User:TrueSteelite/James R. Willson (minister)

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James Renwick Willson
James R. Willson.jpg
Oil Painting of James Renwick Willson (1780 – 1853)
Born(1780-04-09)April 9, 1780
DiedSeptember 29, 1853(1853-09-29) (aged 73)
Nationality United States
Alma materJefferson College, 1805
Known forHis sermon, Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments; Leadership amongst "Old Light" Reformed Presbyterians
Scientific career

James Renwick Willson (9 April 1780 – 29 September 1853) was a Reformed Presbyterian or Covenanter minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. When the Church split, in 1833, Willson remained with the "Old Lights."[1]:726 Throughout his life, Willson played a prominent role in both the church courts and church controversies of his day. His views were of the conservative bent and he sought to instill them in succeeding generations through participation in the institutions of the Church.[2]:13-18 His usefulness to the Church was noted in his obituary, in the Covenanter. "He was early called to this work [i.e., training ministers]; and a large majority of those now [1853] in the active service of the church, in the ministerial and pastoral office, in this country, received their training, either wholly or partially, under his care."[3]:128 In fact, from 1833 until his death, Willson epitomized the "Old Light," in all its glory and turmoil.


The Scots-Irish Covenanter pedigree[edit]

Family history[edit]

Willson was the son of Zaccheus and Mary (nee McConnell) Willson.[1]:723 His namesake, James Renwick, was the last of the Covenanter martyrs, whose execution signaled the end of the "Killing Times," in Scotland.[4]:369 He was descended from "sturdy" Covenanter stock.[1]:723

Great-grandfather Zaccheus[edit]

His forefathers, on his father's side, Zaccheus Willson and two other brothers, had emigrated from Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland. The year of the immigration varies, by one account it occurred in 1711;[5]:137 by another, in 1713;[6]:293 by another, in 1721.[7]:ix Though the exact date is uncertain, there is agreement that Zaccheus and his family settled first in the region of Back Creek, Delaware.[6]:293[5]:137[7]:ix In time, the three Wilson brothers (Willson's family had not yet changed the spelling), parted ways. Two of the brothers went South, to North Carolina.[6]:293 In 1720, a Covenanting "society" was formed in the region of Paxtang, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Among the names attached to this "society" is that of the Wilsons.[1]:244 This, together with Octorara, Lancaster County and Conococheague, Franklin County, was one of three principal settlements of Covenanters, at that time.[1]:244 For a time, they were in and near Octorara, Pennsylvania. And, it is supposed they were there in 1743, when Alexander Craighead renewed the Covenants, National and Solemn League.[8]:153 A claim which seems more than probable, when it is noted in the "Minutes of the General Meeting," held in Middle Octorara, March 4, 1744, that James Wilson, Zaccheus' son, was one of those charged with revising "the minutes of our G[eneral M[eeting]'s before ye [the] next G[eneral] M[eeting]."[1]:247 The Wilson (Willson) family was involved in the earliest attempts to organize the Covenanter movement in America.

Grandfather James[edit]

About mid-century (ca. 1750), Willson's grandfather, James, moved his family West into Central Pennsylvania.[6]:293 They settled in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in a portion, after 1851, renamed Fulton County, Pennsylvania. The area of the county was called Cove Valley. On November 19, 1751, Rev. John Cuthbertson, the pioneer Covenanter minister in America, made the first of several visits to the "society" at "Licking Creek" and "Cove."[1]:247 At James Wilson's, that day, he preached from Jeremiah 3:7, "And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it." When he finished preaching, he began to baptize children belonging to the "society." Amongst the children baptized was Elizabeth, daughter of James.[9]:5 On April 8, 1753, James was ordained to be a ruling elder amongst the Covenanters.[1]:276[8]:153

In time, Willson's mother's family lent their name to the town that gathered. They were members of the Associate Church, Seceders. It was first known as McConnellsville;[6]:293 today, McConnellsburg is the county seat of Fulton County, Pennsylvania.[7]:ix From that time, the Willson family and the McConnell Family began to associate.[6]:293 In 1769, Willson's grandfather, James, and his family, including Willson's father, Zaccheus, "crossed the intervening mountains."[7]:ix Upon their arrival, they were the first settlers except one to inhabit that region.[6]:293 There, they "constituted the townships of Rostrevor and Elizabeth."[7]:ix[6]:294 Like Joshua of old (cf. Joshua 24:22-28), good Covenanters all, James Wilson, for his part, in naming these townships, called to remembrance the town of his family's nativity in Ireland and his daughter's bearing the sign and seal of the covenant. The past and future were being contemplated in the light of their Covenanting beliefs.

Father Zaccheus[edit]

The following year, in 1770, accompanied by Robert McConnell, they migrated to the "Forks of the Yough," a strip of land between the Monongahela River and the Youghiogheny River.[1]:306,723 McConnell was a Seceder, but his wife was a Covenanter.[8]:153 In the Fall of 1779, Rev. John Cuthbertson made his only visit to the area. On September 17, he notes in his diary, he arrived at the "Forks of the Yough." The following day, he records, he went to the home of "Zaccheus Wilson" [sic]. The 19th was "the Sabbath" and Cuthbertson "preached in that immediate neighborhood." His text was taken from Hebrews 6:13, "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself." After sermon, he baptized one of the children.[9]:13-14 The service was conducted in "a tent on the farm of Zaccheus Willson."[8]:153 Like his grandfather, Willson's father, too, had hosted the most noted Covenanter minister of that time.


James Renwick Willson was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, close to Elizabeth, April 9, 1780, "at the forks of the Yough."[1]:723 His father, Zaccheus, had long been a ruling elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.[10]:39 In 1778, he had married Mary McConnell, daughter of Robert. Before marriage, Mary had been connected with the Associate Church.[7]:ix James was their oldest child.[6]:294 In 1782, while James was yet a small child, the majority of Seceders and Covenanters merged to form a new Church. In 1783, his family, with many others in his community, joined in the union of the Associate Reformed Church.[8]:153

Early years[edit]

Improving his early circumstances[edit]

Although there were few opportunities, in is day, for acquiring a formal education, Willson was born to many advantages. His father was considered a man of superior intelligence and his mother, "a woman of robust and masculine mind." Additionally, their house was a frequent resort of ministers of like persuasion.[7]:x It was remembered that early on Willson displayed a fine intellect. His father's library gave him access to much old theology and church history.[6]:294 He did not, in his youth, limit himself to religious books. He studied broad and, in some areas, deep. He was known to be proficient in "higher branches of literature and science."[6]:294 "Hence, the mind" of the young Willson "was stored, long before he began his classical course, with an amount of useful knowledge rarely attained under similar circumstances."[7]:x To this, he added mechanical skills. He constructed a violin and taught himself to play and constructed "an artificial globe" with which to contemplate the change of seasons.[6]:294 Willson was something of a prodigy.

His thirst for theological truth[edit]

Indeed, by the age of 12, he was noted for his interest in theology.[11]:1004 At that time, especially in country congregations, the people would often gather after sermon to discourse. Sometimes the sermon was under review; sometimes some other theological point. Always, amidst such conversations Willson would place himself. He preferred the company of adults and, on occasion, he was allowed to contribute to the dialogue.[6]:294

In his fourteenth year, he conducted "family worship," during the absence of his father.[7]:x The following year, in 1795, at age 15, he made a profession of religion and connected with the Associate Reformed Church.[10]:39-40[1]:723 This connection would change, in 1798, when, at age 18, he would unite with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Once Willson entered the Covenanter Church, he did not swerve.[10]:40 Willson rejoined the Church, into which he had been born, the year the Reformed Presbytery was re-constituted.[1]:78

Since Willson was on the farm farm until he was left for college, in 1801, it is highly likely he rejoined when his entire family rejoined. By the time Willson was leaving for college, in 1801, the "society" in the region of Monogahela was "regularly organized." At that time, Willson's father, Zaccheus was one of two men chosen and ordained to be ruling elders in that congregation.[1]:308 Always closely connected to the "society" in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, the Monogahela congregation would formally united with it in 1817 to retain the pastoral ministry of Rev. William Gibson, one of those involved in re-erecting Presbytery, in 1798.[1]:311

His early vocation[edit]

Despite his serious pursuit of theological knowledge, Willson gave no indication of a desire to enter the ministry until he reached his majority.[6]:294 Instead, he gave himself to laboring on his father's farm. He also took part in the long journeys into Chambersburg, Pennsylvania for family supplies.[7]:x He continued to labor in the occupation of his father until his twenty first year.[1]:723 Willson also "delighted and excelled" in the sports which found place on the frontier. This, combined with his farm chores, developed in him a strong constitution which seldom flagged under fatigue.[10]:42 Willson had learned to "bear the yoke" in his youth, both mentally and physically. In doing so, he had acquired a solid body of knowledge and the physical stamina to more formal pursuits of education.

His physical and mental qualities[edit]

As a young man, Willson stood over "six feet," and was possessed of "athletic proportions."[6]:295 His son would later write, "His appearance indicated no common man. His frame, large and massive, but not corpulent; his stature considerably above the ordinary standard," together with his peculiar features, "gave evidence of extraordinary physical and mental energy."[10]:42 In his youth, he was without peer in "throwing the 'shoulder-stone',"[6]:295 a frontier competition of strength, much like the shot put, popular in rural Pennsylvania, at that time.[12]:23 His stature was reflected in his voice, which was "strong, full, sonorous, but not noisy, his enunciation so distinctive and well modulated that he could be heard, without effort, by the largest audiences."[6]:295 His physical presence was always felt by those around him.

In the realm of mental qualities "he was equally endowed."[6]:295 Rev. William Buell Sprague, who knew him when both were ministering in Albany, New York, recalled his mental acquisitions and abilities. "I was always greatly impressed with the vigor of his intellect, the extent and variety of his knowledge, and I may add with his genial and kindly spirit."[10]:42 He was quick to frame an argument or extend a reply. He exhibited genius in thought, fertilitiy in illustration and power in imagination. "He read nearly everything worth reading, and remembered a large proportion of what he had read, and could draw upon his resources at any instant."[6]:295 "In intellectual reach, and comprehension and acuteness, he ranked among the first of men."[6]:298 Willson was not only physically imposing, he was an imposing intellect.

These characteristics were noted by others throughout his life. Rev. John Forsyth, minister of the Reformed Church, in Newburgh, New York, recalled Willson was "a man of imposing presence, with a bodily frame capable of enduring almost any amount of work or of study, and in neither respect was he sparing of himself."[10]:44 This "presence" Willson continued to exude into old age. Presbyterian minister Robert F. Sample says, "We remember having seen him when he was very aged, a man of giant frame, enormous head, stentorian voice, and great mental activity."[13]:17 In many ways, Willson was a giant among men.

Formal education and marriage[edit]

Relocating to Canonsburg[edit]

In 1801, he left home, and establsihed a residence in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He came equipped with "a large stock of general reading, and some acquaintance with his State, by trips on horseback, beyond the mountains, for domestic supplies."[6]:294 Here, he entered the grammar school, established by John McMillan, Jefferson Academy.[1]:723 During his matriculation, in 1802, the school was granted a charter by the Pennsylvania legislature, it was rechristened Jefferson College.[14]:54

Becoming a "man of letters"[edit]

In 1797, two "literary societies" had been formed in the Academy. The first, was founded on August 23, by the Rev. John Watson, who was to be the first president of the College. It was named the Philo Literary Society.[14]:41 The second, was founded on November 14, by James Carnahan, who had been a pupil of Watson's and would, in 1823, become president of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University. This "society" was named the Franklin Literary Society.[14]:41 These two "societies," or fraternities, held yearly contests in "composition, oratory, and debate."[14]:42 (see also, Literary societies at Washington & Jefferson College) In 1801, Willson entered the ranks of the latter, the Franklin Society.[14]:52 Among his contemporary fellow members was Clement Vallandigham,[14]:52 future Presbyterian minister, and father of Clement L. Vallandigham,[15]:62 the Copperhead Democrat and arch-nemesis of Abraham Lincoln.[16]:357-358 Also, the "society" included, at that time, Gilbert McMaster,[14]:52 who would, in 1833, take the "New Light" side in the split in the Reformed Presbyterian Church[1]:617 and challenge the "Old Light" views still maintained by Willson. In this forum, Willson would learn and hone his powers of writing, speech and tactics of debate. All of these talents would be needed in his future.

Formal theological studies[edit]

Like all students, in those early days, Willson studied languages (i.e., Latin and Greek)[17]:74 and Moral philosophy. First, these departments were under Rev. John Watson, until his death, in 1802; then, under Rev. James Dunlap, A.M., who assumed those responsibilities, in 1803. Additionally, Samuel Miller, A.M., taught mathematics and Natural philosophy.[18]:13 Undoubtedly, however, the highlight of his time at Jefferson was his last year, studying theology with John McMillan.[1]:723[2]:13 Under McMillan, Willson received a more vigorous exposition of the doctrines common to the branches of Presbyterianism, such as are denominated "Calvinistic."[17]:39-40 In depth study of doctrinal distinctives of the Reformed Presbyterian Church would soon follow.


His studies at Jefferson College concluded with his graduation, in 1805.[14]:52[18]:18 He had been a diligent student, he had "rarely" allowed "himself much than four hours for sleep."[10]:40 His persistent and vigorous study achieved their end, he was graduated with "first honors of his class."[7]:xi[6]:294 Those in his class would not have been surprised by his showing; already, in his final year at the College, he had been appointed a tutor in the institution.[10]:40 Willson emerged from the College with a A.B. degree, recognized as a "man of letters" and teacher.

Willson takes a wife[edit]

It all started with a date[edit]

During this period of time, Willson contracted and married Miss Jane Roberts, of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1807, according to Glasgow,[1]:725 who undoubtedly based this upon information provided by his oldest surviving son (James M. Willson), and published after Willson's own death.[10]:41 However, in her obituary, which bears internal marks of being written by Willson himself, the date cited is 1806.[19]:95 He would have known better than his son, who later confessed to a confusion regarding dates.[20]:265 Thus, in 1806, they entered marital union.

At some point, after his graduation (probably after his brief season studying with Rev. Alexander McLeod, in New York City; see below), Willson had returned home. Upon marrying Jane, it is clear, they dwelt, until 1809, near his childhood home, close to Elizabeth. There his first two children were born, sons; John Roberts and James McLeod.[1]:720

She was raised in piety and privilege[edit]

She was the daughter of John Roberts, a Scots Irish immigrant.[10]:41 She had been born in Hunterstown, Adams County, Pennsylvania, in 1784, where the family first settled.[19]:95 After this, they relocated to Pendleton County, Virginia (now West Virginia) and, then afterward, removed to Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.[10]:41 This was a time when states held first loyalty to many citizens. Thus, it was reported that Roberts "emigrated to this country from Virginia," describing his arrival to Pennsylvania.[21]:606 Her parents were members of the Associate Reformed Church; they had moved to Canonsburg in 1804.[1]:656 Her father was a merchant who achieved some success.[21]:606

It was til 'death do us part'[edit]

In 1806, she connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church.[19]:95 This was likely due to her uniting with James R. Willson in matrimony. Due to Willson's frequent absences from home, both preaching and attending to the business of the Church, the primary care of the family would fall to her. Her death came after a protracted, and in its final stages painful, bout with a "schirrous [scirrhous] affection of the breast," breast cancer. She bore it with Christian fortitude.[19]:95-96 She died March 16, 1838.[22]:64

It was a fruitful union[edit]

With her, Willson would father nine children, eight of whom survived their mother.[19]:95[10]:41 The eldest was John Roberts, named for his father-in-law, (1808-1838); the next was James McLeod, who bore the names of both his grandfather and his theological mentor, (1809-1866); Ann Mary, his eldest daughter, (); Elizabeth W., his second oldest daughter, (?-1846); Zaccheus Renwick, who carried the names of his father (and grandfather) and his own namesame, (1813-1872); Susan Emily, his youngest, (1826-1846). Willson was survived by two sons and three daughters.[10]:41 Like so many of his contemporaries, he knew the bitterness of losing children.

Continuing his theological studies, licensure, disqualification and his early teaching efforts[edit]

Under the care of Alexander McLeod[edit]

The preparation[edit]

His next two years were spent in pursuit of additional theological acquisition. He spent at least one winter in New York City (likely the Winter of 1805/06, since he was not yet married), studying with Rev. Alexander McLeod, who directed his course of study and put him to trial for the ministry.[23]:60[1]:723[6]:294 However, most of his studies were conducted at home.[7]:xi Nonetheless, in New York, Willson lodged with the family. This facilitated the "trials" of theological study and preparations he needed to make before licensure. Willson, "whose talents were of a high order, and whose industry was indefatigable," prospered accordingly.[23]:83 Willson was soon put to the test.

His trial and licensure[edit]

The Reformed Presbytery was so widely extended that, in 1802, it had subdivided into three "Committees,"--Northern, Middle and Southern,--for ease of gathering to conduct business.[24]:12 These Committees would, in turn, report at each meeting of Presbytery. The Middle Committee covered Pennsylvania.[10]:40 It consisted of Rev. Alexander McLeod and Rev. Samuel B. Wylie. It was before this Committee that Willson "called to deliver his last pieces of trial for licensure." They were duly delivered and sustained.[23]:83 Willson had passed. The result issued in him being licensed to preach by the Middle Committee of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, on June 9, 1807.[2]:13[10]:40[1]:723 Willson was now available to preach or take a call. He was sent immediately to assist in supplying the numerous vacancies in congregations in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.[23]:83 Agreeably, Willson, together with Gilbert McMaster, began "itinerating through the vacancies with much acceptance."[23]:89 Later that year, the Committee would be called to report before the meeting of Presbytery.

In 1807, the congregation of Wallkill, New York, which had been without pastoral care for several years, issued a call to Willson. They had shared the ministry of Alexander McLeod with the New York congregation until 1803, then McLeod became a full-time minister in New York. Willson declined.[1]:210 His pastoral ministry would not begin for another decade.

His Providential disqualification[edit]

Presbytery met, according to adjournment, in Conococheague, Pennsylvania, at the house of John Thom[p]son, ruling elder, on October 6, 1807.[24]:37 Rev. John Black opened with a discourse on Isaiah 43:10, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord." Previously, he had been instructed to "discuss the duty of Testimony-bearing."[25]:3 When the Committee reported on October 10, 1807, there was evidence of a problem. Presbytery signaled its agreement with the Committee's assessment. It noted that, "The Court agree that Mr. James Wilson [sic], a licentiate under their inspection, on account of Providential disqualifications, be and he is hereby deprived of his license." The Presbytery then instructed Rev. Alexander McLeod to announce the removal of his license "in a letter accompanied with suitable remarks."[24]:43 His theological mentor and father in the faith would have to administer the medicine.

The nature of the disqualification[edit]

The manifestation of Willson's "Providential disqualifications" had, apparently, appeared during his four months as a licentiate. They were manifested when he began to exercise some portion of ministerial authority. Furthermore, the Presbytery noted "disqualifications" not "disqualification."[24]:43 It was not simply one thing, but a series of things they had in view. They appeared "providentially" in this exercise and were deemed damaging enough to preclude entering the ministry.[24]:59 That it was not, primarily, a physical malady can be deduced from the consensus regarding his physical constitution until shortly before his death. Willson was not weak in body. Nor could the ailment be one of mental ability. His problem was not to be found so much in defect as in excess. We know that in his youth, "[h]is passions were originally strong, partaking of his constitutional energy and ardour."[10]:43 As a licentiate, Willson began to preach, and, in preaching, his problem emerged.

His imagination and moral vision[edit]

Additionally, his imagination was described as being "most active and elevated." Indeed, "[i]n his best moods, his mind soared high on its wings."[6]:298 In his worst moods, it might resemble moral turpitude. Elsewhere, his son explains:

His imagination was peculiarly powerful and excitable. He saw [emphasis in original] everything. He dealt with no abstractions--all was to him, concrete, living reality. Hence some of his peculiarities. The invisible world of the good and the bad had to him not only a real but a present existence.[10]:43

In other words, Willson saw the world in "black and white." There were no gray areas. But, what caused problems is that he made judgments regarding people based upon his perceived moral clarity. This made even his friends a bit uncomfortable. Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely, of Philadelphia, a friend, who had more intimate knowledge of him, described Willson thus, "thou man of genius, whose fancy sometimes runs away with judgment; of fervour, faults, and powerful intellect."[26]:229 In preaching, Willson's "moral clarity" was acceptable for the time; however, Willson did not confine his "plain speaking" to the pulpit.

