Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

Another token of church decline. We associate this phrase with our own time, but Bank Street Chapel in Bolton terminally declined in the 1700s, centuries before it finally closed its doors in May, 2022. Originally, it was a presbyterian congregation led by ejected puritans, foremost among them Richard Goodwin and Robert Seddon. By the eighteenth century, it had drifted into monochrome Unitarianism with its rejection of Christ’s proper deity and saving grace. Despite its respectable arches and respected position within the town, this particular church closure made no difference to the levels of gospel proclamation in that district.

Outside the now defunct chapel is a wooden welcome board, upon which a tatty blue Unitarian symbol is still stuck, which must have withered in the sunshine. Open Hearts, Open Minds, purred the text. No minds or hearts there at all, now, open or otherwise. Not that there were any to begin with; both are closed except the Lord first open them. Man-made religion may claim to be tolerant, open-minded, embracing, welcoming or any other descriptive phrase you choose to summon, but they all reject the Lord Jesus, the Author of life and Saviour of the lost. If you think yourself open minded while rejecting Jesus, then your mind is actually locked, shut, padlocked and impenetrable. Pray the God of heaven shine His light therein.

Faith’s a convincing proof,
A substance sound and sure,
That keeps the soul secured enough,
But makes it not secure.

Notion’s the harlot’s test,
By which the truth’s reviled;
The child of fancy, finely dressed,
But not the living child.

Faith is by knowledge fed,
And with obedience mixed,
Notion is empty, cold, and dead,
And fancy’s never fixed.

True faith’s the life of God;
Deep in the heart it lies;
It lives and labours under load;
Though damped, it never dies.

Opinions in the head,
True faith as far excels
As body differs from a shade,
Or kernels from the shells.

To see good bread and wine,
Is not to eat and drink;
So some who hear the word divine,
Do not believe, but think.

True faith refines the heart,
And purifies with blood;
Takes the whole gospel, not a part,
And holds the fear of God.

-Joseph Hart, Gadsby's Hymns, No 236