October 27: Rev. Elihu Spencer

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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