HOPKINS, Rice Thomas (1842-1916) • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

HOPKINS, Rice Thomas (1842-1916)

Ian McDowell, ,

HOPKINS, RICE THOMAS (b. Plymouth England, 1842, d. Melbourne, Vic, 1916). Businessman, Bible teacher, Brethren leader.

His Congregational parents gave Rice Thomas Hopkins a classical education under Dr R F Weymouth and Dr S P Tregelles of NT revision and criticism fame. Hopkins became a Christian in 1858, and began to preach immediately wherever a crowd could be gathered, as at fairs and hangings. A student at Spurgeon's College, C H Spurgeon baptised him in 1862. He became a well-known evangelist in Scotland and the Orkneys with Duncan Mathieson, James Boswell, Donald Munro and others during the evangelical awakening following 1859.

Disturbed at what he saw as a difficulty in finding evangelical churches which would nurture his converts, Hopkins associated increasingly with Open Brethren, and contributed extensively to their British periodical Needed Truth. He emigrated with his family to Australia in 1882 as agent for the Scottish textile firm J & R Archibald, and established a business in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Other companion evangelists Harrison Ord and John Hambledon came to Australia in 1876 and 1879 respectively.

Hopkins' Bible teaching gifts soon attracted a following, and he taught God's Word throughout Australia and New Zealand. To accommodate the numbers wishing to hear him in Melbourne, he built a hall in Carlisle St Balaclava. Again faced by the ongoing difficulty of finding evangelical churches of similar outlook, a group subsequently bearing the Hopkins name divided from Open Brethren in 1883. Because of differences with the Needed Truth editors over church leadership, Hopkins Brethren declined to associate with their faction after they broke away from Open Brethren in England in 1893.

Rice Thomas Hopkins had four sons and two daughters. The family graves may be seen in the Society of Friends section of Melbourne Central Cemetery. With other leaders, his sons John and Will carried on the Hopkins Brethren work. The group reunited with Open Brethren in 1961.

Ian McDowell, A Brief History of the "Brethren" (Sydney, 1968); Hopkins family MSS




Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004


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