November 7: Conrad Speece

A Systematic Preacher and a Punctual Presbyter

by David T. Myers

Some have already carved into their tombstone on a little plot of ground in the neighborhood cemetery the words we wish relatives and visitors to view when they visit our graves. In your author’s case, I placed a summary of Psalm 84:11 stating, “The Lord gives grace and glory.” It is my hope and prayer that unbelievers will read that and be convinced that to enjoy glory, they must experience God’s saving grace. But this graveyard message pales beside the gravestone greeting of the Rev. Conrad Speece which is found on his tombstone in the Old Cemetery Burying Ground of the Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church. It reads:

“Sacred to the memory of Rev. Conrad Speece For more than twenty-two years, Pastor of Augusta Stone Church. Born Nov 7 1776 Died Feb 15, 1836. He consecrated a mind rich in generous learning to the service of his Savior in the great work of the gospel ministry, til they shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Reader, if in his life he tried in vain to save, hear him at last, I heard him from the grave.” Truly even in death, Conrad Speece wished to convict and convince readers of the gospel truths.

Born November 7, 1776 in New London, Virginia, Conrad Speece was of German heritage. His grandfather, also named Conrad Speece, had emigrated over to the colonies. On his parent’s farm, an early teacher saw his potential and urged his parents to send him to a special school. But they would not and could not due to the expense of that education. In God’s providence, the school heard of him and provided him with a four year gift of free education. Relatives provided the board for him, and he began his studies.

He was an eager student, even mastering Latin. Those studies were interrupted for the young master when in 1795, his mother died. That death caused Conrad to seek the way of salvation. However, he did not realize the depravity of his own heart, thinking that salvation was available to those who worked hard for it. Unsaved school mates in a change of schooling, namely Liberty Hall Academy, banished eternal things from his mind. But the Presbyterian leanings of the academy, (which later became Washington and Lee University), led him steadily to the gospel truths. In his own words, he said, “I was enabled to cast myself with mingled joy and trembling by faith, on the rich mercy of God, in Christ for salvation, and to devote myself to His service.” Joining in April 1796 the membership of Presbyterian Church of New Monmouth, Virginia, he received his first communion.

Beginning to preach in various empty pulpits, even without ordination, he proclaimed the gospel mainly in non-Presbyterian congregations. He had a problem understanding and receiving infant baptism. It was only after reading a book by Richard Baxter that he understood the biblical basis for the doctrine and then received it gladly. Ordained by the Presbytery of Baltimore, he eventually became the third pastor of the Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church in Virginia. Truly there, he served his Savior in the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. Conrad Speece died February 17, 1836.

Words to Live By:
Our title tells us that he loved to preach systematically the Word of God in the pulpit and was faithful to attend the wider church as a “punctual presbyter.” As such, he was able to reach into people’s lives with the spiritual truth of the Triune God and the great redemption He brings upon mankind. My readers: speak words of encouragement to your pastor this Sunday. Tell Him how much you appreciate his hard work. Write notes of blessing to him. And yes, pray for Him weekly.

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