Thomas Binney 1798 - 1874
Son of a Presbyterian elder. He was educated at a local school and served an apprenticeship to a bookseller for seven years, working for twelve to fifteen hours a day. He found time to study, and turning to Congregationalism spent three years in the theological seminary of Coward College at Wymondley, Herts. in preparation for the ministry. For about a year he was minister of the New Meeting, Bedford and in 1824 he accepted a call to St. James Chapel, Newport, IW. The photo shows Binney Cottage in West Cowes.
One evening as the sun was setting and the stars beginning to shine, the thought came to Binney that the sky was never without light, it was eternal. The hymn “Eternal Light! Eternal Light!” was written before he went to bed that night. Dr Routley remarks that it has “A touch of Calvinistic austerity and self-abasement that makes it one of the noblest and most sympathetic expressions of the ‘numinous’ in our language.”
Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.
There is a way for man to rise
To Thee, sublime Abode;
An Offering and a Sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit's energies,
An Advocate with God:
The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.
These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love.
Oh, how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before th' Ineffable appear,
And on my natural spirit bear
The uncreated beam?
After five years in the Isle of Wight, Binney went to London in 1829 as minister to the Weigh House Chapel, and quickly stepped into the front rank of Metropolitan preachers. He was chairman of the Congregational Union in 1845 and during his year of office visited America and Canada. Three years later he published a sermon on “The Service of Song in the House of the Lord”, and was one of the first Nonconformists to introduce anthems and chanting. In 1857 he went for a visit of nearly two years to Australia. America gave him a doctorate in divinity, while Aberdeen gave him the degree of LL.D. Binney retired in 1869 and died in London. at Upper Clapton, Hackney on February 23rd1874.