April 15: Southern Presbyterian Leaders, 1683-1911

A Book for the Ages on American Presbyterianism
The jacket on the book our title refers to, states that its pages teem with “fervent evangelists, faithful pastors, learned professors, accomplished statesmen, and soldiers likely to inspire fear in the heart of any tyrant, all owing the inspiration of their lives to the saving truths they learned from the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.”  Besides the blog you are reading each day, so does the book by Henry Alexander White entitled “Southern Presbyterian Leaders 1683 – 1911” help you to learn the above sentence. This author is about to suggest that you purchase this book for your covenant families and you.
Henry Alexander White was  a Presbyterian minister himself who was born on this day, April 15, 1861 in Greenbrier County, Virginia [Greenbrier would have become part of West Virginia in 1863 when that state was created and its borders sectioned off. Thanks to several alert readers.]. Two decades later he would make a profession of faith in the Presbyterian Church of Salem, Virginia. Education occupied his Christian life in the next nine years as he studied at Washington and Lee College, Union Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary.  He would earn a bachelor’s degree, a doctorate, and a seminary degree in theology.  Licensed and ordained by the Lexington Presbytery in Virginia in 1881, he was well prepared into whatever ministry the Lord would lead him. And that ministry was on the faculty of both colleges and seminaries. He would serve numerous local pastorates in supply, equally adept in both classes of people in this full ministry.
It was at the age of fifty that he wrote this book. In his preface, it was on this day, April 15, 1911, his birthday, that he sat down to acquaint Southern Presbyterians with “a roll call of the finest representatives of evangelical piety and experiential Calvinism” found primarily in the churches and institutions of the old Confederacy. Actually, if you have been a reader of this blog during our maiden year of 2012, you already have gleaned some of these biographical portraits of these leaders. This author, who wrote most of that year, made liberal usage of these biographical sketches.
See how many of you recognize the names of these leaders. White treats men like Francis McKemie, John Craig, John Blair, John Brown, William Robinson, Samuel Davies, David Rice, James Waddel (how are you doing reader?) Hugh McAden, Alexander Craighead, Henry Potilla, David Calwell, Charles Cummings . . . and I have only mentioned the Presbyterian leaders from the Colonial Period from 1683 – 1774. White goes on to mention those who provided the spiritual  underpinning during the American Revolution, and those before, during, and after the period of the War Between the States.
Now if you cannot purchase the book, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, you can read it online, as Princeton Theological Library has posted it there. Perhaps reading it there will whet your spiritual appetite to order the book itself for your home library.
Words to Live By:
How we as Presbyterians need the past history of Presbyterianism to help us live for God in the present and prepare for the future as we quickly enter into a post Christian world. Happy reading!

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  1. Philip Taylor’s avatar

    One error to correct is the place of birth on April 15th was in Virginia not West Virginia which did not exist until 1863.

  2. Don Barnett’s avatar

    Thank you for all your work in posting historical accounts. I enjoy reading each one and have been using this as my morning reading for some time. In the interest of accuracy I will point out that in todays post Greenbrier County would have been in Virginia in 1861. West Virginia didn’t exist as a State until 1863. Greenbrier County voted to seceded from the union and along with the rest of Virginia they left on April 17,1861. It’s a small point but since this is history I guess it ought to be noted if there is future need to revisit these facts.
    Thanks again for a great resource in understanding Presbyterian heritage.
    Don Barnett

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