Bethune, George W, Dd
Bethune, George W., D.D.
a Reformed Dutch minister and eminent orator, was born in New York city, March 18, 1805. His father, Divie Bethuna, was an eminent merchant, noted for his piety and philanthropy. His mother was the daughter of Isabella Graham (q.v.), whose saintly virtues she inherited. After an academical education in New York, he pursued his collegiate studies at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at that time under the presidency of Dr. Mason, and, after graduating, entered the Theological Seminary at Princeton in 1822. In 1825 he was licensed by the New York Presbytery, and ordained to the ministry. After serving a year as naval chaplain at Savannah, he accepted the pastoral charge of the Reformed Protestant Dutch church at Rhinebeck, where he remained until 1830, when he was called as pastor to Utica; from there he went to Philadelphia (1834) as pastor of the Crown Street church. He resigned his charge in the latter city in 1849, and removed to Brooklyn, where a new church was built expressly for him, and in which he ministered until 1859, when illness compelled him to resign and spend a year in Europe. On his return he became associate pastor of Dr. Van Nest's church in New York, but, his strength continuing to decline, he was again compelled to go to Europe in search of health. On this tour he died at Florence, Italy, April 27, 1862, of congestion of the brain. Dr. Bethune was one of the leading men of the Reformed Dutch Church. All the boards of the Church shared his sympathies and labors, but, in particular, he devoted himself to the service of the Board of Publication. He was of opinion that a sound religious literature, doctrinal as well as practical, was needed, and must be brought down to the means of the masses, and that treatises on special doctrines, which general societies could not publish, should be prepared and issued. To show his interest in this work, he made over to the board several of his own works of high character. Though always a conservative in politics, he was a determined opponent of slavery, and it was principally due to him that the General Synod declined receiving the classis of North Carolina into the body. When James Buchanan was elected president, Dr. Bethune wrote a long letter to that gentleman, with whom he had close personal relations, imploring him, as he loved his country, and would prevent the calamity of a civil war, to use his great influence, when in the presidential chair, to arrest the march of the slave power. Dr. Bethune was for many years one of the most distinguished ornaments of the American pulpit. He was exceedingly effective, and always popular on the platform and before a lyceum; but the place in which, above all others, he loved to appear, was the pulpit, and the themes on which he delighted to expatiate were the distinctive doctrines of the old theology of Scotland and Holland. As a writer he was luminous and vigorous, with a rare grace of style. His theological acquirements were large and solid, and his general culture rich and varied. As a belles-lettres scholar he had few superiors. Himself a poet, he had rare critical taste, as was shown in his British Female Poets, with Biographical and Critical Notices. He also edited Walton's Complete Angler with a loving devotion. His works also include Lays of Love and Faith (12mo); Early Lost, Early Saved (Philad. 18mo); History of a Penitent (18mo); Fruits of the Spirit (Philad. 8vo); Sermons (Philad. 1846, 12mo); Life of Mrs. Bethune (N. Y. 1863, 12mo): Lectures on the Heidelberg Catechism (N. Y. 1864, 2 vols. 12mo).