The Position And Character Of The American Clergy -- By: Charles F. Thwing

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 040:158 (Apr 1883)
Article: The Position And Character Of The American Clergy
Author: Charles F. Thwing


The Position And Character Of The American Clergy

Rev. Charles F. Thwing

I propose to write of the American clergyman in certain relations. The foundation of the paper is Dr. Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit.1 Before entering, therefore, upon the theme it is not unfitting to premise a few words concerning the author of the work,

William Buell Sprague, descended from the Spragues of Duxbury, was born in Andover, Conn., in 1795. He graduated at Yale College in 1815 and at Princeton Seminary in 1819. In the latter year he accepted a call to become colleague of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lathrop as pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Springfield, Mass. In 1821, on the death of Dr. Lathrop, he became pastor. In 1829 he was installed pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Albany, N.Y., a position he held forty years. In 1869, he removed to Flushing, L.I., where he died 7th May, 1876. In addition to the duties pertaining to a metropolitan parish he performed a large amount of literary labor. He published at least twenty-four volumes. He wrote many introductions to the books of other authors. He was a contributor to Appleton’s American Cyclopaedia, as well as to magazines and reviews. His acquaintance with the religious history of America, especially with the life and work of those who had been prominent in the various branches of the American church, was extensive and intimate. He made

the largest collection of religious pamphlets to be found this side of the Atlantic. His greatest work, to which he devoted about twenty years, is comprised in the nine octavo volumes known briefly and familiarly as “Sprague’s Annals.” It is a collection of biographical sketches of the more distinguished American clergymen from the early settlement to the middle of the present century. Two volumes are devoted to the Trinitarian Congregational, two to the Presbyterian, one each to the Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist, and the Unitarian denominations. The last volume is divided among the Lutheran, the Reformed Dutch, the Associate, the Associate Reformed, and the Reformed Presbyterian branches of the church. Biographies are given of not less than thirteen hundred clergymen, of which not a few contain an elaborate account of their life and careful estimate of their character and work. The contributors to the volumes number about five hundred and forty. The work is generally regarded as accomplishing a subordinate yet important design which its author set before him—freedom from denominational partiality. Its fidelity to the truth and its delicacy in treating difficult points of doctrine or of individual character are wort...

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