“My sincere prayer is, that your sun may set in serenity; that your latter end may be like that of the righteous; and that your remaining days, by the blessing of God’s providence and grace, may be rendered tolerable and even comfortable.”

The Great Secret of True Comfort

It was on this day, May 25th, in 1823, that Dr. Archibald Alexander wrote to his ailing mother, rejoicing in her recent recovery, yet seeking also to console and comfort her in the last days of her old age. The language of his letter may seem rather formal—we attribute that to the times. That he loved his mother dearly is no less certain. But his counsel here is so apt and useful for all to profit from. Take it to heart!  

Dr. Alexander to his Mother

Princeton, May 25, 1823.

My Dear Mother:—

“When I last saw you, it was very doubtful whether you would ever rise again from the bed to which you were confined. Indeed, considering your great age, it was not to be expected that you should entirely recover your usual health. I was much gratified to find that in the near prospect of eternity, your faith did not fail, but that you could look death in the face without dismay, and felt willing, if it were the will of God, to depart from this world of sorrow and disappointment. But it has pleased your Heavenly Father to continue you a little longer in the world. I regret to learn that you have endured much pain from a disease of your eyes, and that you have been less comfortable than formerly. Bodily affliction you must expect to endure as long as you continue in the world. ‘The days of our years are three-score and ten, and if by reason of strength they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’ But while your Heavenly Father continues you in this troublesome world, He will, I trust, enable you to be resigned and contented and patient under the manifold afflictions which are incident to old age.

“The great secret of true comfort lies in a single word, TRUST. Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain them. If your evidences of being in the favour of God are obscured, if you are doubtful of your acceptance with Him, still go directly to Him by faith; that is, trust in His mercy and in Christ’s merits. Rely simply on His word of promise. But not afraid to exercise confidence. There can be no deception in depending entirely on the Word of God. It is not presumption to trust in Him when He has commanded us to do so. We dishonour Him by our fearfulness and want of confidence. We thus call in question His faithfulness and His goodness. Whether your mind is comfortable or distressed, flee for refuge to the outstretched wings of his protection and mercy. There is all fulness in Him; there is all willingness to bestow what we need. He says, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. As thy day is so shall thy strength be. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’ Be not afraid of the pangs of death. Be not afraid that your Redeemer will then be afar off. Grace to die comfortably is not commonly given until the trial comes. Listen not to the tempter, when he endeavours to shake your faith, and destroy your comfort. Resist him, and he will flee from you. If you feel that you can trust your soul willingly and wholly to the hands of Christ, relying entirely on His merits; if you feel that you hate sin, and earnestly long to be delivered from its defilement; if you are willing to submit to the will of God, however much He may afflict you; then be not discouraged. These are not the marks of an enemy, but of a friend. My sincere prayer is, that your sun may set in serenity; that your latter end may be like that of the righteous; and that your remaining days, by the blessing of God’s providence and grace, may be rendered tolerable and even comfortable.

“It is not probable that we shall ever meet again in this world; and yet, as you have already seen one of your children go before you, you may possibly live to witness the departure of more of us. I feel that old age is creeping upon me. Whoever goes first, the rest must soon follow. May we all be ready! And may we all meet around the throne of God, where there is no separation for ever and ever! Amen!

“I remain your affectionate son,

“A.A.”

Note: Dr. Alexander was born on April 17, 1772, and was 51 years old when he wrote this letter. He was the third of nine children born to his parents. Of those children, his sister Nancy died in childhood and seven of the siblings were still living in 1839. Dr. Alexander’s declining years began about 1840 and he died on October 22, 1851 at the age of 79. His mother died October 11, 1825.

Our post today is an excerpt from George P. Hutchinson’s legendary book (an only slightly exaggerated claim), THE HISTORY BEHIND THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, EVANGELICAL SYNOD. This excerpt is from his chapter on the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, one of the two denominations which merged in 1965 to create the RPCES.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]

In the preceding chapter we have seen the rise of Reformed Presbyterianism in Scotland in the seventeenth century together with its exportation to America in the eighteenth. By the first years of the nineteenth century the Reformed Presbyterian Church was firmly planted in American soil. The reconstitution of the Reformed Presbytery in 1798 under the leadership of James McKinney was followed by an outburst of optimistic energy in the Church. “Important additions were soon after made to the ministry, and the Church entered on a career of vigorous labour, crowned by a large measure of progress.” As a result of this energy, the official judicial testimony of the American Reformed Presbyterian Church was published in 1807 under the title Reformation Principles Exhibited. Two years later—on May 24, 1809—”All the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, being convened, with ruling Elders delegated from different sessions, did unanimously agree to constitute a Synod.” The official name was to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America was well aware of her unique circumstances and opportunities. “God has, in his Providence, presented the human family in this country with a new experiment. The Church, unheeded by the civil powers, is suffered to rise or fall by her own exertions.” So wrote Alexander McLeod in Reformation Principles Exhibited. However, what would be the outcome of these unique circumstances? How would the Church respond to these unique opportunities? The Reformed Presbyterian Church looked upon the dawn of the nineteenth century with extreme optimism. Indeed, D. M. Carson entitles this chapter in the history of the Church “The New Optimism.”

This general attitude is well expressed in the words of James McKinney, uttered in 1797:

“The joint triumphs, of enlightened reason, and true religion, must soon become glorious.‟

