Henry Hopkins

Henry Hopkins (1787 – 1870) merchant and philanthropist
The one thing this shrewd little man deemed more important than money, success or worldly goods was his religion. Brought up in an era of religious revival and missionary activity when the great missionary and philanthropic societies were being founded in England, Hopkins had a strong personal faith and that missionary spirit which impels the believer ‘to go into all the world and preach the gospel’, or in his case, to supply funds for spreading the Word.

The one thing this shrewd little man deemed more important than money, success or worldly goods was his religion. Brought up in an era of religious revival and missionary activity when the great missionary and philanthropic societies were being founded in England, Hopkins had a strong personal faith and that missionary spirit which impels the believer ‘to go into all the world and preach the gospel’, or in his case, to supply funds for spreading the Word. To all causes that appealed to him, he contributed with ‘princely liberality’.

The London Missionary Society and the building of Congregational churches called forth his most lavish gifts, but although firm in his own faith he was no bigot, and he gave generously to the building funds of Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches and of St David’s Cathedral. When All Saints’ Anglican Church was founded he was the first to come forward with his donation, while the neighbouring Davey Street Methodist Church bears his name on its foundation stone. According to his son-in-law George Clarke, ‘Money he regarded as a trust and a stewardship, and all his life he acted on the principle of devoting a fixed proportion of his income to objects of Christian philanthropy. Much that he gave is known, much more is a secret that he never disclosed’.

Hopkins has often been credited with founding Congregationalism in Australia. Soon after his arrival he began to teach in the Wesleyan Sunday school, and for ten years he worshipped with the Presbyterians. But Hopkins wanted his accustomed form of worship, and in 1828 he wrote to the London Missionary Society asking for a pastor and offering him a home. This resulted two years later in the arrival of Rev. Frederick Miller and the building of the Brisbane Street Chapel. In 1835 Hopkins was again instrumental in bringing out a second Independent minister, Rev. John Nisbet. He also gave land for the Berea chapel in Liverpool Street and in 1837 built the Collins Street chapel, Hobart, at his sole expense. When this became too small and a meeting discussed the building of Davey Street Church, the minute book recorded that ‘Mr. Hopkins engages to pay a sum equal to that which may be collected within the twelve months from 1st August 1853’.

Many country churches also received his support, and in 1837 he asked the new Colonial Missionary Society for a minister to be sent to Melbourne, and gave money for his outfit and passage. In September 1839 Hopkins laid the foundation of the first Victorian Congregational Church, ‘a neat and spacious brick building’ at the corner of Collins and Russell Streets. Twenty-seven years later, when it was replaced by the present church, Hopkins again journeyed to Melbourne to lay that foundation stone. About this time, too, he gave a further £3000 to the London Missionary Society, and £1000 for a bursary to Camden College, Sydney, for the training of Congregationalist ministers. His last public act was to lay the foundation stone of the Memorial Church, Hobart, to which he donated £500.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hopkins-henry-2197

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