Early Theological Education West Of The Alleghenies -- By: Jesse Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 084:336 (Oct 1927)
Article: Early Theological Education West Of The Alleghenies
Author: Jesse Johnson


Early Theological Education West Of The Alleghenies1

Jesse Johnson

It will be readily understood why, in speaking on Early Theological Education west of the Alleghenies, I give special attention to the Xenia United Presbyterian Seminary. This is a Xenia occasion and this itself might be sufficient reason. But that is not all. Xenia was the first theological seminary west of the Alleghenies, and the only one in that region until Pittsburgh Seminary, also of the United Presbyterian Church, was founded in 1825. That is, for 31 years Xenia stood as the one western frontier institution organized and operating for theological education only.

Thus two theological seminaries, representing two small Presbyterian bodies, were pioneers in theological education west of the Alleghenies. What is now Xenia Seminary, then Service Seminary, was founded by the Associate Presbyterian Church, and what is now Pittsburgh Seminary, originally Allegheny Seminary, was founded by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. These two churches united in 1858 to form the United Presbyterian Church of North America, and the two pioneer seminaries still serve the united church.

During the persecutions in Scotland in the latter half of the seventeenth century, many Covenanters fled to North Ireland. From this place and also from Scotland, beginning about 1720, many families emigrated to America and settled chiefly in Southern New York, Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Carolina. They had no minister until 1751, when John Cuthbertson came from the presbytery in Scotland. After twenty-three years of itinerant labor, Cuthbertson, with two more ministers who had recently arrived from Scotland, organized the

Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of America. This was in 1774, at Paxtang, Pennsylvania, six miles east of Harrisburg.

Meantime the “first secession” from the established Church of Scotland had taken place, namely in 1733, and the Reverends Ebenezer Erskine, Alexander Moncrief, James Fisher and William Wilson had organized the Associate Presbytery. This seceding church had a rather remarkable growth, and a goodly number of its families emigrated to the colonies, settling in eastern and southern New York and in the valley of the lower Susquehanna. In 1753 two Associate ministers, Alexander Gellatly and Andrew Arnot, arived in Pennsylvania, sent by the Associate Synod in Scotland in answer to the call for help which the emigrant families had made to the church back home. In the same year (1753) they organized the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania. In 1776 the Associate Presbytery of New York was organized.

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