Born in Upper Creevaugh, County Donegal, Ireland, November 2, 1803. He received his early education in the private and night schools of the vicinity, and labored upon the farm until his sixteenth year. In 1820, he entered the Academy of Londonderry, and pursued the regular course of studies for three years. He came to America in 1824, settling in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, where he worked as clerk for his uncle, and prosecuted his classical studies. In 1825, he was engaged as teacher in the Academy of Ebensburgh, Pennsylvania, and the next year entered the Western University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1827. He studied theology under the direction of Rev. Dr. John Black at Pittsburgh, and was licensed by the Pittsburgh Presbytery, April 8, 1830. He was ordained by the Ohio Presbytery, and installed pastor of the congregation of Brush Creek, Adams County, Ohio, June 6, 1831. In 1840, he and Robert Lusk, together with several ruling elders, declined the ecclesiastical courts of the Reformed Presbyterian Church due to ecclesiastical tyranny. They erected the Reformed Presbytery, June 24, 1840. He remained in Adams County, Ohio, preaching to adherents of the Reformed Presbytery until 1859, when he removed to Hill Prairie, Illinois. In October, 1866, he removed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he pastored a small congregation of original Covenanters and established a theological school. In 1885, he removed to Galesburg, Illinois, and in the fall of 1886, returned to Philadelphia, where he died of old age and from the effects of a slight stroke of paralysis, June 29, 1887. In later years, Steele was striken with blindness, but continued to “remain in the saddle,” preferring diligence in ministry to retirement. He was a learned and powerful preacher of the gospel, “his enemies themselves being judges,” and attracted many members of the RP Church to hear him when they had occasion. He was an adept in the ancient languages and a powerful thinker. He held that the Reformed Presbyterian Church had departed from the attainments of the Reformation, especially in the matter of “voluntary associations.” He devoted much of his writing to demonstrating this defection, chastising the Reformed Presbyterian Church for her treacherous defection from Covenanted Reformation. He spent most of his life visiting those who adhered to the “good old way,” ministering to them. He was a tremendous controversialist, and manifested great inflexibility of character, for which he was despised by “false brethren.” Toward the end of his life (1884), he stated, “The principles...for more than 40 years defended against many opponents—especially “false brethren”—I still believe to be founded upon the Scriptures and long experience, with developments among opponents, has tended to confirm my earlier convictions.” He died in the belief that the principles which he held and propagated would one day triumph in the earth.
1840-David Steele.-Mr. Steele’s first salvo in a long war of words over the defections that increasingly plagued the Reformed Presbyterian Synod throughout the nineteenth century. Mr. Steele was a witness to the events that transpired at the various Old Light Synods after the split in 1833 until their defections drove him to form a separate presbytery, in 1840, to uphold the testimony. He shows that it was necessitated by the habitual judicial tyranny some of which he records in this letter.
1854-David Steele.-A short outline of the reasons for the separate existence of the Reformed Presbytery together with a discussion of the meaning and purpose of historical testimony.
1855-1857-David Steele and James M. Willson.-A series of articles debating the so-called “Steelite” position on testimony bearing, history testimony and several other points of dispute. In this, David Steel represents the historic Covenanter position against the departures embodied in the preface of “Reformation Principles Exhibited.”
1856-David Steele.-An article explaining what historical testimony is, how it is applicable to the church and why it needs to be part of the terms of communion of the Reformed Presbyterian, or Covenanter,church.
1858-David Steele.-A short article discussing the origin and occasions of infidelity, or unfaithfulness, particularly amongst ministers of the Gospel.
1859-David Steele.-An excellent overview of the nature and mission of the witnessing church, especially during the reign of Antichrist. Many aspects of eschatology and testimony-bearing are addressed. A very important work of theology.
1860-David Steele.-An article explaining that nations must serve the Mediator Christ in their national capacity by giving their support to national establishments of religion.
1860-David Steele.-An article explaining why making a distinction between the law and the testimony is needful to avoid legalism and how this distinction affects the witnessing church.
1860-David Steele.-An article from the Reformed Presbyterian magazine discussing the kinds of faith and their various purposes and uses.
1864-David Steele.-An explanation of the nature and purpose of judicial testimonies together with several animadversions upon the course and defects taken by the RP Synod in its mangled attempts at testimony bearing.
1866-David Steele.-An article from the London Scottish Reformed Presbyterian magazine discussing the difference between the testimony and the law and why the former takes precedence over the latter.
1869-David Steele.-A short reply on the nature of judicial testimonies and their use of history and argument.
1870-David Steele.-A commentary on the entire book of Revelation from an historicist and postmillennial perspective incorporating the insights of Covenanting principles and a concern for the standards of the Reformed Presbyterian church.
1871-David Steele.-An exposure and critique of the so-called “American” RP “Covenant” of 1871.
1871-David Steele.-This is a review of Mr. James W. Shaw’s sermon “Our Banners Set Up,” preached against the “American” Covenant of 1871, explaining that Mr. Shaw had already adopted backsliding principles.
1873-David Steele.-In this brief article, Mr. Steele raises the question of revising the metrical Psalter. He identifies the craftiness of those who subvert the worship of the church and challenges their authority. This includes an interesting discussion on the need for historical succession to be comprised of both faith and practice.
1873-David Steele.-In this article, the defects of the “new version” of the Psalms, produced by the United Presbyterian Church, is subjected to scrutiny in a couple of serious points. The theme is the difficulty of danger of undertaking any revision of the Psalter without proper theological and confessional moorings.
1873-David Steele.-In this article, Mr. Steele rescues the Christian concept of love from being dissolved into sentimentality. He also defends the doctrine of good and necessary consequence and its use in framing the faith and practice of the Protestant church.
1878-David Steele.-An short article on the question of Covenanters and taxation.
1879-David Steele.-A second edition of the principles of the Scottish Second Reformation against the “American” RP “Covenant of 1871.”
1882-David Steele.-A brief article on Sabbath keeping and why calling the day “Sunday” is inappropriate.
1883-David Steele.-An autobiographical account of David Steele’s long life and career as a theological gadfly, advancing historic Covenanter principles, to his wandering Reformed Presbyterian brethren.
1885-David Steele.-A Thanksgiving sermon.
1885-David Steele.-A defense against false accusations with reflections on the arrogance of youth and the ungratefulness often shown to teachers by their erstwhile students.
1885-David Steele.-On Covenanter identity, the American “civil” war and matters of taxation.
1886-David Steele.-A sketch of RP history with special emphasis on the formation of the Reformed Presbytery (i.e., “Steelite”), in 1840, and its 19th century contendings.
ca. 1885-David Steele.-A defense of the practice of lining in the singing of the Psalms. Mr. Steele explains how the principle of charity ought to work in the public worship of the church.