Hearing The Word: Robert Hall’s Reflections On How Best To Profit Spiritually From Preaching -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin
RAR 9:1 (Winter 2000) p. 137
Hearing The Word: Robert Hall’s
Reflections On How Best To Profit
Spiritually From Preaching
In a century renowned for outstanding preachers, there is no doubt that the Calvinistic Baptist Robert Hall, Jr. (1764–1831), deserves to be remembered as one of the great preachers of the nineteenth century.1 The son of Robert Hall, Sr. (1728–91), the pastor of the Baptist cause in Arnesby, Leicestershire, the younger Hall had been a precocious child: learning how to speak and read by means of the inscriptions carved on gravestones in a cemetery, devouring the works of Jonathan Edwards on The Religious Affections and Freedom of the Will before the age of nine, and composing essays on various religious topics before he was ten. From 1778 to 1781 Hall studied under Caleb Evans (1737–91) at the Bristol Baptist Academy. After graduating from the Academy, Hall went to King’s College, Aberdeen, where he obtained his M.A. in 1785. Hall subsequently returned to Bristol as assistant pastor to Evans in Broadmead Church and tutor in classics at the Academy, where he began to acquire a reputation as a stunning preacher.
In July 1791, Hall was called to the Baptist church in Cambridge, where he served until 1806. His ministry in this university center was far-reaching in its influence. Fifty to sixty students regularly came to hear Hall preach, and the congregation grew to the point in 1798 that the meetinghouse had to be enlarged to accommodate another two hundred people.2 During the last two years of his ministry
RAR 9:1 (Winter 2000) p. 138
at Cambridge, however, Hall experienced two extensive nervous breakdowns, brought on by overwork, crippling pain that had dogged him since he was a young child, and the melancholy induced by the drabness of the fenland scenery around Cambridge.3 His physician recommended to Hall that a complete restoration could come about only if he resigned his Cambridge pastorate, took up smoking, and got married. Hall followed his doctor’s advice to the letter and a complete recovery was effected!
Upon Hall’s recovery to health in 1807, he accepted the pastoral charge of Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester, where William Carey (1761–1834) had once pastored. Once again, there was Hall’s “great preaching, crowded and overflowing congregations, a meeting-house that had to be enlarged more than once to save people being turned away disappointed, and a membership that was more than trebled during his time.”4 Hall’s fina...
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