“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”—Psalm 116:15
On December 4, 2015 our post was titled “Founding Fathers Gone to Their Reward.” We began that post by stating:
In years past we have written several times on this date of the founding of the PCA. There were 223 pastors present at the founding of the denomination in 1973, first named the National Presbyterian Church. A year later the young denomination took its permanent name, the Presbyterian Church in America. By the grace of God, the majority of these 223 founding fathers are still with us, and many of them still labor in pulpit ministry. Sadly, some sixty of them have passed away. And we would not overlook the role played by those founding fathers were were ruling elders, though regrettably, their names are not so easily gathered. All these took their stand for the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the great Commission. As the Lord enabled them, so we praise Him for how He worked through them.
Several years later that list of the PCA’s founding fathers who have now died, must sadly be updated. Most recent comes the news of the passing yesterday, December 3, 2019, of the Rev. Gene Hunt, husband of Susan Hunt.
Richard Eugene Hunt was born on March 9, 1939 in Columbus, GA. Graduating from the University of Georgia in 1962, he prepared for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary and upon graduation was ordained and installed as pastor of the McDowell Presbyterian Church in Greeleyville, SC, 1965-1968.
From 1972 to 1976 he labored as pastor of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Jonesboro, GA, and it was during that pastorate that Rev. Hunt became one of the founding fathers of the Presbyterian Church in America, leading his church into the PCA. He went on to plant the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville, GA (org. 1977) and later served as associate pastor at the Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, GA, 1989-2008. Rev. Hunt was honorably retired in 2008.
I know that you will want to remember Susan Hunt and the Hunt family in your prayers, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and strength in this time.
And with a bit of Web searching, we located a video of Rev. Hunt preaching on the doctrine of the covenant of grace, and would like to leave you today with this:—
They Had No Manual, but a New Presbyterian Church was Born
by Rev. David T. Myers
Gathering in Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, were teaching and ruling elders ready to begin a new Presbyterian denomination. Their date of gathering, or organization, was December 4, 1973, as date consciously chosen with an eye to the past. They began this new Reformed church on the same day and month as the organization date for the mother church that they were leaving, the Presbyterian Church, U.S., commonly known in those years as the Southern Presbyterian Church. That denomination had begun on December 4, 1861 as the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America. Later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, after the War between the States.
In choosing to organize the new denomination on that anniversary date, the new denomination was making a clear statement, laying claim as the faithful continuing church, the remnant leaving behind the unfaithful or disobedient. In fact, the Continuing Presbyterian Church was the name that they first gathered under in the years and months leading up to their official organization. That they did not desire to continue as yet another regional church was evidenced by the name they chose for the new denomination, the National Presbyterian Church (though a year later, that name was of necessity changed to the Presbyterian Church in America).
Reformed men were obviously interested in reforming the church. And so ever since it was clearly discovered that the Presbyterian Church in the United States had apostatized with no hope to bring it back to its historic roots, men and women had been praying and working, and working and praying, for this historic occasion. Ruling Elder W. Jack Williamson was chosen as the first moderator, with Dr. Morton Smith elected as Stated Clerk. Ministries then in planning and those already exercised in action, came together in rapid fashion: Mission to the World, Mission to the United States, Christian Education and Publications were organized by the delegates. With godly and wise coordinators to lead them, the work began to raise up a church faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
› Photo from the First General Assembly in 1973, with W. Jack Williamson at the podium, and Rev. Frank Barker seated, at the right.
Words to live by: There is usually great excitement over a new birth in a family. And so there was great excitement over the birth of a new denomination. Southern conservative Presbyterians had gone through many of the same struggles that Northern conservative Presbyterians endured just a few decades earlier. In both cases, the Church had been hijacked by the liberals. But godly men and women stood for the faith once delivered unto the saints, and wouldn’t let historical attachments hold them captive to a decaying visible church. They voted with their feet and came out and were now separate. Praise God for their obedience to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
No Parallel in the Annals of the American Pulpit
So it was thought by the pulpiteers of the late nineteenth century, that is, our unique title today. The description fit the Rev. Ethan Osborn, the pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, New Jersey.
Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1758, Ethan Osborn was born with religious parents and a religious education in a family of nine children. When the Sabbath came in the week as the first day, he was in public worship. Like many covenant children, it was simply to obey his parents. But as the boy became older, the Sabbath became a most welcome day. He began to practice secret prayer and by the time he entered college, he had received the Savior by faith alone.
College for Ethan was Dartmouth at age seventeen. The American Revolution was at full tilt during his college years so that in the middle of it, he became a soldier at age eighteen. It was a very hard year to do so as the Continental Army was being pushed around all over the eastern seaboard in 1776. Ethan felt the providence of the Lord in that, becoming sick one month, he missed a battle in which his regiment was captured with the result that only four soldiers would make it through the brutal imprisonment. He returned to the collegiate life soon after it, graduating in 1784.
With no theological school around (Princeton not beginning until 1812), he studied for three years under experienced pastors. Called to one church, he was led to delay it until December 3, 1789, when he was called to the Old Stone Church, as it was known then as their pastor. For the next fifty-five years, he with warm biblical expositions and faithful shepherding the people of God, became known as “Father Osborn.”
Even though he would retire when he turned eighty-six years of age, he continued his ministry, preaching once when he was ninety-seven years of age. He went to be with his Lord in 1858 at age ninety-nine years, eight months, and ten days.
At right, the old former building of the continuing PCA congregation, Fairton, NJ.
Words to live by: We might add many others to the title of this historical devotional, but for that time and place, for longevity itself, it was true of Ethan Osborn. It was said that he was THE pastor of the Old Stone Church which had been established so early before our American Revolution. And to think that it was able to join the Presbyterian Church in America without losing its building [not the one pictured at right], as is usually the case, is providential indeed. But more remarkable than a physical structure is the continuance in the faith of the gospel by the pastors, faithful elders, and families, for three plus centuries of this church. It is well to place them in a historical devotional. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
Our post today is excerpted from the Minutes of the 157th General Synod of the RPCES (page 172), and concerns one of the great leaders of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod:
When the Lord took the Rev. Max Belz home to heaven on December 2, 1978, the Midwestern Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, lost one of its most colorful and most beloved members. He had been a member of this presbytery continuously since his entrance into the denomination in 1948 at the time when he led his congregation at Cono Center near Walker, Iowa, to throw off the shackles of the compromising fellowship of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.
Although his was a rural church, it was always under his leadership a veritable beehive of activity. Max Belz was one of the first pastors in the denomination to recognize the significant importance of the preservation of the faith and nurture of the hearts and minds of children of the church in an age when the public school systems were becoming increasingly anti-Christian. With the support and encouragement of some of his faithful elders and friends he established Cono Christian School. The influence of this institution has been a blessing throughout the entire denomination. It has set an example of high quality Christian education which has been followed in a good many of our churches.
Max Belz was always deeply involved in the work of the church as a whole. He was a member of the founding board of Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary. He has also served on the board of Christian Training, Inc. It was through his initiative that the Bulletin News Supplement was begun, and for years he was responsible not only for its editing but also its printing-and he rejoiced in serving the church he loved so well.
His last extended journey away from his home was to the Grand Rapids meeting of the synod last June. Of this visit his son, Joel, wrote, “I think he sensed a foretaste of his welcome to heaven itself as he was embraced by so many with whom he has worked in the last 30 years.
Surely the greatest witness to the life and testimony of Max Belz and his dear wife, Jean, is the family that he left behind when he was taken to glory. Every one of his eight children is an active, dedicated Christian reflecting the godliness that their father and mother exhibited day after day in their home. Max and Jean Belz instilled in their children an appreciation for the value of hard work, but they also surrounded them with parental love and tender care even as they taught them of the love of God.
Although he lived in a rural area there are some respects in which Max Belz was ahead of his time. His founding of the Cono Educational Network is an example of this. Everyone who has been closely associated with him is grateful to God for this gifted servant of the Lord whose zealous commitment to his Saviour was an inspiration that remains even though Max Belz himself is with the Lord he loved so fervently.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 65 & 66.
Q. 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing any thing against the honor and duty which belongeth to every one, in their several places and relations.
Neglecting the honor. –Not giving, or not paying, to every one that degree of respect which is justly due.
Doing any thing against the honor and duty, &c. –Being guilty of those sins which are opposed to the duties required by the fifth commandment. The sins of superiors are, giving commands that are contrary to the law of God, encourageing evil, and discouraging good, by their orders, or by their example, &c. The sins of inferiors are, envying their superiors, despising them, and rising up in rebellion against their lawful commands, and just correction, &c. The sins of equals are, envying another’s gifts or talents, grieving at his prosperity, and assuming and improper pre-eminence, or superiority, one over another, &c.
The sins forbidden in the fifth commandment, are of two sorts:
- The neglecting of the honor and duty which belong to every one, in their several places and relations. –Rom. xiii. 8. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.
- The doing anything against this honor and duty. –Matt. xv. 4–6. God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother; and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, It is a gift, –and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect, by your tradition.
Q. 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, is a promise of long life and prosperity, (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good,) to all such as keep this commandment.
Prosperity. –Success in our lawful business, and the enjoyment of the blessings and the comforts of this life.
Serve for God’s glory. –Be the means of promoting God’s glorious designs and purposes.
Their own good. –Their spiritual and eternal happiness.
In this answer, we have two points of information:
- That those who keep the fifth commandment, shall have long life and prosperity. –Eph. vi. 2, 3. Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth.
- That this promise is limited by the glory of God and their own good. Psal. xxxvii. 34. Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
We Don’t Do Evangelism!
A speaker over the phone actually said the words of our title to a friend of this author. She was shocked, and so was I upon hearing it. Have they snipped out by scissors the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 – 20? The very existence of our Presbyterian Church in America is that of being committed to the Great Commission. Certainly the subject of our post today when he sailed for the New Hebrides in 1846 was for the purpose of evangelism. His name was John Geddie.
John Geddie was born in Scotland on April 10, 1815 to John and Mary Geddie. At the tender age of two, his parents sailed to Pictou, Nova Scotia in Canada. Joining the Succession Presbyterian Church there, the young Geddie was trained in the ordinary schools of that province while joining his father in his clock making business. But his real interest was spent in reading books sent by the London Missionary Society. He was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior through these means at age nineteen. Enrolling in theology courses, he would be licensed to preach the gospel in 1837 and ordained as a Presbyterian minister one year later. Marrying Charlotte MacDonald in 1839, they set about rearing a family which eventually reached eight children.
Having a call to serve the Lord outside of Canada was made difficult in that no Presbyterian church was actively involved in foreign missions. Geddie organized a mission society in his local congregation. Yet even with the organization established, missionary endeavors were slow in coming to fruition. This was all too obvious when the regional synod voted 13 to 12 to select a mission field to even evangelize! Yet one year later, on November 30, 1846, John Geddie, his wife Charlotte, and two small children sailed for the New Hebrides. Landing on the island of Aneiteum, they set at once to build a ministry among the natives.
For the next fifteen years, they sought to be faithful to the Great Commission in the midst of these heathen tribes. Often John would be assaulted by spears and stones as he traveled from one place to another. Then six years after he landed, several native chiefs converted to biblical Christianity. Thirty-five hundred natives, nearly one half of the population, threw away their idols and avowed the true Jehovah as their God and Savior. Immediately, the converted natives began to obey the Great Commission and send Christian teachers to other islands in the chain of the New Hebrides. Indeed, if you look up the country today (known as Vanuatu), you will see their religion to be Christian.
James Geddie died on December 14, 1872, but not before he had translated the entire New Testament in their language. He was in the process of working on the Old Testament when he was taken home to glory.
The island memorial to John Geddie is stunning to behold. It reads, “when he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen.”
Words to Live By:
A friend of this author had made one rule his guide in his ministerial life. For every milestone he passes, he endeavors to share the gospel with that many strangers in his ministry area. Thus, if he has turned fifty years of age, then he endeavors to witness to fifty unsaved individuals. Now, whether that goal brings 50 conversions is entirely dependent upon the work of the Spirit of God. We Reformed Christians understand that! But do we recognize the command of the Great Commission is to be carried out by us? Or is it our practice that we do not do evangelism?
As they say, “And now for something entirely different.”
On this Friday following Thanksgiving—hopefully for most a day at home to relax—we hope you will take time to watch this most informative video clip. It runs just under 13 minutes.
This video came to my attention yesterday–a documentary on one of the leading voices in defence of Biblical orthodoxy during the Modernist Controversy in the first several decades of the 20th century—the Rev. J. Gresham Machen. Contemporary to Dr. Machen was the journalist, social critic and agnostic H. L. Mencken, who, despite his disagreements with Machen on the truth of Scripture & even the existence of God, nonetheless highly admired Machen & wrote an obituary for him that pays him great tribute. Pastor Jason Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Magna, UT, who produced this film, asked Chris Arnzen, radio host at Iron Sharpens Iron, to record, in his imagined voice of Mencken (“guided only by the image of a grizzled jounalist holding a cigar in one hand & a glass of bourbon in the other”), Mencken’s obituary for Machen, which dominates this brief documentary. Enjoy.
Time and again, the Lord has shown Himself faithful.
You would do well to take your Bible this Thanksgiving weekend and begin a study on how often throughout the Scriptures the Lord instructs us to remember His works. And why is that? Obviously, that we should not forget Him, that we should be conscious of His faithfulness, that we should be thankful for His daily providences, and all to the end that we should glorify Him and worship Him, as the Lord alone deserves.
The Psalms are, as we might expect, full of such instruction. To give but a few examples:
We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. (Ps. 44:1)
The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein . . . He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered;… (Ps. 111:2a, 4a)
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. (Ps. 145:4)
Indeed, this is one of those themes of Scripture, which, once your eyes are opened to it, you begin to see it everywhere. Presbyterian history will take a break today, that you might reflect on your own history, and so praise God for all that He is to you.
John Flavel, in his Mystery of Providence, speaks to our point:
“Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them.
Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed.“
In his day, Dr. Joseph S. Edie, M. D., was a venerable and esteemed elder of the Presbyterian Church at Christiansburg, Va.
He was born in Brooke county, Virginia on November 27th, 1798, and graduated at Hampden Sidney College in 1825.
About that time he came to Christiansburg as a teacher. Here he entered at once with great energy upon Christian work, and established the first Sabbath School in the place. Subsequently he established another school on Mr. Van Lear’s place on the North Fork of Roanoke, and did much in circulating tracts and religious reading among the people. After the organization of the Church at Christiansburg, in which he exerted a strong influence, he went to teach school in Lewisburg, Virginia, and pursued the study of medicine. During an absence of several years he taught also at Union, Monroe county, and completed his medical course in Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned to Christiansburg in 1832, and continued in the practice of his profession there for the remainder of his life.
He was a member of the Presbyterian church at Christiansburg for over fifty-six years, and a ruling elder for forty-nine years. “It is,” said his pastor, “perhaps enough to add that during all this time the church has never had a more valued or valuable member or officer. His name will be linked especially with the names of R. D. Montague and William Wade, and it is no disparagement to those excellent men and women who have stood with them, to say that to these three men, more than to any others, is due, under God, the success of the church in all its early struggles, and in much of its subsequent history. The church has never had in it men more devoted to its interests, or men of greater piety, weight of character and practical wisdom.”
Words to Live By:
Every good church has those faithful men and women who really are the ones who keep the church operating and who get things done, not for themselves, but selflessly and for the whole congregation. Remember to pray for these saints.