February 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

What’s in a Name?

Solomon wrote once that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  (Proverbs 22:1a ESV)  And while this text speaks of one’s personal name, it could also have an application to the name of a denomination.  What’s in a name, after all?  That question was the issue in February, 1939 when the Presbyterian Church of America had to be renamed, just two and one half years after taking it up in 1936.

The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. had taken the young denomination to court over the issue of its chosen name.  That whole scene will be dealt with in a future historical devotional on April 28.  When the PCUSA won the court case, the General Assembly of the PCofA decided not to contest the lower court decision.   Calling a special meeting in the month of February, the question was simple.  What do we call ourselves now?

Many names were suggested by the teaching and ruling elders.  Some of them were: Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian and Reformed Church  of America, North America Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of Christ, Protestant Presbyterian Church of America, Seceding Presbyterian Church  of America, and this contributor’s favorite, Free Presbyterian Church of the World!  Oh yes, one other name was also suggested.  It was the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In the end, on this day, February 9, 1939, the name of Orthodox Presbyterian Church won over “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” by a close margin, but a winning margin. Certainly, each of the above suggested names meant something to the proponents of them, or they wouldn’t have been suggested in the first place.  The choosing of the winning name spoke volumes about the orthodox or straight, right, and true convictions which led the men and women out of the apostate Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the first place.  Biblical orthodoxy would be the hallmark of the continuing church, as it had been back in 1936.

The managing editor of the Presbyterian Guardian, Thomas R. Birch, said that year of 1939 in his editorial,

“You whose privilege it is to bear that name (e.g. Orthodox Presbyterian Church), bear it proudly, gladly, holding its banner high.  It is a true and a great name, a name to exult in and a name to make you humble.  It tells the world exactly what you are and where you stand in the present death-struggle between the forces of faith and the battalions of unbelief.  It proclaims to the world that here is a Presbyterian church that takes its confession of faith seriously.  At the very outset it is a name with a meaning.”

Words to Live By: Biblical orthodoxy is a sham in some Presbyterian denominations and churches.  Let it not be in the specific church with which you are associated as a member or a minister.  Stand for the truth of the gospel, believing Martin Luther’s words to be true, “Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

Through the Scriptures: Leviticus 1 – 4

Through the Standards: Divine providence toward angels

WLC 19 — “What is God’s providence toward the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

 The Christian patriot

We don’t know much about him other than broad general facts, but the Rev. Moses Allen deserves to have a record of remembrance written up in the annals of the history of our great nation and the Presbyterian church.  He was born in Northampton, Massachusetts on September 14, 1748.  Nothing is known about his family or early life.  We are told that he was educated at the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton University), graduating in 1772.  He was then licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick on February 1, 1774 and later ordained to the gospel ministry on March 10, 1774.  The celebrated New Side minister William Tennent took part in that ordination, which took place in Savannah, Georgia.

A group of fifty-two Congregationalists from New England had settled in South Carolina, landing at Seawee Bay seventy-five years earlier in the history of the southern colony.  They soon planted an independent church at Wappetaw.  While the church was Congregationalist in spirit, it was in reality a Presbyterian church in doctrine.  In fact, more Presbyterian ministers were  pastors there than Congregationalist pastors.  To this congregation, young twenty-six year old Moses Allen was installed as its pastor.

To everyone’s surprise, his fast courtship of a young fifteen year old girl, and subsequent marriage of her, took place at this congregation.  Her name was Elizabeth Odingsell, who is described as a “ward” of a Revolutionary general from Georgia. Then just three years later, he went to Midway Church in Georgia.  It was there that he joined the Georgia Brigade of Patriots, to fight on the side of George Washington in that battle of independence from England.

» The old Midway Church, which was built in 1778. Rev. Allen would thus have been the pastor who oversaw the construction of old Midway, and he would have been able to preach there some number of times before his decease. »

It wasn’t safe to be a Presbyterian, and for that matter a Presbyterian pastor during the time of the Revolution.  Churches were subject to being burned down.  Congregations were subject to dispersal.  And the Midway Church was one such church and congregation which was to suffer from British occupation of the colony.  Allen, by this time, had left the pulpit to be a chaplain in the Georgia Brigade.  Captured by the British, he was placed in the hold of a prison ship in the Charleston harbor.  Just five years into his marriage with his young bride, he attempt to escape from captivity, by jumping overboard and swimming to the shore along with two French prisoners-of-war.  Twenty yards from the shore, he was afflicted with a cramp, and drowned, on this day of February 8, 1779.  His young bride was twenty years of age when he died.

