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Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1857).

ALEXANDER CUMMING
He was full of prayers.

WAS born at Freehold, New Jersey, in 1726.  His father, Robert Cumming, from Montrose, Scotland, was an elder, and often sat in synod.

He was educated under his maternal uncle, Samuel Blair, and studied theology with his pastor, William Tennent.  Licensed by the New-Side Presbytery of Newcastle, in 1746 or ‘’47, he was sent by the synod, in compliance with pressing supplications, and spent some time in Augusta county, Virginia.  He was the first Presbyterian minister that preached within the bounds of Tennessee.  Remaining some time in North Carolina, he married Eunice, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, the President (in May, 1775) of the Mecklenburg Convention.

He was a stated supply in Pennsylvania for some time.  Though not ordained, he opened the Synod of New York with a sermon, in September, 1750.  In the following month he was ordained, by New York Presbytery, and installed collegiate pastor with Pemberton, in New York.

Unanimously called, his clear, discriminating mind, his habits of close study, his instructive and excellent preaching, his happy faculty of disentangling and exhibiting difficult and abstruse subjects, peculiarly attracted and delighted his more cultivated hearers.  The Hon. William Smith, in writing to Bellamy, says, “His defect in delivery was not natural, but the effect of bad example:  his elocution, however, is not, and cannot ever be, as prompt as yours.”  But before the second year of his ministry closed, the presbytery was called to consider the difficulties which had arisen, and, in 1752, referred the case to the synod.  The complaints against him were, that, when disabled by sickness, he did not invite Pemberton to preach; that he insisted on his right as pastor to sit with the trustees, and manage the temporalities; for encouraging the introduction of Watts’s Psalms, and for insisting on family prayer as a necessary prerequisite in every one to whose child he administered baptism.

He requested to be dismissed, October 25, 1753, because his low state of health would not allow him to go on with his work in the divided, confused state of the congregation.  No opposition was made, and he was dismissed.

Cumming joined with his parishioners, Livingston, Smith, and Scott, in publishing the “Watch-Tower,” the “Reflector,” the “Independent Whig,”—spirited, patriotic appeals against the steady encroachments of the royal prerogative on our constitutional liberties.

In feeble health, and with little prospect of usefulness, he remained without charge till February 25, 1761, when he was installed pastor of the Old South Church in Boston.  He preached on that occasion, and Pemberton gave the charge, and welcomed him.  “I do it with the greater pleasure, being persuaded, from a long and intimate acquaintance, that you are animated by the spirit of Christ in taking this office upon you, and that you desire no greater honour or happiness than to be an humble instrument to promote the kingdom of our adorable Redeemer.”

William Allen,[1] of Philadelphia, Chief-Justice of Pennsylvania, wrote to Dr. Mayhew, of Boston, in 1763, and thanked him for the gift of two sermons, “which, you hint, were preached on account of Mr. Cumming’s reveries; for I can call nothing that comes from him by a better name, nor ought I, if he continues to be the same man he was with us.  He offered himself to the congregation here, of which I am a member:  though the greater part are moderate Calvinists, they could not relish his doctrines.” After charging Cumming with teaching that works are dangerous to the soul, faith being every thing, he adds, “He may be a pious, well-disposed man, but I believe he is a gloomy, dark enthusiast, and a great perverter of the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in the gospel.”

To Allen and Mayhew, Cumming seemed “an extravagant fanatic.”  It was a wonder how he could have been admitted a minister in Boston.  Yet he was condemned as a Legalist by the favourers of the other extreme.

Andrew Croswell, a zealous follower of Davenport, had settled in Boston.  He published a sermon, with the title, “What is Christ to me if he is not mine?” presenting the view—perhaps distorted—of Marshall, in his “Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” and Hervey, in his “Theron and Aspasio.”  Cumming replied, taking the ground of Bellamy.  It was perhaps his earnestness on this point that arrayed his Scottish hearers against him in New York. They had the Erskines in great reverence:  they loved the doctrines which rallied Scotland’s best men against the Assembly’s decision in the Marrow controversy. Smith speaks, in his history, contemptuously of the opposition, as of the lower class; and Robert Philip brands it as a cabal of ignorance and bigotry. The fact that these persons called the Rev. John Mason from Scotland, and that they and their children constituted the congregation of Dr. John M. Mason, is a sufficient refutation of these charges.

