THE PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELISTIC FELLOWSHIP
by Clifford Hodges Brewton


The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF) was begun on April 1, 1958, when the Reverend William E. Hill, minister of the large Hopewell, Virginia, Presbyterian Church, resigned his twenty-ninth year pastorate to answer God’s call to full-time evangelism.

The new organization at once was recognized as unique. At the time of its formation, it was the only organization of its kind that existed primarily to serve the local church.

It was not to be an evangelistic association, centered as most are, in the personality and ministry of one evangelist, but rather a team of evangelists—specialists who assist churches in the work for God and the gospel. PEF was brought into existence to serve the local church in training and doing Biblical evangelism anywhere, at any time, in accordance with the needs of any group or organization.

In 1964 PEF was incorporated, and a year later, a second evangelist was added to the staff. By 1969, there were ten evangelists and PEF had a total budget of $183,930. As time went by, staff members were added t the growing team of specialists, and in 1970, one of PEF’s best years thus far and with an increased budget of $281,993, foreign evangelism was begun with the formation of the Executive Committee on Overseas Evangelism (ECOE), which during its existence channeled over $1 million into world missions.

Through ECOE and PEF, evangelistic crusades have been conducted in nineteen countries, including France, Brazil, Greece, Columbia, England, Guadeloupe, India, Ireland, Southern Ireland, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, Trinidad, Zaire and Uganda.

In India, a home for the elderly has been established, which is now run by a Methodist evangelist, and in addition to the churches started in the United States, a strong Baptist Church has been established by a PEF evangelist in Dublin, Ireland.

There is an international, interdenominational flavor about PEF. The goal is not to try to produce Presbyterians, but as Presbyterians, those who work with PEF minister and work on behalf of people in the name of Christ for the glory of God.

Perhaps the most outstanding achievement of the decade of the seventies was the role played by PEF in the establishment of a new Presbyterian denomination. After many years of sincere efforts to call a major Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States, to faithful allegiance to the Bible, many churches and ministers decided to form a new body.

Words to Live By:
It was just a year or so ago that the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship was renamed and became the Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship, with the name change intended to indicate that the organization is Reformed in its theology, but not tied to any specific denomination. The Rev. Rick Light has served as director of the organization since 1999. Parachurch organizations have proliferated in the 20th century, and it is undeniable that many, many of them have done a good work in the Lord’s kingdom. Alongside the work of the Church, we have an embarrassment of ministries to pray for, so much so that you can likely find a work specific to the burden of your heart. The main thing is to pray–pray for the Church and pray for the works that share your own heart’s concern, and support them as well, first the Church and as funds allow, these
Who Was That Man?

A graduate of the school, he later served for twenty-four years as a director of the Princeton Theological Seminary. But history remembers the man primarily for a series of letters that he wrote under a pseudonym. Indeed, a fair amount of his published work dealt with the Roman Catholic Church, in which he had been raised in Ireland.

Nicholas Murray was born on Christmas day in 1802, in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland. He emigrated to the United States in 1818, at the age of 16, serving as a apprentice printer at Harpers in New York City, to support himself. It was during this time that he came under conviction of his sins, responded to the Gospel, and left the Roman Catholic Church. In particular, it was a sermon delivered by the Rev. John Mitchell Mason that the Lord used to bring young Murray to saving faith. Subsequently he sat under the preaching of the Rev. Gardiner Spring for a year and a half. In time he was able to graduate from college and then at Princeton prepared for the ministry. As pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he became a prominent figure in the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., even serving as Moderator of the Sixty-first General Assembly, in 1849.

For several years Rev. Murray had considered a project of writing a series of letters, presenting his own experience in the Roman Catholic Church and how he was led to leave it. Friends encouraged him in this effort, and eventually the letters began to be published on the pages of The New York Observer, under the pseudonym of Kirwan. The actual Kirwan had been an Anglican Dean and like Rev. Murray, had himself once been a Roman Catholic. Murray probably took up the pseudonym out of respect for this Anglican preacher.

The first series consisted of twelve letters, published in serial fashion between February and May of 1847. These were quickly gathered up as a book and published, with more than ten thousand copies sold in the first edition. Another edition soon followed, then the work was translated into German, and eventually there were more than a hundred thousand copies in circulation. Few publications of that day exceeded these numbers. As Murray’s biographer stated, “It is certainly safe and just to say that no writings on the Roman Catholic question have excited so much attention since the Reformation, or have been so widely read by the masses of the people.”

A second series of letters began to appear in newspapers in October of 1847. This second series, less popular among Protestants, was actually more effective among Roman Catholics. Both series had been addressed to the Roman Catholic bishop of New York, the Rev. John Hughes, though Hughes ignored the appearance of the first series, and only upon publication of the second series did Bishop Hughes compose any response. Rev. Murray continued to write on this subject until about 1852. The Rev. Nicholas Murray died on February 4, 1861, and it was on March 31, 1861 that the Rev. James Baird brought a memorial address in his memory. A large biographical memoir was issued the following year by the Rev. Samuel Irenaeus Prime.

Words to Live By:
The Lord brought this young man across an ocean in order to save him. No obstacle is too great for our God. The Lord works sovereignly, where and when He will, extending His grace and mercy to the least of men and to the greatest of sinners. He raises up the most unassumingly and unlikely, to do great works for His glory. Only in eternity will it be revealed the extent to which the Lord has used each of His children in extending His kingdom.

For Further Study:
Murray, Rev. Nicholas, Letters to the Rt. Rev. John Hughes, Roman Catholic bishop of New York (1851).

Baird, Rev. James, A Discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Carleton, City of St. John, N.B., on Sabbath, 31st March, 1861: In Memory of the late Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D., author of the “Kirwan Letters” &c., who opened the above church nearly four years ago.

Prime, Samuel Irenaeus, Memoirs of the Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D. (“Kirwan”).

An Early Tract of Francis Schaeffer


Baptism

Pictured at right is an early tract, or rather, a printed sermon by the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer. This sermon was part of a series titled “What We Believe,” a series preached in the early months of 1947. In fact, this sermon can be dated exactly, as there is a statement on the inside front cover of the publication, stating that it was a message preached in St. Louis on 30 March 1947.  Given the length of the tract, it must have been a long sermon, or perhaps more likely, it may have been revised for publication.

The date of the sermon is also interesting, in that it would be one of the last sermons preached there in St. Louis by Rev. Schaeffer, for he very soon began began a tour of Europe, in preparation for his later move to Switzerland. The original purpose in moving there was to plant churches and to establish chapters of Children For Christ, a ministry which Schaeffer had begun in St. Louis just a few years earlier.

The outline of Dr. Schaeffer’s argument for infant baptism is as follows:


INTRODUCTION
IMMERSION
• Baptistic Arguments
INFANT BAPTISM
• Salvation by Faith Alone
• Covenant Is Immutable
• Covenant Is Primarily Spiritual
• The Outward Sign
• Sign Applied to Infants
• New Testament Practice
• Church History
• Baptistic Arguments
CONCLUSION
Questions Asked Publicly of Parents Before Infant Is Baptized

While this message was not included in the five volume Works of Dr. Schaeffer, still this title has remained in print and is currently available in a nicely reformatted edition from the PCA Bookstore. The content of that edition remains the same, but for the deletion of an opening statement by Dr. Schaeffer, and that statement provides the historical context of the sermon as originally delivered:

In the almost three and a half years that I have been your Pastor, I have not preached on the subject of Baptism, but now we come to this subject in our series of sermons on “What We Believe.”


Words to Live By:

Faithful pastors seek to equip their congregations with what they need to live the Christian life in an humble, yet purposeful way, always seeking to honor our Savior, living lives that are a reflection of the holiness of God. Sound doctrine, which is simply the teaching of Scripture, is an integral and necessary part of that equipping that we so clearly need.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
–Ephesians 6:13-18

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)


Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

EXPLICATION.

The sacraments. –See Explic. Q. 88.

Virtue in them. –Sufficient power in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper themselves.

Him that doth administer them. –The person who officiates, or the minister who baptizes, or distributes the bread and wine at the time of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.

The blessing of Christ. –Christ’s powerful influence accompanying the sacraments for our good.

The working of his Spirit. –The power of the Holy Spirit exerted, not only in planting good and holy dispositions in the soul at first, but also in drawing them forth into exercise on sacramental occasions.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer we are taught two things :

1.  That the sacraments become effectual means of salvation, neither by any power in themselves, nor by any virtue derived from the piety or intention of the person who administers them. -1 Cor. iii. 7. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither is he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.

2. That the power or efficacy of the sacraments, as means of salvation, proceeds entirely from the blessing of Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those who by faith receive them. ­-1 Cor. vi. 11. But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?

A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance, instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

EXPLICATION.

Ordinance. –See Explic. Q. 54.

Holy ordinance. –A sacrament is so called, because it is designed, by Christ, for pious or holy persons, for the purposes of rendering them still more holy.

Instituted. –Established, appointed, or commanded to be observed.

Sensible signs. Something that can be seen, and felt, such as washing with water, eating bread, drinking wine, &c.

Benefits of the new covenant. –The blessings of the covenant of grace, or the Gospel. See Explic. Q. 20, 31, 32, 36 & 37.

Represented. –Set forth in a sensible or lively manner, as a picture is a representation or resemblance of the original, or person, or thing signified by it.

Sealed. –Made sure to us, in the same manner as a possession of houses or lands is confirmed to the owner, by a seal fixed to a writing.

Applied. –Given or bestowed.

Believers. ­–Those who trust in Christ, or who believe in his name as the only Saviour of sinners.

ANALYSIS.

We are here taught three things respecting the nature of a sacrament :

1. That a sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ himself. –Matt. xxvi. 26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples. (See also Q. 94, Analysis 2)

2. That in the sacraments, Christ, and the benefits of the near covenant, are represented by sensible signs. –Gen. xvii. 10. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee; Every manchild among you shall be circumcised. 3. That in them, by the same means, these benefits are also sealed and applied to believers. –Rom. iv. 11, 16. And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by Grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham.
Here’s a great sermon illustration, free for the taking.

WITHOUT POSITION
by C. Laing Herald, Ph.D.
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 6-7.]

“Without position” is a nautical term ; it savors of the sea. Years ago, if one sailed the seas on a sailing ship, or wind-jammer, as such vessels were rudely called, one would have become familiar, more or less, with this term. Two vessels at sea, while passing each other within signaling distance, always exchanged the courtesies of the sea by giving their respective nautical positions. Each ship ran her colors to the masthead, thus displaying her nationality; then a board, painted black, was lashed to the shrouds of the mizzen rigging; and on this board was written in large letters, with chalk, the latitude and the longitude each captain thought his ship was in, according to his latest observations. In this way, for the sake of safety, the two captains compared positions. Sometimes, however, especially after a period of heavy or foggy weather, the words written on the board were, “without position.” In other words, the captain of the ship who wrote these words admitted that he did not know where his ship was nautically; that he was really without position; having failed to obtain observations of sun, or the moon, or the stars, so that he might learn from them his latitude and longitude, and being in doubt as to the accuracy of his “dead reckoning,” he was all “at sea” as to his position. Therefore, the words “without position” are significant. 

The science of navigating consists in the knowledge necessary to conduct a ship safely across the ocean, enabling the mariner to determine, from the position of the celestial bodies, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the position of his vessel at any given time. And while navigation is a science to itself, yet, in a practical sense, it must, of course, be supplemented by seamanship.

There are three ways of determining the position of a ship at sea; namely, by piloting or bearings, by dead reckoning, and by observation of the celestial bodies, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The first is simple, primitive, and answered so long as a ship remained in sight of land. In this way the position of the ship is determined from the visible objects along the shore, and from soundings. Dead reckoning consists in keeping an hourly and careful record of the course the ship is steering from a known point of departure, the rate of speed she is making, with due allowance for leeway, caused by drift, ocean currents and tides. This method of navigation is largely guess-work, and is, therefore, far from being accurate and trustworthy. The science of navigation really consists in the observation of the celestial bodies and the consequent calculations of the ship’s latitude and longitude from these observations.

But even this science is subject to interruption, and, therefore, subject to error and consequent danger and loss. Suppose, for example, that a captain, because of cloudy or foggy weather, cannot obtain an observation of any of these bodies for several days; suppose that tides and ocean currents, unknown or misunderstood by the navigator, carry the ship out of her course; and suppose that magnetic influences due to atmospheric conditions, or particular latitudes, or induced by the nature of the ship’s cargo, affect the ship’s compass, even her chronometer; under these conditions what is to be done? The most careful calculations of the navigator will of necessity be affected by one or by all of these conditions, and, as a result, his calculations will be erroneous. Thus the ship may be entirely out of position.

But when I think of a ship at sea without position, my thoughts turn in particular to that large, important and necessary institution, the Christian church. Now be careful, you say. Yes; I shall be careful. Do not lay profane hands on the Ark of the Lord, you warn. No; I shall not, for I have in mind the fate of Urriah, who forgot himself and profaned the Ark. Notwithstanding, the church of to-day reminds me so forcibly of a ship without position that I cannot refrain from the reference and its necessary implications. Although I shall speak as one outside of the church, yet I shall speak with reverence, for I regard the church as the most necessary institution to our existence as a nation and to our well-being as individuals. And although, in my criticism, I may be severe, yet I shall try to be just.

It is to be admitted, gladly and gratefully, that the church is the largest, the wealthiest, the most intellectual, and the most necessary organization in American life. And this being true, it is only honorable, on the part of the church, that she stand true in her obligations to the people she professes to serve and to save. Malfeasance in office is one thing the American people will not stand for—not on the part of church officials. No later than yesterday, one of the professors in the university was in my home, and when asked his opinion of a certain minister, replied at once, “Oh, he is not reliable.” This unreliability was not applicable to the morals of the minister, but to his theology, his teachings; or, in nautical words, to his science of soul navigation. How long would the owners of a valuable ship tolerate a captain who was unreliable in his knowledge of navigation and seamanship, and who would, consequently, run their ship upon the rocks? No, no, it will not do. Then what is one to think of these unreliable ministers, these “sky-pilots,” as they are called, in navigating our souls to the next world?

