June 16: Rev. Jacob Henry Smith

A Little Known Truth
by Rev. David T. Myers

Only a short period of time after the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America had passed that political resolution in 1861 about support for the Union and  President Abraham Lincoln, the southern commissioners returned to their  homes and churches.  It wasn’t long in coming, but on June 16, 1861, Dr. Jacob Henry Smith stood up in his presbytery, which was the Orange Presbytery, and proposed that steps be taken to begin a new Assembly.  By December 4, 1861, that new assembly was known as the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America.

Jacob Smith, with such a common name as “Smith,” was an uncommon man.  Born in Lexington, Virginia in 1820 of Scotch descent on his mother’s side, and German descent on his father’s side, he joined the membership of the Presbyterian Church of Lexington.  He studied at Washington College in his home town, and later, believing that God had called him into the ministry, completed his studies at Union Theological Seminary.

Entering the pastorate at Pittsylvania Courthouse in Virginia in 1846, he labored there for four years before becoming a headmaster at an academy in Halifax County.  The Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia from 1854 – 1859 next enjoyed his preaching.  Many souls entered the kingdom of grace under his ministry.

His  last congregation was the Presbyterian Church at Greensboro, North Carolina, where he labored for 40 years until his death in 1897.  Despite the civil war which raged for the first five years of his pastorate, the Word of God was not bound in any way.  Ten members went into the pastorate, including three from his own home.  It was said that he was a home in the pulpit and a model of a great preacher of the Word.

Words to Live By: Dr. Smith might have been recognized in church history  for his wise counsel to begin what later on became the Presbyterian Church of the United States.  But there was more to this fearless pastor of the Lord.  He was remember best as an expositor of the Word.  And having said that, there really is nothing else to be said, except for you reader to pray much that the challenges of each week in your pastor’s life might not hinder him from preparing adequately for the proclamation of the Bible.  That is his most important calling in life.

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