The Ghost Church at Polegreen
by Rev. David T. Myers


polegreen02To the locals, the outline of the white beams of the building is known as “the Ghost Church.” That is because it is neither a building or a monument, but only the outline of a church beside a road leading to Richmond, Virginia. Yet to those “in the know,” this site is both a historic site of religious and civil liberty.

Think back in time to the late eighteenth century. The colony of Virginia was ruled spiritually by the Anglican Church. That was the established religion. But sweeping the colonies was a religious fervor which we know as the Great Awakening. Ministers like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Gilbert Tennent were preaching the unsearchable riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

In Williamsburg, Virginia, George Whitefield preached the Word of God. His sermon was soon printed and widely read in Virginia. A Hanover, Virginia brick mason by the name of Samuel Morris gathered his family and some neighbors on Sunday afternoons to read the Bible and various religious tracts, including the sermons of George Whitefield. The gatherings soon attracted others to come together, and these individuals and families became known as “Morris Reading Rooms.” This was the beginning of the Hanover Dissenters. One such “Reading Room,” was known as Polegreen, so named because that was the land of George Polegreen in the late seventeenth century.

A Presbyterian minister preached one Sunday and recommended a young 23 year recently ordained pastor by the name of Samuel Davies. The latter went to the Governor General of Virginia to challenge the “state” religion of Virginia, who responded by setting up four “Dissenter” preaching places. One of them was at Polegreen Presbyterian Church. This became the “flagship church” of Samuel Davies. The gospel went out with much power to the people of the colony, until biblical Presbyterianism was established in the colony, and later on in the state. Polegreen Presbyterian Church became a sacred spot of the history of American Presbyterianism.

polegreen_marker03Fast forward to the time of the Civil Way in the land, to specifically 1864. General U.S. Grant had begun his eventual crushing Overland Campaign against General Robert E. Lee, of the Confederate States of America. The Union forces fought their way south until they faced each other at Totopotomoy Creek, Virginia. Right in the middle of the two armies was Polegreen Presbyterian Church. When Union sharpshooters occupied the simple building, Confederate artillery opened fire to dislodge this enemy force. One Southern gunner, William S White, of the Richmond Howitzers, fired the shot which set the building ablaze. He confessed later in his diary that his father had been baptized there.

Since then, it has remained just the shell of the building. On the property, there is a stone monument placed in 1929 which reads “Site of Polegreen Presbyterian Church Founded 1748 by Rev. Samuel Davies, Presbytery of New Castle, Synod of New York, seven years before the organization of Hanover Presbytery, 1755. Destroyed June 1, 1864. Erected by Woman’s Auxiliary East Hanover Presbyterian 1929”

Words to Live By:
The outlines of the present “ghost church” were taken from a drawing by Lt. Thomas M Farrell, 15th New York Engineers, in 1862. Of far more importance is the spiritually legacy of Samuel Davies as it is found in evangelical and Reformed churches such as the Presbyterian Church in America, and others which receive the Bible, as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Are you a member of one of these churches?

The 100th General Assembly of the PCUSA was notable as the first time in which the disrupted Church, North and South, met fraternally. The Southern Presbyterian Church, while meeting in Assembly in Baltimore, came to meet with the Northern Presbyterians during their Assembly in Philadelphia. Discusssions of a permanent reunion were on the table, but nothing came of it. News of that event, as reported in a denominational magazine of the day, follows:

THE PRESBYTERIAN CONGRESS.

The great Presbyterian Congress—its General Assembly—begins its sessions in Philadelphia to-day. As our Philadelphia dispatches showed yesterday, it is a body notable for the number of distinguished divines and laymen who are to lead its deliberations. Of the 500 delegates in attendance a large majority are prominent in the States from which they come, and there are scores of men who are known and honored all over the country, while some of them are recognized by Protestants the world over, as leaders of the religious thought and action of the age.

The great gathering suggests more than ecclesiastical or denominational considerations and reminiscences. It reminds intelligent students of the history of this country of the intimate relations between Presbyterianism in its various forms with the history of the struggles for religious and political freedom, in the old world and in the new. It was the love of freedom of the Presbyterians in Great Britain that brought on them the persecutions and trials that drove here hundreds of thousands of Presbyterians, who became the staunchest and most intelligent supporters of American independence. The same causes gave to the American colonies the splendid qualities for citizenship that were possessed by the exiled Huguenots and by the Dutch Presbyterians. It was a natural and most vitally important result that during the whole period of the Revolutionary war the Presbyterian churches were unanimously for American independence and furnished a large proportion of the ablest civil and military leaders who conducted the war and founded the Union.

One of the most notable  concessions as to the harmony between Presbyterianism and our peculiar form of government was made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, when he wrote these words:

“Though it is my privilege to regard the authority exercised by the General Assembly as usurpation, still I must say with every man acquainted with the mode in which it is organized, that for the purpose of popular and political government, its organization is little inferior to that of Congress itself. It acts on the principle of a radiating centre, and is without equal or rival among the other denominations of the country.”

[excerpted from The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 3.]

President Grover Cleveland’s Address to the Members of the General Assemblies.
[The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 4]

I am very much gratified by the opportunity here afforded me to meet the representatives of the Presbyterian Church. Surely, a man never should lose his interest in the welfare of the church in which he was reared. Those of us who inherit fealty to our church as I do, begin early to learn those things which make us Presbyterians all the days of our lives, and thus it is that the rigors of our early teaching, by which we are grounded, in our lasting allegiance, are especially vivid, and perhaps, the best remembered. The attendance upon church service three times each Sunday, and upon Sabbath school during the noon intermission, may be irksome enough to a boy of ten or twelve years of age to be well fixed in his memory, but I have never known a man who regretted these things in the years of his maturity. The Shorter Catechism, though thoroughly studied and learned, was not, perhaps, at the time, perfectly understood, and yet in the stern labors and duties of after life those are not apt to be the worst citizens who were taught “What is the chief end of man.”

Speaking of these things, and in the presence of those here assembled, I may say the most tender thoughts crowd upon my mind—all connected with Presbyterianism, and its teachings. There are present with me now memories of a kind and affectionate father, consecrated to the cause and called to his rest and his reward, in the mid-day of his usefulness; a sacred recollection of the prayers and pious love of a sainted mother, and a family circle hallowed and sanctified by the spirit of Presbyterianism. I cannot but express the wish and the hope that the Presbyterian church will always be at the front in every movement which promises the temporal as well as the spiritual advancement of mankind.

In the turmoil and bustle of every day life few men are foolish enough to ignore the practical value to our people and our country of the church organization established among us, and the advantage of Christian example and teaching. While we may be pardoned for insisting that our denomination is the best, we may, I think, safely concede much that is good to all other churches that seek to make men better.

I am here to greet the delegates of two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church. One is called “North” and the other “South.” The subject is too deep and intricate for me, but I cannot help wondering why this should be. These words, so far as they denote separation and estrangement, should be obsolete. In the councils of the Nation and in the business of the country they no longer mean reproach and antagonism. Even the soldiers who fought for the “North” and for the “South” are restored to fraternity and unity. This fraternity and unity is taught and enjoined by our church. When she shall herself be united, with all the added strength and usefulness, then harmony and union ensue.

Words to Live By:
How the mighty have fallen. How some have departed over these many years from the clear proclamation of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We take no pride in making such an observation. If anything, we should be immensely humbled, knowing our own sinful hearts. Indeed, we should fear the Lord and daily strive to draw near to Him. May the Lord by His Holy Spirit bring repentance. May He revive His Church in these latter days.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.—I Corinthians 10:12, NASB.

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Our co-laborer in this blog, the Rev. David T. Myers, comes today on this Memorial Day with a sermon suited to the occasion. This departs somewhat from our standard fare, both in content and in form, but I trust you will find it profitable and a blessing to your soul. May God be glorified.

A Memorial Day Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers

Scripture Lesson: Joshua 3:14 – 4:7

Introduction:

(Illustration) There is on the web a post entitled “Children’s Letters to God.” It is both touching and humorous, to say the least. Let me read just a few to you by way of introduction this morning.

      1. Eugene wrote, “Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool.” God is clearly in His creation for this child.
      2. “Dear God,” Joyce wrote, “Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.” She was grateful for the new arrival to her family but hey, God, He hadn’t answered her heartfelt prayer for a four legged addition to the family unit. What gives?!

      3. “I went to a wedding in church,” Neil wrote in his letter, “and the couple kissed right in church. Is that okay?” Good question, Neil. As a pastor who has performed the marriage of a number of couples, I too have wondered about what takes place in weddings.

      4. Nan acknowledged “I bet it is hard for You to love everyone in the whole world. There are only four people in my family, and I can never do it.” The mystery of God’s love.

      5. “Dear God,” Mickey said, “If you watch me on Sunday, I’ll show you my new shoes.”

        Perhaps without realizing it, Mickey just affirmed the omnipresence of God. Everywhere there is a there, God is there.

Well, this morning, we want to look at, not our letters to God, but rather His letters to us. They are found in the Bible, one of which is found in the passage which was read for our Scripture Lesson this morning, namely Joshua chapters 3 and 4. So please turn there in your Bible.

All of us here know the history of this national holiday. It began back around the time of the Civil War. It was intended to remember those who had given their all to their country. And it was remembered by decorating the graves of loved ones who has died in the service of that country. As each national conflict came and went, we have seen more reasons to celebrate it. Yet the numbers who do that remembrance are getting smaller and smaller, prompting one individual to bemoan the amnesia of Americans who treat this day only as the beginning of summer, still many hold to the true meaning of memorial day today, especially in this chapel.

Today, from Joshua chapters 3 and 4, we hear the inspiring story of a Biblical Memorial to the God of Israel, and the biblical application to us.

Opening Prayer: Let us pause for a moment in prayer.

OUTLINE: Consider first with me

  1. AN AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE in Joshua 3:1 – 6.

Now we didn’t read this portion in our Scripture Reading earlier, but if you scan it quickly, you will see the presence of God found . . . in the ark of the covenant. That ark is mentioned seventeen times in Joshua chapters 3 and 4. Its presence hits us again and again. We cannot get away from it. The inspired writer obviously doesn’t want any of us this morning to miss the importance of the ark, which was the sign of God’s presence among his people. Specifically, how are we to be aware of God’s presence in this scene?

A. Clearly, we are to Perceive God’s presence at a distance. That is found in v. 4 (read)

There was to be a distance of about 1000 yards between the ark and Israel. Some commentators believe it was because of the majestic holiness of God. And there might be some truth to that belief. But it was also, and this is the primary truth, hat they needed to see in person, with their own eyes, what divine miracle God was about to do in their midst.

If they were right behind the ark carried by the priests, they wouldn’t be able to discern what might be happening. But by this distance, all would be able to see God’s great miracle soon to take place before their very eyes.

B. We are also to Prepare for the Lord’s Working in our Midst v. 5 “sanctify yourselves..”

Get apart from the ordinary things of your life and consecrate, dedicate yourself for the great work which Jehovah God is about to do. This certainly involved confession of sins. It involved a time in remembering the Word of God. Prepare yourself in a spiritual way, Israel.

Why bother with this preparation? Because it is crucial that what is about to happen is truly of God. They needed to understand that what was about to happen was a miracle in time and space history. This wouldn’t be some accident of nature. It wasn’t by luck or fortune or chance that the river would soon mysteriously part. God was going to do it. He is the Author of it. They were mere spectators of this miracle. So prepare for it, Israel.

This raises an important question by way of . . .

Application: Question? When we come to chapel each Lord’s Day, are we properly prepared for the public worship of God? Are we prepared to adore God, our Savior and Redeemer? Has there been confession of sins, so that there is nothing to hinder us from approaching God? Have we been praying for Chaplain Sieg who is about to lead us into worship? The prelude played by our organist or pianist is designed to quiet our hearts and prepare for worship.

This applies for all of life as well. Could it be that we fail to detect the Lord’s marvelous working in the routine working of our lives because we have not prepared ourselves to see or even expect that divine working? There is to be a place in our weekly life where God’s Presence is sought through prayer and meditation in His Word, the Bible. Are we engaged in that sacred preparation?

But having looked at the importance of the awareness of God’s presence, let us note second,

II. THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S POWER in chapter 3 of Joshua, verses 10 – 13.

Look there in your Bibles, especially verse 10 itself. (read)

This is what Bible commentators call “theo-logic.” You take one large display or event of God and from it, you assure yourself that the same God who easily took care of that large event, will take also take care of all lesser events in your spiritual lives.

In the New Testament, it is found in Romans 8:32. Your lay leader read it this morning. Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.”

The most important truth in this text is that God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for us. That is the great truth of redemption. But here is a second truth too. To those who have received Him by faith alone, all lesser benefits of eternal life belong to us as well. It is a theo-logic argument, from the greater to the lesser.

In Joshua 3, by crossing the Jordan River by the power of God, or the larger event in the life of the nation, Israel will know that this same God will repel the enemy forces of all of these pagan tribes in the land now. If He can get you into the promised land, then He will surely give you the promised land. No one – not the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites – in other words, all the “ites” will not be able to match up against the absolute power of God. They will know that the living God is on our side.

How God’s people today need to remember this biblical truth. How His church needs to see that the God of the Bible is not just a three letter word in Christian jargon, but he is the Sovereign God who has come, who intervenes in history, who rescues us in our times of need, and who guides all His people in the perplexing times in which we live.

That is my God and your God. Amen? Amen! Even we Presbyterians pastors can say “Amen.”

We have seen the Awareness of God’s Person and the Assurance of God’s Power, now let us see for our third point,

  1. THE AWESOME GOD OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE Joshua 3:15

I believe all of us here know the thrilling account of Israel crossing the Jordan River. You have heard sermons on this before. You have studied the passage in our Christian Education Classes in Sunday School.

We are reading Joshua 3:14 and following with great expectancy to the pivotal part of the inspired story, when the priests carrying the ark will dip the soles of their feet into the water of the Jordan, with the result that the river will part, it will come to a heap on one side, and the people will go across on dry land. But then, in our section of Scripture, the whole thrilling story comes to an abrupt stop in action. The inspired writer in verse 15 supplies us all with a sentence of raw data on the river conditions of the Jordan in the spring time.

Why did the inspired author ruin a perfectly good story with a report on river conditions? Give me a break! You got to be kidding! Why dash our hopes here?

Answer? Because he wishes everyone here to appreciate the miracle they are about to hear and read about?

So let me give you some familiar facts. Just listen, and some of you may already know about this historical data, but listen anyhow by way of review. I have borrowed it from Dr. Dale Ralph Davis, on of my fellow ministers in his comments on this text. He writes,

“The actual Jordan Valley between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea varies in breadth from three to fourteen miles. Within this valley is the river’s flood plain, which is 200 yards to one mile wide. The floodplain was packed with tangled bush and jungle growth. Thus, it was not the river so much as the jungle growth that was difficult to cross.

Then Dr Davis continue on, “Then there was the river channel, which, was from 90 to 100 feet broad, with a depth of three feet at some fords to as much as ten to twelve feet” at others.”

Illustration: I can remember see a cartoon in a Christian magazine which depicted several of the priests who were carrying the ark. Seeing this water hindrance before them and the people, one of the them says to the others, “Did you ever stop to think of how silly we are going to look if Joshua is wrong” Yes, they would look silly if Joshua was mistaken. But, Joshua wasn’t wrong in his directions to the priests of Israel.

The point is, what Israel faced that springtime was no placid stream like the Yellow Breeches in our county, but a raging torrent, probably a mile wide covering a mass of tangled brush and jungle growth.

This is the import of this sentence in verse 15 which stops our attention in the story. Why did the inspired writer include it, except . . . to remind us that often the God of providence allow us to come into circumstances, into situations so bleak and hopeless, for the very purpose of impressing upon us that when we make it through them, when we endure them, it will only be because of His grace and power, and His grace and power alone!

Our help, the Psalmist reminded us for our Responsive Reading this morning, Psalm 121, “ Our help does come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

IV. Quickly, look at our last point this morning, which is THE APPLICATION OF GOD’S PRESENCE, POWER, AND PROVIDENCE It is found in Joshua 4, summed up in verses 6 – 7 (read)

The memorial pile of stones at the site built by the Israelites after the miracle was intended to, first, to

A. Cause Israel to Remember God’s Presence, Power, and Providence in their Lives and the Life of the Nation

Let’s face it, folks, the greatest enemy of faith may be . . . forgetfulness. We forget what God has done in the past in our lives and thus we too often question God in the present and future. We just simply forget what God has done for us, or for His church in times past.

The pile of stones deposited at the far bank of the promised land after the crossing of the river was intended to remind Israel in all her history that the God of Joshua was and continued to be their God in that same present time and the future. It was a visual aid to that end

B. This miracle was intended to Be an Instruction for Future Generations. Joshua 4:21 – 24

Read vv 21 – 24.

We can almost see in our mind’s eye, a future father and six year old son hiking in Gilgal National Park. The son sees the piles of stones, counts 12 of them, and says, “Hey Dad, what are those stones for?” The curiosity of the son becomes the occasion for the communication of the past event and how Israel’s God unleashed His power for His people.

That provokes in my mind, folks, a question. How much time, parents, did we give to re-telling the story of God’s faithfulness in specific instances of your life? I don’t mean here simply telling our children that this or that happened to you. I mean, how many times did we tell our family the place of God in your life?

If you haven’t done it as a practice in their younger days, it may not be too late to communicate this to your grown children, and especially your grandchildren.

This was the purpose of the 12 stones there on the river bank long ago.

      1. This miracle was intended to be A Witness to the World

Francis Schaeffer said in his commentary on Joshua “that the stones were to tell the other nations round about that Israel’s God is different. He really exists. He is a living God, the God of real power who is immanent in the world.”

In conclusion,

So on this Memorial Sunday, by all means, remember those who served our nation through the years. I can do it for Chaplain US Army Major David K Myers, my father, who served in WW2 through the Korean War. My wife can do it for Newton Baxter, her father, who was a WW2 photographer at a factory building bombers for the war effort.

But as Christians, we can also remember the God of Israel who miraculously led His people across the Jordan River millenniums ago by a miracle in time and space history. That God is alive today. And we are to remember His Presence, His Power, and His Awesome Providence, as He continues to watch over, guide, and protect those who call on His Name today. Happy Memorial Day.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 84. What doth every sin deserve?

A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Scripture References: Gal. 3:10. Matt.25:41. Ezrp. 9:6 2 Cor. 5:21.

Questions:

1. What is meant by the wratn and curse of God?

The wrath and curse of God is the punishment that God has threatened to inflict upon all sinners for the sins they commit.

2. What is this punishment that God will inflict upon sinners?

The punishment is all the miseries of this life, death itself, and the pains of hell forever (see Question 19, Shorter Catechism).

3. Does every sin we commit deserve this wrath and curSe of God?

Yes. every sin we commit deserves it. Every sin that is committed is against the Holy, Righteous God who hates all sin. He is the just God and He desires and requires satisfaction for the sins committed.

4. Why is sin so hateful to God?

Sin is hateful to God becanse it is the very opposite of God’s holy nature and God’s holy law. Therefore, sin is exposed to the wrath and curse of God.

5. Do the sins of believers deserve this same punishment?

The sins of believers deserve it but their persons can never be exposed to, or liable to, God’s wrath, either in this life or in the life to come.

6. What is it that we can learn from this Question of the Catechism?

We may learn once again to look up to God and thank Him and praise Him for saving us, even when we were not worthy of it. We should look up to Him and thank Him for His mercy, His pardoning mercy, knowing we are such great sinners. We should repeat daily the words from Ezra 9:6: ” … O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.”

DELIVERED FROM THE WRATH TO COME

It Is my prayer that the reader has a well-grounded hope In Jesus Christ, that he is truly saved, for then he will be delivered from the wrath of God. The Bible says, ” … even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (l Thess. 1:10). If a person is born again he will be proving it day by day. He will live in such a way that there is proof lhat his whole life Is governed and controlled by the Book. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones says this person, this saved person, has been taken up by Christianity; he has not simply taken up Christianity. This is the person that has been delivered.

If there is that well-grounded hope, if there is present that God-given ability to know what he is, where he stands, and where he is going, then the believer should be very thankful to God for the deliverance. He will know that Jesus suffered, bled and died for him. He will know that Jesus shed His blood and took the curse that the believer will not have to suffer the wrath of God. There should never a day pass without the believer looking upward and thanking Him once again.

Now the believer must understand that though he is delivered from the wrath to come it does not mean that God will not inflict things upon him in this life. Afflictions will come and the believer must be willing to submit to them with good grace. I once knew a dear brother in the Lord who lived with affliction. It seemed that his every day was filled with it. He hnd physical afflictions, he had material afflictions. One night in his study I asked him how he kept such a wonderful attitude in the midst of such trouble. His answer went something like this: “Certain!y my affliction is heavy but it is nothing compared to what I deserve to suffer eternally in hell.” He had found the right perspective, he knew that his present state was far better than he deserved. And for this he praised God by living day by day knowing he was surrounded by the amazing grace of God.

The deliverance He purchased for us is from God’s wrath. It was a perfect redemption. No affliction, no trial, no sorrow, no trouble on this earth can take it away frem us. Praise God for making “him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Published by The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to Instrnctlon In the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 6, No.1 (January 1967)

Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

“A Sermon on the Occasion of the Commencement of the New Hampshire Constitution”
by Samuel McClintock (June 3, 1784)

Samuel McClintock (1732-1804), a graduate of the College of New Jersey, served the Greenland, New Hampshire, Congregational church for nearly a half century. He was a chaplain in the French and Indian War and for the New Hampshire Regiment in the Revolutionary War.  This sermon was preached at the convocation of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to commemorate the recently adopted constitution. The biblical text for this sermon was Jeremiah 18:7-10.

For this occasion, the sermon begins with a given of the day, i. e., that the character and providence of God were undisputed. McClintock believed that both the works of creation and manifest providence pointed to God’s direction of all events. He put it this way:

To men whose practice says there is no God-who view the events of time merely as effects of natural causes, of blind chance, or fatal necessity; and in the pride of reason, conceit that their own wisdom is sufficient to manage the affairs of states and empires, religion must appear an idle superstition; but to those who are convinced of the important truth taught in the words now read, the sovereign dominion of God over the nations of the earth, and the necessary dependence of all things on him, nothing can appear more rational than to seek to him on whom they depend, and in whose hand is the disposal of their circumstances, for direction in all their undertakings; more especially in affairs of public and national concernment, such as the present occasion, when a constitution of government is to take place, which in its operation may essentially affect the interest and happiness of present and future generations.

According to the passage in Jeremiah, he asserted that the Jewish nation had forfeited their blessings by disobeying God; consequently, they were exiled to Babylon. He then drew two main inferences from the theology of this passage:

1st. That God exercises a sovereign dominion over the nations and kingdoms of this world, and determines their rise, growth, declension and durationand

2nd. That his sovereign power is invariably directed by perfect and infinite rectitude; in plucking up and destroying, and in building and planting them, he treats them according to their moral character.

As an application of the first principles, he argued: “By a turn of the wheel of providence, he can form a people into a respectable and happy, or a mean and contemptible nation; more easily than the potter, of the same lump, can make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor.” Coupling this teaching also with a prophecy of Isaiah, he declared:

That sovereign word which gave existence to all things at first, continually supports their being, and gives efficacy to all the secondary causes of the growth and prosperity, or the decline and ruin of nations and empires. When he speaks and intimates his design by favorable events of providence, to plant and build up a nation, things are so ordered that there is a concurrence of causes to promote this end. Their public counsels are directed by wisdom, and their enterprises crowned with success; they are prospered in their agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and all their undertakings-happy in their union at home, and respectable among their neighbors, for their wisdom, virtue, and magnanimity. And when, on the contrary, he determines to destroy an impenitent nation for their sins, no human wisdom, counsel or might, can prevail to frustrate the execution of his threatenings; but they are so infatuated, that even the methods they take to support their tottering state, serve to precipitate their ruin. Thus he increaseth the nations and destroyed them; he enlarged the nations and straitneth them.

He cited the biblical examples of rulers (Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus) as being prompted by lust, pride, and evil, but nonetheless superintended by God’s providence to conform to his purposes. His listeners were exhorted to see God “as the first cause, the fountain of all life, power, and motion, and the author of all the events and revolutions which take place in the nations and empires of this world. It is God who does all these things by the influence of his providence.” And of this particular American revolution, he affirmed:

The divine hand has been so signally displayed in the events and occurrences which have led to it, that those who are not convinced of the government of providence over the affairs of nations by what has passed before them in these late years, would not have been persuaded if they had been eye-witnesses of the mighty works which God wrought in the midst of his peculiar people. For though the events were not strictly miraculous, yet they were truly marvelous, and so circumstanced, that they never can be rationally accounted for without admitting the interposition of providence.

The war was not an act of aggression, he stated, but of self-defense, following on the heels of many insults, oppressions, and injuries. From a worldly viewpoint or if devoid of the Divine favor, McClintock compared this to David Vs. Goliath. Furthermore, he thought that the “Declaration of Rights” and the form of government into 3 distinct branches were little more than correlates of the Christian religion, copied by many other governments. In almost catechetical repetition, he claimed: “In a word, the history of all nations and ages, shows that public virtue makes a people great and happy, vice contemptible and miserable. This is the constitution of God-the immutable law of his kingdom, founded in the infinite perfection of his nature, so that unless God should change, that is, cease to be God, we cannot be a happy, unless we are a virtuous people.”

Far from unleashing government from its Creator, McClintock preached that rulers were “ministers of God for good to the people; and their situation gives them a peculiar advantage to promote this benevolent design. They are placed on high, like a city set upon a hill.” His statement below was fairly customary for the day:

As religion has a manifest tendency to promote the temporal as well as eternal interests of mankind, it is the duty of rulers to give all that countenance and support to religion that is consistent with liberty of conscience. And it is perfectly consistent with that liberty and equal protection which are secured to all denominations of Christians, by our excellent constitution, for rulers in the exercise of their authority to punish profane swearing, blasphemy, and open contempt of the institutions of religion, which have a fatal influence on the interests of society, and for which no man, in the exercise of reason, can plead conscience; and by their example, to encourage the practice of those things which all denominations allow to be essential in religion.

This preacher also commended education for the youth as necessary for the maintenance of virtue; moreover, he believed that even those who did not have religion would favor virtue over vice. Calling for obedience, he reprised Joshua as below:

The Almighty Ruler of nations and kingdoms sets before us this day, life and death, blessing and cursing, and leaves it to ourselves which we will choose. Although true religion, the religion of the heart, consisting in faith and love unfeigned, and a real conformity to the divine character, is necessary in all who on good grounds would hope for eternal life; yet those who are wholly destitute of this religion, have it in their power to practice, on natural principles, that virtue, which according to the constitution of the divine government over nations, will ensure their temporal prosperity and glory.

Concluding with a reference to Daniel’s prophecies, McClintock heralded:

. . . it is matter of solid consolation and exalted joy to the friends of God and religion, amid the darkness and imperfection of this present state, that all human events are under the direction of an infinitely wise, good, holy and powerful providence, and are subservient to the peculiar kingdom of the Mediator, and uniformly working together to bring it to that state of perfection and glory for which it is designed. It is delightful to observe, how all things from the beginning of time, in the four great monarchies that rose in succession, that of the Babylonians, that of the Medes and Persians, that of the Macedonians, and that of the Romans, were disposed by divine providence to prepare the way for the coming of the Mediator, and the introduction of his kingdom; and how the kings and rulers of the earth in those enterprises, in which they were actuated by pride and vain glory, were only instruments in his hand to accomplish the predictions of his holy word respecting his church and people, though they meant not so, neither came it into their heart. The design of God in all his dispensations and in all events that have come to pass in every age, has been to serve the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom. And this, doubtless, is his design in the present revolution.

This sermon is available in printed form in both my 1996 Election Day Sermons, as well as in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). It is accessible online at: http://consource.org/document/a-sermon-on-occasion-of-the-commencement-of-the-new-hampshire-constitution-by-samuel-mcclintock-1784-6-3/.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

Taken from “20 Messages to Consider Before Voting”

 

Today we are pleased to have as our guest author the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA. It was Dr. Hall who so competently headed up the Calvin 500 celebration just a few years back, a celebration which included the publication of almost a shelf of new works on the life and ministry of John Calvin, with several of those works written by Dr. Hall himself. He has also been our guest author on most Saturdays this year, with a series on Election Day Sermons.

Calvin’s Death

calvinJohn02On April 25, 1564, sensing the nearness of death, Calvin filed his final will. In it he pled his unworthiness (“Woe is me; my ardor and zeal have been so careless and languid, that I confess I have failed innumerable times”1) and thanked God for mercy. He appointed his brother, Anthony (whose reputation for divorcing an earlier wife due to adultery had been maliciously used to malign Calvin himself), to be his heir, and in his will he bequeathed equal amounts to the Boys’ School, the poor refugees, and his stepdaughters. He also left part of his meager estate to his nephews and their children. To vindicate Calvin against charges of greed, Beza reiterated what Calvin had stated earlier: “If some will not be persuaded while I am alive, my death, at all events will show that I have not been a money-making man.”2 When his will was notarized and brought to the attention of the Senate,3 members of that council visited the declining Calvin to hear his final farewell personally.

Calvin’s importance and relationship to the city leaders may be gleaned from his Farewell Address to the Members of the Little Council.4 The members of this council had gone to his home to hear his advice and to express their appreciation for the “services he has performed for the Seigneurie and for that of which he has faithfully acquitted himself in his duty.” A contemporary recorded his sentiments from April 27, 1564. In that chronicle, the dying Calvin first thanked these leaders for their support, cooperation, and friendship. Although they had engaged in numerous struggles, still their relationship was cordial. Even though he wished to accomplish more, Calvin humbly suggested that God might have “used him in the little he did.” He urged the senators to honor God and to keep “hidden under the wings of God in whom all our confidence must be. And as much as we are hanging by a thread, nevertheless he will continue, as in the past, to keep us as we have already experienced that he saved us in several ways.”

He concluded by encouraging each one to “walk according to his station and use faithfully that which God gave him in order to uphold this Republic. Regarding civil or criminal trials, one should reject all favor, hate, errors, commendations.” He also advised leaders not to aspire to privilege as if rank was a benefit for governors. “And if one is tempted to deviate from this,” Calvin added, “one should resist and be constant, considering the One who established us, asking him to conduct us by his Holy Spirit, and he will not desert us.”

