A DISCOURSE HISTORIC OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH DELIVERED AUGUST 20TH, 1876.
By rev. T. M. Hopkins, pastor.
Xenia, Ohio. Printed at the nonpareil job office, 1876.
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xenia, 0., August 25, 1876. Rev. T. M. Hopkins:
dear sir.—In order that the congregation, its friends, the people of the city and county, and others, may be favored with the valuable information contained in your Historical Sermon, delivered in the Presbyterian Church, on Sabbath, August 20th, 1876, we request the manuscript for publication. Yours very respectfully,
thos. P. townsley,
J. W. shields.
XENIA, 0., August 30th, 1876. Messrs.
Townsley, Allison and Shields:
dear brethren.—The manuscript of the Historical Sermon is hereby, according to your request, placed at your disposal.
Very truly yours,
T. M. hopkins.
“Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel; according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and, of Israel, What hath God wrought."
The standing miracle, proving the existence, wisdom, power and goodness of God, is the perputuity of the church upon the earth. That such an institution, established and equipped, in a world, inveterately inimical to its measures and aims and organized in such manner as to be wholly dependant, for success, upon supernatural agencies, should be continued from generation to generation with ever increasing strength and prominence; is a marvel, alike in character, but upon a scale vastly more extended with that of the burning bush upon Mount Horeb. The miracle of miracles does it appear to be at any juncture of its history. When Israel were dwelling in tents, on this side of Jordan, not yet in possession of a permanent habitation, scarcely recognized as having a national existence; a renowned soothsayer, with a glittering, coveted, bribe offered for his anathema, was forced, from what he saw of God's goodness to his people, to exclaim, "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? Or, how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied?"
"And when Balaam took up his parable, and said, rise up Balak and hear, hearken unto me thou son of Zipper there came ringing from his lips the concession, 'Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is any divination against Israel. According to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!'"
All along the line of the ages has that fostering care been so manifest and potent as to lead appreciating minds to exclaim, "What hath God wrought." If scientists take delight in tracing the foot-prints of the Creator upon the stones of the earth, or in following His pathway as it meanders through the stary heavens, we may surely take greater pleasure in recording what He has done for Mount Zion which He loved, and for the hill thereof. When Jordan was driven back the people were commanded to take twelve stones from the bed of the river and erect them as a monument in Gilgal, that when children should ask their fathers in time to come, saying, what mean these stones? Then they should let their children know saying, "Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. Since the cessation of immediate revelation, or of inspiration, God's people are to depend upon their good judgment influenced by the Holy Spirit instructing them as to the signs of the times, and thus made competent to determine the appropriate periods in which to erect their Ebenezers. And while in this country, church and state are not united, yet the state has received and still continues to receive so many advantages from the church, and their interests interpenetrate in so many ramifications that we must admire the wisdom of our General Assembly in selecting this Centennial year as the time for collecting and depositing in a safe place the history of the churches. And it is ours to remember that however small may be our contribution the grand aggregate will be incomplete if it is not presented.
The church we constitute is one of the younger of a baud of sister churches located in this part of Ohio. But notwithstanding her youth God has during the years of her existence wrought a sufficiency to justify our spending the time of at least one service, in contemplating His dealings, and in putting upon perishable paper a record of them.
There had doubtless been some consultation among the few Presbyterians residing in Xenia about the propriety and practicability of organizing a Presbyterian church in the town, but no official action was taken until April 6th, 1841. At that time it was resolved by the Presbytery of Miami, in session at Franklin, that, "Brethren Linn and Galloway be appointed a committee to visit Xenia to inquire into the expediency of organizing a church there, and if the way appear open by the providence of God that they proceed to organize a church in that place.” The next Presbyterial record was six months later, October 19th, 1841, and is as follows: "The committee appointed to organize a church in the town of Xenia reported that they had attended at that place, and that the prospects for an organization are encouraging, but it could not be completed during their visit. The committee recommended that two brethren be appointed to visit Xenia as soon as practicable in order to complete the organization of a church in that place, and to administer the Lord's Supper. Barnes and Galloway were appointed that committee." This committee is the first noticed in the records of the church. That record is in the following language:
"September 27th, 1841. Agreeable to the appointment of the Presbytery of Miami Brothers James C. Barnes and John S. Galloway met as a committee to examine into the expediency of forming a church in Xenia, and after preaching on Saturday evening and Sabbath, at the close of public worship on Monday, 29th, called for the names of those persons who might feel desirous of being organized into a church to be called the Presbyterian Church of Xenia. Eighteen persons gave their names; but as few of them could then furnish their certificates it was judged proper by the committee to defer the organization of said church for a few weeks, in order to give those who wish so an opportunity to obtain their certificates from the churches to which they belong, in order for an organization in this place."
