Willson, James Renwick, Dd
Willson, James Renwick, D.D.
one of the most learned, able, and eloquent divines of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in his day, was born near Pittsburgh, Pa., April 9, 1780. He early gave indications of great mental ability, and, when only twelve years of age, was well known as an eager student of theology. He graduated at Jefferson College, Pa., with first honors, in 1806; was licensed to preach in 1807; and was principal of Bedford, Pa., 1806-15, and of a classical school in Philadelphia for two and a half years. His labors as a teacher were highly successful, some of the most prominent gentlemen of the country having been trained by him. In 1817 he became pastor of the congregations of Newburgh and Coldenham, N.Y. At that time Newburgh was notorious for its infidelity; but his advent was a new sera in the village. The town collected to hear him; it was gradually reformed, and the oldest inhabitants still ascribe very much to his sermons. In 1823 the congregation of Coldenhan asked and received all his services until 1830, when he removed to Albany, as pastor of a church there. As early as 1820 he began educating young men for the ministry; in 1822 he began to edit the Evangelical Witness, a monthly magazine, the first ever published by a Covenanter as a distinctive denominational magazine it was discontinued in 1826. He afterwards commenced and continued for two years The Christian Statesman, a small paper, 8vo, of eight pages. In 1831, about the time when the abolition movement began, and also a movement within the Reformed Presbyterian Church respecting certain national privileges, lie took a leading part in all this conflict, and from its earlier appearance had begun the publication of The Albany Quarterly. From 1840 until 1845 he was senior professor in the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary, Allegheny, Pa.; from 1845, when the Seminary was removed to Cincinnati, O., he was sole professor until 1851, when, owing to ill-health, he retired with the title of emeritus professor. He died Sept. 29, 1853. Dr. Willson, in intellectual reach, and comprehension- and acuteness, ranked among the first of men. He had a wide-spread reputation as an eloquent preacher. There were moments when he was overwhelming in the majesty of his descriptions and in the awful character of his denunciations. He was pre- eminently a man of prayer; faithful to his convictions; a man of unwavering integrity. He published, A Historical Sketch of Opinions on the Atonement, etc. (1817): — Alphabetical. Writing and Printing (1826): — Prince Messiah's Claim to Dominion, etc. (Albany, 1832, 8vo): — The Written Law (1840); also a number of occasional sermons, addresses, etc. See Wilson, Presb. Hist, Almanac, 1866, p. 293; Allibone, Dict. of Brit and Amer. Authors, s.v.;' Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 9:40. (J. L. S.)