January 7: Dr. Thomas Dewitt Talmage

What was Meant for Harm Turned Out for Good
by Rev. David T. Myers

Reared into a family of twelve children on a farm in New Jersey, Thomas Dewitt Talmage had the blessings of Christian parents.  Four of the children in this family, as a result, would become ministers and missionaries of the gospel, including Thomas, who was born on this day on January 7, 1832.  Graduating from what is present day New York University, Thomas at first studied law, but eventually received the calling in becoming a minister of the gospel. Graduating from a Dutch Reformed seminary, he pastored three churches in what is now the Reformed Church in America. In 1869 however, he transferred into the Presbyterian Church and was called to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York.

[» Dutch Reform Church, Philadelphia. This picture shows the church where Dr. Talmage was pastor previous to his call to Brooklyn »]

Preaching without notes, without a pulpit to hold him in place, with the fervor of a George Whitefield, and the rhetoric of Shakespeare and Milton, the church congregation began to grow with the faithful preaching of the Bible,  with the result that  many were turned away.  Building a larger building brought them masses of additional people, which only caused more to be turned away because of lack of space.  Eventually, area ministers in Brooklyn, jealous at his success, began to spread rumors, which were in turn picked up by the news media.  These sinful slurs upon his ministry and person became hot news for the reading public.

The following Sunday after the slanderous remarks hit the front pages, reporters showed up for the worship service, expecting Rev. Talmage to respond publicly to the personal attacks.  That hope would make great news copy.  But Talmage didn’t respond at all to the verbal attacks. In fact, he didn’t say one word about the newsy stories of the previous week.   He chose instead to proclaim the unadulterated gospel.  That one sermon was printed word for word in countless newspapers in New York. and even around the world.  In fact, this policy of printing his sermons by the public media became the standard practice, as some 3000 newspapers eventually came to be used by the Lord in this way to deliver the good news of eternal life.

It is estimated that twenty five million people read his biblical sermons around the world, with thirty thousand souls won to Christ as a result.  He was faithful in word and practice to the calling of Christ to be an ambassador, representing King Jesus to the world of lost men and women.

Words to Live By: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)  It is always easier to respond in kind to those who attack by their words and actions, but God demands of us a different response.  In fact, it is often that “softer word” which is used by the Lord to convict both the one who attacks our character, as well as a tremendous example to those outside the immediate situation.  Jesus told us to bless those who say all kinds of evil against you.  Let us be faithful to do that, and leave the outcome to God.

Rev. Talmage is buried at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. To view his gravesite and to learn a bit more about him, click here.


Our friend Walt Aardsma writes to add this note:

The Talmadge Memorial Reformed Church in Philadelphia was named for Rev. Talmadge.

In 1969 it merged with the 4th Reformed Church producing the Talmadge Memorial – 4th Reformed Church.

By the 1980s this church and one other were the only congregations in Classis Philadelphia that believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. (Classis Philadelphia, the most liberal one in the R.C.A., does not exist any more and was merged with another classis.)

Pastor Barry Traver took Talmadge Memorial – 4th out of the R.C.A. and they became the Pilgrim O.P.C. I chatted with Rev. Traver when this was going on, he had already left the ministry and was working at Radio Shack. Presently cannot find the congregation under this name. My notes say that the O.P.C. received the congregation in 1984, but when i chatted with Rev. Traver it was 1981 or ’80 and i thought that they had already joined the O.P.C.

Have asked for more info. on what happened to the congregation.

Editor: The OPC Ministerial Register indicates that Rev. Barry Traver retired in 2005. To make the story more interesting, come to find out that Talmadge/4th, which became Pilgrim OPC in 1984, later transferred into the PCA in 2005. Suddenly Rev. Talmadge has become all the more relevant!

Lastly, since Walt has raised this issue, I’ve searched out the succession of pastors for Pilgrim Presbyterian Church [formerly Talmadge, then Talmadge/4th]:

[Fourth RCA, org. 1862]: Gustavus E. Gramm, 1862-67;

[Talmadge RCA, org. 1891]:

Elias W. Thompson, 1892-94;
William J. Skillman, 1894-96;
Henry C. Willoughby, 1896-1903;
William Schmitz, 1904-07;
William H. Giebel, 1908-09;
William R. Rearick, 1909-22;
Marion G. Gosselink, 1922-38;
Martin Hoeksema, 1938-45;
Dorr L. Van Etten, 1945-50;
Cornelius Lepeltak, 1950-52;
Lester Justice, 1952-55;
James Phingstel, 1956-64;
Frederick R. Kruithof, 1964-68;
John H. Ludlum, Jr., 1969-73;
Barry Traver, stu p, 1974-76, p, 1976-85; Traver apparently remains on there in the status of “teacher”

Robert Minnig, 1985-96;
William Clair Krispin, 1997-2001;
Edward N. Gross, 2002-05;

Edward N. Gross, 2005-10;
Erik Ludvig Larsen, 2009-2019f.


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