BX 8935 .T56 1903 Thompson, Charles Lemuel

1839-1924. The Presbyterians



'The Story of the Churches

The Presbyterians



Secretary of the Board of Hotne Missions of the Presby- terian Church in the U. S. A,


NEW YORK: THE BAKER & TAYLOR CO. 33-37 East Seventeenth St., Union Sq. North

Copyright, 1903,


The Baker & Taylor Co.

Published^ February ^ igoj


There are many histories of the Presby- terian Church in this country. It has, how- ever, been thought that there was still room for one which should put the story into a few brief chapters presenting only the main out- line of events and giving them a popular rather than an ecclesiastical setting. Neither the limitations of space nor the purpose of the writer has allowed discussions of polity or doctrine.

This is therefore a record of the life and work of the Church given in its most essen- tial features. As such it is commended to those of any communion who would know what share Presbyterians have had in the progress of Christianity in our country.

Publishers' Note

The aim of this series is to furnish a uniform set of church histories, brief but complete, and designed to instruct the average church member in the origin, development, and his- tory of the various denominations. Many church histories have been issued for all de- nominations, but they have usually been volumes of such size as to discourage any but students of church history. Each vol- ume of this series, all of which will be written by leading historians of the various denominations, will not only interest the members of the denomination about which it is written, but will prove interesting to members of other denominations as well who wish to learn something of their fellow workers. The volumes will be bound uni- formly, and when the series is complete will make a most valuable history of the Chris- tian church.



I. Presbyterian Origins 9

II. Laying Foundations 34

III. Opening of a New Century 48

IV. The Division of 1741 60

V. Missionaries and Patriots 81

VI. Over the Mountains 104

VII. An Era of Missions 119

VIII. The Old North West 151

IX. The Division of 1837 173

X. The Civil War and its Results . . . .198

XI. Reunion 212

XII. Heresy Trials 227

XIII. Confessional Changes 238

XIV. The Presbyterian Church To-day . . 262

The Presbyterians



The story of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America requires that there should be some definition of Pres- byterianism and some word of its history in the old world that prepared for its coming to the new. As a form of doctrine and worship Presbyterianism is to be traced to the personality and the teachings of John Calvin. As to its essential principles, how- ever, it may be traced to Christ and his apostles. It aims to recover and apply the principles of Christian life announced by Christ and the doctrines formulated by his 9

lo The Presbyterians

apostles. An attempt has sometimes been made to trace a continuous line of Presby- terian history from the apostolic period to the organization of the Church in the time of the Swiss Reformation. Such an at- tempt, like that of tracing an unbroken apostolic succession, is accompanied with great difficulties. It is not necessary. Un- doubtedly there were among the Walden- sians and others those who before the Ref- ormation were endeavoring to keep alive the fires of Christian life on obscure altars in the valleys of Italy and among the Alps. God has never left himself without the seed of a true Israel in the earthN But Presby- terianism as an organized form of church life is to date from the time of the Reforma- tion.

What now are the historic lines by which it came to this country ? What principles characteristically Presbyterian can we trace in our national beginnings ? Every nation has its own personality. That personality

Presbyterian Origins ii

is the outcome of certain ruling ideas. Our country is peculiar in tracing its origin not to any one people of Europe. The line of its history is not, therefore, a single line, and is not to be traced as you might trace the strong current of a river. It is the resultant of the combined life of half a dozen Euro- pean nations. The problem, therefore, of finding out what are the ruling principles that have entered into the formation of this republic is not a simple but a complex one. At the same time the facts stand out so clearly in our own history and are so dis- tinctly marked as that history is traced back to the lands whence it came, that it is not difficult to mark the national characteristics across the ocean that have determined this last born of great nations.

