Adam Rankin was a controversial figure in his day. He authored the first book published in the state of Kentucky in 1793 entitled A Process in the Transylvania Presbytery. This work was a defense against charges brought against him by his Presbytery, which included a defense of his views on Psalmody. Apparently Rankin stirred up quite a bit of controversy concerning the use of the Psalms in worship. It seems that he believed God spoke to him in dreams, at least according to the charges against him. While we may not agree with all of the actions of Rev. Rankin, his work on Psalmody is historically significant as one of the first American defenses of exclusive Psalmody.
The following is from the Ebenezer ARP website. It should be noted that the website contains some inaccurate information on Psalmody. They also speak very critically of Rev. Rankin.
“Born: Near Greencastle, Pennsylvania, March 24, 1755
Died: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 25, 1827
“There can be no question that Mr. Rankin was ‘encompassed with infirmities,’ that he was sensitive, a little jealous, impulsive and strong of will, so that he soon put himself on the defensive, and always with his face to the foe, and he had the misfortune of living at a time when ecclesiastical things did not always run smoothly. On the other hand, it is just as certain that he was loyal to the truth and valorous in its defense, however faulty in his methods. He was of unquestioned piety, and commanded the full confidence of those among whom he lived. He possessed unusual eloquence and power in the pulpit, and often moved a whole congregation to tears.”
…from the Manual of the United Presbyterian Church in North America by William Glasgow.
The Reverend Adam Rankin was descended from pious Presbyterian ancestors, who had emigrated from Scotland. His parents steered him in the way of the ministry from his birth.
He was received as a candidate for the ministry at the Stone Meeting House in Augusta County, Virginia, in November 1781. He was enrolled at Bethel Church, May 18 1784, and about this time he married Martha, daughter of Alexander McPheeters, of Augusta County, Virginia.
In 1784 he was in Kentucky and founded the churches of Pisgah in Woodford County, and Mt. Zion which is Lexington, Kentucky’s pioneer church. It is likely that he was the first minister to settle in Lexington. He attended a conference of Presbyterians at Cane Run Church, Tuesday, July 12, 1785, and sowed the seeds of discord about Psalmody.”
Rankin’s principle opponent in the Psalmody debate was the Rev. Robert Bishop.
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From The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Volume 7 By Kentucky Historical Society
“In 1790, the Baptist Church registered 3,105 communicants, or one to twenty-three of the population. In 1800, the increase of membership was but 5,119, or only one to forty-three of the population; a relative decline in numerical strength of nearly one hundred per cent, comparing with the increase of population. This most numerous body of pioneer churches was divided into two parties; the Regulars, who adopted the Calvinism of the Philadelphia Confession, and the Separates, who rejected all human creeds, held Arminian views, and professed the Bible alone for faith and guidance.
The Presbyterians began the decade in 1790, with about 1400 communicants and ended it in 1800 with but little or no increase in numbers; having sustained a considerable loss by the withdrawal from their fellowship of Reverend Adam Rankin and a numerous following, on account of the introduction and use of Watt’s version of the Psalms in the praise service of the Church, instead of the old custom of singing the literal Psalms.”
Adam was raised by his Mother to PROTECT the FAITH that his family members had died for in Scotland. His father died when he was about five. His mother remarried.