New Brunswick Presbytery

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When He Died, The Town Shut Down.

John Todd Edgar, D. D., was born in Sussex county, Delaware, April 13th, 1792. His father removed to Kentucky in 1795. He was at the Transyl­vania University, Lexington, Kentucky, a short time, but was not a graduate. He graduated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1816 [as Princeton Seminary was established in 1812, the school had only graduated its first class the year before, in 1815.] He was thereafter licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick.

Upon his ordination in 1817, he was installed as pastor of the Church at Flemingsburg, Kentucky, and la­bored there with earnestness and assiduity. He was subsequently pastor at Maysville, Kentucky, and in 1827 took charge of the Church at Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky. Here his eloquence soon gathered round him the leading men of the State.

In 1833 he accepted a call from a church in Nashville, Tennessee, and it was among this congregation that his great life-work was fully accomplished. A new facility was completed for the congregation in the year of his arrival, and the same building was destroyed by fire in September of 1848. The property was valued at $30,000 to $40,000, though only insured to the amount of $8,000.

Dr. Edgar died of a stroke, which was in that era called apoplexy, on November 13th, 1860, at the age of 68 years and 7 months. His death produced such a profound sensation in the community, that, by proclamation of the Mayor, there was a general suspension of business in the city, and the Chancery Court, then in session, adjourned.

Dr. Edgar was a cultivated and courteous gentle­man. His intellectual endowments were more remarkable for their admirable balance than for the special eminence of particular faculties. He was accounted one of the finest orators of his day. As a pastor, he was social, winning and a friend to all. His temperament was kind and genial, generous, loving and most just. He had a settled aversion to all that was mean, cruel and base, and was himself sustained by personal and moral firmness of the highest order, and was thor­oughly unselfish. By birth, training and deep con­viction he was a Presbyterian, and clear and constant in his convictions, kind and trustful towards all good men of every denomination, he was a noble specimen of the body to which he belonged.

Words to Live By:
“God often extorts, in a dying hour,” said George Whitefield, “that testimony to His grace which was not fully given in life; but he who has lived faithfully can afford to die silent.”

Sources: 
Freely edited from Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, p. 208, with additional information drawn from The First Presbyterian Church of Nashville: A Documentary History. 

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Church Doors Were Shut and Barns Were Opened

Regrettably is did not take long for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to suffer dissention and schism. Its first Presbytery was organized by seven congregations in 1706; its first Synod was established in 1717. But by 1737 the turmoil had begun which led to a major division of the young denomination in 1741. This was the Old Side/New Side schism [1741-1758], which occurred in the context of the First Great Awakening. To simplify the issues,
(1) both Sides viewed the Synod as a higher court, but the New Side maintained that the Synod could only advise and not bind the Presbyteries. In other words, the Synod had no legislative powers. And here one particular point of contention had to do with a requirement of university training, and that at a time when there were virtually no suitable schools to be found in the colonies;
(2) Itinerate ministers preaching in pulpits not their own—a common practice during the Great Awakening—was seen as scandalous and disorderly by Old Side men, while New Siders frequently preached wherever they saw opportunity for the Gospel; and
(3) the fact that ordination is no assurance of salvation, and New Side men (Gilbert Tennent in particular) were not shy to charge some ministers of the Old Side with being unconverted. The charge brought great offense to the Old Side men, and it was only when Gilbert Tennent softened his rhetoric in later years that a healing of the division became possible. And so the Church was reunited in 1758.

All of this controversy was of course played out in the lives of the participants. One of these men, a New Sider, was the Rev. John Rowland, an immigrant from Wales who had studied at William Tennent’s Log College. At the organizing meeting of the New Brunswick Presbytery, on August 8, 1738, Rowland was received as a candidate for the ministry, even though he did not have a university degree, something normally expected of all candidates. Nonetheless the Presbytery proceeded on September 7th of that year to license Rowland to preach, and immediately sent him to the church at Maidenhead, New Jersey, a congregation just outside the bounds of the New Brunswick Presbytery.

Rowland was informed that his going there would cause problems, but he went anyway. Before the month was out, some in the congregation brought complaint before the Presbytery of Philadelphia. “The Presbytery advised them that Rowland was not to be esteemed and improved as an orderly candidate of the ministry.” But Rowland persisted in his ministry, and the complaint was then brought before the Synod. In deciding the matter, the Synod pointed to the first article in The Form of Church-Government 1645), as composed by the Westminster Assembly, and in particular to the stipulation that candidates must hold a university degree. Training at the Log College was insufficient in their estimation. Those who wanted to continue as a congregation under Rowland’s preaching were refused.

And so “church doors were shut against Rowland, and barns were opened.” Gilbert Tennent preached for the newly separated congregation and administered the sacraments. Rowland also labored at Amwell, New Jersey where he found “an agreeable people” and they asked him to be their minister. The New Brunswick Presbytery instead ordained him as an evangelist. A history of those days notes that “So great were the congregations [gathering under his preaching] that the largest barns of his adherents were required.”

Yet, in the whole of it, Rowland found that the territory was not an inviting field. There was little piety or religious knowledge among the larger population. While he was travelling, his ministry was blessed with remarkable works of conviction among the people, but this continued only a short while. Wisely, Rowland soon turned his focus to discipling those who had come to Christ.

Rev. Rowland died before the fall of 1747. He was said to have possessed a commanding eloquence and many fine qualities. George Whitefield said of him, “There was much of the simplicity of Christ discernible in his behaviour.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Rowland did not live to see the end of the Old Side/New Side schism, when the two sides were re-united in 1758. He does not appear to have been one who was active in the controversy that led to the division of the denomination. Rather, wanting to preach and minister as he could, he was simply caught up in the throes of the schism and sought, despite it all, to minister faithfully to the Lord’s people while he could. None of us knows how long our life will be, and surely things will not work out the way we had planned. We are all of us carried by the tides of history, some more so than others. But take joy in knowing that God is Lord over history. What we will accomplish in this life is in His hands. Our place, above all else, is to remain obedient to the Scriptures. The things we want to accomplish, the desires of our heart, should first and foremost be surrendered to the Lord, wrapped in prayer, then done with a constant eye to His glory. Only in that way can we then finally close our eyes on that distant day knowing we have done what we could—that we have done what was best—that we have lived our lives for Christ and His kingdom.

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Injurious to Your Health

It was downright unhealthy to be the president of the College of New Jersey (today’s Princeton University) in the opening years of that educational institution.  In the first nine years of its existence, five presidents were installed and five presidents were on the short list to heaven!  That fifth president was Samuel Finley.

Born in Scotland in 1715, Samuel Finley came over to the colonies at age nineteen. He studied theology at the celebrated Log College under the Tennents, was ordained into the New Brunswick Presbytery as a revivalist preacher.  He was clearly a New Side Presbyterian.

Assigned first to a brand new Presbyterian church in Mitford, Connecticut, he discovered that the governor of Connecticut really did not want him, or for that matter, the Presbyterian Church.  He was escorted, or should I say, expelled from the colony.  It is clear from his later ministry that this was all due to the providence of God.

For the next seventeen years, he was the pastor of Nottingham, Maryland.  Receiving  accolades as the best training academy in the middle colonies, West Nottingham Academy soon became the school to attend.  With a standard of great scholarship, two signers of the Declaration of Independence — Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton — studied under Samuel Finley there.

Finally, in 1761, as a member of the original board of trustees, Samuel Finley was chosen to be president of the College of New Jersey.  It was a time for numerical growth and spiritual growth for the college.  In fact, a revival broke out during the second year of Finley’s presidency.  It was said of Samuel Finley that he was a very accurate scholar and a very great and good man.  His preaching was “calculated to inform the ignorant, alarm the careless and secure, and edify and comfort the faithful.”  The students loved him and respected his scholarship.

A favorite expression before he died on July 17, 1766, is just as true now as it was then. Samuel Finley said constantly, “the Lord Jesus will take care of His cause in the world.”

Words to Live By: 
By no means are we to be lazy because the Lord will take care of his cause in the world.  We are told in Scripture to take advantage of every opportunity, because we live in evil days.  But there is comfort to know that the Lord is in control of His church, and His cause.  Let that be our thought as we go through this week.

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Directed by Providence
by Rev. David T. Myers

Our Confessional Fathers in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5, section 1, would define “providence” with these words:

“God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

That full, Scripturally-based statement is seen in the short life and ministry of our Presbyterian subject today.

