Stuart Robinson (1814-1881)

Background:  Born in Strabane, Ireland. fourth of 5 children. Father linen merchant. Family moved to New York City 1816. Nurse dropped Stuart at 2 yrs. old – permanent disability of right arm. Family moved to Virginia. Mother died when Stuart was boy, father placed Stuart of pious German farmer, Andrew Troutman. Because of handicap, Troutman placed Stuart into hands of trusted Presbyterian pastor, Rev. James Brown at age 13. Brown began to train Stuart for Presbyterian ministry.

Education: Amherst College (New England) – friend Thomas Peck “Stuart exhibited powers of keen and discriminating observations of men and things very uncommon in men of his age.” Attended Union Theological Seminary, Princeton Seminary

Ministry: Licensed to preach 1841 Greenbrier, West Virginia. Married Mary Brigham. 5 years in small mission church in Virginia; 1846, became interim pastor of Second Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Kentucky. Pastored two congregations in KT. and started women’s school, also served as city councilman. – 1852 – Stuart moved to Baltimore, pastured an Associate Reformed Church.

Began to argue for religious freedom against the Protestants who wanted a “Protestant America” Wrote, every man has a natural and inalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience and reason and holding that right to be an essential element of American citizenship. …if men will give us credit for no higher ground than to demand for Roman Catholics their rights since everything that restrains their privileges must obviously soon lead to retraining our own.   

He and peck began journal “Presbyterial Critic” wrote on separation of church and state powers, purposes.

Examples: The preacher’s business in the pulpit is to make Christians; and not free-soilers, Maine law men, statesmen, historians, or social philosophers. Are Bible principles never to be applied to the correction of the social evils of the day? …only so far as God applies them in the Bible, no farther. A minister does not cease to be a citizen and patriot because he has become a minister, but when he appears in the pulpit, he appears not as a citizen, but as God’s herald. …The importance of the soul’s redemption is transcendent. All social evils, all public and national ends, sink into trifles beside it.

 1856 – Robinson becoming well-known – appointed to faculty of Danville Seminary in Kentucky. Some argued that Stuart was gifted with a power to attract and move a mixed audience, not surpassed by any that belongs to any minister in the country.

 Professor at Danville frustrated Robinson would not support Federal Government against South.

1858 – accepted call to pastor Second Presbyterian Church – Louisville. Became a spokesman for Protestantism in that whole area.  Dabbled in real estate – became wealthy – owned Central Park in town. Congregation filled with blacks, whites, Northern and Southern sympathizers. Church went from 253 members in 1857 to 369 in 1860.

Growing Tensions  –  Robinson saw need to warn Christians not to mix faith and politics with war beginning – paper published weekly 1862 “The True Presbyterian” Robinson editor. Kentucky border state – Pro-Union and Pro-Southern societies forming in Louisville. Suspicions growing among church members – society mandate – do not comfort enemy.

Kentucky a slave state unwilling to secede.  Kentucky “out to hold herself independent of both sides and compel both sides to respect the inviolability of her soil.” State grew slowly more Southern as war continued. Kentuckian felt betrayed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln had assured nation he would not do that. Also, Kentucky enduring encampments of rude northern soldiers taking what they wanted.) Kentuckians also forced to swear oaths of allegiance to North when traveling.

Robinson writes letter to Lincoln:   Your Gen. Stedman, while enjoying free hospitalities of my house, failed to restrain Turchin’s infamous soldiers from running naked, in open day in crowds through my shrubbery, and driving our negro servant women, by their shocking shamelessness and obscenity from the kitchen…Forty thousand dollars would not make good my pecuniary losses through your agents- yet your administration protects property!    

 As tensions grew, Robinson visited terminally sick brother in Ohio. Friends warned him that U.S agents growing more suspicious of him and dangerous to return. Robinson voluntarily exiled himself o Toronto, Canada, where he remained for most of the war, though his wife remained in Louisville maintaining the property.  She visited Stuart on occasion.  Robinson lectured at University of Toronto.  Meetings became very popular.

Robinson wrote books on the church, on the history of redemption, and one on slavery, where he argued that though the Bible recognized slavery it did not proscribe slavery.

More and more difficult for Robinson to support Union when the soldiers were so brutish to his wife and property. Soon his newspaper, the True Presbyterian, was confiscated by Union agents. To not support the Union in the pulpit was tantamount to supporting the Confederacy according to the government.  Paper reappeared five months later. Nov 19, 1864, paper ordered to halt printing.

1845 – Robinson accused by U.S. government of plotting against Union. All he had done was help a friend provide food and clothing for a friend’s starving wife and children. He did not know that friend was planning to spread yellow fever to North. Robinson fully exonerated at his trial.

Robinson known for preaching gospel, and only praying for “righteous peace,” not choosing sides. All who knew him testified to his integrity and love for gospel. After war Robinson allowed to return home – he sued two newspapers for slander accusing him of treason, he won both suits – $150,000 – most of which he distributed to good causes, including a new sanctuary for his church.

In his letter to President Lincoln, Robinson wrote, I have simply contended, first, on the highest doctrinal grounds that the church had no function touching such political questions, and violated fundamentally, her great charter in meddling with them. And secondly, on the grounds of the highest Christian expediency, that the church sinned enormously in thus driving from her ordinances and influences into infidelity and Popery ten millions of the people to whom she has been commissioned to preach the gospel.   

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