A Typical Military Sermon by a Presbyterian Chaplain
by Rev. David T. Myers

Several Tennents were Presbyterian members of the clergy at the time of the American Revolution. And several of them took time away from their civilian congregations to serve the Lord as Chaplains to the troops. Such a one was William McKay Tennent. We don’t know much about his early life other than the fact that he was born in 1741. He attended and graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1763. Married to a daughter of the Rev. John Rodgers, he was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1776.

Nothing is known of his ministry from that date in history, other than a sermon preached as a military chaplain in the American Revolution at Mount Independence, Sunday, on this day, October 20, 1776. Gathering together American soldiers from the regiments of Col. Motts and Col. Swift, who were waiting for the approach of British troops at Mount Independence, New York, Chaplain Tennent gave the following message: (and this post will only give relevant portions of it)

“(My text is) Nehemiah 4:14 (which says) Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

“Our text is delivered by good Nehemiah to the Jews when their proud, their haughty, and oppressive enemies were coming upon them for their destruction.

“Be not afraid of them is the voice of heaven, the voice of your bleeding country, the voice of the church, and the voice of all who are dear to you – with respect to the approaching foe.

“There is nothing but victory or an honorable death before you.

“Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible.

“Call to remembrance His almighty name. Let the strength of Israel be your trust. Implore His aid and assistance. Under His banner go forth to battle. In His name and strength, meet the approaching foe. Determine to conquer or gloriously die.

“Be not afraid of them, for they are not invincible. Be not afraid of them, because they are engaged in a wicked and unrighteous cause, which the righteous Lord abhors. Be not afraid of them though their numbers should be superior to yours, because you are possessed of advantages which they have not. You have the ground and all the works you have made on it. Be not afraid of them, because the lack of courage will prove your ruin.

“Fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.

“May He cover your hearts in the day of battle, and crown our arms with victory, and the glory shall be given to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, world without end, Amen.”

Words to Live By:
Such words as these have been the challenge for many an evangelical and Reformed military chaplain in modern times to our troops in various conflicts. Let us pray for our chaplains as they minister the Word of God in perilous times to our brothers and sisters in the ranks.

Today, I would like to present you with a short portion of one of John Flavel’s discourses, A Practical Treatise of Fear. We will focus on the sixth chapter of that work, where Flavel prescribes the rules to cure our sinful fears, and to prevent the sad and woeful effects of those fears. This is a synopsis of that sixth chapter, which runs thirty-one pages in length. Obviously an overview like this does not allow the author to build his arguments and to drive home his applications. For that, we urge you to read the full work at your leisure. [the link is to volume 3 of Flavel’s Works, and chapter six of this discourse begins on page 280.]


Rule 1. The first rule to relieve us against our slavish fears, Is seriously to consider, and more thoroughly to study the covenant of grace, within the blessed clasp and bond whereof all believers are.

Rule 2. Work upon your hearts the consideration of the many mischiefs and miseries men draw upon themselves and others, both in this world and that to come, by their own sinful fears.

Rule 3. He that will overcome his fears of sufferings, must foresee and provide before-hand for them.

Rule 4. If ever you will subdue your own slavish fears, commit yourselves, and all that is yours into the hands of God by faith.

Rule 5. If ever you will get rid of your fears and distractions, get your affections mortified to the world, and to the inordinate and immoderate love of every enjoyment in the world.

Rule 6. Eye the encouraging examples of those that have trod the path of sufferings before you, and strive to imitate such worthy patterns.

Rule 7. If ever you will get above the power of your own fears in a suffering day make hast to clear your interest in Christ, and your pardon in his blood before that evil day come.

Rule 8. Let him that designs to free himself of distracting fears, be careful to maintain the purity of his conscience, and integrity of his ways, in the whole course of his conversation in this world. 

Rule 9. Carefully record the experiences of God’s care over you, and faithfulness to you in all your past dangers and distresses, and apply them to the cure of your present fears and despondencies.

Rule 10. You can never free yourself from sinful fears, till you thoroughly believe and consider Christ’s providential kingdom over all the creatures and affairs in this lower world.

Rule 11. Subject your carnal reasonings to faith, and keep your thoughts more under the government of faith, if ever you expect a composed and quiet heart in distracting evil times. 

Rule 12. To conclude, exalt the fear of God in your hearts, and let it gain the ascendant over all your other fears.

The Pastor’s Familiar Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Macartney, Clarence EdwardHave you ever had the experience of  having your pastor preach the same sermon to your congregation of which you are a member, every fall of the year, for 37 years? And here’s the second part of the equation—was this request to the pastor eagerly given by your fellow members to do this very thing? Or Pastors, have you ever had your congregation vote to have you preach the same sermon every fall for as long as you were in the church? It must have been a dynamite sermon in every case.

And yet, that was exactly the case with Dr Clarence Edward McCartney, senior pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On October 18, 1915, he preached a famous sermon entitled “Come Before Winter” from the text in 2 Timothy 4:21. It reads in the King James Version, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Paul was in prison. He was on the eve of his life and ministry. The great apostle was giving his last report to the church through his disciple Timothy.   He urges Timothy to capture the moment and take the opportunity presented, to come to  him. Listen to his words:

“Before winter or never. There are some things which will never be done unless they are done ‘before winter.’  The winter will come and the winter will pass. The flowers of the springtime will deck the heart of the earth and the graves of some of our poor families, perhaps the grave of a dearest friend.  There are golden opportunities on this autumn day and next October, they will be forever shut.”

The emphasis of the celebrated Presbyterian pastor was to make haste when you consider the work of the Lord.  The word “diligence” speaks of being especially conscientious in discharging an obligation.  It is to be zealous, eager, take pains, make every effort, and doing your best.  In short, do what you need to do without delay.

Perhaps now we can see why the congregation asked him to preach this every fall.  They saw that their spirits needed to be reminded to not be procrastinators in the things of life, to say nothing of the work of the Lord.  And so, the pastor had the urging by the congregation to preach the same message every year. And he did so, for forty consecutive years!

Words to live by: There are some things which we can put off without a great deal of problems.  But  procrastination  has  painful effects for God’s kingdom.  Satan and his host are going full speed to tear down God’s kingdom and hinder His work. There is no delay in  his evil designs. But some of God’s people believe that they have all the time in the world to put off the doing of God’s work.  They are wrong.  Don’t be one of them.  Many of the commands in the Bible are set in a tense which speaks of doing something and doing it now.  We are not to put off to tomorrow what must be done today.  One day we will give an account of our times to the Lord.  Let us be busy in the work of the Lord.

Sermon Portion:
To give a fuller sample of the sermon, here are the opening paragraphs. The full sermon can be found elsewhere on our blog by clicking here.

Come Before Winter
by Clarence Macartney
[18 September 1879 – 20 February 1957]

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me…. Do thy diligence to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:9, 21)

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Apostle Paul are the most renowned prisoners of history. One was in prison because the peace of the world demanded it; the other because he sought to give to men that peace which the world cannot give and which the world cannot take away. One had the recollection of cities and homes which he had wasted and devastated; the other had the recollection of homes and cities and nations which had been blessed by his presence and cheered by his message. One had shed rivers of blood upon which to float his ambitions. The only blood the other had shed was that which had flowed from his own wounds for Christ’s sake. One could trace his path to glory by ghastly trails of the dead which stretched from the Pyrenees to Moscow and from the Pyramids to Mount Tabor. The other could trace his path to prison, death, and immortal glory by the hearts that he had loved and the souls that he had gathered into the Kingdom of God.

Napoleon once said, “I love nobody, not even my own brothers.” It is not strange, therefore, that at the end of his life, on his rock prison in the South Atlantic, he said, “I wonder if there is anyone in the world who really loves me.”

But Paul loved all men. His heart was the heart of the world, and from his lonely prison at Rome he sent out messages which glow with love unquenchable and throb with fadeless hope.

When a man enters the straits of life, he is fortunate if he has a few friends upon whom he can count to the uttermost. Paul had three such friends. The first of these three, whose name needs no mention, was that One who would be the friend of every man, the friend who laid down his life for us all. The second was that man whose face is almost the first, and almost the last, we see in life — the physician. This friend Paul handed down to immortality with that imperishable encomium, “Luke, the beloved physician,” and again, “Only Luke is with me.” The third of these friends was the Lycaonian youth Timothy, half Hebrew and half Greek, whom Paul affectionately called “My son in the faith.” When Paul had been stoned by the mob at Lystra in the highlands of Asia Minor and was dragged out of the city gates and left for dead, perhaps it was Timothy who, when the night had come down, and the passions of the mob had subsided, went out of the city gates to search amid stones and rubbish until he found the wounded, bleeding body of Paul and, putting his arm about the Apostle’s neck, wiped the blood stains from his face, poured the cordial down his lips and then took him home to the house of his godly grandmother Lois and his pious mother Eunice. If you form a friendship in a shipwreck, you never forget the friend. The hammer of adversity welds human hearts into an indissoluble amalgamation. Paul and Timothy each had in the other a friend who was born for adversity.

Paul’s last letter is to this dearest of his friends, Timothy, whom he has left in charge of the church at far-off Ephesus. He tells Timothy that he wants him to come and be with him at Rome. He is to stop at Troas on the way and pick up his books, for Paul is a scholar even to the end. Make friends with good books. They will never leave you nor forsake you. He is to bring the cloak, too, which Paul had left at the house of Carpus in Troas. What a robe the Church would weave for Paul today if it had that opportunity! But this is the only robe that Paul possesses. It has been wet with the brine of the Mediterranean, white with the snows of Galatia, yellow with the dust of the Egnatian Way and crimson with the blood of his wounds for the sake of Christ. It is getting cold at Rome, for the summer is waning, and Paul wants his robe to keep him warm. But most of all Paul wants Timothy to bring himself. “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me,” he writes; and then, just before the close of the letter, he says, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Why “before winter”? Because when winter set in the season for navigation closed in the Mediterranean and it was dangerous for ships to venture out to sea. How dangerous it was, the story of Paul’s last shipwreck tells us. If Timothy waits until winter, he will have to wait until spring; and Paul has a premonition that he will not last out the winter, for he says, “The time of my departure is at hand.” We like to think that Timothy did not wait a single day after that letter from Paul reached him at Ephesus, but started at once to Troas, where he picked up the books and the old cloak in the house of Carpus, then sailed past Samothrace to Neapolis, and thence traveled by the Egnatian Way across the plains of Philippi and through Macedonia to the Adriatic, where he took ship to Brundisium, and then went up the Appian Way to Rome, where he found Paul in his prison, read to him from the Old Testament, wrote his last letters, walked with him to the place of execution near the Pyramid of Cestius, and saw him receive the crown of glory.

Before winter or never! There are some things which will never be done unless they are done “before winter.” The winter will come and the winter will pass, and the flowers of the springtime will deck the breast of the earth, and the graves of some of our opportunities, perhaps the grave of our dearest friend. There are golden gates wide open on this autumn day, but next October they will be forever shut. There are tides of opportunity running now at the flood. Next October they will be at the ebb. There are voices speaking today which a year from today will be silent. Before winter or never!

I like all seasons. I like winter with its clear, cold nights and the stars like silver-headed nails driven into the vault of heaven. I like spring with its green growth, its flowing streams, its revirescent hope. I like summer with the litany of gentle winds in the tops of the trees, its long evenings and the songs of its birds. But best of all I like autumn. I like its mist and haze, its cool morning air, its field strewn with the blue aster and the goldenrod; the radiant livery of the forests — “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.” But how quickly the autumn passes! It is the perfect parable of all that fades. Yesterday I saw the forests in all their splendor, and Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But tomorrow the rain will fall, the winds will blow, and the trees will be stripped and barren. Therefore, every returning autumn brings home to me the sense of the preciousness of life’s opportunities — their beauty, but also their brevity. It fills me with the desire to say not merely something about the way that leads to life eternal but, with the help of God, something which shall move men to take the way of life now, today. Taking our suggestion, then, from this message of Paul in the prison at Rome to Timothy in far-off Ephesus — “Come before winter” — let us listen to some of those voices which now are speaking so earnestly to us, and which a year from today may be forever silent.

[the sermon continues on from there. Again, the full sermon can be found elsewhere on our blog by clicking here.]

Time and Again, God Triumphs Over Our Sin

Attempts to reform the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, USA were led in part by some of the faculty and board members at Westminster Theological Seminary. When those efforts failed, it was on June 27th in 1933 that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was organized and on October 17, 1933, its constitution was adopted and officers were elected: Rev. J. Gresham Machen serving as president, Rev. Merrill T. MacPherson as vice president, Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths as secretary, and Murray Forrest Thompson, Esq. as treasurer. The General Assembly of 1934 had put the issue rather bluntly, declaring that members of the IBPFM either were to resign or else face church discipline for violation of their ordination vows.

As new evidence kept coming forward, concerning continued modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people made the decision to begin supporting the IBPFM. This support of the new board so worried the denomination that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. For one, remember that this was taking place during the depression, and charitable funds were especially tight. That reason is not offered to excuse what happened next, but it does help to explain it. Perhaps it was not surprising then that the 1934 General Assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church was required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church, comparable to the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper.

The Assembly then mandated that each Presbytery was to take action against any of its members who were also members of the IBPFM. Thus the deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and in typical Presbyterian fashion, the consequences of that action unfolded slowly. Over the course of the following two years, about a dozen men and one woman were charged, tried and cast out of the Church. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA, on March 29, 1935. His trial was a travesty, with all doctrinal evidence prohibited by the court. Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia. It was a sad conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church, but one which led to new beginnings. As some of the old Puritans used to say, “God never removes one blessing, but what He gives a greater.”

Pictured below is a letter from the Rev. Walter Vail Watson, in which he mentions his discussions with Dr. Machen and sketches out what must have been some of the first outlines of the later formation of the IBPFM:—

Next, (and I realize this may be more difficult to read), is the text of the press release issued by Dr. Machen upon the official formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, on October 17, 1933:—




A Prayer for Our Times:
Lord, give us honest, godly leaders who will do what is right, regardless of the cost to themselves. Give us leaders who, in all humility, fear You and who thus fear no man. And may we be a humble, repentant people capable of following such leaders, seeking Your glory in all that we say and do.

Images: The documents pictured above are from the J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Manuscript Collection, preserved at the  PCA Historical Center.

Today’s post is drawn from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), p. 850:

The Long Pastorate of a Great Pastor and Biographer

SpragueWBWilliam Buell Sprague was born in Andover, Tolland county, Connecticut, on this day, October 16, 1795. He graduated at Yale College in 1815, and in 1816 entered Princeton Theological Seminary, just four years after the start of that institution. After studying there over two years, Sprague was licensed to preach by the Association of Ministers in the county of Tolland, on August 29th, 1818. As pastor of the Congregational Church of West Springfield, Massachusetts, he labored with great assiduity and success from August 25th, 1819, until July 21st, 1829, when he accepted a call to the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, over which he was installed on August 26th, 1829.

In Albany, he had a pastorate of forty years’ duration, remarkable for the extraordinary steadfastness and warmth of attachment existing through all that protracted period between himself and his large and intelligent congregation, and even more remarkable for the vast and varied labors performed by him. He has been well and truly described as “an illustrious man, a cultivated, elegant, voluminous, usefull and popular preacher; an indefatigable and successful pastor; an unselfish and devoted friend; loving, genial, pure, noble; an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile; one of the most child-like, unsophisticated and charitable of men.”

While Dr. Sprague never relaxed his pulpit and pastoral duties, his added literary labors were prodigious and their fruits exceedingly great. He preached nearly two hundred sermons on special public occasions, the most of which were published. He also produced a large number of biographies and other volumes on practical religious subjects. But the great literary work of his life was his Annals of the American Pulpitundertaken when he was fifty-seven years old, and finished in ten large octavo volumes.

On December 20th, 1869, Dr. Sprague was released at his own request, from his pastoral charge in Albany, and retired to Flushing, Long Island, where he passed his later years, which were a serene and beautiful evening to his industrious, useful and eminent life. Here he enjoyed the sunshine of the divine favor, and looked upon the approach of death with a strong and placid faith. He gently and peacefully passed away, May 7th, 1876, and his remains were taken to Albany for interment, the funeral services being held in the church of which he had been so long the beloved and honored pastor.

A number of Sprague’s works can be found in digital format, here.

If I may select one for you, The Claims of Past and Future Generations on Civil Leaders, looks interesting, judging by its title.

From Sprague’s Historical Introduction to The Annals of the Presbyterian Pulpit:
The early history of the Presbyterian Church in this country is involved in no little obscurity,—owing principally to the fact that those who originally composed it, instead of forming a compact community, were widely scattered throughout the different Colonies. It is evident, however, that several churches were established some time before the close of the seventeenth century. In Maryland there were the Churches of Rehoboth, Snow Hill, Marlborough, Monokin, and Wicomin,—the first mentioned of which is commonly considered the oldest, and was probably formed several years before 1690. The Church on Elizabeth River, in Virginia, is supposed by some to date back to nearly the same period, but the exact time of its origin cannot be ascertained. The Churches in Freehold, and Woodbridge, New Jersey were constituted in 1692 [Note: there is good evidence that Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, NJ, was established in 1680.]; and the First Church in Philadelphia, as nearly as can be ascertained, in 1698. In Newcastle, Delaware, in Charleston, South Carolina, and in some other places, Presbyterian Churches were planted at a very early period. In the latter part of 1705, or early in 1706, a Presbytery was formed under the title of the Presbytery of Philadelphia,—all whose members were from Scotland or Ireland, except the Rev. Jedediah Andrews, who was born and educated in New England.”

What is the Catechism? An epitome of all the great truths and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel. He who learns that, has the substance of the Old and New Testaments.

A few thoughts on the value of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, 15 October 1836, p. 166, columns 2-3:—


Ought the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism to be used in Sabbath Schools; and if so, to what extent?

We have seldom heard a more eloquent eulogium on the Catechism, than was elicited in the discussion. All seemed ready and anxious to speak in its praise. We can give only a few disconnected sentences from our notes.

What is the Catechism? An epitome of all the great truths and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel. He who learns that, has the substance of the Old and New Testaments. No book, except the Bible, is so near perfection. Those who have done most to bless the world, have loved the doctrines just as they are taught in the Catechism. The Puritans came to these shores to cherish these doctrines. “But,” says one, “it is no use to teach children what they cannot understand.” All past experience shows that tis is not true. They must be taught things which they cannot understand. I owe more, said the speaker, to my knowledge of these doctrines, as taught in that manual, than to my three years’ study in the Theological Seminary. There is a great deal of thought in the Catechism; more than in some of our libraries.

I was once, said another speaker, taught the Catechism, and I never think of these truths without the tenderest recollection of my parents, now in heaven.

I have reason to bless the God of heaven, (said the moderator, probably the oldest Minister present) that I was taught that system of doctrine while I was almost in the arms of my mother. When I grew up so as to compare it with the Bible, I found there was a unison. My old Minister used to teach it at the close of the common school. Then we were called orthodox. That man is now sleeping with his fathers. A new set of Ministers have arisen, who have discarded the Catechism, and now but few can be found in that place, who hold the doctrines as there taught.

Words to Live By:
We have greater hope for the current generation than is expressed in those closing words. Still, we can never afford to rest in our labors. Each generation must be faithfully evangelized with the Gospel—the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. And each generation must be taught the Word of God. The Catechism provides one of the most helpful summaries available, and to neglect its use is to do harm.

by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?

A. In the second petition, which, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray, that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

Scripture References: Ps. 68:1; II Thess. 3:1; Ps. 51:18; Ps. 67:1-3; Rom. 10:1.


1. What is meant by “Thy kingdom” in this question?

The word “kingdom” in this question has a twofold meaning:
(1) The kingdom of grace in which He exercises His work in the hearts of His people.
(2) The kingdom of God’s glory in the other world. The first is the beginning of the second.

2. What does our petition involve when we pray “Thy kingdom come” to our Lord?

First, we are praying that God’s kingdom of grace might have free course in this world and that God might be glorified. Further, we are praying that Satan’s kingdom on this earth might be destroyed. Further, we are praying that His kingdom of grace might make those of us who are believers as those who are strengthened and established here on this earth. Second, we are praying that the second coming and appearance of our Lord may be hastened. We should be earnestly praying that this will come in His time and that we will be ready for it.

3. What is the “kingdom of Satan” referred to in the above answer?

The “kingdom of Satan” is everything in the whole universe that is contrary to the will of God. Satan has as the seat of his kingdom the heart of every man and woman by nature.

4. How can Satan’s kingdom be destroyed?

It can be destroyed only by the work of Christ, the Son of God, who came to destroy it (I John 3:8). It is destroyed partially when the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of sinners, through the Word of God, and conversion takes place. It will finally be destroyed when Jesus Christ comes again.

5. What would be one good test that our prayer, “Thy kingdom come” is sincere?

When we delight to do the will of God (Ps. 40:8).


One of the Puritans used to say that these words are “pinned as a badge to the sleeve of every true believer.” Indeed, such should be our badge and should be our daily prayer to Him. Every time we pray this portion of the Lord’s Prayer (“Thy kingdom come”) we should be thinking, in part, of that wonderful Day. The poet states it:

“What am I waiting for?—Jesus my Lord.
He’s coming to take me, so says the Word.
To be with Himself in the mansions above,
Enjoying forever His infinite love.”

How can we be certain that our lives are consistent with this wonderful prayer that is a badge on our sleevesd, by His grace? How can we prepare ourselves for the return of Jesus Christ?

First, we can have an expectancy of His coming that will enable us, motivate us, to flee from sin in our lives and hate it. Speaking of the return of Christ, Paul tells us, “. . .but let us watch and be sober.” We should be watchful regarding where we go, what we do and how we act in every situation. As we enter every situation, every conversation, our approach should be one that is in keeping with the sincere prayer, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Second, we can be making each moment count for Him. We should be “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16). We should (as the word “redeem” means here) be “buying up the time.” We should be convinced by Him that each moment is important in our testifying for Jesus Christ in our lives. As we are busy about our Master’s work indeed we will be praying with our lives, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Third, we can be proving our relationship with Him by our concern for others. Herein lies one of the greatest faults of the average believer. He is a man that is certainly concerned with his own salvation but not too concerned for those about him. Matthew 25: 34-36 are words we need to take to heart and as we actively live them we are indeed crying out with words that show up in deeds, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

There are ever so many other methods we could mention. The question comes to us: Do we really want Him to come? Another question is asked with it: Is our desire for Him to come so firmly implanted as a badge on our sleeves that we are always ready for Him? May it be so, all to His glory.

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 7, No. 7 (July 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

Time to Dust Off a Great Sermon


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Dr. Samuel MillerAs we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for times of worship tomorrow, this message seems both timely and appropriate to the purpose. It was on this day, October 13th, in 1826, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller brought the following message at the installation of the Rev. John Breckinridge as collegiate pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. Reproduced here below will be the opening portion of the sermon, and if you would like to read the entire sermon, a link to an online edition will be provided at the end of this post.


For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.—II Corinthians 10:4.

