January 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Distinctive Calvinism

The wording of the postal telegram in 1933 was simple enough to Rienk Bouke Kuiper, who was president of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   Printed in all capital letters, it said, “UPON THE UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATION OF THE FACULTY AND THE TRUSTEES OF WESTMINSTER SEMINARY IN SESSION MAY NINTH BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE HAVE ELECTED YOU TO THE CHAIR OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY.  THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD WILL SEND YOU FULL INFORMATION.  WE HOPE AND PRAY THAT YOU MAY BE LED TO ACCEPT THIS POST.  (signed) C. E. MACARTNEY, SAMUEL CRAIG, T. EDWARD ROSS, (for the board).

R. B. Kuiper was not unknown to the faculty and trustees of this new Presbyterian seminary in Philadelphia.  He had served the first year of its existence as professor of Systematic Theology, but then had left it to become the president of Calvin College.  Now he was being asked to return two years later to become the professor of practical theology.  The prospective teacher had all the spiritual gifts necessary for such a post.

Born January 31, 1886 in the Netherlands to a ministerial father, the family had emigrated to the United States so the father could take a congregation in Michigan of the Christian Reformed Church.

Later, R. B. Kuiper was educated at the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and with a diploma from Calvin Theological Seminary, he  finished up his training at Princeton Seminary in 1912.

After this latter instruction from some of the finest minds of the Presbyterian world, such as B.B. Warfield, R.B. Kuiper began his ministry in the pastorate, serving several congregations in Michigan. He would have all that was necessary to be a pastor of practical theology from that experience.

Below, the Westminster faculty as composed upon Kuiper’s arrival, 1933-34.

R.B. Kuiper answered the telegram’s invitation in the affirmative  and went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where he taught for 20 years.  One of his students remarked that he had the gift of making the profound simple as he proclaimed the whole counsel of God.

Among that broad span of the whole counsel of God, and one which seminary professors and students often fail, is the area of Reformed  evangelism.   Listen to his words in his book “To be or Not to Be Reformed.”  He wrote “May God forbid that we should become complacent about our progress in evangelism!  Our zeal for evangelism is not nearly as warm as it ought to be.  Our evangelistic labors are not nearly as abundant as they should be.  Our prayers for the translation of souls from darkness into God’s marvelous light must become far more fervent.” (p. 77)   What R. B. Kuiper wrote fifty years ago is no  less true in our day.   Ask yourselves the question?  Am I a zealous evangelist?

Words to Live By:  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the LORD, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The apostle Paul, Acts 13:48 (ESV)  “Divine election, and it alone, guarantees results for evangelism.”  R.B. Kuiper

Pictured above: Some of the courses taught by R.B. Kuiper in his first year at Westminster.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 11 – 13

Through the Standards:  Creation, according to  the catechisms

WLC 15 “What is the work of creation?
A.  The work of creation  is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.”

WSC 9  “What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”

Photograph source: The Presbyterian Guardian 5.3 (March 1938): 50.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Competent to Counsel

You wouldn’t think that it was so, but many theological seminaries in the past which had at their calling that of training Christian workers in the church, placed little or no emphasis on pastoral counseling.  As a result, so often ministers of the gospel went out into the church world with this gaping hole in their preparation.  This was the case with Jay E. Adams.   He had the experience of having a man approach him one Sunday in obvious distress.  Adams, by his own admission, was unable to help him.  When the individual died a month later, the young minister resolved in prayer to become a better counselor.  A lot of pastors can empathize with Jay Adams in this case.

Jay Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 30, 1929.  About fifteen years later, he was born again when a friend gave him a copy of the New Testament.  After an undergraduate degree from John Hopkins University, he earned degrees from Reformed Episcopal Seminary and Temple University.  A doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in Speech, not counseling,  as many mistakenly think, was earned later.  Adding to these educational degrees was practical experience in two congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  It was at his first congregation that the illustration of the distressed man, who  had been told that he had a short time to live, occurred on that Sunday.