The next meeting was that at which the organization was effected. The record is as follows:
"Saturday, November 6th, 1841. The Presbyterian Church of Xenia was organized on Saturday, the 6th day of Nov., 1841, by Brothers Barnes and Galloway, who were appointed for that purpose by the Presbytery of Miami. The organization proceeded as follows, namely, persons holding certificate of regular standing in other churches were requested to present them after public worship. After examination of the certificates the following persons by their certificates or by personal examination were regarded as entitled to all the privileges of membership in the church of God, viz.: Ezra Bennette, Mary Ann Bennette, E. S. Nichols, Elvira McCune, Rebecca Strain, Margaret Rodgers, Nancy McConnell, Ann Hook, Rebecca Hook, Martha Hook, Jenette Hook, James Bratton, Jane G. King; Ann B. Allison way also received on examination.
The members proceeded then to elect by ballot one Ruling Elder, and as the result of their election Ezra Bennette was chosen to that office. The appointment was made for his ordination after public worship on Saturday evening, which took place according to appointment by netting him apart to that office in the way prescribed in our form of government, On Sabbath day the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered to the newly organized church in the presence of a large and solemn audience. On Monday after public worship Matthew Corry, son of Mrs. Allison, was baptised. Also by a unanimous vote Mr. N. Bishop was chosen by the congregation to supply them with preaching one-half the time until the next regular meeting of Presbytery."
The next Presbyterial record bears the date April 12th, 1842, and contains there items: "The committee reported the organization of a church at Xenia, and the church obtained the labors of Brother Noah Bishop for one year, and also an appropriation of fifty dollars from the Board of Domestic Missions to aid in his support.
The measure leading to the completion of this arrangement originated with a week of protracted services held with the church during the month of February, 1842, which services were under the control of Rev. Samuel Newel and Rev. Moses Russell, and at tlie close of which the church was reinforce 1 by the accession of Adam Russell, Mary Russell, Jane Russell, Adam Russell, jr., and Margaret Sexton.
The arrangement with Mr. Bishop seems not to have continued longer than six months as the next Presbyterial record referring to the church, dated November 9th, 1842, is: "Xenia church obtains the labors of Brother Penzer for six months."
After this the church was served in the following manner: September 12th, 1843. Presbytery appoints Revs. Newel, Penzer, Hudson and Barnes to spend each one Sabbath at Xenia within six months.
April 2d, 1844, Revs. Hudson, Hall, Barnes, Newel and Morton were each appointed a Sabbath at Xenia. The records give no account of the church having had during the year elapsing between April, 1844, and April, 1845, any other than the four sermons from the ministers named above. April 1st, 1845, Brother Hudson was appointed to serve the church of Xenia one-half his time.
The congregational records show that on Jan. 22d, 1845, a committee of three were appointed to raise funds for the support of Mr. Jno. Hudson, and in due time reported that $190 00 were subscribed with a, prospect of an increase to the amount required. This arrangement being perfected the church entered with renewed zeal and energy upon its work. The year 1845 seemed to be the period of transition from infancy to youth. Jan. 4th an election of Elders was held, and Messrs. Cooper. Russell and Elliott were called to that office. Jan. 12th of that year the first Trustees were appointed. They were Francis Harris, Esq., E. F. Drake, Adam Russell, E. S. Nichols and Wm. Cooper. Jan. 22d, Mr. Hudson was invited to supply. June 29th, of the same year, the Sabbath School was organized, consisting of forty-three scholars and fifteen teachers, fifteen male and twenty-eight female scholars, ten male and five female teachers. As early as July 27th the school had increased to eighteen teachers and one hundred scholars, with a collection reported about this time of 14 cents.
