The Rev W. Whitaker

The following is all rather over the top in its subjective praise, about something that would not be of interest to readers today (how well a person preaches). Of interest is not the opinion that dominates, but the references to belief. Clearly W. Whitaker was something of a theological conservative, even allowing for the journalist's apparent interest to show that Rev. Whitaker matches up with more orthodox brethren. Although Whitaker allows for the possibility that others may attain the divinity given to Jesus, he clearly thinks that Jesus has a divinity (or deity?) different from anyone else. He rejects revisionist New Theology, states the journalist from some direct source. One might ask, how does Whitaker know that Jesus possesses a divinity different from anyone else? It cannot be a matter of historical accident, because we don't have the data and the evidence of ethical morality is no more than a comparative league table. It might be experience or impression. But that counts for nothing. It's more 'conservative' than this. Elsewhere Whitaker upholds theism of a revelatory grace-giving kind. If others attain Jesus's apparent level of divinity, it will be through grace or the action of God. Whitaker states we cannot help ourselves (thus giving the lie to the idea that Unitarianism as such is defined by pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps). So it must be the action of God, that is grace, by revelation, and these are known by doctrine. So, in a sense, it makes Whitaker, something of a Reformation Arian, that is where Jesus has a relationship with God less than God but still possessing that of God and from God that is God-like. At the same time other Unitarians could see that all of this was preset and a matter of opinion, and ultimately subjective, unless of course it were to be upheld by the 'objectivity' of an institution and its rules.

The Rev W. Whitaker, B.A.,
at Park-street,

The wise old Proverbalist says, "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life." The meaning of Solomon is that the longer one waits and the more intensely one desires the attainment of any specific good, the richer and more delectable is the enjoyment when the object is realised. That was my pleasant experience on Sunday morning when visiting the above church, for the purpose of hearing its beloved and eminently competent pastor.


Ever since Mr Whitaker's advent into the city I have been reading and hearing so many high encomiums pronounced upon him that for months past I have strongly desired to hear him, and, having done so, I can honestly say the many good and glowing things I have read and heard were not exaggerated. I have either heard or read that he was formerly a Primitive Methodist. If that is so then say so much the more to his credit, for the Primitives are noted for producing good and effective speakers. It does not weigh so much with them whether a young man is eminent in scholastic attainments, but the principal questions are - Is be right at the centre? Is his heart in tune with the Infinite? Does he possess a soul absorbing passion for the salvation of men, and, like Paul,  willing to become "all things to all men," that thereby he may save some? And does he possess to a high degree the preaching faculty, or in other words is he a born preacher? Mr. Whitaker gave conclusive proof on Sunday morning that he possesses these high qualities. The pulpit is his throne.
Why left the Primitives is not for me to say: perhaps be disapproved of some things in their polity, Church government, itinerating; or, perhaps, his views changed in relation to some points in theology which caused him to leave the friends of his youth. If so, who can blame him? I do not. The right of private judgment in matters sacred, as well as things secular, is the inalienable right of every man. Judging by what I heard I am inclined to think that his conception of Jesus is far higher than that of many who call themselves trinitarians. Because a man cannot accept a metaphysical theory constructed in the dim and distant past relative to the personality of Christ, some who never think, who have never attempted to face the subject, who have never for one moment applied their own thought and reason to it, consign beyond all possibility of salvation the man who says, "I cannot see my way clear to accept such and such views." My experience has taught me that men of that class are more beautiful transcripts of the mind, methods and character of Christ than those of the former class. To be like Christ, have His mind, breathe his spirit, is the all important thing. While I write I think of a rebuke which that great preacher, a man only a "little lower than he angels" (Robertson, of Brighton), a man who has helped thousands of preachers in their thinking and spiritual life, once administered to a lady. Entering his study and seeing the life of Channing on his table, she denounced him for reading' such a book. His answer was, "If I only Loved the Lord Jesus Christ as Chanmng loved Him, I should be satisfied."
Mr Whitaker believes in Christ, lives Christ, preaches Christ, and, as I have already said, has a far higher conception of Him than many who call themselves Trinitarians. I will corroborate that by quoting from one of his printed productions in 'which he is criticising the "New" theology. This is 'what he says: "It avails nothing to insist that God is revealed in Jesus if He is regarded in the same sense in the All. For the revelation of Jesus has a different substance from the revelation of the All. You cannot lose yourself in the transport of the All, the mood of immanence and at the same time drink in the spirit of the Cross. Cosmic emotion can never be identified with the specific experience we call Christian. The incarnation of God in man is not yet as true of us as we pray it may become. We are not yet so much one with God as Jesus was. Any theory of Immanence that says we are (Jesus is God, and so are you) misses its aim."


