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David Steele (1803-1887)


David Steele (1803-1887)

James Dodson

Biographical Sketch

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.