The Gospel to New Orleans

LarnedSylvester02The Rev. Sylvester Larned, the subject of our post today, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on August 31st, 1796. He was the son Col. Simon Larned, a high-ranking officer in the American army who had served during the Revolutionary War. Of young Sylvester, it was said that in early childhood he gave good indications of future promise, and that the commanding eloquence for which he was so much distinguished in later life, began to be developed in his earliest years. He had a remarkable, upbeat temper, and other indications of a superior mind. One story that is famously told of young Sylvester–that while not even yet in his teens, he made a wager with his brother that he could make him weep just by talking to him. Now there was nothing solemn or painful ongoing in their lives at that time. But Sylvester began to ply his brother with words, and such was the force of those words, that in a very short time he actually melted down his brother into unwilling tears; whereupon, with a playful jab, he claimed his prize.

At the age of fourteen he began attending college, and in his senior year, God’s hand rested on him, bringing him to a conviction of his sins. Soon after, he decided it was his life’s purpose to serve the Lord in pulpit ministry. So, in the autumn of 1813, he began his preparations at Andover Seminary. However, he left after only a semester and returned home to teach for a year. Then in 1815, he renewed his studies, this time at Princeton Theological Seminary. He grew in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ particularly in his final year, graduating in 1817, and was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of New York. Wherever he preached, crowds would gather, “overflowing congregations hung in rapture on his lips, and were melted down under the power of his eloquence.” Not since Whitefield had one so young made such an impression in this country.

It was at about this time that the Church began to sense the strong need of the Gospel in Louisiana. The claims of Christ Jesus had barely ever been proclaimed in New Orleans. One stalwart pioneer, a Rev. Cornelius, had done spade work, preparing the way, but he had no fixed connection with the city. For the true advance of the Gospel there, the work required someone committed to the people of the city. Larned was selected for that work. Ordained as an evangelist, he began his journey south.

“On his first arrival in that city, a general and unprecedented interest was awakened by his preaching; and everything seemed to indicate that Providence had sent him there to produce a great revolution in the character of New Orleans. The uncommon majesty with which he exhibited the truths of the Gospel, the almost magic power by which he entranced and rivetted his hearers, drew after him a multitude composed of all classes, from the highest to the lowest in society.” Soon influential people stepped forward to call him as their pastor, to commit to his support and to the building of a home for the new church.

In those years, the summers were known as the sickly season; those who could afford to, would vacate the city for healthier regions. But in 1820, Rev. Larned resolved to stay with the poor among his people, those who could not afford to flee the city. He resolved to die on the field of service if God so willed. Well into August of that year, Larned remained healthy, ministering to the sick and dying throughout the city. Then, on the last Sunday of that month, a day of public humiliation and prayer, Larned met with his people in the morning, and again in the afternoon, but by the close of the day, he had been laid low by the fever. It broke his strength, and on August 31st, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned breathed his last. “When the delirium of death was not on him, he was firm and collected. When most aware of his danger, he was most assured of his Saviour’s presence and power…”

Words to Live By:
As we read through some of the accounts of the life of Sylvester Larned, his tremendous powers of persuasion are a common focal point of these accounts. That can be quite troubling, for we know that true spirituality depends not on clever words, but upon spiritual reality. So it is reassuring to read in one account that “When he first appeared as a Minister of the Gospel, he was led to bestow too much attention on what he thought most likely to attract the mass of men; we allude to his style of writing, and mode of illustrating divine truth. But when he became a settled pastor, he found that eloquence would not feed his people. A great revolution immediately took place in his style of instruction. He became more plain, more didactic, and evangelical; and the consequence was, that while they who had been attracted by human power, were displeased, the sheep of the fold found more of that food which came down from above.”

Trivia: Did you note that the Rev. Sylester Larned was born and died on the same calendar day? That sort of thing is actually a rather rare occurrence.

A Great Blessing of the Great Awakening

In these devotionals before, we have written several times on the ministry of David Brainerd to the native Americans in the land.  Some of you may be familiar with the work of John Eliott among the same people in pre-Revolutionary days.  Others of early Christianity, including many Presbyterian clergy, saw in their existence an opportunity to spread the gospel.  But no where was there such a ray of hope than in the person and work of the Rev. Samuel Occom, a native American himself.

Born in 1743, of the Mohegan tribe, he was one of the first converts from among the native American tribes during the First Great Awakening.  It was said that his mother had first come to knowledge of Christ herself after contact with the revivalist preachers of the New Side Presbyterians.  Then Samuel Occom himself, at age 16, came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministry of a Great Awakening preacher named Davenport.

Samuel sought out a Congregational minister  by the name of Eleazar Wheelock for the purpose of being discipled by him.  The latter had an Indian classical school in his own home.  Samuel entered Wheelock’s school and stayed there four years, studying the biblical languages as well as theology.  He began to minister to his own people in New England and Long Island.  While in Long Island, he married a Christian Indian, and to this couple, ten children were born.

On August 30, 1759, Samuel Occom was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Long Island.  His trial sermon was given on Psalm 72:9, “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.”   It was received and  he was received as a Presbyterian minister.

With the purpose of raising support for Rev. Wheelock’s Indian charity school, Samuel Occom went to England, where he took the nation by storm.  Thousands came to hear this converted Indian minister, with the result that 12,000 pounds were raised for the Indian school. Even the king of England gave a large amount of funds.  Samuel Occum preached over 300 sermons while in England.

Upon arriving back in the colonies, events began to sour considerably.  Promises of support for Samuel’s family while he was absent from them were not fulfilled. Further, plans to establish an Indian school were dropped, with the money raised from the trip going to support an all-white school.  That later school is known today as the Ivy League educational institution, Dartmouth College.  It is said, given the circumstances, that Samuel could be listed as a co-founder of Dartmouth.  Samuel Occom, however,  was decidedly against the beginning of this ninth educational facility in the colonies, as it was taking money away from the strengthening of an all-Indian school.

Samuel Occom went up to New York and established the first Christian Indian settlement known as Brothertown, New York.  It later was moved to Wisconsin.  Samuel Occom went to be with the Lord on July 14, 1792.

Words to live by:  The early Presbyterians in our country had a desire to see the first inhabitants of America become Christians and reach their own people with the gospel.  The fruition of this desire was seen in Samuel Occom.  However, they could have treated their new converts is a better way. Certainly, what the Rev. Wheelock did to Occam was born out of sinful covetousness and theft, both directly forbidden in the tenth and eight commandments of the moral law.  The latter should have been disciplined by his church for those sins.  That Samuel Occom continued to minister after that in evangelism, is remarkable and a testament to the saving grace which was in his life.

What a Novel Idea!

This contributor has been involved in several church plants himself as well as participating in Presbytery church planting efforts in the Presbyterian Church in America.  So when a mission church, or for that matter, an organized church begins anew in a new building, there can be no better beginning service than that of a prayer meeting.   And yet that is exactly what happened in West Chester, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1956.  Moving into a new structure for their smaller congregation, the first service was a prayer meeting.

And to be sure, united prayer before the Sovereign God was needed for that Pennsylvania congregation. For that very same year, the national denomination of the Bible Presbyterian Church had a sizeable schism which could very easily have weakened what God’s Spirit  had already been accomplished in this city and church.  But God was faithful in giving wisdom to the congregation, enabling them to stay independent of the whole issue for a while.

The church had begun in 1938 as a core group of faithful and committed Christians left the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. over the apostasy in that once great church.  Beginning with just a nucleus of Christians, they were able to begin a church role of thirteen members, with help from pulpit supplies from Faith Theological Seminary.  They began as the Independent Church of West Chester.  One year later, they affiliated with the Bible Presbyterian Church.  Faithful pastors proclaimed the whole counsel of God and the church grew.  Evangelistic outreach was begun in the town, and people began to respond to the gospel.

Eventually, they affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Since 1982, they became a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Their allegiance to the Bible as God’s Word, inspired, inerrant, and infallible, remains the same since they began as a local church of Jesus Christ.

Words to live by:
There is a slogan which American business have often used, sometimes even painted  on the shell of a building, which said, “Build it, and they will come.”  That probably isn’t always the case, so it is more of a hope than anything else.  But in the framework of God’s church,  with the faithful proclamation of the Scriptures, the everlasting gospel, coupled with the sovereign God,  it is true, as this local church in West Chester Pennsylvania has experienced in the almost 75 years of its witness.  Praise  God for faithful churches, true to the faith once delivered unto the saints.

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

Q. 100. What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “Our Father which is in heaven,” teacheth us to draw near to God, with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us and that we should pray with and for others.

Scripture References: Isa. 64:9; Luke 11:13; Rom. 8:15; Eph. 6:1; Acts 12:5; Zech. 8:21.

Questions:

1. When we say “Our Father” in the prayer, are we speaking of one God the Father?

No, we are speaking of the triune God. The Father is mentioned but the Son and the Holy Spirit are included because they are the same in essence.

2. Is it possible for everyone to pray this prayer?

No, it is a prayer that only those who are believers are able to pray. It is only those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them because of their relationship to Jesus Christ that can call out “Our Father” and sincerely mean it.

3. What can we be taught from the words “Our Father” in the prayer?

We can be taught that we can address our Lord with an attitude that is likened (though deeper) to the attitude of a child towards his earthly father. It is an attitude of love, adoration, and delight.

4. Why is it important for us to know God is in heaven?

It is important for us as by this we can direct our prayers to Him away from the cares of this world and to expect our blessings from above. It should also teach us to be careful of our attitude toward God that it is a holy attitude and an attitude of carefulness of our words directed toward Him. (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

5. Should we not remember that the preface contains the word “Our” as we pray?

Yes, we should remember this constantly. This should teach us to pray with and for others. It should remind us that we are “one in Christ Jesus” and that we are not alone no matter what our trouble or difficulty might be here on earth.

ELEMENTARY PRAYER

One of the difficulties of the prayer life on the part of many is that they attempt some of the more advanced patterns of prayer before becoming well-versed in elementary prayer. What is elementary prayer? The simple procedure of making of requests and giving thanks.

There are higher patterns of prayer. There are such things as adoration, communion, spiritual warfare, intercession and contemplation. But so many times the young believer–and many times the believer of many years–will attempt some of these higher patterns, become discouraged, and the prayer life will continue to suffer. How can we train ourselves to reach the higher patterns some day?

One of the simple methods is to keep a “Prayer Card” in your pocket or in your Bible or in your purse and keep an orderly list of things for which you can pray. As new things come to your attention, add them and you will be amazed at how your list will grow. You will also be amazed at the increases in urgency in prayer on your part.

This urgency in prayer is one of our greatest needs. So many times we seem to feel we can only pray when we are in the right mood. We should remember that our Sovereign God knows all about our moods and will give us the grace, as we cast ourselves on Him, to rise above our moods and be regular and urgent in our prayer lives.

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman tells the story of Praying Hyde (John Nelson Hyde) coming to his room for prayer. Dr. Chapman stated, “He came up to my room, turned the key in the door, dropped on his knees, waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips. I could hear my own heart thumping and his beating. I knew I was with God. Then with upturned face, down which tears streamed, he broke out with, ‘O, God!’ For five minutes he was still again. When he knew that he was talking with God, there came from the depths of his heart such petitions for men as I have never heard before. I rose from my knees knowing what real prayer is.”

We need more Praying Hydes today. Will you join with me with some elementary prayer? (Luke 18:1).

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. 4 (April 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

A Sermon Containing Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers …”
by Samuel Sherwood (Aug 31, 1774)                     

Samuel Sherwood (1730-1783) was a graduate of Yale and Princeton (at the time led by his uncle Aaron Burr), who pastored in Weston (CT) from 1757 to his death in 1783. Next to this sermon, his other published sermon (also of political import) was his sermon, “The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness” (see the earlier sermon in this series here).

Delivered on a Connecticut Fast Day in 1774, the full title of this sermon flies the flag: “A sermon, containing Scriptural instructions to civil rulers, and all free-born subjects. In which the principles of sound policy and good government are established and vindicated; and some doctrines advanced and zealously propagated by New-England Tories, are considered and refuted.” It also includes “an appendix, stating the heavy grievances the colonies labour under from several late acts of the British Parliament, and shewing what we have just reason to expect the consequences of these measures will be” by the Rev. Ebenezer Baldwin, of Danbury.

Sherwood’s text was Acts 22:28 (followed by two quotes from Cicero), and he humbly considered his work a “poor mite” in the public discourse. His initial hope was that “our charter and birth right privileges may be taken from us; that we may be ruled by the iron rod of oppression, and chained down to eternal slavery and bondage.” He cheers on the patriots and others who were recently awakened by tragic events in Boston (and elsewhere). This burgeoning patriotism “if duly regulated by Christian principles and rules, ensure success to American liberty and freedom,” he thought, would deliver the colony. He thought, “No free state was ever yet enslaved and brought into bondage, where the people were incessantly vigilant and watchful; and instantly took the alarm at the first addition made to the power exercised over them.—They are those only of the tribes of Issachar, who keep in profound sleep; and like strong and stupid asses, couch down between heavy burdens; that insensibly sink into abject slavery and bondage. It is a duty incumbent upon us at all times, to keep a watchful attention to our interests; (especially in seasons of peril and danger,) to watch and pray that we fall not.” At the same time, he called for good order and for men to work within “their own proper spheres,” eschewing anarchy.

While his listeners had been well-steeped in apostolic doctrine (to fear God and honor the King, 1 Peter 2:16), Sherwood also warned against being deceived by corrupt leaders. Some, he warned, “may have the advantage of others, in their tendency to promote these Christian and political virtues; yet I believe there may be mean, base and mercenary wretches in every profession, who for one sweet delicious morsel to themselves, might be tempted to sell their country with all its liberties and privileges, as profane Esau sold his birth-right.”

Appealing to 2 Samuel 23:3 (perhaps the most cited political text of the era), Sherwood rejected jure divino political governance. Since human societies, he suggested, were based on voluntary compacts, those same societies were free to form their own laws. While God’s government is fixed, various nations were free to design their own political forms. Notwithstanding, those same societies also had the right to expect their rulers to live up to certain standards (as per 2 Sam. 23:3). Specifically, he announced his outline as:

  1. Consider[ing] the necessity and importance of justice in civil rulers.
  2. Show[ing] that the fear of the Lord is the proper, effectual principle, to influence such to the observation and practice of justice.

On that first heading, Sherwood argued: “Was the doctrine true, That all property is vested in the king, or chief rulers; and that they can do no wrong to their subjects: Such scripture precepts and directions from the sovereign Ruler of the world as that in my text, would be entirely needless and impertinent; and seem, on this supposition, to argue his want of wisdom and knowledge, on this important subject.” THAT rulers could err and become corrupt—call it the fallibility of governors—Sherwood thought, called for a distributed government that would maintain some accountability. Public character standards were thought to be appropriate. Eternal standards of justice and righteousness were applicable to rulers, who were “the ministers of God, instituted and ordained to attend continually unto this very thing; and in both these capacities, they must be just.”

In a familiar catechism, justice was to be seen:

  • In the making of laws (here and elsewhere Sherwood called for non-sectarian legislation), and;
  • In how they perform their office—not only were laws to be theoretically just, but the implementation of the laws was to be just.

Notwithstanding, “the fear of the Lord,” he preached, “is the proper, effectual principle to influence civil rulers to the exact observance of justice.” After these principles were addressed, Sherwood included an extended set of applications or “improvements,” which included:

  • A thankful praise for God’s providence—“The bigger part of the world have had their liberties wrested out of their hands; been opprest and enslaved by lawless and cruel tyrants: while we are yet in the possession of freedom.”
  • As a correlate of public happiness, he stressed the “importance is it, that civil rulers be men of uprightness and integrity; men of real piety and religion; who fear the Lord, and keep up a proper awe and reverence of him upon their minds.”
  • A reminder that the Glorious Revolution supported the principle of governmental fallibility.
  • Sherwood identified a major “disadvantage” and sign of tyranny that “commerce, and the means of increasing our wealth and riches, are obstructed and great loss and damages sustained; and at the same time, public charges increased, in supporting agents, and commissioners to consult, and look out a way of safety and deliverance for us.” Further, he lamented:

WE are further threatened with being deprived of all our civil privileges, and brought under a most cruel, arbitrary and tyrannical kind of government. The scheme of government planned out for Boston, is in its whole frame and constitution, completely despotic and arbitrary. The will of the chief ruler is law; and the subject holds his estate, and even life, only during his pleasure. This arbitrary government will, no doubt, be carried to its greatest extent through all the American colonies, and exercised in all its terrors and cruelties upon them, if the present ministry are permitted to carry the point they are contending for, in such a sanguine manner.

Several of his thoughts are worth heeding. He appealed for a Protestant unity in view of the present state, “notwithstanding lesser differences among them; that we may stand or fall together: and not be devoured one of another; nor become an easy prey to foreign enemies who may seek our ruin.” He further asked for perspective: “What are those things worth, that alienate people’s affections, and cause divisions; in comparison to our dear liberties and privileges that are endangered hereby?” He cautioned again a “party-spirit” that would weaken the nation or lead to an infatuation that might “blind [us] to our own interest, and that of our children’s, as to pursue measures that are destructive of it?”

Accordingly, he urged his listeners to set aside their passion and prejudice in favor of the common welfare, not meddling with any distractions that carried “the rankest poison.” “Let our country’s interest, glory and prosperity,” he cheered, “be uppermost in our hearts, and use our best endeavours for the advancement of it. Let all strength center and unite in this grand point. Let us remember, this in the common interest of all the colonies; and that each particular inhabitant is concerned herein and must expect to share the fate, in some degree, of the body he is connected with. If the foundation of our public liberties and privileges be overturned, all will be affected, and must expect to suffer in the sad ruin. . . .” He concluded with this stirring rhetoric:

Let us act on principles of moderation, candor and charity; and endeavour in meekness of wisdom to instruct those that oppose themselves, and their country’s good; and recover them to the paths of truth. Let us prize and well improve our privileges, and use our influence to promote the public good. . . . We want wise, steady, judicious rulers in such a day as this; men of sterling integrity and real religion. It is of importance that all orders of men be faithful in their several departments, for defending and promoting the public good. Let us keep stedfastly fixed in the good old principles of our fathers, and cheerfully take our lot and portion one with another; saying as Ruth to Naomi, Whether thou goest, I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. The Lord’s hand has been very conspicuous in the first settlement, and past preservation of these plantations: He will take care of the generation of the righteous; and break the yoke of their oppressors; and give them peace and happiness. Blessed are the people that are under his care and conduct; yea, blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. AMEN.

This sermon is posted on line at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N10741.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext. It is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and in my 2012 Election Sermons.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

Dr. Samuel MillerIt was on this day, August 26, in 1829 that the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller delivered a sermon at the installation of the Rev. William Buell Sprague. While a student at Princeton, Sprague sat under the teaching of Drs. Alexander and Miller, and came to renounce the unitarian views he held as a young man*. Miller and Sprague subsequently became life-long friends, with Miller preaching this sermon at Sprague’s installation as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Albany, New York. Rev. Sprague later brought the eulogy, in 1850, at Miller’s funeral.

[*Growing up in Connecticut, Sprague was for a time convinced of Unitarianism by his second tutor, Abiel Abbot, a Harvard graduate. Despite coming back to an orthodox Christian faith, Sprague maintained a long friendship with Abbot and another Unitarian, Jared Sparks. How many times he must have pled with them to repent of their heresy!]

The first several points of Dr. Miller’s sermon are reproduced below, with a link to the full text of Dr. Miller’s sermon provided at the end of today’s post.

SERMON.
Titus I. 9.   Holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught,
that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

The inspired Apostle is here giving directions concerning the proper character and qualifications of ministers of the Gospel. Some duties are common to all Christians; while others belong either exclusively, or in an eminent degree, to pastors and teachers.  The latter is the case with regard to the injunction implied in our text.  On all the disciples of Christ is laid the charge to “hold fast the faithful word;” but on the guides and rulers in the house of God is this obligation especially devolved; among other reasons, for this, that they “may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers.”

By “the faithful word,” here spoken of, we are evidently to understand the pure, unadulterated doctrines of Christ; the genuine Gospel, as revealed by a gracious God for the benefit of sinful men.  Not the doctrines of this or the other particular denomination of Christians, as such, but the doctrines of the Bible. This system of doctrine is represented as that which we “have been taught.”  The Gospel which we preach, my friends, is not our Gospel.  We neither invented it, nor can we improve it.  “I certify you,” says the same Apostle who penned the words of our text —“ I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The original word, here properly translated “hold fast,” is very strong and expressive in its import.  It signifies keeping a firm hold of any thing, in opposition to those who would wrest it from us.  Of course, it implies that Gospel truth is and will ever be opposed by enemies and “ gainsayers ;” and that maintaining and propagating truth must always be expected, in such a world as this, to require unceasing effort and conflict.

The general position of our text, then, is — That the Ministers of our holy Religion, if they desire to convince, to convert, or to edify their fellow-men, are solemnly bound to maintain for themselves, and diligently to impart to those around them, “ sound doctrine,” or, in other words, the genuine truths of the gospel.

To illustrate and confirm this position, let us, first, inquire, why we ought to maintain sound doctrine ; and, secondly, how it ought to be maintained ; or in what manner, and by what means ? I. The first inquiry which demands our attention, is,—why ought we to maintain sound doctrine? Why is it important that all believers, and Ministers of Religion in particular, should hold fast the faithful word ? And here, let me ask,

1.  Can any thing more be necessary to establish the duty before us, than the consideration that “the faithful word” of which we speak is from God ; that it was given to us for our temporal and eternal benefit ; and, of course, given, not to be disregarded, but to be respected, studied, loved, and diligently applied to the great purposes for which it was revealed ? To suppose that we are at liberty lightly to esteem such a gift, coming from such a source ; or that we commit no sin in voluntarily permitting a deposit so precious to be corrupted, perverted, or wrested from us, is a supposition equally dishonourable to God, and repugnant to every dictate of reason.

2.  But further ; “ holding fast” the genuine system of revealed truth, is frequently and solemnly commanded by the great God of truth. Both the Old Testament and the New abound with injunctions to this amount. In the former, we are exhorted to “ cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding ; to seek it as silver, and search for it as for hid treasures.” We are exhorted to “buy the truth, and not to sell it.”  And they are highly commended who are represented as “ valiant for the truth.” In the latter, the language of the Holy Spirit is, “ Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast received.” And again, “ Contend earnestly for the faith”—that is, the revealed doctrine which is the object of faith—“ once delivered to the saints.”  And again, “ Be not carried about with every wind of doctrine, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” And again, “ Hold fast the profession of your faith firm without wavering.” And again, “ If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine”—that is, the true doctrine of Christ—“ receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed ; for he that biddeth him God speed, is a partaker of his evil deeds.” Nay, the inspired Apostle pronounces, “ If any man come unto you, and bring any other Gospel” — that is, any other system of doctrine concerning the salvation by Christ—“ than that which ye have received, let him be accursed.”
[* Prov. ii. 3, 4; Prov. xxiii. 23; Jer. ix. 3; II.  Tim. i. 13; Jude 8; Eph. iv. 14; Heb. x. 23; II.  John, 10, 11; Gal. i. 9.]

3.  The obligation to “ hold fast” the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, appears from considering the great importance which the Scriptures every where attach to evangelical truth.

SpragueWBI am aware that it is a popular sentiment with many who bear the Christian name, that doctrine is of little moment, and that practice alone is all in all.  But such persons surely forget that there can be no settled and habitual good practice, without good principles ; and that sound, correct doctrine, is but another name for sound principle.  Take away the  doctrines of the Gospel, and you take away its essential character.  You take away every thing that is adapted to en-lighten, to restrain, to purify, to console, and to ele-vate.  Take away the doctrines of our holy Religion, in other words, the great truths of which the “ glad tidings of great joy” are composed, and you take away the essence of the whole message ;—the seed of all spiritual life ; the aliment on which every believer lives ; the vital principles of all experimental piety, and of all holy practice.  What is Faith, but cordially embracing, with confidence and love, the great truths concerning duty and salvation which the Scriptures reveal ?  What is Repentance, but a holy sorrow for sin, founded on a spiritual perception of those doctrines concerning God, his character, his law, and the plan of mercy which his word proclaims ?  What is Hope, but looking forward with holy desire and expectation to that “ exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which “ the truth as it is in Jesus” freely offers to our acceptance ?  What, in short, is Religion, in the largest sense of the term, but the combination of “ knowledge of the truth,” “ love of the truth,” and “ walking in the truth ?” What is it but having just apprehensions of those great Objects which are revealed in Christian doctrine ; just affections and desires toward them ; and acting out these desires and affections in the temper and life ? No wonder, then, that when the impenitent are converted, they are said to “ come to the knowledge of the truth ;” that they are said to be “ born again by the word of truth ;” to be “ made free by the truth,” and to “ obey the truth ;”—by all which expressions we are plainly taught, that truth, or, which is the same thing, Christian doctrine, is the grand instrument, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, by which spiritual life is begun, carried on, and completed in every subject of redeeming grace.

Hence it is, that the scriptures every where represent bringing the truth, in some way, to men, as absolutely necessary to their conversion and salvation.  “ How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard ?” Hence they so plainly teach us, that there can be no real piety where the fundamental  doctrines of the Gospel are not embraced.  “ Whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”  On this principle, too, it is, that the inspired volume, with awful emphasis, declares certain “ heresies” to be “ damnable”—that is, inevitably destructive to the souls of men. And on the same principle it is, that all Scripture, and all experience teach us, that wherever the preaching and the prevalence of true doctrine has declined, there piety, immediately, and in a corresponding ratio, has declined ; good morals have declined ; and all the most precious interests of the church and of civil society, have never failed to be essentially depressed.

We cannot, indeed, undertake to pronounce how much knowledge of sound doctrine is necessary to salvation ; or how much error is sufficient to destroy the soul.  But we know, from the nature of the case, and especially from the word of God, that all error, like poison, is mischievous, and, of course, ought to be avoided. I know not, indeed, how large a quantity of a given deleterious drug might be necessary, in a particular case, to take away life : but of one thing there can be no doubt, that it is madness to sport with it, and that the less we take of it the better. As nothing but nutritious food will support the animal body ; so nothing but Zion’s provision, which is truth, can either commence, or sustain “ the life of God in the soul of man.”

. . . 

To read the full sermon, click the link below:—

Miller, Samuel, Holding Fast the Faithful Word: A Sermon, Delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Albany, August 26, 1829, at the installation of the Reverend William B. Sprague, D.D., as pastor of the said church. Albany; Packard and Van Benthuysen, 1829., 49 pp.

This blog is sponsored by the Historical Center of the Presbyterian Church in America, or more commonly, the PCA Historical Center. Our denomination came out of the old Southern Presbyterian Church, and it seems only right that we should know something of that earlier Church, its character, nature, faults and strengths. One instance of that history of our mother Church is embodied in the life of the man who directed that denomination’s foreign missions in the early part of the twentieth century. Our story today is told by the Rev. C. Darby Fulton, who succeeded Dr. Egbert W. Smith as Executive Secretary of the Foreign Missions Committee. [We have written previously of the Rev. Darby Fulton]. We find an additional interest in this bit of Presbyterian history centered in Greensboro, North Carolina, since that is where the PCA will meet in General Assembly in 2017, keeping in mind that the churches mentioned in this account are not PCA churches.

An Appreciation
by C. Darby Fulton, Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Committee of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church)

Rev. Dr. Egbert Watson Smith [15 January 1862 - 25 August 1944]On the evening of August 25, 1944, in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Rev. Egbert W. Smith, beloved Secretary of Foreign Missions, passed serenely to his eternal home. At the age of 82, near his birthplace, among his kindred and lifelong friends, within immediate reach of his chosen burial place, his life work accomplished, this valiant servant of Christ quietly took his leave as though the end of his day had come and he were going home to rest.

Egbert Watson Smith came from a line of old and distinguished families of Virginia. His father, the Rev. Dr. J. Henry Smith, was a Presbyterian minister, born and reared at Lexington. His mother, a daughter of Judge Egbert R. Watson, was born and brought up in Charlottesville. In 1859 his parents moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where Dr. Smith was born and where his early life and young manhood were spent.

Entering Davidson College at 16, he graduated as valedictorian with Phi Betta Kappa honors in 1882, winning also the Latin and Essayist gold medals. Later, when he was only 32, Davidson conferred upon him the Doctor of Divinity degree.

After a year of teaching in York, South Carolina, young Mr. Smith entered Union Theological Seminary, in Richmond, Virginia, graduating in 1886. Already his unusual gifts as a speaker and his great love for Foreign Missions, two outstanding characteristics of his later life, were in evidence. During his senior year he was unanimously elected by the student body to represent them at the first meeting of the Inter-Seminary Missionary Alliance of the United States and Canada. On his return, his report of the meeting to his fellow students was a factor in the final decision of a gifted young colleague, known later to the whole Church as Samuel N. Lapsley, founder of the Mission in Central Africa.

In his later years of service for the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Smith distinguished himself in varied phases of the work : as pastor; as evangelist; in Home Mission work; and pre-eminently in the work of Foreign Missions. He organized and was the first pastor of what became the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina. For three years he was the general evangelist and superintendent of Home Missions of the Synod of North Carolina. He was, first, co-pastor with his father, and, after his father’s death, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro. Later, he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Kentucky. After his third call to be Secretary of Foreign Missions he entered upon the work in July, 1911, as co-ordinate Secretary, and the following year was elected Executive Secretary.

To study the work at hand, Dr. Smith made numerous visits to the several Mission fields of the PCUS. He crossed the ocean twelve times and touched twenty-four foreign countries in the course of his travels. These journeys carried him through varied experiences. He was feasted by African chiefs; he dined with the sons of the world’s oldest civilizations. He moved with equal freedom among the most civilized of the earth’s people and the most primitive; he traveled by practically every known mode of conveyance; he threaded his way through the crowded streets of the great cities of Japan and China, as well as through the fastnesses of the jungles of Africa and Brazil; he was entertained at Oriental banquets with great pomp and ceremony, as well as in the surroundings of Congo villages to the cadence of native African music.

In 1932, after he had passed his seventieth birthday on January 15 of that year, Dr. Smith declined re-election as Executive Secretary of Foreign Missions, as he had long determined to relinquish the headship of the work when he reached that age. However, the Executive Committee of Foreign Missions immediately elected him Field Secretary, in which capacity he continued to serve with unabated effectiveness to the very day of his death. During the last year of his life he delivered 352 missionary addresses in 62 communities in ten states. No single year in all his long career as Foreign Mission Secretary was more fruitful than his last.

He was distinguished as the author of several books, each of which has reflected his unusual gift and power as a writer. In 1901 he wrote The Creed of Presbyterians, an examination of the Westminster Standards, that eventually went through multiple editions. In 1941, at the request of the publishers, he revised the work and added two chapters. Other of his works included China’s Background and Outlook (1914); Present Day Japan (1920); and The Desire of All Nations (1928). His last work, published posthumously, was titled From One Generation to Another (1945).

smithEW_1901_CreedArchival:—
The Egbert W. Smith manuscript collection, which covers the period of 1912-1944, consists of 2,0 cubic feet of archival material, housed in four boxes. The collection was formerly preserved at the old Presbyterian Historical Foundation in Montreat, North Carolina, and with the regrettable closure of that institution, the collection has now been relocated to the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.
Abstract:  This Collection consists of diaries, sermons, addresses, writings, correspondence, photographs, and a scrapbook. It includes writings and diary extracts documenting Smith’s trips to mission stations in Korea, Japan, and China, 1918-1919 and 1934, and Africa and the Middle East, 1932; and a scrapbook of clippings about Smith’s work for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. Executive Committee of Foreign Missions, 1912-1943.

Image sources:
1. Frontispiece photograph as found in From One Generation to Another. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1945.
2. Title page from Dr. Smith’s best known work, The Creed of Presbyterians, 1901 edition. The Creed of Presbyterians was published by The Baker and Taylor Co. of New York in 1901 and is a work of 223 pages in length. I was able to locate other editions reprinted in 1902; 1903; 1923; 1927; 1928; 1931; 1941; and 1954. It can also be found here: archive.org/details/creedofpresbyter00smitrich.

2000 Pastors Refused to Compromise

Suppose . . . just suppose now . . . that you as a minister, or your minister, had a certain time period to decide to renounce the ordination vows made at ordination, subscribe to a different set of doctrinal standards, promise to arrange the worship according to a different standard of worship, agree to be re-ordained by another ecclesiastical body, and do all this by a certain day, or be deposed by the spiritual authorities which had the approval of the government. Talk about change! And yet this was the way it was on this day in Presbyterian history, August 24, 1662 in the British Isles.

It was called officially The Act of Uniformity, 1662. Its longer title was “An Act for the Uniformity of Public Prayers and Administration of Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies and for the Establishing the Form of making, ordaining, and consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the Church of England.” It was broken up into five actions; (1) to have a complete and unqualified assent to the newly published book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.  (In passing, most preachers and people had not even seen this newly published book.) (2) to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England; (3) to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant; (4) To renounce any attempt to alter the government of the church or state; (5) to receive ordination at the hands of a bishop in the Church of England.

Combined with other acts of this Church, it excluded anyone who was not in compliance with the above from holding civil or military office. Students at Cambridge or Oxford would not receive any degrees from such study, if they refused this act.

And all this was to take place before August 24, which date was the celebration of St. Bartholomew Day. Students of church history remember, as they did then, that this was the day of the massacre in France when Huguenots were slaughtered by the Roman Catholics. So, this was a day remembered “Black” St. Bartholomew”s Day.

It is estimated that some 2000 ministers were ejected from their pulpits and parishes, including their manses, with Anglican priests put in their place. The majority were Presbyterian (1,816), Independents (194), and Baptists (19). A similar procedure was enacted in Scotland, with 400 ministers ejected from the pulpits and parishes. In future posts, we shall treat some of these ministers who were ejected on that day.

Words to Live By:
Two years ago, in 2012, there was a ministry event of reconciliation by the Church of England at the 350th anniversary of the Great Ejection. We might be glad that such a meeting took place, but the real issue was, as Ian Murray put it, the issue on the nature of true Christianity. Let’s face it. True adherence to the gospel will require sacrifice. That is why all of us as believing Presbyterians need to be more in prayer and watchfulness for our respective Presbyterian denominations and local churches. What has been faithful and true in the past may not be the case for the present and future witness of your church, if church officers and members grow careless about the faith once delivered unto the saints. As Paul put it, “the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Buy the Book:
If you can find either of these two volumes, Sermons of The Great Ejection (Banner of Truth, 1962) or Farewell Sermons (Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), they are well worth obtaining and reading, as they provide some of the gathered sermons preached by these pastors when torn from their congregations by the Act of Uniformity. As but a small sample, the following words are a portion of the sermon brought by the  Rev. John Whitlock on that fateful day. (time and space do not permit the full text)

REMEMBER, HOLD FAST, AND REPENT.

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.—Rev. 3:3.

Beloved, when I entered on this verse in the course of my Friday Lecture, I little thought that I had so short a time to preach among you. I hoped I should have enjoyed some further opportunities for some few weeks, at least as long as the Act of Uniformity allows. But it has pleased God by His wise and holy providence to order it otherwise. I being suspended from preaching here from this day forward, for nonconformity. How far rightly or legally on man’s part, I shall not dispute, but leave to the righteous God to determine. I desire that both you and I may not eye man, but God, in this dispensation. I did not think to have preached my Farewell Sermon to you from these words, but having begun this text, and finding the matter of it so seasonable and suitable to this sad occasion, I shall by God’s assistance proceed in the handling of it.

Since it is probable that I shall preach no more to you, I judge it very seasonable to leave the exhortation in the text with you, to call upon you to remember what and how you have received and heard, and to hold fast those wholesome truths you have heard, and those precious ordinances (at least the remembrance, impressions, and gracious effects of them) that you have enjoyed and been privileged with. Also, to repent of those sins, which have provoked, and may further provoke God to come on us as a thief, to take away many of His ministers from among us. . .

. . . The silence of ministers calls aloud on us all to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. It bids us to repent of our sins, the causes of God’s judgments. It calls on you to prize and improve ministers and ordinances, better, if God shall continue, restore or further afford them to you. Yes, ministers’ silence should cause people to speak the more and louder to God in prayer for the continuance and restoring of ministers and ordinances to them. When you do not hear so much and so often from God in preaching, let God hear the more and oftener from you in prayer. Ply the throne of grace. Give God no rest till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. And as our silence should make you speak the more to God, so also the more and oftener one unto another in holy conference, to provoke to love and to good works. And I beseech you, brethren, pray for us. Whatever God may do with us, or whithersoever we may be driven, we shall carry you in our hearts; and when and while we remember ourselves to God, we shall never forget you, but present you and your souls’ concerns daily unto God at the throne of grace in our prayers. And we earnestly beg this of you, as you would remember what we have spoken to you in the name of the Lord, so you would remember us to God, and let us have a room and share in your hearts and prayers. When you get into a corner to pour out your hearts before God, carry us to God upon your hearts. Do not forget us, but lift up a prayer to God for us, your (we hope we may say) faithful, though weak, unworthy ministers, who have laboured among you in the Word and doctrine.

I shall say no more, but conclude with these two Scriptures: ‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,’ Acts 20.32. The other Scripture is that request of Paul to, and prayer for, the Hebrews in Chapter 13.18-21: ‘Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

A Communion for American Covenanters

The entire service of Communion that Sabbath day on August 23, 1752 lasted nine hours.  But for some two hundred and fifty Covenanters gathered on that spot, it was their first communion outside the British Isles.

The teaching elder on that Lord’s Day was the Rev. John Cuthbertson, who was the first Reformed Presbyterian minister in the colonies.  As the only one, he had logged nearly 70,000 miles in the wilds of Colonial America, ministering to scattered Covenanters.  Often, there was no church building.  So they worshiped at various sites called “tents.”  It consisted of a large tree, with a wooden stand for the minister, and another for a Bible, with rough pews for the people, and nothing but the open sky for the roof.  On this occasion, they met at the Junkin Tent, just north of present day New Kingstown, Pennsylvania.

The communion at this first meeting in America lasted five days, with worship times on three of the five days.  The first day, which was Thursday, was a day of fasting, with a sermon by Rev. Cuthbertson.  Tokens of admission were given to those qualified spiritually to partake, after an exhortation for that purpose.  Prospective members were examined and received into the congregation.  On Friday and Saturday, no public worship was conducted.

In the services on the Sabbath, Rev. Cuthbertson paraphrased the 15th Psalm and preached from John 3:35: “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things in his hand.”  After the sermon, there was prayer and singing from the psalter.  Then the pastor spoke again about the sacrament, debarring some from the table while inviting others to the table of the Lord.  The communicants came, singing the Twenty-fourth Psalm, to sit at four tables as was the custom, to receive the elements of the sacred supper.  After the table services were concluded, he exhorted the communicants and led in prayer.  A part of the 103rd Psalm was sung.  Then after an interval of thirty minutes, another sermon was preached.  The entire service of that Communion day worship lasted nine hours.

Before the worshipers started home on Monday, another sermon was proclaimed as a departing reminder from the Word of God.

Words to live by:

We might well wonder whether God’s people today would sit through such protracted services.  As one minister commented, there would not be many left but the preacher, and most probably he too would feel like departing!   But let it be said that these early American Christians did not have all the privileges of weekly services nor access to countless Christian books and media outlets.  What they had, they treasured, and exhibited a spiritual fervor which, with all our spiritual privileges, too many professing Christians and churches lack that same spiritual fervor.

Revive Us Again
written by David T. Myers

It is a remarkable true story of God’s redemptive work.

Reared in a Scottish home, William Paton MacKay was born on May 13, 1839. We know nothing of his family except that his mother was a godly Scottish woman. All during his younger years, she endeavored to place the principles of biblical Christianity into his heart, but was met with only resistance by her son. When the latter went away to Edinburgh to attend the university, she handed him a Bible with his name on the inside cover which she had written, followed by John 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) She obviously commended him to the God of redemption.

Upon arriving at the University, William soon fell into the company of some aggressive unbelievers, joining the local infidel’s club, and began to live a godless life. To feed his drinking habit, he even sold the Bible which his mother has given to him, using the money to buy whiskey.

Fast forward to his graduation from the University of Edinburgh and his subsequent training to become a medical doctor. Now engaged in his medical practice, William was using those gifts of healing in a local city hospital when a dying man entered the hospital as a patient. The patient knew he would soon die and began to urgently request that the hospital staff get his landlady, as he yet owed her money for his rent. But also weighing heavy on his mind is a book in his apartment; he needed that book brought to him. “I need my book,” was his dying request. But alas, he perished without the book.

Curious, Dr. MacKay went to the apartment and asked the landlady about his patient’s great desire for this book. So they searched the apartment and found his Bible. But it was not just any Bible. It was the very same Bible which Dr. MacKay’s mother had given to him when he left for the university years before! Evidently, the dying man had bought the Bible from the pawn shop where young William had sold it years before.

Returning to his office at the city hospital, Dr. MacKay found his mother’s familiar writing in both his name and the text of John 3:16 on the inside cover. The pages were worn and weathered, but he could still note the texts which his mother had marked for him to read. The medical doctor read them that whole night in his medical office, and at the end of it the next mornng, his life was changed for good from a state of sin to a state of salvation.

He left the medical profession, went to a theological college, and became a minister. He served the Prospect Street Presbyterian Church, in Hull, Scotland, as their pastor. To the blessing of the wider Church, he wrote 17 hymns, always full of gospel truths. He departed to heaven on this day, August 22, in 1888.

Words to Live By:
His best known hymn is still familar today, entitled “Revive Us Again.” Oddly, it is not found in either edition of the Trinity hymnbook. That is to our loss, for it is most biblical, based both on Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2. The fourth verse describes Rev. MacKay’s spiritual beginning when it states, “All glory and praise To the God of all grace Who has bought us and sought us and guided our ways.” God did purchase with His blood, seeking and guiding Thomas MacKay. Now, can you, the reader, trace how the God of all grace bought, sought, and guided your way to salvation?

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