Account for it as one may, the feeling is abroad in the land that the church at the present time is without position. She does not have her headings; she is off in her dead reckoning; in other words, she is all at sea in her theology. Therefore, she is not capable of saving the souls of men.

What has caused the church to lose her position? Have murky skies, thick fogs, heavy storms, contrary winds, uncertain tides, treacherous currents, been the cause?

There are probably two principle reasons : First, certain men occupying the pulpits of the church, like some college professors, have become too brilliant intellectually; at least they think they have; second, sinful nature is essentially opposed to the fundamental teachings of the Bible; the devil hates the truth like the devil. As to the first reason, nearly all the ministers occupying our pulpits are college-bred. While in college, they were taught to believe that the Bible was such an old Book it was out of date, behind the times, and that modern philosophy and science were far in advance of what the Bible taught. These men, being weak mentally and morally, and without a deep religious experience, accepted the teachings of these professors, and have carried these superficial unreasonable, skeptical and dangerous notions into their pulpits; thus they have turned from the Old Book to their own superficial thinking and irrational conclusions.

In other words, they have become wiser than what is written. Accordingly, they have thrown the Compass overboard, and are navigating the ship in accordance with what they think is the right course to steer. I cannot imagine the captain of a ship being such a blockhead. When the captain of a ship does such an irrational thing as to throw the compass overboard, the ship is doomed and all hands with her. Second, inasmuch as this is a fast, wealthy, pleasure-loving, luxurious period in the history of the American people; and inasmuch as the Old Book calls for self-denial in the things which are harmful, and for simplicity in living, the pulpit has surrendered to this appeal of the age; the pulpit has conceded, yielded, compromised; and now it is deceiving. Ministers enjoy popularity; to many of them, life without this vanity is drab, colorless. Hence they are making the popular appeal by preaching a supposed new doctrine, a doctrine which never entered the divine mind, and which, therefore, is not found in the Book. They have given up the ship; they have struck their colors to the enemy. Nevertheless, they are deceived themselves; for, instead of their preaching being popular, common-sense, thinking men reject it, lose respect for the minister, ignore and neglect the church.

As an outsider, let me say there are men in our pulpits to-day I would not go to hear, neither would I commit the souls of my family to their guidance in spiritual matters. Moreover, there are millions of men who feel just as I do in this matter, for these ministers are just what the university professor said they were—unreliable. They are wreckers. I should hate to cross the ocean with the captain of a ship who did not understand the science of navigation, and shaped his course according to his notion of things. And how true it is that I will not attend a church the pastor of which does not understand the science of theology, and who is likely, therefore, to wreck my soul and the souls of my family. Enter the different churches to-day—there are noble exceptions, thank God!—and listen to the pseudo-sermons. From these sermons does one receive clear and definite directions of the way to glory? Exactly what course to steer in order to reach that Haven of Rest? Indeed not! Compass overboard, chart torn to pieces, the sky overcast, no observations, contrary winds, treacherous currents, uncertain tides, and the church without position!

As I have said, “without position” is a nautical question. In the sense in which I have tried to elucidate it, it may be a naughty question. Nevertheless, one must grant that it is a knotty question.

Wellston, Ohio.

[Robinson’s Ministerial Directory (1898, p. 306) indicates that Rev. Charles Laing Herald was born in Scotland and educated at Queen’s College, Ontario, B.A., 1884 and McCormick Theological Seminary, 1892. Rev. Herald was ordained May 1892 by the Presbytery of Bloomington and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Wenona, IL, where he served from 1892-94. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the Tontogany, Ohio church, beginning in 1894. Apparently he remained in the general Ohio area throughout his ministry.]
Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.
—Dr. Archibald Alexander.
It was on this day, March 26, 1707 that the first overture was presented before the first American Presbyterian presbytery. More on that in a minute. But on that same idea, I just had to go look to see what was the first overture brought before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. I was pleasantly surprised to see a thoroughly evangelistic message and one brought by one of the PCA’s founding fathers, a man who loved the Lord and who also loved capital letters. The Rev. Bill Rose often composed his messages in all caps, a practice now frowned upon in our computer age. But we reproduce below his overture as written.

First Overture presented before the PCA

Overture 1. From Rev. William Rose.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN: To the General Assembly meeting in Macon, Ga., September 17, 1974.

