« PreviousContinue »
he was called to preach the gospel. His religious experience was clear, and his hope of acceptance with God strong and abiding. But there were difficulties in the way. pearance was not prepossessing, and he had not exhibited evidence of mental endowments above the ordinary standard, or displayed any special aptness to learn. Besides, in those days, a Rockbridge farm, of moderate size, returning to its owner, for his labour, an ample supply of the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life, brought in but little money for its rich products, on account of the long, weary, difficult way to market. The Rockbridge men might be said to have been rich in every thing but gold and silver. The same farms, now, under good management, with the facilities to market, fill the purses of the prudent owners. Mr. Lyle the father had expended on his son Andrew so much that he knew not how to attempt the education of another son, without prejudice to his other children. John felt himself called to preach; and greatly preferred the preparatory course at Liberty Hall, for a minister, to living at home with his parents as the inheritor of the homestead. The mother said if John had a call to the ministry it must be obeyed. The father responded, that the office of a minister of the gospel was the grandest, in his view, and the most responsible on earth: but he doubted his ability to give much aid in John's education, and doubted too his son's fitness for the great work. The neighbours believed the young man to be pious and devoted, but had small expectations of his success as a minister. The family felt with the father, and acquiesced in the mother's opinion. John was educated for the ministry, and the events of his twenty-eight years' labours have made the heart of the family glad. Great economy and great exertions were necessary to accomplish the desired end. John sometimes taught school; and studied the languages. Mr. Graham assisted him, in the advanced stages of his education, by employing him as tutor to the younger classes. His reputation for consistent piety was high among the students, who in their thoughtlessness made trial of his principles, and his feelings : and his close application won him a respectable standing as a scholar. At the close of his preparatory course for the ministry, John had expended all his father considered as his proportion of the estate, and in the final division no provision was made for him by will. But he was satisfied; and no doubt his father's estimation was right, as none concerned expressed disapprobation.
Mr. Lyle was received as candidate for licensure, by Lexington Presbytery, April 21st, 1796, at Liberty Hall, and was on 21st of April, 1797, at New Monmouth, licensed in company with George Baxter and Robert Wilson to preach the gospel. His trial sermon surpassed the expectation of his warmest friends. On the 29th of September, 1797, he presented to the Commission of Synod—“ a dismission and recommendation from the Presbytery of Lexington, to ride as a missionary.” He was employed during the fall and winter on the frontiers of Virginia proper;—and the next summer went to Kentucky. On the 15th of October, 1799, at Washington Academy, Mr. Lyle was received back from the Commission of Synod and recommended to the care of West Lexington Presbytery, by which body he was ordained. In 1800 he took charge of Salem Church, where he remained for some years.
During the great awakening on the subject of religion, which commenced in 1800, and continued for some years, Mr. Lyle gave a happy exemplification of the firmness of his principles and his resolution to bear sacrifices for the truth. When the irregularities, so fully described by Dr. Davidson, began to prevail, Mr. Lyle was in amazement. But remembering that God had said by the apostle, “let all things be done decently and in order;”—and, God is not the author of confusion” he took a decided stand against the “exercises,” publicly and in private. When he first saw the exercises” in his own neighbourhood, his spirit was so troubled he forgot to eat his bread. Wandering into the neighbouring woods, in his perplexity he forgot his company of ministers he had invited to dine with his family, and they partook of their meal without him. Was this new thing the work of God? or was it the delusion of Satan and the sympathy of human nature? Many of the ministers who held a high stand in the church believed these exercises to be of God, or inseparably connected with his work; that this was his chosen way of confounding the wisdom of the world. Mr. Lyle could not approve of them in his judgment, delight in them in his heart, or reconcile them to his creed; and he would not tolerate them in practice. “He preached”. says Dr. Davidson—"at Paris à famous sermon from the text—“Let all things be done decently and in order.” This discourse gave great offence to some, while others were delighted; and it had a powerful effect in checking the tendencies to disorder. At Danville he called for silence, while he preached from the words—“Bodily exercise profiteth little,”and silence reigned, though two of Mr. Houston's people from Paint Lick had commenced barking like dogs.
Mr. Lyle was opposed to those departures from the creed and forms of the Presbyterian Church, according to the Confession of Faith and Directory, which resulted in the formation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the new-light schism. The history of these remarkable events are given fully and accurately in Davidson's History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky. A bare compend would transcend the limits of this sketch, and also be divested of their circumstantial interest. As early as the year 1801, in the month of June, Mr. Lyle gave, at Lexington, the marks of true illumination, and exhorted the people to guard against enthusiasm. He prepared his famous sermon on Order, after long observation, “which we know”-says Davidson-“from his diary, he had been making for nearly three years,”-after careful investigation of Scripture and comparison of texts,—and a reference to church history, as full as could be made in his circumstances; and on the second Sabbath of July, 1803, delivered it at Walnut Hill, with great effect. Preaching it at other places, he brought the sedate to sober reflection, and aided much in drawing the line of division between the supporters of order, and the defenders of excess.
At the meeting of the Synod in Danville, October 1805, the records of the Presbytery of Cumberland were reported on by the committee of review. Facts and doings were stated which could not be passed in silence. The Synod after much deliberation appointed a commission with full synodical powers, to confer with the members of Cumberland Presbytery, and adjudicate on their presbyterial proceedings, which appear upon the minutes of Presbytery.” Of this commission Mr. Lyle was chairman. It held its meeting at Jasper meetinghouse, Logan county, in the bounds of the inculpated Presbytery, on Tuesday, the third day of December, 1805. Mr. Lyle opened the commission with a sermon on the Call and Qualifications for the Gospel Ministry. The members of the commission present, eight ministers and five elders, found but one friendly family in all the region, that of James Reid, by which they were all hospitably entertained for the space of nine days, the time the Commission were in session. For a detailed account of this meeting reference is made to Davidson's History. The neighbourhood was exasperated, the Shakers who had already received some accessions, were on the ground in high expectation of greater acquisitions, and sarcastic and malicious ridicule invented nick-names for all the members of Commission. Lyle and his brethren possessed their souls in patience, and after a laborious investigation, proceeded to lay under a solemn prohibition those who had been irregularly licensed by the Presbytery of Cumberland. On the regular members of the Presbytery, McGready, Hodge, McGee, Rankin and McAdam, they declined passing any sentence, but cited them to appear before the next meeting of the Synod of Kentucky.
October 21st, 1806. The Synod met in Lexington. “The minutes of the Commission were read, and their proceedings sanctioned.” The Cumberland Presbytery was dissolved, and Hodge and Rankin suspended. In May, 1807, the matter
came before the General Assembly in Philadelphia. The case was argued at length, and the impression was made upon that body, that the Synod had been too rigorous. Letters were sent to both parties, in Kentucky, advising a review of their proceedings. At the meeting of Synod in the fall after three days' deliberation, the action of the preceding year was affirmed. The matter did not again come before the Assembly, from the Synod, till May 1809. The state of things in Kentucky had become notorious. The five leaders of the New-light schism had been deposed. All parties were ready to make a full declaration of their creed and designs, only waiting the action of the General Assembly. The question at the west was-should uneducated men, and men disbelieving the doctrinal articles of the Confession of Faith, be brought into the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. In the Assembly the matter was not so well understood. Mr. Lyle, and Rev. Robert Stuart were present, as delegates from the troubled region, in defence of Synod, having come the weary distance over mountain and river, as travellers were then compelled to pass from Kentucky to the seaboard. Drury Lacy, from Virginia, was moderator. He had seen revivals and known the force of disorderly habits. Many able men, in the judicatory, were favourably impressed with the statements made by the Cumberland Presbytery and their friends; and the array, that fell upon the sight of the Kentucky delegation, was for a time disheartening. On the third day—“the Assembly took into consideration a letter from the Synod of Kentucky, and having carefully reviewed the same, and having also read another letter from their records, which by accident was detained from the last Assembly, were of opinion, that the Synod have, in these letters, exercised their unquestionable right of explaining their proceedings.” Mr. Lyle commented on the letters, and explained fully the condition of things in Kentucky, and becoming excited as he usually did in preaching, he lost the dread that had oppressed his spirits, and with tears depicted in glowing language the sad prospects of the Kentucky church, should the Assembly decide against the cause of the Synod. The Assembly was greatly moved. Dr. Dwight of Yale College, attending the Assembly as a delegate from Connecticut, advocated with great power, the cause of the Kentucky Synod. Dr. Ashbel Green, of Philadelphia, plead for the purity and propriety of the Synod's
The Synod was sustained without a dissenting voice. A part of the members of Cumberland Presbytery made satisfaction and were united with Transylvania Presbytery; the remainder, on the 4th of February, 1810, united under the name of Cumberland Presbytery; from this Presbytery has arisen the body called Cumberland Presbyterians. The Assembly in their record, say of the doings of the Synod of Kentucky"and the Assembly think it due to that Synod to say, that they deserve the thanks of the church for the firmness and zeal with which they have acted in the trying circumstances in which they have been placed.”
“ His faithful, earnest, and affectionate style of preaching;' says Dr. Davidson, “was very much blessed. On one occasion, at Mount Pleasant, the Rev. William L. McCalla noted the names of thirty-three persons impressed by the sermon, thirtyone of whom afterwards became respectable members of the church. He had a particular tact for benefiting young preachers, whom he delighted to take with him on missionary excursions."
As a school teacher, Mr. Lyle appeared to advantage. A female academy was established, by his means, at Paris, Kentucky, at which were collected a large company of young misses. The number sometimes exceeded two hundred.In its most flourishing condition, the trustees insisted, peremptorily, that the reading the Bible should be discontinued, and religious instruction dispensed with, under colour of freeing it from all denominational or enthusiastical tendencies. Consequently, Mr. Lyle withdrew from the institution; and the sun of its glory went down, the scholars departing with the teacher.
Mr. Lyle closed his useful life, July 22d, 1825, aged fifty-five years, nine months, and two days, having been engaged in the ministry a little over twenty-eight years.
MOSES HOGE, D.D.
The Rev. John Blair Hoge prepared for the press a beautiful memoir of his father. The author's death delayed the publication of a work calculated to be greatly advantageous to the church at large, and particularly to the branch of it in Virginia. While collecting the materials for his work, the Rev. Joseph Glass writes to him thus,-—in answer to a request.— “In writing his history I should not know how to begin; beginning it, I should not know how to end. It was not that he was unlike other men, but that he was always like himself; not that he was zealously engaged in doing good to-day, but that in doing good he was zealously engaged every day; not that he