February 2: George Duffield [1732-1790]

A Man of Genius and Eloquence

The minister showed up at the door of his new congregation in Philadelphia, only to find the door locked, obviously by some dissenters who did not like the fact that the majority of the congregation had called this new preacher.  The dissenters were primarily opposed to his stance on the New Side – Old Side schism, then in full swing in the infant Presbyterian denomination.  He stood solidly on the New Side.  Eventually, some of his supporters threw him into the sanctuary through an open window.  What a beginning to a ministry!  But it was in this way that the Rev. George Duffield began his long pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church, where he was to remain there until his death on February 2, 1790.

George Duffield was educated first at Newark Academy in Delaware.  He followed that  with training at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1752.  A personal study in theology, under Dr. Robert Smith, of Pequea, Pennsylvania, came next in his years of ministerial preparation.  Ordination to ministry in the Presbyterian Church enabled him to serve three churches in central Pennsylvania, namely, Carlisle, Newville, and Dillsburg.  After the last congregation he was called in 1771 to the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  It was to be his greatest work.

The national issues of independence from England were on the horizon.  George Duffield set his ministry in support of liberty from tyranny.  So vocal was he that eventually the church became known as “The Church of the Patriots.”  When the first chaplain to the newly formed Continental Congress went over to the British side, the Congress named two chaplains to replace him.  One was an Anglican pastor, and the other George Duffield.  He would serve alongside the Anglican pastor as well as serving as chaplain of a Pennsylvania regiment in the war for Independence.

Such attachment to Revolutionary ideals would not go unnoticed by the British occupational forces in Philadelphia.   They placed a price on his head, thereby putting him in great danger.   The Pine Street Presbyterian building  was turned into a hospital, with the pews being burned for warmth of the British wounded inside of it.  Then it was made into a stable for their animals.  The greatest insult of all came when one hundred deceased Hessian (German mercenaries serving the British army) soldiers were buried in the church cemetery of Pine Street Presbyterian.

During the war, Duffield counseled and comforted founding father George Washington with Scriptural truth.  After the war, Duffield returned to Pine Street Presbyterian to rebuild and continue his ministry.  John Adams, after hearing him one Sunday, told his wife that Duffield was “a man of genius and eloquence.”

He was married first to Elizabeth Blair, who died in 1757.  Two years later, he married Margaret Armstrong.  Among his descendants were two others named George Duffield, each of whom continued serving both Church and nation as Presbyterian clergy.  George Duffield died in Philadelphia.

Words to Live By:  Taking a stand for God and country has its own perils.  But if the cause is right and biblical, then it is worth the cost.  Our times are in His hands.

WCF 4:2
“After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.  Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept it, they were  happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

For further reading:
Duffield’s works are few and none are freely accessible on the Internet at this time.
Here is a chronological bibliography of Duffield’s published and unpublished works—

1775-1780

George Duffield sermons, 1775-1780, Archival Material .21 linear foot (1 volume). George Duffield was pastor of the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and served as chaplain to the Continental Congress and the Pennsylvania Militia. These seven sermons are dated “at P[ine] St.” June 18, 1775; July 30, 1775; and May 5, 1776; “at York” April 5, 1778; and at “P[ine] St.” July 18, 1779; March 30, 1780, and undated. [Preserved at the New York Public Library Research Library]

1776-1783
George Duffield sermons, 1776-1783, Archival Material, 5 items.  Holograph (i.e., handwritten) manuscript sermons, including a sermon fragment dated [1776?], a sermon on Isaiah 9:12, 13 dated 1777 Aug 10, a sermon on Jeremiah 4:14 dated 1779 May 6, and two manuscript copies of Duffield’s “Sermon on the Occassion of the Peace,” [1783], one in his hand, the other in an unidentified hand. Accompanied by a memorandum in Duffield’s hand dated 1777 Sep 7, concerning a cloud formation, and an ALS from George Duffield (1818-1888) to Noah Porter dated 1876 May 29, with which he donated the manuscripts to Yale. [Preserved at the Yale University Library]

1784
A sermon preached in the Third Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, on Thursday December 11, 1783. The day appointed by the United States in Congress assembled, to be observed as a day of thanksgiving, for the restoration of peace, and establishment of our independence, in the enjoyment of our rights and privileges. By George Duffield, A.M. Pastor of said church, and one of the chaplains of Congress. [Five lines of Scripture quotations]. [Boston] : Philadelphia printed : Boston : Re-printed and sold by T. & J. Fleet, 1784. (26, [2] p.)

1787
A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green, in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia : Printed by F. Bailey, at Yorick’s Head, Market Street., 1787. (53, [1] p.)  Note(s): Ewing’s sermon has separate title page (p. 3): Fidelity in the gospel ministry. A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green in Philadelphia, May 15, 1787. By John Ewing, D.D. … And the charge, delivered by the Revd. Dr. Duffield.

Secondary sources—
Coblentz, David Herr, “George Duffield (1732-1790), Pulpit Patriot,” Manuscripts 14.4 (Fall 1962): 26-32.

Mackie, Alexander, “George Duffield, Revolutionary Patriot,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 33.1 (March 1955): 3-22.

Swaim, William T., “The Tempestuous Life of the Rev. George Duffield, D.D., 1732-1790 : A Biographical Address. Carlisle, PA: The Hamilton Historical Library Association, 16 December 1948. Revised for the 210th anniversary of the Monaghan Presbyterian Church. Dillsburg, PA: s.n., 1955. 15 p.; 28 cm.

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