New School

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Man Knows Not His Time

In The Daily Princetonian (Volume 38, no. 345, 27 January 1916), we read of the Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D., a graduate of the Princeton University, Class of 1861, who for many years was a trustee of Princeton University, that he had died very suddenly on Sunday, January 24, 1915, while visiting at the home of his son H.F. Spaulding Frazer, who was City Counsel for Newark, New Jersey, and a nationally known attorney. Following the funeral, the body of Rev. Frazer was buried in the Short Hills Cemetery.

frazerDavidRRev. David Ruddach Frazer, D.D., was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 10, 1837, the son of William R. and Eliza J. (Armitage) Frazer. He attended the Central High School of Baltimore, Maryland and attended Delaware College before completing his college education at Princeton University in 1861. He then spent three years at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he was graduated in 1864. In the same year he returned to Princeton and received a Master of Arts Degree, and in 1865 was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry. Dr. Frazer was then made pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Clifton, Staten Island, and held that position for two years, leaving it to preach at Hudson, New York. In 1872 he received a call to Buffalo, and was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of that city until 1880. He received a degree as Doctor of Divinity from Princeton in that year, and in 1887 was made a trustee of the University.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Dr. Frazer preached in Brooklyn for the next three years and then accepted a permanent position as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey, being installed there on February 21, 1883. The First Presbyterian Church was the oldest church in Newark, originally Congregational by affiliation, and changing over to Presbyterian in 1720. Rev. Frazer followed the pastorate of the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, and was succeeded, after a vacancy of nearly three years, by the Rev. William J. Dawson. During Rev. Frazer’s tenure at First Presbyterian, the church gave substantially to the cause of  missions and church extension (i.e., church planting). He also served as the president of a home for the aged and infirm. Rev. Frazer served the Newark church until 1909, preaching up until June of that year. Retiring from the active ministry in 1909, Dr. Frazer was very much interested in the Theological Seminary in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and for a time acted as president of that institution.

Three published works by Rev. Frazer were located, the first of which can be found in digital format:
1889
Memorial Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D. : a sermon, delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., Dec. 1st., 1889. Newark : Amzi Pierson & Co., 1889.  47 p.; ill.; 22 cm.

1891
“The Building of the Old Church,” Centennial sermon delivered at the dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, New Jersey, on the text of Isaiah 49:16.

1892
George Washington: An Address Delivered, Feb’y 22d, 1892, Before The Washington Association of New Jersey, by Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D. Also Letters Relating to the Execution of Major Andre, Presented by Mrs. Herbert Gray Torrey, at the Same Meeting. s.l.: s.n., 1892. 16 p.; 24 cm.

Something to Ponder:

From Rev. Frazer’s training and first several pastorates, we might have assumed he was of New School sympathies. Perhaps it is inappropriate to raise that question, given that most of his ministerial career occurred after 1869, when reunion of Old School and New School occurred. But given the question, some light may be shed by the memorial sermon that Rev. Frazer delivered on behalf of his predecessor at First Presbyterian, Newark—the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Stearns. Here the speaker, Rev. Frazer, undoubtedly emulates the object of his address:

“Dr. Stearns began his pastorate here at at time when the rival rallying cries of Old and New School were too well known and were too frequently heard in the Church. As the new Pastor was, in some points in sympathy with Old School views while the Church was in New School connection, considerable interest was felt, in some quarters, as to his probable course under these conditions. But both Old School and New soon learned that Dr. Stearns was no ecclesiastical partisan; that he was a peacemaker rather than a polemic; that his work was constructive, not destructive, hence he was peculiarly fitted to be one of the most influential actors in securing the reunion of the two bodies. Long before this topic became a theme of public discussion, he sought to rid the New School of certain ‘entangling alliances’ which brought that body into disrepute with the Old. He was influential in the establishment, and for many years was a member of the Home Mission Committee, helping, by his wise counsels, to shape that policy which saved to Presbyterianism many churches which otherwise would have sought a different ecclesiastical connection. His sermon on ‘Justification by Faith,’ preached before the Synod of New York and New Jersey, at Poughkeepsie, on October 25th, 1852, did much to allay the suspicions of the Old School body as to the theological soundness of the New. He was an influential member of the New School Committee on reunion and when the inner history of that movement shall be given to the world the record will show that no one man did more of the real, telling work which secured the desired result than did Dr. Stearns.

