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Joseph Kinghorn

A Forgotten Well Respected and Eminent Particular Baptist Pastor and Author

Joseph Kinghorn

Joseph Kinghorn, an eminent and respected Particular Baptist pastor and author, was born at Gateshead - on - Tyne, Co Durham, England on January 17th 1766. A widely known and well respected figure in his own day, Kinghorn has been all but forgotten and overlooked by most of the literature dealing with Baptist history and thought, though he was for years in the forefront of the doctrinal controversies of the early nineteenth century. His life and influence are inseparable from the history of the Particular Baptist in England.

He was the eldest son of David Kinghorn, a shoemaker and Baptist preacher, and his second wife Elizabeth. In December of 1779, at the age of 14, Joseph was taken on a trial apprenticeship to a clock and watch-maker at Hull. Ill health forced a change, and he then removed to Elswick, near Newcastle, where in 1781 he became a clerk in the white lead works. He was lead to hope on the Lord's mercy in 1782, and requested to be baptised as a believer in Jesus Christ. In April of 1783, his father baptised him, bringing him into the congregation at Bishop-Burton.

Joseph expressed an earnest desire to enter the ministry, and with his father's consent, on August 20th 1784, he entered the Baptist Academy at Bristol, then under the direction of Dr. Caleb Evans. Dr. Evans characterised Joseph Kinghorn as "a young man who merits everything that has been said of him. Joseph was a sound scholar, an able, though not what may be called a brilliant preacher, and of the amiable disposition in the world".

In mid-may of 1786, Joseph Kinghorn left Bristol to supply as a preacher three Sundays at Fairford, Gloucestershire, after spending six months on probation with the church in Fairford he then had the rare advantage of spending his entire ministerial career in one church, shepherding one people.

In 1789 Joseph Kinghorn entered his charge at St Mary's Baptist Church, Norwich, and from that place he devoted some forty years of successful labour for the Lord, sadly it was while he was still full of energy for the kingdom that after a short period of severe illness he passed into the fuller presence of the Lord.

Joseph Kinghorn made a lasting impression on the congregation at Norwich and after his death his memory was regarded with the most hallowed and deepest affection by all who had come to know him. He was a man who was endeared by his righteousness character and his conduct, his countenance and his manner of dress was something that many ministers today could learn from with their casual approach to both matters, he certainly left an indelible impression on all who had seen him on only one occasion.

It is recorded at a young friend said of him, using a perhaps excusable embellishment,
"If anyone had told me that Mr Kinghorn had been one of the Apostles, I should have believed him".

Joseph Kinghorn is regarded as one of the great figures of the Baptist movement,he was a prolific author, writing on important subjects of the Christian faith. He was also a decided Baptist of strong, settled convictions, and a very able defender of the closed-communion principle regarding the Lord's Supper. In 1816, he entered into the communion controversy, renewed by Robert Hall Jr., who publicly advocated that the churches adopt open-communion, in a pamphlet printed in 1815.

All though Kinghorn's works are mostly of a controversial nature, they are marked by careful, close reasoning, and a gracious spirit. He endeavoured, as he wrote, to "speak the truth in love." "I am a perpendicular man," was the way he described himself. Kinghorn swayed neither to the right hand nor to the left, none can thoughtfully read his compositions without profit. His advice and counsel were often sought for, and, as Martin Wilkin wrote, "Points of interest or difficulty occurring in the neighbouring Baptist churches were usually submitted to him for solution, and the ministers of those churches looked up to him for direction".

Joseph Kinghorn had a special interest in bringing the Gospel to the Jews, and was thought to be second only to John Gill in his knowledge of the Hebrew language and rabbinical literature. His sermons preached to the Jews reflect his deep concern for their lost condition, and he earnestly set forth Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and the only Saviour.

Joseph Kinghorn's useful life came to an end on Saturday evening, September 1st 1832. He was 66 years old. Of his death Martin Wilkin wrote:

"The news of Mr Kinghorn's sudden and
unexpected removal was a severe stroke to all
who knew him, and they felt that his place
would indeed never be supplied. It was said
by an evangelical clergyman in the county,
on hearing it, "if half Norwich had died the
loss would not have been so much felt."

A heritage plaque marks his home at the Grapes Hill end of Pottergate. Kinghorn was a great supporter of the American Colonies in their struggle for independence and also, at least in the early years, of the French Revolution.

Here lived
Scholar and Divine
Minister of St Mary's Baptist Church 1789-1832

Displayed at 104 Pottergate, Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK

(We are grateful to the Particular Baptist Press in granting permission for information from their publications to be used in the production of this web page)

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn
Volumes 1 & 2
Edited by Terry Wolever
Published by the Particular Baptist Press

The Founders Journal Review of The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn by Michael A. G. Haykin

This excellent work is a reprint of the mid nineteenth century edition of Martin Wilkinís biography of Kinghorn. Kinghorn was an early supporter of William Carey and the modern missions movement, as well as a notable scholar. His ability in the Word was much in demand by his peers and much respected by those with whom he differed. He was considered second only to John Gill in his rabbinical learning and was one of the godliest of pastors.

When complete this will be a four volume set. Volumes 3 and 4 will contain the complete debate between Kinghorn and his good friend Robert Hall over the communion issue. Mr. Kinghorn took issue with Hallís open communion position and a congenial, thorough debate followed. Both sides will be presented, so that any interested person will get the best arguments of each position from these two scholars.

Hard bound, grade B cloth vellum work on acid free paper.

Price £18.95 per volume (excluding carriage)

To purchase one or both of these volumes click here

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