James Patriot Wilson

You are currently browsing articles tagged James Patriot Wilson.

wilsonJamesPatriot_02The son of Rev. Dr. Matthew* and Elizabeth Wilson, James Patriot Wilson was born at Lewes, Sussex County, Delaware, February 21, 1769. His father was eminent as a physician and clergyman, and his mother was deemed a model in all her domestic and social relations. He was graduated with high honor at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pa., in August of 1788. So distinguished was he in the various branches, included in his collegiate course, that at the time of his graduation it was the expressed opinion of the Faculty that he was competent to instruct his classmates. He was at the same time offered a place in the University as Assistant Professor of Mathematics, but as his health was somewhat impaired and the air of his native place was more congenial with his constitution, he became an assistant in the Academy at Lewes, taking measures to regain his health, and occupying his leisure with reading history. Having devoted himself for sometime to the study of the law he was admitted to the bar in Sussex County, Delaware, in 1790.

Though he had acquired a reputation as a lawyer unsurpassed perhaps in his native State, yet he ere long relinquished his profession and entered the ministry. He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1804 by the Presbytery of Lewes, and in the same year was ordained and installed as pastor over the united congregations of Lewes, Cool Spring, and Indian River—the same which had for many years enjoyed the ministry of his father.

In May, 1806, he was called, at the instance of the late Dr. Benjamin Rush (his early and constant friend) to the pastoral charge of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He accepted the call, by the advice of Lewes Presbytery, and removed to Philadelphia the same year. In May, 1828, he retired to his farm, near Hartsville, Bucks County, Pa., about twenty miles from the city, on account of the infirm state of his health, preaching nevertheless to his congregation as often as his health permitted. His resignation of his pastoral charge was not accepted till the spring of 1830. In the course of that season he visited the city and preached for the last time to his people. He died at his farm in the utmost peace, December 9, 1830, and was buried on the 13th in a spot selected by himself in the grave-yard of Neshaminy Church. His remains lie near the tomb of the celebrated William Tennant, the founder of “ Log College.” The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the University of Pennsylvania, in 1807.

In June, 1792, he was married to Elizabeth, daughter of John and Hannah Woods, of Lewes, Delaware, with whom he lived but little more than three years, as she died in December, 1795. She had two children, but neither of them survived her.

In May, 1798, he was married to Mary, daughter of David and Mary M. Hall, and sister of the late Governor Hall, of Delaware. They had nine children, only two of whom survived him, one of whom is the Rev. Dr James P. Wilson, of Newark, N. J. Mrs. Wilson died January 5, 1839.

Dr. Wilson was in person above the middle height, and had a countenance rather grave than animated, and expressive at once of strong benevolent feelings and high intelligence. In the ordinary intercourse of society his manners were exceedingly bland. He was affable and communicative, and generally talked so sensibly, or so learnedly, or so profoundly, that he was listened to with earnest attention.

As an author he published Lectures upon some of the Parables and Historical Passages of the New Testament, in 1810; An Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of the Hebrew Language, 1812; Ridgely’s Body of Divinity, with Notes, 1814 ; A Series of Articles on the Primitive Government of the Christian Churches, also on Liturgical Considerations ; besides many Tracts and Essays.—See Annals of American Pulpit, William B. Sprague, vol. iv.. page 353, published by Carter & Brother, New York.

[* A Memoir of Rev. Dr. Matthew Wilson is published in The Presbyterian Historical Almanac for 1863, page 48.]

Tags: , , ,

Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church.

wilsonJamesPatriot_02The son of Rev. Dr. Matthew* and Elizabeth Wilson, James Patriot Wilson was born at Lewes, Sussex County, Delaware, February 21, 1769. His father was eminent as a physician and clergyman, and his mother was deemed a model in all her domestic and social relations. He was graduated with high honor at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pa., in August of 1788. So distinguished was he in the various branches, included in his collegiate course, that at the time of his graduation it was the expressed opinion of the Faculty that he was competent to instruct his classmates. He was at the same time offered a place in the University as Assistant Professor of Mathematics, but as his health was somewhat impaired and the air of his native place was more congenial with his constitution, he became an assistant in the Academy at Lewes, taking measures to regain his health, and occupying his leisure with reading history. Having devoted himself for sometime to the study of the law he was admitted to the bar in Sussex County, Delaware, in 1790.

In June, 1792, he was married to Elizabeth, daughter of John and Hannah Woods, of Lewes, Delaware, with whom he lived but little more than three years, as she died in December, 1795. She had two children, but neither of them survived her.

Though he had acquired a reputation as a lawyer that was perhaps unsurpassed perhaps in Delaware at the time, yet it was not long before he gave up this profession and entered the ministry. The death of his first wife may well have been what contributed to this change of course.

He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1804 by the Presbytery of Lewes, and in the same year was ordained and installed as pastor over the united congregations of Lewes, Cool Spring, and Indian River—the very congregations which had for many years enjoyed the ministry of his father.

In May of 1806, he was called, upon the death of Dr. Benjamin Rush (who had been his early and constant friend), to the pastoral charge of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He accepted the call, under the encouragement of his Presbytery, and relocateded to Philadelphia that same year. In May of 1828, he retired to his farm, near Hartsville, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles from the city, on account of the infirm state of his health, preaching nevertheless to his congregation as often as his health permitted. His resignation of his pastoral charge was not accepted till the spring of 1830. In the course of that season he visited the city and preached for the last time to his people. He died at his farm in the utmost peace, on December 9, 1830, and was buried on the 13th, in a spot selected by himself in the grave-yard of Neshaminy Church. His remains lie near the tomb of the celebrated William Tennant, the founder of the “Log College.” The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the University of Pennsylvania, in 1807.

Dr. Wilson was in person above the middle height, and had a countenance rather grave than animated, and expressive at once of strong benevolent feelings and high intelligence. He was affable and communicative, and generally talked so sensibly, or so learnedly, or so profoundly, that he was listened to with earnest attention.

About three years after the death of his first wife, he was married in May of 1798 to Mary, daughter of David and Mary M. Hall, and sister of the late Governor Hall, of Delaware. Mrs. Wilson later survived her husband by nine years, and died January 5, 1839. They had nine children, only two of whom survived into adulthood; one of which was the Rev. Dr. James P. Wilson, of Newark, New Jersey.

As an author Rev. Wilson published lectures upon some of the Parables and Historical Passages of the New Testament, in 1810; An Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of the Hebrew Language, 1812; Ridgely’s Body of Divinity, with Notes, 1814 ; A Series of Articles on The Primitive Government of the Christian Churches; also Liturgical Considerations (1833), along with many tracts and essays. For more on his various publications, see Annals of American Pulpit, by William B. Sprague, vol. 4, page 353.

[* A Memoir of Rev. Dr. Matthew Wilson can be found published in The Presbyterian Historical Almanac for 1863, on page 48.]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

wilsonJamesPatriot_02A friend who knew him well observed that James never wrote out his name in full. It wasn’t that he disliked his name, but that he was scrupulously modest. For you see, his father—the Rev. Dr. Matthew Wilson—was not only a noted surgeon and pastor, but also a decided republican patriot. And so when his son was born on February 21 in 1769, he named him James Patriot Wilson.

James grew to become an excellent student, graduating with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. He then devoted himself to the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1790. But the death of his first wife and the assassination of his brother before his eyes turned his focus to eternal matters.  Convinced of the truth of the Gospel, he then pursued the ministry and was ordained in 1804 and installed as pastor in Lewes, Delaware. In 1806, he became pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Philadelphia, and remained pastor of this church until his death in 1830.

Several men answered William B. Sprague’s request for accounts of James Patriot Wilson’s life and ministry. Albert Barnes, who succeeded Wilson as pastor, wrote in reflection on Wilson as a preacher:

“On the only occasion on which I ever heard him preach, several circumstances struck me as remarkable. His personal appearance was very impressive and solemn. He was very pale and apparently feeble. He sat in the pulpit, and as he was accustomed to do, used a large fan. He had a very dignified air, and his whole manner was calm, collected, and solemn.

“What first arrested my attention particularly in his pulpit performances, was the manner in which he read the Scriptures. It was a chapter in the Gospel by John. His reading was accompanied by brief explanatory remarks,—I thought the most clear and interesting exposition of the Bible that I had ever witnessed. It was so simple, so plain, so striking, that at the time it occurred to me that he could better prepare a Commentary for the use of Sunday Schools, than any man I had ever met with.

“His sermon was equally clear, impressive and solemn, and what was most remarkable about it, was a very clear and beautiful exposition of the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which he quoted from memory, and commented on as accurately as if he had had the passage before him. He used no notes of any kind. His preaching at first seemed to be merely conversational. He sat and talked to the people before him, as a gentleman might be expected to do in his own parlor.

“Soon, however, I forgot entirely the man—his fan, his sitting, and his somewhat singular habit of lifting up and down his watch chain; when, for a moment, he laid down his fan, and I became wholly absorbed in what he was saying, and to me it was then of no importance what he was doing, or whether he made many gestures or none. I have never in my life found myself more absorbed in the subject on which a public speaker was discoursing, than I was on that occasion. And what was true of myself seemed to be true of the entire congregation.”

Words to Live By: Many speakers can hold the attention of a crowd, but when God truly calls a pastor to preach the Gospel, the power of the message resides not in the man, but in the Holy Spirit who works sovereignly upon the hearts of sinners.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

Image source: Frontispiece portrait from An Essay on the Probation of Fallen Men: or, The Scheme of Salvation, founded in Sovereignty and Demonstrative of Justice, by James Patriot Wilson. Philadelphia: Printed by William F. Geddes, 1827. Image scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: