« PreviousContinue »
York supply his pulpit during his absence.” This commission of Synod met in August, and after much prayerful consideration, resolved to call the Synod to meet the last Wednesday in September, in Philadelphia,—“And that Messrs. Andrews, Cross and Treat do prepare what addresses, letters, credentials, or other instruments may be proper against the meeting of Synod. On the minutes of Synod for the next year is the following record—“The war breaking out between England and Spain, the calling of the Synod was omitted and the whole affair laid aside." Dr. Coleman of Boston had assured the Synod of the co-operation of the Boston clergy in erecting the school. Here the matter rested for some years.
In the year 1743, after the disowning of the New Brunswick Presbytery, and the actual, though not formal divisions of synod, the members of the Philadelphia Synod, called the “Old-side,” resumed the business of the school, by a committee from the Presbyteries of Philadelphia, New Castle and Donegal. This committee resolved that the school be opened. The next year the synod approved the designs, and took the school under
The first article of the plan was-“that there be a school kept open where all persons who please may send their children, and have them instructed gratis in languages, philosophy and divinity.” The support of the school was to be derived from yearly contributions by the congregations under the care of the Synod. Rev. Francis Alison, the finest scholar in the two Synods, was appointed master, with the privilege of choosing his own usher. "The Synod agree to allow Mr. Alison twenty pounds per annum, and the usher fifteen pounds." In the year 1746, May 30th, the synod, in reply to a letter from President Clapp, of Yale College, say—“Some years ago our Synod found the interests of Christ's kingdom likely to suffer, in these parts, for want of a college for the education of young men. Mr. William Tennent set up a school among us, where some were educated, and afterwards admitted to the ministry, without sufficient qualifications, as was judged by many of the synod. And what made the matter look worse, those that were educated in this private way denied the usefulness of some parts of learning that we thought very necessary. It was therefore agreed to try to erect a college, and apply to our friends in Britain, and Ireland, and New England. But when we were thus projecting our plans, the war with Spain was proclaimed, which put a stop to our proceedings then. The Synod then came to a public agreement to take all private schools where young men were educated for the ministry, so far under their care as to appoint a committee of our Synod to examine all such as had not obtained degrees in the European or New England colleges, and give them certificates if they were found qualified, which were to serve our Presbyteries instead of a college diploma, till better provision could be made. Mr. Gilbert Tennent cried out that this was to prevent his father's school for training gracious men for the ministry; and he and some of his adherents protested against it, and counteracted this our public agreement, admitting men to the ministry which we judged unfit for that office. While these debates subsisted, Mr. Whitefield came into the country, whom they drew into their party to encourage divisions. And by his interest Mr. Gilbert Tennent grew hardy enough to tell our Synod he would oppose their design of getting assistance to erect a college wherever we should make application, and would maintain young men at his father's school in opposition to us. This, with his and his adherents' divisive practices, obliged the Synod to exclude him, and others of his stamp, from their communion. Upon this the Synod erected a school in the year 1744. It was agreed that the said school should be opened under the inspection of the Synod, where the languages, philosophy and divinity should be taught gratis, to all that should comply with the regulations of the school, being persons of good character and behaviour. Several ministers and gentlemen have helped us to books to begin a library; and we hope that in time we may obtain assistance from England, Ireland, and elsewhere, to enable us to found a college. We have not obtained a charter as yet, but have reason to hope we may procure one, if there be occasion. We excluded from synodical communion the four Tennents, Blair, Craighead, Treat, and Mr. Wales. These, especially the Tennents, Blair and Treat, being the ringleaders of our divisions, and the destroyers of good learning and gospel order among us; and they with a few others that joined with them, erected themselves into a separate body, and licensed and ordained men for the work of the ministry, that were generally ignorant and warm in the division scheme, and they have troubled Virginia and the New English government.” In the year 1749 the plan of the school was modified, Mr. Alison's salary was increased, and he was permitted to receive tuition from all, except those the trustees should judge unable to bear the expense. Mr. Alison removed to Philadelphia in the year 1752, to take charge of the academy in that city. When that institution was erected into a college he was put at its head. These circumstances checked the efforts of the Synod for erecting a college. This school flourished under the care of Mr. Alexander McDowell, to whom, in 1754, Mr. Matthew Wilson was added as assistant. In 1755 a donation of books was received from Dublin, with which the Synod resolved to commence a public library, under the care of their own body.
two Synods, and their friends, for their favourite schools, will throw light upon the position of Messrs. Tennent and Davies as delegates to Europe for the advancement of the interests of New Jersey College; the journal of Mr. Davies will be read to greater advantage;—and the perplexities of Mr. Tennent better understood. Mr. Tennent was at times almost overwhelmed, by meeting copies of his Nottingham sermon in England, and by the private letters sent from America calculated to prejudice the pious people in England against him and his
Before his mission to England, Mr. Tennent had become an advocate of the union of the two Synods, to whose division he had contributed no small share. On his return to Philadelphia, his zeal and energy contributed not a little to the harmony of the Church and the union of the Synods under the name of Synod of New York and Philadelphia. “He that confesseth and forsaketh shall find mercy.” The Church has long since spread her mantle of love and sweet remembrance, over his memory; and a reference to his imprudent zeal will do him no harm, while it may be a warning to others against indulgence in passionate denunciation, and hasty judgment of character and Christian standing.
The summer of 1753 was passed by Messrs. Tennent and Davies in preparations for their voyage. Davies parted with his family and congregation for the long absence, with great reluctance. Mr. Tennent, on account of his bereavements in his family, had less to bind him to Philadelphia. On the 3d of September, Mr. Davies says—"I took leave of some thousands, yesterday, in public; and to-day I parted with some of my select friends, and my dear spouse, my honoured parents, and three helpless children, and left them in a flood of tears.”
The departure of the delegation was delayed. On Saturday, November 17th, they went on board a vessel bound to London. Mr. Davies kept a journal. That relates to his labours, trials, and success. It was written in two small volumes; one of which was obtained from his family by Dr. Rice, and is preserved in the library of the Union Theological Seminary in Prince Edward, Virginia; the other was found by Dr. Cuyler, in Philadelphia, and by him deposited in the library of Nassau Hall. These two manuscripts are nearly entire, as they came from Mr. Davies' pen. “Of almost all the men mentioned by him”-says Dr. Rice, in his Magazine, vol. 2d, pp. 334, 5–
have biographical sketches, made by their acquaintances, since their death, and it is wonderful to observe how the hints of Davies coincide with the fuller accounts of others. He must have possessed great powers of observation, and a wonderful faculty of looking into human character.”
Messrs. Davies and Tennent parted in Edinburgh: Mr. Ten
JOURNAL OF REV. SAMUEL DAVIES.
nent, to visit Glasgow and Ireland; Mr. Davies, the principal towns in England, -as he says—asclitary and sad.” They met again in London, Oct. 1754. In November Mr. Tennent sailed directly for Philadelphia. Mr. Davies took passage for York in Virginia, the same month, but on account of unfavourable weather did not leave the coast for about six weeks. The voyage was long and unpleasant. He landed in York, Feb. 13th 1755: the next day waited on the Governor in Williamsburg, and on the morning of the 15th reached home and found all well.”
The success of the mission to Great Britain surpassed expectation. A large amount of money was secured; all doubts as to the permanency of the College put to flight; public sympathy was excited for the suffering dissenters in Virginia; contributions were secured for the education of pious young men at Nassau Hall; and a greater interest awakened for the welfare of the Indians in the provinces. For immediate effect, or permanent usefulness, no delegation from the colonies to the mother country ever equalled that of Messrs. Tennent and Davies for Nassau Hall.
JOURNAL OF REV. SAMUEL DAVIES, FROM JULY 2, 1753, TO
FEBRUARY 13, 1755.
July 2d, 1753.—Gratitude to the God of my mercies constrains me to own myself the favourite child of Divine Providence; as it has generally disposed of me in a manner different from, and sometimes contrary to my expectation, my purpose and desire. Such an unexpected and undesired event was my separation from my brethren and settlement in Virginia ; and yet I have since looked upon it as a providential dispensation for the recovery of my health, to harden me against opposition, to increase my popularity, to make me acquainted with the world, as well as with books, to supply the most necessitous congregation, and upon the whole, to enlarge the sphere of my usefulness more extensively than so insignificant a creature had reason to expect. And now as Divine Providence contrary to my expectation, seems to call me to a very important embassy for the church and for the public; and as it will tend much to my future satisfaction, to have the reasons of my procedure by me for a review in the hour of perplexity ; I think it expedient to state the affair in writing and to keep a diary of all the remarkable occurrences I may meet with in my voyage, which I intend to begin about **** hence, unless Providence lay something in my way that may acquit me from the obligation which I seem to lie under to undertake it. And it is my prayer to the God of my life, and the guide of my youth, that He, who condescends to manage even my mean affairs, would clear up my path of duty before me, and make it as agreeable as obvious, whether it lead me to the ends of the earth, or confine me to the exercise of my ministry at home. The College of New Jersey erected about eight years ago with the most ample privileges, is of the greatest importance to the interests of religion and learning in three colonies, New York, the Jerseys, and Pennsylvania, and to the dissenters in Maryland, Virginia, and both Carolinas. There is now about £3000 in the college fund; but this will hardly be sufficient for the erection of proper buildings; and if it should all be laid out for that end, there will be nothing left for maintenance of the professors and tutors, to furnish a college library, and to support pious youths for the ministry, who are unable to support themselves at learning.
Upon application made to Great Britain, there has been encouragement given to expect some assistance, especially if some proper persons were sent over to represent the affair, and to solicit and receive contributions. The Trustees first endeavoured to employ Mr. Pemberton in the service, who was well qualified, and had no family at the time, and was willing to undertake the embassy; but his congregation most unreasonably refused, though Mr. Cumming, his colleague, was still to continue with them, and another minister would have been appointed to officiate in his stead. After this disappointment (near two years ago) some of the Trustees importuned me to undertake the affair ; but considering my youth and other defects I could hardly think them in earnest. However, I mentioned the personal, domestic and congregational difficulties in my way, and urged them with as much earnestness as was necessary to resist their importunity. Last fall, they renewed their application and I my refusal; and I never expected to hear more of it. But last winter the Board of Trustees unanimously voted me to undertake the voyage. When I was informed of it by a letter from worthy President Burr, it struck me into a consternation and perplexity unknown before. All the tender passions of the husband, the minister, the father and the son, (all which relations centre upon me) formed an insurrection in my breast against the proposal, and with these I have struggled ever since. My conjugal anxieties were increased by the languishing state of my tenderer and better part, which my absence for so long a time might perhaps increase. I was also afraid lest my dear congregation, whose hearts are so excessively set upon me, should suffer by my absence. The dangers of the seas likewise appeared terrible; and above all, my just conciousness of my want of qualifications for so important an embassy, sunk my spirits; and yet my remonstrances on this head would not be regarded by others. After all the deliberation and consultation in my power, I determined to take no notice of the many difficulties in my way which were superable, but to insist only on these two things as the conditions of my compliance; the one for the support of my family, and the other for the relief of my congregation; viz. that a proper person should be sent to supply my pulpit during my absence : and that he should be maintained at the expense of the College, that my salary might run on for the support of my family. These proposals I sent to the Trustees in a letter per post; but not trusting to the loitering and uncertain medium of correspondence, I despatched a messenger off to bring me an immediate answer. Upon his return, I found the Trustees had readily consented to my proposals; and therefore expected my compliance with their vote.
I was also informed of this important incident, that Mr. G. Tennent, by the death of his wife and mother, had no domestic incumbrance to prevent his going: and that the Trustees had applied to him for that purpose, and he had consented to the undertaking in conjunction with me. The expectation of so accomplished a partner in the embassy did, in a great measure, remove the despondencies arising from my want of qualifications, and in the mean time confirmed the sense I had of this, as I looked upon it as a very intelligent hint from divine Providence, of my unfitness for the embassy alone. On this and sundry other accounts I was very much animated to the undertaking by the prospect of so worthy and agreeable a companion. But then upon hearing that Mr. Tennent was appointed, and that he had consented, I had a new set of scruples about the necessity of my going: for it was at first proposed that I should go alone; which supposed that one alone might perform the embassy; and if I, or indeed any member of the Synod could do it alone, then undoubtedly Mr. Tennent can. But these scruples were removed by such considerations as these, suggested by the Trustees. That the going of two would give an air of importance to the embassy, and additional weight to our negotiations. That by this means, the affair which requires expedition, would be transacted much more speedily. That this would render the voyage more agreeable to both: and that my refusal might furnish Mr. Tennent and his congregation with occasion to refuse too. To these I may add, what has most weight with me, that the dissenters in Virginia lie under such intolerable restraints, that it is necessary to seek a redress; that now is the only proper season for it, and that none can manage this affair as well as myself, who am concerned in it, and so well acquainted with it.
Another consideration that had a great deal of weight with me, was this, that my congregation, my parents and even my tender hearted weeping spouse, did either consent to the undertaking, when it was laid before them, or discovered a kind