All attempts from books and course studies to find some help in  counseling, failed for the young minister.  The reason was simply in that they  all originated in non-biblical approaches to the topic.  In fact, Adams began to effectively apply the Word of God to specific situations in the congregation.  That procedure began to bear fruits in people’s lives.

A turning point came in 1965 when Adams partnered with O. Hobard Mower.  Though not a believer, this person differed from all modern day psychologists by emphasizing the need to confess deviant behavior and assume responsibility for one’s actions.  In other words, the need to acknowledge their own failures to meet the problems of life was the issue.  Now Jay Adams, as a Christian, recognized that God wasn’t in the picture in this approach of Mower.  But even with that caveat, Adams watched as the majority of patients in two mental institutions were emptied by the team of counselors.

What Jay Adams did was to take the the secular methodology and put it through the sieve of biblical revelation, elevating the whole approach toward Christian counseling.  All of this was encapsulated in the best selling book, “Competent to Counsel” in 1970.  Readers were reminded of the Bible verse “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14 NASV)  And the modern Biblical counseling movement, of which Jay Adams is the “father,” was on its way.

Words to Live By: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3 NASV)

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 11 – 13

Through the Standards:  The work of creation

WCF 4:1
“It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,  for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.”

For further reading:
The earliest published work by Rev. Jay E. Adams that we could locate was titled “Does God Disown His Children?,” a brief exploration of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which appeared in the May 1955 issue of The National Missions Reporter (vol. 8, no. 4, p. 13-14). His first major publication was Realized Millennialism, a self-published work issued from St. Louis, 87 pages in length. This was essentially a defense of the amillennial position, though it caused some controversy, as some saw it as an attack upon the premillennial position. But Dr. Adams real mark upon the world came with the 1970 publication Competent to Counsel, and it is safe to say that most know him today for his work in the field of Christian counseling, specifically for the approach which he has termed nouthetic counseling. Dr. Adams presently heads up the Institute for Nouthetic Counseling, and his ministerial credentials have been with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church since December 5, 1989.

Also on this date:
January 30, 1912 marks the birthdate of Francis A. Schaeffer. [thus making this year the 100th anniversary of his birth.]

 

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Only Scripture

Please bear with me as I turn our attention today from the people and events of historic Presbyterianism, to an exposition of the second question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. That question is, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?  And the answer is, “The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”

Our only rule is the Word of God.  Let me repeat that sentence.  Your only rule is the Word of God, the Bible.   And if we ask,  what is the Word of God, our Confessional Fathers reply in question 3 of the Larger Catechism that “the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.”

It is true that the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God “by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince, and convert sinners, and to build up believers unto salvation.” (Larger Catechism No 4)

It is also true that only the Holy Spirit can only fully persuade us that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God by Him bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts.

Think of how many of your fellow citizens and maybe even  some of your fellow church members are following other rules for faith and obedience. In the case of the former, your fellow citizens, it is an every day occurrence.   We see their courses of action and often tragic results.   In the latter case, your fellow church members,  it comes when a crisis comes upon them.  They may try a dozen other rules, and then as a last resort, go to the Bible.

Other rules other than the holy Scriptures may be some other religion, some influential person in society, even some religious leader, their conscience, tradition, a relative or close friend,  or believing that each situation has its own ethics.  All of these  become their rules for faith and obedience.

Let this not be said of you however.  Indeed, let your faith and trust in the God of the Scriptures and the Scriptures of your God, be the witness which your neighbors see in your life.  That can lead to the introduction of the Savior to them.  Live the Word of God!

Words to Live By: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. (Shorter Catechism No. 3)

Through the Scriptures:   Exodus 5 – 7

Through the Standards: The execution of God’s decrees

WLC 14  “How does God execute his decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.”

WSC 8  “How did God execute His decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence.”

