April 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Glorifying God by Education

Quiz time! What Christian college today came about as the result of the sharing of ideas in a general store by Scots-Irish bargain hunters? Or what sports team logo came from a tornado which swept the campus in the early part of the twentieth century? If you answered  Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, give yourself a hand.

The year was 1836. The place was Northwood, Ohio.  James Stewart Johnston was the keeper of a general store in that small town which did business with many Scots-Irish customers. Besides shopping, it was also the place to share ideas, one of which was the starting of an educational institution for the second generation. And the one who seemed best to do it was the Rev. James Black Johnston, the pastor of the Miami (of Ohio) Reformed Presbyterian church, and brother to James Steward Johnston. So on April 20,  1848, Rev. Johnston began to teach Latin to a group of seven male students. He called it Geneva Hall, so named after the city of John Calvin in Switzerland. The class became so popular at Geneva Hall that women were added to the mix shortly. Pastor Johnston had to move the location to a log house in the village of Northwood, Ohio.

Before long, the Civil War between 1861 – 1865 caused the school to close, at least briefly. But after that national struggle, some say that the school opened as a Freedman institution, in which freed blacks began to study. The very fact that the Underground Railroad operated nearby makes that story a possible reality. Soon white students were included in the mix of education.

Seeing the need to be closer to an urban center caused the school to move to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in 1880, close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The land was given by a German society in that area. The school’s sport teams were known, understandably as the Covenanters. The first basketball game in the country was held by Geneva College  and  New Brighton YMCA in 1893. It wasn’t until early in the new century that the school’s sport team names was changed to the Golden Tornado after a literal tornado swept through the campus buildings, taking the golden dome of the oldest building off with it.

What is more important than these traditional facts which every college had to one degree or another, is that this college is a Christian college, both in name as well as in reality. All of the faculty must profess that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. All of the professors and lecturers of the Department of Biblical Studies must adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is the only college of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.  Its purpose succinctly is “to glorify God by educating and ministering to a diverse community of students for the purpose of developing servant leaders, transforming society for the kingdom of Christ.”

Words to Live By:   Their stated aim in education should be the stated aim of all Christians, that is, of seeking by their words and works to transform society for the kingdom of Christ. In what way will you be accomplishing that this week? Month? Year?

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 28 – 30

Through the Standards: Justification, according to the confession of faith

WCF 11:1
“Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  A  Funeral in the White House

The memorial service in the East Room of the White House began with the solemn reading of Holy Scripture by the Presbyterian clergyman.  Dr. Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. obviously wished to set the tone of God’s place in this whole tragedy.  What was that tragedy which prompted their gathering on April 19, 1865?  Nothing less than the assassination of the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Gurley was the pastor of the church where the President and his family attended while they lived in Washington, D.C. He became a close friend as well as a spiritual advisor. He had often been a counselor to the President in the dark days of the Civil War. Moreover, when the Lincoln’s son Willie died in 1862, it was Dr. Gurley who ministered to the family and he delivered the funeral sermon for their son. Now in 1865, he was again present at the death-bed, giving counsel to Mrs. Lincoln. And again he was asked by Mrs. Lincoln to give yet another funeral sermon, this time for her deceased husband.

Readers can “google” the entire sermon on-line.  And I urge everyone who reads this devotional to read that sermon.  You will find it a wealth of comfort for any kind of “dark providence” in your life.

Dr. Gurley, who was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and a committed member of  Old School Presbyterianism, says right at the beginning of the memorial service that “we recognize and adore the sovereignty of God.”   He quoted the old hymn’s words “Blind unbelief is prone to err and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter.  And He will make it plain.”   To all his quotations of Scripture, like Psalm 97:2  “Clouds and darkness are round him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” and Job 11:7, 8 “Canst thou by searching find out God?  canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?  It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?  deeper than hell; what canst thou know?” — to all of these high and holy theological points, Gurley answers that his intent  at that memorial service should be to “bow  before His infinite mystery.” Indeed  all the grieving citizens should respond to his words to “bow,  weep, and worship.”

And then, Dr. Gurley spoke of the character of the president, and how often he told those of his family, his cabinet, and any other people he would meet, to have faith in God.  That was the only response they should give in that hour of sadness.  To Dr. Gurley, there was no doubt in the minister’s mind that Abraham Lincoln was a firm believer in the Lord Jesus and thus a Christian.

It would be doubtful today that even such a religious service complete with a Biblical message could take place today in the White House.  But it did back then, and it was a message which could only be characterized as the Reformed faith in the Sovereignty of God.

The Presbyterian minister traveled on the funeral train to Springfield, Illinois, and gave the final prayer at the service beside the grave site.  He stayed at the church until his death of 1868.  While he was in the pulpit, traditional Calvinism was the underpinning of the message of the church in the pulpit.

Words to Live By: God’s sovereignty is never a mere doctrinal truth for believers.  It is also a tremendous comfort for Christians when unexplained things occur in our lives.  If you haven’t done so already, commit to memory some texts like Romans 8:28 or Daniel 4:35 or Psalm 55:22, along with a host of others.  Traditional Calvinism must always lead to a practical Calvinism, or it isn’t Calvinism at all.

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 25 – 27

Through the Standards: Proof texts for effectual grace:

John 1:12, 13
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (KJV)

Acts 13:48
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (ESV)

2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first-fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in  the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   (Elijah Lovejoy ordained 1833)

Though reared in a Christian Presbyterian home in Albion, Maine, where the family emphasis was that of a religious obligation to help rid the world of sin in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, young Elijah  Lovejoy did not receive the Savior during those years. Instead, he grew up on the family farm of the Rev. Daniel and Elizabeth Lovejoy, assisting in the tent-making ministry.  In 1823, he attended Waterville College, where he was a serious student who made strides in journalism, so much that he became a tutor for many in his class.  Graduating at the top of his class in 1826, he moved west to St. Louis, Missouri to raise up a high school and teach many children of the wealthy and important families of that city.  Still however, he did not know the Master.

His relationship with God was to change in 1832 when the Rev. David Nelson held a series of revival meetings at the First Presbyterian Church of that city.  From the sound preaching of the Word of God, God’s Spirit regenerated his soul.  That same year, he began to study at Princeton Theological Seminary back in New Jersey.  The following letter from the Illinois State Historical Library, in Springfield, Illinois, tells of his spiritual state to his parents:

“So I am here preparing to become a minister of the everlasting gospel!  When I review my past life, I am astonished and confounded, and hardly know which most to wonder at, my own stupidity and blundering and guilt or the long suffering and compassion  of God. That He should have blessed me with such opportunities of becoming acquainted with his holy word — should have given me parents who in the arms of their faith dedicated me to them according to his gracious covenant, and who early constantly and faithfully and with many tears warned and entreated me to embrace the salvation through Jesus Christ, and not-withstanding all this, when he saw me hardening my heart, resisting the prayers of my parents and friends, grieving his Holy Spirit, counting the blood of the covenant into which I had been baptized an unholy thing, that He should have still borne with me, should have suffered me to here, and last given me season to hope that I have by his grace been enabled to return to my Father’s house, all this seems a miracle of goodness such as God alone could perform and far too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I can only bow down my head and adore.”

Graduating early from Princeton, it was on this day, April 18, 1833, that Elijah Lovejoy was licensed to preach the gospel by the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Leaving this city, he traveled back to St. Louis, where he began his ministry in Presbyterian churches of that western city.  Using journalism gifts, he became a powerhouse for the abolition of slavery, which eventually was to take his life by violent means in 1837.  (We will cover that part of his history on November 7 devotional)

Words to Live By:  When the good news of eternal life transforms a life by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, then a new creation has come into existence.  It manifests itself not only by godly words but also in godly actions.  Have you reader. have that religious experience in your spiritual life?

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  Summary of the results of the effectual call

WSC 32 “What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A.  They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.”

The Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., LL.D. (April 17, 1772 – Oct. 22, 1851)
The Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander was born near Lexington, Va., on April 17, 1772. His classical and theological studies were pursued under the direction of the Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, afterward Washington College. He was licensed to preach the gospel at the early age of nineteen. After spending a year or more in missionary labor according to the rules of the Synod, he was ordained and installed pastor of Briery Church, November 7, 1794. In 1796 he was chosen President of Hampden-Sydney College at the age of twenty-four. On May 20, 1807, he was installed pastor of the Pine Street Church, Philadelphia. In the same year, being thirty-five, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and in his sermon made the suggestion of a Theological Seminary. In 1812 he was appointed Professor in the Theological Seminary just established at Princeton. Here he remained for the rest of his life.
   Dr. Alexander was seized with his final illness in the summer of 1851. He died on October 22, 1851.
Dr. Alexander’s published writings are too numerous to recite here. We may only mention “History of the Colonization Society,” “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” “Thoughts on Religion,” “Counsels to the Aged,” “Practical Sermons.” He also published numerous tracts and was a frequent contributor to the Princeton Review.

Words to Live By: Our Lord calls us to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life, giving evidence of the reality of our saving faith in Christ. We are not saved by our faithfulness, nor by our works, but if our trust in Christ as Savior is real, there will be evidence of that reality in our lives. We will die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 19 – 21

Through the Standards:  The Non – Elect

WCF 10:4
“Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess.  And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.”;

WLC 60
“Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
A.  They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Where Would We Be Without Christ being a Prophet

With an absence of Presbyterian historical dates for April 16, we return to the marvelous answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and specifically the doctrinal and experiential statement of Christ executing the office of a prophet to His people.  Answer 24 states, “Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.”

In defining the term “prophet,” we see someone who is qualified and authorized to speak for another.”  Immediately, we see  Jesus is  a “spokesman” or “mouthpiece” for the Father.  The writer to the Hebrews hits us right at the first in chapter 1, verse 1 and 2 of this office.  He writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son . . .” (ESV)  God the Father has spoken to us by His Son, the Lord Jesus.

The instrument and agent of Jesus as the prophet of His Father are specified as “his Word and Spirit.”  Notice the conjunction “and.”  Both God’s  written Word, the Bible, first spoken, and then written,  and God’s Spirit are necessary for the effectiveness of the  prophetic message.  Both were promised, and both were given to the church of the ages for their salvation and sanctification.

Revealed to the church as the subject of His prophetic words, our Confessional fathers tell us that it was “the will of God for our salvation.”  Jesus did not come to earth to answer every question upon the mind of man.  He didn’t come to speak of art and science and history and math, etc.   On one occasion, many of his professed followers left Him, because they had a false idea of His coming, believing it to be a political redemption from the empire of Rome.  So great was the exodus, that perhaps not many more than that original twelve apostles now reminded with Jesus.  Asking whether they would also leave, Peter sums up the convictions of those remaining when he replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (ESV – John 6:66 – 68).  Jesus did then, and does now, and ever will possess those words of the good news of eternal life.    We are all under a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death.  But God’s Son fulfilled that sentence of death on our behalf, giving those who repent of their sins and  trust in Him, eternal life instead.

Words to Live By: Summing up Christ’s prophetic office, as Prophet, his mediatorship is downward from God to us.  As a prophet, as the Prophet, He meets the problems of man’s spiritual ignorance, supplying us with spiritual knowledge of the most important kind, that which affects eternity, and where we will spend it.  Are you still ignorant, or have you been brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 16 – 18

Through the Standards:  The subjects of the effective call

WCF 10:2, 3
“This effective call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.  Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”;

WLC 68 — “Are the elect only effectually called?
A.  All the elect, and they only, are effectually called . . . .”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

A Helpful Book For All Home Libraries

It was said that in most colonial homes in America, Presbyterians owned at least several books for use by and for their families.  The first one was, of course, the Bible.  And contrary to many expectations, that Bible version was not the King James Version, but rather the Genevan Bible.  Remember, the King James version was introduced because of the Reformed foot notes of the Genevan Bible.  That introduction was marked by mistakes, such as the inclusion of the Apocrypha into the first edition of the King James Version.  It was left out in the second edition, and indeed, to cause people to buy it, the printer of the version placed on the flyleaf “Authorized Version.”   All these caused the many Presbyterian and Reformed Christians to bring the Genevan edition to the shores of America.

A second book essential for early American immigrants was the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.  These were studied in many a home, with catechetical instruction and memorization being part and parcel of family devotions.

Another important book was Thomas Boston’s “Four-fold Nature of Man.”  This was clear theology as it explained the state of innocency, the state of sin, the state of salvation, and the state of glorification.

A fourth book would be a commentary, such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible.  This would enable the husband and father of the home to explain the Word of God in daily devotions to the family members gathered morning and night.

Last, a history book of the church to explain God’s providential ways in the church in the past was helpful to remind the church members of what had been done by the Lord of history, and what could be expected by the Lord to extend His church in the present age.

In light of the existence of this  last book in colonial homes, this contributor would like to recommend to our readers the importance of having the book by Henry Alexander White, entitled “Southern Presbyterian Leaders 1683 – 1911” in their homes.  Reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, White’s book does an excellent job of making his readers familiar with the rich heritage of southern Presbyterian leaders.  Since all of the conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches have significant churches and leaders today in the South, his roll call of men, movements, and events cannot be surpassed today.  So felt Dr. Henry White, when in his preface written on April 15, 1911,  “the work and character of Presbyterian people of our Southern Commonwealthmust be known by all Christian Presbyterians.  Therefore, it is recommended that you purchase this book for your home libraries to know and understand the past great people in the southern church.  As we see what make them the men and women of their day and age, it will help us to follow their example of commitment to the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ.

Words to Live By:  Remember Joshua in obedience to the Lord placed stones on the banks of the Jordan to not forget the Lord’s power in enabling Israel to pass by faith that seeming obstacle into the promised land, so we need to be reminded of those who have gone before so that we can by faith successfully confront anyone or anything who and which might confront us today.

Through the Scriptures:  Psalm 13 – 15

Through the Standards:  Definition of effectual calling, according to the catechisms

WLC 67 “What is effectual calling?
A.  Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he does, in his accept time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their  wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.”;

WLC 68 “Are the elect only effectually called?
A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called: although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.”;

WSC 31  “What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

An Ambassador for King Jesus

Samuel Davies was born in Delaware in 1723.  His Welsh mother had named him after the prophet Samuel. Ever afterwards, he considered himself to be a son of prayer, as the biblical name Samuel inferred. His early dedication to God induced him to devote himself to God personally.  Joining the church at age 15, he entered Samuel Blair’s classical and theological school at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, in Pennsylvania.  He was ordained as a Presbyterian  evangelist in February 1747 by the New Castle Presbytery.

On April 14, 1747, Samuel Davies stood before Governor Gooch and his council at Williamsburg, to ask permission to preach at four meeting houses in Hanover Country in Virginia.  Readers need to know that Virginia in the pre-revolutionary days was officially Anglican in religion.  Anyone outside of that denomination needed permission to minister. Later this law would be changed with a separation between church and state.  But at this time, permission had to be sought.  Receiving it, Davies preached faithfully and sacrificially at these four preaching points, some twelve miles north of Richmond, Virginia.

Suddenly, he wife was taken from him by illness which resulted in death.  It was said of him at the time that, despite his sorrow, he was determined to spend what little remained of his exhausted lifestyle to advance his Master’s glory to the good of countless souls in need of the gospel.  This dedication brought people from a wide circumference to hear the preaching of the Word of God, including a mother and her young son Patrick Henry.

On November 1, 1748, he returned to the Governor to ask that seven more places of preaching be granted to him.  While there was some opposition to the increased number, he presented his case with such clarity and forcefulness of argument, his request was granted.

For eleven more years, he preached the Word of God in the county of Hanover, as well as four other counties of Virginia. He was, as one put it, the ambassador of a mighty king.  All, upon hearing his weekly sermons, knew that king to be no one except King Jesus.

Words to Live By:  All believers are to be ambassadors of King Jesus, declaring the message by their lives and lips,  for  all to be reconciled to God.

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 10 – 12

Through the Standards: Definition of effectual calling

 WCF 10:1
“All those whom God has predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.”

Image source : Photograph found facing page 33 of Virginia Presbyterianism and Religious Liberty in Colonial and Revolutionary Times, by Thomas Cary Johnson. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1907. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

An Effective Pastor of the Flock

Try to think of the most effective evangelists  in  the nineteenth century—men like Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, John Wilbur Chapman. Wait! J. Wilbur Chapman? Who was he, you might ask? And yet this nineteenth century evangelist had the experience of leading thousands to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we don’t know him in particular, all Christians have sung, and many loved what has been called the greatest gospel content song of all time, namely, “One Day.”  He also wrote “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!”  So you know him as a hymn writer. Let’s get better acquainted.

John Wilbur Chapman was a Presbyterian pastor and evangelist.  Born in 1859 in a Christian home, he was educated at Lake Forest University and Lane Theological Seminary.  He was ordained on April 13, 1881 by the Presbytery of Whitewater, Ohio.  A few days later, he married Irene Sleddon.

Entering the pastorate, his first charge was a yoked pastorate over two Presbyterian churches in Indiana and Ohio in 1882.  John was able to serve both churches by alternating his preaching first one week at one church and then the next Sunday at the other.

In 1883, he was given a call to the Old Saratoga Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, New York.  This was not a Presbyterian congregation but one which was still very much within the Reformed tradition. In 1885, in the same town, he was called and accepted as pastor to the First Reformed Church.

Under his evangelistic ministry, the church grew from 150 members to 1500 members.  At least 500 conversions took place in those years.

Sorrow struck his family one year later when his wife Irene passed away.  He was left as a single parent with a young daughter. That year, still grieving, he heard a message by the celebrated preacher F.B. Meyer. In speaking of whole-hearted surrender to the Lord’s will, Meyer said “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?”  That one question, Chapman said, “changed my whole ministry; it seemed like a new star in the sky of my life.”

Five years later, J. Wilbur Chapman began the greatest of his four pastorates, at the Bethany Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was the home church of merchant John Wanamaker.

Soon after he arrived, however, an individual went up to Rev. Chapman and said, “You are not a very strong preacher, but a few of us have decided to gather and pray every Sunday for you.”   That Sunday prayer meeting for the pastor and his ministry at Bethany, grew to over a thousand individuals praying for the effectiveness of the Word of God through J. Wilbur Chapman.  Soon a revival started in the church in which 400 were added to the church rolls.  Two years later, J. Wilbur Chapman left the pastorate to become a full-time evangelist, where he had his greatest ministry to the Lord.

Words to Live By:  Do you, as a member of a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching church, pray for your pastor?  Do you pray for his preparation of the Word, his evangelism opportunities, his counseling sessions, his home and hospital visitations, his administrative duties, and his  family?  Pray, pray, pray for the pastors of our churches!

Through the Scriptures:   Psalm 7 – 9

Through the Standards:  Limits and certainty of the application of redemption

WLC 57 — “What benefits has Christ procured by his mediation?
A.  Christ, by his mediation, has procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.”

WLC 58 “How do we come to be made partakers of  the benefits which Christ has procured?
A.  We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.”

WLC 59 “Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A.  Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ has purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.”

WSC 29 “How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A.  We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.”;

WSC 30  “How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A.  The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Two Churches Merge into One Church

On April 12, 2009, two Presbyterian churches became one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  One of the two was the historic Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, which had been meeting and ministering in and to that area for sixty years under the dynamic leadership of Dr. D. James Kennedy.  The other was no small congregation, but a newer one, to be sure, which had as their meeting place a theater under the ministerial leadership of the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham.  One church belonged to the Presbyterian Church in America.  The other church was connected with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  One church was set in the traditional worship style, with a second service being contemporary in style of worship.  The other church was set in the contemporary style of worship.

Both of them had to vote in the affirmative for this union to take place.  And they did vote that way.  The second church  by their affirmative, voted to leave the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and join the Presbyterian Church in America.   After the vote to merge, the call then went to Tullian Tchividjian to become the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.  He was installed on May 10, 2009.

Rev. Tchividjian is a testament to God’s sovereign and saving grace himself.  Despite being the grandson of the most famous evangelist in twentieth century America, he grew up a rebel.  Thrown out of his home and dropping out of high school when he was sixteen, he, by his own admission, gave himself over to a life of debauchery.  Five years in the drug culture of South Florida, he  began to see that there was more to life than the one he was living.  When the woman who later became his wife began to show an interest in spiritual things, he began to see the change in  his own life as well.  As he put it in the World Magazine July 16, 2011 issue, “the things I used to hate I started to love, and the things I used to love I started to hate.”  Returning to the education field, he received a degree in philosophy from college, and went to Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.  Graduating from there, he went into the Lord’s work, planting a new church a few miles north of Coral Ridge Presbyterian.  It was this church which merged into the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Words to Live By:  God sovereign grace never lets go of His elect, even when we try to leave the God of the Bible behind in our rush to get what the world has to offer.  The sooner we realize that truth, the better off we will be in  our lives.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  Proof texts of Free Will:

Deuteronomy 30:19

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose live in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (NASV)

Ecclesiastes 7:29

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.” (NASV)

Ephesians 2:1 – 3

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  (NASV)

 Colossians 1:13

 “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (NASV)

1 John 3:2

“Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, if He should appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (NASV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Be Ready Always

The day of the debate had brought a crowd of Presbyterian elders to the sanctuary of the Fourth Presbyterian Church on that day of April 11, 1933.  The topic was “Modernism on the Mission Field.”  And the two individuals engaging in the debate were two “heavies” on opposite sides of the issue.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen was the recognized leader of the conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Founder and president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was still a member minister of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Presbytery, though he had tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the Philadelphia Presbytery.  Against him was Dr. Robert Speer, present head of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Dr. Machen began his presentation with a proposed overture from the Presbytery of New Brunswick to the General Assembly of 1933.  The first two of four parts are the key ones, which I will quote word for word from the April 1933 Christianity Today article, and sum up the other two.

Point 1 of his overture was: “To take care to elect to positions of the Board of Foreign Missions only persons who are fully aware of the danger in which the Church stands and who are determined to insist on such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles, as being essential to the Word of God and our Standards, as being necessary to the message which every missionary under our church shall proclaim.”

In essence, this first proposition simply summed up the Declarations of the General Assembly’s five fundamentals which were considered as essential for the Church, its boards, and its ministers.  It specifically repudiated the denials of the same by the Auburn Affirmation in 1924.

Proposition 2 of the proposed overture sought to “instruct the Board of Foreign Missions that no one who denies the absolute necessity of acceptance of such verities by every candidate for this ministry can possibly be regarded as a candidate to occupy the position of Candidate Secretary.”

This proposition addressed the important place which the Candidate Secretary has in ascertaining the theological convictions which each missionary candidate has to serve on the Foreign Field.  In other words, in people such as Pearl Buck, who was openly denying the exclusiveness of the gospel of Christ, it is obvious that the Candidate Secretary had “missed the boat” in approving her as being a missionary to China.

The third proposition summed up that those who held that the tolerance of opposing views was  more important than an unswerving faithfulness in the proclamation of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God, show themselves to be unworthy of being missionaries of the cross.

This proposition was aimed at those who had accepted the fundamental viewpoint of the book, “Rethinking Missions,” that denied the exclusivity of the gospel.

The last proposition sought to warn the Board of the great dangers lurking with union enterprises in view of wide-spread error.

Dr. Speer for his part of the “debate” simply dismissed each of the overture propositions.    When the vote was taken on Dr. Machen’s proposed overture, it was voted down by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, with a majority voting in favor of confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions.  Dr. Machen, Rev. Samuel Craig, and Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge asked that their names be recorded in  dissent of the motion.

For a fuller account of the debate, click here.

Words to Live By:  We are always called upon to stand faithfully for the gospel.  The results on this earth may be not what we have hoped for, but the results in the General Assembly of heaven are what counts for time and eternity.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 1 -3

Through the Standards:  The state of glory

WCF 9:5
“The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.”

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