Benjamin Rush

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At last, He Had Arrived

You would have thought that he was a king making a royal entrance into his kingdom, so great was the rejoicing among God’s people to his arrival on the shores of the American colonies.  And indeed, John Witherspoon was certainly the man whom God has chosen to lead the infant College of New Jersey in its next steps of Christian education.

The College had some dark providences associated with its leadership.  In the twenty years of its existence, the five leaders who served as its president, had served a few years and then died.  In fact, it was this mortality rate which cause Mrs. Elizabeth Witherspoon, John’s wife  in Scotland, to want nothing to do with the College.  And so there had been four appeals to come over and help them, but all four of them failed to move the Scotchman, but more particularly the Scotch woman to wish to cross over the Atlantic.  Finally, with the aid of Benjamin Rush, who at that time was studying for a medical degree in Edinburgh, Mrs. Witherspoon was convinced that they should go. Despite the three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship named the Peggy, with five children, and three hundred books for the College library might make anyone rethink the invitation, they did not. On August 7, 1768, the family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Calhoun, in his book “Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812 – 1868,” describes John Witherspoon who stepped off the ship as being “a heavy-set man of forty-six, with brown hair, a strong face with large nose and ears, and blue eyes which looked out beneath bushy brows.”

Resting for five days in the city of Philadelphia, and who can blame them for that after such an ocean voyage, they traveled on to the town of Princeton, New Jersey in a horse and carriage.  About a mile from the town, the entire student body of one hundred and twenty students, with the staff,  met them and ushered them into the town and onto the campus.  His family had use of a house, a garden, land for pasture, and firewood.  There was an annual salary equal to 206 pounds sterling.  That night, in every window of Nassau Hall, there was a candle which illuminated the building.  The future Princeton University and Seminary were rejoicing over his safe arrival.

John Witherspoon was installed as the sixth president of the College of New Jersey on August 17, 1768.  And, he was stand the test of time for decade, as well as through some of the most difficult days in the history of America.  John Witherspoon would make his mark for God’s glory during all this time.

Also this day:
The Advisory Convention was held August 7-9, 1973, to set down final preparations for the First General Assembly of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America, when that Assembly met December 4-7, 1973.

Words to live by:  The Scots-Irish Presbyterians of the colonies knew what they had to have when they invited John Witherspoon.  A strong advocate of the doctrines of the Westminster Standards, he had stood for the faith once delivered unto the saints in Scotland.  He was an accomplished preacher,  church leader, and an author.  When a church leader has been bestowed  Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts, then much good for the saints is expected.  When God’s glory is aimed at by that same leader, then much good for the kingdom of God is attained.  Pray that God will sovereignly bestow His gifts upon the church at large, and your church in particular.

Witherspoon’s works have been largely overlooked and forgotten for some time now, or so it seems. Thankfully, however, his works have been reprinted in recent years. See the end of this post for a small taste of Dr. Witherspoon’s writing.

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Happy Independence Day

On this Independence Day, we reflect on what freedom means to us as Christian Presbyterians.  Among all the benefits which we enjoy as Christian citizens, chief among which should be the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience as regulated by His Word, the Bible. That didn’t happen by accident, of course. We must thank at least in word the signers of the Declaration of Independence who were ready to sacrifice everything so that we might enjoy the blessings of this nation today. And of the 56 signers of that historic document, 12 individuals, or 21% of the fifty-six signers were Presbyterian in conviction, or in some way possessed close ties with the Presbyterian church.

While Presbyterians were never thought of as being the state church of the new nation, still countless Presbyterian congregations were thought on as being the building blocks of the new nation.  There was a reason why a member of the British Parliament commented during the American  Revolution that Cousin America has run away with a Presbyterian parson. Further, there was a particular hatred of  all things Presbyterian by British officers and  troops. They burned down numerous Presbyterian churches, destroyed Bibles and pastoral books, or used their buildings for hospitals, stables, and storage centers. During the years of the Revolution, presbyteries often met for business far from their normal locations during peace time.

So as I simply list the twelves signers of the Declaration of Independence, how many had you heard of before, and what do you know of their lives?  They are: Benjamin Rush (of Pennsylvania), James Smith (of Pennsylvania), George Taylor (of Pennsylvania), James Wilson (of Pennsylvania), Abraham Clark (of New Jersey), Richard Stockton (of New Jersey), John Hart (of New Jersey), and John Witherspoon  (of New Jersey), Philip Livingston (of New York), William Floyd (of New York), Matthew Thornton (of New Hampshire), and Thomas McKean (of Delaware).

Some of these will be covered at relevant dates in this historical devotional. But all of them need to be remembered by you for their faithful commitment to God and country.

Words to Live By: 
It would be a great spiritual exercise for you or one of your family to study the background of each of these men for a daily devotional to share with the members of your family, or just for yourself, or for your congregation. Many of them shared great hardship due to their commitment to our nation. May we be just as eager to stand up for righteousness today, whether in our homes, or at our work places, or in society at large.

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A Presbyterian Physician Who Signed —

He has a number of “firsts” associated with signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. He was the only physician who signed that historic document. He was the only Presbyterian signer who was born in America. He was the first professor of Chemistry in America at the Philadelphia College. Who else can claim to have cured an epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia? He was considered the father of American Psychiatry.  He was a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society. Who was he? If you answered Benjamin Rush, pat yourself on the back.

Born December 24, 1745 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this fourth of seven children into an Episcopal home, he often went with his mother after the death of his father to Rev. Gilbert Tennent’s congregation in that eastern Pennsylvania city. Benjamin’s mother, under the latter’s influence, reared her son in Calvinistic principles. He memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism in his youth.

Early education was provided by Rev. Samuel Finney, later a president of  the College of New Jersey. Indeed, after training at West Nottingham Academy, Benjamin studies and graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760.

On January 2, 1776, Rush married Julia Stockton, the youngest daughter of Richard Stockton, a fellow signer of the Declaration. They were married by the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey and a fellow signer of the Declaration as well. On July 4, 1776, Benjamin Rush placed his signature on the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, he followed up that action by serving as a physician with the Continental Army, and in combat at  Trenton and Princeton.

Later in the 1780′s, the good doctor and patriot persuaded his fellow Presbyterians to establish Dickinson College, in Carlisle Pennsylvania.

We must acknowledge in this essay that while he received much training in both youth and adulthood, his convictions about Presbyterians were more passive than an active following. That would explain how he later on in life transferred his membership to the Episcopalian faith and even some branches of the Universalist church before finally coming back to the Presbyterian faith. Still in all of these moves, there was a love for the Bible, which he read daily, an esteem for Christ, to say nothing of Christian conduct. He would often mention the name of Jesus Christ in his writings, lectures, and letters.

He passed away in 1813 and was buried in Christ Church cemetery.

Words to live by:  There seems to be no doubt that Benjamin Rush was a consecrated Christian, albeit there were times when he disagreed with denominational figures. Still the training he received as a youth had a way of coming back into his life and making an impression there for true doctrine. This should encourage all Christian parents to both teach and live Christ, and Hims crucified, before their families. God is faithful, and will bring fruit, although it may be long in coming to our children.  See Proverbs 22:6.

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Happy Independence Day

On this Independence Day, we reflect on what freedom means to us as Christian Presbyterians.  Among all the benefits which we enjoy as Christian citizens, chief among which should be the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience as regulated by His Word, the Bible.  That didn’t happen by accident, of course.  We must thank at least in word the signers of the Declaration of Independence who were ready to sacrifice everything so that we might enjoy the blessings of this nation today.  And of the 56 signers of that historic document, 12 individuals,  or 21% of the fifty-six signers were Presbyterian in conviction, or in some way possessed close ties with the Presbyterian church.

While Presbyterians were never thought of as being the state church of the new nation, still countless Presbyterian congregations were thought on as being the building blocks of the new nation.  There was a reason why a member of the British Parliament commented during the American  Revolution that Cousin America has run away with a Presbyterian parson.  Further,there was a particular hatred of the Presbyterianism by  British officers and  troops.  They burned down countless Presbyterian churches, destroyed their Bibles and pastoral books, or used their buildings for hospitals, stables, and storage centers.  During the years of the Revolution, presbyteries often met for business far from their normal locations during peace time.

So as I simply list the twelves signers of the Declaration of Independence, how many had you heard of before, and what do you know of their lives?  They are: Benjamin Rush (of Pennsylvania), James Smith (of Pennsylvania), George Taylor (of Pennsylvania), James Wilson (of Pennsylvania), Abraham Clark (of New Jersey), Richard Stockton (of New Jersey), John Hart (of New Jersey), and John Witherspoon  (of New Jersey), Philip Livingston (of New York), William Floyd (of New York), Matthew Thornton (of New Hampshire), and Thomas McKean (of Delaware).

Some of these will be covered at relevant dates in this historical devotional.  But all of them need to be remembered by you for their faithful commitment to God and country.

Words to Live By: 
It would be a great spiritual exercise for you or one of your family to study the background of each of these men for a daily or Sunday home devotional to share with the members of your family, or just for yourself, or for your congregation.  Many of them shared great hardship due to their commitment to our nation.  May we be just as eager to stand up for righteousness today, whether in our homes, or at our work places, or in society at large.

Through the Scriptures:  Hosea 8 – 10

Through the Standards: The Third Commandment

WLC 111 & WSC 53 — “Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.”  

The Third Commandment Requirements:

WLC 112 — “What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holy and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by a holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.”

WSC 54 — “What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires the holy and reverence use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.”

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