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carroll_daniel_lynnThe Power of Preaching

Daniel Lynn Carroll was born in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, on May 10th, 1797. After surmounting great obstacles to his education, he was finally able to graduate from Jefferson College in 1823, at the age of twenty-six. He then enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary and took the three-year curriculum, staying for another six months of study after graduation. Of Mr. Carroll, Archibald Alexander said that he was one of his finest students.

Seeking a call, he was installed as the pastor of a Congregational church in Litchfield, Connecticut in October of 1827. Then early in March, 1829, he accepted a call from the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, Long Island, though this pastorate ended in 1835, due to a severe throat ailment.

Almost immediately he was appointed to serve as the President of the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Carroll, unknown to most at the school, was elected to the position almost entirely on the testimony of one old friend who was among the College’s trustees. His term here too was relatively brief, with Rev. Carroll resigning over what was described as “some theological difficulties.” Without further investigation, it appears that Rev. Carroll may have been a New School man, and thus his problems.

Upon his resignation from Hampden-Sydney, Carroll accepted a call to the First Church of the Northern Liberties, a section of  Philadelphia. This was the church where the Rev. James Patterson had ministered so effectively and the region where Patterson had evangelized so fervently. To have followed a beloved pastor like Patterson and done so with success, speaks well of Rev. Carroll and his abilities. Carroll remained at First Church until 1844, when declining health forced his retirement from that pulpit. After a brief tour of service for the Colonization Society, he died, in Philadelphia, at the age of fifty-five, on November 23, 1851.As a preacher,, Dr. Carroll was quite popular, and often preached to crowded churches. He had a refined taste, a lively imagination, and a careful organization in all that he did and said. He excelled at the pulpit. Two volumes of his sermons were published, along with some topical discourses issued separately.Dr. Carroll also contributed an introduction and a chapter to the Memoir issued upon the death of the Rev. James Patterson. Carroll’s chapter from that book focused on field preaching, an activity which characterized Rev. Patterson’s ministry.
Something to Consider:
Preaching with real results depends entirely upon the work of the Holy Spirit. The preacher is simply the instrument for bringing the message. Of Rev. Patterson, Dr. Carroll wrote:—”When he first settled in the northern part of the city of Philadelphia, his church and congregation were comparatively small. But his pastoral labours and visits—his animation, his unaffected earnestness, his holy compassion for souls, and his clear and forcible presentation of the pungent truths of the gospel, soon rendered his preaching so attractive as to fill and crowd the place of worship with attentive hearers. He preached three times on the Sabbath, beside lecturing and attending prayer meetings during the week. He was most assiduous and indefatigable in visiting and pastoral efforts. Now, with this, nay, with less than this, as the measure of their labours, most ministers are abundantly satisfied. Not so with Mr. Patterson. Beside the multitude that crowded the place of worship where he preached, there was a mass of neglected suburban population who went nowhere to hear the gospel, and had “no man naturally to care for their souls.” They desecrated the Sabbath by collecting in groups round the dram-shops, and spending its holy hours in rioting and drunkenness. The benevolent spirit of Mr. Patterson “was stirred within him,” when he contemplated these dense crowds of ruined yet immortal beings, moving in unbroken procession down the pathway to hell. His concern for them soon ripened into an active, laborious compassion, which led to a series of efforts for their good that have no parallel, as we believe, in the history of any settled pastor in this country. This remark refers to his preaching on the Sabbath in the fields. With essentially the same spirit that animated Paul, when he stood on “Mars Hill,” and proclaimed the gospel to those who “were wholly given to idolatry,” Mr. Patterson, amidst all his other exhausting labours, commenced preaching on the commons on Sabbath afternoons, after the close of the second service in church. The crowds which he drew around him, and the temporary and permanent effects of those efforts, have not been surpassed since the days of Whitefield.”To interest such an audience as that which he drew around him on these occasions was no easy task. They were a heterogeneous population, many of whom had never enjoyed a religious education–had never been trained to respect the worship of God and the ordinances of religion–had no habits of attending public worship–had never been accustomed to read or think on serious subjects, and, of course, had none of those habitudes of mind favourable to the reception and solemn consideration of divine truth. In his labours with them, Mr. Patterson had to contend with all that ignorance, wnat of thought, waywardness, irreverence, and undisciplined moral feeling which usually attach to such a class of population. Nor had he the collateral helps furnished by an imposing church edifice, and the example of a large number of pious and respectful worshipers. Yet, in the absence of all these facilities, for arresting attention and producing impression, few preachers for the last half century, have secured a more profound attention, or been the instrument of producing so deep a feeling of interest in an audience as did Mr. Patterson in these services. It was no unusual occurrence for the whole multitude that surrounded him to be melted into tears. This was, in a great measure, the result of his singularly happy method of adapting his instructions to the character and capacities of his hearers. In this respect he exercised an extraordinary ingenuity, interspersing his discourses with pertinent and impressive anecdotes drawn from the providential dealings of God with men which he had personally witnessed.”
Is the Gospel under any greater challenge today? I don’t think so. You can read the Memoir of the Rev. James Patterson, including the chapter on field preaching written by Dr. Carroll, here.

