Review of Presbyterians by Geo. P. Hays

Presbyterians, A Popular Narrative of Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements by Geo. P. Hays, New York: J. A. Hill & Co, 1892, 544 pp.
[The author George Pierce Hays (1838 – 1897) was the 2nd president of Washington and Jefferson College and later a minister of Presbyterian churches in Denver, Cincinnati, and Kansas City.]
[The copy of the book I own was once owned by Perry V. Jennes (1866 to at least 1936), who was a Presbyterian minister in a number of places including Detroit, St. Louis, and Denver.]
This might be the best book out of a number that I’ve read on Presbyterian history. It is particularly beneficial for its insights into mid-19th century Presbyterianism in America, with which the author, George P. Hays was so well acquainted having lived through that period. Rather than doing a thorough review, however, I’ve decided to note a number of passages in the book which are rather interesting to me and which I have not learned elsewhere. They are as follows, with my own comments in brackets:
“In 1618 he [King James] published a book of sports ‘to encourage recreation and sports on the Lord’s day.’” (p. 48) [Naturally the Presbyterians were strong sabbatarians and so it seems King James was set in opposition to them in promoting sports on the Sabbath]
“To see the effect of religion on land and people it is but needful to cross Ireland from Queenstown to the Giant’s Causeway. At the South there is the best land and the best climate, the most Roman Catholics, the most beggary and squalor. At the North the soil is scant, the bogs larger, and agriculture difficult; but the Protestant people are busy, loyal, enterprising and intelligent, with large cities full of factories and a thrifty rural population extorting generous crops from unwilling lands.” (p. 58) [Hays notes a similar situation with the relative failure of Roman Catholic Latin America relative to the prosperous North America. One might today equally note the contrast between North and South in Belgium]
“A preference for Presbyterian Puritanism was called Barrowism, and the preference for Congregational Puritanism was called Brownism.” (p. 61)
“His [Francis Makamie] grave has been identified, but at this date (1892), is unmarked and neglected.” (p. 75) [I wonder if its location is known today.]
“In 1766 a convention was held at Elizabeth, N. J. It was composed of representatives from the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches, and adopted a plan of union between them.” (p. 105) [This is an earlier “Plan of Union” than the more well known one of 1801]
“The Hanover Presbytery was originally a Mission Presbytery covering Virginia, the two Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.” (p. 113) [The current denomination I’m a minister in is the Reformed Presbyterian Church – Hanover Presbytery which took its name after this early American Hanover Presbytery.]
“It may not be possible to demonstrate that the framers of the present Constitution of the United States consciously and intentionally molded our present system of government after the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church. Direct Testimony to this effect does not exist. The circumstantial evidence, however, is very strong.” (p. 127)
“The Old School Branch advocated separate church organizations for the control of missionary enterprises.” (p. 188) “The New School Part, before the division in 1837, had been strongly in favor of ‘voluntary societies’” (p. 204) [It seems to me that when J. Gresham Machen broke out with his own independent agencies that he was more in line with the New School Presbyterians than the Old School Presbyterians.]
“The ‘Ordination Question’ was whether, in the ordination of ministers, it was proper for the ruling elders ‘to lay on hands’ with the other members of the Presbytery. … The final outcome, rather by general consent than rigid decree, has been against the elders and in favor of the ministers…” (p. 191)
“In honor of William, Prince of ‘Orange and Nassau,’ the first building [at Princeton] was called Nassau Hall.” (p. 260)
I learned the term “colporteur” – a peddler of publications, especially of religious books.
“Presbyterianism in America has, in the past been set to maintain … a logically coherent system of doctrine.” (p. 364) [There are many Presbyterians today who need to be reminded of this fact.]
“The name Higher Criticism, in its present use, was mainly introduced into theological discussions by the German author, Eichhorn. … The great impulse to this kind of study was given long before the time of Eichhorn. Jean Astruc, a Roman Catholic physician of very bad character, even in the dissolute court of Louis XV., in Paris, in 1753, published a work entitled ‘Conjectures as to the Original Writings from which Moses compiled the Book of Genesis.’ He supposed the two names Elohim and Jehovah, which are used as names of God in the first chapters of the Hebrew of Genesis, marked two different authors…” [It isn’t too surprisingly to learn the Roman Catholic presence behind this JDEP error.]

2 thoughts on “Review of Presbyterians by Geo. P. Hays”

  1. ““In 1618 he [King James] published a book of sports ‘to encourage recreation and sports on the Lord’s day.’” (p. 48) [Naturally the Presbyterians were strong sabbatarians and so it seems King James was set in opposition to them in promoting sports on the Sabbath]”
    It is interesting that King James was tutored by Presbyterians as he was growing up, but left them for England and the Anglicans. Why? Because the Presbyterians would tell the King what he could and could not do according to God’s Word, whereas the King could tell the Bishops what he wanted and they did his bidding.

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