“it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ…”

Work slowed some time ago on an author-title index to the THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the official publication of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, an organization formed by Dr. J. Gresham Machen and others in 1933. THE BULLETIN was first issued in January of 1936 and continues to this day as the primary newsletter of that organization. Among the articles appearing in the earlier issues is this by Miss Frances Brook, for which the editor’s opening comments, shown in bold, are striking and deserve serious reflection. We see something of this truth being lived out even today in the lives of Rev. Wang Yi and the congregation of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China.

GOD’S KEY-MEN IN WORLD SITUATIONS
His Provisions and Equipment
Isaiah 44:1-8
by Miss Frances Brook 

…In this article Miss Brook emphasizes the thought that God’s key-men are “even His witnesses that He is God.” It was precisely because missionaries failed to realize that it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ, that there was so much evasion of that primary obligation in the Japanese Empire. Missionaries and Christians alike failed to realize that in trial comes priceless opportunity, and therefore, save for a very few, missed a glorious opportunity to testify to the very highest officials in Japan that Jehovah alone is God.

How intimately God speaks in all these passages to His prostrate servant, the captive people in Babylon, the one who is heir to this situation, the people for whom it has been created. What loving personal words, to rouse him from his indifference and apathy! “But thou, Israel,” 41:8. “But now, saith the Lord” 43:1. “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant,” 44:1. And is He any less intimate with us? True power of intercession lies in such close heart intercourse with God!

These verses, Isa. 44:1-8 bring the promise of Pentecost, but not without the foundation of Calvary. How consistent God’s Word is in its oft-repeated revelation. Gal. 3:13 and 14 is the New Testament counterpart, Calvary, thence Pentecost. We must look back at chapter 43:22-28 to get the background of this love appeal, this promise. Verses 18-21 have preceded with their gracious foreshadowing of Pentecost, “a new thing,” a spontaneous, God-given outburst of new life; refreshment and satisfaction just where it might least be expected—”in the wilderness.” Is there anything as “new” as a Pentecostal manifestation of the Spirit? Verses 22-28 describe the spiritual wilderness in which this Pentecostal change is to be enacted. “Things as they are!” A God-weary, God-wearying people. “But thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” No wonder then they had not called, vs. 22. What a heart-breaking statement for God to make, God the Eternal Lover! Has He never had to say it of us, as He looks down upon our prayerlessness, our apathy? The heart-broken appeal of these verses reminds us of Jer. 2:31. “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel?. . . Wherefore say my people . . . we will come no more unto Thee?” Is it really God speaking? And how tenderly He adds in Isaiah, “I have not wearied thee.”  Prayerlessness, lack of devotion, lack of love, how these things go to God’s heart. Verses 23 and 24 bring this out. God misses our love-tokens. “No water. No kiss. No ointment.”

This is its New Testament counterpart, Luke 7:44-46. And from whence did the love gifts come that gladdened our Lord? From the woman whose sins were many and were forgiven. We turn back to Isaiah 43. “But thou has wearied Me with thine iniquities.” God’s love cannot stay on that dismal, heart-breaking scene, it goes on, it must go on to Calvary. “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake and will not remember thy sins.” Sin that has been borne by the broken-hearted sinless One can be blotted out, no more remembered. God invites us to meet Him there. Verse 26 speaks of this. We can put Him in remembrance of the Sacrifice, acknowledge our transgression and be justified. The curse, the reproaches, the devastated Sanctuary, vs. 27-28, all point to a heart condition that has left God out! Sins, sins, sins! No love, no prayer, “Yet now, hear, O Jacob.” Into this dismal scene God sends the promise of Pentecost, but Pentecost based on Calvary. The outpoured Sacrifice is complemented by the outpoured Spirit.

To those who have received the first, the second comes as God’s own answer to the one perfect and sufficient Sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. Calvary looks toward Pentecost. And Pentecost alone can heal God’s heart-break over your sin and mine. “Yet now.” God goes back in these verses, 1 and 2, to His original purpose for His people. It can be attained, it shall be attained. “Fear not, I will pour my Spirit.” For uttermost need, uttermost dryness of soul—Pentecost! God will pour Himself out. The curse absorbed in Calvary’s love-transaction, what is left to give but blessing? Gal. 3:13 and 14. Thus verses 4 and 5 picture the spontaneity of Holy Ghost life to the soul that listens. They picture Spring as it breaks forth from Winter barrenness and hopelessness. And now (contrast 43:22-24) there is deliberate response to the Divine Giver. Can any response be more simple, more safe, more satisfying than the one for which He has so long waited, “I am the Lord’s!” All Heaven is waiting for the soul that is the Lord’s. I Cor. 3:21-23.

But why call himself by the name of Jacob? Can any good thing belong there? No, it is the heart confession of failure, utter failure. “What is thy name?” said the Divine Angel to Jacob at his life crisis when God wrestled with him to change him. “And he said, Jacob,” and God said, “Thou shalt no more be called Jacob, but Israel.” Israel could not be super-imposed on Jacob. Jacob could not grow into Israel. It is necessary to be perfectly honest in our dealings with God. “I am Jacob” with all it stands for—all the weary plotting and maneuvering to outwit and outreach another—all the failure to attain the thing for which I was made and which God was waiting to bestow—I am Jacob. “Thy name shall be called . . . Israel.” “One with whom God has power.” This is the true interpretation of the Hebrew. Hence Jacob’s power with God and men. Here we come upon the secret by which prayerless self-lovers can be made into “the new sharp threshing instrument having teeth,” into God-lovers who can turn other  men’s failures into victory. No real change is possible in the situation till there is this change in us. How quickly it followed in Jacob’s case when God had His way with him. Gen. 32:26-28 and 33:1-4.

Is not this “subscribing with his hand unto the Lord?” I expect from God what heretofore I have looked for from myself. I sign my checks in His name, I am the Lord’s and have the Bride’s privilege to draw on all that is His. So I use it now, and over against Jacob, my heart confession of failure, I dare to write Israel, my new name, the man who at last has room for God, and expects all from Him. Paul says the same in Phil. 3:3, “rejoice in Christ Jesus . . . no confidence in the flesh.” This fits the Divine assurance of 44:6 aas an empty socket gives play to the joint, fulness working in emptiness. John saw the same at Patmos and fell at His feet as dead, and He said, “Fear not; am the first and the last.”

And so the God-appointed people come at last to their God-appointed end, verse 7. They are even His witnesses that He is God, verse 8. They live to show forth His praisem, 43:21. They are formed for Himself and in no other way can they reach their End. In all helplessness and utter weakness we receive Him. This is Pentecost. And it means a changed people.

“I take the promised Holy Ghost
I take the power of Pentecost
To fill me to the uttermost
I take, He undertakes.”

Pentecost is God’s cure for prayerlessness; God’s answer to Calvary; the place where God meets the man who is resting in the Sacrifice, and life is changed.

With some slight editing, our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s work, A History of the Presbyterian Church in America: from its origin until the year 1760. (1857):—

The Rev. Daniel Elmer was pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, Fairfield, New Jersey, from 1729-1755. Rev. Elmer was the eighth pastor of this church, which had been organized in 1680. The church is now a member of the PCA. Rev. Elmer was preceded there by the Rev. Noyes Parris [1724-1729] and following him at that pulpit was the Rev. William Ramsey 1756-1771].

Daniel Elmer was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1690, and graduated from Yale in 1713. He married soon after, and, “for some time, carried on the work of the ministry” in Brookfield,Massachusetts.
The General Court allowed the town twenty pound for three years, to aid in sustaining the gospel. Elmer received only half of this encouragement, having left before 1715. Where he spent the next twelve years is not known. In 1728, he settled at Fairfield, in Cohanzy. At the declaring for the Confession, in 1729, he was the only minister who professed himself unprepared to act. Time was granted him to consider; and the next year he informed the Synod that he had declared before the presbytery his cordial adoption of the Confession and the Catechism.

Whitefield visited West Jersey in the spring of 1740. Gilbert Tennent was there in the summer; and, while Whitefield was preaching (November 19) on Wednesday, the Holy Ghost came down “like a mighty rushing wind” at Cohanzy. Some thousands were present. The whole congregation was moved, and two cried out.

At the separation in 1741, Rev. Elmer and his elder, Jonathan Fithian, though present at the opening of the sessions, seems to have gone home before the Protest was introduced. He adhered to the Old Side. The congregation divided: even his own son occasionally went to Greenwich to hear Andrew Hunter.

Finley spent much time in the vicinity; and New Brunswick Presbytery was constantly importuned for supplies, and their most promising candidates were sent to Cohanzy.

At Elmer’s request, Cowell, McHenry, and Kinkaid were sent
 by the Synod, in September, 1754, to endeavor to remove the difficulties he complained of in his congregation; but all proceedings were stayed by his death. He lies buried in the Old New England town-graveyard, with this inscription:

“In memory of the Rev. Daniel Elmer, late pastor of Christ’s Church in this place, who departed this life, January 14, 1755, aged sixty-five years.”

Dr. Alison wrote to President Stiles, July 20, 1755, informing him that the two parts of Elmer’s congregation had united on his death, and introducing Mr. Thomas Ogden, whom they had sent as their messenger to Connecticut to procure a minister.

Elmer married Margaret, daughter of Ebenezer Parsons, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, and sister of the Rev. Jonathan Parsons, of Newburyport; she was the mother of three sons and four daughters. His second wife was a Webster, the mother of two sons and three daughters.

His son Daniel was born in 1714, and was the father of Dr. Jonathan and General Ebenezer Elmer.

Words to Live By:
Honesty goes a long way. Courage too. As you have time it would be a worthwhile exercise to review what the Bible says about honesty. Rev. Elmer was forthright in declaring first, in 1729, his caution over subscribing to the Confession, and then a year later he was again honest in stepping forward to acknowledge his adoption of the Confession and Catechisms. Had he in good conscience been unable to adopt the Westminster Standards, we trust he would have done the right thing and withdrawn his affiliation to another, more like-minded denomination, for the basis of trust and fellowship rests upon a common affirmation or understanding of what the Scriptures teach, as exemplified in this case by the Westminster Standards. The historical reference here is to the Adopting Act of 1729, in which it was decided that all Presbyterian pastors would have to make a declaration, affirming their adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as being in full accord with what the Scriptures teach.

The text of the Synod minutes from that meeting, with mention of Rev. Elmer, is as follows (see the above link for the full context):

§ 8. The Adopting Act.
[The foregoing paper was adopted in the morning. In the afternoon took place “The Adopting Act.”]
“All the Ministers of this Synod now present, except one,* that declared himself not prepared, viz., Masters Jedediah Andrews, Thomas Craighead, John Thomson, James Anderson, John Pierson, Samuel Gelston, Joseph Houston, Gilbert Tennent, Adam Boyd, Jonathan Dickinson, John Bradner, Alexander Hutchinson, Thomas Evans, Hugh Stevenson, William Tennent, Hugh Conn, George Gillespie, and John Willson, after proposing all the scruples that any of them had to make against any articles and expressions in the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, have unanimously agreed in the solution of those scruples, and in declaring the said Confession and Catechisms to be the confession of their faith, excepting only some clauses in the twentieth and twenty-third chapters, concerning which clauses the Synod do unanimously declare, that they do not received those articles in any such sense as to suppose the civil magistrate hath a controlling power over Synods with respect to the exercise of their ministerial authority; or power to persecute any for their religion, or in any sense contrary to the Protestant succession to the throne of Great Britain.
“The Synod observing that unanimity, peace, and unity, which appeared in all their consultations and determinations relating to the affair of the Confession, did unanimously agree in giving thanks to God in solemn prayer and praises.”–Ibid.

[*Mr. Elmer. He gave in his assent at the next meeting of the Synod.]

Today we present Rev. William Smith’s brief treatment of the second question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A.
 The word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

EXPLICATION.

The Scriptures.—The writings, or books of the Old and New Testaments, so called, by way of eminence, on account of their great importance.
To direct.—To point out the proper method.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer there are four things pointed out:

1.
The necessity of a rule to direct us in glorifying God.—Acts ii. 37. They said unto Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

2.
That the Word of God is this rule.—2 Tim. iii. 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

3.
That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God.—Eph. ii. 20. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.

4.
That the Word of God is the only rule given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him.—Isa. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The Cause Of The Doctrinal Trouble In The Northern Presbyterian Church

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander
Jackson, Miss.
[THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.13 (1 November 1949): 9-11.]

This is the eighth in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This informative series of articles was written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

What has been the principal cause of the doctrinal disturbance in the Northern Presbyterian Church?

Origin Of The Doctrinal Disturbance

In order to understand fully the answer to that question it is necessary to look back briefly over some of the events which took place in the early history of Presbyterianism in America. By the close of the eighteenth century, the Presbyterian Church in this country found itself working side by side with the Congregational Church in trying to build churches and furnish ministers for the nation’s expanding population, which was spreading throughout the Middle West. And in 1801 a plan of union was adopted whereby the Presbyterian General Assembly and the General Association of the State of Connecticut (Congregational) should work together, rather than in competition.

Old School” Theology Versus “New School” Theology

This union of 1801 marks the earliest discernible beginning of the decline of what we now refer to as the Northern Presbyterian Church, for the Congregational churches adhered to the liberal “New School” theology. This liberal “New School” theology differed from the Presbyterian, or conservative “Old School,” theology in several important points of doctrine.

The conservative “Old School” theology of the Presbyterians rested solidly on the teachings of the Holy Bible as they are outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The liberal “New School” theology differed from its teachings, for instance, with reference to the extent of the guilt of Adam as it is imputed to his descendents, and with reference to the Calvinist doctrine of the definite atonement of Christ.

The New England theologians, who were the trainers of the Congregational ministers, were not inclined to consider very seriously the principles which meant much to the Presbyterian ministers who, for the most part, came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Consequently friction developed between the two denominational groups, and in 1837 they severed their relationship.

The Presbyterian Groups Separate

But prior to 1837, the liberal “New School” theology of the Congregational Church had been embraced by some of the Presbyterian ministers. Accordingly, within a few months after the separation of the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church, there occurred a separation between the conservative “Old School” and the liberal “New School” groups which now existed in the Presbyterian Church.

The “New School” Presbyterian group, among other things, had founded Auburn Theological Seminary, at Auburn, New York. (It was from Auburn, New York that the heretical Auburn Affirmation was later to be published.) And this liberal “New School” group had also founded Union Theological Seminary in New York City, which is today one of the nation’s leading centers of extreme Modernism.

When the Civil War took place in this country, the synods of the South withdrew from the “Old School” group of Presbyterians in the North, and founded our own Southern Presbyterian Church. And from its founding until the present time our Southern Presbyterian Church has always adhered to the conservative “Old School” theology.

The Merger Of 1869

After the close of the Civil War, in the North the conservative “Old School” Presbyterian group reunited in 1869 with the liberal “New School” Presbyterian group, in spite of the fact that the great Princeton theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge, left a sick-bed to oppose the merger.

As a result of the merger of the conservative “Old School” and the liberal “New School” Presbyterian groups in 1869, that which Dr. Hodge and the other Conservative leaders in the Northern Presbyterian Church had feared now began to take place. From the date of that merger until the present time, the liberal “New School” theology has been a disturbing factor in the ranks of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

This disturbance and trouble arose, of course, from the fact that the merger of 1869 had taken place upon the basis of a common administration, and not upon the basis of a creed which meant the same thing to both Presbyterian groups. Thus, in 1869, the Northern Presbyterian Church had willingly surrendered the greater principle of Christian doctrine for the less important principle of church administration. “To it the system of government had become of more importance than the system of belief,” as Dr. William Crowe, one of the very clear thinkers of our denomination, has so well expressed it.

Two Divergent Groups In The Church

As a result of this merger of 1869, there now existed within the Northern Presbyterian Church two distinct and divergent groups. One, the “New School” group, adhered to the liberal theology which was being taught at such institutions as Union Theological Seminary of New York City. This Seminary, founded earlier by the liberal “New School” Presbyterian group, had been taken into the merged Northern Presbyterian Church in 1869 without any requirement being made that it first change its position in theology to conform to the teachings and doctrines summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. (Some twenty-three years later, in 1892, Union Theological Seminary of New York City was to terminate its relation to the Northern Presbyterian Church because of the action of the General Assembly of 1891 in refusing to confirm as Professor of Biblical Theology in that Seminary, Dr. Charles A. Briggs, who was found guilty of heresy and was later dismissed from the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church by the General Assembly of 1893, but who was to remain a professor in good standing at Union Theological Seminary of New York City until his death in 1913.)

The second group in the Northern Presbyterian Church, or the conservative “Old School” group, continued to adhere to the theology which had come from Paul the Apostle down through John Calvin of Geneva, John Knox of Scotland, and, in this country, through the great Princeton Seminary theologians.

As Princeton Theological Seminary (hereinafter referred to as Princeton Seminary) has played such an important part in the life of the Northern Presbyterian Church, it will be informative to consider what effect the liberal “New School” theology has had upon it since that Seminary was reorganized in 1929.

But first let us glance at some of the history and achievements of that institution prior to its reorganization in 1929.

The Early Character Of Princeton Seminary

Princeton Seminary was from its beginning the great center of conservative “Old School” theology in America. Founded in 1812 at Princeton, New Jersey, it was the oldest seminary in the Northern Presbyterian Church. Its foundation rested squarely on the fully inspired Word of God as it is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Because of its sound theology, and because of the profound scholarship of its faculty, Princeton Seminary acquired a world-wide reputation as a great center of Christian learning. It became known as the outstanding seminary of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

The faculty of Princeton Seminary had always been composed of great men, all of whom adhered strictly to the conservative “Old School” theology, and all of whom held to the doctrines of the Holy Bible as they are outlined in the Westminster Standards.

Among the Seminary’s earlier faculty members there had been such theological giants as its first professor, Dr. Archibald Alexander, and the other Alexanders, and Dr. Samuel Miller, and some of the members of the famed Hodge family. And in more recent times such master theologians as the following were on its faculty: Professors Benjamin B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, William B. Greene, Geerhardus Vos, William Park Armstrong, J. Gresham Machen, Oswald T. Allis, Casper Wistar Hodge (the fourth member of that great family of theologians), and Cornelius Van Til.

Princeton Seminary Scholarship

Some conception of the very unusual ability of these men as Bible scholars can be gained by considering one of them, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, for a moment.

Dr. Warfield had received his A.B. and his M.A. from Princeton University and his Th.B. from Princeton Seminary. Then he had studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Heidelberg, and the University of Leipzig. He was for many years the Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary.

Dr. Warfield is considered by many very able Bible scholars to have been the greatest theologian that America has ever produced.

The late Dr. John DeWitt, himself a great scholar, once remarked that he had known intimately the three outstanding theologians in the Northern Presbyterian Church of the generation preceding Dr. Warfield, namely, Henry B. Smith, William G. T. Shedd, and Charles Hodge, and that he was certain that Dr. Warfield knew more than any one of them, and that he was disposed to think that Dr. Warfield knew more than all three of them combined.

Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge succeeded Dr. Warfield as Professor of Systematic Theology in Princeton Seminary after the latter’s death in 1921. Dr. Hodge received his A.B. and his Ph.D. from Princeton University and, after a year’s study abroad at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Berlin, he had finally taken his B.D. from Princeton Seminary. In speaking of his predecessors in the Professorship of Systematic Theology (two of whom had been his grandfather, Dr. Charles Hodge, and his uncle, Dr. A. A. Hodge, both of whom had been world famous), Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge spoke of Dr. Warfield as “excelling them all in erudition” and as being “one of the greatest men who has ever taught in this institution.”

At the time of Dr. Warfield’s death, Dr. Francis Landey Patton, who had formerly served as President of Princeton University and later as President of Princeton Seminary, stated that under Dr. Warfield’s leadership “the department of Systematic Theology has been built up and has attained a position in this Seminary which it never had before and, so far as my knowledge and information go, exists nowhere else.”

And Dr. Samuel G. Craig, the able Editor of Christianity Today, one of the sound church papers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, wrote in 1934: “For instance, I am sure that at the time of his death there was no man in the world-—I make no exceptions—who knew more about the New Testament and what has been said against its trustworthiness than Benjamin B. Warfield. Again I am sure that at the time of his death there was no man in the world—here too I make no exceptions—who knew more about the Old Testament and what has been said against its trustworthiness than Robert Dick Wilson. Yet I am sure that Dr. Warfield would have said about the New Testament what Dr. Wilson said about the Old Testament: that no man knows enough to say that it contains errors.”

In fact, in his monumental volume entitled, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, which the Inter-Varsity Magazine, of London, calls “the ablest defense of the conservative view of the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture that has appeared in the English language,” Dr. Warfield expressed the same view of the Bible’s full trustworthiness which was held by Dr. Robert Dick Wilson.

Dr. Warfield’s view of the inspiration of the Bible and his position in theology were shared by all of his associates on the Princeton Seminary faculty. That able theologian, Dr. John Macleod, Principal of the Free Church College, of Edinburgh, Scotland, has stated that Dr. Warfield, in speaking to him of Dr. Warfield’s associates on the Princeton Seminary faculty, once remarked that, “We are all of one mind.” All of the members of the Seminary faculty were conservative “Old School” theologians who believed that the only consistent system of doctrine and belief taught in the Holy Bible was clearly summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

Under the leadership of Dr. Warfield, Princeton Seminary stood like a Rock of Gibraltar which, since its founding, had withstood all of the Modernist attacks of unbelief. When perplexing problems of theology were under discussion, Bible-believing Presbyterians everywhere knew that the right answers to the problems could always be found at Princeton Seminary.

Of all of the theological seminaries in the Northern Presbyterian Church, Princeton Seminary alone now stood firmly and consistently for the orthodox position in theology. Its faculty was not in any way contaminated by the liberal “New School” theology. And Princeton Seminary was pouring into the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church each year from forty to fifty orthodox young ministers, constituting one-fourth of each year’s total supply of new ministers in that denomination.

A Movement To Reorganize Princeton University

Now for some time there had been a movement under way to try to reorganize the great Princeton Seminary.

The purpose of the proposed reorganization of Princeton Seminary was to make that institution inclusive not only of the conservative “Old School” theology which had always been taught there, but of the liberal “New School” theology as well.

Because of the movement to try to reorganize Princeton Seminary, a fierce struggle had taken place for several years behind the scenes in the Northern Presbyterian Church. By this time the Northern Presbyterian Church consisted of three different groups: a strong, outspoken orthodox group, an active Modernist group, and a so-called “middle-of-the-road” group. This so-called “middle-of-the-road” group was trying to hold on to the Holy Bible and to the Westminster Standards, and at the same time not oppose the Modernists. Many of this so-called “middle-of-the-road” group wanted “peace at any price,” even if it had to be purchased at the cost of serious compromise with error in Christian belief.

Finally, in 1929, in spite of a valient and courageous fight by many of the orthodox group in the Northern Presbyterian Church, those who wanted to reorganize Princeton Seminary won the struggle.

(Continued in the Next Issue.)

For today’s post, we have nothing more of the calendar to hang our hat on than that the content that follows was first posted on this day, January 11, in 2010. At that time, my friend Andrew Myers posted the following from Fredna W. Bennett, a woman most of us have perhaps never heard of. And that is to our loss. She is noted for her devotional writing based on Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. And while the year is still young, we would invite you to consider beginning the discipline of reading through the whole of Matthew Henry’s great work. As Fredna said, your time will be well spent. One tip: you might consider tackling just one book of the Bible in Henry’s Commentary. Perhaps a Gospel, Romans, or the Psalms. Completing just one such portion will encourage you to continue, as you see the value of Henry’s great work.

Testimony of a Farmer’s Wife

Fredna W. Bennett, author/editor of Moments of Meditation from Matthew Henry: 366 Daily Devotions Gleaned from the Greatest Devotional Commentary of All Time (1963), wrote how reading through Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible over a period of three years changed her life. It lead to her compilation of extracts from Henry’s Commentary for devotional meditation throughout the year. Her testimony was so encouraging to me, both as a writer and a reader, that I wanted to share it with others.
Her Preface reads thus:

Books don’t just happen! There is always a compelling reason that makes an author put on paper the thoughts he has to share with others. And so, I’d like to tell you how Moments of Meditation came into being.

I was just a farmer’s wife — not a writer at all. In 1944 the startling thought came to me that if an ordinary church member such as I ever was to learn any Bible, it was time to get busy. I started daily Bible reading. After a year’s reading, I knew one thing — I needed help to understand what I read.

I went to my Pastor. He recommended Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. And so in 1945 I bought the big six-volume Commentary and began reading. Beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, it took me three years to read the six volumes; but it was the most thrilling experience I had ever had in all my forty years.

Before I had finished reading it the second time, I was trying to influence my friends to read it too. But they said, The print is too fine, and the work is too long.

I began to wonder why some writer didn’t condense the Commentary and unlock the treasures of the Bible for the layman. Written over 250 years ago in England, it had no copyright to keep it from being used for the good of all men everywhere. Surely the spirit of that great work could be kept, and yet it could be shortened enough to challenge the layman to read it!

Suddenly one day the thought struck me: Maybe I ought to try to do it! Even the thought of such a thing scared me! That was work for a scholar — not a lay person. That was work for a writer — not a farmer’s wife! I simply could not do it! I couldn’t even type!

But finally, despite all the obstacles, I decided, by the grace of God, to start and not to stop until I could go no further. So I bought a portable typewriter, borrowed a textbook from the high school, and started on the hardest job I’ve tackled. Middle age is too late for such a thing I often thought; I’ll never be a good typist!

But in 1953 I started on the work I longed to do and condensed the book of Genesis. I didn’t know I had the cart before the horse; I didn’t know that first I needed to study the basic principles of writing! Nor was I aware that far away in England a dedicated scholar, the late Dr. Leslie F. Church, was already engaged in condensing the complete work into one large volume.

About that time other hindrances appeared. There was a severe drought, a devastating flood, and a sharp decline in cattle prices. To escape financial disaster we had to increase our laying flock to 1000 hens — a 12-hour job for every day. And then in 1956, due to a malignancy, I had to have major surgery.

In the midst of all these things, however, a bright spot appeared. The editors of The Claude News asked me to write an article for the weekly church page of their paper, and the opportunity dawned to use the treasures from Matthew Henry! And so Moments of Meditation came into being.

And now, if I can do anything more to share the rich blessings that have been mine during these years of study and work, I will be happy. If not, my time has been well spent — for I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.


Fredna W. Bennett

Andrew Myers originally posted the above statement by Fredna W. Bennett on his blog, Virginia is for Huguenots.

Located while browsing through an old 19th century newspaper (one of the perks of my job!)

PROSECUTION FOR PREACHING.

Patrick Henry vs. Intolerance.

Soon after Henry’s noted case of “Tobacco and the Preserves” as it was called, he heard of a case of oppression for conscience sake. The English church having been established by law in Virginia became as all such establishments are wont to do, exceedingly intolerant toward other sects. In prosecution of this system of conversion, three Baptist clergymen had been indicted at Fredericksburg for preaching the gospel of the Son of God contrary to the statute. Henry, hearing of this, rode some fifty miles to volunteer his services in defense of the oppressed. He entered the court, being unknown to all present save the bench and the bar, while the indictment was being read by the clerk. He sat within the bar, until the reading was finished, and the king’s attorney had concluded some remarks in defense of the prosecution, when he arose, reached out his hand for the paper, and without more ceremony, proceeded with the following speech:

“May it please your worship, I think I heard by the prosecutor, as I entered this house, the paper I now hold in my hand. If I have rightly understood, the king’s attorney of the colony has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning and punishing by imprisonment, three inoffensive persons before the bar of this court, for  a crime of great magnitude—as disturbers of the peace. May it please the court, what did I hear read? Did I hear it distinctly, or was it a mistake of my own?–Did I hear an expression, as if a crime, that these men, whom your worships are about to try for misdemeanor, are charged with—what?” and, continuing in a low, solemn, heavy tone, “preaching the gospel of the Son of God?” Pausing amidst the most profound silence and breathless astonishment, he slowly waved the paper three times around his head, when, lifting his hands and eyes to heaven, with peculiar and impressive energy, he exclaimed, “Great God!” The exclamation—the burst of feeling from the audience—were all over-powering. Mr. Henry resumed :

“May it please your worships: in a day like this—when truth is about to be aroused to claim its natural and inalienable rights—when the yoke of oppression, that has reached the wilderness of America, and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power, are about to be dissevered—at such a period, when liberty—liberty of conscience—is about to wake from her slumberings, and inquire into the reason of such charges as I find exhibited here to-day in this indictment!” Another fearful pause, while the speaker alternately cast his sharp, piercing eyes on the court and the prisoners, and resumed : “If I am not deceived, according to the contents of the paper I now hold in my hand, these men are accused of preaching the gospel of the Son of God! Great God!” Another long pause, while he again waved the indictment around his head—while a deeper impression was made on the auditory. Resuming his speech:

“May it please your worships:  There are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor’s hand—becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him; he bows in passive obedience to the mandates of the despot; and, in this state of servility, he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage.  But, may it please your worships, such a day has passed away! From that period, when our fathers left the land of their nativity for settlement in these American wilds—for liberty of conscience to worship their Creator according to their own conceptions of Heaven’s revealed will—from the moment they placed their feet upon the American continent, and, in the deeply imbedded forest, sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny,—from that moment, despotism was crushed—the fetters of darkness were broken, and Heaven decreed that men should be free—free to worship God according to the Bible. Were it not for this, in vain were all the sufferings and bloodshed to subjugate this New World, if we, their offspring, must still be oppressed and persecuted.

But, may it please your worships, permit me to inquire once more, for what are these men about to be tried? This paper says for preaching the gospel of the Saviour to Adam’s fallen race.” And in tones of thunder, he exclaimed, “What law have they violated?” While the third time, in a low, dignified manner, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and waved the indictment around his head. The court and audience were now wrought up to the most intense pitch of excitement. The face of the prosecuting attorney was palid and ghastly, and he appeared unconscious that his whole frame was agitated with alarm; while the judge, in a tremulous voice, put an end to the scene, now becoming excessively painful, by the authoritative declaration, “Sheriff, discharge those men.”

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, XXIX, No. 2 (12 January 1850): 1, columns 2-3.; emphasis added]

Dusting off one of the periodical collections at the PCA Historical Center, I noticed this brief article in the inaugural issue of the Canadian Presbyterian journal, PRESBYTERIAN COMMENT, edited by the Rev. Dr. William Stanford Reid. After a brief introductory comment in that first issue, the following was Dr. Reid’s first editorial in the new publication:

After Four Hundred Years
by William Stanford Reid

In the year 1536, from the press of Thomas Platter and Balthasar Lasium, Basle publishers, appeared a thin volume of some seven chapters bearing the title of Christianae Religionis Institutio (The Institutes of the Christian Religion) written by a young French Protestant refugee, John Calvin. Although presented to the world as a defence of French Protestants, it was in fact a short statement of the new religious thought which came to be known as “Reformed Theology.” For the next twenty-three years Calvin repeatedly revised his work until in 1559 it appeared in its final form, now very much larger, and one of the most important books ever to come from a European press.

The reason for our valuing the Institutes so highly is that this work became the foundation of much subsequent Protestant thought. It did so for one thing because the author’s concise thinking and expression made it easy to understand. When Calvin wrote, he desired above everything else, to convince his readers of the truth of his message, not to impress them with his great knowledge, nor to confuse them with his swelling words.

The chief cause of the book’s influence was, therefore, the fact that men were able to see Calvin’s teaching so clearly. Since its first appearance it has been a classic, if not the classic, statement of the biblical doctrine of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. By it many people have found salvation in Christ, while others have been strengthened and built up in their faith.

Thus Calvin’s Institutes has been a truly formative work. Indeed in the case of some whole nations such as Holland or Scotland it has become part of the national heritage, helping to mold the people’s character.

But what is of more importance, today the thinking of Calvin, particularly as it is expressed in his Institutes, is experiencing a present revival throughout the Christian world. New translations and new editions of old translations are appearing in many different tongues: English, French, Japanese, Indonesian, etc. Thus Calvin’s influence, which some fifty years ago seemed about to die, is once again making itself felt.

The reason for this is that our own day is very similar to that of Calvin. Sixteenth century Europe faced the threat of a Moslem invasion from the east. At the same time new worlds and new peoples were coming into Europe’s orbit with Spanish and Portuguese colonial expansion. But what was even more important, Europe was passing through a veritable economic, social and intellectual revolution as the old order disintegrated before men’s eyes. Thus Calvin, writing for the sixteenth century, speaks to us today in our own terms concerning our own problems and needs.

Because of this, we who are Presbyterians and who owe much to Calvin and his Institutes which form the foundation of our Confession and catechisms, should desire to attain a greater understanding and knowledge of this man’s great work. “He being dead yet speaketh,” and if we listen we shall find that his words are indeed a guide for us in both faith and action.

It might be well, therefore, if our ministers began instructing our people once again in Calvin’s doctrines, and if our people began reading his works in order that they might be built up in their faith in these trying days.

[excerpted from Presbyterian Comment [Montreal, Canada], vol. 1, no. 1 (January 1960), p. 2.]

In God’s kingdom, there are no little people. Nor are any forgotten by our Lord, though we ourselves may forget. Today we will touch on the life of a pastor that most of us have never heard of.

William Hooper Adams was born in Boston, MA on this day, January 8, 1838, the son of the Rev. Dr. Nehemiah and Martha Hooper Adams. A graduate of Harvard, he first began his studies for the ministry at Andover Seminary, but left there on instructions from his father to take a teaching position in Georgia. That in turn led to his enrolling at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1861, to complete his studies. When the war started, he found he could not return home and so continued his preparations at Columbia. Licensed to preach by Hopewell Presbytery in 1862 and ordained by that same Presbytery in 1863, he was installed as an pastor in Eufala, Alabama, where he labored until 1865. Then in the summer of 1865, he returned to Boston.

A visit by Rev. Adams to Charleston, South Carolina, in February of 1867 led to a call from the famous Circular Church of that city. The original structure of this church had been designed by the architect Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument, and the church was the first large domed structure built in the United States. But by 1867 when the call was extended to Rev. Adams, the church had suffered several setbacks. Its building had burned to the ground late in 1861, then followed the Civil War, and finally, the formerly multi-racial congregation lost its African American congregants as they left to form a separate congregation. In accepting the call to serve as their pastor, Rev. Adams agreed to take on the burdens of a dispirited congregation.

circular_church_ruinsPictured here is a stereoscope photograph of the ruins of the Circular Church

And there he labored faithfully in Charleston for the next ten years. The Memorial published in his honor gives us a picture of a pastor who was genial, exuberant in his love for the Lord, sacrificial of his own time and energy, a man of strong Presbyterian convictions, yet a man who could work right alongside any other Christian who truly loved the Lord Jesus as Savior. This was a man who was greatly loved not just by his own church, but by much of the Charleston community. In his final act of selfless devotion, he gave up his post as pastor of the Circular Church and returned to Boston to care for his dying father. Seeking to honor his father, he put many of his own goals aside with the intent of editing his father’s papers. In God’s providence, the Rev. William Hooper Adams survived his father by just about three years, and he died on May 15, 1880.

Words to Live By:
With Christ his Savior as his example, William Hooper Adams sought to live a life of humility and sacrifice. He honored his father. He gave himself in love and devotion to his people. The fact that we today may not know his story does not diminish the powerful ways in which the Lord used him in His kingdom. After all, he wasn’t after fame and fortune. He labored faithfully to glorify the Lord, not himself.

To view information about his grave site, click here.

For Further Study:
A Memorial of the Rev. William Hooper Adams: For Twelve Years Pastor of the Circular Church, Charleston, S.C.

Image Sources:
1. 
Frontispiece portrait, from A Memorial of the Rev. William Hooper Adams. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1880.
2. 
Public domain stereoscope photograph, from the Wikimedia Commons.

What was Meant for Harm Turned Out for Good
by Rev. David T. Myers

Reared into a family of twelve children on a farm in New Jersey, Thomas Dewitt Talmage had the blessings of Christian parents.  Four of the children in this family, as a result, would become ministers and missionaries of the gospel, including Thomas, who was born on this day on January 7, 1832.  Graduating from what is present day New York University, Thomas at first studied law, but eventually received the calling in becoming a minister of the gospel. Graduating from a Dutch Reformed seminary, he pastored three churches in what is now the Reformed Church in America. In 1869 however, he transferred into the Presbyterian Church and was called to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York.

[» Dutch Reform Church, Philadelphia. This picture shows the church where Dr. Talmage was pastor previous to his call to Brooklyn »]

Preaching without notes, without a pulpit to hold him in place, with the fervor of a George Whitefield, and the rhetoric of Shakespeare and Milton, the church congregation began to grow with the faithful preaching of the Bible,  with the result that  many were turned away.  Building a larger building brought them masses of additional people, which only caused more to be turned away because of lack of space.  Eventually, area ministers in Brooklyn, jealous at his success, began to spread rumors, which were in turn picked up by the news media.  These sinful slurs upon his ministry and person became hot news for the reading public.

The following Sunday after the slanderous remarks hit the front pages, reporters showed up for the worship service, expecting Rev. Talmage to respond publicly to the personal attacks.  That hope would make great news copy.  But Talmage didn’t respond at all to the verbal attacks. In fact, he didn’t say one word about the newsy stories of the previous week.   He chose instead to proclaim the unadulterated gospel.  That one sermon was printed word for word in countless newspapers in New York. and even around the world.  In fact, this policy of printing his sermons by the public media became the standard practice, as some 3000 newspapers eventually came to be used by the Lord in this way to deliver the good news of eternal life.

It is estimated that twenty five million people read his biblical sermons around the world, with thirty thousand souls won to Christ as a result.  He was faithful in word and practice to the calling of Christ to be an ambassador, representing King Jesus to the world of lost men and women.

Words to Live By: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)  It is always easier to respond in kind to those who attack by their words and actions, but God demands of us a different response.  In fact, it is often that “softer word” which is used by the Lord to convict both the one who attacks our character, as well as a tremendous example to those outside the immediate situation.  Jesus told us to bless those who say all kinds of evil against you.  Let us be faithful to do that, and leave the outcome to God.

Rev. Talmage is buried at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. To view his gravesite and to learn a bit more about him, click here.

 

Comments:
Our friend Walt Aardsma writes to add this note:

The Talmadge Memorial Reformed Church in Philadelphia was named for Rev. Talmadge.

In 1969 it merged with the 4th Reformed Church producing the Talmadge Memorial – 4th Reformed Church.

By the 1980s this church and one other were the only congregations in Classis Philadelphia that believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. (Classis Philadelphia, the most liberal one in the R.C.A., does not exist any more and was merged with another classis.)

Pastor Barry Traver took Talmadge Memorial – 4th out of the R.C.A. and they became the Pilgrim O.P.C. I chatted with Rev. Traver when this was going on, he had already left the ministry and was working at Radio Shack. Presently cannot find the congregation under this name. My notes say that the O.P.C. received the congregation in 1984, but when i chatted with Rev. Traver it was 1981 or ’80 and i thought that they had already joined the O.P.C.

Have asked for more info. on what happened to the congregation.

Editor: The OPC Ministerial Register indicates that Rev. Barry Traver retired in 2005. To make the story more interesting, come to find out that Talmadge/4th, which became Pilgrim OPC in 1984, later transferred into the PCA in 2005. Suddenly Rev. Talmadge has become all the more relevant!

Lastly, since Walt has raised this issue, I’ve searched out the succession of pastors for Pilgrim Presbyterian Church [formerly Talmadge, then Talmadge/4th]:

[Fourth RCA, org. 1862]: Gustavus E. Gramm, 1862-67;

[Talmadge RCA, org. 1891]:

Elias W. Thompson, 1892-94;
William J. Skillman, 1894-96;
Henry C. Willoughby, 1896-1903;
William Schmitz, 1904-07;
William H. Giebel, 1908-09;
William R. Rearick, 1909-22;
Marion G. Gosselink, 1922-38;
Martin Hoeksema, 1938-45;
Dorr L. Van Etten, 1945-50;
Cornelius Lepeltak, 1950-52;
Lester Justice, 1952-55;
James Phingstel, 1956-64;
Frederick R. Kruithof, 1964-68;
John H. Ludlum, Jr., 1969-73;
Barry Traver, stu p, 1974-76, p, 1976-85; Traver apparently remains on there in the status of “teacher”

[OPC]:
Robert Minnig, 1985-96;
William Clair Krispin, 1997-2001;
Edward N. Gross, 2002-05;

[PCA]:
Edward N. Gross, 2005-10;
Erik Ludvig Larsen, 2009-2019f.

The School & Family Catechist.

SmithThis new year brings us to some “new” material on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Each Sunday this year we will be drawing from a work by the Rev. William Smith of Glasgow, published in 1836. The full title of the work is The school and family catechist, or, An explication and analysis of the Assembly’s Shorter catechism; : with appropriate passages of Scripture, attached to each division of the analysis, proving the doctrine or precept, and showing it to be founded on the word of God. From what we’ve been able to find, it was popular enough in its day, but appears now to be something of a rare work, with no more than five copies to be found worldwide, one of which is thankfully at the PCA Historical Center. It has been equally difficult to find out anything about the author, the Rev. William Smith (a common name makes the search more difficult!). He was at least an author of some note in his own era, having published at least four or five other works, and this particular work seems to have met with some success, going through at least three editions in Scotland and one in North America. As he opens this little volume in a Preface, I’m struck by true words which remain timely even today:

An acquaintance with the principles of our holy religion is a matter of high importance, both to our present happiness, and to our future welfare. It is always in a religious community that the best members of society are to be found, whether man be contemplated in the capacity of a magistrate, or of a subject, as filling the higher, or as occupying the more subordinate stations of human life. In those countries where true religion is unknown, or, which amounts to nearly the same thing, where it has little or no hold upon the minds of the people at large, crimes the most shocking, and the most revolting to humanity, are perpetrated without remorse. If then, a religious education be highly advantageous to us, even as members of civil society, and as beings appointed to act a part on the stage of time, how does it rise in importance, when we consider that it is essentially necessary, and indispensable, to our preparation for eternity, and for entering upon that state of being, in which our everlasting happiness or misery shall, as we are assured, greatly depend upon the habits we have formed in the present life. If we be desirous of reaping the proper fruit, let us take care that the soil be well cultivated, and the seed sowed in due time. If we are anxious, that our children should act their part in life in such a manner as to promote their comfort and respectability here, and their eternal happiness hereafter, let us be careful to have their minds stored, as early as possible, with sentiments of religion and of virtue. This is the only sure foundation that we can lay for their future usefulness and comfort in life, and for their welfare in another world. If a religious education is thus important, it must then be evident, that an acquaintance with the principles of religion is indispensably necessary, since without this no real progress can be made in spiritual knowledge. Hence the evident utility of those publications in which these princples are laid down clearly and distinctly, divested of all extraneous matter. [emphasis added]

Smith’s approach is similar to that of Fisher in his Catechism, where additional questions and answers are added to explain and expound those found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Rev. Smith however is careful to note that his approach is to remain succinct and to keep the whole work short, thus the more likely to be used with some profit.

But for today, here is our first entry, in which Rev. Smith briefly deals with the first question of the Shorter Catechism. You will quickly note that his treatments are briefer than those which we ran last year by Rev. Van Horn. But I trust a more succinct handling of each question will in turn allow our readers more time to reflect on what is said here:—

Quest. by  1. WHAT is the chief end of man?
Ans. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

EXPLICATION.

Chief end.—The principle purpose or design for which man was made, and to which he should, above all things, labor to attain.

To glorify God
.—To do honor to his name, by loving him, and trusting in him, believing his word, and keeping his commandments.

To enjoy him for ever
.—To have God’s favor, and the influences of his Spirit in this world, and to share in the happiness of his immediate presence in heaven hereafter.

ANALYSIS.
Here we learn that the principle design of every man’s being sent into the world is twofold:

1. To glorify God.—1 Cor. x. 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

2. To enjoy God.—Psalm lxxiii. 25, 26. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.—God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

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