His plain spoken demeanor[edit]

His friends, such as Rev. William B. Sprague, delightfully noted "his denunciations of certain forms of evil were perfectly terrific."[10]:42 To those who were not quite as sympathetic, Willson was "a man of great intellect and scholarly attainments, quite eccentric, and very censorious."[13]:16 We may say of his speaking, what Ezra Stiles Ely said of his writing, "Mr. W[illson]] is an honest man; he writes as he thinks; and with such plainness that every reader must fully comprehend his meaning in every sentence."[26]:227-228 Willson added to his conviction his desire to convey that conviction to all, without respect of persons. "He had great discernment of character, and yet he was unsuspicious."[10]:43 When he took the measure of a man, he, apparently unconscious of offence given or taken, proceeded to apply his moral vision. Willson believed that honesty was the best policy, even if it hurt.

Willson's plain speaking and plain dealing, with matters he considered "good or bad," gave offense to many. The Scots-Irish had "developed and cultivated a 'Presbyterian conscience' that consorted well with the Scottish temperament," holding that "compromise is evil; yielding a point, whether for the sake of politeness, or to attain a larger end, is base."[27]:292 Willson had refined that characteristic to a fine point. Even his fellow Scots-Irish Presbyterians could take offense at him. Indeed, after relating one particularly awkward prayer, offered by Willson, Rev. Robert F. Sample states, "This somewhat remarkable man may have been partially insane at the time." He proceeds, "[h]e was subject to seasons of mental aberration, which unfitted him for his duties, either as preacher or teacher."[13]:17 In addition, it is said, that Willson, "[t]hough he had no disrelish for social pleasantry, he was not, either by nature or habit, a wit."[10]:43 To those not sharing his vision, his serious demeanor, accompanied with an almost total lack of regard for the feelings of others, he seemed somewhat mad. Perhaps Willson lacked refinement and discretion, even to the point of breaching social etiquette. Though very social,[6]:298 Willson exhibited anti-social behavior at times, but that was not insanity. Willson was moody, volatile and opinionated, and Presbytery had to address this.

The judgment of Presbytery[edit]

To his brethren in Presbytery, his social awkwardness, and his likely inability to perceive himself as others perceived him was a problem. To this end, having his theological mentor and father in the faith, Rev. Alexander McLeod, speak to him, they thought might prevail.[24]:43,45 It might have seemed like mental aberration to them too. But, later, his son would not blame "mental aberration" or "partial insanity." Instead, he would say, "The faults of Dr. Willson were the faults of a man of strong feeling, deep conviction, and entire absorption in the work of the ministry, and in matters collateral."[6]:298 Willson's first care was for what he believed was truth. That entailed some "collateral" damage. Though the Church was in desperate need of pastors,[24]:36 he was not pastoral in his carriage. Pastor was not his gift.

The difference between the office of a pastor and the office of a teacher[edit]

According to Presbyterian government, the gift and office of the pastor is "[t]o feed the flock, by preaching of the word, according to which he is to teach, convince, reprove, exhort, and comfort."[28]:15 Several of these characteristics are missing in Willson's early demeanor, and, throughout his career, remain weak. He is not noted for being particularly gifted in pastoral ways. In a Church seeking pastors, Willson carried himself in a way perceived by the pastors that constituted Presbytery as something out of step. Had they not perceived in him a capacity to minister the word, they would never have taken him under care nor licensed him at all. But, as pastors, observing his exercise of ministerial authority, they were clearly concerned. Willson's gift, evidenced by his demeanor, in fact, resembled that of those supposed to occupy the office of teacher. The Book of Government of the Reformed Presbyterian Church recognizes a distinction in both gift and office.[28]:19 In identifying the character of the teacher, it says, "he that doth more excel in exposition of scriptures, in teaching sound doctrine, and in convincing gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly employed therein, may be called a teacher, or doctor."[28]:20-21 Willson's conflicts, and the judgments of him formed by others, tend to show that his "application" of teaching was without pastoral gifts. It often lacked the assigned characteristics of exhorting and comforting. He was more doctrinaire and more comfortable with conflict. It would not be long before the Presbytery began to reassess their judgment. Willson's teaching skills would prove his worth to the Church.

From sacred to secular[edit]

On May 16, 1809, Presbytery met agreeable to appointment, in Philadelphia. The following day, Alexander McLeod was called to report on the matter of Mr. Willson. He reported that he had "fulfilled his appointment in writing to Mr. Wilson [sic]."[24]:45 Willson was no longer under care of Presbytery and his license to preach had been revoked. On May 24, the minutes indicate Willson appeared before Presbytery. His requested them "to give to him an advice respecting future movements."[24]:59 The request sounded like someone who viewed the present situtation as temporary. The response of the Court could not have been reassuring. Presbytery declared, "He [Willson] was advised for the present to lay aside all thoughts of study with a view to the ministry, and betake himself to some secular employment for the support of his family."[24]:59 It was time to rethink potential employments apart from the family farm and dismiss the idea of becoming a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Willson begins to publish[edit]

This Willson had already begun to do sometime after the his disappointment with Presbytery in 1807, he had begun to publish. In 1809, Willson published his first pamphlet, The Shaking of the Nations, Alias the Anti-Christian Empire Overthrown.[29] The content of the pamphlet exhibits the wide and varied learning of its author. Its origin may well have been as one of the "trial pieces" assigned by the Committee overseeing his licensure. In it, Willson makes several comments about Britain's actions tending to provoke war with the United States; including a short appendix on the topic.[29]: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair occurred on June 22, 1807, just under two weeks after Willson's licensing to preach. That hostility was the first of several steps leading to the War of 1812. By the end of the year, on December 22, 1807, the United States Congress had passed the "Embargo Act", severely limiting American naval commerce. Willson speaks of Britain restricting American use of the seas by violence, not by causing Congress to pass restrictive laws, but by bloody violence.[29]: Willson also makes references to the works of both Alexander McLeod and Samuel B. Wylie.[29]: The former reference is less overt than the latter, but both men formed the Middle Committee charged with his ministerial trials.[23]:83 All of which argues that it was initially composed shortly after the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, while Willson was still licensed. On the other hand, one reference indicates it had been prepared for publication early in 1809.[29]: Whatever its rise, the publication raised Willson's public recognition.

"The Shaking of the Nations"[edit]

The text for the discourse was taken from Hebrews 12:26, "Yet once more I shake not, the earth only, but also heaven." Willson begins his production with a brief explanation of what is meant by shaking the heavens and the earth. By "heavens," Willson understood "church-state," whether under the Jewish or Christian economy. By "earth," he understood the Latin empire and the nations that composed it.[29]: After elaborating on the meaning in Biblical and historical contexts, Willson begins to draw application closer to his day. The focus of the discourse begins with the "Reformation from Popery."[29]:

Means God used to effect the Reformation from Popery in Europe[edit]
Classical studies and preaching[edit]

At the time of the Reformation, Willson notes, God used means to shake "the pillars of the anti-Christian empire" "[s]uch as uncreated intellect could not have devised." First, God used "a study of ancient literature." Martin Luther became "adept" in the classics, "especially of the Latin and Greek languages."[29]: Willson advances here the notion that a classical education is one of the humble means used to shake the Roman Catholic church. It was through this classical education that Luther discovered the "accursed Popish fraud," which led to the Reformation.[29]:

Second, God used the "preaching of the gospel." Willson, asserts that "[t]he gospel is a weapon." It is the power of God that can vanquish the "prejudices of the human mind," and, even more, "by it empires are subdued."[29]: In this point, Willson expresses his belief that the truth will prevail, but it prevails by being proclaimed and in being proclaimed it shakes all that is anti-Christian.

War and covenanting[edit]

God is sovereign; He can turn the weapons of Satan into means for "promoting the welfare of Zion [i.e., the Church]." The ungodly nations can be checked and turned to fight against one another rather than God's Church.[29]: These comments are even more significant in light of the tensions prior ot the War of 1812.

It is at this point that Willson mentions the idea of entering into a covenant. When Luther was pressed by the enemies of the Reformation, "Many princes of Germany took part with Luther. These entered into a league and covenant at Schmalkald."[29]: The foes of the Reformer were stayed; thus, God used covenanting to establish the Reformation. In 1807, when Willson was licensed, Presbytery had assigned Alexander McLeod the task of preparing "a draught" "of a COVENANT embracing the spirit and design of the vow entered into by our fathers in the reformation."[25]:7 Covenanting is a means for promoting the interests of the Church.

Publishing and prayer[edit]

Next, Willson sees publishing as an important step in advancing the Reformation. Papermaking and printing had allowed the Reformers "to circulate their books extensively, and with ease." Additionally, Bibles and books were relatively cheap.[29]: Willson emphasizes that "[t]ruth is omnipotent."[29]: The spread of the truth through publishing is another means of promoting the interests of the Church.

Here, Willson closes this section of the discourse by asserting that "[a]ll the other weapons employed by those who assailed the man of sin [Willson is speaking of the Pope and his kingdom here] would have been unavailing," had prayer been neglected.[29]: All of the means, without God's blessing would accomplish nothing, according to Willson. Willson was a man noted for being a man of prayer. "He prayed without ceasing. He talked with God. He had great nearness to, and familiarity with the throne of grace. He understood prayer, and loved to talk of it."[6]:298

Means by which the kingdom of Antichrist shall be utterly overthrown[edit]

Willson begins the second portion of his discourse with a description of the spiritual darkness rampant in his day. The darkness has been descending upon the church ever "since the year 1639, when the Reformation was at its height in the British Isles."[29]: Only in the Reformed Presbyterian Church has the gospel continued to be preached with the purity exhibited at that time.[29]: The unbelieving world, epitomized by the Antichristian empire, have resisted and mocked the messengers of God's truth. But "the two witnesses," the gospel ministry calling both church and state to account, must continue to preach against the Antichrist and proclaim the divine woes.[29]: The testimony bearing of the witnessing church, by which Willson unders the Reformed Presbyterian Church, will be the very means used by God to overthrow the empire of Antichrist. The truth of Scripture is the great weapon in the arsenal of the witnesses in prosecuting their cause. But the witnesses need to be aware of the devices of the devil.

The Satanic origins of authoritative toleration[edit]

Willson relates that Satan has many devices to undermine the task of the witnessing church. In the early church, Satan had used open persecution to waste the church. This strategy had been used at the beginning of the Reformation. But, as Willson notes, quoting Tertullian, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church."[29]: So, Satan changed tactics. Now, Willson warns, since persecution made the church grow, Satan has devised toleration. Specifically, he says, authoritative toleration, when the government grants an allowance to practice any religion or no religion at all, has been destroying the church in ways unimagined. "Hence, from the bloody fields of persecution, Satan led with ease deluded mortals, into the garnished bed of authoritative toleration--the bed of spiritual adultery."[29]: This idea of authoritative toleration is now "interwoven in the very texture" of the consitutions of the nations of Christendom. Before this delusion, Willson says, these nations "bow down in idolatrous adoration."[29]: This toleration has made men less concerned for the truth; it has led men into idolatry. Nonetheless, Willson notes one bright spot, it had also led to a free press, and the witnessing church must make use of this to counteract this delusion.[29]:

God turns the wrath of the enemies of the church to His praise[edit]

This leads Willson into a discussion of the growing hostilities of his day, and a discussion of how Satan engages the warring nations to destroy the church. Willson sees God's hand in turning nation against nation to the destruction, not of the church, but of the empire of Antichrist.[29]:

In those denominations which still give their power to Antichrist, by supporting the ungodly regimes in power in those nations, Willson still sees God hand at work. The prayers of the pious, even in those compromised bodies, contain the petition, "Thy kingdom come." In so praying, they are praying for the overthrow of the very system they join hands to support.[29]: Additionally, in those churches which have abandoned the singing of Psalms, and replaced the Psalms of inspiration with hymns of human composition, yet the Psalms are still read.[29]: In these ways, God preserves his truth and the cause of His truth amongst even a backsliding people.

The angels are on the side of the church[edit]

Though the numbers of the witnessing church be small, yet God has ways of prosecuting His cause unseen to men. The angels of God are always engaged on the side of truth and right. It would be a mistake to fear based on the eyes of the flesh; the eyes of faith behold always the angels endeavoring to make good the cause of God.[29]: Thus, Willson finishes the body of his discourse. All he seeks now is to draw a few inferences.

Inferences for the witnessing church[edit]

Willson concludes by making several points of application designed to accomodate his discourse to his hearers or readers. He, first, reminds men that the weapons of a Christian are spiritual. However, they can be wielded by none other but a real saint of God."[29]: Furthermore, apathy regarding the state of things is an indication that one is not more than a "formal professor" of Christianity.[29]: In other words, lack of concern for the overthrow of the kingdom of Antichrist indicates that one is not truly a believer, but only an external professor of religion.

In contrast, the most faithful Christians are witnesses. They bear testimony to the cause of God and His truth. In fact, Willson points out, they are doing that very thing in America. "In New York, May 12, 1806, the faithful witnesses bound up the law, and sealed the testimony, among the disciples of Jesus."[29]: He was speaking of the Reformed Presbytery emitting its Testimony, entitled Reformation Principles Exhibited. [30] "Around the truth, as displayed in this testimony, let us rally," he exhorts.[29]: Willson is concerned to inculcate a very distinctive understanding of what constitutes being faithful to the Christian faith.

Willson ends by warning of the dangers being increased in times of war. Nonetheless, there is no reason for the faithful to be cast down. After all, the angels are engaged to fight against Antichrist and God "who directs the concerns of all creation has power to confound all our enemies." Besides, he reminds the faithful, his covenanting brethren, "we are bound by solemn covenant" to God. And God "will rise and plead His own cause."[29]: Willson found great comfort in the doctrine of covenanting.

Writing prospects and increasing recognition[edit]

The discourse on The Shaking of the Nations was not the only literary production Willson had taken up at that time. He had also begun to write something else. With the beginning of a manuscript, he approached early Pittsburgh printer, Zadok Cramer. Cramer was a well known figure in western Pennsylvania due to his book, The Navigator, a book first issued in 1801 (it went through eight editions) and devoted to helping people adjust to the move westward. In March, 1809, Cramer had sent out a proposal to publish, by subscription, a book by Willson to be entitled, A History of Jefferson College: in which is comprehended a view of the progress of literature, and of the Presbyterian churches in the western part of Pennsylvania.[31]:215 At the time Presbytery met, in May, he was obviously realizing that selling a book by subscription was difficult. He had hoped to gain some employment by writing for subscribers. It was not to be. The work was never published, but it exists in part in manuscript. Based on the "internal evidence," the manuscript was "written in 1807 or 1808."[32]:10-11

The time at Bedford, Pennsylvania[edit]

From humble school master to classical scholar[edit]

In 1809, Willson removed from Canonsburg to Bedford, Pennsylvania.[1]:723 The school was "in operation July 4, 1809."[33]:49 In 1809, or 1810, a small building was built and named "Bedford Academy." There he assumed the position of the principal of that Academy, which was incorporated in 1810.[34]:47 It had been established by the State and its trustees were elected by popular vote.[35]:450 The names of eight men are listed as the trustees at the time the school was chartered, including Rev. Alexander Boyd,[34]:47 who, in 1808,[13]:14 had become the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Bedford. There, Willson first gained the reputation of being a "fine English and classical scholar." Under his guidance, the school "became very celebrated," and attracted a student body from southern Pennsylvania and Maryland.[34]:47[35]:450 Willson was a pioneer in early public education, in Pennsylvania. He was also a prominent member of the community in which he lived.

His most prominent pupil[edit]

Among his students at the Academy was the future governor of the Kansas Territory, Democratic Senator from Mississippi, and U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Robert J. Walker.[33]:50 Walker's father was a noted judge, Jonathan Hoge Walker. Since March 1, 1806, Judge Walker had been president judge of the fourth district of Pennsylvania.[36]:145 He was a "man of high character" who "commanded the confidence of his contemporaries" and he was "a member of the Presbyterian Church."[37]:73 As a judge, he was noted for his integrity; as a father he was noted for his piety. As parents, Judge Walker and his wife, took great pains to secure what they believed to be the best available education for their son. They chose the Bedford Academy.[38]:157 This could only increase Willson's prestige as a classical teacher.

Walker went from the tutelage of Willson to the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, where, in 1819, he graduated with first honors in his class.[38]:157 In Philadelphia, Judge Walker, "anxious to continue to" his son "the advantages of moral and religious training," made arrangements for young Walker to lodge with the family of Rev. Samuel B. Wylie.[38]:157 Willson's tenure as principal of the Academy ended with his most famous student. In 1815, as the younger Walker set out for Philadelphia, Willson followed.[33]:49

A moment that will live in infamy[edit]

In Bedford, Willson's prominence as well as his plain and serious demeanor added to the suspicions of his sanity by those who drew his barbs. His son once remarked that Willson "cared little for etiquette; and, though free from anything like rudeness or coarseness of manner, he was not what be be styled a polished gentleman. His original rusticity never fully wore off."[10]:42 Just how little he cared for etiquette is illustrated in one encounter with the Presbyterian minister in Bedford. Willson held a relatively low opinion of the piety of Rev. Alexander Boyd.[13]:16 Willson, being a man of "imposing presence," in body and mind, was not one to leave unnoted his assessment. In fact, one not at all unfriendly to Boyd stated that Boyd's ministry in Bedford was relatively unfruitful. This, he says was likely because "[m]uch of his time was devoted to secular pursuits."[13]:15 Willson was "shocked by Boyd's secular tendencies." He especially found Boyd's politicking to have the turnpike moved from a direct course in order to pass by Boyd's own dwelling unconscionable.[13]:17 Thus, on one occasion, when standing next Boyd in the pulpit, he offered a prayer which entered the popular lore of the town. Willson prayed "that God would convert the minister, and either make him an useful and earnest preacher, or an honest turnpike contractor."[13]:16-17 Boyd, being one of the trustees of the Bedford Academy, the occasion would almost certainly been school related and, therefore, more public. This incident, related by Sample, was used to illustrate the probable "partial insanity" of their school master, at the time.[13]:17 Boyd was simply the victim of Willson's superior moral clarity and vision. Certainly, no one in Bedford, who attended that meeting, would mistake Willson for a "polished gentleman."

McLeod inquires after his "son" in Bedford[edit]

Willson's move to Bedford did not lessen the interest of his former tutor, Alexander McLeod. As early as January of 1811, Willson received a letter from McLeod (written on January 2) "lamenting" "the dispensation" that had removed Willson from the consideration of Presbytery.[32]:18 Willson's response must have been comforting to his elder patron. On May 24, 1811, McLeod wrote to inquire if Willson would "consent to preach" since McLeod now seemed "assured" of his "perfect health and soundness of mind." He continues, saying, he "can never be satisfied to see the talents of my Willson removed from the public service of the church."[32]:18-19

Pursuing other studies in Bedford[edit]

In January of 1811, Alexander McLeod had inquired, additionally, if Willson intended to stay in Bedford and "continue to study medicine."[32]:18 Whether Willson was giving serious thought to changing his vocation or not, he did acquire some medical knowledge, studying with a doctor in Bedford, which would serve him throughout his life.[32]:19 The presence of the term, "schirrous [scirrhous] affection of the breast," in his wife's obituary, appear as much as a diagnosis as a cause of death. A diagnosis of a "scirrhous affection of the breast," which indicates the fibrous nature of the tumor, seems to indicate both an intimacy with medicine as well as with Mrs. Willson.[19]:96 It is likely he studied medicine with the local and notable physician Dr. William Watson, a man of like stature with Willson, well exceeding six feet in height.[39]:236 Besides, or perhaps because of, medicine, Willson and Watson shared another interest that would have brought these men together. They were both interested in the medicinal qualities of the mineral springs in Bedford.

During his time in Bedford, Willson made the first analysis of Bedford Mineral Springs. The results of his study were published.[10]:40[40]:467 In this pursuit, Willson's scholarly and medical ambitions could meet. The Springs had been rumored to possess several notable medicinal effects for nearly a decade.[41]:95-97 In 1816, Dr. William Watson would write his own account of the springs, it was published in 1822.[42]:381-383 Bedford Springs became, as the century progressed, a noted health resort.

Willson examines the Bedford Springs[edit]

Willson's interst in the springs was most likely advanced by his study of medicine. In a day when there were limited medical choices, the lure of a wonder bath to cure all ills was irresistable to many people. Willson had heard the tales, now he wanted to make a careful analysis.

The idyllic setting[edit]

Willson begins his piece on the "Bedford Medicinal Springs" with a quote from Horace, extolling the virtues of the waters near his home, in Latin.[40]:467 Thus, Willson takes a standard from the ancients to draw forth the lineaments of his own Bedford Mineral Springs. He carefully describes the geography and the clime of the region. He also demonstrates that he had spent the summer of 1810 taking temperature readings and recording them. The area surrounding the springs boasted a mild climate during the summer. This climate is enhanced by the mountain scenery.[40]:468 The Bedford Mineral Springs were beautiful for situation.

