Romeyn, the name of a family who have long been prominent in the ministry of the Reformed (Dutch) Church in America. Their ancestors fled from their native country, the United Provinces (now Belgium), during the persecutions of Louis XIV for conscience' sake and for their attachment to the Protestant cause. They took their lives in their hands, leaving all their effects behind them. There were three brothers, one of whom went to England, and was the ancestor of the celebrated Rev. William Romaine, author of The Life, the Walk, and the Triumph of Faith. He was the contemporary and colaborer of Whitefield, Berridge, the countess of Huntingdon, and the Wesleys, with others of the great revivalists of the last century. The other two brothers, somewhere between 1650 and 1660, went to the Dutch West India Islands and Brazil. One of them died soon after. Claas Janse Romeyn, the survivor, left Brazil when that country, which had been subject to the States-general, passed from their possession in 1661. He came to New York and died about twelve years later. Of his descendants the following are entitled to notice among the deceased ministers of the Reformed Church.
son of James Van Campen Romeyn, born at Greenbush, N.Y., in 1797, was a graduate of Columbia College in 1816, and of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church at New Brunswick in 1819. He was settled successively at Nassau, N.Y., 1820-27; Six Mile Run, N.J., 1827- 33; Hackensack, N.J., as colleague with his venerable father, 1833-36; Catskill, N.Y., 1836-40; Leeds, N.Y., 1842-44; Bergen Neck, N.J. 1844- 50; Geneva, N.Y., 1850-51. He had scarcely begun his labors at this place when he was stricken down with paralysis, of which he lingered, often in great suffering, until death brought him a happy release in 1859. He had previously been declared emeritus at his own request by the classis to which he belonged — a provision by which a minister is honorably discharged from active duties. None of the churches which he served offered him so prominent a position as his pulpit power seemed to others to demand. But this was the result entirely of his own peculiar views, his feeble health, and of his very sensitive nature, which led him to decline more commanding places and enabled him to occupy a congenial retirement. With these feelings he also declined the professorship of logic and rhetoric in Rutgers College, and seldom published any of his pulpit discourses. He was a frequent contributor to the religious press, writing upon almost all topics of current interest with equal ease and ability. His only published sermons were, one on The Crisis and its Claims upon the Church of God, preached, June, 1842, before the General Synod of the Reformed Church, of which he was the retiring president; another, entitled A Plea for the Evangelical Press, preached at the public deliberative meeting of the American Tract Society, October, 1843; and the very last effort of his pen, before he was paralyzed, entitled Enmity to the Cross of Christ. These are all characteristic sermons. The last was published in Dr. H.C. Fish's Pulpit Eloquence of the Nineteenth Century, and also in pamphlet form by the author as "A parting memorial to the people of his former charges." He was the author of a famous Report on the State of the Church, made to the General Synod in 1848; and also published a remarkable address before the Greene County Agricultural Society, during his residence there. In his will he forbade any posthumous publication of his discourses. His correspondence would make one of the raciest volumes of epistolary writing in our language. Probably the best idea of his pulpit oratory and sermons may be formed from the statements which we quote. Dr. James W. Alexander, writing to a friend in September, 1844, from Staten Island, says: "Here I heard James Romeyn; and a more extraordinary man I never heard. Fullness of matter, every step sudden and unexpected, genius, strength, fire, terror, amazing and preposterous rapidity, contempt of rule and taste. It was an awful discourse: 1Th 5:3. It was one which I shall not soon forget." Another contemporary says of him: "I think I see him now — his tall form, which, in face at least, I fancy to have been Laurence Sterne's, strung up to the highest nervous tension, and his tongue pouring forth a lava tide of burning eloquence, the most powerful to which I have ever listened. Powerful," he adds, "is just the word. I have heard men more remarkable for literary polish, more original in fancy, more erudite in learning, more winning in pathos; but for the grander sublimities of eloquence I never heard his equal. His denunciations were awful; he abounded in this style. I have heard of his preaching his first sermon on the text, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed,' of which the effect was startling. He abounded and excelled in illustration. He laid all literature and knowledge under contribution for this purpose." Yet with all these characteristics of a Boanerges, he was tender and soul moving. He could as easily bring tears to the eyes as terrors to the conscience. His zeal was flaming. His love to Christ and to souls and to the kingdom of Christ burned in every sermon and inflamed every prayer. His prayers were as remarkable as his sermons for fullness, variety, point, and overwhelming effects. The hymnology of the Church afforded him more illustration, and was quoted with more power than by any other minister whom we ever heard. His grasp of a great subject, his analytic skill, his surprising fertility of figurative language, and historical, scientific, literary, and especially scriptural, illustrations, his condensed, intense modes of expression, the beauty of his language, and the uplifting power of his I eloquence made him, as a preacher, perfectly unique and inimitable. He thought in figures, and his figures were powers. His voice was strong and commanding; his utterance was more rapid than that of any other public speaker, not excepting the celebrated statesman Rufus Choate; his action was as energetic as his thought, and perfectly exhausting to his weak and overtaxed body. He never went into his pulpit, not even to lecture in a country school-house, without the most careful preparation. His manuscript sermons and lectures are quite as marvelous for their neat and minute chirography as for their literary and theological contents. It is wonderful how he could read them in or out of the pulpit. But his physical and mental peculiarities seem to have been more acutely sensitive than those of ordinary mortals. He could see further, hear quicker, speak and think more rapidly than almost all others. But these very qualities brought with them a more excitable and naturally irritable temperament, more impatience with things and people that were not right in his sight, and other infirmities that needed the constant control of divine grace to enable him to live for Christ. Yet he was, in private life, a most entertaining and interesting companion, mirthful, exuberant, simple as a child, and a fast friend. In the ecclesiastical affairs of his denomination he was a conspicuous and zealous worker, and although, as in his Report on the State of the Church, he seemed to be far in advance of the times, yet, one by one, nearly all of his proposed changes have been adopted and incorporated with the policy and life of the Church. He dealt in principles and facts rather than in theories and fancies. His afflictions enriched his experience, while they caused "many a conflict, many a doubt." His last days were beclouded by the saddening shadows of disease that fell upon the wreck of his body and mind. But the spirit of his piety and ministerial life still shot up its heavenly radiance through the gloom until he entered into rest. On his tombstone are graven these words expressive of his highest aims: "Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord! I have passed my days as a minister of Jesus Christ. That is enough! That is enough! I am satisfied. God has led me by a right way. Bless the Lord, O my soul!"
2. JAMES VAN CAMPEN,
son of Rev. Thomas and Susannah (Van Campen) Romeyn, was born at Minisink, Sussex Co., N.J., Nov. 15, 1765. A child of the covenant, he was converted at an early age, and was always noted for conscientious piety and for the simplicity and frankness of his well-balanced character. He was educated at the Schenectady Academy, which was the germ of Union College, under the eye of his uncle, Dr. Theodoric Romeyn, with whom he afterwards studied theology. He was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Synod of New York, Oct. 5, 1787, and immediately settled as pastor of the united churches of Greenbush and Schodac, Rensselaer Co., N.Y., opposite Albany. In 1794 he relinquished the Schodac Church and took charge of a new enterprise which he had organized at Wynant's Kill in connection with the Church at Greenbush. In 1799 he removed to New Jersey, having accepted a call to the united Second Churches of Hackensack and Schralenburg, which had been formed out of the old original churches there, and where he remained until disease compelled him to cease all active service, in 1832. His ministry in New Jersey began at a period of bitter dissensions between the Coetus and Conferentie parties, which, perhaps, raged with more theological and personal violence in these two churches than in any other part of the Dutch denomination. True to the antecedents and instincts of his family, Mr. Romeyn was a leader of the liberal and progressive side. The reactionary party were, as a rule, arrayed also against the national struggle for independence. Politics embittered the ecclesiastical disputes. Families were divided; personal strifes ran so high that, in many cases, the opposing parties would neither worship together, nor speak to each other, nor even turn out for each other on the roads. In 1822 another great conflict which had arisen some years previously culminated in the secession of Rev. Solomon Froeligh, D.D., a professor of theology and pastor of the old churches of Hackensack and Schralenburg, and four other clergymen, with seven congregations, who formed what they called the "True Reformed Dutch Church in America." All the rancor and obstinacy of the old strifes seemed to be transferred to this unhappy movement, in which Mr. Romeyn was necessarily involved as the