Whereas: One of the greatest needs facing the National Presbyterian Church [ed: the PCA’s original name] is the need for laborers for the great white harvest field of over 3 billion people in the world. THE majority of whom do not know CHRIST, and multitudes have never heard HIS name:

Whereas: CHRIST said in Luke 10:2 THEREFORE SAID HE UNTO THEM, THE HARVEST TRULY IS GREAT, BUT THE LABOURERS ARE FEW; PRAY YE THEREFORE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST THAT HE WOULD SEND FORTH LABOURERS INTO HIS HARVEST.

Clearly letting us know that the way for believers to secure the necessary laborers is to PRAY TO THE LORD OF THE HARVEST TO SEND FORTH LABOURERS INTO HIS HARVEST.

Therefore: The General Assembly is overtured to:

1. Call to the attention of every session this great need of our fellowship.
2. Set aside a day, when the Sessions can bring Luke 10:2 before their people in any way that HE should lead them, the end result being that our people would begin to pray for Labourers, and GOD would call out labourers to work for CHRIST in the harvest field of the world.

William H. Rose, Jr.

And now as to that first overture brought before the first presbytery, on March 26, 1707:

First overtures from an American presbytery
At the second meeting of the first presbytery in the American colonies, meeting on March 11 – March 26, 1707, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the teaching and ruling elders proposed and voted in the affirmative on a series of overtures designed to propagate Christianity.  They were presented by Jedediah Andrews, one of the original seven presbyters, and John Boyd, the first ordained minister in the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

The first overture  instructed each minister in their respective congregations to read and comment upon a chapter of the Bible each Lord’s day, as discretion and circumstances of time and place would admit them.   It is obvious from this first overture that the presbytery believed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were inspired of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, would be the guide for its ministers and laypeople in their respective churches.

The second overture  is interesting because the ministers were recommended to begin and encourage private societies.  In other words, they were to organize and encourage Christians to gather together for various Christian endeavors.  An example of this was the organization of the Fund for Pious Uses, which was the subject of the devotional described  on January 11.  It is clear that they believed that Christianity should set the standard in every sphere of life.   Therefore the Christian faith inside and outside the church needed to be encouraged.

The third and last overture stated that every  minister in the Presbytery was to supply neighboring towns with ministers, especially in desolate places where ministers would be lacking.  They were to take the opportunities granted them to be home missionaries, in other words.

These first overtures of this small but soon to be active Presbytery stated clearly that the message of biblical Christianity was to propagated throughout the new world in obedience to the Word of God.  At subsequent meetings of the Philadelphia Presbytery, it was noted that these first three overtures were being accomplished.

Words to Live By:   Until Jesus comes the second time, all believers are to buy up every opportunity to share His love in word and deed.

Image source: Opening page of Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

A Story in Short Compass

Often it is helpful to have a brief overview, to get the lay of the land and so to gain some orientation of a matter to be further studied. The Rev. George P. Hays provides us with one such overview—a history in short order—of the Westminster Assembly and its work. The following is from Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of their Origin, Progress, Doctrines and Achievements, published in 1892, quoting from pages 49-51 of that work. Details are skimmed over; many features are not explained, but the broad strokes of the story are here:—

westminsterabbey1647

James died in 1625 and left all his British dominions in a state of religious ferment to his unfortunate son, Charles I. Charles inherited the self-sufficiency of the Tudors through his mother, and the blind egotism of the Stuarts through his father, and illustrated in himself the vices of both. He early fell under the influence of William Laud, and finally made Laud the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so Primate of all England.

James I., in his very earliest dealings with the English Parliament, intimated that the duty of Parliament was to register his will, and was told by Parliament that the rights of the people represented therein was quite as sacred as the rights of the king. Charles followed his father’s policy, only pushing it to the extent of undertaking to do without any Parliament whatever. Archbishop Laud was essentially a Roman Catholic, and with this dictatorialness on the part of the king in civil matters, and Laud’s dictatorialness in religious matters, affairs swiftly came to a struggle for life.

The people would not pay taxes which Parliament had not voted. Parliament would not vote supplies for the king until he had redressed their grievances. The king insisted “supplies first and redress afterward.” The lines were soon drawn throughout the kingdom. One Parliament would be dissolved and another elected, until in the struggle the people grew weary of Episcopacy and finally elected the Long Parliament. It originally had in it a majority favorable to Presbyterianism as against Episcopacy. It was the project of that Parliament to call in Westminster an Assembly “for settling the government and liturgy of the Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrines of said Church from false aspersions and interpretations as should be found most agreeable to the Word of God, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home and near agreement with the Church of Scotland and other reformed churches abroad.” This ordinance was entered at full length on the journals of the House of Lords, June 12, 11643.

King Charles, two days before the meeting, prohibited by royal proclamation the Assembly to proceed under the bill. He had already revived the “Book of Sports,” and otherwise outraged the moral sentiments of his people. Under the influence of Laud, he had undertaken to re-establish Episcopacy in Scotland, and on the 23d of July, 1637, the Archbishop of St. Andrews and the Bishop of Edinburgh assembled an audience in St. Giles Church to introduce the new liturgy. When the famous Jennie Geddes started the riot that day, by throwing her stool at the reader, Scotland had already organized its form of church government and was anxious for a common system with England.

The English Parliament had invited the General Assembly of Scotland to send delegates to this Westminster Assembly and so Commissioners arrived from Scotland, at the head of whom was the notable Alexander Henderson. In this Westminster Assembly, sitting in defiance of the king, were thus gathered the chief representatives of the British Presbyterians. Close correspondence was maintained with the Reformed Church on the Continent. While the Long Parliament was in session in their House, this Assembly was in session in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey.

The first meeting of the Westminster Assembly was held Saturday, July 1, 1643; its last numbered meeting was held on the 22d of February, 1649, and is marked “Session 1163.” One hundred and twenty ministers, ten lords and twenty commoners were chosen to membership in it by Parliament. Of those thus elected many declined, but at different times ninety-six of them sat as members. Two months after it first met the commissioners from Scotland, four ministers and two laymen, took their seats, yet without the right to vote. On December 6, 1648, Parliament was purged of its Presbyterian membership, leaving just 140 members and the constitution of England was virtually overthrown by Oliver Cromwell and his army. The Assembly was never officially dissolved. Its power waned with that of Parliament, and so vanished. The last pretense of a meeting of the Assembly took place on March 25, 1652.

Words to Live By:

Creeds and confessions, documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, serve to provide unity among Christians. They are in effect a commentary on the Bible, a succinct statement of what we believe the Bible teaches. As we jointly hold this Confession, affirming it together as a faithful representation of what the Scriptures teach on these matters, so we have unity and we uphold the truths of the Scriptures, insofar as we best understand them.  

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” — (2 Timothy 1:13-14, KJV)

The ecumenical body known as the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Conference (NAPARC) held its constituting meeting on October 31-November 1, 1975.  The PCA, OPC, and RPCNA were among its founding Churches. Significant of the importance placed upon the matter, one of the early actions taken by this group was the 1977 Conference on Race Relations, held on March 24 and 25, with the following Statement issued upon conclusion of the Conference.

STATEMENT OF NAPARC CONFERENCE ON RACE RELATIONS

PREFACE

As participants in the NAPARC conference on Race Relations held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 24 and 25, 1977, we have entered in two days of discussion and self‑examination regarding the relationships of the conservative Reformed community to the struggle for racial justice. We have arrived at a consensus on a number of crucial issues and we offer our concerns to the larger NAPARC fellowship for deliberation and action.

None of the NAPARC churches can adopt a position of superiority over the other NAPARC churches in respect to its record on race. Nor can the NAPARC churches in general claim superiority to other churches in respect to problems of race.

We are convinced that we, as Reformed Christians, have failed to speak and act boldly in the area of race relations. Our denominational profiles reveal patterns of ethnic and racial homogeneity. We believe that this situation fails to give adequate expression to the saving purposes of our sovereign God, whose covenant extends to all peoples and races.

We are convinced that our record in this crucial area is one of racial brokenness and disobedience. In such a situation the credibility of our Reformed witness, piety and doctrinal confession is at stake. We have not lived out the implications of that biblical and confessional heritage which we hold in common with each other, with its emphasis on the sovereignty and freedom of grace, on the absence of human merit in gaining salvation, and on the responsibility to subject all of life to the Lordship of Christ.

I. THE UNITY OF MAN WITH RESPECT TO CREATION, SIN, AND REDEMPTION

Although there are marked distinctions and even divisions among men, including those of race, mankind, according to the teaching of the Bible, has a single origin. Later distinctions and divisions are indeed significant and may not simply be pushed aside; nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches that the gospel is universal in its offer and its call. All men are created in the image of God and have fallen into sin, and are in need of redemption. All those who are in Christ are united together with Him as their Head in a new humanity, in which the distinctions and divisions that otherwise separate men are transcended in a new unity. True, the distinctions mentioned in the Bible as having been overcome in Christ are not primarily those of race, nor does the Bible think along lines that correspond with the distinctions of race as we understand them today; nevertheless, racial distinctions and divisions as we know and understand them today certainly fall under those things that have been transcended in Christ. How, then, is the new unity in Christ to be expressed in the communion of the church today as it bears on the question of race?

The description of God’s people in I Peter 2:9, 10, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, reveals the church’s visible oneness as the community of those separated unto the Lord. It is a oneness on the order of the racial, cultic, and national unity of Israel (Exodus 19:6), and it has as its purpose the declaration of the wonderful works of God. Therefore, the church’s identity transcends and makes of secondary importance the racial, national and cultic identities of the world.

