LEGH RICHMOND, (1772-1827)
A History of Preaching
F. R. Webber

One of the well-known evangelical preachers of the Church of England was Legh Richmond. He was born in Liverpool in 1772, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his M.A. degree in 1799. In 1797 he became curate of Brading, in the Isle of Wight, and together with Brading he served Yaverland nearby. His experiences there led him to write his famous Annals of the Poor, which was published in 1814, enjoyed an enormous circulation and was translated into twenty languages. In 1805 he became rector of Turvey, near John Newton's Olney.

While yet in the Isle of Wight, Mr. Richmond's fervid evangelical preaching attracted attention; and after he went to Turvey he became nationally famous. He had the evangelical clergyman's love of itinerating, and his periodic preaching tours took him into almost every part of the British Isles. He was deeply interested in the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Evangelizing of the Jews. His preaching tour assisted considerably in gaining moral and financial support for these organizations.

Mr. Richmond's sermons were thoroughly Scriptural, and almost every sermon had salvation for its theme. He preached without notes, his language was colorful and his illustrations remind one of Thomas Guthrie at his best. He drew many of his illustrations from the natural beauty of the English countryside, describing in animated language his beloved Isle of Wight and the English lake district. Some of his descriptions approach closely to what is called purple patches, yet Mr. Richmond was too devout a man to employ fine rhetoric for its own sake. One easily excuses his grandiloquence because of the skill with which he employs illustrative material to drive home spiritual ideas. He was a man of sincere piety, conservative in his doctrinal position, and urgent in his appeals to his hearers to consider the matter of their personal salvation, and the atoning work of the Lord Jesus, in Whom alone is eternal life.

Legh Richmond studied his sermons conscientiously, but his remarkable fertility of thought and fluency of language led him to preach extemporaneously. Many of his finest sermons were never committed to writing; but he preached them again and again, as he travelled throughout the British Isles. His method was unfortunate as far as posterity is concerned, for one must depend today upon the statements of his contemporaries, all of whom are warm in their praise of his greatness as a preacher. . . .

Mr. Richmond often declared, says his biographer, "that two great subjects pervaded the Bible: Sin and Salvation from sin; and that these ought to form the basis of the Christian ministry. . . . In his addresses from the pulpit he never failed to point out, distinctly and forcibly, man's ruin by the fall; his condemnation under the Law, and his moral inability to deliver himself by any power or strength of his own; the divinity and incarnation of the Son of God; free and full justification through faith in the atoning blood and righteousness of the Redeemer; the nature of justifying faith, its fruits and evidences; the agency of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration and sanctification of believers; and the necessity of a renewed heart and of holiness of life, not as the title to Heaven but as meetness for its enjoyment. These are fundamental doctrines in which all true Christians, without distinction of sect or party, cordially unite. They have been the food of the church of God in all ages, the manna which has sustained her children in the many and diversified scenes of human trial and infirmity; they have been the song of their pilgrimage, their joy in tribulation, their light in darkness, and their guide to life and immortality." Richmond's biographer describes his preaching as Scriptural, experimental, practical, comprehensive, impressive in its appeals to the heart and conscience, and with Christ as the center of all his preaching.

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