January 2021

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Salvation for American Boys and Girls
by Johannes G. Vos
[excerpted from The Presbyterian, 97.4 (27 January 1927): 17, 27.

In 1925, the son of Princeton professor Geerhardus Vos, Johannes G. Vos, enrolled at the Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating there in 1928. He continued his preparation for the ministry with a year at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, 1928-1929. Some of his classmates included Loraine Boettner, Wick Broomall, Jr., David Freeman, and Paul Woolley. But with good indication of both his ministerial aptitude and his scholastic ability, on top of his school work, Johannes was actively engaged in evangelistic ministry. Here in this article from 1927, we read of the child evangelism work that he was involved with. In the first photo shown below, Johannes Vos can be seen standing behind the gathered children.

The School Bag Gospel League is a spiritual movement with a spiritual end. Its aim is the salvation of America’s boys and girls, by placing in their hands the sacred Scriptures which are able to make wise unto salvation. It distributes free of charge to school children from nine to seventeen years of age, Gospels and Testaments under a simple membership plan. The work is dependent on the voluntary offerings of the Lord’s people for its support. It originated in the Autumn of 1922, in New York City. Since that time it has spread to 210 centers in thirty-four States and the Dominion of Canada. No appeals for money are made. Many thousands of Gospels and Testaments have been issued, and hundreds of conversions have been reported. Where possible, the work of Scripture distribution is followed up by evangelistic services and Bible study classes. A few reports from different centers of the League will show the progress of the work.

From the League secretary at Indiana, Pa.: “I have about 600 members altogether, and have given out about 300 Testaments. There have been 29 children who have accepted Christ as their Saviour….

From a boy, age 12, in Trenton, N.J.: “I said not to leave too many Testaments, but, as it looks, I need more, because I got fourteen members to-day at school…(This boy, during the school year 1925-26, enlisted eighty-seven other children in the League, gave them the different Gospels as these were needed, and was able to issue School-Bag Testaments to seventy-two who completed the reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—surely a remarkable record!)

In one New Jersey public school, in a rural section, seventy-five children completed the reading of the four Gospels and received Testaments. The principal of the school was deeply and favorably impressed… In another New Jersey community, where about half of the children in the school are foreign and many of them Roman Catholic, two boys enrolled about forty members and issued Testaments to thirty-five who completed the reading of the four Gospels. A dozen or more of these accepted Christ as their personal Saviour at an outdoor evangelistic service held by the League in the summer of 1925.

From the secretary at Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “We have about sixty enrolled, and ten have already received their Testaments. They love the Gospels. It is a wonderful plan, and God is surely blessing our part of it.”

For young and old, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This gospel is contained in the Holy Scriptures. What a precious treasure Christ has committed to His Church! Surely God’s people should ever be eager to spread the glad news to young and old that Christ’s kingdom may be extended  and His people united to Him. The children of America are eager for the gospel. They are ready to receive it. When it is presented to them in its simplicity and fullness, it bears its precious fruit. God has set before His people an open door, and (for the time being, at least) no man can shut it. How long the door will remain open, no one can predict. The people of God must come to realize their responsibility to place God’s Word in the hands of the multitudes of un-evangelized American youth.

“It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18: 14). Can it conceivably be God’s will that many millions of children in our country should grow to maturity without God, without the Saviour, without the Bible? Can it be His will that His people should be too busy with other things to give these little ones the bread of life?

The School-Bag Gospel League plan is a new thing, and for that very reason many hesitate to adopt it. Consider, however, that the old plans and methods are not meeting the need. It is a rare Sabbath-school that has more children than it had twenty years ago, unless it be a new school. It is a rare church that has as many children in attendance at the services of the Lord’s house as it had twenty years ago. Meantime, millions of American children are growing up without the gospel. The easy thing is to be satisfied with the old methods, to do the old things in the old way. But, remember, that sometimes the hard thing is the thing God would have us do; sometimes the new thing is the thing God has raised up to meet the need of His kingdom; sometimes the man who receives God’s richest blessings is the one who is not afraid to take up a new thing. Consider also that this movement has upon it the seal of four years of divine blessing. If God were not in it, how could it spread as it has, making no appeals for funds?

Words to Live By:
Further information about the School Bag Gospel League is difficult to find. There was a book authored by Thomas Mitchell Chalmers, The School Bag Gospel League : What It Is, which consisted of three articles or chapters. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary has the only copy that I could locate. The author, Thomas M. Chalmers was connected with an evangelistic work called the Jewish Missionary and served as editor of that work’s magazine. As to what became of this ministry, perhaps it was a victim of the Great Depression. We simply don’t know at this point. Johannes G. Vos [1903-1983] completed his additional training at RPTS and became a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, pastoring a congregation in Kansas and for many years producing a magazine called The Blue Banner. More recently, articles from The Blue Banner were extracted and published as a commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism. For more on the life and ministry of Johannes G. Vos, click here.

“From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”—I Timothy 3:15.

Dr. John Gerstner, the esteemed Professor of Church History at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, for many years persisted in his allegiance to his denomination. Despite the urgings of friends, he continued to hope for better days for his Church. But finally when one matter in particular came to the fore, the conclusion was inescapable, and Dr. Gerstner drafted the following statement [emphasis added to highlight the noted date]:—

THE APOSTASY OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
by Dr. John Gerstner

The United Presbyterian Church in The United States of America became apostate, officially on January 26, 1981 turning away from adherence to the Lord Jesus Christ by permitting in its ministry a denier of that same Lord Jesus Christ.  This was done by the decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly of The United Presbyterian Church in The United States of America.  It upheld National Capital Union Presbytery’s approval of Mansfield Kaseman for ministry.  The Synod of The Piedmont had become apostate for the same reason, July 8, 1980.  At Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly levels, Mr. Kaseman had been shown to be guilty of denying or refusing to affirm at least four essentials of the Christian religion:  the sinlessness, bodily resurrection, vicarious atonement, and deity of Jesus Christ.

Documents of the six trials, two each by Presbytery and the Permanent Judicial Commissions of Synod and General Assembly (1979 and 1980) are available for those who would inform themselves in depth. This paper concentrates on the 1981 decision of The Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly which finally, officially, produced the legal and constitutional apostasy of The United Presbyterian Church denomination.  First, after brief statement of the evidence and argument that Mr. Kaseman did indeed deny or refuse to affirm indispensable Christian doctrine, we present second, a somewhat longer critique of The Permanent Judicial Commission decision of January 26, 1981 substantiating our grave charges that in defending apostasy it made The General Assembly apostate. We then third, explain why this apostate action makes the whole denomination apostate and why, fourth, if The General Assembly does not effectively repudiate this apostasy or begin the process of repudiation, every Christian is obliged to separate from the non-Christian denomination. We conclude with an appendix in the form of a proposal for action at The 193rd General Assembly meeting at Houston, Texas, May 19-27, 1981 which may be taken if apostasy is not there repudiated.

I.  The Case Against Kaseman

The substance of the complainants’ case against the National Capital Union Presbytery can be briefly stated.  First, the complainants charged that Mr. Kaseman denied or would not affirm the sinlessness of Christ.  If Christ was not sinless He could not be the Savior of the world.  He would need a Savior Himself.  The only response from Kaseman’s defenders was that he was thinking of sinlessness in the sense of frustration.  There was no denial that Mr. Kaseman would not affirm Christ’s freedom from all sin.

Second, Mr. Kaseman refused to affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The complainants pointed out that according to I Cor. 15:17, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (NASV)  Paul was speaking in that chapter about the bodily resurrection of Christ.  There is no other kind of resurrection than bodily because the soul never does die. The only response ever received was that Kaseman did affirm the “resurrection” (not bodily resurrection). The complainants never denied that Mr. Kaseman affirmed a non-bodily resurrection whatever that may mean.

Third, Mr. Kaseman specifically denied the doctrine of the “vicarious atonement”. No one can question that without Christ’s atonement for our sins there is no possible salvation. The only response that came from the defenders of Mr. Kaseman was that there are other metaphors beside the concept of substitution that describe the death of our Lord.  That never was at issue either. The defenders never questioned the allegation that Mr. Kaseman did deny the “vicarious atonement” which is absolutely essential whatever else may also be essential to the doctrine of the atonement.

Fourth, this whole trial first came about in National Capital Union Presbytery when in March of 1979 Mr. Kaseman was asked if he believed that Jesus Christ was God and he answered, “No, obviously No.  God is God.” Much discussion followed and much was said and reported in the secular and religious press during the following two years but never did Kaseman ever deny this apostate statement.  The Presbytery’s Committee of Representation never said anything to justify Mr. Kaseman.  It was once irrelevantly contended that he merely meant to say that Christ was more than God, being man also, but Christ’s humanity was never an issue either.  Kaseman denied that Jesus Christ was God. He has never denied the denial.  In the second trial before the National Capital Union Presbytery when the same question was put to Mr. Kaseman he refused to answer with a categorical negative as he had before.He also refused to take back his previous statement so that it still stands on the record. He did say at the second interrogation that Jesus Christ is one with God and affirmed belief in the Trinity.

The affirmation (which apparently satisfied the majority of Presbytery) that Christ was one with the deity did not amount to an affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ.  The proof of that is the explanation which Mr. Kaseman offered for denying that Jesus Christ is God.  If Jesus Christ were God, he asked, how would he answer the death of God theologians: Who was then minding the universe? This only served to show that Mr. Kaseman did not even understand the doctrine of the Incarnation, much less believe it. He apparently thinks that the doctrine of the incarnation means that God ceased being infinite and omnipresent and became finitized and temporalized in a human being! Having such a grotesque misconception, Mr. Kaseman could not possibly believe that Christ was or is God.

All of these most grave charges have been repeatedly proven by complainants as the documents of the various trials clearly illustrate. They have complained against the National Capital Union Presbytery for its approving Mr. Kaseman in spite of his demonstrated apostasy.  Neither the Committee of Representation of the Presbytery nor any of the higher courts that have heard the case have ever refuted these charges.  In some instances, including the final trial, there was no attempt to do so.  This refusal or inability was in spite of the fact that the complainants have charged apostasy and pled with the higher courts if they could not refute the charges, to set aside the Presbytery’s decision and discipline all courts which have approved it.

