Swift, Elisha Pope, Dd
Swift, Elisha Pope, D.D.
an eminent divine of the Presbyterian Church, was born at Williamstown, Mass., Aug.'12, 1792.. His paternal grandfather was the Hon. Heman Swift; his father, the Rev. Seth Swift, pastor at one time of the Congregational Church in Williamstown; and his mother was a descendant of Rev. John Eliot, well known in the annals of American history as the "Apostle to the Indians." He graduated with honor at Williams College, Sept; 1, 1813, and at the Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J. in 1816 was licensed by New Brunswick Presbytery at Lawrenceville, N. J., April 24,1816, and on Sept. 19 of the same year he met the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Hartford, Conn., and was accepted as a foreign missionary, though he was informed that he could not be sent abroad for some months. On Sept. 3, 1817, he was ordained by a Congregational council as an evangelist to the Heathen, the late Lyman Beecher, D.D., preaching the ordination sermon in Park Street Church, Boston, Mass. The interval between his licensure and his entering a permanent field of labor, a period of some two and a half years, was filled up with laborious efforts in behalf of the foreign missionary cause traveling, for the most part, on horseback, preaching almost daily, collecting funds, forming auxiliary societies, and awakening the people everywhere to the claims of this great enterprise. At length he was obliged, on account of the want of funds on the part of the board, to relinquish his long-cherished desire of being a foreign missionary. In October, 1818, he became pastor of the Church in Dover, where he labored diligently, but under great discouragements; in November, 1819, he was installed by a committee of the Redstone Presbytery as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pa., and immediately entered upon his labors in that community, which he subsequently adorned and blessed until he became secretary and general agent for the Western Foreign Missionary Society, March 1, 1833. "This society," to use his own language, has since become, as it was intended at its very outset it should, the Board of Foreign Missions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church" (a history of which is published in the Presb. Hist. Almanac for 1861). He was also deeply interested in theological education, and took an active part in the establishment of the Allegheny Theological Seminary, Allegheny, Pa.; and was connected with it from its inception until his death, a period of forty years. He was one of the first directors, also an agent to collect funds, and the first instructor in theology, which office he held: for about two years and for which he declined to receive any remuneration. In 1835 he received a unanimous call to become the pastor of the First Presbyterian. Church in Allegheny, and after about twelve months, during which time he made such arrangements as to secure the continued efficiency of the Missionary Society, he accepted the invitation, and was installed in this, his last, longest, and most important pastorate. He died April 3, 1865. Dr. Swift was a man of uncommon power of intellect and unusual tenderness of heart. As a Christian he was pre-eminent for his humility and devotion. He took a deep interest in all educational, eleemosynary, or Christian enterprises, and was a patriot in the truest sense of the term. He was a leader in all the various courts of the Church, made so by the breadth of his views, the wisdom of his counsels, the integrity and loveliness of his character, and his manifest freedom from all selfishness and ambition. It was, however, as a preacher that he shone most conspicuously. See Wilson, Presb. Hist. Almanac, 1866. p. 172.