The discovery of the "medicinal" springs[edit]

The springs had been discovered by happenstance, in 1804, by "a mechanic of Bedford," who went trout fishing. Upon noticing "the beauty and singularity" of the waters which flowed from the bank of the stream, he "drank freely of them."[40]:468 The result was, this man, who had suffered chronic "rheumatic pains" experienced great relief. He also suffered from ulcers on his legs, and these he treated by washing in the waters. This, too, brought a cure to the ulcers.[40]:468 By the following summer, Bedford began to witness an influx of people looking for cures. The people of that place, being industrious, "began to make improvements."[40]:469 These improvements led to the locating of more springs. The town was becoming a resort.

Willson the scientist[edit]

As the article continues, Willson begins to describe the springs and the formations around them, not in terms of appearance only, but of composition. He displays a knowledge of geology and chemistry. Of the formation around one spring, he gives evidence of conducting experiments upon the deposits found. "Its colour is grayish, and it is easily pulverized. With stronger acids, it effervesces violently; and there is a copious evolation of fixed air. Its composition, however, has not yet been perfectly ascertained." Willson was dissolving these deposits in acid to separate components, yet he still had more experiments to conduct.[40]:469 Willson is a chemist at work in the laboratory of nature.

Unravelling the mysteries of nature[edit]

Nest, he proceeding to describe a series of experiments performed on samples of the water taken from springs. These experiments demonstrate the relative sophistication of Willson in matters of chemistry. Each test is designed to tease out additional information about the components of the waters.[40]:470 Clearly, Willson wants to understand what is in the waters that makes it medicinal. He then proceeds to isolate materials he discovers in the waters.[40]:471 This is not a vain exercise. Willson compares the elements discovered to be in the waters with various illnesses thought to be cured by the waters.[40]:471 He notes how astonishing the properties of the springs first appear. It seems incredible "that this mineral fountain should be possessed of powers sufficient to vanquish, and erect trophies over such a formidable phalanx of maladies."[40]:472 He cautions against attributing to the waters effects wrought by other means. The waters, he concludes are useful, but their use ought not to be overestimated.[40]:472 These waters are a gift "which Nature's God has made to remedy those physical evils, which afflict his creatures."[40]:473 Nonetheless, they are not miraculous just medicinal.

The improvements[edit]

Willson notes the improvements being made each year by the proprietor of the springs. The opportunity for availing oneself of the springs is growing. More people will be able to enjoy the medicinal properties.[40]:473 He concludes by rousing his readers to a responsible use of waters. They ought not neglect otehr means for procuring and preserving health. Yet, when all these things are done, the springs have a place in the list of remedies for sickness and health.[40]:473 Willson, as a good physician, does not subscribe to the notion that there is one cure for every physical ailment; a proposition he would utterly deny when speaking of spiritual matters.

Willson, Synod and the trial of Rev. David Graham[edit]

Preparing for conflict[edit]

McLeod's private communication to Willson might seem to be merely the expression of a well-wisher from afar; however, May, 1811, had been an eventful one for the church. Nine days before McLeod wrote to Willson, Synod had met, in New York City.[25]:45 On the 16th, the Synod was confronted by Rev. David Graham, he was demanding to know why his name was not on the roll of members.[25]:45 This would be the beginning of a celebrated conflict that would lead to Graham being tried and deposed.[1]:528 McLeod was writing, among other reasons, to encourage Willson to seek licensure again. Hence, he asked about Willson's "consent to preach."[32]:18 McLeod was holding out an incentive for Willson to remain in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. This was a very canny manuever on the part of Willson's spiritual father.

Two parties appear[edit]

Since 1809, Rev. David Graham had been supplying the pulpit of the congregation, in Canonsburg. In 1810, the people had called him to become their regular minister.[1]:311 Since 1799, Rev. John Black, had ministered to several "societies" (later congregations) in western Pennsylvania, including the one in Canonsburg.[1]:311,440 The arrival of Graham had brought contention between the two men.[43]:117 Thus, before Graham could be installed charges had been brought against him.[1]:311 Whether because of the revocation of his son's licensure or some other reason, it appears that Willson's father Zaccheus had early sympathies toward Graham in the "disturbance."[44]:79

Willson encounters Graham[edit]

On his way to Synod, early in May, 1811, Graham had passed through Bedford, where he engaged the company of Willson.[44]:24 Suspicions were running to great heights.

Graham relates that he, and two other gentlemen, Messrs. Thomas Hazleton and Joseph Cooper,[44]:27,78 had arrived in Bedford, on Thursday, May 2, and departed for Philadelphia, Monday, May 6.[43]:183 He professes he stayed that he "might gratify" Willson "in preaching on Sabbath [i.e., Sunday, May 5]."[43]:183 Presbytery understood there to be more involved. Graham "conversed with Mr. Wilson [sic], in Bedford, on the probable success of his [Graham's] new and independent denomination."[44]:24 Graham admits that, at the first, he thought Willson friendly to his cause. After all, why preach for one unless he "appeared at least a friend," Graham would ask the Presbytery.[43]:183 Furthermore, why "content" himself "so long," "where persons would not enter warmly into" his "views of the subject." Of course, he perceived in Willson "a warm friend."[43]:183 Graham claims to be shocked, "astonished at" Willson's "villainy," in what transpired next.[43]:183

Willson begins writing letters against Graham[edit]

With Synod now over (it adjourned May 20), quite aware of the "disturbance in the west,"[43]:113 and probably aware of the support Graham commanded amongst the elders, including Willson's father,[44]:79 McLeod wrote the aforementioned letter, May 24, encouraging Willson to pursue licensure in the church.[32]:18-19

What happened next, Willson expressed in a letter to Rev. John Black, dated July 22, 1811. His visit with Graham elevated his concern for the "state of our church in that country."[43]:95 (He was speaking of the vicinity of the Canonsburg congregation, where his father was an elder, and Black] had ministered for years.) Additionally, with "hope the people will, ere long, return to their right mind," he wrote a couple of letters. He knew they would likely fall into Graham's hands.[43]:95 After all, as Graham explained, one letter "was addressed to an elder [perhaps, Zaccheus?] in my congregation [i.e., Canonsburg]."[43]:183 So, at least one letter did fall into Graham's hands and he was was "enraged."[43]:95[44]:77

Graham's letter to the Judge[edit]

Graham responded in a way that Presbytery characterized as an "unmanly attempt to injure Mr. Willson in Bedford."[44]:118 He had an "acquaintance" with someone Willson also knew, Judge Walker, father of Robert, his student. He wrote to the Judge "stating his views of Mr. Wilson's [sic] conduct" and charging Willson "with inconsistency."[43]:183 He claims that he did this because "he felt pained at the idea, that Judge Walker,...should be misled by Mr. Wilson [sic]." [43]:183 Graham, who was a classical teacher himself,[1]:527 undoubtedly thought he was in a position to sway the Judge. As Willson put it, the letter was "abusing me, and synod."[44]:77 Willson was on the same side as Synod in this cause. For Graham, Willson is "a stickler of the party who had conspired against" him; Willson was a party hack.[43]:183 The problem for Graham was, whatever he thought Willson had indicated in private, now Willson and Synod were clearly in agreement.

Graham's comments on Willson at his trial[edit]

Graham, for his part, acknowledges that he knew Willson would likely see his letter to the Judge.[43]:183 Clearly, Willson did read the letter. In fact, what Willson reports was in the letter is not contested by Graham. Willson reports, in his July 22, letter to Black that Graham, in his letter to the Judge, charged him [Willson] with saying three things.[44]:78 First, Graham says, Willson "bestowed merited censure on his brethren for their persecution of him [Graham]." Second, Graham alleges that Willson, "unsolicitated," "offered to write to some of the brethren, expostulating with them on this persecution." Third, Graham asserted to the Judge, Willson "wrote to the brethren every thing, which he had said to [Willson] in confidence, and treacherously influenced their minds against him [Graham]." All these charges Willson denies in his letter to Black.[44]:78 Graham does not dispute the information Willson conveys as to the nature of his charges against Willson.[43]:95 However, when Willson adds to them his denial, Graham counters by accusing Willson of "falsehood, deep deceit and deliberate injury."[43]:183 Willson charged that Graham's "character is too well known here [in Bedford?], for him to change it by bold assertions."[44]:78 Against that, Graham acknowledged it was a contest of character. He asserted that Willson was the one possessed with bad character.[43]:183 When Graham defended himself before the Presbytery, in August, 1811, he might have hoped Presbytery would have to acknowledge Willson's "inconsistency." Wasn't that the reason for revoking his license to preach?

Presbytery acts[edit]

In the face of this challenge, Presbytery would act with decisively. On August 20, 1811, Graham was deposed from the ministry.[44]:127-128 Prior to being deposed, Graham formally submitted his declinature of the authority of the Presbytery.[44]:125 Next, Thomas Hazleton submitted a declinature signed by several of the elders. Presbytery suspended all who signed "from exercise of their office, and from church privileges."[44]:128 Willson's father appears at this point on the side of Presbytery seeking to dissuade elders from following Graham out of the church.[44]:128 The action of the church court was well received by the Willson family. Graham received the action by writing his own Narrative of the Proceedings of the Judicatories of the Reformed Church in North America, Relative to the Rev. David Graham. To this, James R. Willson, his character somewhat vindicated, wrote a Review.[45] Willson's re-licensing would only be a matter of time.

The rehabilitation of Willson[edit]

Willson's part in the Graham trial, though peripheral, was a moment that marks a turn in the way Presbytery and Synod viewed him. From this point on, Willson would be courted until he was restored to full ministry in the church. In a letter written November, 1811, he encouraged Willson, who, by now, had given up writing a history of Jefferson College to take up and complete the history of the church McLeod had begun.[32]:19 He exhorts his vindicated son, "Let the work be marked with patience, earnest observations and profound reflects. Let it be worthy of James Willson of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America."[32]:19 How could Willson not be re-licensed with that kind of praise from an important member of the Presbytery?

Willson defines classical education and its purpose[edit]

On January 6, 1812, Willson opened the session of the fledgling Academy with dissertation on classical education. It contained an account of the "rapid progress and flourishing state" of the Academy along with "excellent moral instruction." The discourse was submitted by the trustees of the Academy, but those items were left out of the published account.[46]:450 The author is named the "Rev. James Wilson [emphasis added]." It would seem that between the time of the correspondence with McLeod, in November, 1811 and January, 1812, Willson had been re-licensed. Henceforth, Willson will engage in preaching as well as teaching. Nonetheless, in this particular piece, Willson the teacher begins to emerge from the shadows.

"Classical Literature"[edit]

Willson's discourse on "Classical Literature" is designed to guard students, particularly his, against the prejudices beginning to arise against acquiring such, especially the "learned languages." He rails against "modern pretenders to literary reform" who "are labouring to banish at once all classical literature from our seminaries [i.e., schools]."[46]:450 Accoridng to Willson, these "reformers" are "smatterers who know nothing of the value of classical education."[46]:451 They oppose it because they are ignorant. From their position of ignorance, "without requisite qualifications," they "invade the pulpit [i.e., become ministers], the bar [i.e., become lawyers], and the temple of Esculapius [i.e., become doctors]." They resemble "the Egyptian mice" who "invaded, at Pelusium, the bow-strings and shield-straps of the Assyrian army."[46]:451 These "smatterers" are destroying the advance of an educated phalanx of professionals, to the detriment of the nation. Against these erstwhile "reformers," Willson brings five arguments to counter the charge that classical education is of little use.

The need for knowledge of antiquity[edit]

First, acquiring the "learned languages," particularly Greek and Latin, assists in "acquiring a knowledge of antiquity, and of political and moral truth."[46]:451 Willson notes that "all confess" that the knowledge of antiquity is of great importance to accurate thought. However, Willson asserts, English cannot convey all that is in the original accounts in the original languages. "[T]he mere English scholar could form but an imperfect view of the manners and customs and modes of thought in ancient times."[46]:451 There is an "intimate" "connexion between thought and the langauge in which it is clothed."[46]:452 Reading in another language "gives a new tone to the mind, an expansion of thought and a manliness to the feelings," "which no English translation can effect."[46]:452 Indeed, our imperfect views of the times before ancient Greece and Rome are due, in large part, "because we no longer understand the historical language of the pillars, the knots, and the hieroglyphics, in which those events, for which we seek, were recorded."[46]:452-453 In short, Willson argues, "[i]f you wish to lose all knowledge of antiquity, banish from your schools the ancient languages."[46]:453 By doing so, among other consequences, you will no longer be able "to trace with precision the rise, progress, and fall of states, and the causes which either forwarded or retarded these events."[46]:453 In this way, for Willson, nations and modern societies are unable to gauge their course.

The need for precise thought[edit]

Second, "revival of letters" brings with it a knowledge of philology, not simply etymology. The latter concerns the history and derivation of words, but the former consists in understanding word meanings from those changes. Willson points out, "[n]o two nations think precisely in the same way."[46]:453 Furthermore, as words pass from one nation and tongue to another, they "generally lose a part of their signification, sometimes the whole of it, and have annexed to them other thoughts, or shades of thought accommodated to the nature of the language which has adopted them."[46]:453 This proves Willson's point, "we can never acquire an accurate knowledge of ancient times, without a knowledge of ancient languages."[46]:453 Conversely, by giving thought to philology, we analyze "our conceptions." Analyzing language is a means to analyzing "our intellectual operations."[46]:454 We are enabled to see both how languages and ideas develop. Additionally, by studying these languages, we are enabled to apprehend the meanings of words we do not know.[46]:454 And, because of all the changes in conjugating verbs and declining nouns, acquiring these languages allows the adept to understand the vast possibilities of relationship that may be construed.[46]:455 The "learned languages" make for clear and precise thinking.

The benefit to theological pursuits[edit]

Third, Willson introduces the help derived "from the ancient languages in theology."[46]:455 He acknowledges that, already in his day, this might be "esteemed a breach of the laws of fashion, which, in modern times [emphasis in the original], has enchained all religion to the sacred desk."[46]:455 Willson, however, does not care to bow to such "modern" conventions. His care for his students is of more concern to him than "depraved fashion."[46]:455-456 In service of religion, classical education allows several advantages. In the "writings of Greek and Roman sages," we are enabled to see the "depravity of the human heart" and the "weakness of human intellect."[46]:456 Pagan virtue falls far short of Christian, and Willson sees value in making that display. But, there is more value in acquiring these languages. "The theological works of the ancient fathers of the church, are all written in Greek or Latin." "Great deference is due to their opinions." Though a few have been translated, the problem remains, "[h]e who understands modern languages only, will never be able to ascertain, with precision, what is the opinion of these old divines."[46]:456 Additionally, the great works of the Reformers are written in Latin together with many of "the continental divines."[46]:456-457 In these writings, we have access to the "great events which were then exhibited; the shaking down of empires, and the destruction of systems of superstition and tyranny.[46]:457 As the human spirit awoke in the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in classical literature. This paved the way for advance out of darkness. Perhaps, however, most importantly, these very men chose Latin as "the vehicle" of expressing thier own thoughts and ideas.[46]:457 If that is not enough, Willson chides, simply being able to read the works of Turretin "will amply repay anyone for all his labour in acquiring" Latin.[46]:457 The ancient langauges, especially Latin, give access to tremendous opportunities of theological learning and insight. A revival of classical learning will help to "shake the nations."

The advantages for additional learning[edit]

Fourth, Willson points to the advantages a knowledge of Latin gives to those who seek to learn other modern tongues.[46]:457 As commerce pushed the American citizen into closer commercial proximity to other civilized nations, these languages would be of growing importance. Willson lists "French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese," as "languages highly important to every scholar, and to every man in public life."[46]:458 These, Willson notes, "are no more than dialects of Latin."[46]:458 He then states that "Latin, Italian, and French, will be learned in the same time that the two latter can be acquired without the help of the former." In fact, according to Willson, one can add to those languages "Spanish and Portuguese" with "but a few months of additional labour."[46]:458 In saying this, Willson was not speaking about subjects of which he knew little. According to his son, Willson "acquired some knowledge of from twelve to fifteen languages, ancient and modern--most of these he could read with ease and pleasure--of some of them he was a master. He conversed in French and German."[10]:42 Thus, Willson asserts that the ancient languages make learning modern languages easier and "the student will be much more accurate."[46]:458

The introduction of standards of taste[edit]

Fifth, Willson points to "the improvement in taste, which we derive from classical literature."[46]:459 Without the classical literature, all standards disappear. "All civilized nations" have found amongst the writings of the Greek and Latins authors, standards of comparision for epic poetry, pastoral song, as well as "models of historical and biographical writing."[46]:459 It is important to "[f]orm the taste of youth upon these," or taste will disappear.[46]:459 There will be no standards and, thus, no measure against which to adjudge modern works approved or condemned.[46]:459 All translations are limited and limiting when compared with the originals.[46]:460 He concludes by decalring his belief that "one great design of Providence in raising up the empires of Greece and Rome," "was to furnish the world, in all ages to come, with standard works of taste and genius." The climax of which was "the New Testament" which "has forever consecrated the Greek language."[46]:460

Willson's vision of classical education is vast. It embraces and sets standards which are necessary for correct improvement of thought and morals. This applies to nations as well as individuals. As goes classical education so goes the world.

Some other students of the Academy[edit]

Willson counted a number of future prominent members of society amongst his students. Besides future senator and treasury secretary Robert J. Walker, Job Mann attended during Willson's tenure.[47]:1498 Mann would go on to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, Dr. Francis B. Barclay, a noted doctor accounted one of "the foremost medical practitioners of his day," was "was educated at the Bedford Academy, under its learned president, Rev. James R. Wilson." [39]:241 Additionally, Willson would count among his students at the Acaademy his own brother, Samuel McConnell Willson.[1]:729

However, the student Willson would memorialize, was the son of Thomas Todd, an Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Todd had been a studdent at a classical academy, but he had not been Willson's student at Bedford Academy. Harry Innes Todd was the third child, and eldest son, by Thomas's first wife.[48] His biographical sketch, written by Willson near the end of his time in Bedford,[48]:22 would be the most reprinted piece Willson ever wrote. It would go through no less than five different printings between 1817 and 1838 (bibliography below).

The strange and interesting case of Dr. Todd and Mr. Willson[edit]

In the case of Harry Innes Todd, Willson's interest in medicine crossed his interest in religion. Todd, as a young man, had been favored with all the benefits money and prestige could afford in Kentucky, at that time. In order to reach the pinnacle of the educational opportunities available in Kentucky, "he was put ot the grammar school of Mr. Wilson, who was deservedly celebrated in that country [i.e., Kentucky]."[48]:5 He was a student of Mr. Wilson of Kentucky. Clearly, members of the Wilson/Willson clan excelled at conducting academies. Nonetheless, running the course of "classical literature usual in Kentucky, with some other preparatory studies, having been completed, he commenced the study of Medicine."[48]:5 Harry Innes Todd possessed the best opportunities of his age. Young Todd had the world before him and the means to procure more.

Todd studies medicine[edit]

Todd studied medicine with the celebrated Lexington doctor, Dr. Frederick Ridgley.[48]:6[49]:44 This study was conducted for three years, from his seventeenth to nineteenth years. It was also during this time, that Todd began to mingle "with all the first society of that gay, luxurious, and dissipated place." It was there, in his youth, that he "engaged in a duel." Though it ended before either party was injured.[48]:6 The benefits of classical learning and medical instruction were no substitutes for moral and religious teaching.[48]:6

From Lexington, Todd was sent, by his father, to Philadelphia to finish his medical studies "in the deservedly distinguished University of Pennsylvania."[48]:6 In Philadelphia, Todd, who was "far from possessing those moral feelings, to say nothing of religion, which were calculated to preserve him from ruin in a great city," became "an adept, a leader in the ways of vice, and the frequent visitant of the haunts of dissipation."[48]:6 Although he attended to medical instruction, "his great delight was in the dancing assembly, the theatre, the card party, the [brothel]."[48]:7 While he excelled in secular education, Todd was becoming a moral bankrupt.

He remained in Philadelphia, for three years studying medicine. During this time, once or twice he visited Kentucky. From these travels Willson first heard of the man. A friend of Willson's had travelled with Todd by stage once from Bedford to Philadelphia. He told Willson of this "most fascinating young man" who was made less impressive by his profane swearing.[48]:7 Willson wondered at "[a] mind so excellent, and feelings so noble as his," yet "expended in the mad career of vicious indulgence."[48]:7 All of Todd's medical achievements had not made him better, he had become worse.

Todd becomes ill[edit]

Early in 1812, Todd received his M.D. from the University. He proceeded from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., "to see his father married to his second wife,"[48]:7 Lucy Payne Washington. Lucy was the sister of Dolley Madison and, in what was one of the greatest social events of that year, the wedding was held in the White House.[50]:128 It was the first recorded wedding held there.[51]:139 The wedding took place on March 29, 1812, and young Harry "[i]n his career of fashionable folly," "took no care of his health." "[H]e caught cold, which, settling upon his lungs, produced a considerable inflammation."[48]:7 With the rhetorical flourish of one half doctor and half minister, Willson chronicles the remaining days of the young man, describing the deteriorating medical condition which coincides with rising spiritual aspirations.

Todd's first turn was for the worse. He had swallowed some medicine, hoping for relief, but it brought on a coughing fit that "ruptured a blood vessel." He was brougth to almost "instant death." Willson interrupts the narrative to correct the reader. "My friend, I know your thoughts. You think this alarmed the gay young doctor, and turned his thoughts on religion and a future world. No. Alarmed he was, but religion never commanded in his bosom one transient emotion."[48]:7 Todd was a hardened sinner, one for whom there seemed to be no hope. Willson sighs, "How obstinate is human depravity!."[48]:7 Rather than turn to God, Todd casts off thoughts of eternity and turns to the medical field. Todd set off for Philadelphia to place himself under the care of Dr. Thomas Parke,[48]:7 one of the most accomplished doctors of his day.[52]:491 Under the care of the doctor, Todd was brought back, "in a few weeks," "nearly to the tone of health." However, soon a group assembled to make an "excursion to the country." They invited the young Dr. Todd, and "[t]hough sensible of the danger to which he was exposed, he could not deny himself the gratification."[48]:7 Dr. Todd, was a pleasure seeker, uninterested in spiritual things. Willson portrays a man bound tight to his pleasures, unwilling to give them up even for his own physical well-being. The excursion encountered bad weather and soon Todd is in worse condition than he was formerly.[48]:8 Despite advise from his doctor, he plans to travel back to Kentucky.[48]:8 Todd is a man without sense of reason, he is driven by his passions. He had not yet met his near opposite, Willson.

Willson contemplates the folly of youth and the medical profession[edit]

At this juncture, Willson takes up the moral character of physicians. Todd, like so many promising youth, resorted to Philadelphia "to procure a knowledge of the healing art." Yet, too many, like Todd, become libertines, "and these are the angels destined to wait around the beds of dying mortals!" Such men are "poorly calculated" to "minister consolation to the dying."[48]:8 For Willson, encountering such dissipated characters under the shadow of death is more curse than blessing. "Even the heathen god Esculapius rebukes & disallows" such persons "to minister at his altars."[48]:8 None should expect "the God of nature" "to bless the prescriptions of such physicians, for removing afflictions brought on by sin."[48]:8 Surely, Willson believes, God will not bless an ungodly medical profession.

Dr. Todd comes to Bedford[edit]

Willson next describes how Harry Todd ended up in the town of Bedford. Exhausted by the travel from Philadelphia and unable to go on, Todd stopped first at Bloody Run, a town seven miles east of Bedford. Willson reminds the reader of Bedford's new found fame due to the discovery of the mineral springs.[48]:9 At Bloody Run, Todd began "to despond." He had been raised in the "lap of ease" and now was experiencing a complete reversal of circumstances. It was at this point of despair that a young gentleman from Bedford, "who had attended one course of medical lectures with Dr. Todd, and formed a partial acquaintance with him," discovered the situation and "had him conveyed to Bedford, and provided with lodgings, in a private house."[48]:9 This was made necessary, as Todd had arrived during the "season of bathing." It was during this time that Willson first made his acquaintance.[48]:9 Willson notes the shade of a man before his eyes, but to make matters worse, Todd "swore very profanely" and "[h]is mind ran upon the theatre." Dr. Todd went so far as to "entertain" Willson with recitations from plays that were "extremely licentious."[48]:9 Inded, Willson commented these things from the plays were such as "ought never to be read, or heard by any human being." He then expresses great wonder, "How do ladies hear these things in the theatre, without a blush, which in private would be esteemed the grossest insult?"[48]:10 Todd was a picture of debauched and depraved humanity, wracked in body and soul.

Nonetheless, Willson confesses that he "became attached to him, though shocked with his profaneness."[48]:10 Todd, for his part, sought the company of Willson. No longer the center of society, Todd was now removed from friends and family. Willson remarks on the comparative "little value the friendship of the world is. It only discovers itself when least needed."[48]:10 This is not the way of Christians, but the way of the world. Willson would stand by his new friend, sticking closer than a brother.

The medical care of Dr. Todd and preparation for death[edit]

In Bedford, Dr. Todd found himself in the competent hands of Dr. William Watson. In his care, Willson notes, "though death could not be deprived of its prey," yet Watson was skilful enough to ease the dying patient's pain. However, he confided to Willson that Todd was beyond "hope of recovery."[48]:10 Though his case was hopeless, Todd continued to express hope of recovery. He exhibited no "apprehension of death." His thoughts continued to turn on the most vile and vain subjects. Though he avoided swearing around Willson for politeness' sake, he was yet verbalizing the profanities of the stage.[48]:11 Such was the state of his apparent oblivion to his condition that Willson finally bluntly declared that he and the doctors who had attended Todd were all of the opinion that he had "no prospect of recovery." Indeed, Willson told him, "the termination of your earthly course is not many weeks distant."[48]:11 Willson then proceeded to push the matter.

Willson began by suggesting "the propriety" of someone in such a hopeless case as Todd "making some arrangements relative to a future state of existence." Indeed, Willson insisted, "[a]s a rational man, Dr. you will no doubt think this proper."[48]:11-12 Todd's reaction even penetrated Willson's usual inability to perceive offense given. "One could easily read in his countenance that he considered all these remarks very indelicate." Later, Todd told Willson he thought him "extremely impertinent."[48]:12 It was really just Willson's manner.

The gospel and Dr. Todd[edit]

As Willson pressed the question of eternity, Todd responded in self-righteous presumption. He declared his intention to stand the trial of divine judgment. After all, he told Willson, he had been "generous to the poor;" he "never committed murder;" he was, therefore, ready for his trial.[48]:12 Willson lamented seeing his "fellow mortal" falling into eternity "with such delusive hopes." When asked if he believed the Bible, Todd replied that he did, although, he confessed, he "never read it much." Todd then recounted the wonderful deeds of his illustrious father and told of hearing the eminent Presbyterian minister Dr. John P. Campbell.[48]:12 Todd continued to plead his case to Willson. Willson responded by telling his young friend that if he was to be tried by an earthly court, he would likely be acquitted. But to be acquitted at the divine tribunal it would be by mere grace alone. Dr. Todd was moved by Willson's pronouncement. Indeed, he called for a Bible and asked Willson if he was a Freemason. The question alarmed Willson. He replied, "Why, can no one except a freemason know anything of the Bible?"[48]:12 The parry put Dr. Todd on the defense. He apologized and changed subjects. Next, Todd asked for a Bible and to be shown some of the more interesting and unusual stories and details of the Bible. Willson thought it was too tainted with an idle curiousity as opposed to genuine spiritual concern. Willson recommmended Todd add to his reading the "account of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord." From these thoughts Todd quickly moved to the theatre and, then, back to thoughts of settling his accounts with God.[48]:13

The next visit Willson had with Todd went much the same, spent conversing first about worldly politics and entertainments. It seemed to Willson, that Dr. Todd's "object" was to "amuse" Willson so that Willson would not find visiting his young friend "disagreeable."[48]:13 However, the conversation soon turned to the Bible. Todd had been reading the Bible, and had read the "story of the crucifixion of Christ" which "had made a deep impression upon his mind." In reading, Todd confessed to being struck by the portryal of Christ's sinless life. It troubled him that "God should deliver him into the hands of the malignant Jews, and permit them to put him to death." He was "eager" to know, why God suffered the sinless Son of God to be so tortured by crucifixion.[48]:13 Clearly this contradicted Dr. Todd's elevated sense of justice and righteousness. For Todd, the cross upon which Christ suffered proved to be a great offense.

Willson took up the cudgels and defended the righteousness of God in the matter. "[I]t was not for his own sins, but because he 'bore our sins in his body upon the cross.'" This in why Christ came, Willson explained, to give his life "a ransom for sinners." It was because of men were sinners, that "'the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all,'" making Christ a "substitute in the room of sinners and bearing the punishment due to their sins."[48]:13-14 Christ suffer for the sins, not of his own making, but of the sinners' making. With that declaration of the doctrine of redemption, Willson turned to Todd and inquired if he saw himself as a sinner. Willson pressed his point by noting the great ingratitude that characterized the young man's life. Todd had exhibited ingratitude to his father and to God. Unlike Christ, Todd was no innocent soul being pressed with suffering. Any suffering he received was just and more also. At this, Willson relates, Todd's "heart smote him. The enormity of his guilt began to unfold itself." From this moment, Todd "requested prayers" from Willson and himself began to pray.[48]:14 Willson marked this as a turning point. After all, for Todd to perceive himself as the sinner God declared him to be, and to answer that charge with a confirmation of God's sentence, made for a good beginning.

The problem of death-bed conversions[edit]

Willson now introduces a discussion of the problems inherent in death-bed conversions. He warns, "it is no light thing to become a Christian." It should be remembered "that death-bed repentance is often insincere." Making a pronouncement of conversion upon little or slight evidence is to no one's advantage. The trouble, Willson states, is [a] desire to be happy is mistaken for a hatred of sin." This is why resolutions made in the sickroom often end up vanishing "upon the return of health."[48]:14 Willson wants his readers to understand, that without a sense of the sinfulness of sin--a realization that God hates sin and has declared "the soul that sinneth, it shall die"--there is no true evidence of spiritual life. Too often, people mistake their own sense of well-being for conversion.

Dr. Todd's spiritual progress delineated[edit]

Willson writes next of the dying man's struggles to grasp the awful truth of his own condition and to surrender himself, as a sinner, wholly to the grace of God. In the course of reading the Bible and praying, one day, Dr. Todd told Willson, he found "that God can be merciful to sinners, to pardon their sins, and make them forever happy." "But," Todd continued, "how shall I know he will for me? I have been a dreadful transgressor." Willson remarks upon this discovery, that Todd "had probably repented as sincerely as any without looking upon that Jesus whom our sins have pierced, can repent."[48]:15 Todd's problem now was not that he didn't see himself as a sinner; it was that he did not perceive the greatness of God's grace. Willson responded to Todd by pointing to the mercies of God in Christ. "[M]y dear sir," Willson replied, "God, through Christ, is infinitely more willingly to pardon your sins than you are to ask him."[48]:15 God's grace, Willson chided, was greater than Todd's sin. With this, Willson informs his readers, Dr. Todd turned from his sins to the Saviour. Todd's "face was illuminated with a joyful expression. It was, to Todd, "joyful news."[48]:15 This marked the beginning of Dr. Todd's conversion. He had, now, only a brief race to run.

As physical health returns, spiritual health declines[edit]

At this juncture, Todd finds his physical health seemed to return again. "[T]he symptoms of his disease began to mitigate."[48]:15 With the return of health, came a return of temptations. A visit from his brother, who brought an aged black "servant" from home, revived "[y]outhful feelings." Willson continued ot press the "the state of his spiritual condition," but "[s]in and the world" were "daily regaining some of the ground which had been lately wrestled from them." Especially disconcerting to Willson was all the worldly talk and the introduction of the theatre again "into the chamber of death."[48]:16 Dr. Todd's regression was alarming. Then, the sickness returned, and Todd once again struggled. After some time of struggle, Todd came to renewed and expanded understandings of God's work in his life. He told Willson, "to bring" his "attention to" God " and religion," God "sent pains upon" him. The sickness returned to return him to God. Willson finds in this "joyful news," because "none other than the work of the Spirit of God assisting" Todd " to the right improvement of his affliction" could have provoked such an observation.[48]:16 Willson now saw that Todd "during the period of his short christian course here, exhibited an epitome of the various experiences which Christians usually pass through in a long life."[48]:17 Certainly, Willson understood this by now.

Theatre and the course of sin[edit]

Willson now expatiates with the reader concerning the theatre. For Dr. Todd, "[t]he theatre was the centre, the beginning and the ending of those scenes of iniquity through which he passed in Philadelphia."[48]:17 So terrible were the abominations that were wrought by its influence, Willson could not put pen to paper and declare the wickness of Todd's youthful debauched career. Todd himself, Willson says, was "haunted" by the "scenes of abomination" while "sleeping and waking." Willson concludes from observing the dying young doctor, "[a]s an honest man I must declare, that from all the impartial observations which I could make on this dying youth, I inferred that the most deadly habits of vice had been contracted about the theatre."[48]:17 Prior to meeting Dr. Todd, Willson confesses, he had not seen the theatre in such a dim light. It appeared to him to be an institution worthy of reform. Finally, on this matter, Willson concludes, whatever utopian hopes one may hold out, we have do do with the theatre as it really is. None who had "witnessed the manner in which it annoyed the spiritual peace of Dr. Todd when sinking into the grave," would "regard it in its present state in any other light than as hostile to religion and virtue."[48]:17 Willson had to confront his own modern prejudices and concede that the old standards were more safe and sound. The old paths were a more sure guide to spiritual peace.

The sickness does its final work[edit]

The remainder of the work is devoted to chronicling Dr. Todd's increase in dying grace and his ever clearing vision of God's goodness to him in Christ.[48]:18 In the course of improving spiritually he also makes some temporay physical improvement and desires to return to Kentucky to pay his last respects to his father and family. He is no longer moved by "hopes of recovery" he understands his case is terminal. Willson views these desires now as santicifed and wholesome expressions of "how religion has changed his views and improved his moral feelings."[48]:18 The attempt to make the journey is Providentially hindered and Todd is returned to Bedford. Dr. Todd realizes had he "reached Kentucky, he might have had his "attention drawn away from God."[48]:19 Todd concludes it is better to die surrounded by his spiritual family and be kept from temptations at the hour of his death.

Willson spends his remaining time testing the sincerity of Todd's belief. He seems concerned to make sure his young friend does not die with a lie upon his lips and a false faith.[48]:20 As Todd continues to fade, Willson introduces a conversation he had with the aged black "servant" Gloucester. It seems Gloucester, having known Todd from his infancy, observed that since coming to Bedford, Harry Todd had "been growing a better man."[48]:20 It is then revealed that Gloucester and his wife are believers who had been praying for the yougn man "for many years." Gloucester tells Willson that young Dr. Todd also has a very godly aunt, "Harry was her favorite," and "[s]he always prayed for him." Which makes Willson exclaim, "How unspeakably valuable the prayers of the godly!"[48]:21 Willson understood that the truth would never prosper without the blessing of God, and for that prayer was necessary.

With that revelation made, Todd fades quickly into eternity. His finals hours are marked by an increasing interest in spiritual concerns until, finally, "his spirit fled, ended all his pain, and relieved the heavenly inhabitant from its cumbersome mansion."[48]:21 In all of this, Willson shows himself, though not unconcerned with earthly medicine, yet much more concerned with heavenly physic. Willson has been studying to be a doctor indeed; a doctor of the church.

The Philadelphia Years[edit]

In 1815, Willson removed, for a time, with his wife and family, to Philadelphia, to "take charge of a Classical school for two and a half years."[6]:294[1]:723 His brother Samuel also accompanied them in order to complete his studies under his elder brother in the "City of Brotherly Love". In Philadelphia, Willson exhibited his first honorific, V.D.M.[53]:619 He assumed the position of "Principal" of the "Classical Seminary."[53]:619 As teacher, he was now "Professor of the Learned Languages" (i.e., Latin and Greek).[54]:v[55]:11 The learned classicist was gaining the attention of his peers.

Connection to Samuel B. Wylie[edit]

While living there, he attended the First Reformed Presbyterian Congregation. Rev. Samuel B. Wylie had assumed the pastorate of this congregation in 1803 (and would serve until his death in 1852). As members, Willson and his brother became trustees.[56]:xii Although it does not appear that he was engaged in the ministry of the congregation, yet he did engage in helping Samuel B. Wylie teach theological students at the Seminary, in Philadelphia.[57]:27

Other ministerial activities[edit]

His time was also taken up in various ministries. Another indication that he had by now been re-licensed. He was "frequently supplying the pulpits of pastors of that city and vicinity."[6]:294 He also established a Mission in "the Neck," where his labors were very successful."[1]:723-724 The "Neck" was "the tongue of land between the rivers below the city; at that time most neglected."[6]:294 A pinched piece of land just north of the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, the "Neck" consisted mostly of low meadowlands and its inhabitants occupied this extreme southern point beyond the, then, incorporated borders of Philadelphia. Willson was trying to plant and organize congregations in areas neglected by most. His son relates that Willson never lost interest in his early work there. Even "after his removal to another State," when "he would find himself in Philadelphia, he would seek out those who had attended upon his ministrations in those early days, and, if arrangements could be made, would preach to them."[6]:294 Philadelphia provided Willson many opportunities to grow pastorally.

John Gloucester and the African Presbyterian Church[edit]

Willson also found occupation in helping another ecclesiastical enterprise in the city. In 1807, several prominent Presbyterians had determined to see the establishment of a black Presbyterian church in the city. The General Assembly sat that year in Lexington, Kentucky. At that meeting, a slave named John Gloucester was recommended "as a candidate for licensure to labor as a missionary among colored people."[58]:25 Archibald Alexander "seized" upon the opportunity to employ Gloucester in service to the "colored people" of Philadelphia. Soon after the General Assembly adjourned, Gloucester arrived in Philadelphia with his master Gideon Blackburn. At the importunities of Alexander and some other prominent Presbyterian ministers, Blackburn emancipated Gloucester that he "might perform as a missionary among the people."[58]:26 Thus began what would be named the "First African Presbyterian Church."[58]:27 To this congregation Willson was no stranger. Willson's son, James M. Willson, who would later pastor in Philadelphia,[1]:721 recalled that as a child he had accompanied his father "more than once" to the "disturbance of his infantile ideas of his personal security," to the black church. According to him, Willson "often officiated" in "Rev. John Gloucester's colored church."[6]:294 Willson concern was likely twofold. First, he took a keen interest in the estate of blacks in his day. Second, after becoming acquainted with Gloucester, Willson became aware that Gloucester held "Hopkinsian" views of grace,[59]:185 likely imbibed from his master Gideon Blackburn, who was himself "Hopkinsian."[59]:180 Willson rejected these teachings, believing them to be incompatible with sound theology.[59]:156-158 Willson's concern for sound doctrine, coupled with his concern for "negroes," would have made ministering as he as he was able in that congregation quite natural. Undoubtedly, this experience would color Willson's work fighting negro slavery which would, in the future, intensify.

Advancing the cause of theological education[edit]

On September 26, 1815, at a meeting of the Board of Trustees, including Dr. John McMillan, Jefferson College conferred on "Rev. James Wilson, of Philadelphia," the degree of A.M.[14]:93 His achievements were given academic weight by his alma mater. It became affixed to his name until supplanted by a weightier honorific.[55]:11

On March 16, 1816, Willson sent a letter from Philadelphia to John Mitchell Mason, an eminent divine of the Associate Reformed Church. In 1804, Mason had been instrumental in establishing the first theological seminary in America (later absorbed by Union Theological Seminary), in New York City.[60]:859 Willson commended the elder minister's enterprise:

The year that your Theological Seminary opened was a new era in the history of the American churches. I do not mean to flatter you, or any man. I know not to give flattering titles. But truth is truth. God made you an instrument in planting a tree which has yielded wholesome fruit among us. You set the example which others have followed.[61]:238

Sometime in 1815 or 1816, the Religious Historical Society was formed, for the purpose of "collecting and preserving historical documents, particularly those of an ecclesiastical nature." The desire was to transmit data, "systematically arranged, to future generations."[62]:3 At their second annual meeting, May 12, 1817, Willson was elected "Librarian." He would only hold this position for a few months. He "resigned his office, in consequence of a removal from the city."[62]:19 This Society only existed for a few years; its place was soon supplied by denominational societies of like purpose.[63]:127-128

Literary accomplishments in Philadelphia[edit]

In 1815, while residing in Philadelphia, Willson was approached and "offered the post of chief editor of a daily paper, to be established by leading parties in that city."[6]:298 However due to his strong and unwavering convictions, he was forced to decline the offer. "The negotiations were broken off on the question of how it should be conducted with strict regard to truth."[6]:298 Willson was himself a party man, but he wanted to remain in the party of truth. Though his editorial aspirations might have been thwarted for the moment, his research and writing was not.

Willson's years in Philadelphia gave him access to many fine libraries of theological interest. And he availed himself of the opportunities. He spent his time compiling materials relating to the doctrine of the atonement of Christ.[59] That would form the substance of his most extended theological production. It is his magnum opus.

Willson on the atonement[edit]

During the second decade of the 19th century, a theological debate was being waged with increasing contention. The debate was between those who considered themselves orthodox Calvinists, holding to the doctrine of a definite atonement and penal substitution, and those developing the system of Samuel Hopkins, the so-called "Hopkinsians." New York City was the center of the controversy, with Ezra Stiles Ely leading the orthodox party.[64] On the other side was Gardiner Spring and an increasing number of New England candidates tainted with the "Hopkinsian" errors. The Rev. Samuel Whelpley promoted their cause through a series of "Triangle" papers, letters published containing strictures on the self-proclaimed orthodox party.[65] The Reformed Presbyterian Church had entered the theological fray as early as 1803, when Rev. William Gibson[66] took up one of the points at issue. It continued, as the decade progressed, through the writings of Alexander McLeod[59]:169[23]:94-95[67] and Gilbert McMaster.[59]:195[68] With this in mind, Willson penned his view of the atonement.

