January 15: Philip Livingstone

One of the Twelve Signers
by Rev. David T. Myers

Many Presbyterians know that the Scotch-Irish had a pivotal part in the birth of our country.  But they may not be aware that there were twelve Presbyterians who put their names on the line as well as their sacred honor to actually sign their name on the Declaration of Independence.  Philip Livingstone was one of those signers.

Livingstone came from a distinguished family.  His grandfather had been a minister in the Church of Scotland; refusing to take an oath of allegiance to King Charles II, he fled to Holland where he was pastor of a Presbyterian Church. Livingstone’s father, Robert, came to the colonies where Philip was born on January 15, 1716.  At age 17, Philip graduated from Yale College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business.  Moving to New York City, he soon made his mark as a merchant and importer.  In 1740, he married Christina Ten Broeck, with whom he would father nine children.

His time in New York City would be spent in both political and civic organizations, serving as an alderman and as a governor of New York Hospital, participating in the founding of what later became Columbia University, and in the founding of a library.  The national scene of the colonies did not escape his spiritual gifts as he was selected as one of the delegates from New York state to the First Continental Congress.

After signing the Declaration of Independence, he  suffered financially for his stand for liberty.  His house on Long Island became a barracks for British troops and his country estate a  hospital.  Yet he continued to serve in Congress, even as he developed dropsy in the chest.  Despite being diagnosed with this death sentence, he fled Philadelphia for York, Pa. with the rest of the Congress. At the sixth Continental Congress, he died and was buried in York, Pennsylvania.

Congress as a body attended the funeral of one of their own, each member wearing a black crepe around his arm, mourning their loss of a compatriot for a month.  His funeral was conducted by the Rev. George Duffield, Presbyterian chaplain of the Congress.

It was said of Philip Livingstone that he was a firm believer in the great truths of the Christian system, and a sincere and humble follower of the divine Redeemer.  That faith and life was evident in his support for independence until his death at age 62.

Words to Live By: Like Joseph and Daniel of Old Testament times, Christians can and should serve the Lord through  government.  We need to pray for all such believers today in that sphere, that God would give them wisdom to serve rightly.

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