David Caldwell

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God of Wonders, Will You Not Work Yet Again?

It is gone now, and, by most folks today, perhaps forgotten. But this October 7th, 2013, marks the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Synod of North Carolina. From its founding in 1813 until 1861, the Synod was part of the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Then in 1861, this Synod became part of what was commonly known as the Southern Presbyterian Church. When the Presbyterian Church in America was formed in 1973, at least twenty-one churches in North Carolina left to join the new denomination. Among these, Goshen (1764), Mount Carmel (1776) and Prosperity (1788) were the oldest—churches that had already been in existence for many years when the Synod of North Carolina was formed.

And so, the history of the Synod of North Carolina remains relevant today, even though it no longer exists as a separate court of any denomination. That history is part of the history of some of our own churches. Moreover, that history serves as an reminder of how the Lord has worked among His people in years past, and how powerfully He might work yet again. And so that history is also an encouragement to us today.

On the Alamance Church Road, southeast of Greensboro, North Carolina, the text of a historical marker provides the broad strokes of the Synod’s history. It reads:—

“There were Presbyterians in North Carolina from the earliest days of the Colony. The most numerous groups, the Scotch-Irish and the Highland Scots, arrived in large numbers during the 18th century. The former settled largely in the Piedmont and the latter in the Cape Fear area.

“The early Presbyterian settlers had no ministers. In response to many petitions the Synod of New York sent William Robinson to preach in the winter of 1742-43. The Synod of Philadelphia sent John Thompson in 1744. Hugh McAden arrived in 1755 and visited both the Piedmont and Cape Fear areas. James Campbell began ministering to the Highland Scots in 1757. In 1758 Alexander Craighead arrived in Mecklenburg County. Among other Presbyterian ministers of the period were David Caldwell, who came as a missionary in 1764 and became a great teacher and statesman, and Henry Patillo, author of the first school textbook in the Colony, who arrived in 1765.

“The first three Presbyteries were Orange (1770), Concord (1796), and Fayetteville (1813). The Synod of North Carolina was organized on October 6, 1813, at Alamance Church. [Here the official history (see below) differs, and states that the first meeting of the Synod took place on October 7, 1813.]

“Presbyterians have always been strong supporters of education. In 1767 David Caldwell opened his ‘Log College’ in Guilford County, forerunner of other academies conducted by such Presbyterian educators as Henry Patillo, Samuel E. McCorkle, James Hall, and William Bingham. At the request of Presbyterians, the Colonial Assembly chartered Queens College in 1771, but the act was disallowed by the King. Davidson College opened in 1837 with Robert H. Morrison as first president. Other Presbyterian colleges have included Flora Macdonald, Queens, and St. Andrews.

“William R. Davie, a founder of the University of North Carolina, Archibald D. Murphey, early 19th century advocate of internal improvements, constitutional reform, and public education, and Calvin H. Wiley, first State Superintendent of Common Schools, were prominent Presbyterian laymen.

“Early growth was slow but was accelerated by the Great Revival of the 18th century, which began with the preaching of James McGready, and by State-wide camp meetings. According to Synod records there were, in 1813, 3 presbyteries, 25 ministers, 102 churches, and 4,000 communicants. In 1963 there were 9 presbyteries, 623 ministers, 645 churches, and 147,262 communicants.”

Words to Live By:

I have a cartoon that I saved, with the caption:

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.”

A good joke, but seriously, let me encourage you, that as a Christian, you should study history. At the very least you should include a good selection of both Christian biography and Christian history in your regular reading. Those works will prove a great encouragement to you.

For Further Reading:

Centennial Addresses, Synod of North Carolina, delivered at Alamance Church, Greensboro, N.C., October 7, 1913.
Contents of this work:
[over a thousand people showed up for this event, and so the crowd was divided into two groups, with messages on each subject brought by two speakers]:

1. Address of Welcome and Outline of History of Alamance, by Alexander W. Crawford.

2. Beginnings and Development of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina to 1863, by Walter W. Moore [1857-1926].

3. Beginnings and Development of Presbyterianism in North Carolina to 1863, by Walter L. Lingle [1868-1956]

4. Personnel of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina from 1813 to 1838, by David Irwin Craig [1849-1925]

5. Personnel of the Synod during the last 25 years of the first half century, from 1838 to 1863, by Halbert G. Hill [1831-1924]

6. Last Fifty Years — The Presbyterian Church an Evangelistic Agency, by Robert F. Campbell [1831-1924]

7. Last Fifty Years — The Presbyterian Church an Evangelistic Agency, by John McAden Rose [1849-1917]

8. Presbyterians in Educational Work in North Carolina since 1813, by C. Alphonso Smith [1864-1924]

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

The Patriarch of the Pulpit Patriots

How many pastors have you known who had a price put on their head by the national government?  Such was the case with the Rev. David Caldwell of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War in our country’s fight for independence.

David Caldwell was born in Quarryville, Pennsylvania in 1725.  Reared by two godly Presbyterian parents on a farm in the County of Lancaster, he would receive one of the most extensive educational experiences of that day.  First, he sat under the Rev. Robert Smith’s classical school in the county.  Then he attended the Rev. William Tennent’s Log College, where he also met some of the great revivalists of the First Great Awakening in America, men such as George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, and Samuel Davies.  His last educational experience was with the College of New Jersey.

There was no hesitation then to his being licensed by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in June of 1763 and ordained two years later in 1765.  Later, an entirely new presbytery, Orange Presbytery, was organized in 1770. By then, David Caldwell was the pastor of two Presbyterian churches at Buffalo and Alamance Presbyterian Church, in North Carolina.  He would remain the pastor of these two churches for over fifty years.

It was from his ministry in the pulpit that during both the Revolutionary and the War of 1812, he didn’t hesitate to look upon both wars as biblical wars against the British government.   Consider words such as these in a sermon on Proverbs 12:24 “The slothful shall be under tribute.”  He said, “If we act our part well as men and as Christians in defense of truth and righteousness, we may with the help of the Lord obtain a complete and final deliverance from the power that has oppressed us.” (Southern Presbyterian Leaders, by Henry Alexander White, p. 162)  Whereupon he joined the American army along with most of his congregation.

In this whole ministry, he had the help and support of his wife Rachel, who was herself the daughter of a New Side Presbyterian minister, named Alexander Craighead.  Married for sixty years, they ministered side by side, especially in the Log College which David had begun in the area. It was a classical Christian school, like those he had attended in earlier years.

He would go to be with the Lord on August 25, 1824, remembered by countless whose lives he had touched with the Word of God.

Words to live by: The cause of independence must be defended at the cost of life, fortune, and sacred honor.  David Caldwell would have his plantation burned, his books and Psalm books destroyed, his sermons defaced, a price put on his head, and forced to live in a swamp for safety.  His wife Rachel of sixty years would be treated harshly, being evicted from her home and forced to live in a smokehouse with their children with only dried peaches to eat for several days.  In times of trouble, God watches over His children.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Chronicles 10 – 13

Through the Standards:  The reason we are to pray in Christ’s name.

WLC 181 —  “Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?
A. The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, we are to pray in no other name but his only.”

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