  1. The Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly Decision of January 26, 1981

The final court at the final hearing, (the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly in the hearing January 24, 1981), falls far short of saving our Church from the apostasy charged. Actually it itself, by tacit compliance, became guilty of the same apostasy. All that the supreme court of our denomination did was affirm how orthodox our Confessions are, while at the same time upholding Presbytery and Synod in approving a man whose unorthodoxy, in at least four essentials of the Christian faith, had been demonstrated.

First of all, . . .

Those interested in reading the entirety of Dr. Gerstner’s treatment of this issue may write to the PCA Historical Center for a digital copy. Address your mail to [archivist (AT) pcahistory /DOT/ org]

Raised Up By the Lord for a Great Work

It is regrettable that the Rev. Matthew Anderson is not better known today. You won’t find much about him on the Web, and he doesn’t (yet) have a Wikipedia page. But Rev. Anderson was a most remarkable man, one whose notable accomplishments included founding the Berea Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, in 1880; then the establishment of a building and loan association to assists blacks in gaining home ownership; followed later by a kindergarten school; a medical dispensary; and a seaside home, along with several church related ministries. W.E.B. DuBois declared of Rev. Anderson’s church that “Probably no church in the city, except the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion is doing so much for the betterment of the negro.”

Matthew Anderson was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania on January 25, 1845. His father was Timothy Anderson, who died in 1878 at the age of 84. Matthew was educated at Oberlin College, graduating there in 1874 and began his preparation for the ministry at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh before transferring to the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1877, which would have been the year before the death of Charles Hodge. Upon graduation Anderson began his ministerial career as stated supply for the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, CT.

Then in June of 1878 he was ordained as an evangelist by the Presbytery of Carlisle (PCUSA), serving as stated supply of the Gloucester Mission in Philadelphia, 1879-80. It may have been around this time that he married, for it was common in that era for pastors to put off marriage until employed by a church. And Anderson chose well, marrying a woman of great character and accomplishment, Caroline V. Still, the daughter of noted abolitionist William Still.

Under Rev. Anderson’s leadership, the mission work was particularized as the Berean Presbyterian Church and he continued as pastor of this work from 1880 until his death on January 11, 1928. The church continues its ministry to this day. Honors conferred upon him during his lifetime included the Doctor of Divinity degree confered upon him in 1904 by Lincoln University.

The following is a brief account of the birthday celebration given in honor of Rev. Anderson in 1927, roughly one year before his death. This account appeared in a Philadelphia based Presbyterian newspaper.

Celebrating the Pastor’s Birthday
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN, 97.6 (10 Feb. 1927): 21, 24.

For three consecutive years, the congregation of the Berean church have taken it upon their willing hearts to honor the natal day of their pastor, Rev. Matthew Anderson, D.D.

Accordingly, on January 25, a host of friends gathered around the festive board to do him honor while the young people at their table showed their whole-hearted enthusiasm. One birthday cake made a journey from the Canal Zone from Dr. Anderson’s daughter, and was received in excellent condition. The happy faces, light hearts and general atmosphere of congeniality which pervaded served to while away the perfect evening very rapidly. Mr. Arthur Faucet, a young man who grew up in the Sabbath-school, and as an elder in the church, as well as the youngest principal of a public school in Philadelphia, was toastmaster. Speeches were made by Miss Arabella Carter, a Quaker friend of Dr. Anderson; Mr. J.C. Calloway; Mr. H.H. Thomas, a neighborhood guest; Miss H. Frances Jones, president of the W.C.T.U.; Mrs. Lottie A. Smith; Mr. William H. Brown, of the board of directors of Berean Building and Loan Association; Rev. George F. Ellison, of Reeve Memorial; Rev. Charles S. Freeman, pastor of the First African church; Dean L.B. Moore, and Mr. L.W. Underhill, Jr.

It was for Dean Moore to make a suggestion that surprised every one, and that was that the heavy burdens of the educational work which Dr. Anderson had started needed sympathy, and at his timely and appropriate request, over $100 was raised, which Dr. Anderson accepted, not as a birthday gift, but in his usual sacrificing spirit, as a gift to help with the current expenses of the Berean School. Singular enough was it that the gist of every speech made during the evening pointed to the fact that Dr. Anderson’s seventy-nine  years had been spent in arduous labor for his people, and that he had been diligently, persistently and untiringly at one thing all this time.

The evening was also enhanced by the presence of the Reeve Memorial Quartette, whose splendid singing of spirituals calls forth many encores. Dr. Anderson in his remarks said that nothing gave him greater happiness than to be in good health, to be able to stand before them without pain, to be able to give back the smiles that greeted him, and to hope for more years of robust health and strength to carry on his work for humanity, which he felt was in no wise finished.