Cumming died on this day, August 23, in 1763.  “He was full of prayers, with a lively, active soul in a feeble body.”  This was the testimony of the excellent Dr. Sewall, with whom he was joined as colleague in Boston.

Words to Live By:
We pray this can be said of you as well, that you are “full of prayers.” It is the mark of a true Christian and the blessing of a Christian who is being used in the Lord’s kingdom, seeking His will upon earth.

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A Heart Firmly Attached in the Interest of His Country.

Abraham Keteltas was born in New York City on December 26, 1732. His father, Abraham Keteltas, Sr., was a merchant who had immigrated to the American colonies in 1720. The family had settled in New Rochelle, New York, which was at the time heavily populated with Huguenots. Young Abraham’s friendships among the Huguenots allowed him to become fluent in French. He later studied theology at Yale, graduating there in 1752, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1756.

Installed as pastor in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1757, he remained there but a year. Rev. Keteltas married about this time and resided at Jamaica, Long Island, yet without pastoral charge. Still, as he was fluent in the three languages dominant in the region and was a masterful preacher, he frequently was called to the pulpits of the Dutch and French churches, as well as the Presbyterian, and during this time his reputation grew among that population.

His reputation and stature apparently extended well beyond the Long Island community, for it is recorded that his advice was held in high esteem by many, George Washington being among that number and known to have frequently consulted him on various matters. Rev. Keteltas readily became a strong advocate in the struggle for independence, so public in his declarations that his personal safety required him to flee Long Island for the relative safety of New England. He was elected in 1777 to serve as a delegate to the New York State constitutional convention, though he did not attend.

Four of Rev. Keteltas’s sermons are extant, preserved in a small number of libraries. These are:

The Religious Soldier: or, The Military Character of King David, display’d and enforced in a sermon, preached March 8, 1759, to the regular officers and soldiers in Elizabeth-Town.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming poor for men displayed and enforced in a charity sermon preached in the French Protestant Church, in New-York, December 27, 1773.

Reflections on Extortion shewing the Nature, Malignity, and Fatal Tendency of that Sin to Individuals and Communities, displayed and enforced in a sermon preached at Newbury-port, on Lord’s Day February 15th, 1778.

and

God Arising and Pleading His People’s Cause: or, The American War in Favor of Liberty, Against the Measures and Arms of Great Britain, Shewn to Be the Cause of God.

The last mentioned of these, delivered in 1777, is perhaps the best known of his sermons. It is a bold and patriotic record of his support for the American cause. Reiner Smolinki, of George State University, has skillfully made this sermon available in digital edition (see the above link). Of this sermon, Mr. Smolinski states:

In the former sermon . . . Keteltas enlists Jehovah of Armies in defense of America’s rights. Drawing on typological parallels from both Testaments, Keteltas demonstrates that God always supports the cause of righteousness, liberty, and self-government, especially where His people are concerned. If God is on the side of His American Israel, Kelteltas prophecies, the British enemy cannot succeed for long. Religion and politics are joined in a bed of patriotism.

During the war years, Rev. Keteltas supplied the pulpits of many churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, continuing in that capacity until declining health forced his retirement in 1782. He died while residing in Jamaica, Queens County, New York, on this day, September 30, in 1798, at the age of 65 years, 9 months and 4 days. The New York Historical Society has preserved a portrait of Rev. Keteltas, which can be viewed hereHis gravestone, which can be viewed herereads as follows:

“He possessed unusual talents which were improved by profound erudition & a heart firmly attached in the interest of his Country. His mind was early impressed with a sense of religion, which fully manifested itself by his choice of the sacred office, in which he shone as the able & faithful Divine. It may not perhaps be unworthy of record in this inscription, that he had frequently officiated in three different languages, having preached in the Dutch & French Churches in his native City of New York.”

Something to Consider:
The question is still with us to this day, whether Christians,
as Christians, should be involved in politics. Without voting here on the matter, we only make an historical observation of the strong involvement of the clergy in favor of the American Revolution, so much so that the War was sometimes called the Presbyterian Rebellion. To discover how these pastors came to their convictions, it is necessary to take into account the wider context of, first, the English Civil War (1642-51), and second, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary (1688). The American Revolutionary War was very clearly at the time seen as a continuation of these earlier conflicts. For a Presbyterian defense of the struggle for liberty, see particularly Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex: The Law and the Prince, A Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People (1644).

