Happy Birthday to James Henley Thornwell!

It was 205 years ago today that James Henley Thornwell (Dec. 9, 1812 - Aug. 1, 1862) was born in Marlboro County, South Carolina. He would go on to become one of the giants of the 19th century Southern Presbyterian church. A leading apologist for the Southern cause at the time of the War Between the States, it is less well-known that he studied for a season at Harvard University. Later, he served as moderator of the PCUSA (1847), and would take a prominent role in the establishment of the Confederate Presbyterian Church. A man who was born during the War of 1812 and who died during the War that split North and South politically and ecclesiastically, Thornwell's career marked by controversy and conflict. His positions on slavery, the validity of Roman baptism, and the ruling elder are among the topics that generated the most heat during his ecclesiastical conflicts. He served a pastor, professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, as a president of South Carolina College. He founded the Southern Presbyterian Review, and edited the Southern Quarterly Review. His collected writings span four volumes. Benjamin Morgan Palmer published his biography: The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, which reveal its subject to be a man in whom great intellect and great piety were wedded, with many other facts of a remarkable personality (see also John Bailey Adger's Memorial of Thornwell too). Thornwell's "Relation of the State to Christ," which appears in Vol. 4 of his Collected Writings, is, in this writer's opinion, an outstanding example of what constitutes godly civil government. His writings remain worthy of study whether or not one agrees with him on all points (have you read Thornwell on missions? it is worth a look!), and so today, we remember the birth of a Southern Presbyterian giant.