Audio Book Samples

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gilbert McMaster  1778-1854

Born in Saintfield, County Down, Ireland, February 13, 1778.  He came with his parents to America in 1791, and settled in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  In 1798, he was engaged as a teacher in Shippensburgh, Pennsylvania, and soon afterwards entered Jefferson Academy at Canonsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he finished the course in 1802, before the establishment of Jefferson College.  He then began to study medicine, finished the course in 1805, and settled as a physician in Mercer, Pennsylvania.  In 1807, Drs. Alexander McLeod and Samuel B. Wylie sought an interview with him at Pittsburgh, and informed him that Presbytery would have his scruples removed and him enter upon the work of the ministry. He was after close examination, licensed by the Reformed Presbytery, October 7, 1807.  He was later ordained and installed pastor of the united congregations of Galway and Duanesburgh, New York, August 8, 1808.  He was a learned and voluminous writer upon various subjects, including a work on the Shorter catechism entitled "The Shorter Catechism Analyzed, with Proofs."  He died at the home of his son, E. D. McMaster, in New Albany, Indiana, March 17, 1854.


The Duty of Nations: A Sermon, Delivered on the First thursday of November, 1809, Being a Day of Public Thanks-giving Appointed by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States of America - 1810 - McMaster, Gilbert (from

The Moral Character of Civil Government, Considered with Reference to the Political Institutions of The United States, in Four Letters by Gilbert McMaster - 1832

Calm Examination of Dr. McMaster's Letters on Civil Government. By the Rev. David Scott - 1832

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters; Addressed to the Friends of Union in the Church of God - 1818 - McMaster, Gilbert

Review of McMaster's "An Apology for the Book of Psalms" by Rev. Ezra Styiles Ely - 1819 in the Quarterly Theological Review, Vol. II, No. IV, for October 1819

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters: Addressed to the Friends of Union in the Church of God. SECOND EDITION. Reprinted, with some corrections, from the second edition, improved; together With Animadversions upon Dr. Ely's Review of the first Edition -- 1821 - McMaster, Gilbert

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters: Addressed to the Friends of Union in the Church of God. THIRD EDITION. Reprinted, with some corrections, from the second edition, improved; together With Animadversions upon Dr. Ely's Review of the first Edition -- 1821 - McMaster, Gilbert

Review. 1923 (Extracted from the Evangelical Witness)
First. Hints on the Church's Psalmody: Being An Attempt to Repel the Violence of such as would Rob Her of a Precious Right.

Second Strictures on a Book, entitles "An Apology for the Book of Psalms" by Gilbert M'Master." To Which Will Be Added, Remarks on a Book, Entitled, "The Design and Use of the Book of Psalms. By Alexander Gordon." By Henry Ruffner, M.A.

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters; Addressed to the Friends of Union in the Church of God - FOURTH EDITION - 1852 - McMaster, Gilbert

An Apology for the Book of Psalms, in Five Letters FOURTH EDITION - 1852 - McMaster, Gilbert  from

Ministerial Work and Sufficiency: A Sermon Preached January 26, 1832 at the Ordination and Installation of the Reverend John McMaster in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Schenectady - McMaster, Gilbert

The Obligations of the American Scholar to His Country and the World: An Address Delivered before the Philalethean Society of Hanover College, September 28th, 1841 - McMaster, Gilbert

Other works are listed in these google search results.

