George Wilkins, D.D.
“The prophecies of the Old Testament referring to the former destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, were most of them fulfilled a second time by Titus; indeed, they appear to bear a particular reference to this latter siege.”
Joscphus, as well as the author of the Acts, mention the Egyptian false Prophet, who coming to Jerusalem, collected a great multitude; and PROMISED to shew them, from the Mount of Olives, that at his command, the walls of the city should fall down; but Felix sent a body of soldiers against them, when being, put to flight, most of them perished.
Thus, the exact fulfilment of the various circumstances which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, as clearly foretold the approaching judgment of heaven, as the mission of the Baptist could intimate the coming of the Messiah; nor was the declaration of John, ” that one, mightier than he, was about to come after him,” more explicit, than the occurrence of these particular circumstances; in assuring the nation of the Jews, when they should see all these things happen, they might know that their destruction was near, ” even at the doors.” (p. 76)
“WE have now seen in what a remarkable manner the memorable words of Christ and the Prophets have been fulfilled by the signal overthrow of the Jewish church and nation. We have seen the Romans unexpected spectators of the dissentions of the people, and the ambition of their leaders witnessing the sparks of faction, kindled to ablaze, and unchecked by the hostile aspect of a warrior army marching to their gates—we have seen them enduring distress and anguish, calamity, and torture, unequalled in the annals of history, and never to to be paralleled again. ” Their blood has been shed ” out like water;” their Temple ” consumed with fire,” their city depopulated, and their country laid desolate.
Such has been the exemplary punishment inflicted on this disobedient people, who having rejected the Lord’s Messiah and slain his servants, have themselves been forsaken by their God, and destroyed by famine and the sword.”
Soon after the tribulation of these days,” saith our Saviour to his disciples, when taking a prophetic view of those sufferings which many of his zealous servants should endure; ” soon after the tribulation of these days, the violence of persecution shall abate.” (pp. 170-171)
“Maimonides calls this metaphorical expression ” proverbial, importing (as it often does in the Old Testament and other writings) the destruction and utter ruin of a nation, and the downfall of their great powers.” The destruction of Egypt is thus represented by Ezekiel,—I will cover the Heavens and make the stars thereof dark, I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon shall not give her light, and the bright lights of Heaven will I make dark over thee. ixii. 7, S, See destruction, and a more than Egyptian darkness shall come upon them—when their kingdom shall have been left desolate, and their religious light obscured—when the people shall have fallen, and the powers of their kingdom shaken—when these tokens of my appearance to execute this judgment shall have happened, and there shall have been great lamentation, and the tribes of the earth have mourned—when the fulfilment of all these things shall have been as apparent as if I came in the clouds of heaven to give the world the assurance that this judgment was authorised by me—when thus the Jewish power, and their opposition to the Gospel shall have been brought to an end; then will I commission my servants to proclaim and publish salvation to the world at large, and they shall raise an army of believers from the four quarters of the world, from one end of the earth to the other. When these things begin to come to pass, be confident and joyful: behold! your deliverance from persecution is rapidly approaching, and the kingdom of heaven is drawing near at hand !” (p. 171)
Ordained 1810, Curate of Great Plumstead 1808, Curate of Hadleigh, Suffolk 1808 – 1815, Vicar of Laxton, Nottinghamshire 1813 – 1817, Vicar of Lowdham, Nottinghamshire 1815 – 1839
Vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham 1817 – 1843
Prebendary of Southwell Minster 1823 – 1865, Rector of Wing, Rutland 1827 – 1839, Archdeacon of Nottingham 1832 – 1865, Rector of Beelsby, Lincolnshire 1843 – 1865
George Wilkins came from a family of architects. His brother William designed several famous buildings including the National Gallery in London. His father was estate architect to the head of the Pierrepont family, who since 1806 had been styled the Earl Manvers.
In accepting the incumbency of St. Mary’s, George Wilkins took on a parish with an enormous workload and limited financial resources. In his first year, he and a single curate between them took 1,127 baptisms and 897 burial services. In addition there were marriages and churchings in a parish of 33,000 souls. The vicar of St. Mary’s also had extensive civic duties. Corporation elections were solemnised in church and national events demanded special services, but these events did not confer much prestige on Wilkins. The powerful local Corporation was dominated by Nonconformists. The small number of bishops also created problems; confirmations of Nottingham folk were usually held in St. Mary’s, as the building could hold the largest number of people. Confirmations often exceeded 4,000 people at a time.
The first full year of Wilkins incumbency coincided with the Government establishing the Million Fund, a grant of one million pounds for the building of churches in populous areas. Wilkins secured money for the building of St. Paul’s Church, on George Street, which opened in October 1822. Other churches which Wilkins formed out of St. Mary’s parish were Holy Trinity, opened in 1841 and St. John’s Leenside, 1844.
During his incumbency, he had to deal with not only the strength of the Nonconformists in Nottingham but the demise of the church rate. This struggle took a great toll on him. The lack of a church rate impoverished St. Mary’s but Wilkins found funds to complete a scheme to renovate the interior of St. Mary’s in 1838/39. This enlarged the seating capacity in the body of the nave, placed the pulpit centrally in full view of the congregation, and brought the reading-desk some way down the central aisle so that everybody could hear the Gospel. The galleries were done away with to improve the acoustics, the organ moved to the west-end and the chancel cut off to form a separate area for special services.
In 1842, when all the money was spent, it was discovered that the piers of the central tower were not solid masonry, but an outer casing containing builders’ rubble. Cracks appeared, the architect L.N. Cottingham, was summoned and the church was closed on Christmas day. Part of the church must have re-opened shortly afterwards. In March 1843, an incident famous in Nottingham history was the final straw for Wilkins. The congregation panicked during a service and stormed out of the church, fearing its imminent collapse. A crowd gathered on Sneinton hill to watch, but it didn’t fall. The church remained closed until 1848.
Wilkins resigned as vicar of St. Mary’s and was succeeded by Joshua Brooks in 1843. However, he continued in his role as Archdeacon of Nottingham.
Adapted with kind permission from The Anglican Church in the Industrialised Town, St. Mary’s Parish, Nottingham 1770-1884 M.W.Bowen MA, M Phil, University of Nottingham, October 1997
What do YOU think ?
Submit Your Comments For Posting Here