Q. 72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

Scripture References:
Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 5:3-4

1. What does God forbid in this commandment under the name of “adultery”?

God forbids all sorts of unchastity and uncleanness. (Eph. 5:3)

2. Where can such unchastity and uncleanness take place?

Unchastity and uncleanness can take place in the thoughts and desires of the heart as taught by our Lord in Matt. 5:28. It can take place in the words we use, whether we are talking seriously or in a jesting way. (Eph. 5:4). It can take place in our actions; the actual committing of adultery.

3. Are there actions that would tend to lead us into these forbidden areas?

Yes, in this day and age especially there are many things about which we must be very watchful. To name a few of them:

Modern psychology with its stress upon “self-expression”, with the idea that it is alright to commit adultery if you really love

a person. We must be careful we are not brainwashed in this area which would tend to lower our resistance to sin.
     (2) Impure books and magazines.
     (3) The theater and television. It would be good for us to make a “covenant with our eyes” (Job 31:1)
     (4) Modern dancing or, as stated in the Larger Catechism, “lascivious dancing”.

4. Why is it so important for us to preserve our chastity and of others?

We must preserve it because we were made in the image of God and are not beasts who are under no law. As Christians, we should walk in fear of the Lord at all times. Since our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, we are not our own.

5. What is divorce without grounds according to the Word and would one obtaining one be guilty of adultery if he remarried?

The Confession of Faith states the answer very well in Chapter 24.6 and the person obtaining a divorce without Scriptural grounds would be guilty of’ adultery if he remarried.

6. In this area is the innocent party under orders from the Word to sue for divorce?

No, this is a privilege of the innocent party, not something that must be done.


“Abstain (hold oneself from) from all appearances of evil.” Such is the teachings found in I Thess. 5:22. If, as born again believers, we want to be certain that we do not break the seventh commandment, such must be our position. We must have such a sensibility to sin in this realm that we will flee from anything that looks like sin. We shall take such a stand for the Lord in all of our ways, our conversation even our thoughts, that holiness unto the Lord will shine forth from us and we will be lights unto the world.

In this day and age in which we live, we are bombarded on every side by the lowered standards of the world in this regard. The Hollywood and Broadway approach to marriage, to relations between male and female have taken over the country. In actions, in speech, in dress, the standards of the day are no longer the Bible, but the way prominent people live. Fornication, adultery, unscriptural divorce is the order of the day among many, and these things have been accepted as a matter of personal preference and have nothing at all to do with the law of God.

Not long ago a Christian said to me, “Pastor, it is so hard to live as one should today. Every book and magazine you pick up to read, every picture you go to see, every T.V. program is like another bit of darkness around you. What can a Christian do? How can he live in the midst of it?” It is true that things in this area seem to be getting worse. People have succumbed to the new way of thinking and the Christian finds himself in the midst of the world. But this is no more, or no less, than what God promised us. And He also promised us that He will not submit us to any temptation we cannot bear. There must be a greater effort on our part.

There must be a praying unto Him for a pureness of soul. “Create in me a clean heart, O, God” (Psalm 51:10) must be on our lips constantly. We must pray that the blood of Christ will cover us every day of our lives, wherever we go, whatever we do. The soul of the Christian is the “holy of holies” and it must be consecrated unto Him. The seventh commandment is from the Lord, and it must not be broken. If we simply depend on our own strength, we will break it time and time again. But by His help, praying for His grace, I Peter 1: 16 can be true of each of us.

Published By: The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 5 No.4 (April 1966)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Elsewhere on the Web, someone recently raised the question as to just how many books a pastor really needs. As you might expect, the answers ran the gamut. Here is an entirely unexpected answer to that sort of question:

“A scholar may think his library his storehouse of knowledge, and, in certain circumstances of continuous study, it is so; but we recall walking with the late Dr. Duryea through the alcoves of the fine Theological Library on Somerset Street, Boston, when he said: “This is a splendid and very complete collection, but I find that my work I have to do with a few old tools up in my attic study.” Even a scholarly minister finds his practical need of knowledge too suddenly pressing for the searching of libraries. He has not time to hunt up the needed book, or to hunt through the book for what he wants. His prompt work must be done at once as the need is felt, mainly with no help but such as he can draw from within; with little knowledge but what he has already gathered, with only the briefest suggestion added here and there to what memory already has in possession, stored away from former acquisitions. Here is the only available storehouse, and a man is rich or poor as that storehouse is well filled and so filled that its treasures may be reached promptly at need.”