chief representative of the faith and polity of the Church against which this revolt was directed. But he stood undaunted — prudent in counsel, energetic in action, and conciliatory in disposition. He was admirably fitted for his burdens by his natural endowments, his high moral qualities, and his pervading piety. No one could charge him with rash enterprise, doubtful expedients, personal antipathies, excited words, retaliating acts, or irritating and aggressive measures. In the affairs of the Church he was the ready helper, the judicious counsellor, the pacificator. Without the form of judicial authority, he wielded an influence far more effectual, desirable, and honorable. In person Mr. Romeyn was tall, large and well proportioned, erect and of commanding presence, dignified and impressive. He was retiring, modest, stable, strong, and earnest. His piety was serene, profound, chastened by divine discipline, and developed with great simplicity and tenderness. His mind was neither rapid nor brilliant nor original, but clear, comprehensive, well trained, and practical. In doctrine he was a strong Calvinist, holding the truth in love, "and insisting more upon the spirit which is life than upon the letter which killeth." His own congregations remained perfectly united and peaceful amid the surrounding strife, and his ministry was blessed with a steady ingathering of souls and growth in grace. He preached from carefully prepared analyses, with fluent speech, terse expression, and a remarkable facility in the use of appropriate Scripture language. This was especially the case in his communion services, when the Church members stood around successive tables, and, as he gave with his own hand the broken bread to each one, he accompanied it with some brief quotation from the Bible particularly adapted to the circumstances of the recipient. Here his pastoral tact and intimate knowledge of his flock were often manifested with a power which melted every heart and carried his people up to the top of the mount of communion. He was very active and prominent in the general councils of the Church, for many years was stated clerk, and in 1806 president of the General Synod. From 1807 till his death he was a trustee of Rutgers College, and also rendered great aid in securing funds for the theological professorships. His only published matter consists of a manifesto in regard to a controversy, an address to theological students at New Brunswick (Magazine of the Reformed Dutch Church, 4, 202), and some synodical reports. He died in perfect peace at Hackensack after a lingering illness of paralysis which had laid him aside from all pastoral work for eight years, June 27, 1840.
son of John and Juliana (M'Carty) Romeyn, and nephew of the Rev. Thomas Romeyn, Sr., was born in New York Dec. 24, 1768. He was educated at Hackensack Academy under the celebrated Peter Wilson, LL.D., and in theology under the Rev. Drs. Theodoric Romeyn and John H. Meyer. Before he was twenty years old he was ordained to the ministry, Nov. 10, 1788, and settled as pastor of a Dutch Church at Linlithgow, N.Y., Livingston's Manor. In 1806 he removed to Harlem, remaining there as pastor until 1814, when he went to Delaware County, serving churches at Schoharie Kill and Beaver Dam, the latter of which was resuscitated by his labors. In 1817 he removed to Woodstock, N.Y., on account of his daughter's health, but after a few months was himself taken with the disease of which he died, July 17, 1818. In 1797 he was appointed professor of Hebrew by the General Synod of the Reformed Church, and held this office until his death. "His personal appearance," says one of his pupils of 1812, "was uncommonly imposing — nearly six feet in height, of a full habit, grave, dignified, and graceful. His head was finely formed, his visage large, with a dark-blue powerful eye, well set under an expanded brow; his countenance florid; his hair full and white, and usually powdered before entering the pulpit or associating with gentlemen of the old school." As a preacher, he was distinguished by his "deep bass voice, of remarkable smoothness and considerable compass;" by an easy, deliberate manner; and by great accuracy of language, precision of thought, and variety of treatment. He was described as combining the Dutch style of pulpit method with the English mode of reasoning and the French vivacity, and picturesque setting of illustration and expression with the most perfect self command. His theological culture was large and profound, and his reputation as a linguist was very high. "He pronounced the Hebrew with the German accent, with great skill according to the Masoretic points. His attachment to this language brought him, and kept him for many years, in close intimacy with the Jewish rabbins and other teachers of Hebrew in New York, who often spoke of his high scholarship in this department." His temperament was nervous and somewhat irritable, but his piety was pervasive and controlling. He was generous, witty, impulsive, kind, and vivacious — religion and his pulpit absorbed his whole soul. His death was marked by the most perfect trust in "Christ, the hope of glory," and by patient waiting for his coming.
