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The Rushden Echo, 27th September, 1901, transcribed by Gill Hollis
The Rushden Old Baptists and their New Church

Successful Opening Services - Brilliant Discourse By The Rev. Dr. Clifford

Day’s Proceeds, £433

Opening Service
Opening Service

  Sentiment plays an important part in the life, and the last night in the old home is always a time when the tenderest and deepest feelings are touched, even though the morrow may find the family safely housed in a bigger and better dwelling-place.  For many generations the members of the Old Baptist Church at Rushden have had as their spiritual home the chapel in Little-street, known familiarly as “The Top Meeting,” and Sunday was the last day the edifice will be used for the purposes of public worship, the building being now superseded by the handsome and commodious church erected in Park-road.

The Closing Services

Rev Harris
Rev W F Harris
in the old chapel on Sunday, conducted by the Rev. W. F. Harris (pastor), were of a peculiarly affecting character.  An exceedingly appropriate feature in the musical arrangements was the splendid selection of old tunes, so popular in days gone by – and which a good many people would like to see revived – the fugue tunes with the repetitions, such as Cranbrook, Sovereignty, &c.  Mr. Harris’s text at the evening service was “And the door was shut,” from which he preached a most impressive sermon.

  Monday last was a day which the present generation of Baptists in Rushden will never forget, the new church being formally opened and dedicated in a

Series of Successful Services

  The columns of the Rushden Echo have on several occasions contained articles describing the notable history of the Baptist cause in Rushden, and we need now do no more than state, in the words of the pastor, that the Old Baptists claim their church had its origin in John Bunyan’s itinerant evangelistic labours after his release from Bedford gaol in 1672, and that it most likely enjoyed the great privilege of his oversight as “organising bishop.”  The most noted pastors of the church were the Rev. J. Whittemore, the founder of the “Christian World,” who commenced his 20 years’ ministry at Rushden in 1830, and the Rev. R. E. Bradfield, of revered memory.

  We have on a previous occasion described the new church at full length, but we might mention that

The Site

has a frontage of nearly 200 feet, space being provided for the erection, in future years, of schools and manse, if desirable.  It is bounded by Park-road, Manton-road, and York-road, so that the buildings will always remain detached from others.  The church is to be called “The Park Road Baptist Church”.  It is late Gothic, with nave 73 feet long by 49 feet wide, and transepts 67 feet across.  A lofty arch divides the choir gallery from the nave, and immediately in front and at a slightly lower level the rostrum is placed.  The roof is of timber, partially open, and the windows are glazed with cathedral tinted glass in lead work. There are 800 sittings, and accommodation for a mixed congregation of about

1,000 Worshippers,

  The building is faced with pressed bricks relieved with bath-stone dressings, and the roof is covered with brindle coloured tiles.  In the rear of the main building is ample vestry accommodation.  The architect is Mr. H. H. Dyer, of Northampton, and the builder Mr. C. E. Bayes, Rushden.  The baptistry stands in the platform in front of the rostrum, and is constructed of white tiles and marble.  Entrance is by a flight of steps from the aisle of the church, and exit by an easy slope underneath the pulpit to vestries specially provided and in close proximity.

The Total Cost

of the building, including site, architect’s fees, furnishing, and the organ, is about £6,500.

  Monday’s services amply demonstrated the perfect acoustic properties of the new edifice, from every part of which it is easy to see and hear the preacher.

Dr. Clifford

  Dr. Clifford was to have taken part in the United Free Church Memorial Service for the late President McKinley at the City Temple but, owing to an unfortunate accident, he was kept away.  We understand that Dr. Clifford rather seriously injured himself while coming downstairs in his house, but he is now making good progress, and very soon, we hope will resume his normal activity.  Dr. Clifford must be the most energetic man in the world.  Fortunately, too, he possesses a good stock of health and a most buoyant, elastic disposition.  He can do the work of three men with joy and ease.

The Opening Service

Reverend Clifford
  The new edifice was packed in every part for the opening service, which started at 11.30 a.m., the choir singing as an introit the 23rd Psalm.  Dr. Clifford, who is thoroughly non-clerical in his appearance, wore a black alpaca coat and a coloured tie.  The chapel, a magnificent building in itself, was still further beautified by a superb display of flowers, ferns, and other plants, tastefully arranged in the rostrum.

