February 14: Gov. Edwin D. Morgan

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Presbyterian Governor with treasures in heaven

Edwin D. Morgan was a typical American citizen in many ways, but also one who had extraordinary gifts in the church and state. Born February 8, 1811 on his father’s farm in Washington, Massachusetts, he would begin his work experience as a clerk in his uncle’s store in Hartford, Connecticut. After that ordinary job, his rise in the business and political world was unprecedented. At the age of twenty-one, he was elected to the city council in Hartford. Moving to New York City in 1836, he engaged in the mercantile business and rapidly accumulated wealth. In 1850, he was elected to the New York Senate and became president pro tempore. Eight years later, he was elected governor of the state by a plurality of 17,000 votes. Serving out his eight years in that highest office in the state, he became a United States senator in the midst of the Civil War. It was up, up, up in political office opportunities, but it was his spiritual side which attracted the most attention.

He was a spiritual leader in the membership of Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. Serving as president of the Board of Trustees, and in semi-retirement, he devoted himself to religious and charitable work. He backed up that work by the giving of thousands of dollars to Presbyterian ministries. The Presbyterian Hospital, and later on Union Theological Seminary, were recipients of his grants of money. In his will alone, some $795, 000 was designated for religious charities.

When he passed away on February 14, 1883, his departure from this earth was filled with peace. With his pastor standing beside his deathbed, he said, “I am ready to go now, if it is God’s will, for it is better to be with him. I know that I have not been a good man, but I have tried to do God’s bidding. I leave myself in His hands, for there I am safe.” After spending a few minutes in prayer, the dying man rose up partly from the bed and said, “How sweet, how precious, how comfortable. Christ my Savior,” and with these closing words, passed from earth to glory.

Words to Live By: Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:19 – 21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV)

Through the Scriptures: Leviticus 17 – 19

Through the Standards God ordains a covenant.

WCF 7:1
“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.”

WLC 20
“What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?  A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself, instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.”

WSC 12 — “What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A.  When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.”

Image source: Nevin, Alfred, Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, 1884, page 545. Digital scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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