1745–1826
portrait

March 22, 1745, Bea­cons­field, Buck­ing­ham­shire, Eng­land.

Au­gust 3, 1826, Hands­worth, War­wick­shire, Eng­land.

St. George in the Fields, Hock­ley, Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land.

Son of a Bap­tist min­is­ter, Proud served Bap­tist church­es at Knip­ton, Fleet, and Nor­wich, Eng­land, be­fore join­ing the Swe­den­borg­i­an de­no­mi­na­tion in 1788.

He went on to pas­tor in Birm­ing­ham, Man­ches­ter, and Lon­don.

He pub­lished a vol­ume of 300 hymns in 1790, and a small book of hymns for child­ren in 1810. Ma­ny of his com­po­si­tions are still used in Swe­den­bor­gi­an ser­vic­es.

His obit­u­ary:

Died, on the 3d of Au­gust last, at his house, at Hands­worth, near Birm­ing­ham, the Rev. Jo­seph Proud, in the eigh­ty-se­cond year of his age. He was born on the 22d of March, 1745, at Bea­cons­field, in Buck­ing­hamshire.

His fa­ther was a trades­man of that place, who like­wise act­ed as a preach­er in the con­nect­ion of Gen­er­al Bap­tists, in which ca­pa­ci­ty al­so the sub­ject of this me­moir be­gan to ex­er­cise him­self at a ve­ry ear­ly age. At about the age of thir­ty, he was sol­emn­ly set apart to the of­fice of the min­is­try, in that con­nect­ion, by or­di­na­tion

Of his his­to­ry from this time till his re­cept­ion of the doc­trines of the New Church, we are not pos­sessed of ma­ny par­ti­cu­lars. They found him, how­ev­er, in the year 1789, which time he was forty-four years of age, an ex­treme­ly po­pu­lar min­is­ter at Nor­wich; but at what time he went to re­side in that ci­ty, or how long he re­mained at Wis­beach, where he had been pre­vious­ly sta­tioned, we have not heard.

It is from this per­i­od, how­ev­er, that the New Church is in­ter­est­ed in him; and up­on her pro­gress in the world, his ac­cept­ance of her doc­trines, had, un­doubt­ed­ly, a ve­ry con­sid­er­a­ble in­flu­ence. The cir­cum­stanc­es at­tend­ing his em­brac­ing the truth were ex­tra­or­di­na­ry in a high de­gree: we will re­late then, as we have re­peat­ed­ly heard them from his own mouth.

The Cha­pel of which he was min­is­ter at Nor­wich was built by the late Mr. Hunt, of whom we gave some ac­count at p. 88 of our pre­sent vo­lume. Mr. Hunt him­self of­fi­ci­at­ed in the min­is­try, in con­junc­tion with Mr. Proud. In the year above-men­tioned, the late Mr. Ralph Ma­ther, who had pre­vious­ly be­longed to the Quak­er-De­no­mi­na­tion, and a gen­tle­man still liv­ing, who had been one of Mr. Wes­ley’s preach­ers, hav­ing been brought to a know­ledge of the truth in the doc­trines of the New Church, and be­ing in­flamed with an ar­dent zeal to pro­mote its dif­fu­sion, un­der­took, at their own ex­pense, a mis­sion­a­ry journey through Eng­land.

When they came to Nor­wich, Mr. Hunt gave them per­mis­sion to preach in his cha­pel. On hear­ing then, Mr. Proud op­posed their doc­trines with the ut­most ve­he­mence, and made ev­ery ef­fort in his pow­er to pre­vent their suc­cess. Mr. Hunt was more fa­vor­a­bly in­clined, and held with the strang­ers se­ver­al con­fer­enc­es. This ren­dered Mr. Proud ex­treme­ly un­ea­sy; and one day, when he knew Mr. Hunt and the New Church Mis­sion­ar­ies were to­ge­ther, he burst in­to the room, and ex­hort­ed Mr. H., in the most stren­u­ous man­ner, to have no­thing to do with those men or their doc­trines.

He used, we have heard him say, those very words. Im­me­di­ate­ly on his re­tir­ing (ac­cord­ing to our re­col­lection of the an­ec­dote—though Mr. Ma­de­ley (see his Ser­mon) seems to have un­dervstood this oc­cur­rence to have been some time af­ter­wards) he felt great agi­tavtion of mind: a doubt rushed up­on him, that it might be pos­si­ble he was op­pos­ing the truth: he re­tired into a room by him­self, fell on his knees, and prayed de­vout­ly that he might ob­tain di­vine di­rect­ion, and be guid­ed to a right de­ci­sion: he af­ter­wards op­ened his Bi­ble, when this pas­sage met his eye: Be­hold ye among the hea­then, and re­gard, and won­der mar­ve­lous­ly; for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not be­lieve, though it be told you (Hab. i. 5): the words struck him pow­er­ful­ly: he took them as a re­proof of his in­cre­du­li­ty and pre­ju­diced op­po­sivtion: he de­ter­mined, there­fore, to read the writ­ings of the New Church with a can­did mind: he did so and he was speed­i­ly convvinced that the dis­cov­er­ies they con­tain are the work of the Lord in­deed.

It is na­tu­ral­ly to be sup­posed that this al­most mi­ra­cu­lous con­ver­sion of a po­pu­lar preach­er must have had a great ef­fect on the ris­ing fortunes of the New Church. Yet a pro­phet is sel­dom much hon­ored in his own count­ry; and Mr. Proud ap­pears, at Nor­wich, to have met with lit­tle but op­po­si­tion and ill us­age.

When, how­ev­er, a place of wor­ship was built, and op­ened un­der flat­ter­ing aus­pic­es, at Birm­ing­ham, and an­oth­er, af­ter­wards, in Lon­don, in each of which, suc­cess­ive­ly, he was called to of­fi­ci­ate, his tal­ents found a sphere in which they could ful­ly ex­ert them­selves: and it will ea­si­ly be be­lieved that tal­ents for preach­ing such as he un­de­ni­a­bly pos­sessed, an­i­mat­ed by the zeal, the hopes, the great ex­pec­ta­tions, which at that per­i­od filled all who had been brought to a knowl­edge of the truth, must have pro­duced a pow­er­ful ef­fect up­on the pub­lic.

At Birm­ing­ham, whi­ther he went in 1791—such was the ac­cept­ance with which he was heard, and such the mul­ti­tudes who flocked to hear him—the pros­pect of suc­cess ap­peared at first un­bound­ed: but it was ov­er­sha­dowed by ex­tra­ne­ous cir­cum­stan­ces: the Tem­ple, as the build­ing they had erect­ed was, in our judg­ment, weak­ly and im­pro­pe­rly de­no­mi­nat­ed, fell, in two years, in­to the hands of strang­ers

 A small­er one, how­ev­er, was speed­i­ly erect­ed, in­tend­ed on­ly as a tem­po­ra­ry ac­com­mo­da­tion; in which Mr. Proud, af­ter spend­ing the in­ter­val, of on­ly se­ven months, as joint min­is­ter with the late Mr. Cow­herd at Man­ches­ter, re­sumed his du­ties, and at­tract­ed mul­ti­tudes far be­yond what the place would contain; in­deed, such, while at Birm­ing­ham, was his ce­le­bri­ty, that to hear the great New-Je­ru­sa­lem preach­er was thought a mat­ter of ne­ces­si­ty by strang­ers vi­sit­ing the to­ken; and the so­ci­e­ty ful­ly ex­pect­ed, had he re­mained, soon to be able to ob­tain as large and com­mo­di­ous a cha­pel as that which they had lost.

But in 1797 he was in­vit­ed to the me­tro­po­lis, where he might na­tur­al­ly think his op­por­tu­ni­ties of use­ful­ness would be still great­er; and there, al­so, be at­tract­ed great no­tice. A year or two from the pre­sent time, all Lon­don was in mo­tion to wit­ness the tal­ents of the cel­e­brat­ed Mr. Irv­ing, at the Ca­le­don­ian Cha­pel, in Cross Street, Hat­ton Gar­den that same cha­pel was the scene of Mr. Proud’s first min­is­tra­tions in Lon­don; and we can state, for we con­tin­ua­lly wit­nessed it, that the crowds which then pressed to ob­tain a hear­ing of Mr. Proud were not few­er than those which have more re­cent­ly flocked af­ter Mr. Irving.

Of the mat­ter of his dis­cours­es, a judg­ment may he formed from those which are in print: as com­po­si­tions, they were by no means fault­less; but they pre­sent­ed the lead­ing doc­trines of the New Church in a ve­ry strik­ing and con­vinc­ing man­ner; and ex­posed the op­po­site er­rors with great strength and en­er­gy; while in press­ing home mo­ral con­si­der­a­tions they were pow­er­ful­ly per­sua­sive; but his de­liv­e­ry, at the time of which we are speak­ing, not­with­stand­ing some pro­vin­cial­ism of ac­cent, cer­tain­ly did pos­sess an ex­tra­or­di­na­ry charm: his voice, look, act­ion, and whole man­ner, were strong­ly cal­cu­lat­ed to ri­vet at­tent­ion, and to send home what he said look to the un­der­stand­ings and the hearts of his hear­ers.

The con­se­quence was, that ma­ny who came to hear him be­came af­fec­tion­ate and stea­dy re­ceiv­ers of the doc­trines of the New Church; though it must a­lso be con­fessed, that the at­tach­ment of ma­ny oth­ers was more to the man than the doc­trines, whence, aft­er a while they fell away.

In 1799 Mr. Proud re­moved from the Te­mple, as it al­so was called, in Cross Street, to the still larg­er and more el­e­gant cha­pel in York Street, St. James’s Square; where al­so he was at­tend­ed by large con­gre­ga­tions, es­pe­cial­ly in the ev­en­ing; when, ex­cept in the mid­dle of the sum­mer, there sel­dom were few­er than 1000 persons in the cha­pel. Here he con­tin­ued four­teen years; and though dur­ing the lat­ter part of the time the con­gre­ga­tions were not so nu­mer­ous as at first, they al­ways were ve­ry con­sid­er­a­ble. But at the ex­pir­a­tion of that per­i­od, a great­er rent be­ing de­mand­ed in case of a re­new­al of the lease than it was thought pos­si­ble: to pay, the So­ci­e­ty re­moved to the small place in Lisle Street, Lei­ces­ter Square; a mea­sure which proved im­pru­dent; for the con­se­quent di­mi­nu­tion of num­bers and of in­come be­came more than com­men­sur­ate with the di­mi­nu­tion of the ex­pen­di­ture: in con­se­quence of which, dif­fi­cul­ties aris­ing, Mr. Proud de­ter­mined up­on re­tir­ing once more to Birm­ing­ham an event which took place in the year 1814. Great ex­pec­ta­tions were en­ter­tained by the So­ci­e­ty in that town, of re­gaining, by his re­turn, all their for­mer pros­per­i­ty; but these hopes were sin­gu­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ed. Mr. Proud was now in the se­ven­ti­eth year of his age, and, though not in­firm, he had no long­er the pow­er of at­trac­tion which he once pos­sessed.

Thus the So­ci­ety at Birm­ing­ham, in­stead of in­creas­ing un­der his care, grew weak­er: and Mr. Proud grow­ing weak­er also, and un­a­ble to preach above once a day, and fre­quent­ly not at all, for some time be­fore be en­tire­ly re­tired, it dwin­dled near­ly to the point of ex­tinc­tion; till its pre­sent min­is­ter was pro­vi­den­tial­ly sent to its aid, by whose ex­er­tions it has again re­co­vered a great share of its an­cient pros­per­i­ty, and is now stea­di­ly on the in­crease.

In the years 1816 and 1817, Mr. Proud ex­ert­ed a por­tion of his re­maining strength in vis­it­ing, un­der the aus­pic­es of the Man­ches­ter Mis­sion­a­ry So­ci­e­ty, a num­ber of the So­ci­et­ies of the New Church; and was made an in­stru­ment of ed­i­fi­ca­tion to mul­ti­tude. At Der­by, in par­ti­cu­lar, his preach­ing was high­ly ben­e­fi­cial: and from on­ly a ve­ry few in­di­vi­du­als, meet­ing with child­ren in a Sun­day school, a con­sid­er­able bo­dy of af­fect­ion­ate re­ceiv­ers of the doc­trines arose, and grew in­to re­spect­a­ble So­ci­e­ty.

Great must have been the tri­al, to a man long ac­cus­tomed to po­pu­lar­i­ty, like Mr. Proud, on ex­per­ienc­ing the con­trast be­tween the lit­tle suc­cess which at­tend­ed him on his last set­tling at Birm­ing­ham and the al­most idol­a­try with which he was fol­lowed when he ex­er­cised his min­is­try there be­fore: but the re­sig­na­tion with which he bore it does him the high­est hon­or, and evinc­es that his main object has not his own glo­ry, but that of his Hea­ven­ly Fa­ther. Placed in ex­tra­or­di­na­ry si­tu­a­tions, it is not to be wo­ndered at, if, like the Apos­tle of old, he passed through ev­il report and good re­port. Ma­ny, we know, ex­pect­ed to find him a mo­del of more than hu­man per­fect­ion and it is not sur­pris­ing if, on be­ing dis­ap­point­ed in their un­rea­son­a­ble ex­pec­ta­tions, some un­der­rat­ed his real mer­its. In his pri­vate char­ac­ter he was al­ways ir­re­proach­a­ble; and the sin­cer­i­ty of his re­li­gious feel­ings is evinc­ed abund­ant­ly by the man­ner of his con­vers­ion to the truth, as re­lat­ed above. He em­braced it al­so, when he had no pros­pect of any re­sults from it but dis­tress and per­se­cu­tion: he knew loot but that by dis­solv­ing his con­nect­ion with the Bap­tists he should lose his ve­ry means of sub­sis­tence; and such, for a time, threat­ened to be the re­sult. Though al­ways of fru­gal ha­bits, he had been able to make but lit­tle pro­vi­sion for his old age—£300. In the four per cents, and the small house in which he lived, form­ing the whole of his pro­per­ty. But for fu­rther state­ments re­spect­ing his per­son­al char­ac­ter, see our ex­tracts above from Mr. Ma­de­ley’s Ser­mon, and the Ser­mon it­self.

Mr. Proud was the au­thor of ma­ny pub­li­cations, some of them of a ve­ry use­ful char­ac­ter. At the head of these is his Hymn-book, which, con­sid­ered as the work of one man, and pro­duced in a ve­ry short per­i­od (the Ser­mon says, on­ly three months!) is a tru­ly ex­tra­or­din­ary per­form­ance. His last work, The Ag­ed Min­is­ter’s Last L­eg­acy, is, in our judg­ment, the least val­u­a­ble: it ex­hi­bits, in no small de­gree, the weak­ness of old age. Had he had more ad­vant­age­s from ed­u­ca­tion, he had na­tive tal­ents which would have made him as em­i­nent as a writ­er as he was as a speak­er.

He was twice mar­ried, and had by his first wife thir­teen child­ren; most of whom died young, and the one or two that re­mained were not com­forts to him. His se­cond wife, to whom he had been unit­ed, we be­lieve, about for­ty years, sur­vives him, but in a state of great in­fir­mi­ty. The im­me­di­ate cause of his re­mov­al was an at­tack of cho­le­ra mor­bus, which car­ried him off af­ter an il­lness of on­ly be­tween three and four days.

He was called, like the Apos­tle Paul, and al­most as mi­ra­cu­lous­ly, from a state of op­po­si­tion to the New Church to be one of her most em­i­nent pro­mot­ers. Ma­ny liv­ing have rea­son to bless his name, and will have in eter­ni­ty. To eter­ni­ty he is gone, where, on­ly, he can have his re­ward.

Intellectual Re­po­si­to­ry, Oc­to­ber 1826, p. 347

  1. Built by Je­ho­vah’s Hand
  2. Come in, Thou Bless­èd, Hon­ored Lord
  3. Down from the Worlds of Ra­di­ant Light
  4. Great God, We Give Thee Praise
  5. Hark! The Skies with Mu­sic Sound
  6. I Love the Lord, He Heard My Voice
  7. I Love the Voice Di­vine
  8. Jerusalem, Arise
  9. Now Bless­ing, Hon­or, Glo­ry, Praise
  10. O God, My Hea­ven­ly King
  11. Thou Art the Migh­ty King of Kings