His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:
In memory of
THE REV. DR. JAMES LATTA,
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”
Having read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.
During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.
Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.” God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.