October 1: Richard Stockton

He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ
by Rev. David T. Myers

The pronoun in our title refers to Richard Stockton, who was born October 1, 1730 near Princeton, New Jersey.  His father was a judge, and so there was no doubt that Richard would receive an education fitting of a man of his father’s stature.

His first training was in the Academy of the Rev. Samuel Finley, who was a Presbyterian minister.  Samuel Finley was later on a president of the College of New Jersey.  For two years, young Richard Stockton learned everything there was to know from this biblical classical education.  Transferring in his teen years to the College of New Jersey, he would graduate from there with honors at age 16 in 1748.

Marrying the sister of Elias Boudnot, the latter being the President of the Trustees for the General Assembly in the U.S.A., they couple had 6 children.  Richard Stockton was admitted to the bar in 1754 and immediately began to practice the law profession with success.

He didn’t let his saving faith to be lost however of his chosen profession.  Believing there was the need for a new church in Princeton, New Jersey, he personally gave one acre of land which was added to other acres, and Princeton Presbyterian Church was raised up as a church.  Besides being a member there and a trustee, he became a ruling elder of the church governing board.

When the Revolution came, he was not a hard-and-fast patriot calling for immediate separation.  Even as a member of the Second Continental Congress,  he first proposed  freedom for the colonies which continued their subjection to the Crown.  When that was turned down, he became the first one from New Jersey to sign the Declaration of Independence.

With that signing of this declaration for freedom, he was arrested by loyalist and sent for five months to a prison ship.  Cruelly treated, he was released five months later.  He never fully recovered from this inhuman treatment at the hands of the British.  Indeed, his land and house was subject to great damage from the British Army.   He was one of those signers whose person and property suffered greatly from his attachment to the patriotic cause.  He died in 1781 and is buried at Stone Brook Meeting House and cemetery.

Words to live by:  In all this, it was said that Richard Stockton was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  His conviction of, and commitment to, biblical Presbyterianism stayed by  him all his life and work.  He was ready to sacrifice life, limb, and sacred honor for the cause of independence from tyranny, and did actually suffer those losses.   As such, he stands as a testimony to us, to be ready to suffer for Christ, if need be, for the sake of the gospel.  May God give us grace at that time to remain faithful to His cause and kingdom.

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