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Huntingdon Woman’s Club hears about thee life of Clergyman Gilbert Tennent

September 28, 2022

President- Mrs. Billy Cary

Secretary- Mrs. Glenn Tippitt

The Huntingdon Woman’s Club enjoyed a visit to the beautiful home of Mrs. Dennis Steed on September 28 for their regular scheduled meeting. It was a sunny, warm, fall day and Mrs. Steed’s flowers were at their peak of beauty. She welcomed the ladies into her warm home and opened the meeting with the devotion and prayer. She had an array of appetizing snacks with orange sherbet punch as refreshment for the ladies to enjoy. 

   President Mrs. Billy Cary opened the business meeting. The roll was called and the minutes from September 14 were read and approved. Mrs. Cary then turned the program over to Mrs. Steed continuing the program on “The Great Awakening” talking about the Irish-born American Presbyterian Clergyman, Gilbert Tennent.

Gilbert Tennent was born February 5, 1703 in County Armagh, Ireland. He was one of the leaders of the Great Awakening of religion in Colonial America. He was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, and he and his three brothers were educated at home by their father. The family emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1717. Tennent arrived in America from Ireland at the age of fourteen. His father founded a “Log College” to train ministers.  Following his father into the ministry, Gilbert was ordained in 1726. He had little success at first. However, following a deep illness, he recovered and preached with a new zeal that brought many conversions.

He was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and took a pastorate in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Tennent became a revivalist preacher along with George Whitefield, who called him “a son of thunder.” He was known for his fiery exhortations to sinners to repent and also for his scorn of his critics among the more conservative Presbyterians. Tennent’s attacks on the majority reached a peak in 1740 in his “Nottingham Sermon”, in which he denounced his opponents as hypocrites. This led to a division the following year and Tennent and other members of the New Brunswick Presbytery withdraw from the church. In 1743 he moved to a church in Philadelphia, where he remained for the rest of his life. His preaching became less impassioned, and he worked to heal the breach in the Presbyterian Church. For almost two decades, the Presbyterians were divided into the New Lights and the Old Lights.

Tennent hoped to see revival in America. He was convinced the nation’s religious stagnation was the fault of its clergy. He said, “The reason why congregations have been so dead is because they have had dead men preaching to them; for I am verily persuaded the generality of preachers talk of an unknown and unfelt Christ.” In later years, Tennent’s sermons become milder. He pastored with success at Philadelphia until he was very old. Around 1749, he published a sermon titled “Irenicum Ecclesiasticarum” (Peace in the Church) in which he pleaded for a restoration of unity to the church. This helped heal the breach between the Old Lights and the New Lights that his words had done so much to separate.

In a sermon preached shortly after his death on July 23, 1764, Dr. Samuel Finley, President of Princeton College, said: “He had a habitual, unshaken assurance of his interest in redeeming love for the space of more than forty years; but eight days before his death, he got a clearer and affecting sense of it still. And though he lamented that he had done so little for God, and that his life had been comparatively unprofitable, yet he triumphed in the grace of Jesus Christ, who had pardoned all his sins, and said his assurance of salvation was built on the Scriptures, and was surer than the sun and moon.” It is important for us to learn about those who have gone before us because it provides a combination of inspiration and caution as we attempt to infuse our culture with the truth of the faith. 

The next meeting will be on October 12 with Mrs. Billy Cary serving as hostess. Mrs. Cary will be speaking about the Gutenberg Press.

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