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Christopher Newman Hall was born at Maidstone on 22 May 1816. Little is known about his childhood. His father was John Vine Hall, proprietor and printer of the Maidstone Journal, and the author of a popular evangelical work called The Sinner’s Friend. Christopher’s first university degree was a London University BA in theology obtained at Highbury College, Middlesex in 1841. The following year he began his pastoral work at a Congregational chapel, the Albion Chapel, Albion Street, Hull. In 1843 he traveled through Scotland with a companion, where he found himself debating slavery with two American ladies who were slave owners themselves.
At Hull, Newman Hall engaged actively in social causes, including support for Chartism and temperance reform. To promote the latter cause he wrote The Scriptural Claims of Teetotalism, whilst his thoughts on Chartism and political causes were brought together in a small pamphlet entitled Divine Socialism, or The Man Christ Jesus. In 1846 Christopher Newman Hall married his first wife, Charlotte, the only daughter of Dr.William Gordon FLS, both of Hull. During the twelve years of his ministry at Albion Chapel, the membership increased greatly, necessitating a branch chapel. A school was also opened.
In 1854 Newman Hall succeeded the Rev. James Sherman as pastor of the celebrated Surrey Chapel in London. While ministering at the chapel, Newman Hall won a scholarship to study law in his spare time; he was awarded an LLB degree in 1856.
England should side with the North…
Newman Hall visited the United States during the Civil War and published a passionate anti-slavery speech co-authored by Abraham Lincoln and Henry Ward Beecher. He disapproved of secession by southern states. England should side with the North, he wrote, particularly because emancipation of the slaves is just. He felt so strongly that he published one of his few non-theological books: The American War.
After some years at Surrey Chapel, it became apparent to Newman Hall and the chapel’s trustees that closure was inevitable. Newman Hall was undaunted by this challenge. Through weekly offertories and donations, and fund-raising in America, he led a campaign to raise sufficient money and loans. A grand building project emerged at the junction of the Kennington and Westminster Bridge Roads on the site of a former Orphan Asylum. It comprised a large new chapel, Christ Church, adjoined by a large lecture hall and school building to which the name Hawkstone Hall was transferred, and an international monument to Abraham Lincoln – the Lincoln Memorial Tower.
In the 1860s Newman Hall became Chairman of the Congregational Union and was awarded a Doctorate in Divinity from Amherst College in the USA. On Easter Monday 1880, Newman Hall married his second wife, Miss Harriet Knipe – daughter of Henry Knipe, barrister-at-law and J.P. His first marriage had ended in a controversial divorce case which had eventually led to a decree nisi in February 1880 – a time when divorce was rare. Neither marriage was followed by children. In 1892 he received a second Doctorate of Divinity degree – from Edinburgh University.
Christians should be at the forefront of the battle of philanthropy.
In 1892 Newman Hall resigned as pastor at Christ Church while continuing with his interests in social and evangelical work. Non-party, but broadly Liberal in his political views, few preachers of any denomination have exercised so far-reaching an influence. Towards the end of his life, he completed an autobiography, in which he set out his philosophy in these words: “The Christian Church, as tribunes of the people, should be ever ready to plead the people’s cause…Christians should be at the forefront of the battle of philanthropy.” By this time he had many books to his name, including two books on travel The Land of the Forum and Vatican, From Liverpool to St. Louis, and a book of poetry entitled Pilgrim Songs in Cloud and Sunshine. According to Hall, his tract Come to Jesus sold more than four million copies during his lifetime. He further claimed that it was read by 100,000 Civil War soldiers and that it sold 10,000 copies per year in Warsaw.
- Jeary, Margaret and Mulhern, Mark (Editors). From Kelso to Kalamazoo : the Life and Times of George Taylor 1803-1891 : European Ethnological Research Centre (2009)
- Ledger-Lomas, Michael (2009). “Mass markets: religion”. In McKitterick, David (ed.). The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866248.
*Information retrieved from Wikipedia.org 2020 February 17
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1546 – German reformer Martin Luther died in Eisleben.
1564 – Sculptor Michelangelo died in Rome. In the end, he asked his friends only to remember the death of Christ.
1678 – One of history’s bestsellers, Pilgrim’s Progress was published by John Bunyan.
1869 – Evangelical or “low church” Episcopalians signed the “Chicago Protest,” against “unprotestantizing” tendencies in the Protestant Episcopal denomination. Suspended by mainline Episcopalians, some banded together to found the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873.
1948 – Father Butrus Sowmy of St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Jerusalem phones John Trever, asking that he examine an old manuscript. It will turn out to be the first discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
*Photo in the header: View of Aylesford village in Kent, England with medieval bridge and church. — Photo by Valegorov