Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen bigraphy, stories - German-American Dutch-Reformed minister and theologian

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen : biography

1691 - c.1747

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1692 – circa 1747) was a German-American Dutch-Reformed minister, theologian and the progenitor of the Frelinghuysen family in the United States of America. Frelinghuysen is most remembered for his religious contributions in the Raritan Valley during the beginnings of the First Great Awakening. Several of his descendants became influential theologians and politicians throughout American history.


He married Eva Terhune (c. 1696-c. 1750), daughter of Jan Terhune and Margrietje van Sicklen of Flatlands, Long Island, and had seven children:

  • Theodorus Frelinghuysen (1723-c.1760)
  • John Frelinghuysen (1727-1754), who married Dina Van Bergh and who was the father of Frederick Frelinghuysen (1753–1804)
  • Jacobus Frelinghuysen (c.1730–1753)
  • Ferdinandus Frelinghuysen (c.1732–1753)
  • Henricus Frelinghuysen (c.1735–1757)
  • Margaret Frelinghuysen (1737–1757) who married Rev. Thomas F. Romeyn (1729–1794)
  • Anna Frelinghuysen (1738–1810) who married Rev. William Jackson in 1757.

All five sons became ministers and both daughters married ministers.

Frelinghuysen served as minister to several of the Reformed Dutch Churches (congregations at Raritan, New Brunswick, Six Mile Run, New Jersey, Three-Mile Run, and North Branch) in the Raritan River valley of New Jersey which he served until his death in 1747 or 1748.

The Encyclopedia of New Jersey states:

Loyal to the Heidelberg Catechism, he emphasized pietism, conversion, repentance, strict moral standards, private devotions, excommunication, and church discipline. He was an eloquent preacher who published numerous sermons, but struggled against indifferentism and empty formalism. His theories conflicted with the orthodox views of Henry Boel and others, who challenged Frelinghuysen's religious emotionalism and unauthorized practices. As one of the fearless missionaries of the First Great Awakening in America, Frelinghuysen stressed tangible religious experiences. He trained young men for the clergy, often ordaining them without permission. His evangelical fervor and autonomous actions helped to instill an element of local independence for Dutch churches in North America's middle colonies.

Birth and emigration

He was born in November 1692 in Hagen, Germany, to Johann Henrich Frelinghaus, a German-Reformed minister, and to Anna Margaretha Brüggemann Frelinghaus (1657–1728). Frelinghuysen was graduated from the University of Lingen in 1717, and he was ordained as a minister of the German Reformed Church in 1715. For fourteen months he was a minister in Loegumer Voorwerk, in East Friesland, and then for a short time he was co-rector of the Latin school in Enkhuizen, in the Netherlands. In June 1719 he accepted a call from Raritan, in the Province of New Jersey, a British colony in North America, and after a re-ordination for the Dutch Reformed Church by the Classis of Amsterdam, he arrived in America in January 1720.


He died in 1747 or 1748 in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey and was buried at Elm Ridge Cemetery, North Brunswick, New Jersey. He was originally buried without a tombstone. When in 1884 his descendants decided to place a stone on his grave, they could not determine where his body was interred. A cenotaph was placed in the front of the cemetery, which now is the back of the cemetery at the treeline.

Rev. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. Born at Lingen, East Freesland in 1691. In 1719 he was sent to take charge of the Reformed Churches here by the Classis of Amsterdam. He was a learned man and a successful preacher. The field of his labor still bears fruit. In contending for a Spiritual Religion his motto was, "Laudem non-quaero culpam non-timeo." He died in 1747, and his descendants, humbly sharing in his faith, have erected to his memory this monument.

First Great Awakening

Frelinghuysen served as a precursor to the First Great Awakening where his evangelistic contributions culminated in a regional awakening within the Middle Colonies. His ministry was greatly assisted through the efforts of Gilbert Tennent and George Whitefield. He sought to evangelize the Raritan Valley through Reformed pietism, that also owed much to the theological thought of the Puritans as well. Utilizing this theological thought, he employed a three-pronged evangelistic strategy. His chosen evangelistic strategies were preaching, church discipline, and a contextualization of the Dutch Reformed ecclesiastical practices.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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