March 2013

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It is the Lord’s Day again, and every Lord’s Day should be a day of remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His death, He paid the debt of our sins. By His resurrection, He gave irrefutable proof that the debt was canceled.

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]The Rev. James A. Bryan, known affectionately as Brother Bryan of Birmingham, was a powerfully effective pastor and evangelist in the city of Birmingham, Alabama in the early 20th-century. He was particularly effective in his ministry to the poor of the city, both black and white. The following sermon is from one of three published collections of Brother Bryan’s sermons, all apparently quite rare now.

SUBJECT: “THE COMFORTING CHRIST;”
SCRIPTURAL TEXT, “THY BROTHER SHALL RISE AGAIN,” – JOHN 11:23

We remember that Jesus, to comfort Mary and Martha, walked 35 miles to their homes in Bethany. With the weeping sisters we read that “Jesus wept.” Oh, my dear friends, when their hearts were sorely grieved over the death of their brother Jesus Himself wept with them. Another very striking thing just here is one of the wonderful sentences which Jesus uttered to them in these words: “Thy brother shall rise again.”

And so, my friends, Jesus speaks to you and to me concerning our sleeping loved ones and it should be very comforting and inspiring to hear Him as He says, “Thy mother, thy father, thy brother, thy sister, thy friend or thy friends shall rise again.” You may be sorely grieved over the loss of a little child or a daughter or a son, but how comforting to hear Jesus say, “Thy child, thy little friend, thy daughter, thy son shall rise again in the last day in the resurrection.”

I wish you to notice the culture and refinement, education, spiritual education of these lovely sisters at Bethany. Martha responded to Christ’s words by looking up into His face and speaking softly and calmly, “Yes, Lord, I know that my brother who is sleeping in his sepulcher down at the foot of this hill will rise again in the resurrection in the last day.” Now Martha was a Jewess and deep down in her heart was that Jewish belief of the resurrection of the dead in the last day as Christ was then teaching in His words: “Thy brother shall rise again.” The spiritually-minded Hebrew or Jew was most secure in such a belief, and this wonderful Jewess of Bethany tells Christ that this was a certainty in her life.

And yet this sleep was mighty hard for Martha to bear because she loved her brother dearly. The separation from love is mighty hard. Lazarus was a loving brother. While we love the separation is mighty hard. Then Jesus, to continue to comfort the grieved and sorrowing sister, said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” It was Jesus who had also said, “I am the bread of life, I am the living water of eternal life, I am the light of this dark world, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And He says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” That is, Jesus was telling Martha, and is telling the whole world, “I am the resurrection and the life, and whosoever believeth in Me, that I have power over sin and death and the grave unto salvation shall see His power.” And so He is saying this morning, “I am the light of the dark grave in which your loved one or friend is sleeping. I am the power to remove the gravestone. I have power over the darkness to give light.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.” Death is the absence of life and Jesus says of it, “I put life in that body to bring it back unto myself, and whosoever believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again.” I believe this as positively as I can. If I believe in Him, trust in Him, and daily and hourly reach out for Him, when I die my body goes to sleep and is placed in the graveyard or cemetery to be resurrected again at the last day and my soul goes to Christ. The soul of the Christian, the believer goes to Christ and is made perfect in happiness and holiness. Truly that is the reward of walking by faith and not by sight.

Now Jesus is still in Bethany, where the sisters’ faith has been tested and tried in the separation from their brother whom they loved. Many things are taking place since Christ has raised Lazarus from the dead. It was a very exciting time in Jerusalem, Bethany and the surrounding country to which the news had spread very rapidly. The Jews numbered among the enemies of Christ could not stand for Christ’s popularity. Here in Bethany is a man who had been dead four days and Christ has raised him to life. There was the little daughter of Jairus in Capernaum whom Christ had raised very soon after her death by going into the room where her body had been carefully prepared for the casket or bier, upon which it would be soon placed and borne to the cemetery. There with Peter, James and John, Christ prayed and spoke the resurrecting words, “Talitha Cumi.” “Little maid, I say unto thee, arise.”

Again they had heard how Christ upon entering upon the threshold of the approach into the city of Nain had met a funeral procession of a poor widow’s son, her only support and comfort in a world of trials and temptations. No doubt they were very poor people and the dead body was being carried out of corporation limits to be buried in a lonely country cemetery where funeral expenses were little known. Jesus, touched with the grief of that poor mother, walked up to the bier and touched it, saying, “Son, arise,” and the son arose and was restored to his mother again for her comfort and support.

But now the enemies of Christ have, many of them, witnessed the resurrection of a man who had been dead four days, one day longer than Christ Himself would sleep in the garden tomb. Lazarus had come forth from the tomb bound hand and feet in grave clothes. Jesus turned and said to some of them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Friends, we too, have something to do to carry on the work of Christ, who died on Calvary and was resurrected, and says to us, “Go.” We must be active because there is much to be done. Oh, what a blessed thing it is to be at work for Christ by having the light turned on our lives that we may help others to see Christ, the Light of the world. Oh, to help others see that Christ is the bright and morning star, the express image of God Himself, the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, the Immanuel, the Jesus, the light of this dark world, a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, a brother born for adversity, our mediator, our saviour, our comforter.

We think of what a comforter Christ was to the lovely sisters of Bethany in an hour of grief. He has been such a comforter, and is today such a comforter to thousands of homes. He just longs to be a comforter to all. He wants to be a comforter to the many men and women without work, to those in hospitals without means, to the poor without shoes and without clothes and without food. He is calling to us to go out and help them. Are we answering that call by going out and helping those in need?

Of course, there were curious people about the country who were just crazy with excitement over the great event which had just happened at the foot of the hill, below the little village of Bethany. They might have wanted to see Christ, but they were extremely anxious and curious to see Lazarus. Along about this time the Jewish authorities began in great earnestness to devise a way to kill Christ. In the latter part of this chapter they said, “Do you think He will come to the feast?” They were just seeking a chance to entrap and kill Christ. They could not stand the fact that He could open blind eyes, cleanse lepers, heal weak feverish babies in their mothers’ arms, cast devils out of men and women, restore withered hands, eat with publicans and sinners, and heal sick folks on the Sabbath. They could not stand for Him to say that He and the Father were One and that He robbed God of no glory by taking upon Himself the form of God and also at the same time a fleshly body. That is, in that He became flesh and dwelt among us did not rob God of any glory and honor. His enemies were now ready that all doors be closed to Him and that He be put to death.

Friends, is the door of your heart open to Christ this morning? Is the door of your home open to Christ? Is the door of your business, wherever and whatever it is, open to Christ? Look over your work and see if you have been fair and square with those you have dealt with? Mr. Business Man, look over your books and see if you have charged someone too much. You are not the only one who is keeping an account. God knows about those charges. Oh, is your place open for Christ today? Is He the head and great partner in your work?

