Page images
PDF
EPUB

Prince Edward,-and Hat Creek and Concord in Campbell. He himself settled at Cub Creek; the greater part of the families that formed that settlement, ultimately removed to West Virginia, now Kentucky.

Mr. Anderson visited the Presbyterian settlements that were then formed in Frederick Augusta and Nelson.

The reasons that actuated Governor Gooch to promise protection, in the exercise of their religious forms, in a State whose laws for uniformity were precise and enforced with rigour, were two: 1st, he wished a frontier line at a greater distance from Williamsburg; if possible, West of the great Mountains;-2d, he knew these people to be firm, enterprising, hardy, brave, good citizens and soldiers. To form a complete line of defence against the savage inroads, he welcomed these Presbyterian emigrants, the Quakers,-and colonies from the different German States to the beautiful and luxuriant prairies of the Great Valley of the Shenandoah, on the head waters of the James, and along the Roanoke. At so great a distance from the older settlements, he anticipated no danger or trouble to the established church of the Colony, perhaps he never seriously considered the subject in the probable influence of the necessary collision of religious opinions.

[ocr errors]

Allured by the advantages offered in the colonies, multitudes of enterprising men were ready to leave their mother country. In that age of the world it was a hard necessity, that compelled men to abandon their birthplace, and traverse the ocean and seek a home in a distant wilderness. But the hope of independence cheered that necessity, and some prospect of more freedom in religion gladdened their hearts. The banks of the Delaware became the landing place of the voluntary exiles. After a short stay with their friends and countrymen in Pennsylvania, the families removed to the inviting Valley of Virginia, or the more distant banks of the Catawba in the Carolinas. When the most inviting regions in this southern direction were occupied, the succeeding immigrants crossed the Alleghanies, and soon filled West Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ten

C

nessee.

The Scotch Irish Presbyterians, and the Germans, that first came to America, generally sought a home with the Quakers, in the land of Penn. About the same time families from each of these races of people were enticed, by the prospective comfort and wealth of Western Virginia, to build their cabins west of the Blue Ridge, in the "ancient Dominion." These have formed the mass of community, the middle class, the yeomanry, that body that ministers the strength and wealth and energy of the State, that drops some of its members to the lowest condition of society, and elevates others to the pinnacle, that moves

on in the happy medium of wealth and poverty, the storehouse of enterprise, and the treasury of men in the day of emergency.

From necessity the families were located in neighbourhoods. And to this day, the Presbyterians, the Quakers, the Germans, both Lutheran and Reformed, have preserved their identity; though each from their proximity has exercised a silent influence over the others. In some parts of the Valley, large bodies of these different people, fully able to maintain their forms of religious worship, and their habits and manners and language, have found themselves in the vicinity of each other; and have maintained their own peculiarities, somewhat improved by their new situation. In other places the companies were small and became intermingled, and connected by marriage, and lost all their peculiarities, leaving nothing to designate their origin but their names.

In the southern part of the Valley of Virginia and in the Mesopotamia of North Carolina, and large districts of South Carolina, the Scotch Irish had the pre-eminence both in time and numbers. In other sections, the other races had the ascendency. All have exerted an influence in forming the society that enjoys the personal freedom and religious liberty, for which they laboured and endured, and by united efforts gained.

These sketches must of necessity be confined to the Presbyterian part of community, and treat of their location,―their progress, their religious exercises, the efforts for education and general literature, their emigration westward, and their influence on society at large.

The political creed of the Presbyterian race has been given in the Sketches of North Carolina, chapter 9th, and need not be repeated here. Their religious creed is learned from the Confession of Faith, which gives in detail their doctrines of religion in regard to faith and practice, their principles of morals, their forms of worship, their church order and discipline. This Confession has been called the Scotch Confession, or more properly the Westminster Confession. In the interpretation of the doctrines of their Confession there was great unanimity. Understanding their creed according to the accustomed use of words, and the grammatical construction of sentences, they received and professed, as their common faith, those doctrines called the doctrines of the Reformation, in the sense in which they believed the Reformers themselves understood them, and wished others to understand them. To use a common phrase their faith was Calvinistic. There were no professed Arminians or Antinomians amongst them. In their church government and forms of worship they were Presbyterians after the Scotch, or Geneva model.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But on the subject of "experience of religion" there soon. sprung up a great division. Respecting man's fallen nature,the extent and influence of depravity and original sin,—the necessity of the influences of the Holy Spirit, in conversion to God, and in devotional exercises, the imputation of Adam's guilt and of Christ's righteousness,-justification by faith, and the absolute necessity of the new birth,-on all these, there was perhaps little diversity of opinion. But whether true spiritual exercises implied or admitted great excitement,-whether conversion was a rapid or very gradual work,-whether evidences of grace were decisive, or necessarily obscure,-whether true revivals were attended with great alarms, deep convictions, great distress and strong hopes and fears,-whether a collegiate course of education was a necessary preparation for the ministry of the gospel,-and whether personal experience of religion should form part of the examination of candidates for the ministry,-on all these subjects there were formed two parties, which debated, with due vehemence, the proper exercises of a Christian man, and of a Christian minister. The excitement of these discussions, about the time of the Presbyterian emigration to Virginia, distracted, and finally divided the Synod of Philadelphia, which embraced all the churches, of the Presbyterian faith, north of South Carolina.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, of which the Presbyterian Church in America is a scion, is the fruit of a great awakening, an account of which may be seen in the Sketches of North Carolina, chap. 6th, taken mostly from Reed's History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Times of great excitement were not unfrequent in Ireland. The first great awakening in the Presbyterian churches of America commenced about the year 1732, in Freehold, New Jersey, under the preaching of Rev. John Tennent, son of William Tennent of the "Log College" on the Neshaminy. He died the same year, and his brother William succeeded as pastor. The good seed sown by the deceased pastor sprung up to eternal life under the watering of his brother, and the increase of the Spirit of God. The religious excitement in Freehold continued more than ten years, and was remarkably free from acts and doings that were objectionable.

