Brekell, John (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Brekell, John

by Alexander Gordon
Some garbling about Henry Winder, who was dead in 1770.

BREKELL, JOHN (1697–1769), presbyterian minister, born at North Meols, Lancashire, in 1697, was educated for the ministry at Nottingham. His first known settlement was at Stamford, apparently as assistant, but he did not stay long. He went to assist Christopher Bassnett [q. v.] at Kaye Street, Liverpool, 1729 (so Dr. Evans's manuscript; Henry Winder, D.D., in his manuscript funeral sermon (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8) for Brekell, preached on 7 Jan. 1770, says he was minister in Liverpool 'for upwards of forty years;' a manuscript letter of Winder's, 2 June 1730, mentions Brekell as a Liverpool minister). Toulmin prints a letter (dated Liverpool, 3 Dec. 1730) from Brekell to Rev. Thomas Pickard of Birmingham, showing that Brekell had been asked to Birmingham, but had 'handsome encouragement to continue' where he was. The date, April 1732, given by Dr. Martineau, maybe that of Brekell's admission to the status of a colleague after ordination. On Bassnett's death on 22 July 1744 Brekell became sole pastor. His ministry covers the period between the rise of the evangelical liberalism of Doddridge (his correspondent, and the patron of his first publication), and the avowal of Socinianism by Priestley, to whose 'Theological Repository' he contributed in the last year of his life. Brekell, though his later treatment of the atonement shows Socinian influence, stood firm on the person of Christ. In his sermons he makes considerable use of his classic literature. Lardner quotes him (Hist. of Heretics, bk. i.) as a critic of the ante-Nicene writers. His first publication was ' The Christian Warfare … a Discourse on making our Calling and Election sure; with an Appendix concerning the Persons proper to be admitted to the Lord's Supper,' 1742, 8vo. Following the example of his predecessor, he preached and published a sermon to sailors, 'Euroclydon, or the Dangers of the Sea considered and improved,' &c. (Acts xxvii.), 1744, 12mo. Then came 'Liberty and Loyalty,' 1746, 8vo (a Hanoverian pamphlet). More important is 'The Divine Oracles, or the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures,' &c., 1749, 8vo, in reply to a work by Thomas Deacon, M.D., of Manchester, a nonjuring bishop of the irregular line. At this date (see pp. 72, 74) Brekell sides with Athanasius against the Arians. He published also on 'Holy Orders,' 1752, and two tracts in vindication of 'Paedobaptism,' 1753 and 1755. Brekell's name appears among the subscribers to a work by Whitfield, a Liverpool printer and sugar refiner, who had left the presbyterians, entitled 'A Dissertation on Hebrew Vowel-points.' After Whitfield's lapse, Brekell wrote 'An Essay on the Hebrew Tongue, being an attempt to shew that the Hebrew Bible might be originally read by Vowel Letters without the Vowel Points,' 1758, 8vo, 2 pts., in which he is generally admitted to have had the best of the argument. Brekell wrote tracts on 'Baptizing sick and dying Infants,' Glasgow, 1760, and on 'Regeneration,' 1761. Soon arose a burning question among Liverpool presbyterians in reference to a form of prayer. At length a section of the Liverpool laity, holding what they termed 'free' views in theology, built a chapel in Temple Court, printed a 'Form of Prayer and a new Collection of Psalms,' 1763, and secured a minister from London. The leading spirit in this movement was Thomas Bentley (1731-1780) [q. v.], Wedgwood's partner. His manuscript correspondence deals pretty freely with Brekell, whom he treats as representing 'the presbyterian hierarchy.' Brekell did all he could by pamphlets in 1762 to show the inexpediency of forms of prayer. The new chapel 'was sold to a Liverpool clergyman on 25 Feb. 1776.' Meantime Brekell was publishing a dissertation on 'Circumcision,' 1763, a volume of sermons, 'The Grounds and Principles of the Christian Revelation,' 1765, 8vo,and 'A Discourse on Music,' 1766. He died on 28 Dec. 1769. He married, on 11 Nov. 1736, Elizabeth _____, and had five children. Toulmin gives the titles of sixteen of his publications. To complete it should be added: 'All at Stoke: or an Earnest Persuasive to a Vigorous Self-defence, &c. By J. B., author of the Christian Warfare, &c.,' Liverpool, 1745, 16mo (a sermon (Luke xxii. 36) dedicated 'more especially to the Gentlemen Volunteers of Liverpool, and the Regiment of Blues raised at their own expence by that Loyal Town and Corporation. At the end is a warlike 'Hymn suitable to the Occasion of the general Fast to be observed with a view to the present War, both Foreign and Domestic'); also a 'Sermon (Phil. i. 11) on the Liverpool Infirmary,' 1769, 8vo (his last publication). The signature to his papers in the 'Theol. Repos.,'vol. i. 1769, and vol. ii. 1771, is 'Verus.'

[Thom's Liverpool Churches and Chapels, 1854, pp. 2, 7, 69, 71; Carpenter's Presbyterianism in Nottingham (1861?), p 126 seq.; Jones's Hist. Presb. Chapels and Charities, 1867. pp. 664, 669; Toulmin's Mem. of Rev. S. Bourn, 1808, pp. 177, 182; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, 1846, p. 390; Halley's Lancashire, its Puritanism and Nonconformity, 1869, ii. 324, 410; Rutt's Memo. and Corresp. of Priestley, 1831, i. 60; Armstrong's Ordination Service for James Martineau, 1829, p. 83; Monthly Repository, 1822, p. 21, 1831, p. 789; Winder's Manuscripts, Manuscripts relating to Octagon Chapel, and Family Register in Brakell's Bible, all in Renshaw Street Chapel Library, Liverpool.]

A. G.