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Death of Joseph A. Alexander

Joseph Addison Alexander, third son of the Rev. Archibald and Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, was born in Philadelphia on 24 April 1809. His early education was obtained under the immediate supervision of his parents, and owing to an intellectual vigor rare indeed, his powers of acquiring knowledge were amazing, especially in the department of languages. In 1825 he graduated at the College of New Jersey (since 1896, Princeton University), with the highest honors of his class. He was elected Tutor, but declined the appointment, and, with Mr. Patton, founded Edgehill School at Princeton. He studied theology at home and at the University of Halle and Berlin, in Europe. He was licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1832, and became assistant instructor of the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible, in the Princeton Theological Seminary; in 1835 he was appointed Associate Professor, and in 1840 sole Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature; in 1851 he was transferred to the chair of Biblical and Ecclesiastical History; and in 1859, at his own request, he was assigned the department of Hellenistic Greek and New Testament Literature. The main business of his life was with the Holy Bible, giving to theological research and instruction all the energies of his massive intellect.

[» The Edgehill School, Princeton, New Jersey, co-founded by J.A. Alexander & R.B. Patton »]

Dr. Alexander’s gigantic mind was in full vigor until the day before his death. On the morning of that day he was occupied with his usual course of polyglot reading in the Bible, being accustomed to read the Scriptures in some six different languages, as part of his daily devotions. He seems also to have entertained himself, during some part of the day, with one of the Greek classics, Herodotus, as a pencil mark on the margin, “January 27th, 1860.” is said to show. In the afternoon of that day, he rode out in the open air for the first time since his attack of hemorrhage. During that ride, however, which was not continued more than forty-five minutes, a sudden sinking of life came on him, so much so that he was borne almost entirely by the help of others from the carriage. The sinking continued all Friday night, and on Saturday he was hardly conscious of anything until he died. His death was perfectly calm, without a struggle, without one heaving breath. His death occurred in his study, January 28th, 1860.

[Wilson’s Presbyterian Almanac for 1861 (p. 71) notes that his death, at the age of 51, was caused by diabetes. Alexander’s brother, James Waddel Alexander, had died of dysentery not six months earlier, in 1859, at the age of 55.]

Dr. Alexander’s sermons were sure to be original, evangelical, forcible, elegant and tending to practical effect upon the conscience. He was a frequent contributor to The Princeton Review, and for a time served with Professor Dod as its editor. As an author he took high rank. A volume of his fragmentary “Notes on New Testament Literature and Ecclesiastical History” was posthumously published in 1861. In 1851 his “Psalms Translated and Explained” appeared in three volumes. In 1857 “The Acts of the Apostles Explained,” in two volumes. In 1858 “The Gospel, According to Mark, Explained,” in one volume. the Commentary on Matthew was unfinished at his death, but so much as he had prepared was published in 1861, as the last work on which his pen was engaged.

Words to Live By:  A man of great gifts, Dr. Alexander was well used of the Lord in the advancement of His kingdom. Yet for all this, we must not covet. The Lord has a place and a role for each of His children, and it is not unusual to find that “the least of these” are often enabled to bear great witness to the glory of God in the Gospel.

Through the Scriptures:  Exodus 1 – 4

Through the Standards: Proof Texts for God’s eternal decrees:

Acts 13:48

 “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (NIV);

2 Thessalonians 2:13

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God  chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (NIV);

 1 Thessalonians 1:4

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”  (NIV);

Romans 8:29, 30

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also jusified, those he justified, he also glorified.” (NIV);

 Read also Ephesians 1:1 – 14

Biographical sketch and portrait image from Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), pp. 21-22. Image of the Edgehill campus from The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church, for 1861 (Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson), page 341. All scans performed by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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This day in Presbyterian history :

Birth of William Henry Green

William Henry Green was born on the twenty-seventh day of January, 1825; born into a family which possessed traditions and ideals, born an heir to definite high opportunities of life, and born a child of the covenant. Though his family had ancestral ties to Princeton, William was sent to the classical school in Easton, and from there he entered Lafayette College at the age of sixteen. “He was a sunny-faced, bright-eyed, pure-minded boy in college, and led a blameless and winsome life.” By the time he was twenty, he had settled on serious study of theology. Upon graduation from seminary, he was invited to assist in teaching and spent the next two years teaching Hebrew grammar, before answering a call to pastor the Central Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, 1849-1851.