Words to Live By:
In his autobiography, Rev. Anderson relates ten personal rules or principles that regulated all his ministry. Among these, perhaps the most notable was his sixth principle:

“6. That we be guided and regulated by the great and immortal principles of divine truth, rather than by sentiment, which knows no creed, race or color, and which regards all men alike redeemed by one common Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. That while by the accidents of birth and the unholy sentiment of the country, our labors are confined principally to the people of the colored race, we should nevertheless regard ourselves, ministers of Christ, as embracing a wider sphere of labor, since in God’s sight there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all related by ties of consanguinity, having sprung from common parents.”

Image source: All three photographs are found in the volume Presbyterianism : It’s Relation to the Negro, by the Rev. Matthew Anderson. Philadelphia, PA: John McGill White & Co., 1897. To view digital edition, click the embedded link. Pictured are Rev. Matthew Anderson [1848-1928]; the Berean Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA; and Dr. Caroline V. Anderson, M.D., wife of the Rev. Matthew Anderson and daughter of the noted African American abolitionist William Still.

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In these unsettling, uncertain times, we must pray all the more for faithful pastors, laboring for the welfare of the souls in their charge. It would be all to easy these days to simply go through the motions.

After Much Coldness and Insensibility of Heart
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was on Sunday evening, January 19, 1812, that Daniel Baker wrote in his diary the following words:

“This day, after much coldness and insensibility of heart, it pleased God to revive my spirits, and grant me sweet comfort and refreshment in attending upon our praying society. I would desire to return the Great Fountain of all mercies my humble and sincere thanks for the establishment of this society, inasmuch as he has made it so beneficial to my soul, and that of my fellow members, and has permitted sweet delight and comfort to flow from it, to water and refresh our thirst souls.”

Let me zero in on the expression above “after much coldness and insensibility of heart.” Reader, if you attend a Bible-believing Presbyterian Church, please be aware that your pastors are men of like passions as you are. They are flesh and blood believers, albeit men trained by both life and education to handle the Word of God in pulpit and in homes. Sometimes, the people in the pew expect too much of them, demanding every moment of their time. This is seen in the pastoral schedules that the members of the church demand that they keep.

This author began his pastoral ministry in this country in a smaller congregation. It was expected of me to preach two sermons on the Lord’s day, besides teaching an adult Sunday School class and leading the youth group that Sunday evening. Once a quarter, the church had committed to a rest home service, where another sermon was expected. Then of course, the Wednesday night study and prayer time, a Bible study during the week in the home, visitation to hospitals and homes were regularly required. I can understand Daniel Baker’s acknowledgment of “much coldness and insensibility of heart” on occasions during that pastorate.

To our subscribers of This Day in Presbyterian History, understand that your pastor’s role in the church from both the pulpit and to the pew is for “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (See Ephesians 4:11 – 12) The more spiritual equipping which is done in the body of Christ will cause the congregation to join him in the great spiritual work of that local church to itself, to the community, to your state, and to the world.

Words to Live By:
Pray weekly for your pastor, his spiritual needs, for him in his responsibilities to his family, for him as he equips you for ministry to build up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11 – 16)

GILBERT TENNENT, the oldest son of William Tennent, of Neshaminy, was born in Ireland, county Armagh, on February 5, 1703, not long before his father entered the ministry. Gilbert professed his faith in Christ at the age of fourteen, while on board a ship crossing the Atlantic. As his years advanced, he was educated by his father, and was eventually licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in May of 1725. That same year he graduated from Yale with the A.M. degree. The honorary degree of Master of Arts was later conferred by Yale 1774. Gilbert was called, Dec. 29, to Newcastle, and, after remaining some time, abruptly left. The congregation and the Presbytery of Newcastle complained of his departure; and a letter was produced, declaring his acceptance of the call. The synod concluded that his conduct was too hasty and unadvised; and the moderator reproved him, and exhorted him to use more deliberation and caution in future. The rebuke was sharp, and he took it meekly.

He was ordained at New Brunswick, by Philadelphia Presbytery, in the fall of 1726. He would have been called soon after to Norwalk, had not the Fairfield Association interposed their judgment that he ought not to be taken from so destitute a region as the Jerseys.

When he went to New Brunswick, he found there several excellent persons who had been converted under the ministry of the Rev. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. That good man sent him a letter on the necessity of rightly dividing the word, which excited in him a greater earnestness of labour. He was distressed at his want of success, though greatly admired and very popular as a preacher, there was no instance of a saving change in any of his hearers during the first year and a half after his settlement. A severe fit of sickness gave him affecting views of eternity, and he was exceedingly grieved that he had done so little for God. On recovering, he examined many professing Christians, and found their hope to rest on sand. With these he dealt faithfully. Some were apparently converted; but others turned to be his enemies.

He preached much on original sin, repentance, and the nature and the necessity of conversion: a considerable number around were hopefully converted, and at sacramental seasons there were frequently signal displays of the divine presence and power. “New Brunswick did then look like a field the Lord has blessed. Alas! now (1744) the scene is altered.”

At Staten Island,—one of the places where he statedly laboured,—there was, in 1728 or ’29, a more general concern; and pretty many were converted. Once, while preaching from Amos vi.1, the people, careless before, were so affected, that they fell on their knees to cry for mercy, and the general inquiry was, “What shall I do to be saved?”

