Gilbert Tennent

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Gilbert Tennent
Born (1703-02-05)February 5, 1703
County Armagh, Ireland[1]
Died July 23, 1764(1764-07-23) (aged 61)
Philadelphia, Province of Pennsylvania
Resting place Second Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia[2]
39°57′08″N 75°08′41″W / 39.952310°N 75.144683°W / 39.952310; -75.144683
Residence Philadelphia
Education Master of Arts (honorary)[1]
Alma mater Log College
Yale College (1725)
Occupation Presbyterian minister
Years active 1726–1764
Employer Presbytery of Philadelphia
Known for The First Great Awakening of the American colonies and New Jersey
Board member of Original trustee of the College of New Jersey[1]
Spouse(s) Cornelia de Peyster (2nd wife)[1]
Children Gilbert, Elizabeth, Cornelia[1]
Parent(s) William Sr., Catherine[1]
Relatives William Tennent, Jr. (brother)[1]

Gilbert Tennent (5 February 1703 – 23 July 1764) was a pietistic Protestant evangelist in colonial [3] America. Born in a Presbyterian Scots-Irish family in County Armagh, Ireland, he migrated to America as a teenager, trained for pastoral ministry, and became one of the leaders of the Great Awakening of religious feeling in Colonial America, along with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. His most famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry," compared contemporary anti-revivalistic ministers to the biblical Pharisees described of the Gospels, resulting in a division of the colonial Presbyterian Church which lasted 17 years. While engaging divisively via pamphlets early in this period, Tennent would later work "feverishly" for reunion of the various synods involved.


Early life[edit]

Gilbert Tennent was born in a Presbyterian Scots-Irish family in County Armagh, Ireland,[4] and raised in there, where he was home schooled by his father. In 1718 the family emigrated to Philadelphia. His father founded the Log College nearby, which trained many Presbyterian ministers; Gilbert was an assistant there, around 1725.[1]

Role as an emissary[edit]

The frontier of Pennsylvania was unsettled in the 1760s, and in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, new Scots-Irish immigrants encroached on Native American land, later claiming Indian raids and killings; Reverend John Elder, a parson from Paxtang, known as the "Fighting Parson,"[5] helped organize the Scots-Irish frontiersmen into a mounted militia and was named Captain of the group, known as the "Pextony boys,"[6] later the "Paxton Boys." This settler band, acting as vigilantes, attacked the local Conestoga, a Susquehannock tribe living many of whom had converted to Christianity, and were living peacefully alongside their European neighbors since the 1690s, on land donated by William Penn. Because of a snowstorm, most of the Conestogas were out of their camp; those in camp were scalped or otherwise mutilated by the Paxton Boys, and most of the camp was burned down.[7] After further such incidents, the Paxton Boys marched on Philadelphia in early 1764 to express grievance that their concerns for safety were not being met by the government, and while doing so further threatened the lives of about 200 Moravian Indians.[8] In February 1764, Gilbert Tennent was one of a group of clergymen sent as an emissary by John Penn, Governor of Pennsylvania, to the marching frontiersmen.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sprague (1858), "Gilbert Tennent. 1725–1764," in Annals, pp. 35–43.
  2. ^ Sprague (1858), "Samuel Finley, D.D. 1740–1766," in Annals, pp. 96–101, esp. p. 100.
  3. ^ "Gilbert Tennent | American Presbyterian clergyman". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  4. ^ Webster, Richard (1857). A History of the Presbyterian Church in America: From Its Origin Until the Year 1760, with Biographical Sketches of Its Early Ministers. Vol. 374, American culture series, ATLA monograph preservation program. Philadelphia, PN, USA: Joseph M. Wilson. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  5. ^ McAlarney, Mathias Wilson (1890). History of the sesqui-centennial of Paxtang church: September 18, 1890. Harrisburg Publishing Company. p. 224. 
  6. ^ Sprague (1858), "John Elder. 1736–1792," in Annals, pp. 77–80.
  7. ^ Brubaker, John H. (2010). Massacre of the Conestogas: On the Trail of the Paxton Boys in Lancaster County. History Press. pp. 23ff. 
  8. ^ a b Kenny, Kevin (2009). Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Hxperiment. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195331509. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Bennett, James B. (1993). "'Love to Christ': Gilbert Tennent, Presbyterian Reunion, and a Sacramental Sermon". American Presbyterians. 77 (2): 77–89. JSTOR 23332732. 


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