Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. Andrew Calhoun

Andrew Calhoun was born in Donegal County, Ireland on March 27, 1764, although his parents were from Scotland. After his emigration to America in 1790, he first became a member of Old West Congregational Church, where the first of his 9 children was baptized. He became a Boston merchant. When Park Street Church was formed in Feb. 1809, Andrew Calhoun became an original deed holder and member, donating a large communion tablecloth at the church’s founding, perhaps suggesting that his trade was in textiles. In 1814 he abandoned his shop and took up farming first in New Hampshire and then in New York with his wife and children, one of whom became a noted missionary. The well-known southern statesman John C. Calhoun was Andrew Calhoun’s cousin. He died on April 14, 1842.

The presence of Mr. Calhoun as a founder of MBS, along with fellow Park Street founders Josiah Bumstead and Rev. Edward Dorr Griffin, illustrate the way a focus on the Bible brought together those who, outside of the Society, would share at least suspicion if not animosity.

From the history of Old South Church, which out of principle would not participate in the founding celebrations of Park Street Church, we read the following: “Until this time, the terms of admission to membership in the churches of Boston had been plain and simple — repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Candidates had been required, not to give definite and particular assent to a system of divinity embodied in a dogmatic creed, but to enter into a covenant in the exercise of a living faith, and in a spirit of holy consecration, in solemn and beautiful language adopted by the fathers when the broad foundations of New England Congregationalism were laid.

It has been well said, that creeds are for testimony, not for tests; but the new church was established on the principle that they are for tests, as well as testimony. It not only declared its adherence to the doctrines of religion, as they are ‘in general clearly and happily expressed’ in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and in the Confession of Faith of 1680, but it formulated these doctrines in a symbol of its own, emphasizing especially the tri- personality of the Godhead, election (with its necessary corollary — reprobation), and imputed righteousness. And it went further: it required subscription both to the general statements and to its own particular confession, as a condition precedent to membership. It thus erected a barrier which would inevitably separate its minister, whoever he might be, from most of the ministers of the long-established churches, who were either negatively Calvinistic or positively Arminian.”

Members of Old South would not celebrate with Park Street Church, and yet both of their pastors as well as deacons and members from each church came together for common purpose to found The Massachusetts Bible Society.

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