The Patriarch of the Pulpit Patriots
by Rev. David T. Myers
How many pastors have you known who had a price put on their head by the national government? Such was the case with the Rev. David Caldwell of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War in our country’s fight for independence.
David Caldwell was born in Quarryville, Pennsylvania in 1725. Reared by two godly Presbyterian parents on a farm in the County of Lancaster, he would receive one of the most extensive educational experiences of that day. First, he sat under the Rev. Robert Smith’s classical school in the county. Then he attended the Rev. William Tennent’s Log College, where he also met some of the great revivalists of the First Great Awakening in America, men such as George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, and Samuel Davies. His last educational experience was with the College of New Jersey.
There was no hesitation then to his being licensed by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in June of 1763 and ordained two years later in 1765. Later, an entirely new presbytery, Orange Presbytery, was organized in 1770. By then, David Caldwell was the pastor of two Presbyterian churches at Buffalo and Alamance Presbyterian Church, in North Carolina. He would remain the pastor of these two churches for over fifty years.
It was from his ministry in the pulpit that during both the Revolutionary and the War of 1812, he didn’t hesitate to look upon both wars as biblical wars against the British government. Consider words such as these in a sermon on Proverbs 12:24 “The slothful shall be under tribute.” He said, “If we act our part well as men and as Christians in defense of truth and righteousness, we may with the help of the Lord obtain a complete and final deliverance from the power that has oppressed us.” (Southern Presbyterian Leaders, by Henry Alexander White, p. 162) Whereupon he joined the American army along with most of his congregation.
In this whole ministry, he had the help and support of his wife Rachel, who was herself the daughter of a New Side Presbyterian minister, named Alexander Craighead. Married for sixty years, they ministered side by side, especially in the Log College which David had begun in the area. It was a classical Christian school, like those he had attended in earlier years.
He would go to be with the Lord on August 25, 1824, remembered by countless whose lives he had touched with the Word of God.
Words to live by: The cause of independence must be defended at the cost of life, fortune, and sacred honor. David Caldwell would have his plantation burned, his books and Psalm books destroyed, his sermons defaced, a price put on his head, and forced to live in a swamp for safety. His wife Rachel of sixty years would be treated harshly, being evicted from her home and forced to live in a smokehouse with their children with only dried peaches to eat for several days. In times of trouble, God watches over His children.