Francis Rawn Shunk was born at the Trappe, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, on August 7th, 1788. He became a teacher at the young age of fifteen, and in 1812 received an appointment as Clerk in the Surveyor General’s office, serving under General Andrew Porter. In 1814, he marched, as a private soldier, to the defence of Baltimore. This would have been not long after the burning of Washington, D.C. in what is commonly called the War of 1812, a war alternately called the second war of independence, and a war which did not end until 1815.
In September of 1816, Francis was admitted to the practice of law. He filled the position of Assistant, and then Principal Clerk of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for several years. He next became Secretary to the Board of Canal Commissioners, and in 1839, Pennsylvania’s Governor Porter appointed him Secretary of the Commonwealth. In 1842, Shunk removed to Pittsburgh, to engage in the practice of law, and presumably to prepare for his next career advancement. Then in 1844, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, winning reelection in 1847.
Governor Shunk was an honest public servant, and he filled the various offices to which he was called with marked ability and fidelity. On July 9th, 1848, as Executive of the State, he issued the following proclamation:
“To the People of Pennsylvania:
“It having pleased Divine Providence to deprive me of the strength necessary to the further discharge of the duties of your Chief Magistrate, and to lay me on a bed of sickness, from which I am admonished by my physicians and my own increasing debility, I may, in all human probability, never rise, I have resolved, upon mature reflection, under a conviction of duty, on this day to restore to you the trust with which your suffrages have clothed me, in order that you may avail yourselves of the provision of the Constitution to choose a successor at the next general election. I, therefore, hereby resign the office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and direct this my resignation to be filed in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
“In taking leave of you, under circumstances so solemn, accept my gratitude for the confidence you have reposed in me. My prayer is that peace, virtue, intelligence, and religion may pervade all your borders; that the free institutions you have inherited from your ancestors may remain unimpaired till the latest posterity; that the same kind Providence which has already so signally blessed you may conduct you to a still higher state of individual and social happiness, and when the world shall close upon you, as I feel it is soon about to close upon me, that you may enjoy the consolations of the Christian’s faith, and be gathered, without a wanderer lost, into the fold of the Great Shepherd above.”
Governor Shunk died on the 30th of July, 1848, and at the time of his decease was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Harrisburg, then under the care of his particular friend, the Rev. W. R. DeWitt, D.D.
Words to Live By: I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour. — 1 Timothy 2:1-3, KJV.
A few years back, an alert ruling elder at the Hixson Presbyterian Church spotted an old copy of The Central Presbyterian at a local sale. Purchasing the old newspaper, he then graciously donated it to the PCA Historical Center. Reproduced here is one of the articles from that July 24, 1858 issue. The language reflects the era, and the piece is obviously sentimental in nature, but interesting nonetheless —
A Pastor’s Farewell to his Study.
Providence has assigned me another location, and I must leave, among other places greatly endeared, that upper chamber, called the study. It is now more than twenty years since I first took possession of it. It seemed an interesting locality then; but how much has occurred since to give the place a deeper hold upon my mind.
Sermons have been studied out here, with long and earnest thought. And there they lie on that shelf, piles of them. They have had their day. The simple author thought quite highly of, now and then, of one of them, when in the glow and excitement of effort he finished the last sentence. But the mist in which they loomed up so auspiciously, has passed away and their glory has drooped sadly. He does not exactly know how much light they gave at first; but he has tried some of them lately, and he has the comfort of saying, they ignite freely, and give a cheerful radiance in the place of the ordinary kinds of in-door illumination.
[Above right: A drawing of Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836, when he suffered from lameness.]
There are ranges of books. Old men are there—fathers and ancients. And young men are there; some of them wiser than their fathers—others less so. They have stood there through slowly rolling years. They disagree, some of them, with each other. And the words of some of them are like those of a fierce hussar in anger with his fellow. But they have not broken the peace of the study, standing quietly side by side.
There is a book. As I look at it in its place upon the shelf, it awakens interesting trains of thought. I will take it down and read the inscription on the fly-leaf. The hand is fair, and the heart was warm that dictated the utterance made by that pen. But they use no such things where the writer has gone. It is a good book—a good man gave it, who has gone to be with the good. And good the work did me. It will outlive me, and do good to others. I love to pray for those who may yet use those books. They will soon be scattered. Let them go. They have been my pleasant and profitable companions in the study; may they go and do good, yet greater good to others.
I look round about the study. That map of the world, how often I have gazed upon it, as I looked to see where moral darkness yet reigns unbroken and again to see where the kingdom of Christ has come in the place of Satan’s kingdom. That map has been a powerful preacher. Silently it revealed to me those works of God, the continents, the islands, the oceans, the kingdoms. That map has hung long against the wall. Often as I rested from driving the pen, and looked up, it caught my eye. There was the world—light and shadow—civilization and barbarism—delusions hoary with age, fortified as by mountains and rocks, in the depravity of the heart, and there was Christianity, a little cloud in the vast horizon, but bright and growing brighter, and hastening to fill all lands with its brightness. I am much obliged to that map. It has made many valuable moral impressions upon my mind.
Another book arrests my eye. A note, in a fair hand, is pasted on a fly-leaf, and it reads, “Presented to our pastor by his Bible Class: a small token of their gratitude for his labors for their good.” The writer was one of the liveliest of youthful saints, and long since went to the presence of that other Teacher, who leads his friends to living fountains of waters.
I muse on. In this room have been numbers of anxious inquirers. “Hit of the archer,” they came in here, sore wounded, and would fain know how they might be healed. Some were healed while here, for the Great Physician was present; and many more, following counsels here given, went away and soon after, “touching the hem of his garment, were made whole.” They will never forget this room.
Here have been those—their number is great—who came here to ask, if Zion’s gates were open to them, for, hoping in the Saviour’s mercy, they would fain confess him before men. They told us, who watched at Zion’s gates, why they wished to come. And most touching tales have here been told of the anguish of conscious guilt, and of the terrible gloom of a soul that had no God, of conflict and struggle and temptation, of light dawning upon darkness, of the calm that followed the storm, of a Saviour found, trusted, loved, enjoyed. Ornaments they became of Zion below, though not a few of them have gone up higher.
Sons and daughters of sorrow have come in here. It would relieve them to tell their griefs, even to so poor a representative of “the Man of Sorrows,” as the pastor. Some of them sorrowed as does the world, and groped after comfort, and found it not because of their unbelief. Others were children of the Highest, passing under the rod, and through the fire. They came to see if they could not pick up a crumb that had fallen from the Master’s table, to see if sorrow’s solace could not be found in what they might hear of Him “who carried our griefs.” In cases not a few, the weary found rest, and sorrow’s tears were wiped away, and the retiring mourner could say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
Little children have been here in the pastor’s study. He welcomed them, seeing the Great Shepherd’s example, and was interested in their childish wonder at so many books, and pleased their curiosity by such pictures as a place so lean of that material as the study, could furnish. Those loved little ones! Childish things have dropped from their hands, for years and years are gone. They are scattered—some to distant regions of this land, and some to the farthest realms of the earth; though some in childhood fell asleep, and others later fell asleep,—
From which none ever wake to weep.”
But I must leave the study. Much it has to do with time, more with eternity—a place of wearisome toil though often of joyful labor; a place of anxiety and care, mingled with gleams of light from the celestial land; a place where God was sought for the anxious pastor’s own soul—oftener for the souls of others; a place, a humble Pisgah, where glimpses were caught, at times, of the Delectable Mountains and the Celestial City!
My study! Others will look out of those windows on the pleasant scenery—on the verdant hills and meadows here, and on the glorious ocean yonder. Other voices will be heard within these walls. Others will be here, who have never known what joys and sorrows have been here before them. May it still be a hallowed place, honored by the occupancy of Pilgrims to nobler mansions above; a place where others shall try the power of prayer, and know the sweetness of submission, the strength of faith, the joy of hope, and all the sacred pleasures which flow from communion with God, the Infinite One, and the invisible world.
[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian, vol. 3, no .30 (24 July 1858), pg. 1, and originally published in TheBoston Recorder.]
Words to Live By:
We seem to be designed for places. Whether our home, our study, or our church, we place a special value on these places and derive an earthly comfort from them unlike any other. But this world is passing, and God has designed us to have an eye on our eternal home, that we might walk before God in the light of the living. As we seek His mercy and grace, may our surpassing comfort be found in Christ alone. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, may we be made ready to worship God in sweet fellowship, through all eternity.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(Psalm 84:10, ESV)