The History of Homerton Baptist Church

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William Palmer

In 1854 Mr Palmer became Pastor of the church. He moved to Homerton from Chatteris and lived at number 11, Homerton Terrace. It appears he was a dominant character. For reasons that cannot be traced all the deacons resigned when he took up the Pastorate. It was also during his time that thirty members left stating they were the church. Some went to John Street in Cambridge Heath Road. One hundred and twenty members remained in Homerton Row. Amongst those that left were Mrs Dorothy Baylis and her husband who were instrumental in the establishment of the church. They once again returned to meeting in 8 Homerton Terrace where the church first began. The work seemed to continue there for some time. Mrs Baylis was 'for many years presiding deaconess at Homerton Terrace'; the editor of Earthen Vessel of the time goes on to say, 'Many excellent curates were obedient to her cheerful instructions. She was a Deborah indeed. Who will take her place? We hope Homerton Terrace will not be closed'.

Mr Palmer was described by W Winters as being 'an able controversialist, who often pushed his opponents with the vigour and intrepidity of a scholar that would not have disgraced an university.' Perhaps it was the controversial character of Mr Palmer that led to the deacon's resignation and the thirty members leaving and also the conflict there seemed to be between Irthlingborough and Homerton as noted in the section concerning Mr Inward.

Homerton Row Baptist Chapel

Mr Palmer was very influential in the work of Sunday Schools. In an address given by Pastor P H Crees in 1952 it is recorded that Mr Palmer was amongst those that established the National Strict Baptist Sunday School Union in 1863. The founders agreed to a doctrinal foundation that they subscribe to 'the Trinity, the plenary inspiration of the scriptures, personal, and eternal election, particular redemption, the substitutionary work of Christ, the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, and baptism by immersion as a pre-requisite to the Lord's table.' When the Sunday School Association began the founders believed it to be essential that the teaching in the Sunday School should be doctrinally the same as that which is preached from the pulpit. Mr Palmer argued that 'the influence of the Sunday School upon the church had been the means of the departure of many from the truth'. Mr Crees went on to say that Mr Palmer 'had the vision to see that if the Sunday School could influence the church in the wrong way, it could also do it in the right way, and so he felt the need of tying up the Schools more and more to Particular Baptist teachings. He closed by saying 'we have friends enough, and interest enough, we only need to get close enough to warm one another.'

As well as being a pastor, Mr Palmer devoted a great deal of time writing books examining Christian doctrines, evangelistic tracts and many of his sermons were printed. Mr Palmer's books were published by Houlston and Wright, Paternoster Row, London. Many can be read at the British Library and there are also some titles held at the Evangelical Library. Mr Palmer's style was often that of refute. He didn't hold back in attacking other writers who had proclaimed false doctrines. He also attacked those who didn't quite express their views in the way Mr Palmer felt best. It is perhaps this attitude that caused the conflicts there were between Homerton Row and other churches and perhaps this is why many left on Mr Palmer's arrival. Mr Palmer felt it important to refute the 'Gospel Standard' and other Strict Baptist minister's on occasions.

Much of Mr Palmer's work did however question many of the prolific doctrines around in Britain, mainly those taught by the Church of England. In these attacks his writing was thought out, clever and humorous. One article entitled Apostolical Succession: or a challenge to the clergy generally to produce their pretended spiritual pedigrees and to Micheal Augustus Gathercole especially to produce his, examines the argument that only those who have been ordained through apostolical succession can preach and administer the ordinances. Mr Palmer considers the idea of regenerative baptism and highlights the falseness of the doctrine and in doing so the folly of apostolical succession:

Water, you hold to be indispensable to a true baptism; but need I inform you that other elements have been used, and that instances have occurred, in which baptizers have used an element of their own? Nor has water always been employed in public baptisms. A friend of mine some time back, witnessed the Christening of several children, without water and without any substitute for water. Was that valid baptism? Only fancy, fiddling Priests, sottish clerks, empty basins, and young lascivious sureties, all concurring to burlesque religion, by pretending to regenerate unconscious infants. And all this is Apostolical! Why not cast nativities, draw circles, and use divination? According to the succession scheme, no person can give valid baptism, nor confer orders, who has not been Episcopally baptised. Nevertheless Archbishop Secker, who was baptised by a dissenting minister who had never received Episcopal ordination himself, and who, consequently, could not, upon your principles, administer a true baptism. Secker, therefore was not competent to any of your orders....Unqualified, however, as he was, and null as were all his official acts, he baptised George III, married him, crowned him....Grave matters these. For besides spoiling your pedigree, he must, according to your 'tract in marriage' have 'legalised adultery', tainted the crown, illegitimised the royal offspring, and vitiated the monarchical succession!!

In other works Mr Palmer considered attitudes concerning war, the sovereignty of God, eternal generation being derogatory to the Trinity and Sovereignty in Eternal Salvation. In a more substantial work Mr Palmer considered Millennial views. He examined pre-millennial theories, the millennium of Judaism, literal interpretations and spiritual interpretations. In the conclusion to the book Mr Palmer makes it clear that it is only in the Lord's time that the world will end:

The most that can be affirmed with absolute clearness, on this subject, as we think, is, that Christ will complete His redeemed church by gathering it out of all nations, and that ere this shall be accomplished His reign shall have been established over the whole earth. THEN, and not TILL then, will the end come.

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