Religious Fits

Captain Rev'd Jonathan Scott (a commited Calvanist who never faulted)

Jonathan Scott was born at Betton Strange, 2 miles south east of Shrewsbury, on 15th November 1735. He was the second son of Richard and Elizabeth Scott. Richard Scott was a military officer who rose to the rank of Captain in Buffs in the British Army.

After an ordinary education Jonathan followed in his fathers footsteps and joined the army at sixteen as a cornet, - (lowest cavalry officer rank) and in time was promoted to Captain- lieutenant in the Seventh Queens own Dragoons. He remained in the army for seventeen yeats and saw three campaigns in Europe

His early army career was a life a dissapation and he enjoyed the vices common among his fellow soldiers, yet at the same time, the danger to which he was constantly exposed was seriously impressed on his mind. This in turn led him to experience 'religious fits' as he termed them. At the beginning of these 'fits' he made a resolution to live a strict and pious life for about a month, reasoning that if he could keep his resolution for that length of time, he should be able to persevere for longer. However, as with all acts of self-righteousness he failed. Throughout this time, it was his daily practice to read the psalms and lessons of the day, a tlsome task in his own mind and one which his fellow offices suffered without malice. During these readings he came across the words of David - 'Seven times a day will I praise thee'. Immediately he thought he had discovered the reason for his failed resolutions, and set about praying to God seven times a day, fully believing that now he would be able to persevere. Once again he was disapointed. He knew something was wrong with his life and his self-imposed religion, but he did not know what it was, or how to rectify it. While serving with his regiment, he was stationed in a town where there had been a ditribution of religious books. Scott took charge of one of these books to read. Whilst a lone, he used a form of prayer that he found in the book, and which concluded with the words 'For Jesus sake'.

When quartered in Brighton, he went out shooting and a furious storm arose. Remembering that in the vicinity lived a farmer, with whom some of his regiments horses had been left to graze he hurried to his house for shelter. He was welcomed by the farmer, a godly man, who later invited him to accompany him to Ote Hall ( one of Lady Huntingdons chapels, to hear William Romaine, whom he represented as an extraordinary minister.

Scott, at the time in one of his 'religious fits' agreed. At the church he was immediately struck by the neatness and solemnity of the congregation, as well as the impressive manner in which the prayers were read . Relaying to two friends many years later, he said his mind had been fully prepared to receive the gospel, so that the instant he heard it he embraced it wholeheartedly.

Scott on returning to his regiment expected opposition to his conversion and soon found that his farmer companions shunned his company, being suspected of religious enthusiasm, especially as he attended the ministry of such a notorious preacher as Romaine and associated with other Christians.

It was not long before Scott tried to win his fellow soldiers to Christ and with that end in mind he held religious meetings in his house twice a day in 1766 for many soldiers who cared to attend.

It was in Leicester, probably late in 1768 that Scott first began to preach. A godly person, to whom he was introduced and who had heard about his meetings he had held with the soldiers, led him into a kitchen and left him with only a Bible, a hymn book and his God, informing him that he must preach that evening. He consented, and many years later was told by a respectable friend that on coming to Leicester he found several godly Christians who were the fruits of his ministry.

John Fletcher of Madeley,( who Scott had met and had spent some time with earlier, wrote to Lady Huntingdon saying, "For some months he has exhorted his dragoons daily; for some weeks he has preached publicly at Leicester, in the Methodist meet-house, in his regimentals, to numerous congregations with good success".

In February 1767 George Whitefield (  wrote to Fletcher, "I must again welcome him (Capt. Scott), into the field of battle . If God shall choose a red coat preacher, who shall say unto him - What doest thou? -------Blessed be the Captain of our Salvation, for drafting out young champions to reconnoitre and attack the enemy.  Three months later Scott was preaching for Fletcher who wrote to Whitefield with an enthusiastic report -

"On Monday he preached in Madeley Wood to a huge crowd, many of whom were curious to see the preaching captain!.

In September of the same year of the same year he joined Whitefield and Lady Huntingdon at Leeds, where he preached to amazing  crowds.

While in the army he made the most of every opportunity, preaching in York, Manchester and other places where his military duties called. At Berwick he was invited to preach by the Mayor of the town, who obtained a place of worship for him. At Manchester his preaching resulted in the conversion of a gentleman who heard him preach in a timber yard, who later settled at Stone in Staffordshire, where he encouraged a gospel interest.

It is apparent that during 1767, Scott was under pressure to leave the army. His 'religious doings' had angered his Commanding Officer, who was determined to deprive him of his commission. On the 1st June 1768 Scott married Elizabeth Clay of Wollerton near Market Drayton, Shropshire. Elizabeth was a godly women, and much of her time was spent in prayer. It was said that she possessed 'all the virtues and other assets with which eminent ladies in the Eigteenth Century were so singularly endowed' - eminent piety, remarkable prudence, a handsome estate, economical habits and an effectionate disposition'. She proved to be a most suitable wife, who supported wholeheartedly the ministry of her husband. Scott was happy to remain in the army as long as he could use the opportunities that arose to preach the gospel. However, some of his superiors were uncomfortable with his religion, perhaps suspecting divided allegiance, and one of them advised him to leave. After carefully considering the best course of action, he sold his commision on the 16th March 1769 and from that time dedicated himself to the ministry of the word among dissenters. After getting married he lived in his wife's home at Wollerton, where he gathered a congregation. (Much later, about 1800, soon after his wife's death, the first chapel and manse were built from a gift of £300 from Mrs Scotts will) From his Wollerton base he embarked on evangelistic tours, which contributed to the founding of Twenty-Two Congregational Churches in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire. Soon after his settlement at Wollerton he preached at Market Drayton where he secured a site, erected a building and organised them into a strong church, made up chiefly of men and women converted through his ministry. The Chapel was formally constituted in 1776 and described as a meeting house of protestant Christians of the Independent persuasion. It had twenty eight members and Scott drew up its covenant and articles of belief.