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Church government, or polity, is one of my continuing interests, particularly in relation to the historical background of the PCA’s BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER. 

As explained below, the following article by Franklin Pierce Ramsay appeared posthumously in the July 1930 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY [the original series of this title, not the one you know today]. Ramsay had written a commentary on the Southern Presbyterian BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER, which was published in 1898 and so the article below can be seen both as an appendix to that volume and as a charge to a ruling elder. Much of the content of Ramsay’s commentary remains pertinent for the PCA’s BCO, since in many cases the text of the modern edition is still unchanged some 113 years later. Even where the comparable paragraph has changed, Ramsay’s comments still offer good insights into the underlying principles which remain.

The Rev. Franklin Pierce Ramsay was born on March 30, 1856. He was educated at Davidson College, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago (Ph.D.) and Columbia Theological Seminary. In his forty-five year career, he served as pastor of at least six Presbyterian congregations and also as president of several colleges, including King College, Bristol, Tennessee. The Rev. F. P. Ramsay died on September 30, 1926. Thus far I have not been able to locate a photograph of him.

The Office of Ruling Elder : Its Obligations and Responsibilities
By the Rev. F.P. Ramsay, Ph.D.
[Christianity Today 1.3 (July 1930): 5-6.]

The following address was made by the late Dr. Ramsay on the occasion of the installation of his son, R.L. Ramsay, Ph.D., professor of English in the University of Missouri, as an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Mo., on March 25, 1925. It came into our hands through another son, the Rev. Mebane Ramsay of Staten Island, N.Y., who found it among the papers left by his lamented father.

As one is to be here inducted into the office of Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, my remarks will seek to be appropriate to the occasion.

At this induction into office the elder makes a declaration of his doctrinal belief, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that the Confession of Faith (and Catechisms) contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures; and he promises to study the (doctrinal) purity of the Church. This is the covenant that he enters into with the Church when inducted into this office. Here is the difference between an unofficial member and an officer in the Presbyterian Church : the member simply professes his personal faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ; the officer professes his belief in the Church’s doctrinal system. One may become a member who does not believe that the Confession of Faith contains the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures, or even that the Scriptures are the Word of God, if only he trusts in Jesus Christ and means to obey Him ; but one cannot become an officer in the Presbyterian Church without accepting its doctrinal system and intending to strive for the Church’s doctrinal purity—unless he is willing to come into his office on a false profession.

Let me stress this a little. Note the difference between the unofficial members, who are required only to profess faith in Christ, and the officers, who are required to profess acceptance of a body of doctrine. Thus the Presbyterian Church is both liberal and intolerant.

Note that it is intolerant of disbelief in its system of doctrine on the part of its officers. Why? The Church is a propagandist institution, an organization for the purpose of advocating and propagating certain beliefs. It is true that the Church’s end is to produce and nourish a certain life ; but belief is an inseparable element of that life and necessary to it. Or be that as it may, the Church is organized and works upon that assumption, and so sets itself to propagate certain beliefs. This system of beliefs its officers are required to accept and maintain and propagate.

Here is a striking difference between the Church and the University. The University is organized to search for truth ; the Church, to propagate the truth. The University, assuming that there is truth still hidden, sets itself to investigate and discover new truth ; but the Church, assuming that certain truths have been given to it by revelation from God, sets itself to teach and disseminate that truth. The University asks questions, the Church answers questions.

The candidate on this occasion is a University man, filled with the University spirit ; and I therefore say to him that the Church is organized on the assumption that it already has the truth and exists for the purpose of disseminating and propagating this truth. If a society were organized for the purpose of propagating Socialism, a man might conceivably belong to that society, and yet be a professor in the University. If in the University he were teaching social science, he would endeavor to lead his students in investigations that would enable them to judge for themselves between Socialism and Individualism, seemingly indifferent whether they became Socialists or Individualists, but only concerned that they became capable of weighing the claims of both. But if this same man joins the Socialistic society, and is sent out as one of its speakers to expound and advocate its system of beliefs, and make converts to it, and ground them in it; he is then a propagandist of Socialism, and will endeavor to gain adherents to the system. He is then at work on the assumption that Socialism is true and established, and now needs to be propagated. So the Church is a propagandist society; and its officers, and especially its elders and ministers, are its agents to disseminate its system.

Now, one may not believe that the system of beliefs held by the Presbyterian Church is truth, or that it is wise to have an organization for advocacy and propagation of this system ; but if he becomes an officer in this Church, pledged to promote its system  and  propagate its beliefs, then he professes himself to receive this system and covenants to cooperate with others in disseminating it. He is not obliged to assume this obligation; he is not obliged to make this profession and pledge, any more than he is obliged to become a lecturer for the Socialistic society. But if he does make this profession and pledge, and does become an officer in the Presbyterian Church, he must be loyal to this profession and pledge, or disloyal. If a man should join the Socialistic society, not believing in Socialism, or not believing in its type of Socialism, and should accept a commission from it to go out as one of its speakers, and as such should really oppose its type of Socialism; we and other honest men would accuse him of borrowing from within, of betraying his trust, and of paltry dishonesty. I trust that the man to be now ordained will never sink so low.

Now the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church is not indeed a lecturer to advocate its principles to the same extent as the Minister is ; but he is, all the same, the conserver and guardian of its doctrinal purity. The eldership has equal voice with the Ministers in the Presbyteries and higher courts of the Church, which judge its Ministers and administer its whole government and discipline, and control its administration ; and the eldership in the local Church, always more numerous than the ministry, have the control. And it lies as a special obligation on the elders to see that the teaching in their church is loyal to the Confession of Faith of the Church. If the pastor should be somewhat erratic, and yet in life and spirit is loyal to the system of truth, the elders should bear with him, and cooperate with him on the whole ; but if at any time the pastor departs from the system and becomes disloyal to the system, the elders are there to protect the Church against his false teaching. So I say that the elders are the conservers of our system of doctrine.

Nor need we be ashamed of being members and agents of a propagandist society. True, there is such a thing as progress in understanding religious truth; and the Presbyterian Church makes provision for this progress. It provides for amending its doctrinal standards; and it has amended them again and again. We do not say that we believe them to be errorless, but to contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures;  and any elder or minister may propose amendments. So new truth may be discovered, or better statements of truth may be invented ; but this improvement of the system is to be made by those who believe in the system, and by methods that insure full discussion.

