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pattonFLFrances Landey Patton [22 February 1843 – 25 November 1932] was certainly coming up in the world! This native of the Bermuda Island had pastored three churches, beginning in 1865, prior to his being installed in 1873 as professor of didactic and polemic theology at the Presbyterian Seminary of the Northwest [later renamed McCormick Theological Seminary]. Then in 1881, installed as professor of systematic theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Then, in 1888, he was installed as president of The College of New Jersey, and it was during his tenure that the school was renamed Princeton University, in 1896. He served as president of the school until 1902, when he was succeeded by Woodrow Wilson. Patton then became president of the Princeton Theological Seminary, and served in that capacity from 1902 until his retirement in 1913.

Patton was a thorough proponent of the historic Princeton position, which admitted no novelty in the sacred theology. He opposed modernism and the higher criticism. When in 1906 J. Gresham Machen began as an instructor at the Seminary, Dr. Patton proved to be a great influence on Machen. Later, in 1926, when Machen was nominated to take the chair of apologetics and ethics, Patton wrote in support of Machen’s bid for that position.

The following brief quote comes from Dr. Patton’s address on the occasion of his inauguration, on this day, October 27, 1881, as professor of systematic theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. With these closing words, Patton presents a clear and summary analysis of the choice confronting the world in the modern era:—

patton_1881_inaugurationThe question of the hour is not whether God is the logical correlative of our consciousness of moral obligation; nor whether happiness or holiness is the end of life; nor whether conscience is intuitive or developed out of a “strong sense of avoidance.” It is not expressed in the utilitarianism of Mill, or the altruism of Spencer. It does not reveal itself in the paradoxes of Sidgwick, or the transcendentalism of Bradley.

It is the question whether there can be any guarantee for the purity of home, or the stability of the social organism under a philosophy that makes man an automaton. And if, as Mr. Frederick Harrison says, the present age is “ the great assize of all religion,” it looks as if the time had come for the trial of the issue. We have had enough of demurrers and continuances, enough of answers and replications, enough of rejoinders and surrejoinders. The time has come when men must face the question of the possibility of morals. They must decide between a metaphysic that leads to an absolute vacuum in knowledge, absolute irresponsibility in morals, absolute mechanism in life, and a metaphysic that will secure the separateness, the sovereignty, the morality, the immortality of the soul.

With the soul assured, the way to God is plain. And if God is a revelation of God may be. With the possibility of a revelation conceded, the proofs are sufficient, And with a proved revelation before us it is easy to understand that in God we live and move and have our being; that the truth of history has been,the unfolding of His purpose; that the order of nature is the movement of His mind; that the work of the philosopher is to rethink his thought; that Christianity is the solution of all problems ; that the blood of Christ removes the blot of sin; that the Church is the flower of humanity; that the incarnation of the Logos is God’s great achievement; that Jesus is the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person; that in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that by Him all things consist.

Quote Source: Van Dyke, Henry J. and Francis L. Patton, Addresses at the Inauguration of the Rev. Francis L. Patton, D.D., LL.D. at Princeton, N.J., October 27, 1881. 1. The Charge, by Dr. Van Dyke, pp. 5-20; 2. Inaugural Address, by Rev. Francis L. Patton, pp. 21-46.

Words to Live By:
“If God is, then a revelation of God may be.” [The quote above lacks the comma, which I think helps make better sense of the sentence.] If there is a sovereign, personal God, then He may reveal Himself in such a way that we can understand something of who He is and what He demands of us as His creatures. The choice confronting modern man is simple. Either believe in an impersonal universe in which there can be no purpose, a universe in which everything is irrational, OR know that there is a God who is, a God who has purposed, at His own expense, to remove that which divides us from fellowship with Him, a God who has said to all who call upon Him in faith, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

 

 

 

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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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