In 1810, the situation in the church seemed hopeless. The revival sweeping the country seemed to have passed over First Presbyterian Church.
The lack of spiritual vitality led some members to break away and form a Second Church. A new church building was under construction, but workers and creditors weren’t getting paid. A lottery, with a first prize of $800 was held to pay off the debts. When the lottery failed to raise enough money, a second one was held. It failed as well, and “No correct account of the amount of tickets sold was ever rendered.”
Members were withholding their pledged pew rents and the trustees threatened to sue them.
The congregation’s debt was $3900.
Early in the morning of March 22, 1810, a house fire broke out on Wood Street. First Church’s minister, Robert Steele, caught a cold carrying water from the river. The cold turned into pneumonia, and Steele died on March 31, 1810. The congregation directed it’s few financial resources to Steele’s widow and five children.
It took months before the church could bring itself to begin thinking about calling a new minister.
Then in the fall, a thirty-seven-year-old minister named Francis Herron came to town to visit his sister. He was invited to preach at First Church, and invited back the following week.
A meeting was held, and a call extended.
Herron found the church morally, spiritually, and financially bankrupt.
But the sheriff of Allegheny County had put the church building and property up for sale to pay its debts. With the concurrence of the trustees, Herron attended the sale and bought the whole property back in his own name for $2819.
Herron then sold a small portion of the property to the Pittsburgh Bank for $3000.
The debt was paid, and the profit went to the church.
The church had been born again.
The Apostle Paul told the church in Corinth, “You were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 7:23). He was talking, of course, about how Jesus Christ redeemed us from spiritual bankruptcy, even death itself, with his own blood.
Do you see what you’re worth to him?
Do you see him paying your debt in full?
Do you see that you were bought at a price?