But while there is this provision for progress and change, the very nature of Christianity makes it a stable thing. The process of revelation runs through many generations, a growth from its germinal beginning in the beginning of human history up to its fruitage in Jesus Christ. This revelation of truth through the ages has reached its consummation in the Perfect Word. We cannot now go back and make the history different. We cannot go back now, and prevent the entrance of sin into the world. We cannot change or improve the covenants with Abraham. We cannot make the redemption from Egypt, and the Mosaic legislation, and the settlement in Canaan, throw any finer light on the teachings of Christ. We cannot build the tabernacle or the temple, or fashion the priesthood and sacrifices, or turn the music of the temple, to clearer significance on what the Christ was to be. We cannot alter the development of the Messianic monarchy, so that the Son of David shall mean more than it does. We cannot adjust the birth of Jesus, or His miracles, or His resurrection, more in accordance with modern skepticism, or make His bloody death more aesthetic. We cannot call Him down from heaven and instruct Him how to guide His Church and to apply His religion. There are the facts, and we cannot now change them ; there is the Christ that God has given us, and we cannot modernize Him ; there is the unalterable revelation shining in the heaven of history, and we cannot remake it.

We can only accept Him as He is, and enthrone Him in our hearts and lives. Let us be loyal to Him, and loyal to His Church.

And especially may educated men, men whose very occupations require them to push on the frontiers of inquiry in science and philosophy and literature, render this service to their Lord : they can be loyal to Him, and loyal to His revelation made once for all, and thus testify that progress in investigation does not mean putting out the light of the past ; and can show that humble faith in Christ is consistent with the scientific humility of willingness to learn.

Christianity as a system of truth is a great building. Its foundations have been laid, and even its walls have already risen into the skies. It rises like the Memorial Tower yonder on the campus. We may come and build upon this building ; but we will not wreck its walls nor raze its foundations. We will build ourselves and our lives into the rising structure, sure that we shall be safe on its walls that waver not, and on its foundations that tremble not. For here is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.

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A good post from last year that certainly bears repeating.

 

The Strange Church Trial of a Spiritual Giant.

It all happened around seventy-seven years ago.  Back in March of 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen was before a church court of his peers seeking to defend himself against the serious charges of denying his ordination vows, disapproval of the government and discipline of the church, advocating a rebellious defiance against the lawful authority of the church, and we could go on and on in the charges leveled against this spiritual giant.  You would think that he was guilty of the most aggravated doctrinal error or moral shortcomings.  But in reality, it came down to a single issue—that of refusing to obey the 1934 mandate of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to cease and desist from supporting an independent board of missionaries, of which board he was the president.

The trial itself was a farce in every sense of the word.  Machen’s defense first tried to challenge certain members of the judicial commission itself as biased, seeking to have them recuse themselves, since at least two of these men had signed the theologically liberal Auburn affirmation.  That was denied.  Then the question of jurisdiction was argued, but that also was not sustained.

At the third session, upon hearing Dr. Machen declare himself “not guilty,” the Commission ruled that certain matters were out-of-bounds in the arguments of the defense case.  Those included questions which surrounded the existence of the Auburn Affirmation, signed in 1924.  They next ruled out any question concerning the nature and conduct of the official Board of Foreign Missions, which had prompted much of the problem when it gave its endorsement to the book entitled Rethinking Missions.  Further, arguments stemming from the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary were also outlawed by the commission.  All of these were part and parcel of Dr. Machen’s defense, since they provided the background of the origin of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

All these rulings paled into insignificance, so to speak, however, when we consider the last ruling of the judicial commission.  It stated that the legality of the Thirty-Fourth General Assembly’s Mandate for the ministers, members, and churches to cease supporting the Independent Board and only support the official Board of Foreign Missions could not be questioned.

It was obvious that with all of these rulings, that there was only one verdict which could come forth from this judicial commission, and that was guilty.  And so on this date, March 29, 1935, the judgment of “Guilty” was rendered by this seven member Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.   Appeals to the higher courts were in vain, and J. Gresham Machen was suspended by the church.

Words to Live By:  In whatever issue which confronts us inside or outside the church, we must remember that God is Lord alone of our conscience, with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments the  only infallible guide of faith and life.   Let us hold to those, not fearing what man can do to us.

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Today’s post was written for the PCA Historical Center in 2006 by Dr. Barry Waugh and is reproduced here, substantially edited for length.

MakemieStatueThree hundred years ago this year the first meeting of the General Presbytery was convened in Philadelphia.  A specific date in 1706 cannot be pinpointed due to the loss of the first leaf of the minutes, but a letter of Rev. Francis Makemie provides the basis for assigning the year.  The letter was written by Rev. Makemie from Philadelphia, to Benjamin Colman on March 28, 1707.  After relating the story of his imprisonment with some other ministers for their preaching the Gospel as dissenting, non-Church of England ministers, he mentioned that he and six other ministers had met in Philadelphia earlier that month to consult regarding the best way to advance the Gospel.

Pictured at right, a statue erected in memory of the Rev. Francis Makemie, located at Holden’s Creek, Accomack County, Virginia.

This meeting is the first convening of the General Presbytery with a complete set of minutes in the manuscript record book, and these minutes are preceded by a partial and brief section of minutes recorded in 1706.  From this small and unfortunately imprecisely dated beginning, the Presbyterian Church grew to organize its first meeting of the General Synod in 1717, then its first General Assembly in 1789.  During these years the Presbyterian Church formally adopted the Westminster Standards in 1729, and then saw a division between the Old and New Sides in 1744 that was reconciled with a reunion in 1758.  The Presbyterian Church’s ministry increased through the years so that by the end of the eighteenth century it enjoyed a substantial flock distributed throughout the young nation for the purpose of glorifying and enjoying God.

The six oldest congregations in the Presbyterian Church in America can trace their ministries to the early years leading up to and following the first presbytery meeting.  Each of these congregations was organized before the first General Assembly in 1789 and its associated publication of the first edition of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, which contained the Westminster Standards and associated church government documents.  Through the colonial period and into the early years of America, the Presbyterian Church ministered through local congregations as America grew and prospered, and these six PCA churches can trace their ancestry directly to the foundational work of the Presbyterian Church in the eighteenth century.

1. The oldest organized church in the PCA is the Fairfield Presbyterian Church of New Jersey, which traces its beginning in New Jersey to 1680.

2. Manor Presbyterian Church, Cochranville, PA (org. 1730). The Rev. Samuel Blair was pastor here, briefly.

3. First Presbyterian Church, Waynesboro, GA (org. 1760). The earliest body associated with what became the Waynesboro Church was the Briar Creek Church, which petitioned the Synod of New York and Philadelphia for supply ministers.  In 1770 the synod, through the Presbytery of New Castle, sent Josiah Lewis, Princeton class of 1766, to serve as a supply pastor for sixth months in Long Cane, South Carolina, and then for three additional months at Briar Creek.  His few months at Briar Creek must have endeared him to the congregation because he continued serving both Briar Creek and an additional charge at Queensboro for a few years.  At some point, the Briar Creek Church became known as Old Church and continued to use that name until it merged with the Walnut Branch Church and eventually became what is presently the First Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro.

4. First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, NY (org. 1760). The Schenectady church initially worshipped in the building used by the Episcopalians until in 1769 eight Presbyterians purposed to build a wooden place of worship for themselves, which was not completed until after the arrival of the first minister, Rev. Alexander Miller, in 1771.