[excerpted from The Pulpit Treasury, Vol. 19, no. 1 (May 1901): 63.]

A Foundation Stone Laid—The Formation of the Free Church of Scotland
by Rev. David T. Myers

A third Reformation or a sinful schism? The power of the people in the pews or a decision by a wealthy member to choose an under shepherd for the church pulpit? The nation’s House of Lords in control or Presbyterian government? Evangelical party or moderate party? These were the questions which swirled around the Church of Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the land of Knox.

Already divisions within the national church were producing separations of ministers and members.  In 1733, in what is known as the First Succession, a group led by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine and others had separated from the Church of Scotland. It was followed by the Second Secession led by reformer Thomas Gillespie in 1761 into what was called the Relief Church. Both breakaways will have future posts in This Day in Presbyterian History.

One common issue in all these successions was an ancient tradition known as “patronage,” in which a wealthy individual in a church district had the authority to choose and install a pastor himself, despite what the people of that parish thought of the pastor. In 1834, the General Assembly would pass what was known as the Veto Act, which allowed for a majority of male heads of families to reject a patron’s sole choice of pastor. It was followed in 1842 by the General Assembly producing a Claim of Right, which stated that Jesus was the head of the church, not the government of Scotland. The latter responded by rejecting that action of the General Assembly. The background was set for a disruption in the Church of Scotland.

On May 18, 1843, 121 ministers and 73 elders walked out of the General Assembly at the Church of St. Andrews on George Street, Edinburgh, to form the Free Church of Scotland. Rev. Thomas Chalmers was elected to be the first Moderator of the new denomination. Eventually 475 ministers representing one-third of her clergy was joined be one-third of her members in separation from  the Church of Scotland.

FreeChurchOfScotland_Signing_the_Deed_of_Demission_1843The First Free Church Assembly—Signing the Deed of Demission.

Since the Church of Scotland was financially supported by the government, the ministers and members who left were without salaries, pulpits, manses, and the people, their church buildings. It was very much a “let goods and kindred’s go” type of separation. To solve the immediate problem of finances, Moderator Chalmers instituted a plan for a penny a week from every member to help the new church and its ministers. From this modest beginning, other monies were raised from Scotland and churches overseas to support the need of its clergy and the buildings necessary for ministry.

Fast forward 85 years, after the Church of Scotland had dropped its link to the state and even the issue of patronage was resolved, the two churches re-united in 1929. Not every pastor and people rejoined however, as there continues to be a Free Church of Scotland in the nation.

Words to Live By: Fast forward another century in your mind, dear reader, to 2013, when the General Assembly voted to allow homosexual clergy within its ministerial ranks. It is obvious by this action that another Protestant Reformation is needed again.  Let  us pray to that end.

Image source: Frontispiece portrait for Annals of the Disruption, by Rev. Thomas Brown. Edinburgh: MacNiven & Wallace, 1884.

A Pastoral Letter on the Eve of the American Revolution
by Rev. David T Myers

There was no turning back in one sense. American militia men in the province of Massachusetts under Captain John Parker had stood up militarily, at least for a awhile, against the British regulars at Lexington. The proverbial die was cast. So on May 17, 1775, Presbyterian elders gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, representing the churches of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, for an important pastoral letter to their Presbyterian churches and members.

Under the address of “Very dear Brethren,” these Synodical members representing the Presbyterian congregations of the two colonies of New York and Pennsylvania wrote six propositions to their brethren.

First, in the upcoming struggle, they urged their congregations in the pews to express their attachment and respect to their sovereign King George! They wanted everyone to know that lawlessness was not to be the cause of the future national struggle. (This author of this post wonders how many Scotch-Irish presbyters were present in this Synod, given their anti-British sentiments from past years in the old country!) But his first point was written to earnestly desire the preservation and security of those rights which belonged to them as freemen and Britons.”

Second, there was a plea to support the delegates and any future actions of the Continental Congress then meeting in Philadelphia. The presbyters were urged to treat them in respect and encourage them in their difficult service.

It is interesting that this second proposition included a mutual feeling of respect be given to other denominations and their people. If it came to war, and certainly the first battle had already taken place, a mutual support was desirable toward the final end of victory.

Third, the morals of the members in their respective congregations were to be watched over by the spiritual leaders of the church. A denial of this principle would make any people ripe for Divine judgment. Reformation of manners was of utmost necessity. Thus, maintenance of biblical church discipline was called for by these overseers of the congregations.

Next, ordinary duties to God and man, especially those of the household of faith, were called upon by the Synod. “Wantonness and irregularity” were warned against in the struggle.

Fifth, a “spirit of humanity and mercy” was recommended to all those who were called upon as soldiers in the present struggle. “Meekness and gentleness of spirit” were called upon by those in the ranks, rather then rancor and a spirit of revenge.

And then this sentence stands out in this fifth point in the pastoral letter. “Man will fight most bravely, who never fights til it is necessary, and who ceases to fight as soon as the necessity is over.” How important was this sentence, especially considering the Tories who would fight with the British in their battles with their patriot neighbors.

Lastly, a spiritual point of recommendation closed out the pastoral address, urging the members to attend to general fasts, with continual attendance in the exercise of prayers, and to join with others in the aforementioned duties.

The Pastoral Letter was approved, with only one dissenting vote, by the elders, both teaching and ruling elders, and sent to the churchesii.

Words to Live By:

Our Confession of Faith has in chapter 31 a statement of justification of today’s post which states “Synods and councils . . . are not to inter meddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by humble petition in cases extraordinary . . . . Obviously, this 1775 Synod believed this matter was an extraordinary case. And so they sent it to the churches of the Synod. When that happens in the churches of our subscribers, be much in prayer in the preparation of the pastoral letter, under gird it with more prayer upon its sending out to the churches and members, and pray for a biblical response to its contents, that God would be glorified and the membership would be edified.

A Political Issue Divides the Old School General Assembly
by Rev. David T. Myers

With the Old School General Assembly meeting on May 16, 1861, the unity of the nation was at stake. Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina has been attacked and captured.  Southern states had already seceded from the Union.  The slavery issue, which had been debated in previous assemblies, became secondary to the important matter of preserving the union. Thus, Rev. Gardiner Spring, the pastor of Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York suggested that a committee be formed to consider the following resolutions before the assembled elders.

          “Resolved, 1. That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of this country, the first day of July next be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds; and that on this day ministers and people are called on humbly to confess our national sins; to offer our thanks to the Father of light for his abundant and undeserved goodness towards us as a nation; to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers, and their counsels, as well as on the Congress of the United States about to assembly; and to implore him, in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of an honorable peace.

          Resolved, 2. That this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism . . . do hereby acknowledge and declare our obligations to promote and perpetuate . . . the integrity of the United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government in the exercise of all its functions  under our noble Constitution: and to this Constitution, . . . we profess our unabated loyalty.”

Interestingly, some of the main opposition to this resolution came from Dr. Charles Hodge, of Princeton Theological Seminary. He protested that the General Assembly had no right to decide to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians is due, that it was neither North nor South. His alternate resolutions lost before the assembly. When the issue came to a vote, with an amendment offered by John Witherspoon II, the Spring Resolutions, as they were known in church history, passed by 156 to 66. Tragically, they also brought about the schism between Old School Presbyterians, dividing North and South.

To read a full account of what came to be called the Gardiner Spring Resolutions,click here.

Words to Live By: There is a reason why the Confessional Fathers in chapter 31:3 specifically stated that “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

A Christian Apologist of the Twentieth Century
by Rev. David T. Myers

What more can be written about Francis Schaeffer that has not already been said?  Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912 . . . Born again in 1930 . . . College graduate from Hampton – Sydney, Virginia . . . Seminary student in two historic seminaries, Westminster and Faith Seminary . . . Pastor to three conservative Presbyterian churches for ten years before he went to Europe to begin L’Abri Fellowship, reaching intellectuals for Christ . . . An advocate of both the gospel and cultural mandate to the masses.  In short,  Francis Schaeffer had an effective ministry in the seventy-two years in which he lived in the twentieth century.

