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When Dr. John B. Adger returned for physical recuperation from the mission field in Smyrna [part of Turkey], he soon began to preach to a congregation of blacks whom he gathered in the basement of the Second Presbyterian church of Charleston, South Carolina, where his brother-in-law Dr. Thomas Smyth was pastor. With appeal to the city and to the Presbytery on behalf of the newly gathered congregation, Dr. Adger delivered a sermon before the Presbytery on May 9, 1847. His text was “the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5). Without delay, Dr. James H. Thornwell prepared a review of the sermon, which appeared on the pages of The Southern Presbyterian Review, giving support to Adger’s plan, as unveiled in the sermon. Dr. Adger had argued that blacks ought to have their own congregations, a full-time white minister, and the Gospel preached in terms that they could understand. While this plan certainly encountered opposition, nonetheless the leading citizens of Charleston and particularly those of Second Presbyterian gave enthusiastic support to the idea.

It was with this support that a chapel was built for the fledgling congregation on Anson Street in Charleston, at a cost of $7,700, and the building was dedicated on this day, May 26th, in 1850.

Dr. John L. Girardeau succeeded Adger as pastor of the congregation, and the Anson Street chapel soon became too small. Expansion required a move to Calhoun Street, where the largest church building in Charleston. Dr. Girardeau noted that he was only kept from going to the foreign field by the call to preach to the mass of slaves on the seacoast. The church records for Zion Presbyterian Church give evidence of Girardeau’s diligence in caring for his flock and how often he was called upon to minister to them in their dying hours.

But Girardeau had stiff opposition from many of the citizens of Charleston, including the mayor. In a 2005 essay titled “A Lost Moment in Time”, (now Dr.) Otis W. Pickett observed that

Girardeau had become so unpopular that he was almost lynched by a crowd of angry as well as nervous CharlzionPC_CharlestonSCestonians in 1859. However in the midst of all this Girardeau press on with his ministry and it continued to prosper. Many African Americans flocked to his church because he acknowledged the need of the African American community to have an identity independent of the white congregations in Charleston. He acknowledged that the African Americans needed to be religiously empowered; by providing this in a limited way at Zion Church, he endeared himself to his flock. Distinct from all other churches of the time, Girardeau’s church allowed African Americans to sit in the pews while the white families were made to sit in the balcony. The environment that Girardeau created for African Americans in his church has been described as “their church, as no other church in Charleston has been theirs since Morris Brown and the African Methodist Church. It was a building, a place, that had been built for them. Here they could gather, could claim a community and thus a humanity in the very midst of an alienating and dehumanizing bondage.”

However, his most revolutionary act was allowing the slaves in his church to have surnames. For hundreds of years, slave owners throughout the south had denied their slaves surnames in order to show that slaves had no lasting family connections because of their status as property. Hence, claiming surnames was a bold display of independence for slaves. By allowing this, Girardeau made Zion Presbyterian Church a place where slaves could publicly declare they had a family history and they had an allegiance to people other than their owners. As a result of this training and ministry experience, unlike many of his contemporaries, Girardeau was more than adequately prepared to extend greater racial equality after the Civil War was over.

After the War and before Girareau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to “the Holy City” and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, Girardeau worked arduously among both black and white in Charleston. He labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the Church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his Session, laid hands on his black brothers.

Unfortunately, the pressures of Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the hardened positions of notables like B. M. Palmer and R. L. Dabney brought the church to a pivotal moment. The weight of political and social issues eventuated in “organic separation” of white membership and black membership and the formation of churches along the color line. Girardeau alone dissented against the resolution at the 1874 General Assembly in Columbus, Mississippi, for which he served as Moderator.

By 1959, the historic building of the Zion Presbyterian Church was demolished to make room for the expansion of two insurance companies. The building had been sold to Public Savings Life Insurance Company for $70,000, after the congregation made the decision that the building was larger than needed and began seeking a smaller, more modern building to better suit the needs of the congregation. The church continues to this day, having merged with another to become the Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church.