In a general way, historians are in the habit of saying that the chief factors of national life have come to us from England, Scotland, France, Ireland and Holland. As the fingers come to the wrist, these nations

12 The Presbyterians

have come to a certain solidarity in our own country. It is necessary, therefore, to in- quire what are the essential truth elements of these respective nations. Of what ideas of truth, tolerance, education and liberty were they respectively the exponents when the great Reformation that quickened all Europe from the Orkneys to the Tiber had done its work, and the historian had had time to look about over the countries which it had influenced ? Certain leading truths so developed and new to the world are called Reformation Truths. Some of them had existed ages before, were an in- heritance from Roman law and primitive Christianity, but had been swept away or covered up by the general flood of igno- rance and oppression. Now with the lustre of new ideas, fresh born from heaven, they emerged to gladden the world. Following these ideas in their historic development one can follow the doctrines of personal liberty, rights of conscience, human brother-

Presbyterian Origins 13

hood, and free government, springing up in Scotland and Holland and France almost simultaneously, toward one sourceful foun- tain; for it requires no profound or pro- longed study of historic tendencies to dis- cover that emigrants from Scotland, and the Netherlands, and England, and France, drank their first drafts of intellectual and spiritual liberty in the new-born republic of the city of Geneva.

Greene, in his history of the English peo- ple, recognizes truly the genesis of the new life of Europe, and of the Reformation when he says, ** As a vast and consecrated democracy it stood in contrast with the whole social and political framework of the European nations. Grave as we may count the faults of Calvinism, alien as its temper may be in many ways from the temper of the modern world, it is in Calvinism that the modern world strikes its roots, for it was Calvinism that first revealed the worth and dignity of man. Called of God and heir of


14 The Presbyterians

heaven, the trader at his counter and the digger of the field suddenly rose into equal- ity with the noble and the king."

Motley says: "To the Calvinists, more than to any other class of men, the political liberties of Holland, England and America are due." Hume says: *' It was to the Puritans that the English owe the whole freedom of their constitution." Of the Scotch clergy, Buckle testifies: ''To these men England and Scotland owe a debt they can never pay." Our great historian, Ban- croft, says: "He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American Independence."

Democratic government, free institutions, free schools, popular education, are the nerve ideas traceable to Geneva and John Calvin. The marks of their origin are dis- tinctly upon them. They go down from that elevation to Holland, Spain and Eng- land, and so to the United States by way of

Presbyterian Origins 15

Southampton and Delfthaven and London- derry and Havre.

That this tendency may be clear in our minds and our obligation to that centre may be distinctly recognized, let us notice how these nerve ideas reappear successively in the lands whence our fathers came. It will illustrate how through

" The ages one increasing purpose runs ; And the thoughts of men are widened by the process of the suns."

Nv The most potent form of Presbyterianism that came to this country came from Scot- jand. As early as the sixth century Co- lumba, a native of Ireland, organized the Church of the Culdees in Scotland. For centuries they were witnesses of the truth, bearing often the persecutions of the Catho- lic domination. The Scotch Reformation was only a revival of the primitive Chris- tianity which the Scotch had practiced for centuries. It had been buried by Romish


l6 The Presbyterians

power but at the first touch of the Refor- mation it sprang to life. The first bond to bind together those who had received the new truths was "The First Covenant" signed in Edinburgh December 3d, 1557. After many struggles the party of reform conquered and in 1560 Parliament abolished Roman Catholic worship, adopted a Con- fession of Faith conformed to the Reformed churches on the continent, appointed min- isters in eight principal cities and superin- tendents for other districts. In December of that year the first General Assembly was constituted. John Knox was the leader in these movements. He had sat at the feet of Calvin and became the most illustrious exponent of Calvinism in Scot- land. At last, after long conflict between the nobles and the people, and the king and the people, in 1592 Knox and his great as- sociate, Andrew Melville, secured the com- plete recognition of the Calvinistic faith and the Presbyterian form of Government as

Presbyterian Origins 17

the established religion of Scotland. James I, however, soon tried to force the Episcopal polity, which was complaisant toward his ambitions, on his Scottish sub- jects. In this he was followed by his suc- cessors Charles I, Charles II, and James II. Bloody persecutions followed. Martyrdoms uncounted added new glory to Scottish history. The revolt against the Stuart tyranny spread through the two kingdoms. After enduring for a short time the cruel and imbecile reign of James II the people in 1688 rose in their might and hurling him from his throne gave the crown to William and Mary who restored civil and religious liberty.

