Noel, Baptist Wriothesley (DNB00)

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NOEL, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY (1798–1873), divine, born at Leightmount, Scotland, on 16 July 1798, was the sixteenth child and eleventh son of Sir Gerard Noel-Noel, bart., and younger brother of Gerard Thomas Noel [q.v.] Educated at Westminster School, he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was created M.A. in 1821. In the same year he made a tour on the continent. On his return Noel began to read for the bar with a special pleader in the Temple, but changing his mind he took holy orders in the church of England. For a short time Noel served as curate of Cossington in Leicestershire, but in 1827 he became minister of St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row, London. The chapel was unconsecrated, but its pulpit had been filled for many years by a succession of able men. Thomas Scott, Richard Cecil, and Daniel "Wilson had been its ministers; the Thorntons, William Wilberforce, and Zachary Macaulay members of the congregation. Despite his comparative youth for a charge so conspicuous, Noel was an immediate and marked success, and he was speedily recognised as a leader among evangelical churchmen in London. In 1835 he addressed a letter to the Bishop of London on the spiritual condition of the metropolis, which was fruitful in far-reaching results. Home and foreign missions equally enjoyed his aid; but he declined to countenance the early 'manifestations' associated with the followers of Edward Irving. In 1840 he conducted an inquiry, under the direction of the committee of education, into the condition of the elementary schools in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and other towns. In the following year he brought out an Anti-Cornlaw tract, 'A Plea for the Poor,' which had a wide circulation, and called forth many replies. In the same year Noel was gazetted one of her Majesty's chaplains. In 1846 he visited some of the stations of the Evangelical Society in France, and in the same year helped to set on foot the Evangelical Alliance.

His intimate relations with evangelical nonconformity make less surprising the step which Noel took in 1848. The result of the Gorham case [see Gorham, George Cornelius], which drove some high churchmen into the fold of Rome, helped to send Noel into the ranks of the baptists. He took farewell of his congregation on Sunday, 3 Dec. Early in 1849 he put forth a long essay on the union of church and state, in which, while expressing admiration for many of his 'beloved and honoured brethren' who remained in the establishment, he sought to prove that the union of church and state was at once unscriptural and harmful. He also ventured a confident prophecy that the establishment was 'doomed.' At first he seems to have hesitated as to his future course. For a time he attended the parish church of Hornsey; but on 25 March 1849, in answer to an invitation conveyed during the service, he preached at the Scottish church in Regent Square, his first appearance in a nonconformist pulpit. He then took the oaths prescribed by 52 Geo. Ill, and in May preached in the Weigh House Chapel. A still more decisive step followed. On 9 Aug. 1849 he was publicly rebaptised by immersion in John Street (baptist) Chapel, hard by the building where he had himself long preached. To the ministry of John Street Chapel he accepted a call in the following September, and continued there with marked success until he resigned the charge on entering his seventieth year in 1868. As a nonconformist, despite his strong views as to church and state, Noel refrained from joining the Liberation Society, or appearing on its platform. In 1854 he again visited the Vaudois. During the American civil war he vigorously supported the cause of the north, particularly at a great meeting in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in June 1 863. The case of G. W . Gordon, who was executed for participation in the Jamaica outbreak, excited his warm sympathy in 1865, and in the following year he vindicated Gordon's conduct in a pamphlet. Noel was president of the Baptist Union in 1855 and in 1867. The last few years of his life were mainly spent in retirement. After some months of ill-health he died at Stanmore, Middlesex, on 19 Jan. 1873, and was there buried. Noel married in 1826 the eldest daughter of Peter Baillie of Dochfour, Inverness-shire. Of imposing mien, with a clear voice, a good delivery, and a great command of forcible language, Noel was one of the most popular preachers of his day. Throughout his life he was an ardent controversialist, but was sometimes wanting in judgment. In addition to many other tracts, letters, and sermons, he published: 1. 'Meditations on Sickness and Old Age,' 1837. 2. 'Notes of a Tour through the Midland Counties of Ireland,' 1837. 3. 'The First Five Centuries of the Church,' 1839. 4. 'Infant Piety,' 1840. 6. 'A Plea for the Poor,' 1841. 6. 'Christian Missions to Heathen Nations,' 1842. 7. 'The Case of the Free Church of Scotland,' 1844. 8. 'Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures respecting Union,' 1844. 9. ' Essay on the Union of Church and State,' 1848. 10. 'The Messiah. Five Sermons,' 1848. 11. 'Notes of a Tour in Switzerland,' 1848. 12. 'Sermons preached in the Chapels Royal of St. James's and Whitehall,' 1848. 13. 'The Christian's Faith, Hope, and Joy,' 1849. 14. 'Essay on Christian Baptism,' 1849. 15. 'Essay on the External Act of Baptism,' 1850. 16. 'The Church of Rome,' 1851. 17. 'Notes of a Tour in the Valleys of Piedmont,' 1855. 18. 'The Doom of the Impenitent Sinner,' 1859. 19. 'Sermons,' 2 vols., 1859. 20. 'England and India,' 1859. 21. 'The Fallen and their Associates,' 1860. 22. 'Freedom and Slavery in the United States of America,' 1863. 23. ' The Case of W. Gordon, Esq.,' 1866. He edited 'A Selection of Psalms and Hymns,' 1853, and 'Hymns about Jesus,' 1868.

[The Baptist Handbook, 1874; Debrett's Genealogical Peerage, 1844, art. ‘Gainsborough, Earl of;’ Romilly's Graduati Cantabrigienses, 1856, p. 279; Hist. of the Free Churches of England (Skeats and Miall), 1892, pp. 509, 606; Sunday at Home, 1868, pp. 391, 409; Times, 24, 28, 30 Nov., and 1 Dec. 1848; Record, 20 and 27 Jan. 1873; Proby's Annals of the Low Church Party, 1888, i. 336; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, 1892, p. 809.]

A. R. B.