April 3: Rev. Matthew Hill

Come Over and Help Us

The first two Presbyterian ministers to come to the middle parts of the American colonies were Francis Doughty and Matthew Hill. The former had immigrated from Massachusetts in 1637 where his Presbyterian and Reformed convictions brought him into difficulty with the Independents in that colony. He, his elder, and some of the Presbyterian adherents found refuge among the Dutch in Long Island, later New York, where they sought to establish another Presbyterian church. It was successfully begun in 1642, but a war with the Indians caused the whole congregation to move to Manhattan for safety.  Francis Doughty became the first Presbyterian pastor to minister in the city of New York. For the next five years, he would minister not only to Presbyterians on that island, but also to tiny groups of Presbyterians in Maryland and Virginia.  It was said that he carried on his Master’s work in spite of difficulties of every kind.

Matthew Hill later continued the work that Doughty began. Born in England, Rev. Hill labored there after college until the Church of England forced him out of the ministry. Moving to the colonies with a Bible,  a concordance, and a few clothes, he began his ministry in Maryland in 1669.  On April 3 of that same year, he wrote a letter to Richard Baxter in England with a plea regarding  the wide and effective door for ministry in the new land.  Listen to some of his words:

“Divine providence hath been pleased to land my foot on a province of Virginia called Maryland. Under (this) government, we have enjoyed a great deal of liberty. We have many of the Reformed religion who have a long while lived as sheep without a shepherd.  We have room for more ministers because we are where the people and the plantations are the thickest. It is judged by some, that two or three itinerant preachers with no dependence on the people for maintenance would be eminently instrumental among them. We cannot but judge it (as a ) duty to come over and help us. Sir, I hope your own inclination will be advocate enough to plead the cause of this poor people and engage you to improve your interest on our behalf with some of our brethren in the work of the Lord.”

Pleading in words similar to the original “Macedonian call,” Matthew Hill evidenced the heart of a true missionary in asking this influential Reformed pastor in England to send all the ministerial help they could use. And speaking from the advantage hindsight, knowing the history that effort, we know that much help did come in the way of both ministers and members to advance the cause of Christ through the Presbyterian faith.

Words to Live By:  Our Lord Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (ESV)  Each of us should be earnest in prayer, but we would particular invite those among our readers who are now retired to take up a special concern, praying that the Lord will literally thrust out laborers into the spiritual fields which are white unto harvest.

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