In 1738, he laid before the synod “sundry large letters” which had passed between him and Cowell, of Trenton, on the subject of the true motive that should influence our obedience to God: whether it should be wholly a desire for God’s glory, or whether, with this desire, there should be a desire for our own happiness: Is disinte-rested benevolence the essence of holiness? The large committee to whom the papers were referred, heard both parties, and delayed their decision for a year. They presented a wise, happy statement of the true doctrine; but it did not satisfy Tennent. He again introduced the business in 1740; but the synod, by a large majority, refused to consider it. This he represented in his paper, which he read a few days after, on the deplorable state of the ministry, as a slighting and shuffling the late debate about the glory of God, and as sanctioning the doctrine that there is no difference between seeking the glory of God and our own happiness, and that self-love is the foundation of all obedience.

At this time, he corresponded with Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine; and Whitefield, in giving them his advice, enforces it by saying, “Our dear brother and fellow-labourer, Mr. G. Tennent, thinks the same, and said he would write to you about it.”

On hearing Tennent preach, Whitefield said, “Never before heard I such a searching sermon. He went to the bottom indeed, and did not daub with untempered mortar. He convinced me more and more that we can preach the gospel no further than we have experienced the power of it in our hearts. I found what a babe and novice I was in the things of God. He is a son of thunder, whose preaching must either convert or enrage hypocrites.”

Whitefield preached, Nov. 20, “about noon, for near two hours, in worthy Mr. Tennent’s meeting-house, to a large assembly gathered from all parts; and amongst them, as he told me, there was a great body of solid Christians; and again at three and seven. Several were brought under strong convictions, and our Lord’s disciples were ready to leap for joy.” Tennent sent him word, Dec. 1, 1739:—“Since you was here, I have been among my people, dealing with them plainly about their souls’ state, examining them as to their experience, telling natural people the danger of their state, exhorting them that were totally secure to seek convictions and those that were convinced to seek Jesus. I reproved pious people for their faults. There are hopeful appearances among pretty many in the place I belong to.” In April, it was said two had been savingly converted in November.

Whitefield wrote to him from Williamsburg, Virginia, Dec. 15, 1739, “Be not angry because you have not heard from me. Indeed, I love and honour you in the bowels of Jesus Christ. You are seldom out of my thoughts. I trust the work goes on gloriously in your parts: the hand of the Lord brought wondrous things to pass before we left Pennsylvania. . . . . Last night I read the affecting account of your brother John. Let me die the death of that righteous man. Oh, my dear friend, my brother, entreat the Lord that I may grow in grace and pick up the fragments of my time that nothing may be lost. Teach me, oh, teach me the way of God more perfectly. Rebuke, reprove, exhort me with all long-suffering and doctrine: I feel I am but a babe in Christ. I only wish I was more worthy to subscribe myself your affectionate brother and servant in Christ.”

From New Brunswick, April 28, 1749, he writes, “God has now brought me here, where I am blessed with the conversation of Mr. Tennent. Indeed, he is a good soldier of Jesus; and God is pleased in a wonderful manner to own him and his brethren. The congregations where they have preached have been surprisingly convicted and melted down. They are unwearied in doing good, and go out into the highways and hedges to compel poor sinners to come in.”

To Mr. Habersham he wrote from Savannah, June 25, 1740, “I like the Messrs. Tennent for preaching in this manner. They wound deep before they heal: they know there is no promise made but to him that believeth, and therefore they are careful not to comfort overmuch those that are convicted. I fear I have been incautious in this respect, and have often given comfort too soon.”

To Mr. R——, in Philadelphia, he wrote from Charleston, July 11, 1740, “Keep close, my dear friend, keep close to the dear Mr. Tennents. Under God, they will build up your soul on your most holy faith. It gladdens my heart to hear of their success in the Lord.”

Whitefield went to New Brunswick, Nov. 6, and Tennent, of Freehold, met him, besides other ministers. It was settled that

Gilbert should go to Boston, though he pleaded inability for so great a work. His first wife had lately died; and he was so much supported that he was able to preach her funeral sermon while she lay before him in the coffin.

Whitefield wrote to Governor Belcher, at Boston, from Philadel-phia, Nov. 9, “Great things has the great Immanuel done for me and for this people by the way. The word has been attended with much power. Surely our Lord intends to set America in a flame. This week, Mr. Tennent proposes to set out for Boston; to blow up the divine flame lately kindled there. I recommend him to your excellency as a solid, judicious, excellent preacher. He will be ready to preach daily.”

Tennent took Long Island in his way; and his labours were greatly blessed. At Newport, there was a considerable concern. He preached at Westerly, Rhode Island, from Matt. xi.28, in going, and, returning, from Gen. iii.9; rousing up the people, and filling some with great wrath. He waked up the conscience.

