Daily Archives: October 16, 2010

Bonner, Thomas Joel (1821-1895)

Bonner, Rev. Thomas Joel—”Was born in Monroe Co., Ala., Dec. 23. 1821. His father, William Bonner, had moved from Cedar Springs, in Abbeville Co., S. C; afterward located in Wilcox Co., Ala., and later in Freestone Co., Texas. Thomas spent his early years on the farm. He attended Miami University a while, but graduated from Erskine College in 1843. The same year he married Miss Amanda Posey, of Abbeville Co., S. C. His theological studies were prosecuted under Rev. Joseph McCreary one year, and in Erskine Theological Seminary.

He was licensed by the Alabama Presbytery in 1846. For a number of years he was S. S. for a vacancy in Lowndes Co. and occasionally visited vacancies in Georgia and Mississippi. At the solicitation of friends and kindred, he moved to Freestone Co., Texas, in 1859.

Some time before this he was ordained sine titudo by the Alabama Presbytery. He preached regularly in this new field, always loyally maintaining the principles of the church of his choice. For perhaps 15 years, he never saw the face or heard the voice of an Associate Reformed minister, yet always had a lively interest in the enterprises of Synod. About the year 1865 he organized a Psalm-singing church at County Line school house, near the line between Freestone and Navarro counties. This church was temporarily placed under the care of a presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. The congregations of Harmony, Richland and Ebenezer come out of this organization. In the organization of the Presbytery of Texas, at Harmony Church, Dec. 9, 1876, Rev. T. J. Bonner presided and preached the opening sermon. He, with Revs. J. M. Little and W. L. Patterson composed the Presbytery. Failing health compelled him to retire from the active work of the ministry about the year ’79. He died June 13, 1895, at the home of his son, W. B. Bonner in Wortham, Texas. He left a widow and six children.

“…for the sake of union, we believe that many of our body would be willing to forbear with their Presbyterian brethren in the use of other songs in the worship of God.”

This is a news report on a Union Conference held between the Old School Presbyterians and the ARP church in 1856 or 1857. The Evangelical Repository of 1857 records the words of the Due West Telescope.

“A Union Convention In The South.—Some time since, members of the Synods of South Carolina and Georgia tendered invitations to members of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South, to consider the propriety of a union being formed between these bodies under the care of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, (Old School). Negotiations were accordingly entered into, and after various steps had been taken it was at length proposed that a Convention of delegates from each body should be held at Columbia, S. C, on the 23d of March (?1857). This Convention was held, and the Due-West Telescope gives us the following brief but interesting account of the meeting and its apparent result:—

‘The Convention in Columbia was smaller than we had hoped it would be. Only six Associate Reformed ministers, and about as many elders, were present. There were about twice as many of the Presbyterian body. The Convention was opened by a very appropriate sermon by Dr. Smythe, of Charleston. The following officers were then elected:—Dr. J. B. Adger, of the Columbia Seminary, President; Rev. W. R. Hemphill, Vice President; Dr. M’Bryde and Rev. C. B. Betts, Secretaries. After some further preliminaries, the Convention adjourned until Wednesday morning.

The first hour and a half of the next morning’s session were spent in devotional exercises. After this it was proposed, as the best means of reaching the end for which we had met, that the Convention divide itself into two committees; the Presbyterians forming one, and the Associate Reformed members constituting the other; that these Committees should occupy different rooms, and carry on a correspondence by letter. This seemed to us to be a very unfortunate arrangement, but it was adopted. Two letters by each committee were passed. The first was sent by the Presbyterians, and expressed a willingness to take their A. R. brethren just as they are, without making any requirements of them. To this the A. R. Committee replied that they earnestly desired the Union, but that they regarded the adjustment of the Psalmody question as necessary to its consummation. To this end they proposed that a new version of the Psalms be prepared by translation or collation, or both, as literal as might be in consistency with the laws of versification; that this version should take the place in the Union Book of Praise, of both Rouse and Watts; that it should be received and used by both churches, not on the principles of accommodation or forbearance, but as being authorized by the Head of the church, and by the church itself. Then it was said that while we do not feel at liberty ourselves to use anything else in the praise of God than the Scripture Psalms, yet, for the sake of union, we believe that many of our body would be willing to forbear with their Presbyterian brethren in the use of other songs in the worship of God.

To this our Presbyterian brethren replied that if they understood us, they were ready for the Union upon our ground. But, to save time, they insisted “that the new version be made a result, rather than a condition of union. But it was doubted by some of the A. R. Committee whether our Presbyterian brethren understood fully the terms proposed to them. Hence in our reply to their second letter, the fact was brought out more fully, that we desired the Psalms not only to have a place in the book of praise, but we desired them to be used. And we insisted on a new version as a condition of union, because of the prejudice that we believed existed against the one we now use.

Here the correspondence was stopped at 12 o’clock at night. Many members of the Convention had made their arrangements to leave on Thursday morning; and although the Convention adjourned to meet next morning, it was understood that nothing further would be done.

From this hasty sketch it will be seen that nothing tangible was accomplished. The meeting was a pleasant one. Not an incident occurred to mar the good feelings of any one. Rouse was sang, from first to last, and sang well. The audience that was in attendance manifested a decided interest in the objects of the Convention, and seemed greatly disappointed when it adjourned without bringing the parties more closely together. The members of the Convention were all handsomely entertained by the good people of the Presbyterian Church in Columbia, and in return we hope they received some spiritual benefit.

The proceedings of the Convention, together with Dr. Smythe’s sermon, were ordered to be published in Southern Presbyterian and Due-West Telescope. A committee, consisting of Dr. Smythe and Rev. W. R. Hemphill, was appointed to write a letter to the churches.’ ”