He Shouldn’t Have Been Elected
by Rev. David T. Myers

Given his political choice of party, which was Federalist, in the early nineteenth century in Delaware, he should have been a Methodist or an Episcopalian.  Those denominations usually won office to the position of governor in the state.  But John Clark was a Federalist Presbyterian, an oddity to be sure.  Obviously Someone higher than those in earthly roles was directing this race and subsequent win to the governor’s chair.

John Clark was born in 1761 on the family farm in New Bristol, north of Smyrna, Delaware.  He had limited schooling in his younger days, but made up for it with an insatiable desire for the knowledge in books.  He was “well read,” as the papers put it at that time.  In 1784, he married Sarah Corbit, a daughter herself of a governor of Delaware.  They had one daughter and possibly others, which history doesn’t name for us.

John Clark obviously had the gifts of leadership.  He was the Colonel of the Third Regiment of Militia for a year in 1807 – 1808.  He served as a sheriff, a state treasurer, a member of the State House, and then as governor of Delaware.  His accomplishments included improvements in educational opportunities.  His argument was that Delaware is a small state and not suitable for increased opportunities in business.  Better plans must to be made to develop the mental capabilities of its citizens.

After serving for his term as governor, he became involved in banking business in Smyrna, Delaware.  He died on August 14, 1821 and is buried in the cemetery of Duck Creek Presbyterian Church in Smyrna.

This contributor looked in vain for any quotable quotes on the significance of personal Christianity in the state or country, and his beliefs on those topics.  The only hope we have for a credible profession of faith is that his membership was in the Presbyterian church and his burial was in a Presbyterian cemetery.  Usually in those days, such inclusion would not have taken place unless there was a credible testimony in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Words to live by:  Both words and spiritual fruits  must be found in Christians to declare that redemption has taken place in a believer’s life.  They may have been found at the time with respect to John Clark, but were simply not recorded in the usual sources we  have available today.  Let it not be said of you though, that no expressions of Christianity are found lacking in your mouth.  Let there be no doubt that you are a professing and confessing Christian to all who observe what you say and do.

When Millennial Issues Came to the Fore
by Rev. David T. Myers

The noble infant seem to be coming apart at the seams. Its “father,” Dr. J. Gresham Machen had been taken to heaven on the first day of the new year of 1937.  His “warrior children,” as they were described once, were not in agreement over a number of issues.  The first theological battle in the Presbyterian Church of America was over the “last things,” or eschatology (study of the last things).

Was the new denomination going to be  classic or historic pre-millennialist, that is, Christ would return, then reign on earth for a literal one thousand years?  Was it going to be a dispensational premillennial return, where Christ’s return is divided into a two-step process: first a secret rapture, with countless people left behind?  Second, a public event, with seven years of tribulation at the hands of the anti-christ, then a one thousand year reign by King Jesus, at which time Israel will receive all the promises made down through the years?  This latter view was that taught by the Schofield Reference Bible.  Or was it to be a-millennialist, in which the one thousand years is a figurative number describing the whole period between the resurrection of God and His return? During this time, Christ rules from heaven, and peace comes through the proclamation of the gospel message.  Which viewpoint will characterize this new Presbyterian denomination?

Professor John Murray, of Westminster Seminary, beginning in December of 1935, wrote a whole series of articles on “the Reformed faith and Modern Substitutes.”  He attacked vigorously Modernism, Arminianism, and dispensational pre-millennialism.  Many were offended by his articles.

In 1937, already a new seminary had been begun over the issue of the last things, when Professor Allan A MacRae left Westminster to begin Faith Theological Seminary.  These same issues of the last days also came publicly to the floor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America on August 13, 1937.  Eventually they, along with other issues such as Christian liberty, would lead to the beginning of the Bible Presbyterian Church.

Words to live by:
In hindsight, this surely was one of the least reasons to separate from brothers and sisters in Christ.   We need to believe that Christ Jesus will return in power and great glory. That is fundamental.  But to quibble over the events surrounding his return, and worse yet, to separate from other Christians, is questionable, to say the least.  Let us instead resolve to share the gospel with every creature, and then rejoice as Christ  comes back to this earth.

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

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Scripture References: Acts 11:18. Acts 2:37. Joel 2:13. II Cor. 7:11 Jer. 31:18, 19. Acts 26:18. Psalm 119:59.

