January 14: Rev. Daniel Elmer [1690-1755]

With some slight editing, our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s work, A History of the Presbyterian Church in America: from its origin until the year 1760. (1857):—

The Rev. Daniel Elmer was pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, Fairfield, New Jersey, from 1729-1755. Rev. Elmer was the eighth pastor of this church, which had been organized in 1680. The church is now a member of the PCA. Rev. Elmer was preceded there by the Rev. Noyes Parris [1724-1729] and following him at that pulpit was the Rev. William Ramsey 1756-1771].

Daniel Elmer was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1690, and graduated from Yale in 1713. He married soon after, and, “for some time, carried on the work of the ministry” in Brookfield,Massachusetts.
The General Court allowed the town twenty pound for three years, to aid in sustaining the gospel. Elmer received only half of this encouragement, having left before 1715. Where he spent the next twelve years is not known. In 1728, he settled at Fairfield, in Cohanzy. At the declaring for the Confession, in 1729, he was the only minister who professed himself unprepared to act. Time was granted him to consider; and the next year he informed the Synod that he had declared before the presbytery his cordial adoption of the Confession and the Catechism.

Whitefield visited West Jersey in the spring of 1740. Gilbert Tennent was there in the summer; and, while Whitefield was preaching (November 19) on Wednesday, the Holy Ghost came down “like a mighty rushing wind” at Cohanzy. Some thousands were present. The whole congregation was moved, and two cried out.

At the separation in 1741, Rev. Elmer and his elder, Jonathan Fithian, though present at the opening of the sessions, seems to have gone home before the Protest was introduced. He adhered to the Old Side. The congregation divided: even his own son occasionally went to Greenwich to hear Andrew Hunter.

Finley spent much time in the vicinity; and New Brunswick Presbytery was constantly importuned for supplies, and their most promising candidates were sent to Cohanzy.

At Elmer’s request, Cowell, McHenry, and Kinkaid were sent
 by the Synod, in September, 1754, to endeavor to remove the difficulties he complained of in his congregation; but all proceedings were stayed by his death. He lies buried in the Old New England town-graveyard, with this inscription:

“In memory of the Rev. Daniel Elmer, late pastor of Christ’s Church in this place, who departed this life, January 14, 1755, aged sixty-five years.”

Dr. Alison wrote to President Stiles, July 20, 1755, informing him that the two parts of Elmer’s congregation had united on his death, and introducing Mr. Thomas Ogden, whom they had sent as their messenger to Connecticut to procure a minister.

Elmer married Margaret, daughter of Ebenezer Parsons, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, and sister of the Rev. Jonathan Parsons, of Newburyport; she was the mother of three sons and four daughters. His second wife was a Webster, the mother of two sons and three daughters.

His son Daniel was born in 1714, and was the father of Dr. Jonathan and General Ebenezer Elmer.

Words to Live By:
Honesty goes a long way. Courage too. As you have time it would be a worthwhile exercise to review what the Bible says about honesty. Rev. Elmer was forthright in declaring first, in 1729, his caution over subscribing to the Confession, and then a year later he was again honest in stepping forward to acknowledge his adoption of the Confession and Catechisms. Had he in good conscience been unable to adopt the Westminster Standards, we trust he would have done the right thing and withdrawn his affiliation to another, more like-minded denomination, for the basis of trust and fellowship rests upon a common affirmation or understanding of what the Scriptures teach, as exemplified in this case by the Westminster Standards. The historical reference here is to the Adopting Act of 1729, in which it was decided that all Presbyterian pastors would have to make a declaration, affirming their adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as being in full accord with what the Scriptures teach.

The text of the Synod minutes from that meeting, with mention of Rev. Elmer, is as follows (see the above link for the full context):

§ 8. The Adopting Act.
[The foregoing paper was adopted in the morning. In the afternoon took place “The Adopting Act.”]
“All the Ministers of this Synod now present, except one,* that declared himself not prepared, viz., Masters Jedediah Andrews, Thomas Craighead, John Thomson, James Anderson, John Pierson, Samuel Gelston, Joseph Houston, Gilbert Tennent, Adam Boyd, Jonathan Dickinson, John Bradner, Alexander Hutchinson, Thomas Evans, Hugh Stevenson, William Tennent, Hugh Conn, George Gillespie, and John Willson, after proposing all the scruples that any of them had to make against any articles and expressions in the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, have unanimously agreed in the solution of those scruples, and in declaring the said Confession and Catechisms to be the confession of their faith, excepting only some clauses in the twentieth and twenty-third chapters, concerning which clauses the Synod do unanimously declare, that they do not received those articles in any such sense as to suppose the civil magistrate hath a controlling power over Synods with respect to the exercise of their ministerial authority; or power to persecute any for their religion, or in any sense contrary to the Protestant succession to the throne of Great Britain.
“The Synod observing that unanimity, peace, and unity, which appeared in all their consultations and determinations relating to the affair of the Confession, did unanimously agree in giving thanks to God in solemn prayer and praises.”–Ibid.

[*Mr. Elmer. He gave in his assent at the next meeting of the Synod.]

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