He arrived at Boston, Dec. 13. His first sermon was on “The Righteousness of the Scribes,” and was speedily printed.  It was a period of protracted and unexampled cold; Long Island Sound was frozen across. The Rev. Dr. Cutler, Church missionary at Boston, laments to the Venerable Society that “Gilbert Tennent[4] afflicted us more than the most intense cold and snow. Though vulgar, crude, and boisterous, yet tender and delicate persons were not deterred from hearing him at every opportunity. The ill effects of Whitefield’s visit might have worn off, if his followers could have been preserved from writing; but they carried on his design with too great success.” Dr. Cutler said to Dr. Zachary Grey, (Nicholls’s Lit. Anecdotes,) “Whitefield has plagued us with a vengeance, especially his friends and followers. Our presses are forever teeming with books. . . . . While he was here, the town was as if it were in a siege; the streets were crowded with coaches and chaises. He lashed and anathematized the Church of England. After him came one Tennent, a minister, impudent and saucy, and told them they were damned. This charmed them; and, in the dreadfullest winter I ever saw, people wallowed in the snow day and night, for the benefit of his beastly brayings. Many ended their days under these fatigues. Both W. and T. carried more money out of these parts than the poor could be thankful for.” He preached for nearly two months. The assemblies had been full from the time Whitefield preached; but under Tennent, the concern became more general and powerful. From the deep and terrible convictions he had passed through, he had such a lively sense of the divine majesty, holiness, and justice, that the very terrors of God seemed to rise in his mind afresh when he brandished them in the eyes of unreconciled sinners. Some of the most stubborn sinners were made to fall down at the feet of Jesus in lowly submission.

The Rev. Thomas Prince says that “in private he was seen to be of considerable parts and learning,—free, gentle, and condescending: he had as thorough an acquaintance with experimental religion as any person I ever conversed with; his preaching was as searching and rousing as any I ever heard. He aimed directly at the heart and conscience, to lay open numerous delusions and show the many secret, hypocritical shifts in religion, and to drive out of every deceitful refuge.”

His preaching produced no crying out or falling down: he did not so much preach the terrors of the law, as search man’s delusive hopes, show their utter impotence and impending danger. He left Boston, March 2, 1741, and preached his farewell from Acts xi. 23. He was exceeding strict in cautioning against running into the church. Yet, the opposers say, the congregations, while he preached, expressed their religious joy by a hearty laugh, and that Tennent laughed over those who were under conviction.

He preached eight sermons at Plymouth, in March, with good results, on the sin and apostasy of mankind in Adam; on the blindness of the natural man in the things of God; on the utter inability of the fallen creature to relieve itself; and on justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ.

In Maine, he preached seven sermons at Piscataqua, and three at East York, going from thence to Hampton, N.H., and Greenland; at Portsmouth, six or seven times, his voice drowned by the cries of the people in distress. In Massachusetts, he preached three sermons at Bridgewater, one from Matt. xi.28, at Taunton, which awakened only a few, and was deep and lasting in only two instances. At Oxford, the Rev. Peter Thatcher, then under great depression, came from Middleborough to hear him, with sensible prejudice, but had not heard three sentences of his prayer before he found him to be a man of God. “I desire to bless God for that sermon. I never saw more of the presence and power of God in prayer and preaching, and never felt more of the power of God accompanying the word on my own heart. Every word made its own way. I felt the weight of it. This revived in me the ministry I sat under in my youth.” At Middleborough, he preached from Rom. vii.9, and said he was never so shut up but once before in his life. No one, however, perceived it. There was, however, no effect at the time; but the people were from that time inclined to hear, and half a dozen were awakened. At Lyme, the sermon, from Ezek. xxxviii.9, was very dull. Parsons was afraid several times he would have nothing to say. One was convinced. Next day the text was Luke xiii. 24: the audience very attentive and deeply affected. There was much visible concern; but the effects were far more extensive than at the time appeared. At the East Parish of Lyme, the two sermons were excellent, and were attended by a great, if not general, awakening. At Saybrook, he gave a plain, searching sermon. At New Haven, he preached seventeen sermons. Several were in the college hall. The concern was general in the college and in the town. Among the pious students were Brainerd, Bull, and David Youngs. They visited every room and conversed with every student. Dr. Sproat, of Philadelphia, and Dr. Hopkins, of Newport, were brought to the Saviour. Hopkins was about twenty,—had lately heard Whitefield: he thought Tennent the greatest and best man and the best preacher he ever saw or heard. “His words were to me like apples of gold in pictures of silver. I thought, when I should leave college, I would go and live with him, wherever I could find him.” A large number of three upper classes entered the ministry: John Grant, Thomas Lewis, Caleb Smith, Job Prudden, Aaron Richards, and Thomas Arthur became pastors in our church. Tennent regretted, in 1744, having kept no journal of this tour,—the brokenness of his memory preventing his drawing up a full account of it.[5]

It being assumed that he had gone into New England on the supposition of the unregeneracy and uselessness of the ministers he said that the reason of his undertaking the tour was to promote his “progress in the Christian course, by that continual train of labours and hardships I foresaw I should be engaged in and exposed to.” He said it was admitted on all hands there was a lamentable decline in that region: but, if there were not, “do not general rules admit of exceptions? In extraordinary times, when the Spirit of God is poured out, may not extraordinary methods be pursued without censure?”

