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William Tennent

TENNENT, William, educator, born in Ireland in 1673; died in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, 6 May, 1746. He received a liberal education in his native country, being graduated probably at Trinity college, Dublin, entered the ministry of the Episcopal church of Ireland in 1704, and became chaplain to an Irish nobleman. Wishing for more liberty of conscience, he came to this country with his family in 1718, and on application was received as a minister of the Presbyterian church by the synod of Philadelphia. After brief pastorates in Westchester county, New York, and in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, he was called in 1726 to Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, where he remained till the close of his life. Here, on land that was given him by his kinsman, James Logan, in 1728, he erected a small building, and opened a school for the instruction of candidates for the ministry. In this academy, which became known as the Log college, were trained many that became eminent in the Presbyterian church. The name was probably bestowed at first in contempt by its opponents. It was the first literary institution higher than a common school within the bounds of the Presbyterian church in this country, and is regarded as the germ from which sprang Princeton college and several lesser institutions of learning. Tennent had a rare gift of attracting youths of genius and imbuing them with his own zealous spirit. About 1742 he withdrew from active labor. The "Log college" has long since disappeared. It is described by George Whitefield, who visited it in 1789, as "a log-house about twenty feet long, and near as many broad, and to me it seemed to resemble the school of the old prophets, for their habitations were mean." About 1840 part of one of the logs that formed the building was discovered, and from it a cane was made, which was presented to Reverend Dr. Samuel Miller, then one of the oldest professors in Princeton seminary. See Reverend Dr. Archibald Alexander's "History of the Log College " (1846).--William's eldest son, Gilbert, clergyman, born in County Armagh, Ireland, 5 Feb., 1703 ; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 23 July, 1764, came to this country with his father, was educated by him, and taught for some time in the Log college. After studying medicine for a year, he abandoned it for divinity, and in May, 1725, was licensed to preach by the Philadelphia presbytery. In the same year he received the honorary degree of A. M. from Yale. After preaching at New Castle, Delaware, and receiving a call there, he left so abruptly that he was rebuked by the synod, and in 1726 was ordained as pastor at New Brunswick, N.J. He was much admired as a preacher, and in 1740-'1 made a tour with George Whitefield at the latter's request. He had much to do with the division in the Presbyterian church in 1741 by his indiscretion in denouncing those that were opposed to revivals, but seventeen years later he was no less active in healing the breach. In 1744 he became pastor of a new church in Philadelphia that had been formed by admirers of Whitefield. Shortly afterward he asked Benjamin Franklin's advice as to whom he should call upon for funds to erect a new church edifice. Franklin told him to "call on everybody," and, taking the sage at his word, Tennent soon obtained money for an expensive building. In 1753, at the request of the trustees of Princeton, he went abroad, with Reverend Samuel Davies, to secure funds for that institution. Mr. Tennent was one of the most conspicuous ministers of his day. He affected eccentricity in his pulpit, but his sermons were marked both by forcible reasoning and by passionate appeal. The controversies in which he engaged made him many enemies, and he was even accused of immorality. His published volumes are "XXIII. Sermons" (Philadelphia, 1744); "Discourses on Several Subjects" (1745); and "Sermons on Important Subjects adapted to the Perilous State of the British Nation" (1758). Among his many separate published discourses are "The Necessity of studying to be Quiet and doing our own Business" (1744) ; several on the lawfulness of defensive war (1747 et seq.) ; and "A Persuasive to the Right Use of the Passions in Religion "(1760). Mr. Tennent also wrote an "Account of a Revival of Religion " in Prince's " Christian History" (1744). See also a volume of "Sermons and Essays by the Tennents and their Contemporaries" (1855). President Samuel Finley, of Princeton, delivered his funeral sermon, which was published with an appendix and a "Funeral Eulogy" by a young gentleman in Philadelphia (1764).--Another son, William, clergyman, born in County Antrim, Ireland, 3 January, 1705 ; died in Freehold, New Jersey, 8 March, 1777, also came to this country with his father, with whom he followed a preparatory course, and then studied theology under his brother Gilbert in New Brunswick. He had nearly finished his course there when he fell into a remarkable trance or cataleptic fit, continuing for several days as if dead. His physician refused to permit his burial, and efforts to resuscitate him were finally successful, though his life was despaired of for weeks. He was obliged to learn anew to read and write, and had no recollection of his former life till on one occasion he felt a "shock in his head," after which his former knowledge began slowly to return. He subsequently asserted that during his trance he had thought himself to be in heaven, and that afterward the recollection of the glories that he had witnessed and heard was so intense as to blot out for a long time all interest in earthly things. Mr. Tennent was ordained at Freehold, New Jersey, 25 October, 1733, as successor to his brother John, and was pastor there forty-four years. He published several sermons. See a memoir of him by Elias Boudinot, with a detailed account of his trance (New York, 1847).--Another son, John, clergyman, born in County Antrim, Ireland, 12 November, 1706; died in Freehold, New Jersey, 23 April, 1732, also came to this country with his father, was educated at the Log college, and licensed to preach, 18 September, 1729, and from 1730 till his death was pastor at Freehold. A memoir of him was published by his brother Gilbert, with a discourse on "Regeneration" (1735), which warrants the belief that, had he lived, he would have become as eminent as his brother.--The second William's son, WILLIAM (1740--'77), was graduated at Princeton in 1758 with Jeremias Van Rensselaer, and from 1772 till his death was pastor of a church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was elected to the Provincial congress.

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