5. Goshen Presbyterian Church, Belmont, NC (org. 1764). Early oral history traces the Goshen Church’s beginnings to a stranger who died and was buried on the knoll that became the cemetery for the congregation.  Near this cemetery, the congregation began to meet and eventually constructed a log worship building.  Through the missionary work of Elihu Spencer, a Yale graduate, and Alexander McWhorter, a College of New Jersey man, Goshen and other churches were able to worship and receive pastoral care.  In 1796, the Goshen congregation called its first minister, Humphrey Hunter, for a shared ministry with another local church.

6. Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clover, SC (org. 1764). As Goshen struggled in its early years, across the Carolina frontier in South Carolina, Bethel Presbyterian Church also struggled with the challenges and vicissitudes of frontier living.  The Bethel Church heard the first sermon in its frontier home from William Richardson, a missionary of the Charleston Presbytery, and just as Rev. Humphrey Hunter had provided ministerial stability for the Goshen Church, so he ministered for a few years at Bethel in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

For Further Study:
Only eight letters written by Francis Makemie are known to have survived to the modern era. Five of these letters, including the one mentioned above, were reproduced in the appendix to American Presbyterianism, by Charles A. Briggs, available in digital format, here.

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I’m finding E.H. Gillett to be an engaging writer. Copies of his History of the Presbyterian Church are almost impossible to find, but it is at least available in digital form on archive.org. Browsing a bit further in this volume today, I came across the following account of a series of revivals that took place in North Carolina in 1802.

Presbyterians don’t generally know what to do with such accounts. We like to keep our hands at our sides. Still, I think there is a place in our theology for reformation and revival, to admit there are exceptional times of harvest, when God’s people are particularly conscious of sin and turn from it, and when the Lord brings in great harvests of souls.

In the preceding pages, the author has described three previous occasions of revival that took place in the first three months of 1802. The author opens this account with these striking words: “There had been already–subsequent to the close of the war–two marked seasons of revival in this region. The first began in Iredell county; the second commenced at a period when the prospects of religion were exceedingly dark, and when immorality and vice had come in like a flood.” Also noteworthy is how, in each of the first three accounts, he enumerates the number of Presbyterian pastors who were present on each occasion, numbering from six to fourteen, along with a few Baptist and Methodist ministers.

Now he comes to this last account of the revival in North Carolina:

The fourth general meeting was appointed on Friday, March 27, and was held at New Providence Church, under the charge of Mr. Wallis, in Mecklenburg county, about twelve miles southeast of Charlotte, and somewhat more than seventy miles north of Camden. The encampment was on a beautiful mount, easy of ascent from every direction, and more than half surrounded by a little crystal stream, which afforded water sufficient for the people and horses. It was clothed with a thick growth of giant oaks, with very little undergrowth. By three o’clock in the afternoon it was swept clear of timber, the tents were pitched, the fuel was gathered, and thousands, with their covered wagons and stretched canvas arranged in regular lines of encampment, covered the summit.

The services then commenced. A holy fervor glowed on the faces of the ministers, and a grave solemnity rested on the countenances of the people. A loud and lofty song of praise,—like “the sound of many waters,”—swelled by the united voices of the great assembly, and waking the echoes of the neighboring hills, rose to heaven. Prayer was then offered; and as the words of the text, “This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven,” were uttered, it seemed but the instinctive expression of the feelings of every heart.

During the evening, and throughout the greater part of the night, there were exercises of singing, prayer, and exhortation in the several tents. The novelty of the scene, the fervor of devotion, and the depth of feeling so affected the multitude that few closed their eyes in sleep to the dawn of day. Before the services commenced on Saturday morning, three persons were struck down. At the close of the forenoon sermons several more were similarly affected; and the number continued to increase until the close of the meetings. Seventeen ministers were present, and about five hundred communicants participated in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which was administered in the midst of the camp without noise or disturbance. At the same time preaching was going forward at three different stations. At the close of the services on Monday, continuing as they did till midnight, there were about one hundred persons prostrate on the ground, the greater part of whom were shouting aloud, and many of them in the most earnest manner entreating for mercy. While Dr. Hall was at prayer, about forty fell at the same instant. It was estimated that the whole assemblage amounted to at least five thousand persons. How large a number were “stricken” could not be ascertained. Besides those affected at the preaching-stations, many were taken in their tents, many more in their wagons, and a great many in the woods while at prayer or on their return to their homes.

Still other meetings were held; but their general features were substantially the same with those already described. The scenes they presented were pronounced “truly august and solemn,” especially in the night-season. When the fires were lighted up, the whole camp was illuminated, and revealed the canvas tents, the overhanging boughs of the trees left for shelter, and the eager listening groups, while the air was laden with solemn sounds which seemed more impressive amid the strangeness of the scene. Lofty songs of praise, pathetic prayers, thrilling appeals, stirring exhortations, groans or sighs of keen mental anguish, loud cries for mercy, or rapturous shouts of “glory” and thanksgiving from those who had found relief, were heard from every quarter of the encampment, and yet “with as little confusion and disturbance as the people of a city pursue their various occupations in the busy scenes of life.”  Every object, every utterance, seemed to conspire to deepen the solemnity. All that might interfere to distract attention was shrouded in darkness. The devout spirit seemed to realize the immediate presence of Jehovah, the presence of Him whose temple is all space, and beneath its dome of stars, with fellow-worshippers around him, bowed with reverence and awe appropriate to a “house not made with hands.”

The impression made upon those who had been drawn thither by curiosity was one which they could not shake off. It was almost impossible for them to sneer at what they witnessed. Those who came to mock often “remained to pray.” The most hardened cases were the very ones whose “exercises” were the most marked. In some instances not more than one in five, in others not more than one in ten, of those who were supposed to have been converted, were in the least physically affected. But where a person had been noted for his opposition or his incredulity, he was one of the most probable candidates for the “exercises.”

Words to Live By:
Revival depends upon God’s people coming to grips with their sin, repenting and turning from their wicked ways, humbling themselves and earnestly seeking the Lord. Then He will bless. It may not be in a way such as that described above. But He will bless, and His people will prosper spiritually.

For Further Study:
An old work well worth reading is John Preston’s set of six sermons on 2 Chronicles 7:14, titled The Golden Sceptre. You can find it on the web, here.

E. H. Gillett’s History of the Presbyterian Church was published in two volumes, available
here [vol. 1] and here [vol. 2]

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Today’s entry comes from E.H. Gillett’s HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES. I found his account of Indian missions under the Rev. Peter Bullen an enjoyable read, and hope you will too. What a picture of the cost of such missions in the early days of this country!

In 1804 the Synod of Carolina directed the Presbytery of Orange to ordain James Smylie, who had been laboring at Natchez in the Louisiana Territory, with a view to his returning thither to engage in missionary labor. This region of the Southwest, rapidly filling up after the Louisiana Purchase, was for the most part under the supervision of the Synods of Virginia and Carolina.

The way had been prepared for the labors of Mr. Smylie by that veteran in the cause of Presbyterianism at the South, Rev. James Hall, of North Carolina. In the autumn of 1800, under a commission of the General Assembly, he commenced a mission to Natchez. Two other brethren whom the Synod appointed accompanied him. This was the first in the series of Protestant missionary efforts in the lower valley of the Mississippi. The report of the mission was made to Synod in 1801, and, as published in the papers of the day, excited a very general interest throughout the Southern country. The Presbytery of West Tennessee, erected in 1810, had this field under its care; but it was not till 1815 that, by a division of it, the Presbytery of Mississippi was formed.

In 1817 this body consisted of five ministers and had under its care eight congregations. At the head of its list stood the name of the venerable Joseph Bullen, verging upon his threescore years and ten, a pioneer in the cause of Indian missions. Soon after the formation of the New York Missionary Society, it was determined to attempt the establishment of a mission among the Chickasaws of “West Georgia” and Mr. Bullen was selected as the man to conduct it. He was a native of Vermont, and had already reached his forty-seventh year when he commenced the undertaking. At New York he received his public charge from the venerable Dr. Rodgers, and set out March 26, 1799, on his journey to the Southwest. He was accompanied by his son, a youth of seventeen years, who it was thought might render important aid in acquiring the language and giving instructions as a teacher of Indian children.

His route led him through Philadelphia, where he received the friendly attentions not only of Dr. [Ashbel] Green, but of Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, and other distinguished persons. Thence he proceeded westward, by way of Lexington, Va., to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. Here he was two hundred and seventy miles distant from his point of destination, and his friends urged him to delay his journey for several weeks, in order to secure company. Such were the dangers of the way that it was quite unadvisable to attempt the journey without guides. But the zeal of the missionary would not allow him to pause. He had already had experiences of hardship, exposure to storms, and perils from swollen streams, sometimes crossing “waters almost to the horse’s back.” Unappalled by the representations made to him, he resolved to press on. “Trusting in divine goodness to direct” their way, the travelers set out for the Indian country. Their horses were encumbered with baggage, and their movements were slow. But, provided with food, blankets, an axe, and a gun, they made such progress as they were able. Their lonesome way was occasionally cheered by meeting traders from Natchez and New Orleans, returning to Kentucky. Sometimes they were impeded by the rains and the swollen streams. The waters of the Tennessee were high, and places of entertainment were few and far between. The food which they could procure was not of the best kind,—sometimes hominy or damaged meat. A bed of bear-skin was a luxury for the night’s lodging.

At length Mr. Bullen reached his destination, worn, weary, and almost an invalid. The Chickasaws he found “without any kind of religious observance, and without temple and priest,” except that a few of their enchanters had images, the use of which was little understood among the people. He preached and conversed as he had opportunity, witnessed their frolics and their “mysteries,” their “singing, yelling, and running,” gained their confidence, and, with alternate experience of encouragement and disappointment, prosecuted his work. From one town he journeyed to another, distributing his labors among the Indians and whites, and coming in frequent contact with the hundreds of traders who, after their trip down the Mississippi, returned by land to their homes. His greatest success was among the slaves, five of whom he baptized on one occasion. Daunted by no difficulties or hardships, wet, hungry, shelterless oftentimes, he labored at all seasons to prosecute the missionary work in which all the sympathies of his soul were enlisted.

Worn out with labors, Rev. Bullen returned to the North in the fall of 1800. On his way he stopped at Maryville {TN], where Gideon Blackburn ministered to a church of over three hundred communicants. The two men, kindred in missionary zeal and devotion, conferred together; and, though we have no record of the themes upon which they conversed, we can scarcely doubt, from our knowledge of the men, that the subject nearest to Mr. Bullen’s heart claimed their attention. This, at least, we know, that within a few months of that meeting, Mr. Blackburn threw his whole soul into the work of Indian missions, and pleaded their cause with a glowing eloquence in the Eastern cities, both North and South.

Mr. Bullen soon returned to his field of labor, accompanied by his family, resolved thenceforth to make his home in the Southwest. Deacon Rice, who was employed as his assistant, proved unacceptable to the Indians, who forced him to leave the country. But Mr. Bullen remained; and ere long we find him disconnected with the Indian mission, and one of the original members of the Presbytery of Mississippi,–indeed, the patriarch of the body.

At last the Rev. Peter Bullen rested from his labors and entered his eternal reward, on March 26, 1825.

[excerpted from History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, by E. H. Gillett (1864), pp. 367-370.]

Words to Live By:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4, KJV)

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Putting a School on Its Feet

In that same sad year of 1833 when the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a division into Old Light and New Light denominations, a future blessing for the RP’s also came that year with the birth of Henry Hosick George. Henry was born on February 20, 1833 to parents Henry and Maria (Dolman) George, in Cumberland, Ohio. The family moved to Locust Grove, Ohio in 1839 and it was there where he received his early education, later graduating from Geneva Hall in 1853.

Geneva Hall had been organized just a few years before, in 1848, and was located in Northwood, Logan county, Ohio. [not to be confused with the other Northwood, OH, in Wood county, about eighty miles north]. Thus Henry was one of its early graduates, and much of the rest of his life was lived in close connection with the school.  Upon graduation from college he became a tutor at the school, and in 1856 was made Professor of Greek. Studying theology at the Northwood and Allegheny Seminaries, he prepared for the ministry and was licensed by the Lakes Presbytery of the RPCNA in June of 1857, being later ordained by the same Presbytery and installed as pastor of congregations in Cedarville and Cincinnati.

His tenure as pastor of these congregations was short-lived, first resigning from the pulpit of the Cedarville congregation in 1866 and then from the Cincinnati congregation in 1872, at which time he accepted the call to serve as the President of Geneva Hall in Northwood. He had served as the Moderator of the RP Synod in 1871, an indication in itself of his rising prominence within the denomination and perhaps a precursor to his election to serve as president. One significant change instituted at the school upon his taking the presidency was a name change for the institution, from Geneva Hall to Geneva College. On a personal note, two years later, the Ohio Central College awarded Rev. George the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. In 1878, Rev. George also became the pastor of the RP congregation in the nearby village of Rushsylvania, though again he was only pastor for a short term, resigning the pulpit after two years.

In 1879, under Dr. George’s leadership, the trustees began to explore the possibility of relocating the school. Four locations were under consideration, and finally Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania was chosen, largely because of a promise of 10 acres of land from the Harmony Society, a utopian pietist group. There was also an accompanying promise which had been secured from the township of Beaver Falls, a commitment of $20,000 for a building. And so construction began on “Old Main,” the original and still the central building on the Geneva College campus, with work on that building completed in 1881, despite slowdowns caused by the bankruptcy of two construction companies. Meanwhile, the school had already relocated to Beaver Falls in 1880, taking up temporary quarters in the interim.

In the early days of some institutions, there is often an unusual spirit of camaraderie and a willingness to do whatever must be done. Historian David Carson commented that in the early days of Geneva College, in the 1880’s, “The faculty did everything from collecting student tuition to planting trees on the campus…The president, in addition to his teaching, administrative duties and fund raising, was in charge of the building and grounds.”

In William Glasgow’s history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, he appropriately commends President George as the one responsible for much of the prosperity of the College in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Dr. George continued as President until 1890, surrendering that post to work for a time with the American Sabbath Union. Then in 1894, Dr. George was installed as the pastor of the East End Reformed Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh. Little more than a year later, he became field secretary for the National Reform Association, and he held this position until the time of his death some nineteen years later, on March 25, 1914.

[The National Reform Association is noteworthy in American history for its long-standing efforts since 1864 to amend the U.S. Constitution to include specific reference to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.]

Words to Live By:
I could easily put together a long list of names of those whom the Lord has used to almost single-handedly advance various works and ministries, often working against great obstacles. There would be Max Belz and the Cono Christian School, or Franklin Dyrness and the Quarryville Retirement Community, or Robert G. Rayburn and Covenant College and Seminary. The Lord raised up Henry H. George and used him to position Geneva College for future service to the Church. As John Knox said, “One man with God is always in the majority.” What is the Lord leading you to do? How will you serve in His kingdom?

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James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]It’s Sunday, and since we had a post early last week on Brother Bryan of Birmingham, I thought one of his sermons would work well today. Sermons can sometimes provide a glimpse into a preacher’s character and ministry. This sermon comes from an undated collection of his sermons, but one biographical detail in this sermon would place the publication at around 1930-31. For background, it helps to know that around 1927, Rev. Bryan was blessed with a trip to Europe and Palestine, and a number of these collected sermons reflect on that trip abroad. Also, many of these sermons give the appearance of having been written down exactly as he preached them, and so some of the expressions may seem a bit odd. I still can’t make sense of a sentence toward the end of the third full paragraph, “We fail to fold the things to give the things we should…”

SUBJECT: “THE FAILURES OF KING SAUL.”

I wish you to think prayerfully and carefully with me about some of the events and places where they occurred in the land which I saw connected with the life of Samuel and Saul and the wonderful peerless Jonathan, the son of Saul. The places that I saw connected with this narrative begin at the twelfth chapter of First Samuel. There was Ramah, Bethel, Bethlehem, Michmash, Gilgal, and Mizpah. Seven out of ten of the places mentioned in the sixty-six books of the Bible have been located by careful students, geographers and explorers. The time, no doubt, will come when every place mentioned in the Bible will be located. Yet I humble take off my hat in this study because I know that I am standing on the holiest ground, having had this responsibility rolled over on my tired heart and brain in this sacred task.

In this twelfth chapter is the wonderful speech of Samuel, the first in the great line of the Old Testament prophets and the last in the line of the judges. His character was clean, pure, holy, positive, outright, righteous. His circuits were from Ramah, his home and the place from where he judged Israel, to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpeh. His spoiled sons judged at Beersheba, the southern extremity of Palestine. But they took tribes and did not judge righteously as did their father. Here Samuel introduces the king’s walk before the people and says, “Behold, I have stolen nothing from you. I have taken no bribe or silver, gold, ox, ass, wine, of any hand to blind mine eyes with.” Then with a desire to glorify God he said, “It is the Lord that advances His mighty works. It is the Lord who when Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to God that He heard their cry and sent Moses down into Egypt to bring them out of Egyptian bondage.” This fact shows us that these old Hebrews had a deep spiritual life and an idea of God early in life. They had an idea of God’s people of old. Samuel had a knowledge of God since early childhood because he was taught about God from the cradle on up. Samuel said, “Consider all these great things the Lord hath done for you; and turn aside from idols and fear and serve God with all your heart.” Oh to lay aside the idols of our lives and worship only God. I think of a stanza my mother taught me:

“The dearest idol I have known, whate’er it may be.
Help me, Lord, to tear it from my throne
And worship only Thee.”

Then Samuel says, “My dear friends, do you know that I was not the cause of all this? You did not reject me, but God told me that you rejected Him.” Oh, have I rejected God? Have you rejected God? Have I turned my back on God? Now we come to Saul, and we can but notice his seeming success and his failures. I can visualize Bethel, a sacred place from of old, Abraham camped and built an altar there (Gen. 12:8), Jacob fleeing from his brother’s wrath, camped here and had a heavenly vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder from earth to heaven. He awoke the next morning, and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. I would not have stayed here had I known it.” As Jacob got up early before the gray dawn of the morning and despairingly said that he would not have been there if he had known the Lord was in the place, so I fear that many of us today avoid the places where God is. We fail to fold the things, to give the things we should to God, and fold to our hearts the things we ought to. I beg you today to tear from your heart and life anything that comes between you and God. It was here or very near here that the Spirit of the Lord came upon this man King Saul.

I now visualize Gilgal the first encamping place of the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan. It was here that circumcision was renewed, and the Lord “rolled away” their reproach. (Joshua 4:19; 5:9). It was the place no doubt where the people were taught by Joshua to worship God in the tabernacle until it was removed to Shiloh. It was from here that Joshua went forth on his great military achievements. There Samuel before the Lord slew Agag. It was here that an altar of twelve stones from the Jordan River, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, was built commemorating their crossing over into the Promised Land.

Now this place Michmash has not yet been located by scholars. It was a strong hold of the Philistines. Saul in choosing out a great army against the Philistines selected three thousand, two thousand of which were with him in Michmash. Now at first in all of Saul’s successes he was very humble. Notice that when he was asked to become king of Israel he said, “Why make me king when I am of the least of the tribes of all Israel?” I see him humbly anointed by Samuel for the kingship, a sign of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

We are now in Mizpeh, which means a watch-tower. It was here, as I have already said, Samuel judged, and here he summoned the people to elect a king. No doubt from this watchtower the Israelites stood to watch for the encounters and plans of the Philistines. Then they go to Gilgal, where the people saw the coronation of Saul and they said, “Long live the king.” But success sometimes is a very dangerous thing in one’s life. It must have been in the life of Saul since his heart was changed from humility to exaltation on the part of himself.

God gave the people a king, just what they wanted, because He had a plan to work out in it. I have known people to rebel because they had lost all of their loved ones and life was sad and lonely for them. But in it all, we are to remember that God’s plan is lined with love. God’s plan for Saul’s life was lined with love. Saul began to fail when he first began to envy and eye David and the peerless Jonathan. His presumption is another point in his fall. When Saul was anointed to be king, he like other kings, was to be a military leader. He rallied the people to fight against the Ammonites. No doubt at that time Saul inquired of the Lord and led a prayerful life. But triumphs in the Christian life are very dangerous sometimes. Many times in God’s Word we are told to humble ourselves in the sight of God that we may be lifted up.

Saul really had read and learned Old Testament history. He refers to the Amalakites who met Israel between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai and now he meets them. God told him to kill Agag and the cattle. But now Saul looms up in a presumptuous attitude and says, “Why wait I for any man? Samuel is late, and here are fat calves which I kept for sacrifices and my own use. I will just offer up a sacrifice myself.” Why in the world did Saul want to usurp the authority of a priest? He was the king and not a priest. I cannot go out and work on the railroad or in the shops, or in the bank or some other trade. My work is to preach the Gospel which I have humbly tried to do in Birmingham and other places for a period of forty-one years in a month from now. [Brother Bryan began his ministry in 1889, so that would date this sermon to 1930.]

Saul offered up the sacrifice and here comes faithful old Samuel. He hears the lowing cattle, for God is revealing to him the sin of Saul. He says “What meaneth all this lowing of cattle which I hear, Saul? Did not God tell thee to kill all the cattle? And, Saul, I see you have King Agag. You were supposed to have killed him, too. God bade thee to do so.” Saul was using the church to carry out his ambitious purposes. In other words he was commercializing on the church. Listen to Saul’s excuse which is like our excuses today: “Oh, I just wanted to keep the people together, so I just offered up one sacrifice of these goodly heifers which I saved back for the purpose.” Today so many people say, “O I could not do that because it would not please the church, the world, the people.” We must shun such sin. O if we would use our time alone in the work which God has given us to do. Forgive us, O Lord, if we are not grasping the opportunities Thou hast given us. Help us to try to make our lives count for Thee in these warning lessons which we get from the life of King Saul.

We now come to Bethlehem Ephratah, as it was first called and which means roses, vegetation. Then it was called Bethlehem, and after this the City of David. It is mentioned first as the home of Elimelech and Naomi. It is the place to which Samuel came from Ramah, having no doubt walked about 18 miles over that ancient highway from Damascus to Egypt, to select a king of the house of Jesse. I see Samuel walking along that road with a hickory switch in his hand driving a heifer down to Bethlehem. Someone says, “Where are you going?” He says, “I am going down to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse.” He, like wise people today, did not tell everything he knew. He did not tell them what his purpose there was. He wisely kept secrets. “He that dwelleth in the secret places of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

I see the sons of Jesse lined up for Samuel’s examination. Then Samuel, the great man of faith in God, said, “Jesse, have you any other sons?” I stood and looked toward the north of Bethlehem to the hill country of Judea and the shepherd hills. It was a Jewish custom that the youngest son of a family keep his father’s sheep. David, Jesse’s youngest son, was keeping the sheep on those shepherd hills east of Bethlehem. He was sent for and chosen and anointed king by Samuel. Why did God use him? The answer comes back that God used him because He could trust him. The question is not how much faith I have in God, but has God any faith in me? Am I treating God right? Am I treating my friends right? So as Samuel said, “Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart.” Are we holding on to this Bible on which my mother, dying, placed her hand and said, “My son, I have made no mistake in believing every word of this Bible.”

I see Saul baffled with a great army and yet no one dared fight Goliath, the great Philistine giant. David is sent to carry food and supplies to his brothers employed in Saul’s army. [Goliath] had challenged all Israel. But here comes David eagerly listening to the conversations about this dreaded giant. But yet no one has dared to fight the enemy of God. O my friends, are you willing to go out and fight the enemy of the Church? Goliath is a type of the enemy of the Church. Someone says, “Here comes a little red-headed Jew from Bethlehem, we will let him go try. He has killed a lion and a bear.” So saying they were met with an eager response on the part of David himself.

David then goes out to fight Goliath, the symbol of darkness, hell, and temptations which assail you and me like great avalanches. This giant looked in disdain at David and said, “You poor little thing. Would you dare come out to meet me, Goliath, with a sling and a few small stones?” I hear David say to Goliath, like you and I ought to say now, “You are coming to me with a sword and spear like a weaver’s beam, but I come to you in the name of the God of the army of Israel, the army of the living God.” My friends, we must meet these temptations, we must fight the enemy in the name of Christ.

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AllenSamuelJSamuel James Allen was a big strapping kid, and a natural at sports.  Born on March 23 in 1899 to parents George and Margaret Allen, Sam grew to excel at football, as well as baseball and basketball. Sam’s parents were immigrants from Ireland, and getting started in America wasn’t easy. Life was tough and it got even harder when his mother died, when he was not yet five years old. World War I and service in the Marines delayed his education, but he managed to complete high school after the war, and by God’s grace was able to enter Princeton Seminary in 1927. Those were troubling years at Princeton, and Sam was one of a small group of Princeton students who followed Dr. J. Gresham Machen over to the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary in the fall of 1929.

Sam graduated from Westminster in 1930 and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. In his years at Princeton and Westminster, Sam had developed a good friendship with Dr. Machen, and so it was only natural that he would ask him to preach at his ordination service. The service took place at Sam’s home church, Hope Presbyterian, in South Philadelphia, on May 18th. Dr. Machen took 1 Peter 5:2-4 as his text, and began by reading the Scripture:

2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (KJV)

In a biography that Sam’s daughter has written [see details below], she relates that when Machen had read those verses, he looked at Sam and said, “Today, Samuel Allen is called to the holy office of the Ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us receive him in love as we present him before God in prayer.” After praying for how the Lord would use Sam in coming years, Dr. Machen preached on why every Christian must strive to live every day to the glory of God, and how God makes that goal possible, by His grace and through prayer.

Less than a month later, Sam was married to his sweetheart Mildred at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, and the young couple prepared to move to Sam’s first pastoral calling, in Jordan, Montana. Rev. Allen served there until late in 1931, when he answered another call to serve a yoked pastorate at the PCUSA churches in Carson, Leith, and Lark, North Dakota. Greater challenges lay ahead.

In the summer of 1936, Rev. Allen became one of the founding members of the Presbyterian Church of America. Taking a stand for the truths of Scripture meant sacrificing the earthly trappings of property in order to hold on to the spiritual legacy of orthodoxy. Rev. Allen led the majority of his congregations in forming new PCofA congregations.

And aiding the effort, his friend Dr. J. Gresham Machen was glad to accept Sam’s invitation to come to the Dakotas to speak. Dr. Machen already was not well as he departed on the train for North Dakota late that December. He already evidenced a bad cough earlier in the month, something which Allan MacRae had noticed as Dr. Machen spoke on his radio program.

And so it wasn’t surprising then that Machen developed further problems with the stress of travel and the many speaking engagements. Machen’s illness progressed into lobar pneumonia and he died on January 1, 1937. His friend Sam Allen was there with him throughout the ordeal.

Rev. Allen left the Dakotas in 1940 to pastor the Gethsemane Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Then in 1948, he moved south and took a church in Port St. Joe, Florida, transferring his credentials to the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian). His last several churches were in Selma, Alabama, where he was pastor of Vine Hill, Memorial, and finally Woodland Heights, in 1954. The Rev. Samuel James Allen entered his eternal rest on November 30, 1954, at the age of 55, having suffered a heart attack the previous day.

Words to Live By:
One of the mottos that Sam Allen lived by was “One thing at a time.” In these days of multi-tasking, Sam’s rule is still a good one to practice, for I think it implies a trust in God’s sovereign control of all things. If we were to try to put that roughly in terms of Scripture, consider these several verses:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16, NASB).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NASB).

Trust in the LORD, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Ps. 37:3, KJV)

For Further Study:
One of the delights of preparing today’s post was the discovery of Becky Allen Martin’s biography of her father, titled A Promise Kept: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Sam Allen. You can find out more about the book and how to order it, here.

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singer01

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gregg Singer, but he will always hold a special place in my life. His papers were the first collection that I ever attempted to process. As I confidently opened the box and opened one large envelope, the first thing I saw read:

I might as that I amtill mysitifed ax  p why you noukdfinnd my feeble efforts and writig of value to the Church But I wllstill try to coopeate as be t Ican. I may be able to sendyou a copy of over ure whichIhave drfated for a commite of Central CArolina Presbyery for the BCO.

Dismayed and defeated, I put Singer’s papers back on the shelf for some braver day.

But where I thought it was because of his age, it turns out his foibles in typing were a life-long affliction. His friends would tease him about it. Aiken Taylor once replied, “I was able to read your last letter with the help of a ouija board and a crystal ball.”

Charles Gregg Singer was born in Philadelphia on June 3, 1910. His parents were Arthur Gregg and Edith Elizabeth Singer. He graduated magna cum laude from Haverford College in 1933 and received his Masters (1935) and Doctorate (1940) from the University of Pennsylvania. At one point during his years at the University, he served as chauffeur for Dr. J. Gresham Machen, when Machen was speaking on campus.

During World War II, Dr. Singer was the director of the War Manpower Commission in Illinois, and later was appointed to serve on the staff of the US Senate Commission investigating the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Dr. Singer was a highly skilled historian and an excellent teacher. His academic career included posts at Wheaton College, Salem College, the University of Pennsylvania, Belhaven College, Montreat-Anderson, Catawba College, Furman University, and the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies. He was also among the founding faculty at the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and he was teaching there at the time of his death, on March 22, 1999.

Dr. Morton H. Smith, first Stated Clerk of the PCA, said of Dr. C. Gregg Singer, that he “was committed to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. He sought to live his faith as well as to teach it. He was a loving and faithful husband, and a loving father to his children. …[H]e was always a warm friend, and an example of what a teacher should be. He was the dean of church historians. His loss will be greatly felt by all who knew him.”

Dr. Singer taught history with a moral purpose. Another account of his life remembers that he would typically lecture using a tall stack of 3 x 5 cards, supplying students with lengthy quotations, often involving original languages, all touching on the major themes and personalities of church history. Whether he was covering Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther or Calvin, it was clear that he had a close familiarity with the works of each of his subjects. More than simply relating dates and events, Singer’s teaching culminated with interpretation. On that note, it should be mentioned that Dr. Singer’s book, A Theological Interpretation of American History remains in print to this day. [http://www.solid-ground-books.com/detail_1362.asp?flag=1]

It should also be noted that Dr. Singer had long been active as a ruling elder in the context of the old Southern Presbyterian denomination. Singer was also active in the renewal groups which worked to stem the tide of modernism in that denomination and he was the last president of the Concerned Presbyterians organization, staying to man the ship after most left with the formation of the PCA. He was himself received into the PCA in 1987, with ordination as a teaching elder under the authority of Central Carolina Presbytery.

A Sample of his Writing:

A Cultural Intrusion
by C. Gregg Singer

The intrusion into Christian life and thought of cultural influences originating in a non-Christian environment has been a continuous factor in the history of the Church. At no time in its history has the Church been free from the effects of its necessary contact with various forms of pagan culture, and the more highly civilized the paganism, the more insidious have been the results of these contacts.

The Church was brought face to face with the almost overpowering influences of Greece and Rome when it was most zealous for the purity of the Gospel message and when it was most acutely aware of the great chasm between the message of the Scriptures and Greek-Roman thought.

…Today in the contemporary Church modern paganism may well be invading Christian thought and practice in much the same way as its ancient counterpart infiltrated the early Church. The ecumenical movement stands in relation to Christian orthodoxy today in many respects as cultured paganism in its Greek trappings stood to the Church of the first four centuries. This movement represents a kind of synthesis between Christian and non-Christian thought.

The ecumenical attack on the pure Gospel is much more dangerous because it is more subtle. Although some who are active in the movement would openly sacrifice the supernaturalism of the Gospel in the interests of religious inclusiveness, they are in the minority.

The great majority would prefer a blend of Christian and humanistic elements with a synergistic conception of redemption exalting the value of human effort. In either case they resort to Christian verbiage, thus concealing from the unwary the non-Christian elements in their thinking.

The contemporary invasion of paganism into the Church is not confined to doctrine, it includes government and polity. In fact, there is a curious and remarkably close similarity between the rise of the papacy as the embodiment of absolutism within the Christian community during the Middle Ages and the increasing interest in the ecumenical movement of the present day.

Both developments are but the lengthened shadow of the theory of the corporate state and society over the life of the Church. It was against this heresy that the Reformers brought forth the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.

The ecumenical movement reflects the dual trend in modern society toward a consolidation and centralization of power. No sphere of American life has been immune to this disease.

In the area of politics it has taken the form of the constant attempts of the federal government to claim for itself those powers reserved to the states by the Constitution. In the realms of business and commerce it is seen in the continuing trend toward mergers and combination. In the field of labor it has been signaled by the emergence of huge organizations which claim jurisdiction over large numbers of trade unions.

In this country there is an inclination toward bigness for its own sake, to look upon bigness in government, industry, labor and the Church with awe and to regard it as necessarily more efficient. Whether arising in the state, the labor unions, business or education, corporations must inevitably snuff out liberty in the interests of some form of absolutism.

However disastrous its appearance in government may be, its entrance into the life of the Church must be regarded as even more dangerous. The intrusion of absolutism into the Christian community under the guise and cloak of the ecumenical movement is not only the entrance of an essentially pagan political philosophy into the government of the Church but also of paganism itself into the Church’s doctrine and practice.

[excerpted from The Presbyterian Journal, 32.5 (30 May 1973): 7-8. There is more to this article, but it is too lengthy to reproduce here.]

Words to Live By:
Dr. Singer knew the value of history for the Christian. The Christian faith is historically based, being particularly founded on the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is eternally the Second Person of the one Triune God. History matters, as it is the unveiling of God’s redemptive and providential plan.

For Further Study:
I did in fact get back to the arrangement and description [aka, processing] of Dr. Singer’s papers. There are still some items to add to that collection, but the bulk of it is described here.

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