Ohne Hast, ohne Rast

It was said of Edwin Francis Hatfield (1807-1883) that he exemplified the German proverb from Goethe: "Ohne Hast, ohne Rast! Without haste! without rest!"

After making a public profession of faith in Christ on March 25, 1827 at New York City's Central Presbyterian Church, this former businessman would go on to study at Middlebury College and Andover Theological Seminary before becoming licensed by the Third Presbytery of New York on October 6, 1831. After a short but profound period of time laboring in New Jersey during a period of revival (Hatfield wrote that "That winter of 1831-1832 gave a tone to my whole ministry and made me what I have since been"), and after wrestling with a strong desire which he had to serve as a missionary to China, he was ordained as an evangelist by the same presbytery on May 14, 1832, and then called under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society to serve as the pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, Missouri from October 1832 to February 1835. He was then called to serve as the pastor of the Seventh Presbyterian Church of New York, where he would minister for 21 years (1835-1856), during which time around 2,200 new members were added to the church; after which he served as pastor of New York City's North Presbyterian Church from 1856 to 1863. He also never once took a vacation during the entirety of his pastoral career. 

Hatfield played an important role in the development of Union Theological Seminary in New York, serving as a director from 1846 to the end of his life, and as a financial agent during 1864-1865. Ultimately, his library of 6,000 volumes was donated to the seminary as well. He also served as secretary of the Presbyterian Home Missions Committee from 1868 to 1870; and contributed to several religious newspapers, and published books prolifically during and after his pastoral career. In 1846, he was appointed to serve as the stated clerk of the New School General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, a role which he continued after the reunion of 1870 until his death. Indeed, in 1883, at the time of his death, Hatfield was, remarkably, serving as stated clerk, treasurer and moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. 

"His chief publications are: Universalism as it is, in 1841 (originating from his great success in dealing with Universalists, many of whom were converted under his ministry); Memoir of Elihu W. Baldwin, 1843 (his predecessor in the pastorate of the Seventh Church); St. Helena and the Cape of Good Hope, 1852, (arising from his interest in missions in those regions); History of Elizabeth, 1868, (his native place); The Church Hymn-Book with Tunes, 1872; The Chapel Hymn-Book, 1873. The hymnbooks represent the interest of his entire pastorate in this subject. His hymnological library was one of the best in the country. These books have been well received, and will always be regarded as important contributions to that department of literature" (The Presbyterian Review, Vol. 5, 1884, p. 129).

Thomas à Kempis, mindful of Christ's words in Luke 19:3 ("Occupy till I come"), once wrote that Christians ought always to be occupied in doing good: "Be thou never without something to do; be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or doing something that is useful to the community" (Imitation of Christ 1.19.4). Certainly, Edwin Francis Hatfield exemplified this principle in his life. Take time to peruse some of the writings of this fascinating 19th century Presbyterian pastor and author who devoted his life to the service of Christ and his church.