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Words to Live By:

As Dr. Pickett observed at the opening of his essay,

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that eleven o’clock Sunday morning is America’s most segregated hour still rings true today. As sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith have noted, American Christians are “divided by faith” along racial lines. While a number of factors—social, economic, educational—have contributed to this segregation, the most significant determining factor continues to be historical.
In the early days of Reconstruction, American evangelicals in the south missed an opportunity to break down racial barriers by fostering interracial congregations. Instead of seizing the moment, evangelical Christians buttressed the dividing walls of hostility, failing to live out the reality of the Gospel. While each mainline denomination in the south had its own way of proliferating racial separatism, none provided a more heart-breaking example of this than the Southern Presbyterians.

The challenges that confront our culture today present Bible-believing Christians with a great opportunity, one in which we truly can, if we will rise to the occasion, show that the Gospel cuts across all dividing lines. As the wider culture is increasingly fractured, the Church is afforded an opportunity for witness. How can you pray? How can you support new works like Crown & Joy Presbyterian Church, or older works like New City Fellowship? How can you strengthen men in their preparation for the ministry? How can you extend a hand of fellowship? Will you?

 

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Born in Rendham, Massachusetts on March 13, 1918, Thomas G. Cross was educated at Hampton Sydney College and went on to prepare for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary. In a ministerial career that spanned fifty years, the Rev. Thomas G. Cross was instrumental in establishing forty churches across the United States. He was ordained by the Bible Presbyterian denomination in 1943 and from 1948 to 1953, served as General Secretary for the National Presbyterian Missions agency. Among his published works is a concise history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

The last years of his life were devoted to developing a pleasant and affordable retirement center primarily for the widows of Calvary and Palmetto Presbyteries. Bailey Manor, as it was named, in Clinton, South Carolina, was created from a former hospital. The Rev. Thomas G. Cross passed away on May 12, 1994.

Dr. Cross was survived by his widow, four sons and a large extended family including three brothers, David, Howard, and Walter G., Jr., all of whom also became PCA teaching elders. David, the youngest of the Cross brothers, has graciously supplied us today with his own recollections of his brother Thomas:—

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Cross – March 13, 1918 – May 12, 1994
by his youngest brother, David Cross.

Tom was almost 24 years old and had been married to Jane for almost 2 years when I was born, so my earliest recollections of Tom are of his visits to our parents’ home in Scranton, PA. We sat around the kitchen table as he told stories about driving the length and breadth of the United States and even into Canada to help small groups of people who wanted to form a Bible Presbyterian Church. Many of those churches are now part of the Presbyterian Church in America. The skills in business affairs that he learned from our father were valuable assets in the things he did for those churches.

Tom was the General Secretary (Chief Operating Officer) of National Missions, the church planting agency of the denomination. As the ministry grew, Tom moved it to St Louis, where Covenant College and Seminary were starting and at the time was the center of the country based on population.

Soon after that move increasing tinnitus exacerbated by air travel and the needs of a family of four boys, motivated him to accept a call to the Bible Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. But his interest in church planting never dimmed. He became the founding pastor of Mitchell Road PCA as well as encouraging the planting of several other churches in that part of the state.

When he retired from Mitchell Road he moved to Columbia, SC to start yet another church. Then returned to Greenville where he helped a struggling church to get moving.

For years he, and some like-minded men had been working on the idea of having a retirement home for people of average means. The right location seemed to elude them until a redundant hospital building became available in Clinton, SC. Tom and Jane sold their lovely home and moved into one of the first available apartments converted from old hospital rooms in Bailey Manor, which at the time was still a building site.

My last recollection of Tom was his visit to England in 1993. I was serving there with Mission To the World. He came for the 350th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Westminster Assembly. He preached in the tiny church we were planting in Chelmsford and he wanted to know about things, even the small businesses that operated from trailers and sold tea and sandwiches alongside the highways.

Tom never lost his enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel, nor his interest in the people who surrounded him. His example has been a challenge to me for my whole life.

Words to Live By:
Tom Cross never lost his enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel.  Do you, as a reader of this post, have an enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel?  After all, that is what the Great Commission is all about, starting in your  home town (your Jerusalem), going to your county or state (your Judea), including parts of your living area which may be on the adverse side of life (your Samaria), and going through support of foreign missionaries, or going yourself to the other parts of the world.  May we all have Tom Cross’ testimony, that of being on fire for the spread of the gospel.

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A member church of the Presbyterian Church in America since 1974, Fairview Presbyterian Church in Fountain Inn,South Carolina, was established in 1786 and ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA (fifteen are older).

