Today in Church History

March 8

Gilbert Tennent

On March 8, 1740, Gilbert Tennent preached his fiery sermon, “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,” in Nottingham, Pa.

This leader of New Side Presbyterians decried opponents of revival in scathing terms. He argued that the antirevivalists proved they were unregenerate by their opposition to the Awakening. They were “wicked men,” “being greedy of filthy lucre,” were “guided by the devil,” and “their discourse was cold and sapless.” Tennent went on to add that if one did not receive spiritual nourishment from one’s church, one could “lawfully go, and that most frequently, where he gets the most good to his precious soul.”

New Side and Old Side Presbyterians would divide in 1741 over controversies related to confessional subscription, itinerancy, and theological education. In 1758 a more irenic Gilbert Tennent would be elected moderator of the reunited church, and he would eventually express regret over the rhetoric of his famous sermon.

- John Muether

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