Pressly, John Taylor (1795-1870)

“Pressly, John Taylor, D. D.—Son of David Pressly, born in Abbeville Co., S. C, March 28, 1795, graduated at seventeen Transylvania University, Ky. Four years in the A. R. P. Seminary, N. Y., under the peerless Mason fitted him for license by the Second Presbytery, July 3, 1816. July 10, 1817, he was ordained and installed pastor of the large and waiting congregation of Cedar Spring, S. C, and Long Cane eleven years later, Feb. 28, 1828. Under Synod he was entrusted with the first mission West—to Tennessee. Two months in 1819 were spent, a sermon on an average, was preached each alternate day, $17.25 collected, expenses $33.40 and $7.00 per week was allowed. Synod highly approved his work and “expressed their gratitude to the head of the Church for the cheering intelligence and kind reception of the missionarv during his tour.” He was Moderator of Synod 1820, her Professor of Divinity 1825-1831, early influential and always punctual. Dr. Pressly, in connection with Dr. Isaac Grier, was a delegate to a convention of the three A. R. Presbyterian Synods in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 12, 1827, with the hope of union. In the midst of his rising popularity and extended usefulness in his congregation of 172 families and 334 members this relation was dissolved Nov. n, 1831. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod of the West established a Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pa., May 1825. To the sole charge of this responsible work he was unanimously elected Oct. 10, 1831, and entered upon his duties Jan. 5, 1832. During that year he accepted a call to the First A. R. P congregation of Allegheny, Pa., and removed the Seminary to his church. The title of D. D. was conferred by Jefferson in 1832, of which he was a trustee 1839-1865. He married Miss Jane Hearst of Cedar Spring, S. C., Sept. 22, 1846. Synod elected him President of Erskine College. This was declined. For over 15 years he was an honor to our Synod, facile princeps, very early in his ministry being called to her most responsible, difficult and delicate duties. His subsequent, useful and far reaching career belongs to another Church very near to us. He was the prince of the distinguished Pressly family. Dignified in person, systematic and laborious in study, able in debate, expository in preaching, a master in the classroom and oracular with his students. Psalm singing Presbyterianism never had an abler or more influential defender. His death occurred August 13, 1870.”

“In commemoration of the virtues and faithful services of their beloved pastor, the members of the congregation, among whom he had labored so long and acceptably, erected a mural tablet of white marble to the right of the pulpit, with the following appropriate memorial, inlaid with letters of gold inscribed upon a shield of black marble: [see above]:  This testimonial of loving and grateful hearts was unveiled on the occasion of the semi-centennial anniversary of the church, held Nov. 8, 1881.”

“The personal appearance of Dr. Pressly was strikingly impressive. Six feet in height, with clear-cut, strong, sensitive and refined features, iron gray hair and keen dark eyes, he looked at once the clergyman and patrician. He was a fine horseman, and when mounted suggested a resemblance to his cavalier ancestors. In manner he may have seemed to some somewhat austere, as he never lost the dignity of his profession or the demeanor of a cultured, Christian gentleman, but no one could be near him and not teel that he had a great, loving heart. In character, in life, and in all the work of his life, he was a good man.”

Pressly’s work on Psalmody can be found here


2 thoughts on “Pressly, John Taylor (1795-1870)”

  1. Pastor Mark,

    If we believe in Scripture alone, why are we looking at what men write about the Psalms?

    I read what you wrote for Question #5. The Colossian passage specifies Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Why all three if you espouse Exclusive Psalmody?

    And, do you and the family sing or listen Christmas carols or any hymns at all? This is so hard for me to comprehend.


  2. Carol,

    It is good to hear from you, I hope you and your family are doing well since we saw you last.

    Regarding these things that men write about the Psalms, we look and listen as we would to any human work…with wisdom and discernment.

    I am not sure what you mean by “what men write about the Psalms”. If you mean a Psalter such as the 1650 Scottish Psalter or the RNCNA Book of Psalms for Singing, I would say that these are valid translations of inspired Scripture, just as the KJV or any other Bible version. If you mean some of the articles and books that are posted here on the EP website, these writings serve us like all of the books and documents that we as Presbyterians cherish. They are only profitable so long as they are faithful to Scripture. I believe these writings are faithful to Scripture, though I understand that many people would strongly disagree.

    Regarding the passage in Colossians referring to “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”, I understand that there have been a variety of interpretations on this passage by Reformed commentators. [There will be several upcoming posts on the exposition of this and the Ephesians 5:19 passage.] For now let me refer you here, and say briefly that Paul’s usage of these three terms is thought by many to be referring to three titles used of the Book of Psalms in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Many good men disagree with this, but they forget the overwhelming testimony of the rest of Scripture that warns us over and over that God is very concerned with how we approach Him in worship. We are not given authority to approach God with praise other than what He has given to us. I can go into this more if you are interested. There are many written discussions on this topic here on the website.

    You asked if my family sings hymns, so I will give you my own personal opinion on hymns (not necessarily the opinion of many who hold to EP). When we speak of exclusive Psalmody, we are referring to our belief that only the inspired Psalms of Scripture should be used in the worship of God. Outside of formal, private and family worship, I do not believe God restricts us to the singing of Psalms. The Regulative Principle of Worship (a Reformed distinctive taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith) is concerned with what we have the authority to do in worship, not what we do outside of worship.

    Having said that, I personally do not like hymns of any kind. Historically, it can easily be demonstrated that the informal introduction of hymns will always find a way into formal worship. If we teach them to our children at home, they will eventually replace the Psalms in worship. This has happened too many times in the history of the church. Our family does not sing hymns. In family worship we sing from the same Psalter we use in formal worship, the 1650 Scottish Psalter. I am saddened by the state of the church today and her rejection of the Psalms, so my rejection of hymns is one way I can try to correct this problem…one family at a time.

    The subject of Christmas carols is another one altogether. I mainly tolerate Christmas to be with my family and to avoid offending them. We are given the Sabbath day as our day of rest, so I don’t see a need for manmade holy days. In my view, Christmas is a threat to the Sabbath and not something I am comfortable with (again, the view of many of our Reformed Presbyterian fathers). I am not on a personal crusade against Christmas, so I usually avoid it and the singing of songs about it as well.

    It is really great to hear from you. This type of discussion is why this website exists.

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