There is so much that we don’t know about him. William Dean was born in 1719 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland. We don’t know anything about his parents, his upbringing, or even what education he has in that old country. We don’t know when he arrived in the colonies, though some have suggested that he was trained at the Log College. The first notice of him is on the records of New Brunswick Presbytery, held on August 3, 1741, when he was examined and later licensed to the gospel ministry on October 12, 1742.

He was sent with the words of his spiritual fathers to “preach the everlasting gospel where Providence may direct.” With that spiritual charge given to the young Irish man, he was sent to two settlements of Ulster families at Neshaminy and the Forks of the Delaware. Hearing him expound the Word of God, the people called him as their pastor, which call he refused! So he supplied their spiritual needs and added to those places, the area around Cape May, New Jersey. Later, he was sent to the Forks of Brandywine and Pequea.

Still continuing his ministry of “preaching the everlasting gospel where Providence may direct,” he was sent to Greenwich, New Jersey, and in October 1744 to what is now Fairfield, New Jersey and the Forks of the Delaware.

In the next year, he was sent with a Mr. Byram down into Augusta County, Virginia, where a great awakening took place under their proclamation of the gospel, continuing for six full years!

Ordained in May 1746, the Forks of Brandywine called him as pastor, with three acres presented to him and the congregation, and a meeting house erected. Presumably around this time, he married, and eventually four children were born to that union.

By this day, July 9, 1748, however, the next place he was located was in heaven! He died at age 29! So short was his time on earth, as Providence directed.

Words to Live By:
The celebrated Samuel Davies said that William Dean was an active, zealous, and faithful minister, speaking of him as a most useful minister. Davies, called by some “the apostle of Virginia,” lamented Rev. Dean’s early death. Many of our readers might ask “Why” to the God of Providence? Yet the only answer which can be given is that it was the Lord’s sovereign will. Let it be our testimony that each Christian reader will faithfully proclaim and live the everlasting gospel where God’s providence may direct our steps to our family members, especially our covenant children, in the visible church, and to the needy culture in which God will direct us. The New Testament writer James wrote, “(we) are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead (we) ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, (we) will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:14, 15.)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Injurious to Your Health

It was downright unhealthy to be the president of the College of New Jersey (today’s Princeton University) in the opening years of that educational institution.  In the first nine years of its existence, five presidents were installed and five presidents were on the short list to heaven!  That fifth president was Samuel Finley.

Born in Scotland in 1715, Samuel Finley came over to the colonies at age nineteen. He studied theology at the celebrated Log College under the Tennents, was ordained into the New Brunswick Presbytery as a revivalist preacher.  He was clearly a New Side Presbyterian.

Assigned first to a brand new Presbyterian church in Mitford, Connecticut, he discovered that the governor of Connecticut really did not want him, or for that matter, the Presbyterian Church.  He was escorted, or should I say, expelled from the colony.  It is clear from his later ministry that this was all due to the providence of God.

For the next seventeen years, he was the pastor of Nottingham, Maryland.  Receiving  accolades as the best training academy in the middle colonies, West Nottingham Academy soon became the school to attend.  With a standard of great scholarship, two signers of the Declaration of Independence — Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton — studied under Samuel Finley there.

Finally, in 1761, as a member of the original board of trustees, Samuel Finley was chosen to be president of the College of New Jersey.  It was a time for numerical growth and spiritual growth for the college.  In fact, a revival broke out during the second year of Finley’s presidency.  It was said of Samuel Finley that he was a very accurate scholar and a very great and good man.  His preaching was “calculated to inform the ignorant, alarm the careless and secure, and edify and comfort the faithful.”  The students loved him and respected his scholarship.

A favorite expression before he died on July 17, 1766, is just as true now as it was then. Samuel Finley said constantly, “the Lord Jesus will take care of His cause in the world.”

Words to Live By: 
By no means are we to be lazy because the Lord will take care of his cause in the world.  We are told in Scripture to take advantage of every opportunity, because we live in evil days.  But there is comfort to know that the Lord is in control of His church, and His cause.  Let that be our thought as we go through this week.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 31 – 33

Through the Standards: A summary of our love for others

WLC 122 —  “What is the sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man?
A.  The sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man, is, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do to others what we would have them to do to us.”

WSC 42 “What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A.  The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.”  (The last phrase of this catechism being the sum of the last six commandments)

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