April 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Misperception of Ministry Hard to Overcome

Partial information and misperceptions about one’s ministry are hard to overcome, especially when it involves an action which has taken place in the past.

Think either back to the years of World War Two, or remember in your history this calamitous time in our nation’s history.  The Axis powers of Germany and Japan had suddenly captured large areas in foreign lands, or in the case of Japan, delivered devastating blows to the Western world,  as in the case of Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii.  Many foreigners were caught in what had been friendly territory, but now were enemy countries.  These included diplomats and their families, tourists, and missionaries of the cross.

Enter the Geneva Convention.  It specified that treatment of non-combatants would be carried out with kindness and care.  Further, plans would be made to extradite such individuals back to their home via neutral nations.

In the United States during these War Years, the State Department operated a small number of internment facilities, many of them being resorts and hotels in isolated parts of the country.  Some of them were the Homestead Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), Greenbriar Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), a hotel in Asheville, Virginia, and other Virginia sites in Staunton, Hot Springs, New Market, and Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania.

The sole North Carolina retreat and conference center was at Montreat Assembly Inn.  This was a Presbyterian retreat center, run by the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  From October 29, 1942 to April 30, 1943, it held 133 Japanese and 131 German diplomats and their families.

It was an interesting opportunity to witness to these Axis diplomats.  Into each of the hotel rooms had been placed New Testaments in both the German language and the Japanese languages.  Further, church groups visited at Christmas and handed out presents to all the children.  Christmas carols were sung at the retreat center, with many joining in the familiar carols.   One simply doesn’t know what seeds of the gospel were being planted by the Holy Spirit during this time.

When the time of exchange came with our diplomats, business people, and missionaries, it soon became clear that their experience in German and Japan held internments  was not as plush as their counterparts in American areas.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Border Patrol escorted the foreign diplomats and their families to trains which took them to ships from neutral countries.  Usually they were marked clearly so enemy submarines would not torpedo them on their way back to their home countries.

Words to Live By: Consider with gratitude the amazing exchange program in the gospel.  Our sins were imputed or laid to the account of Christ, and His righteousness is imputed or laid to our account.  We who were enemies of God became His friends.  Thank God for this great exchange today.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 58 – 60

Through the Standards:  The liberties and privileges of adoption

WCF 12:1
“All those that are justified, God vouchsafes, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have His name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   

Do You Know King Jesus?

We have looked at the two offices of prophet and priest which Jesus executes.  Now we come, in the absence of anything Presbyterian, to Jesus executing the office of king.  Number 25 of the Shorter Catechism reminds us that “Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”

Christ in the past is a king, is One now, and ever will be a king.  His kingdom is a spiritual and invisible one.  He Himself said in the midst of  His arrest to Pilate that “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.” (NIV – John 18:36).  But it is in existence, and we as His people are kingdom-citizens of it.  Paul tells us “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (NIV – Colossians 1:13)

Jesus executes this office of kingdom by subduing us to Himself.  “Thy people,” the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 110:3 “shall be willing in the day of thy power.” (KJV)  He further rules over us.  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (KJV – 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)  He in addition as king defends us.  When God delivered the Psalmist from the hands of his enemies, David broke out in psalm, singing Psalm 18:1, 2 “I love you, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (NIV)  Last, He restrains and conquers all His and our enemies.  In a text which has been quoted by His kingdom-citizens in harrowing days of old, to say nothing of the persecuted brothers and sisters all over this world, John the apostle reminds us that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (ESV – 1 John 4:4b)

Words to Live By: As king, Christ’s mediatorial activity is performed in both directions — upward in intercession, and downward in applying the benefits of redemption and administering the affairs of His church.  As king, Christ meets the problem of man’s weakness and dependence, supplying us with power and protection.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 55 – 57

Through the Standards: The subject, sphere, and ground of adoption

WLC 74  — “What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   

Goliath against David

Talk about Goliath against David.  This was the case on this day April 28, 1937 when the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America went to court against the Presbyterian Church of America.  They had been successful in winning the church properties of those ministers who had been suspended from their ranks.  They had been successful in evicting them from the manse or parsonage.  They had been successful in removing their life insurance policies.  Now they wanted their name.

Their argument was simple.  Plans had been under way for some time for a proposed union of the United Presbyterian Church of North America with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  And one of the names floated for that proposed union was the Presbyterian Church of America.

The principal witness for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., was the denomination’s Stated Clerk, Lewis Seymour Mudge. Key to the whole case was the question of similarity of names as the sole basis for the suit against the Presbyterian Church of America.  Attempts by the latter group to show the doctrinal reasons for the new church were then met with objection after objection by the attorney for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Witnesses for the P.C. of A. were a “who’s who” of its early leaders. Ministers Paul Woolley, Edwin Rian, and Charles Woodbridge all testified on April 28 and April 29. Professor John Murray tried to bear witness about the doctrinal differences between the two denominations, but was hindered by objections to his presence on the stand. He left, without testifying.

It took several months before the decision was handed down. But as the historical devotional for February 9, 1939 showed, the decision was made against the Presbyterian Church of America. Moderator R.B. Kuiper called for an earlier than usual General Assembly in that month of February, 1939, and the new name of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was chosen by the  church.

When the union between the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Presbyterian Church of North America took place in 1958, their new name was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). In God’s providence, this gave the opportunity for the southern Presbyterians who left the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1973 to choose the name, The Presbyterian Church in America, as their new name during their second General Assembly.

Presbyterian Guardian managing editor Thomas R. Birch remarked at the close of his report in the May 29th, 1937 issue, “And once more . . . Gideon’s band of true Christians, the Presbyterian Church of America, has publicly taken its unflinching stand on the side of historic Presbyterianism and the principles of religious liberty for which the fathers fought and died.” His entire article concerning the injunction can be read online in the May 29, 1937 issue of the Presbyterian Guardian. Yet through further legal appeal, it was not until March 15, 1939 that the denomination officially changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Birch wrote again at that time regarding the name change, “What’s In A Name?”, on page 47 of the March 1939 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:  Jesus promised His followers that they would be brought up before the courts for the sake of their profession as Christianity.  This was one such example, and it will not be the last time in the history of the Christian church.  Yet God’s Word is sure.  Remain steadfast to the faith, and God’s reward will be ultimately yours in Christ.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 52 – 54

Through the Standards:   The nature of those justified who have been adopted

WSC 34  — “What is adoption?
A.  Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.”

Image sources : 1. Photograph of Lewis S. Mudge, newsclipping from the Syracuse Herald, 28 May 1936, p. 3, as found in Scrapbook no. 2, p. 110, in the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection.
2. Cover image of the Minutes of the Fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, meeting in Quarryville, Pa., May 31-June 3, 1938.
3. Cover image of the Minutes of the Fifth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Meeting at Westminster Theological Seminary, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pa., February 9, 1939…
All scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Christ executes the office of priest

With little of Presbyterian history to interest us on this day of April 27, we turn to one of the three offices which Christ executes for His people.  This office is so important to our Christian understanding of our redemption and sanctification.  Shorter Catechism number 25 tells us that this priestly office is executed “in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconciling us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.”

The definition of a priest is one qualified and authorized to act in behalf of man with God.  Certainly, Christ was over and over again in the Book of Hebrews identified as such a priest, whether we speak about specific references to  Him or typical fulfilments of Him as a priest.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus has “become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (ESV)

The two branches of the priestly work  of Christ falls into first, His sacrifice to satisfy divine justice.  We need to remember that in this sacrificial work, our Lord was both the priest and the victim, and perfect in each.  In comparing the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, the writer makes the contrast in Hebrews 9:14 by stating  “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (ESV)

The object, and indeed the effect of this offering, was for the full satisfaction of divine justice.  Jesus on the cross endured on our behalf the very punishment our sins deserved.  He then reconciled  us to God.  Paul says it all in Romans 5:9, 10: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled by God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (ESV)  Don’t just read this text without emotion!  Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as Romans 5:11 charges the reader.

The second branch of Christ’s priestly work falls into the intercession which He makes daily for us now.  He makes, in our Confessional fathers words, “continual intercession for us.”  He appears in His glorified humanity at the right hand of God.  He declares His will to be applied to believers on earth.  He answers all accusations against us by that  unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And the solid ground of this intercession is the merit of His perfect obedience and sacrifice during His sinless life and death, burial, and resurrection.

Christian reader, has it really grabbed you that Jesus is praying for you now and every day?  Do you go on your way every day with that comforting truth in your head and heart?  You can, because Christ is your personal priest.

Words to Live By: As priest, His mediatorship is upward from man to God.  As the priest, He meets the problems of your guilt, supplying you with righteousness.  Live in the light of this wondrous truth of the office Christ executes as a priest.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 49 – 51

Through the Standards: Proof texts of Justification:

Romans 5:1

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NAS)

Romans 3:24

“being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in  Christ Jesus.” (NAS)

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (KJV)

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

He Being Dead, Yet Speaks

We have a few of the characters in this historical devotional guide who are mentioned in more than one date out of the year.  Their birth dates, their death dates, and significant dates during their lives are found here. The reason why that is, is that they, while members now of the triumphant church, were well-known members of the militant church on earth. Such a one like that was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Born in 1851 in Kentucky from good solid Presbyterian heritage, especially on his mother’s side, Warfield was known and still is known as a great defender of the faith. The books he wrote are still readily available in both hard copy as well as on the web.  Yet he had limited experience in the pulpit and pastorate, serving only a few years in that capacity.  Further, he was not interested in  church politics,  either in the presbytery, synod, or general assembly.  His place of ministry was always in the classroom in a seminary setting.

In that sense, he was, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:12, an individual who “equipped the saints.”  That word “equip” is used in the gospels accounts to describe the necessary work of the fishermen who later became the apostles of our Lord.  It was said that when that divine call came, they were “mending the nets.”  In other words, they were getting the nets ready for service.  This is what the word “equip” speaks about in Ephesians 4.  And that is exactly what Warfield did as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary with his students.  They were equipped as student saints.   They were prepared for service in the kingdom of God.

No one did a better job in his time there than Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.  He took over the Chair of Charles Hodge from the son of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge.  He was therefore a link to the marvelous Hodge dynasty at old Princeton.  When he died in 1921, it was said that Old Princeton had passed away. In God’s providence, a mere nine years later Westminster Theological Seminary  began,  as an effort to preserve and continue something of that tradition of Old Princeton.

And to think all this story was begun officially on April 26, 1879 when Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was ordained to the ministry.   It was a recognition of the spiritual gifts which he possessed in knowledge and wisdom, in teaching, and in discernment. His ordination was a recognition by the Church of the hope and anticipation of how those gifts might be used in coming years, for the glory of God.

Words to Live By: Warfield is in heaven now, but his words live on in the church on earth.  It will do you, the reader, much good to spend time in reading his books either in book form or on the web.  Those books are not always easy to read, but they are worth the effort, for they still stand ready to equip you for service in Christ’s kingdom.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 46 – 48

Through the Standards: Only one way of justification

WCF 11:6
“The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:   The Man Who Looked Back

I was frozen in place that day behind the front desk of the Christian conference center in New Jersey.  The distinguished man had walked up to me to ask whether the Director of the Conference was on site.  I replied that he was away at the time. Whereupon the man gave me his business card, and walked out of the hotel that summer afternoon in 1965.  Looking  down, I read the name of “Edwin Rian, Assistant to the President, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.” I wish that I could say to our readers that this young seminarian had then rushed out of the hotel to ask the writer of the historic book The Presbyterian Conflict to stop and talk.  I wish that I could say to our readers that I stopped him and discussed with him as to why he left the infant Orthodox Presbyterian Church after such a valiant stand against the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, USA. I could have asked him whether he remembered my father, who stood with him in the nineteen thirties for the faith, by faith. But I did none of these things. I was frozen in time.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Edwin  Rian came to Princeton Theological Seminary to study Semitics at the prestigious school., as part of the Seminary’s class of 1927.  Ordained in 1930 in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, he advanced his scholarship by studying as a Princeton Fellow at the Universities of Berlin and Marburg in Germany.  Returning to the States, he saw clearly the issues which led his mentor J. Gresham Machen to organize Westminster Theological Seminary.  He took his stand on those same issues, and like Machen and a number of other ministers, was censured by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  As a founding member of the Presbyterian Church of America (1936), he stayed with that church when the Bible Presbyterians left it in 1938.  The former was later renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. (1938).  It was in 1940 that Rian crystallized the issues by writing the important book, “The Presbyterian Conflict.”  It still can be found in print or online, and is quoted often by those who seek to understand this period in American Presbyterian history.

Something happened to Edwin Rian himself, though, in the latter part of the 1940’s.  The fact that he left in 1946 to join the Christian University Association as its General Secretary was not unusual.  What was unusual was that on April 25, 1947, he left the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to reenter the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., from which he had been suspended over ten years before.

Various reasons had been suggested for this, sea change. One theory was that Rian was disappointed that a Christian University had not been started in Reformed circles.  And certainly, the rest of his life and ministry was taken up in educational circles.  But that reason doesn’t ring true to this contributor.  The reasons, however,  were never revealed.

He went on to serve in a variety of administrative posts in colleges and universities like Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Beaver College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota, Biblical Seminary in New York City, New York, and the American Bible Society in New York City. His last ministry and one in which he  came full circle, was  the position of Assistant to the President of Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. James I. McCord, where he served for 15 years until his retirement.  He departed this life in 1995 at age 95 in San Diego, California.

Words to Live By: Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 6:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  The commentator writes that there are some whose hearts are in the past. They walk forever looking backwards and thinking wistfully of the good old days.  The watchword of the Kingdom servants  is always “forward,” never “backward.”  Let us be not be content with lukewarm service.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 43 – 45

Through the Standards:  Once justified, always justified

WCF 11:5
“God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Joseph Addison Alexander was the third son of the Rev. Archibald Alexander and his wife Janetta (Waddel) Alexander. In modern terms, Joseph was home schooled, and he developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, pursuing one subject after another as it caught his attention. Eventually he grew to become another of that esteemed early faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

His biographer says of J.A. Alexander that

“…in the midst of all his laborious and diversified pursuits he saved time for the most heart-searching exercises in his closet. He gave himself up to daily communion with his God. He might neglect everything else, but he could not neglect his private devotions. In point of fact he neglected nothing. He moved as by clockwork. The cultivation of personal piety, in the light of the inspired word, was now with him the main object that he had in life. The next most prominent goal that he set before himself was the interpretation of the original scriptures; for their own sake, and for the benefit of a rising ministry, as well as for the gratification he took in the work. The Bible was to him the most profoundly interesting book in the world. It was in his eyes not merely the only source of true and undefiled religion, but also the very paragon among all remains of human genius. He knew great portions of it by heart….But more than this, the Bible was the chief object of his personal enthusiasm; he was fond of it; he was proud of it; he exulted in it. It occupied his best thoughts by day and by night. It was his meat and drink. It was his delectable reward. There were times when he might say with the Psalmist, “Mine eyes prevent the night watches that I might meditate in thy word, I have rejoiced in the way of thy precepts more than in great riches.” He succeeded perfectly in communicating this delightful zeal to others. His pupils all concur in saying that “he made the Bible glorious” to them. 

Words to Live By: The Bible is the very Word of God—His self-revelation to His people. J.A. Alexander seems to have made Psalm 1 the model and guide for his life. If you have never memorized a portion of Scripture, this Psalm is short and is a great place to start. Setting it to memory, such that you can think on it at various times, will bring real profit.

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Additional Notes for this day:
Professor J.G. Machen, lecturer, author and Bible scholar, delivered two addresses on Christianity at the dedication of the new home of the New York Bible Society in East Forty-eighth Street. [The Continent 53.17 (27 April 1922): 529.]

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 40 – 42

Through the Standards:  Act of justification is from the Triune God

WCF 11:4
“God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Earliest  Protestant Missionary to Korea

It wasn’t luck.  It wasn’t chance.  It wasn’t good fortune.  It was plainly providential.

Sent to Korea as a physician, Horace Newton Allen was in Seoul in 1884 when a royal relative of the governing family was stabbed and left badly injured.  A German diplomat called for Dr. Allen to treat the young man with Western style medicine practices with the result that the young member of  the royal family recovered in three months.  Obviously pleased with the results, the royal family was grateful beyond words and ready to do any thing and everything the physician desired.  He promptly went about to establish a hospital which sought to train native Koreans in Western style medicine practices.  But Allen also sought to open up the vast land to American evangelists and missionaries, for that was what Dr. Allen was himself.

Born April 23, 1858 in Delaware, Ohio, Horace Newton Allen studied at Ohio Wesleyan University.  Graduating from there, he went on to get his medical credentials from Miami Medical School in Ohio.  Sent out first by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions to China, he stayed but a year as a result of less than welcome from the Chinese people.  So he went to Korea and had the above experience.

This wide and effective door occurred when Korea was still anti-Christian in its attitude and actions toward Christians.  A little before this, over 10,000 Koreans who had converted to Christianity had been beheaded.  But his example as a Christian doctor enabled the opening of the door to Christians evangelists and missionaries from other lands, including the United States,  to enter the land and minister there in complete freedom.

In fact, so much did he identify with the Korean people, that the United States in 1897 appointed him as a diplomatic minister and consul general to that land.  He stayed there in this government position until 1905 when President Teddy Roosevelt recalled  him.   He returned to the United States and died in 1932.

The medical facility which he began was called in Korean, “The House of Extended Grace.”  And that is what Dr. Horace Allen brought to  Korea as he evangelized the souls of people in that Asian nation and healed the bodies of Korean people.

Words to Live By:   When God opens up a wide and effective door, God’s people need to be ready to enter through it for the work of Christ’s kingdom.

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 37 – 39

Through the Standards:  Justification is free to us, but not to Christ who paid for it

WCF 11:3
“Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf.  Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”

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A Man Fit for the Times

Jonathan Dickinson shares a lot of credit in the shaping of the early Presbyterian Church in the American colonies.  Born on April 22, 1688 in Hatfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Yale in 1706.  Two years later, he was installed as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, where he remained for the next forty years.

In 1722, with respect to the issue of creedal subscription, a schism began to develop in the infant Presbyterian church.  The question was simple.  Should a church officer — elder or deacon — be required to subscribe to everything in the Westminster Standards, or would it be sufficient for that officer to simply subscribe to the more basic truths of historic Christianity, as expressed, for instance, in the Nicene Creed?  Dickinson took the latter position and became the chief proponent of it in the infant church.  The fact that the same issue was raging in the mother countries among the immigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland only heightened the controversy in the colonies.  Eventually, the approaching storm of schism was stopped by the Adopting Act of 1729.  Written by Jonathan Dickinson, it solidly placed the church as believing in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the only infallible rule of faith and life, while receiving an adoption the Confessional standards of the Westminster Assembly as subordinate standards of the church.  Each court of the latter, whether Session, Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly would decide what exceptions to the latter would be allowed, and which exceptions would not be tolerated to the Westminster Standards.

In addition to his pastoral leadership in the church courts, the fourth college to be established in the colonies was the College of New Jersey in October of 1742.  It began in the manse of the first president, namely, Jonathan Dickinson.  The handful of students in what later on become Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University studied books which were a part of Dickinson’s pastoral library, and ate their meals with his family.  He would pass on to glory four months after the beginning of this school.

His last words were symbolic of his place in the history of the Presbyterian church.  He said, “Many years passed between God and my soul, in which I have solemnly dedicated myself to Him, and I trust what I have committed unto Him, He is able to keep until that day.”

Words to Live By:  Is this your testimony?  Paul writes in his last letter to the first century church, “. . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (KJV – 2 Timothy 1:12)

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 34 – 36

Through the Standards: Faith alone justifies, but  never stands alone

WCF 11:2
“Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Maryland Toleration Law Opens up Colony for Reformed Preaching

April 21 was an important date in 1649 for the Reformed faith in the colony of Maryland.  Originally, Maryland was a colony established as a refuge for English Catholics.  But as more non-Catholics came into the colony, and indeed it became a Protestant colony, the Maryland Assembly on this date established the Maryland Toleration Law, or as it is sometimes known as The Act Concerning Religion.

What it did was to mandate religious tolerance for trinitarian Christians.  That adjective “trinitarian” is important.  If a citizen of the colony denied the deity of Jesus Christ, for example, then the punishment was seizure of their land, and even death.  Thus Unitarians, or Jews, or atheists were threatened by this law.   It was meant more so as a protection for the Roman Catholics as it was for the Protestants, and specifically the Reformed faith.

It wouldn’t last long on the books, being repealed in 1654 by Oliver Cromwell’s influence upon the colony, and specifically the Anglican Church.  It would be returned to the law books, but then repealed forever in 1692.  It is interesting though that a part of it was found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the rights of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  The phrase “the free exercise thereof,” comes from the Maryland Act of Toleration.

What interests us in this Act of Toleration is that it allowed “the father of Presbyterianism” in the colonies, Francis Makemie, the freedom to preach in Maryland. Arriving in the Maryland colony in 1683, he didn’t have to seek permission from the governor of the colony to proclaim the richness of free grace.  Further, those of the Reformed faith who were driven out from the Virginia Colony’s control by the Anglicans, could come to Maryland to practice their Reformed faith. Makemie went on to establish several Presbyterian churches in Maryland.

Words to Live By:  This same Francis Makemie didn’t let state laws prohibit him from preaching the gospel.  (See January 21 historical devotional)  He was willing to go where the Holy Spirit led him to proclaim the unsearchable riches of God’s grace, regardless of the state law.  But when the liberty of the state enabled him to go, he didn’t “let the grass grow under his feet” in  sharing the good news of Christ, and Him crucified.  Let us not let the fear of man’s face  hinder us in sharing what Christ has done for us.

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 31 – 33

Through the Standards:  Justification, according to the catechisms

WLC 70 — “What is justification?
A.  Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.”

WSC 33 “What is justification?
A.  Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

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