What is the church's role in society? This volume explains a border-state pastor's answer to that question and the price he paid for his commitment to living out the answer.
Born in 1814 and living through the Old School/New School split of 1837, Robinson believed that the local church and denominations should be involved in proclaiming the Gospel and remain silent on cultural issues to which Scripture does not directly speak.
In God's providence, Robinson was called to pastor churches in Kentucky prior to and during the War Between the States. Kentucky was a border state. This locale heightened criticism against his position and drew attention to it. Kentucky remained neutral during the War, although it was loyal to the Union. However, many citizens were either strongly pro-Northern or pro-Southern. This was particularly true in Louisville where Robinson was pastoring at the War's outbreak.
Robinson was pressured to be supportive of the Union from the pulpit. Because he held to the doctrine of the spirituality of the church, as did many in the newly formed Southern Presbyterian Church, he was viewed as a traitor to the Union. In fact, sentiment against him was so great that he had to live and minister in Toronto for much of the War. This forced relocation did not hinder the continued publication of The True Presbyterian that he edited. This publication enjoyed readership and support for Robinson's position on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.
At the War's conclusion, another war began for Robinson. This war was ecclesiastical. The Northern Presbyterian Church at its annual Assembly passed a resolution stating that only those who had stated loyalty to the Union could be officers in that denomination. Naturally, Robinson, as did many others, refused. This led to church splits and ultimately the uniting of many border-state churches with the Southern Presbyterian Church.
Robinson's view supported church members and even officers commenting on civil affairs and also serving in civil government. However, the pulpit was viewed as a place where the Word of God was to be proclaimed for the saving of the lost and the sanctification of the saved. Robinson firmly believed that churches who became vocal in regard to civil affairs often left their calling to preach God's Word to the lost and saved in their midst.
The author has written a very enlightening volume that shows the suffering and sacrifice that men like Robinson and other pastors who held similar positions in the border-states had to endure for their positions. Persecution against them went so far as the loss of their pastorates and separation from loved ones during the War.
This book is important reading not only for those interested in sufferings endured by those in the border-state home front during the War but also for all who are interested in thinking through the role of the church in civil issues.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.