The Rev. Jonathan Edwards gives an account of a great awakening under his ministry in Northampton about the year 1734, which spread into many of the neighbouring towns, ten in Massachusetts, and seventeen in Connecticut. He makes mention of the work of grace in New Jersey.

About the year 1739 the awakening became very extensive in New Jersey, under the preaching of the Tennents, Rowland, Dickenson and Frelinghuysen. The next year it was exten

sively experienced in New Londonderry, under the preaching of the Rev. Samuel Blair. It soon spread over a large part of the Presbyterian population in Pennsylvania. The public mind. was highly excited on the subject of religion, and most deeply agitated by earnest inquiries about the true exercises of Christian people. The awakening was general in most of the Congregations in New Jersey; and prevailed extensively in New England. Edwards's works, Prince's Christian History, and Gillie's Collections, which are taken very much from Prince's History, give glowing accounts of the excitements and hopeful conversions, that attended the preaching of the word. The awakening extended to Virginia and there it commenced without the ordinary means, preaching the word publicly. Under the preaching of the word it became more extended; and the effects are felt at this time all over Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee, North and South Carolina.

As the awakening in Virginia, that accompanied the preaching of the gospel, was more immediately connected with the work of grace in Pennsylvania and Delaware, some extracts will be given from an account, drawn up by the Rev. Samuel Blair, of the work as it appeared in New Londonderry. There it resulted in reformation of life and manners; and a creditable profession of religion by a number in his Congregation; and also in drawing the attention, of surrounding Congregations, to personal religion. The man that had the greatest religious influence on Virginia, Samuel Davies, was trained in the Congregation of Mr. Blair; and during this work of grace, he entered Virginia with the spirit of that awakening. Extracts from Mr. Blair's account will be read with interest by admirers of Davies.

Extracts from Mr. Blair's Narrative.

"It was in the Spring Anno Domini 1740 when the God of Salvation was pleased to visit us with the blessed effusions of his Holy Spirit in an eminent manner. The very first open and public appearance of this gracious visitation in these parts was in the Congregation God has committed to my charge. The Congregation has not been erected above fourteen or fifteen years from this time: the place is a new settlement, generally settled with people from Ireland, as all our Congregations in Pennsylvania, except two or three are, chiefly, made up of people from that kingdom. I am the first minister they have ever had settled in the place. Having been regularly liberated from my former charge in East Jersey, above an hundred miles north eastward from hence; (the Rev. Presbytery of New Brunswick, of which I had the comfort of being a member, judging it to be my duty, for sundry reasons, to remove from thence) at the

""

earnest invitation of the people here, I came to them in the beginning of Nov. 1739,-accepted a call from them that winter,—and was formally installed and settled amongst them as their minister, in April following. There were some hopefully pious people here at my first coming, which was a great encouragement and comfort to me.' The state of the Congregations generally, and of the neighbouring Congregations, was mournful. Religious experience was confined to a few; such a thing as a general attention to personal religion was unknown, though attendance on public worship was reckoned essential to the well being of society; formality had taken the place of spirituality, and the mass of the people were satisfied with the rind without ever tasting the rich meat of gospel ordinances. A consequent dissoluteness of manners was creeping in as vital religion was dying out; outward observances were usurping the place of spiritual religion. "It was thought"-says Mr. Blair"that if there was any need of a heart distressing sight of the soul's danger, and fear of divine wrath, it was only needful for the grosser sort of sinners; and for any others to be deeply exercised this way, (as there might sometimes be some rare instances observable) this was generally looked upon to be a great evil and temptation that had befallen some persons. The common name for such soul concerns were, melancholy, trouble of mind, or despair. These terms were in common, so far as I have been acquainted, indifferently used as synonymous; and trouble of mind was looked upon as a great evil, which all persons that made any sober profession and practice of religion ought carefully to avoid. There was scarcely any suspicion at all, in general, of any danger of depending upon self righteousness, and not upon the righteousness of Christ alone, for salvation. Papists and Quakers would be readily acknowledged guilty of this crime, but hardly any professed Presbyterians. The necessity of being first in Christ by a vital union, and in a justified state, before our religious services can be well pleasing and acceptable to God, was very little understood or thought of; but the common notion seemed to be, that if people were aiming to be in the way of duty as well as they could, as they imagined, there was no reason to be much afraid. According to these principles, and this ignorance of some of the most soul concerning truths of the gospel, people were very generally through the land careless at heart, and stupidly indifferent about the great concerns of eternity. There was very little appearance of any hearty engagedness in religion; and indeed, the wise for the most part, were in a great degree asleep with the foolish. 'Twas sad to see with what a careless behaviour the public ordinances were attended, and how people were given to unsuitable worldly discourse on the Lord's holy day. In public companies,

« PreviousContinue »