January 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A landmark case in favor of religious freedom

[To  our valued readers from the author of Thisday.pcahistory:   As I read the January 21 historical devotional tonight with my wife, I realized that I had mistakenly placed down 1706 as the year that Francis McKemie and John Hampton had been arrested by the New York Anglican governor.  The correct date is 1707—January 21, 1707.  Please correct that error if you are keeping a print copy of the devotional for your own use.  And forgive me, please.—David Myers]

One year after the organization of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, two of the seven ministers of that Presbytery, Francis McKemie and John Hampton took a trip to New England. On their way, they stopped in New York to minister to the Reformed saints there. Requesting permission from the Deputy Governor Lord Cornbury (aka Edward Hyde) to proclaim the Word, they were shocked by his refusal to give them permission. That didn’t stop them however. A private house was secured for them, and McKemie preached “in as public a manner as possible, with open doors.” His traveling companion, Rev. John Hampton, preached in a church on Long Island. Both were arrested by Lord Cornbury on January 21, 1707, and thrown into jail. The charge was that they preached without a license. Hampton was released, but McKemie was imprisoned for six weeks. He was released by the payment of bail. Six months later, he returned for the trial. The exchanges between him and his accusers are historically important.

Lord Cornbury charged McKemie that he was “a strolling preacher.” Further, he declared that he was “not to spread his pernicious doctrines in New York.”

Francis McKemie answered back, “As to our doctrines, we have our (Westminster) Confession of Faith, which is known to the Christian world. I challenge all the clergy of (New) York to show us any false or pernicious doctrines therein. We can prove that its doctrinal articles agree with those of the Church of England.” The reader needs to remember that the authors of Westminster were mostly Church of England ministers!

“But you haven’t signed these articles” of the Anglican faith, Lord Cornbury countered.

McKemie answered, “I have a copy in my pocket, and am ready at all times to sign, with those exceptions in the law.”

The defense of McKemie was based on the English Toleration Law Act of 1689. Even Lord Cornbury’s attorney’s acknowledged that McKemie had such a command of English laws that they couldn’t prove him guilty. For that reason, he was acquitted, but Lord Cornbury forced him to pay the cost of the prosecution, which was several hundred dollars. This injustice was denounced by the New York legislature, who passed a law to prevent any such persecution again. Lord Cornbury was recalled the very next year back to England.

Words to Live By: Whether you preach the gospel in the pulpit as a minister, or hear the gospel proclaimed faithfully by a minister, gives thanks for the courage of Francis McKemie who stood his ground when an attempt was made to muzzle the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Through the Scriptures: Job 18 – 20

Through the Standards: God’s Eternal Decrees, in the Confession

WCF 3:1, 2
“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed any thing because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Presbyterians in Southwest Virginia Declare Independence from England

In September of 1774, the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to protest some British laws which were deemed to be injurious to the people of the American colonies. One of them had been to deem all territory north of the Ohio River to Quebec, a Roman Catholic province. With that protestation, these early risings of independence sent petitions to their British rulers, urging at the same time that the people of the colonies take action by boycotting certain British goods. All over the colonies, committees came together to discuss their collective responses to this call.

On January 20, 1775, a group of people representing southwest Virginia, met in the town of Abington, Virginia. A committee was formed, made up primarily of Presbyterians in two churches pastored by Charles Cummings. Their names deserve to be mentioned, as they were the key Presbyterian laymen of that area. They were, along with their rank, Colonel William Christian, Colonel William Preston, Captain Stephen Trigg, Major Arthur Campbell, John Montgomery, James McGavock. William Campbell, Thomas Madison, Daniel Smith, William Russell, Evan Shelby, and William Edmundson.

After discussion together, they as a body sent an address to the Second Continental Congress, soon to meet, which included the following words:

“We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful sovereign, but on the contrary, shall ever glory in being the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion as Protestants and our liberties and properties as British subjects. But if no pacific measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to slavery, we declare that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth, but at the expense of our lives.”

Here was no wild-eyed statement of revolution, but rather a carefully formulated statement of subjection to lawful authority, as long as the latter did not seek to take away the rights and privileges of its citizens, and thereby make them little more than slaves. It was thought that the wording of this declaration was essentially that of Presbyterian pastor Charles Cummings.

They were sent to the Second Continental Congress as the spirit of southwest Virginia with regards to the important issues of liberty and justice for all.

Words to Live By: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 (ESV);

“For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs 24:6 (ESV)

Through the Scriptures:Job 14 – 17

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of God and the Holy Trinity

Deuteronomy 6:4
“Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” (NASV)

1 Corinthians 8:4 – 6
“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (NASV)

Acts 5:3, 4
“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? . . . You have not lied to men, but to God.'” (NASV)

 2 Corinthians 13:14
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (NASV)

For further reading, see Virginia Presbyterianism and Religious Liberty in Colonial and Revolutionary Times, by Thomas Cary Johnson. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1907.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Governor by Eighteen Votes

The margin in the election couldn’t get any closer than it was. But on January 19, 1802, David Hall won the race for governor of Delaware by a mere eighteen vote difference. That he would win at all, even by that narrow margin, was providential, given his circumstances.

David Hall, Jr. was born in Lewes, Delaware in 1752. His parents had emigrated from Connecticut in the early 1700’s. David Hall, Sr. was a well known farmer in the area, having served as a Justice of Peace as well as in the Colonial Assembly for twenty plus years. Young David Hall, Jr. married the daughter of a prominent Anglican rector, and fathered six children from the union. But this new family of Hall’s were solidly Presbyterian, worshiping at Lewes Presbyterian Church, one of the earliest Reformed churches in the colony. He studied Law and began his practice of law in the town.

When issues of independence from England entered the colony, David Hall left his attorney’s practice and joined the First Delaware Infantry regiment. They fought in four pivotal battles at Long Island, White Plains, Brandywine, and Germantown. In the latter two battles, Hall was commanding the regiment as its colonel. Also in the last battle at Germantown, David Hall was critically wounded. Eventually, he had to leave soldiering and resign his commission to go back to the practice of law.

In 1802, he ran for the office of governor. Everything was against him in that race. He was the first non-Federalist to run for office in the state, and win. His opponent was an Anglican but also a deist. Hall was clearly a theist in conviction and openly advocated his Presbyterian and Reformed convictions.  In God’s providence, even in Anglican Lewes county, he won the governorship. He would serve for three years, and afterwards serve for several years as a judge.

Governor Hall’s gravestone is pictured here. His home is also on the National Registry of Historic Homes, here.

Words to Live By: It has been said that one with God makes a majority. Yet the God of the Bible does not need the one to be a majority. God is sovereign after all.  What He needs are for Christians to stand in the gap, so to speak, and be made willing to be used for God’s glory and our good.  If circumstances prevent you from doing that, ask God to change your circumstances.  Support others who have answered the call, with your prayers of encouragement and words of comfort.

Through the Scriptures: Job 11 – 13

Through the Standards: The properties and deity of the Triune God

WLC 10 — “What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?
A. It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.”

WLC 11 — “How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
A. The scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Walking Library with Wit

Charles Nisbet was born in Scotland in 1736. Graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he studied divinity for another six years after which he was licensed to preach in 1760. A friend of Witherspoon, he stood for the historic Christian faith. As a friend of the American colonies, he accepted an invitation to become the first president of Dickinson College, a Presbyterian school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Here he was to remain until January 18, 1804, going home to be with his Lord in the sixth-eighth year of his life. He was known during his life time as having an ability to remember large portions of Greek, Latin, and British classics. In addition, he was acquainted with nine languages. As such, he was a remarkable collegiate leader.

For a time, he served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian church on the square of Carlisle, in addition to his educational responsibilities. Once during that ministry, a woman of the congregation announced to him that she thought she could preach as well as he did. So Dr. Nisbet told her that before she would be allowed into the pulpit, she would have to know how to preach. She readily agreed, and was instructed that the average sermon had an introduction, a three point outline, and an application. When she asked him for a text, he responded with Proverbs 21:9, which states, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, then with a brawling woman in a wide house.” The woman was indignant, asking whether the pastor thought she was such a woman. Dr. Nisbet replied, “Oh my dear, you are already at the application. You must go back first and deal with the introduction.”

In front of Dickinson College today, there is a sign which reads, “The Charles Nisbet Campus of Dickinson College. Named for Dr. Charles Nisbet (1736 – 1804) of Montrose, Scotland, one of the great scholars of his time. First President of the College.”

Words to Live By: Discover and  develop the spiritual gifts  or Spirit-given abilities of service, which God’s Spirit has given you, and then dedicate and deploy them in His kingdom and church.

Through the Scriptures: Job 8 – 10

Through the Standards: God is single in unity and plural in personality

WLC 8 “Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living the true God”

WLC 9 “How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  “There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substances, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.”

WSC 5  “Are there more Gods than one?
A.  There is but One only, the living and true God.”

WSC 6  “How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”

Image sources: The above two images were taken from The Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle. Harrisburg, PA: Meyers Printing, 1889. Portrait: vol. 1, facing the title page. Monument: vol. 2, p. 65.

For further reading on the life and ministry of Dr. Charles Nisbet, see pp. 60-65 of The Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle, available on the web here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Almost Entirely a Presbyterian Army

When Lord Cornwallis brought his British army into the southern colonies, it was the Presbyterian colonists of that part of the infant nation which met him and his forces in every county and town with their Bibles, their Psalm books, and their rifles. Sending a fierce cavalry officer in Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who rarely gave quarter, into western South Carolina, with a picked force of 1100 men, they came up against the smaller American forces at a grazing ground on the Broad River called the Cowpens.

Commanding the American militia and Continentals was Brig. General Daniel Morgan, a Presbyterian elder. In charge of the second of three lines of American soldiers was Presbyterian elder Andrew Pickens. The majority of the militia were from the Presbyterian congregations of South Carolina and Virginia.    It was almost entirely a Presbyterian army.  All through the night, the elders prayed with the men to ask God to give them the victory.

At sunrise on January 17, 1781, the charge of the British forces began. Moving with fifty yards, the American forces, as they were commanded to do by Morgan, fired two volleys, and retired to the second line. The second line of American riflemen fired three volleys, taking down all the British officers, and retired to the third line of American troops. This was composed of battle hardened Continental troops of the American army. As they, along with the retiring militia, charged the British troops, American cavalry attacked both flanks of the British forces. The latter retreated with a tremendous loss of men killed, wounded, and captured. A full one third of Cornwallis’s soldiers were out of action, and the battle of Cowpens was over. An American victory was given in answer to the prayers and courage of Presbyterian riflemen from the southern states.

Words to Live By: “The Lord is a Man of War; the Lord is His name.” Exodus 15:3 (Amplified)  It has been a much discussed topic down through the years since our American Revolution as to where Christian Presbyterians should have been as involved as they were in it.  But the issue really which should be discussed is whether it was a just war. If it was, then Christians must support it.  If it was not, then Christians have no place in it.  That is the question then.  Was the American Revolution a just war?  Our American Presbyterian ancestors thought it was, and so supported it and indeed fought in its battles.   We need to do the same examination with conflicts today.

Through the Scriptures: Job 5 – 7

Through the Standards: God is single in unity and plural in persons

WCF 2:3
“In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.

James Oliver Buswell, Jr. was born January 16, 1895, in Burlington Wisconsin. When he was four years old he moved with his family to Mellon, Wisconsin. Reflecting upon the example of his father, particularly as displayed during those years following 1899 in the home missions work in the north woods of Wisconsin, Dr. Buswell wrote in 1926: “I thank God for a father who was a perfectly fearless preacher of righteousness, a wonderfully persuasive preacher of grace, and above all, a clear-sighted and patient guide in all his sons’ perplexities.” (Bulletin of Wheaton College, III (May 1926), 2)

In the summer of 1919 just after returning from France Dr. Buswell wrote the following: “Just before the Meuse-Argonne offensive, we were billeted in Camp Marquette for about five days. Everyone knew that we were going into a drive; the spirit of soberness was in the air. We had a revival there…. About thirty-five presented themselves for baptism, and in two days about a hundred and fifty men came to one or the other of us, the two regimental chaplains, stating that they wanted to be known as Christian men. Some of these were already devout Christian characters, and others had just then found Christ as their Saviour…. They were men who had come to Christ as a result of the simple preaching of the old Gospel.” (Bibliotheca Sacra, LXXXII (October 1925), 405)

On the morning of September 26, 1918, the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne began. Dr. Buswell, armed with a 45 caliber automatic pistol and extra ammunition for the troops, went over Vouquois Hill that morning and into the bloody offensive. In the five days that followed nearly two-thirds of the regiment was either killed or wounded. Ninety percent of the men who had identified themselves as believers or who had just become Christians were either killed or wounded. Dr. Buswell ministered to the dead and dying with Bible and bandages. Bullets struck his canteen at his side and pierced his chest gas mask. For bravery and devotion to duty under heavy fire Dr. Buswell was cited in General Orders and eventually received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star, awarded years later in a special program in the Wheaton College chapel on March 17, 1934. Finally, Dr. Buswell himself was wounded in the leg by shrapnel about noon, on Sunday, September 29, 1918. Dr. Buswell spent about three months in a hospital. He returned to his regiment by Christmas, 1918,which was by then in northern France. The Armistice ending the War had been signed November 11, 1918, in Compiegne Forest.

On June 17, 1919, Dr. Buswell debarked in the United States and was discharged from the Army. While overseas, Buswell had developed the outline for his first published work, Problems in the Prayer Life, which was later published in 1927

Words to Live By: Suffering comes in many forms. There is the suffering that we bring upon ourselves and there is also the suffering caused by others. All of us live in relation to the rest of the world and we are increasingly affected by events far removed from our own immediate circumstances. War is one of the most horrific events which can engulf any people, yet every Christian can have the resolute assurance that God is sovereign over all of human history, that whatever may happen, the Christian rests securely in the Father’s hands. (Isaiah 45; Romans 8).

“Not only in our prayer life, but our whole status of being in grace, is dependent upon Christ. We were “far off,” but now we are “made nigh in the blood of Christ.” [Ephesians 2:13] He is the “great high priest,” “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It is wholly due to Him that we have received the invitation to “draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” [Hebrews 4:14-16] The statement of the lost and hopeless condition of men without Christ is not popular in our day. Nevertheless, there is no access to God, hence no prayer, without Christ, “for there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all…” [I Timothy 2:5, 6]
[Buswell, Problems in the Prayer Life, pp. 13-14.]

Through the Scriptures:  Job 1 – 4

Through the Standards: God’s relationship to other existences 

WCF 2:2
“God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them.  He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, and upon them whatsoever Himself pleases.  In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain.  He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.  To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.”

Biographical text taken from “Buswell, The Man,” by Edward A. Steele, III, in Presbyterion, Volume II, numbers 1-2 (Spring-Fall 1976), pp. 6-7. Quotation on prayer from Problems in the Prayer Life. Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association of Chicago, 1928, pp. 13-14. Photographs courtesy of the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

The J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Manuscript Collection is preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Finding aids to this collection may be viewed here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History :   

One of the Twelve Signers

Many Presbyterians know that the Scotch-Irish had a pivotal part in the birth of our country.  But they may not be aware that there were twelve Presbyterians who put their names on the line as well as their sacred honor to actually sign their name on the Declaration of Independence.  Philip Livingstone was one of those signers.

Livingstone came from a distinguished family.  His grandfather had been a minister in the Church of Scotland; refusing to take an oath of allegiance to King Charles II, he fled to Holland where he was pastor of a Presbyterian Church. Livingstone’s father, Robert, came to the colonies where Philip was born on January 15, 1716.  At age 17, Philip graduated from Yale College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business.  Moving to New York City, he soon made his mark as a merchant and importer.  In 1740, he married Christina Ten Broeck, with whom he would father nine children.

His time in New York City would be spent in both political and civic organizations, serving as an alderman and as a governor of New York Hospital, participating in the founding of what later became Columbia University, and in the founding of a library.  The national scene of the colonies did not escape his spiritual gifts as he was selected as one of the delegates from New York state to the First Continental Congress.

After signing the Declaration of Independence, he  suffered financially for his stand for liberty.  His house on Long Island became a barracks for British troops and his country estate a  hospital.  Yet he continued to serve in Congress, even as he developed dropsy in the chest.  Despite being diagnosed with this death sentence, he fled Philadelphia for York, Pa. with the rest of the Congress. At the sixth Continental Congress, he died and was buried in York, Pennsylvania.

Congress as a body attended the funeral of one of their own, each member wearing a black crepe around his arm, mourning their loss of a compatriot for a month.  His funeral was conducted by the Rev. George Duffield, Presbyterian chaplain of the Congress.

It was said of Philip Livingstone that he was a firm believer in the great truths of the Christian system, and a sincere and humble follower of the divine Redeemer.  That faith and life was evident in his support for independence until his death at age 62.

Words to Live By: Like Joseph and Daniel of Old Testament times, Christians can and should serve the Lord through  government.  We need to pray for all such believers today in that sphere, that God would give them wisdom to serve rightly.

Through the Scriptures: Genesis 47 – 50

Through the Standards: The attributes of God in the catechisms

WLC 7 — What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”

WSC 4
“God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History :  

A Most Solemn Season of Prayer

It was on January 14, 1744 that Presbyterian missionary David Brainerd recorded in his famous diary a personal prayer session he had with his God and Father.  Meditate on his words:

“This morning I enjoyed a most solemn season in prayer: my soul seemed enlarged, and assisted to pour out itself to God for grace, and for every blessing I wanted, for myself, my dear Christian friends, and for the church of God, and was so enabled to see him who is invisible, that my soul rested on him for the performance of everything I asked agreeable to his will.  It is then my happiness, to ‘continue instant in prayer,’ and  was enabled to continue  in it for nearly an hour.  My soul was then ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’  Longed exceedingly for angelic holiness and purity, and to have all my thoughts, at all times, employed in divine and heavenly things.”

 “Oh how blessed is a heavenly temper (i.e. spirit)!  Oh how unspeakably blessed it is, to feel a measure of that rectitude, in which we were at first created!  Felt the same divine assistance in prayer sundry times in the day.  My soul confided in God for myself, and for His Son.  Trusted in divine power and grace, that He would do glorious things in his church on earth, for his own glory.”

As you read over this marvelous prayer, you can see how thoroughly saturated Brainerd was in the Word of God.  He wanted only to pray for requests which were “agreeable to His will,” as Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10. (NIV)  He was able to “continue instant in prayer,” as Roman 12:12 commands.  As a result of such prayer, he was able to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” as Ephesians 6:10 (KJV) enjoins the people of God. David Brainerd was able to guide his prayers through the language of Scripture.

Words to Live By: Take any of the prayers of Paul in his letters, like Ephesians 1:17-19, or 3:14-21, and personalize them.  In so doing, you will be brought closer to your God, as you use the inspired Word of God to approach Him in prayer.

Through the Scripture: Genesis 43 – 46

Through the Standards:  The attributes of God, according to the Confession.

WCF 2:1
“There is but one only, living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History : 

The Main Purpose for Life

It seems there are noteworthy people and events to point to for every day of the calendar. But for this day of January 13, we would instead like to turn our attention to the magnificent answer of our Confessional fathers in The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question no. 1. — What is man’s chief end?  Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

The framers of this short answer were concerned about the “chief” end of man.  There could, and should, be other purposes for both faith and life.  Indeed, every person, and certainly every Christian, should be aware of these purposes as they relate to life in the home, vocation, the church, and society at large.  When changes come into your life, such as a birthday, anniversary, a new calendar year, or even the anniversary of conversion, a time of self-examination is afforded to assess progress in fulfilling these purposes.  But in and through all of these milestones, this all-encompassing chief purpose should be your guide.

The first aspect of your chief and highest aim in life is “to glorify God.”  Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, “whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB)  And that prince of Bible expositors, John Calvin, further defines this glory of God by stating that “the glory of God is when we know that He is.”  But beyond seeing the divine glory in the revelation of Who He is as Creator and Redeemer, we are also given an answer as to how are to respond in our glorification of God.

» An edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, published by the London Sunday-School Union.  J. Rider, Printer, Little Britain, undated [ca. 1803-1810], 63 p.; 10.3 cm. »

Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given me to do.” (John 17:4)  Jesus reflects on his ministry, considering how He had fulfilled His eternal purpose in coming to earth.  Likewise, our chief end in glorifying God is to finish the work which God’s Spirit has called us to do, in the home, our calling in life, through the church, and in society at large.

Our other chief purpose in life is to enjoy God forever.  The psalmist Asaph meditates on this aim when he wrote, “Whom have I in  heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth.” (Psalm 73:25) We are to delight in our God on earth as we shall do in heaven.  That translates out to delighting in God’s Word, the Bible, by  worshiping Him publicly and privately, enjoying His day, the Christian Sabbath, set aside for Him, and fulfilling our calling as spiritual sons and daughters of God in the family, our calling in life, through the church, and in the world at large.

Words to Live By:  By memorizing this answer, the reader will be able to do a quick check of this chief purpose in the words, thoughts, and actions of his/her life.  Use this time of reflection in some meditation, then prayer, and then action to resolve to glorify God and enjoy him this day, tomorrow, the next day, and into the next week, month, and year.

Through the Scripture: Genesis 40 – 42

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Holy Scripture:

Hebrews 1:1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets . . . (ESV)

Matthew 4:4 “But He (Jesus) answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (ESV)

Luke 24:27, 44 “And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them (his apostles) in all the Scriptures the things concerning themselves.  Then he said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (ESV)

2 Peter 1: 21 “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)

2 Timothy 3:16, 17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

Isaiah 8:20 “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (ESV)

John 10:35 “So men . . . to whom God’s message came — and the Scripture cannot be set aside or canceled or broken or annulled –” (Amplified Bible)

Further reading on man’s chief end—there are many passages we could relate, but this from Richard Sibbes is a recent favorite:

“. . . let us never rest till we make it good that God is our God. For what if we have all things, if we have not God with all things? All other things are but streams; God is the fountain. If we have not the spring, what will become of us at last? Ahithophel had much wisdom and policy, but he had not God for his God. Ahab had power and strength, but he had not God for his God. Saul had a kingdom, but he had not God for his God. Herod had excellence, but he had not God for his God. Judas was an apostle, a great professor, but he had not God for his God. What became of all these? Wisdom they had, strength they had, honour they had, friends they had, but they had not God; and therefore a miserable end they made. What miserable creatures are all such, when they shall say, Friends have forsaken me, wealth has forsaken me, and health has forsaken me; terrors lay hold upon me, the wrath of God has overtaken me. But they cannot say, God is my God. Oh, such are in a miserable case, in a fearful estate indeed. Nay, suppose they have all these, suppose they could say they have a world of riches, they have inheritances, they have friends, etc., yet if they cannot say, God is my God, all is vanity. The whole man is this, to have God to be our God. This is the whole man, to fear God and keep his commandment, Eccles. 12:13. If a man have all the world, and have not God for his God, all is but vanity and vexation of spirit. Never rest therefore till we can prove ourselves to be in the covenant of grace, till we can say, God is our God.”

[
The Faithful Covenanter, by Richard Sibbes, Works, vol. 6, pp. 15-16.]

Also on this day:
In 1868, plans were laid for the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

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This Day in Presbyterian History :  

A Sermon on the Virgin Birth

Preaching on a Communion Sunday on January 12, 1997, the Rev. J. Ligon Duncan, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi gave an interesting illustration from C.S. Lewis on the Virgin Birth of Christ.  Duncan recounts:

“There is a story that one day C.S. Lewis was sitting in his office in the English department when a friend, who was an unbeliever, wandered in.  There were carolers below in the courtyard singing Christmas carols, and as the two were speaking, they could hear them singing a Christmas carol that contained words about Jesus’ Virgin Birth.  His unbelieving friend said to C.S. Lewis, ‘Isn’t it good that we know more than they did?’  C.S. Lewis  said, ‘What do you mean?’  ‘Well, isn’t it good that we now know that virgins don’t have babies.’  C.S. Lewis looked at him incredulously and said, ‘Don’t you think that they knew that?  That’s the whole point.'”

Rev. Duncan continued by saying, “you see my friends, the fact that Jesus is born of a virgin is intended to surprise.  There is no example of this happening before in Scripture.  There is no precursor to this in Scripture.  It is intended to be completely unique to set forth who Jesus is.  The Virgin birth sets forth the divinity of Christ and His sinless humanity.  And without that doctrine of the virgin birth, these all-important truths are compromised.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is unimportant.  It is taught in the Bible and it has always been believed by God’s people and therefore it is important.  It is important because it sets forth His divinity and His sinless humanity.”

Words to Live By: To deny the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is to deny His divinity and His sinless humanity.  J. Gresham Machen wrote on this important doctrine back in the early part of the twentieth century.  What he wrote then is just as important today.  Machen’s final treatise on the subject is available on the web, here, or may be purchased in a print edition, here. This remains an important Scriptural truth that must be declared and defended in an unbelieving age.

« Dr. Machen’s earliest publication on the doctrine of the virgin birth appeared in The Princeton Theological Review, 3.4 (October 1905): 641-670. Click here to view the entire article. Part 2 was published in January, 1906, and can be viewed here.

Through the Scriptures:  Genesis 37 – 39

Through the Standards:  The Holy Spirit is Supreme Judge

WCF 1:10
“The supreme Judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

Other Significant Events on 12 January:
1973 – Dr. Oswald T. Allis, one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, died on this day in 1973, at the age of 92.

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