A Man of Genius and Eloquence
by David T. Myers
The minister showed up at the door of his new congregation in Philadelphia, only to find the door locked, obviously by some dissenters who did not like the fact that the majority of the congregation had called this new preacher. The dissenters were primarily opposed to his stance on the New Side – Old Side schism, then in full swing in the infant Presbyterian denomination. He stood solidly on the New Side. Eventually, some of his supporters threw him into the sanctuary through an open window. What a beginning to a ministry! But it was in this way that the Rev. George Duffield began his long pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church, where he was to remain there until his death on February 2, 1790.
George Duffield was educated first at Newark Academy in Delaware. He followed that with training at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1752. A personal study in theology, under Dr. Robert Smith, of Pequea, Pennsylvania, came next in his years of ministerial preparation. Ordination to ministry in the Presbyterian Church enabled him to serve three churches in central Pennsylvania, namely, Carlisle, Newville, and Dillsburg. After the last congregation he was called in 1771 to the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Philadelphia. It was to be his greatest work.
The national issues of independence from England were on the horizon. George Duffield set his ministry in support of liberty from tyranny. So vocal was he that eventually the church became known as “The Church of the Patriots.” When the first chaplain to the newly formed Continental Congress went over to the British side, the Congress named two chaplains to replace him. One was an Anglican pastor, and the other George Duffield. He would serve alongside the Anglican pastor as well as serving as chaplain of a Pennsylvania regiment in the war for Independence.
Such attachment to Revolutionary ideals would not go unnoticed by the British occupational forces in Philadelphia. They placed a price on his head, thereby putting him in great danger. The Pine Street Presbyterian building was turned into a hospital, with the pews being burned for warmth of the British wounded inside of it. Then it was made into a stable for their animals. The greatest insult of all came when one hundred deceased Hessian (German mercenaries serving the British army) soldiers were buried in the church cemetery of Pine Street Presbyterian.
During the war, Duffield counseled and comforted founding father George Washington with Scriptural truth. After the war, Duffield returned to Pine Street Presbyterian to rebuild and continue his ministry. John Adams, after hearing him one Sunday, told his wife that Duffield was “a man of genius and eloquence.”
He was married first to Elizabeth Blair, who died in 1757. Two years later, he married Margaret Armstrong. Among his descendants were two others named George Duffield, each of whom continued serving both Church and nation as Presbyterian clergy. George Duffield died in Philadelphia.
Words to Live By:
Taking a stand for God and country has its own perils. But if the cause is right and biblical, then it is worth the cost. Our times are in His hands.