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Christopher Anderson

October 23, 2008

Christopher Anderson (1782-1852) was a man used mightily of God at the outset of Charlotte Baptist Chapel. To cite a few bare (yet startling facts) about him:

  • he was the first pastor of CBC and began his pastorship aged 25
  • he lost his wife and all five children to illness during his ministry
  • he oversaw the purchase of Charlotte Chapel’s first buildings in Richmond Court and then Rose Street
  • he pastored the Chapel for 43 years, during which time there was relatively small (though mainly ‘conversion-‘) growth
  • he had a wider ministry beyond the Chapel: doing many ‘tours’ of Ireland and England, and in days when travel was difficult visited places as far afield as Denmark and Germany
  • he died only 6 months after leaving his official CBC charge

To try and encapsulate what it might have been like to sit under Anderson’s preaching, let me share two quotes. The first quote is from Ian Balfour (author of Revival in Rose Street) and summarises several basic aspects of Anderson’s preaching:

His aim in the pulpit, never lost sight of, was to gather in and to build up... His manner of speaking in the pulpit was easy and sometimes animated, but generally slow, solemn, and impressive, and evidently he held the attention of the hearers. When he became animated, he made use of considerable gesture, never strained or unnatural; sometimes so expressive that, as a hearer once said, ‘he made his hands speak.’ The address in the evening almost invariably was directly evangelistic. Contemporary appreciations that, however, generally refer to later periods of his ministry, specially commend his power in expounding Scripture and applying its lessons to the routine of daily life. Mr John Walcot, whose memories of Mr Anderson go back to the years between 1840 and 1850, wrote- ‘His preaching was to me a continual feast. It was quiet, thoughtful, conversational, and earnest. His great power was in opening up the Scriptures and in making the truth bear on the conscience and the life.’

The second quote comes from an ‘outsider’ to the Chapel, and presents the general feel of being in attendance under Anderson’s preaching:

We have several times in the evening attended the little chapel in Rose Street, and ever, we must say, with renewed satisfaction. It belongs to the Baptist persuasion. It is one of those solitary, quiet nooks, in which ambition finds no room to play vagaries, and whose pastor and flock, with evidently reciprocal regard, are content to meet, apart from all worldly stimulants, to fit themselves for eternity. The preacher speaks under felt responsibility, with solemnity; and the people listen as those who feel the deep privilege of such instruction. The place itself seems almost hallowed. The style of the interior is severely simple; its dimensions symmetrical but small. During service the silence maintained is of a nature so striking, as to make the rustle from the turning over of the leaves of the Bible itself impressive; all this is, in our eyes, strikingly becoming. Religion, as seen here, is becomingly reflex – is felt to be in accordance with what propriety might ex­pect. Here you may observe earnest listeners, because humble inquirers, too sincere evidently in their object to care for assumed forms. All this too, we must add, is of a piece with the decorum, almost reluctance, with which the congregation separate, so very unlike what we are accustomed to witness in most cases. We are no Baptist; but to those of our own brotherhood, in all kindness we would say, – Go and see; there is much there to be learned.

We have as yet said but little directly of the minister; but in looking over what we have written, we believe we have substantially said much. He it is that, in a great measure, has moulded his little flock into what has so much pleased us in exterior, and sure we are that his highest and more exclusive duty has been as faithfully performed. That his mind is of no common order, and capable of vast labour and research, his late work on the ‘Annals of the English Bible’ incontestably proves.

As to his pulpit exhibitions….are more conversational dialogues than studied discourses, betraying a close and intimate aquaintanceship with the Divine Record, and we do not know that we can give a juster idea of their peculiarity, than by the quaint fancy that we can imagine him in his feelings and habits, to be more familiar and at home amongst the patriarchs and their modes of life than he is with those among whom he lives. It is therefore from that grey and far-off land, that his mind speaks, and truly ‘the voice is solemn’, for its lessons come to us with reverence, and we feel its call to humble obedience, knowing that the authority dare not be challenged.

(Both quotations come from “Christopher Anderson’s Preaching”, found on the additional disc appendices to “Revival in Rose Street”)

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