That pastorate was terminated in 1851 when the General Assembly elected him to the chair of Biblical and Oriental Literature in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, when he was but twenty-six years old. He began those labors on August 28th of that year and continued there until his death in 1900. Once during his Princeton career he prayerfully considered leaving for missions work in India. Some fourteen years later he also declined to serve as president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). He remained where he was needed.

When he began his work as Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature, his faculty colleagues were Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge and Joseph Addison Alexander. Dr. Samuel Miller had died the year before, in 1850, and Dr. Archibald Alexander was soon called home to glory on October 22, 1851, three weeks after Professor Green’s inauguration. “In outward appearance he was tall, straight, strongly knit, energetic; with brown hair, firm mouth, piercing blue eyes that looked out from under heavy brows; dignified in manner, reserved, modest, at times almost to diffidence, earnest, reverent, and without self-seeking; thorough in his own work and rigorous in the recitation room, meeting his classes with unfailing regularity, going straight from the lecture-room to the study, evidently swayed by the sense of duty. These characteristics, apart from the external change seen in growing grayness of the hair, whitening of the beard and stoop of the shoulders due to advancing age and years of study, marked him to the end.”

Professor Green brought to the study of Biblical literature a sincere faith in the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. He came to the work of criticism “convinced by the most abundant evidence that these Scriptures are the infallible Word of God.” We are not left in the dark as to the nature of that “abundant evidence.”  It was the common evidence which has convinced the Church: the claim of the Scriptures themselves to have divine authority, the heavenliness of their matter, the efficacy of their doctrine, their adaptation exactly to meet the needs of sinful men, the fulfillment of their prophecies, the constant appeal of prophets and apostles to historic objective revelations of Almighty God as the basis of their work, the attributes of Christ, and the persuasion which the Holy Spirit produces in the heart that the Scriptures are divinely true. These considerations and others of like character constituted the abundant evidence.

Shortly after Professor Green had entered upon his work, the first low mutterings of a coming debate regarding the origin of the Old Testament were heard. The storm burst in its full fury toward the end of the 1870’s. The new theory let loose at that time could not maintain itself without first ridding itself of much of this “abundant evidence;” and when Dr. Green saw that it required, to quote his own pregnant statement, “a new doctrine of the province of reason, a new doctrine of inspiration, a new doctrine of the evidential value of miracles, a new doctrine of the fulfillment of prophecy, a new doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible,” he saw that the new theory bears on its face the marks of desperation. He suspected that its principles are wrong or its methods perverted. And he said in his own modest way : “There can be no impropriety in subjecting novelties to careful scrutiny, before we adopt conclusions at war with our most cherished convictions and with what we hold to be well-established truths.”

To a large body of earnest scholars, Dr. Green has done yet more than vindicate the scholarliness of conservative criticism.  In their opinion, after they have weighed all the evidence adduced by both parties to the controversy, he has demonstrated in general and along certain lines in particular, that the Bible’s own account of itself satisfies the actual phenomena involved better, to say the least, than does any other theory, with less constraint upon text and exegesis and the acknowledged course of Hebrew history; that it is further supported by unbroken and unanimous testimony reaching back from Christ and His apostles into the earliest literature, and that it and it alone requires no rejection and no minimizing of well-ascertained truths.