Mr Whitaker had been represented to me as a "learned, thoughtful, and devout preacher," and that he most certainly is. He preached an ideal sermon. The conception of his subject was clear and lofty; the arrangement of his matter neat and methodical, and each section of his discourse was enriched by a wealth of illustration which gave me pleasant surprise. His language was choice, and at times strikingly ornate. His voice is pleasant, delivery smooth and easy, but impressive; and his gestures faultless. His sermon was well timed and nicely suited to the memorable occasion, the first Sabbath of the New Year. His text was selected from a chapter in Philippians, where Paul says "Count not myself to have apprehended," that is, he had not attained unto perfection, "but this one thing I do, forgetting these things that are behind and reaching forth to these things that are before I press forward to the mark of the prize of high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Then comes the text, "Whereunto we have already attained let us walk by the same rule: Let us mind the same thing." It is a military term, which means march on in order. The key note of the sermon, which is all my space will permit me to give, was that there are "things most surely believed," things of the great past, which we have tested and proved to be true by personal experience; things spiritual and eternal; these things must still have our supreme attention. We must take the same things into the new year which have so divinely touched and influenced us in the past; these are the things of which we are fully assured. We are more fully convinced of the reality and of spiritual things than of things physical and known to the senses. We must not let these great things of the past weaken their hold upon our life in the future. If God has been God to us in the past year, He ought to be more to be more to us in the new year. A happy New Year remains for us all if we continue to walk by the same rule, and continue to practice the same Holy exercises. I have seldom seen a congregation listen more attentively to a preacher. From first to last they followed the sermon closely; evincing the fact that it was a source of spiritual stimulus and rich enjoyment to them.


The building is one I very much admire. The seats are commodious and comfortable, and the whole edifice clean as a new shilling. I noticed a goodly number of mural tablets In memory- of benefactors and friends of the church who have passed Into the dreamless rest. There is also one of the largest and most beautiful stained glass windows I ever saw. The service was calm, subdued, and intensely spiritual. There was no delirious rapture or wild enthusiasm, but a calm, sacred hush pervaded the whole. Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer were impressively read by the pastor. Some Nonconformists would object to this, but there is neither rhyme nor reason in the objection. They must be blind bigots who cannot see that many of the prayers, especially those used by Mr Whitaker, are entitled to rank among the highest productions of 'devout genius. They are rich in manifold Christian experience, comprehensive in their recognition of human want, and most powerful and subduing in their expression of reverence. The Essex Hall hymnal is used, to which authors whose loyalty to orthodox Christianity is above suspicion, such as Dean Alford, Francis Havergal, Keble, Ken, Luthor, Lyte, & c., have contributed. Mr. Alfred Rymer presided at the organ, and Mr Ernest Rymer, a staunch friend of the church, a gentleman highly esteemed, is choirmaster, and Miss Cartwright is leading singer. The choir is small, and is greatly in need of a few more good voices. The  Te Deum and hymns were creditably rendered, especially "O God, the Rock of Ages." The choir has one rare quality, their singing is sympathetic - they abandon themselves to the tunes and hymns. I like that, because I am quite sure that the soul of music is the music of the soul.
The service was one of deep joy and delight. I like the people, some of whom I have personally known for some years, and known them to be close followers of Jesus, some of the excellent of the earth, who show their faith by their works. I shall be glad for the time to come for me to pay another visit. Meanwhile I would strongly recommend my readers who have no fixed religious home to go to Park-street, where they will hear one of the ablest of our city preachers, and meet with a cordial reception from the officials and the people.


"Marcus Faithful"/ Hull Daily News (1909), 'Hull's Religious Life: The Rev W. Whitaker, B.A., at Park Street' in Hull Daily News, January 6th, 1909, 3.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful