Tag Archives: Congregationalist churches

A Sunday Morning at the City Temple (1896)

I am sharing this magazine article from the height of Joseph Parker's fame. It includes a great description of his imposing personality and preaching style, as well as some great aphorisms.

Among London churches of more than denominational fame, the City Temple takes one of the foremost places, and now that Liddon and Spurgeon have passed into “the great silence,” there is no preacher left to us equal in force and originality to its minister, the Rev. Joseph Parker, D.D.

The personality of Dr. Parker is doubtless the strongest attraction for the crowd of strangers who mingle with the regular congregation at every service, but to many, and notably to the thousands of Americans— descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers—who yearly visit our shores, the church is historically interesting as the oldest Independent or Congregational church in London.

The Church was founded in 1640 by the celebrated Dr. Thomas Goodwin, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, in Anchor Lane, Thames Street. …

Not until he rises to read the first lesson do we get a clear view of the preacher. In old Scots, Dr. Parker would be called “ken-speckle.” In a crowd he would be conspicuous. In figure he is big and burly. His leonine head is crowned with long grizzled locks, well brushed back from a lofty brow which age has begun to furrow. Dr. Parker is now sixty-five, and his ministry covers a period of forty-three years. Small, deep-set, peering eyes, that flash at will into piercingnness, and a mouth that closes with a vice-like grip, give a stern character to a clean-shaven face of rugged outline and massive strength. In his bearing there is an air singularly defiant and combative; but in prayer the sympathetic and tenderer qualities shine out. Dr. Parker wears a gown in the pulpit, but otherwise does not affect conventional clerical garb. He habits himself in a mode suggestive of a bygone generation of Independents.

It is difficult to convey a mental picture of Dr. Parker’s manner in the pulpit. It may be strange, but it is his own ; it may be eccentric, but it is magnetic. And we would not wish it otherwise. …

No pen can describe the deep bass tones of his voice, or visualise the striking gestures with which he illustrates and emphasises his message. At times, the rapidity of his speech is irresistible, and again de-lib-er-ate-ness can alone style it. Sententious he always is. In aphoristic strength no other preacher comes near him. With one pregnant sentence or striking paradox he grips the attention of his hearers, and the hold is never slackened. He speaks in flashes:

“Who can keep down the fool?”

“There are no trivialities in the Bible.”

“We are called to high considerations.”

“‘Son of Man, can these bones live?’”

“God gives us insoluble problems. I know Ezekiel was a great and a wise man by his answer: “O Lord God, Thou knowest.”

“I believe in the impossible—the im- possible to man—because I believe in Thee. I live in God’s Hereafter.”

“We are in the valley to-day. Can these shattered lives be pieced together; can these evil passions be quenched? O Lord, Thou knowest. That is peace, that is faith.”

‘Do not hold the farthing candle to the sun.”

“I thank God that from my mother’s breast I drank in a love for my Bible. To me it is the word of God. The all-time book.”

“Don’t be so clever to finish what God began.”

“Can the body rise again from the dead? O Lord, Thou knowest. I am no creed maker, no theology inventor. On my ‘not know’ I set my faith.”

“Go home to bed and learn the first prayer—to hold your tongue.”

Source: A Sunday Morning at the City Temple, George T. Moore. The Sunday Magazine, vol. 25, February 1896, p. 103–107.