‘There are three men, who are the most powerful preachers that England has ever produced, and yet only two of them [Whitefield and Spurgeon] are well known.’ As its opening words imply (p.7), this book’s aim is to present the third — Rowland Hill — to a generation that knows little or nothing about him.
Tim Shenton records his birth into a prominent Shropshire family in 1744, his conversion while at Eton, his early preaching despite much persecution, and his remarkable ministry at Wotton-under-Edge and Surrey Chapel, London. Attention is also given to his more extensive evangelistic labours, his philanthropy, and his support for smallpox vaccination. The final chapters evaluate the man and his ministry.
The author is not blind to Hill’s weaknesses and eccentricities, including allowing his humour excessive liberty while preaching, his unchristian attitude towards John Wesley, his tendency to haughtiness and obstinacy, and his quick sense of injury. What shines through, however, is Hill’s bold gospel proclamation and the divine power that so often accompanied his preaching.
An index and list of sources would have been helpful. One incident seems to have been taken from the life of Whitefield, and it must be said that some examples of Hill’s ‘humour’ do not travel well over time. However, this is a fine presentation of a long-neglected figure who, in Spurgeon’s words, ‘made religion a delight and the worship of God a pleasure’ (p.168).