Neill, William, Dd
Neill, William, D.D.
an eminent Presbyterian divine, was born near McKeesport, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, in 1778. His parents were killed by Indians while he was yet a child, so that he was raised by friends. He was engaged in a store at Canonsburg, Pa.,when the question of duty being brought to his mind and heart he soon decided upon the ministry. He pursued his preparatory studies in the Old Academy, which afterwards became Jefferson College, Pennsylvania; graduated at Princeton College in 1803, and acted as tutor there, during which time he studied theology. In 1805 he was licensed by the New Brunswick Presbytery; in 1806 was ordained pastor of a Church at Cooperstown, N.J.; in 1809, of the First Church, Albany, N.Y.; in 1816, of the Sixth Church, Philadelphia, where he continued to labor until 1824, when he was called to the presidency of Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, then under the control of the Presbyterians. There Dr. Neill labored for five years, when long-continued difficulties, which could not be controlled, prompted him to resign, and by the action of the trustees the college passed into the hands of the Methodists. On leaving Carlisle, in 1829, he became secretary and general agent for the Board of Education, which office he held for two years. In speaking of his duties at that time, he says, "I was their factotum, had the office in my dwelling, kept the records, wrote the letters, travelled, preached, collected funds, and prepared the reports, without even a boy to go on errands; but, harder than all, I had to contend with the American Education Society, and the prejudices of the people against all denominational boards... However, we made some progress; a few hundred dollars were collected, a few beneficiaries were registered, and the people began to come slowly under the shadow of their own standard." Finding the work too hard and incompatible with his duty to his family, he resigned, and in 1831 retired to Germantown, and there betook himself again to the duties of the pulpit. He preached until 1842, when he removed to Philadelphia, and remained without charge until his death, August 8, 1860. Dr. Neill was deemed one of the most useful ministers of his day. His preaching was clear and replete with Gospel truth, persuasive and tender. His active mind often found expression in the religious press. He published, Lectures on Biblical History (1846, 1855): — Practical Exposition of the Epistles to the Ephesians (1850): — The Divine Origin and Authority of the Christian Religion (1854): — A Discourse reviewing a Ministry of Fifty Years (1857). He also for some years edited the Presbyterian Magazine, and contributed papers to several of the religious periodicals. After his death there was published a volume of his Sermons with his Autobiography, and a Commemorative Discourse by the Reverend Dr. J.H. Jones. See Wilson, Presb. Hist. Almanac, 1861, page 102; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, s.v.; American Presbyterian Reunion Memorial Volume, 1837-1871, pages 128-133. (J.L.S.)