Wednesday, April 18, 2012

People You’ve Probably Never Heard Of But Should: Ichabod Spencer

With a name like Ichabod he has to be great.  Spencer was born in 1798 in Rupert, VT.  He was converted shortly after his 18th birthday.  He actually began his career as an educator.  In 1830 he was called to be the President of the University of Alabama.  He, however, felt that the Lord had called him to preach.  He served as a colleague-pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, MA.  If that sounds familiar it is because this is the same church that Jonathan Edwards served. 

In 1832 Spencer accepted a call to a church plant in Brooklyn: The Second Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn.  At the time they called Spencer they had 40 congregants.  At the time of his death 22 years later—and still their pastor—they had grown to be one of the largest in Brooklyn.  Spencer died in 1854. 

Why You Should Know Him:

Anyone named Ichabod that rocks suck wildly awesome side-burns is worth getting to know.  Apart from this, however, Spencer is known to us mainly through his two volume Pastor’s Sketches.  His Pastors Sketches is a compilation of 77 stories (from over 20,000) that he carefully recorded after visiting with members of his church and community.  Spencer had been convicted that it was his duty to visit the home of every member of his church every year.  He did this for the 22 years that he pastored the church of Brooklyn.  (A daunting task when they had 40 members—even more when they grew to one of the largest churches in Brooklyn). 

A rough estimate is that he visited over 800 people per year for 25 years of labor.  What is even more remarkable still is that he wrote out in detail every one of these visits.  He never intended to release these to the public but many faithful friends encouraged him to release them for the good of the Church.  After the release of these Sketches, Spencer’s fame grew.  He then received numerous letters—each he answered with his noted pastoral care. 

Not only his Sketches (which are available) but his model is one that should cause every pastor and every lay person pause.  He had given himself completely to the Lord’s work and gained much fruit.  His life is an encouragement for believers to be serious about our call as ministers of reconciliation (that is EVERY believers call). 


This is a small section from The Brown Jug

“You are already somewhat advanced in life. Your remaining years will be few. You have no time to lose. You have lost enough already. If you do not become a follower of Christ soon, you never will. You have a family of children. You have never set them an example of piety. You have never prayed with them as you ought to have done. Your neglect goes far to destroy all the influence which their mother might have over them. They copy your example. God will hold you accountable for a father’s influence. You may be the cause of their ruin, because—”

“That often troubles me,” said he, (interrupting me in the middle of what I designed to say.)

“It ought to trouble you. It is a serious matter, for a father to live before his sons without acknowledging God, without prayer, without hope, just as if he and they had no more interest in the matter of religion than the beast, whose ‘spirit goeth downward to the earth.’”

“Yes, indeed it is,” said he. “And I am now getting to be an old man, I wish I could get religion.”

“You can. The whole way is clear. God’s word has made it so.”

“I will begin,” said he, emphatically. “But I wish you would make a prayer with us. I will call in Mrs. E— and the boys.”

He immediately called them.

After my saying a few words to each of them, and briefly addressing them all, we knelt together in prayer. As we rose from our knees, he said to his children, very solemnly:—“Boys, I hope this visit of our minister will do us all good. It is time for us to think of our souls.” I left them.

Read the rest…

The above sample shows how Spencer would often plead with sinners.  This would be another one of those dear saints that would help an angry and divisive Calvinist.  Honestly, the Lord will probably use Spencer’s ministry to encourage every believer—no matter his/her soteriological convictions—to be about the work of the ministry of reconciliation. 

Further Reading:

A Pastor’s Sketches: Volume 1 and 2
Much of the biographical information I found and adapted from here
“I Can’t Repent” is one of Spencer’s Sketches
Most of his published Sketches are available here.

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