December 3: An Ordination in 1870

December 3, 1870, and You Are There.

A nice review in a newspaper of the time, covering an ordination in a Presbyterian church, not quite one hundred fifty years ago. Things haven’t changed much, though apparently on this occasion the Rev. Witherspoon brought both the charge to the pastor and the charge to the congregation. Today we would typically have one elder (usually a teaching elder) bring the charge to the pastor, and another elder (teaching or ruling) bring the charge to the congregation.

The Petersburg Index, Petersburg, Virginia, December 3, 1870


The installation of this talented young minister, (so well known in Petersburg) as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, took place on Thursday night and was witnessed by a large congregation. The Virginian says of the ceremony.

The sermon was preached by Rev. W. W. Houston, of Salem, on the text “One Faith;” It’s object being to show that amid all the differences of Christian sects there is a oneness of faith.  This was illustrated by the fact that all Christians agree in that faith that has but one object, one fruit or result, and one issue.  It was a very solemn appeal and was listened to with close attention.

After sermon Mr. Houston propounded the questions that are required by the Form of Government, which being answered in the affirmative, the relation was declared as regularly instituted.


After this, Rev. Dr. [Thomas Dwight] Witherspoon delivered a most solemn charge to the Pastor, urging him to appreciate his work-to preach Christ – to be faithful to all his charge, and to cultivate spirituality in all his efforts.

After this, the Dr. proceeded to charge the people, first to love their pastor, then to care for his spiritual welfare, then to pray for him, and uphold him in every possible way as co-laborers in the great work of the ministry.  This charge was closed with an allusion to his visit here at the beginning of the war, when so many that received him so cordially, are now missed from the church on earth.  His allusion to these things melted the church to tears.

The whole services were then closed with prayer and the singing of a hymn, when many of the church came forward and gave a cordial welcome to their new pastor.

Words to Live By:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)


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