English Baptist minister Robert Hall (1764-1831) was the namesake and youngest child of fourteen born to a Baptist minister. One website recounts his life thusly:
He was an accomplished theologian at the tender age of nine, having then mastered (among other works) “Edwards on the Will” and Butler’s “Analogy.” Notwithstanding such precocity, he did not prove to be a fool, but was one of the few “remarkable children” who turn out really remarkable men. In his fifteenth year he began his series of studies for the ministry at Bristol College, where his progress in learning was rapid; but as a preacher he seemed likely to be a failure. On his first public trial he repeatedly broke down, through an excessive sensibility that made public speech an agony to him, almost an impossibility. He mastered this weakness, however, and thenceforth steadily increased in power as an orator. Four years spent at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he was first in all his classes, brought him to his majority. His pastorates were at Cambridge, Leicester, and Bristol, and in each city his ministry was greatly successful. Many of his sermons were printed and had a wide circulation. No preacher of his time was more highly esteemed by the leaders of thought in Great Britain. Hall was master of an ornate and stately kind of eloquence long extinct in the pulpit, much esteemed in its day and perhaps too little esteemed now. To the present generation his sentences seem cumbrous, his style is pronounced affected and stilted, his tropes frigid. Indeed, the reader of today is at a loss to understand how his sermons could ever have won such encomiums as they received. Yet at his death, in 1831, it was universally agreed that one of the greatest lights of the pulpit had been extinguished.
Hall’s legacy as a popular preacher and cultural celebrity is now largely unknown. His Works, which were widely read in the nineteenth-century, are now rarely cited. Those who today walk by the statue of Hall in the middle of De Monfort Square in Leicester, England, certainly have no idea who he was. Hall was a defender of religious liberty, freedom of the press, and peace. The occasion of his sermon on war was the Day of Thanksgiving throughout England that was proclaimed for June 1, 1802, after the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in March that temporarily ended hostilities between France and Great Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars. I have transcribed the sermon from The Works of Robert Hall, A.M. (Vol. I, 4th ed., London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1834, pp. 81-121). – Laurence M. Vance