New Side Presbyterians

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An Old Side Presbyterian Plants Numerous Churches

One would need a firm grip on God’s sovereignty to live and minister in the early days of our country. It was true that countless Scot-Irish families resided throughout the regions of colonial America. But it was also true that whereas there were many members of the Presbyterian faith, under-shepherds to care for them were few indeed. So when a colony of Presbyterians found a pastor, he usually stayed a long time. Such was the case for the Rev. Adam Boyd.

Born in Ballymoney, Ireland in 1692, he moved first to New England in either 1722 or 1723. Recommended by the venerable Cotton Mather, he was called by the Scots-Irish people at Octoraro and Pequea, Pennsylvania churches. Ordained to the gospel ministry on October 13th, he began his ministry to the people of this new colony. It was an extensive field of labor, to which by foot and horseback, he visited the people faithfully as he cared for the spiritual needs.

A week after his ordination, at the age of thirty-two, he married Jane Craighead, the daughter of their first pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead. From their marriage, ten children—five sons and five daughters—were born.

In 1741, a schism occurred in the infant Presbyterian Church, between what became known as the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians. Rev. Boyd stayed with the Old Side Presbyterians, even though many of his congregation favored the revivalist approach of the New Side branch. Eventually, a fair number left his ministry and began a New Side Presbyterian congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was forced to leave the remnant which was left and minister to the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, which was Old Side Presbyterian. When differences were finally mended and Old Side and New Side reunited in 1758, the two branches of the Octorora church came back together and were one church again.

Even though he was Old Side Presbyterian, it was said that he in his forty-four years started 16 daughter and “granddaughter” churches. Here was an Old Side minister who defied the typical impression that the Old Side was opposed to planting new churches. Rev. Boyd would go to be with the Lord on November 23, 1768, at 76 years of age.

It was said on his tombstone that he was “eminent for life, modest purity, diligence in office, possessing prudence, equanimity, and peace.”

View a photograph of Rev. Boyd’s gravesite, here.

Words To Live By:

It is so easy to put both men and movements into nice neat little pockets. You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and indeed many were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were so focused on doctrine that they could not be bothered to engage in evangelism. Such are stereotypes, while the truth is more nuanced. Adam Boyd, for one, breaks the stereotype, an Old Side Presbyterian who planted a dozen and more congregations in his forty-four year ministry. Jesus said in John 7:24! “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.” What seems to be so, may not be so. Be careful.

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith

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Covenanters Begin with Colorful Ceremony

Following the first schism of the Presbyterian Church in 1741, Rev. Alexander Craighead in 1742 argued that the New Side Presbyterian branch should renew the historic Scottish National Covenant of 1581 and also the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, thus committing themselves to be in opposition to the British government. When the New Side Presbytery responded with opposition to the proposed covenant that his views were full “of treason, sedition, and distraction,” Craighead and his congregation, the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, withdrew  from the New Side Presbyterians on November 11, 1743.  They then renewed these covenants themselves with four swords pointing to the four winds.

In their declaration, they professed their adherence to the true Reformed Presbyterian religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as it is contained in the Word of God and summed up in the Westminster Standards, along with the book of church order, which included the directory of worship and the covenants of the mother church.

Further protestations were made against the Adopting Act of 1729, which gave allowance to the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church of America to declare exceptions to the subordinate standards of the church. They charged that the present adoption act was “contrary to the true Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Christ.:

Last, they protested against the rulers of England as  having any legal right to rule over the colonies. The leaders of the New Side Presbyterians were not ready to do that in 1743, but a bare three decades later, that is exactly what American Presbyterians did, when they supported the Revolution.

The significance of the drawn swords was to remember the heritage of their Covenanter forefathers, who adhered to a true Reformation.  The swords were a pledge to defend their lives and their religion rather than relinquish it.  They wanted to stand body and soul with their spiritual forefathers in this matter.

< Gravesite of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, at the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Words to live by:   One of the reasons why this historical devotional is being published by the PCA Historical Center is that Presbyterians in our pews, and even some behind our pulpits, do not know the history of our Church. And in not knowing it, they can fail to appreciate stands for righteousness and against wickedness which our forefathers took at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. Reader, you need to make the PCA Historical Center’s pages a “favorite” on your computer, and check with it frequently to read the resources and frequent new additions there. You might also send some financial help to the Historical Center regularly, and have your church put the Center in their annual benevolences. If we forget the past, we will continue to make mistakes in our church faith and life in the present and future.

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Covenanters Begin with Colorful Ceremony

Following the first schism of the Presbyterian Church in 1741, Rev. Alexander Craighead in 1742 argued that the New Side Presbyterian branch should renew the historic Scottish National Covenant of 1581 and also the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, thus committing themselves to be in opposition to the British government. When the New Side Presbytery responded with opposition to the proposed covenant, and stated that Craighead’s views were full “of treason, sedition, and distraction,” Craighead and his congregation, the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, withdrew  from the New Side Presbyterians on November 11, 1743.  They then renewed these covenants themselves with four swords pointing to the four winds.

In their declaration, they professed their adherence to the true Reformed Presbyterian religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as it is contained in the Word of God and summed up in the Westminster Standards, along with the book of church order, which included the directory of worship and the covenants of the mother church.

Further protestations were made against the Adopting Act of 1729, which gave allowance to the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church in America to declare exceptions to the subordinate standards of the church. They charged that the present adoption act was “contrary to the true Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Christ.:

Last, they protested against the rulers of England as  having any legal right to rule over the colonies. The leaders of the New Side Presbyterians were not ready to do that in 1743, but a bare three decades later, that is exactly what American Presbyterians did, when they supported the Revolution.

The significance of the drawn swords was to remember the heritage of their Covenanter forefathers, who adhered to a true Reformation.  The swords were a pledge to defend their lives and their religion rather than relinquish it.  They wanted to stand body and soul with their spiritual forefathers in this matter.

> Gravesite of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, at the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Words to live by:   One of the reasons why this historical devotional is being published by the PCA Historical Center is that Presbyterians in our pews, and even some behind our pulpits, often do not know the history of our Church. And in not knowing it, they can fail to appreciate the valiant stands for righteousness and against wickedness which our forefathers took at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.
Reader, you need to make the PCA Historical Center’s pages a “favorite” on your computer, and check with it frequently to read the resources and frequent new additions there. You might also send some financial help to the Historical Center regularly, and have your church put the Center in their annual benevolences. If we forget the past, we will continue to make mistakes in our church faith and life in the present and future.

27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 
28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
30 experiencing the sameconflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
—(Philippians 1:27-30, NASB)

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

Rev. Gilbert Tennent [5 February 1703 – 23 July 1764]You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith.

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