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“A nail driven in a sure place.”

William Miller Paxton is another of those names that seems now forgotten to the modern ear. He was notably a pastor in Pittsburgh, then a professor of homiletics (preaching), first at Western Theological Seminary, also in Pittsburgh, and later at the Princeton Theological Seminary, with a pastorate in New York City falling between those two appointments. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, was also a noted pastor, who was born on April 1, 1760 and who died on April 16, 1845. But in researching the extended family, I was intrigued by this account and so am posting here today an account of the grandson, rather than the grandfather. The full account, and more, can be read here, but in abbreviated form and touching on just a few of the significant events in Dr. Paxton’s life, here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield for his friend and colleague:—

paxtonWmMWilliam Miller Paxton was descended from a godly ancestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions…The earliest of his paternal ancestors who has been certainly traced—the fourth in ascent from him—is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth century living in Bart township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshiped at Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of the family served as an elder in that church; and out of it came his son, Dr. Paxton’s grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who, after having like his father before him fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceasing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna, he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek church, in what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania, and there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century’s duration.

Dr. Paxton’s father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton, was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence and large influence in the community, engaged in the manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, and later near Gettysburg and Chambersburg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Paxton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth was passed mostly at Gettysburg…his collegiate training at Pennsylvania College. He began the study of law, [but] united on profession of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, in March, 1845, …[and] Not more than a month after uniting with the church, on April 9th, 1845, he was received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a candidate for the ministry, and in the ensuing autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological training.

…”I well remember,” he has told us himself, “that when I was a student, no young man could pass through his first year without being constrained to reexamine his personal hope and motives for seeking the sacred office.” No doubt this is primarily an encomium upon the pungency of the religious training of those four great men under whose instruction he sat—Drs. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge and Addison Alexander….One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated himself upon was that he had had a double training in theology. “The class to which I belonged,” he tells us, “heard” Dr. Archibald Alexander’s “lectures upon Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its logical development, in its beautiful balance and connection with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words ringing through my mind, “A nail driven in a sure place.”

…The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during Dr. Paxton’s New York ministry was, of course, the reunion of the Old and New School branches of the Church. He was of the number of those who did not look with satisfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough, however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when corresponding delegates to the New School body were for the first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consummated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor in both the beginning and end of the movement…When once the union was accomplished, he became one of the chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long separated bodies.

…In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his hands from 257 members to 409 in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown with the years, was loath to give him up.

Words to Live By:
Dr. Warfield continued in his eulogy for Paxton, with a message that was close to Warfield’s own heart:—

…what he took his real stand upon was the perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warning those who were charged with the administration of these institutions against permitting them to degenerate into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-long friend, Dr. A.A. Hodge—whom he loved as a brother and admired as a saint of God—when Dr. Hodge was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permitting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations of a scholastic conception of theological training, and insistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the seminary buildings—he was speaking in the First Church—he exclaimed: “There stands that venerable institution. What does it mean? What is the idea it expresses? . . . Is it a place where young men get a profession by which they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a company of educated young men are gathered to grind out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic literature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialects, to master the mystic techniques of the schoolmen, and to debate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees? If this is its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch and burn it! . . . We do not in any way deprecate a learned ministry. We must have learning . . . .But whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men. . . .No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological seminary . . .It is a school of learning, but it is also a cradle of piety!”

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The Lord’s Servant Should Not Strive.

Yesterday’s post was on the Rev. Asa Hillyer, and the following portion of a sermon by Rev. Hillyer will have to suffice for this Lord’s Day.

The 1837 division of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. left Dr. Hillyer on the side of the New School. He deplored the schism, but never let it affect his fraternal relations with those from whom he was ecclesiastically separated. He recommended mutual forbearance and charity, and enjoyed to the end of his life, which was now near at hand, the unabated good-will and warm personal esteem of prominent men on both sides of the Old School/New School division.

In his final days, one of Hillyer’s last public efforts was a sermon preached before the Synod of Newark, taking as his text the words of Abraham to Lot:

Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee?” (Genesis 13:8-9).

Rev. Hillyer urged that there was ample room in our vast country for the fullest activity and expansion of both Assemblies [Old School and New School], and, holding up the noble example of the Hebrew patriarch, he said–

“Let all who have interest in the throne of grace, and all who love the Redeemer and the Church which he purchased with His own blood, unite their prayers and their influence for the spread of this benevolent, this heavenly principle. Beloved brethren, (he added), permit me as your elder brother, as one who has borne the heat and burden of the day, and whose departure is at hand, affectionately to press these remarks upon the Synod now convened. We are indeed a little band. Separated from many whom we love, we occupy a small part of the vineyard of our common Lord. But let us not be discouraged. Let none of our efforts to do good be paralyzed by the circumstances into which we have been driven. Rather let us with increased zeal and diligence cultivate the field which we are called to occupy, while we are always ready to cooperate with our brethren in every part of the land in spreading the Gospel of the grace of God, and in saving a wretched world from ruin.”

Words to Live By:
From what I have seen of his story, I suspect that Rev. Hillyer did not personally hold to the errors that properly characterized the New School wing of the division. His continued fraternal relations with Old School men offers some proof of that. He was, in his own words, more “driven by circumstances,” as many numbered among the New School were. It is a mark of good Christian maturity to hold your convictions firmly, yet still be able to work alongside other Christians who may not share your every conviction or who may have other affiliations. Such fellowship may certainly have its limits, but much can often be accomplished within those constraints. Notice that phrase in Hillyer’s words, above—the Gospel of the grace of God. Without that foundation, there can be no true fellowship. But where we share that common ground of the Gospel of the grace of God, there—and there only—do we have a basis for praying together and working together.

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The Brief Life of a Denomination You Probably Never Heard Of.

It was on this day, April 1, in 1858, that the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formally organized. (The United Synod is not to be confused with the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which was also organized in 1858, but that was on May 26th. We’ll come back to them in 56 days from now.) Right now we’re concerned with the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church.

“Who?,” you say.

Well, they were more commonly known as the United Synod of the South.

Still nothing, huh?

To get to the United Synod, and for a bit of background, yet without bogging down in detail, let’s quickly rehearse some of the significant Presbyterian schisms.

First, there was the Old Side-New Side split in what later became the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1789). That split ran from 1741 to 1758, at which point the split was mended.

Next, there was the schism in 1810 that created the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Centered primarily in
Tennessee and Kentucky, they left because they came to reject certain key doctrines of Calvinism.

As an aside, we’ll also mention the 1833 split of the Reformed Presbyterian Church into Old Light (RPCNA) and New Light (RPCGS) factions.

Coming back to the PCUSA, there was the big split in 1837 which created the Old School and New School divisions. This split had been over serious matters. The Old School side wanted an end to the Plan of Union (a church-planting arrangement with Congregationalists). But the Old School men particularly wanted to rid the Church of doctrinal errors known as Hopkinsianism or New Haven Theology. Not all New School men held to those views, but many did.

After that split, Old School and New School went their separate ways. [This division was mended in 1869, but that’s another story.]

The Old School wing of the PCUSA split in 1861, a month after the Civil War began. It split north and south, and that’s what created the Southern Presbyterian Church. But to be accurate, this split was not over the issue of slavery, but over something called the Gardiner Spring resolution. The 1861 Old School General Assembly adopted this resolution, which in part required pastors to swear an oath of allegiance to the federal government. Many thought that was an inappropriate thing for a church to do, and obviously the Southern pastors, with the war already underway, decided not to go along with that idea, so they split.

But back to the United Synod, this is where it gets interesting. Particularly because most historians don’t give it much, if any, attention. The United Synod was a split from the New School wing of the PCUSA.

One noted historian, Kenneth J. Foreman, Jr., has argued convincingly that “although slavery was a pervasive issue touching everything in America in the 1830’s, it was not one of the issues on which the 1837-38 Old School Presbyterians divided from the New.” Basically, there were strong proslavery elements and strong abolition elements in both Old School and New School wings of the division.

But as the New School Presbyterians began their separate existence, the issue of slavery became more and more central, just as it did throughout the nation at large. Finally, things came to a head for the New School when its General Assembly met in Cleveland in 1857.

Historian Harold M. Parker, Jr. says “There can be no doubt that the momentous Dred Scott decision of 6 March 1857 played an influential role in the New School Assembly’s action of that year. Clifton E. Olmstead has commented that with the decision ‘moderate evangelists were convinced that the time for charity and patience was over.’ Even the opponents of radicalism found themselves in the camp of the advocates of immediate abolitionism. Such ‘came not to bring peace but a sword with which to amputate the gangrenous member of American Society and purify the nation for its divine mission to the world.’ “

The New School Assembly began on May 21st, but it wasn’t until Friday, May 29th that they began to consider an overture regarding slavery. For four days they wrestled with the matter. Finally, the Assembly managed to adopt a paper which began:

“The General Assembly, in view of the memorials before them and of the present relations of the Church to the subject of Slavery, feel called upon to make the following exposition of principle and duty. The Presbyterian Church in these United States has, from the beginning, maintained an attitude of decided opposition to the institution of Slavery.”

[the paper then began to detail the various examples of that opposition. on pages 401-404. Contact me at archivist {AT} pcahistory [dot] org, if you would like to have the full text of that amended overture].

Having marshalled its evidence, the adopted paper concluded:

“We do not indeed, pronounce a sentence of indiscriminate condemnation upon all our brethren who are unfortunately connected with the system of Slavery. We tenderly sympathize with all those who deplore the evil, and are honestly doing all in their power for the present well-being of their slaves, and for their complete emancipation. We would aid and not embarrass such brethren. And yet, in the language of the General Assembly of 1818, we would “earnestly warn them against unduly extending the plea of necessity; against making it a cover for the love and practice of Slavery, or a pretence for not using efforts that are lawful and practicable to extinguish this evil.”

Clearly the New School Assembly was trying to take a firm stand, yet still they were treating the Southern New Schoolers with “kid gloves.”  How much different was the action of the Reformed Presbyterian Church when it sat down to discuss slavery in 1802 and decided unanimously that slaveholders could not be members in good standing–that unrepentant slaveholders would be excommunicated!

Nonetheless, the Southern New School men saw the writing on the wall and decided to separate. And thus the division in 1857 of the New School Presbyterian Church over the issue of slavery, several years before the start of the Civil War.

atkinsonCMOn April 1, 1858, the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. met in Knoxville, Tennessee to formally organize the new denomination. The Rev. C. M. Atkinson, pictured at right, served as moderator for their first meeting.  Still, it was a short-lived denomination, for in 1863 these Southern New Schoolers agreed to merge with the Old School Southerners who had by then established their own separate existence as the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka Southern Presbyterian Church). In fact, Harold Parker has noted that “between 1863 and 1874, the Southern Presbyterian Church participated in six successful organic unions with other Presbyterian bodies in the South and border-states.”

That’s quite enough history for now, don’t you think?

Words to Live By:
The nagging question remains: How could Christians in that era, Old School or New School, have supported an evil like slavery? The only thing I’ve really come up with thus far is that we are, all of us–Christians and non-Christians–far more blinded by our culture than we realize. Christians should find a way out of that cultural blindness, in that the Bible gives us a vantage point that rises above all cultures, all philosophies, all times and man-made religions. If we are truly and fully Biblical in our world-view, we should rise above, and stand against, the sins of our times. The nagging question remains, what sins are we blind to today? Or do we think we’re better than our forefathers in the faith?

For Further Study:
Harold M. Parker, Jr. wrote the book on this subject, titled The United Synod of the South: The Southern New School Presbyterian Church. The PCA Historical Center has preserved among its collections an original copy of the Minutes of the first meeting of the United Synod (1858), but I cannot locate a digitized version of these Minutes. There is a digital copy of their 1861 Minutes available, here.

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