August 28: Rev. Robert Shields [1828-1883]

“Reformed Presbyterians claim the name Presbyterian, because they believe Presbyterianism to be the only divinely instituted form of Government in the Christian Church; and they accept the Westminster form of Church Government as justly setting forth in substance and outline the system of order appointed by Christ for His own house. They use the term, Reformed, to express their adherence to the principles and practices of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in the purest times of the Second Reformation between the years 1648 and 1649.”

The above useful definition, narrow as it may seem to some, comes from the pen of the Rev. Robert Shields, whom I can safely bet is a man unknown to most, if not all, of our readers. Continuing our tendency to be fairly ecumenical here at This Day in Presbyterian History, touching as we do on many of the different strands of Presbyterianism, today we want to tell something of the story of the Rev. Robert Shields, a Canadian pastor of Reformed Presbyterian convictions.

Rev. Robert Shields, pastor of the the Reformed Presbyterian congregation of Ramsay, Canada, departed this life on Tuesday, August 28, 1883. Mr. Shields was born in 1828, in Craftsbury, Vermont, of Scotch Covenanter parents. He attended the Academy in his native town and graduated from Geneva College back when it was still located at Northwood, Ohio. Here at the College he remained for a time, laboring as an diligent teacher.

Afflicted from early life with a severe heart problem, which also affected his lungs and general health, his studies were pushed under great disadvantages; yet naturally gifted and a conscientious student, he became a thorough and accurate scholar, taking special interest in natural science. He was an intellectual man with a strong mind and a weak body. In addition to his labors as a pastor, he was a reputable botonist, having turned his attention somewhat to geology, and was at home among the flowers and rocks. He was so conscious of his entire dependence upon the God of all mercies, that he gave every fifth dollar he possessed to the Lord. He published some historical articles in the magazines of the Church, and printed a few pamphlets, among which are: “The Watchman’s Word,” 1873. “Tribute to Caesar,” 1874.

He was licensed by the Lakes Presbytery of the RPCNA, May 17, 1855, and for ten years served the Church in that region with fidelity and devotion in supplying vacant congregations, but much of the time laboring among the Freedmen in the South during the war of the rebellion. He was called by the Ramsay congregation, and being ordained and installed on July 13, 1865, was their accepted and beloved pastor until his death. It was noted of him that his sermons were carefully prepared, always clear and concise, and delivered with earnestness and spiritual unction. He was a wise and faithful pastor, a modest and pious Christian.

Words to Live By:
In the death of beloved friends and family, we note that these providences are calls to those of us who are still alive to be diligent “while it is day; for the night cometh when no man can work.” — “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”–Psalm 90:12, KJV.


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