He reached home just before the division of the synod, and preached in Philadelphia, May 31, 1741, five times, and baptized eight adults. The next day the Protest was introduced. He published at once “An Examination and Refutation of the Protest.” He soon lamented the rupture and the sad aspect of the churches throughout the colonies, and yet suffered a new edition of the Nottingham Sermon to appear. The rise of the Moravians troubled him greatly; and he preached against them at New York, and printed the sermons on Rev. iii. 3; and Colman prefixed a preface. To this, “Philalethes” replied, contrasting Gilbert with Tennent, and placing in opposite columns his self-contradictions, accusing him of raising a hue and cry after Pharisees, and countenancing such unlearned exhorters as D——l R——s, S——l K—h—r, and L—y—r P——e. He without delay published, “The Examiner Exa-mined; or, Gilbert Tennent harmonious.”

In 1744, he removed to Philadelphia and took charge of the Second congregation: his feet were blistered in traversing the streets and visiting such numbers of distressed souls. He called on Franklin to point out suitable persons from whom to solicit aid in erecting a house of worship. The philosopher told “the enthusiast” to call on everybody: he did no, and built the church. He ceased his former method of uttering his discourses, and read them. He lamented his “extravagancy in discarding a wig and wearing his hair loose and unpowdered, with a large greatcoat fastened with a leathern belt for his outer garment.” His ministry in Philadelphia was in the main unattended with encouraging success. Andrews said to Samuel Mather, April 17, 1745, “We are pretty quiet at present. Tennent lets me alone, and is generally moderate; but many of his followers grow weary of him, and wish for Whitefield’s return.” Tennent now assumed that persons of moral life, possessed of a knowledge of the principles of the Christian faith, should be admitted to the communion, and argued strenuously against his own former practice.

In 1749, he preached and printed his “Irenicum, a Plea for the Peace of Jerusalem,” to effect a union between the synods of New York and Philadelphia. He did full justice to the brethren he had so bitterly assailed, and especially holds up Thomson—once the object of his unsparing invective—as a worthy representative of the excellent and estimable principles of his Old-Side associates. He freely justifies them from the charge of being opposers of the workof God or heart-enemies to vital godliness,—doing it as cordially as if he had not been foremost and loudest in creating these unfavourable impressions of them.

Davenport wrote to Bellamy, May 29, 1753, “Blessed be the great and good God for a remarkable reviving and quickening given lately, about the beginning of March, to Mr. William Tennent, and, about a fortnight after, to Mr. G. Tennent, before his wife’s death and since.”

His second wife, Cornelia Depeyster, widow of Matthew Clark-son, made a hasty flight, March 19, 1753, aged fifty-seven; and early in May he buried his mother. His family being taken from him, he consented to go to Great Britain, in conjunction with Davies, to solicit aid for the college.

The expectation of so accomplished a companion in the embassy was an encouragement to Davies to undertake the arduous task. Whitefield writes in June, 1753, “I am glad Mr. Tennent is coming over with Mr. Davies. If they come with their old fire, I trust they will be enabled to do wonders.” He sailed Nov. 17, and reached London on Christmas day. Davies was “deeply sensible of the kindness of Heaven in ordering his father and friend to be his companion, not only for the right management of the undertaking, but for his social comfort.

Tennent was cheerful and courageous on the voyage, and preached from John iii. 5 of a Sabbath evening. The sermon was judicious, plain, pungent, searching, and well adapted to do good. Having no opportunity to address the people at another time, he said, “Where there is no good to be done, the door is not opened.”

The next evening after their arrival was spent with Whitefield. Tennent’s heart was all on fire; and, after having gone to bed, he suggested to Davies that they should watch and pray: they rose and prayed together till three in the morning.

Tuesday, Jan. 22.—Observing at Mr. Chandler’s that our college would be a happy expedient to unite the German Calvinists with the English Presbyterians, Mr. Smith, afterwards Provost of the University of Philadelphia, replied that a union would not be desirable.” Tennent immediately answered, ‘Union in a good thing is always desirable.’ Mr. Chandler said, ‘I have seen a very extraordinary sermon against union,’ and reached him his Nottingham Sermon. Chandler had also read the examination of Tennent’s answer to the Protest. All that we could say had no effect. He told us he would do nothing for us. The next day we waited on him, and Tennent made honest, humble concessions—that the sermon was written in the heat of his spirit, when he apprehended a remarkable work of God was opposed by a set of ministers; that some of the sentiments were not agreeable to his present opinions; that he had painted sundry things in too strong colours. He plead that it was now thirteen years, and he had used all his influence to promote union between the synods. He produced his “Irenicum,” and the minutes of the synod, to show the state of the debate. He urged that, if the sermon was faulty, it was the fault of one man, and should not be charged on the whole body.” Davies exerted all his powers of pathetic address; and, in the end, Chandler gave them his name and co-operation.