History of Fairview Presbyterian Church
Greenville County
1786-1886

The Fairview Presbyterian Church is located in Greenville County, South Carolina, Fairview Township, five miles west of Fountain Inn.

The above church was organized in the late fall of 1786, the following families composing the organization: John Peden’s, Samuel Peden’s, David Peden’s, James Alexander’s, and James Nesbitt’s.

This church was received under the care of South Carolina Presbytery on April 10, 1787.

There have been four church buildings. The first was built of logs and located, not far from the church spring, on the east side. The second was also a log structure and situated near the spot on which the brick church afterwards stood. The third was the brick building. It was finished in 1818 and dedicated by the Rev. R.B. Cater in August of that year. Its site was just in front of the graveyard, where remains of it may still be found. The fourth is the one now in use. It was completed in March, 1858, and dedicated by Rev. David Humphrey and Dr. E.T. Buist on May 15 of the same year. The occasion was also a season of great spiritual blessing to the church. There were many conversions and the membership much revived.

The Rev. Samuel Edmonson of Virginia, preached the first sermon and organized the church with the following ruling elders: John Peden, Samuel Peden, James Alexander, Sr., and his son, John Alexander. The first minister to serve the church was Rev. John McCosh, for one year. Second, Rev. J. Foster Simpson and Rev. William Montgomery, each preached occasionally until 1794, when Rev. James Templeton was called as stated supply for half of his time and continued for six years.

From 1800 to 1802, the pulpit was vacant, but in 1802, this church, with Nazareth, Spartanburg County, called the Rev. James Gilliland, Jr., as pastor, and continued for ten years.

From 1812 to 1814, Rev. James Hillhouse, Rev. Thomas Archibald, Rev. Joseph Hillhouse, and Rev. Alexander Kirkpatrick were occasional supplies, as appointed by Presbytery.

From 1814 to 1816, Rev. Hugh Dickson served the church for one-fourth his time. Again the Rev. James Hillhouse served for six months, followed by Rev. Thomas Archibald for one year, and Rev. Alexander Kirkpatrick for two years. Rev. Thomas Baird served for two years, 1818-1820. Rev. Michael Dickson served Fairview and Nazareth from 1820-1827. Vacant from 1827 to 1832, Messrs. Watson and Craig holding occasional services as appointed by Presbytery, with Rev. Arthur Mooney.

In 1832, Rev. John Boggs took charge as supply, later, as pastor. He was followed by Rev. David Humphrys for three years. He was succeeded by Rev. William Carlisle in 1838, who was stated supply for six years. He was followed by Rev. John McKittrick for two years, then Rev. E.T. Buist as stated supply for six years.

This brings us to the ministry of Rev. C.B. Stewart, which extended over a period of thirty years, eighteen, as stated supply, and twelve years, as pastor. His worthy successor was Rev. Marion C. Britt, as pastor for three-fourths of his time.

The list of those who have served as ruling elders in the church from 1786 to 1886 is as follows: John Peden, Samuel Peden, James Alexander, Sr., John Alexander, Alexander Peden, William Peden, Robert Morrow, Anthony Savage, Thomas W. Alexander, Lindsay A. Baker, James Peden, James Alexander, David Morton, Alexander Thompson, James Dunbar, Adam Stenhouse, Austin Williams, J.E. Savage, John M. Harrison, A.W. Peden, T.H. Stall, Dr. W.A. Harrison, Thomas L. Woodside, Dr. D.R. Anderson, W.L. Hopkins, Robert Wham, David Stoddard, J.W. Kennedy, and Dr. H.B. Stewart.

The office of deacon was established in 1858, and the following men have served in that capacity up to the year 1886: John T. Stenhouse, T.C. Harrison, William Nesbitt, D.R. Anderson, Thomas L. Woodside, Thomas H. Stall, W.L. Hopkins, C.D. Nesbitt, D.M. Peden, T.C. Peden, E.W. Nash, A.S. Peden, J.T. Peden, M.P. Nash and S.T. McKittrick.

An imperfect roll of communicants from the beginning to 1886, contains about twelve hundred names. The neighboring churches of New Harmony and Lickville are her daughters, and many colonies in other states, who have carried with them her faith and spirit. Two of her sons are in the ministry, the Rev. A.G. Peden of Griffin, Georgia, and the Rev. C.L. Stewart of our own Presbytery. The first hundred years of her existence have been rich in blessings, and we can raise our Ebenezer with thanksgiving and praise for “hitherto the Lord has helped us.”

