Directed by Providence
by Rev. David T. Myers
Our Confessional Fathers in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5, section 1, would define “providence” with these words:
“God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”
That full, Scripturally-based statement is seen in the short life and ministry of our Presbyterian subject today.
There is so much that we don’t know about him. William Dean was born in 1719 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland. We don’t know anything about his parents, his upbringing, or even what education he has in that old country. We don’t know when he arrived in the colonies, though some have suggested that he was trained at the Log College. The first notice of him is on the records of New Brunswick Presbytery, held on August 3, 1741, when he was examined and later licensed to the gospel ministry on October 12, 1742.
He was sent with the words of his spiritual fathers to “preach the everlasting gospel where Providence may direct.” With that spiritual charge given to the young Irish man, he was sent to two settlements of Ulster families at Neshaminy and the Forks of the Delaware. Hearing him expound the Word of God, the people called him as their pastor, which call he refused! So he supplied their spiritual needs and added to those places, the area around Cape May, New Jersey. Later, he was sent to the Forks of Brandywine and Pequea.
Still continuing his ministry of “preaching the everlasting gospel where Providence may direct,” he was sent to Greenwich, New Jersey, and in October 1744 to what is now Fairfield, New Jersey and the Forks of the Delaware.
In the next year, he was sent with a Mr. Byram down into Augusta County, Virginia, where a great awakening took place under their proclamation of the gospel, continuing for six full years!
Ordained in May 1746, the Forks of Brandywine called him as pastor, with three acres presented to him and the congregation, and a meeting house erected. Presumably around this time, he married, and eventually four children were born to that union.
By this day, July 9, 1748, however, the next place he was located was in heaven! He died at age 29! So short was his time on earth, as Providence directed.
Words to Live By:
The celebrated Samuel Davies said that William Dean was an active, zealous, and faithful minister, speaking of him as a most useful minister. Davies, called by some “the apostle of Virginia,” lamented Rev. Dean’s early death. Many of our readers might ask “Why” to the God of Providence? Yet the only answer which can be given is that it was the Lord’s sovereign will. Let it be our testimony that each Christian reader will faithfully proclaim and live the everlasting gospel where God’s providence may direct our steps to our family members, especially our covenant children, in the visible church, and to the needy culture in which God will direct us. The New Testament writer James wrote, “(we) are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead (we) ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, (we) will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:14, 15.)