It was said by way of testimony that he was faithful in exhortation and in  field service with the troops of Georgia.  Certainly, he faithfully ministered the Word of God in the two congregations which he served in South Carolina and Georgia.

Words to Live By:  This Presbyterian pastor is little known in Reformed circles today, but well-known to the annals of heaven.  He took the Word of grace to civilians and soldiers alike, uncaring about his safety, for he was in the hands of God.  We can go in life and calling with the same assurance that he possessed, knowing that our times are in His hands.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 38 – 40

Through the Standards: The relation of providence to moral evil

WCF 5:4
“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”

Image source : Montevideo-Maybank: Some Memoirs of a Southern Christian Household in the Olden Time; or, The Family Life of the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, D.D., of Liberty County, Ga., by R.Q. Mallard. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1898. Image appears in the plate facing page 51. Scanned by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Meditations of David Brainerd

We turn to the thoughts and words of missionary statesman David Brainerd who wrote in his diary on this day, February 7, the following devotional words.  He said in 1744 that he “was much engaged in some sweet meditations on the powers and affections of the godly soul in their pursuit of their beloved object: wrote something of the native language of spiritual sensation, in its soft and tender whispers; declaring, that it now feels and tastes that the Lord is gracious; that he is the supreme good, the only soul-satisfying happiness: that he is a complete, sufficient, and almighty portion: saying,

‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides this blessed portion.  O, I feel it is heaven to please him, and to be just what he would have me to be!  O that my soul were holy, as he is holy! O that it were pure, even as Christ is pure; and perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect!  These, I feel, are the sweetest commands in God’s book, comprising all others.  And shall I break them!  must I break them! am I under a necessity of it as long as I live in the world!  O my soul, woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, because I now necessarily grieve and offend this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! Oh, methinks, if he would punish me for my sins, it would not wound my heart so deep to offend him: but though I sin continually, yet he continually repeats his kindness to me!  Oh, methinks I could bear any sufferings; but how can I bear to grieve and dishonour this blessed God!  How shall I yield ten thousand times more  honour to him?  What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings?  O that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to his service for ever!  O that I could give up myself to him, so as never more to attempt to be my own, or to have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to him!  But, alas, alas!  I find I cannot be thus entirely devoted to God; I cannot live, and not sin.  O ye angels, do ye glorify him incessantly; and if possible, prostrate yourselves lower before the blessed King of heaven?  I long to bear a part with you; and, if it were possible, to help you. Of, when we have done all that we can, to all eternity, we shall not be able to offer the ten thousandth part of the homage that the glorious God deserves!’

David Brainerd concludes this diary portion with the statement, “Blessed be God, that he enables me to love him for himself.”

Words to Live By: Oh to make this our prayer language and our life reality, that my soul is holy, as he is holy! that it is pure, even as Christ is pure; and perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 35 – 37

Through the Standards: The modes of providence

W.C.F. 5:2, 3

“Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and  decree of  God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutable, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.  God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, about, and against them, at His pleasure.”


This Day in Presbyterian History: 

An Outline of the Bible

Turning again to the Shorter Catechism, and specifically, question and answer number 3, the Catechism asks “What do the Scriptures principally teach?”  And the answer provided by the Westminster divines is “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”

The two questions and answers before this, which we considered on January 13 and January 29, were introductory in scope. For example, the foundation of all religion is summed up in the first question and answer regarding the chief end of man, being, namely, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  The second introductory question and answer tells us in addition, that the source of all religion are the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Now, with these two introductory answers presented to us,  the catechism we study today constitutes the outline summary of the entire Shorter and Larger Catechism.  What we are to believe concerning God, or faith, doctrine, or theology, will be summed up in questions and answers 4 – 38 of the Shorter Catechism, and questions and answers 6 – 90 of the Larger Catechism.  What duty God requires of man, or duty, life, or practical theology, will be summed up in questions and answers 39 – 107 of the Shorter Catechism, and questions and answers 91 – 196 of the Larger Catechism. Here are what the Scriptures principally teach.

