The smallness of the Reformed/Presbyterian community of churches in comparison to the larger evangelical American context is largely a consequence of a failure to plant and maintain churches among those Scot-Irish Presbyterians who settled in the Appalachian mountain chain and kept heading west from there. It’s no secret that the Presbyterians lagged far behind the Baptists and Methodists, not to mention new groups like the Cambellites, in planting churches where people had settled in the west. They saw the problem, and tried to remedy it by forming a Plan of Union with their Congregationalist cousins to the north for planting churches in the West. It didn’t work. Perhaps nothing more could be done.
It’s just that the Presbyterian/Congregationalist emphasis on an educated ministry slowed the rate of growth on the frontier based on the number of licentiates that were available. Meanwhile the Baptists and Methodists would find a young man with gifts, give him a Bible, two or three more books, and send him on a horse off to preach wherever he found people who would listen. Who could compete with that speed and agility and maintain doctrinal integrity?
If you trace the areas where the Scot-Irish and their descendants (who were almost all Presbyterian in the beginning) settled first in America, and shaped the culture that newcomers would find and assimilate into, it extends from western Pennsylvania down to the western Carolinas, and west from there through southern Ohio, south Indiana, sKentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, South Kansas, and the North Texas Hill Country. Not to mention that these people were dominant in the initial settlements all over the far west extending to eastern Oregon. Now imagine if the dominant Christian churches over this vast region were Presbyterian.
Surrey Chapel, London, England, from 19thcenturyphotos.com
Rowland Hill, the blessed minister at Surrey Chapel, was one of the greatest gospel preachers of 19th century England. He set the popular tune to the British national air “Rule Britannia” to a hymn entitled “Hail, Immanuel”, having remarked, “why should the devil have all the good tunes?” Its words ironically mimic the patriotic air. Hill wanted the English people to know that their real strength lie only in the will and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ who rules the universe. The organ playing at Surrey Chapel must have caused many passers by outside to pause hearing this grand hymn. I’ve finally found the text of this hymn is found in James Sherman’s Memoir of Rowland Hill:
The musical air “Rule Britannia!” can be heard as sung at the BBC proms in 2009:
[Mr. Thomas Gray] lived among the Methodists and with them only he mixed. Many ministers came over from the Independents in this way, the Rev. Benjamin Thomas being another example. It was hardly considered that a formal reception was necessary for them. Almost imperceptibly to themselves and to others, they slipped into their places within the Connexion.
Jones and Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, The Banner of Truth Trust, vol II, 198.
[Siencyn Thomas] said on one occasion to an elder in the monthly meeting, ‘I understand that the drink you supply is not as tasty as it once was. What do you think is the cause? There was an old woman who used to live in Ystradfellte parish in a little cottage on the side of the road that had a lot of traffic travelling to the nearby lime-kilns. She used to brew at home and had a good name for her beer. If anyone excelled, they would be described as being as good as Aunt Bessie’s drink. The young men, on the road to fetch lime, would often call for a draught, and having visited once, would almost invariably call again, so good was its taste. But after a while, the woman thought it would be much less work for herself to buy in her beer by the barrel. The young men came as before but having drunk would make a face, and on looking into the glass would say, “Auntie, this isn’t your beer. I won’t come here again.” The old lady soon realized her mistake.’ He then turned to the elder saying, “Brother, brew your own beer at home. Don’t give to your brothers and sisters anything that you have not experienced as a blessing to your own soul. Once you start dealing in foreign drink it won’t be long before your friends start leaving.’
Jones and Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, The Banner of Truth Trust, vol II., 181.
“Mainly, it is aqua fortis, which breaks in two what was once one. Secondly, it is jalap powder, which purges the wound. Thirdly, it is a tincture of myrrh, which heals the wound completely, and does not cover it with dead flesh.”
Iefan, Ticlai, in response to the question, “What is repentance?”
Jones and Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. II, 167.
They used to press their hearers to the very point of damnation; they drove them to the uttermost, very like the Israelites before the Red Sea. And having kept them there for a time, bereft of any hope from heaven, they threw open the door of the gospel, so that the people, amazed by the majesty and suddenness of the light that fell upon them, broke out into rejoicing and glorifying of God. We have heard this kind of preaching being condemned. Whatever may be said against it, it was the means of returning thousands who were upon the broad road, and it produced a class of believers comparable to any the Christian world has ever seen.
Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. II, Banner of Truth, 113.
“You should firstly,” began John Evans, “endeavor to enlighten the minds of your hearers. No real profit will be obtained while the mind is still dark. Then, seek to awaken guilty and sleepy consciences. Aim those darts which are found in the Word at their hearts, and watch to see if it pleases God to bless such means to their awakening, causing them to cry out as the multitudes on the day of Pentecost: ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Next, you should strive in every sermon, to win their affections and draw them to love Christ and the treasures of the gospel. And lastly, be sure that all your sermons emphasize the need for a holy life and conversation.”
Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. II, p. 42
He stood to declare the Word near an inn door. Opposite him, on the other side of the road, were three trees growing at the side of a river. Soon after he had started preaching, a drunken man passed by who started shouting out at the end of every sentence from the preacher, ‘He’s lying!’ Dafydd Morris suffered this for a while, but as the man continued with his shouting and threatenings, his spirit was aroused, and he said to the crowd around him, ‘Listen! Those three trees will bear testimony against that man on Judgment Day, unless retribution overtakes him before then.’ The people noted his remark, and it was soon brought to their notice again, when the drunkard fell over a wall in his drunkenness one dark night, and was drowned. And this took place only a few paces away from the spot where the preacher had stood. As the Bible says, ‘Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?’
Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol. I, p. 728.
In Llan-gan, beneath the pulpit,
Was her heaven, was her home,
While the harp-strings, plucked by David,
Sang the song of life to come;
Christ the Text, and Christ the Sermon,
Christ the Law, and Christ the Key,
So preached Jones, and so she answered–
‘Thus forever shall it be.’
William William’s (of Pantycelyn) Elegy of Mrs. Grace Price of Watford, member of Llan-gan parish, pastored by David Jones
Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, vol I. p. 709
[William Edward of Rhyd-y-gele] was full of fire and passion, was very gifted, and possessed the ability to address sinners, but was naturally awkward and uncultivated in his manner. He was a Methodist, he had been converted under Howell Harris, but had mixed much amongst the Dissenters and when attending their special services sat with their ministers. They considered him too fiery and irregular. He thought them lifeless and unevangelical. He explained to them once the difference between his way of preaching and theirs, using the illustration of a house on fire:
“Your way is to say, ‘On travelling one night, firstly, I perceived a fire. Secondly I saw smoke. Thirdly, I understood that a house was on fire. Fourthly, I knew that the family inside were asleep. Fifthly, I came to wake you and to call you, in case you were destroyed.’ My own method, on seeing the house aflame and the family asleep, is to shout out, with no firstly or secondly, ‘Hey! Hey! Fire! Fire! Awake! Come out at once or you will be burnt to ashes!'”
Jones & Morgan, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, (The Banner of Truth Trust), vol. I, p. 346.