November 23: Rev. Adam Boyd

This Day in Presbyterian History:

An Old Side Presbyterian Plants Numerous Churches

One would need a firm grip on God’s sovereignty to live and minister in the early days of our country. It was true that countless Scot-Irish families resided throughout the regions of colonial America.  But it was also true that whereas there were many members of the Presbyterian faith, under-shepherds to care for them were few indeed. So when a colony of Presbyterians found a pastor, he usually stayed a long time.  Such was the case for the Rev. Adam Boyd.

Born in Ballymoney,  Ireland in 1692, he  moved first to New England in either 1722 or 1723.  Recommended by the venerable Cotton Mather, he was called by the Scots-Irish people at Octoraro and Pequea, Pennsylvania churches.  Ordained to the gospel ministry on October 13th, he began his ministry to the people of this new colony. It was an extensive field of labor, to which by foot and horseback, he visited the people faithfully as he  cared for the spiritual needs.

A week after his ordination, at the age of thirty-two, he married Jane Craighead,  the daughter of their first pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead. From their marriage, ten children—five sons and five daughters—were born.

In 1741, a schism occurred in the infant Presbyterian Church, between what became known as the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians.  Rev. Boyd stayed with the Old Side Presbyterians, even though many of his congregation favored the revivalist approach of the New Side branch. Eventually, a fair number left his ministry and began a New Side Presbyterian congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was forced to leave the remnant which was left and minister to the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, which was Old Side Presbyterian. When differences were finally mended and Old Side and New Side reunited in 1758, the two branches of the Octorora church came back together and were one church again.

Even though he was Old Side Presbyterian, it was said that he in his forty-four years started 16 daughter and “granddaughter” churches. Here was an Old Side ministerial member who defied the typical Old Side opposition to planting new churches. Rev. Boyd would go to be with the Lord on November 23, 1768, at 76 years of age.

It  was said on his tombstone that he was “eminent for life, modest purity, diligence in office, possessing prudence, equanimity, and peace.”

View a photograph of Rev. Boyd’s gravesite, here.

Words to live by:  It is easy to put men and movements into nice neat little pockets.  You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and they were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were settled in a rut of education prowess from the mother country.  Adam Boyd breaks the appearance, as he planted a dozen plus congregations in his forty-four year ministry.  Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”  What seems to be so, may not be so.  Be careful.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 5 – 8

Through the Standards:  Dispensing the Lord’s Supper, from the catechism

WLC 169 — “How has Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?
A.  Christ has appointed the ministers of the word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.”

Image source: Engraved picture of the 1769 edifice of the Upper Octorara church, facing page 67 in Historical Discourse delivered on the occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church, Chester County, Pennsylvania, September 14, 1870, by J. Smith Futhey, Esq. Philadelphia: Henry B. Ashmead, 1870. This volume, in poor condition, is preserved as part of the R. Laird Harris Manuscript Collection, Box 444, file 13. Scan prepared by PCA Historical Center staff.

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  1. Vaughn Edward Hathaway Jr’s avatar

    You wrote: “It is easy to put men and movements into nice neat little pockets. You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and they were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were settled in a rut of education prowess from the mother country.” It seems to me that the author has fallen prey to his own concern about categorizing men. Secondly, it seems that he is comparing apples and oranges. What does the abilities relative to evangelization have to do with academic credentials? The differences between Old Side and New Side were not so frivolous.

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