Questions:

1. Why is repentance called a “saving grace”?

It is called a saving grace because it is inseparably a part of salvation and is worked in the heart of the sinner by the Holy Spirit through the instrument of the Word of God.

2. Who is the subject of repentance?

The sinner is the subject of it for the person who is saved needs no repentance as is taught in Luke 15:7.

3. What is meant in this Question by “a true sense of sin?”

A true sense of sin is the recognition on the part of the sinner of the danger of his position along with the filthiness of his sin. He knows he is in danger because he knows his sinful condition is contrary to God’s holiness and is offensive to God.

4. Why is the mercy of God connected with Christ?

The mercy of God is connected with Christ because God’s mercy extends to the sinner through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ in His death on the Cross.

5. Is it possible for repentance to be separated from faith?

No, it is not possible to separate the two. These are both by the grace of God and therefore can be distinguished but can not be separated.

6. What is this hatred of sin mentioned here?

It is both the loathing of sin and ourselves because of that sin (Isaiah 6: 5).

7. What is this new obedience to which the repentant person turns?

It is the obedience as is found in the Gospel and proceeds from the new nature in man. The new man recognizes that he must have a new purpose, a new way of walking. He will not be perfect but he will be diligent in his endeavors to walk after righteousness.

TURNING FROM SIN UNTO GOD

True repentance causes a change to take place in a man. True repentance is a fruit of regeneration and it is a gift of the Spirit. When the word “Repent!” is used, many times the change of heart is neglected. But the Bible teaches over and over again that genuine repentance consists not only of a man being humiliated for his sins but also of change in the whole man.

Repentance causes a man to change his mind about a lot of things. Before a man is saved, he takes a worldly look at things, the old man is all that is present within him. After a man is saved he wants to please God, give Jesus Christ the pre-eminence in his life. Further, it causes a man to change his attitude toward sin. Sin no longer is a delight to him as it was before he knew Christ. Sin now becomes something for which he sorrows. He prays daily, “Lord, teach me more and more to hate sin in my life.” Further, repentance causes a man’s heart to change and this spreads out into his whole life. Note the change that took place in Paul. His conversion was not simply that his sins were forgiven but it meant his life changed completely. He turned around in his way of living. Paul knew full well that he had to break off with sin and turn to the Lord. He knew he would never be the same again.

“A contrite and a broken heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” states the Psalmist in Psalm 41:17. But the Psalmist also stated, “I hate every false way” in Psalm 119:104. In these two verses the two parts to repentance are noted. The heart is broken before the Lord and the heart begins to hate sin. A divorce with the life of the world takes place and will continue throughout life. In the wonderful hymn book compiled by Ira D. Sankey are found these words that so wonderfully tell the story of genuine repentance:

“I come, O blessed Lord, to Thee I come today;
I am no longer satisfied to stay away.
I will not wait until my life like Thine shall grow;
I’ll come at once-I know I’ve sinned:
I’ll tell Thee so.
Help me that I forget myself in loving Thee;
And let Thine image on my heart reflected be.”

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. 6, No.4 (April, 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

In today’s post we will look at a portion of a sermon that Dr. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer delivered in memory of the Rev. George Washington Doane, an Episcopalian Bishop.

Dr. Van Rensselaer served four years as a pastor in Burlington, New Jersey, and it was during this time that he came to know Bishop Doane. Leaving the Burlington pulpit, Van Rensselaer was called to head the  PCUSA’s Board of  Education, and there he served for  fourteen years. Some measure of the friendship between these two men is thus marked  by the fact that this sermon came thirteen years after Van Rensselaer left Burlington.  Bishop Doane died in April of 1859;  Van Rensselaer would himself pass into eternity just fifteen months later.

Over the last ten or twelve years, I have gotten the impression from my reading that nineteenth-century American Protestants tended to be evangelical Christians first, and only attached to their various denominations in a secondary way. A number of examples could be produced, and this sermon is  another good example. A strictly evangelical sermon, delivered by a Presbyterian, in memorial to the life and ministry of an Episcopalian! Would or could we even have such a thing today?

The closing comments of Van Rensselaer’s sermon follow:

LESSONS AT THE GRAVE

Before separating, it is well for us, as immortals, to try to learn a few lessons at a Bishop’s grave.

I. Death comes alike to all. My hearers, are you ready to die? Ye of gray hairs, or in vigorous manhood, or in sublime youth, are ye prepared to meet your God? What a solemn thing to be coffined away from human sight, and then lowered down into a chamber, digged out for our last abode, with six feet of earth thrown on to roof it in? Ye living mortals, your funeral day is at hand. Come, prepare for the change; for the change is coming.

II. The honours of this world are fleeting nothings. Crown and crossier, sceptre and cross, vestment of distinction and laurel of renown, are all left behind. When the spirit enters its new existence, if it has been redeemed by blood, it carries with it graces of righteousness, which abide forever. But earthly honour and power, the elevation of outward position, the distinctions of learning and rank, all the superficial framework of the vanity of the world, and all its real glory, whatever there be of it, sink away like a vision of delirium. O, godly poor, be contented! Worldly, or unworldly high ones, fear!

III. Let us grow in circumspection, both ministers and people. Religion cultivates prudence. It enjoins its disciples to “walk in wisdom towards them that are without.” In our unguarded moments, we are in danger of going astray, and often are led to do what we have charged ourselves to forbear. Human resolutions are frail; but God can, and will, give strength to all whose eyes, in tearful penitence, plead for help and mercy. A single act of indiscretion, or of guilt, may be followed by the heavy retribution of embittered calumny, or unrelenting exaggeration. The officers of the Church, above all others, should be above suspicion. “See that ye walk circumspectly; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

IV. Let us not be weary in well-doing. Activity is the law of Christian life. The new birth inspires high motive, and nurtures the spirit of self-denial and suffering. Church idlers are a spectacle to the profane. Shall Christians be “created unto good works,” and not perform them? Shall the grace of the Spirit plead in vain? Shall the example of Christ and the blood of his cross be without efficacy to those who profess to follow the one and to be washed in the other? Brethren, “be not weary in well-doing; for in due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not.”

V.Charity is the bond of perfection.” Love binds all the graces together; and all the graces are formed out of love. The same Divine likeness is impressed upon them all. Charity covereth a multitude of sins. Charity suffereth long, and is kind. If our fellow creatures transgress, can they not be forgiven? Does not God, for Christ’s sake, pardon the penitent? And shall man be forever hard-hearted and unrelenting against his fellow-sinners? May the Lord clothe us, dear brethren, with every grace, and girdle our garments with love! Charity is compatible with Truth and Justice. “Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

VI. A man’s work survives his life. A useful and active Christian leaves imperishable memorials. Good done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, can never be buried. It survives with a multiplication of its power. It sends down accumulated influences to distant generations. It lives forever. Sermons preached, institutions established, catechisms taught, aid given to the poor—all virtue, of whatever kind, lives in perpetuity. And so, alas! does evil, unless counteracted and circumvented by Providence and grace.

VII. Let us learn, as Churches, to sympathize with each other more. If we all love Christ, what interests have we apart? Why need we misrepresent each other’s doctrines, depreciate each other’s worthies, and call in question each other’s piety. If there be separate folds, is there not also a large field in common where all the good Shepherd’s sheep may feed on the green pastures and drink the pure waters? I have had my share of controversy, but have never relished it, and dislike it with increasing aversion. We need not, we must not surrender our principles; but what is called principle is often nothing more than denominational interest. Brethren, our hearts beat together today. We mourn in sympathy. Can we not in sympathy live together and work together?

VIII. The passport to Heaven consists, not in merit or station, but in simple faith. The Gospel condition of eternal life is the same to men of all nations and generations. The Bishop enters heaven in the same way with the sexton. The saints become one in Jesus Christ, in the same true and living way, opened alike to every creature. In dying, the Christian goes back to the first principles of his religion. As he began with Christ, so he ends with Christ. The conquest of death is won through faith. No forms and ceremonies; or liturgical repetitions; or imposition of hands; or baptismal, or immersional regeneration; or Church connection; or office-bearing, be it that of Pope, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Minister, Elder, Superintendent, or Class-leader—ever have, or ever will, or ever can, save a single soul. Bishop Doane, in his dying hour, had a clear conviction that Christ was the only hope for a sinner, lost by nature. This doctrine was fundamental in his theology; and no one taught it more beautifully than in that immortal hymn of his own composition:

“Thou are the Way; to thee alone,
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek,
Must seek him, Lord, by thee.

“Thou are the Truth; thy word along
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst inform the mind,
And purify the heart.

“Thou art the Life; the rending tomb
Proclaims thy conquering arm,
And those who put their trust in thee,
Nor death nor hell shall harm.

“Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life;
Grant us that way to know;
That truth to keep, that life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.”

May Heaven grant to us all, brethren, the right to live and die in the truth of the Apostolic Church, and to find our title to Heaven in the apostolic words: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved.”

[excerpted from A Funeral Sermon on the Occasion of the Death of Bishop Doane. Preached in the Presbyterian Church, Burlington, N. J. , on May 1st, 1859, by Cortlandt Van Rensselaer. Published by J. M. Wilson, Philadelphia, 1859.]


COMMENTS:
As some may have noticed, we have a problem with access to the Comments section on our blog. Haven’t been able to solve that problem. But my friend Walt writes today to add the following on today’s post:

 

I agree with Wayne about being Christians first and denominational second, although I noted it more after the Civil War than before.

Other thoughts

·       The Van Rensselaers were an important and powerful family in New Netherland. They were able to get a son of theirs (Wouter van Twiller) appointed governor of New Netherland. His previous experience was a warehouse clerk for the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam, but he had some familiarity with the New World.

·       Burlington Island and what later became Burlington were the site of an early Dutch settlement that was closed and the colonists relocated to New Amsterdam to bolster that city. A few years back while digging up the city streets some European bones were found that predate the founding of Burlington, the experts say “North European” and think Swedes but I think they were Dutch. The ethnicity was not pursued once it was confirmed that they were not Native American Indian bones.

·       Burlington was the capital of the colony of West Jersey and set up soon after the English takeover. A number of important families lived there – the Coopers (as in James Fennimore Cooper and Cooperstown, N.Y.), the Shreves (who founded Shreveport in Louisiana), and it was the birth place of naval hero James Lawrence, can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

·       An early public works project was to link Burlington with the only other community of size in the colony, Salem, and became known as (The) Kings Highway, still in use today.

·       Burlington had a very early fire company that is still in existence today, but younger that the ones in Mt. Holly and Haddonfield.

·       Rockefeller wanted to restore Burlington but being rebuffed he focused on Williamsburg in Va. Instead

_____________________

Organized in a Presbyterian Church Basement
by Rev. David T Myers

After a stirring sermon to the some 250 members of Second United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny, Pennsylvania by the pastor, Rev. John Barr Clark, he challenged the male members to rise to the challenge of preserving the Union by returning on Monday night to the church basement. They did and the 123rd Pennsylvania regiment was organized for nine months of service in the Civil War. The pastor became the Colonel of the regiment.

John Barr Clark was born in Ohio on October 9, 1827. After suitable training by Christian parents, he attended Franklin College at New Athens, Ohio, graduating in 1848. In the fall of the same year, he entered the Associate Theological Seminary to train for the Lord’s work. Graduating in 1851, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Muskingum and sent at a missionary to Detroit, Michigan! Laboring as an evangelist, he organized a church there with three hundred members. Leaving it, he went to the Presbyterian Church of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where he also had a successful pastorate. Released by his own request after ministering for several years, he became the pastor of the Second United Presbyterian congregation of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where he labored as an under shepherd until his death in 1872.

Responding to the call of President Lincoln for nine-month regiments, he and the male members of his church entered the Union Army for this short duration. However, the brief time in the Union Army included the battles of Civil War battles of Antietam, Frederickburg, and Chancellorsville! All three were Union defeats at the hands of the Confederates.

In the second battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the One Hundred and Twenty Third Pennsylvania Regiment made a charge upon the Confederate lines which was costly in dead and wounded soldiers. Fighting in Chancellorsville, Virginia, their third battle, their time of enlistment ended, but they stayed on in the Union lines to provide strength to yet another battle. They ended their nine month service on this day, August 10, 1862.

Turning to Pittsburgh to great fanfare, the men of the regiment either re-enlisted under other regiments or retired back to their professions and families. John Barr Clark died on January 13, 1872, and is buried near Cadiz, Ohio.

Words to Live By:
Talk about serving our Lord in church and state! Many a Presbyterian pastor has done the same, ministering to civilian families and military families. John Barr Clark had a love for souls and won many to the Savior. He ministered effectively to Christian families as well. Pray much for your pastor/teacher to be effective in service with the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. In fact, contact him to inquire how you might be praying for him! Tell him that this post in Presbyterian history encouraged you to do just that. Then be faithful in prayer weekly for him, his family, and the greater congregation.

Today’s post is on missions in Persia in the late 1920’s. At that time the editor added the following prefatory note:

Persia is in the midst of many upheavals both political and religious. The Moslem world is at last awaking to the pressure of Christianity, and is realizing that it must fight to maintain its position. For this reason there is active danger to the Moslems who venture to become Christians.

And as much as I was struck by the editor’s note in our previous post, those words, though the national reference would be changed, seem all the more appropriate here, as an added preface to the following brief report.

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


LIVE DANGEROUSLY
by a Persian Missionary
[THE PRESBYTERIAN, 6 January 1927, pp. 12-13.]

As is usually the case, the story of the experiences of our converts is the story of our work for the past few months. Three of them in three different places have been hazarding their lives for the sake of Christ and thrilling us with joy and anxiety. One of these men we will call A. His father was a very popular religious leader a few years ago, to such an extent that his name still survives as indicative of the location of the bath, street, bridge, and what not, most closely associated with him. Once the son of such a man accepted Christ, he would not keep the fact a secret. Almost immediately this convert requested permission to speak on his new faith in the meeting of the Sabbath-school at the city chapel. Following two such talks, brief and to the point, and marked by no disturbing consequences, he asked permission to speak at a larger public service.

He was a member of the socialist party, and soon received an official letter of inquiry relative to his conversion, which he read at this service. What did he have to say for himself? In reply, he opened the drawer of the secretary’s desk, drew out a copy of the Constitution, and asked them to read for him Article I of their programme. Article I reads, “Freedom of Convictions.” There was simply nothing to be said, and he took his stand on his constitutional rights. This incident, plus the stir that his previous testimony had made, drew a crowd of some eighty Moslems to hear him speak. I remained on the platform where I could keep an eye on the audience, and I will frankly admit that my heart pounded more blood to my brain in that half hour while he spoke than during the ordinary hour and a half.

He is rather tall, deliberate, and fine looking, and the hush that fell on that assembly as he mounted the platform, removed his white turban, and prepared to speak, could be felt. He spoke simply on the need of a religion, and necessity of making a careful investigation, and finally on the superiority of the teachings of Christ. He spoke tactfully and respectfully of the Koran, but left no doubt as to where he himself stood.

Two days later he came to us to say good-bye. Crowds of excited Moslems had gathered in the governor’s palace, informed him of A’s apostasy, and the order had gone out for his arrest. He had no thought of flight. Together we bowed in prayer, and refusing to let me go with him through the bazaars, where men were threatening to kill him, he went down to turn himself over to the police. Twenty days later, guarded by two policemen, he came out again, climbed into a waiting automobile, and was rushed off to the Persian-Iraq border, an exile, with neither passport nor money. Whenever he tried to return, his lack of a passport prevented his permission, until at last, in another city, he found a Persian consul who was a heart a Christian, and who assisted him to return to Persia, though of course not to his own town.

Of the two others whom I mentioned, we have less information. One—B—is in prison. The third—C—a member of our church here, who left for a distant city about two years ago, is holding the fort there, alone, waiting for whatever fare God may have in store for him.

For more on earlier missions to that part of the world, click here to read an article about the missionary Shushan Wright, written by my friend Barry Waugh.

 

A Timely Message on Prayer

This is a rare bit of early Westminster Seminary history, found in old issue of THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, dated June 1937Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen, the annual Day of Prayer was held on the Westminster campus in March of 1937. Arrangements had been made to have the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn [1889-1959] present as the main speaker at the event.

Blackburn is interesting on several levels. His mother was Annie Williams Girardeau, one of the daughters of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau and his father, George A. Blackburn, authored The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.D.
John was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1914-1918, back when the Seminary was still located in Columbia, SC. John also became quite the bibliophile. He had a significant library, built in part upon the libraries of his father and grandfather, and which collection later became a significant early addition to the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, by way of a donation from Blackburn’s widow. Rev. Blackburn’s library was apparently sizable enough that duplicates and other items even made their way to the Buswell Library at Covenant Theological Seminary.

It is also interesting to note Blackburn’s presence as indicative of a connection between Westminster Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  To engage in a bit of speculation, the invitation to have Rev. Blackburn speak at the annual Day of Prayer would have been extended months prior, probably before Machen’s death, and perhaps even by Dr. Machen himself. Without troubling ourselves to access Machen’s correspondence to confirm that idea, we do know that Dr. Machen had presented his lectures on the virgin birth of Christ at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia. These were the Thomas Smyth Lectures for 1927, and during that time, Rev. Blackburn pastored a church just twenty-some miles away. He could easily have attended those lectures. Lastly, Machen’s father served for a time as one of the trustees at the Seminary. So in light of those connections, it is entirely possible that Machen might have known Rev. Blackburn for many years prior to 1937.

