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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

Soon after the departure of Whitefield


"New Castle, May 15th. This evening Mr. Whitefield went on board his sloop here in order to sail for Georgia. On Sunday he preached twice in Philadelphia, and in the evening, when he preached his farewell sermon, it is supposed he had twenty thousand hearers. On Monday he preached at Darby and Chester; on Tuesday at Wilmington and Whiteclay Creek; on Wednesday, twice at Nottingham; on Thursday at Fog's Manor and New Castle. The congregations were much increased since his being here last. The presence of God was much seen in the assemblies, especially at Nottingham and Fog's Manor, where the people were under such deep soul-distress that their cries almost drowned his voice. He has collected in this and the neighboring provinces about four hundred and fifty pounds sterling for his orphans in Georgia."

Into the feeble but rapidly growing presbyteries and the one synod of the American Presbyterian Church the revival had brought, not peace, but a sword. The collision was inevitable between the fervor and unrestrained zeal of the evangelists and the sense of order and decorum, and of the importance of organization and method, into which men are trained in the ministry of an established church. No man, even at this day, can read the "standards" of the Presbyterian Church without seeing that they have had to be strained to admit those "revival methods" which ever since the days of

Whitefield have prevailed in that body. The conflict that arose was not unlike that which from the beginning of New England history had subsisted between Separatist and Nationalist. In the Presbyterian conflict, as so often in religious controversies, disciplinary and doctrinal questions were complicated with a difference of race. The "Old Side" was the Scotch and Irish party; the "New Side" was the New England party, to which many of the old-country ministers adhered. For successive years the mutual opposition had shown itself in the synod; and in 1740, at the synod meeting at Philadelphia, soon after the departure of Whitefield, the real gravamen of the controversy appeared, in the implied and even express impeachment of the spiritual character of the Old Side ministers. The impeachment had been implied in the coming of the evangelists uninvited into other men's parishes, as if these were mission ground. And now it was expressed in papers read before the synod by Blair and Gilbert Tennent. The action of the synod went so far toward sustaining the men of the New Side as to repeal the rule restraining ministers from preaching outside of their own parishes, and as to put on record a thanksgiving for the work of God in the land. Through all the days of the synod's meeting, daily throngs on Society Hill were addressed by the Tennents and other "hot gospelers" of the revival, and churches and private houses were resounding with revival hymns and exhortations. Already the preaching and printing of Gilbert Tennent's "Nottingham Sermon" had made further fellowship between the two parties for the time impossible. The sermon flagrantly illustrated the worst characteristic of the revivalists--their censoriousness. It was a violent invective on "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry," which so favorable a critic as Dr. Alexander has characterized as "one of the most severely abusive sermons which was ever penned." The answer to it came in a form that might have been expected. At the opening of the synod of 1741 a solemn protestation was presented containing an indictment in seven grave counts against the men of the New Side, and declaring them to "have at present no right to sit and vote as members of this synod, and that if they should sit and vote, the doings of the synod would be of no force or obligation." The protestation was adopted by the synod by a bare majority of a small attendance. The presbytery of New Brunswick found itself exscinded by this short and easy process of discipline; the presbytery of New York joined with it in organizing a new synod, and the schism was complete.


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