The sermon had been officiously dispersed through London from hand to hand, and Tennent was sadly discouraged; and his success in obtaining funds amazed him and delighted him, as a gracious “regarding of the cry of the destitute.” Having, at Edinburgh, succeeded in obtaining from the Assembly an order for a national collection, Tennent went to Glasgow and to Ireland. He attended the General Synod; and they agreed to make a collection through all their bounds. The Presbytery of Antrim, “the New Light,” Non-subscribers, fast sinking into Arianism, did the same. He was advised to make private collections in Dublin. He returned to London early in October, having received in Ireland, about five hundred pounds. He received three hundred and sixty pounds for the education of pious youth for the ministry. He sailed November 13, and reached home safely. Burr[6] wrote to Erskine, in May, 1755, that the labours of Tennent had been blessed in Philadelphia; in June, “he was more than ordinarily engaged,” and there was much to encourage him.

He joined with Alison, and the Presbyterians generally, in op-posing the throwing off of the Proprietary government. In 1762, he began to need an assistant; and, the congregation being regularly summoned, he presided, and, by a considerable ma-jority, a call was made out for Duffield, of Carlisle; yet he, with the trustees of the building, objected to the presbytery’s considering the call, until the question between the trustees and the congregation had been submitted to arbitration. The presbytery decided that the call was in order, and gave the commissioners leave to prosecute it. Donegal Presbytery declined to place it in Duffield’s hands. The Rev. John Murray, from Ireland, was then called and ordained; but the synod would not acknowledge him, and he was soon cast off.

He died January 23, 1764. President Finley preached at his funeral.

He made his will October 20, 1763, giving three hundred pounds and his library to his son Gilbert, and directing that he should be put to learning, in the hope that God would prepare him for the ministry. He provides also for his daughters Elizabeth and Cornelia. He constituted his wife,[7] his brother William, and the worshipful John Lyal, of New Brunswick, the guardians of his children, they being very young. His son was lost at sea. One daughter married Dr. William Smith, of Philadelphia; the other died young.

As he drew near his end, every symptom of dissolution filled him with comfort. His disposition, naturally calm, was sweetened by piety.

Tennent was taller than most men, and every way proportionable; grave and venerable; affable, condescending, and communi-cative. He was endeared by his openness and undisguished honesty, eminent for public spirit and great fortitude; his mind was enriched by much reading, and his heart was laden with a rich experience of divine grace. As a preacher, he was equaled by few; his reasoning was strong, his language forcible and often sublime; his manner, warm and earnest. Most pungent were his addresses to the conscience. With admirable dexterity he exposed the false hope of the hypocrite, and searched the corrupt heart to the bottom. He said of some of his earliest sermons, that he begged them with the tears of the Lord Jesus. A lady asked him, at the close of his life, concerning his mode of preaching while in New England, during the Revival. He replied, he hardly knew what he preached; he had not time to study. The many years he had spent in diligent preparation, and his prevailing absorption in divine things, nobly qualified him to preach without effort. The droppings of his lips were as choice silver.

He was a mark for many archers. They emptied their quivers on him; he was sore wounded by their calumnies; but he “shook off the venomous beasts,” and lived, serving Christ, approved of God and acceptable to men.

The publications of Tennent, like “the fourth part of the dust of Jacob,” are not to be numbered. The earliest seems to have been a sermon preached in New York in March, 1734; in 1735, “A Solemn Warning to a Secure World from the God of terrible majesty; or, the Presumptuous Sinner detected, his Pleas considered, and his Doom displayed;” to which is added the life of his brother, the Rev. Mr. John Tennent. “The Necessity of Religious Violence to Durable Happiness,” preached at Perth Amboy, June 29, 1735; two sermons on the nature and necessity of sincere sanctification, contrition, and an acceptable appreciation of a suf-fering Saviour, preached at New Brunswick in July and August, 1736. A volume of his sacramental discourses was printed in Boston, in 1739; his sermon on an “Unconverted Ministry,” in 1740; on the “Priestly Office of Christ,” preached at New Brunswick, in 1741; on the death of Captain Grant, in 1756; on “Public Fasting,” in 1749; on “Religious Zeal,” in 1750; on the “Duty of being Quiet,” and at the opening of the synod, in 1759. He was struck by lightning; and the eagerness of some to proclaim it as a judgment led him to preach a sermon and print it, on the “Righteousness of the Scribes,” in 1740; his Moravian sermons, in 1742; “The Examiner Examined,” in 1743; on a thanksgiving, and on another public occasion, and a third on Admiral Matthew’s victory, in 1744; on the success of the expedition against Louisburg, in 1745.


[1]
 Family Record in Dr. Alexander’s Log College.

[2] MS. Records of Newcastle Presbytery.

[3] His Letter in the Christian History.

[4] Hawkins.—Albany Documents.

[5] Gillies. He preached frequently three times a day. Thirty of the students followed him on foot to Milford, and for this were fined by the rector. The unscrupulous author of the Account of the State of Religion in New England since Mr. Whitefield’s Visit says, “The college in Connecticut is nearly broke up.” Tennent’s labours at Harvard College were blessed.

[6] Gillies’s Collections, Bonar’s edition.

[7] Mrs. Sarah Spafford, widow.

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