Proud, Joseph (DNB00)

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PROUD, JOSEPH (1745–1826), minister of the ‘new church,’ was born at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, on 22 March 1745. His father, John Proud (d. 1784), was a general baptist minister at Beaconsfield, and (from 1756) at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Proud began his ministry in 1767 as assistant to his father at Wisbech. About 1772 he became minister of the general baptist congregation at Knipton, Leicestershire, but removed in 1775 to the charge of the general baptist congregation at Fleet, Lincolnshire. Here he was ordained in 1780; his chapel was enlarged in 1782. He left Fleet in 1786 to preach at a chapel built for him in that year in Ber Street, Norwich, by a surgeon named Hunt. The chapel and a minister's house were settled on him for life.

His views at this time, as is shown by his ‘Calvinism Exploded,’ were universalist; but in 1788 he became acquainted with the writings of Swedenborg, and a visit (June 1788) from Joseph Whittingham Salmon of Nantwich, Cheshire, originally a methodist, led to his adhesion to the ‘new church,’ or ‘new Jerusalem church,’ recently organised by Robert Hindmarsh [q. v.] On 24 Feb. 1789 he baptised, by immersion, nine persons as members of the ‘new church;’ he co-operated with its London leaders, and wrote, in three months, no less than three hundred original hymns for use in its worship. In 1790 he ceded Ber Street chapel to the general baptists, visited Birmingham (June 1790), where a ‘temple’ in Newhall Street was being built by a wealthy merchant, and agreed to become its minister. On 3 May 1791 he was ordained in London as a ‘new church’ minister by James Hindmarsh, and opened the Birmingham ‘temple’ on 19 June. Priestley, who was present at one of the opening services, immediately wrote a series of letters to its members, and made an appointment to read them, before publication, to Proud and his friends on 15 July, an intention frustrated by the riots which broke out on the previous day. Proud's relations with unitarians were friendly. He preached in their chapel at Warwick in 1792.

His career at Birmingham promised well, but was suddenly cut short by the failure of his patron. The ‘temple’ was found to be heavily mortgaged, and Proud, who had placed his savings in his patron's hands, lost everything. He received much sympathy and substantial help, among others from Spencer Madan (1758–1836) [q. v.], then rector of St. Philip's, Birmingham. A ‘temple’ was in course of erection in Peter Street, Manchester, for William Cowherd [q. v.], and Proud was invited to be his colleague. He opened the Manchester 'temple' on 11 Aug. 1793, but soon falling out with Cowherd, who made a point of a vegetarian diet, he closed his Manchester ministry on 19 Jan. 1794. He was invited to Bristol and Liverpool, but returned to Birmingham, where a new 'temple,' also in Newhall Street, was opened by him on 30 March. Proud's services now attracted large crowds. His friends were anxious to transfer him to London. A 'temple' was built for him in Cross Street, Hatton Garden ; he ordained his successor at Birmingham on 7 May 1797, and opened Hatton Garden 'temple' on 30 July.

Proud was now at the height of his popularity. His oratory drew overflowing congregations; his voice had much charm, in spite of a provincial accent, and his manner was singularly impressive. He is described as wearing 'a purple silk vest, a golden girdle, and a white linen gown' (White). In less than two years disputes arose between Proud's committee and the trustees of the 'temple' about the rental of the building and about a liturgy. Proud preached his last sermon at Cross Street on 29 Sept. 1799, and removed on 6 Oct. to York Street Chapel, St. James's, which was taken on lease. John Flaxman [q. v.] the sculptor, who had been a member of his committee, seceded from his congregation, owing to the dispute, which did not, however, affect Proud's general popularity. The lease of York Street chapel, renewed in 1806, came to an end on 22 Sept. 1813. Proud removed on 10 Oct. to a smaller building in Lisle Street, Leicester Square ; but his vigour was declining. In 1814 he returned to Birmingham, and again ministered in the Newhall Street 'temple' till his retirement from regular duty at midsummer 1821. In 1815-16 he undertook missionary journeys, in pursuance of the plan of a missionary ministry adopted by the 'general conference' of the 'new church.'

He is said during the course of his life to have preached seven thousand times and written three thousand sermons. His personal character was high ; he seems to have lacked geniality in private life, his manner was reserved, but he showed much fortitude under many domestic trials. He died in a cottage of his own building at Handsworth, near Birmingham, on 3 Aug. 1826, and was buried in St. George's churchyard, Birmingham. His funeral sermon was preached (20 Aug.) by Edward Madeley. He was first married on 3 Feb. 1769, and by his first wife, who died in 1785, he had eleven children, two of whom survived him. On her death he married a widow, Susannah, who died on 21 Nov. 1826, aged 76.

He published, besides many separate sermons: 1. 'Calvinism Exploded,' &c., Norwich, 1780, 12mo ; two editions same year (a poem). 2. 'Jehovah's Mercy,' &c., 1789, 8vo (a poem) ; several times reprinted. 3. 'Hymns and Spiritual Songs,' 1790, 12mo; enlarged 1791, 12mo; 1798, 8vo (the book reached a sixth edition ; 164 of his hymns are included in the 'new church' hymn-book of 1880). 4. 'A Candid . . . Reply to . . . Dr. Priestley,' &c., 1791, 8vo; 1792, 8vo. 5. 'Twenty Sermons,' &c., Birmingham, 1792, 8vo. 6. 'On the Lord's Prayer,' &c., 1803, 12mo. 7. 'Fifteen Discourses,' &c., 1804, 8vo. 8. 'The Unitarian Doctrine ... Refuted,' &c., 1806, 8vo (against Thomas Belsham [q. v.]) 9. 'Lectures on the Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity,' &c., 1808, 8vo; a second course, 1810, 8vo (includes poetical pieces). 10. 'Six Discourses to Young Persons,'&c., 1810, 12mo. 11. 'Hymns and Songs for Children,' &c., 1810, 12mo. 12. 'Calvinism without Modem Refinements,' &c., 1812, 12mo (a poem, anon.) 13. 'The Divinely Inspired Names of . . . Christ,' &c., 1817, 12mo. 14. 'The Aged Minister's Last Legacy,' &c., Birmingham, 1818, 12mo. ; 2nd edition, abridged, with memoir by E. Madeley, 1854, 8vo. In 1799-1800 he was one of the editors of the 'Aurora,' a 'new church' monthly.

[Memoir by Madeley, 1854; Wood's Hist. of General Baptists, 1847, pp. 185, 205, 208; White's Swedenborg, 1867, ii. 605 seq. ; Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892. pp. 1105 seq. ; Rutt's Memoirs of Priestley, 1832, ii. 91.]

A. G.