Over 175 years ago, it appears that Presbyterian congregations were largely ignorant of the Church’s own StandardsAre we much better off today?

“The Presbyterian Board of Publication have issued a correct edition of the Confession of Faith, and they are now selling it at the lowest possible rate, without any regard for pecuniary profit ; their principal aim being to circulate it widely through the Church.—It will be readily admitted that every Presbyterian should be at least partially acquainted with the standards of his own church, and yet how many are there who have never made these the subject of a days study?  It is wholly inexcusable in pastors to have families under their care who are not provided with the Confession, especially when a little exertion on their part, might supply the defect.  Will not Pastors and Sessions at once resolve that every family in the Presbyterian Church in the United States shall, before the expiration of two years, be provided with the Confession of Faith of our Church?”

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 14.8 (11 April 1840): 2, col. 3.]

The world is indebted to the church for everything noblest and best in her free institutions.  Freedom is under perpetual obligations to her.  Enforcement of organic law must exist, whether in church, state or nation; otherwise, everything rushes to ruin in all society.  It is the glory of the Calvinistic church, and not her reproach, that she “enforced” her denominational law in favor of Presbyterian “doctrine, order and worship,” giving thereby to the nations their most precious inheritance.  “By these,” says Mr. Buckle, “the dying spark of freedom was kindled into a blaze.”  “To John Knox,” says Froude, “England owes a debt for liberty it cannot pay.”  “Calvin’s principles,” says Henri, “are immortal and immovable in both government and doctrine.”  “Thousands were debtor to him,” says the judicious Hooker, “as touching divine knowledge, yet he to none but only to God—a founder of the French Church, incomparably the wisest it ever had since the hour it enjoyed him.”  “Geneva,” says Montesquieu, “is the mother of modern republics, and should celebrate with festivity the day on which Calvin entered the city.”  “Calvin,” says Bunsen, “spoke for all times and all men;” and in the language of Motley, “Europe owes her political liberty to Calvinism.”  “The Institutes,” says Guizot, “are one of the noblest edifices ever erected by men.”  Bancroft declares that “Calvin, bowing to no patent of nobility, but that of the elect of God, made Geneva the impregnable fortress of popular liberty;” and adds that the very “first voice” raised for liberty in this land, both civil and religious, “came from Presbyterians,” and that “he who will not honor the memory and influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”  Is it in John Calvin we glory?  God forbid; but in God we glory, who gave us John Calvin.  What kind of an argument is it that would impeach all this glorious record as an “oppression of the conscience” through “sectarian law.”—Foreign paper.

[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter 15.4 (April 1877): 113.]

From THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE, IV.2 (February 1854): 94.

DR. ALEXANDER’S LAST SERMON.

It was in the First Presbyterian Church at Princeton, and on the 20th of July, 1851. The Sabbath was one of the most beautiful I ever saw. The harvest was just over, and the farmers, who made up the country portion of the congregation, had finished reaping the fruits of their year’s toil, and had carefully housed their crops. Many of them were present with their faces bronzed by the harvest suns. Judge, therefore, the appropriateness of Dr. Alexander’s subject. His text was I Cor. iii. 9. “Ye are God’s husbandry.” I can, of course, give but an imperfect outline; but he said:—”These words apply to the Church universal, or its members taken individually. The agriculturalist who wishes to raise a good crop does four things:
1. He prepares the ground.
2. He sows the best seed he can procure.
3. He takes care of the grain when growing.
4. He reaps and stores away the harvest.

So, in spiritual things it is necessary for us :
1. To make ready our hearts to receive the impressions of the truth—to come to Christ repenting of all our sins, and asking forgiveness of them for his sake.
2. We must plant the good word of God; and
3. We must cultivate the good seed by prayer, self-examination, and the use of all the means of grace. We must learn the precepts the Bible lays down, and practice them in our walk and conversation. As the husbandman is never free from solicitude and care until he gets the cropt stowed safely away, so the spiritual man can never cease to watch or relax his diligence till life is over.
4. He will reap his reward, to some extent, here, but the great reward shall be hereafter.”


