September 18: Clarence Edward Noble Macartney

This Day in Presbyterian History

Even His Name Spoke of Recognition

Born on  this 18th day of September of 1879, Clarence Edward Noble Macartney had one of those names that made you stop and think.  He grew up in  a Covenanter household, with his father, the Rev. John L. Macartney, being a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northwood, Ohio.  As this town was the home of Geneva College, it was no surprise that his father taught at the new college as a professor of Natural Science.  When the college moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the family moved with it.

But the father was not a well man. Plagued with a respiratory problem, he and the family moved to California for the warmer weather. In fact, twice there was a move in that state, and finally on to Colorado in 1896. There were teaching professions along the way for the father.

All this moving brought a series of schools, which did not stop for the young man Clarence during his collegiate years. They included: the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and Yale Divinity School. There was even a stint overseas in several countries. Finally, Clarence McCartney settled down at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under B.B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, and Frederick Loetscher.

The Old School Presbyterian theology called him away from the Covenanter denomination of his father and into the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Ordained soon after seminary, he held pastorates in Patterson, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Macartney was no doubt a conservative in theology.  His Old School Presbyterian training at Princeton Seminary  had guaranteed that, along with his Covenanter background.  And he was to preach that famous sermon, “Shall Unbelief Win?” to counter the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon earlier, “Shall Fundamentalism Win?”

In its early years, he was a member of the board of Westminster Theological Seminary.  One of his favorite professors at Princeton was Robert Dick Wilson, who was at Westminster for one year before death took him. But McCartney was opposed to the starting of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission as well as the Constitutional Union’s calls for a new church, if they couldn’t reform the church from the inside. Eventually, he would resign from the board of Westminster Seminary and remain inside the Presbyterian U.S.A. church, even while Machen and others were censured out of the church.  He would go to be with the Lord in 1957.

Words to live by:  It comes down to a simply question.  What is the definition of an apostate church?  J. Gresham Machen and others certainly believed that when nothing is done in the way of church discipline when essential doctrines of the faith have been denied, as was the case with the Auburn Affirmation, then that speaks of a visible church being apostate. Not one single signer of this affirmation was ever brought up on a charge of heresy. Who were brought up for violation of their ordination vows were conservatives like Machen, Woodbridge, Woolley, McIntire, and yes even a David K Myers, among others.  Pray for the purity of the church and  your church in particular. Don’t ever be silent when the truths of God’s Word, the Bible, are being attacked.  And stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints.

For further study : The Clarence Edward N. Macartney Manuscript Collection is preserved as one of the resources at the Geneva College Library.

Through the Scriptures:  Ezekiel 25 – 27

Through the Standards:  The sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Larger Catechism.

WLC 195 — “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A.  In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for diverse holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations; that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us; and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptation, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; and worthy to be left under the power of them: we pray, that God would so over-rule the world and  all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin; or, if tempted, the hour of temptation; or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof; that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, Satan trodden under our feet, and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, forever.”

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