December 27: Robert Smith

Training Others in the Work of Service
by David T Myers

Born in Ireland in 1723, Robert Smith accompanied his parents to America in 1730. He was of the stock of Scots who had moved from Scotland to Ireland and then on to America. Upon arrival in this new land, the family settled about forty miles from Philadelphia along the Brandywine River.

At age 15, Robert was one of the countless converts of the Spirit under the gospel preaching of George Whitefield in his first tour to America. Shortly afterwards, Robert Smith felt the call of that same Spirit to enter the ministry. His parents supported him in this divine call and encouraged him to enter the church academy of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania under the tutelage of its pastor, the Rev. Samuel Blair. This school trained him in theological and pastoral subjects, all of which he did well, quickly acquiring the subjects. It was not surprising then that Robert Smith sought licensure by the Presbytery of Newcastle, New Side, which was successful on this day, December 27, 1749. Less than a year later, after practical work in churches to test his call, he accepted a double call, upon ordination, to the Presbyterian congregations at Pequea and Leacock, Pennsylvania, for which he was to stay, at least in Pequea, for the next forty two years.

What is important for us today is that Pastor Robert Smith began an academy there which was instrumental in educating countless Presbyterian ministers of Pennsylvania and surrounding states. This was before Princeton Theological Seminary was begun in 1812, so its very existence filled the empty pulpits of Presbyterian meeting houses all over the then-known land. And it was no easy school to attend either. The language of choice was Latin, and speaking in class either to the teachers or one another in any other languages was punishable as a fault. Yes, Hebrew and Greek were also studied, and theological and Biblical books were included in the course work. Thus, the academy was preparatory to the College of New Jersey as well as preparatory for work in the pastorate. As many as fifty ministers received part of their education here as well as others who went into other callings in life. It continued for forty years and was one of the forerunners to Princeton Theological Seminary.

The churches of Pennsylvania and surrounding states required an earnest ministry. It was impossible to look abroad for its teaching elders. Further, the cost of travel to the centers of education in New England was too great for the infant church. A school for ministry in their own back yard, so to speak, was the only answer. And God’s Spirit answered that call by raising up the Academy at Pequea, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By:
Modern churches today face a different challenge, in that some of our future pastors are older in age when their call to ministry comes from the Holy Spirit. Often married with families, future pastors cannot leave established jobs and go to seminaries to study the three or four years required for graduation. This is where local Presbyterian churches can come to the fore. Covenant Theological Seminary has any number of seminary courses on line which can be inserted into a Sunday School curriculum or special classes during the church week for preparatory work in training. Those local ministries can then offer opportunities for service under the oversight of teaching and/or ruling elders in the local church. Local Presbyteries can take such students under care as they prepare for God’s work. As Jesus put it in Matthew 9:37, 38 “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (NASB) Are you asking the Lord of the harvest for a plentiful supply of workers in His kingdom? Pray today, and regularly, for that spiritual need.

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