Calvin’s farewell to these political leaders was followed by his Farewell Address to the Ministers on April 28, 1564. From his chamber, Calvin reminded them poignantly: “When I first came to this Church there was almost nothing. We preached and that was all. We searched out idols and burned them, but there was no reformation. Everything was in tumult. . . . I lived here through marvelous battles. I was welcomed with mockery one evening in front of my door by 50 or 60 rifle shots. Do you think that that could disturb a poor, timid student as I am, and as I have always been, I confess?” The farewell address continued to review his Strasbourg exile, the tensions he faced upon return, and some of his experiences with various councils. Calvin concluded by predicting that the battles would not lessen in the days ahead, warning, “You will be busy after God takes me, even though I am nothing, still I know I prevented three thousand uproars that there might have been in Geneva. But take courage and strengthen yourselves, for God will use this Church and will maintain her, and be sure that God will keep her.”

Calvin humbly confessed: “I say again that all that I did has no value, and that I am a miserable creature. But if I could say what I truly wanted to, that my vices always displeased me, and that the root of the fear of God was in my heart, and you can say that what I was subjected to was good, and I pray that you would forgive me of the bad, but if there is anything good, that you conform yourselves to it and follow it.”

He denied that he had written hateful things about others, and he confirmed that the pastors had elected Beza to be his successor. “Watch that you help him [Beza],” exhorted the dying Calvin, “for the duty is large and troublesome, of such a sort that he may be overwhelmed under the burden. . . . As for him, I know that he has a good will and will do what he can.” Further, he requested that senators not change anything in Geneva’s structures and urged them “not to innovate—we often ask for novelties—not that I desire for myself by ambition what mine remains, and that we retain it without wanting better, but because all change is hazardous, and sometimes harmful.” The advice from this leader is filled with layer upon layer of wisdom.

Always sensitive to the calling to lead in many sectors of public life, he concluded with a plea for his fellow ministers to recall how they would affect matters outside the walls of the church, too: “Let each one consider the obligation he has, not only to this Church, but to the city, which has promised to serve in adversity as well as in prosperity, and likewise each one should continue in his vocation and not try to leave it or not practice it. For when one hides to escape the duty, he will say that he has neither thought about it nor sought this or that. But one should consider the obligation he has here before God.”

calvin_deathbedWhen Calvin passed away almost a month after making these comments on May 27, 1564, “the whole State regretted” the death of “its wisest citizen . . . a common parent.” He was interred in a common cemetery at Plein Palais, finally finding the anonymity he craved. That, one historian wrote, was characteristic of Calvin in life as in death.5 The widespread notice and sadness at his death should serve to correct any faulty view that his contemporaries either despised him or underestimated his importance. He was mourned, and his large number of friends would keep his memory alive far more than some contemporaries would have predicted.

 

Source: David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding(Lexington Books, 2003).

1 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin (contained in John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises on the Reformation of the Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958], vol. 1), cxxv.

2 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxxviii.

3 Beza refers to this Little Council as the “senate.” See Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxii.

4 This translation is from an unpublished translation of Calvin’s “Farewell Address,” trans. Kim McMahan of Oak Ridge, TN; originally published in 1999 at: http://capo.org/premise/99/jan/p990110.html.

5 Emile Doumergue, The Character of Calvin (Neuilly, La Cause, 1931), 173.

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When Dr. John B. Adger returned for physical recuperation from the mission field in Smyrna [part of Turkey], he soon began to preach to a congregation of blacks whom he gathered in the basement of the Second Presbyterian church of Charleston, South Carolina, where his brother-in-law Dr. Thomas Smyth was pastor. With appeal to the city and to the Presbytery on behalf of the newly gathered congregation, Dr. Adger delivered a sermon before the Presbytery on May 9, 1847. His text was “the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5). Without delay, Dr. James H. Thornwell prepared a review of the sermon, which appeared on the pages of The Southern Presbyterian Review, giving support to Adger’s plan, as unveiled in the sermon. Dr. Adger had argued that blacks ought to have their own congregations, a full-time white minister, and the Gospel preached in terms that they could understand. While this plan certainly encountered opposition, nonetheless the leading citizens of Charleston and particularly those of Second Presbyterian gave enthusiastic support to the idea.

It was with this support that a chapel was built for the fledgling congregation on Anson Street in Charleston, at a cost of $7,700, and the building was dedicated on this day, May 26th, in 1850.

Dr. John L. Girardeau succeeded Adger as pastor of the congregation, and the Anson Street chapel soon became too small. Expansion required a move to Calhoun Street, where the largest church building in Charleston. Dr. Girardeau noted that he was only kept from going to the foreign field by the call to preach to the mass of slaves on the seacoast. The church records for Zion Presbyterian Church give evidence of Girardeau’s diligence in caring for his flock and how often he was called upon to minister to them in their dying hours.

But Girardeau had stiff opposition from many of the citizens of Charleston, including the mayor. In a 2005 essay titled “A Lost Moment in Time”, (now Dr.) Otis W. Pickett observed that

Girardeau had become so unpopular that he was almost lynched by a crowd of angry as well as nervous CharlzionPC_CharlestonSCestonians in 1859. However in the midst of all this Girardeau press on with his ministry and it continued to prosper. Many African Americans flocked to his church because he acknowledged the need of the African American community to have an identity independent of the white congregations in Charleston. He acknowledged that the African Americans needed to be religiously empowered; by providing this in a limited way at Zion Church, he endeared himself to his flock. Distinct from all other churches of the time, Girardeau’s church allowed African Americans to sit in the pews while the white families were made to sit in the balcony. The environment that Girardeau created for African Americans in his church has been described as “their church, as no other church in Charleston has been theirs since Morris Brown and the African Methodist Church. It was a building, a place, that had been built for them. Here they could gather, could claim a community and thus a humanity in the very midst of an alienating and dehumanizing bondage.”

However, his most revolutionary act was allowing the slaves in his church to have surnames. For hundreds of years, slave owners throughout the south had denied their slaves surnames in order to show that slaves had no lasting family connections because of their status as property. Hence, claiming surnames was a bold display of independence for slaves. By allowing this, Girardeau made Zion Presbyterian Church a place where slaves could publicly declare they had a family history and they had an allegiance to people other than their owners. As a result of this training and ministry experience, unlike many of his contemporaries, Girardeau was more than adequately prepared to extend greater racial equality after the Civil War was over.

After the War and before Girareau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to “the Holy City” and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, Girardeau worked arduously among both black and white in Charleston. He labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the Church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his Session, laid hands on his black brothers.

Unfortunately, the pressures of Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the hardened positions of notables like B. M. Palmer and R. L. Dabney brought the church to a pivotal moment. The weight of political and social issues eventuated in “organic separation” of white membership and black membership and the formation of churches along the color line. Girardeau alone dissented against the resolution at the 1874 General Assembly in Columbus, Mississippi, for which he served as Moderator.

By 1959, the historic building of the Zion Presbyterian Church was demolished to make room for the expansion of two insurance companies. The building had been sold to Public Savings Life Insurance Company for $70,000, after the congregation made the decision that the building was larger than needed and began seeking a smaller, more modern building to better suit the needs of the congregation. The church continues to this day, having merged with another to become the Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church.

ZionPC_CharlestonSC_02

Words to Live By:

As Dr. Pickett observed at the opening of his essay,

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that eleven o’clock Sunday morning is America’s most segregated hour still rings true today. As sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith have noted, American Christians are “divided by faith” along racial lines. While a number of factors—social, economic, educational—have contributed to this segregation, the most significant determining factor continues to be historical.
In the early days of Reconstruction, American evangelicals in the south missed an opportunity to break down racial barriers by fostering interracial congregations. Instead of seizing the moment, evangelical Christians buttressed the dividing walls of hostility, failing to live out the reality of the Gospel. While each mainline denomination in the south had its own way of proliferating racial separatism, none provided a more heart-breaking example of this than the Southern Presbyterians.

The challenges that confront our culture today present Bible-believing Christians with a great opportunity, one in which we truly can, if we will rise to the occasion, show that the Gospel cuts across all dividing lines. As the wider culture is increasingly fractured, the Church is afforded an opportunity for witness. How can you pray? How can you support new works like Crown & Joy Presbyterian Church, or older works like New City Fellowship? How can you strengthen men in their preparation for the ministry? How can you extend a hand of fellowship? Will you?

Unity Where There Was Disunity
by Rev. David T. Myers

This historical devotional and our pending May 27th devotional deal with the same topic, that of the Old Side – New Side schism in early Presbyterianism. On May 27, we will look at what caused the infant Presbyterian church to divide into two sides in 1741. On this day, May 25, we will look at how they were brought together again in 1758.

What were the points of difference, even though we will wait until the latter date in May to see them in detail? They could be summarized in two words: education and evangelism. The first difference centered around the education of ministers, whether European credentials were required, like from Scotland or England theological colleges, or whether training in schools in the colonies, such as the Log College of New Jersey, was sufficient. The second difference was composed of the issue of the revival meetings of the Great Awakening, and whether permission needed to be sought and given when engaged in them in other presbyter’s parishes. One can immediately see that no doctrines were at stake, but rather differing ways of doing the Lord’s work.

Such differences on these two points accounted for this schism in 1741 which  lasted sixteen years  to 1758.  By then, men and churches who took strong stands in the 1741 schism had either died or moved on. Further, there was on the part of a few ministers who had been most vocal in their affirmations and denunciations during the schism, like the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, a sincere repentance on choice of words used to describe the other side.

The Plan of Union* in 1758 affirmed the method of revivals, such as the New Side Presbyterians engaged in, was proper. It even ascertained that the Great Awakening was a blessed work of the Holy Spirit. Yet there was a recognition that if the authority of local presbyteries and synods forbade the wandering  of evangelists, who came into other fields without even asking permission to do so, that would have to stop.
[*not to be confused with the Plan of Union of 1801, an agreement between Congregationalists and Presbyterians.]

As far as education was concerned, the candidates for the gospel ministry should be able to both declare the theological basis of their beliefs (such as the Old Side championed) as well as show experimental acquaintance with the gospel (as the New Side emphasized).

A unified Presbyterian church was ready to progress ahead for the challenging years ahead of her, especially in the birth of a new country called  the United States of America.

Words to Live By:
As long as union is not accompanied by denials of Christian theology, it is to be prayed for, worked on, perseveringly kept, and greatly rejoiced over as producing stronger instruments for the glory of God and the growth of the church.

A Small Church, But Faithful

Our post today draws from the Rev. Dr. George Hutchinson’s valuable work, The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), pp. 65-70. The RPCES was formed by a merger of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (RPCGS) and what was the larger portion of a split of the Bible Presbyterian Church, originally named the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. That latter group held that name from 1956-1961, then renamed itself the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. The merger of the RPCGS and the EPC then created the RPCES. [Note: In 1983, a new denomination was formed as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and this group continues to this day, but should not be confused with the former group of the same name.]

 

In the preceding chapter we have seen the rise of Reformed Presbyterianism in Scotland in the seventeenth century together with its exportation to America in the eighteenth. By the first years of the nineteenth century the Reformed Presbyterian Church was firmly planted in American soil. The reconstitution of the Reformed Presbytery in 1798 under the leadership of James McKinney was followed by an outburst of optimistic energy in the Church. “Important additions were soon after made to the ministry, and the Church entered on a career of vigorous labour, crowned by a large measure of progress.‟ As a result of this energy, the official judicial testimony of the American Reformed Presbyterian Church was published in 1807 under the title Reformation Principles Exhibited. Two years later—on May 24, 1809—”All the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, being convened, with ruling Elders delegated from different sessions, did unanimously agree to constitute a Synod.‟ The official name was to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America was well aware of her unique circumstances and opportunities. “God has, in his Providence, presented the human family in this country with a new experiment. The Church, unheeded by the civil powers, is suffered to rise or fall by her own exertions.‟ So wrote Alexander McLeod in Reformation Princi- ples Exhibited. However, what would be the outcome of these unique circumstances? How would the Church respond to these unique opportunities? The Reformed Presbyterian Church looked upon the dawn of the nineteenth century with extreme optimism. Indeed, D. M. Carson entitles this chapter in the history of the Church “The New Optimism.‟ This general attitude is well expressed in the words of James McKinney, uttered in 1797:

“The joint triumphs, of enlightened reason, and true religion, must soon become glorious.‟ Mankind would soon come to recognize the rights of God, and the millennium would be triumphantly ushered in. According to McLeod the Fall of the papal antichrist is fast approaching, and the time is near when the Lord will pour forth his Holy Spirit and the king- doms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). This optimistic spirit was accompanied by the substantial growth of the Church. In 1798 there were two ministers, a few scattered congregations, and some 1000 communicant members. By 1832 there were 36 ministers, 60 organized congregations, and some 5,000 members. The sources of this growth were Covenant children, Reformed Presbyterians from Ireland and Scotland, and converts from other denominations. These converts were looked upon as those who had become dissatisfied with the use of human compositions in singing God‟s praises, the relaxation of church discipline, the prevalence of Hopkinsian and other doctrinal errors, and “the carnal, worldly spirit of professors, in the churches which they left.‟ At the time of the appearance of the second edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited in 1824, it could be exclaimed: “Congregations are springing up in the desert, and the wilderness is becoming a fruitful field.‟ The organization of the Church kept pace with this growth. The number of presbyteries increased. A representative General Synod, to meet every two years, was established in 1823; and by 1832 the General Synod had constituted the Eastern and Western Subordinate Synods for yearly meetings. The Church was zealous for the education of her ministers, and in 1807 drew up a constitution for a theological seminary. This constitution is interesting, not only because it reveals the Church‟s conception of the nature of the ministry and of theological education, but also because it reveals her conception of what constitutes proper qualifications for the ministry. These are in order of importance: first, piety or practical godliness; second, good sense or talents commensurate with the calling; and third, a good theological education. As fund raisers for the seminary put it: “The Millennium is not to be introduced by ignorant enthusiasm. There must be an able ministry.‟ The Church was also conscious of her responsibility in the areas of discipline, evangelism, and doctrine. The Rev. David Graham was deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the Church for misconduct in 1812. In 1822 Covenanters in New York City founded the American Evangelical Tract Society to disseminate tracts in support of the principles of the Reformation. The ministers of the Synod were on the whole prolific authors. For a small number of men they produced a good deal of published material, much of which concerns doctrinal subjects. They were particularly concerned to defend traditional Calvinism against its modern substitutes. For instance, William Gibson wrote Calvinism vs. Hopkinsianism (1803), and Gilbert McMaster published A Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity (1815)—including in that work the doctrines of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Depravity of Man, and the limited extent of the Atonement. McMaster inquires: What then? Shall men, in things of religion, be in a state of perpetual hostility? Shall the empire of the Prince of Peace never be united? Must each contend for his dogma? The Church of God is indeed lamentably distracted, and in that distraction all parties have a guilty hand. But can the malady be cured by an unprincipled abandonment of fundamental doctrines, merely to obtain a momentary repose from the pains of contest? Such repose would be that of death, to the interests of vital godliness.

It was in this spirit that Alexander McLeod wrote The Life and Power of True Godliness (1816). The position of the ministers of the Church on the matter of political dissent did not preclude their speaking out on political and social issues. McLeod puts it tersely in the first of his series of sermons in defense of the American cause in the War of 1812: “Ministers have the right of discussing from the pulpit those political questions which affect Christian morals.‟ The Church took a particularly strong stand on the slavery question, expressed in McLeod‟s Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1804); and as early as 1802 we read in the Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery: “It was enacted that no slave- holder should be allowed the communion of the Church.‟

As might be expected, one of the chief topics for discussion was the matter of the application of Christian principles to existing governments. It was chiefly differences in this area that led to the lamentable Disruption of 1833.

Disruption and Recovery
In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America experienced a division which up to the present has been permanent. The majority adhering to the General Synod became known as the New Light General Synod [or officially, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod], the minority as simply the Old Light Synod. The Disruption of 1833 has its origins in the early years of the nineteenth century. To understand this momentous dispute in the Church it is necessary to mention some of the developments which led up to it. [We plan to address those issues in some future post.]

Hutchinson, George P., The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. pp. 65-70.

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A Land So Far Away?
Just suppose, dear reader, just suppose now, that in our blessed country one year, a  bill was approved by both Houses of Congress, sent to the White House in Washington, D.C., signed by the president and it became the law of the land.  Oh yes, an important ingredient of this bill was that it had the support of The Episcopal Church (TEC).  What was its gist, you ask?

The first  section of the bill decreed deposition of all spiritual leaders who denied the federal government’s authority in ecclesiastical matters.

The second section excommunicated any spiritual leader who dared to preach and proclaim that the worship part of the bill was contrary to Holy Scripture.

Next, that same penalty of deposition was promised upon any who preached that the liturgical part of the bill was unbiblical.

Fourth, any and all clergy and churches in the land had to adopt the this governmental  liturgy for their congregations upon pain of deposition if they failed to adopt it.

Fifth, all congregational meetings could only be called by governmental decree; further, no ecclesiastical business could be discussed without the approval of the government; in addition, no biblical meeting could be held independent of government authority, and last, no spiritual leader could engage in extemporary prayers.

And last, governmental regulations were handed on regarding the manner of worship, gowns worn by clergy members, fonts used for baptisms, ornaments in the church building, and the conducting of the Lord’s Supper.

This author is sure that all of our readers would quickly acknowledge if the churches of America were recipients of such a federal law as this, the visible biblical church as we know and love would all but disappear from the land, or be so thoroughly compromised that it would be not longer a church where Christ Jesus is the Head of the church.

How glad we are that this alleged supposition is only that.   However to Scottish Christians in the Church of Scotland on May 23, 1635, the above supposition was an awful reality.  It was sent down to that church by the king with the blessing of the Anglican church upon the Church of Scotland.

After a couple of years of delay, on July 23, 1637, an attempt was made to introduce it in the cathedral church at St. Giles, Edinburgh.  From among the common people there that day, a woman named Jenny Geddes picked up her stool and flung it at the dean who thought that he was going to introduce it in the worship service.  A regular riot broke out as other chairs began flying toward the podium.  The dean was forced to flee for his life.  This result brought the city of Edinburgh under an episcopal interdict, which suspended all public worship, even on the hallowed Sabbath, because this sanctioned liturgy has been neglected.  We have a post on the reaction on July 23, 1637.

The second response was the signed of the National Covenant on February 28, 1638.  This Day in Presbyterian History also covered this reaction on February 28, 1638.

Words to Live By: You may be thinking that the separation of church and state would preclude this from ever happening in America.  But with countless Reformed and Presbyterian leaders proclaiming that we now live in a post-Christian land, the time may be soon upon us where such liberties of worship and work may soon be past.  Our Lord’s definition of His people,  found in Matthew 5:13, must be re-discovered by the church in our land.  He said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by man.” Let us not be good-for-nothing Christians.

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