This Day in Presbyterian History:
The World Turned Upside Down
In writing his journal on November 22, 1739, the Rev. George Whitefield described an evangelistic tour in the year of 1739 through the American colonies. Coming to the home congregation of Rev. William Tennent, Senior, in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, Whitefield preached to some 3000 individuals gathered in the yard. After the Word has been proclaimed in all of its fulness, to the immediate spiritual effect upon the hearers, Whitefield went on to describe the famous forerunner to Princeton Seminary and University, the Log College. He wrote,
“The place wherein the young men study now is in contempt called the Log College. It is a Log-house, about Twenty Feet long, and near as many broad; and to me it seemed to resemble the School of the old Prophets. For that their Habitations were mean (low), and that they sought not great things for themselves, is plain from that Passage of Scripture wherein we are told that at the Feasts of the Sons of the Prophets, one of them put on the Pot, whilst the others went to fetch some Herbs out of the Field. All that can be said of most of our public Universities is, they are all glorious without! From this despised Place Seven or Eight worthy Ministers of Jesus Christ have lately been sent forth; more are almost ready to be sent, and a Foundation is now laying for the Instruction of many others. The Devil will certainly rage against them, but the Work, I am persuaded, is of God, and therefore will not come to nought. Carnal ministers oppose them strongly; and because People, when awakened by Mr Tennent, or his Brethren, see through, and therefore leave their Ministry, the poor Gentlemen are loaded down with contempt, and looked upon (as all faithful Preachers will be) as Persons that turn the World upside down.”
To George Whitefield, a spiritual battle was commencing between the angel Michael and the devil himself as a result of these Log College graduates going out into the world. Yet the great revivalist was confidant that God would prevail in the coming struggle.
Words to live by: There is no doubt that this tiny theological school had a spiritual influence far beyond its size in the infant Presbyterian church. Let us learn never to judge any Christian work from the numbers which attend it. Every large church today began as a smaller congregation, sometimes but a handful of committed Christians. The more important question is, is the whole counsel of God being taught and believed and followed? If it is, then that is the church to which you need to commit your soul and body, to say nothing of your spiritual gifts and your time.
Through the Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 1 – 4
Through the Standards: Dispensing the Lord’s Supper
“The Lord Jesus has, in this ordinance, appointed His ministers to declare His Word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.”
1. Engraved portrait of George Whitefield, from The General Assembly’s Missionary Magazine: or Evangelical Intelligencer: For 1806. William P. Farrand, Editor. Vol. II. Philadelphia: Printed for, and Published by, William P. Farrand, No. 170, Market Street. Fry and Kammerer, Printers. 1806. Portrait of Whitefield facing page .
2. Frontispiece portrait from The Presbytery of the Log College, by Thomas Murphy. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work, 1889.
Scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.