Alfred Nevin

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He did not serve God’s people with that which cost him nothing.

John Lycan Kirkpatrick was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on 20 January 1813. Alfred Nevin notes that his parents were pious Presbyterians, members of Providence Church, and that John was baptized by the Rev. James Wallis, pastor of that church. Nevin also provides information that his family moved to Morgan county, Georgia when he was four years old, and later to DeKalb county when he was 15. Kirkpatrick was educated at Franklin College, Athens, Georgia, attending there in 1830, and then transferring to Hampden-Sydney College and graduating there in 1832 with the Bachelor of Arts degree. He taught at Charlotte Court House, Virginia for two years, 1833-1834 and then moved on to train for the ministry at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, 1834-1837.

He was licensed to preach by West Hanover Presbytery in March of 1837 and ordained by the same Presbytery in November of that same year, being installed in his first pastorate at the Second Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, VA. He served that church as pastor from 1837-1841, and in the second year of that pastorate, married Mary Elizabeth Turner of Lexington, VA. Rev. Kirkpatrick and his wife subsequently moved to Gainesville, Alabama when Rev. Kirkpatrick answered a call to pastor the PCUS church there, remaining in that post, his longest pastorate, from 1841-1853. He next served as pastor of the historic Glebe Street Church in Charleston, South Carolina from 1853-1860. From roughly 1856 until 1860, Kirkpatrick served as the editor of The Southern Presbyterian.

Leaving the Glebe Street Church, Rev. Kirkpatrick spent the remainder of his years in academia, serving first as president of Davidson College, from 1860-1866. Then from 1866-1885, he was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and it was during these years that his wife died, on August 8, 1874. Rev. Kirkpatrick also served as interim supply for the Lexington Presbyterian Church, from the Spring of 1867 until August of 1868. He continued as Professor at the University until his death on June 24, 1885.

Suffering for over a year from a painful malady, among his final words, shortly before he died, he wrote:

I trust I am prepared for whatever may be the will of my heavenly Father. It gives me courage now to recall my feelings at a time when I verily believed that a few hours only separated me from the realities of the great hereafter. I seemed to have no dread of meeting God. He did not wear the visage of an angry God, but of a loving father. My trust in my Redeemer was unshaken, and his righteousness all-sufficient. I thank him for the experience of that hour. It was not dying grace then, as I now know; but it was a token of the Saviour’s love, of unspeakable preciousness. 

Honors conferred on John Lycan Kirkpatrick during his life include the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by the University of Alabama in 1852. He also served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA) in 1862. Five published works have been located thus far. Dr. Kirkpatrick is also noted as the editor of The Southern Presbyterian, and undoubtedly many of his published works appeared in that journal.

Words to Live By:
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:12, KJV) — And if that is Paul’s charge for younger men, how much more so for older men, to live as befits the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, we must all, men and women, so live as examples of those who believe. In your speech, your conduct, your love, faith and purity, live day to day with the purpose of honoring and glorifying the Lord who saved you by His grace.

Hunter, Robert F., Lexington Presbyterian Church, 1789-1989 (Lexington, VA : Lexington Presbyterian Church, 1991), p. 92.
Nevin, Alfred, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Encyclopedia Publishing Co., 1884), pp. 1172-1173.
Scott, E.C., Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1861-1941 (Austin, TX : Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1942), p. 379.

Image source : Alfred Nevin, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1884), p. 1172.

Chronological Bibliography—
Oration delivered before the Philistorian Society of Georgetown College, D.C. on the 22d of February, 1840 … to which are prefixed the remarks of W.L. Warren, Ga., previous to his reading the farewell address of Washington. (Washington [D.C.?] : Jacob Gideon, Jr., 1840), 16 p.

The moral tendency of the doctrine of falling from grace examined: a sermon preached before the Synod of Alabama at the opening of its sessions in Gainesville, October 24th, 1844 (Mobile, Register and Journal Office, 1845), 28 p.

A sermon, preached on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Mary Chamberlain Brackett : in the Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, Ala., March 2, 1851 (St. Louis: Hill & M’Kee, printers, 1851), 24 p.

A funeral discourse, delivered on Sunday morning, April 10, 1859, in the Independent or Congregational (Circular) Church, of Charleston, on the death of the Rev. Reuben Post, D.D., late Pastor of that church (Charleston, S.C. : Walker, Evans & Co.’s Steam Powered Press, 1859), 32 p.

“ The Waldenses and Infant Baptism, ” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 14.3 (October 1861) 399-430.

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A Man of Many Gifts

Born this day on June 13, 1786 in Lebanon, Connecticut in the home of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Ezra Styles Ely possessed many spiritual gifts in the service of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Named after the president of Yale University to signify his family’s attachment to that educational institution, Ezra followed the tradition of his ancestors by becoming the seventeenth member of his extended family to attend and graduate from that school, as he did in 1803.  Studying under his minister father for a year,  he eventually was ordained by West Chester Presbytery.  For two years, he pastored the people of God at Colchester Congregational Church in Connecticut, laboring as we would say today, “out of bounds.”

Leaving the pastorate there, he traveled to New York City to become the chaplain of the City Hospital and Almshouse.  He soon found himself ministering the Word of God to prostitutes.  Eventually he wrote a book entitled “Visits of Mercy,” which became a best seller, and elevating himself and his ministry to national recognition.

Returning to the pastorate, he took the pulpit of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1813.  In so doing, he replaced the first professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Archibald Alexander.  Standing for the truth of the gospel and historic Christianity, Rev. Ely began to stand against the teachings of Hopkinsianism, with its denial of the imputation of sin, particular redemption, and other Scriptural truths.  Whether it was the content of his preaching, or simply the manner in which he denounced this heresy, we don’t know now.  This author thinks it may be the latter as Alfred Nevin in his Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church stated that he was “mercurial” in his demonstrations of language, with the result that “no one ever fell asleep under his preaching.”  In other words,  he was animated in his speech, both in the pulpit and out of it.  Whatever was the case, the Presbyterian congregation suffered a schism.

It was in 1827 on July 4 that Rev. Ely called for “Christian freemen to elect Christian rulers.”  He went on to advocate for a “Christian party in politics,” to keep unorthodox liberals and deists out of office.  The underlying concern of this Presbyterian pastor was against the secular policies and practices of President John Q. Adams.  President Adams in turn simply denounced Rev. Ely as “the busybody Presbyterian clergyman.”  So Pastor Ely called upon Presbyterian Andrew Jackson to run for that highest office. Mobilizing Christian workers, Andrew Jackson was elected in 1828.  The good pastor told President-elect Jackson to avoid the judgement of the Lord’s wrath by not traveling on the Lord’s Day to Washington, which Jackson obeyed.  However, their association did not long continue on a favourable basis, as the President grew wary of this outspoken Presbyterian minister.

While Pastor of Pine Street, Rev. Ely joined the trustee board of newly formed Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  While it struggled financially to say afloat, the Presbyterian minister was able to contribute some $50,000 ( a considerable sum in those early days) to keep it operating, even purchasing the lot and raising up a building on that lot. The Medical School, still in operation today, owes a great deal to this early benefactor.

What is more important than physical buildings, however, was the spiritual growth experienced within God’s kingdom.  Alfred Nevin estimates that some 2, 200 people came to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus and were converted as the results of the Rev. Ezra Ely’s faithful proclamation of the Gospel. He would go to his  heavenly reward on June 18, 1861.

Words to Live By: The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is God Who causes the growth of His church. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5 – 9). At the same time, the Lord stoops to use His redeemed people, weak and sinful as we are, to share that good news of the gospel with others. So we do not exalt those who proclaim the message, as if they were anything, but rather we glorify the one true God Who gives His Spirit to bring repentance and saving faith to sinners.  Praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

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A Great Christian Biographer

SpragueWBWilliam Buell Sprague was born in Andover, Tolland county, Connecticut, on October 16, 1795. He graduated at Yale College in 1815, then in 1816 entered the Princeton Theological Seminary, and after studying there for over two years, was licensed to preach by the Association of Ministers in the county of Tolland, on August 29th, 1818. As a pastor of the Congregational Church of West Springfield, Massachusetts, Rev. Sprague served with great success from August of 1819 until July of 1829, at which time he answered a call to serve the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York. He was installed as pastor there on August 26, 1829, and he remained in this post for forty years, “remarkable for the extraordinary steadfastness and warmth of attachment existing through all that protracted period between himself and his large and intelligent congregation, and even more remarkable for the vast and varied labors performed by him” during those forty years. Rev. Sprague has aptly been described as “an industrious man, a cultivated, elegant, voluminous, useful and popular preacher; an indefatigable and successful pastor; an unselfish and devoted friend; loving, genial, pure, noble; an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile; one of the most child-like, unsophisticated and charitable of men.”

While Dr. Sprague never relaxed his pulpit and pastoral duties, his added literary labors were prodigious, and their fruits exceedingly great. He preached nearly two hundred sermons on special public occasions, the most of which were published. He also produced a large number of biographies and other volumes on practical religious subjects. But the great literary work of his life was his Annals of the American Pulpit, which was undertaken when he was fifty-seven years old, and finished in ten large octavo volumes. [From this set, the three volumes pertaining to Presbyterian pastors was reprinted in 2005 under the title Annals of the American Presbyterian Pulpit]. Another of Dr. Sprague’s better known works is Lectures on the Revivals of Religion.

On December 20, 1869, Dr. Sprague was released, at his own request, from his pastoral charge in Albany, and he retired to Flushing, Long Island, where he quietly spent his remaining years. He passed away peacefully on May 7, 1876, and his mortal remains were taken to Albany for burial, with his funeral service held in the church where he had so faithfully served for so long.

[adapted from the entry found in Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884).]

Words to Live By:
As a brief sample of one of Dr. Sprague’s sermons, the following is from the opening words of the sermon delivered upon the occasion of the death of his first wife, Charlotte Sprague. A particularly difficult occasion for any pastor, to deliver a sermon over the grave of any member of his family:—

Job xix. 21. “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, oh ye, my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me.”

I have not chosen this passage, my friends, with a view to attempt any thing like a connected discourse; because my feelings forbid such an attempt. I have not chosen it with a view to urge any new claims upon your sympathy, because I know that your hearts have already bled for my affliction. I have not chosen it as an apology for an impatient and complaining spirit, for I am well aware that such a spirit, always unbecoming, is never more offensive, than in the sanctuary of God, and at the throne of grace; and I also know, that in addition to the common obligation of Christian submission which rest upon me, it is my imperative duty, as a minister of Jesus, and as one appointed to lead you to Heaven, now to give you some practical proof of the power of religious consolation. But, my friends, I have chosen this text, as a faithful expression of my feelings, under this bereaving stroke of Providence; and with a view to suggest from it some remarks, which I hope may have such an influence upon your minds, that you will be able to say, that it is good for you that I have been afflicted.

There are two thoughts upon which I shall dwell for a moment, which seem to be suggested by the latter clause of the text: The hand of God hath touched me.

I. The first is, that the afflictions of the present life are some of them peculiarly grievous. I know, my friends, that it is hard for those who are strangers to adversity to realize its bitterness; they can have but a faint idea of what passes within the heart which is wrung by the disruption of ties which seemed almost entwined with the thread of existence. They can go to the house of mourning and be affected by the tears of others, and by the badges of grief, and by the funeral procession, and by the open grave; but, after all, if they have never felt the rending of these ties themselves, they will be likely to carry away but a feeble impression of the agony of bereavement. Ask the husband or the wife, who has been bereaved of a fond, affectionate companion;—ask the father and the mother who have seen the object of their affections laid low in the dust;—ask the brother or the sister, who has wept over the grave of departed friendship, whether the afflictions of life are to be thought lightly of—and whether we can comfortably sustain them without the aids of Divine grace; and the bursting heart of each will return you an answer. Do not think, my friends, that I wish to heighten the picture by adding one dark shade which does not belong to it; I have no wish to give an exaggerated account of the ills of life, or to harrow your feelings, by pointing you to scenes of sorrow, into which you are in no danger of being brought. But I do wish to make every one of you who has never yet felt the bitterness of deep affliction, now feel that it is not a light thing to be even touched by the hand of God;—that those chords of tenderness which are strung in the heart cannot be broken without sending a thrill of agony through the soul;—and that if you think to pass through the furnace of deep affliction without the consolations of religion, you are only laying a plan to harrow your souls with anguish. You will find enough to bear in the day of adversity without the burden of unpardoned sin; there will be no excess of consolation, if you have all that which arises from an unwavering confidence in God, and from communion with a throne of grace. The reason, therefore, for my suggesting this thought, that the afflictions of life are some of them very grievous, is, that a correct impression of them may lead you to gain a seasonable interest in the consolations of religion. Rely upon it, that whatever you may now think, when the day of adversity actually comes, you will need the support of an almighty arm; and if you have not that to rest upon, you will find your hearts torn and rent by the severest anguish.

II. The other thought to which I wish to direct your attention is more consolatory: “the hand of God hath touched me;” that is, my afflictions have not sprung out of the ground; they are not the product of chance; but they are directed by Infinite goodness, and unerring wisdom. The hand which hath touched me is the hand of God—it is the hand of my Father.

And what, my Christian friends, is more consolatory than the thought, that all these dark dispensations are planned and executed by our Heavenly Father; that though there are many revolutions of the wheel of Providence which we cannot comprehend; nay, though there may seem to be a wheel within a wheel, and the mighty machine may confound us by its magnificent and mysterious operations; yet every movement is guided by an arm, absolutely resistless, by wisdom, which can never err, and by goodness, which does not even overlook the falling of a sparrow. “The hand of God hath touched me,”—not the hand of an impotent, or short-sighted, or malicious mortal,—not the hand of one who afflicts in cruelty, and has no concern for my happiness; but a paternal hand,—the same which pours blessings into my cup, from day to day, and which never wields the rod, but with the most kind and merciful designs. Is not this enough, O my soul, to assuage the tempest that has been raging within thee, and to bring back the calm, and sunshine, and quiet, which affliction had well nigh chased away? . . .

To read the rest of this sermon, The tribute of a mourning husband : a sermon, delivered at West-Springfield, July 1, 1821, the Sabbath after interment of Mrs. Charlotte E. Sprague, click here.

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