Samuel Eyles Pierce was the son of Adam and Susannah Pierce, and was born at Up-Ottery, in the county of Devon, June 11th, 1746. Up-Ottery is about five miles from Honiton, and at that time the Vicar of the parish was the Rev. Joseph Chilcott, Samuel’s maternal grandfather. He was born in the Vicarage-house. His mother was a godly woman, and before his birth she made a promise that if the Lord would be pleased to grant her a son she would give him up, and devote him to His service, doing her utmost to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Though born in the Vicarage- house, his mother soon returned with him to Honiton, where he was brought up. She taught him Dr. Watts’s hymns, and used to recite to him many of the Scripture narratives, and encouraged him to ask her questions, to which her answers were concise and plain. Being an only child, his mother did not suffer him to be long out of her sight, nor join other boys in play; and as he grew up he used to think, “I will by no means vex my dear mother.” Brought up in the worship of the Church of England, and outwardly moral, he says, “I resolved to prepare myself and go to the Lord’s table.” This was about the time of the great earth- quake at Lisbon. The minister at Honiton preached several awful and alarming sermons on the occasion, and throughout the kingdom there were such awakenings as had not been evidenced for a long time. These, however, in many instances passed away, leaving the mind wholly unrenewed and destitute of the true knowledge of Jesus Christ. “I am sure,” says Mr. Pierce, “it was thus with me. I went to church and sacrament; I observed prayer and fasting, and this I then thought was to be heavenly-minded. I was continually perplexed.” His mother borrowed a book, entitled, “The Crucified Jesus,” by Hornack, which he read. ” Before I got half through it I experienced what I never felt before, so that I was dead to all but Christ. The Scriptures flowed in upon my mind, and the Holy Spirit by this means led me into contemplation of the love of God. The change thus produced in my mind was so different from all I was the subject of before, that I most solemnly ascribe it to the Spirit of the living God, and to what the Scriptures speak of when the divine writers in them set forth and speak of the new birth. As it respects the evidence of my regeneration, it consisted in the following effects. I had an inward experimental relish of the love of God. My mind was often spiritually engaged with God, and I was under sacred and gracious impressions. The acknowledgment of Christ’s Godhead was inlaid within me by the Holy Spirit as an engrafted truth, so that I was never after permitted to call it into question.
“The providence of God soon after led me under the ministry of the Rev. Augustus Toplady, by which I was brought into much blessed apprehension of Jesus Christ as All in all in the sinner’s salvation, and had opened up to my spiritual understanding many glorious discoveries of the fulness, the completeness, and the certainty of the redemption that is in Christ.”
His cousin, Mr. Chilcott, coming to Honiton, and offering to take him to London, he consented, as he wanted to hear Mr. W. Romaine. “In the first sermon I heard Mr. Romaine preach he said, in his discourse, ‘Sirs, if you had all the holiness and all the righteousness of all the angels in heaven, it would profit you nothing. There is no righteousness will pass current in the high court of heaven but the righteousness of Jehovah-Jesus.’ I was overcome with holy admiration, and thought with myself, should I continue in London, I would most certainly be a hearer of him. I constantly went every Lord’s Day, and I was so swallowed up in hearing that I always stood, nor did I lose one single sentence; I received it into my very heart. Mr. Romaine often expressed himself thus: ‘It was so-and-so contrived by the counsel and covenant of the Eternal Three.’ I had never been used to such expressions. There was a sublimity and greatness in them which reflected their glory and majesty on my mind. “In August, 1775, I left London, and returned to Honiton, to my father and aunt, but my relation of the Lord’s dealings with me met with little sympathy from them. Feeling an inclination for the ministry, and being advised by friends, in my thirty-first year I entered the Countess of Huntingdon’s college at Trevecca, from where I was sent out to preach, in 1776, at Hay, in Brecknockshire. I was all for preaching a finished salvation. But this was not acceptable even to the students. About this time I was afflicted with a severe ague, and at the point of death. One morning a fellow-student, the late Mr. John Clayton, of the Weigh House Chapel, came to my room and asked me the state of my mind. I replied, ‘I have nothing to do with that. This I know, if I die at the present time I have nothing to trust in but the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and if I live a hundred years longer I shall have no other foundation to die on.’ Mr. Clayton replied, ‘Blessed be God, He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’ And upon this the glories of the world to come broke in upon my view, and I thought it was too good news to die.”