He regarded this congregation as his own particular people. He introduced he gospel to Newport (Shropshire), where he built a chapel on land given to him in 1765 by Thomas Jones, but work failed to flourish and the meeting place was soon closed.

In 1770 he began to visit Chester and Queen Street congregation. Scott often supplied for two or three Sundays at a time and his ministry was very popular, several were converted under his preaching. During 1772 a church was formed and William Armitage became the minister, and he and Scott became lifelong friends. He also travelled to places further afield. Both Romaine and Whitefield invited him to London to preach at the Tabernacle in Moorfields. For over twenty years Scott was one of the supplies for George Whitefields pulpit at the Tabernacle.

June 1773, he first preached to a thousand hearers in Stoke-on-Trent, and in DEcember he began a series of visits to Lancaster and other places in the vicinity.

In 1774, he was offered the pastorate of High Street at Lancaster, but he declined. With a view of being able to administer the Lord's Supper, he was ordained on the 18th September 1776 in the Church at Lancaster, not as Pastor, but as a presbyter or teacher.  Also during 1776 Scott began to preach in the open in Newcastle-under-Lyme and around about it. Meetings were held in various houses of converts in the town, and later, premises were hired in Fryers lane. Towards the end of 1784 Scott bought the lease of a parcel of wasteland, and in 1785 erected The Marsh Chapel.

During this time he also travelled to Leek, where he initiated a law suit to regain a meeting house that had fallen into the hands of Unitarians.  To Stone. where gospel work had been started by the gentlemen who had heard him preach in a Manchester timber yard; and to Uttoxeter, where he was present at the opening of a New Chapel. Scott opened a meeting house in Nantwich, a work that Whitefield and begun Twenty seven years before.

In 1780 a handful of people, led by a joiner and a shoemaker, hired a painters shop from a sympathetic Quaker, fitted it with two pews, some forms and a pulpit, and invited Johnathan Scott to open their humble meeting place. While he was preaching in Hanley, two or three people from Congleton travelled the twelve miles to hear him and invited him to preach in their town. He accepted the invitation, which ten years later, led to building, at Scott's expense, a chapel in Mill Street.

A small group of Christians in Macclesfield were forced to move from their temporary meeting place on several occassions. When they started to build their own meeting place, the minister departed suddenly, leaving them a half-completed chapel, and no funds to finish it. They appealed to Congregationalists in Manchester and Cheshire for help, and as the minute books for the church record, were greatly assisted by Scott.

It was about 1779 that Scott became friendly with Lady Glenorchy , a godly woman of considerable property, and a keen supporter of the evangelical party. At the time she was looking for a man of God who would help distribute her many charitable gifts, and Scott was recommended to her. He advised her to make provision for a theological education, so that the many vacancies that were arising could be filled by trained men and for evagelical tours.Several young men were prepared for the ministry at Edward Williams Academy, Oswestry, at her ladyships expense, and then at its sucessor in Newcastle-under-Lyme under John Whitridge. (1783-1792). Lady Glenorchy liberally contributed to support of her ministers who did not receive adequate salaries from their congregations, and also helped to finance various chapels that Scott erected.

On a journey to Buxton, she reached Matlock, and could not find a suitable place to worship. So she purchased a small house with a small but derelict chapel nearby, that could seat three hundred people, and immediately gave them to Scott.The congregation at Hanley, built up from converts of Scott was regularly supplied by one of Lady Glenorchy's students, as well as by Scott.In 1738 they formed a church and in the following year, a chapel was built with galleries on three sides.

The building was registered for worship on the 15th January 1784. Two years later, Scott settled James Boden as their Pastor, and his ministry lasted twelve years, admitting One hundred and Thirty Five people into fellowship during that time.

Scott also supported Boden in extention work at Stafford, and at his own expense, provided a minister when a new chapel was opened.

In 1786 Lady Glenorchy died, and bequeathed to her trusted friend Scott £5,000, 'for the education of young men for the ministry and other regious purposes', and among other bequests left him the chapel and house at Matlock where Scott moved to in 1794. On the 31st December 1799 Captain Scott lost his beloved wife Elizabeth. They had been married for thirty-one years.

He found it almost impossible to pursue his ministerial labours wholeheartedly as his time was now divided between the Lord's work and domestic concerns. This conflict of interest remained until on the 10th June 1802, he married Ann Barrow, the widow of Samuel Barrow, 'the Squire of Nantwich' who had been a friend and protector of the church there. After his marriage, Scott lived and preached alternatively at Nantwich and Matlock.

A year before he died, Scott witnessed the culmination of much of his work in the founding of the Cheshire Congregational Union at Macclesfield, several of the churches which he founded, or where he ministered such as Nantwich, Congleton, Northwich, Middlewich and Queen Street in Chester were among the founder members.

Johnathan Scott died on the morning of the 28th May 1807 His body was interred on the 9th June in a vault within the Protestant Dissenting Chapel at Queen Street, Chester, where his first wife Elizabeth was also laid.