Noble, Samuel (DNB00)

NOBLE, SAMUEL (1779–1853), engraver, and minister of the ‘new church,’ was born in London on 4 March 1779. His father, Edward Noble (d. 1784), was a bookseller, and author of ‘Elements of Linear Perspective,’ 1772, 8vo. His brothers, George and William Bonneau Noble, are separately noticed. His mother provided him with a good education, including Latin, and he was apprenticed to an engraver. His religious convictions were the result of a reaction, in his seventeenth year (1796), against Paine's ‘Age of Reason;’ he appears to have anticipated, as a natural deduction from Paine's premises, that denial of the real existence of Jesus Christ which Paine did not publish till 1807. About 1798 he fell in with Swedenborg's ‘Heaven and Hell,’ as translated (1778) by William Cookworthy [q. v.] At first repelled, he afterwards became fascinated by Swedenborg's doctrines, and attached himself to the preaching of Joseph Proud [q. v.], at Cross Street, Hatton Garden. In his profession he acquired great skill as an architectural engraver, and made a good income.

Proud urged him to the ministry of the ‘new church’ as early as 1801, and he occasionally preached, but declined, in 1805, as being too young, invitation to take charge of the Cross Street congregation. He was one of the founders (1810) of the existing ‘Society for printing and publishing the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg;’ and assisted in establishing (1812) a quarterly organ, ‘The Intellectual Repository and New Jerusalem Magazine,’ of which till 1830 he was the chief editor and principal writer. In 1819 he resigned good prospects in his profession to become the successor of Thomas F. Churchill, M.D., a minister of the Cross Street congregation (then worshipping in Lisle Street, Leicester Square). He was ordained on Whitsunday, 1820. His ministry was able and effective, though his utterance was ‘marred by some defect in his palate’ (White). The congregation, which had been overflowing under Proud, and had since declined, was raised by Noble to a more solid prosperity, and purchased (about 1829) the chapel in Cross Street, then vacated by Edward Irving. In addition to his regular duties he engaged in mission work as a lecturer both in London and the provinces. His ‘Appeal,’ which ‘among Swedenborgians … holds the same place that Barclay's “Apology” does among the quakers’ (White), originated in lectures at Norwich in reply to the ‘Anti-Swedenborg’ (1824) by George Beaumont, minister at Ebenezer Chapel (independent methodist) in that city. Coleridge characterises the ‘Appeal’ as ‘a work of great merit,’ and remarks that ‘as far as Mr. Beaumont is concerned, his victory is complete.’

Noble's leadership of his denomination was not undisputed. His first controversy was with Charles Augustus Tulk (1786–1849) [q. v.], a rationaliser of Swedenborg's theology, who was excluded from the society. Noble was the first to develope a doctrine which, by many of his co-religionists, was viewed as a heresy. He held that our Lord's body was not resuscitated, but dissipated in the grave, and replaced at the resurrection by a new and divine frame. Hence the controversy between ‘resuscitationists’ and ‘dissipationists;’ John Clowes [q. v.] and Robert Hindmarsh [q. v.] rejected Noble's view, but his chief antagonist was William Mason (1790–1863). In support of Noble's position, a ‘Noble Society’ was formed.

In 1848 Noble suffered from cataract, and, in spite of several operations, became permanently blind. He revised, by help of amanuenses, the translation of Swedenborg's ‘Heaven and Hell,’ giving it the title, ‘The Future Life’ (1851). He died on 27 Aug. 1853, and was buried at Highgate cemetery.

His chief publications are: 1. ‘The Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures asserted and the Principles of their Composition investigated.’ London, 1825, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1856. 2. ‘An Appeal on behalf of the … Doctrines … held by the … New Church,’ &c., 1826, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1838, 8vo, was enlarged and remodelled, omitting personal controversy; to the 12th edit. 1893, 16mo, were added indexes; French transl. St. Amand, 1862. 3. ‘Important Doctrines of the True Christian Religion,’ &c., Manchester, 1846, 8vo. 4. ‘The Divine Law of the Ten Commandments,’ 1848, 8vo.

[Memoir by William Bruce, prefixed to third (1855) and later editions of the Appeal; White's Swedenborg, 1867, i. 230, ii. 613 sq.; information from James Speirs, esq.]

A. G.