About the same time Mr. Hudson requested the congregation "to provide, themselves with hymn books that the singing in the morning service might be done without reading out the lines."
The Elders elected during the year 1845 seem not to have accepted and on Feb. 21st, 1846, another election was held, and on March 1st, Wm. Russell, Darwin T. Hills and Samuel Adams were ordained and installed as Ruling Elders of the church.
April 9th, 1846, Mr. Hudson obtained of the Presbytery leave to visit the churches for the purpose of raising money to assist the church of Xenia to construct a house of worship. At the first the congregation worshiped in what was then the German Reformed Church, now the Colored Methodist, on Church street; afterwards in Town Hall, in basement of the Court House, entrance, east side. July 6th, 1846, the Trustees were appointed a committee to select a lot upon which to erect a house of worship. August llth, 1846, a new Board were elected according to the statutes of the state, the first election having been considered irregular. That Board consisted of Francis Harris, E. F. Drake, E. S. Nichols, Adam Russell, Wm. Allison and Wm. Cooper.
April 6th, 1847, Presbytery directed the committee on church erection to write to Philadelphia in behalf of the Xenia church.
About this time Mr. John Hudson ceased his labors and Messrs. Galloway, Bishop, Russell and Morton were appointed to supply the church each one Sabbath.
The lot where this house stands desirable in location was selected and foundation walls laid. A committee was appointed to solicit funds for the erection of an edifice. Dayton, Springfield, Columbus, Clifton, Mud Run, Franklin, New Jersey, Blue Ball, and all parts of Greene County were visited A large number of one dollar subscriptions were taken. The entiren number of subscriptions was 440, and the largest amount promised by any one individual was $125 00. The ammount aggregated $2,800 00; the cost of the building was $5,800 00; so that the indebtedness amounted to $3,000 00, or $200 00 more than the entire amount promised.
July, 1847, arrangements were made to procure the services of Mr. Elliott E. Swift, a licentiate under the care of the Presbytery of Ohio, and in February, 1848, a formal call was made for his pastoral labors with a promise of $400 00 per annum, in quarterly payments, for his support. This was the first call ever made by the church, and Mr. Swift was the first pastor. And now after the lapse of twenty-nine years Dr. Swift writes thus of his first charge and ministerial work:
"I began to preach in Xenia July, 1847. I was the first installed pastor of the church. Rev. John Hudson had preached before my time, but only as a stated supply. The foundations of the first edifice had been laid and the basement walls carried up to some height when I arrived at Xenia. I preached for nine mouths in the basement of the Court House. The place was unsuitable, but we had good audiences, and made progress while worshiping there. There it was that we had a manifestation of very deep religious feeling. At a communion service in February, 1848, I preached from Luke 23:33. Rev. Robert I. Hall, who then resided in the congregation, was present and spoke at and after the administration of the cup. The whole congregation was moved to tears. I have never seen in the course of my ministry a similar manifestation of spontaneous religious emotion. It was while worshiping in the basement that the choir was organized. The was some opposition to it, but with prudent management all parties at last became reconciled. Mr. Kidder was its first leader, and Miss Laura Newkirk and Miss Ruth, her sister, Mr. Wm. Allison, Mr. Harvey Miller, and others were members of it. Previous to that time Dr. Lowler had led the singing; his family assisted him; they were all good singers.
The first church edifice was dedicated in May, 1848. Rev. W. C. Anderson, D. D., then pastor of the 1st church of Dayton, preached the sermons morning and evening. Rev. John M. Stephenson, D. D., preached in the afternoon. I was ordained by the Presbytery of Miami on Tuesday, June 6th, 1848. My father, Rev. Elisha P. Swift, D. D., came out to Xenia to be present and was invited to make the ordaining prayer, It was one of the most remarkable prayers ever heard from him, regarded by all persons as a man most extraordinary in prayer. The circumstances greatly effected him, and his prayer was full of the most tender emotion. During my ministry the hours of service in summer were 10:30 a. m., and after a recess of half an hour a second sermon. Often in the evening, at 5 or 6 o'clock, I would preach a third time at Spring Valley, or at some school house in the bounds of the congregation. Our Wednesday night meetings were always in private houses. We had no other place for them. I left Xenia to take charge of the old 2d church of Allegheny, in March, 1850."
The house which was dedicated thus early in the history of the church was neat, commodious and comfortable, indeed on a par with the edifices of large and established congregations. During the pastorate of Mr. Swift, on February, 1849, Messrs. Wm. Cooper, John Carey and Thos. P. Townsley were elected Elders, and Messrs. James Allison, A. Herritt and James Stephenson, Deacons. While Messrs. H. Miller and J. Scott were added to the trustees. No notice is taken of the ordination of the Elders. Rev. H. M. Painter serves the church a few months finally receives a call which he declines.
In 1851 Messrs. John Carey and Thos. P. Townsley were elected a second time and ordained as Elders. Elders during this period were Wm. Russell, S. Adams, John Carey and Thos. P. Townsley.
The labors of Rev. H. W. Taylor began July 1st, 1851, and Dec. 9th of that year he was installed as pastor of the church. Mr. Taylor says: "My pastorate continued until May, 1855. It was a period of growth and consolidation on the part of the church—slow but permanent—and the church became more homogeneous. At every communion some were added to the church, the aggregate during my pastorate being seventy-five, an encouraging number when the infancy and circumstances of the church are considered. A heavy burden of debt was lifted from the church and that obstacle to an onward movement was taken out of the way. My pastorate in Xenia was obviously a transition period with the church in which she was throwing off the old and putting on the new, and being prepared for enlarged growth and usefulness. After a quarter of a century I look back upon my pastorate in Xenia with feelings of tenderness and interest, and have watched with tender concern her continued prosperity and enlargement. May the Great Head of the church make her a crown of glory."
On the 13th of August, 1855, a unanimous call was made for the lamented Thos. B. Wilson, with a salary of $750 00. This third pastorate enjoyed by the church continued until the death of Mr. Wilson, which occurred September 21st, 1858. Those were three years of refreshing and blessedness. The congregation had increased until the audience room was comfortably filled, the salary was increased to a thousand dollars per annum, regular collections taken for the Boards, and 107 persons were received into the church; upon examination 67, and 42 upon certificate. But God by a most mysterious providence removed the beloved pastor and left the church to mourn.
April 18th, 1859, a call was made out for Rev. J. E. Annan, but after preaching for a time Mr. A. retired and the Rev. W. T. Findley, D. D., was called September 6th, 1859. The relation with Dr. Findley continued during nine years of peaceful, successful labor. Many were added to the congregation, many to the church. The audience room becomes too small and the question is agitated shall we enlarge or rebuild. May 9th, 1868, the Trustees reported they had procured a subscription of $18,430 00 for the erection of a new edifice. And on July 13th the building committee requested the session to give Dr. Findley a furlough until the City Hall was completed, and the house of worship which had been built with so much toil, and was indeed at the first creditable to the congregation gives way for a more commodious and costly edifice. When Mr. Wilson took charge of the church the membership was reported to be 140. The church was too large for the congregation, and now in twelve years the congregation is too large for the church. Under Dr. Findley the additions were 255; 130 by certificate and 124 upon examination. How much patient and arduous labor was necessary to produce such results, few but pastors and their intimate friends can thoroughly know. The church surely has reason to exercise most profound gratitude to God for two pastorates so near together so peaceful and successful as those of the Rev. T. B. Wilson and Rev. Dr. Findley, the later equally successful in proportion to time, and three times as long as the former. 1868. Total No. of corn. 236. The Elders under Dr. Findley were John Carey, Thos. P. Townsley, Gen'l M. A. Houston, J. H. Cooper and Geo. S. Ormsby. Messrs. Cooper and Ormsby having been elected April 14th, 1862.
Your next pastor was the talented and scholarly J. H. Montgomery, whose career was short but by no means barren or unfruitful. The call was made out March 13th, 1869, and the salary promised was $1,500 00. This relation continued until June 7th, 1871. The additions during those two years were 53, 31 on examination and 22 on certificate. March 7th, 1870, R. L. Merriam and Daniel McMillan were elected Elders.
The church then heard supplies for sixteen months, until September, 1872, when they made a unanimous call to the Rev. W. W. Ralston, on a salary of $2,000 00. This relation like that of Mr. Montgomery's was of short duration, continuing until Oct., 1875, enduring just three years. Yet during that brief period a goodly number were brought into the church, the number being113; 54 on examination and 59 on certificate.