  The opening hymn was “O Thou, Whose hand has brought us,” – and a noticeable feature of the whole service was the exceedingly appropriate character of the hymns – after which Dr. Clifford read the 84th Psalm and other suitable portions of scripture.

  Then Dr. Clifford asked the whole congregation to rise for

The Formal Dedication

of the building to the worship of God. He said :-

  We are gathered together this morning to dedicate this building to the worship of God, the Father and Redeemer, and to the service of man. His wayward, sinful, but redeemed child. The Christian Society now taking possession of this new building has a long and inspiring history, going back to the days of John Bunyan, the pilgrim of unforgettable memory and still leader and companion of pilgrims to the land of Benlah. It has had a fruitful history, and for years a more convenient edifice has been greatly needed, and now after much effort, self-sacrifice, and generosity, and with the deepest thankfulness, we meet in this beautiful edifice. Long cherished anticipations are now realised. Hopes nourished by truth, zeal, and love have become

Visible And Prophetic Facts

Gladly we recognise this landmark, and go forward in faith and fuller consecration to seek the purer, larger spiritual issues of earnest prayer and endeavour. The story of this enterprise will be told at length at subsequent meetings. To-day our one thought is of God. We say. Not unto us, Jehovah, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy loving kindness and for Thy truth’s sake.

In this spirit let us join in this dedicatory act. Now this house which our Father has put into our hearts to rear, and given us strength to build, we humbly, reverently, unitedly dedicate to the Eternal Lord. We dedicate it to the joyful and adoring praise of the God of the all perfections, to the fostering of the contemplation of His character and purpose, and to thankful song in His honour. We dedicate it as a house of prayer where God’s children may speak to their Father and receive His healing, quickening, and

Calm-Giving Response

We dedicate it to the God of light and love and to the preaching of His good news of salvation from sin and from all love of it. We dedicate it to the declaration of the infinite and unspeakable love of the Father for men, assured that ‘Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for sins of the whole world.’  We dedicate it to the one God, the Father, the Great Mediator, the All Holy – not for any selfish purpose or vanishing interest, but for every holy work, every work helpful to man’s best and noblest life, to the war with false pleasures and false reasonings, with intemperance, impurity, and covetousness, with selfishness and sin in all their forms and forces.  We dedicate it as the home of a

Happy, Joyous, Christian Church,

that here men may find strength in the weariness of life, light in its darkness, and joy unspeakable and full of glory at its end.  And this we do in devout dependence upon, and unhesitating faith in, God our Father, and in earnest expectation that here God will make the place of His feet glorious in the abundance of blessings He bestows upon needy and trustful souls.  We dedicate it to the proclamation of the glad tidings of soul renewal by the power of the Holy Spirit – the birth from above into a life of sweet reasonableness, lofty aims, glorifying devotion, and distinctive saintliness.  The good Lord, in His mercy and grace, accept this gift from our hearts and hands for the sake of Christ.”

  Following the dedicatory address the choir gave a spirited rendering of the chorus, “Lift up your heads” (Handel’s “Messiah”), Mr. Joseph Farey conducting and Mr. Geo. Farey presiding at the organ.  Further scripture reading was followed by the hymn, “Our blest Redeemer, e’er He breathed,” and then Dr. Clifford offered up a most comprehensive prayer.  In impassioned tones he cried, “Give peace in our time, Good Lord” and prayed for the time when sword should be sheathed and the nations which were now alienated from each other should grasp hands once more.  The hymn, “Light up this house with glory, Lord” was sung, and then Dr. Clifford, who was evidently in good form, preached a sermon which was probably the

Most Masterly Discourse

ever delivered in Rushden.  For 45 minutes he spoke without a single note except a few quotations which were written out in full.  His text was “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans viii.2).  He said he wanted to look at some of the features of the life of the Spirit, and would select five :-

1.   Happiness

2.   Freedom

3.   Consciousness of vocation

4.  A sense of the exhaustless wealth placed at the disposal of the man who has got this new sense of responsibility.

5.   A sublime optimism, which is not only the right but which is also the victory of the believer in God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

  Having mentioned that this 8th chapter of Romans, though treated by some commentators as prose, was really an outburst of the highest poetry.  Dr. Clifford proceeded to deal eloquently with the points enumerated.

1.  The first feature of the life of the Spirit, he said, in happiness. Don’t permit yourself to imagine that happiness is not the true goal of the Christian life. People have spoken of happiness as if it were not a proper pursuit—as though the pursuit of

The Holy Grail,

were not the pursuit of the happy grail. Carlyle fiercely denounced those who lived for happiness, but then his philosophy was unsound.  As I look out on the book of human life I see written on most of its pages the blessed declaration, “Man is born to happiness, as the sparks fly upward.”  Here and there is a solitary page written by Job which says something the opposite, but that was when his farm was burnt out, his children scattered, and he was in a paroxysm of grief, and it is a verdict he reverses when he gets to the end of his trouble and his farm is rebuilt, and his friends gather round him again.  Then he gets back to the true principle that man is born to happiness, made by the happy God to be like the happy God.  Augustine gave much wiser philosophy when he said “Act we must in pursuance of what gives us most delight.”  And Matthew Arnold, talking of a wiser man than Carlyle, talking of Emerson, the great seer of the 19th century, said, “Happiness and eternal hope – that was Emerson’s gospel.”  But it was Emerson’s because it was Christ’s gospel.  Emerson had

Better Digestive Powers

than Carlyle.  A man’s philosophy of life has a very close connection with his stomach and its operations.  And perhaps the difference between Carlyle and Emerson is not so much in their head as elsewhere! 

Jesus Himself  was superlatively happy.  His spirit knew no unrest.  Don’t think it is part of Christianity to rob people of happiness.  Its great business is to make you really happy.  Seek happiness, but seek it in the life of the Spirit, not in the carnalities of the flesh, not in the greed for wealth, fame, position.

II.   Then we must notice the emphasis which the apostle gives to the word “free” in the text.  The man who has to work for God and for men must himself be rejoicing in the free pardon of God.  That haunting sense of sin must be taken away.  But God’s pardon is simply the beginning of the freedoms which He gives us.  A man cannot be strong who is not free.  A man cannot be great in the true sense of the word who is not free.

III.   The apostle is conscious of his vocation.

A Purposeless Life

is a wasted life.  The man who has no aim has no manhood.  There is no life so miserable as the life that has no purpose.  A man who is doing nothing is at least accomplishing this – he is making himself miserable.  Life is not real, cannot be deep, never will be full, unless you find out your own work and then put yourself to it with the whole strength of your educated and disciplined manhood.

IV.  The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” assures us of perfect equipment, adequate resources, exhaustless energies.  We have not got to manufacture the equipment;  we have got to use it.  The equipment is ours;  the energy to use the weapons is offered to us also.

V.  Optimism is not simply a Christian privilege – it is a Christian duty.  Add God to every fact, and then you get a true interpretation of the fact.  It is our duty to be hopeful to the end.

  We dedicate this building to-day to these five great objects. We dedicate it to happiness.  We old Puritans – Puritans of the Puritans, supposed to be

Sour-Faced Puritans

- we dedicate this building to happiness, to joy, to the gladdening of men’s hearts, taking them from false pleasures and introducing them to the pleasures which abide for ever more.  We want this house to be the great centre of rejoicing.  We dedicate it to freedom – freedom of the individual, the emancipation of the conscience from the tyranny of conscious guilt, the access of the divine pardon to the soul of man, and, from that freedom to the other freedoms, the freedom of conscience, the freedom of personal development, the freedom which makes the citizen serve his city, his generation, and the whole world.  We dedicate it to Jesus Christ.  We regard Christ as the soul’s true Master because He is the true Redeemer.  We dedicate it to the ample resources of the infinite energies of the Spirit of God.  We dedicate it to a hope that brightens with the rolling years.

  In announcing the Collection Dr. Clifford said their new church was admirably adapted to the purpose for which it was built.

The Luncheon

  Dr. Clifford presided over the public luncheon in the Assembly-hall, and was supported by the Rev. W. F. Harris (pastor), Mr. D. Gotch, of Kettering (president of the Northants Baptist Association), Mr. W. Banks Skinner (a member of Dr. Clifford’s congregation in London, and others.

  Dr. Clifford’s speech in giving the usual loyal toast was characteristic.  He said they had the privilege of indicating their respect for him who was the representative of the sovereignty of this empire.  Edward VII. was an interesting figure, not only for what he was in himself, but chiefly because he was everywhere regarded as a symbol of the sovereignty of the people.  (Hear, hear).  Having described Alfred as the pattern which they could fain see kings and queens imitate, Dr. Clifford said they had an exceedingly good augury in the sentiments uttered by Edward VII. a little time before the acceptance of the Crown, namely, that he would try to follow his mother.  (Hear, hear.)  He did not think one could have a better promise, remembering who that mother was and what that mother did, and how she had found a place in the affections, not simply of British people but the affections of all the people in the world who loved womanhood and virtue and righteousness.  He proposed what was called

The Toast of “The King,”

  He did it expressing hearty loyalty to the laws of this land and their desire for the personal and family prosperity of King Edward and his Queen, their prayer that the influence of their Court might be as uplifting, ennobling and purifying as was the Court of Queen Victoria. (Applause.)

  The Rev. W. F. Harris moved a vote of thanks to Dr. Clifford saying that all who knew Dr. Clifford loved him. (Applause.)

  Mr. Davis Gotch seconded and congratulated the Rushden Baptists, on behalf of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association, on building such a splendid chapel, worthy of the town and worthy of the traditions of the past.  There was no room for 

Sleepy and Idle Baptists

They had made a new start that day and would have to work harder than ever. (Hear, hear.)

  In a racy speech Mr. W. Banks Skinner supported the motion, saying it was always a pleasure to come to Rushden, his native place, and he was proud that they had reared such a magnificent chapel here.  It was worthy of the Rushden people and that was saying a great deal.  As to Dr. Clifford, that worthy gentleman had recently been called the Bishop of Nonconformity.  What a Bishop Dr. Clifford would have made!  The idle curate, the foxhunting vicar, the sporting rector – how Dr. Clifford would have talked to them! (Laughter.)  After paying a handsome tribute to the great beauty of the parish church, Mr. Skinner said that the Baptist Church was a voluntary one, and every member became a part and parcel of it.

  The motion was carried heartily.

  In reply, Dr. Clifford referred to the past history of the Baptist Church in Rushden and said he was anxious they should not forget it.  They should keep in mind the story of the church during the last 200 years.  They should look back to

The Time of Bunyan,

to the struggles of those who began that church, and should recall those circumstances and incidents so that they might value all the more the privileges which they enjoyed that day, and should take care that those liberties should not diminish, but be handed down to those who came after.  Free speech was absolutely necessary for freedom of thought.  (Hear, hear.)  Freedom of thought lay at the basis of human progress.  It was from Rushden that the “Christian World” started, and when he went round the world in 1897 the “Christian World” was everywhere.  The people there should be proud of the fact that a Baptist  minister should risk not a little in order to start that newspaper.  When the “Christian World” was started he had no doubt Mr. Whittimore met with great risks, but he was a man of heroic mould and prepared to make great sacrifices.  One of the

Brightest Features Of Rushden’s History

was that it sent forth the “Christian World.” (Applause.)  Referring to the uprising of the Free Churches in England, Dr. Clifford said they had contributed to the fullness of the religious life of the country, and every chapel erected in village or town became an organ through which the best life of the country was developed. (Cheers.)

The Afternoon Service

  There was again a crowded attendance, and the service was an exceedingly interesting one.  The choir sand “Holy, holy, holy” and “Arm, soldiers of the Lord.”  The preacher was the Rev. E. C. Gange, of Regent’s Park Chapel, London, who gave a very appropriate discourse on Jonah iii, 3, his points being :-

I.  God Calls messengers to deliver His message.

II. God wants that message to be proclaimed to everybody.

III. That message brings men to salvation.

  He said there was no favouritism with God.  He would rather see that building destroyed than that it whould be used to preach a miserable, narrow creed, for he did not believe in a heaven that was about as big as a cupboard, enough to accommodate half a-dozen people.

Public Tea

  Tea was provided in the Assembly-room, the following ladies presiding at the trays – Mesdames W. F. Harris, W. H. Wilkins, A. Cave, W. Clark, W. Knight, Farey, Collins, A. Corby, F. Knight, A. Ashby, C. Green, Nunley, C. E. Bayes, W. Green, S. Chettle, J. F. Knight, F. Cave, Perkins, G. King, Bellamy, F. Ballard,  Joseph Knight, B. Ladds, J. T. Colson, T. Tailby, and J. Lack, and Misses Lowick, Foskett, Colson, Wallis, F. Darnell, Crick, and Sanders.

Public Meeting

  Alderman White, .P., of Norwich, presided over a public meeting held in the new church in the evening.

  In his opening remarks the chairman said that the Rushden Baptists had a church which had a historical past and traditions – very good thing indeed, if they were taken as incentives to still further labour and work, and judging from what one saw around he was sure this was the spirit in which they were treating their past history.  Twenty-five years ago he visited Rushden, when it was a characteristic Midland village.  He had been once since – two or three years ago  -  when he was surprised at the progress made, and he was still more surprised that day. At some future day they might become a municipal town, and perhaps they had already designs on some Baptist for

Rushden’s First Mayor

(Laughter,)  But he would not advise them to be in a great hurry for that, for there was always robustness and earnestness and faithfulness amongst the Nonconformists of their rural districts which was often hard to match in their bigger towns. Therefore while they were to be congratulated on the progress of their town numerically, materially and from a Christian platform upon the efforts they were making spiritually to keep pace with the needs of the town, he would urge them not to lose that deep earnest conviction and that earnest desire to do the work of Christ in their immediate neighbourhood that had been characteristic of that church in the past, and was characteristic of a great bulk of their Nonconformist churches in their country districts. They had still to fight the battle of education and

To Fight Romanism,

Reverend Gange
Reverend Gange
which existed in many forms, but in the main they could devote their attention to the personal conversion of those who they met in their religious communities and Sunday school’s and other places. Under the new associations they would keep the best of that which was old, but would see to the new wants and meet the new circumstances in which they were placed (Hear, hear.)

  Very effectively the choir sang an anthem “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad,” &c. (Isaiah xxxv.). Mr. Bayliss taking the solo very capably.

  In a witty speech Mr. Gange congratulated the chairman on his return at the last general - and disastrous—election. (Laughter.) He hoped at the next election to see fifty more Baptists returned. Applause.) Religion was no hindrance to success in life, but a help.

Religion Gave A Backbone

to the man, and the consistent religious man secured the respect of all. The Nonconformist churches were mainly composed of men and women who preferred religious life and privileges to fashion: men and women of deep religious convictions. He was glad Nonconformists were asserting their rights and he rejoiced to see  another Nonconformist sanctuary put, not in a back street but in a front street—a beautiful building which he hoped would be a joy and gladness to all who worshipped there.  He hoped that would be a working church.  There was something for all to do and they would never be happier than when at work.  They must try to bring others to their new church, for work was the best spiritual help. They must not try to get those who usually went to other places, but those who went to the public houses.  (Hear, hear.)  

  The choir then gave a magnificent rendering of the “Hallelujah” chorus, one of the most inspiring items of the day.

A Financial Statement

was made by the Rev. W. F. Harris.  He said they had received –

Collecting cards and tea trays
Sunday collections
Opening service
Afternoon service
Profit on tea and luncheon
Collection that night
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bayes (New Zealand)
Mr. W. B. Skinner
Mr. Lewin
A deacon of Dr. Clifford’s
Ald. White, M.P.
Ald. Cleaver (Northampton)
Rev. Mr. Cowley
Day’s Total

Mr. Harris said that in his most sanguine moments before the fire he never dreamed they would get more than  £500, and considering all that had happened they had every reason to thank God for the results of that service from a financial point of view.

The Cost of The Building

was £5,500.  The site and ground adjoining, and the organ, purchased four years ago, cost £1,000, so that the property there would cost about £6,500.  Towards that, they had received £4,414 leaving, as far as they could calculate, £2,100 still to be raised.  The Baptist Building Fund had lent them £600 free of interest, to be repaid in ten years, and that would help them.  (Applause.)  He thought they were gratified with that building.  The work had been done exceedingly well.  Surely, it was fitting that Mr. Ernest Bayes should be the builder of that sanctuary.  His father built the new front to the old chapel, and his grandfather the old chapel itself.  To Mr. J. F. Knight they were indebted, for he had been an excellent secretary.  Mr. W. H. Wilkins had been exceedingly useful all through that enterprise.  There were other friends who had given time and thought, and they were grateful to them for the work they had done in connection with that enterprise.

  On the motion of the Rev. R. Shorten, seconded by the Rev. C. F. Groom, a vote of thanks was passed to the Chairman and Mr. Gange.

  A word of praise must be paid to the choir for their superb singing at the various services.  They fully rose to the important occasion and really excelled themselves.

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