Dr. Charles Nisbet

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Walking Library with Wit

Charles Nisbet was born in Scotland in 1736. Graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he studied divinity for another six years after which he was licensed to preach in 1760. A friend of Witherspoon, he stood for the historic Christian faith. As a friend of the American colonies, he accepted an invitation to become the first president of Dickinson College, a Presbyterian school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Here he was to remain until January 18, 1804, going home to be with his Lord in the sixth-eighth year of his life. He was known during his life time as having an ability to remember large portions of Greek, Latin, and British classics. In addition, he was acquainted with nine languages. As such, he was a remarkable collegiate leader.

For a time, he served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian church on the square of Carlisle, in addition to his educational responsibilities. Once during that ministry, a woman of the congregation announced to him that she thought she could preach as well as he did. So Dr. Nisbet told her that before she would be allowed into the pulpit, she would have to know how to preach. She readily agreed, and was instructed that the average sermon had an introduction, a three point outline, and an application. When she asked him for a text, he responded with Proverbs 21:9, which states, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, then with a brawling woman in a wide house.” The woman was indignant, asking whether the pastor thought she was such a woman. Dr. Nisbet replied, “Oh my dear, you are already at the application. You must go back first and deal with the introduction.”

In front of Dickinson College today, there is a sign which reads, “The Charles Nisbet Campus of Dickinson College. Named for Dr. Charles Nisbet (1736 – 1804) of Montrose, Scotland, one of the great scholars of his time. First President of the College.”

Words to Live By: Discover and  develop the spiritual gifts  or Spirit-given abilities of service, which God’s Spirit has given you, and then dedicate and deploy them in His kingdom and church.

Through the Scriptures: Job 8 – 10

Through the Standards: God is single in unity and plural in personality

WLC 8 “Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living the true God”

WLC 9 “How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  “There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substances, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.”

WSC 5  “Are there more Gods than one?
A.  There is but One only, the living and true God.”

WSC 6  “How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”

Image sources: The above two images were taken from The Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle. Harrisburg, PA: Meyers Printing, 1889. Portrait: vol. 1, facing the title page. Monument: vol. 2, p. 65.

For further reading on the life and ministry of Dr. Charles Nisbet, see pp. 60-65 of The Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle, available on the web here.

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