The Elders during this administration were John Carey, Thos. P. Townsley, Geo. S. Ormsby, J. H. Cooper, Daniel McMillan, Robert Gowdy, Dr. Leigh McClung, and Daniel J. Fleming. Gowdy, McClung and Fleming having been elected Oct. 21st, 1874.
Feb. 12th, 1876, Father Carey, who had served the church faithfully as a Euling Elder for twenty-six years, asked the privilege to retire from the active duties of the Eldership, which request was granted.
In March, 1876, Elders Ormsby, Gowdy, Townsley, McClung, Fleming and Cooper voluntarily retire from the active duties of the office; and William Watt, dark M. Galloway, and Robt. K. Stevenson were ordained and installed as their successors.
The Deacons at present are Dr. H. E. McClellan, S. M. Allison, and E. G. Fleming. The Trustees are T. P. Townsley, J. W. Shields, Jas. H. Coursey, A. M. Starks, D. J. Fleming, William Allison, and Wm. Watt. Chairman of the congregation, John Orr; Secretary, J. S. Armstrong; Treasurer, T. V. Dubois. Superintendent of Sabbath School, J. H. Cooper. Leader of choir, Prof. L. G. Fessenden.
The entire number of members connected with the church since it-organization is 793. 393 of these were taken from the world, united with the church by a profession of their faith. Since 1860 the church has raised for benevolent objects and for the support of the Gospel at home $49,064. It may sometimes appear that we are accomplishing but little, but imagine that forty-nine or fifty thousand dollars withdrawn from the Lord's treasury, and that those 393 souls had not been gathered into the fold, how different would the result be to-day. The money estimated, dated from 1860, the computation of the membership from the organization of the church. The means therefore enumerated above were raised during the past sixteen years; the members were gathered within thirty-five years. We say then, "See what God hath wrought." In 1850 you had a house of worship but half paid for, and you employed a minister to serve you four months for the sum of $140.00. To-day you have an edifice commodious and beautiful, costing $25,000.00, against which there stands no debts, not provided for, and you have actually paid your minister for four months past more than $500,00. This surely is encouraging progress.
From the field covered by the church, although not all directly from the church, there have entered the ministry of the Presbyterian denomination eleven men: Rev. Chas. Elliott, D. D., Professor in the Theological Seminary, of Chicago, 111., recently from another denomination; Rev. John McMillan, D. D., of Mt. Pleasant, Pa.; Rev. J. W. Shields, now residing with us; Rev. 0. A. Hills, D. D., of Cincinnati; Rev. Henry McCracken, of Toledo; Rev. James Mitchell, of Kansas; Rev. William Humphreys, so recently called to his reward; Rev. James E. Platter, of Kansas; Rev. James Worden, of Steubenville, 0.; George E. Gowdy, a licentiate recently called to the Second Church of Greenfield; Rev. John C. Watt, in Union Theological Seminary, N. Y., preaching temporarily in Canada. A number of these gentlemen were not raised or educated in the Presbyterian connection, but they have had their parentage, or early training, or have spent a goodly portion of their time in and around Xenia, and look upon our place as their former home, so that the field occupied by the church deserves the credit of producing at least the most of them.
A call was made out for the present pastor elect March 23d, 1876, and the pastorate begins with April 1st of the same year.
The present arrangement consequently is of too short duration to have produced many results yet we trust it is not entirely without fruit. We have had but one communion yet have received 10 members; 8 on examination, 2 on certificate. A troublesome debt of $5,000.00 has been provided for by a reliable subscription sufficiently in advance of the debt to allow for shrinkage. This is a consumation calling for the most profound gratitude to God, and for this result the church owes an especial debt of gratitude to the Rev. J. W. Shields, who patiently and perseveringly devoted his energies to this task so important to the congregation. Committees have been appointed for visiting the sick, looking after strangers, to work up an interest in missions, on prayer-meetings, and last but by no means the least, a committee to visit the city to find out families neglecting the means of grace, to induce them to come to the house of God and to gather children into the Sabbath School. A most precious prayer-meeting, tolerably well attended, and a manifest desire upon the part of the congregation to "forget those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
"Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel; according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought."