Old Side Presbyterians

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An Old Side Presbyterian Plants Numerous Churches

One would need a firm grip on God’s sovereignty to live and minister in the early days of our country. It was true that countless Scot-Irish families resided throughout the regions of colonial America. But it was also true that whereas there were many members of the Presbyterian faith, under-shepherds to care for them were few indeed. So when a colony of Presbyterians found a pastor, he usually stayed a long time. Such was the case for the Rev. Adam Boyd.

Born in Ballymoney, Ireland in 1692, he moved first to New England in either 1722 or 1723. Recommended by the venerable Cotton Mather, he was called by the Scots-Irish people at Octoraro and Pequea, Pennsylvania churches. Ordained to the gospel ministry on October 13th, he began his ministry to the people of this new colony. It was an extensive field of labor, to which by foot and horseback, he visited the people faithfully as he cared for the spiritual needs.

A week after his ordination, at the age of thirty-two, he married Jane Craighead, the daughter of their first pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead. From their marriage, ten children—five sons and five daughters—were born.

In 1741, a schism occurred in the infant Presbyterian Church, between what became known as the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians. Rev. Boyd stayed with the Old Side Presbyterians, even though many of his congregation favored the revivalist approach of the New Side branch. Eventually, a fair number left his ministry and began a New Side Presbyterian congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was forced to leave the remnant which was left and minister to the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, which was Old Side Presbyterian. When differences were finally mended and Old Side and New Side reunited in 1758, the two branches of the Octorora church came back together and were one church again.

Even though he was Old Side Presbyterian, it was said that he in his forty-four years started 16 daughter and “granddaughter” churches. Here was an Old Side minister who defied the typical impression that the Old Side was opposed to planting new churches. Rev. Boyd would go to be with the Lord on November 23, 1768, at 76 years of age.

It was said on his tombstone that he was “eminent for life, modest purity, diligence in office, possessing prudence, equanimity, and peace.”

View a photograph of Rev. Boyd’s gravesite, here.

Words To Live By:

It is so easy to put both men and movements into nice neat little pockets. You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and indeed many were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were so focused on doctrine that they could not be bothered to engage in evangelism. Such are stereotypes, while the truth is more nuanced. Adam Boyd, for one, breaks the stereotype, an Old Side Presbyterian who planted a dozen and more congregations in his forty-four year ministry. Jesus said in John 7:24! “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.” What seems to be so, may not be so. Be careful.

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

Rev. Gilbert Tennent [5 February 1703 – 23 July 1764]You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

An Old Side Presbyterian Plants Numerous Churches

One would need a firm grip on God’s sovereignty to live and minister in the early days of our country. It was true that countless Scot-Irish families resided throughout the regions of colonial America.  But it was also true that whereas there were many members of the Presbyterian faith, under-shepherds to care for them were few indeed. So when a colony of Presbyterians found a pastor, he usually stayed a long time.  Such was the case for the Rev. Adam Boyd.

Born in Ballymoney,  Ireland in 1692, he  moved first to New England in either 1722 or 1723.  Recommended by the venerable Cotton Mather, he was called by the Scots-Irish people at Octoraro and Pequea, Pennsylvania churches.  Ordained to the gospel ministry on October 13th, he began his ministry to the people of this new colony. It was an extensive field of labor, to which by foot and horseback, he visited the people faithfully as he  cared for the spiritual needs.

A week after his ordination, at the age of thirty-two, he married Jane Craighead,  the daughter of their first pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead. From their marriage, ten children—five sons and five daughters—were born.

In 1741, a schism occurred in the infant Presbyterian Church, between what became known as the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians.  Rev. Boyd stayed with the Old Side Presbyterians, even though many of his congregation favored the revivalist approach of the New Side branch. Eventually, a fair number left his ministry and began a New Side Presbyterian congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was forced to leave the remnant which was left and minister to the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, which was Old Side Presbyterian. When differences were finally mended and Old Side and New Side reunited in 1758, the two branches of the Octorora church came back together and were one church again.

Even though he was Old Side Presbyterian, it was said that he in his forty-four years started 16 daughter and “granddaughter” churches. Here was an Old Side ministerial member who defied the typical Old Side opposition to planting new churches. Rev. Boyd would go to be with the Lord on November 23, 1768, at 76 years of age.

It  was said on his tombstone that he was “eminent for life, modest purity, diligence in office, possessing prudence, equanimity, and peace.”

View a photograph of Rev. Boyd’s gravesite, here.

Words to live by:  It is easy to put men and movements into nice neat little pockets.  You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and they were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were settled in a rut of education prowess from the mother country.  Adam Boyd breaks the appearance, as he planted a dozen plus congregations in his forty-four year ministry.  Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”  What seems to be so, may not be so.  Be careful.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 5 – 8

Through the Standards:  Dispensing the Lord’s Supper, from the catechism

WLC 169 — “How has Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?
A.  Christ has appointed the ministers of the word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.”

Image source: Engraved picture of the 1769 edifice of the Upper Octorara church, facing page 67 in Historical Discourse delivered on the occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church, Chester County, Pennsylvania, September 14, 1870, by J. Smith Futhey, Esq. Philadelphia: Henry B. Ashmead, 1870. This volume, in poor condition, is preserved as part of the R. Laird Harris Manuscript Collection, Box 444, file 13. Scan prepared by PCA Historical Center staff.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Pastor in  a Period of Deep Anxiety

Readers of this historical devotional may remember that there was a schism in American Presbyterianism in 1741 between what was called the New Side and the Old Side Presbyterians. With such bright ministers as Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Blair, George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, to mention a few, we might suppose that evangelistic activities only was found among the New Side Presbyterians. But this would be a wrong conclusion.  Consider the ministry of Rev. Alexander McDowell.

Ordained on October 29, 1741, the very year of the schism, Alexander McDowell was sent by the Old Side Presbytery of New Castle,  to Virginia as an evangelist that same year.  He was eminently qualified for this missionary effort.  Born in Ireland and educated at the University of Edinburgh, he came to the American colonies in 1737.

Following his evangelistic tour, he took the pulpit of two Old Side Presbyterian congregations in Elk Church, Lewisville, Pennsylvania and White Clay Creek Church in Newark, Delaware.  Remaining in them for seventeen years, he was said to be a man of more than ordinary mental abilities, an excellent scholar, and a laborious educator.  He was faithful to the higher courts of Presbytery and Synod.  What we might call para-church activities today, he earnestly sought to raise financial support for the widows of ministers.  He even served as a chaplain during the French and Indian War.

Following his faithful ministry as a pastor, he took over the education responsibilities of the Rev. Francis Allison in his free classical school.  When Rev. McDowell oversaw its pupils, it was known at the Newark Academy.  Teaching Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Philosophy, he sought to train the students under his care. This institution went through several changes of names, until it became the University of Delaware in 1921.

Words to live by:  That which produced the First Great Awakening in our land is often lauded, and it should be. But there were those who objected to the emotionalism displayed in those services. They should not be labeled as liberals in any sense of the word.  We are dealing here with different methods of doing God’s work.  There can be as much of God’s Spirit advancing the kingdom of grace with men like Alexander McDowell as there was with a Rev. Gilbert Tennent.  As long as the gospel is proclaimed faithfully, and God’s Word is upheld strongly, let us pray for the advance of the dominion of grace in the hearts of men and women.

Through the Scriptures:  Luke 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  The manner of reading the Word of God

WLC 157 “How is the word of God to be read?
A.  The holy scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believed, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayers.”

WSC 90 How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A.  That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

First Schism in American Presbyterianism

You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 139 – 141

Through the Standards:  Our good works cannot merit  pardon or eternal life

WCF 16:5
“We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.”;

WLC 78 —  “. . .(believers) best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.”

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