Thomas Binney - Encyclopedia

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THOMAS BINNEY (1798-1874), English Congregationalist divine, was born of Presbyterian parents at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1798, and educated at an ordinary day school. After spending seven years in the employment of a bookseller he entered the theological school at Wymondley, Herts, now incorporated in New College, Hampstead. In 1829, after short pastorates at Bedford (New Meeting) and Newport, Isle of Wight, he accepted a call to the historic Weigh House chapel, London. Here he became very popular, and it was found necessary to build a much larger chapel on Fish Street Hill, to which the congregation removed in 1834. An address delivered on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone was published, with an appendix containing a strong attack on the influence of the Church of England, which gave rise to a long and bitter controversy. Throughout his whole career Binney was a vigorous opponent of the state church principle, but those who simply classified him as a narrow-minded political dissenter did him injustice. His liberality of view and breadth of ecclesiastical sympathy entitle him to rank on questions of Nonconformity among the most distinguished of the school of Richard Baxter; and he maintained friendly relations with many of the dignitaries of the Established Church. He continued to discharge the duties of the ministry until 1869, when he resigned. In 1845 he paid a visit to Canada and the United States, and in1857-1859to the Australian colonies. The university of Aberdeen conferred the LL.D. degree on him in 1852, and he was twice chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales.

Binney was the pioneer in a much-needed improvement of the forms of service in Nonconformist churches, and gave a special impulse to congregational psalmody by the publication of a book entitled The Service of Song in the House of the Lord. Of numerous other works the best-known is his Is it Possible to Make the Best of Both Worlds? an expansion of a lecture delivered to young men in Exeter Hall, which attained a circulation of 30,000 copies within a year of its publication. He wrote much devotional verse, including the well-known hymn "Eternal Light! Eternal Light!" His last sermon was preached in November 1873, and after some months of suffering he died on the 24th of February 1874. Dean Stanley assisted at his funeral service in Abney Park cemetery.

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