Rev. John Witherspoon [1723-1794]

Posted at This Day in Presbyterian History:

At last, He Had Arrived

You would have thought that he was a king making a royal entrance into his kingdom, so great was the rejoicing among God’s people to his arrival on the shores of the American colonies. And indeed, John Witherspoon was certainly the man whom God has chosen to lead the infant College of New Jersey in its next steps of Christian education.

The College had some dark providences associated with its leadership. In the twenty years of its existence, the five leaders who served as its president, had served a few years and then died. In fact, it was this mortality rate which cause Mrs. Elizabeth Witherspoon, John’s wife in Scotland, to want nothing to do with the College. And so there had been four appeals to come over and help them, but all four of them failed to move the Scotchman, but more particularly the Scotch woman to wish to cross over the Atlantic. Finally, with the aid of Benjamin Rush, who at that time was studying for a medical degree in Edinburgh, Mrs. Witherspoon was convinced that they should go. Despite the three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship named the Peggy, with five children, and three hundred books for the College library might make anyone rethink the invitation, they did not. On August 7, 1768, the family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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