Willson's book on the atonement is divided into two parts, with a brief appendix. The first part is a tour de force walk through the history of the church chronicling the views and heresies that were held regarding the doctrine since the close of the New Testament.[59]:1-215 The second part contains Willson's own translation of portions of Francis Turretin's Elenctic Theology, pertaining to the doctrine of the atonement.[59]:219-343 The last few pages are devoted to stray remarks and filling in missing information deemed of use.[59]:345-351 In the course of the book, Willson displays his vast knowledge of history, linguistics and theology. For any doubters that remained, this work would make clear, Willson was a first rate scholar.

Introductory matters[edit]

The book is dedicated to Willson's theological mentor, Alexander McLeod, and expresses the author's indebtedness to his teacher. He also records his high esteem of McLeod's published works. It is dated May 6th, 1817.[59]:iii Willson's book is intended to be a reflection of the deposit of truth he has received from McLeod written in defense of that once delivered faith.

In his Preface, Willson notes the "general agitation of the church" due to the false views of the atonement in vogue.[59]:v This is rooted in the Hopkinsian controversy which, as Willson will unfold, is the current manifestation of older errors and heresies. Willson explains why he sees the need to "speak out with boldness and candor." He says he would prefer a method of gentleness dealing with "errorists." However, he doesnot believe this method would best serve the interests of truth.[59]:v Willson will not allow truth to be crucified in the house of its friends on his watch. So, he has proceeded with another policy in this matter. "We should know men as well as doctrines, and under this conviction, he [the author; i.e., Willson] has not spared to mention names and churches freely." Willson was not cover for those who had left off orthodoxy in this controversy. He continues, "Those who are advancing require gentleness. Those who are departing from the truth merit even severity."[59]:v This is the resolve that characterizes Willson's life. He then disavows "knowingly" withholding, "through fear or favour, any important fact."[59]:v Willson would deal honestly with his oppenents, but not gently.

The doctrine of atonement in the early church[edit]

Willson begins his discussion of the history of the atonement with the Bible. He notes that the Jews, "[l]abouring under such a blind attachment to the senseless commands of an ignorant and hypocritical priesthood," had lost a true sense of the meaning of the sacrifices and their significance.[59]:2 From this, they had developed many erroneous notions concerning good works. It was for this reason, apostle Paul wrote his epistles to the Hebrews and to Rome [i.e., Romans], to correct the Jewish errors.[59]:3 Errors with respect to atonement and good works were at the center of the controversy with the Judaizers in the New Testament.

As Willson passes into the first Christian centuries, he is aware of the limitations he faces in discerning their views on the atonement. "[T]here are many articles of the christian religion, which the early fathers have scarcely touched upon in any of their works."[59]:5 This is likely, because "when any article of their creed, was not assailed, a full display of their views on that article is not to be expected."[59]:5 In other words, lack of discussion of the atonement, means to Willson, there was no reason to spend precious pen and ink to defend what was not under attack.

Willson begins with a consideration of Justin Martyr. Martyr expresses himself plainly in favor of the idea of atonement. He "clearly asserts the curse due to sinners was laid upon Christ."[59]:6 As to the extent of the atonement, Willson considers his "mode of stating" his view, along with other of the fathers, "obscure." They speak, on the one hand, about the expiation of sin throught Christ's shed blood as actually saving sinners; yet, on the other hand, they speak of Christ taking "upon himself the curse of the whole human family."[59]:6 So, in order to reconcile the fathers with themselves, Willson understands them to mean, "that had God destined the death of Christ for the salvation of every individual of the human family, its value was adequate to such an extensive object; but that however valuable the atonement of Christ may be, yet the elect only will be saved by it, as God has limited its efficiency to them."[59]:6 Whatever the case, the fathers held views far different from his modern opponents.

Next, Willson enlists the witness of Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian. Tertullian was possessed of "warm, and vigorous imagination" which led him astray in many areas. Yet, he did "meddle with" the doctrine of the atonement.[59]:7 Likewise, Origen "with all his great fondness for innovation" dared not subject this doctrine to his fancies.[59]:8 Indeed, Cyprian, who "was crowned with martyrdom" makes several statements clearly in favor of atonement.[59]:9 Willson concludes, "the doctrine of the atonement was not called in question, during three hundred years from the birth of Christ."[59]:9 Add to this Eusebius, who "gives, without any equivocation his suffrage in favour of this scriptural doctrine of atonement." Eusebius was a great historian of the church and his approbation demonstrates no awareness of any contrary views.[59]:9-10 Thus the state of the church continued until the days of Constantine.

Constantine was both a blessing and a curse for the church. Through him, as an "instrument in the hand of providence," Christianity was introduced "to the throne of the Caesars." However, he was "more ambitious of his own glory," than the glory of God and His truth. Thus, he introduced a model of "the government of the church after the forms of civil order in the empire."[59]:11 This, for Willson, was to be deplored. Constantine had, inadvertantly, introduced many of the forms that would be used by those churches that utilize an episcopal structure. Willson was strongly Presbyterian and saw no good flowing from this.

During this time, the doctrine was first called into question. The "foundation was laid for its entire rejection" by "a sect who called themselves christians."[59]:11 Willson understood that heresy would not gain half its success without hiding under the name and title of "Christianity." There had been numerous heresies concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, but under the Arian system "[t]he rejection of Messiah's atonement, was necessarily a part" of their tenets.[59]:12 To combat this, there was an ecumenical council called, by Constantine, in 325 A.D., to meet in Nicaea. There the Arian heresy was condemned and Arius himself banished.[59]:12 The object of the council was to draw a clear and decisive line "between the heretical and the orthodox." To this end, they formed a creed which "[e]very minister of religion was ordered, under pain of the church's highest censure, to sign."[59]:13 The result was not what had been hoped by the orthodox. Arianism was not rooted out. Willson does not fault the creedal subscription, but the lack of honesty of those who subscribed. "Errorists and heretics were generally as pliable in that age as they have been since. Many signed the creed, but did not renounce the heresy."[59]:13 In time, Arius was recalled from exile and his opinions were adopted by Constantine.[59]:13 The "adoption of is heresies by that prince, greatly hastened the corruption of the church, in relation to her worship, discipline and government."[59]:14 Willson sees the possibility for great good in a magistrate exercised on behalf of the godly; but, an ungodly and heretical magistrate will likely do more harm than a godly magistrate does good. This decline "paved the way, and accelerated the approach of the 'man of sin'," the Anti-christ, who appeared "in all his ghastly honours in the year 606."[59]:14 Arianism was the first step of the empire in its plunge toward Antichristian darkness, which, according to Willson, would remain ascendant until the Reformation.

The doctrine of atonement prior to the Reformation[edit]

Before discussing the Reformation, Willson describes the darkness that enveloped the church. Yet, even at its nadir, there remained witnesses for the truth, including the atonement of Christ. Among these he makes mention of those who dwelt in "the valleys of the Alps."[59]:15 These people would, at a later date, be called Waldenses. Willson admits, "The history of this excellent people is little known. They were not numbered among the nations."[59]:15 Nonetheless, we do know they were sound "on the doctrine of the atonement and other capital articles of the christian system."[59]:15 For this, they faced persecution from the Roman Catholic Church, under Innocent III. Since they were not warriors, they scattered "into all the kingdoms of Europe."[59]:15 They gathered in great numbers in Bohemia and became know as "Bohemian brethren." Though persecuted, they resisted to the shedding of blood. Amongst these brethren were counted John Hus and Jerome of Prague.[59]:16 These, as worthies, were "distinguished advocates for the truth." However, their apologies were answered by fire. They were burned alive "and died martyrs to the truth of the atonement."[59]:16 The lesson for Willson is clear, no matter the cost or consequence, the truth must be defended to the last breath.

The doctrine of the atonement during the Reformation[edit]

In connection with the Reformation, Willson first mentions Zwingli. At the beginning of the 16th century, he began to make "enquiries with freedom and boldness." In do doing, he discovered the corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church. He dared to call into "question the power of the catholic priests to forgive sin, and maintained that our iniquities are pardoned only in consequence of the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus."[59]:18 The Reformation, in Switzerland, was begun with a rediscovery of the nature of Christ's atonement.

In Germany, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, was developing similar convictions. His study of the Bible was facilitated by his classical education, which allowed him to read the New Testament in Greek.[59]:18 Luther's view "on the manner of a sinner's justification befroe God seem not to have been very distinct." He commenced to examine the Bible with a view to gaining clarity on the matter. As he did, the doctrine of the atonement became "the pivot upon which the reformation turned."[59]:19 "His doctrines were eagerly embraced by thousands," and the Reformation gained momentum. Luther, the reformer, "not only preached, but also published his opinions through the medium of the press."[59]:19 Here was a means to effect greater reform; a means both cheap and effective. The result was that Charles V was stirred up by the papacy to bear down on the Reformation. Yet, Willson remarks, Christ, who finished the atonement on the cross, "employed Solyman, the head of the Ottoman empire, Francis I. of France, and Henry VIII. of England, to engage the atteentionof Charles V. until" the Reformation had advance beyond his ability to destroy it.[59]:20 In the face of such dire opposition, the German Protestants had, "with many princes," "bound themselves by a solemn covenant, to adhere to the truth at every hazard."[59]:20 The Lutheran reformation had strengthened itself by covenanting.

At this point in his narrative, Willson introduces an extract from Luther's catechism which he translated himself from the original German. And though it is not clear on the extent of the atonement, it demonstrates that Luther held to the doctrines central to the nature of the atonement itself. "It teaches with great perspicuity, the doctrine of substitution."[59]:21 From other writings, Willson clears the question of the extent of the atonement. Luther "limited the atonement to those who are saved." He did not teach a general and undefined atonement although many Lutherans diverge from this view.[59]:22 Willson believed that "[t]hose who turned aside from the truths of christianity, and have wandered into the paths of error and heresy, have generally begun their divergency at the point of definite atonement."[59]:22 For Willson, once you entertain imprecision as a legitimate feature of your theological thought, you have already departed from the faith and started to wander.

Next, Willson discusses the Reformation amongst the Swiss in more detail. Specifically, he begins with Calvin, a man prepared for reform by a classical education, too. "At a very early period he was initiated into the study of the Greek and Roman classics."[59]:23 John Calvin was a man whose "boldness and firmness" of character would not "permit him to remain a silent spectator" in the great contest to reform the church.[59]:23 To that end, he published his Institutes of the Christian Religion, to facilitate the advance of the Reformation.[59]:23-24 Calvin clearly taught a definite atonement and his work was published int various translations and sent throughout Europe.[59]:24 Here, Willson mentions the great indebtedness of Calvin to Augustine. For substance, they taught the same thing regarding grace and the atonement.[59]:25

After publishing, Calvin found he was in much demand. During this period of itinerating, he passed through Geneva, where he was pressed by Farel to join him.[59]:25 Calvin relented, after much entreaty, and moved to the city. "[I]n 1536, the year after his arrival," through his "influence and instruction," "the people of Geneva entered into a solemn covenant with God and one another, to abjure the errors of popery, and to adhere firmly to the doctrines contained in a confession of faith which contained the substance of the truths relative to the atonement, and the various other truths taught in Calvin's Institutes."[59]:25-26 Calvin had joined covenanting to creedal subscription and enjoined it upon the entire city. Furthermore, Calvin and Farel "refused to administer the sacraments to people of immoral character."[59]:26 These reformers were going to use the authority of the church to enforce the reformation of the people. This led, at first, to their expulsion from the city, but they were soon recalled. From Geneva, Calvin's influence spread into all Europe. His theological views and his views of government, in both church and state, were disseminated. Calvin's Presbyterian form of government in the church "presented a model of simplicity" and it spread.[59]:26-27

After commending Calvin's learning and character,[59]:27 Willson raises the spectre of Servetus.[59]:28 Willson finds it astonishing that charges against Calvin's character would be raised by the Socinian party or members of the Church of England. After all, "their skirts are not clean." The "orthodox suffered under the Arian emperors."[59]:28 As for the Church of England, if they thought it justifiable to put "to death the dissenters [i.e., Covenanters], for declaiming against an earthly government," how can they "condemn the senate of Geneva" for "putting to death a man who attacked the king of kings?"[59]:29 After all, the senate of Geneva was "a body as respectable both for talents and integrity, as any in Europe of its extent." They thought Servetus "merited civil pains."[59]:28 As Willson relates, "It was a maxim universal among Christians at that time, that as God once gave commandment to punish gross blasphemers, and as they could not discover that he had ever repealed the law, it was still in force, and magistrates were bound to execute it, at their peril."[59]:29 In other words, they had not yet learned the "satanic" concept of "authoritative toleration."[29]: Besides, Willson points out, Calvin "was not pleased with the severity of the sentence" and "wished a milder form of death" than burning. His only part in the Servetus affair was to furnish testimony for the trial.[59]:29

Beza, Calvin's colleague, has also received a classical education.[59]:29 This prepared him to assist in the work of reform, especially teaching. In political matters, Beza excelled. "When the protestant cause was to be defended before kings," it fell to him.[59]:30 He had a great "opportunity of diffusing extensively among the French nobility, correct views of the doctrine of the atonement, and the nature of Messiah's mediatorial character."[59]:31 In Beza, Willson found an example of ministers instructing kings in their duties.

Nonetheless, trouble was afoot. Beza had a student named Arminius. Arminius, while in Geneva had "offended some members of the academy, by embracing and teaching the philosophy of Ramus."[59]:31 Ramist methodology, although used by many notable Reformed theologians, was not without controversy.[69]:217 In the case of Arminius, it confirmed a suspicion held by Beza. Arminius was plagued by "the subtilty of genius;" he was given to entertain theological speculations. Beza gave his student the same advice he had received from Calvin, "in relation" to the "character of his mind." Beza warned,"Do not engage yourself in vain subtilties, and if sometimes certain new thoughts arise in your mind, approve them not, without having first sounded them to the bottom, how pleasing soever they may appear at first sight."[59]:31 Initially, this seemed to restraint Arminius, but later, after his return to Holland, he was asked to write a response to "a book which had appeared against Beza on Predestination." In pursuing that end, Arminius was swayed by the subtilties of the author's arguments and embraced a more refined Pelagianism, a system which bears his own name Arminianism.[59]:32 Such are the dangers, Willson sees in entertaining and countenancing speculativve theological opinions. In embracing these views, Arminius had returned to the creed of the Roman Catholic Church. "The great body of the popish clergy had long held doctrines, not substantially different from those of Arminius."[59]:33 The spread of Arminian thought set the stage for controversy in church and state.

The doctrines of the Reformation had taken "deep root" in Holland, the United Provinces. Calvinistic teaching was held in high esteeem. The "theological seminary in Leyden, was in a highly respectable state, and had embraced fully the creed of the Genevan school. The state government was protestant."[59]:33 Into this state, Arminius sought to introduce his teachings. And this was the beginning of trouble. As Willson explains, "In countries where the christian religion is professed," "civil liberty, and the rights of men" radiate "from the doctrine of the atonement as from a common centre." "Banish the doctrine of the atonement with the truths which flow from it, and you pave the way either for anarchy or despotism."[59]:33 Indeed, Willson asserted, "The whole of the civil rights of men," which he saw at risk in Holland, "are no more than the branches of the system of grace, which God has revealed to man."[59]:33 For Willson, God had joined the "civil rights of man" to a correct understanding of "the doctrine of the atonement." Without the latter, the former will quickly disappear. "Hence when violent controversies on points of faith are agitatated, civil commotions are generally excited."[59]:33 And that, Willson points out, is exactly what happened when Arminius began to publish abroad his opinions.

The Arminian controversy and the Synod of Dort[edit]

With the rise of Arminianism, Holland experienced increasingly contentious conflicts which disturbed the peace of church and state. To end the controversy, "the head of the government resolved to convene a synod of delegates," from the United Provinces and the Reformed churches "from all the protestant countries in Europe." They were called to meet in Dort, in November, 1618.[59]:33 The result of the meeting was the condemantion of Arminius and his teachings. They took up the Arminian points one by one and responded to each. As Willson noted, there had never "been so general an expression of the opinions of the protestant churches on the doctrine of the atonement since the commencement of the reformation."[59]:37 But, because the doctrines of Arminianism are "too well adapted to flatter human depravity," in time, "[n]early all protestant churches were more or less affected by them."[59]:37 Clearly, condemnation does not guarantee eradication of error. Error, because it appeals to the man's depraved nature, works effectually on the sinful affections of the unregenerate element within the church. In this diseased atmosphere, Willson saw, in the truth, a strong disinfectant. But, apart from the blessing of God, even the best foundation can be destroyed by error and heresy.

The rise and fall of the French Reformed church together with an account of the rise of Amyraldianism[edit]

Willson takes, as his case in point, the French Reformed Church. In the dawning of the Reformation, Olivetan, Calvin's uncle, translates the Bible into the French language.[59]:37 Additionally, they were blessed to have the "psalms of David" translated into metre. "The use of the psalms in divine worship, instead of the light trash composed by mere men, which had before been chaunted [sic] by popish worshippers, must have had a happy effect in opening the eyes of many to the true way of salvation."[59]:38 The French Reformed were able to read the Scriptures and praise God in their own language, unlike their Roman Catholic neighbors. So rapid was the growth of Protestantism in France, that "[t]en years after the arrival of Beza at Geneva, in 1559, the first general synod of the refomred church was held at Paris.[59]:38 In 1571, the French Reformed Church adopted a Confession of Faith that strongly upheld the Calvinistic views regarding "Original Sin," "it hath that mischievous power in it, to condemn all mankind, even infants that are unborn."[59]:39 It also reflected the views of its author, John Calvin, "of the atonement itself, and of the person [i.e., Christ] who made it."[59]:39 When this Confession was ratified, "it was made a term of communion, by unanimous consent and with the full approbation of the protestant princes of the kingdom."[59]:40 In short, the French Reformed were Calvinistic psalm-singers. And, to make the matter more pointed, they bound themselves to that position by an oath which made their Confession a "term of communion." Somehow, that great and gracious work was cast down.

Willson next seeks a cause of its downfall. He asserts, "From the bosom of the church itself proceeded its own ruin."[59]:41 It began with the entrance of "the worldly spirit" that promoted "a union of distinguished protestants with catholics." The approaches of the friends of Rome, "caused a relaxation among the friends of truth."[59]:41 The desire to unite began to eclipse regard for the truth. As the "zeal of the reformers was cooling," he laments, "error was creeping abroad among their churches, and finding its way into their theological schools."[59]:42 Men began to study peace apart from the purity of the church.

The first step in doctrinal departure was advanced by Johannes Piscator. He denied that the "active obedience" of Christ formed any "part of the sinner's justifying righteousness before God."[59]:42 Though acknowledging the "errors as of a dangerous nature," and also instructing "the subordinate synods to depose all their members who should embrace and obstinately maintain them," the Synod of the French church, in 1603, did not immediately depose Piscator.[59]:42 Instead, "they appointed two of their members" to respond. This set in motion a series a dialogue wherein Piscator "sent letters" which were "written in a very gentle and conciliatory style."[59]:42 Synod responded by reiterating "their disapprobation of his views, respecting the active obedience of Christ."[59]:43 However, they reserved their most severe rebuke for a minister, Felix Huguet, who "had written and published in Geneva an answer to Piscator's writings," because he had contravened the decree of the Synod that prohibited ministers from publishing "without the consent of the consistory or presbytery to which he belongs."[59]:43 The lukewarmness of the church was coming into focus. Undermine the truth of the atonement by erroneous teachings and you receive the "disapprobation" of your peers, but if you publish against that error "without consent," you incur "grievous censure."[59]:43 Willson notes that "[a]ccommodation was becoming the fashion of the times."[59]:43 Through a series of missteps, the French Synod continued to allow Piscator to escape due censure or even critical public review of his teachings through publishing, until 1617. By then, it was too late, "the evil had then become too extensive, and too deeply rooted, to be affected" by the published critique.[59]:45 So the error took root and began to grow because of the hesitation to defend the truth.

