Rev. Charles Bradley (1789-1871)

CHARLES BRADLEY,  (1789–1871), eminent as a preacher and writer of sermons published between 1818 and 1853, belonged to the evangelical school of the church of England. He was born at Halstead, Essex, in February 1789. His parents, Thomas and Ann Bradley, were both of Yorkshire origin, but settled in Wallingford, where their son Charles, the elder of two sons, passed the greater part of the first twenty-five years of his life. He married, in 1810, Catherine Shepherd of Yattenden, took pupils and edited several school books, one or two of which are still in use. He was, for a time after his marriage, a member of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, but was ordained on reaching the age of 23, without proceeding to a degree, and in 1812 became curate of High Wycombe. Here for many years he combined the work of a private tutor with the sole charge of a large parish. Among his pupils were the late Mr. Smith O'Brien, the leader for a short time of the so-called national party in Ireland; Mr. Bonamy Price, professor of political economy in the university of Oxford; and Archdeacon Jacob, well known for more than half a century in the diocese and city of Winchester. His powers as a preacher soon attracted attention. He formed the acquaintance of William Wilberforce, Thomas Scott, the commentator, Daniel Wilson, and others; and a volume of sermons, published in 1818 with a singularly felicitous dedication to Lord Liverpool, followed by a second edition in 1820, had a wide circulation. The sixth edition was published in 1824, the eleventh in 1854.

In the year 1825 he was presented by Bishop Ryder (then bishop of St. Davids, afterwards of Lichfield) to the vicarage of Glasbury in Brecknockshire. Here a volume of sermons was published in 1825, which reached a ninth edition in 1854. He retained the living of Glasbury till his death, but in the year 1829 became the first incumbent of St. James's Chapel at Clapham in Surrey, where he resided, with some periods of absence, till 1852.

By this time his reputation as a preacher was fully established. His striking face and figure and dignified and impressive delivery added to the effect produced by the substance and style of his sermons, which were prepared and written with unusual care and thought. A volume of sermons published in 1831, followed by two volumes of ‘Practical Sermons’ in 1836 and 1838, by ‘Sacramental Sermons’ in 1842, and ‘Sermons on the Christian Life’ in 1853, had for many years an exceedingly large circulation, and were widely preached in other pulpits than his own, not only in England and Wales, but in Scotland and America. Of late years their sale greatly declined, but the interest taken in them has revived, and a volume of selections was published in 1884.

Quite apart from the character of their contents, as enforcing the practical and speculative side of Christianity from the point of view of the earlier leaders of the evangelical party in the church of England, the literary merits of Bradley's sermons will probably give them a lasting place in literature of the kind. No one can read them without being struck by their singular simplicity and force, and at the same time by the sustained dignity and purity of the language.

Bradley was the father of a numerous family. By his first wife, who died in 1831, he had thirteen children, of whom twelve survived him. The eldest of six sons was the Rev. C. Bradley of Southgate, well known in educational circles. The 4th, George Granville, was dean of Westminster 1881 to 1902, having been previously master of University College, Oxford, and head-master of Marlborough College. By his second marriage in 1840 with Emma, daughter of Mr. John Linton, he also left a large family, one of whom, Herbert Bradley, fellow of Merton College, Oxford, wrote on ethics and logic; another, Andrew Cecil, was fellow of Balliol, and professor of English literature at Liverpool.

Bradley spent the last period of his life at Cheltenham, where he died in August 1871.

[Dictionary of National Biography.]

On the “Sermons” of the Rev. Charles Bradley.

“Bradley’s discourses are judicious and practical, scriptural and devout. The Rev. E. Bickersteth pronounces them to be “very able and evangelical,”  and a writer in the Eclectic Review for 1827, observes “Bradley’s style is sententious, pithy, and colloquial. He is simple without being quaint, and he almost holds conversation with his hearers, without descending from the dignity of the sacred chair.” “We earnestly desire, that every pulpit in the kingdom may ever be the vehicle of discourses as judicious and practical, as scriptural and devout, as these.”—Christian Observer.”

[Library Review.]





WHEN an unsolicited instance of your kindness first led me to wish that I might be allowed to offer you this public testimony of my gratitude, I was withheld from making this wish known to your Lordship, by a consciousness of the want of every pretension to literary excellence in my intended publication, and by considerations connected with the humble station of its author. A little reflection however convinced me, that the hesitation which originated in such objections as these, ought not to have been indulged. I recollected that your Lordship sustained a higher character, than that of a peer or a statesman; and I knew that the meanest volume might possess recommendations which a Christian would estimate more highly, than the brightest displays of intellect or the richest graces of language.

That these recommendations are to be found in the following pages, is more perhaps than it becomes me to assert; but they would never have appeared before the public under the sanction of your name, had I not hoped that the principles inculcated in them are those of a book which you venerate, and of a church which you love. The efforts you have made to promote the religious education of the poor, and the zeal you have manifested in extending the circulation of the holy scriptures and in facilitating the public worship of the Almighty, are sufficient indications that the value of these principles is not unknown to your Lordship; and I feel assured that I cannot offer you a more acceptable tribute of the gratitude I owe you, than by earnestly praying that the influence of these sacred truths may daily become more powerful in your breast, and their blessedness more richly enjoyed in your heart. They can do more, my Lord, than render you a benefactor to the church, an ornament to your country, and a blessing to the world. They can make you the servant and the friend of God, the citizen of a kingdom which cannot be moved, and the heir of a glory which fadeth not away.

I have the honour to remain, my Lord, Your Lordship’s very much obliged and most obedient Servant,

High Wycombe, July 1, 1818.




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