While searching earlier for an obituary (not found) in an old issue of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, I came across this interesting brief article concerning pastor, the congregation and the original edifice of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. My primary interest is in the first few paragraphs. After that, well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.
THE OLD ARCH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
The instrumentality of Whitfield [pictured at right] in the erection of the ancient square edifice, that once stood on the north west corner of Arch and Third streets, is probably known to some of your readers, as well as the fact, that the people worshipping there, were styled “new lights,” and that sundry opprobrious epithets were applied to the memorable Gilbert Tennent, their pastor. I have sat in the old square house, more than once, and well remember when it was succeeded by the oblong building that occupied the site, until after the settlement of the late Dr. Cuyler, in the pastoral office.
There was no cellar under the original house, and the remains of the venerable and beloved Tennent were deposited beneath the brick floor, and so remained until the contemplated change in the place of worship was effected. The new edifice was furnished with a cellar; and being well suited to storage, was often perverted to the strange use of a place of deposit for the article that manufactures paupers so rapidly. In this cellar were deposited the remains of Tennent, a suitable brick enclosure having been made for the purpose.
The late Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was a warm personal friend and admirer of Mr. Tennent, was sorely grieved, that such a disposition had been made of the venerated dust of his favorite preacher. Horrified at what he deemed a kind of sacrilege, the following impromptu, pronounced while in conversation with a lady who was then a member of Arch street Church, gave vent to his feelings. The lady who is yet living, and who penned the memorable lines at the time of utterance, favored me with a copy, some months ago; and as they are well worth a place in your useful paper, they are forwarded for insertion. They represent the spirit of the departed saint, roused by the resurrection trump, as quitting his heavenly abode, to visit earth in search of his body, and run thus :
The trumpet sounds, the sleeping dead arise,
And Tennent’s spirit quits its nature skies;
To his dear church it wings its favor’d way
To seek reunion with its kindred clay,
Where is my body? cries the reverend saint,
“Lo here, good Sir, the Sexton, “no it ain’t,”
“My body rested under my church floor
That body rises from a liquor store!”
Your readers are aware, the Dr. Rush hated intemperance and all its relations.
[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, 31.6 (7 February 1852): 21, column 5.]