A few blocks from the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina, is a fine antebellum mansion, the Robert Mills Historic House, named for the man who designed it. The house, beautifully restored, with Regency furnishings, marble mantelpieces, and sterling silver doorknobs and locksets, reflects the wealth and culture of Ainsley Halt, the man who briefly owned it. More fitting, however, would be desks and tables and books of the professors and students of Columbia Theological Seminary, which made the house its home for almost a hundred years. The rooms of the main floor were the classrooms, where George Howe trained generations of Southern ministers in biblical exegesis, where James Henley Thornwell taught Calvin's Institutes, where John Adger explained the sacraments and church polity, and where John Girardeau set forth the great themes of Reformed theology. It was in one of these rooms that two students organized the Society of Inquiry on Missions in February of 1831. On the top floor was the library-many of its books lovingly collected in Europe by Thomas Smyth, pastor of Charleston's Second Presbyterian Church. Woodrow Wilson said that in the little chapel, originally the mansion's stables, he had heard some of the greatest examples of eloquent and powerful preaching. In that chapel the Southern Presbyterian Book of Church Order was hammered out. A later Columbian beautifully wrote that 'the Book of Church Order for a church which glories to acclaim [Christ] alone as King who was cradled in a manger, was composed in a house built for a carriage stable' (William Childs Robinson, Columbia Theological Seminary, p. 94).
Author DAVID B. CALHOUN is Emeritus Professor of Church History at Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, Missouri. He has taught at Covenant College and Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) and served as principal of Jamaica Bible College. Prior to his appointment to Covenant Seminary in 1978, he was the overseas director of Ministries in Action.
A graduate of Columbia Bible College and Covenant Theological Seminary, Professor Calhoun holds master of theology degrees from Covenant Seminary (Old Testament) and Princeton Theological Seminary (New Testament). He earned the doctor of philosophy degree from Princeton in the field of church history. He is married to the former Anne Fleece of Columbia, S.C. and they have two grown-up children.
A Presbyterian minister, he has preached widely in many churches and has conducted Bible and missions conferences. He is the author of The Glory of the Lord Risen Upon It: First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina 1795-1995, and a two- volume history, Princeton Seminary, Faith & Learning 1812-1868, and The Majestic Testimony 1869-1929.