We focus in on the word “principally” first.  What is meant by this word is that there are other truths in Scripture for us to believe and receive, but the most important, or principle thing is, what we are to believe concerning God and what duty that faith calls us to in this life.  Doctrine and duty sums up the Biblical record.

What are we to believe about God first?  Subsequent answers in both catechisms will make known to us what God is, the persons of the Godhead, the decrees of God in creation and providence, and their execution. Most important, the decree of God and its execution in redemption, considered from eternity past, in time, and into eternity future, will be seen in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There will be seen a progressive revelation in redemption, found both in the person and work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

And we are to “believe” these truths, our Confessional fathers tell us. Alexander Whyte tells us that “belief is the assent of the mind to what is told us on competent and credible authority.  We are said to believe when we are convinced of a fact without our having had immediate and personal knowledge of it.  Belief and faith are precisely the same state of mind.” (Whyte, A Commentary on the Shorter Catechism, p. 7)

Second, we are told that the Scriptures teach us the duty God requires of us. Belief in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, will never stand alone. It is faith alone which saves us, but the evidence of that saving faith will always be good works. To be without the latter is to give evidence that the former is not real in us. There is such a thing as dead orthodoxy.  Faith is not a genuine faith unless it leads to a biblical practice.

So as you read, or study the Bible in your daily readings, such as our “Through the Scriptures” sections of each day, ask yourself by self-examination, “what doctrine is God asking me to believe from this passage,” and “what duty does God want me to obey in my spiritual life today.”  Then and only then will the Word of God be profitable for you.

Words to Live By: An orthodox faith and an obedient life is the whole duty of Christians.  They must know what they believe and how to put it into practice.  To hear the Bible only and not be doers of it, is hypocrisy.  Let us be sincere before the Lord and carry out before man, especially those of the household of faith,  what we believe.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 32 – 34

Through the Standards: Divine providence in the catechisms:

WLC 18 – “What are God’s works of providence?
A.  God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.”

WSC 11
A. “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.”

A Similar Voice:
“Does It Matter What We Believe?,” by Leonard Van Horn [1920-2005]

Our title is rapidly becoming a popular question of this age within the walls of the church. Back some years ago the cry was, “No Creed but Christ!” This slogan was accepted by many and led many away from established systems of belief. As a dangerous trend in the life of the church, this departure prompted some to look for “revelations” outside of the revealed Word of God. Even this trend though can not be compared to the danger that is spreading throughout the church today, the danger of suggesting what we believe is not really important.

It is important to note that Question No. 3 of the Shorter Catechism places the matter of our belief in a prominent place. Our Lord did the same thing. In Matthew 22:37, 38 he says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy MIND.” The Bible leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone that what we believe is important.

Today in many Presbyterian churches there is a prejudice against creeds, against doctrine. This is shown in our failure to teach our Standards. It is also seen in the failure always to insist that candidates for the ministry be thoroughly conversant with the Standards. Again it is seen in the growing emphasis within the church today of obedience to the church as an institution without regard to the teaching of the Bible or of the accepted Creed.

Does it matter what we believe? It certainly does, if we are going to be a confessing body. It certainly does, if we want to continue to hear a gospel message in our church. The very heart of the gospel message is that we may receive the gift of salvation by believing (trusting) in Christ as our Saviour. Without this act of faith or belief we are lost, with it we are saved. Thus what we believe does make a difference, namely, where we shall spend eternity — heaven or hell.

It is equally true that it matters what we believe because the duty which God requires of us is based on what we believe. The widely accepted definition of belief is that “it is the assent of the mind to what is told us on competent and credible authority.” Our Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore any indifference to doctrine, any attempt to bypass or alter it to suit modern man, any movement to permit, as acceptable practice, less than a complete commital to our doctrinal standards should be recognized as contrary to historic Presbyterianism.

Excerpted from “Studies in the Westminster Shorter Catechism” by the Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn. Port Gibson, MS: The Shield and Sword, Vol. 1, no. 3, March 1961. Rev. Van Horn was one of the founding fathers of the PCA. His work on the ruling elder remains in print and is available from the PCA Bookstore. Copies of Rev. Van Horn’s studies on the Shorter Catechism are scarce, but we are grateful to have a set preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

This Day in Presbyterian History:    

A Force for God and Country is born

On July 4, 1776, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian pastor and educator who was at that time serving as the president of the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton University).  We will in this year’s historical devotions focus on this man in five separate days because he was  such an effective influence for God and country.

Born February 5, 1723, John Witherspoon would grow up in a church manse in the tiny town of Gifford, Scotland, which was fourteen miles from Edinburgh, Scotland.  We have a scarcity of information about his parents.

His father, the Rev. James Witherspoon, was a Church of Scotland minister who served the parish of Yester from 1720 until his death in 1759. We do know that he attended the denomination’s General Assembly as a delegate, and even preached before that Assembly on one occasion, and was appointed a royal chaplain in 1744.  We have no doubt that like many faithful Scottish pastors, he was eminent for his holiness, learning, and faithfulness.

John’s mother, Ann Walker,  was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.  She was to bear six children from this union with James, all in the space of ten years.  John Witherspoon later gave credit to his mother for his early religious education in the Bible, reading it through for the first time when he was only four years of age, and later hiding a lot of it in his heart by way of memory. Some historians have concluded that she was a descendant of the Reformer John Knox, while others are unconvinced. Whatever may be said, the training of John Witherspoon began early in the home and continued at the Haddington Grammar School, which had also trained John Knox. Along with secular subjects, the Westminster Shorter Catechism was part of the training at that school. When he left at age thirteen for the University of Edinburgh in 1736, he had a good command of Latin, Greek, and French.  He also had a solid foundation in biblical Christianity.  All of this was to bear him well as he continued preparing for the divine calling which was his in both Scotland, his native country, and in the colonies and United States of America.

Continuing his education in divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Witherspoon was licensed in 1743 and ordained and installed as the minister of the parish of Beith in the Church of Scotland, on April 11, 1745.  He was twenty-two years old.  Two years later,  he married Elizabeth Montgomery.  They would both learn the sorrow connected with  a family when of the ten children which came from this union, only five would survive to adulthood.

This young Church of Scotland minister soon gained a reputation beyond his own parish.  The national body was divided into two splinters composed of the Popular party and the Moderates.  The first was akin to our orthodox party and the latter was akin to the liberals.  The former emphasized the important of the Westminster Standards as a summary of the Scriptures, while the latter group generally ignored the proper place of the Westminster Standards in the church.  Witherspoon was a solid member of the Popular party, and attacked the Moderates in the pulpit and by the pen.  Even in his second pastorate at Laigh Parish, his reputation as an orthodox minister began to expand in Scotland, and extended across the Atlantic to the colonies of America.

[more on Rev. Witherspoon’s story at a later date.]

Words to Live By: God prepares His own people for present and future work.  As Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV)  Remember this as you rear your children in the ways of the Lord.  Commend them into the hands of the Lord at an early age, indeed when they are born is best.  Then everything you do, do so in the Lord’s strength and for His glory.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 28 – 31

Through the Standards: Divine providence in the Confession

WCF 5:1
“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”


This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Getting up a Revival

We all remember the events which made up the first great awakening in the colonies.  Men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, and New Side Presbyterians took the gospel up the length and breadth of the new land, bringing many to Christ and reviving Christians and churches.  While clearly there were some excesses in emotional outbursts by the people, the essential key in this divine awakening was a stress on total dependence on God’s sovereignty in bringing His elect to Christ.

Fast forward in your thinking to the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds. There was a change going on in the country.  Westward expansion had taken place as hundreds of settlers moved to Kentucky and Tennessee.  Specifically, in what is known as the Cumberland Valley of those latter two and later states, Scot-Irish  filled in the population of the area.  What didn’t increase was the number of trained ministers in the Presbyterian church who were able to travel with these westward church members.  All the ingredients of difficulty were present immediately.

First, there were extensive revivals taking place in SW Kentucky and Cane Ridge, Kentucky.  These were continuous meetings, often preached by 7 and 8 ministers of all denominations, with emotionalism running high and seemingly out of control.   It is not that people were not being converted.  They were, but eastern Presbyterians felt that such emotionalism was too man-centered instead of God-centered.

Then, with converts joining the few churches available and starting  others, the issue of educated men to pastor them became the issue.  The College of New Jersey (later called Princeton) was a long way off from these frontier settlements.   The formal practice of their faith failed to comfort the hardships experienced by the early pioneers.  So the local Presbytery of Cumberland proceeded to ordain large numbers of men without education.  Further, these men were allowed to express dissent from the Westminster Standards, especially chapter 3 which dealt with God’s eternal decrees, or predestination.

The Synod of Kentucky, as the next higher church court, demanded that they be allowed to re-examine all of the ordained men of the Cumberland Presbytery, whom they deemed to be without sufficient training for the pastorate.  When the Presbytery refused their request, the Synod dissolved the Presbytery of Cumberland.  Their action dismissing the Presbytery was affirmed by the General Assembly.

» “The Fathers who formed the first Cumberland Presbytery : Ewing, McAdow & King »

On February 4, 1810, four ministers gathered together near present day Burn, Tennessee, and after a night of prayer, these four former ministers of the PCUSA Cumberland Presbytery, reorganized the Cumberland Presbytery as a separate body outside the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Their names were Samuel McAdow, Ephraim McLean, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King.  They were joined by six licentiates and seven candidates for the ministry.  As they drew others into their fold, this Presbytery became the Cumberland Synod in 1813, which in turn became the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1829.

The issue of education became muted along the way, as the denomination began to sponsor various colleges, and later established the Memphis Theological Seminary. But the issue of Calvinism has been taken out of the picture altogether in this new church, in that the first four points of the “five points” of Calvinism, namely, total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, and efficacious grace is denied by this denomination.  They still hold  to the perseverance of the saints.

A portion of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church re-joined the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the early nineteen hundreds, but not all joined, so that there is in existence today a Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

« The last General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, meeting in Decatur, Illinois, May 17-25, 1906, as they prepared to merge with the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A..

Also on this day :
Robert Dick Wilson was born this day, February 4, 1856, in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection is preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Words to Live By:
Doctrinal shallowness leads to doctrinal denial.  The whole counsel of God must be proclaimed, letting God’s Spirit  bring people to Himself and training them in doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 25 – 27

Through the Standards: Proof Texts for the Confessional Standard’s Treatment of Creation—

Genesis 1:1
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  (NAS)

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.” (NAS)

Hebrews 1:1 – 2
“God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (NAS)

Image sources: 1. McDonnold, B.W., History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, TN: Board of Publication of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1888. Plate facing page 48 ; 2. Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Volume III (1905-1906), plate facing page 301.


This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Author and Finisher of Faith

We return again to the devotional diary of David Brainerd, the Presbyterian missionary of the middle eighteenth century.  What could account for the zeal which this early missionary showed as he traveled, not by modern conveyance but on  horseback? His travels did not take him by established thoroughfares, but rather on frontier trails through forests and across swollen rivers.  These areas were safe, when you stop to think of it, as hostile forces and wild animals were sure to block his way.  What could prompt an individual to undertake such an arduous journey?

As we look at his diary for February 3, 1744, we ascertain at least several strong reasons for his constant ministry.  Read his words and see if you can glean the answer.  He wrote:

“Enjoyed more freedom and comfort than of late; was engaged in meditation upon the different whispers of the various powers and affections of a pious mind exercised with a great variety of dispensations, and could not but write, as well as meditate on so entertaining a subject.  I hope the Lord gave me some true sense of divine things this day, but alas, how great and pressing are the remains of indwelling corruption!  I am now more sensible than ever, that God alone is ‘the author and finisher of faith,’ i.e. that the whole and every part of sanctification, and every good word, works, or thought, found in me, is the effect of his power and grace, that ‘without him I can do nothing,’ in the strictest sense, and that ‘he works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure,’ and from no other motives.  Oh! how amazing it is that people can talk so much about men’s power and goodness, when if God did not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate! This is my bitter experience, for several days last past, and has abundantly taught me concerning myself.”

If you carefully meditate on this diary entry, you cannot help but see the place of Scripture permeating his thoughts.  He quotes portions of Hebrews 12:2, John 15:5, and Philippians 2:13 in this section.  In other words,  he lived and breathed Scripture!

David Brainerd also had a practical understanding of the work of sanctification in his soul, and understood the remnants of sin within himself.  Thus, with a true sense of himself, but more importantly, a true understanding of his God, he could move forward each day to do the work of evangelism and discipleship among the native population to whom God had called him.

Words to Live By: “How amazing it is that people can talk so much about men’s power and goodness, when if God did not hold us back every moment, we should be devil’s  incarnate.” — David Brainerd

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 21 – 24

Through the Standards: The creation of mankind in the catechisms

WLC Q. 17 – “How did God create man?
A. After God has made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.”

WSC Q. 10 – “How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”


This Day in Presbyterian History:  

A Man of Genius and Eloquence

The minister showed up at the door of his new congregation in Philadelphia, only to find the door locked, obviously by some dissenters who did not like the fact that the majority of the congregation had called this new preacher.  The dissenters were primarily opposed to his stance on the New Side – Old Side schism, then in full swing in the infant Presbyterian denomination.  He stood solidly on the New Side.  Eventually, some of his supporters threw him into the sanctuary through an open window.  What a beginning to a ministry!  But it was in this way that the Rev. George Duffield began his long pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church, where he was to remain there until his death on February 2, 1790.

George Duffield was educated first at Newark Academy in Delaware.  He followed that  with training at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1752.  A personal study in theology, under Dr. Robert Smith, of Pequea, Pennsylvania, came next in his years of ministerial preparation.  Ordination to ministry in the Presbyterian Church enabled him to serve three churches in central Pennsylvania, namely, Carlisle, Newville, and Dillsburg.  After the last congregation he was called in 1771 to the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  It was to be his greatest work.

The national issues of independence from England were on the horizon.  George Duffield set his ministry in support of liberty from tyranny.  So vocal was he that eventually the church became known as “The Church of the Patriots.”  When the first chaplain to the newly formed Continental Congress went over to the British side, the Congress named two chaplains to replace him.  One was an Anglican pastor, and the other George Duffield.  He would serve alongside the Anglican pastor as well as serving as chaplain of a Pennsylvania regiment in the war for Independence.

Such attachment to Revolutionary ideals would not go unnoticed by the British occupational forces in Philadelphia.   They placed a price on his head, thereby putting him in great danger.   The Pine Street Presbyterian building  was turned into a hospital, with the pews being burned for warmth of the British wounded inside of it.  Then it was made into a stable for their animals.  The greatest insult of all came when one hundred deceased Hessian (German mercenaries serving the British army) soldiers were buried in the church cemetery of Pine Street Presbyterian.

During the war, Duffield counseled and comforted founding father George Washington with Scriptural truth.  After the war, Duffield returned to Pine Street Presbyterian to rebuild and continue his ministry.  John Adams, after hearing him one Sunday, told his wife that Duffield was “a man of genius and eloquence.”

He was married first to Elizabeth Blair, who died in 1757.  Two years later, he married Margaret Armstrong.  Among his descendants were two others named George Duffield, each of whom continued serving both Church and nation as Presbyterian clergy.  George Duffield died in Philadelphia.

Words to Live By:  Taking a stand for God and country has its own perils.  But if the cause is right and biblical, then it is worth the cost.  Our times are in His hands.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 18 – 20

Through the Standards: The Creation of Man According to the Standards

WCF 4:2
“After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.  Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept it, they were  happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

For further reading:
Duffield’s works are few and none are freely accessible on the Internet at this time.
Here is a chronological bibliography of Duffield’s published and unpublished works—


George Duffield sermons, 1775-1780, Archival Material .21 linear foot (1 volume). George Duffield was pastor of the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and served as chaplain to the Continental Congress and the Pennsylvania Militia. These seven sermons are dated “at P[ine] St.” June 18, 1775; July 30, 1775; and May 5, 1776; “at York” April 5, 1778; and at “P[ine] St.” July 18, 1779; March 30, 1780, and undated. [Preserved at the New York Public Library Research Library]

George Duffield sermons, 1776-1783, Archival Material, 5 items.  Holograph (i.e., handwritten) manuscript sermons, including a sermon fragment dated [1776?], a sermon on Isaiah 9:12, 13 dated 1777 Aug 10, a sermon on Jeremiah 4:14 dated 1779 May 6, and two manuscript copies of Duffield’s “Sermon on the Occassion of the Peace,” [1783], one in his hand, the other in an unidentified hand. Accompanied by a memorandum in Duffield’s hand dated 1777 Sep 7, concerning a cloud formation, and an ALS from George Duffield (1818-1888) to Noah Porter dated 1876 May 29, with which he donated the manuscripts to Yale. [Preserved at the Yale University Library]

A sermon preached in the Third Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, on Thursday December 11, 1783. The day appointed by the United States in Congress assembled, to be observed as a day of thanksgiving, for the restoration of peace, and establishment of our independence, in the enjoyment of our rights and privileges. By George Duffield, A.M. Pastor of said church, and one of the chaplains of Congress. [Five lines of Scripture quotations]. [Boston] : Philadelphia printed : Boston : Re-printed and sold by T. & J. Fleet, 1784. (26, [2] p.)

A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green, in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia : Printed by F. Bailey, at Yorick’s Head, Market Street., 1787. (53, [1] p.)  Note(s): Ewing’s sermon has separate title page (p. 3): Fidelity in the gospel ministry. A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green in Philadelphia, May 15, 1787. By John Ewing, D.D. … And the charge, delivered by the Revd. Dr. Duffield.

Secondary sources—
Coblentz, David Herr, “George Duffield (1732-1790), Pulpit Patriot,” Manuscripts 14.4 (Fall 1962): 26-32.

Mackie, Alexander, “George Duffield, Revolutionary Patriot,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 33.1 (March 1955): 3-22.

Swaim, William T., “The Tempestuous Life of the Rev. George Duffield, D.D., 1732-1790 : A Biographical Address. Carlisle, PA: The Hamilton Historical Library Association, 16 December 1948. Revised for the 210th anniversary of the Monaghan Presbyterian Church. Dillsburg, PA: s.n., 1955. 15 p.; 28 cm.


This Day in Presbyterian History:  

He Shouldn’t Have Been Elected

Given his political choice of party—he was a Federalist in the early nineteenth century in Delaware—he should have been a Methodist or an Episcopalian.  Those denominations usually won the governor’s office.  But John Clark was a Federalist Presbyterian, an oddity to be sure.  Clearly, Someone higher than those in earthly roles was directing this race and subsequent election to the governor’s chair.

John Clark was born on February 1, 1761 on the family farm in New Bristol, north of Smyrna, Delaware.  He had limited schooling in his younger days, but made up for it with an insatiable desire for the knowledge found in books.  He was “well read,” as the papers put it at that time.  In 1784, he married Sarah Corbit, herself the daughter of a governor of Delaware.  They had at least one daughter, and possibly others which history does not name for us.

John Clark obviously had the gifts of leadership.  He was the Colonel of the Third Regiment of Militia for a year in 1807 – 1808.  He served as a sheriff, state treasurer, a member of the State House, and then as governor.  His accomplishments included improvements in educational opportunities.  His argument was that Delaware was a small state and not suitable for increased opportunities in business.  Better plans must to be made to develop the capabilities of its citizens.

After serving for his term as governor, he became involved in banking in Smyrna, Delaware.  He died on August 14, 1821 and is buried in the cemetery of Duck Creek Presbyterian Church in Smyrna.

This contributor looked in vain for any quotable quotes on the significance of personal Christianity in the state or country, and his beliefs on those topics.  The only hope we have for a credible profession of faith is that his membership was in the Presbyterian church and his burial was in a Presbyterian cemetery.  Usually in those days, such inclusion would not have taken place unless there was a credible testimony in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Words to live by:  Both words and spiritual fruit must be found in a Christian’s to declare that redemption has taken place in a believer’s life.  They may have been found at the time with respect to John Clark, but were simply not recorded in the usual sources we have available today.  Let it not be said of you that no expressions of Christianity are found lacking in your mouth.  Let there be no doubt that you are a professing and confessing Christian to all who observe what you say and do.

Through the Scriptures: Exodus 14 – 17

Through the Standards:   The Creation of angels

WLC 16  How did God create angels?
“God created all the angels, spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.”

For more on the location of the Duck Creek Presbyterian churchyard, click here.


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