But during the persecutions of the pre- ceding years multitudes of the Scotch peo- ple fled from their homes and found a ref- uge in Ireland. For a while they found tol- eration. But when Wentworth was made the head of the Irish government, rules of strict conformity to the Established

l8 The Presbyterians

Church were enforced. Presbyterian min- isters who refused to conform were driven into exile. In 1642 Ireland had need of a Scottish army to help put down the rebel- lion. Again Presbyterianism obtained a footing and the first Presbytery was formed / in Ulster on the tenth of June, 1642.

The immigration from Scotland now increased. Thus the Scotch and Irish Churches, though not originally united were one in that both grew out of persecution, had similar struggles and triumphs.

Meantime, the dynasty of the Stuarts was making life intolerable for all lovers of liberty. Presbyterians, while allowed the exercise of their worship and of their church government, were excluded from office; were required to have marriages solemnized by English ministers and otherwise were ill-treated. This, together with the troubles between the people and their Irish land- lords, brought many of them to America, depleted the Ulster colony and strengthened

Presbyterian Origins 19

that Scotch-Irish element of the Presbyterian Church in this country on which its strength has so largely depended. The Scotch and Irish set their faces toward the new world as offering an asylum for the oppressed. So all through the second century of our country a large and very important part of our immigration consisted of Scotch and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. They settled largely in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Mary- land and Virginia. \ Another stream came from France. Thev were the Huguenots, the party which in France represented the principles of the Reformation. Calvin began to preach the new doctrines in the University of Paris as early as 1533. They rapidly took hold of the people. Protestantism grew apace. Attempts to check it by persecution only fanned its flames. Not only the common people but men of rank and influence joined its standards. Catherine tried to crush it by force. And in vain. Then

20 The Presbyterians

she tried treachery; and the massacre of St. Bartholomew the most awful butch- ery on record followed on August 24th, 1572, when Admiral Coligny and 5,000 Huguenots were mercilessly slain in the streets of Paris. In sixty days through- out France it is estimated that 70,000 per- sons lost their lives. It is said that when Philip II of Spain heard it, he laughed for the first and only time in his hfe and that Rome, when the tidings came, was delirious with joy. War after war succeeded until Henry IV, originally a Protestant but later a Catholic for political reasons, on April 15th, 1599, issued the Edict of Nantes guarantee- ing religious protection to the Protestants. With the exception of a few towns, they were allowed to worship in their own way throughout the kingdom. They were al- lowed to hold office. Their poor and sick were to be admitted to hospitals and their ministers were to be supported by the state. With the accession, however, of

Presbyterian Origins 21

Louis XIII the Edict of Toleration was prac- ^ tically disregarded. Richelieu, who had been called into the councils of Louis, de- termined to crush the Huguenots whose destruction he regarded as essential to the power of France. On the accession of Louis XIV the Protestants were for a time "^ protected, but on the death of Louis XIV and of Cardinal Mazarin, the successor of Richelieu, the free exercise of religion was once more in jeopardy. Things went from bad to worse.

On October 23d, 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes. The Protestant religion was prohibited. Even private worship was forbidden. Protestant pastors were to re- move from the kingdom within fifteen days; all Protestant schools were closed.

There was nothing left now for the de- voted friends of the Reformation but to leave the country they loved. Sismondi computed that the total number of those who emigrated was between three and four


22 The Presbyterians

hundred thousand. A like number had perished in prison, on the scaffold, at the galleys and in their attempts to escape. It is impossible to say how large were the colonies that came to the United States, but they were settled at an early day in New York, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. The French language was used in preach- ing in Boston till the close of the eighteenth century and Huguenot services were cele- brated in French and English as late as 1772. The Huguenot church in Charleston, South Carolina, has retained in its primitive purity the old Calvinistic liturgy of its fore- fathers. "These pious fugitives have be- come public blessings throughout the world and have increased in Germany, Holland, and England the elements of power, prosperity, and Christian develop- ment. In our land, too, they helped to lay the firm corner-stones of the great republic whose glory they most justly share." A not unimportant contribution to the

Presbyterian Origins 23

Presbyterian history of our country came from England. The Pilgrims went to Hol- land in 1608, the year after the first Prot- estant colony came to Virginia. After twelve years at Leyden they came to Ply- mouth and formed the first Christian set- tlement in New England. A few years later another Puritan element came directly from England and constituted the Massa- chusetts Bay Colony. In August, 1629, a church was organized with the Rev. Samuel Skelton as pastor, Francis Higginson as teacher, and Mr. Houghton as elder.

The difference between the Puritans who came to this country directly from England and the Pilgrims who came by way of Hol- land is expressed in the words said to have been uttered by Mr. Higginson on leaving England: "We will not say, as the Separa- tists were wont to say at their leaving Eng- land, Farewell, Babylon! Farewell, Rome! But we will say, Farewell, dear England! Farewell, the church of God in England,

24 The Presbyterians

and all the Christian friends there! We do not go to New England as Separatists from the Church of England; though we cannot but separate from the corruptions in it; but we go to practice the positive part of church reformation and propagate the gospel in America" (Cotton Mather, Mag- nalia, I, p. ^62] H. M. Dexter, Congrega- tionalism, p. 414).

It probably is historically true that the chief obligation of New England is not to the few Pilgrims who settled the Plymouth colony (though those 100 souls undoubt- edly gave a stamp which never was effaced from colonial history) but to the Puritans who at the English Revolution in large numbers came to our shores and formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They com- prised the very best elements of English society. The 20,000 who, with Hooker, Winthrop and Mather between 1630 and 1640 settled New England, gave us the dis- tinctive type of Puritan life which, with all

Presbyterian Origins 25

its faults, has been one of the grandest ever impressed on a young nation, and the source of much of the intellectual and moral power which made New England eminent in colonizing energy, all the way to the western prairies. But this superb ideal of a universal Christian kingdom on earth was dreamed long before by the great Genevese reformer in his ** Institutes of Religion."

It is evident that there was among the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony a strong tendency to Presbyterian polity. While the churches were organized on an independent basis they usually had one or more elders associated with the minister in the government of the congregation. Dr. Briggs in his " American Presbyterianism " mentions the following prominent ministers as holding to the Presbyterian form of gov- ernment: "Thomas Parker and James Noyes of Newbury, Mass., John Eliot the Apostle to the Indians, Peter Hobart of

26 The Presbyterians

Hingham, and John Young and Richard Denton of Long Island." Indeed through- out the Massachusetts Bay Colony the local congregations were as a rule formed on the Genevan model, they were independent of ecclesiastical control outside of them- selves but their own governing body was a bench of elders. A compromise as to gov- ernment was made necessary by circum- stances. A congregationalized Presbyteri- anism spread throughout New England. As the years went on, however, Independency gained ground by immigration from Eng- land and the Presbyterian element largely emigrated to New York and New Jersey.

This statement of origins would not be complete without a recognition of the Dutch element in our population. They were essentially Presbyterian. They im- bibed their ideas of civil and religious lib- erty from Geneva— fought for it behind the sheltering dikes of Holland and then when a new theatre for its development appeared

Presbyterian Origins 27

on this side of the water took their share in transplanting those ideas to a more con- genial climate. It is true the Dutch were not driven hither by storms of persecution as was the case with the English, Scotch, Irish and French. Coming freely by per- ception of the advantages the new world offered, they maintained on these shores, as did the other colonies, the principles en- deared to them by battles and martyrdom.

It is thus apparent that Presbyterianism in this country is the resultant of national forces, diverse in their character and yet one in their great moulding principles. These principles are the Reformation doc- trines expounded by Calvin and filtrated through English, Scotch, Irish, Dutch and French history and coming to unity in the Presbyterian life of America.

Mr. Herbert Spencer has said, " It may, I think, be reasonably held that both because of its size and the heterogeneity of its com- ponents, the American nation will be a long

28 The Presbyterians

time in evolving its ultimate form, but that its ultimate form will be high. One result is, I think, tolerably clear. From biological truths it is to be inferred that the eventual mixture of the allied varieties of the Aryan race, forming the population, will produce a more powerful type of man than has hitherto existed, and a type of man more plastic, more adaptable, more capable of undergoing modification needful for com- plete social life."

We may expect therefore that the Pres- byterianism of the United States will be both plastic and powerful representing the best type of the great Reformation doc- trines.

As one of the results of this evolution the polity of the Presbyterian Church has been developed more fully in this country than in any other. Of course the essential prin- ciples of that polity are everywhere the same, viz., the representative church gov- ernment and the parity of the ministry.

Presbyterian Origins 29

It is distinguished from Independency by the former characteristic and from every form of Episcopacy by the latter. Its gov- ernment by representatives allies it to our republican form of government.

The constitution of the Presbyterian Church rests upon essentially the same principles as that of the State, and it re- mains to-day, without essential change, the basis of all our legislation. Rising from it are our representative church courts in direct connection with the people and at the summit is our Supreme Court guarding the rights of individuals and the stability of church government.

It is not necessary to insist, as is some- times done, that the nation copied the Presbyterian Church in deciding its consti- tution and government. It is enough to say that the two conventions, meeting at the same time in the same city and with some identity in membership, doubtless mutually influenced each other and that the


30 The Presbyterians

two forms of government then announced are identical in depending upon popular representation as the essential basis of leg- islation. The Presbyterian Church, holding the ecclesiastical equality of all ministers, unites them and ruling elders, the direct representatives of the people, in all her church courts.

Beginning with the individual church the first court is the church session, made up of the elders of the church and the minister of the congregation. To them is commit- ted all spiritual rule and authority. Above the session of the individual church is the Presbytery, composed of the ministers and one ruling elder from all the churches within a given district. Appeal can be taken from any action of the session to the Presbytery. Above the Presbytery is the Synod, which in this country usually em- braces a state and which is composed either of the ministers and representatives of each church session or now in the larger

Presbyterian Origins 31

synods by delegates chosen by the Presby- tery in some given ratio. Appeal may be taken from any action of Presbytery to the Synod. The final court of the Presbyterian Church in this country is the General As- sembly, which consists of representatives in equal proportion of ministers and elders chosen by the Presbyteries.

j^is to dgctxine : The Presbyterian Church lays its supreme stress upon the Augus- tinian doctrine of divine sovereignty and free grace. Consequently Calvin in his " Institutes of Religion " the work which may be regarded as the fountain head of Calvinism magnifies the doctrines of ef- fectual calling, divine adoption and divine grace. It was opposed on the one hand to the Lutheran doctrines of consubstantiation by which divine grace was closely tied to the sacraments, the Presbyterian Church maintaining that salvation is not dependent upon any external rites or ceremonies but wholly and only on the unmerited grace of

32 The Presbyterians

God. It was opposed on the other hand to Arminianism which made salvation to de- pend upon the free will and choice of men, the Presbyterian Church holding that the choice unto salvation is of God while yet man is left entirely free in the acceptance of the offers of salvation. ^Sv The standards of doctrine in the Presby- terian Church are the Westminster Confes- sion of Faith and the Longer and Shorter Catechisms. They are to be received by ministers and elders as containing the sys- tem of doctrine taught in the Holy Scrip- tures. They are not imposed upon private members of the church. Of them only faith in Christ and a purpose to live a Chris- tian life is required.

The part played by Presbyterians in the subsequent development of the Presby- terian polity will appear in the following chapters. It was to be expected from their origin that they would be fighters for free- dom. Their first fight was for the inde-

Presbyterian Origins 33

pendence of the colonies. Their second fight was against the wilderness, to subju- gate it by the force of Christian civihzation. This has been the battle of a century, dur- ing which the standards first planted in New England snows or the solitudes of southern palmettos have been pressed on- ward at the front of the pioneer advance until crossing mountains and plains and mountains again they were erected among the palm groves of California, and in the snows of Alaska, to claim our country for Christ. The story of this advancing cause will be the burden of these brief pages.



The Presbyterian Church was fortunate in the men who first impressed themselves on the unformed communities of the new world. The early settlements in New Eng- land were largely Calvinistic in theology and divided as to polity between Independ- ents and Presbyterians.

In 1620 the Mayflower brought the Pil- grims who constituted the Plymouth Colony. The Massachusetts Bay Colony coming five years later was Presbyterian. It was sup- ported by the Presbyterians of England. N^ The first church in this colony was organ- ized in 1629.

The Puritan spirit was a spirit of refor- mation and missions. Unhappy theological distinctions at an early period vexed and 34

Laying Foundations 35

ultimately divided the Church; but the be- ginnings were those of a missionary pur- pose— single devoted self-sacrificing.

In no one personality of those early leaders is this missionary spirit so manifest as in the life and work of John Eliot— ''the Apostle to the Indians." After a residence of several years at Roxbury, during which time he devoted himself to acquiring the Indian language, in October, 1646, he began his ministry among the Indians living along the banks of the Charles River.

England and Scotland took a lively in- terest in his mission. Nearly twenty years before the beginning of his labors the char- ter granted the Presbyterian Colony of Massachusetts Bay declared that to "win and incite the natives of the country to the knowledge and obedience of the only true God and Saviour of mankind and the Chris- tian faith was in the royal intention and the adventurers' free profession the principal end of this plantation."

36 The Presbyterians

However far the American people have strayed from this sublime purpose in their subsequent relations with the natives, it is refreshing to recall that the first aim of that colony which so impressed itself on the subsequent history of New England was to establish the gospel not only among the colonists but as well and chiefly among the natives. That this aim was strongly sup- ported in the mother country is evident in the organization, by authority of Parliament in 1649 of the "Society for the propagation of the gospel in New England." The charter of all subsequent missionary opera- tions in our country may be read in the words in which this society was authorized "to receive and dispose of monies in such manner as shall best and principally con- duce to the preaching and propagating of the gospel among the natives and for the maintenance of schools and nurseries of learning for the education of the children of the natives." A collection taken in England

Laying Foundations 37

and Wales for this great undertaking re- sulted in about ;£i2,ooo. This sum, so large for those times, is proof of a foreign missionary spirit centuries before the mod- ern organization of the cause. The Pres- byterian Church in England was so steady a contributor to the missions of Eliot on the mainland and Mayhew and others on Mar- tha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Isles, that by 1689 the work among the Indians showed six churches and twenty-four preachers. Many of these were natives who had been trained and ordained by Eliot. The churches organized by Eliot had a bench of ruling elders, and Presby- teries were constituted "for advice and consultation only," a compromise with the Congregational polity made necessary by the circumstances. V Presbyterianism came to New York first by way of New England. Disputes con- cerning baptism and other non-essentials, growing so violent as to result in persecu-

38 The Presbyterians

tion, drove out of New England some of her best men to find homes and service elsewhere. Among these was the Rev. Francis Doughty the first Presbyterian minister of New York City. Silenced for non-conformity in England he emigrated to the new world and settled at Taunton, Mass., in 1637. After establishing a church there his views on infant baptism brought such persecution upon him that he was ob- liged to flee the country. He found a refuge on Long Island, with the purpose of establishing there a Presbyterian colony. Indian wars broke up the colony and \Doughty escaped to Manhattan Island where he ministered for five years as the pastor of a congregation which later be- came the First Presbyterian church. A con- flict with the Dutch Governor made it necessary for him to leave the city. He found a home in Maryland where he labored until his death, a faithful and honored preacher of the gospel. Dr. Charles A

Laying Foundations 39

Briggs calls him ''the Apostle of Presby- terianism in America." '* He preached here and there to little flocks which were subse- quently gathered into the Presbyterian Church when it was organized into Presby- teries and Synods. Driven from one place by intolerance and persecution he fled to another. He carried on his Master's work in spite of difficulties of every kind." Un- compromising men were needed for those days. Doughty was one of them.

