Henry Rowland Weed

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An Anonymous Author Identified

Henry Rowland Weed was born in Ballston, New York on July 20, 1789. He received his college education at Union College in Schenectady, NY, graduating in 1812, and prepared for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating there in 1815. He was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on January 4th, 1816 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Jamaica, Long Island, NY, where he served from 1816 until 1822.

His next charge was as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Albany, NY, 1822-1829. Leaving the pulpit ministry for a time, he was employed as an Agent of the Board of Education, 1830-1832, after which he returned to the pulpit, first serving as stated supply for the First Presbyterian church of Wheeling, Virginia (later West Virginia). That arrangement led to his being called by that church and he continued there in Wheeling until 1870, his longest pastorate, though in his final years he was infirm and his associate often took over the duties of the pulpit.

Alfred Nevin notes that “Dr. Weed was an able, earnest, faithful and successful preacher. He contributed occasionally anonymous articles to the religious periodicals of the Church, including the Biblical Repertory, but avoided regular authorship. [Between 1829-1868, there were 39 articles that appeared anonymously in The Biblical Repertory; there was also one article by Rev. Weed which appeared under his own name]. For the use of his own Bible class, he published a series of questions on the Confession of Faith, which was afterwards published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication. Rev. Weed died at Philadelphia, on December 14, 1870.

We may never know which of the otherwise anonymous articles in Princeton’s Biblical Repertory were authored by Rev. Weed, but from another source, we do at least have some interesting insights into the man’s character in his early ministry :

From the Long Island Daily Press, Tuesday, January 29, 1929, Section A.

1815: Rev. Henry R. Weed, fresh from Princeton Seminary was called to the Presbyterian church. Weed discouraged the practice of giving wines and liquors at funerals. Time out of mind, in humbler families rum was handed from one to another as they stood out of doors about the house, each man drinking out of the mouth of the upturned flask. Wine was passed to the women within the house. Captain Codwise who lived at Beaver Pone had a cask of choice wine in his cellar for years, reserved for his funeral. The last and most distinguished occasion in Jamaica for thus regaling the attendants was the funeral of Rufus King, our minister to England, who died April 29, 1827, at the age of 73. It was a warm day and the waiters were kept going about indoors and out with silver saivers before them loaded with decantors, glasses and cigars.

1818: Mr. Weed and Mr. Sayres were chosen inspectors of common schools for Jamaica. They did their duty so strictly and exposed so many shortcomings in the teachers that they were not re-elected.

Those instances strike us as the errors of a young pastor, too often zealous about things that matter, yet without a balancing wisdom and measure of discretion. I think we can assume that he gained that wisdom over time, particularly given his long tenure as pastor in Wheeling.

As a sample of Rev. Weed’s Questions on the Confession of Faith, here are the questions attached to Chapter 1 – Of the Holy Scriptures:—

Question 1. – Do the works of creation and providence, teach us that there is a God? Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20.
Question 2. – Which of His perfections do they manifest?
Question 3. – Do they teach enough of God, to leave man inexcusable? Romans 1:20.
Question 4. – Do they afford all the knowledge that is necessary to salvation? Proverbs 29:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21.
Question 5. – Has it pleased God to reveal Himself and the way of salvation to mankind in any other way? Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:19.
Question 6. – In “what divers manners” did God reveal Himself to His people before the Sacred Scriptures were written?
Answer: By angels, dreams, visions, and voices, by Urim and Thummim and by immediate suggestion to the mind. See Numbers 12:6, 8; Exodus 3:1-4.
Question 7. – Why was revealed truth committed to writing? Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16.
Question 8. – Do the Holy Scriptures now supersede the necessity of all those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people? 2 Timothy 3:15.

The full text of Rev. Weed’s Questions on the Confession of Faith and Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church (1842) is available in digital format.

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).
How can a young pastor earn the respect due to his office as pastor? By being an example of the Christian faith, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Occasionally you may see young pastors who have a tendency to be overbearing, perhaps thinking that a show of strength or adamant will is necessary to accomplish their goals for the church. But as Francis Schaeffer was good to remind us, “the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way.”

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