REV. PETER STARR
Most of us have been impacted, for better or worse, by the first pastor we heard. Finney wrote in his memoir about the pastor of the church in Warren, Rev. Peter Starr, who he had observed as a boy:
Up to this time I had never enjoyed what might be called religious privileges. I had never lived in a praying community, except during the periods when I was attending the high school in New England; and the religion in that place was of a type not at all calculated to arrest my attention. The preaching was by an aged clergyman, an excellent man, and greatly beloved and venerated by his people; but he read his sermons in a manner that left no impression whatever on my mind. He had a monotonous, humdrum way of reading what he had probably written many years before. To give some idea of his preaching, let me say that his manuscript sermons were just large enough to put into a small Bible. I sat in the gallery, and observed that he placed his manuscript in the middle of his Bible, and inserted his fingers at the places where were to be found the passages of Scripture to be quoted in the reading of his sermon. This made it necessary to hold his Bible in both hands, and rendered all gesticulation with his hands impossible. As he proceeded he would read the passages of Scripture where his fingers were inserted, and thus liberate one finger after another until the fingers of both hands were read out of their places. When his fingers were all read out, he was near the close of the sermon.
His reading was altogether unimpassioned and monotonous; and although the people attended very closely and reverentially to his reading, yet, I must confess, it was to me not much like preaching. When we retired from meeting, I often heard the people speak well of his sermons; and sometimes they would wonder whether he had intended any allusion, in what he said, to what was occurring among them. It seemed to be always a matter of curiosity to know what he was aiming at, especially if there was anything more in his sermon than a dry discussion of doctrine. And this was really quite as good preaching as I had ever listened to in any place. But anyone can judge whether such preaching was calculated to instruct or interest a young man who neither knew nor cared anything about religion. 1.
For those of us who are pastors and Sunday school teachers, let’s teach and walk in such a way as to win the hearts and minds of everyone in church, not matter how young. You never know what lasting impression you will may leave. It could determine what people will do with Christ.
The following photographs of Rev. Peter Starr and his desk, his acceptance as the pastor in Warren.
1. Taken from Chapter one, Birth and Early Education Finney, Charles G.. Autobiography of Charles G. Finney, Kindle Edition.