T. D. Witherspoon

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After the resignation of I. N. Hays, the Middle Spring Presbyterian Church remained vacant for one year and a half, though the pulpit was usually occupied. Several attempts were made to secure a pastor, but on account of division of sentiment in the congregation and other causes, these attempts proved fruitless, until the autumn of 1869, when Rev. D. K. Richardson was called, and having accepted, commenced his labors Jan. 1, 1870, and was installed May 6th of the same year. He resigned the pastoral charge on December 21, 1871. The first year of the labors of Mr. Richardson in the Middle Spring church, was one of great discouragement, which arose from an absence of the convicting and converting presence of the Holy Spirit, and disharmony in the church. During the latter part of this year, things became more settled, and there was an increased interest in the preaching of the Word. On the third Sabbath of January 1871, during the afternoon service at Newburg, the presence of the Spirit became manifest. It proved to be the Prophet’s cloud from the sea, and the harbinger of a gracious revival, which extended pretty generally through the congregation, and resulted in the accession of forty-seven persons to the membership of the church. During his ministry here the church was no doubt greatly benefited spiritually. The pastor was growing in favor each day with the people, and we have no doubt the dissolution of this pastoral relation was the saddest and most unexpected in the history of the church. This took place December 21, 1871, he having received a call from the church at Greencastle, Pennsylvania.

Rev. David K. Richardson.

Rev. D. K. Richardson was born near Shanesville, Ohio, January 7, 1835. His father was for many years a ruling elder in the Church of Berlin, Ohio. Mr Richardson pursued his classical studies at Vermillion College. He afterwards engaged in teaching and the study of law, with a view to the profession. While engaged in teaching he was truly and happily converted to God, being then at the age of twenty-two, and at once turned his thoughts towards the ministry of the Gospel. In the fall of 1861 he entered Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, and completed a three years’ course. In the spring of 1863 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Maumee, and in 1864 was ordained by the same Presbytery, and installed over the churches of Napoleon and Bryan. He spent with these churches six or seven years of most earnest, devoted, and successful work. His ministry was greatly blessed. In 1870 he was called thence to the Middle Spring Church, Cumberland county, and before the close of his second year to the church in Greencastle, where he was installed February 10, 1872. This church he served until his death, August 20, 1877. Prior to his death he had accepted a call to Vincennes, Indiana, and amid his preparations to remove thither, was suddenly stricken down. In his brief ministry of thirteen years he was very successful, winning many to Christ by his impressive preaching. His labors in every charge were blessed with revivals. He was growing in spiritual and intellectual power, and his early deaath was deeply regretted.

Minutes of the Synod of Harrisburg, Volume 12, 1881, p. 59.

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This Is How You Say Goodbye : Paying Due Respect to a Beloved Pastor.

When the War ended in 1865, the Rev. Thomas D. Witherspoon answered a call to serve the Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis, Tennessee. That historic church, founded in 1844, continues to this day and since 1989 has been affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian denomination. Rev. Witherspoon’s ministry there began on September 3, 1865 and lasted but five years, ending early in October of 1870, when ill health forced him to retire from that pulpit to seek a less demanding post. Some of those years in Memphis had been tumultuous and challenging for a young pastor. Memphis suffered its worst race riot in 1867 and Witherspoon’s sermon logbook records something of his ministry on several occasions at the Fort Pickering mission, where the riot began.

He found that quieter pulpit as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Christiansburg, Virginia church, though he remained in this post for only one year while restoring his health, taking on subsequent duties as chaplain at the University of Virginia from 1871-1873.

The following resolutions, offered up by his congregation in Memphis and published in The Christian Observer on this day, August 31, 1870, serve as a model of how the Lord’s people might express their love and esteem for a faithful pastor. For a closer look at Rev. Witherspoon’s ministry there at Second Presbyterian, our readers can view an annotated transcription of his sermon logbook by clicking here.

witherspoon04Resignation of Rev. T.D. Witherspoon, D.D.

Copy of Resolutions introduced in the Congregational Meeting of the Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, by B.M. Estes, Esq., and unanimously adopted.

The congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis, assembled to take action upon the letter of resignation of their beloved pastor, do unanimously agree to adopt the following resolutions, viz:

  1. That in uniting with T.D. Witherspoon, D.D., in his application to the Presbytery of Memphis to dissolve the pastoral relation existing between him and this church, we have discharged a sad and painful duty, and that we have taken such action only at his earnest request, and because we are constrained to concur with him and his physicians in the belief, that on account of impaired health it is necessary that he should remove to a more invigorating and healthful climate and assume ministerial duties less onerous.
  2. Resolved, That we greatly deplore the necessity which compels us to agree to a severance of the tender ties which have bound our beloved pastor to us for nearly five years, and while with bruised and sorrowful hearts we give him up, we tender to him the assurance of profound sympathy for him in his affliction, and of our ardent affection for him personally, of our admiration and reverence for him as a minister of the Cross of Christ, and of our deep concern and interest in his future welfare and career.
  3. Resolved, That to the faithful, loving ministry and labors of Dr. Witherspoon as an instrument in the hands of the Great Head of the Church, we attribute the present peaceful harmonious and prosperous condition of this church and while we collectively and as individuals recall the multiplied instances of his love for us, of his deep sympathy and tender offices in times of bereavement and sorrow, our hearts overflow with emotions of gratitude and affection to him, and of sorrow that we must be separated from him.
  4. Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be furnished to Dr. Witherspoon as a testimonial of the appreciation and affection which the Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis entertain for him, and while our earnest prayers for the restoration of his health, and for his future welfare and usefulness will follow him wherever he may go—we beg that his prayers may ascend daily to our Heavenly Father for the peacefulness and prosperity of this church, and especially that the Master will provide for us another faithful minister to watch over the spiritual interests of this church.

Excerpted from The Christian Observer and Commonwealth, August 31, 1870, page 4, column 2. [Readers can view this page of the above newspaper at http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7gxd0qs68k_4]

Rev. Witherspoon remained at Second Presbyterian until early October 1870. His final sermon there was on Act 20:32, delivered on 9 October (No. 1106 in his Register)

Words to Live By:
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
—I Timothy 5:17.

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December 3, 1870, and You Are There.

A nice review in a newspaper of the time, covering an ordination in a Presbyterian church, not quite one hundred fifty years ago. Things haven’t changed much, though apparently on this occasion the Rev. Witherspoon brought both the charge to the pastor and the charge to the congregation. Today we would typically have one elder (usually a teaching elder) bring the charge to the pastor, and another elder (teaching or ruling) bring the charge to the congregation.

The Petersburg Index, Petersburg, Virginia, December 3, 1870


The installation of this talented young minister, (so well known in Petersburg) as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, took place on Thursday night and was witnessed by a large congregation. The Virginian says of the ceremony.

The sermon was preached by Rev. W. W. Houston, of Salem, on the text “One Faith;” It’s object being to show that amid all the differences of Christian sects there is a oneness of faith.  This was illustrated by the fact that all Christians agree in that faith that has but one object, one fruit or result, and one issue.  It was a very solemn appeal and was listened to with close attention.

After sermon Mr. Houston propounded the questions that are required by the Form of Government, which being answered in the affirmative, the relation was declared as regularly instituted.

witherspoon04After this, Rev. Dr. [Thomas Dwight] Witherspoon delivered a most solemn charge to the Pastor, urging him to appreciate his work-to preach Christ – to be faithful to all his charge, and to cultivate spirituality in all his efforts.

After this, the Dr. proceeded to charge the people, first to love their pastor, then to care for his spiritual welfare, then to pray for him, and uphold him in every possible way as co-laborers in the great work of the ministry.  This charge was closed with an allusion to his visit here at the beginning of the war, when so many that received him so cordially, are now missed from the church on earth.  His allusion to these things melted the church to tears.

The whole services were then closed with prayer and the singing of a hymn, when many of the church came forward and gave a cordial welcome to their new pastor.

Words to Live By:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)

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