Spencer, Elihu, Dd
Spencer, Elihu, D.D.
a Presbyterian divine, was born at East Haddam, Conn., Feb. 12, 1721. He commenced a course of literary study, with a view to the Gospel ministry, in March, 1740, and graduated at Yale College in September 1746. After graduation he was urged to undertake a mission among the Indians of the Six Nations, and, under the sanction of the society in Great Britain which had fostered the other missions among the Indians, he entered upon the arduous task, and in September 1748, was solemnly ordained to the work of the ministry, with a special view to an Indian mission. The leadings of Providence, however, appear to have been such as to direct his labors into another and entirely different department of evangelical work, and Feb. 7, 1750, he was installed pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, N.J., then vacant in consequence of the death of president Dickinson. It was during his pastorate in Elizabethtown that his character for piety and public spirit prompted the trustees of the College of New Jersey to elect him one of the corporate guardians of that institution, which office he held as long as he lived. In 1756 he became pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Jamaica, L.I.; in 1758 he accepted the chaplaincy of the New York troops, then about to take their place in the French war still raging. When his services as chaplain were closed, he connected himself with New Brunswick Presbytery, and labored several years in the contiguous congregations of Shrewsbury, Middletown Point, Shark River, and Amboy. It was about this time that he addressed a letter to the Rev. Ezra Stiles, D.D., which was published, and attracted no small share of public attention. The subject of it was "The State of the Dissenting Interest in the Middle Colonies of America." It was originally dated at Jamaica, July 2, 1759, and there were some amendments and additions to it at Shrewsbury on Nov. 3. This was the only formal work he ever committed to the press. In 1764 the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, having reason to believe that a number of their congregations in the South were in an unformed and irregular state, sent the Rev. Elihu Spencer, and Alexander McWhorter of Newark, N. J., to prepare them for a more orderly and edifying organization. Soon after returning from this important service, he became pastor of St. George's Church in Delaware, where he spent five years. In 1769 he accepted a call to the city of Trenton, N.J., where he remained useful and beloved until he was removed by death, Dec. 27, 1784. Dr. Spencer was possessed of fine genius, great vivacity, ardent piety, and special merits as a preacher and a man. In 1782 the University of Pennsylvania conferred upon him the degree of D.D. See Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 3, 165. (J.L.S.)