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His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:

In memory of
THE REV. DR. JAMES LATTA,
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”

lattaJamesHaving read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.

During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.

Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.”  God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Indentured Servant and Iron Maker Signs the Declaration of Independence

Born in Ireland on 1716, and one of eight signers who was foreign-born, George Taylor disappointed his minister father in educational plans to  become a doctor by sailing to  the American colonies. Indentured in service to  Samuel  Savage to work as a common laborer in his iron forge in the new country, his passage across  the Atlantic Ocean was paid. However his expertise as a book-keeper enabled him to move higher up in the company.  When the owner of Warrick Furnace and Coventry Forge died in 1742, Taylor’s had by this time risen in the company to become the  manager for the furnace and forge. He  married the owner’s widow, Ann Savage.

Working there for the next decade, he was marking time as the will of Samuel Savage dictated that his son would take over the business when he came of age.  In 1755, Taylor moved to Bucks County to take over an iron works company there.  From the latter, ammunition was provided to the colonies in the French and Indian War.

In the Bucks County deed book, there is a record which states that George Taylor, along with a number of others, purchased one acre of land to be used by the Presbyterian Church in Tineeum Township for a cemetery.  This is the first reference we have which speaks of George Taylor as a Presbyterian.

In 1764, Taylor began his political career, short as it was.  He served on various committees, picking up an opposition to the British government on the way.  Still working in the iron business, he was one of the first business men to supply ammunition to the Continental Army, though there were complaints that his cost was too steep.

It was on July 20, 1776, that he was elected to the Continental Congress, representing Pennsylvania.  Like many delegates, he signed the Declaration of Independence later than others, pledging his life and honor to the new nation, on August 2, 1776.

George Taylor died on February 23, 1781.  While his name is not found in the records of the Red Hill Presbyterian Church, it is likely that he was a member there, given the above  reference of the purchase of a cemetery for Red Hill Presbyterian Church.  Further, in the biography of the signers of the Declaration, the religious affilitation of Taylor is listed as Presbyterian.

Words to Live By: 
We don’t read of any pithy statements by this Presbyterian signer with respect to the Bible, or salvation through Christ alone, or other Christian convictions, such as is the case with other Presbyterian founders of our country.  Perhaps like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus of biblical days, he was a secret follower of Jesus.  We cannot commend that principle or practice.  But, like the two biblical characters, there were deeds of commitment to the Lord, as with George Taylor, who purchased  land for a Presbyterian cemetery.  For that we highlight him in this series of Presbyterian signers of the cardinal document of our American Independence.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 40 – 42

Through the Standards: Additional catechisms on the Persons of the Fifth Commandment

WLC 125  — “Why are superiors styled mother and father?
A. Superiors are styled Mother and Father, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.”

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