Dismal Swamp

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HENRY PATTILLO

A NATIVE of Scotland, was in a counting-house, in Virginia, and, probably through the influence of Thomson, was on his way  to Pennsylvania, with a view to study for the ministry, when he met Davies at Roanoke.  This was in 1751.  He went with him to his house, and pursued a course of instruction under his care, and was licensed, by Hanover Presbytery, September 29, 1757, “agreeably to the practice of the Church of Scotland.”  He had spent some time in teaching, and was married to Miss Anderson.  He “desired to do good,” and was sent to Hico, (Dismal Swamp,) Albemarle, Orange, and Cumberland.  He was called to the churches of Willis Creek, Byrd, and Buck Island, and was ordained July 13, 1758.  He was dismissed from his charge, October, 1762, and spent two years in Cumberland, Harris Creek, and Deep Creek.  He then removed to North Carolina, and was installed, October 2, 1765, at Hawfields, Eno, and Little River.

He was a delegate, in 1775, to the Provincial Congress.  In 1780, he became the minister of Grassy Creek and Nutbush congregations, largely made up of converts under the ministry of Davies.  They gave him three hundred acres in fee, on condition of his staying with them for life.

He was one of the first members of Orange Presbytery, and presided at the organization of the Synod of the Carolinas.

He published a small volume,[1] containing, among other things, his letter, “On Predestination,” to Francis Asbury, dated Granville, June 14, 1787, and a defence of his conduct in admitting to the Lord’s table persons holding Arminian sentiments:  on one occasion, six or eight Methodist preachers, and a number of their people, after due notice, received the sacrament at his hands.

At the close of a long life,[2] he was stripped of his property, and reduced to want, on account of the failure of his son in business, for whom he had been an endorser.  He and his aged wife are said to have adorned the doctrine of God their Saviour by their submission and patience under this trial.

He died in Dinwiddie county, Virginia, in 1801, aged seventy-five.

To originality of genius and superior powers he added piety, public spirit, and faithfulness in his ministry.  Like his teacher and model, Samuel Davies, he paid much attention to the coloured people, and was successful in doing much good among them.  “Of the religious negroes in my congregation, some are entrusted with a kind of eldership, so as to keep a watch over the others; any thing wrong seldom happens.”  After the Revolution, he lamented that the supply of good books from abroad ceased, and that he had none to give away to the servants.

Several instances of unworthy men from abroad coming to the South, and occasioning trouble, with disgrace to the ministry, led him to write to the Synod of the Carolinas not to admit any foreign ministers to labour in their bounds, counting it better to have laymen discharge the sacred function, or even leave the churches entirely vacant.  He rejoiced greatly in the revival under John B. Smith, in Virginia, and welcomed the young men who, under his influence, entered the ministry.

Pattillo had “often thought that the popular Congregational form,  joined to the Presbyterian judicatures as a last resort, would form the most perfect model of church government that the state of things on earth admits of.”  The errors which afterwards carried away Barton W. Stone and the New Lights in one direction, and Thomas B. Creaghead in another, received countenance, in some measure, from Pattillo.  He was inclined to assume the pre-existence of the human soul of Christ, and the peccability
of his human nature.

[1] In the possession of Rev. A.B. Cross.

[2] Connecticut Evangelical Magazine.

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