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY.
by the Rev. John C. Blackburn
[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian, 43 (15 May 1937): 40-42.]

This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary last March. Mr. Blackburn is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.

“The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity. The ends justified the means.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshipped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!!

Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes. While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

It’s August and it seems that everyone is away on vacation. So now for something completely different:

Put down the books and get some exercise.

In the biography of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, we find this snippet from a letter he wrote, dated August 7th, 1801. Miller’s son, who served as his biographer, writes that this letter “will give an idea of some of the expedients of the city clergy of that day, for bodily and mental recuperation:

“On Wednesday week last, I went down with a large party of gentlemen, (twenty-six in number,) to amuse myself with fishing on the sea-bass banks. These banks are in the ocean, about twelve or fifteen miles to the southward of Sandy Hook, and nearly opposite Long Branch. The company was pleasant, the fishing delightful, the bathing highly refreshing, and the mirth and jollity of the party, notwithstanding the presence of several clergymen, so great, as almost to border on being excessive. We returned the next evening; and I think I felt ten per cent, at least, better for the jaunt. Contrary to all my expectations, I escaped sea-sickness; though my wish was, for the sake of its salubrity, to experience that painful disorder.”

Words to Live By:
For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NASB)

It would be a mistake to understand Paul as saying that bodily exercise is of no use. Rather, he is making a comparative statement, that bodily exercise is of little profit when compared with the eternal gain of godliness. Even the most physically fit person will eventually die, whereas godliness holds promise for the present life and for the life to come. A corollary verse would be Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” If the benefit of living a healthy life and getting some regular exercise is so obvious, can’t we see the vastly greater benefit of first trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and then living out that faith in accordance with God’s Word, the Bible?

Source: The Life of Samuel Miller, (1869), vol. 1, p. 142.

The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 and continued on for about ten years. Appearing on the pages of the Presbyterian Survey in 1915, there was this introduction to a brief article on Presbyterian missions to the Mexican people:

“Among the hundreds of thousands of Mexican people who have peacefully invaded our borders, and have come to make their permanent home in our country, there is no more important center than San Antonio. Apart from the thousands who are transiently here for safety and sustenance incident to the military and industrial troubles in the Republic of Mexico, we have a large permanent Mexican population which is steadily growing. Because they speak the Spanish language only, it is impossible to serve them by the ordinary Home Mission forces. A separate force and equipment must be provided, as distinct as if located in a foreign land.

“For ten years we have had at San Antonio a Presbyterian work for the Mexicans. It was established by Rev. Walter S. Scott, and has been served at different times by two Mexican pastors, Rev. Abram Fernandez and Reynaldo Avila. . . .”

scott_walter_1865-1937Walter S. Scott, the first person ordained in Texas as an evangelist of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (aka, Southern Presbyterian) to Mexican Americans, was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, on August 6, 1865, to Walter and Mary (Pirie) Scott. The Scotts had moved from Texas to Mexico during the Civil War and raised their son to be bilingual. The family returned to San Antonio in 1878.

Strongly influenced by the evangelical teaching of Melinda Rankin, who at that time was operating a foreign mission station in Monterrey, Scott decided to seek opportunities to fulfill his childhood ambition of missionary service. Although he never completed a formal theological education, the Presbytery of Western Texas ordained him in 1892 as “an evangelist to the Mexican people” because of the exceptional nature of his ministry and his ability to speak Spanish fluently. Using San Antonio as home base, Scott visited small towns in South Texas, where he held revivals and organized churches. Statistics in 1902 showed eleven churches, eleven Sunday schools, twenty-five elders, and 618 communicants in the region. Five years later there were seventeen churches, nearly 1,000 communicants, and four ordained Mexican-American ministers. In 1908 the Synod of Texas (PCUS) approved the formation of the Texas-Mexican Presbytery, which continued to be that denomination’s focal point of Mexican-American missions, until its dissolution in 1955.