On a personal note, this contributor was barely an adolescent when he came to my chaplain father’s Army installation in Dachau, Germany for a series of evangelistic meeting in the late forties.  Night after night, the gospel was presented to lonely American soldiers in post-war Germany.  And the meetings were held right down the road from the infamous concentration camp building of Dachau where sinful depravity was the order of the day barely five years previous to these meetings. They were present in all their stark reality in that this was before the whole site had been memorialized by the West German government.   But beyond the meetings to the adults,   day by day, this youngster, and a whole host of others, learned Psalm 19 by Edith Schaeffer, which I remember today!  (Edith Schaeffer writes about all this  visit in her book, The Tapestry.)  In short, the Schaeffer’s were hungry for the power of the gospel unto salvation to be demonstrated  for all who believe.

It was in 1978 that cancer was discovered in Francis Schaeffer’s body.  Despite this disease, even by his own admission, more was done in his ministry in the last five years of his life than before. He rewrote his book legacy and ministered to large crowds everywhere. He spoke to the combined General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982, which had just merged together into one church. [click here to read “A Day of Sober Rejoicing”]

As the days grew difficult, Edith Schaeffer tells how ten days before he died, she brought him home from Mayo Clinic. She spoke about her conviction that he would want to go to the house he had asked her to buy in Rochester, Minnesota to pass from his body and be with the Lord. The medical staff agreed with that decision. Edith Schaeffer surrounded his bed with the things he loved, including music played into his room. All the favorites from Beethoven, Bach, and Shubert were played. On the morning of May 15, 1984, he was taken home to glory with Handel’s Messiah resounding in the background.

Words to Live By: Francis Schaeffer was a sinner saved by grace, as all believers are. We by no means believe that he was without difficulties in his life towards those nearest and dearest to him, as well as the Christian family as a whole. But despite these foibles, he will be remembered as the spiritual father of many a Christian today, while his work continues on in many lands today to reach the intellectuals of the twenty-first century with the same precious gospel. As God enables us, let us each be faithful, in word and in deed, in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

The Life of a Christian Minister Can Never Be Written.

Erskine Mason was born in New York City on April 16, 1805. He was the youngest child of the Rev. John M. and Anna L. Mason, D.D. As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825, Erskine was ordained on October 20, 1826 and installed as pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Cedar Street in the City. Almost a year later he married, and this at roughly the same time that he was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Schenectady. Then, with but three years experience, he was called to serve the prestigious Bleeker Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. Another six years later, he accepted a position as professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, while retaining his post as pastor of the Bleeker Street Church. By 1846, his congregation could see that he needed a time of rest and relaxation, and so enabled him to spend several months in Europe. He returned refreshed and it appeared that he had many years of ministry ahead of him. Yet surprisingly, his life proved short. Returning from an annual outing in the country in August of 1850, he soon felt weak and his health began to decline. When his last moments came, he declared, “It is all bright and clear.” Seated in his chair, he breathed his last, and died on May 14, 1851.

That too brief survey of his life will have to suffice this day, if we are to leave room for the wonderful opening words spoken in memory of Rev. Mason. The following, though admittedly a bit flowery (in good nineteenth-century fashion), was composed by the Rev. William Adams. Given the focus of our blog, I thought it appropriate to reproduce his words here:—

“The life of a Christian minister never can be written. Its incidents may be easily mentioned, for they are few. His parentage, birth, education, conversion, ordination, preaching, illness and death, comprise the whole. The whole? His real life consists not in striking and startling events. When the streams are flushed with the spring-freshet, overflowing the banks and sweeping away the dams and the bridges, the marvel is heralded in every newspaper; but when the same streams flow quietly along their ordinary channels, making the meadows to smile with verdure, refreshing the roots of the trees and turning the wheels of the mill, they excite no remark, even though their tranquil flow awakens a grateful admiration. Sum up the professional labors of a minister, and give the product in so many sermons, written and delivered!

“As well to attempt to gather up the rain, measure and weigh it. A certain amount of water you may show, but what of the moisture which has been absorbed by the tender vegetable, and the leaves of the trees? The life of a preacher is spent in addressing the intellect and conscience of his fellow-men. Ten, twenty, thirty years has he preached. How many thoughts, in how many minds has he suggested during such a period! What manifold judgments and purposes, what great hopes and wise fears have had their origin in his own thoughts and words! What sayings of his have been lodged in men’s minds, which have worked in secret about the roots of character! Even while despondent himself, because so few visible results of his toil are revealed, his opinions by insensible degrees are growing into the convictions of others, and his own life is infused into the life of a whole generation.

“It is a peculiarity of his position that he touches the life of his people at those points which are the most memorable and important in their existence. He unites them in marriage, baptizes their children, and buries their dead. He dies, and is soon forgotten by the world. The sable drapery which was hung about his pulpit on his funeral day is taken down; his successor is chosen and installed, and the tide of life rolls on as before. But he is not forgotten by all. His life is not all lost and dissipated. As the manners of a father are acted over in his son, and the smile of a mother will brighten again, after she is dead, on the face of her daughter, so will the sentiments of a minister be transmitted after his ministry is closed, his words be repeated after he has ceased to speak, and all his hopes and wishes live again in other hearts, long after his own beats no more. His biography will not be finished nor disclosed till that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed; and the seals of his ministry will be set, like stars in the firmament for ever and ever.

“To accommodate to a Christian minister, the language employed by Mr. Coleridge, in reference to Bell, the founder of schools:—“Would I frame to myself the most inspirating representation of future bliss, which my mind is capable of comprehending, it would be embodied to me in the idea of such an one receiving at some distant period, the appropriate reward of his earthly labors, when thousands of glorified spirits, whose reason and conscience had, through his efforts, been unfolded, shall sing the song of their own redemption, and pouring forth praise to God and to their Saviour, shall repeat his ‘new name’ in heave, give thanks for his earthly virtues, as the chosen instrument of divine mercy to themselves, and not seldom, perhaps, turning their eyes toward him, as from the sun to its image in the fountain, with secondary gratitude and the permitted utterance of a human love.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Adams concluded his memoir for Rev. Mason:—
“No one who goes hence returns to finish the work of life. But there is intensity of motive enough in the sober truth that every man is actually engaged day by day in writing that autobiography, which neither time nor eternity will efface. It may be written in high places or in low, in public remembrance or in the honest heart of domestic affection, but we are writing fast, we are writing sure, we are writing for eternity. Happy is he who, through the grace of God assisting him, like the subject of this memoir, records such lessons of kindness, truth and wisdom, that when he is gone, he will be held in grateful remembrance; happier still to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that when every memorial and monument of his earthly history has perished, he may ascend with the Son of God, to Honour, Glory and Immortality.”

by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:14; I Thessalonians 4:4-5; I Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 4:29.


1. What is meant by the word “chastity”?

The word “chastity” means a hatred of all uncleanness, no matter whether it be in the body or in the mind and affections (Job 31:1),

2. What is the two-fold duty involved in the keeping of this commandment?

The two-fold duty involves both ourselves and others, there is an equal responsibility here.

3. How can the seventh commandment be broken?

It can be broken by an act, but also by impure thoughts; and it should be recognized that it is from within the heart of a man that sin comes. Therefore the real source of violations of this commandment is the sinful heart.

4. How can we preserve both our own and our neighbor’s chastity?

We can best preserve it by keeping in the right relationship with our Lord. If we do that, then there will be certain characteristics about us such as: loving with a pure heart (I Pet. 1:22); speaking in a way that will only edify ourselves and our neighbor (Eph. 4:29); behaving in such a way that we are always a testimony for Jesus Christ, never giving any cause for criticism in this area (I Pet. 3:1, 2).

5. How can we best keep in that right relationship with the Lord in this regard?

We must be watchful over our hearts and spirits, over our eyes and ears. We must be diligent in our walk with the Lord remembering we can never take even “minute vacations” from our watchfulness. We must follow after temperance in all things. We must be careful of the company we keep, the marriages we contract. We must seek the mind of Christ with regard to things sinful and unclean. We must study the Word and pray daily.

6. Why must we be careful to keep this commanment?

We must be careful to keep it because it is a command or God, but one which in this age is bypassed time and time again by society.


Our Lord well knew the dangers to which we would be subjected when He had His servant pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” He knew that our only method of living was by His grace. He knew that His Word dare not be left out of our approach to life.

When we ask the question as to why there are so many divorces, wrecked homes, broken hearts, and all kinds of vice and immorality in the world of today, we must remember that the difficulty lies in ignorance of, or rebellion against, God’s will. People have lost knowledge that the married state in God’s sight is holy—holy in origin, in essence, and in purpose. It is holy in origin because God Himself instituted it. It is holy in essence because God intends that it shall be a life-long covenant between one man and one woman. It is holy in purpose because it is God’s institution for the propagation of the human race, the living together of two people, all to the glory of God.

Today we must be on guard, especially against the false ideas about marriage, about morality. The “New Morality” is one of the worst lies of Satan ever to be spread in this country. And to think it is being spread by the church itself! Actually it is nothing new. It is nothing but a rejection of the Ten Commandments and this is what the true church of God has been living with for years—the rejection of the Word of God. The difference today is that the proponents of immorality are becoming bolder, for they realize now there are few who will stand against them. How deplorable it is to think they are playing right into the hands of the Communists whose first rule has always been: “Corrupt the youngl”

As believers we need to be on our guard in two ways. FIrst, that none of these so-called new rules creep in unawares into our lives and we begin to excuse wrong behaviour with the old “everybody is doing it” sort of approach. Second, that we might raise up the standard of the Word against them. We must declare the Word of God against all unchastity. We must remind people again and again that our Lord puts His finger on the difficulty: “For out of the heart proceed evU thoughts…” We must preach Jesus Christ to a dying world! There is no other method of dealing with the problem. The “New Morality” is taking hold because people do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Such should be our constant messagel

Tags: , , ,

A Great Address from a Man Small in Stature
by Rev. David T. Myers

A man small of stature was waiting at the Chinese dock for his former student friend from Princeton Theological Seminary that day in 1904. When he did not appear on the deck of their steamer, he was disappointed. But who was standing there waiting to exit the boat was a young American woman by the name of Mabel Mennie. Later, they would find out that they were both from the state of Missouri. And Albert Baldwin Dodd, Presbyterian missionary to China, would obviously find out later that that meeting on that Shanghai, China dock had been no accident. The sovereign God makes no mistakes. She would become his wife soon and become the mother to their four children in God’s good time, all born in China.

Albert and Mable Dodd would labor for 32 years in China under the Board for Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian U.S.A. church. Founder and professor of North China Theological Seminary, he saw the approaching apostasy of the home church as it evidenced itself in foreign missionaries sent to the field of China. Indeed, it was he who revealed that apostasy to Dr. J. Graham Machen, who spread by publication and proclamation the issue of foreign missions before the people in the Presbyterian denomination. When request after request was denied from that foreign missions board, it was Machen, with others, who organized the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933. And among the veteran missionaries who joined that faithful board was Albert and Mable Dodd, who would continue their  service for another 39 years, first in China, then on the island of Taiwan.

On May 12, 1936, Albert Dodd was the commencement speaker at the Witherspoon Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Westminster Theological Seminary’s seventh graduating class. Speaking on the subject “Be Strong,”  this famed missionary began his sermon with the following words:

“You young men of Westminster Seminary are deliberately choosing to face a hopeless situation and to set your hands to an utterly impossible task — from a human standpoint. Magnificently equipped with a clear-cut knowledge of, and love for, the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, and imbued by staunch martyr-spirited professors who count not the cost, with the divinely prescribed and only right attitude toward false brethren who would pervert that gospel, you are being called of God to the task of taking the message of salvation, in an age of intense crisis, to a world wherein countless millions have never heard, and to minister to a rapidly apostasizing church which is more and more inclined to reject that message and to hate and persecute that attitude. Never before, not in any other calling, have stronger men been needed.”

The reader is invited to read the entire address as it is found in the Presbyterian Guardian Archive on-line for June 1, 1936, Volume 2, number 5, on pages 95-99 of that issue. No wonder the reporter of that magazine commented, “the veteran missionary carried his listeners along with him on a crest of conviction and spiritual power.”

Dr. Dodd, from texts like Ephesians 6:10 and 2 Timothy 2:1, challenged the graduating seniors and guests to be strong in the work of evangelism, be strong in the battle for the faith of the gospel, and be strong to love much, even those who are our enemies. Such a message would be needful, for before the year was out, the Bible-believers in the Presbyterian church, would be outside the camp, but courageously caring on the work of the Lord in the church and in the world.

