February 2012

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Alone on the Oregon Trail

Oh no!  When Wayne Sparkman, the  director of the PCA History Center agreed with my suggestion  that I write a year’s worth of Presbyterian people, places, and events, the year of 2012 became the goal for the finished series of historical devotionals.  I readily agreed to the proposal, but then I discovered that 2012 was a leap year, with its corresponding extra day.  Where could I possibly find something associated with Presbyterianism which occurred on February 29?

God is so good!  For it was on February 29, 1836, Rev Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza  boarded a steamer to Ohio to wait for the other Presbyterian missionary couple, the Whitman’s, who would be accompanying them as they traveled to minister to the Nez Pierce Indian tribe in the northwest. The trip in itself would be historic in that Eliza Spalding and Narcissa Whitman would be the first white women to travel on the historic Oregon Trail. They would be the first women to cross the Continental Divide.

The first leg of the travels were on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. When they reached present day Kansas, the party of missionaries traveled on by horseback, making 15 miles on a good day, and camping each night. A company of fur traders shot buffalo which they feasted on night after night. The trip from Kansas to Washington was approximately 2100 miles, and crossed the present day states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.  US 26 later was constructed on this historic path.  They would arrive in what is today Walla Walla, Washington on September 1, 1835, a trip of six months.

Henry Spalding, as a Presbyterian minister, dearly loved his wife Eliza.  As they had sadly lost their first child, being stillborn, Henry was at first hesitant for his wife to travel on such a taxing journey.  Eliza answered her caring husband by saying, “I like the command just as it stands, ‘Go ye into all the world,’ and no exceptions for poor health.”  And so they went on this historic journey to evangelize the native tribes of that northwest part of the country.

Words to Live By: Each Christian should  like the command just as it stands, “Go into all the world to proclaim the good news of eternal life,” without any exceptions to the duty.  God gives strength to do what He commands.

Through the Scriptures: Deuteronomy 3

Through the Standards: Proof texts on the fall of man into sin:

Read Genesis 3; Romans 5:12 – 21; Romans 3:10 – 19;

1 John 3:4
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (NASB);

James 4:17
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (NASB)

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Voice from the Past on a Present Issue

The Psalmist David in Psalm 11:3 asks the haunting question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” That is the same question many evangelical Presbyterians are asking in the light of the Presbyterian Church, USA, having opened the door to gay and lesbian ministers last year. Yet if the truth be told, this sad decision was the natural outcome of an attack upon the authority of the Word of God some 88 years ago, when the infamous Auburn Affirmation was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Northern Presbyterian Church. A past devotional on January 9 spoke of it. We refer to it again, because on this date, February 28, 1935, Dr. Gordon H. Clark addresses a group of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia on the significance of the Auburn Affirmation. Remember, he was writing a mere eleven years after its presence in the church. Note the following words of Dr. Clark on it.

“The reason the Auburn Affirmation is so important is that it constitutes a major offensive against the Word of God. It, or at least its theology, is the root of Presbyterian apostasy. The five doctrines involved are the truth of Holy Scripture, the factuality of the Virgin Birth, His miracles, His sacrifice on Calvary to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to Christ, and His resurrection.”

Dr. Clark would deal with each of these five doctrines one by one, pointing out how some 1250 signers of the Affirmation [over 10% of the ministers in the denomination at that time!] went on to use familiar language with respect to them, but denying their importance in historic Christianity. They were, in their words, just theories, and denials of them were acceptable to them and should be acceptable by the church at large.

Gordon Clark set the matter to the laymen long ago by stating “This is not a trivial matter; it is rather a life and death struggle between two mutually exclusive religions. One religion can without harm to its integrity reject the infallible Word of God, deny the Virgin Birth, repudiate Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, and deny the resurrection. That religion will remain complete, even if all these things are eliminated; but that religion is not Christianity. The other religion is Christianity, because it accepts the Bible as the very Word of God, who cannot lie, because it makes Christ’s sacrifice to satisfy divine justice the only basis of salvation, and because it glories in the historical fact of the resurrection.”

The entire article can be found at the PCA Historical Center, to which we recommend the reader to reference. But what can the righteous do, when the very foundation of historic Christianity is being destroyed? Our Presbyterian fathers fought that destruction from 1923 to 1936 to reclaim the church from the inside. Failing that, they voted with their feet and sought to form a more perfect union with a separate Bible-believing, gospel-preaching denomination.

Also on this date:
In 1638, Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant on the grounds of Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh.

Words to Live By: There is always a call for the righteous to uphold the foundation of biblical Christianity. Are you among the righteous heeding that call?

Through the Scriptures: Deuteronomy 1 – 2

Through the Standards: Punishment of sin here and hereafter.

WLC 28
“What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.”

WLC 29
“What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire for ever.”

Additional responses to the Auburn Affirmation :

Image sources:
1. Dr. Clark’s message, “The Auburn Heresy,” was originally delivered on 28 February 1935 before a meeting of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia. It was subsequently then published in Christianity Today [original series], 5.11 (April 1935): 259-261. Pictured above is the cover of a tract form of the address issued by The Southern Presbyterian Journal which itself went through at least three printings.
2. Photograph of Dr. Clark from the back cover of his work, Lord God of Truth. The Trinity Foundation, Hobbes NM, 1994.

Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers:
The Rev. Alan David Mohrenweiser died on this day in 1970, at the age of 37 years. A graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, he was ordained in 1958. Though he suffered severely from arthritis, his love of the Lord and His people led him to pastor the Bible Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, Iowa for three years, until that affliction forced him to step down from that pulpit. Dr. Robert Rayburn delivered the sermon at Rev. Mohrenweiser’s funeral.

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

The Work of Creation

With nothing of note in Presbyterian circles with which we could identify, the ninth Shorter Catechism question and answer forms a worthy devotional for our readers today on February 27. It reads, “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.”

The Larger Catechism which deals with the same question and answer, is number 15. It adds to the work of creation, the time as indicated by the phrase “in the beginning,” and also makes explicit that it is “the world” which God made. It states the purpose of creative power to be “for himself.”

What is remarkable about both catechetical answers is the Scriptural basis. There is not a phrase given which is not specifically mentioned in Holy Scripture.

Creation is first of all spoken as a divine making all things of nothing. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote in chapter 12:verse 3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (NASV) The creator God did it ex nihilo – out of nothing.

Further, the world was prepared by “the word of his power.” The Psalmist exclaims in Psalm 33:6 – 9 “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breadth of His mouth, all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him, For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (NASV) Our God did not need a rabbit or a hat. He simply spoke and it was accomplished. Only faith will allow us to believe this. Only praise will echo forth from our mouths and hearts because of it.

This occurred in “space of six days.” Now mortal man has argued indefinitely whether this has reference to six days of twenty-four hours, or indefinite periods of time in the sense of ages, or simply providing a framework of creation, or describing a beautiful poem of creation. And in so doing, how easy it is to forget in all the spoken and printed words seeking to justify one position or the other, “the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.” (WCF 4:1) Readers, we need you and God’s people everywhere, to keep God in the picture, even within this picture of creation.

Finally, it was all “very good.” That was the divine assessment the Creator God made continually in the creation story in Genesis. And how could it be otherwise, when Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:16, “for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (NASV)

Words to Live By: Through God and for God – that is the slogan worth remembering when we meditate on God’s world.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 34 – 36

Through the Standards: Misery of sin in the catechisms

WLC 27 “What misery did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.”

WSC 19 “What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.”

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

An absent without leave minister

One of the original seven ministers of the infant Philadelphia presbytery was Samuel Davis. We don’t know a lot about his background. He was believed to be born in Ireland. We are not sure when he immigrated to America, but we do find recorded in the records in Somerset County, Maryland, that he performed a marriage ceremony on February 26, 1684. He is listed as being the minister of Snow Hill, Maryland seven years later in August 1691. We do know that he had “a tent making” ministry besides his pastoral duties to add to his pastoral income. That business venture, whatever it was, might have been the reason for his sketchy attendance at Presbytery.

Though he was the fourth member of seven member ministers on the roll of the first Presbytery in 1706, he was not physically present on that historic first meeting. At the next meeting in 1707, his written excuse to be absent was not sustained, nor was his first absence in 1706. In fact, there was an order by the small group of presbyters to be present at the 1708 meeting in the same city. He did show up, and was promptly elected moderator! He did present his reason for being absent the previous two meetings, and his excuses were sustained by the others present.

