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who have concern for religion, and just regard to public peace and order in Church and State, so your missionaries producing proper testimonials, complying with the laws, and performing divine service in some certain place appropriated for that purpose, without disturbing the quiet and unity of our sacred and civil establishments, may be sure of the protection of, Reverend sirs, your most humble servant,
WILLIAM Gooch. Williamsburg, June 20th, 1845."
The principal interest of these two letters rests upon the admission, by the Synod of Philadelphia,—that their members had no fellowship with the awakening in Virginia,—and the implied assertion, that they had members of their body in Virginia who had enjoyed the advantage of the Toleration Act of William and Mary: and on the Governor's part—the admission that dissenters from the Church of England were by law entitled to protection in their worship,—and that they should have it, in the colony, if not disturbers of the public peace. Consequently from Makemie's time there was no contention whether dissenters could, or should be, tolerated in Virginia; but what kind of toleration they should experience, or rather to what degree, they should be tolerated. The excitement that accompanied this "great awakening,” made it necessary to follow the letter of the law, on the principles of sound interpretation. The rights of citizens and the laws of the land, were from this time profoundly studied and better understood.
The people in Hanover, in their excitement and trouble, looked to the Presbyteries of New Castle and New Brunswick, which met under the title of—Conjunct Presbytery for counsel and aid. In the month of May 1745, the month next ensuing the term of the indictment found against Mr. Roan, they sent four delegates, of whom Mr. Morris says he was one, to meet the brethren of the two Presbyteries that were then preparing to form a Synod, which by the Union of the New York Presbytery was duly organized the next September, at Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Of this mission Mr. Morris says—the Lord favoured us with success. The Synod drew up an address to our Governor the Honourable Wm. Gooch, and sent it with Messrs. Tennent and Finley, who were received by the Governor, with respect, and had liberty granted them of preaching amongst us.' Mr. Morris speaks of the Synod as formed; he is writing some time after the event; it would have been more strictly correct, if he had said, the brethren that are now, or were soon formed into—the Synod of New York. The Synod at its first meeting, at Elizabethtown, in September 1745, upon considering the circumstances of the people in Virginia, “and the wide door that is opened for the preaching of the gospel in
these parts, with a hopeful prospect of success, the Synod are unanimously of the opinion, that Mr. Robinson is the most suitable person to be sent among them, and accordingly they do earnestly recommend it to him to go down and help them as soon as his circumstances will permit him, and reside there for some months.” No person more acceptable to the people could have been designated, or sent, to those, who looked, with joy, upon him as their spiritual father. But they saw his face no
his radiant course was coming to its close. The next meeting of the Synod of New York, took place, in the city of New York, October, 1746. The death of Mr. Robinson is made a matter of record --and, “a supplication and call for a minister from Hanover, in Virginia, was brought into Synod and read; the Synod doth earnestly recommend the assisting of said people, to the Presbyteries of New Brunswick and New Castle. From these Presbyteries they received their supplies till the Presbytery of Hanover was formed.”
Messrs. Gilbert, Tennent, and Samuel Finley, performed their missions, and were kindly received by the Governor, who gave them permission to preach in Hanover. “By this means," says Mr. Morris, “ the dreadful cloud was scattered for a while, and our languid hopes revived. They continued with us about a week, and though the deluge of passions, in which we were at first overwhelmed, was by this time somewhat abated, yet much good was done by their ministry. The people of God were refreshed, and several careless sinners were awakened. Some that had trusted before in their moral conduct and religious duties, were convinced of the depravity of their nature, and the necessity of regeneration, though indeed there were but few ungenerate persons amongst us at that time, that could claim so regular a character, the most part indulging themselves in criminal liberties, and being remiss in the duties of religion, which, alas! is too commonly the case, still, in such parts of the colony, as the late revival did not extend to. After they left us we continued vacant for a considerable time, and kept our meetings for reading and prayer in several places, and the Lord favoured us with his presence.
Extracts from the Records of the General Court, held in
John BLAIR, and
WILLIAM DAWSON, Clerk.
"Our Lord the King,—against John Roan, Thomas Watkins, son of Ed
Upon several inward Watkins, James Hubbard, Joshua formations èxhibitMorris, Charles Rice, Isaac Winston, ed against them for Sen. and Samuel Morris,
“ The said defendants by their attorneys respectively say that they are not guilty in manner and form as in the said information against them alleged and of this they severally put themselves upon the country-and the Attorney General of our Lord the King, likewise.” The person first named in the preceding record, was the Rev. John Roan—the last mentioned, was Mr. Morris, the reader to the people, from whom the Reading House took its name, and from whose narrative frequent quotations have been made : the others were persons, at whose houses Mr. Roan had preached, or were implicated in the excitement. Mr. Roan's name does not appear after this date. Mr. Morris says, “Six witnesses were cited to prove the charge against Mr. Roan, but their depositions were in his favour; and the witness who accused him of blasphemy, when he heard of the arrival of Messrs. Tennent and Finley, fled, and has not returned since, so that the indictment was dropped.”
Mr. Samuel Finley, one of the delegation, was pastor of Nottingham, Cecil county, Maryland. Born of pious parents in the county of Armagh, Ireland, in the year 1715, he was deeply impressed with a sense of religion when he was six years old. Emigrating to America, he landed in Philadelphia, September 28th, 1734. Having pursued his studies for the ministry, through many difficulties, he was licensed by New Brunswick Presbytery August 5th, 1740. Having preached with great acceptance, he was ordained as Evangelist, October 13th, 1742, and enjoyed much success in his labours at Deerfield, Greenwich and Cape May, New Jersey. In June 1744 he went to Nottingham, where was a large congregation of his countrymen and their descendants. He was installed pastor the same year he visited Virginia. He opened an Academy in Nottingham, and attracted scholars from a great distance, being justly famed as a scholar, and eminently qualified as a teacher. In this institution, Rev. Dr. McWhorter, Dr. Rush, Governor Henry of Maryland, Col. John Bayard, and a number of other eminently useful characters, received their education. Upon the death of President Davies in 1761, Mr. Finley was chosen his successor. In his early ministry he was much engaged in the great revival; and during his presidency, in the year 1762, there was a great attention to religion among the students, nearly one half being hopefully converted.
Mr. Finley was a man of small stature, round face, and ruddy countenance. In the pulpit he was always solemn, and sometimes glowing with fervor. "He possessed great knowledge of the human heart, and was remarkable for sweetness of temper, politeness and generosity. The University of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1763.
At the request of some people in New Milford, Connecticut, who had seceded from the Congregational church on account of the Arminian doctrine of the
minister, he was sent by Presbytery to preach to them a short time. Lieutenant Governor Law, who belonged to the opposing party, taking advantage of the strict laws then in force in Connecticut, ordered him to be arrested, and carried from constable to constable, and from one town to another, to the borders of the State, and there dismissed.
Going to Philadelphia for medical advice, he closed his most useful and exemplary life, on the 17th of July 1776, in a joyful and triumphant manner. His biography would form a choice volume of Christian experience. He was an example of enjoyment in the profession of gospel truth, and in spiritual exercises.
The other minister appointed by the “Conjunct Presbytery, afterwards the Synod of New York, to visit Governor Gooch, was Gilbert Tennent, son of Rev. William Tennent, of “Log College” memory. Born in Ireland, Feb. 5th, 1703, the eldest of four brothers that became Presbyterian ministers, he was hopefully converted at the age of fourteen, under the ministry of his father. His education was completed at the "Log College.” Licensed by New Castle Presbytery in the year 1725, he was the same year settled in New Brunswick. He was the chief instrument of the separation of the Synod in 1741, devoutly believing that a separation was necessary for the preservation and advancement of religion. He expressed his opinions of his opponents with great vehemence, in his famous “Nottingham Sermon.” In 1743 he became pastor of the church in Philadelphia, which was gathered chiefly from those who were denominated the converts and followers of Mr. Whitefield.” A bold, ardent, practical, and unusually impressive preacher, his labours in the great revival were productive of visible and lasting good. In 1753 he was chosen with Samuel Davies, to represent the College of New Jersey before the churches in England. The journal of Mr. Davies has been preserved and makes a part of this volume. Nothing has yet appeared from the pen of Mr. Tennent, in the diary or journal form, respecting that successful visit. As Mr. Tennent had been a leading man in the division of the Synod, he was equally prominent in the reunion. In one he appeared a son of thunder, and in the other a son of consolation. He continued in
the ministry about forty years. In a sermon preached before the College, and published, by request, in 1757, he argues that the pollution of Adam's race can be accounted for only by the fact that Adam's sin was imputed to all his race. dissented from the orthodox construction of the Confession of Faith.
“ After these left us,"-says Mr. Morris—“we continued vacant for a considerable time, and kept our meetings for reading and prayer in several places. And the Lord favoured us with his presence. I was again prosecuted and repeatedly fined in court for absenting myself from church and keeping up unlawful meetings, as they were called. The next that were appointed to supply us were the Rev. William Tennent and Samuel Blair. They administered the Lord's supper amongst us; and we have reason to remember it as the most glorious day of the Son of Man. The assembly was large, and the novelty of the manner of administration did peculiarly engage their attention. It appeared as one of the days of heaven to some of us; and we could hardly help wishing we could with Joshua have delayed the revolution of the heavens to prolong it."
William Tennent, here mentioned, was the second son of William Tennent of the “Log College.” In the course of his preparation for the ministry he was taken ill and appeared to die. Saved from burial by the importunity of one who loved him with peculiar tenderness, he revived. All recollection of his former acquirements was gone. By degrees his mind was restored to its proper action, and he finished his preparation for the ministry. More than six feet high, of a spare thin visage, erect carriage, bright piercing eye, with a countenance grave and solemn, he was always cheerful, and won youth to seek his conversation. He carried through life a lively recollection of the scenes and things that occupied his mind during the days he lay as one dead; they were a perpetual stimulus in his ministerial work. He preached with indescribable power, in a manner peculiar to himself, and seldom failed to interest and impress his audience. Of scrupulous integrity, independent mind, and an uncommonly clear perception of human character, he was a noted peace maker. Living above the world, he finished his course March 8th, 1777, having been pastor of Freehold, New Jersey, forty-two years.
His associate, Samuel Blair, was famous in his day as an admirable preacher, a superior teacher, and a good writer. Born in Ireland, June 14th, 1712, he was early removed to Monmouth, New Jersey; and completed his education at the “ Log College' of William Tennent. He was licensed in 1733 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which then covered New Jersey. The