Jonathan Parsons

You are currently browsing articles tagged Jonathan Parsons.

With slighting 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].

<

p style=”text-align: justify;”>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.

<

p style=”text-align: justify;”>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.]

 

 

Tags: , , ,

One More Presbyterian Minister Stands for Liberty
by David T. Myers.

“Men of America,” the Presbyterian minister in Massachusetts preached, “citizens of this great country hanging upon the precipice of war, loyalty to England lies behind you, broken by the acts of the mother country – a cruel mother, deaf to the voice of liberty and right; duty to freedom, duty to your country, duty to God is before you; your patriotism is brought to the test; I call upon those ready to volunteer for the defense of the provinces against British tyranny to step into the ‘broad aisle.’” Those who did step into that church aisle became the first volunteers to join the Continental Army and fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill. A political liberty became his emphasis in those days.

Such rhetoric was more commonly found among Presbyterian pastors than any other denomination in the days and years of the American Revolution. It was no wonder that the Revolutionary War was characterized in England as the Presbyterian Rebellion. And one of those Presbyterian ministers leading the charge was Jonathan Parsons.

Born November 30, 1705, he was the youngest son of church deacon Ebenezer Parsons and his wife Margaret Marshfield of Springfield, Massachusetts. This line of Parsons could be traced back hundreds of years in England and later, equally forward for a long time in America. Jonathan Parsons was influenced by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards to enter Yale, which he did at age twenty. Edwards, along with others, taught him theology as he prepared for the ministry.

Graduating in 1729, Parsons entered first into the pulpit of the Congregational Church of Lyme, Connecticut in 1731. Married to Phebe Griswold, the oldest daughter of the town’s leading family, Jonathan gained much in the material realm in the first decade of his ministry. And he lived that advantage to the fullest. It was said that “he had a passion for fine clothes, for gold and silver, and for lacy ruffled shirt fronts.”

All this came into direct confrontation with the effects of the Great Awakening in America. Suffering doubts regarding the reality of his own personal conversion, he struggled long and hard in his own mind until “the doctrine of salvation by faith burst on his mind.” The result was that his pulpit preaching became marked by greater earnestness and simplicity as he expounded the sufferings of Christ and His undying love for sinners. Rev. Parson’s ministry was now characterized by a spiritual vigor and a renewed freedom in preaching the Gospel of grace.

This embrace of the Great Awakening was enhanced by his meeting and subsequent cooperation with George Whitefield in the 1740’s. The latter entered his pulpit in Lyme twice. While reviving many with the doctrines of grace proclaimed without reservation, eventually the congregation suffered a schism. And so it was that Parsons was dismissed from the Congregational pulpit in 1745.

With help from Whitefield, Jonathan Parsons became the pastor of the Old South Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He would serve the Lord for thirty years, in which time the congregation became one of the largest churches in New England. It was to this congregation that George Whitefield would visit in 1770, and indeed Whitefield breathed his last and was translated to heaven there in the parsonage of Jonathan Parsons. His body was laid beneath the pulpit of that church, and though later moved a short distance, Whitefield’s remains are still there. Yet a few more years and Whitefield was joined on July 19, 1776 with the passing of his friend Jonathan Parsons.

Words to Live By:
Jonathan Parsons is a good example of what happens when the Gospel of the Lord Jesus fills our hearts and minds by the power of the Holy Spirit. Strive to so live and breathe that you always remain close to your Lord and Savior. Then watch to see how the Lord will indeed use you to His glory, in His kingdom.

Tags: , , ,

%d bloggers like this: