October 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Remembering October 31

It is my earnest hope that no reader is going to wonder why this writer wants them to remember Halloween!  October 31st, and specifically October 31, 1517, is the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On this date, an obscure Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenburg, because that was the usual custom of advertisement for the people’s attention.  It was the twenty-first century bulletin board.   Luther nailed them up at noon sharp because it was the time of the most frequent feasts.  Professors, students, and the common people would be coming from all four corners to the church, which was filled up with relics for transfers of credit.

A lot of Protestants, while  hearing of this incident of the nailing of ninety-five theses, think that they were ringing endorsements of Protestant theology.  In reality, they were more Roman  Catholic than Protestant.  There is no protest against the Pope and the Roman Catholic church, or any of  her doctrines, not even against indulgences.  They were silent about justification by faith alone.   They were primarily opposed to the abuse of indulgences.

But while the form is Romish, the spirit and aim is Protestant.  They represent a state of transition between twilight and daylight.  We must read between the lines, as the leaders of the Roman Catholic church did in the sixteenth century.  As they did, they saw a logical drift which sought to undermine the whole fabric of Romanism.

Luther hoped that there would be a scholarly debate of the abuse of indulgences.  But no one came to debate him.  Instead, with the recent invention of the printing press, the copies of the ninety-five theses were sent all over the empire.  The pope  had a copy within two weeks.  The common people read them and rejoiced over them.  Luther was the talk of Germany.  There was a trumpet call being sounded for what later on became   the Protestant Reformation.

Words to live by: In less than five years, in 2017,  we will celebrate the five-hundredeth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Will there be a revival of its themes in your church and more important, in your heart, such as  Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Only to the Glory of God?  That sums up what Luther, and Calvin, and Knox thundered to the masses and the visible  church.  Reflect on  the story of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in your heart, home, and  church.

Through the Scriptures:  Luke 10 – 13

Through the Standards:  The definition of a sacrament in confession and catechisms.

WCF 27:1
“Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word.”

WLC 162 “What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.”

WSC 92 “What is a sacrament?
A.  A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Strongly Inclined to Be Devoted to the Ministry

Samuel Miller was born in Dover, Delaware on October 30, 1769. As was typical for his day, he studied theology privately in preparation for the ministry. Upon completion of his examinations he was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on June 5, 1793 and installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of New York City, where he then served from 1793-1801. He next served the Wall Street church from 1801-1813, before answering the call of General Assembly to serve as professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. As the second professor at the Seminary after Archibald Alexander, Miller served the Seminary from 1813-1849, finally taking emeritus status at the age of 80. He died less than a year later, on January 7, 1850.

Resting behind the simple facts of our first paragraph is the spiritual depth of this man of God.  Upon taking the new ministry at Princeton, he sat down and wrote out seven resolutions.  We don’t have space for all seven of them, but the first one stands out and indeed sums up all the rest.  It reads, “I will endeavor hereafter, by God’s help, to remember more deeply and solemnly than I have ever yet done, that I am not my own, but Christ’s servant; and, of course, bound to seek, not my own things, but the things which are Jesus Christ’s”  That says it all with respect to the character and conduct of this seminary professor.

Words to Live By: Samuel Miller’s first resolution is but a summary of those words written down by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, when he stated in the context of the need to live a moral life, the following: “Do you not known that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (NIV)  Whether soul or body, each of us should make Samuel Miller’s resolution our own resolution, and indeed recommit ourselves to it at pivotal points of our life, such as our birthday. It would be exciting to see what God would do with such a committed Christian if this is true of you and me.

Through the Scriptures: Luke 7 – 9

Through the Standards: Preaching and hearing the Word of God

WLC 158 “By whom is the word of God to be preached?
A.  The word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.”

WLC 159 “How is the word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?
A. They that are called to labor in the minister of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, and fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”

WLC 160 “What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A.  It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”

This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Pastor in  a Period of Deep Anxiety

Readers of this historical devotional may remember that there was a schism in American Presbyterianism in 1741 between what was called the New Side and the Old Side Presbyterians. With such bright ministers as Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Blair, George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, to mention a few, we might suppose that evangelistic activities only was found among the New Side Presbyterians. But this would be a wrong conclusion.  Consider the ministry of Rev. Alexander McDowell.

Ordained on October 29, 1741, the very year of the schism, Alexander McDowell was sent by the Old Side Presbytery of New Castle,  to Virginia as an evangelist that same year.  He was eminently qualified for this missionary effort.  Born in Ireland and educated at the University of Edinburgh, he came to the American colonies in 1737.

Following his evangelistic tour, he took the pulpit of two Old Side Presbyterian congregations in Elk Church, Lewisville, Pennsylvania and White Clay Creek Church in Newark, Delaware.  Remaining in them for seventeen years, he was said to be a man of more than ordinary mental abilities, an excellent scholar, and a laborious educator.  He was faithful to the higher courts of Presbytery and Synod.  What we might call para-church activities today, he earnestly sought to raise financial support for the widows of ministers.  He even served as a chaplain during the French and Indian War.

Following his faithful ministry as a pastor, he took over the education responsibilities of the Rev. Francis Allison in his free classical school.  When Rev. McDowell oversaw its pupils, it was known at the Newark Academy.  Teaching Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Philosophy, he sought to train the students under his care. This institution went through several changes of names, until it became the University of Delaware in 1921.

Words to live by:  That which produced the First Great Awakening in our land is often lauded, and it should be. But there were those who objected to the emotionalism displayed in those services. They should not be labeled as liberals in any sense of the word.  We are dealing here with different methods of doing God’s work.  There can be as much of God’s Spirit advancing the kingdom of grace with men like Alexander McDowell as there was with a Rev. Gilbert Tennent.  As long as the gospel is proclaimed faithfully, and God’s Word is upheld strongly, let us pray for the advance of the dominion of grace in the hearts of men and women.

Through the Scriptures:  Luke 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  The manner of reading the Word of God

WLC 157 “How is the word of God to be read?
A.  The holy scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believed, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayers.”

WSC 90 How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A.  That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

An Unusual Name No Hindrance to God’s Working

This writer has to acknowledge that I was curious regarding the name of this Presbyterian minister for this day of October 28, 1871.  It was on this day that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. His name was Septimus Tustin.

My first thought upon seeing that name “Septimus” was what parent would possibly bestow upon their son such a name. But then, I noted that his father’s name was “Septimus,” so I understood that it was a case of “like father, like son.” He was the son of Septimus and Elizabeth Tustin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his father died when he was quite young. Septimus was reared by his mother, and she is described as a pious woman and a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. With such a home and church like that, it is no great surprise that he went into the pastoral ministry. Ordained by the Presbytery of the District of Columbia (the first such from that new Presbytery), he began his pastoral ministry in Leesburg, Virginia in 1825.

Between the years of 1826 and 1861, he ministered to six more Presbyterian churches, five of them in the Northern states and one in the South.  The latter was in Mississippi, and his time there came quickly to an end when that Southern state joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Rev. Tustin worked hard to unify the two sectional Presbyterian churches, but without success.

What is interesting about this minister is that on two occasions, he was called to the halls of Congress as a chaplain.  First, he was the House of Representatives Chaplain for two years, and following up that ministry with the United States Senate Chaplaincy for five years.  He also served as a trustee of Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania.

Words to live by: What might be seen as a hindrance to effective work in God’s kingdom, as in this case a name, is proven to be the opposite when God’s Spirit is  in control.  Indeed, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, this is the norm rather than the exception.  From the Amplified, it reads, “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren: not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth.  [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what is the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.  And God also selected (deliberately  chose) what in the world is low-born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.

Through the Scriptures: 
Luke 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Everyone is to read the word of God

WLC 156 “Is the word of God to be read by all?
A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families; to which end, the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar (e.g. common) languages.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Victory Over England Brings Celebration in a Presbyterian Church

Granted!  After the final victory over the British military forces at Yorktown, Virginia, there were celebrations being held everywhere in 1781 in the United States. But one of those celebrations took place in the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey on October 27, 1791. And this was no sparsely attending worship service. The Revolutionary War Governor, William Livingston, the Council of the state of New Jersey, the entire Assembly of Representatives, and citizens of the town came together to hear the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer delivered a discourse adapted to the occasion.

The pastor of this church, Elihu Spencer, was no stranger to the vicissitudes of the Revolutionary struggle. Indeed, he was the chaplain to colonial troops in the long battle for liberty.  As such, he was a marked man by the British and his parsonage suffered damage as a result of his affiliation with the Continental army. Two revolutionary battles were fought in Trenton, including the famous midnight crossing of the river to do battle with the German mercenaries, or Hessians, in the town, which battle Gen George Washington and his troops won, bringing new morale to the American citizenry.

This celebratory day began with the beating of drums. The American flag was displayed throughout the town.  At eleven o’clock, this worship service was held.  In the afternoon, after artillery discharges, there came a series of toasts to everybody and anybody by the assembled political and general citizenry. In fact, it was good that they began with a worship hour, because had they done it after these toasts, none of them would have been able to stand up and sing praises to the Lord!  There were many, many toasts of gratitude to those who brought about this victory. The night of celebration was over by 7 p.m. and the whole town was illuminated by candles in the evening.

Words to live by:  Today in our secular culture, post-Christian era, the idea that you mention that God is the God of war, or the God of battles, or the One who brings victory over your enemies, is considered anathema. Yet our forefathers did not think so, and frequently mentioned the God of providence in the events which made up our country.  We need to return to the God of our Fathers, in conversation, in conduct, in celebrations of liberty by our people, in concerns of patriotism in our assembly halls — in all of life.  Without Him, we would be a defeated people long ago.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 14 – 16

Through the Standards: The Word is Effectual Unto Salvation

WLC 155  “How is the word made effectual unto salvation?
A.  The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and  humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ, of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

WSC 89 “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
A.  The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Christian Patriot Who Suffered During the American Revolution

We are more apt to recognize the New Jersey delegates like the Rev. John Witherspoon, or maybe Richard Stockton, as signers of the Declaration of Independence.  But joining them was one Abraham Clark.

Born February 15, 1726 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, his family was solid Presbyterians in their denominational affiliation.  Baptized as an infant by the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, first professor of the College of New Jersey, he grew up in the thrilling but dangerous days of increasing agitation of separation from England.  With his inclination to  study civil law and mathematics, he became known to his neighbors. Popular as “the poor man’s counselor,” he refused to accept any pay for his helpfulness to his neighbors. He further served them as High Sheriff of Essex County.

But it was as a member of the Continental Congress on June 21, 1776, that he became interested in the issues of liberty and justice. Penning his name to the Declaration of Independence, representing New Jersey, he states that he and his fellow signers knew that “nothing short of Almighty God can save us.”

He knew full well the cost of liberty. To a friend serving as an officer in the Jersey contingent of troops, “this seems now to be a trying season, but  that indulgent Father who has hitherto preserved us will I trust appear for our help and prevent our being crushed.  If otherwise, his will be done.” There is no doubt with convictions like this that he saw himself and his country safely within the sovereign providence of God.

His two sons were captured by the British and put into the prison hold of a notorious prison ship called “Jersey.”  Fellow prisoners fed one of the sons by squeezing food through a key hole.  Abraham Clark did not wish to make his personal suffering public, so he told no one about his family stress.  When they found out about it from other sources, the American authorities contacted the British and told them that as they were treating prisoner of war Clark, so they were going to retaliate against a British officers in captivity.  Only then did the brutal treatment of Clark’s sons ease up.

Abraham Clark was recognized as the member of Congress who moved that a chaplain be appointed for the Congress of the  United States. And ever since then, a chaplain has been elected for that spiritual position.

But there were religious responsibilities which Abraham Clark also kept. From October 26, 1786 to 1790, Abraham Clark was a trustee for the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church of which Pastor Caldwell was the minister. Abraham Clark died in his sixty-ninth year on September 15, 1794.

Words to live by:  It was said that Abraham Clark was a Christian, a family man, a patriot, a public servant, and a gentleman. That about covers the sphere of influence which all Christians are to serve both God, the church, and our country. Once, he was offered freedom for his sons from their British captivity if . . . if he turned colors and became a Tory, or become loyal to England.  He responded “no.”  He was convinced, as he said to a friend in a letter in 1776, “Our fate is in the hands of an Almighty God to whom I can with pleasure confide my own. He can save  us or destroy us. His counsels are fixed and cannot be disappointed and all his designs will be accomplished.” Amen, and Praise God!

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 11 – 13

Through the Standards:  The Outward Means of Communicating Benefits of Redemption

WLC 154 — “What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
A.  The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.”

WSC 88  “What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A.  The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, Sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Subjects of Baptism

With no subjects of Presbyterianism available to this writer, we conclude our look at baptism by noting the question and answer of Shorter Catechism 95, which deals with the subject of baptism. It asks, “To whom is Baptism to be administered?” And our Confessional Fathers answer that “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church, are to be baptized.”  In other words, both adult baptism and infant baptism are to be practiced by Bible-believing Presbyterians.

Adult baptism is to be administered to those who have confessed their faith in Jesus Christ and joined an evangelical and/or Reformed congregation. Further, they should be those who are walking in the life of that profession in an obedient manner.

This catechism reminds us that church membership is necessary, either before the baptism or after the baptism.  That usually includes a series of membership classes in which the faith and life of the local congregation is taught to prospective members.  After their appearance before the Session of Elders, in which their profession of faith in given, they, upon certain membership vows, are received into the church.  Usually a public profession before the congregation on a Lord’s Day is also presented.  This is a happy occasion in the life of any church when God adds to His church in numerical strength.

The second half of this catechism is on a topic which has divided the visible church, namely, that of infant baptism.  We do not have the space here to show completely its biblical basis.  For that, the reader is invited to ask his/her pastor for this grounds.  Suffice it to say, “the infants of such as are members of the visible church, are to be baptized,” is the teaching of all Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

In the book of Acts, where we have the inspired history of the New Testament church, there is no doubt in any one’s mind that we have instances of believer’s baptisms in the inspired record.  Cornelius and Crispus in Acts 10 and Acts 18 are clearly a case where the adults believed in the Lord first as Lord and Savior, and were baptized as a result of their profession.

There should likewise be no doubt that infant baptism is clearly taught in Acts 16:14, 15 and in Acts 16:33, 34 where both Lydia and the unnamed jailor believed (and this verb is singular in number in both instances), yet their household was baptized.  Paul would not have baptized unsaved adults.  But he did baptize some children or infants both upon Lydia’s and the jailor’s saving faith. Surely the Holy Spirit who is the author of this word “believed” may not be charged with carelessness in the exact use of the singular and the plural verb of believe.  She believed, he believed, and yet the household was baptized.

Words to live by:  There is no greater joy in a pastor’s heart to see believing parents, or even one believing parent, come before the church to take vows regarding the rearing of that child or children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and then enter into the sacrament of baptism for their children. They clearly anticipate the time when these children will recognize their need for a Savior and openly profess Christ as Lord and Savior, thus answering the outward sign and seal taken by their parents long before that time. Pastors will do well to contact the young man or young woman at some point in their physical growth to challenge them to profess faith in Christ, telling them that their parents baptized them in their earlier life with just that in their minds and hearts.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 7 – 10

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Communion of Saints

1 John 1:3
“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you; so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)

Galatians 6:10
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (KJV)

Hebrews 10:24
“And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.” (Amplified)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State

Four months after the Declaration  of Independence was presented to the fledgling country, Hanover Presbytery in Virginia presented a memorial on October 24, 1776 on the subject of the free exercise of religion.

On the one hand, there was stated in the memorial the realization that “the gospel does not need any such civil aid.”  These Presbyterian teaching and ruling elders recognized that the Savior declared that His kingdom was not of this world, and therefore renounced “all dependence upon state power.” Our Lord’s weapons, this mother of all southern presbyteries, stated, “are spiritual and were only designed to have influence on the judgment and heart of man.”  Biblical Christianity will continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence and under the all-disposing providence of God, as it was the case in the days of the apostles.

Then, they humbly petitioned their civil counterparts by saying, “we ask no ecclesiastical establishments for ourselves, nor can we approve of them when granted to others.”  In other words, let there be no state or national church in this new republic, such was the case in England, and for that matter, in Virginia up to this time, where Anglicanism was the religion of the state.  “Let all laws,” they said in their appeal to the General Assembly as it met for the first time, “which countenance religious domination be speedily repealed, that all of every religious sect may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship.”  Every church then “will be left to stand or fall according to merit, which can never be the case so long as any one denomination is established in preference to others.”

This was the full meaning of the separation of church and state in the early days of our country. These early Presbyterians did not desire that Presbyterianism be the religion of the new land.  But neither did they desire that any other denomination have the priority in America. Let there be a separation of church and state.

Words to live by:  In our day and age, this separation of church and state has been misinterpreted to mean the separation of God and state.  So there is a constant effort to erase any mention of the God of the Bible from our local, state, and national arenas of life.  From the removal of the Ten Commandments in monuments to the hindrance of placing cradles of the baby Jesus at Christmas time on courtyards to religious jewelry like crosses being forbidden by workers — all this is being done supposedly on the basis of the separation of church and state. Christians must be vocal in denouncing such opposition and correcting the misinterpreting of the slogan in the minds and hearts of America.  Let us not be silent in this.  We must be more theologically correct than politically correct.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  Safeguard on the truth of communion of saints

WCF 26:3
“This communion which the saints  have with Christ, does not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of the Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm in impious and blasphemous.  Nor does their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man has in his goods and possessions.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Key Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church

The visitor was sincere in his offer to the pastor.  He could agree with every doctrine held by the Presbyterian church, except . . . except their teaching on Baptism in both the mode and the subjects of baptism.  But other than that small exception (his expression, not the pastor’s words),  he was prepared to be the best office that the church up to this point has seen.  He seemed most disappointed when the pastor turned him down. When urged to study it in the light of the whole counsel of God, he turned the pastor’s  offer down and stopped attending the church.

What is baptism?  We deal with this catechism answer as we find no historical person or incident in Presbyterianism for this October 23 date.  Question and answer 94 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism reads, “Baptism is a Sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

There are two sacraments instituted by Christ, of which this one of baptism is the first one in the order of holy ordinances.  The action which constitutes baptism is said by our Confessional Fathers to be that of “washing with water, in the name of” the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost or Spirit.” You notice that our catechism does not explicitly state that the “washing with water” is by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Any one of these modes constitute baptism. One who comes into our Presbyterian and Reformed churches who have been baptized by any of these three modes in the name of the Triune God are considered baptized, and not in need of being baptized again.

The meaning of baptism are found in those words in the latter part of the answer which read, “does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

Baptism signifies union with Christ generally, and specifically, all of the spiritual benefits which Christ the Redeemer brings to His people.  It is a sign, a badge, an emblem of admission  into the visible church. (See Larger Catechism 165)

It speaks of “ingrafting” or being brought into a vital union with Christ, receiving all the spiritual nourishment and spiritual strength which is there for sons and daughters of God by faith alone.  Think of a twig being grafted into a tree, and allowed to become a branch of that tree, producing whatever fruit the farmer wishes to pick on that tree.

There is also a promise by the one baptized that he/she will, in the words of the Larger Catechism, profess “an open engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.”  This is essentially the meaning of the word “sacrament.”  While not a biblical word, it speaks of the pledge made by a soldier to be faithful to his commander-in-chief.  In baptism, we promise that we, as Christian soldiers,  will live as it becomes a follower of Christ.

For further study, see the Baptism section on the topical resource page, at the PCA Historical Center’s web site.

Words to live by:  One of the older writers (Thomas Vincent – 1674) tells us that, being engaged to be the Lord’s, speaks first of being wholly engaged, soul and body, with all or our faculties and members being used as instruments of righteousness and new obedience, and second, being wholly engaged as only the Lord’s and therefore renouncing  the service of that unholy trinity of  world, the flesh, and the devil, and fighting under Christ’s banner against these enemies of our souls, and His church.  This exhortation is just as applicable today in the twenty-first century as it was back in the seventeenth century.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Benefits of communion with Christ in glory on the day of judgment

WLC 90 — “What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?
A.  At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and for ever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the  Holy Spirit, to all eternity.  And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.”Z

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

An Old School Presbyterian Ministers in both North and South

William Swan Plumer was not a name which I had recognized until someone gave me a commentary written by him.  It was filled with the rich meat of the Word of God, and I wanted to know more of his spiritual gifts.

Born in July 26,  1802 in Darlington, Pennsylvania, William Plumer was of the Scottish heritage.  When he turned nineteen years of age, he walked to Lewisburg, Virginia to begin spiritual training at the Academy of the Rev. John McElhenney, known as the Apostle of Western Virginia, where he learned the first fruits of Christian education.  Moving on to Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he continued his studies under Dr. Baxter.  Finally, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825.  Two years later, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Orange and began two congregations  in Virginia and North Carolina.  Ordained in 1827, he began a long series of pastorates in Petersburg, Virginia and Richmond, Virginia from 1830 – 1846.  It is interesting to me that he left the south to be at Franklyn Street Presbyterian in Baltimore, Maryland for twelve years.  Then for another eight years, he was at Central Presbyterian in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, while teaching at Western Theological Seminary as well.  He finished up his teaching call while a professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary.  He went to his heavenly home on October 22, 1880.

He was the preeminent pastor and teacher of the church.  He evidently had a voice which stopped people in their tracks to pause and listen. He was a soul-winner par excellence as soul after soul met the Redeemer and were converted. He was a pastor’s pastor as well, and met the needs of his congregations with pathos and sympathy, when that was needed.

As a church pastor, William S. Plumer also watched the movements away from the faith once delivered unto the saints. At the 1837 General Assembly, he powerfully made the distinction between the Old School Presbyterians and the New School Presbyterians clear and plain.  There was a call to come out and be separate from the entangling alliances which the New School Presbyterians had with the Congregationalists.  Thus when the Assembly voted to stop their compromising union, Rev. Plumer had a large part in preserving the Calvinistic convictions of the General Assembly, to say nothing of the biblical basis of Presbyterianism.

Words to live by:  It is often a case where the people in the pew only recognize the emoluments of a person if he has a string of degrees behind his name and is recognized in the leading organizations of the church.  Then a man by the name of William Plumer comes along and we hear and see the Spirit of God residing in a  pastor and teacher, and our minds are overcome with what God can do through a mere man. The only qualification which God recognizes in His servants, for loving and obedient service to Him, is faithfulness.  Let us be faithful to the Word of God in the places where He has put us.

Through the Scriptures:  Matthew 26 – 28

Through the Standards:  Benefits of communion with Christ in glory immediately after death

WLC 86 — “What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?
A.  The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death is, in that they souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest  heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls.  Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the last great day.”

Image source : Photo from a collection gathered by the Rev. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon. That collection was later lost to fire in the owner’s home. This scan, along with others, was thankfully prepared well before that tragic event, by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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