4. JOHN BRODHEAD, D.D.,
the only son of Theodoric Romeyn, was born at Marbletown, Ulster Co., N.Y., Nov. 8, 1777. After a preliminary education in the Schenectady Academy, he entered the senior class of Columbia College at the age of seventeen, and graduated with high rank in 1795. The next year he united with his father's Church in Schenectady, and immediately began his theological studies with Dr. John H. Livingston, but completed them under his father. At twenty-one he was licensed to preach by the Classis of Albany, June 20, 1798. In 1799 he became pastor of the Reformed Church of Rhinebeck, Dutchess Co., N.Y., and labored there with increasing popularity and success until, in 1803, he took charge of the Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, which had united in a call upon him after a long period of division. This change enabled him to be with his aged father in his last days. After one year of labor, he went to the First Presbyterian Church in Albany, and sustained himself with great ability in that important Church at the capital of the state. Four years later (in 1808) he accepted the call of the newly formed Cedar Street Presbyterian Church in New York city, of which he continued the pastor until his death, which occurred Feb. 22, 1825, in the twenty-sixth year of his ministry. Dr. Romeyn inherited the nervous sensibility, and the acute, rapid, and decisive characteristics of his family. He was a man of medium size and fine personal appearance; quick in his movements, cultivated in manner, and earnest in his work. He was a great reader, and his fine library was filled with well-used works in almost all departments of literature. His theological attainments were general rather than profound. As a preacher, he was among the foremost of his day. Even when the New York pulpit contained such men as Dr. John M. Mason and Dr. Alexander M'Leod, he built up his new Church under the very shadows of their sanctuaries with complete success. With a congregation composed of the elite of the city, his popularity was maintained by discourses which always evinced careful preparation, and by a pastoral tact which was almost unrivalled. Few men have had such power to attach their people to their ministry as he. The greatest characteristic of his preaching was his magnetic power of attraction and impression. His sermons were not remarkable for analysis or discussion, hut in their application, and especially in dealing with consciences, and in appeals to the emotional nature, he was a prince of preachers. His published volumes of sermons, like those of Whitefield, do not sustain his great reputation as a pulpit orator. Their power over his audiences was doubtless owing to his impressive delivery, which was generally pleasing, natural, and full of vivacity. "At times every line of his face, even his whole frame, became instinct with passion, and then the eye kindled or became tearful, the very soul speaking through the body, that trembled with emotion or erected itself into an attitude of authority. The torrent of feeling often subdued and carried away his hearers with responding emotion. Dr. Romeyn, and young Spencer, of Liverpool, have always been associated in my mind as having strong points of resemblance" (Dr. Vermilye, in Sprague's Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 4, 223). His ministry was exceedingly blessed, and especially among the young. "His catechetical classes were crowded. Of a very large Bible class of young ladies every one became a professor of religion. More young men became ministers from his congregation than from any other." In addition to two volumes of Sermons (published in 1816 and reprinted in Scotland), Dr. Romeyn printed a number of occasional discourses, delivered upon national and other important occasions among these was an Oration on the Death of Washington (1800). He was active in the benevolent movements of his day — a trustee of Princeton College from 1809; a principal agent in establishing the Theological Seminary in that place, and one of its first directors; moderator of the General Assembly in 1810, when he was but thirty-three years of age; and one of the founders of the American Bible Society in 1816. He was also its first secretary for domestic correspondence. His health was not equal to the constant strain to which his zealous spirit, peculiar trials, and infirmities of mind and body subjected him. A tour in Europe in 1813 and 1814 brought transient relief; but for more than a year prior to his death his strength gave way, and he finished his course with joy, making "earnest intercession for his family and his flock, "and supported by the most cheering heavenly prospects and triumphant faith in Christ.
5. THEODORE (OR DIRCK), D.D.,
a younger half-brother of Thomas, Sr., was born at Hackensack, N.J., Jan. 12 (O.S.), 1744. His elementary education was received from his elder brother Thomas and the Rev. J. M. Goetschius, pastor of the united churches of Hackensack and Schralenburg. He entered the junior class in Princeton College while the Rev. Dr. Finley was president, and graduated in 1765 in the same class with the younger Jonathan Edwards, who was his bosom friend; and Dr. Sprague states that it was partly through his influence that Dr. Edwards was, many years after, chosen president of Union College. Converted at the age of sixteen, he immediately gave himself up to the ministry of the Gospel, studied theology with the Rev. J.M. Goetschius, and was licensed in 1766, after a two days' examination, by the American Classis, or Coetus, of the Dutch Church. His first settlement was at Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing, Ulster Co., N.Y., from 1766 to 1775. He then removed to Hackensack, his native place, and Schralenburg, where he ministered until 1784, when he went to Schenectady, his last settlement (1784 to 1804). During this period he declined numerous urgent calls from more prominent churches. He was twice elected president of Queen's College (now Rutgers), N.J., but declined both invitations. His zeal for education led him to establish the Schenectady Academy, out of which grew Union College. He was the father of this institution, and its presidency was first offered to him, but declined for reasons satisfactory to himself. The General Synod of his Church appointed him lector in theology, an office which he held from 1792 to 1797, when he was elected professor of theology, and so remained until his decease. Dr. Romeyn was gifted with a powerful intellect, mature and comprehensive judgment, great executive ability, a remarkably retentive memory, a strong will, and those marked qualities which made him "a leader and commander in Israel." He was foremost, with Dr. Livingston and others, in the movements which secured the independence of the Dutch Church from the control of the Church in Holland. His bold patriotism during the Revolutionary war made him a conspicuous mark for Tory and British persecutions and revenges. The British troops sacked his dwelling, and destroyed or carried off all his furniture, clothing, books, and papers. He was obliged to remove his family for safety, but made frequent visits to his congregations, which were always attended by danger; and at one time his life nearly paid the forfeit from armed loyalists. Among the prisoners who were carried off from Hackensack when it was attacked by the British was his own brother, who was held captive three months. He also saved a number of men by hiding them in his own house behind a chimney. During all this period he was in intimate relations with some of the most distinguished officers of the army. "He was the counsellor of senators, the adviser and compeer of the warriors of the Revolution, and an efficient co-worker with the patriot." His pulpit oratory was powerful and popular. He was learned and yet practical; "a son of thunder," and "a son of consolation" also. His discourses were rich in solid matter, enlivened with historical anecdote and illustration. He went deeply into his subject, and his appeals to conscience and the feelings were at times overwhelming. His manner was natural, easy, and commanding. "His most expressive organ was his eye, and when he was excited no one could withstand its power." As a theological professor he gave full satisfaction to his students and to the Church which honored him. He was stately, reserved, affable, but not familiar. Governor De Witt Clinton describes him as having "something in his manner peculiarly dignified and benevolent, calculated to create veneration as well as affection, and it created an impression upon my mind that can never be erased." Another of his friends, and a student in theology (Dr. Jacob Brodhead), says that "un his external form, his manly, noble stature, his majestic though sometimes stern countenance, he resembled the illustrious Washington." Another says, "He was unquestionably the first man in our Church, among the first in the whole American Church. His piety was deep, practical, and experimental. He realized more than others his own errors and weaknesses, and trusted like a little child in the Savior whom he preached and loved." He died April 16, 1804, having been in the ministry thirty-eight years. His wife was Elizabeth Brodhead, of Ulster Co., N.Y., by whom he had two children, a daughter and a son. The daughter became the wife of Caleb Beck, of Albany, and mother of three very eminent physicians — Drs. Theodoric Romeyn, Lewis C., and John B. Beck. The son was the Rev. John B. Romeyn, D.D., whose memorial is given above.
6. THOMAS, SR.,
son of Nicholas Romeyn, was born at Pompton, N.J., March 20 (0. S.), 1729. His father being a farmer, he was brought up in the same calling until April, 1747, when he began to study for the Gospel ministry. He was a student in Princeton College under the presidency of the Rev. Aaron Burr, D.D., and pursued his studies with the Rev. Theodorus Frelinghuysen. pastor of the Dutch Church in Albany, N.Y. Having completed this course, and received a call from the Dutch Church in Jamaica, L.I., he sailed for Europe April 11, 1753, and was examined, licensed, ordained, and installed by the Classis of Amsterdam as pastor of the Church in Jamaica, to which he returned Aug. 27, 1754. His first wife was Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, by whom he had one son, the Rev. Theodorus Frelinghuysen Romeyn. She died at Jamaica in 1757. In 1760, on account of difficulties in his congregation, he accepted a call to the Church at Minisink, on the Delaware River. After a pastorate of ten years he removed to Caugllnawaga, N.Y., in 1770, where he continued as pastor of the Church until his decease at Mayfield, Montgomery Co., Oct. 22, 1794. He married his second wife, Susannah Van Campen, of Sussex County, N.J., Oct. 3, 1770. Six sons were born of this marriage. Of all his seven sons, four were educated for the ministry — Theodorus Frelinghuysen, James Van Campen, Benjamin, and Thomas, Benjamin died soon after graduating at Williams College in 1796. The others were all ordained to the ministry of their mother Church. Theodorus F. died in 1785, after a single year of service as the beloved pastor of the churches of Bridgewater and Bedminster, N.J. Their venerable father was the first Low-Dutch minister who settled west of Schenectady, in the valley of the Mohawk. His field of labor, being on the frontier, embraced large portions of what are now Fulton and Montgomery counties, surrounding the old church at Caughnawaga (now Fonda). His duties were consequently very arduous and often dangerous, from exposure to Indians and other pioneer trials. His missionary spirit was accompanied by intense devotion to the liberal views of the Coetus, who advocated the education and ordination of the clergy in this country, and independence of the Church in Holland. During the whole period of the Revolutionary war he was an enthusiastic patriot. His residence on the frontier was the theater of frequent alarms, murders, and desolations, which often interrupted, and at one time stayed, his ministerial labors. He was obliged to flee with all his family into the interior for safety until the danger was passed. He is represented to have been of a mild and patient spirit, "enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," and unostentatious in his demeanor. As a preacher, he was lucid and winning, strongly attached to the doctrines of grace as set forth in the standards of his Church, and able in their defense. In the pulpit he was solemn, earnest, and tender. His last illness, for more than a year, was borne with meek submission to the will of God, until his long ministry of forty years was closed by death. His remains were buried in front of the pulpit in the old church where for twenty-four years he had preached the Gospel of Christ.
7. THOMAS, JR.,
son of Rev. Thomas Romeyn, Sr., was born at Caughnawaga (now Fonda), N.Y., Feb. 22, 1777. Educated in the classics by his brother, Rev. James V. C. Romeyn, and at the Schenectady Academy, he graduated at Williams College, Mass., in September, 1796; studied theology with Dr. Theodoric Romeyn in Schenectady; was licensed to preach by the Classis of Albany in 1798, and ordained in the Dutch Church of Remsenbush (now Florida), N.Y., in 1800, having the double charge of that congregation and the Second Church of Schenectady. In 1806 he accepted the pastoral care of the churches of Niskayuna and Amity, N.Y., and served them until 1827, when he was disabled by a fall, which lamed him for life and compelled him to abandon active duty as a settled minister. He had a large, powerful frame, and was dignified, humorous, courteous, and decided, as well as amiable and transparently honest. His intellect was vigorous, his judgment almost uniformly correct, and his shrewd, pointed, quiet humor gave great zest to his deliberate and thoughtful speech. In the pulpit he was noted for theological exactness of statement, for knowledge and apt quotations of Scripture, for deep piety, and for practical usefulness. His attainments were respectable, but his wide influence over a large section of the Church was chiefly due to his thorough knowledge of "the law of the house" and his wisdom as a counsellor and peacemaker. He died Aug. 9, 1859, revered by all who knew him, and in "the full assurance of faith." He was a pillar of the Reformed Church in the valley of the Mohawk. See Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 4, 9; Corwin, Manual of the Ref. Church; Magazine of the Ref. Dutch Church; Life of Dr. J.H. Livingston; Taylor. Annals of the Classis of Bergen; Fish, Pulpit Eloquence of the 19th Century. (W.J.R.T.)