The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses in London, Westminster and Southwark
Including the Lives of their Ministers, from the Rise of Nonconformity to the Present Time
- Walter Wilson (author)
This is the original Sandemanian Society, formed by Mr. Robert Sandeman, soon after his removal to London, in 1760. They met first at Glovers'-Hall, and afterwards, for several years, in an ancient meeting-house, originally occupied by the Quakers, in Bull-and-Mouth-street, St. Martin's-le-Grand, from whence they removed in 1778, to Paul's-alley, Barbican. This denomincation of Christians originated in Scotland, about the year 1728, and has been distinguished in that country by the name of Glassites. Mr. John Glas, the founder of the sect, was a minister of the established church in that kingdom; but being charged with a design of subverting the national covenant, and sapping the foundation of all national establishments, by maintaining that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, was expelled by the synod from the church of Scotland. His sentiments are fully explained in a small piece which he published at that time, entitled, “The Testimony of the King of Martyrs,” and preserved in the first volume of his works. In consequence of Mr. Glas's expulsion, his adherents formed themselves into churches, conformable, in their institution and discipline, to what they apprehended to be the plan of the first churches recorded in the New-Testament. In 1757, Mr Robert Sandeman, an elder in one of these churches in Scotland, published a series of letters, addressed to Mr. Hervey, occasioned by his “Dialogues between Theron and Aspasio,” in which he endeavours to show, that Mr. Hervey's notion of faith is contradictory to the scripture account, and could only serve to lead men, professedly holding the doctrines called Calvinistic, to establish their own righteousness upon their frames, feelings, and acts of faith. In these letters Mr. Sandeman undertakes to prove, that faith is neither more nor less than a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, delivered for the offences of men, and raised again for their justification, as recorded in the New-Testament. He also maintains that the word faith, or belief, is constantly used by the apostles to signify what is denoted by it in common discourse, viz. a persuasion of the truth of any proposition; and that there is no difference between believing any common testimony, and believing the apostolic testimony, excepting that which results from the testimony itself, and the divine authority on which it rests. This led the way to a controversy amongst those who are called Calvinists, concerning the nature of justifying faith; and the effect was, that many person embraced Mr. Sandeman's notion, and joined his society. Among those were several Independent ministers; such as Mr. Barnard, Mr. Chater, Mr. Prentice, Mr. Boosey, etc. but the most eminent was Mr. Samuel Pike, who joined the Sandemanian church in London, in 1765, and became an eminent preacher among them.
The meeting house in Paul's-alley, since it has come into possession of the Sandemanians, has undergone a considerable alteration. The old pulpit has been removed, and a new one, about twelve feet long, substituted in its room. Here are seated the elders of the church. The access to it is by a flight of stairs from the vestry; and, over the door, opening into the pulpit, is a sounding board. Below this is another low pulpit, or pew, where some of the leading members are seated, and from whence the Lord's-Supper is administered. The inside of the meeting-house presents and appearance of great neatness, and the congretation is large and respectable. They conduct their worship in the following order: After singing a hymn, a member of the church prays; these exercises are repeated three or four times; one of the elders then reads some chapters from the Old and New Testament; this is followed by singing; another elder then prays, and either expounds or preaches for about three quarters of an hour. Singing follows; and the service is concluded with a short prayer and benediction, by on of the elders. In the afternoon the former part of the ther service is curtailed; but after the sermon, the church is stayed to receive the Lord's-Supper, and contribute to the poor. When this is over, the members of the church are called upon to exercise their gifts by exhortation. The version of the psalms which they sing is nearly literal, and formed on the plan of the Scotch and New-England versions, without any regard to rhyme. The Amen is repeated aloud by the whole congregation.
Sandeman's Letters, Let. I.