We see in Revelation 7:9, 10, the chosen race worshipping the Lamb in heaven. They come from different backgrounds, yet worship with one voice. Is not the unity of our worship here on earth to be a copy of that which takes place within the heavenly sanctuary? Should not all those washed in the blood of the Lamb joyously worship together?

II. ON CONFESSION

In repentance we acknowledge and confess that we have failed effectively to recognize the full humanity of other races and the similarity of their needs, desires, and hopes to ours; and thus we have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We see this failure on three levels:

A. Individual church members.

Within the church, our members have exhibited such attitudes and actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

In the broader community our members have shared in attitudes and actions that exhibit hostility and alienation against minority groups, e. g. in housing and job discrimination.

We have thus been guilty of the sins of selfishness in refusing to share material things, of coveting, and in general of failure to love the neighbor as ourselves.

B. Churches

Our churches have not been free from such formal actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

They have been guilty of a lack of positive action concerning mission to ethnic groups in their own neighborhoods and to ethnic groups at large.

They have practiced a kind of cultural exclusivism, thinking of the church as “our church” rather than Christ’s.

This involves the sins of pride and idolatry.

C. Social structures

The communities which we reflect and represent have supported or failed to protest against those industrial and economic policies and institutions which are advantageous to our own persons and institutions, but which accentuate the plight of the disadvantaged. In this we have been conformed to the world rather than transformed to the will of God (Romans 12:1, 2).

III. ON SOUTH AFRICA

The NAPARC Conference on Race Relations calls to the attention of the NAPARC churches the turmoil confronting our Christian brothers in the nation of South Africa.

The Conference requests NAPARC to encourage member churches to study the charges that the laws of the South African government deny to God’s people of every race the opportunity to fulfill God’s cultural mandate and covenant responsibility, to wit:

A. Certain laws encourage, if not necessitate, the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children, and, therefore, lead to the disintegration of God’s institution, the family.

B. Certain laws make it difficult for Christians to practice the Biblical principle that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

C. Certain laws requiring separate development of the nations lead to serious conditions of malnutrition especially where there is a large population resettled in lands of minimal productivity.

The Conference also encourages the NAPARC churches which are not members of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod to respond to the request of the RES meeting in Capetown on August 20, 1976, to wit:

1. “To request member churches to give early and serious attention to those problems involved in creating an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and unrest which led to the present riots as matters of great urgency.”

2. “To urge all Christians to reach out to each other in a demonstration of love, thus promoting peace in South Africa.”

The Message of Capetown, p. 5

IV. ON SEMINARIES

We commend the Calvin Theological Seminary faculty for its decision to implement policies calculated to improve preparation for ministry in multi‑racial areas; and Westminster Theological Seminary for its ministerial institute which intends to assist inner-city pastors in their continued training in ministry and Covenant Theological Seminary for its Urban Ministers’ Institute; and request these institutions to communicate to the other NAPARC‑related seminaries both their understandings of the biblical basis for those programs, and also progress reports concerning the accomplishment of the goals of those programs, with practical advice for the seminaries.

V. ON CHANGING COMMUNITIES

A. We encourage congregations to reach out to the entire community around them.

B. We encourage congregations to rise to meet the challenge of racial diversity in changing neighborhoods.

C. We encourage members of our congregations to remain in those communities where there are racially changing patterns.

D. We acknowledge that in order to change our unbiblical profile, we should urge churches in NAPARC to give priority to a vigorous pursuit of evangelism and church planting in racially, economically, and ethnically diverse communities.

E. We encourage NAPARC to sponsor seminars and workshops toward implementing church growth along racially, ethnically, and economically diverse lines.

F. We call upon NAPARC churches to define and incorporate new, small congregations and that provision be made for financial viability.

VI. ON MISSIONS AND EVANGELISM

A. That the grace and righteousness of Christ may be demonstrated by loving, visible, cross‑cultural and multi‑class relationships; it is recommended that creative, vigorous and sacrificial diaconal ministries be developed in the local church, meeting common human need as close to home as is possible, enlarging the opportunities of the less fortunate socially in terms of physical, social, economic, educational, and spiritual needs.

B. We recommend that the fall NAPARC conference on the diaconate take into account the effects of ecclesiastical and institutional racism, so that renewal of the diaconates in our various churches may reflect a consciousness of this specific evil in their efforts to administer mercy in the name of Christ.

C. In reaffirming the great commission, we recommend that:

Cross‑cultural evangelism be encouraged in our churches through preaching, modeling, and discipling, through the elders and pastors, beginning with the use of our covenant families and homes, and house‑to‑house neighborhood outreach;

And that NAPARC form a task force to prepare seminars and institutes for pastors and elders, churches, and seminary professors and students in cross‑cultural evangelism;

And that resource teams be developed to serve NAPARC churches and groups of churches.

VII. GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Our present discussions have been only a small beginning in considering more faithful paths of obedience in the area of race relations. Therefore, we call upon NAPARC and its member denominations to:

A. Convene a conference at which minority brothers and sisters from the other evangelical fellowships meet with NAPARC members for mutual conversation and edification;

B. Appoint a committee to study the feasibility of a NAPARC Institute on Justice and Human Relations;

C. Encourage NAPARC denominations to send representatives to the NBEA conference in San Francisco.

We commit ourselves to working locally and denominationally for these goals.

Further thought and action in these areas is necessary for such reasons as:

1. Scriptural data on the unity of the church and the plan of God to restore the unity of the human race;

2. The need for our Reformed fellowships to avail ourselves of the gifts of members of the Body in minority communions;

3. The need for our denominations, congregationally and corporately, to promote justice for the oppressed, to uphold the cause of the poor. For Christ will not ask us about doctrinal purity or ecclesiastical fellowship; He will ask us about the people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, in jail, and without family.

(End, Statement of NAPARC Conference on Race Relations)

Words to Live By:
We are, in Jesus Christ our Lord, one Body. There is no room for attitudes of superiority one over another. Thinking like that is entirely contrary to the Gospel. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served, and such service and humility should be true of all who call themselves Christians.

Located among the correspondence in the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, the following letter from Dr. H. G. C. Hallock presents us with a valuable lesson in times of trial.

Henry Galloway Comingo Hallock, was born on 31 March 1870, and prepared for ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1893-1896. Upon graduation he immediately took a post as a PCUSA missionary to China. In 1905 he withdrew to independent ministry and teaching, serving later as Professor of Homiletics in the department of theology at the University of China, Chenju, Shanghai, 1925-1927.  For a time he had also been connected with the National Tract Society for China. Among some Princeton alumni information, there is indication that he remained in China up until at least June of 1942. Later returning to the United States, he died on 16 January 1951.

The letter that follows is a powerful testimony from the field of conflict. It is a revealing letter, telling the truth about evil, and a hopeful letter, speaking the truth about our Lord who sovereignly prevails over evil, purifying His Church, raising up a strong testimony to His grace and glory. Today, Rev. Hallock’s “prophecy” of China’s future rings true.

C.P.O.Box No. 1234, Shanghai, China, March 22, 1927.

Dear Friend,

I have written several times about our Bible School and of our work among its students and about our students’ work among the chil­dren and with the people in the country villages, I hope you are inter­ested and that your heart has prompted you to help. There has not been time for a reply from you, as it takes a month each way for letters to go and come; but let me write again and tell you more. We are having very serious troubles in China. Fighting and unrest are all about us. I hear cannon booming and see many houses burning in Shanghai now as I write. Tho’ our Bible School is in the danger zone yet we have not been molested in the least. The militarists have closed a secular school of 600 pupils near us, as the generals feared the students were cutting the telegraph wires, R.R. tracks, and doing other mischief; but our Bible School goes on without interference. We are very glad and thankful to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful also that you have been praying for us.

Pray much also for China. An idea is abroad that a spirit of nationalism is among the people. This is largely a mistake. I do wish there were a spirit of real nationalism abroad, the leaders seeking the real good of their country and people; but I am sorry it is not so. The people are driven about in fear—like a flock of sheep pursued by mad— dogs or wolves—by men in the pay of Bolshevists. Lest these beasts of men be moved by pity for their own people the Bolshevists enlist perfect strangers from a distance to carry on propaganda, terrorize people, stir up strikes and shoot those too poor to strike, initiating a reign of ter­ror, making the workers afraid to work—lest they be killed for working or their wives and children be killed while they work. As soon as ample protection is provided the people are very glad to flock back to work. The so-called Nationalists, led by the Bolshevists, say they are seeking the good of the people; but wherever they go they rob and kill the people and smash up schools, hospitals, churches and Chinese temples. You friends in good old America don’t want them and can largely keep the Bolshevists out; but the Chinese are not able to do so, so these fiends carry on with a high hand. There seems to be no limit to their deviltries. They cry, “Down with imperialists! Give the people freedom!” but they themselves are tyranic imperialists, and crush freedom. They are domineering over­lords making a comparatively free people slaves. Freedom is impossible where they come. Like fierce, wild animals they are over-running the country, and the people, poor and rich alike, are fleeing for their lives.

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before. Pray much, too, for the native preachers and Bible women, and also for the young men in our Bible School. They are staying firm in the school tho’ dangers are all around. — Shanghai just captured. Many Chinese killed. I can’t well flee. God guards. P.O. is closed. If this arrives you’ll know all’s well.

Yours in Christ’s glad service,

(Rev.) H. G. C. Hallock.

[emphasis added]

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