Not long after Dr. Green’s death, a pastor of wide experience, a close friend of Dr. Green’s for more than fifty years, said of him, “A more humble and holy-hearted man I never knew.” Side by side with this tribute to his humility and holiness of heart there comes to mind another characteristic of Dr. Green : his sense of sin and his apprehension of the grace and amazing love of God in Christ…It was this that made him frequently rise very early in the morning that he might enjoy a season of undisturbed communion with God. It was this that sent him daily to the Scriptures for devotional reading, outside of his professional work. (He once alluded to his practice of reading the Book of Psalms through devotionally, generally once a month.) It was this that sank personal ambition and made him labor for the glory of God alone. It was this that made him feel his own need for that system of theology, known as Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, which he found in the Bible. It was this that added such strength to his intellectual faith in the fact of a supernatural revelation.

Words to Live By: It was also said of Dr. Green that “He rose to the dignity of the great issues at stake, and conducted his debate with truth and honor. He was a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again.” Speaking of Dr. Green, “The pure-minded boy had become a man advanced in years, and he was still the simple-hearted child of God. He was an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile.”

We live in an age when truth is under assault from all sides, and must be defended. Yet we can and must stand for truth in a way that observes and honors the Lord of all truth. The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way. At best we are only sinful witnesses to His truth, and so we speak with humility and in love, remembering all the while that God alone is Judge. He will uphold His truth. His Word will not fail.

Through the Scriptures:  Job 38 – 42

Through the Standards: Predestination to be handled with care

WCF 3:8
“The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.  So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.”

For further reading:
Celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the appointment of Professor William Henry Green as an instructor in Princeton Theological Seminary

Sources: Photograph from The Life and Work of William Henry Green : A Memorial Address, by John D. Davis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1900. Image scanned by the staff of the PCA Historical Center. Biographical text freely adapted from this same address by Dr. Davis.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

 A Man Called Peter

The young man was returning from work one starless night in Scotland.  Figuring he could save time by cutting across one of the moors, the twenty-one year old began to walk through the field and was startled when he heard his name “Peter” called by someone.   Inquiring as to who it was who called him, all he heard was the howling of the wind.  He took up his pace again, only to hear an urgent voice again, “Peter!.”  He stopped, trying to figure out who was calling him.  Suddenly, he stumbled, and in reaching out his hand, found an empty space ahead of him.  Not able to see any more clearly, he felt around the edge of the ground and realized that he was on the edge of an abandoned stone quarry.  One more step would have resulted in him falling to a certain death in that quarry.  The near accident made a powerful impression on Peter Marshall.  He had no doubt that the voice was that of God, and that the latter must have a special purpose in his life in sparing him.

Peter Marshall was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, near Glasglow in 1902.  His father had died when he was four years of age, but a godly mother brought him up in the faith.  He first wished to go to sea but God said “no” to that dream.  Then it was to become a missionary in China, but that door was also closed.  The door opened was a job in  America, to which his widowed mother reluctantly packed  his suitcase,  commending him to the Lord.  After a brief stay in New Jersey, he traveled to Atlanta, George where he took a job at the Birmingham News.  It was there that he joined the First Presbyterian Church.  Soon, he was busy in the Sunday School, the youth activities, and other ministries.  The Presbytery of Birmingham took him under his care, with plans to send him to seminary.

The school of choice was Columbia Theological Seminary, right in a suburb of Atlanta.  Wondering how he would afford it, the Men’s class which he was teaching at First Presbyterian, pledged to him that they would financially undergird him in his classes at this historic seminary.  He commented, “I feel that my every action is guided by Him who ordains all things for His servants.”  He would graduated magna cum laud from Columbia, and be ordained in 1931.  Called to a rural church in Covington Presbyterian in Georgia, he stayed there for three years.  Then God’s call brought him to Westminster Presbyterian in Atlanta in 1933.  There he was known as the “charming young Scotsman with the silver tongue.”  He  transferred to his last congregation in Washington, D.C. at New York Avenue Presbyterian in 1937.   It was there that a door right into the halls of the federal government was opened to him, in that twice he was chosen to be the Chaplain to Congress in 1947 – 1949.

It was in this calling that he was to bear an influence for Christ far beyond any ministry he had up to this time.  The post ceased to be mere formality and became a powerful and effective reminder of the truth that God is in control of all things, from the greatest to the least.  He believed God was not a Republican nor a Democrat, but that God did want to influence legislation passed by that political body.  He became the conscience of the Senate.

After an earlier brush with death from an apparent heart attack, the final summons came on January 26, 1949.    Two years later, his wife Catherine would write the award-winning book, A Man Called Peter, which would be made into an Oscar-winning movie.

Words to Live By:  Can we say along with Peter Marshall that we are “determined to give our life to God for Him to use us wherever He wants us?”  Such a commitment is necessary for all Christians in their lives here on earth.

Through the Scriptures: Job 35 – 37

Through the Standards: Divine justice praised

W.C. F. 3:7
“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Pastor to the Confederate States of America

The guest preacher in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was closing out his prayer when the cannon shot hit outside the window of the church.  Union forces of the Northern states were known to be advancing, but it was thought that Confederate forces were blocking their entrance to the city.  They were wrong, as the cannon shot proved.  But the Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer was not about to let anything hinder his prayer to the God of providence, But when he finally finished that long prayer and looked up, he found the pews empty with the congregation fleeing to safer places.

We could describe Benjamin Palmer in countless ways during his lifetime of 84 years.  He was a faithful pastor,  powerful preacher, theological professor, a Presbyterian of the Presbyterians, and a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of the Christian religion.  Let’s take just three of these descriptions.

Palmer was the teaching elder at three Presbyterian churches during his pastoral ministry.  It was at this last one — the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, Louisiana — that he would reach the zenith of his influence.  The congregation increased in size under his ministry until it became the third largest Presbyterian church in the South.  He feared no one or nothing.  Once when a yellow fever epidemic hit the town, and most of the other pastors fled, he stayed on to minister in home and hospital to  those stricken with the disease.

Palmer’s preaching stirred many a soul.  Here were the fruits seen of his mother’s home-school training.  He could quote Biblical passages and Shakespeare with equal ease.  In fact, it was his Thanksgiving message in 1860 on secession and slavery which stirred the southern states to rise up and defend their homes against the threat of Northern aggression.  That one message caused him to become the pastor of the Confederacy. It convinced Louisiana to join the other seceding states.  And when after four hard fought years ended in defeat, he became the high priest of the Lost Cause.

Benjamin Palmer was born on January 25, 1818 in a family of ministers, including his own father.  In schools and congregations, in seminary as a student and professor, as the first moderator of the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of  America, as the chaplain to the Army of the Tennessee (C.S.A.), as the spiritual comforter of the defeated South, Palmer served God and his generation as a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of the historic Christian faith.  He possessed a life-long commitment to Reformed theology.

Words to Live By: Can it be said of you that you are known by your unswerving commitment to the essentials of historic Christianity? If you can, give praise to God for it, and if not, resolve to have it be your testimony from this day forward.

Through the Scriptures: Job 32 – 34

Through the Standards: Foreordination of all the means to save the elect

WCF 3:6
“As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.  Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.  Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

For some additional information about Rev. Palmer, including a bibliography of his published works, click here.

A sampling of some of Dr. Palmer’s published articles:
“The Relation between the Work of Christ and the Condition of the Angelic World” (1847)
A Plea for Doctrine as the Instrument of Santification (1849)
“Life, Character, and Genius of the Late Rev. James H. Thornwell” (1862)
“The Art of Conversation” (1862)
“The Tribunal of History” (1872) – [pdf image scan]

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Christian of Exceptional Personality and Evangelistic Appeal

Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. Thirty-five hundred naked natives have gathered together at one site that summer of 1933. Missionary evangelist Charles J. Woodbridge no doubt had something to do with that great gathering in the French Cameroons. He was the sole evangelist for a five thousand mile mission station in that African country. These natives were in great need of hearing the plain and simple gospel message from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission executive from America. What they heard in reality was an hour message on, (are you ready for this?), “the Power of Personality.” There was no greater proof to young Charles Woodbridge of the deepening apostasy of the official missions board of the Presbyterian Church.

When he heard that he himself had been singled out to serve as the General Secretary of the newly formed Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in June of 1933, he gathered his wife and two daughters and returned immediately to America to take up his new post. In less than four years, he would be censured by the highest court of the Presbyterian church for accepting this new ministry.

Charles Woodbridge, born January 24, 1902, was described by his fellow Reformed Christians as being no ordinary General Secretary. From his heritage as the fifteenth generation minister of his family line, dating back to 1493, from his own father who had been a missionary in China, from the fact that he married the daughter of a missionary, Charles Woodbridge would be known as “a man of exceptional personality and evangelistic appeal.” His spiritual gifts made him the perfect architect of a new mission strategy in reaching the world for Christ.

Yet the main line denomination of which he was a part, did not take kindly to this new mission upstart. Within a year, steps were taken to force him to abandon this new missions work, and when he chose not to follow their directives, Charles Woodbridge was censured by the church. He left in 1937 to become a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina for several years.

Eventually, he served as a theological seminary professor and author, always seeking to warn Christians of the danger of compromising the Word of God. He died on 16 July 1995, at the age of 93.

Words to Live By: Committed to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ is a great goal for everyday life and service.

Through the Scriptures: Job 28 – 31

Through the Standards:  Unconditional election

WCF 3:5
“Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of His glorious grace.”

Dr. Woodbridge served as General Secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and also as the editor of the Independent Board Bulletin, from March 1935-June 1937. Some of his more important publications included the following:
1935 – “The Social Gospel: A Review of the Current Mission Study Text Books Recommended for Adults by the Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.,” Christianity Today 5.9 (February 1935): 209-211.
1937 – “Why I Have Resigned as General Secretary of the Independent Board,” The Presbyterian Guardian 4.5 (12 June 1937): 69-71. Available here.
1945
The Chronicle of Salimbene of Parma: A Thirteenth Century Christian Synthesis.
Durham, NC: Duke University, Ph.D. dissertation. 305 p.
1947Standing on the Promises: Rich Truths from the Book of Acts.
1953A Handbook of Christian Truth, co-authored with Harold Lindsell.
1953Romans: The Epistle of Grace.
1962Bible Prophecy.
1969The New Evangelicalism.

Image source: News clipping [publisher not known] from the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, Scrapbook no. 1, page 34.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Our Ability is Ever from God, Not from Ourselves.

The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:5 (read please) spoke for every Christian when he acknowledged that, regardless of the effect of the gospel on people’s hearts, we in spreading that good news, are “a sweet fragrance to God.” He goes on to spell out that our spiritual aroma is a “smell of doom” to those who are lost, but a “vital fragrance, living and fresh” to those who are found in Christ. And then, in the latter part of verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 2, he asks the question which all soul-winners have asked of themselves, “And who is qualified, fit and sufficient, for these things? (Who is able for such a ministry? We?” (Amplified Bible)

David Brainerd, missionary to the Indians in the middle part of the seventeen hundreds, asked the same question on June 23, 1743 in his diary. Listen to his words:

“I scarce ever felt myself so unfit to exist as now: saw I was not worthy of a place among the Indians, where I am going, if God permit. Thought I should be ashamed to look them in the face, and much more to have my respect shown me there. Indeed I felt myself banished from the earth, as if all places were too good for such a wretch. I thought I should be ashamed to go among the very savages of Africa. I appeared to myself a creature fit for nothing, neither heaven nor earth. None know but those who feel it, what the soul endures that is sensibly shut out from the presence of God. Alas! It is more bitter than death.”

This Presbyterian missionary was feeling what the apostle Paul was feeling as to his inadequacy of being a instrument of the gospel. Thankfully, he continued on his mission, even as Paul did, recognizing that “our power and ability and sufficiency are from God.” (Amplified)

Words to Live By: “It is God who has qualified us, making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient. . . .” Second Corinthians 3:5 (Amplified Version) Let us each one go forth in service to Christ in the knowledge of that truth.

Through the Scriptures: Job 25 – 27

Through the Standards: Predestined to life or death

WCF 3:3, 4
“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.”;

WLC 13 “What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
A. God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof; and also, according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will, (whereby he extendeth or withholdeth favor as he pleaseth,) hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor or wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of his justice.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Birth of Francis Landey Patton

Born in Warwick, Bermuda on January 22, 1843 to George John Patton and his wife, Mary A. Steele Patton, Francis L. Patton never became an American citizen, though most of his adult years were spent in the United States.

Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia indicates that he received his education at the University College in Toronto, followed by preparation for the ministry at both Knox College, Toronto and Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, graduating there in 1865. Rev. Patton was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on June 1st, 1865 and installed as pastor of the 84th Street Presbyterian Church, and then served two other Presbyterian churches in the New York City area before moving to Chicago in 1873 to pastor the Jefferson Park Presbyterian Church. Dr. Patton also served concurrently as editor of The Interior, 1873-76 and as professor at what is now McCormick Seminary, 1871-1881.  Capping his ministry in Chicago, he was honored to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1878.

During those busy years, Dr. Patton was engaged as the prosecutor in the heresy trial of the Rev. David Swing, in 1874. The national attention given to this trial may in part have led to the call issued by Princeton Theological Seminary, where Dr. Patton then served as professor of apologetics from 1881 until his retirement in 1913.

In 1932, Edith Bane, a Pittsburgh native, paid a visit to Dr. Patton at his home in Bermuda. She wrote of that visit :

“When I met him last August, he was in his 90th year, yet seemingly in good health, unbowed in stature and alert of mind. Although handicapped by loss of eyesight, years had not dimmed his spirit, his well-known keen sense of humor, or his interest in old friends, his beloved Princeton and the work of the Presbyterian Church. He and Mrs. Patton were living with their son and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. George S[tevenson] Patton, at “Carberry Hill,” the stately old mansion in Warwick, Bermuda, where Dr. Patton was born and where he has lived since his retirement . . .

“. . . he was presented by his parents in Christ Church, Bermuda. It is significant that this child destined to be the powerful supporter and valiant defender of the faith of his fathers, should have been dedicated to the Lord in this historic church—the oldest Presbyterian church in the British overseas empire. Who can doubt that this great life work was but an answer to the prayers offered by his godly parents on that day? . . .

” . . . In 1913, because of advancing years and failing eyesight, he resigned from the seminary and returned to his Bermuda home. It was surely the hand of Providence that led him back to these quiet coral gardens of the Atlantic to spend the evening of his life. As he looked out upon those cedar-covered hills and walked along the shores of the undescribable opalescent sea, he must often have repeated, with a thankful heart: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters . . . ”

“. . . November 25, 1932, after a short illness, he died, and the Presbyterian Church throughout the world faltered at the loss of its beloved patriarch.

Words to Live By:  Truly our lives are in the Lord’s hands. He guides and equips us to proclaim His glory in the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus alone. Our lives may have their disappointments, frustrations and failures, but God’s love for each of His children is unshakable and His plan is sure. What may seem an unprofitable failure will be used of the Lord as He refines us for greater service. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” (Psalm 37:23, KJV).

Through the Scriptures: Job 21 – 24

Through the Standards: God’s Eternal Decrees in the Catechisms

WLC 12 — “What are the decrees of God?
A. God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he has, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.”

WSC 7  “What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

For further reading:
Patton, F.L., Thoughts on the Theistic Controversy, a sermon preached in the Jefferson Park Church, Chicago, July 5th, 1879.

Dr. Patton’s comments in support of J. Gresham Machen’s nomination to serve as professor of apologetics at Princeton, 1926.

Image sources: Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), p. 612 and The Presbyterian Banner 119.24 (15 December 1932): 10-11, as part of the article “A Bermuda Visit in Dr. Patton’s Home,” by Edith Bane. Photographs by Edith Bane.

 

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