Around this time, the Synod of Dort was being called. The French Reformed were invited to attend and be seated. However, the political climate in France had chilled and the deputies were prohibited by the king, Louis XIII, from attending.[59]:45 This did not keep the church form acting on the decisions reached at Dort. In 1620, the French Reformed Church "not only expressed its entire approbation of the decrees of that body of ullustrious divines, but adopted them in the most unequivocal manner; and every member bound himself by solemn oath, to support them to the utmost of his power."[59]:45 Thus, the Canons of Dort were made, by covenanting, "a term of ecclesiastical communion, and the candidates for the ministry, the principals and professors of the universities and theological schools, and all the elders of the church, were ordered to express on oath their approbation of them."[59]:45 However, creeds, confessions and subscribing by oath are only effectual upon men of honest demeanor. When men allow themselves to hide behind mental reservations and speculative theology there is no end to the confusion wrought. "All these measures," as Willson relates, "were not sufficient to guard the Church, against inroads from the Arminian errors, which like noxious effluvia spread their sickening influence over all the Reformed Churches in Europe."[59]:46 There arrived, in 1618, John Cameron, a Scottish theologian tainted with views approximating Arminianism on several points. He was appointed to "the Theological chair" (i.e., given a teaching position) at the Academy of Saumur.[59]:46 Here Cameron taught many of the next generation of ministers for the French Reformed Church, including a student named Moses Amyraut. Amyraut adopted the "semi-arminian views of his teacher." And, he went on, in 1633, to be "inaugurated into the professorship of theology, in the college," at Saumar.[59]:47 As professor, "[h]e taught boldly that Christ had died equally for all men, that from eternity God willed the salvation of the whole human race, under condition of faith; but had, at the same time, decreed that he would bestow faith upon those only who should be saved."[59]:47 These views were called Amyraldianism, and their popularity grew. In this manner, the doctrines of Arminius began to overspread the French church and destroy its orthodoxy regarding the atonement.

The leaven of Amyraut spreads and the rise of Socinianism[edit]

Amyraut's intentions, after his elevation to the professorship at the Academy of Saumur, was soon viewed with great suspicion. Merely one year after his inauguration, "we find Amyraut dining with the archbishop of Chartres, a person high in the friendship and confidence of the minister, cardinal Richlieu."[59]:48 A discussion ensued regarding religion, in which the Protestants were charged with "teaching harsh things on the subject of predestination." Amyraut, who was "inclined to soften some of those features of the Calvinistic system," demurred. While not accepting all of the criticism, Amyraut did "express some doubts of Calvin's views relative to the divine decrees, the extent of the atonement, &c."[59]:49 Furthermore, after endeavoring to remove the Roman Catholic bishop's scruples, he "promised to write a book, containing such views as he had exhibited on that day."[59]:49 In 1634, his book, Brief traité de la predestination avec l'Eschantillon de la doctrine de Calvin sur le mesme suiet ; et La response a M. de la Grace et autres questions de theologie, appeared, in which he set forth his views. As Willson notes, the "book set the whole protestant Church of France on flame."[59]:49 Soon after the contest began. Pierre Du Moulin brought a charge against Amyraut "of violating the decrees of the synod of Dort."[59]:49

As the controversy deepened, Amyraut, who "possessed very great popularity" that even "the ruling powers were friendly to him," was "enjoined by the synod not to disturb the repose of the church, with his novel opinions."[59]:50 However, "to preserve the peace of the church," those who opposed Amyraut "were ordered not to write against him."[59]:50 The plan adopted during the controversy with Piscator was again enjoined. Willson wryly comments, "A strange injunction truly, prohibiting the ministers of the church from defending the doctrines embodied in their standard, which they were all sworn to maintain!"[59]:50 Again, the cause of truth was being suppressed by the moderate party among the orthodox.

Amyraut, for his part, continued to manifest his bad theology. He "preached with great vehemence the doctrine of passive obedience; the divine right of kings; and non-resistance."[59]:53 As Willson observed, doctrinal decline precipitated practical decline. Those who were yet orthodox made "practical errors" in relaxing "discipline and a spirit of accommodation."[59]:53 The result, for Willson, was not surprising. Synods, from that time, complain in their minutes, that "the churches were no well attended, that they were leaving off the custom of carrying their psalm books to places of public worship, that horse racing, gambling, intemperance, theatrical exhibitions and various other vices, were become common, to a most alarming degree."[59]:56 The vital truth of the atonement being carried away by heresy, the moral fiber of the people followed. In the place of church attendance, were attendance at the races and the theatre; displacing psalm singing, were scenes of gambling, drunkness and lewdness. As Willson understood it, where vital religion is strong, these others have no place.

In 1685, as Willson notes, "fifty-one years after the commencement of Amyraut's public career," the Edict of Nantes was "finally and completely revoked." This led to unprecedented and ruthless persecution of the Protestants in France. For Willson, "these were doubtless, the judgments of God upon a church, for a dereliction of truth and duty."[59]:57 What began as a debate concerning the extent of the efficacy of the blood of Christ had become a bloodbath which soaked a comprised church.

During this period, another challenge began to arise for the church. In 1547, Laelius Socinus, an Italian humanist, was forced to flee his home in Siena, Tuscany because of his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.[59]:60 He settled in Switzerland, where he "embrace the Helvetic confession of faith, by a public profession."[59]:60 This profession continued throughout his life. However, upon his death, in 1562, "manuscripts,, which contained the heretical labours of the great part of his life, fell into the hands of his nephew, Fautus Socinus."[59]:60 The writings were replete with with heresies undermining the doctrine of the atonement, including teh denial of the divinity of Christ. Fautus Socinus "settled permanently at Racow in Poland, which became the centre of his operations."[59]:61 Under his influence, "a great many of the nobility soon became Socinians."[59]:61 This marked the rise of modern Unitarianism. Willson saw the subsequent troubles of Poland as a result of their avid embrace of these heresies. "Never were the divine judgments more visibly inflicted upon the Israelitish empire, for its idolatries, than they have been upon Poland for her heresies." For their horrid blasphemies against the "divinity of Messiah and the character of God," Willson asserts, "Jesus Christ, who rules the nations, has permitted the surrounding monarchies to rend in pieces this kingdom, that attempted to pluck the crown from his head."[59]:61 As Socinianism spread, large portions of the "protestant clergy in Prussia and Germany" were affected, becoming both Socinian and Deist.[59]:62

The Genevan school and Turretin[edit]

In the face of the rising tide of heresy, Willson reveals that one place in Europe yet remained unchanged. "While error was spreading in Holland, by Arminius and his disciples; in France, from the Saumar; and heresy from Racow, in Poland, the school of Geneva for a great many years preserved its attachment to the system of the reformers, without the least deviation."[59]:63 Among the successor of Calvin and Beza was Francis Turretin. Turretin was professor of theology in Geneva, and pastor there as well. He thrived during the period leading up to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685. Of him, Willson states, his "various erudition, great industry, zeal for the truth, and ability to support it, by scripture and reason," was never "excelled by any of the distinguished divines who were in that seminary, not even by Calvin himself."[59]:63 It was Turretin who would write "a very complete vindication of the doctrines of grace, against all the most prominent errors that have plagued the church."[59]:63 His writings contain the antidote to the theological poisons being distilled in his time. This is why Willson wanted to publish his translation of Turretin, because no better defense against attacks on the atonement could be found.

Willson goes on to commend the high degree of learning amongst the people of Geneva. "Even the peasantry and servants spoke Latin with very consdierable propriety."[59]:65 As Willson explains, "Sound literature and correct theological views, in Christian countries generally go hand in hand. One may and often does flourish, where the other languishes for some time. But sound theology usually elevates the literary character of the people, while heresy, by introducing immorality and a heglect of the Holy Scriptures, scarcely ever fails in the end, to degrade literature."[59]:65 Thus, for Willson, "the great part of European literary men," in his time, he considered "mere smatterers" compared with the theological giants of the past.[59]:65 Classical learning is important, but it is the handmaiden to sound doctrine, which is the necessary element to elevate the character of a nation.

A note on the views of the "Russian Greek" church[edit]

Willson, briefly, notes the state of the "Russian Greek church," which he understands to be explicit in its belief in the divinity of Christ and the necessity of the atonement.[59]:66 This information, he derived from a reference to a book by Platon, Metropolitan of Moscow, entitled, The Present State of the Greek Church in Russia.[70] Willson says this book came to him with the high recommendation of "Mr. Daschkoff the Russian ambassador," who assured Willson that it represented the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[59]:66 Willson saw a potential ally in the "Russian Greek church" in the struggle to uphold the doctrine of the atonement.

Willson knew Andre de Daschkoff, the first Russian ambassador to the United States, because the ambassador's son had attended Willson's school, while Daschkoff was consul-general in Philadelphia.[32]:19 As ambassador, Daschkoff had had offered Russian mediation, which proved unsuccessful, during the War of 1812.[71]:467 Willson and Daschkoff had conversed often, during this period, on matters concerning religion.[72]:297

The doctrine of the atonement in Britain from the middle ages to the Reformation[edit]

Having surveyed the question of the atonement from the earliest days of Christianity through the Reformation, Willson next turns to the English speaking world. He begins with Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury. Willson sees in the writings of Anselm a clear teaching regarding the doctrine of the atonement, including its definite extent, reaching "all who shall be saved" and none others.[59]:67 There was also the figure of "John Wickliff," who as early as 1360 had defended the doctrine of the atonement as well as many of the doctrines which would be assocaited with the Reformation a century and a half later.[59]:67 Willson sees the truth, though obscured at times, yet carried on with occasional flashes through history. It is this truth which fuels every period of revival and reform in the history of the church.

The rise of the Reformation in Scotland[edit]

In Scotland, in the sixteenth century, none could compare to John Knox. Willson believes that the next to Martin Luther and {John Calvin]], Knox was the most effective instrument of reform "in the hand of Providence."[59]:68 Thus, with the aforementioned Reformers, Knox "has been the most distinguished mark for the shafts of ridicule and calumny, by infidels, heretics, and other ungodly men."[59]:68 Clearly, Willson did not expect warm congratulations for his work from those who opposed the truth.

Knox had the benefit, like so many of the Reformers, of a classical education.[59]:68 In reading the wriitngs of the early fathers, he began to perceive "that the doctrines of religion had been entirely corrupted, by the catholic clergy." A short time before, Patrick Hamilton had begun to preach the truths of the gospel, having "gone to Germany, induced by the fame of Luther, and returned to Scotland to expose the corruptions of the church."[59]:69 In 1528, he was martyred. While Knox was seeking the truth, he met George Wishart, "a very devout man," who "had embraced the protestant religion, and was of great use in giving Knox correct views of the system of grace."[59]:69 In 1549, Wishart was martyred, and sometime afterward, around 1549, Knox went to Geneva, where he heard Calvin and "fully embraced" the views taught there.[59]:69 His return to his country, where he preached these doctrines with vigor, set all society in foment. The truth, as Willson taught, brought believers into conflict with the unbelieving world. The whole nation was convulsed as "the effect of the gospel was, in this case, what Christ predicted it should be, to set a man against his father, the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law, &c. But all hastened the progress of the light."[59]:70 For the Reformation, things in Scotland were looking brighter and brighter.

The rise of the Reformation in England[edit]

In England, under Henry VIII., things were also moving in a reforming direction in the church. Henry VIII. had wanted to marry Catherine of Aragon, sister of the emperor Charles V. Before her marriage to Henry VIII., Catherine had been contracted to his brother, Arthur. The marriage contract was never consummated due to Arthur's death at the age of 15. Nonetheless, this contract "afforded" Henry "a pretext, when he formed an attachment to Ann Bolyn [sic], to seek a divorce from her."[59]:70 All of Christendom agreed, at that time, "that a man could not legally marry his brother's wife."[59]:70 Though the marriage had never been consummated, against the opinion of the Pope (who feared to offend the emperor), Henry's archbishop Cranmer (who had been, previous to his elevation, chaplain to the Boleyn family) decreed the laws of affinity deemed it an incestuous cohabitation.[59]:70 Henry was free to marry Anne Boleyn. This rift separated the British empire from the "see of Rome."[59]:70 The Reformation would benefit from this action of the king.

Willson saw in Cranmer, a man "though in some things defective," yet "a very learned and pious divine."[59]:71 He "patronised the cause of letters" and "made a translation of the scriptures into the English language."[59]:71 This allowed, as Willson explained it, "the common people" to come to a knowledge of "the doctrine of the atonement." For,"[h]owever heretics may wrest the scriptures, and by subtilty of argument bewilder themselves, and those who are fond of their curious and sophistical speculations, the common people always derive from them the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ."[59]:71 Those who are possessed of a sincere faith and unimpeded by error and heresy, according to Willson, will come to a knowledge of the truth through the Scriptures.

Cranmer "also applied himself to the formation of a confession of faith for the English church." He framed the famed Thirty-Nine Articles which enshrined Calvinistic views of grace at the center of the Anglican church's creed.[59]:71-72 Additionally, Cranmer, after the death of Henry VIII., in 1547, "exerted himself with very great vigour in promoting the cause of reformation."[59]:72 He brought many Reformed divines from "the Continent" to teach at Oxford and aid in the reform.[59]:72 Those who came included, "Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer, Paul Fagius and Emanuel Tremellius."[59]:72 With these men, the Reformation was advanced.

In Scotland, the Reformation made advances unheard of elsewhere. "We have a whole nation both in its civil and ecclesiastical capacity, professing a belief in the atonement of Christ," and modelling it in church and state.[59]:84 In England, where the monarchy was "not held in check by the nobility," the case was far different.[59]:84 The "popish errors" retained by the Anglican church, lessened the appreciation for many, in both church and state, for the cause of true liberty. The party which fully embraced the "Genevan" creed was called by the name of Puritans. They contended for Presbyterianism in matters of church government and "liberties of the subject, in opposition to the despotic power of the crown."[59]:85 This controversy aroused the popular imagination of the people and Parliament, in response, called for reform in the church. Again, Willson sees truth as an engine for moving whole nations.

The era of the Westminster Assembly[edit]

In 1643, the Westminster Assembly was called, and William Twisse was appointed by the Parliament as moderator. The influence of Cranmer on state of learning had borne fruit. The revival of classical learning had produced a generation of very able divines.[59]:85 This Assembly produced the Westminster Confession, a confession which was decidedly Calvinistic, especially in the matter of the atonement.[59]:86 After reciting at length the portions of the confession devoted to the atonement, Willson marvels at the wisdom of God with respect to theological error and controversy. "God has probably intended, by permitting men to introduce errors into the church, that the refutation of them should impart new light to the minds of men, in relation to the truths of his gospel."[59]:89 The Westminster Assembly produced one of the most mature reflections on the doctrine of the atonement ever penned. But, Willson saw its influence in greater terms yet.

According to Willson, the "intention of the distinguished men who formed the Westminster confession, together with a complete system of ecclesiastical order," was "to give to the whole as much permanencey as possible." This they resolved to do by binding "themselves and the whole nation by a solemn national and church covenant to maintain the truths exhibited in the standards which they had formed."[59]:90 This was reformation of church and state pledged to be upheld by taking of an oath. Willson sees in this, the nation acting according to the commandment of God held out in the approved example of Israel, which, after a period of backsliding or apostasy, covenanted upon a return to God and duty. Covenanting was done "in order to confirm the reformation, and increase their confidence in each other's sincerity," in standing to their prescribed duty.[59]:91 This course of action, England had adopted following the earlier example held forth by Scotland. As Willson notes, "This instrument is known by the name of the National Covenant of Soctland. It was subscribed by the king [1580], and again renewed and solemnly approved in the years, 1638, and 1640."[59]:91 Willson commends the British nation for following that example and bowing "before the throne of Emmanuel," when "the divines of the assembly of Westminster, both houses of Parliament, and the assembly of the church of Scotland, subscribed this covenant, in 1643."[59]:91 He traces these "good effects" to "the instrumentality of the indefatigable Calvin."[59]:92 Willson characterized this "Second Reformation" experienced by Britain as the logical and spiritual fruit of John Calvin. However, the light was about to dim.

The restoration and theological decline[edit]

Shortly after the Westminster Assembly finished its work, the English Civil War concluded. The war had brought Charles I. to the executioner's block and king and kingdom were summarily decapitated. Into this void rode Oliver Cromwell. "During the government of Cromwell, the Independents, who reject episcopal and presbyterial government, and consider all ecclesiastical power to be vested in the hands of the minister and his congregation, prevailed in England."[59]:93 This was a period of "authoritative toleration" wherein the "Socinians, the Arians, the Pelagians, and the Arminians," were allowed to flourish. Against these, Willson, notes one towering figure amongst the Independent theologians, John Owen.[59]:93

Owen "was a man of extraordinary learning, and industry, vast conceptions, profound knowledge of the Christian system, and fervent piety."[59]:93 In other words, he was a man Willson could aspire to be, except for his Independency. Owen possessed the "treaures of learning" unlocked through his classical education.[59]:94 Willson reflects, "[m]en in our day talk of the improved state of theology. But what are all modern divines compared with" men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Pierre Du Moulin, Hermann Witsius or John Owen.[59]:94-95 For Willson, the answer is clear, he lived in a deforming day and a time of theological degradation. And the decline had begun during the time of John Owen with the Restoration of Charles II.

The Restoration wrought havoc on the cause of reformation. "All that was done by these illustrious men in Britain was almost destroyed by Charles after his restoration."[59]:95 Charles, embraced Roman Catholicism and broke into a "merciless rage of persecution, abjuring all his solemn obligations," and proceeded to execute many of those responsible for bringing him back to the throne. The bloody onslaught was only brought to a merciful end by the "revolution which placed William and Mary on the throne of England."[59]:95 This preserved a Protestant Britain and averted additional bloodshed, but it did not prevent the "monstrous errors and heresies" that were to issue "from the bosom of the established church."[59]:95 The religious climate was cooling, where "[o]ffences were comparatively rare," during the preceding era, now moral corruption swelled.[59]:97 But worst of all, the heresy of Arminianism, which usually degenerated into Socinianism, had become "prevalent."[59]:97 For Willson, corruption in doctrine mirrors corruption in morals, and the descent into greater degenracy will follow, unless God's grace intervenes.

The rise of Wesley and Methodism[edit]

The first organized manifestation of Arminianism to issue forth from the "bosom of the established church" was the Methodists. Their preaching was addressed primarily "to the passions," the emotions, of the auditors.[59]:98 Willson concedes they were more lively and expressed themselves with "great enthusiasm," a clear departure from the "cold, moral harangues" favored by the "episcopal clergy."[59]:98 However, the Methodists "despised human learning" and placed greater emphasis on ignorant devotion and "a talent for declamation" than for sound doctrine.[59]:98 Their leader, John Wesley, though ""a man of strong passions, great zeal, indefatigable industry, and possessing much knowledge of human nature," was yet "without much learning, or solid powers of intellect."[59]:98 Clearly, for Willson, a case of the blind leading the blind. He is not astonished at the advances Methodism made. After all, Willson declares, "All men are as naturally Arminians as they are naturally depraved."[59]:98 Furthermore, although many Methodists went on the embrace the error of Christian perfection, they did not appear to be "progressing into Arianism, or Socinianism," per the normal course.[59]:99 This, Willson attributed to two factors. First, they had "few learned men, or writers who" were "able to pursue this train or reasoning." Second, "their attention" was "directed to mere practical exhortations, giving them little time to examine doctrines."[59]:99 In this case, Willson saw a benefit in ignorance and lack of concern for doctrine. If one is in danger of pursuing heresy, it is better to remain ignorant and uninformed; but, for the orthodox, learning and study of doctrine is of great use.

Joseph Priestley and the defence of Socinianism[edit]

Next, Willson addresses the rise of one of the apostles of modern Socinianism, Dr. Joseph Priestley. This man "was born of pious parents, who believed the doctrines of the Calvinistic system, and who, in his infancy, instructed him in them."[59]:101 Priestley, unlike Wesley, was a learned man. As he embraced theological speculation, "thinking on the doctrine of original sin, he found he could not repent of it," he slid into Arminianism, then Arianism, and, finally, into Deism.[59]:101-103 As he descended into heresy, he took upon himself to make apology for his new found beliefs. And, to Willson's horror, though not to be unexpected, Priestley began an assault on the Bible. He engaged in much criticism of the sacred text, asserting many things considered blasphemous to the devout. Indeed, he went so far as to describe "the account which Moses gives of the creation of the world," as "mere theory," to be compared to the fables of the ancient pagans writers of history.[59]:103 If this was not outrageous enough, "[h]e opened a school for the education of youth after he began to preach these heresies." Thankfully, "so good was the state of moral and Christian feeling in England, at that time, that he could not obtain pupils."[59]:103 This kind of proselytising concerned Willson, for, as he notices, when PriestleyPriestley failed his attempts in England, he "came to a resolution to emigrate to America."[59]:104 Willson would encounter the Socinian Doctor's views as they permeated the early American thinking, not only in the realm of religion, but also in politics.

The Quakers, George Fox and Robert Barclay[edit]

Willson gives short attention to the Quakers as another sect set against the doctrine of the atonement. George Fox, its founder, was "a shoemaker" and a "wild fanatic."[59]:104 At first, Willson says, they "had no system of principles." In fact, they "agreed only in the rejection of the doctrine of the atonement" and the "creed of Arminius."[59]:104-105 To this they "added the doctrine, that every man has a light within him from the spirit of God, by which he may be guided infallibly in the way of righteousness," and to this outrage they asserted "that this light is of more importance for the direction of human conduct, than the Holy Scriptures."[59]:105 They were, in Willson's accounting, nothing more than "mystical" "Pelagians and Arminians."[59]:105 At the first, they were "altogether illiterate, and recommended their heresies to illiterate men by their wild enthusiasm only."[59]:105 In other words, they were fanatics united only in passion for a bad cause.

To some degree, Willson acknowledged, this changed when Robert Barclay joined himself to this sect. Barclay was "a man of considerable learning." As such, he wrote a book entitled, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, which was an apologetical work for the Quakers.[59]:105 In it, besides defending standard Arminian fare, Barclay asserted "that heathens, as well as Christians, may be saved by the improvement of the light of nature."[59]:105 Willson sees in Quakerism nothing more than a gentil pathway to paganism.

There is nothing to recommend about the theology or fanatical faith. Willson sees little to worry him in the future from this sect. "[T]he days of quakerism are nearly numbered." They are "on the decline." Had not William Penn given "more reputation and permanency to this society," it might already have perished.[59]:107 He does cherish the hope "that their simplicity of language, dress, and manners," which appear to be the only things worthy of commendation or preservation, "will not die at the expiration of their sect."[59]:107 Willson clearly viewed modesty, in speech and dress, a thing of genuine moral value. As for their fanatical sect, Willson modestly admits, "[t]he episcopal church is not otherwise responsible" for their existence, other than goading, by their persecutions, these deluded people "to such madness."[59]:107

The peculiarities of Swedenborgianism[edit]

Nonetheless, the Episcopal Church has allowed another fanatical sect to fester in its bosom. The Swedenborgians, "so called from Emanuel Swedenburgh." Swedenborg, beside wide accomplishments in the sciences, "wrote very largely" on theological matters.[59]:107 In these writings, "[h]e denies the doctrines of divine decrees, of atonement, and a trinity of persons [in the Godhead]."[59]:107 Swedenborg advances views "respecting the trinity, while on some points it resembles the ancient Sabellian heresy, has also some features peculiar to itself."[59]:108 To this, he asserted, that Old Testament history is "a mystical or allegorical history of the ancient church" and "the external things there spoken of all correspond to spiritual things represented by them." Furthermore, "[h]is descriptions of heaven, are derived from Mahomet, or rather Mahomet's and Swedenburgh's heaven is derived from the Epicureans, from the elysia of the ancient heathens."[59]:108 Again, Willson sees nothing here but a perfect "Arminian creed" in "mystical dress."[59]:109 The heresies of this system have hatched from a denial of the doctrine of the atonement coupled with a desire to make "the great mysteries" of Christianity "visible and tangible."[59]:109

Matthew Henry and William Burkitt versus Adam Clarke[edit]

In opposition to these creeping errors, Willson notes, "the cause of true religion has not been altogether abandoned in the established church of England." He cites the examples of Matthew Henry and William Burkitt. These men had written extensive commentaries on the Bible that were both practical and Calvinistic.[59]:111 Willson demonstrates his awareness that God does not leave Himself with witness. Through publishing, this witness extends the antidote to Arminianism throughout the English speaking world. Together, their commentaries form a complete answer to the Arminian commentaries of Adam Clarke.[59]:111-112 The work of Clarke, was, with its continual attacks on Calvinism, a "work better calculated to gratify a vain curiosity, than to feed the soul of a Christian."[59]:112 Surely, Willson was not surprised, he understood Arminianism to be an unscriptural confusion of vain theological speculations, not an expression of genuine Christianity.

Dr. Magee on the atonement[edit]

In the face of so much opposition to the doctrine of the atonement, the work of Dr. William Magee deserved special mention. Willson perceived in the book a master of the doctrine who has encountered a "whole host of heretics," and, single-handedly, he "completely vanquished them."[59]:112 Though it does not touch on "the subject of the extent of the atonement," yet, it establishes a complete view of the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.[59]:113 Logically, Willson understands this to entail a definite or limited atonement.

The Baptists, Dr. Gill and Mr. Fuller[edit]

Willson concisely relates the rise of modern Baptists from the early German Anabaptists, who "were led by illiterate enthusiasts," and engaged in "grossest outrages against all the decorums of human society,"[59]:114 to the English Baptists, who adopted a creed "generally Calvinistic," differing "from Calvinistic churches, on no other subjects than those of infant baptism and ecclesiastical government."[59]:115 Amongst the latter, was the very learned Dr. John Gill. Gill wrote a large commentary on the entire Bible and a compend of theology that consisted mostly of Turretin's work, excepting on those subjects wherein Baptists differ.[59]:115

In addition, there are the Arminian Baptists, who are "generally illiterate and many of their people unenlightened."[59]:115 Nonetheless, the Baptists exert themselves with great zeal "evangelizing the heathen." Although, Willson regrets, "the children of heathen converts," by their exertions, "are not taken into the visible covenant society of Messiah."[59]:115-116 They leave the children of heathen converts to the realm of heathenism.

Here, Willson mentions Andrew Fuller, "a celebrated Baptist preacher," who, while "generally Calvinistic in his writings," yet was unsound in his views of the nature and extent of the atonement.[59]:116 Certainly, Willson thought this part of the general confusion amongst the Baptists.

The Secession and the sentiments of Seceders[edit]

The doctrine of the atonement remains to be traced in that august body mostly nearly related to Willson's own Reformed Presbyterian church, the Secession, or Associate Presbyterian, church. After rehearsing some of the matters which led to the Secession, of Ebenezer Erskine, (later joined by his brother, Ralph Erskine), Alexander Moncrieff, James Fisher and William Wilson (of Perth), in 1733, Willson notes their fidelity to the Westminster Confession, and other formularies, "as standards of their faith, and as terms of ecclesiastical communion."[59]:117 Indeed, their part in the Marrow Controversy made "the great theme of their pulpit exhibitions" to consist in setting forth "the atonement made by Christ Jesus."[59]:117 In this connection, Willson mentions John Brown, of Haddington, as "the most distinguished divine," produced by that church. Though "not a man of very brilliant powers, or very profound learning, his industry, discrimination, and orthodoxy, were a means of elevating the character" of that church.[59]:117 He also pays homage to Thomas M'Crie, who, in his Life of John Knox, rescued that reformer from much "obloquy" "heaped upon" him by "infidels, heretics, and lukewarm Christians."[59]:117-118 Though, by the time Willson wrote, they were divided into several bodies, they all continued firm in their belief of the doctrine of the atonement.[59]:118

The Reformed Presbyterians[edit]

Willson now turns to the discussion of his own ecclesiastical connection, the Reformed Presbyterians. These people are descended from a "a considerable body of intelligent and respectable Christians, among the laity, who refused to follow their spiritual guides, in an abandonment of the covenants, which they considered an oath, binding the whole nation to maintain the truth.[59]:118-119 Their faithfulness was demonstrated in their refusal to "receive ordinances of the gospel at the hand of those whom they considered as apostates and as having violated the oath of God."[59]:119 They were a people that had remained aloof from the prevailing defections of the church since the ascension of William and Mary to the throne, in 1689. In 1706, Rev. John M'Millan, who had separated from the established Church of Scotland, joined himself to this people as their minister. In 1743, Rev. Thomas Nairn, a minister of the Secession, acceded to the societies and the Reformed Presbytery was erected. "From the attachment of these people to the covenants, they were called Covenanters."[59]:119 "In 1761, they published an instrument, which they styled the Act, Declaration and Testimony," wherein they narrated their warm acceptance of the position of the Scottish martyrs.[59]:119 In it, they also "testify against the numerous errors of the ecclesiastical and civil establishments of the nation."[59]:120 Their reward for doing so was that they were a people accounted "bigots" and they dwelt alone amongst their neighbors.[59]:120

Their difference with the Secession lay chiefly in their respective views of the ordinance of "civil government." The "Seceders," while testifying against the covenant breaking of the nation, nonetheless, owned the government as "the ordinance of God," and "held offices under the government." The "Covenanters," on the other hand, "maintained, that its apostacy was of such character as to deprive it of all right ot rule."[59]:120 On the doctrine of the atonement, there was no difference.

However, Reformed Presbyterians, because of their pressing "the headship of Messiah over the nations," offer to the public the national implications of adhering to the doctrine of the atonement.[59]:120 In this, Willson intimates, they are the most consistent propagators of the doctrine.[59]:121 It is precisely because Willson believes in the atonement that he will press the claims of Messiah upon kings and kingdoms.

Mr. Kidd on the Trinity[edit]
Roman Catholicism and Jansenism[edit]
New England and the Puritans[edit]
The Mather family[edit]
Harvard, Dr. Coleman and concerns at Yale[edit]
Episcopalians in Virginia and Roman Catholics in Maryland[edit]
Pennsylvania, Quakers and Protestants[edit]
New York and the General Assembly Presbyterians[edit]
George Whitefield, revivalism and the split into "Old Side" and "New Side"[edit]
Jonathan Edwards and his support of the "New Side"[edit]
The evils that follow revivals[edit]
Isaac Watts imitates the Psalms of David[edit]
Edwards the younger, Bellamy and the rise of errors respecting the atonement[edit]
Priestley, the apostle of Socinianism, comes to America[edit]
Hopkins and the rise of "Hopkinsianism"[edit]
Emmons and the spread of "Hopkinsianism"[edit]
Dwight and his conserving influence[edit]
The state of Reformed churches in New York before the trouble with "Hopkinsianism"[edit]
The Presbyterian union with the Trinitarian Congregationalists brings trouble[edit]
The Kentucky revivals and Davis' "Gospel Plan"[edit]
The "Hopkinsian" heresy among the General Assembly Presbyterians[edit]
Princeton Seminary and the orthodox Reformed respond[edit]
The Associate Reformed, occasional communion and other departures from received practice[edit]
The Antiburgher Seceders and their general soundness[edit]
The Reformed Dissenting Presbytery noticed[edit]
The Reformed Presbyterians in America[edit]
The four Presbyterian seminaries and their influence[edit]
The German Reformed and their views[edit]
The Baptists and their influences[edit]
The Methodists spread Arminianism[edit]
The Lutherans and the German spirit[edit]
The Episcopalians seek to grow[edit]
Part II: translations from Turretin on the atonement[edit]
An appendix on Roman Catholics and Swedenborgians in America[edit]
An account of the constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary[edit]
His other literary work of the period[edit]

The time in Philadelphia also spurred Willson to recount his encounter with the young doctor who had studied there. In 1817, he first published, his piece entitled, An interesting sketch of the life of Dr. H[arry] T[odd].[73] Unlike his magnum opus, which would only see the translation part fully reprinted (in 1827, leaving only a portion of the historical sketch, and 1859, without his historical sketch), it was his most republished work. In it, Willson demonstrates a deep theological insight combined with his desire to do good to the souls of his fellow men.

Ordination and installation[edit]

In the Fall of 1817, Willson left Philadelphia to assume his first pastorate. Earlier that year, he had received a call from the congregation in Coldenham, Orange County, New York to the pastoral charge.[7]:xi He accepted, removed to New York, and was ordained, August 10, 1817, over the united congregations of Coldenham and Newburgh.[1]:724

Coldenham and Newburgh[edit]

Moderator of Synod[edit]

Engraving of Dr. James R. Willson, as he appeared as Moderator of Synod, ca. 1823, approximately 43 years of age.

The bestowal of the honorific[edit]

In 1828, the Western University of Pennsylvania (formerly, Pittsburg Academy; now, University of Pittsburgh) determined to bestow three honorary D.D. degrees. When they were presented, on June 30, one of the recipients was "Rev. James R. Willson."[1]:727 His contributions to the cause of classical education had garnered the attention of fellow educators. Additionally, Willson's writing excursions into fields usually neglected by ministers established him as a first rate scholar in possession of a wide array of information. News of the bestowal was carried in the educational and religious journals of the day.[74]:134-135[75]:605 Willson represented, in his day, the ideal of a "well-educated" minister. In the words of a contemporary journal, Willson was a "learned divine."[38]:157

The move to Albany[edit]

The firebrand chaplain[edit]

Recalled to Coldenham[edit]

The transition from pastor to teacher[edit]

The Coldenham/Eastern Seminary[edit]

The teacher of pastors[edit]

Allegheny Theological Seminary[edit]

Cincinnati Theological Seminary[edit]

Northwood Theological Seminary[edit]

Emeritus, last years and death[edit]

Photograph of Dr. James R. Willson, as he appeared near the end of his life.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Glasgow, William Melancthon. History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America. Baltimore: Hill and Harvey, 1888.
  2. ^ a b c Glasgow, William Melancthon. Historical Catalogue of the Theological Seminaries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America; Together with a List of of Those Studying Privately or Elsewhere, a Complete Classified Roll of the Ministers and Licentiates, with Sketches and Portraits of the Professors. Beaver Falls, Pa.: Tribune Printing Company, 1898.
  3. ^ Obituary in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 9.4 (November 1853) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: Wm. S. Young, 1853.
  4. ^ Dodds, James. The Fifty Years Struggle of the Scottish Covenanters. 1638-88. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1860.
  5. ^ a b "John James Stevenson" in The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Being the History of the United States. Vol. VII. New York: James T. White and Company, 1897.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Willson, James M. "Biographical Sketch of James R. Willson, D.D." in The Presbyterian Historical Almanac, and Annual Remembrancer of the Church. For 1866. Vol. 8. Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1866.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Biographical Sketch of the Translator, James R. Willson, D.D." in Turrettin on the Atonement of Christ. A New Edition, Carefully Revised by Collation with the Last Edition of the Latin Original. New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1859.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Notices of Congregations. The Monongahela Congregation." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 2.5 (December 1846) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1846.
  9. ^ a b Aiken, A.S. and J.M. Adair. A biographical sketch of the Rev. John Cuthbertson, the first Reformed Presbyterian minister in America, from 1751 to 1791 prepared and published, under the appointment of the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Big Spring. Pittsburgh: Stevenson, Foster and Company, 1878.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Willson, James M. "James Renwick Willson, D.D." in Annals of the American Pulpit: or Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations from the Early Settlement of the Country to the Close of the Year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Five. With Historical Introductions. Vol. IX. Reformed Presbyterian. ed. William Buell Sprague. New York: Robert Carter and Sons, 1869.
  11. ^ M'Clintock, John and James Strong. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. X. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1881.
  12. ^ Martin, Scott C. Killing Time. Leisure and Culture in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1800-1850. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sample, Robert F. Historical Sketch of the Presbyterian Church of Bedford. Delivered May 13, 1866. Philadelphia: James S. Claxton, 1866.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, Joseph. History of Jefferson College: Including an Account of the Early "Log-Cabin" Schools, and the Canonsburg Academy. Pittsburgh: J.T. Shryock, 1857.
  15. ^ Eaton, Samuel J.M. and Henry Woods. Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College, Containing a General Catalogue of the Graduates and Non-Graduates of Jefferson College, of Washington College, and of Washington and Jefferson College, 1802-1902. Philadelphia: George H. Buchanan and Company, 1902.
  16. ^ Vallandigham, Rev. James L. A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1872.
  17. ^ a b Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent. Pittsburgh: Benjamin Singerly, 1876.
  18. ^ a b Eaton, Samuel J.M. Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College, Containing a General Catalogue of Jefferson College, of Washington College, and of Washington and Jefferson College, Including Thus All the Alumni of the Present College. 1802-1889. Cincinnati, Ohio: Elm Street Printing Company, 1889.
  19. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary of Mrs. Jane Willson." in The Reformed Presbyterian. 2.5 (May 1838) ed. Moses Roney. Newburgh, New York: J.D. Spalding.
  20. ^ "Obituaries." in The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter. 2.9 (September 1864) ed. Thomas Sproull and James M. Willson Combined Series. Pittsburgh: W.S. Haven, 1864.
  21. ^ a b Crumrine, Boyd. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts and Co., 1882.
  22. ^ "Notice." in The Reformed Presbyterian. 2.4 (April 1838) ed. Moses Roney. Newburgh, New York: J.D. Spalding.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Wylie, Samuel Brown. Memoir of Alexander McLeod, D.D. New York. New York: Charles Scribner, 1855.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery of America from 1798 to 1809. And Digest of the Acts of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in North America, from 1809 to 1888. With Appendix. Philadelphia: Jas. B. Rodgers Printing Co., 1888.
  25. ^ a b c d Extracts from the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Judicatories of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States. New York: Abraham Paul, 1816.
  26. ^ a b Ely, Ezra Stiles "Review of Willson on the Atonement" in The Quarterly Theological Review. 1.2 (April 1818) ed. Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely. Philadelphia:Anthony Finley, 1818.
  27. ^ Leyburn, James G. The Scotch-Irish: A Social history. Chapel Hill: Universtiy of North Carolina Press, 1962.
  28. ^ a b c Book of Government of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Albany: J. Munsell, 1842.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af Willson, James R. The Shaking of the Nations, Alias the Anti-Christian Empire Overthrown. Pittsburgh: E. Pentland, 1809.
  30. ^ Reformation Principles Exhibited, by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. New York: Hopkins and Seymour, 1807.
  31. ^ "Literary Intelligence." in Select Reviews, and Spirit of the Foreign Magazines. 1.3 (March 1809) ed. E. Bronson and others. Philadelphia: Lorenzo Press of E. Bronson, 1809.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Carson, Elizabeth F. "An inordinate sense of history." James Renwick Willson. 1780-1853. unpublished M.A. thesis (College of William and Mary, Virginia) 1987.
  33. ^ a b c Schell, William P. The Annals of Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Consisting of Condensed Sketches of the Most Important Events Which Occurred the Century from January 1750 to 1850. Bedford, Pennsylvania: Gazette Publishing Co., Print., 1907.
  34. ^ a b c Common Schools of Pennsylvania. Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, For the Year Ending June 1, 1877. Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, 1878.
  35. ^ a b Wickersham, James Pyle. A History of Education in Pennsylvania, Private and Public, Elementary and Higher. From the Time the Swedes Settled on the Delaware Until the Present Day. Lancaster, Pa.: Inquirer Publishing Company, 1886.
  36. ^ Storey, Henry Wilson. History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania. With Genealogical Memoirs. Vol. I New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907.
  37. ^ The Historical Memorial of the Centennial Anniversary of the Presbytery of Huntingdon, Held in Huntingdon, Pa., April 9, 1895. 1795-1895. Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott, 1896.
  38. ^ a b c d "Robert J. Walker." in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review. 16.80 (February 1845) New Series. New York: Henry G. Langley, 1845.
  39. ^ a b History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Chicago: Waterman & Watkins, 1884.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o J[ames] W[illson]. "Bedford Medicinal Springs." in The Port Folio. 5.6 (June 1811) New Series. ed. Joseph Dennie, Esq. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1811.
  41. ^ "Letter to the Editor of the Lancaster Journal. Bedford, Pennsylvania, December 20, 1803." in The Philadelphia Medical Museum. 1.1 ed. John Redman Coxe. Philadelphia: Archibald Bartram, 1805.
  42. ^ Watson, William. "Short account of the effects and use of the Mineral springs of Bedford county, Pennsylvania." in The American Medical Recorder, or Original Papers and Intelligence in Medicine and Surgery. 5.2 (April 1822) ed. John Eberle and Henry William Ducachet. Philadelphia: James Webster, 1822.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Narrative of the Proceedings of the Judicatories of the Reformed Church in North America, Relative to the Rev. David Graham. Pittsburgh: S. Engles and Co., 1811.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Report of the Trial of the Late Rev. D. Graham, Made by the Reformed Presbytery of the Middle District of the United States of America, to the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, August, 1812. Pittsburgh: John M. Snowden, 1813.
  45. ^ [James R. Willson] Review of Resolutions adopted by the session and people of the United Congregations of Canonsburgh and Pittsburgh; and of A narrative of the proceedings of the judicatories of the Reformed Church in North-America with the Reverend David Graham. Bedford [Pa.]: C. M'Dowell, 1811.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak "Classical Literature." in The Port Folio. 7.5 (May 1812) New Series. ed. Oliver Oldschool, Esq. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1812
  47. ^ Dodge, Andrew R. Biographical directory of the United States Congress, 1774 - 2005. Washington, D.C.: Bernan Associates, Joint Committee on Printing, 2006.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi Wilson, James R. Interesting Sketch of the Life and Death of Doctor Harry I. Todd, of Kentucky. Louisville [Ky.]: Western Presbyterian Herald Print, 1838.
  49. ^ Ranck, George W. History of Lexington, Kentucky, Its Early Annals and Recent Progress, Including Biographical Sketches and Personal Reminiscences of the Pioneer Settlers, Notices of Prominent Citizens, Etc., Etc. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872.
  50. ^ Clark, Allen C. The Life and Letters of Dolly Madison. Washington, D.C.: W.F. Roberts Company, 1914.
  51. ^ Hay, Melba Porter and Thomas H. Appleton Jr. "Roadside History: A Guide to Kentucky Highway Markers. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
  52. ^ Morton, Thomas G. and Frank Woodbury. The History of the Pennsylvania Hospital, 1751-1895. Revised edition. Philadelphia: Times Printing House, 1897.
  53. ^ a b "Select Literary Information." in The Eclectic Review. 6.12 (December 1816) New Series. London: Josiah Conder, 1816.
  54. ^ Ely, Ezra Stiles. The Second Journal of the Stated Preacher to the Hospital and Almshouse, in hte City of New-York, For Part of the Year of Our Lord 1813. With An Appendix. Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1815.
  55. ^ a b Carey, M. Modern Publications, and New Editions of Valuable Standard Works. Philadelphia: M. Carey, June, 1816.
  56. ^ The First Reformed Presbyterian Church Case. COMMONWEALTH ex rel. GORDON, et al. vs. WILLIAMS, et al. A History of the Case, the Pleadings, the Arguments of the Counsel for the Defendants, and the Charge of Mr. Justice Williams. Philadelphia: Bourquin & Welsh, 1871.
  57. ^ Copeland, Robert M. Spare No Exertions: 175 Years of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Pittsburgh: Published by the Seminary, 1986.
  58. ^ a b c Catto, William T. A Semi-Centenary Discourse, Delivered in the First African Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, on the Fourth Sabbath of May, 1857: With A History of the Church from its First Organization. Including a Brief Notice of Rev. John Gloucester, its First Pastor. Also, An Appendix , Containing Sketches of all the Colored Churches in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1857.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw cx cy cz da db dc dd de df dg dh di dj dk dl dm dn do dp dq dr ds dt du dv dw dx dy dz ea eb ec ed ee ef eg eh ei ej ek el em en eo ep eq er es et eu ev ew ex ey ez fa fb fc fd fe ff fg fh fi fj fk fl fm fn fo fp fq fr fs ft fu fv fw fx fy fz ga gb gc gd ge gf gg gh gi gj gk gl gm gn go gp gq gr gs gt gu gv gw gx gy gz ha hb hc hd he hf hg hh hi hj hk hl hm hn ho hp hq Willson, James R. A Historical Sketch of Opinions on the Atonement, interspersed with Biographical Notices of the Leading Doctors, and Outlines of the Sections of the Church from the Incarnation to the present time; with translations from Francis Turretin on the Atonement. Philadelphia: Edward Earle, 1817.
  60. ^ M'Clintock, John and James Strong. "Mason, John Mitchell, D.D." in Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. V. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1883.
  61. ^ Vechten, Jacob van. Memoirs of John M. Mason, D.D., S.T.P. With Portions of His Correspondence. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1856.
  62. ^ a b Wylie, Samuel B. The First Annual Address, Read Before the Religious Historical Society, May 20th, 1817. With an Appendix. Philadelphia:John W. Scott, 1818.
  63. ^ The Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries, Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America. 3.4 (April 1859) New York: Charles B. Richardson, 1859.
  64. ^ Ely, Ezra Stiles. A Contrast Between Calvinism and Hopkinsianism. New-York: S. Whiting and Co., 1811.
  65. ^ These papers were later collected and published together. [Whelpley, Samuel]. The Triangle. A Series of Numbers Upon Three Theological Points, Enforced From Various Pulpits in the City of New-York. New-York: O. Halstead and John Wiley, 1832.
  66. ^ Gibson, William. A Dialogue Concerning the Doctrine of Atonement between a Calvinist and a Hopkinsian: Wherein a Number of the Arguments on Both Sides of the Question are Endeavoured to be Candidly Examined, that the Truth May Appear. Intended as an Answer to a Late Publication of Mr. L. Worcester's on that and Other Subjects Connected with it. Windsor: Alden Spooner, 1803.
  67. ^ McLeod wrote a series of articles on the atonement, in 1810, for J.M. Masons's magazine. "The Doctrine of the Atonement." in The Christian's Magazine: Designed to Promote the Knowledge and Influence of Evangelical Truth and Order. Vol. III. ed. John M. Mason. New-York: Williams and Whiting, 1810. pp. 32-40; 89-100; 196-206; 372-379; 431-439; 675-688.
  68. ^ McMaster, Gilbert. An Essay, in Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity; Including a Review of the Writings of Elias Smith. Schenectady: Riggs and Stevens, 1815.
  69. ^ Graves, Frank Pierrepont. Peter Ramus and the Educational Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. New York: Macmillan Company, 1912.
  70. ^ Platon. The Present State of the Greek Church in Russia, or a Summary of Christian Divinity. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Waugh and Innes, 1814.
  71. ^ Ingersoll, Charles J. Historical Sketch of the Second War Between the United States of America, and Great Britain, Declared by Act of Congress, the 18th of June, 1812, and Concluded by Peace, the 15th of February, 1815. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845.
  72. ^ W[illson], J[ames] R. "Hebrew Antiquities." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 8.10 (May 1853) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1853.
  73. ^ Wilson, James R. An interesting sketch of the life of Dr. H**** T***. Shepherd's-Town: J.N. Snider, 1817.
  74. ^ Quarterly Register and Journal of the American Education Society. 1.6 (October 1828) ed. Rev. E. Cornelius and B.B. Edwards. Andover: Flagg and Gould, 1828.
  75. ^ The Christian Spectator; Conducted by an Association of Gentlemen. For the Year 1828. 2.11 (November 1828) New Series. New Haven: Durrie, Peck and Co., 1828.

Willson Bibliography 1807-1859[edit]

  • 1807/8. Willson James R. A History of Jefferson College: in which is comprehended a view of the progress of literature, and of the Presbyterian churches in the western part of Pennsylvania. [approximately 150 page manuscript remains unpublished]
  • 1809. Willson, James R. The Shaking of the Nations, Alias the Anti-Christian Empire Overthrown. Pittsburgh: E, Pentland, 1809. 32 + iii pp.
  • 1811. J[ames] W[illson]. "Bedford Medicinal Springs." in The Port Folio. 5.6 (June 1811) New Series. ed. Joseph Dennie, Esq. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1811. pp. 467-473.
  • 1811. [James R. Willson] Review of Resolutions adopted by the session and people of the United Congregations of Canonsburgh and Pittsburgh; and of A narrative of the proceedings of the judicatories of the Reformed Church in North-America with the Reverend David Graham. Bedford [Pa.]: C. M'Dowell, 1811. 48 pp.
  • 1812. Wilson, Rev. James. "Classical Literature." in The Port Folio. 7.5 (May 1812) New Series. ed. Oliver Oldschool, Esq. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1812. pp. 450-460.
  • 1817. W[illson], J[ames] R. An interesting sketch of the life of Dr. H**** T***. Shepherd's-Town: J.N. Snider, 1817. 36 pp.
  • 1817. Willson, James R. A Historical Sketch of Opinions on the Atonement, interspersed with Biographical Notices of the Leading Doctors, and Outlines of the Sections of the Church from the Incarnation to the present time; with translations from Francis Turretin on the Atonement. Philadelphia: Edward Earle, 1817. vii + 351 pp.
  • 1820. Wilson, James R. The Subjection of Kings and Nations to Messiah. A Sermon, Preached on Monday, December 6, 1819, Immediately After the Dispensation of the Lord's Supper, in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in the City of New-York. New York: E. Conrad, 1820. 64 pp.
  • 1820. J[ames] R[enwick] W[illson]. An Interesting Sketch of the Life of Dr. H[enry] T[odd]. Alexandria, Va.: S.H. Davis, 1820. 24 pp.
  • 1820. Wilson, James R. An Interesting Sketch of the Life of Dr. H[enry] T[odd]. Charlestown [Va.]: Richard Williams, 1820. 28 pp.
  • 1821. Willson, James R. A Sermon on Civil Government, Preached at Coldenham, Feb. 11, 1821. Paisley [Scotland]: Stephen Young, 1821. 44 pp.
  • 1821. Willson, James R. Dr. [Isaac] Watts an Anti-Trinitarian: demonstrated in a review of Dr. [Samuel] Miller's letter to the editor of the Unitarian Miscellany. Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, and Sold by D. Hogan, Littell and Henry, 1821. 23 pp.
  • 1821. Willson, James R. Dr. [Isaac] Watts an Anti-Trinitarian: demonstrated in a review of Dr. [Samuel] Miller's letter to the editor of the Unitarian Miscellany. Philadelphia: J. Anderson, 1821. 23 pp.
  • 1822. J[ames] R[enwick] W[illson]. An Interesting Sketch of the Life of Dr. H[enry] T[odd]. Mountpleasant, O[hio]: Elisha Bates, 1822. 22 pp.
  • 1822-1826. The Evangelical Witness, Published Under the Patronage of the American Evangelical Tract Society. [Willson edited this magazine and contributed numerous unsigned articles]
  • 1823. Willson, James R. "Honor to Whom Honor is Due: A Funeral Eulogium delivered at Goshen, at the Interment of the Bones of those who fell at the Battle of Minisink." in The Evangelical Witness. 1.4 (April 1823) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N[ew Y[ork]: Parmenter & Spalding, 1823. pp. 154-166.
  • 1824. Willson, James R. "Anniversary Address delivered before the Newburgh Lyceum." in The Evangelical Witness. 2.5 (May 1824) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N[ew Y[ork]: Parmenter & Spalding, 1824. pp. 193-203.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. A Sermon on the Book of Life of the Lamb: Preached in the City of New-York on Sabbath Evening, April 18, 1824, After the Dispensation of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. New-York: J. Seymour, 1825. 36 pp.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. A Sermon on the Glory and Security of the Church of God; Preached in the City of New-York on Monday, April 19, 1824, After the Dispensation of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. New-York: J. Seymour, 1825. 35 pp.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. "Dissertation on the Musquito, read before the Newburgh Lyceum." in The Evangelical Witness. 3.4 (April 1825) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N[ew Y[ork]: Parmenter & Spalding, 1825. pp. 181-192.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. "Political Danger: A Sermon preached on a Fast day observed by several churches in Newburgh [part 1]." in The Evangelical Witness. 3.4 (April 1825) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N.Y.: Parmenter & Spalding, 1825. pp. 156-169.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. "Political Danger: A Sermon preached on a Fast day observed by several churches in Newburgh [part 2]." in The Evangelical Witness. 3.5 (May 1825) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N.Y.: Parmenter & Spalding, 1825. pp. 200-207.
  • 1825. Willson, James R. "The American Jubilee: A Discourse delivered at Walden, N.Y., on the Fourth of July." in The Evangelical Witness. 3.9 (September 1825) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N.Y.: Parmenter & Spalding, 1825. pp. 393-407.
  • 1826. Willson, James R. Alphabetical Writing and Printing, An Anniversary Address read before the Walden Library Association, January 31, 1826. Newburgh: Parmenter & Spalding, 1826. 26 pp.
  • 1826. Willson, James R. "Alphabetical Writing and Printing, An Anniversary Address read before the Walden Library Association, January 31, 1826 [part 1]." in The Evangelical Witness. 4.3 (March 1826) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N[ew Y[ork]: Parmenter & Spalding, 1826. pp. 100-113.
  • 1826. Willson, James R. "Alphabetical Writing and Printing, An Anniversary Address read before the Walden Library Association, January 31, 1826 [part 2]." in The Evangelical Witness. 4.4 (April 1826) ed. James R. Willson. Newburgh, N[ew Y[ork]: Parmenter & Spalding, 1826. pp. 150-160.
  • 1827. Christian Statesman. [a weekly that ran for 11 issues from January to March; edited by Willson]
  • 1827. Willson, James R. A Historical Sketch of Opinions on the Atonement, interspersed with Biographical Notices of the Leading Doctors, and Outlines of the Sections of the Church in North America, From the introduction of Christianity into that Country to the year 1817. With Translations from Francis Turrettin on the Atonement. Paisley [Scotland]: Stephen Young, 1827. viii + 288 pp.
  • 1829. Willson, James R. The Sabbath. A Discourse on the Duty of Civil Government, in Relation to the Sanctification of the Lord's Day. Newburgh: Parmenter & Spalding, 1829. 48 pp.
  • 1831. Willson, James R. The Vow: A Sermon, Preached in Newburgh, April 10, 1831, on the Evening After the Dispensation of the Lord's Supper. Newburgh: Charles U. Cushman, 1831. 39 pp.
  • 1832-1833. The Albany Quarterly. [Willson edited with his brother Samuel M. and contributed many unsigned articles]
  • 1832. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Juries." in The American Christian Expositor, Designed to Promote the Influence of Sound Principles and Social Order. 1.9 (January 1832) ed. Alexander McLeod. New York: H.C. Sleight, 1831. p. 364.
  • 1832. Willson, James R. Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments: And the Disregard of His Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution. Inscribed to the American Bible Society by the Author. Albany: Packard, Hoffman and White, 1832. 48 pp.
  • 1836. Willson, James R. Tokens of the Divine Displeasure in the Late Conflagration in New-York & Other Judgments, Illustrated. Newburgh: Charles U. Cushman, 1836. 46 pp.
  • 1837. Willson, James R. "Reason for not accepting the call from New Alexandria," in The Reformed Presbyterian. 1.4 (June 1837) ed. Moses Roney. Newburgh, N.Y.: J.D. Spalding, 1837. pp. 123-125.
  • 1837. Willson, James N. [R.] Address, on the subject of African slavery : delivered in Fayetteville [Pa.], September 14, 1837. Chambersburg [Pa.]: J. Pritts, 1837. 32 pp.
  • 1837. Wilson, James R. An address delivered before the Newburgh Library Association on its first anniversary, December 29, 1836. Newburgh: Charles U. Cushman, 1837. 31 pp.
  • 1838. Willson, James R. An address on West India emancipation : delivered on the first of August, 1838, before the Union Anti-slavery Society of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, 1838. 43 pp.
  • 1838. Wilson, J.R. Interesting sketch of the Life and Death of Doctor Harry I[nnes] Todd, of Kentucky. Louisville [Ky.]:Western Presbyterian Herald Print, 1838. 22 pp. [this is the same with the piece originally published in 1817]
  • 1838. Willson, James R. The Written Law, or the Law of God Revealed in the Scriptures, by Christ as Mediator; The Rule of duty to Christian Nations in Civil Institutions. Inscribed to the Coldenham Congregation. Newburgh, N.Y.: J.D. Spalding, [1838]. 48 pp.
  • 1840. Willson, James R. Hebrew Literature: An Introductory Lecture Delivered at the Opening of the Alleghany [sic] Institute, Nov. 2nd, 1840. Newburgh: J.D. Spalding, [1840]. 28 pp.
  • 1843. Willson, James R. Sacred Literature; An Anniversary Address, Delivered Before the Adelphi Literary Society, November 15, 1842. Pittsburgh: A.A. Anderson, 1843. 18 pp.
  • 1845. Willson, James R. "Missionary Tour Through New England. [part 1]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 1.5 (December 1845) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1845. pp. 150-151.
  • 1846. Willson, James R. "[Missionary] Tour Through New England. [part 2]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 1.8 (March 1846) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1846. pp. 241-242.
  • 1846. Willson, James R. "[Missionary] Tour Through New England. [part 3]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 1.9 (April 1846) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1846. pp. 278-279.
  • 1846. Willson, James R. "[Missionary] Tour Through New England. [part 4]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 1.11 (June 1846) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1846. pp. 336-337.
  • 1847. Willson, James R. "[Missionary] Tour Through New England. [part 5]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 2.8 (March 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. pp. 233-234.
  • 1847. Willson, James R. "Consistory--Its Constitution." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 2.9 (April 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. pp. 266-269.
  • 1847. Willson, James R. "Report of the Professor to the Board of Inspectors." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 2.10 (May 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. pp. 317-319. [this report also was printed in The Reformed Presbyterian. 11.3 (May 1847) ed. Moses Roney. Newburgh, N.Y.: J.D. Spalding, 1847. pp. 82-85.]
  • 1847. Willson, James R. "Reasons of Dissent from the Act of Synod rescinding the Act, which ordered the Congregations to read the lines in the public singing of the praises of God." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 2.12 (July 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. p. 374. [this paper was also printed in The Reformed Presbyterian. 11.4&5 (June & July 1847) ed. Moses Roney. Newburgh, N.Y.: J.D. Spalding, 1847. pp. 120-121.]
  • 1847. Willson, Jas. R. "The Heathen Classics--Dangerous School Books." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 3.4 (November 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. pp. 99-104.
  • 1847. Willson, Jas. R. "Levitical Functions. [part 1]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 3.5 (December 1847) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1847. pp. 132-134. [appears to have remained uncompleted]
  • 1848. Willson, James R. Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments: And the Disregard of His Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution. Inscribed to the American Bible Society by the Author. Cincinnati: Smith and Chipman, 1848. 36 pp. [contains an introduction by J.B. Williams and an update of what has transpired since 1832 on the back of the printed wraps]
  • 1848. Willson, Jas. R. "The Christian College." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 3.12 (July 1848) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1848. pp. 355-358.
  • 1848. Willson, Jas. R. "Professor's Report of the Theological Seminary." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 4.1 (April 1848) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1848. pp. 21-23.
  • 1849. Willson, James R. Public Covenanting. Introductory Lecture at the Opening of the Session of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, November 7, 1848. Cincinnati: Smith and Chipman, 1849. 11 pp.
  • 1849. Willson, James R. "Professor's Report to the Board of Inspectors." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 4.10 (May 1849) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1849. pp. 307-312.
  • 1849. Willson, James R. "Libel against John Crozier, Pastor of the Monogahela Congregation, and member of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 4.12 (August 1849) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: David Smith, 1849. p. 366. [this paper was also printed in The Reformed Presbyterian. 13.6 (July &August 1849) ed. M[oses] Roney. Pittsburgh: Johnston & Stockton, 1849. p. 145.]
  • 1849. Willson, Jas. R. "Covenant Renovation." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 5.4 (November 1849) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1849. pp. 123-125.
  • 1850. Willson, Jas. R. "The Monstrous Government of Slavery. [part 1]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 5.8 (March 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1850. pp. 241-246.
  • 1850. Willson, Jas. R. "The Monstrous Government of Slavery. [part 2]" in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 5.9 (April 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1850. pp. 273-278.
  • 1850. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Letters from the West. Nos. I and II." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.1 (August 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1850. pp. 11-14.
  • 1850. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Athaliah--II Chronicles XXIII." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.2 (September 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1850. p. 45.
  • 1850. Willson, James R. "Seasons of Covenanting." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.3 (October 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1849. pp. 77-79.
  • 1850. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Letters from the West. No. III." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.4 (November 1850) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1850. pp. 109-110.
  • 1850. Willson, James R. The fugitive slave law. : From an address of James R. Willson, D.D., before a mass meeting at Cherokee, Ohio. Ohio: n.p., 1850. 4 pp.
  • 1851. Willson, James R. "Pagan Evils in the Church." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.6 (January 1851) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. pp. 161-171.
  • 1851. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Letters from the West. No. IV." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.6 (January 1851) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. pp. 181-182.
  • 1851. Willson, James R. "The Fugitive Slave Law." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 6.9 (April 1851) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. pp. 257-261.
  • 1851. Willson, James R. Slavery Unmasked. Philadelphia: Bratton and Tiffany, 1851. 15 pp. [extracted from The Covenanter, April 1851 and re-titled]
  • 1852. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Gog and Magog." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 7.7 (February 1852) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1852. pp. 197-199.
  • 1852. W[illson], J[ames] R. "The Flying Roll." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 7.11 (June 1852) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1852. pp. 330-331.
  • 1853. W[illson], J[ames] R. "Hebrew Antiquities." in The Covenanter, Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. 8.10 (May 1853) ed. James M. Willson. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1853. pp. 296-298. [this was reprinted in The Evangelical Repository; Devoted to the Principles of the Reformation, As Set Forth in the Formularies of the Westminster Divines, and Witnessed for by the Associate Synod of North America. 12.1 (June 1853) ed. Joseph T. Cooper. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1853. pp. 14-16.]
  • 1859. Willson, James R. [translator] Turrettin on the Atonement of Christ. A New Edition, Carefully Revised by Collation with the Last Edition of the Latin Original. New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1859. xii + 195 pp. [contains a biographical sketch of Willson]

Further reading[edit]

  • Carson, Elizabeth A. 'An inordinate sense of history' James Renwick Willson 1780-1853. (unpublished M.A. thesis, College of William and Mary), 1987.
  • Willson, James Renwick. Political Danger. Essays on the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ over nations and their political institutions, 1809-1838. ed. Gordon J. Keddie. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2009.

Category:Presbyterian ministers Category:Reformed Presbyterians Category:American Presbyterians Category:1780 births Category:1853 deaths