The church bears no marks of decay, and if her children are only faithful to their heritage, it can be said of her that she has but entered upon her divine mission of “gathering and perfecting the saints.”

By (Mrs.) Cannie H. Woodside. [written circa 1936]

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Where are they now?

This day, December 4, 1973, marks the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, as the denomination’s first General Assembly met in Birminham, Alabama, December 4-7 at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

Lately I’ve been compiling a list of all the churches that have ever been a part of the PCA. Perhaps we can talk more about that larger list another day, but for now we want to look at a select portion of that list. The obvious starting point for such a list would be the founding churches of the PCA, and those founding churches are the subject of our post today. Working from the Minutes of the PCA’s First General Assembly, we find there were 273 churches that can be called the founding churches of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Of these 273 churches, 182 of them are still in the PCA (though technically, two of those had merged with other churches). Three left for other Presbyterian denominations. One of our founding churches, First Presbyterian of Hueytown, Alabama, left to join the OPC in 1991. The Jackson Street Prebyterian Church of Alexandria, Louisiana (now Grace Presbyterian), joined the EPC in 1997. And Progressive Presbyterian Church, Princeton, North Carolina, joined the Associate Reformed denomination, also in 1997. Over the years, another 16 of the founding churches have left to independency.

Regrettably, 23 of the founding churches have dissolved. Closer study needs to be done to determine the reasons, whether they were small rural churches or whether other problems brought about their closing. Then the final category is for now one of mystery, and more research needs to be done with this group. Here the record is simply unclear for 41 of the founding churches. Most likely these churches were dissolved or perhaps left to independency, yet without proper notation of their action on the roll books. We might find even find in one or two instances that the church is still in the PCA, but its status is obscured by a change of name or location. (I have already discovered one such discrepancy.) In all, those 23 closures and 41 “uncertains” total 64 founding churches effectively lost to the PCA. Nothing is forever in this poor world.

It is interesting to look at those 273 founding churches state by state, and the following list shows the breakdown, The last column in this list shows how many PCA churches and missions now operate in each of those states, so as to show subsequent growth in each state.

State Then Now
Alabama 50 110
Arkansas 2 11
Florida 19 154
Georgia 17 143
Kentucky 2 14
Louisiana 6 17
Maryland 1 57
Mississippi 89 117
North Carolina 13 112
South Carolina 35 109
Tennessee 11 75
Texas 4 92
Virginia 12 101
West Virginia 3 10
None 9


Note that last group, “None,” in the list above. That should be understood as “unaffiliated with any Presbytery at the time of joining the PCA”. If you know anything about Presbyterianism, you’ll recognize what an odd thing it was to have churches admitted to the PCA, yet without being on the roll of a given Presbytery. Surely this was a temporary arrangment, but the story of those 9 churches could be interesting.

Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina were numerically the three strongest States for the PCA at its founding. Between those three States, the roles are now reversed, with South Carolina having the greatest growth in PCA churches, followed by Alabama and then Mississippi. Ironically, in six States–Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia–the PCUS maintained a stronger hold on churches and few PCUS churches left in 1973 to join the PCA. However, since that time the PCA has seen strong growth in these same States. The States of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia have remained difficult terrain for church planting and PCA growth there has been slow.

Then looking at the list of founding churches as grouped by the 16 founding presbyteries, we have the following:

Calvary [SC] – 35 churches

Central Georgia – 11

Covenant [AR; MS; TN] – 13

Evangel [AL] – 25

Gold Coast [FL] – 12

Grace [LA; MS] – 31

Gulf Coast [FL; LA] – 8

Mid-Atlantic [MD; NC; VA] – 7

Mississippi Valley [LA; MS] – 52

None – 9

North Georgia – 3

Tennessee Valley – 5

Texas – 4

Vanguard [AL; GA; KY; NC WV]; – 13

Warrior [AL] – 22

Western Carolinas [NC] – 5

Westminster [NC; TN; VA] – 10

Calvary, Grace and Mississippi Valley Presbyteries were, by their size, among the more influential of the newly formed PCA Presbyteries. Covenant, then with just 13 churches, is today perhaps the largest of the 81 PCA Presbyteries.

One interesting story worth following up would be that of First Presbyterian Church, Brookhaven, MS, in Grace Presbytery, and the only church in that Presbytery that lost its property upon leaving the PCUS. Were there others in other Presbyteries that also lost their property. By the kind providence of God, most of these founding churches were able to keep their property.

And of course we can expect there might be an interest in which were the oldest of these founding PCA churches? The ten oldest, all still in the PCA to this day, are as follows:

1. 1764 – Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clover, SC [Calvary]

2. 1775 – Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Winnsboro, SC [Calvary]

3. 1786 – Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, GA [Central Georgia]

4. 1808 – Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, SC [Calvary]

5. 1812 – Salem Presbyterian Church, Blair, SC [Calvary]

6. 1812 – Meadow Creek Presbyterian Church, Greenville, TN [Westminster]

7. 1819 – Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church, Malden, WV [Vanguard]

8. 1820 – Friendship Presbyterian Church, Laurens, SC [Calvary]

9. 1820 – First Presbyterian Church, Greenville, AL [Evangel]

10. 1821 – Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Abbeville, SC [Calvary]

Of special note in that list is the fact that Bethel Presbyterian Church in Clover, SC, is celebrating this year their 250th anniversary! Other churches have joined the PCA since 1973, and the list above is not exactly the same as the list for the ten oldest churches in the PCA today. Top honor, incidentally, goes to Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, New Jersey, organized in 1680.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were thirteen of the founding churches that had been organized in 1973, in the months just prior to the formation of the denomination. 3 of these were in Evangel Presbytery and 3 were in Westminster Presbytery. Another 9 of the founding churches were still quite young, having been organized in the 1960’s. Many of these were located in Florida.

And to conclude, additional to the 1,122 churches and missions throughout the South, there are now another 741 PCA churches and missions spread out across the remainder of the nation, in Canada, and even around the globe. Which means that while 60% of the PCA remains weighted in the South, clearly the momentum is to expand out across the nation with the glorious Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. In all this work may our Lord God— and He alone—be glorified.

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One of Thornwell’s Students.

A name not widely known today, but a man, a pastor, a servant of the Lord who was widely known in his day, to the point that parents named their children after him. That is a mark achieved by few in life or death. The life and ministry of the Rev. Edward Henry Buist should be particularly of interest as he was a close student of James Henley Thornwell. It was said of Buist that “As a theologian, he was indoctrinated by the living principles enunciated by the great Thornwell, at whose feet he sat, like Paul at the feet of Gamaliel, an enthusiastic pupil of an enthusiastic teacher.” For that reason, as the student here provides some reflection of the character of the teacher, so the qualities of Buist’s life and ministry are almost undoubtedly a reflection of Thornwell.

Rev. Edward Henry Buist was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the 5th of October, 1837. He was the son of Rev. Arthur Buist, and the grandson of Rev. George Buist, D.D., the first pastor of the Scotch Church in Charleston, SC, and a minister of much celebrity in the Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Buist was graduated from the South Carolina College in 1858, taking the first honor in a large and talented class, and studied theology in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Columbia, SC.

Aveleigh Church was his first charge. While still a licentiate he began to supply the pulpit in 1861, and was ordained at Newberry in June of 1862.

He was married in 1864 to Miss Carrie Sebring of Charleston, SC, (formerly of Tarreytown, NY.) He left Newberry in the summer of 1865, and went to Tarrytown where he remained for sometime. He became the pastor of the church at Cheraw, SC, in 1869. His pastorate at Cheraw continued until his death which occurred on the 11th of September, 1882.

By reason of his talents, his scholarly attainments and his social qualities, Mr. Buist should be ranked among the foremost preachers who have filled the different pulpits in Newberry in the past. I prefer that those who were more intimately associated with him than myself should speak of his virtues, and it affords me pleasure to be permitted to present the following extract from a memorial adopted by the Session and read before the congregation of Aveleigh Church, on the 8th of October, 1882 :

‘Rev Edward Henry Buist was taken from us so suddenly, that it is hard for us as yet to appreciate the void his death has occasioned. It is proper that Aveleigh Church should offer some testimonial to his memory, as it was here that his ministerial life began. This was his first charge. While still a licentiate, he supplied this pulpit, beginning June, 1861, and it was not until June, 1862 that he was ordained pastor. It shows his great conscientiousness that he hesitated twelve months before he could be induced to accept the pastorate. This relation though practically severed the year previous–was not formally dissolved until the 15th of February, 1866–so great was the desire of this congregation to retain his services. His life during these years of civil strife is closely interwoven with that of the Church.

“Although young, his character even then had been sufficiently developed to enable us to give a proper estimate of it, and to judge from the fruits of his efforts at that time, what influence he must exert when his faculties were fully matured. He was scholarly in his manner, and in all his ways–as a pulpit orator and as a debator. He was a fine linguist, especially proficient in the ancient languages; learned in ecclesiastical history; a master of logic and a profound student of metaphysics. His natural talent for the last science and love of it, tinctured his whole line of thought and mode of expression. He greatly resembled in this respect his beloved teacher, Thornwell, with whom he had also in common that thorough earnestness which carries conviction to the mind of the hearer.

“As to his moral qualilties, what mainly distinguished him was his conscientiousness, his charity both in opinion and action, and his exceeding cheerfulness which so thoroughly imbued him, that he imparted it to all with whom he came in contact; it divested his religion of all gloom–although he was orthodox–invested it with a warmth to which may be ascribed a great share of his success.

“In the wider sphere of the Presbyterian Church as in the pulpit, he was distinguished by his clearness of thought and logical statement, which caused his opinions to be treated with great consideration. His loss will be felt, his memory cherished throughout our entire Church.”

[excerpted from Reminiscences of Newberry: Embracing Important Occurrences, Brief Biographies of Prominent Citizens and Historical Sketches of Churches;… by John Brown Carwile. Newberry, SC: Walker, Evans, Cogswell, 1890, pp. 132-134.

Words to Live By:
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

(Matthew 7:17-20, KJV)

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THE VENERABLE SECRETARY EMERITUS, REV. J. LEIGHTON WILSON, D. D., DIED AT HIS HOME, NEAR MAYESVILLE, S. C., ON THE I3TH OF JULY, 1886.

His death, says one who waited by him, was emblematic of his life—calm, peaceful, beautiful.

WilsonJohnLeightonWe are indebted to the pen of another for a sketch of Dr. Wilson’s life and character. He was born in Sumter Co., S. C., March 25th, 1809. He was graduated at Union College, N. Y., in 1829, and taught school one year at Hadnel’s Point, near Charleston, S. C. In 1833, he was graduated at the Theological Seminary, Columbia, S. C., being a member of the first class of that institution, and the same year was ordained by Harmony Presbytery as a missionary to Africa.

During the summer of 1833, he studied Arabic at Andover Seminary, Mass., and in the fall he sailed from Baltimore, Md., on a voyage of exploration to Western Africa, returning the following spring. As the result of his exploration, he decided on Cape Palmas, Western Africa, as the most promising place to begin his missionary work. In May, 1834, he was united in marriage to Miss Jane Elizabeth Bayard, of Savannah, Ga. In 1834, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson sailed for Cape Palmas, where they arrived at the close of the year. They remained at the Cape seven years. During these years, a church of forty members was organized, more than a hundred and eighty youths were educated, the Grebo language was reduced to writing, a grammar and dictionary of the language was published, the Gospels of Matthew and John were translated, and, with six or eight other small volumes, published in the native language.
In 1842, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson removed to the Gaboon River, 1,200 miles south of Cape Palmas, and commenced a new mission among the Mpongwe people. Here again the language was reduced to writing for the first time. A grammar, a vocabulary, portions of the Bible, and a number of small volumes, were published in the native language.

In the spring of 1853, owing to the failure of Mr. Wilson’s health, he and his wife returned to America. In the autumn of 1853, he entered the office of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in New York, and continued to serve as Secretary until the breaking out of the Civil War, when he returned to his home in the South. At the organization of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Dr. Wilson was appointed Secretary of Foreign Missions. This office he continued to hold until 1885, when the General Assembly, in view of his declining health, relieved him of the active duties of the office, and elected him Secretary Emeritus. During seven years of his active service in the office, the Home Mission work was combined with that of Foreign Missions, Dr. Wilson sharing in the care of both.

In 1854, Dr. Wilson published a volume of five hundred pages on “Western Africa, its History, Condition and Prospects.” Dr. Livingstone pronounced this the best volume on that part of Africa ever published.

In 1852, a strong effort was made in the British Parliament to withdraw the British squadron from the coast of Africa, under the impression that the foreign slave trade could not be broken up. Dr. Wilson wrote a pamphlet, showing that the impression was erroneous, and indicating what was wanting to make the effort to suppress the slave trade successful. The pamphlet fell into the hands of Lord Palmerston, and was, by his order, published in the United Service Journal, and afterwards in the “Blue Book” of Parliament. An edition of 10,000 copies was circulated throughout the kingdom. Lord Palmerston informed Dr. Wilson that this pamphlet put an end to all opposition to the continuance of the squadron; and in less than five years, the trade itself was brought to an end.

During his residence in New York, Dr. Wilson acted as editor of the Foreign Department of the Home and Foreign Record. In our own Church, he began The Missionary, of which he continued to be editor till recently. He published more than thirty articles in the Southern Presbyterian Review and in other literary and scientific reviews. While in Africa, Dr. Wilson procured and sent to the Boston Society of Natural History the first specimen of the gorilla known in modern times.

The commanding presence of Dr. Wilson, and his affable and courteous address, will be remembered by many in the Church. His features indicated physical and intellectual strength. His varied information made him the attractive centre of the social circle. He was just in judgment, wise in counsel, practical in methods. His public life covered more than fifty years. These fifty years have recorded wonderful progress in the Foreign Mission work. They constitute a great missionary age in the history of the Church. Amongst the great workers in this branch of Christian service, Dr. Wilson has stood with the first. By the grace of God, he served his generation nobly, received the loving veneration of the people among whom he lived, and will long be remembered among us as a prince and a great man.

[excerpted from The Missionary (Richmond, VA), vol. 19, no. 8 (August 1886): duplex insert between pages 113 and 115.

Works concerning the Rev. John Leighton Wilson:
Bucher, Henry H., Jr., “John Leighton Wilson and the Mpongwe: The ‘Spirit of 1776’ in Mid-Nineteenth Century Africa,” Journal of Presbyterian History, 54.3 (Fall 1976) 291-316.

DuBose, Hampden C., Memoirs of the Rev. John Leighton Wilson, D.D., Missionary to Africa, and Secretary of Foreign Missions (Richmond, VA : Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1893), hb, 336pp.; 20 cm.

Robinson, William Childs,  “John Leighton Wilson – Pioneer Foreign Missionary,” The Presbyterian Journal, 18.36 (6 January 1960): 9, 10-11.

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reedrcOn this day, January 24, in 1851, the Rev. James Landrum Reed and his wife Elizabeth became the proud parents of a baby boy whom they named Richard Clark Reed. Richard was later educated at King College and prepared for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Graduating from Union in 1876, he was ordained by Memphis Presbytery and went on to pastor churches in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee before being called to serve as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1898. A true pastor-scholar, he was well suited to this post, and the remainder of his years were spent teaching at Columbia, until his death in July of 1925.

In 1914, Dr. Reed had returned from attending the General Assembly of his denomination. What follows is a portion of his review of that Assembly, and it is interesting for dating a change in the conduct of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly, from that of a more deliberative body to something more akin to a business model. The Assembly had been in the habit of meeting for nine days, and now had, since 1912, been meeting for only six. Here Rev. Reed complains of the hurried nature of the Assembly and the resulting lack of patient, reasoned debate. Elsewhere we have noted that on one occasion, in 1880, the Rev. John L. Girardeau spoke at length for two hours on the floor of the Assembly. More remarkable still, the Assembly paid attention to his every word!

The General Assembly, reviewed by Rev. Professor R.C. Reed, Columbia, SC.

The fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, met in the Central Church, Kansas City, Mo., May 21, 1914, and was dissolved at 3:30 P.M., Thursday, May 28th. This is the third Assembly in succession which has limited the span of its life to six working days. These precedents will probably have the force of law for the future. Time was when the Assembly had to rush its business toward the close, in order to dissolution by the end of the ninth day from date of organization. The volume of business has increased rather than diminished. The recent Assemblies have shortened the time not by covering less ground, but by increasing the speed. The liberty of speech has been abridged. it has come to pass that by the time a speaker gets fairly launched, the cry of “question,” “question,” warns the speaker that further effort to get a hearing for his views will be useless. Age and distinguished services do not secure immunity from such discourtesy. The Assembly is ceasing to be a deliberative body, and coming to be an organization merely for business routine.

Obviously, our Assemblies are inoculated with the speed-madness of the age. It could hardly be otherwise. The members, who compose the Assembly, are accustomed by the use of the telephone, rapid transit, and other time-saving devices, to dispatch business at a rate that would have made a former generation dizzy. The speed at which we live is constantly increasing, with the result that we are growing more and more restless. The slightest delay is irksome. The train that pulls into the station ten minutes late creates almost a mob-spirit in those who have been constrained to lose so much of their precious time. When men, who live and move and have their being in an atmosphere charged with the frenzy of hurry, come together in a General Assembly, it is not surprising that they should begrudge every minute that does not show a decided progress in the calendar of business. They are not in the habit of having time to spare. Speech-making is not business, rather it is a clog on the machinery, and the less of it the sooner the members can record their votes and get at something else. The moderator is a good moderator in proportion as he rushes the grist through the mill.

Click here to read the remainder of this excerpt.

Words to Live By:
If only Dr. Reed could have seen the breakneck speed of our lives! Some people seem to thrive on it, but I think we all need times of peaceful quiet, though it can be very hard to come by. Why not begin to carve out a time each day when you will turn off the TV, the radio and all the many devices, and set your priorities for the day? And what better way to set the standard for the day than by getting alone with God in His Word and in prayer? Notice how often Jesus went out early in the morning, by Himself, to pray. Could we have any better example?  I admit it is a discipline, but rising a bit earlier to have that time alone with God is worth it. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

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This day, January 15, in 1966 marks the death of the Rev. Flournoy Shepperson [10/10/1883-01/15/1966].

sheppersonSrFlournoy Shepperson was licensed and ordained in July of 1917 by the Ouchita Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. His first pastorate was in a yoked ministry to the Presbyterian churches of Magnolia and Mt. Holly, Arkansas, serving there 1908 to 1911. Rev. Shepperson next pastored the Presbyterian church in Monticello, Arkansas from 1911 to 1920, before answering a call to serve Purity Presbyterian church in Chester, South Carolina, from 1921-1925. His last pastorate in the PCUS was with the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC, which he served from 1925 to 1940. He then withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian denomination and united with the Bible Presbyterian Synod, while his brother David remained within the PCUS. Upon leaving the PCUS, Dr. Shepperson planted a Bible Presbyterian church in Greenville with an initial congregation of 335 members. The church later took the name Augusta Street Presbyterian church, and eventually became part of the PCA, though it was dissolved in 1996. The Augusta Street church was also notable as the original location of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

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Oddly, Second Presbyterian of Greenville—the church that Dr. Shepperson left—later became one of the founding churches of the PCA, in 1973, and it was not until 1982 when the Augusta Street church also joined the PCA, as part of the Joining and Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

From the Memorial read at the 144th RPCES General Synod:

Dr. Shepperson was among those who very early sensed the rising tide of unbelief in his own Presbyterian denomination and took a strong stand against it. It was under his leadership that there was formed a new Presbyterian church in his own city of Greenville, South Carolina, completely separated from apostasy, which church has grown to be one of the largest and most influential churches of our Synod.

Dr. Shepperson was an able and faithful preacher of the Word of God. He possessed a sense of humor that often brightened and enlivened his messages. This he did not lose even in that period of ill health that preceded his death. Many of us can testify to the rich blessing of his ministry from our own pulpits. Those of us who knew him intimately can also testify to his deep devotion to his Lord and to the consequent blessing always experienced in fellowship with him.

We are all aware of the fact that our loss is his great gain. We know that for him to depart this earthly life was to immediately be with Christ, which is far better. We believe that he could honestly echo the words of the great apostle, “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Dr. Shepperson had three sons, two of whom entered the ministry, and a daughter. Flournoy Shepperson, Jr. was ordained in the BPC and later came into the RPCES. He pastored churches in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittstown, PA, Savannah, GA, Durham, NC and Tampa, FL. Dr. Shepperson’s son Sam was also ordained in the BPC and later affiliated with the PCA. He had a long pastorate in Arkansas and is now honorably retired. It was Sam who so graciously provided the news clipping and photograph of his father.

Words to Live By: The Church is blessed with many faithful pastors. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the relative few who stray in doctrine or practice, and we forget to praise God for how He works through those who remain faithful and steadfast year after year. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle, and your pastor is on the front lines. Remember to pray for him.

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