Mankind would soon come to recognize the rights of God, and the millennium would be triumphantly ushered in. According to McLeod the Fall of the papal antichrist is fast approaching, and the time is near when the Lord will pour forth his Holy Spirit and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). This optimistic spirit was accompanied by the substantial growth of the Church. In 1798 there were two ministers, a few scattered congregations, and some 1000 communicant members. By 1832 there were 36 ministers, 60 organized congregations, and some 5,000 members. The sources of this growth were Covenant children, Reformed Presbyterians from Ireland and Scotland, and converts from other denomi- nations. These converts were looked upon as those who had become dissatisfied with the use of human compositions in singing God‟s praises, the relaxation of church discipline, the prevalence of Hopkinsian and other doctrinal errors, and “the carnal, worldly spirit of professors, in the churches which they left.‟ At the time of the appearance of the second edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited in 1824, it could be exclaimed: “Congregations are springing up in the desert, and the wilderness is becoming a fruitful field.‟ The organization of the Church kept pace with this growth. The number of presbyteries increased. A representative General Synod, to meet every two years, was established in 1823; and by 1832 the General Synod had constituted the Eastern and Western Subordinate Synods for yearly meetings. The Church was zealous for the education of her ministers, and in 1807 drew up a constitution for a theological seminary. This constitution is interesting, not only because it reveals the Church‟s conception of the nature of the ministry and of theological education, but also because it reveals her conception of what constitutes proper qualifications for the ministry. These are in order of importance: first, piety or practical godliness; second, good sense or talents commensurate with the calling; and third, a good theological education. As fund raisers for the seminary put it: “The Millennium is not to be introduced by ignorant enthusiasm. There must be an able ministry.‟ The Church was also conscious of her responsibility in the areas of discipline, evangelism, and doctrine. The Rev. David Graham was deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the Church for misconduct in 1812. In 1822 Covenanters in New York City founded the American Evangelical Tract Society to disseminate tracts in support of the principles of the Reformation. The ministers of the Synod were on the whole prolific authors. For a small number of men they produced a good deal of published material, much of which concerns doctrinal subjects. They were particularly concerned to defend traditional Calvinism against its modern substitutes. For instance, William Gibson wrote Calvinism vs. Hopkinsianism (1803), and Gilbert McMaster published a Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity (1815)—including the Trinity, the Person of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Depravity of Man, and the limited extent of the Atonement. McMaster inquires: What then? Shall men, in things of religion, be in a state of per- petual hostility? Shall the empire of the Prince of Peace never be united? Must each contend for his dogma? The Church of God is indeed lamentably distracted, and in that distraction all parties have a guilty hand. But can the malady be cured by an unprincipled abandonment of fundamental doctrines, merely to obtain a momentary repose from the pains of contest? Such repose would be that of death, to the interests of vital godliness.

It was in this spirit that Alexander McLeod wrote The Life and Power of True Godliness (1816).16 The position of the ministers of the Church on the matter of political dissent did not preclude their speaking out on political and social issues. McLeod puts it tersely in the first of his series of sermons in defense of the American cause in the War of 1812: “Ministers have the right of discussing from the pulpit those political questions which affect Christian morals.‟ The Church took a particularly strong stand on the slavery question, expressed in McLeod‟s Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1804); and as early as 1802 we read in the Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery: “It was enacted that no slave-holder should be allowed the communion of the Church.‟

As might be expected, one of the chief topics for discussion was the matter of the application of Christian principles to existing governments. It was chiefly differences in this area that led to the lamentable Disruption of 1833.

Disruption and Recovery In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America experienced a division which up to the present has been permanent. The majority adhering to the General Synod became known as the New Light General Synod, the minor- ity as simply the Old Light Synod. The Disruption of 1833 has its origins in the early years of the nineteenth century. To understand this momentous dispute in the Church it is necessary to mention some of the developments which led up to it.

Hutchinson, George P., The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. pp. 65-70.

This is a portion of an interesting review of the 1914 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), written by Columbia Theological Seminary professor, R.C. Reed [1851-1925]. His report is interesting for dating the noted change in the conduct of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly, from that of a more deliberative body to something more akin to a business model. The Assembly had been in the habit of meeting for nine days, and now had been meeting for only six, since 1912. Here Rev. Reed complains of the hurried nature of the Assembly and the resulting lack of patient, reasoned debate. Elsewhere we have noted that on one occasion, the Rev. John L. Girardeau spoke at length for two hours on the floor of the Assembly, in 1880. More remarkable still, the Assembly paid attention to his every word! 

From the Union Seminary Review, vol. 26, no. 1 (October 1914)

The General Assembly, reviewed by Rev. Professor R.C. Reed, Columbia, SC.

The fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, met in the Central Church, Kansas City, Mo., May 21, 1914, and was dissolved at 3:30 P.M., Thursday, May 28th. This is the third Assembly in succession which has limited the span of its life to six working days. These precedents will probably have the force of law for the future. Time was when the Assembly had to rush its business toward the close, in order to dissolution by the end of the ninth day from date of organization. The volume of business has increased rather than diminished. The recent Assemblies have shortened the time not by covering less ground, but by increasing the speed. The liberty of speech has been abridged. it has come to pass that by the time a speaker gets fairly launched, the cry of “question,” “question,” warns the speaker that further effort to get a hearing for his views will be useless. Age and distinguished services do not secure immunity from such discourtesy. The Assembly is ceasing to be a deliberative body, and coming to be an organization merely for business routine.

Obviously, our Assemblies are inoculated with the speed-madness of the age. It could hardly be otherwise. The members, who compose the Assembly, are accustomed by the use of the telephone, rapid transit, and other time-saving devices, to dispatch business at a rate that would have made a former generation dizzy. The speed at which we live is constantly increasing, with the result that we are growing more and more restless. The slightest delay is irksome. The train that pulls into the station ten minutes late creates almost a mob-spirit in those who have been constrained to lose so much of their precious time. When men, who live and move and have their being in an atmosphere charged with the frenzy of hurry, come together in a General Assembly, it is not surprising that they should begrudge every minute that does not show a decided progress in the calendar of business. They are not in the habit of having time to spare. Speech-making is not business, rather it is a clog on the machinery, and the less of it the sooner the members can record their votes and get at something else. The moderator is a good moderator in proportion as he rushes the grist through the mill.

May not an Assembly prize too highly the merit of expedition? Is the business entrusted to it of such a character that it can be properly dispatched with little or no deliberation? Are the members so familiar with all the questions with which they have to deal that they do not need to give time and thought to them? Many of these questions demand for their safe solution an extensive acquaintance with Scripture interpretation; many of them involve fundamental principles of ecclesiastical law. Have all our members grown so expert in these departments of knowledge as no longer to need the help of leaders? Does this explain why they are so impatient with all attempted leadership, with all efforts to discuss principles and precedents, with all appeals to the teachings of the fathers who have fallen asleep? A more probable explanation is that things which deeply interested the fathers do not much interest the children. The boast of this age is that it is intensely practical. What we demand is results. We care little for doctrines, theories, principles, precedents–we are for doing things. When we see what we want, why should we be turned aside, or delayed in the attainment of our object by a discussion of some outgrown theories, or some technicalities of law, or some old moss-covered doctrines touching the true nature and functions of the church? Let the past suffice for debate over these things. We have consumed time enough in talk–this is the day for action. Such would appear to be the spirit in which our Assemblies meet and transact their business. A spirit not to be condemned unqualifiedly. Doubtless we have had too much discussion by doctrinairies, and by those who think the church’s mission is accomplished when it has “contended earnestly for the faith.” There are those who prefer to do nothing rather than take the risk of doing wrong. John McNeil says: “Caution and Presbyterians go together, but where do they go?” It is not surprising if some grow impatient of this proverbial caution, nor are they to blame for insisting that we quicken our pace and go somewhere. But we may swing to the other extreme, and for the sake of expedition, sacrifice principles that deserve perpetuation. We are warned against “daubing with untempered mortar.” The sad results of haste are seen in the contradictory deliverances of some of our Assemblies. The Lord’s work is entitled to all the time and thought that we can give it in order to do it in the best possible way.

Image source: Photograph of the Rev. R.C. Reed, as found in Calvin Memorial Addresses. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1909. Photo facing page 14.

Psalm 145:10-12
10.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.
11.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.
12.  To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

In 2012 it was announced by the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, in partnership with William Eerdmans Publishing Company, that they would be producing A JONATHAN EDWARDS ENCYCLOPEDIA. The volume would be published both in print and online, and comprised of some 450 entries. That news has recently been updated, with an announced date of November 30, 2017 for availability of the print edition. In light of that project, here transcribed below is an important document from the latter years of the First Great Awakening. THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE is not otherwise easily found on the Internet at this time, other than in short quotations, and so it seemed good to reproduce it here.

In that era of the First Great Awakening, Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors worked readily with one another in the proclamation of the Gospel, both groups being strongly Calvinistic in their theology. As you read through this document, you will see mentioned several of the concerns which figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church, 1741-1758. The issues prompting that split included itinerant preaching and ministerial authority, and both of these concerns are discussed in THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE.

[Originally published Boston : Printed, and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1743, and here excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 38 (22 September 1838): 149, columns 4-5.]

From the Pastor’s Journal.
ANCIENT REVIVALS.

After the remarkable work of God in New England in the beginning of the last century, it was suggested by a writer in the Boston Gazette of May 31st, 1743, that a Convention of Ministers should be held to “consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony, to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which through the permitted agency of Satan have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement.” Accordingly, on the 7th July of the same year, about ninety Ministers met at Boston for the above purposes. After a sermon, they proceeded to confer together, and to hear the letters of such as desired but were not able to attend the meeting. As the result of their deliberations they drew up and published the following document, which was signed by sixty-eight Ministers—the number of those who remained, the others having left.

THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE

Of an Assembly of Pastors of Churches in New England, at a meeting in Boston, July 7th, 1743, occasioned by the late happy Revival of Religion in many parts of the land.

If it is the duty of every one capable of observation and reflection, to take a constant religious notice of what occurs in the daily course of common providence; how much more is it expected that those events in the divine, wherein there is a signal display of the power, grace, and mercy of God in behalf of the Church, should be observed with sacred wonder, pleasure, and gratitude?—Nor should the people of God content themselves with a silent notice, but publish with the voice of thanks, and tell of all his wondrous works. More particularly, when Christ is pleased to come into his Church in a plentiful effusion of his Holy Spirit, by whose powerful influences the ministration of the word is attended with uncommon success, salvation-work carried in an eminent manner, and his kingdom which is within men, and consists in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, is notably advanced. This is an event which above all others invites the notice and bespeaks the praises of the Lord’s people, and should be declared abroad for a memorial of the divine grace; as it tends to confirm the divinity of a despised Gospel, and manifests the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption, which too many are ready to reproach; as it may have a happy effect, by the divine blessing, for the revival of religion in other places, and the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ in the world; and as it tends to enliven the prayers, strengthen the faith, and raise the hopes of such as are waiting for the kingdom of God, and the coming on of the glory of the latter days.—But if it is justly expected of all who profess themselves the disciples of Christ, that they should openly acknowledge and rejoice in a work of this nature, wherein the honor of their Divine Master is so much concerned; how much more is it to be looked for from those who are employed in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and so stand in a special relation to him, as servants of his household and officers in his kingdom? These stand as watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem; and it is their business not only to give the alarm of war when the enemy is approaching, but to sound the trumpet of praise when the king of Zion cometh, in a meek triumph, having salvation.

For these and other reasons, we whose names are hereunto annexed, pastors of Churches in New England, met together in Boston, July 7th, 1743, think it our indispensable duty, (without judging or censuring such of our brethren as cannot at present see things in the same light with us) in this open and conjunct manner to declare, to the glory of sovereign grace, our full persuasion, either from what we have seen ourselves, or received upon credible testimony, that there has been a happy and remarkable revival of religion in many parts of this land, through an uncommon divine influence; after a long time of great decay and deadness, and a sensible and very awful withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from his sanctuary among us. Though the work of grace wrought on the hearts of men by the word and Spirit of God, and which has been more or less carried on in the Church from the beginning, is always the same for substance, and agrees, at one time and another, in one place or person and another, as to the main strokes and lineaments of it, yet the present work appears to be remarkable and extraordinary, on account of the numbers wrought upon. We never before saw so many brought under soul-concern, and with distress making the inquiry, “What must we do to be saved?” and these persons of all characters and ages. With regard to the suddenness and quick progress of it, many persons and places were surprised with the gracious visit together, or near about the same time; and the heavenly influence diffused itself far and wide like the light of the morning. Also in respect of the degree of operation, both in a way of terror and in a way of consolation; attended in many with unusually bodily effects. Not that all who are accounted the subjects of the present work, have had these extraordinary degrees of previous distress and subsequent joy.—But many, and we suppose the greater number have been wrought on in a more gentle and silent way, and without any other appearances than are common and usual at other times, when persons have been awakened to a solemn concern about salvation, and have been thought to have passed out of a state of nature into a state of grace. As to those whose inward concern has occasioned extraordinary outward distress, the most of them, when we came to converse with them, were able to give, what appeared to us a rational account of what so affected their minds, viz. a quick sense of their guilt, misery, and danger; and they would often mention the passages in the sermons they heard, or particular texts of Scripture, which were sent home upon them with such a powerful impression. And as to such whose joys have carried them in transports and ecstacies, [sic] they in like manner have accounted for them, from a lively sense of the danger they hoped they were freed from, and the happiness they were now possessed of; such clear views of divine and heavenly things, and particularly of the excellencies and loveliness of Jesus Christ, and such sweet tastes of redeeming love, as they never had before. The instances were very few in which we had reason to think these affections were produced by visionary or sensible representations, or by any other images than such as the Scripture itself presents unto us.

And here we think it not amiss to declare that in dealing with these persons, we have been careful to inform them, that the nature of conversion does not consist in these passionate feelings; and to warn them not to look upon their state as safe, because they have passed out of deep distress into high joys, unless they experience a renovation of nature, followed with a change of life, and a course of vital holiness. Nor have we gone into such an opinion of the bodily effects with which this work has been attended in some of its subjects, as to judge them any signs that persons who have been so affected, were then under a saving work of the Spirit of God. No; we never so much as called these bodily seizures, convictions; or spake of them as the immediate work of the Holy Spirit. Yet we do not think them inconsistent with a work of God upon the soul at that very time; but judge that those inward impressions which come from the Spirit of God, those terrors and consolations of which he is the author, may, according to the natural frame and constitution which some persons are of, occasion such bodily effects. And therefore that those extraordinary outward symptoms are not an argument that the work is delusive, or from the influence and agency of the evil spirit.

With respect to numbers of those who have been under the impressions of the present day, we must declare there is good ground to conclude they are become real Christians; the account they give of their consolation and conviction agreeing with the standard of the Holy Scriptures, corresponding with the experiences of the saints, and evidenced by the external fruits of holiness in their lives; so that they appear to those who have the nearest access to them, as so many epistles of Christ, written, not with ink, but by the spirit of the living God, attesting to the genuineness of the present operation, and representing the excellency of it. Indeed, many who appeared to be under convictions, and were much altered in their external behavior, when this work began, and while it was most flourishing, have lost their impressions, and are relapsing into their former manner of life; yet of those who were judged hopefully converted, and made a public profession of religion, there have been fewer instances of scandal and apostacy [sic] than might be expected. So that, as far as we are able to form a judgment, the face of religion is lately changed much for the better in many of our towns and congregations; and together with a reformation observable in divers instances, appears to be more experimental godliness, and lively Christianity, than the most of us can remember we have ever seen before.

Thus we have freely declared our thoughts as to the work of God so remarkably revived in many parts of this land. And now, we desire to bow the knee in thanksgiving to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our eyes have seen and our ears heard such things. And whilst these are our sentiments, we must necessarily be grieved at any accounts sent abroad, representing this work as all enthusiasm, delusion, and disorder.—Indeed it is not to be denied, that in some places many irregularities and extravagances have been permitted to accompany it, which we would deeply lament and bewail before God, and look upon ourselves obliged, for the honor of the Holy Spirit, and of his blessed operations on the souls of men, to bear a public and faithful testimony against; though at the same time it is to be acknowledged with much thankfulness, that in other places, where the work has greatly flourished, there have been few if any of these disorders and excesses. But who can wonder, if at such a time as this, Satan should intermingle himself, to hinder and blemish a work so directly contrary to the interests of his own kingdom? Or if, while so much good seed is sowing, the enemy should be busy to sow tares? We would, therefore, in the bowels of Jesus, beseech men as have been partakers of this work, or are zealous to promote it, that they be not ignorant of Satan’s devices; that they watch and pray against errors and misconduct of every kind, lest they blemish and hinder that which they desire to honor and advance. Particularly, that they do not make secret impulses on their minds, without a due regard to the written word, the rule of their duty; a very dangerous mistake which we apprehend some in these times have gone into. That laymen do not invade the ministerial office, and under a pretence [sic] of exhorting, set up preaching; which is very contrary to Gospel order, and tends to introduce errors and confusion into the Church. That Ministers do not invade the province of others, and in ordinary cases preach in another’s parish, without his knowledge, and against his consent; nor encourage raw and indiscreet young candidates, in rushing into particular places, and preaching publicly or privately, as some have done to the no small disrepute and damage of the work in places where it once promised to flourish. Though at the same time we would have Ministers show their regard to the spiritual welfare of their people, by suffering them to partake of the gifts and graces of able, sound, and zealous preachers of the word, as God in his providence may give opportunity therefore; being persuaded that God has in this day remarkably blest [sic] the labors of his servants who have travelled [sic] in preaching the Gospel of Christ. That people beware of entertaining prejudices against their own pastors, and do not run into unscriptural separations. That they do not indulge a disputatious spirit, which has been attended with mischievous effects; nor discover a spirit of censoriousness, uncharitableness, and rash judging the state of others; than which scarce any thing has more blemished the work of God amongst us. And while we would meekly exhort both Ministers and Christians, so far as is consistent with truth and holiness, to follow the things that make for peace; we would most earnestly warn all sorts of persons not to despise these outpourings of the Spirit, lest a holy God be provoked to withhold them, and instead thereof to pour out upon this people the vials of his wrath, in temporal judgments and spiritual plagues; and would call upon every one to improve the remarkable season of grace, and put in for a share of the heavenly blessings so liberally dispensed.

Finally, we exhort the children of God to continue instant in prayer, that He, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, would grant us fresh, more plentiful and extensive effusions, that so this wilderness, in all the parts of it, may become a fruitful field; that the present appearances may be an earnest of the glorious things promised to the Church in the latter days; when she shall shine with the glory of the Lord arisen upon her, so as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, confound and put to shame all her enemies, rejoice the hearts of her solicitous and now saddened friends, and have a strong influence and resplendency throughout the earth. Amen!—Even so, come Lord Jesus; come quickly!”

The above was signed by sixty-eight Ministers, fifteen of whom, however, added the following exception:

“We concur with the testimony, for the substance of it, excepting that article of itinerancy, or ministers and others intruding into other Minister’s parishes without their consent; which great disorder we apprehend not; sufficiently testified against therein.”

[Note: In his reprinting of this document, the editor of THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER did not see fit to provide the names of those signing THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE, and so those names cannot be provided here.]

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

Q. 10. — How did God create man?

A. —  God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Scripture References: Gen. 1:27. Col. 3:10. Eph. 4:24. Gen. 1:28.

Questions:

1. What is the difference between the creation of other creatures and the creation of man?

God simply commanded the other creatures into existence; but when man was created the Trinity decided that man should be made in the image of God.

2. Why is this difference important?

It is important as man is God’s only self-conscious creature that He has created. God made man in his mental and moral image. Dr. Albertus Pieters says, “It involves self-conscious reasoning power, the capacity for self-determination, and moral sense. In other words, to be a being that can say, ‘I am, I ought, I will,’ – this it is to be made in the image of God.”

3. Why did God create man?

Man was created by God that man should serve his Creator. God does not exist for man’s sake but man exists for God’s sake, to serve and to glorify Him forever.

4. What kind of knowledge, righteousness and holiness did man have at his creation?

Man’s knowledge was a perfect knowledge of God, of his duty and of many other things for which we probably strive today. Man’s righteousness was an inherent righteousness which enabled God to declare him as “very good.” Man’s holiness was the hidden root of his righteousness that was shining forth in hls heart.

5. What sort of dominion did man have over the creatures?

God made man head of the world. He was given the right to reign over the creatures and name them. He was to rule them for God’s glory and his own good.

6.
In so many of our schools today the theory of Theistic evolution is being taught. Is this consistent with the teaching of Scripture?

No. Theistic Evolution (Evolution as God’s method of Creation) is not consistent with the Scripture.

The position of the Bible could be outlined in this way:

1. The Bible says God created out of nothing and this creation included every thing which has or will or can exist. It all owes its being and substance as well as its form to God. Though this is bewildering to man, it is absolutely necessary if we are to hold to the Christian faith.

2. The Bible says that God is eternal, not that matter is eternal as would be necessary for any theory of evolution.

3. The Bible says man came into existence by a special creative act of a free, self-determined will.

4. Recognizing that we must reject both evolution in its atheistic connotation, and the philosophical overtones of evolution as a way of leaving God out of the universe, we must recognize that there is possible such a thing as variation and such would not contradict Scripture. There is much we do not understand about the ways and means God has used to bring man and the world to their present state. But that variation is within the limitations of the norm set up by God, as presented in the Scriptures, and is not to be confused with evolution.

BACK TO GENESIS!

In his unparalleled book, A Harmony of the Westminster Presbyterian Standards, Dr. James Benjamin Green states, “The best knowledge is the knowledge of God. The next best is the knowledge of man. The Jew came saying, Know thy God. The Greek came saying, Know thyself. The Christian comes saying, Know thy God and thyself in Jesus Christ.”

When we are faced with the problem of the origin of man, we would point all to the divinely inspired words, “In the beginning God … ” The call we have to all is: Back to Genesis ,and be thankful for this remarkable and incredible truth of God’s Word!

There are too many today who want to substitute their view of the origin of things for the doctrine taught in Scripture. It seems that the devil himself, in his most conniving manner, is saying, “If I can just get that young person wrapped up in the theory that man evolved from the simplest forms of matter and life and developed by a perfectly natural process, then the Bible will not mean much to him.” And so it has been proven time and time again. When a person accepts evolution rather than the creation doctrine of the Scripture, and refuses to believe that man was the result of a special Creative Act of God, then the ‘God of the Bible is no longer the Creator and Sustainer.

The time has come today for all Christians to recognize the dangers of this false doctrine and especially the important part it plays in the theory of those who deny the inspiration of the Bible. Nothing less than a full committal to the creation doctrine of the Bible will keep us from the apostasy that breaks down the church of the living God. We should remember that the Creator is supreme. He is the absolute cause of all that happens, the eternal and all_blessed Being that chose to create the world through His will.

A Saturday digression : Recently I’ve been reading John Flavel’s short treatise on Isa. 26:20, titled The Righteous Man’s Refuge [highly recommended and found in Flavel’s Works, vol. 3]. Flavel’s main point in this work is that the attributes of God are a very real refuge for the believer in times of trial and testing. Finishing that work, it was only natural then to turn to Stephen Charnock’s masterpiece, The Existence and Attributes of God. As it turns out, my copy was a 1958 edition and I noticed that it includes a foreword by Gordon H. Clark. Since the PCA Historical Center houses the Papers of Dr. Clark and since I don’t see Clark’s foreword elsewhere on the web or in print, I thought I would post it here. I’ve placed in bold print one particularly relevant comment.

Gordon H. Clark’s Foreword to the 1958 Sovereign Grace Book Club edition of Stephen Charnock’s work, The Existence and Attributes of God.

FOREWORD

The life of Stephen Charnock (1628-1680), in contrast to the turbulence of England in the mid-seventeeth century, was almost uneventful. The occurrence of one event, however, secures his reputation for adherence to gospel principles, for, although he was not immprisoned as John Bunyan was, he was one of the ministers ejected under the inquitous Restoration of Charles II.

For the rest, he had an early charge in Southwark; became a Fellow and then a Senior Proctor at Oxford (1649-1656); went to Dublin as chaplain to the Governor; then in 1675, when restrictions on the reformed ministers were somewhat relaxed, he accepted a call to Crosby Square, where he remained until his death.

How he spent his time, in addition to preaching carefully prepared sermons, became evident upon the posthumous publication of his manuscripts, of which the Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God is the most famous. This edition includes every word of Charnock’s remarks on the attributes of God, and the existence of God. However, in most editions in the past, his discourses on Providence, Practical Atheism, and God as a Spirit have been included. These are omitted here with regret. However, 1100 pages would be too much for this one volume.

The Puritan writers are noted for long-windedness. Some, perhaps much, of our impatience with them, however, is more to our discredit than to theirs. In our bustling era the practice of meditation is not popular; and our educational standards have encouraged the substitution of short comic books for solid volumes. Even Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, who in the twentieth century is busy battling for the Atonement and the Resurrection against modernism and neo-orthodoxy in the churches (and who can condemn him for such sorely needed activity?), has scarcely any time to ponder the divine glory and to reflect on the nature of God.

But when, unexpectedly, the essence and attributes of God are called into question, to whom else can we better go than to Stephen Charnock?

Is our knowledge of God mainly negative, or do we have positive information? Is there a positive sense in the words eternal, immutable, and spirit? Or are they merely denials of their temporal and sensory opposites? Can man’s mind possess an adequate or suitable conception of God? Is the impossibility of having a mental image of God the equivalent of the impossibility of having a mental concept of God? And is it true that all human knowledge originates in sensation, as Charnock seems to say in one place; or, as he says elsewhere, has God impressed innate knowledge on man’s heart from birth and by creation?

Some devoted and energetic Christians consider such questions useless and a waste of time. Evangelistic campaigns, personal work, missionary rallies, youth fellowships, and spectacular sunrise services should, they claim, exhaust all our energy. Theology is a valley of dry bones on which the Spirit will never breathe : let the dead Christian doze with his deadening volumes. Ours shall be life abundant.

With respect to this complaint let it be said that Stephen Charnock, though he was neither a John Wesley nor a Billy Graham, faithfully discharged those pastoral duties that everyone would admit are practical and necessary. It was in fact this cure of souls that motivated his study. If a minister of the gospel is to introduce people to his Lord, the triune God, he ought himself to know the Lord. The deeper, richer, more extensive this knowledge is, the better. And what impatient Christians are inclined to castigate as the dry bones of theology is this knowledge of God and His attributes. Must one labor to emphasize the obvious importance of knowing what sort of Being the Divine Being is? He is not the Deus sive Natura of Spinoza’s philosophy; He is not the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle; nor is He their modern counterparts. Then what is the nature, the essence, the attributes of God? Charnock wants his readers to become acquainted with God.

There are other sincere, though we believe mistaken, men who consider this study worse than useless : they consider it an impious curiosity into things that are too high for us. Although Protestant writers have sometimes warned against such a danger, it is hard in this day to believe that it is a frequent sin. The large majority of people want to know too little instead of too much. Undoubtedly, “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God;” but for this very reason it is more futile than sinful to try to know them.

In any case, the present subject does not fall under this category. The remainder of the verse reads, “but those things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Now, the material that Charnock discusses is firmly founded in the Word of God. To a small extent we learn about God from nature; but chiefly He has revealed Himself in Scripture. This revelation is more extensive than meets the eye; it is not exhausted by merely making a list of pertinent passages. When these passages are compared and used as premises of syllogisms, conclusions hitherto unperceived will appear. And as the great Westminster Confession says, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” Drawing inferences from Scriptural premises is not impious curiosity, but divinely commanded meditation.

The verse just alluded to, after it says that all revelation belongs to us and to our children forever, ends with the words “That we may do all the words of this law.” These sentiments are reinforced later by the well-known verse, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and (all of it) is profitable for doctrine . . . for instruction in righteousness . .. that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament therefore emphasize these two things : we should study the whole revelation, not just some easy or favorite parts of it; and, this study is not dry as dust theology, but is ‘practical’, i.e., it leads to righteousness.

GORDON H. CLARK
Butler University.

Among the more mundane church records and the other remains of a long life, there are some real jewels that have been located as part of the papers of the Rev. Albert “Bud” Moginot’. He began his ministry as the associate pastor for Francis Schaeffer and continued as a pastor and chaplain for some fifty years in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

Rev. Moginot may have been something of a collector of tracts. I did at least find a substantial box full of various tracts in a small room just off from the garage in his basement. It was not covered and so was quite dusty and showed other signs of damage. Still, the box was stuffed full and the resulting compaction saved a lot of the contents from ruin. There were tracts from any number of different evangelical organizations. Some from the school he attended, Dallas Seminary. Some from all manner of evangelical and fundamentalist ministries. And there were some from fellow pastors in the Bible Presbyterian Church. Among these there were a handful of tracts by Francis A. Schaeffer, two of which I had never seen before.

The first of these, “The Bible-believing Christian and the Jew”, can be precisely dated, since it was published in The Independent Board Bulletin, a publication of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, in October of 1943 and under the title “The Fundamentalist Christian and Anti-Semitism.” In a subsequent issue, the editor noted that Schaeffer’s message had been well received by the readership of The Bulletin. Most likely the tract was a subsequent publication. This article would have been written while he was still serving as the associate pastor to the Rev. Abraham Lance Lathem, and just before his leaving to take the pastorate of the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis. The content of Rev. Schaeffer’s message against anti-Semitism can be found here.

Physical details:
1. “The Bible-believing Christian and the Jew” — Single-sheet, folded tract, 15 cm. x 23 cm. (6″ x 9″). Medium blue-gray paper with a basis weight of approximately 30-40 lbs. Dark blue text printed in four panels, including the title panel, on the obverse and a large single panel of text on the reverse or interior of the tract.

Casting free of the calendar again, we present today these two recollections on the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The first of these is found on page 1 of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, vol. 48, no. 45 (10 November 1869), though the author of the piece is identified solely by the pseudonym “Memor.” The second account is drawn from RECOLLECTIONS OF USEFUL PERSONS AND IMPORTANT EVENTS, by S.C. Jennings, D.D. (1884), pp. 99-100.

REV. DR. ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER

Dear good old Dr. Alexander! How we loved him in New Jersey! Many a time have I seen people stop and look at him as he passed—even those who had never seen him loved and admired. The true Christian knew why. In the pulpit he was very different from many of the present day, but we all felt that he was indeed a minister of Jesus Christ unto us, and in the sacred desk, and at the communion table we seemed to be brought near to God and to Heaven. In this respect few were his equals and this power is a great gift. Many living servants of God know that they feel his influence to this day and thank God for it. Sabbath afternoon we met in the lecture room for conversation up on some subject before announced. Any student said what he wished, and they spoke freely, moderately and well. But our spiritual feast was when Dr. Alexander and Dr. Miller, and young professor Hodge, as he was then, sitting in their chairs would give us the essence of their matured thoughts. At the time I admired and relished it, but in riper years only could I really appreciate our privilege. There was no apparent effort, but the spring of living thought seemed to pour forth spontaneously. In this exercise Dr. Alexander excelled, and I thought could condense more ideas in a few sentences than any man I ever met. He was so devout and spiritual and earnest that we felt his words. “Pray”—on one occasion, he said, “pray on. And if in the closet alone with God you desire to remain longer and God seems indeed to be there,—Pray on; and if your heart inclines you to tarry longer—pray on and hour after hour—hour after hour. It is a heavenly gale, and you may make more advances than you have in a year, ‘Pray on.’ ”  —Memor.

—excerpted from The Christian Observer 48.45 (10 November 1869): 1.

“Between the years 1824 and 1827, Drs. Alexander and Miller and Professor Hodge were (in the Presbyterian Church) the only public instructors of theological students. Dr. Alexander commenced this work in 1812. Twelve years afterward he was still vigorous in mind. In body he was rather small, with some gray hairs. As he sat in the recitation room, reclining his head upon his hand, small, piercing eyes looked upon the students, ready to approve their performances; or, when need be, to correct their mistakes. He appeared rather reserved, and yet in private was very paternal, exercising his thorough knowledge of human nature with great skill.

“A peculiarity in him was the clearness of his style in teaching and preaching. His great learning enabled him to use the very wordsmostly of Saxon originby which his hearers comprehended the truth easily. This example of his should be imitated by young ministers of our time. While he adapted language to his subject, as when he wrote his volume on the Canon of Sacred Scriptures, and that on the Evidences of Christianity, his manner of preaching was more like his admirable book of Christian Experienceclear, practical and searching. There was no going outside of the themes of the Bible to find something new and entertaining. He condemned unprofitable speculations in the class room, and never practiced them in the pulpit. In his lectures on pastoral care to the students, he recommended special seasons of labor to promote revivals, wisely chosen, with the choice of proper persons to give aid in the preaching. I remember when there was a revival at Princeton, he went to give instruction to the young.”

—excerpted from Jennings, S.C., Recollections of Useful Persons and Important Events within Seventy Years. Vancefort, PA: J. Dillon & Son, 1884. Pp. 99-100.

For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ

McIntireCarl_01The young Presbyterian minister had been called to candidate at Collingswood Presbyterian Church in the fall of 1933.  That he had been just a few years out of seminary, and Westminster Seminary at that, didn’t seem to matter to the congregation in that New Jersey town.  He had  a few years experience as a pastor in an Atlantic City, New Jersey Presbyterian Church.  But it was in Collingswood, New Jersey that Carl McIntire was to be a lighting rod during some very challenging years for that Presbyterian congregation. On September 28, 1933, he became the pastor of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church at Ferm Avenue in Collingswood, New Jersey.

Seeing his conservative leaning in regard to the great issues of the gospel, J. Gresham Machen invited him to join the board of the fledgling Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which McIntire did in 1934.  That same year, the General Assembly of the denomination met and issued a directive or mandate to all ministers, churches, and presbyteries of the church.  In essence this mandate said that anyone who was affiliated with this independent agency had ninety days to desist from participation in or support of the agency, or face the consequences of discipline by their respective presbyteries.

Carl McIntire was charged with six counts of error by his Presbytery, but found guilty on only three of those charges.  These three were:  1. defiance of the government and discipline of the denomination, 2. unfaithful in maintaining the peace of the church, and 3. violation of his ordination vows.   He was convicted of sin and suspended from the ministry.  McIntire’s case was appealed to the PCUSA General Assembly of 1936, and that Assembly sustained the action of the Presbytery of West Jersey.

On March 27, 1938, after the Sunday evening service, the congregation stood on the front lawn of the church and sang two hymns of the faith. The first was “Faith of Our Fathers,” followed by “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”  And with that, they left the church, giving up the property, the memories, and all their associations with their former denomination. The very next Sunday, the newly formed Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, New Jersey, met in a huge tent.  Present were 1200 people, with eighty-one new members joining the new church at that first Sunday’s worship.

Charles Curtis McIntire, Jr., called Carl from childhood, was born on May 17, 1906. He took his higher education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Park College (in Parkville, Missouri), Princeton Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary. McIntire was ordained in 1931 and installed as pastor of the Chelsea Presbyterian Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two years later, in 1933, he answered a call to serve the Collingswood church. After a long life of many accomplishments and not a little controversy, Dr. McIntire died on March 19, 2002, at the age of 95.

Words to Live By:
We close today’s post with a few paragraphs from the opening of a sermon by the Rev. Carl McIntire, delivered before the National Society of Magna Charta Dames, in Philadelphia, June 4, 1946. [The Magna Charta Dames are descendants of the barons who secured from King John, on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede, the Magna Charta. This charter forms the basis of all our English and American civil liberties.)

The State’s Responsibility Under God to Maintain Freedom

America is in greater danger of losing her freedom today than at any time since the Declaration of Independence. We have just won a war to destroy the idea of the all-powerful State, but we are turning to an all-powerful State — another King John — to save us, to feed and clothe us, to comfort and pamper us, and to answer our prayers. We are raising up a generation that knows little of King John and the charter the barons forced him to sign — a generation that is willing to barter the most priceless privileges of freedom for a mere pittance of security. We are confused and dazed. We thought the peace would be easy to win. We cannot even get a peace conference, much less win the peace. The atomic bomb has produced a neurotic and uncanny fear in the minds of people everywhere and is driving us on, if we are not careful, toward a world totalitarianism. The world is too small to be two worlds and it is ideologically too divided to be one world.

Furthermore, who said it was the responsibility of the State to guarantee full employment for everyone? In contrast to all this is our them, “The State’s Responsibility Under God to Maintain Freedom.” The authority for this statement is none other than the Almighty God Himself as He clearly reveals the powers and place of the State in His Holy Word.

Our founding fathers called God the Author of Liberty. “Our father’s God, to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.” They did not claim that they themselves had given birth to this idea of freedom. They believed that God had created man and that man was responsible to God. They also believed that God had ordained the State and the State was responsible to God. In this relationship there stood out above everything else the divine law, the Ten Commandments. This law is the greatest charter of liberty that the world has ever had. It is the first bill of rights ever promulgated, the most individualistic document that the world has ever seen. It is the Magna Charta of individualism. It is impossible to discuss the authority of the State without holding before us first the demands of God’s law.

The Ten Commandments are addressed to the individual, and they protect the individual. Take, for example, the command, “Thou shalt not kill.” God gives to every man the right to live. All the laws of our society that protect human life are based upon this divine law. Likewise the command, “Thou shalt not steal,” recognizes the right of every man to own property in his own name. It is this command that forms the basis of our capitalistic system and our private enterprise way of life. But it is individual. It is into this picture that the State must fit.

The State has no authority to encroach upon the liberty of the individual which God guarantees under His law. The State must respect the law of God as it concerns the individual. Only in honoring this law can it serve its true function and be truly free. Just as God made the creation for Himself and created man in His own image, so He has instructed in His Word that the State should serve the ends of God and be a champion of freedom for man. When men see this, they want this kind of State. When the State sees it, it will labor only for free men. In doing this there are certain things that the State must do and certain things it must not do. In both of these spheres, one of action and the other of inaction, the State becomes an agent for freedom.

We frequently say, “Our society is built on the Ten Commandments.” So it is. The Ten Commandments are a social order. Any society built upon them will not be socialistic or communistic or totalitarian, but truly free. It should be noted especially here, however, that the laws of the State deal with the outward acts of the relation of man to man in society. The State cannot deal with the inward thoughts of men, thus the command, “Thou shalt not covet,” dealing primarily with the heart, the State cannot enforce or minister. The State must desist from action in this sphere in order to insure freedom of thought.

Likewise the commands that relate to the inner and direct relations of men to God the State must leave to God and to the individual. The State must desist from action in this sphere in order to honor the command dealing with the worship and service of God. Thus the State is limited; it cannot go into the heart of man. God alone can do that. And it cannot attempt to legislate God for the individual. God alone can guide and control this.

For a State to attempt to enter into these spheres is to destroy freedom for the individual. When the State attempts to legislate in the matter of man’s heart and thought, it can do so or attempt to do so only by limiting man’s speech and controlling what he hears and sees. Thus free speech and free press, free radio, and all related freedoms go out the window. God has kept the heart of man for Himself. When the State attempts to legislate in the matter of man’s relation to God, it can do so, or attempt to do so, only by circumscribing man’s freedom in the matter of religion. In both of these matters, the framers of the Constitution of the United States absolutely limited the State and protected the freedom of man as the law of God requires.

[the above portion of Dr. McIntire’s sermon is excerpted from The Christian Beacon, 11.18 (13 June 1946): 1-2, 6.

A Scottish Missionary to the Jews
by Rev. David T Myers

How about another mystery quiz on This Day in Presbyterian History? Who said the following:  “I am first a Christian. Second, I am a catholic. (Author: note the small “c”); Third, I am a Calvinist.  Next, I am a paedobaptist. Fifth, I am a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse this order.” If you answered, “John Duncan,” or better yet, “Rabbi Duncan,” give yourself a proverbial pat on the back.

John Duncan’s years were 1796  to 1870, mostly in Scotland. His parents were  humble but pious Christians. They had a trying time in that all of their children had died in infancy. Indeed, son John developed a a case of small pox at a young age which almost killed him. In the process, it left him blind in one eye. Despite  his father’s employment as a shoemaker, son John entered at age 9 the prestigious grammar school in Aberdeen, Scotland, from which he graduated at age 14. With that he entered Manschal University, earning a master of arts in 1814.

His interest was that of becoming a minister. There was only one problem. Despite his parent’s godly heritage in the Associate Church of Scotland, young John was an atheist. Entering the theological college of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, he graduated in 1821, still holding atheistic views! After being denied entrance into the Presbytery of Aberdeen because he couldn’t affirm the Westminster Standards, he switched from atheism to theism. But he was still without Christ as Lord and Savior.

His licensure took place by the Presbytery of Aberdeen on June 24, 1825 however! (Author: Where were their minds?) John Duncan was still outside of Christ. One year later, after a personal conversation with  Rev. Cesar Milan, he finally bent his knee to Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. After this experience, he had a lifelong dread of  superficial Christianity. On April 28, 1836, he was ordained a minister of the gospel.

In 1837, he married Janet Tower, with whom he had one child.  The difficult birth of their second child ended in both the death of his wife and child.  Looking at his wife’s body in the casket, he quoted Shorter Catechism number 37, “The souls of believers are at their death make perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.”  This  catechism answer comforted him.

It was around this time that he began to have an interest in, and sympathy for, the Jewish people, especially for their salvation. The Church of Scotland set up in 1839 a Committee for the Conversion of the Jews. Two years later, on This Day in Presbyterian History, May 16, 1841, John Duncan, his new wife, and two others moved to Hungary

His ministry there was only for two short years, but his passion for the souls of Jews caused many to dub him “Rabbi Duncan.”  Through Sabbath peaching of the gospel and what we would call “friendship evangelism” today, countless Jews became Christians.  Famous among the latter was Alfred Edersheim.  The Disruption of 1843 took place in Scotland and John “Rabbi” Duncan traveled home to his mother country.  Joining the Free Church of Scotland, he took the chair of Hebrew and Oriental Lanuages at their new college, where he stayed until his death of 1870.

Words to Live By:
There is no doubt John “Rabbi” Duncan had a spiritual journey which was long in coming.   His story cries out for our Sessions and Presbyters to make sure  that a work of saving grace has occurred in the souls of our members and candidates for church office.  Remember Jude 3 and 4.

 

 

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