HIS TOMB.

Dr. Alexander’s tomb has the following inscription :

Sacred to the memory
of
ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER
Doctor of Divinity
and
First Professor of the Theological
Seminary in this place :
Born in what is now Rockbridge county,
Virginia, April 17th, MDCCLXXII :
Licensed to preach the gospel
October 1st, MDCCXCI :
Ordained by the Presbytery of Hanover
June 9th, MDCCXCIV :
A Pastor in Charlotte and Prince Edward
for some years :
Chosen President of
Hampden Sidney College in MDCCXCVI :
Pastor of the Third Presbyterian
Church in Philadelphia in MDCCCVII :
Professor of Didactic and Polemic
Theology in MDCCCXII :
He departed this life
In the faith and peace of Christ,
October 22d, MDCCCLI.

[He forbade all words of praise upon his tomb.]—PRESBYTERIAN.

Image source : The Alexander Memorial. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Company, 1879.

A Sermon After the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
by Rev. David T Myers

For all of our subscribers, they probably can remember where they were, and what they were doing when the infamous “Nine-eleven” hijackers crashed their people-loaded airplanes into the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York. Such a terrorist catastrophe as that is not easily forgotten. In response, Christians all over the country opened up their churches for prayer and consolation over such a terrible event. In addition, ministers on the following Lord’s Day sought to give some sense of the terrible event in the light of God’s Word, the Bible.

This author was one of those pastors who sought to teach God’s people in his Presbyterian congregation of how all this fit into the sovereignty of God. In so doing, I was not alone in American history in trying to make sense of what our God and King has allowed to occur at desperate times. Such was also the case in 1865 at the close of the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. On the following Sundays, the clergy of the land, including many Presbyterians, gave messages on this tragic event. Some sermons are found here.

Of the sermons following that murder of our chief executive which this author has read, the one by church historian and Presbyterian pastor Rev. Dr. William Sprague of the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York on this Lord’s Day, April 16, 1865, stands out. He had five points, of which we will only summarize from the sermon.

First, he portrays how manifest it is that clouds and darkness were found around Jehovah’s throne in the assassination of this sixteenth chief executive of the United States. By this, he speaks of “the demon in human form” who would engage in this terrible act of murder.

It is interesting that at the time of his sermon, he was in the dark as to who this “demon” was. It was only later that the culprit’s name was revealed to be a known Washington, D.C. actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth, who led a small band of people to engage in this plot.

Dr. Sprague speaks of “the adoration of the unsearchable depths of divine counsel” and urges his listeners to “reverently await for the light from God’s throne to illuminate” the matter before the nation and church.

Next, he brings out the full depravity of the human heart being illustrated by this murder. He applies all this as a warning to the members of his congregation, and especially the youth of the Albany church to deny sin in their hearts before it breaks out into sinful actions.

Third, he acknowledges such an event teaches all people everywhere that no one has the ability to look into the future. He briefly surveys the progress of the Civil War, noting that at that time in 1865, Abraham Lincoln had seen the defeated capitol of the Confederacy, Richmond Virginia, in person, after the rebel forces there had abandoned it. He has sat in the chair of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It looked as if the Confederacy would soon surrender. Yet he spoke the truth of James 4 that “we will never know on what ground the next step may place us.” He urged that all his members to “keep their hearts filled with the love of God.”

Fourth, he observed “the strange commingling of good and evil, of joy and sorrow which affects human life” on this earth. On one hand, the people in the North were rejoicing that the cruel war may soon be over. On the other hand, this event had just taken place which brought with it uncertain times.

Last, he rebuked his listeners for having put too much confidence in an arm of flesh, and charging us to trust in the living God only.

This was a most interesting point in his sermon of this author. He cautioned his listeners against the idolatry of leaders and generals. He acknowledges the temptation of the political and military leadership conducting battles in the spirit of practical atheism, with not enough trust in God.

In application, he urged his listeners to not despair of the divine aid which was available to them during this sad time and charges them to lift their eyes upward.

Words to Live By:
When there is a national event such as this, God’s pastors and people ought to see it in the light of God’s Word, the Bible. Certainly, God was not surprised by the murder of Abraham Lincoln. It was within His permissive will to occur. We need to see the events of history, even those unpleasant events to our minds and hearts, all within His sovereign will, and trust in Him all the more for life and liberty.

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

Q. 63 Which is the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 64 What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 5:21-22; 6:1, 5, 9; Romans 12:10; 13:1.

Questions:


l.
What is meant by “father and mother” in this commandment?

The terms “father and mother” mean not only the natural parents of a person, but also those in authority over him in age and in gifts.

2. Does that mean there are superiors and inferiors and equals in the sight of God?

Yes, the terms “father and mother” indicate those who are superior in their gifts from God whether it be in the realm of age or ability. The term “inferiors” indicates there are those who must subject themselves to the authority of others. The term “equals” indicates there are those brethren that are equal in ability, age, place or dignity.

3. Do the things taught in this commandment extend to other realms?

Yes, not only does it mean parents and children but it extends to husbands and wives, to masters and servants, to rulers and their subjects, to ministers and congregations, to older and younger. Although the commandment speaks specificially our answers following are primarily concerning the parent-child relationship, its requirements are applicable in other relationships as well.

4. What are the duties of the inferiors to their superiors?

The duties of inferiors toward superiors are to honor them, inwardly and outwardly; to listen to their instructions; to obey their commands; to meekly accept their reproofs; to love them; to care for them when necessary.

5.
What are the duties of superiors towards inferiors?

The duties of superiors toward inferiors are: To love and care for them; to train them in the knowledge of the Scriptures; to pray for them; to keep them under subjection; to encourage them by kindness and reproof; to prepare them for the future.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AUTHORITY
A cardinal rule that ought to regulate society: authority involves responsibility! The greater the authority, the greater the responsibility. It makes no difference whether the authority is exercised in the realm of the family or the realm of the church or the realm of the state. The responsibility goes with it and it is a heavy burden. God, in His wisdom, and for His own reasons, hands out to certain of His people the mandate to be the “superiors”. These people have been given by God certain abilities, certain gifts that put them over their fellow men. With these abilities, these gifts, naturally comes authority. This is something that must be present in our society whether it be in the family or church or state. With this authority there is the ever-present responsibility to use these abilities, these gifts, all to the glory of God.

It is sufficient to say here that there are certain basic responsibilities. There the responsibility of the superior to have an attitude of love, backed up by constant prayer, toward those under him. There must be a real interest in them. There can never be the attitude of detachment.

There is the responsibility of training, teaching that the person in authority always has. He must “instruct, counsel and admonish them” at all times. This includes the warning of those under him of evil. Especially in the church today there is too little of this being done. The people are being taken down roads plainly marked “Disaster” and very few seem to be raising a cry of warning.

There is the responsibility of the superior to recognize well doing on the part of the people under him. This comes under the area of encouragement, a very necessary part of the ablllty of a person to go on in this life.

There is the responsibility of correction no matter what it might cost the superior in the way of friendship, economic advancement, success. The superior must be fair in his correction but he must correct. This again is sadly lacking today in our land.

In I Samuel 12 :23 God teaches those in authority of their responsibility before Him and before those with whom they have to do.

Published By: The Shield and Sword, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 4 No. 58 (October, 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Hom, Editor

A Children’s Sermon

That you might prepare your hearts for this Lord’s Day, we present today a sermon from the Rev. William Swan Plumer [1802-1880], a noted Southern Presbyterian pastor, scholar, and prolific author. And to do something a bit different, this sermon is taken from Plumer’s work, Short Sermons to Little Children (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1848). Perhaps you will want to share this sermon today with your own children or grandchildren. It is full of great and good theology.

We All Belong to God.
Ye are not your own.—1 Cor. vi. 19.

A little boy found a knife, and the first thing he said, was, “It is very handsome.” He looked at it a little while, and then said: “It is not mine. I should love to have a knife, but I wish the owner of this knife had it.” So he asked all the boys that he met, the question: “Whose knife is this?” At last he found the owner, and gave it to him. One boy said, “If I should find a knife, I should keep it, and not tell any one.” But it would have been mean, and wicked too, to keep that which was not his own. It would have been a kind of stealing. The commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.” When he had found the owner, and given up the knife, he felt that he had done right. We ought all to give to every one what is his own.

Now you do not belong to yourselves, nor to any man. You belong to God alone. Both your soul and body are His. I will prove it.

I. He made you. A boy went out and got a piece of wood, and made a bow and arrow. Now, it was his, because he made it. It would have been wrong for any other boy to have taken it, and carried it away. He, who made it, had a clear right to it, because he had made it. So God made your soul and your body. No one else made you. “He that built (or made) all things is God.” “The sea is His, and He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” (Ps. 95:5) Thereforem, the sea and the dry land belong to God. If, when a boy or a man makes a thing, it is his, why, when God makes a thing, should it not be His also? We have belonged to God ever since we were born, and we shall be bound to love Him, and serve Him to all eternity.

II. God, as our king, has a right to us. He is strong, and wise, and good. He can rule us, and guide us, and help us. He is just such a king as we all need over us. “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Men sometimes try to rule over us, when they have no right to do it. But God has all right. He is so strong, that He can do any thing. He is so good, that He cannot be unkind. There is none like Him. It is better for us to belong to God, than to belong to ourselves, or to any one else. If God were to give us up, and never again to claim us as His own, it would be the worst thing in the world for us.

III. God has kept you, and blessed you all your days. He has been a friend and a father to you. He has heaped many blessings upon you. He has given you life, and food, and raiment, and friends, and books, and teachers, and all the health and joy you have had. None has been so kind to you as God. None could have done so much for you as God has done. It must be very wicked to claim to be your own, when you belong to God. He says, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth : for the LORD has spoken ; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib : but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isaiah 1:2-3) If the ox knows his owner, you ought to know your owner. If the ass knows his master’s crib, you ought to know the hand that feeds you. Again, God says, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear?”

IV. All of you who have, or have had a pious father or mother, belong to God by their vows. Every Christian, who has children, loves to give them and all he has to God, and he begs God to take them. He is not more afraid of any thing than of having God reject his gifts. And if your parents were not pious, they ought to have been, and they ought to have given you to God. Samuel’s mother gave him to God. Your parents had a right to give you to God. They were bound to give you to Him. What sort of a Christian would that be, who would say, “Lord, I give Thee my soul and my body, but I will not give Thee my time, nor my money, nor my children?” You belong to God, every one of you.

V. Jesus Christ has a right to you, because He died for sinners. It was great love in Christ to come, and suffer, and die  for so vile creatures as we all are. Every one, who shall ever be saved, has been bought with a price far above his value. Peter says, “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; ….but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish, and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) If you will not yield yourselves to God out of love to Christ, I cannot say less than that your hearts are very wicked.

REMARKS
1. God asserts and always will assert His right to you and to all men. He says, “All souls are mine.” (Ezekiel 18:4). He says, “The world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalm 50:12).
2. God will enforce His right to you, and to all men. He says He is “A jealous God.” That is, He is jealous of His own rights. He says again, “My glory will I not give to another.” And again, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
3. It is very wicked not to give God His own. Sin is robbery. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.” (Malachi 3:8). If it is wrong to take a bow and arrow from the boy, to whom they belong, it must be very wrong indeed not to give ourselves to God; for we all belong to Him.
4. All who have given their hearts and themselves to God have done right. They have done their duty; but they have done no more than their duty. It would have been a great sin to have done less. O that you would give your hearts to Him. It would be the very best thing you ever did. You would be glad of it, not only as long as you live, but for ever and ever. Will you give Him your heart? Say,—will you?

LET US PRAY.
O Lord, we are not our own. Our hands, and feet, and head, and heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and time, and body, and all belong to Thee. Though we have sinned, do Thou take us, just as we are, and make us Thine by divine grace. Adopt us as Thy children. Let us never go astray from Thee. Teach us to keep Thy word, and find delight in serving Thee. Apply to us the precious blood of Christ, and be our God, and Father, and friend for ever, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Words to Live By:
Matthew 22:16-22 (KJV)
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; rmale and female he created them.

For Further Study:
In addition to a number of books on particularly difficult theological subjects, William Swan Plumer also wrote at least three books addressed to children:
1. Short Sermons to Little Children (1848).
2. Plain Thoughts about Great and Good Things for Little Boys and Girls (1849)
3. Words of Truth and Love (1867)

For a great deal more information on Dr. Plumer and his writings, click here.

Sometimes You Just Need to Copy Someone.

A long week with a tiring end. And so today we turn to Alfred Nevin’s account of the Rev. Robert Wilson James…:

…who “was born in Williamsburg District, South Carolina, June 3d, 1793. His father, Captain John, and grandfather, Major John James, were distinguished for their patriotism in the war of the Revolution, and were also consistent members of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated at the South Carolina College in 1813. His theological studies, which were commenced and prosecuted for a time under Rev. James W. Stephenson, and Rev. Dr. M. Wilson, were completed at Princeton Seminary, in 1817. On the 3d of June, of the same year he was licensed by Concord Presbytery (in North Carolina), to preach the gospel, after which he labored for several months, as a missionary within its bounds, in company with the venerable Dr. Hall.”

“In May, 1819, he was ordained and installed over the churches of Indian Town and Bethel, in Williamsburgh District, S.C., where, during a pastorate of nine years, the work of the Lord, to some extent, was made to prosper in his hand, and particularly among the blacks, many of whom became hopeful subjects of grace under his ministry. He subsequently became pastor of Salem Church, in which relation he continued, faithful in labor, for over thirteen years. He died on April 13th, 1841.”

“As a minister, Mr. James was both doctrinal and practical. In his public ministrations he gave special attention to the African American portion of his flock. As a theologian, he was much respected by his brethren. As a member of the judicatories of the Church, his opinions were highly valued, and often determined the most important questions. His mouth and his purse were ever open to advance the institutions of religion and learning. As a man, he was truly benevolent, gentle and urbane, and possessed that kind of magnanimity  which led him cordially to despise everything that was envious, little, or selfish. As a Christian, he was exemplary, and enjoyed the comforts of that religion which he preached to others. His death was one of triumph.”

It should also be mentioned that Rev. James was the uncle of John Leighton Wilson, and that he had a very formative influence on John’s decision to pursue the ministry and more, to pursue the work of missions in Africa. From the Memoir of the Rev. John Leighton Wilson, we read that Rev. James was one of the eminent pastors in South Carolina, and of his influence on young John Leighton, that

“what more natural than that his uncle, so well known for learning and piety, should be to him a pattern he might safely imitate? He visited frequently at his home, had access to his rare and ample library, sat under his ministry, listened to his counsels, and spent one winter under his roof. The nephew was the minister’s friend and young companion. Blessed relationship !”

The Rev. Thomas R. English gave the funeral sermon for Rev. James. A Sermon:
Preached in Salem Church February 6th, 1842 in Commemoration of Its Late Pastor Rev. Robert Wilson James. (A. E. Miller, 1842), 23 p.

To view pictures of his grave site, click here.

Words to Live By:
The relationship of mentor to student does not always have to be a formal one, in order to be effective. Discipleship not only can take place in informal settings, but is probably all the more effective in the more real situations and places of everyday life. Growth in your own Christian walk is but one benefit of discipling or mentoring a younger believer. Pray that the Lord would give you the opportunity to share your faith in Christ.

