Pastors according to God’s heart
What a worthy aim for the under shepherds of the visible church of God! The phrase is biblical, being taken from Jeremiah 3:15. It says “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” (NASB) And the text was the basis for the sermon preached by the Rev James Rogers, on this day, May 9, 1803, in constituting the organization of the Associated Reformed Synod of the Carolinas, meeting at the Old Brick Church, Fairfield County, South Carolina.
Beginnings are historic. This author was one of five Presbyterian ministers who organized the Siouxlands Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America back in 1981. Those first meetings of this lower court were exciting to attend, as we planned the outreach of the witness into the broad Midwest part of our country. And this earlier beginning was, judging from the descriptions of the Rev. Robert Latham in the “History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South,” pp. 295 – 297. Listen to some of his words from that volume:
“Of these fathers of the Associate Reformed Synod of the Carolinas (now Associate Reformed Synod of the South), it may be safely said that they were men mighty in the Scriptures. They all were men of more than ordinary natural abilities, and of rare intellectual and theological attainments in their day. … They were all instructive preachers. They were pastors who fed the people of God ‘with knowledge and understanding.’” (p. 296)
“they (these pastors, seven in number) were bound together by the strongest possible ties. In each other’s temporal, spiritual, and eternal welfare they were deeply interested. They had the same great and good cause—the salvation of immortal souls—at heart. They had no private ends to accomplish; no individual purposes to effect. Of them it may be truthfully said, ‘They took up their cross and followed Jesus.’ In all sincerely they endeavored to live at peace with each other and with all men. By the blessing of God, they lived in perfect harmony with each other. . . . They were devoted friends.” (p. 297)
Their names would be completely unknown by our readers today, but to simply list their names might be noteworthy. They were James Rogers, William Blackstock, John Hemphill, James McKnight, Alexander Porter, James McGill and Robert Irwin. Oh yes, they had ruling elders join them in this regional church, who were named Charles Montgomery, Alexander Steward, Andrew McQuiston, Henry Hunter, Arthur Morrow, and Duke Bell.
All these are now dead, long dead. But by their self-sacrificing labors and godly example, they started the ministry in the South on this day, May 9, 1803.
Words to Live By:
To dwell together in unity for the purpose of the gospel proclamation is a heartfelt prayer in many a church and denomination today. But is it an accomplished fact in the days in which we live? Sadly, we must confess that this is not the case. We need to return to the words of the prophet, in praying for shepherds after God’s own heart, who will be more concerned in feeding the sheep of the pasture on knowledge and understanding. What a worthy prayer before the teaching elders of our readership would pray before stepping behind the sacred desk. What a worthy prayer of the people in the pew to pray for their pastors as they stand behind the pulpit on the Lord’s Day. Lord, give us such pastors and people today in our churches of our land.
One of our favorite readers adds this comment:
Alexander Porter is buried in Preble Co., Ohio, a few miles north of Oxford, OH, in the yard of the old Hopewell ARP, then UPNA, Church. It was begun by expat Carolinian and Tennessean ARPs who came north to get away from slavery. Hopewell congregation was named for Hopewell ARPC in Chester District, now Chester Co., SC. Porter had been the minister there in SC, but moved north to minister to those of his people who had already departed for Ohio.
Interestingly, in the next township to the east was the Beechwoods RPC. Most of these folks were also from Chester Co., SC, from the Covenanter Rocky Creek community. It was very near Hopewell ARPC. Many folk from both congregations were related one to another. It was that way in South Carolina, and it remained so in Ohio. You can go to both graveyards in about a seven minute drive. You will find many of the same family names in both yards.
Hopewell congregation in Ohio no longer exists, but the building and yard are in fine shape. The building is used in the summer for worship services. It was the mother congregation for all the ARP/UPC congregations around that were so strong and numerous that the ARP First Synod of the West put their Seminary nearby in Oxford. See http://www.historichopewell.com/history.html
Beechwoods RPC split in 1833 into “New Light” and “Old Light” components, but they shared the same cemetery. Buildings and congregations are all gone, but the yard’s still there!