and clearness. He conversed constantly with the sacred scriptures in their original languages, and read the best critics, ancient and modern. This enabled him to suit his discourses to the different capacities of his hearers, so that while he adapted himself to the meanest understanding, he always entertained those of the greatest penetration. His style was strong and manly, far removed from the bombast, and always becoming the weighty truths he delivered. In his preaching, he studied not so much to amuse as to profit his hearers, always bearing on his mind a sense of the worth of souls: and therefore he constantly advised his brethren in the ministry to take the greatest care they could to help forward the salvation of sinners, to exalt Christ, and not preach themselves. Under all his attain
PETTY-FRANCE-Particular Baptist, Extinct.
ments he was a modest, humble man; one that could forgive and forget injuries, and was above resenting the affronts that some men love to offer to persons of his character. He was a great lover of peace, and not addicted to utter' hard censures on such as differed from him in lesser matters, but highly esteemed good inen of every communion. He was of a friendly, charitable disposition; of great courtesy of manners; and very prudent in the whole of his behaviour. He was a person of steady, unaffected piety, free from the wild raptures of enthusiasm, and the dull formalities of superstition. He seems to have been one who set a great value upon his time, and when he was not engaged in other pursuits, employed himself much in meditation. When he walked abroad, it was his usual custom to fix his thoughts upon some passage of scripture; so that he maintained upon his spirit a constant savour of divine things. His conversation was free and affable, not at all inclined to moroseness, but he was very communicative, and ready to inform those he conversed with. As to his religious sentiments he espoused those doctrines that are commonly known by the name of Calvinism; and signed the confession of faith set forth by the elders and brethren of several Baptist congregations in London and country in 1688.
Mr. Collins preached his last sermon from thiose words of our Lord, Matt. ix. 37, 38. “ Then saith he unto his disciples, the hardest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” He was not apprehensive of his death at the beginning of his last illness, but had some kind of hope that he should have recovered. But though he was mistaken as to this matter, there is every reason to conclude, froin the uniform tenour of his life, and the constant calm he preserved upon his mind both in sickness and health, that death was to him no unwelcome messenger. Upon the tirst visit I made him, says Mr. Piggott, I inquired bow thmgs were betwixt God and his