December 2012

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Conversing with God in Prayer

Finding little of meaningful conservative Presbyterian history on this day, December 11, we turn to the magnificent question and answer of Shorter Catechism 98 as it deals with prayer. It reads: “What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.”

It is interesting to this writer that the Larger Catechism on the same theme  has the unique phrase “by the help of his Spirit” which is not found in the Shorter Catechism.  The latter catechism  has the solo phrase “for things agreeable to his will” which is not found in the Larger Catechism.  Both are biblical, of course, and we will treat both in this devotional.

Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God. The Psalmist exhorts in Psalm 62:8 to “pour out your heart before him.” (ESV)  As both His creatures and His children, we are dependent upon Him for everything.  So He invites us to offer us our desires unto both our Creator and Redeemer.

Yet we must be careful in that those desires are to be for things which are “only agreeable to His will.” It isn’t praying for anything our spirit wants. It is praying for things which conform to His Holy Word and submit to His will. Moses in Deuteronomy 29:29 specifically told us that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (ESV)

Obviously, we need “the help of the Spirit” in these desires.  Paul in Romans 8 tells us in verse 26, 27, that “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for  us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (ESV)  There will be no effective prayer without the Spirit coming alongside of us to aid us in this privilege.

And yes, it must be in “the name of Christ.”  This may be the bare mentioning of His name during and at the end of prayer.  But primarily it speaks of drawing our strength from the intercessory work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It was Jesus Himself who put Himself down as an advocate when in John 16:23, he said “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

Next, “confessing of our sins” must always be a part of our prayers. Why?  Because as the Psalmist said again, “if I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18 ESV)  We must confess, or as the original says, “say the same things as” the Lord who convicts us of general and particular sins.  Then, we can claim the promise of 1 John 1:9 that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Last, thanksgiving or a “thankful acknowledgement of his mercies,” or offering our gratitude for all His answers to our prayers, is in order.  “In everything give thanks,” Paul commands His people in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

We haven’t placed down prayer on these devotionals, believing simply that this was a “given” anytime we sit down to reflect on His providence in days  gone by as well as the present. But we need to be men and women of prayer, as we see the day of His coming approaching.

Words to live by:  There are countless books on the subject of prayer. We could spent out entire spiritual life reading them. What is important however is that we simply learn by praying. We can be in the spirit of prayer. We can pray generally. We can pray specifically. We can pray with ourselves or with others.  But above all, be men and women of prayer.

Through the Scriptures:  Hebrews 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  The importance of assemblies

WCF 31:1
“For the better government, and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called Synods or Councils; and it belongs to the overseers and other rulers of the particular churches, by virtue of their office, and the power which Christ has given them for edification and not for destruction, to appoint such assemblies; and to convene together in them, as often as they shall judge it expedience for the good of the church.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Second U.S. House Chaplain was a Presbyterian

As a matter of fact, the first three chaplains to the United States House of Representatives were all Presbyterian, with the Rev. Samuel Blair, Jr. being number two.

Samuel was born at Faggs Manor, Cochranville, Pennsylvania.  Immediately our readers should recognize the name of Samuel Blair as being related to the New Side pastor and evangelist of that famous church in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Now called Manor Presbyterians, its history goes back to 1730.  It is now a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. But Samuel Blair Sr. was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in the colonies.  This is his son.

Attending the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), Samuel Blair Jr. graduated with honor at age nineteen.  Staying in the town of Princeton, he tutored for several years.  licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Castle in 1764, he was called to Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts in 1766.

In one of those “hard providences” of history, on his way up to Boston, he suffered a shipwreck, being actually cast into the Atlantic Ocean. His lost all of his clothes in that tragedy and all of his sermon manuscripts. This incident greatly depressed him and brought some major health problems to him.

He stayed on as one of the two pastors of Old South until 1769, when due to ill-health, he resigned and moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he planned to devote his remaining years to study. But God wasn’t through with him yet in active service. On December 10, 1770, he was appointed as the second Presbyterian chaplain to the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.  He would stay in that post for two years.

What a fitting close of ministry for a theologian, preacher of the Word, evangelist, and pastor.

Words to live by:  God always gives sufficient grace to those who need it in His work.  We may  have great weakness, but He is ever strong.  We may feel utterly inadequate, but He is all-sufficient.  Believer, trust in His strength always and then push out into His kingdom.  He will provide what you need for your effective ministry to the saints of God, and to say nothing for those who are in need of saving grace.

Through the Scriptures:  Colossians 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  Proof texts for church censures

1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”  (KJV)

Hebrews 13:17
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  (KJV)

1 Corinthians 5:1, 3, 5, 7
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you . . . For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already . . . concerning him that has so done this deed . . . To deliver such as one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus . . . Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.”  (KJV)

 

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Gracious God Gave Gifts 

The examination of the young candidate in the Presbytery north of the Mason-Dixon line was proceeding in church history. The questioner asked him to identify James Thornwell and his place in Presbyterian history.  The young man professed ignorance as to his identity, much less as to any place he had in our history.  This led the questioner to state that he doubted if the candidate could be ordained in any of our Southern presbyteries.

We have already looked at the life and ministry of James Thornwell on August 1.  That historical devotional looked at his life from his confession of Christ and committment to the Presbyterian faith until his demise at the beginning of the War Between the States.  For this devotional, we wish to see how the gracious God developed his life and ministry for the Lord.

Born on December 9, 1812 in South Carolina to a father who managed a Southern plantation in the area, just eight years later his father passed away. This brought a period of poverty to his mother and other members of the family. However, Martha Thornwell was no quitter and by a determined will and toilsome work, she kept the family from starving.

Around eleven years of age, James entered a country school taught by Peter McIntyre.  Obviously, with a name like that, he was Scottish in heritage.  It became obvious that there was a willing heart and mind in young James Thornwell. He became a real bookworm, reading volumes from the libraries of friends and neighbors, besides being faithful to do the assigned lessons each day. Noticing the mental gifts of the young man, a Mr. W. Robbins took the boy into his own home for three years of study.  Others of substantial means enabled him to attend the course of study at South Carolina College.

What occurred there was no less than amazing.  In spite of a weak constitution, the young man, now eighteen years of age in 1830, studied 14 hours per day.  He continued on in his reading taking up any and every book he could lay his hands on, even memorizing large portions of the Bible and other literature. Later in life, it was said that you could begin at any portion of a book, and he would finish it word for word.

He became the best debater at the College, a gift which would stand him in good grounds later on in his life and ministry.  But what was more important than all of these high points, was his profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  While he never could pinpoint when that happened, he knew that it did, and began to plan for the gospel ministry.

Words to live by:  There was really no excuse for the young candidate in not knowing who James Henley Thornwell  was.  He was a spiritual giant in the Southern Presbyterian church. Like Timothy of biblical days, no one could despise his youth, for he took the opportunities God had given  him to become the great defender of Christian truth in the South.  None should ever cite their poor background as a reason for not excelling in the church or world.  God can and has made great servants out of those who are impoverished by this old world. Believe that, and go and make a mark for Christ and Him crucified.

Through the Scriptures:  Philippians 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  Forms of church censures

WCF 30:4
For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Sinners Were Converted and Saints Were Edified Under His Ministry

Like his brother Samuel, John Blair was also born in Ireland.  Coming to the American colonies, he was ordained in 1742 as the pastor of two Presbyterian churches filled with Scot-Irish Presbyterians in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. During his ministry here, he made two evangelistic tours to Virginia where he preached with great power. Presbyterian congregations were organized as a result.

In 1748, despite organized armed resistance against marauding Indians, he was forced for the safety of his family to depart back to the eastern section of Pennsylvania.  While there, he received a call as the second pastor of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, where his brother Samuel had both ministered and organized a classical Christian school.

When John Witherspoon hesitated to take the president’s office of the College of New Jersey, John Blair was appointed a Professor of Divinity and Moral Philosophy in 1767.  Indeed, as the Office of the President continued to be vacant, he stepped in as President of the college. But upon Witherspoon’s agreement to come to America and take the leadership of the College of New Jersey, Blair graciously stepped down.  Moving to New York, he died on December 8, 1771.

It was said of John Blair that as a result of his zealousness in the gospel, sinners were converted and the family of God edified. What more of a testimony could a Christian and a Christian minister desire than this?

Words to live by: It is frequently the case when you have a theologian, there is a lack of experiential witness to the world at large. His ministry is in his study or in the classroom, not out on the highways and byways of life. Or, by contrast, you might have an individual who is absolutely powerful in persuasion of the hearts and minds of those outside of Christ, but who would never get into the deep things of theology. John Blair had both abilities in his life and ministry.  As a theologian, he was not inferior to any of his day.  As a pastor, he addressed souls with that warmth and power which left a witness to the truth of the gospel. Each Christian is to seek his or her calling so as to be a witness in whatever place the Holy Spirit sends them.  And if it is to the intellectual as well as to common people, so much the more is God glorified.

Through the Scriptures:  Ephesians 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  The necessity and purposes of church censures

WCF 30:3
“Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

New Church Sends Communication to All Christian Churches

It was at the close of the First General Assembly of what was originally named the National Presbyterian Church (a year later, renamed the Presbyterian Church in America) that a message was sent to all churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world from this new denomination.  Adopted and then sent on December 7, 1973, the elders of this new Presbyterian Church wished everyone to know of their principles and convictions which occasioned this new Church.

Chief among them was the sole basis of the Bible being the Word of God written by inspired authors and carrying the authority of the divine Author.  They desired that all branches of the visible church would recognize their conviction that “the Bible is the very Word of God, so inspired in the whole and in all its parts, as in the original autographs, the inerrant Word of God.”  Further, it is the only infallible and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.”  (Message to all Churches, p. 1)

They also declared that they believed the system of doctrine found in God’s Word to be the system known as the Reformed Faith, as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. They wanted everyone to know that this Reformed Faith is an authentic and valid expression of Biblical Christianity.

A third conviction was expressed to renew and reaffirm their understanding of the nature and mission of the Church. To them, Christ is King and the only Law-giver, having established the Church as a spiritual reality.  It is composed of all the elect from all ages, manifested visibly upon the earth.

The chief end of man’s existence—our very reason for living—is to glorify God. That truth, reflected in the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism aim, also implies that we give top priority to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ which speaks to going into all the world, preaching the gospel, and disciplining all nations, bringing them into the church.

Last, they sought a return to the historic Presbyterian view of Church government from the Session of the local church to the Assembly of all the local church representatives.

With a closing invitation to ecclesiastical fellowship with all who maintain their principles of faith and order, the address came to a close.

Words to live by:  Even though the name was changed from National Presbyterian Church to Presbyterian Church in America in the next year after the publication of this Address, the principles and convictions have remained the same in this now forty year old church.  If you are not in a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching Presbyterian and Reformed church, prayerfully consider the testimony and witness of the Presbyterian Church in America.

To read the entire “Message to All Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the World,” click here.

Through the Scriptures:  Ephesians 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The necessity of church officers

WCF 30:2
“To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue thereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Preacher’s “Kid” Serves Congress as Chaplain

Ralph Randolph Gurley did not  have a prayer, as the expression goes, in  not being a minister of the gospel. His father was a Congregationalist minister. His mother was the daughter of a minister. So he had two examples at home about the call to minister spiritual truth to others.

Born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1797, he attended Yale College and graduated from it in 1818. Moving to our nation’s capitol, he was licensed to preach by the Baltimore Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church. He was never called to a congregation however. And he never went the next step to become an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church. But this lack of recognition didn’t hinder him from ministering to the poor in Washington D.C., nor serving his fellow-man in the political areas.

On two occasions, he was elected on December 6 in 1830 and on December 6 in 1847 to the Chaplain’s office of the House of Representatives in the mid-1800’s. He was preceded and followed by Presbyterian chaplains.  But his main ministry was as an agent of the American Colonization Society, which sought to provide free passage of free slaves to what is now Liberia, Africa. In fact, he was the one who named this West African nation, Liberia.

Recognize that this ministry with this organization which was founded in 1816 was far before the Civil War. Ralph Gurley traveled all through the states, including the Southern states, and three times to West Africa, seeking to reverse the slave trade and send free blacks back to Africa  It has limited success, even after the Civil War.  We will look at its organization on December 21. (See there)

Words to live by:  We would say today that Ralph Randolph Gurley had both a called position and a para-church ministry.  The called position was to the state representatives elected to the House of Representatives. It certainly had the potential to lead these politicians into the ways of the Lord. But he also had a calling in a social field to reverse the terrible scourge of slavery on our country. He diligently labored most of his life in that field as well. Any one, much less ministers of the gospel, who feel called to a particular ministry needs to not “let the grass grow under their feet” in engaging in it with all their  heart, as none of us know much time we will have on this earth.  So let us buy up every opportunity to do good for others, to say nothing of God, knowing that one day we will give a report to our Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, of all our activities on the earth and in the church.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 26 – 28

Through the Standards:  A spiritual government has been appointed by the Lord

WLC 30:1
“The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.”

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church (i.e., the PCA

As the newly formed denomination met that December in 1973, there was much to do and little time in which to accomplish it. The opening of the General Assembly had begun on the previous day, December 4th, at 7:30 PM with a time of worship and an opening address delivered by ruling elder W. Jack Williamson. That address was titled “To God Be the Glory”.

The first full day of work for the Assembly began the next day, on December 5th. Committees for the various church agencies began meeting at 8:30 AM and following lunch, another time of worship was set aside. The Rev. C. Darby Fulton preached from Philippians 3:7-14, on “The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ”.

The rest of that afternoon was spent in discussion and adoption of constitutional documents [the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order]. After dinner, the Assembly met yet again for worship, with the service under the direction of the Rev. Kennedy Smartt, then pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hopewell, Virginia. The Rev. Tim Fortner, of Hazelhurst, Missouri, led in prayer. The Rev. Sidney Anderson of Swannanoa, North Carolina, read the Scripture, and Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, preached a sermon entitled “The National Presbyterian Church and the Faith Once Delivered,” taking Jude 3 as his text.

After the time of worship and before recessing for the evening, the Assembly continued its work on constitutional documents by adopting the first ten chapters of the Book of Church Order. The Assembly then recessed with prayer by the Rev. Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian church of Savannah, Georgia.

Words to live by: That second day of business was full and busy for the Assembly, but note how not just once but twice they met for times of worship during the day. I am reminded of Martin Luther’s statement, “I have so much to do today that I must spend the first three hours in prayer.” There is more truth in that statement than most of us are willing to admit, and certainly more than most of us are willing to live up to. But that first General Assembly of the PCA recognized their priorities and their need to completely and utterly rely upon the Lord in all their deliberations.

If you haven’t been living according to this pattern, then I urge you, test the Lord—try Him and see—put Him first each morning with a time of prayer and devotional Scripture reading. It doesn’t have to be long, perhaps just five or ten minutes if you can’t spare a half-hour. But I have every confidence that you will begin to see a marked improvement, first in your relationship with the Lord, and then in your relationships with family, friends, and  work.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 23 – 25

Through the Standards:  Proof Texts of the Lord’s Supper

1 Corinthians 11:23 – 30
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took break, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

They Had No Manual, but a New Presbyterian Church was Born

Gathering in Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, were teaching and ruling elders ready to begin a new Presbyterian denomination.  Their date of gathering, or organization, was December 4, 1973, as date consciously chosen with an eye to the past. They began this new Reformed church on the same day and month as the organization date for the mother church that they were leaving, the Presbyterian Church, U.S., commonly known in those years as the Southern Presbyterian Church. That denomination had begun on December 4, 1861 as the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America. Later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, after the War between the States.

In choosing to organize the new denomination on that anniversary date, the new denomination was making a statement, laying claim as the faithful continuing church, the remnant leaving behind the unfaithful or disobedient. In fact, the Continuing Presbyterian Church was the name that they first gathered under in the years and months leading up to their official organization. That they did not desire to continue as yet another regional church was evidenced by the name they chose for the new denomination, the National Presbyterian Church (though a year later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in America).

Reformed men were obviously interested in reforming the church. And so ever since it was clearly discovered that the Presbyterian Church in the United States had apostatized with no hope to bring it back to its historic roots, men and women had been praying and working, and working and praying, for this historic occasion. Ruling Elder W. Jack Williamson was chosen as the first moderator, with Dr. Morton Smith elected as Stated Clerk.  Ministries then in planning and those already exercised in action, came together in rapid fashion: Mission to the World, Mission to the United States, Christian Education and Publications were organized by the delegates.  With godly and wise coordinators to lead them, the work began to raise up a church faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

Photo from the First General Assembly in 1973, with W. Jack Williamson at the podium, and Rev. Frank Barker seated, at the right.

Words to live by:  There is usually great excitement over a new birth in a family.  And so there was great excitement over the birth of a new denomination. Southern conservative Presbyterians had gone through many of the same struggles that Northern conservative Presbyterians endured just a few decades earlier. In both cases, the Church had been hijacked by the liberals. But godly men and women stood for the faith once delivered  unto the saints, and wouldn’t let historical attachments hold them captive to a decaying visible church. They voted with their feet and came out and were now separate. Praise God for their obedience to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 20:3 – 22

Through the Standards:  Differences between baptism and the Lord’s supper

WLC 177 — “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

No Parallel in the Annals of the American Pulpit

So it was thought by the pulpiteers of the late nineteenth century, that is, our unique title today.  The description fit the Rev. Ethan Osborn, the pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, New Jersey.

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1758, Ethan Osborn was born with religious parents and a religious education in a family of nine children.  When the Sabbath came in the week as the first day, he was in public worship.  Like many covenant children, it was simply to obey his parents.  But as the boy became older, the Sabbath became a most welcome day.  He began to practice secret prayer and by the time he entered college, he had received the Savior by faith alone.

College for Ethan was Dartmouth at age seventeen.  The American Revolution was at full tilt during his college years so that in the middle of it, he became a soldier at age eighteen.  It was a very hard year to do so as the Continental Army was being pushed around all over the eastern seaboard in 1776.  Ethan felt the providence of the Lord in that, becoming sick one month, he missed a battle in which his regiment was captured with the result that only four soldiers would make it through the brutal imprisonment.  He returned to the collegiate life soon after it, graduating in 1784.

With no theological school around (Princeton not beginning  until 1812), he studied for three years under experienced pastors.  Called to one church, he was led to delay it until December 3, 1789, when he was called to the Old Stone Church, as it was known then as their pastor.  For the next fifty-five years, he with warm biblical expositions and faithful shepherding the people of God, became known as “Father Osborn.”

Even though he would retire when he turned eighty-six years of age, he continued his ministry, preaching once when he was ninety-seven years of age.  He went to be with his Lord in 1858 at age ninety-nine years, eight months, and ten days.

The church today is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the oldest Presbyterian Church of that denomination.

At right, the old former building of the continuing PCA congregation, Fairton, NJ.

Words to live by:  We might add many others to the title of this historical devotional, but for that time and place, for longevity itself, it was true of Ethan Osborn.  It was said that he was THE pastor of the Old Stone Church which had been established so early before our American Revolution.  And to think that it was able to join the Presbyterian Church in America without losing its building, as is usually the case, is providential indeed.  But more remarkable than a physical structure is the continuance in the faith of the gospel by the pastors, faithful elders, and families,  for three plus centuries of this church.  It is well to place them in a historical devotional.  The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

Through the Scriptures: Romans 12 – 16

Through the Standards:  Similarities between baptism and the Lord’s supper

WLC 176 — “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.”

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Martyr in His Missionary Zeal to Evangelize Blacks

We hear much in this twenty-first century about the treatment of blacks before the Civil War.  And the fact that slavery was even allowed in any of the parts of this blessed nation is to be abhorred.  But in the midst of this condition, there were  Southerners who sought to recognize the mission field to the blacks working on the plantations.

Beginning his special work as spiritual shepherd to the blacks of Liberty County, Georgia on December 2, 1832 was the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, a member of the Midway Congregational Church.  Born on his father’s plantation in 1804, Charles Jones received his theological training under both Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller at Princeton Seminary.  Though he began as a pastor in Savannah, he soon returned to minister to the blacks as far as their souls were concerned.  His congregation upon his start around the Midway Presbyterian Church some 4500 slaves. It was an organized ministry he had among them.

Three separate places of worship were built in convenient places solely for their use. Each Sabbath, Dr. Jones would travel by horseback to one of the three worship buildings.  First, a prayer meeting would ensue, led by chosen blacks themselves.  Then the sermon with hymns would be led and preached by Dr. Jones.  In the afternoon, a Sunday School with catechetical instruction was instituted. Following that was a personal inquiry regarding their spiritual condition. Then blacks chosen for their gifts would make reports to the pastor regarding the weekly spiritual conduct of the workers.  And finally, Dr. Jones would speak to the chosen leaders of their race regarding their encouragement and counsel.  During the week, other meetings would be held at the plantations themselves, with whites and blacks together listening to the proclaimed Word of God.

Concerned about this system, Dr. Jones wrote an exhortation which addressed this area.  The Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia adopted it for their rules of all their churches and families in 1833. It stated: “Religion will tell the master that his servants are his fellow creatures, and that he has a Master in heaven to whom he shall give an account for his treatment of them. The master will be led to inquiries of this sort: In what kind of houses do I permit them to live?  What clothes do I give them to wear?  What food to eat? What privileges to enjoy? In what temper and manner and proportion to their crimes are they punished?”

With his health breaking from twenty-four, seven work on their behalf, Dr. Jones spent two years teaching Church History and Polity at Columbia Seminary.  But after that time, he returned to his spiritual work among the blacks for ten more years.  In 1863, he went to his heavenly home, where color lines do not count among the saints.

Words to live by:  Our Lord said once during His earthly ministry, “What will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (KJV – Mark 8:36)  The welfare of the soul comes first in the eyes of the consecrated Christian. Charles Jones recognized this.  And to that, even at the detriment of his own health, he worked himself to death on their behalf.  When the Christian church, even the Presbyterian church, is ready to do everything it can do to reach the souls of the people in the neighborhood of their congregations, then we will have that spiritual awakening which is so desperately needed in our blessed land.  O Lord, give us consecrated workers for the soul of America.


Through the Scriptures: 
Romans 9 – 11

Through the Standards:  After we have partaken of the Lord’s Supper

WLC 175 — “What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A.  The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance:  but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.”

Image sources :
1. Frontispiece portrait of Charles Colcock Jones, from Montevideo-Maybank, by R.Q. Mallard. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1898.
2. Title page to A Catechism of Scripture Doctrine and Practice for Families and Sabbath-Schools designed also for the Oral Instruction of Coloured Persons. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1852.
3. Page 25 from the above Catechism.
All scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center, working from copies of the above titles preserved at the Historical Center.

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