Richard Denton was the second Presby- terian minister to preach in New York City. He too was a New Englander. Coming from England in 1630 he setled first at Wethersfield, Conn., and later at Stamford. In 1644, with a portion of his flock he crossed the sound to Hempstead, L. I. He preached there and in New York until 1658 when he returned to England. He seems to have occupied the building in which the Dutch congregation worshipped and to have continued the labors of his predeces-


40 The Presbyterians

sor, Francis Doughty. He was recognized as a Presbyterian by the Dutch pastors of the city who said of him that he was, **an honest, pious and learned man."

But the man who has the honor of laying the foundations of organized Presbyterian- ism in this country is J^rancis Makemie an Irishman from Donegal County, Ireland, who after a brief missionary tour in the Barbadoes came to the eastern shore of Maryland and organized the Presbyterian church of Snow Hill in 1684. It is worth mentioning that in those days of the intol- erance of the English Church, the Presby- terian Church began its existence in a colony founded by Lord Baltimore, a Ro- man Catholic nobleman! Makemie was the man for the time. Resolute, grave, self-sacrificing, and utterly devoted to giv- ing the gospel to as many communities as he could reach he journeyed in restless and perilous adventure from the Carolinas to New York, gathering together "the poor

Laying Foundations 41

desolate people "" wherever opportunity of- fered and preaching to them with the zeal of an apostle the gospel which came to many in their isolation like a strain of half- forgotten music. Everywhere he found welcome. His hardships were continuous, but nothing daunted him. " In labors more abundant" might be written of him as of Paul. He not only itinerated from one of the colonies to the other, but he crossed the ocean and pleaded with ministers and people in London for men and money with which to respond to the calls of the wilder- ness-swallowed people of the new world. He not only labored and journeyed, he also suffered for the cause he loved. In New York he was thrown into prison for preaching without license and, though the imprisonment was shown to be illegal, he and his associate Hampton, after six weeks in jail, were obliged to pay a bill of costs amounting to more than eighty-three pounds.

42 The Presbyterians

Thus far no Presbytery had been organ- ized. There were scattered Presbyterian churches all the way from Boston to Vir- ginia, but they were isolated flocks, Pres- byterian in their origin and sympathies and modeled after the polity of the Church in that they had ruling elders, but by neces- sity of the situation they were separate and independent churches. The name of Makemie is connected with the organiza- tion of the Church in this country in that he was the Moderator of the first Pres- bytery, which convened in Philadelphia in 1705.

Some kind of informal Presbyterial Con- ference must have been held in Philadel- phia in 1701, when it appears Jedediah Andrews was ordained to the ministry. But not until four years later was there a regular organization. The first pages of the minutes of that meeting are lost. The preceding year Makemie had gone to Eng- land in search of help. The London minis-

Laying Foundations 43

ters responded to his appeal and furnished funds to sustain missionaries. Two men answered the call and John Hampton, an Irishman, and George McNish, a Scotchman, accompanied Makemie on his return. These three,, with Jedediah Andrews, John Wil- son, Nathaniel Taylor and Samuel Davies constituted the first Presbytery. The cos- mopolitan character of American Presby- terianism is foreshadowed in the personnel of that Presbytery. Scotch-Irish, Scotch and Irish ministers united with New Eng- land Puritans in the organization. It was less an ecclesiastical than a missionary organization. Pressed by their isolation and need of mutual encouragement this first Presbytery was as Makemie described it chiefly a ''meeting of ministers for min- isterial exercise to consult the most proper measures for advancing religion and propa- gating Christianity." All the correspond- ence of the Presbytery with kindred bodies in New England and Europe breathes the

44 The Presbyterians

same spirit of devotion to the souls of men. A letter to Connecticut ministers written in 1708, declares the object of the formation of the Presbytery to have been "for the furthering and promoting the true interests of religion and godliness." In a letter the next year to Sir Edmund Har- rison, an eminent dissenter in London, they say: " It is a sore distress and trouble to us that we are not able to comply with the desires of sundry places crying unto us for ministers to deal forth the word of life unto them." These appeals for help were not in vain. Liberal responses came from the mother country. The churches grew and were strengthened and new stations were occupied. And yet how feeble were those beginnings. Only a large faith could have seen in them ground for encouragement. In 1 7 10, in a letter to the Presbytery of Dublin they confess and deplore their weakness. *' In Virginia there was but one congregation, in Maryland four, in Penn-

Laying Foundations 45

sylvania five and in the Jerseys two, with some places in New York."