Words to Live By: Being strong in the Lord is a necessary trait in the home, at your calling, and in the church. The only difference today from the days of Dr. Albert Dodd is that the intensity of the spiritual strength needed has increased a hundred fold. But greater is He who is within you than he who is in the world.

A Father’s Instruction, and A Son’s Rejection

The Rev. William Hamilton Jeffers, D.D., LL.D., was born at Cadiz, Ohio, on May 1, 1838. His parents were members of the Covenanter Church (i.e., the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America], and Dr. Jeffers received the strict religious training which was customary in this communion. He took his college course at Geneva College and graduated in 1855. For his theological training he attended Xenia Theological Seminary, which became one of the leading institutions of the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), completing his ministerial training in the year 1859.

At the time of graduation from the Seminary, he left the church of his fathers and became a member of the United Presbyterian body, and began his career as a preacher by spending one year in the West in home missionary work, but hardship and exposure broke his health. He then began his pastoral work at Bellfontaine, Ohio, serving the United Presbyterian church there from 1862-1866. These years included some of the most stirring days of our national history, when the scourge of civil war threatened the Union and the foundations of our government. Like many of the young ministers of that day, he heard his country’s call, not to take up arms in her defense, but to minister to the soldiers in the camp and on the battle field by bringing to them the comforts of the Christian faith. Within the circle of his family he spoke of these days with satisfaction. As a chaplain he had more than average success.

During his college and seminary days Dr. Jeffers had shown a special aptitude for the study of languages, and had made himself a proficient scholar not only in the classical tongues, but also in Hebrew. When he was just twenty-eight years old, he was appointed a member of the committee charged with revision of the Psalter for the UPCNA. In many cases he found it impossible to make a mere revision, and so was compelled to produce an entirely new version.

While Dr. Jeffers served notably as a pastor, his chief work was as a teacher. Beginning in 1877, he taught for twenty-six years at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. In his prime he was considered one of the ablest instructors in the institution. The students recognized that he was a clear thinker, not only conversant with the details of his own department, but more or less familiar with the chief results of investigation in other fields of theological scholarship. With his career there beginning in 1877, Dr. Jeffers would have been one of Robert Dick Wilson’s professors, though Wilson already excelled in his Hebrew studies by the time he attended Seminary.

Investigation reveals that Dr. Jeffers published very little, and only three pieces have been discovered. His inaugural address, when he was inducted into the chair as professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis, in 1877, was titled The Importance of the Study of the Old Testament Scriptures. Besides a single lecture published in the Western Seminary’s Bulletin, the only work from his pen was a Memoir on the life of the Rev. Samuel Jennings Wilson, published as an introduction to the latter’s posthumously published Occasional Addresses and Sermons (1895). Apparently Jeffers was reluctant to put anything into print, partly because of his high ideals of scholarship, and partly because of an great sensitivity to criticism.

Sincere adherence to his convictions and a loyalty to his friends were marked characteristics of this humble man of God. As might be expected of a man of his temperament, he was very devoted to his family, and lavished his love and care on his wife and children.

As true as that must have been, however, the story becomes both confusing and painfully interesting when we begin to look at the lives of his two sons. The younger son, Hamilton [1893-1978], became a noted astronomer, and I could not discover anything as to whether he was or was not a Christian. The other son, John Robinson Jeffers [1887-1962], grew up to become a renowned poet of the American West, but was, at the same time, a deeply troubled and profligate son who, so far as we can see, never repented. His works were full of biblical imagery, but Robinson Jeffers, for all appearances, rejected the Christian faith of his father.

Words to Live By:
Certainly from this distance we cannot say what went wrong, nor can we understand why Robinson Jeffers rejected the gospel, given his father’s testimony and example. It is curious to find that while the biblical scholar is largely forgotten today, there is an artistic community that keeps alive the works of the poet son. Parenting is an act of faith, lived out in full dependence upon the only God who saves to the uttermost. As PCA pastor Bill Iverson is fond of saying, “God has no grandchildren,” — meaning that the work of evangelism must be done afresh in every generation. Or as T. D. Witherspoon urged parents, “Don’t think that you have to wait to talk to your children about spiritual matters.” This is where the Catechism is so helpful, because it brings these issues up for discussion around the family table. Catechize your children; pray with your children; pray for your children!

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: