August 30: Rev. John Craig [1710-1774]

Hewn Stones and Dornacks.

Our post today is drawn from the History of the Presbyterian Church in America, by Richard Webster (1857) and edited for length.

John Craig was born in Ireland (though most likely Scots-Irish, perhaps from Ulster) on September 21, 1710, but educated in America. He appeared before Donegal Presbytery in the fall of 1736, and was taken on trial the next spring, and licensed, August 30, 1738. He was sent to Deer Creek (now Churchville, Maryland) and to West Conecocheague. He spent the summer in those places, and Conewago and Opequhon. West Conecocheague called him in the fall of 1739; but he declined a settlement in that charge.

In 1737, the new-settled inhabitants of Beverly’s Manor applied for supplies; and Anderson visited them, and settled the bounds of the congregations “in an orderly manner, by the voice of the people.” Craig was sent, at the close of 1739, to Opequhon, Irish Tract, and other places in Western Virginia. He was “the commencer of the Presbyterian service in Augusta.” He gathered two congregations in the south part of the Manor, now Augusta county, and, in April, 1740, received a call from Shanadore and South River. It is described in the call as the congregation of the Triple Forks of Shenandoah, but long since known as Augusta and Tinkling Spring. On the 2d of September, 1740, Robert Poag and Daniel Denniston appeared as representatives, and took on them the engagements made by the people at installations. On the next day, after Sanckey had preached from Jer. iii. 15, Craig was ordained and installed.

“Going down from the splendid prospect of the Rockfish Gap, you enter the bounds of the oldest congregation in Virginia, Tinkling Spring, with its old stone church. Here, in a wooden building finished by the widow of John Preston, Craig preached. He was greatly opposed to the location of the meeting, wishing it more central.” The people chose it, among other reasons, for the convenience of the spring; and, it is said, “he never suffered its water to cool his thirst.”

He resigned the pastoral care of Tinkling Spring in November, 1754; and the sermon which he preached on that occasion, from 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, is the only one of his discourses that can be found. It was printed, for the first time, in the “Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine,” in December, 1760.

“In this short discourse,” he says,

“I have collected together the sum and substance of those doctrines I have declared to you these twenty-five years past. . . . .

“I have long, often, and sincerely exhorted, entreated, invited, and besought you, in public, in private, in secret, to come and take hold of God’s covenant and Christ the Mediator thereof. I hope some among you have sincerely complied: I wish I could say all that I have been so nearly concerned for or related to. But now our near and dear pastoral relation is dissolved. And, oh, how does my heart tremble to think and fear that too, too many among you have not sincerely accepted of and embraced Christ on gospel terms! Oh, how can I leave you at a distance from Christ, and strangers to the God that made you? I cannot leave you till I give you another offer of Christ and the covenant of grace. Let me beg of you, for your souls’ sake, for Christ’s sake, to leave all your sins, and come, come speedily, and lay hold on the covenant and the Mediator; never, never let him go till he bless you.

“Few and poor, and without order, were you when I accepted your call; but now I leave you a numerous, wealthy congregation, able to support the gospel, and of credit and reputation in the church.

“For coming into the bond of this covenant of grace; it is by faith we take hold of it. This we do when we are thoroughly, clearly convinced of our sin, and misery, and undone state under the covenant of works; and do hence betake ourselves to the new covenant, to the gracious method of salvation proposed to us in the gospel through Jesus Christ and his righteousness, and do cordially approve of, and acquiesce in this noble contrivance, and accept of Jesus Christ as our only Mediator, Surety, and Peacemaker with God, and in him do sincerely make choice of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to be our God and portion. On our part, giving ourselves soul and body to be the Lord’s; engaging, in the strength of our great surety, Jesus Christ, to abandon all sin, live for his glory, and walk with him in newness of life, as becomes God’s covenanted people. This great work is carried on in all its parts by God’s Holy Spirit, helping and determining our souls to do all these things heartily, cheerfully, and sincerely.”

In parting, he makes no complaints of them, and no boasting of himself.

He remained as pastor over the smaller charge or congregation of Augusta till his death, April 21, 1774, dying “after fifteen hours’ affliction,” at the age of sixty-three years and four months.

“The old people in Augusta county have learned from their fathers that he was a man mighty in the Scriptures,—‘in perils oft, in labours abundant,’ for the gospel; and they hold his memory in the highest veneration.”

An anecdote is told of his having been sent by Hanover Presbytery to organize churches and ordain elders, among the settlements of New River to Holstein. On his return he reported a surprising number of elders whom he had ordained; and on being questioned how he found suitable materials for so many, he replied, in his rich Scottish brogue,“Where I cudna get hewn stanes, I tuk dornacks.” [a dornack is a small unhewn stone normally rejected by builders]

Words to Live By:
“The saying is trustworthy:If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober- minded, self- controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
“not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
“for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
—1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV.

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