From the beginning of the eighteenth century the growth of the Presbytery was steady and rapid. Ministers from Ireland and Scotland came in increasing numbers. On Long Island several churches had been organized, chiefly by Puritan ministers from New England. These churches were some- times called Independent, sometimes Pres- byterian. As a rule they had one or more elders and were therefore Presbyterian in their tendencies though a complete organ- ization was at that time impossible. The churches had to adapt themselves to cir- cumstances and the ''feeble folk" were evidently more intent on the propagation of the gospel than on ecclesiastical forms. These developed according to their environ- ment, but the living germ was faith in the gospel and a burning zeal to have it prevail.

The question often discussed as to the nationalities most represented in the Church

46 The Presbyterians

of that time is not easy of settlement on account of defective records. That the English Revolution had sent to us many Dissenters from England, Scotland and Ire- land cannot be doubted. This is specially true of those who landed in Virginia, Mary- land and Pennsylvania. There were also a number of Scotch Presbyterians settled over Congregational churches in New England. Many Puritan and English ministers had gone south from Massachusetts and Con- necticut and settled in Virginia and the Carolinas. Among the Scotchmen listed in the Presbytery of Philadelphia we find the names of McNish, Boyd, Anderson, Gil- lespie and Witherspoon. Ministers from London were Lawson and McGill. From Ireland came Makemie, Hampton, Henry and Orr; while from New England came Andrews, Wilson, Taylor, Smith, Wade, Morgan and Pomroy. But whatever the national origins and whatever types of Presbyterianism they represented (if in

Laying Foundations 47

those days there could be said to be any types) the stress of common necessities and zeal for a common service bound them in most fraternal ties. In view of the divi- sions which were soon to follow, one lin-| gers with satisfaction and pride over harJ monies of early Colonial Church life— har- monies undisturbed by rivalries of place or doctrine. The differences between them had been large enough if they had given time to think upon them. But these differ- ences were forgotten in the pressure of the great work that was upon them. Their poverty precluded pride and their weakness forbade division. The new century there- fore opened with a small company of ear- nest souls scattered imperfectly organ- ized— surrounded by dangers hampered by weakness, but burning in their zeal and triumphant in their faith over all the obstacles that blocked their path.



In the early years of the eighteenth cen- tury the Church grew apace. The one Presbytery no longer sufficed. The need for a division of Presbytery was less in its size than in its wide dispersion which ren- dered attendance on its meetings both diffi- cult and burdensome. Moreover there were now many churches in New England and Long Island which were independent less by conviction than necessity. They would gladly be Presbyterian if there were a chance. Mr. McNish who had been Ma- kemie's colaborer in Maryland had removed to Jamaica, L. 1. He was desirous of secur- ing a Presbyterial organization on Long Island. He and Pomroy of Newtown were

advised '*to use their best endeavors with 48

Opening of a New Century 49

the neighboring brethren that are settled there which as yet join not with us " to unite in the erection of a Presbytery. Thus was formed the Presbytery of Long Island. The remaining members and churches of the Presbytery were organized into the Presbyteries of Philadelphia, New Castle and Snow Hill. So in a single decade the little Presbytery of Philadelphia had grown into a Synod. The Presbyteries then organized were of course small and feeble, but they constituted local centres that gathered to themselves the strength of the churches in their bounds and thus provided for the more rapid increase and the better organization of the denomina- tion.

One cannot look back on these early days without a feeling of just pride. The men who at that time represented Presbyterian- ism were not indeed without the weak- nesses inherent in human nature, but they were heroes in a service of rare self-denial

^o The Presbyterians

and devotion. In poverty, isolation, ob- scurity and often in great physical perils they were true to the loftiest aims of the gospel and toiled under its best inspirations. They were not consumed by denomina- tional ambition but by the zeal of God's house