As a young child growing up in County Down (Ulster), Ireland, Gilbert McMaster (also spelled M'Master or MacMaster) was inoculated with a full measure of austere Presbyterianism and more than a small dose of sympathy for the causes of Irish and American independence. In the home of his maternal grandfather, he was taught the rudiments of reading and writing and provided with a sound religious foundation, and from age eight, he expanded his educational horizons through a succession of local tutors, hired to bolster his skills in arithmetic, Latin, Greek, and other subjects.
Young McMaster's life took a dramatic turn in 1791, when he sailed to America with his parents, James and Mary (Crawford), following in the path of two of James' brothers who had emigrated in 1784. Their initial destination, New Castle County, Delaware, proved disappointing in its pallid religious life, so in 1792, the family elected to join James McMaster's brother, John, in Franklin County, Pa. There, Gilbert sought to resume his studies, though hampered by a shortage of money. He declined an offer from an uncle, John Rodden, to pay all expenses, provided he return to Ireland. With perseverance, and the assistance of his father and uncle McMaster, he enrolled in the Franklin Academy in Chambersburg, working as a teacher to pay his way. The severe discipline at the Academy -- corporal as well as intellectual -- left its mark on young Gilbert, as did the work ethic instilled by the necessity of working to make ends meet. When he assumed charge of a school established by local Federalists to shelter their children from Democratic teachers, McMaster steadfastly and successfully asserted his right to freedom of political thought even in this highly charged setting.
After lengthy soul searching and thought, McMaster committed himself to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1800, with whose affairs he was intimately associated for the remainder of his life. Earning admission to Jefferson College, McMaster began to study medicine, demurring from the ministry from a reluctance to speak in public. Nevertheless, religion was never far from his mind. His years at Jefferson coincided with the first wave of the Second Great Awakening in central Pennsylvania, and although some of teachers at the college "gave too much countenance to the wildfire," as he said, most of the others soberly eschewed the excesses of the camp meeting and revival tent in favor of sound orthodoxy (p. 38). McMaster counted himself among those who disapproved of the enthusiasm, though he adopted a moderate, "luke warm" position, arguing that "in this work there was much to disapprove, and in it, so far as remarkable, nothing to approve," but adding that "during those scenes of wildness many truths of the gospel were preached" and many sinners converted (p. 39).
For two years after college, McMaster practiced medicine in Mercer, Pa., McMaster never lost sight of the ministry. A series of heartfelt discussions with his professors opened him to thoughts of the pulpit, and on October 7, 1807, he received his license to preach. During his probationary year, he supplied pulpits from Maryland to Vermont, earning calls from several congregations before settling on a call to Duanesburgh, N.Y., in August, 1808. Although his preaching was described as "not animated" and his composition, "ponderous," there was no mistaking his desire to live by and preach a strictly pure morality. By the late 1820s, he had imbibed a detestation of slavery, and grew concerned over its relation both to Church and the Federal Constitution.
In the early 1830s, McMaster and his friend, James Renwick Willson, became key figures in a virulent debate in Synod over slavery. In the minority, he says, McMaster maintained that slavery was not sanctioned by the Constitution and argued fervently that Presbyterian participation in civil affairs, even in a corrupt government, was a boon to society and not harmful to the righteous. McMaster was not, however, comfortable with the results of agitation over slavery: a schism in the church over the issue of participation in civic affairs, leading to the cleaving off of what became known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, which allowed its members to hold office and otherwise participate in government.
McMaster remained at Duanesburgh until 1840, when he accepted a call to Princeton, Ind., and in 1846, to New Albany. He died suddenly of erysipelas, fittingly, on St. Patrick's Day, 1854. Of his four sons and four daughters, two became distinguished Presbyterian ministers and another, James, became a noted journalist and editor.

Collection Scope and Content Note
Written for his children on the eve of his sudden and unforeseen death, Gilbert McMaster's autobiography is a fascinating account of the life of a Scots-Irish immigrant and his growth as a Reformed Presbyterian minister. His recollections of childhood are written with an eye toward his intellectual and moral development.
A man of measured temperament, McMaster's innate tendencies appear to have led him to consider all his actions and usually to adopt a moderate stance. Though hard edged and demanding in matters of morality, he avoided extremes. His comments on the great revivals of 1801-02 suggest that he withdrew from participation partly through reasons of personality and partly for orthodoxy, but despite this, and unlike many of his fellow Reformed Presbyterians, he never condemned them altogether. Even his opposition to slavery was placed within careful bounds -- criticizing the government, but never the Constitution, wishing to see it expunged from the Church, but rejecting the notion that its members were compromised by the sins of their fellow church members or fellow Americans who held slaves.
The most important section of McMaster's autobiography is undoubtedly that devoted to the events leading up to the eventful General Synod meeting of 1833, and the schism that resulted indirectly from McMaster's antislavery agitation. Although this account was terminated by his own untimely death, in conjunction with his published writings on the subject (see below), it provides a relatively full intellectual justification of his stance, and yields some insight into the politics and emotions of antislavery argumentation within a church setting. It is an invaluable document as well for understanding the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

Throughout his career, McMaster was an ardent writer, and the Book Division of the Clements Library houses many of his works. Although several of his earliest and latest works are absent, the holdings do contain all of his most significant works pertaining to the church crisis of 1832-33.
McMaster, Gilbert. The duty of nations. [sermon] (Ballston Spa, N.Y., 1810).
McMaster, Gilbert. The embassy of reconciliation. (New York, 1812).
McMaster, Gilbert. Thoughts on the union of the Church. (Cincinnati, 1846).
McMaster, Gilbert. The great subject of the Christian ministry. (New York, 1852).

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