Samuel Davis, as the moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery, was sent to participate in the installation of Rev. John Hampton in the church of Snow Hill, Maryland. However, Davis did not show up for the installation of Rev. Hampton. He was asked to preach at another way station of early Presbyterianism, but was absent on that occasion as well. A letter was sent to him with a complaint for not only these absences, but other delinquencies as well. He was ordered to prepare a sermon on Hebrews 1:4
for the next presbytery meeting.

In the Presbytery of 1712, there is the note in the minutes that, after inquiry, his fellow ministers were satisfied that their fellow pastor Samuel Davis was necessarily absent for the past three years. Two ministers were instructed to write him and exhort him to be present for future meetings, or failing that, to send a justified excuse if he couldn’t be present. He wasn’t present in 1712, nor did he sent an excuse for the meeting in 1713, but did send one in 1714. However, he did arrive later in at the meeting in 1714 and was part of an ordination for the new Presbyterian pastor of Cape May, New Jersey.

He was excused from attending the 1715 and 1716 meetings. At the 1716 meeting of the Philadelphia presbytery, he was transferred to the Snow Hill Presbytery, which was composed of him and two other ministers. It is not known if he was any more faithful in these new parts of the Presbyterian church. He died in 1725.

Words to Live By: Faithfulness in God’s work is the essential ingredient of a successful ministry. Let us pray for those who preach the Word of God and encourage them in that work.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 21 – 24

Through the Standards:  Misery of sin in the Confession

WCF 6:6
“Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.”

Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers:

Charles Campbell Cox, Jr., pastor of First Presbyterian church, Taylorsville, MS, 1975-1985 and member of Grace Presbytery, died on 26 February 1990.

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Congo’s African-American Livingstone

Born March 8, 1865 in Waynesboro, Virginia, William Henry Sheppard, a black man, was never a slave. His mother was of mixed-race background, which status made him a free black. His father was an employee of the local all-white Presbyterian church, serving as janitor. Growing up, he was enrolled in the local school for blacks. Showing great resolve, he next enrolled at the Hampton Institute in 1880 in Hampton, Virginia, where Booker T. Washington was one of his instructors. Then graduating from Hampton in 1883, he moved on to the Tuscaloosa Theological Seminary (now Stillman College). After graduation in 1886, he became an ordained Presbyterian minister in the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

Dr. William H. & Lucy G. Sheppard.
Charcoal portrait by Greg MacNair, 2005. Used by permission.
[This portrait hangs just outside the reading room of the PCA Historical Center.]

Becoming a pastor at Zion Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Shepherd found himself restless and applied with the PCUS Mission board to go to the Congo as a missionary. When several applications received only vague rejections, Rev. Sheppard finally traveled to the headquarters and applied in person. Prejudices died hard in the former Confederacy, and this was evident by their initial refusal and final acceptance. He could go to the Congo as a foreign missionary, but only if a white missionary would supervise him. To his surprise, a young white minister by the name of Samuel Lapsley, volunteered to go with him in that position. They sailed to the Congo on February 25, 1890. Despite what the mission board stated at home, these two missionaries soon were treating each other as equals. Arriving at what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they set about founding a mission in a village known as Luebo. Despite contracting malaria numerous times, Shepherd  managed to adapt to the African climate and setting far better than did Lapsley, who died of a fever after only two years on the field, in 1892.

Of Lapsley’s death, Rev. Shepherd wrote,

Before this time you will have learned of the Mission’s loss. My friend and brother left Luebo, Jan. 6th, 1892, for the Lower Congo to attend to some business about the transport, and our land. He thought also a change would be beneficial to him, expected to return by the next steamer. I went forth with the people to do some building that our home might be more comfortable. For those two years we have labored as one. We have loved and cared for each other as though we were brothers. We have never been separated only this once, and it grieves my heart that I was so far from him. Oh! that I could have kneeled by his side to catch the last whisper before he slept. [The Missionary, 25.10 (Oct. 1902): 415].

Shepherd learned the language of the natives, which in turn enabled him to discover parts of the Congo where no outsiders had visited. He even found himself in a village of King Luckenga, which presence was in itself equivalent to a death sentence. However, Shepherd’s fluency in the language persuaded the king’s family that he was a reincarnation of one of their dead relatives.

In 1893, Sheppard left Africa to travel to London, England. He met Queen Victoria and was inducted into England’s Royal Geographic Society. Back in the United States, he lectured all over the States. Marrying Lucy Gantt, whom he had met just after he had graduated from the theological institute, they started a family. Expanding the first mission, they started a second Congo mission. When two of their children succumbed in disease, Lucy in 1898 took their third baby back to the United States, where they remained for two years.

In the next year, there was a new challenge. Shepherd began to notice the exploitation of the black tribes under the colonial ruler, Belgium, and specifically King Leopold II of Belgium. In essence, it was slavery in all of its terrible forms, with atrocities right and left. The Presbyterian Church had a spiritual interest in that part of the world, but it also was concerned with these human rights issues. In fact, it sent over a new white missionary to replace Lapsley by the name of William Morrison. Together these two missionaries brought that national colonial government to task, with pressure through the media.

Things were not well spiritually with Shepherd however. With his wife absent from him, he yielded to temptation on a moral plane with three adulterous relationships. Due to his fame worldwide, Shepherd was allowed to return quietly to the United States. Following a period of repentance and restoration, he and his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where for the next 27 years, William Shepherd served as pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church. He died on November 25, 1927 after a stroke.

Words to Live By: Our Savior wisely said it for all time in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (ESV)

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 28 – 30

Through the Standards: Continuing effect of the fall in the saved.

WCF 6:5
“This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.”

A final note, reflecting on Mrs. Sheppard’s role in the mission work. She wrote, in 1900 concerning the efforts at that time among the Bakuba people in the Congo:

Just now this people, the Bakuba, are experiencing some trouble. Very recently their king died, and while the people were in a state of mourning another tribe (we believe to have been sent by the State) invaded the capital, killed all of the royal family, and only one heir to the throne made his escape. these Bakuba are a very proud people, and while in a way they are glad for freedom (for their king was very exacting and cruel), they feel very keenly their loss, and feel that they have been very much degraded. They have known no other rule but that of a king for hundreds of years.

This king that had just died would allow neither missionary nor State officer to come to or near his place to settle, closed up all of the paths and prohibited a foreigner, or people working for foreigners, to pass near the place. Had he been less hostile, and showed a more friendly spirit, I’m sure this trouble would not have come upon this people. The king before him was very friendly, and was anxious that a mission should be opened at his place. But at that time the Committee felt that they could not see their way clear to have a work there. During his lifetime had the work been started, I believe all would have been calm and peaceful now. But it is not for us to see and know the future. Even now it is not too late to be of service. While many have been killed, there are thousands remaining. They feel helpless, lost, because their leader, their earthly king, is gone. But, oh, if some one would only come and tell them of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who is a leader indeed!

[excerpted from a letter from Lucy G. Sheppard, dated 7 August 1900, Ibanj, Africa and published in The Missionary 33.12 (December 1900): 52.

For further study:
Primary sources:

William Henry Sheppard collection, 1971-1978, at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL
Abstract: Materials consist mostly of biographical material on William Henry Sheppard, graduate of Tuscaloosa Institute and co-founder of the Presbyterian Congo Mission, and his wife, Lucy J. Gantt Sheppard. Also includes correspondence pertaining to the development of the Sheppard collection (1978), photos of the construction of Sheppard Library, correspondence and programs pertaining to the Sheppard Lecture Series (1971-1973), and list of materials in the college archives pertaining to Sheppard. Correspondents include A.R. Ware, Jr., Sheppard’s nephew, and Max W. Sheppard, Sheppard’s son.

William H. Sheppard papers, 1875-1933, 0.75 cubic feet (5 boxes), at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA.
Abstract: Collection consists primarily of photograph albums and photographs. Photographs document mission stations and churches at Luebo and Ibanche; the Sheppard family; other Presbyterian Church in the U.S. missionaries; and native people of the Bateke, Baluba, Bakuba, Zappo Zap, and other tribes. The collection includes a small number of papers, including correspondence; Sheppard’s reminiscences of his time at the Stillman Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; a pamphlet entitled “How Sheppard Made His Way into Lukenga’s Kingdom”; printed materials about the Congo and King Leopold; hymnbooks in Tshiluba and an unidentified language; and glass and nitrate negatives.

See also reports of the African mission published in The Missionary [Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson], vol. 23, no 2 (February 1890) and following. Copies of this periodical are available in the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

Secondary sources:
• Kennedy, Pagan, Black Livingstone : A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-century Congo. New York: Viking, 2002. ISBN: 0670030368
• Phipps, William E., The Sheppards and Lapsley : Pioneer Presbyterians in the Congo. Louisville, KY: The Presbyterian Church (USA), 1991.
• Phipps, William E., William Sheppard : Congo’s African American Livingstone. Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2002. ISBN: 0664502032 (pbk.)
• Sheppard, William H. and S.H. Chester, Presbyterian Pioneers in Congo. Richmond, VA. : Published by Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1917. Note(s): In 1890, the Southern Presbyterian Church appointed William Sheppard, an Afro-American from Waynesboro, Va., and Samuel N. Lapsley, a white man from Anniston, Ala., as missionary companions to the Belgian Congo. Rev. Lapsley died of a “bilious hematuric fever” on March 26, 1892. This is Sheppard’s account of the mission, both before and after Lapsley’s death.
[Reprinted as Pioneers in Congo : An Autobiography. Wilmore, Ky.: Wood Hills Books, 2006. ISBN: 097716361X]

See also:
Lapsley, James W., Life and Letters of Samuel Norvell Lapsley : Missionary to the Congo Valley, West Africa. [Anniston, Ala. : First Presbyterian Church], 1965.

Dissertations and Theses:
• Roth, Donald Franklin, “Grace Not Race” : Southern Negro Church Leaders, Black Identity, and Missions to West Africa, 1865-1919. Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, 1976. Masters Thesis, xv, 402 p.
• Dworkin, Ira, American Hearts : African American Writing on the Congo, 1890-1915. New York: City University of New York, 2003. Ph.D. dissertation, viii, 243 p. Includes the chapter, “In the country of my forefathers”: William Henry Sheppard and African American missionaries in the Congo.
• Short, Wallace V., William Henry Sheppard : Pioneer African-American Presbyterian Missionary, Human Rights Defender, and Collector of African Art, 1865-1927. Washington, D.C.: Howard University, 2006. Ph.D. dissertation, xxi, 544 p.
• Smith, Alonzo Nelson, The 1909 Trial of William H. Sheppard : Human Rights, International Diplomacy, and African American Concerns in the Belgian Congo. [Washington, DC : s.n.], 1996.

Also on this day:
Hayes T. Henry, director of the Pearson Mission to the Cherokee Indians, 1955-1968, and founding pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Tulsa, OK, was born on this day in 1912.

Tags: ,

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Calvary was his hiding place

It must be some sort of record. Think of it! The pastor ministered all sixty-three years in the same church. And those six decades were through some of the momentous years in our nation, to say nothing, of the history of the Presbyterian church.

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on February 24, 1785, Gardiner Spring attended Berwick Academy in Maine. He then went to and graduated from Yale University in 1805. Married the following year, he and his new bride Susan moved to Bermuda where Gardiner Spring taught the classics and mathematics. This was only for some income, as his real purpose was to study law. And he was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut in 1808. Receiving a call to the ministry, he went to Andover Theological Seminary for one year and was called to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1810, never to leave its pulpit.

It was an active pulpit for the minister. After 40 years of ministry, it was said that he had preached 6000 sermons, received 2092 into the membership roll, baptized 1361 infants and adults, and married 875 couples. Along the way, he had written also 14 books, at least one of which is still being printed today. If the reader doesn’t posses “The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character,” he is urged to buy one immediately. It answers the question as to how do we know we have eternal life.

Many Christians, and especially those in our Southern states are aware that it was Gardiner Spring who authored the resolutions in 1861 to place the Presbyterian Church (Old School) solidly behind the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. That action split the Presbyterian Church into two — North and South Old School. We will consider on May 16 the pros and cons of that resolution.

For now, consider the following words in a letter of Gardiner Spring, just nine years after he had begun his ministry at Brick Presbyterian. On occasion of his birthday, he wrote:

“Still in this world of hope! In defiance of all sins of the past years, and a guilty life, I am permitted to see another birthday. I have been often surprised that I am suffered to live. Blessed be God, I am not afraid to die, and often more afraid to live. I am an abject sinner, and it will indeed be wonderful grace if I ever sit down with Christ at the Supper of the Lamb. That grace is my strong refuge; Calvary is my hiding place. I hope in the grace and guardianship and faithfulness of that omnipotent Redeemer, to be kept from falling and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. This text has often comforted me, when I have been afraid of trusting in the divine mercy. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ It affords me unutterable pleasure to feel that I am not denied the privilege of laying my own soul beneath the droppings of the same blood I have for nine years recommended to my dying and guilty men.”

Words to Live By: We should take the opportunity which a birthday gives to us, as well as other proverbial milestones in our lives, to meditate on the grace of God in Christ in our lives, as well as the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit is doing within those lives.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 25 – 27

Through the Standards: Original sin conveyed

WLC 26 — “How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
A. Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.”

For further reading:
“Something Must Be Done” — Must reading! A sermon on the subject of revival, delivered by Rev. Spring in 1816, six years into his ministry at the Brick Church [PDF file].
The Gardiner Spring Resolutions of 1861.

Image source: The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884).
Sermon text : The digital format of the sermon “Something Must Be Done” was prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center, working from an original copy preserved at the Center.

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Trust in God, and you shall not fear

The subject of today’s historical devotional was not a Presbyterian, but in the closing days of his life and ministry on earth, he was the president of the foremost Presbyterian college in America. Jonathan Edwards was born into a ministerial families in 1703. Trained in the home, he entered into scholarly pursuits by attending Yale College at age 13. In the latter portion of his collegiate training, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and convinced him of his need of Jesus Christ. He received Jesus as Lord and Savior at that pivotal time. Graduating from Yale in 1720, he continued his studies for the gospel ministry. When a congregation in what is now the New England area of our country became vacant, he went as the pastor in 1729, following his father-in-law as the minister. It was there under the preaching of the Word, including the famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God,” that the Great Awakening movement came to the church and area. Over three hundred souls were awakened to their sinfulness and brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was not only effective as an awakening pastor, but through his writings, the then known world of Christendom was challenged as to the authority of God’s Word in the life of the church and the sphere of culture. He was America’s foremost apologist, or defender of the faith. Even in the midst of church controversy, such as developed in that Northampton congregation over the issue of qualified participants of the Lord’s Supper, he did not allow his departure to stop him in his ministry. He evangelized among the native Americans for six years in the Stockton, Massachusetts area.

It was in 1758, that a delegation came from the College of New Jersey, with an offer to become the president of that Presbyterian school of the prophets. After some objections were answered satisfactorily, he did accept the offer in January of 1758 and became associated with what would later become Princeton University. As smallpox was present in the area, a noted physician came down from Philadelphia on February 23, 1758 to inoculate President Edwards and two of his daughters. Edwards had never been in the best of health and as the effects of the inoculation were subsiding, a secondary fever took hold and Jonathan Edwards died of small pox approximately one month later, March 22, 1758.

Just before his death, some people were attending him on his death-bed, and remarked about the approaching effect of this certain demise on the Christian church. Jonathan Edwards, hearing those remarks, spoke to those attending him with his dying words “Trust in God, and ye need not fear.”

Words to Live By: Let us ever and always trust in God, indeed the God of providence, with whom there is no mistake in life or death.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 21 – 24

Through the Standards:  Total inability in the Catechisms

WLC 23 — “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.”

WLC 25 “Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called Original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.”

WSC 17 “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.”

WSC 18 “Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereunto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consist in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness,and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.”

Image source : Frontispiece portrait from Volume 1 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, A.M. London: William Tegg, 1860.

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Augusta County Presbyterians call for independence

It was simple and direct. The mass meeting of people from the Virginia county of Augusta in Stanton chose two delegates to represent them in Richmond, Virginia in the Virginia Convention. One was Thomas Lewis and the other one was Samuel McDowell. That these delegates would faithfully be the representatives of them, the following written instructions were given to them: “Many of us and our forefathers left our native land, and explored this once savage wilderness to enjoy the free exercise of the rights of conscience and of human nature. Those rights we are fully resolved with our lives and our fortunes inviolably to preserve; nor will we surrender such inestimable blessings, the purchase of toil and danger, to any ministry, to any Parliament, or to any body of men upon earth by whom we are not represented and in whose decision, therefore, we have no voice.” These people and delegates were almost all adherents of the Presbyterian faith. How had they come upon it? The only answer is that men of God of Presbyterian convictions were sent by the Holy Spirit of God to teach and train them in the principles of liberty, both spiritually and temporally.

The name which comes to our mind and hearts is that of John Craig. He is described as the first permanent pastor in this county of Augusta, Virgina. Consider the challenges of being an under-shepherd during the years of 1740 and afterwards. Every Lord’s day morning, Pastor Craig would walk five miles to the place of worship. In one hand, he would carry his Bible. In the other hand would be a rifle, for protection against the Indians of that territory. All the men of the congregation brought the same two objects to the worship – a Bible and a rifle. At ten o’clock in the morning, they would be seated to hear the sermon, on rude benches, which would last two hours til the noon time. A break for lunch would then be held, with each family sitting under the trees to partake of their meals. After this break, at one o’clock, the worship would begin again with the same sermon, and continue until sunset.

One of Pastor Craig’s sermon has been kept in written form. It had, for the readers who are pastors, fifty-five divisions in it. No wonder this was a sermon for a day, instead of just an hour. We might wonder whether there was any spiritual fruit to his labors, yet the truth is that multitudes were brought into the kingdom of God. He is described as a man whose heart was always full of tenderness.

John Craig would live until 1774, just two years shy of the American Revolution. Yet his proclamations of the gospel and presentation of the Word was to bear fruit in the call for Independence by the descendants of his congregations in Augusta County, Virginia. The Augusta County Presbyterians voted for independence from England on February 22, 1775.

Words to Live By: The faithful preaching of the whole counsel of God will eventually bring spiritual fruit in the hearts and lives of those who receive it.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 18 – 20

Through the Standards: Total inability in the Confession

WCF 6:4
“From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”

For further study: The grave marker for Rev. John Craig is pictured here [scroll to the end of the page] and here. Additional biographical and genealogical information about Rev. Craig can be found here.

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:   February 21, 1830 marks the birth of Caspar Wistar Hodge, youngest son of Dr. Charles Hodge, named after the eminent physician Caspar Wistar [1761-1818]. Another of Dr. Hodge’s sons, Archibald Alexander Hodge, also taught at Princeton Theological Seminary.  The Rev. Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge died on 27 September 1891.

The following is excerpted from Francis Landey Patton’s memorial tribute to his close friend and colleague. And not surprisingly, given self-effacing portrait that Patton paints of his friend, we were unable to locate a photograph of C.W. Hodge. If you know of a good portrait photography in the public domain, we would like to know of it.

He was my most intimate friend. I have come to-day to place a wreath of affection upon his grave. My text [“He opened to us the Scriptures.”–Luke 24:32] is taken from the floral tribute which you who were his pupils placed upon his bier. This is your answer to the question, What did he do? It is a sufficient answer. He wrote no books, his voice was seldom heard beyond his native town, he took no active part in public affairs, and he shrank from the public gaze; but he opened to us the Scriptures. To more than thirty classes he unfolded the truths of the New Testament. He led them reverently over the ground that had been hallowed by the Saviour’s feet, and traced the history of the Apostolic Church from Peter on the day of Pentecost to John in Patmos. Year by year he sent his pupils forth into the world laden with material for use in the service of the gospel, filled with quickening thoughts, and ready to testify that the reverent spirit can handle the subtle questions of criticism without suggesting doubt or lessening zeal.

Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge was born in Princeton, 21 February 1830. He grew up in Princeton; and, with the exception of the short period covered by his two pastorates, he spent his life there. We can see, then, why he loved Princeton. Others love it; even those who have spent only three or four years of academic residence here speak of it in enthusiastic terms. We who have come here to live, and who expect to die here, love it with an affection that grows deeper even if it grows sadder every year. But we are only adopted children after all. We love sometimes with a divided heart. It was not so with Dr. Hodge. He loved it as one loves the home of his childhood. He loved it with an unfaltering and an unwandering affection. Its rough streets and crooked lanes and weather-beaten houses had tender associations for him. The bridge we crossed and the brook we would sometimes pensively look into in our summer rambles would often suggest an anecdote that showed how the neighborhood was haunted by the ghosts of memory.

Besides, the theology of this seminary was to him a precious heritage. He was in intellectual sympathy with it to be sure; but his hereditary relations to Princeton theology gave an emotional warmth to his convictions. He believed that Princeton had performed a mission in the past, and he believed that in the maintenance of the same truth she had a mission just as great to perform to-day.

He had no love for novelties; and he regarded all schemes that fettered the individual conscience by man-made regulations as new modes of returning unto the weak and beggarly elements, where unto so many still love to be in bondage. . .

. . . The worst heresy is a half-truth, because it is so hard to deal with it. There are so many reasons that can be given for this bad influence in the class-room. Men are ambitious and seek notoriety. They love to be thought original, and they step out of the beaten path. Men raise the cry of progress, and think what is new is an improvement. Men find themselves in unstable equilibrium between the old and the new modes of thinking, and they adopt a paradoxical and inconsistent style of utterance. They try to pour the new wine into the old bottles. They teach orthodoxy with the voice, and suggest heresy with a shrug of the shoulders. But there was nothing of all this in Dr. Hodge. He was a reverent believer in the Bible as the Word of God, and in the doctrines of the Bible as they are formulated in the creed of his church. He was honest, fair-minded, and firm. When he saw difficulties and it was necessary, he held his judgment in suspense. He knew the resources of the enemy, and did not underrate them. But he also knew the argumentative resources of Christianity. The consequence was that his lectures strengthened faith and deepened conviction; and men who had no great critical sagacity themselves felt that they had been reinforced immensely by the fact that they had a man of Dr. Hodge’s scholarship and judgment on the side of the theology of the catechism.

Words to Live By:  It is often true that some of the greatest and most abiding work in God’s kingdom is accomplished by dear saints whose names you may never know, those men and women who work faithfully in the work that God gives them, yet without drawing attention to themselves. Do your work faithfully, as unto the Lord, for this is His calling and purpose for your life. And if God should later bring you into wider fields of service and usefulness in His kingdom, then praise Him for that as well.

Through the Scriptures:Numbers 15 – 17

Through the Standards: Sinfulness of sin in the catechisms

WLC 22 — “Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.”

WSC 16 — “Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.”

Text source : Patton, Francis L., Caspar Wistar Hodge : A Memorial Address. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph and Co., 1891.

Tags:

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Comforting Truth for all Christians

With no Presbyterian person, place, or event on this twentieth of February available from our circles, we return to our magnificent shorter catechism to a question and answer which provide unspeakable comfort to the people of God. It is question and answer 7 which deals with the decrees of God. Our Confessional fathers wrote, “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

We should not stumble at the word “decrees.” Oftentimes it has evil associations when used for or by mankind, but never when used of God. The decrees of God are defined as “His eternal purpose.” We speak here about the plan of God for both eternity and time. When we understood this is what is intended, the idea of a divine decree becomes, as one commentator put it, “less contested and detested.”

It is interesting that there is some difference between the Shorter and Larger Catechisms. The former, which is our emphasis on this day, would speak of “purpose” in a singular sense. It is “purpose,” not “purposes.” The decrees of God in the Shorter Catechism are represented in their unity. But when we move to the Larger Catechism, we see the decrees of God being spoken of in their plurality, as the fathers speak of “the acts of the counsel of his will.” There is no contradiction here. God’s decrees are one and also many, or one whole of many parts which are involved in the eternal plan.

Then we come to the heart of the matter, namely, that which is most comforting to believers, is that “God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass for His own glory.” And He has done this not only in creation and providence, but also in redemption. Future studies during this historical devotional will be found on these aspects of the decrees of God.

For now, we receive comfort that this catechism is true. Proverbs 16:9 has been the life text of many a believer that “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We are to use our God-given sanctified minds to plan our ways on this earth. And so we set down our yearly and monthly and daily goals, according to the best wisdom which we have. But then we set them apart for God’s will, knowing and trusting that Jehovah God will establish our steps, either by the closing of doors or the opening of other doors. How many times have believers looked back on their lives and seen these divine steps which could only have come from the God of all grace! Especially is this true in the matter of our salvation. Salvation is of the LORD!

Words to Live By: Praise God today, and always, that God is in control of all persons, places, and things. We may not always see it with our eyes, but our hearts can rejoice that what the Bible declares about His sovereignty is true.  Indeed you can look back and see that God’s Word was best with respect to you and your family.  Take one or two of these backward looks, and give thanks to God for it.

Through the Scriptures: Numbers 11 – 14

Through the Standards: The Sinfulness of Mankind, as seen by the Confession

WCF 6:3
“They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: