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The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was organized on a Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1837 by the Reverend Peter Donan and four persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton, and John Robb and his wife, Marion.  The organization meeting was held in “the Old State House,” Mississippi’s first capitol, a small two-story structure on the northeast corner of E. Capitol and N. President Streets.   Peter Donan continued as the church’s pastor for four years.  There were no elders for two years, no deacons for six years, nor a Presbyterian house of worship for nearly nine years.  In the first two years of its existence, the church had but three new members.

In 1841, Reverend Donan was followed by Reverend  S. H. Hazard, who was pastor for little more than one year.  He was succeeded by the Reverend  Leroy Jones Halsey, a dynamic man and preacher, under whose ministry the congregation commenced to grow.  Halsey spurred the building of the first sanctuary on the northwest corner of North State and Yazoo Streets.  When Dr. Halsey resigned in 1848, the pulpit was supplied until February 22, 1849. The congregation then called as pastor the Reverend Isaac James Henderson, who served until he was succeeded by the Reverend L. A. Lowry on December 3, 1853.   Mr. Lowry was a fine pastor and effective preacher, but died of Yellow Fever after but two years service.  The pulpit was supplied from March, 1855, until a call was extended to the Reverend John Hunter on January 24, 1858.

[For more on the history of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, see the church web site.]

Words to Live By:
Blessed Zion: First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, 1837-2012, is a wonderful church history, written by Dr. Sean Lucas and published early in 2013. The book’s preface alone would be worth the purchase price, in my estimation. There Dr. Lucas summarizes several lessons drawn from the writing of this history:

1. It only takes one generation for a church to die. The reasons may vary: “a poor pastoral choice; a failure to continue to preach God’s Word faithfully; a transition in the church’s understanding of mission; an inability to see and adapt to the neighborhood around it.” By the grace of God, First/Jackson has been blessed in making many right choices over the many years.

2. The quality of the ruling elders who serve the church. These men who form the Session of the church must be talented, godly men.

3. The value of long-term pastorates, allowing for great stability, space for godly pastors to “to shape the theological and experiential perspective of the congregation in favor of the grand, winsome, evangelical truths of Reformed Christianity,” and enabling pastors to earn the long-term trust of their congregation.

4. What Dr. Lucas calls “The Road Not Taken,” i.e., knowing that mistakes, even disastrous ones, can be so easily made, we must recognize and rely upon God’s mercy and blessing. We note that Rev. Peter Donan, the founding pastor of First/Jackson, later departed from the Reformed Faith, but in God’s providence, that was some years later and by that time he had no influence on the life of this congregation. “Churches that stand faithful through the generations are those that seek men who are faithful to the Scripture, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”

5. The blessings of evangelical Presbyterianism. A great church will not “major in the minors” but will focus on proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.

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The Brief Life of a Denomination You Probably Never Heard Of.

It was on this day, April 1, in 1858, that the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formally organized. (The United Synod is not to be confused with the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which was also organized in 1858, but that was on May 26th. We’ll come back to them in 56 days from now.) Right now we’re concerned with the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church.

“Who?,” you say.

Well, they were more commonly known as the United Synod of the South.

Still nothing, huh?

To get to the United Synod, and for a bit of background, yet without bogging down in detail, let’s quickly rehearse some of the significant Presbyterian schisms.

First, there was the Old Side-New Side split in what later became the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1789). That split ran from 1741 to 1758, at which point the split was mended.

Next, there was the schism in 1810 that created the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Centered primarily in
Tennessee and Kentucky, they left because they came to reject certain key doctrines of Calvinism.

As an aside, we’ll also mention the 1833 split of the Reformed Presbyterian Church into Old Light (RPCNA) and New Light (RPCGS) factions.

Coming back to the PCUSA, there was the big split in 1837 which created the Old School and New School divisions. This split had been over serious matters. The Old School side wanted an end to the Plan of Union (a church-planting arrangement with Congregationalists). But the Old School men particularly wanted to rid the Church of doctrinal errors known as Hopkinsianism or New Haven Theology. Not all New School men held to those views, but many did.

After that split, Old School and New School went their separate ways. [This division was mended in 1869, but that’s another story.]

The Old School wing of the PCUSA split in 1861, a month after the Civil War began. It split north and south, and that’s what created the Southern Presbyterian Church. But to be accurate, this split was not over the issue of slavery, but over something called the Gardiner Spring resolution. The 1861 Old School General Assembly adopted this resolution, which in part required pastors to swear an oath of allegiance to the federal government. Many thought that was an inappropriate thing for a church to do, and obviously the Southern pastors, with the war already underway, decided not to go along with that idea, so they split.

But back to the United Synod, this is where it gets interesting. Particularly because most historians don’t give it much, if any, attention. The United Synod was a split from the New School wing of the PCUSA.

One noted historian, Kenneth J. Foreman, Jr., has argued convincingly that “although slavery was a pervasive issue touching everything in America in the 1830’s, it was not one of the issues on which the 1837-38 Old School Presbyterians divided from the New.” Basically, there were strong proslavery elements and strong abolition elements in both Old School and New School wings of the division.

But as the New School Presbyterians began their separate existence, the issue of slavery became more and more central, just as it did throughout the nation at large. Finally, things came to a head for the New School when its General Assembly met in Cleveland in 1857.

Historian Harold M. Parker, Jr. says “There can be no doubt that the momentous Dred Scott decision of 6 March 1857 played an influential role in the New School Assembly’s action of that year. Clifton E. Olmstead has commented that with the decision ‘moderate evangelists were convinced that the time for charity and patience was over.’ Even the opponents of radicalism found themselves in the camp of the advocates of immediate abolitionism. Such ‘came not to bring peace but a sword with which to amputate the gangrenous member of American Society and purify the nation for its divine mission to the world.’ “

The New School Assembly began on May 21st, but it wasn’t until Friday, May 29th that they began to consider an overture regarding slavery. For four days they wrestled with the matter. Finally, the Assembly managed to adopt a paper which began:

“The General Assembly, in view of the memorials before them and of the present relations of the Church to the subject of Slavery, feel called upon to make the following exposition of principle and duty. The Presbyterian Church in these United States has, from the beginning, maintained an attitude of decided opposition to the institution of Slavery.”

[the paper then began to detail the various examples of that opposition. on pages 401-404. Contact me at archivist {AT} pcahistory [dot] org, if you would like to have the full text of that amended overture].

Having marshalled its evidence, the adopted paper concluded:

“We do not indeed, pronounce a sentence of indiscriminate condemnation upon all our brethren who are unfortunately connected with the system of Slavery. We tenderly sympathize with all those who deplore the evil, and are honestly doing all in their power for the present well-being of their slaves, and for their complete emancipation. We would aid and not embarrass such brethren. And yet, in the language of the General Assembly of 1818, we would “earnestly warn them against unduly extending the plea of necessity; against making it a cover for the love and practice of Slavery, or a pretence for not using efforts that are lawful and practicable to extinguish this evil.”

Clearly the New School Assembly was trying to take a firm stand, yet still they were treating the Southern New Schoolers with “kid gloves.”  How much different was the action of the Reformed Presbyterian Church when it sat down to discuss slavery in 1802 and decided unanimously that slaveholders could not be members in good standing–that unrepentant slaveholders would be excommunicated!

Nonetheless, the Southern New School men saw the writing on the wall and decided to separate. And thus the division in 1857 of the New School Presbyterian Church over the issue of slavery, several years before the start of the Civil War.

atkinsonCMOn April 1, 1858, the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. met in Knoxville, Tennessee to formally organize the new denomination. The Rev. C. M. Atkinson, pictured at right, served as moderator for their first meeting.  Still, it was a short-lived denomination, for in 1863 these Southern New Schoolers agreed to merge with the Old School Southerners who had by then established their own separate existence as the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka Southern Presbyterian Church). In fact, Harold Parker has noted that “between 1863 and 1874, the Southern Presbyterian Church participated in six successful organic unions with other Presbyterian bodies in the South and border-states.”

That’s quite enough history for now, don’t you think?

Words to Live By:
The nagging question remains: How could Christians in that era, Old School or New School, have supported an evil like slavery? The only thing I’ve really come up with thus far is that we are, all of us–Christians and non-Christians–far more blinded by our culture than we realize. Christians should find a way out of that cultural blindness, in that the Bible gives us a vantage point that rises above all cultures, all philosophies, all times and man-made religions. If we are truly and fully Biblical in our world-view, we should rise above, and stand against, the sins of our times. The nagging question remains, what sins are we blind to today? Or do we think we’re better than our forefathers in the faith?

For Further Study:
Harold M. Parker, Jr. wrote the book on this subject, titled The United Synod of the South: The Southern New School Presbyterian Church. The PCA Historical Center has preserved among its collections an original copy of the Minutes of the first meeting of the United Synod (1858), but I cannot locate a digitized version of these Minutes. There is a digital copy of their 1861 Minutes available, here.

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mallardRobert Quarterman Mallard, son of Thomas and Rebecca (Burnley) Mallard, was born at Waltourville, Liberty county, on September 7, 1830. He was received into the Midway Congregational church on May 15, 1852, and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1850, before entering on his preparation for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Then graduating from Columbia in 1855, he was licensed by Georgia Presbytery on April 14, 1855 and ordained by this same Presbytery a year later, on April 13, 1856, being installed as pastor of the Walthourville church, where he served from 1856 to 1863. Rev. Mallard next answered a call to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian church in Atlanta, and labored there from 1863 to 1866. He then took up the pulpit of the Prytania Street Presbyterian church in New Orleans, where he labored from 1866 until ill health forced his resignation in 1877. It was not until 1879 that he was able to return to the pastorate, answering a call to serve the Napoleon Avenue Presbyterian church, also in New Orleans, from 1879 until 1903, no long before his death on March 3, 1904.

Honors accorded Rev. Mallard during his years of ministry included having served as the Moderator of the Thirty-sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., as it met in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1896. Rev. Mallard also served as editor of the Southwestern Presbyterian from 1892 until his death in 1904. His published works were few, notably Plantation Life before Emancipation (1892) and Montevideo-Maybank (1898)

During the Civil War, Dr. Mallard was taken prisoner at Walthourville on December 14, 1865, where he was temporarily stopping, and kept with other prisoners in pens on the Ogeechee. After the fall of Savannah, he was carried into the city, and for a while imprisoned in a cotton warehouse on Bay street; was entertained for about three months at the home of Dr. Axson, as a paroled prisoner, before being finally released.

Words to Live By:

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Day Two of their Second General Assembly
The following materials are drawn from the scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Initially organized as the Presbyterian Church of America, the denomination we now know as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met in its second General Assembly, beginning on Thursday, November 12 and adjourned on Saturday, November 14, 1936. As the retiring moderator of the first Assembly, the Rev. J. Gresham Machen had opened the proceedings with a sermon on 2 Cor. 5:14-15, and the assembled delegates then celebrated the Lord’s Supper. The Rev. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and the Rev. J. Burton Thwing were nominated for Moderator of the Second General Assembly, and Rev. Buswell was elected to serve, the Rev. Cornelius Van Til and the Rev. Carl McIntire escorting Rev. Buswell to the platform. The election of Rev. Buswell as Moderator was, for one, seen as a way to minimize the possibility of friction over the issue of pre-millennialism, Buswell himself being a pre-millennialist. Ultimately that gambit did not succeed, and the young denomination suffered a split in 1938, with the formation of the overtly pre-millennial Bible Presbyterian Synod.

PCofA_2dGA_BuswellCaption for the news clipping photo at right: At the left is Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., president of Wheaton College, who was elected at the opening business session of the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America here yesterday. he succeeds Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Philadelphia, show at the right, who was one of the leaders in the revolt of Fundamentalists from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The revolt let to the formation of the new church at the first General Assembly, June 11.

PCofA_2dGA_05NEW CHURCH ACTS FOR POPULAR RULE

Presbyterian of America Goes on Record Against Interlocking Committees.

OPPOSE OFFICIAL CLIQUE

Resolutions placing the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America on record as against “interlocking committees and putting power into the hands of a few men” were adopted today. [i.e., Friday, Nov. 13th]

This action was taken at sessions in the Manufacturers and Bankers’ Club, Broad and Walnut Streets. The Rev. Martin Luther Thomas, of California, in proposing the resolution said such precautions would prevent the church being controlled by a few men at headquarters and guard against “maladministration.”

Members of the new denomination before its formation constantly asserted that the parent Church, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., was controlled by an official clique.

Several commissioners opposed the resolution on the ground that it would create suspicion, but Mr. Thomas said: “It is better to avoid the abuse of power int he beginning than have trouble stemming it later.”

The resolutions were carried by a large majority.

Another resolution calling for a staggering of appointments to committees so as to prevent self-perpetuation of the governing heads, was defeated, when it was pointed out that the organizers of the new church should be given a free hand to carry out their work without interruption.

Wording of the actual resolution:  “In order to avoid interlocking committees, it is the desire of this General Assembly that no man be allowed to serve at the same time on more than one standing committee, board, or agency, except where an emergency exists.” [Minutes, pp. 12]

Words to Live By:
I recall that at a certain meeting of my presbytery, a candidate for the ministry was asked what he liked about the Presbyterian Church in America. With this candidate having grown up in an independent church fellowship, his reply shocked all of us elders at its first sound when he replied, “our Book of Church Order!” What we groaned at, with its very specific ways of doing things, was the very thing he rejoiced in, finding a supply of godly guidelines with which to “do church.” Elder representatives at the above described General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America wanted to profit from the past, especially even from the negative examples of those liberal churchmen and apostate churches where biblical input had been strangled in past PCUSA church assemblies. So important rules were added to the constitution of their newly formed church. Once adopted into practice, the more important outreach of the church could be accomplished with God’s blessing.

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As Francis Schaeffer said, in the Kingdom of God, there are no little people. Rev. and Mrs. M.A. Pearson were two selfless servants in God’s vineyard, unknown to most, who labored in near poverty in order to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Cherokee nation. 

Missionary to Cherokees Called Home to Be With Lord

Mr. & Mrs. Manford Alpheus PearsonThe Rev. M. A. Pearson, minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church and missionary for many years to the Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, went to be with the Lord on Friday, May 6, 1955.

Mr. Pearson worked among the Cherokee Indians as a missionary from 1911 until his retirement in 1953.

Manford Alphaeus Pearson was born in Waverly, Kansas, June 26, 1876, graduated from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1903, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1906. From his graduation from Princeton until he entered the mission field, he was a local pastor, having been ordained by the Presbytery of Neosho (PCUSA), on September 19, 1906, whereupon he served as Stated Supply from 1906-1907 for PCUSA churches in Altamont and Mound Valley, Kansas. From 1907 to 1910, he served other PCUSA churches throughout Kansas, in Chetopa, Toronto, Liberal, Seiling and Helena. Finally, in 1911, he began his life’s work with the Cherokee Indians, working initially under the auspices of the PCUSA’s Board of Home Missions. laboring with the Cherokee Indian Mission in Oklahoma.

Rev. Pearson withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1922 due to the prevailing modernism of the denomination. From 1922-1939, he continued his work with the Cherokee by associating with the Gospel Missionary Union out of Kansas City, Missouri. He was later received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, of the Presbyterian Church of America (later the OPC), on November 2, 1936, and subsequently was among those who in 1938 left to form the Bible Presbyterian Synod.

Mr. Pearson, during the last few years of his ministry with the Cherokees, translated parts of the Old Testament, then the Gospel of John, and later the New Testament into their language. The Cherokees had the Bible, but their copies were wearing out and the Bible Society did not plan to print more. Moreover, there were some 400 errors in the translation. For these reasons, Mr. Pearson made the new translation in Cherokee.

Upon his retirement, he moved to the East and was a resident in “Evening Rest,” the Bible Presbyterian Home for the Aged in Delanco, New Jersey. While there he made a number of recordings for use in the Cherokee Churches he had established where as yet there was no missionary or minister to take his place. On May 6, 1955, Rev. Pearson died suddenly of a heart attack while a guest at the Bible Presbyterian Home in Delanco, N.J.

Pictured above right, Rev. M.A. Pearson and his second wife, Ella (Cooper) Pearson. Rev. Pearson’s first wife, Martha (Smith) Pearson, had died in 1933.

Upon Rev. Pearson’s death, an obituary was printed on the pages of The Christian Beacon, which included the following memorial from the BPC Minutes of synod:

“His funeral was held in the tablernacle of the Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, N.J. Dr. McIntire stated that he had known Mr. Pearson all the years of Synod. Mr. Pearson often stated that he had belonged to Synod before the formation of our Synod. He was a real scholar. He had done a great work of translation in the Cherokee Old and New Testament. From 1911 on he had worked among the Cherokee Indians. He was stalwart for the faith. Mrs. Pearson showed Dr. McIntire Mr. Pearson’s prayer list which he kept in an old shoe box. It contained a detailed card filing system of B.P. Ministers, Independent Board missionaries, regional officers of the I.C.C.C. and many others connected with the whole sphere of our work with notes and clippings concerning each. He had a great burden of prayer for our movement. Synod then stood for a season of prayer led by the Rev. Charles E. Richter.”

[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, May 12, 1955]

I can only wish that someone had thought to preserve that old shoe box full of prayer lists and cards. What a testimony it would bear.

Words to Live By:
A poem greatly loved and much quoted by Mr. Pearson is Annie Johnson Flint’s “He Giveth More Grace.”

He giveth more grace when the burden becomes greater.
He sendeth more strength when labors increase.
To added affliction he addeth His mercies,
To multiplied trials—His multiplied grace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When strength seems to fail ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto man;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

For Further Study, see the Records of the Pearson Mission to the Cherokee, preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

Works published by Rev. M.A. Pearson:

The Gospel of John the Apostle. [Westville, Okla.], 1948. Cherokee; 83 p.; 19 cm.  Note: Cherokee version by M.A. Pearson together with the King James Version in English. Includes English note on pronunciation. In the syllabic script elaborated by S.A. Worcester.

[Genesis]. New York : American Bible Society, 1953. Cherokee; 400 p. 13 cm.  Note: Title on title page in Cherokee. English title from p. [3]. “Cherokee O.T. parts”–Title page verso. Includes: Genesis, Exodus, selections from Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah, and Jonah. Translated by M.A. Pearson. Text in syllabic script elaborated by S.A. Worcester.

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