About a month ago we published a post about the organization Concerned Presbyterians and their newsletters. Today we would like to continue that theme with focus on a related group, Presbyterian Churchmen United, with a pointer to their newsletter, which was issued between 1970-1973.

To refresh your memory, there were four main organizations that were formative of the Presbyterian Church in America :
1. Concerned Presbyterians, a layman’s group led by ruling elders;
2. Presbyterian Churchmen United, an organization for pastors;
3. The Presbyterian Journal, a magazine begun in 1942; and
4. The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a ministry focused on revival.

A fifth organization really should be added to that list, and that would be the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, which was founded in 1966.

Following the organization of Concerned Presbyterians (and here we have good evidence that it was the ruling elders who were leading the movement for renewal in the Church!), an organization specifically for pastors was formed a few years later under the title Presbyterian Churchmen United (PCU). Contact, the newsletter issued by this group, first appeared in May of 1970. Then, just prior to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (in December of 1973), the group very appropriately published their final, closing issue in September, 1973.

Click the cover image below to view the contents and to access the issues of Contact, the newsletter of Presbyterian Churchmen United :

Be Ready Always

The day of the debate had brought a crowd of Presbyterian elders to the sanctuary of the Fourth Presbyterian Church on that day of April 11, 1933. The topic was “Modernism on the Mission Field.” And the two individuals engaging in the debate were two “heavies” on opposite sides of the issue.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen was the recognized leader of the conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Founder and president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was still a member minister of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Presbytery, though he had tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the Philadelphia Presbytery. Against him was Dr. Robert Speer, who was serving as the director of the Board of Foreign Missions for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Dr. Machen began his presentation with a proposed overture from the Presbytery of New Brunswick to the General Assembly of 1933. The first two of four parts are the key ones, which I will quote word for word from the April 1933 Christianity Today article, and sum up the other two.

Point 1 of his overture was: “To take care to elect to positions of the Board of Foreign Missions only persons who are fully aware of the danger in which the Church stands and who are determined to insist on such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles, as being essential to the Word of God and our Standards, as being necessary to the message which every missionary under our church shall proclaim.”

In essence, this first proposition simply summed up the Declarations of the General Assembly’s five fundamentals which were considered as essential for the Church, its boards, and its ministers. It specifically repudiated the denials of the same by the Auburn Affirmation in 1924.

Proposition 2 of the proposed overture sought to “instruct the Board of Foreign Missions that no one who denies the absolute necessity of acceptance of such verities by every candidate for this ministry can possibly be regarded as a candidate to occupy the position of Candidate Secretary.”

This proposition addressed the important place which the Candidate Secretary has in ascertaining the theological convictions which each missionary candidate has to serve on the Foreign Field. In other words, in people such as Pearl Buck, who was openly denying the exclusiveness of the gospel of Christ, it is obvious that the Candidate Secretary had “missed the boat” in approving her as being a missionary to China.

The third proposition summed up that those who held that the tolerance of opposing views was more important than an unswerving faithfulness in the proclamation of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God, show themselves to be unworthy of being missionaries of the cross.

This proposition was aimed at those who had accepted the fundamental viewpoint of the book, “Rethinking Missions,” that denied the exclusivity of the gospel.

The last proposition sought to warn the Board of the great dangers lurking with union enterprises in view of wide-spread error.

Dr. Speer for his part of the “debate” simply dismissed each of the overture propositions. When the vote was taken on Dr. Machen’s proposed overture, it was voted down by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, with a majority voting in favor of confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions. Dr. Machen, Rev. Samuel Craig, and Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge asked that their names be recorded in  dissent of the motion.

For a fuller account of the debate, click here.

Words to Live By:  We are always called upon to stand faithfully for the gospel. The results on this earth may be not what we have hoped for, but the results in the General Assembly of heaven are what counts for time and eternity.

Mr. Polity.

Polity is a fancy word for government, and in the nineteenth-century, when it came to church government, the Rev. S. J. Baird was one of the most knowledgeable men around.

Samuel John Baird was born at Newark, Ohio, in September, 1817. His parents were the Rev. Thomas Dickson Baird and Esther Thompson Baird. Samuel began his education at Jefferson College, but poor health interrupted his studies. In 1839 he took charge of a school near Abbeville, South Carolina and subsequently opened a Female Seminary [essentially a college for women] at Jeffersonville, Louisiana. Returning to college, he graduated from Central College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1843. Somehow he managed to concurrently graduate from the New Albany Theological Seminary, in Indiana, that same year.

After being licensed to preach in August of 1843 by the Presbytery of Transylvania, he devoted three years to the missionary work in the Presbytery of Baltimore, in Kentucky, and in the southwest. Then in 1846, he was ordained by Potomac Presbytery, and installed as pastor, first at Bladensburg, Maryland, and later at Georgetown, Kentucky. He also served churches in Clarksville, Tennessee and Batesville, Arkansas. During his time in that latter charge, Rev. Baird was also instrumental in laying the foundation for Arkansas College. From there, he served as pastor in Muscatine, Iowa, 1854-57 and Woodbury, New Jersey, 1857-65.

After resigning this last charge, Baird began work under a joint commission from the American Bible Society and the Virginia Bible Society, laboring as their agent in Virginia. His name first appeared on the rolls of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1869, and he answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Waynesboro, Virginia in 1870. For four years he served the Third Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, 1874-78, and his final pastorates were in West Virginia. The Rev. Samuel J. Baird died in Clifton Forge, Virginia on April 10, 1893.

Baird is perhaps best remembered as the author of The Assembly’s Digest, or Baird’s Digest as it most commonly known. This work is a compilation of the acts and deliverances of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., covering the years 1789-1855. It is a particularly valuable work for anyone wanting a resource on the actions and history of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The full title is A Collection of the Acts,Deliverances and Testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church from its origin in America to the present time : with notes and documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history (1856). Copies of this work are rare today in print form, but thankfully it is available on the Internet, here.

Words to Live By:
Another work by Dr. Baird was a catechism, titled The Church of Christ. A sampling of questions and answers from that book follow:

Q. 261. What are the rights of individuals with reference to personal religion?
A. It is the right and duty of every individual for himself, to read and study the Word of God, and ascertain the way of salvation therein set forth [1],—by faith, to lay hold of and appropriate to himself that salvation and all the promises [2],—and to come before the throne of God with boldness, in the name of Christ, and independent of all human instrumentalities and mediators, and there make his confessions and offer his prayers and praises, with assurance of acceptance and salvation. [3]
[1] John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19-21;
[2] Rev. 22:17.
[3] Rom. 10:12-13; Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10:19-22; Ps. 50:23; John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5.

Q. 264. What are the duties of private Christians toward others?

A. It is the duty of private Christians to be ready always to give to every one that asketh them, a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear; to watch for and use all suitable occasions to press upon the impenitent the free grace of Christ; to employ their means in relieving the temporal wants of the destitute; and, as they have opportunity, to do good to all men.
1 Peter 3:15; Rev. 22:17; Heb. 13:16; Gal. 6:10.

Q. 270. What are the principal religious duties of parents toward their children?
A. It is the duty of parents to dedicate their children to God [1],—to bring them early to baptism, to teach them to know God, to pray to him, to read His Word, and to attend upon the public ordinances of the sanctuary [2], to exercise government and discipline upon them in love; and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; maintaining the stated worship of God in the house [3].
[1] Gen. 17:18; Mark 10:13-14.
[2] Gen. 18:19; 2 Tim. 3:14-15.
[3] Prov. 13:24; 22:15; Eph. 6:4; Gen. 12:7; 13:4, 18; 21:33; 35:1-4, 7; Deut. 6:7; Job 1:5.

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