Lady Huntingdon visited him. He told her that he never had any peace but when looking at the atonement. “She said, ‘This is very right. God the Father allows us no other object to look at but Christ. If I was a preacher I would preach no other subject but Christ and salvation. I must be saved just as the thief was on the cross.’ As soon as I was able, she would have me preach in the study. I stood so as to face her ladyship and Lady Anne Erskine, with my back to the students. I thought to myself, ‘I have now those before me who understand the subject.’ Her ladyship was well pleased. She gave me most excellent advice, and prayed for me.”
After preaching about at various places, he accepted the call of the Independent Church at Truro, in Cornwall, to become their pastor, in August, 1783. The following year he was married to a widow, Mrs. Sarah Randall.
While at Truro he published his “Discourse on the Lord’s Supper,” which brought him into friendship with many believers in London; and visiting the Metropolis he preached there for the first time at Stockwell, and became acquainted with Mr. Thomas Bailey, who continued to be firmly attached to him the remainder of his life. He was also convinced of the ordinance of believers’ baptism, and was accordingly baptized by his friend Mr. Pitts, of Chard, and always after was very decided upon this subject. Renewed invitations coming to him from his friend, he was induced to remove to London, and a place was engaged in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, for a Tuesday evening lecture, and on a Lord’s Day morning. For a time he preached in the Baptist Chapel, Redcross Street, but he ultimately became the settled minister of the chapel in Shoe Lane.
The congregation which he had gathered was formed into a Church in 1809. In addition to this, he preached at Bethel Chapel, built by his friend Mr. Thomas Bailey, contiguous to his own house at Brixton. Mr. Pierce lost his first wife in 1808, and remained a widower upwards of eleven years, and then married for his second wife (in November, 1819) Miss Elizabeth Turquand. She was some years younger than himself, but was every way suited for him—a kind wife, and, when needful, a tender, sympathizing nurse, and altogether attached to his ministry. Mr. Bailey fitted up for them rooms in Bethel House, where they resided. This Mr. Bailey and his good wife were members formerly with the Rev. William Romaine, and the love of Christ had enlarged their heart, that what they possessed they freely disposed of for the benefit of the Lord’s sent servants and His poor people. They built and endowed a number of almshouses, situate in the Acre Lane, Brixton, which are occupied by aged Christian men and women. I once visited one of these inmates, a very spiritually-minded woman, and one of her most admired pictures was a large steel engraving of “S, E. Pierce.”
On Dr. Hawker’s last visit to London, he was accosted by a gentleman on his leaving St. Ann’s, Blackfriars, who lamented his return home. The Doctor replied, “My dear sir, I shall not take away the Gospel with me.” “Where,” said the person, “would you advise me to go and hear it?” The Doctor rejoined, “Go and hear Mr. Pierce, at Shoe Lane. Not that I mean to put myself on a level with that man of God. Still, I hope I am hobbling after him, though at a great distance.”
Much more might be recorded of this eminently-gracious and highly-favoured and spiritually-minded man, and his many choice writings, worth their weight in gold, but space forbids it. His wife says of him: “During the nine years and six months that I was honoured in being united to him, it was but seldom that many days passed without his being so ill as to give reason to apprehend that the Lord was about to take him to Himself. He invariably expressed himself as firmly fixed on the Rock, and that he should die in the full belief of what he preached so many years. ‘I have a blessed prospect before me. I am full of the hope of a glorious immortality. The Lord be magnified. Amen.’ During his last illness he said, ‘I cannot be far from the stroke of death, but I live and die in the full belief of Christ as God-Man, God manifest in the flesh, God over all, blessed for evermore. Amen. I die in the belief of the perfection of the work of Christ for salvation. In it alone I trust. And I die in the belief of God the Spirit’s testimony concerning the same, and that to the glory of Three-in-One be ascribed everlasting praise.’ He remained apparently insensible to anything to this life for about a day and a-half, and then fell asleep on Jesus, on May 10th, 1829, aged eighty-three years, after having been an honoured minister of Christ upwards of fifty years.” His mortal remains are interred in Lambeth new burying-ground, in Mr. Arnott’s family vault, awaiting the archangel’s trump.
Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) was a sovereign grace preacher and writer. In 1783, he was appointed pastor of an Independent church meeting at Truro. After a six year ministry, the congregation charged him with Antinomianism and “preaching above the capacities of the people”. Having been forced out from the community, he lived several years with a friend. In 1802, he was appointed lecturer at the Tuesday-evening meetings at the Good Samaritan’s, Shoe Lane. In 1809, a group of his hearers formed themselves into a church, meeting at Eagle and Child Alley, which became known as Printer’s Court Chapel. He was appointed pastor at that time. He continued throughout the course of his ministry to serve as an itinerate preacher, eagerly sought after by those congregations clinging to “a finished salvation”.