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Congregational Cows and Presbyterian Butter

There were no roads west of Buffalo, and few boats upon Lake Erie when those first settlements began to be formed in the region of the Western Reserve, also known as the Connecticut Reservation. Immigrants had to work their way through forests and over the rivers and marshes of the intervening wilderness as best they could.

The Rev. William Wick was one of the first two ministers to settle in the territory of the Western Reserve, the other being a Congregational pastor by the name of Joseph Badger. Wick, a Presbyterian, belonged to the Synod of Pittsburgh. In thosse early days, the Christians of the Reserve were too glad to meet any with whom they could hold Christian fellowship, than to ask after each other’s ecclesiastical connections and sentiments. And the minister who, coming amongst them, preached Christ and Him crucified, did not need to preach denominationalism, in order to secure their attention and affection.

In the absence of churches they gathered together in cabins, shop, or school-house, to mingle their worship and study the Word of God. And when a missionary visited a settlement, all rallied around him to hear the Word of Life.

In those early years, so heartily did Presbyterians and Congregationalists unite in their new missionary enterprises, that a difference was hardly recognized amongst them.

The first minister who came to the Western Reserve and the first to be installed as a pastor in this field, was the Rev. William Wick. Mr. Wick was born at Southhampton, Long Island, on June 29, 1768. The son of Lemual and Deborah (Luptein) WIck, he was a lineal descendant of the Pilgrim fathers. He was brought up in New York City, and subsequently removed, with his father’s family, to Washington county, Pennsylvania, later receiving his collegiate education at Jefferson College, Canonsburg, PA. On April 21, 1791, he was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth McFarland, youngest daughter of Colonel Daniel McFarland, an officer of the Continental army during the Revolutionary war. Her mother’s maiden name was Sarah Barber. Her father emigrated to Washington county at the close of the war, and settled on a large tract of land on what was called Lower Ten-Mile creek.

In those days there was a great call for ministers, and Dr. McMillan sought out, among others, Mr. Wick, who, through the Doctor’s influence, finally left his farm, and began a course at the Cannonsburg Academy, as Dr. McMillan’s humble log cabin school was called. Wick was counted among the first class in theology taught by McMillan, and he completed his studies in 1797. Mr. Wick was licensed to preach on the 28th of August, 1799, and preached his first sermon at Youngstown, Ohio, the field of his future ministerial labors, on the first of September following his licensure.

Having accepted calls from Neshannock and Hopewell congregations, in Mercer county, Pa., he was ordained by the Presbytery and installed as pastor of these congregations on September 3, 1800. During 1801 he was released from the charge of Neshannock and installed for one-half his time as pastor of the congregation at Youngstown, Ohio. His labors were principally confined to Youngstown and Hopewell, though he occasionally worked in the missionary field. He was the first permanent minister in the Western Reserve of Ohio.

Rev. Wick was connected with the Hartford Presbytery and the Synod of Pittsburgh, these being the nearest courts with which he could connect. His initial aid probably came from the Presbytery, though afterwards he received an appointment from the Congregationalist Connecticut Missionary Society. The first mention of this support is dated April 27, 1807, in a letter from the Rev. Calvin Chapin, who had visited the Reserve. One result of his visit was the proposal that if the Hartford Presbytery would furnish ministers for the Reserve, the Connecticut Society would support them.

So long as orthodoxy prevailed, the spirit of love to Christ also rose above local and sectarian prejudice, drawing together all who were interested in seeing Christ’s kingdom advance in the new territory. The Connecticut brethren did not stop to think and inquire whether the “milk from their Congregational cows, might now be churned into Presbyterian butter” by the Synod of Pittsburgh!

Mr. Wick labored for some time as a missionary under the patronage of the Connecticut Society. His last commission, dated Hartford, Jan. 17, 1815, was as follows:

“Rev. Sir—You are hereby appointed Missionary by the Trustees of the Missionary Society of Connecticut, for the term of one year, unless sooner recalled by the Board; to labor for such a part of the time as you can be spared from your stated charge, in New Connecticut and such other parts of Ohio, as you shall think it expedient to visit.
In the name of the Trustees.
ABEL FLINT, Secretary.”

The above commission, though not “recalled by the Board,” was soon recalled by a higher authority. Rev. Wick preached his last sermon on the 13th of February following. He was now in extremely feeble health. At Hopewell the congregation was invited to his home, and addressed by him, after he became too feeble to go out. His death occurred on the 29th of March, 1815, at the age of 48 years.

At his own request he was buried at Youngtown, Ohio. It is recorded on his tombstone that during his ministry he preached one thousand five hundred and twenty-two sermons, and married fifty-six couples. He was the father of eight sons and three daughters, most of them now deceased. It is noted that his oldest son, William Watson Wick j[1786-1868], served in Congress as a U.S. Representative from Indiana.

In person, Rev. Wick was tall and thin in flesh. His disposition was calm, mild and amiable, sometimes sorrowful, but never angry. In his theology, he was what was then called a “General Atonement” man; though not so much a stickler for doctrines, as for consistent practice and devoted earnest piety.

His beloved wife, Mrs. Elizabeth (McFarland) Wick, lived “till about 1835. She was a woman of strong faith, clear views, deeply pious, had mor ethan ordinary perseverance, and died as the Christian dies.”

As Rev. Wick labored part of the time in Pennsylvania, and had from the first a stated charge, he acted perhaps a less prominent part in forming the churches on the Reserve, than some others; but he left his mark, and such a one as a good man would wish to leave. It is noteworthy that this first minister settled upon the Reserve, was settled for life. Many an early settler remembered and spoke with affection of the ministerial labors of good “Willie Wick.”

Words to Live By:
Each of us, every man and woman, has a place in the kingdom of God. Some may be first to put their hand to a work; others may follow to carry on. No one is indispensable, yet each one of God’s dear children is loved and watched over by the Lord of all creation. (Matt. 6:25-34). It remains to each of us to labor to the glory of our one Lord and to the advancement of our one faith. Do the work that God has set before you, and exhort one another to live lives that honor the Lord who has called us by His grace and mercy. 

 

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Optimally, I Think We Can Say He Was a Transformer.

The Rev. Ebenezer Prime was born at Milford, Connecticut on July 21 of the year 1700. He graduated from Yale College in 1718, the same year that the school was first so named. Following graduation, he became the assistant to the Rev. Mr. Eliphalet Jones, the Pastor of the Church at Huntington, and was later ordained collegiate pastor of this Church on June 5, 1723. Rev. Prime continued in this charge until his death, on October 3, 1779.

Rev. Prime carefully kept a record book for the next fifty-six years of his ministry. He began with a full account of his ordination. After that, he wrote out in full his own confession of faith, and it strikes this writer that this sort of thing would be a good exercise for any new pastor. For one, in later years a review of his own confession would display how he had matured, or perhaps would evidence where he had changed his views. A sample paragraph from Rev. Prime’s confession of faith:

“I believe that the Saints of God shall persevere in Holiness, and never totally or finally fall away from Grace; he who hath begun a good Work in them will carry it on until the Day of Jesus Christ. All that were given to the Son in the eternal Covenant of Redemption shall come to him & none shall be able to pluck them out of his Hands. But he will keep them By his mighty Power thro Faith unto Salvation.”

The remainder of Rev. Prime’s Record consists of membership rolls, baptisms, marriages, and miscellanea, including records of meetings. In sum, it is a remarkable display of diligent record keeping over a protracted period of time, and as such it reveals a great strength of character. Moreover,  Prime’s Record tells the story of a pastor and his congregation, though admittedly we have to do some reading between the lines. Prime was also careful to make a record of the sermons he preached before his congregation, recording the sermon texts and the date of delivery, though for whatever reason, this record of his sermons was not included in the printed edition of his Record.

A few interesting observations drawn from Prime’s Record by the editor, Moses L. Scudder:

After noting that the First Church of Huntington was organized at about the same time as the town itself, namely, about 1660, and that originally the church was Independent, or Congregational, but became Presbyterian in 1748, Mr. Scudder then says:–

“At Mr. Prime’s ordination the membership of the Church was only 15 men and 27 women, although the assessment lists of earlier time show more than a hundred resident tax payers. It is plain that only a small proportion of the citizens formally professed religion and belonged to the church. Of the fourteen persons chosen at the town meeting in May of 1724, as is shown on the town records, as trustees, assessors, collector, constable and other town officers, only two appear by Mr. Prime’s Record to have been members of the Church; and one of these, Jeremiah Wood, a Trustee of the Town, and consequently a person of good repute among his neighbors, appears in Mr. Prime’s Record to have been ‘Under Censure of Admonition.’ “

“Another curious fact may be observed. Nearly all the male members of the Church at [the time of] Mr. Prime’s ordination have “senr.” opposite their names. This indicates that they were old men, probably the sons of the original settlers. It may be inferred that the third generation were not generally members of the Church. Whether these facts tell of a low state of religious interest and a reaction form the strictness of the primitive Puritans I will not attempt to inquire.”

“Nevertheless this was during nearly all of Mr. Prime’s pastorate the only church in Huntington, and it is probable that all the respectable inhabitants were regular attendants at its services and contributors to its support. Consequently, the record of the marriages solemnized by its pastor comprises practically all the marriages of the residents of the town during those years.”

“It was the practice to have infants baptized a few days after birth, apparently whether the parents were members of the church or not. Hence the pastor’s record of baptisms is approximately a record of births in the families resident in the town. Unfortunately in this record the names of the parents of the children baptized are rarely set down.”

Words to Live By:
A long, faithful pastorate in the same church is unusual enough. What the long-term effects of that pastorate on the congregation and on succeeding generations, might be, is perhaps impossible to tell. But that God did bless the pastor with such tenure, is it then too much to hope, or even expect that the Lord will also bless that congregation commensurately? Someone has said that a people get the pastor they deserve. What greater motivation to pray for your pastor, to encourage and assist him where you can, and to yourself live as a Christian, walking humbly and faithfully each day before your Lord.

To read the whole of Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723-1779, by Rev. Ebenezer Prime, click here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  A Unique Product of the Great Awakening

In these devotionals before, we have written several times on the ministry of David Brainerd to the native Americans in the land.  Some of you may be familiar with the work of John Eliott among the same people in pre-Revolutionary days.  Others of early Christianity, including many Presbyterian clergy, saw in their existence an opportunity to spread the gospel.  But no where was there such a ray of hope than in the person and work of the Rev. Samuel Occom, a native American himself.

Born in 1743, of the Mohegan tribe, he was one of the first converts from among the native American tribes during the First Great Awakening.  It was said that his mother had first come to knowledge of Christ herself after contact with the revivalist preachers of the New Side Presbyterians.  Then Samuel Occom himself, at age 16, came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministry of a Great Awakening preacher named Davenport.

Samuel sought out a Congregational minister  by the name of Eleazar Wheelock for the purpose of being discipled by him.  The latter had an Indian classical school in his own home.  Samuel entered Wheelock’s school and stayed there four years, studying the biblical languages as well as theology.  He began to minister to his own people in New England and Long Island.  While in Long Island, he married a Christian Indian, and to this couple, ten children were born.

On August 30, 1759, Samuel Occom was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Long Island.  His trial sermon was given on Psalm 72:9, “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.”   It was received and  he was received as a Presbyterian minister.

With the purpose of raising support for Rev. Wheelock’s Indian charity school, Samuel Occom went to England, where he took the nation by storm.  Thousands came to hear this converted Indian minister, with the result that 12,000 pounds were raised for the Indian school. Even the king of England gave a large amount of funds.  Samuel Occum preached over 300 sermons while in England.

Upon arriving back in the colonies, events began to sour considerably.  Promises of support for Samuel’s family while he was absent from them were not fulfilled. Further, plans to establish an Indian school were dropped, with the money raised from the trip going to support an all-white school.  That later school is known today as the Ivy League educational institution, Dartmouth College.  It is said, given the circumstances, that Samuel could be listed as a co-founder of Dartmouth.  Samuel Occom, however,  was decidedly against the beginning of this ninth educational facility in the colonies, as it was taking money away from the strengthening of an all-Indian school.

Samuel Occom went up to New York and established the first Christian Indian settlement known as Brothertown, New York.  It later was moved to Wisconsin.  Samuel Occom went to be with the Lord on July 14, 1792.

Words to live by:  The early Presbyterians in our country had a desire to see the first inhabitants of America become Christians and reach their own people with the gospel.  The fruition of this desire was seen in Samuel Occom.  However, they could have treated their new converts is a better way. Certainly, what the Rev. Wheelock did to Occam was born out of sinful covetousness and theft, both directly forbidden in the tenth and eight commandments of the moral law.  The latter should have been disciplined by his church for those sins.  That Samuel Occom continued to minister after that in evangelism, is remarkable and a testament to the saving grace which was in his life.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Chronicles 27 – 29  

Through the Standards: Conditions of acceptable prayer

WLC 185 — “How are we to pray?
A.  We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.”

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