As long as man retained his primitive innocence, he loved truth, and was ever ready to give it a cordial welcome. But the moment he fell from God and from holiness, truth became painful, and, of course, odious to him. He felt that he could no longer listen to it as a friend, speaking peace; but must henceforth regard it as an enemy, which could deliver no other than a hostile message. Accordingly, when we read that the holy and happy tenants of Eden had become rebels by eating the interdicted fruit, the next thing we read of is, that, on hearing the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, and I hid myself.

From that fatal hour, all efforts to impress moral and religious truth on the minds of men, have been, properly speaking, a WARFARE; that is, in whatever direction they have been applied, they have never failed to meet with resistance. As all men, by nature hate the truth as it is in Jesus; and as all men, quite as universally, are opposed to the spirit and the demands of the gospel obedience; it follows that all attempts to procure the reception of the one, or to enforce the practice of the other, must be made in the face of hostility : a hostility not, indeed, always equally bitter in its hatred, or gross in its violence; but still real hostility, which nothing can appease but a surrender of Jehovah’s claims to the inclination of the rebellious creature. Hence, whenever the banner of truth and righteousness is raised in any place, opposition never fails immediately to arise : and however unreasonable its character, or revolting its aspect, in the view of the truly spiritual mind, it usually bears away the multitude, and would always do so, did not Divine power interpose to prevent it. The human heart, left to itself, is ever ready to bid welcome any plausible flatterer, who will “prophecy deceits,” and say, in the language of the first deceiver, “Ye shall not surely die.

Of the truth of these remarks, we have a striking example in the history of the church of Corinth. The apostle Paul had laboured in the ministry of the Gospel in that city for a considerable time; and his labours had been crowed with success. Numbers were added to the professing people of God. Soon after he left them, however, a false teacher came among them, who appears, from various hints dropped by the apostle, to have been a man of honourable birth; of fine talents; of polished education; and of great skills in all the arts and refinements of Grecian eloquence. He was evidently, also, as such impostors commonly are, a man of lax principles; ever ready to accommodate his doctrines to the pride, the prejudices, and the corrupt passions of those whom he addressed. This artful deceiver, on the one hand, set himself with peculiar bitterness against the apostle; found fault with his birth and education; alleged that his bodily presence was mean, and his speech contemptible; and insinuated that he was really no apostle. On the other hand, he boasted much of his own origin, learning, eloquence, and other accomplishments, and endeavoured to persuade the people of Corinth that he was, in every respect, Paul’s superior.

Unhappily, the situation of the Corinthian church at this time was peculiarly favourable to the views of such an impostor. In consequence of the surrounding wealth and luxury, and the remarkable exemption from persecution which it had for some time enjoyed; a large number of its members were deeply tinctured with a worldly spirit. In fact, the church there seems to have been full of professors who were far from having either the knowledge, the steadiness, or the spirituality which became them. No wonder, therefore, that this false teacher found admirers and followers. He raised a considerable party, which gave much trouble to the friends of truth, and which, for a time, threatened the peace, if not the existence of the church in that city.

The inspired apostle, in the passage of which our text make a part, seems to be directly addressing this false teacher and his adherents, and repelling some of the insinuations which he had made against himself. In reply to the charges,–that he was destitute of the credentials of an apostle,–and that he had none of those decisive and energetic means of resisting opposers, and supporting his authority, which they supposed a teacher sent from God ought to exhibit; the apostle declares,–Though we walk in the flesh, that is, though we inhabit mortal bodies, and are compassed about with fleshly infirmities;–yet we do not war after the flesh–or according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God to the pulling down of strong holds.

In the passage of holy scripture before us, there are two points which demand our particular notice, viz.

I. The WEAPONS which the apostle employed, and to which alone he gave his sanction; and,

II. The GREAT EFFICACY of those weapons : they were MIGHTY THROUGH GOD.

I. Let us first contemplate the WEAPONS which the apostle speaks of himself as employing. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

The word carnal means fleshly. It is opposed in scripture to spiritual or holy; and is generally employed by the inspired writers to designate the principles of our depraved nature. Thus, when it is said, that the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7); and that to be carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6);–the language is evidently meant to express the dominion of that corrupt disposition which mean bring with them into the world, and on which the sanctifying grace of God has not yet taken effect. Of course, by the phrase, carnal weapons, is meant, such weapons as our corrupt nature forms and furnishes. In other words, it is intended to designate all those means of recommending and propagating religion which the great Author of that religion has not prescribed, but which the wisdom of this world has invented. Such weapons have been employed in all ages. They are the favourite weapons of carnal men : or rather, they are the only weapons which such men are either qualified or disposed to employ. But they are not confined to carnal men. Even some of those who sincerely love the Saviour, may be, and have been, betrayed into the use of means for promoting his honour, which may well deserve to be styled carnal, and which, in themselves, are not less carnal, or the less criminal, because they are employed by good men. In short, every method, of propagating truth, or of recommending duty, either real or supposed,–which unhallowed principles suggest, or unhallowed motives prompt, or which, in one word, is not in conformity with the Word and Spirit of God, may be pronounced a carnal weapon, the use of which our text indirectly, but most solemnly, forbids.

But it may not be unprofitable to specify, a little more in detail, some of those means which are frequently resorted to, for the professed purpose of propagating religion, and which evidently belong to the class proscribed by the apostle in the passage before us.

And at the head of the list, may be placed PERSECUTION, whether in its more gross and violent, or in its more mitigated forms. By the former, you will readily understand to be meant all those cases in which the “secular arm” has interfered to enforce the claims of a particular religious denomination, or of a particular set of opinions, by fire and sword,–by fines and forfeitures,–by racks and chains, and banishment, and all the various penalties which oppressive governments, civil and ecclesiastical, have so often, and so grievously inflicted. By the latter are intended all that molestation, abuse, or temporal inconvenience, of whatever kind, which have been heaped upon men on account of their religious opinions. The narrative of these inflictions, and of the diabolical fury with which they have, in countless instances, been executed, forms one of the most melancholy chapters in the history of that which calls itself the Church of God. A narrative the more unspeakably revolting, from the fact, that the most shocking atrocities which it displays, were perpetrated in the name, and by the alleged authority, of a God of mercy, and from a professed regard to his glory! Before this enlightened audience I need not say, that persecution for conscience sake, in all its forms, is one of the greatest absurdities and abominations that ever disgraced the Christian world :–that it is contrary to reason, to justice, and to humanity, and certainly not less contrary to the word of God, and to all the radical principles of our holy religion.

To the same interdicted class of weapons, we may refer all CIVIL ESTABLISHMENTS OF RELIGION. Whatever may be their form, or the degree of their rigour : whether they are intended to operate by force, by fear, or by allurement : whether we consider them as a tax on error, or as a bounty on faith; as a legal provision for instructing the people in what the civil magistrate (who may be an infidel or a heretic) chooses to say is truth; or as a convenient engine in the hands of government, for reaching and controlling the popular mind : in all cases, they are unhallowed in their principles, and pernicious in their tendency : calculated to generate and encourage hypocrisy; to corrupt the Christian ministry; to make the care of souls an affair of secular merchandise; and to prostrate the church of God, with all its officers and ordinances, at the feet of worldly politicians.

Again; all HUMAN INVENTIONS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD are liable to the same general charge. The object of these, in every age, has been to consult carnal prejudices, and to accommodate carnal feelings : of course, they are carnal weapons. When, therefore, professing Christians began, soon after the apostolic age, to introduce into the church rites which the Saviour never instituted, for the purpose of assuaging the enmity, or conciliating the affections of Jews and Pagans : when they borrowed, from either or from both, without scruple, and without the smallest warrant, as they fancied an inducement—the smoking incense; the worshipping toward the East; the bowings; the adoration of images; the purgatorial fire; the merit of bodily maceration; the celibacy of the clergy; the splendid garments; the holy days; the exorcisms; the processions, and all the endless array of superstition; insomuch that, as early as the close of the fourth century, the venerable Augustine complained that, “For one institution of God’s they had ten of man’s, and that the presumptuous devices of men were more rigorously pressed than the Divine prescriptions;”–who can doubt that they were chargeable with employing carnal weapons? And when Christian churches or individuals, at the present day, aim to allure the gay and the worldly, by pomp and splendour of ceremonial, by that studied address to the senses in the public service of the sanctuary, which the primitive and purest periods of Christianity never knew; who can doubt that they also lay themselves open to the same charge? They undertake to be wiser than God; they employ means, which, however well intended, can result in nothing but mischief. The church has no power to “decree rites and ceremonies.” If she had, there would be no other bounds to the multiplication of them, than the every varying, and ever teeming figments of human vanity or caprice. To claim such a right, is rebellion against her Master. To exercise it, is systematically to introduce superstition and complicated corruption into his sacred family.

Further; even ECCLESIASTICAL CONFESSIONS AND FORMULARIES may be so perverted as to become carnal weapons.

We will leave the sermon at that point. If you would like to continue reading, click the sermon title below, and proceed to page 14 of the PDF file:

Christian Weapons Not Carnal But Spiritual: A Sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, in the City of Baltimore, October 13, 1826; at The Installation of The Reverend John Breckinridge, as Colleague with the Reverend John Glendy, D.D. in the Pastoral Charge of the Said Church.

Our post today is excerpted from the Minutes of the 153rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1975), p. 176-177:

The cause of Bible-believing archaeological study today owes more to Joseph P. Free than to any other individual. It is an honor to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, that for 30 years he has been numbered among our teaching elders.

Joseph Free was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 1, 1911, and entered Stony Brook School, Long Island, New York, and received the A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University, New Jersey. In 1935 Dr. Free accepted an invitation to join the faculty of Wheaton College, Illinois, in the departments of French and Spanish. For ten years he studied in the field of Near Eastern history and archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and for nearly 20 years, until 1965, he served as Fred McManus Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton. After a brief period of retirement to his home in the north woods of Minnesota, he resumed his life work in the teaching of archaeology at Bemidji State College, Minnesota, where he was employed at the time of his death, on October 12, 1974. He was a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES), and was its moderator for two years in the 1940’s. He was ordained in 1944 to the ministry of the Bible Presbyterian Church. At his death he was still a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES).

Dr. Free is best known as the excavator of ancient Dothan, in northern Israel, the town near which young Joseph was sold by his brothers (Gen. 37:17) and where the prophet Elisha performed a miracle of deliverance (II Kings 6:13). Professor Free had gained archaeological field experience as a staff member with the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem; and he and Mrs. Free directed ten seasons of excavation at Dothan between 1953 and 1964. Many field archaeologists and teachers, including several on the staff of Covenant Theological Seminary, owe their basic training to his untiring efforts and competent leadership. His vision resulted in the founding of the Near East Archaeological Society in 1960 and the Near East School of Archaeological and Biblical Studies in 1962, under which scores of students were introduced to Bible geography, history, and archaeology. He authored the widely used textbook Archaeology and Bible History, plus more than fifty articles on archaeology for both scholarly and popular Christian journals. He held membership in the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Schools of Oriental Research, American Oriental Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and National Society of Arts and Letters, which he served as National Literature Chairman, 1966-1970.

He was married to Ruby Aldrich on August 20, 1935. In addition to Mrs. Free, he was survived by a daughter, a son, three grandchildren, a foster son, and two sisters. Joseph P. Free was zealous in his defense of the faith and of the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. The same verse that at Princeton honors the memory of one of America’s greatest nineteenth century Reformed scholars of the Old Testament, Dr. William Henry Green, may now with propriety be applied to our brother Dr. Free:

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Deuteronomy 12:3.

For Further Study:
For more on the life and ministry of Dr. Free, see “Joseph P. Free And The Romance Of Biblical Archaeology.” by Timothy Larsen, in the Westminster Theological Journal, 66.1 (Spring 2004): 97ff. To view a portion of this article, click here.

We search the Scriptures in order to find out what the will of the Lord is. And in preaching we endeavor to set before the people what God would have them do, but unless I myself am practicing what I preach, my preaching will be of no value. We must live what we preach if we hope to influence others, if we hope to command the respect of others. We who preach therefore should be constantly on our guard, should be careful ourselves to walk circumspectly in all our ways.”—Rev. Francis James Grimké.

Francis James Grimké, his father a slave owner and his mother a slave, was born in Charleston, South Carolina on November 4, 1850. After a tumultuous childhood, he was able to graduate first from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1870, where he was the class valedictorian, and then subsequently preparing for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating there as part of the Class of 1878.  

Ordained to the ministry by the Presbytery of Washington City on July 7, 1878, he was installed as the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church and served there from 1878-1885. He left that pulpit to serve a term as Stated Supply for the Laura Street Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Florida, 1885-1889 and then returned to again pastor the Fifteenth Street church in Washington, D.C. from 1889 until 1928, when declining health forced his retirement. Rev. Grimké died on October 11, 1937.  Notable among the honors bestowed upon Rev. Grimké during his life was the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by Lincoln University in 1888.

Earlier this year our friends over at the Log College Press—Caleb Cangelosi and his able assistant R. Andrew Myers—published a small book by the Rev. Francis James Grimké, titled MEDITATIONS ON PREACHING (its cover is shown above). Quotations in the book are drawn from Volume III of The Works of Francis J. Grimké, a work published in 1942 and not easily found these days. Additionally, the foreword for the book was written by the Rev. Irwyn Ince, who served as Moderator of the PCA’s 46th General Assembly (2018). If we’ve gained your interest with our post today, you can order the book here. I know that you will profit from its reading. A fuller review of the book can be found on Barry Waugh’s blog, Presbyterians of the Past.

Words to Live By:
“Get hold of the truth, i.e., clearly apprehend it; let the truth get hold of you, i.e., be fully impressed with the value and importance of it. Only thus will you be able to present it effectively to others. The clearer you see it, and the more deeply you are impressed by it, have been brought under its power, the more effective will be your presentation of it. This is one reason why much of our speaking counts for nothing, or for so little: haziness of thought and lack of strong conviction. What we believe thoroughly and feel keenly, we will be able to make others see and feel. We should attempt to speak on no subject which to us is of little value or importance. The estimate that we put upon it is the estimate which others listening to us will be likely to put upon it.”—Rev. Francis James Grimké

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