However, Scott’s ministry was not without problems. Personality clashes between him and Robert C. Campbell, a fellow missionary leader, led to repeated financial and jurisdictional problems and did considerable damage to the Texas-Mexican Presbytery after 1908. Scott’s personal life also caused him problems. His marriage in 1889 to Mary Case of San Antonio was unhappy despite the birth of three children. His frequent and lengthy trips to South Texas missions led to a separation in 1911 and a bitter divorce in 1916. During his years in the mission field Scott was based in San Marcos (1892-1904), San Antonio (1905-12), Taylor (1914-20), and Waco (1921-37). He organized churches and Sunday schools in Central Texas until the Great Depression curtailed missionary activities. In 1935 the Advanced Field, a missionary jurisdiction established by Scott in Taylor, was absorbed by the Texas-Mexican Presbytery, and Scott became a member of that body. He retired the same year and died in Temple, Texas, on December 7, 1937. Many Mexican-American congregations trace their origins to Scott and his pioneering ministry.

Words to Live By:
God is not hindered by our sin. He can use us for His glory in spite of our shortcomings and failures. That fact gives us no room to be complacent with sin in our lives, but at the same, when all is said and done, the Lord will accomplish His purposes, for His glory. It was a common saying among the Puritans, “Better to suffer the greatest adversity, than to commit the least sin.” Would that all of us, as God’s people, would live our lives in an exceptional way—exceptional for obedience to His Word and exceptional for holiness, mercy and love.

For Further Study:
The records of the Texas-Mexican Presbytery (PCUS), 1861-1954, as well as a small manuscript collection for Rev. Scott are to be found preserved among the Seminary Archives at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas

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

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Scripture References: Heb. 10:39. John 1:12. Phil. 3:9. John 6:40.

Questions:

1. Why is faith in Jesus Christ called a “saving grace”?

It is called a “saving grace” because it is a gift of God and is given to the sinner not because of any merit or worth the sinner has (l Cor. 4:7).

2. Why is this faith called faith in Jesus Christ?

It is called such because Christ is the principal object of saving faith according to Acts 16:31.

3. Why is the word “receive” used in this Question?

The word “receive” is used because Christ is offered in Scripture as a gift. He is given to those who are without hope in themselves, have nothing and are nothing.

4. Why does the Question mention resting on Him alone for salvation?

The person coming to Christ must rest on Him alone because the Bible reveals Him as the only foundation on whom one can rest his confidence, his trust.

5. What is this salvation that is received by the person coming to Him?

This salvation includes three things:

(1) Deliverance from the curse of the law.
(2) Deliverance from the dominion of sin.
(3) The blessedness of heaven.

6. Who offers Christ to us?

God offers Christ to us, God the Father who made the offer in John 3:16.

7. Do all believers have the same measure of saving faith?

No, all believers do not. Some have little faith and others have strong faith (Note the comparison of Matt. 14:31 and Rom. 4:20), But even those with little faith have sufficient to get to glory if it is saving faith.

PREACHING THE SAVING FAITH

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, in his wonderful book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, states:

“Lop-sided Christians are generally produced by preachers or evangelists whose doctrine lacks balance, or rotundity, or wholesomeness. More and more as we proceed with our studies we shall see how vitally import are the circumstances of the birth of the Christian.”

The preaching of, witnessing to, saving faith in Jesus Christ is an awesome responsibility of the believer. Too often it is not done at all. Too often when it is done it is done with methods that are far from being all-inclusive, theologically speaking. It is simply a “passport to heaven” approach or an offering of the forgiveness of sin without anything else being mentioned.

The whole salvation message should be preached or witnessed to by a believer. Usually deliverance from the curse of the law (from the wrath of God) is made plain, it is offered by the person speaking. The individual hearing it simply then thinks in terms of his deliverance and possibly the fact he will someday reach heaven. But what about the time in between, the months and years before he goes to meet his Lord? Is not the doctrine of the deliverance from the dominion of sin part of saving faith?

I once heard an evangelist give the invitation in a very plain, Scriptural manner. In it he certainly emphasized that “If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ your sins will be forgiven” but he also made it very plain that a part of saving faith-if it is truly wrought in. the soul-is the fact regeneration has taken place in the soul and now there will be a new principle of life present and that new life will produce fruits of holy living. It meant new life will want, for the most part, to live a holy life. The new life will have power to—will to want to—conquer sin and obey God and to make his will the rule of life in the days to come.

It is true that this faith will start small for it is a new life. But it will grow and will want to grow. Why can’t this be made plain to those coming to Christ, why can’t they be made to see in t.he beginning that the Christian life is not simply a passport to heaven but also a life of hating and fleeing from sin? Paul knew this and wrote II Cor. 5:17 for all of us to see and believe.

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. 6 No.3 (March 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: