May 2013

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The First General Assembly Held in America

To Presbyterians, the American Revolution had been a holy war.  And now with its winning, Christian Presbyterians could get back to growing the church.  And that growth took place in a period of spiritual progress.  From New York all the way south to the Carolinas, new settlements were begun, with Presbyterian missionaries and ministers being sent throughout the whole length of the land.

But as the churches and  the presbyters  became more and more distant from one another, there was a concern about attendance.  In all the synods put together, over one hundred ministers were absent in any given year with only six of the churches presented by elders.  In one synod, a new moderator was elected, and then excused when it became known that he had not been present for the previous eleven years.  Clearly something had to be done.

The sixteen Presbyteries were organized into four separate synods in 1785.  They were: Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, Virginia, and the Carolinas.  Numerically, this meant that there were four synods, sixteen presbyteries, 177 ministers, 111 licentiates, and 419 churches.

It was on May 21, 1789, that the first General Assembly was held in the original city of Presbyterianism, Philadelphia.  John Witherspoon was chosen to preach the first sermon of that assembly.  The delegates chose the Rev. John Rodgers to be the first moderator.  He had been trained back in the Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church under New Side Minister Samuel Blair.

Some housekeeping had to be done in light of the separation from England.  No longer could the civil magistrate be considered to be the head of the church.  So chapters in the Westminster Standards which put him as the head of the church were re-written in the light of the American victory in the American Revolution.  No one denomination would any longer be considered a state church, whether it was Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian.  There was a separation of church from state.

Words to Live By:
Names are important.  At this first Assembly, they called themselves “The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.”  Whatever your church is called and known in your locality, if it is an evangelical and Reformed church, live according to its biblical

testimony in the light of the Word of God.  Only then can you win to Christ the many who reside outside of the Savior.

The meeting of this first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. opened with a sermon by the Rev. John Witherspoon, on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So, then, neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God giveth the increase.”

The Church today needs to revisit Witherspoon’s writings, for those works even now address many “modern” problems. Thankfully, Witherspoon’s Works have been reprinted in recent years by Sprinkle Publications [and are also available in digital form at], and volume 4 of that set contains what is probably a later revision of the sermon that he preached before that first General Assembly. While there is not room here today to reproduce the entire sermon, perhaps a small portion will encourage you to take up and read it in full:—

“The Success of the Gospel Entirely of God.”

“The success of the gospel depends wholly upon God, and to Him alone must the glory of it be ascribed, as it is He, who not only sends and employs, but who furnishes and qualifies all, whom He employs for promoting His service. He not only gives the commission to undertake, but He imparts the ability to discharge the trust. This truth is manifestly included in the apostle’s words, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man.” He considers himself and others, only as ministers, that is, as servants subject to the direction and authority of Christ their Lord and master, unto whom they are to be instrumental in carrying on the conversion of sinners, and the edification and comfort of believers….

In the second place, the success of the gospel depends entirely on God, as it is He who gives efficacy to the instructions, even of the most eminent and best qualified ministers, by the immediate supernatural operation of His spirit and grace. Let us suppose a minister endued with the finest natural parts, and these improved and cultivated, by all the advantages of human learning. Let him have the most acute and penetrating genius, the most lively imagination, the most solid judgment, the most charming and persuasive eloquence; in fine let him have what alone is of more value than all these, an eminently pious and devout heart. With so many advantages he shall not be able to make one sincere convert, unless almighty God be pleased to open the way by His divine grace into the hearts and consciences of the sinner. It is not then merely by furnishing the proper means and by the disposition of His providence, giving them an opportunity of exerting their influence, that God promotes the success of the gospel, but by an immediate and powerful agency, distinct from, and superior to every second cause….

The third and last observation I am to make for the illustration of this truth is, that success in the gospel depends wholly upon God, as He exercises much of His own sovereignty in the manner of bestowing it. He takes care if I may speak so, to shew that it is from Himself by the measure in which He proportions the success to the nature and sufficiency of the means He sees proper to employ. All is from God, as you have already heard because the disposing and commissioning his ministers is originally His own work—again, because however well qualified they may be, His own almighty agency is necessary to give them success. But when there is a regular proportion always observed, between the means and the end, men are ready to overlook, or forget the great and first cause of all. For this reason He sees it often meet to manifest His sovereignty, in order to command our attention, by working without means, or by the weakest means, or even contrary to means, and blasting the effect of those that were most excellent and promising in human judgment….”

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Tales of a Traveler

ramseyJames Beverlin Ramsey was born in Cecil county, Maryland on May 20, 1814. His collegiate education was secured at Lafayette College, a school in Easton, Pennsylvania founded in 1826 and which began holding classes in 1832. Thus Mr. Ramsey was apparently in the first class of graduates in 1836, where he was also valedictorian. He immediately entered Princeton Theological Seminary and remained there four years, which would entail the standard three year curriculum plus an additional year of post-graduate work. One of his professors at the Seminary, the eminent linguist Dr. J. Addison Alexander, stated that when Ramsey left the Seminary, he was qualified to teach any class in the institution.

Ordained by the Second Presbytery of New York on February 2, 1841, Rev. Ramsey was installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in West Farms, New York, a neighborhood in New York City, where he remained from 1841-1846. He remained in West Farms in 1846 while preparing for missionary work with the Choctaw Indians and also served as principal of the Spencer Academy, which was connected with that work, from 1848-1849.

From 1950 to 1853, he was Stated Supply for several New York churches, until he received a call in 1853 to serve the Presbyterian church in New Monmouth, Virginia, first as Stated Supply and then as pastor, 1854-1858. His final labors were spent as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lynchburg, Virginia, 1858-1870. Declining health forced his resignation and he died in Lynchburg on July 23, 1871.

It may be interesting to note that the Old School/New School split of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. occurred during Ramsey’s first year at Princeton Seminary, that his first dozen years in ministry were spent in that region where the New School was strongest, and that his last two pulpits—the final eighteen years of his ministry—were in the South, in churches that were on the Old School side of the split.

Dr. Ramsey is today primarily remembered as the author of a commentary on the first eleven chapters of the Book of Revelation, which has been reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust. Included are a brief memoir of the author and an introduction by Dr. Charles Hodge. Published posthumously, the commentary was originally titled The Spiritual Kingdom (1873). Some of his other published works include The Deaconship: An Essay (1858); True Eminence Founded on Holiness: A Discourse occasioned by the death of Lieut. Gen. T.J. Jackson (1863); How Shall I Live? (1861-65); Questions on Bible Doctrine (1869); and Questions on Old Testament History (1879).

Words to Live By:
We should, all of us, be constantly open to the Spirit’s leading as He may bring opportunities to witness to others of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. Our witness to a dying culture matters more now than ever. The following, from Dr. Ramsey’s short treatise How Shall I Live?, gives an excellent example of how a mundane situation can be turned into such an opportunity:—


“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? BE not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, not covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

A traveler in his journey crossed the frontier, and had to pass through the custom-house. The officers said to him, “Have you any contraband goods?” “I do not think I have.” was the answer. “That may be true,” said the officers, “but we cannot let you pass without examination. Permit us to search.” “If you please,” said the traveler, “but allow me to sit down while you perform your duty.”

They then began their search; and first examined his portmaneau. Afterward they turned to his person, and searched his pockets, his pocket-book, his boots, and his neck-cloth.

The examination being over, the traveler thus addressed the officers: “Gentlemen, will you allow me to tell you what thoughts this examination has awakened in my mind? We are all traveling to an eternal kingdom, into which we cannot take any contraband goods. If you had found any prohibited articles upon me, you would have taken them from me, and have fined me for it. Now, think how many careless travelers pass into eternity, laden with sins which are forbidden by the heavenly King. By these forbidden things, I mean deceitfulness, anger, pride, lying, covetousness, envy, evil-speaking, and similar offences, which are hateful in the sight of God. For all these, every man who passes the boundary of the grave is searched, far more strictly than you have searched me. God is the great searcher of hearts; and although the number of transgressors is very great, and their rank and station very different, yet not one can escape, for ‘every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.’

“The King of heaven, not willing any of us should perish, sent His only begotten Son to become our substitute to make a reconciliation for transgressors, and to clothe us with His righteousness, without which we cannot see His kingdom. This Messiah, or sent one, is Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who came down on earth on purpose to bear ‘our sins in His own body on the tree,’ to save all that believe on Him, to wash us from our spiritual pollution, and to clothe us with the spotless robe—the wedding-garment of His righteousness. And ‘they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,’ are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.'”

The custom-house officers listened with attention, and when he had finished, expressed the hope that they should be permitted to see and hear him again.

“Gentlemen,” continued the traveler, “whether we shall meet again on earth is uncertain. God only knows; but, as I am about to leave you, I will tell you something more—it is about TWO PLANKS. A preacher wishing to explain to his congregation what a dangerous delusion those persons are in, who seek salvation partly from the righteousness of Christ, said to them: ‘Supposing it is needful for you to cross a river, over which two planks are thrown. One is perfectly new, the other is completely rotten. How will you go? If you walk upon the rotten one, you are sure to fall into the river.

If you put one foot on the rotten plank, and the other on the new plank, it will be the same—you will certainly falll through and perish. So there is only one safe method left—Set both your feet upon the new plank.”

Brethren, the rotten plank is your own unclean self-righteousness. He who trusts in it must perish without remedy. The new plank is the eternal, saving righteousness of Christ, which came from heaven, and is given to every one who believeth in Him. Trust on this righteousness and you shall be saved; for the Scripture saith, “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”

To read more of How Shall I Live?, click here. An alternate edition is posted on the web, here.

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greenAshbelBorn in Hanover Township, New Jersey on July 6, 1762, Ashbel Green grew to become one of the more notable Presbyterians in the early years of this nation. During the Revolutionary War, he served with the New Jersey militia. Following the War, he studied theology under the Rev. John Witherspoon and graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1783.  From 1792 to 1800, he served as Chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives. And from 1812 to 1822, he served as President of the College of New Jersey. Rev. Green, who was closely tied to the establishment of the Princeton Theological Seminary, died on May 19, 1848.

Today’s sermon comes from a volume of Rev. Green’s, titled Practical Sermons, published in 1834.



1 Cor. 10:4 – “For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.

By figurative representations some of the most important instructions of divine revelation are communicated. Under the typical dispensation of Moses especially, there was scarcely any public act, occurrence or institution, which did not import more than at first appeared; and while it served some obvious present purpose, did not point also to some more remote and hidden, but yet more spiritual and important object or end. This spiritual signification of the ancient Jewish symbols, though it was often perceived, and was highly beneficial to the believing Israelites, was not intended merely, nor perhaps principall, for their benefit. It is under the gospel dispensation that the intention of all the types is most clearly unfolded; so that by viewing them in retrospect, and with the advantage derived from the light of the gospel, more may be discovered by a Christian than could be known to a Jew.

To aid us in this useful investigation, the inspired writers of the New Testament often become our teachers and guides. They frequently advert to the Hebrew scriptures for the illustration and enforcement of what they deliver: and thus by a kind of double revelation, the wisdom of God is most conspicuously displayed, the faith of believers most powerfully confirmed, the beauty of sacred truth most engagingly exhibited, and its whole design most fully accomplished. Among innumerable passages which show the truth of this representation, the text [1 Cor. 10:4] is one of the most striking.

The apostle labours in the context to excite a holy circumspection in the Corinthian Christians, lest slighting or misimproving their peculiar privileges, they should lose the blessings which these privileges were calculated to convey. With this view, he points their attention, both for encouragement and warning, to the history of the people of Israel under the conduct of Moses in the wilderness. Speaking, in this connexion, of the miraculous supply of water which followed them on their journey, he denominates it “spiritual drink;” and then to explain the reason of his giving it this appellation, he says—”For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” By a figure of speech, too frequent in its use and too obvious in its import to be misapprehended, the people are here said to have drunk of the rock that followed them, instead of the water which flowed from it; and comprehensive metaphor which is used, when the apostle affirms that this rock was Christ.

To unfold the intention of this metaphor, and explain and apply the design of the whole expression, is the object of the present discourse. In doing this, it will be useful, in order to avoid the danger of torturing the figurative language of the inspired penman to a meaning foreign to his own, to consider attentively the spiritual truth intended to be conveyed; to state this truth distinctly and summarily at once; and then to recall the sensible images, only for the purpose of illustration or enforcement. Agreeably to this, let it be carefully remarked, that there are three distinct things comprehended in the type we consider. First,—The rock, which was the source, or fountain, from which the water flowed: Secondly—The streams themselves, by which the thirst of the people was allayed, and their strength invigorated: Thirdly—The ultimate object for which the whole was done; namely, to conduct the Israel of God to the promised land. Now, as the apostle asserts that this rock was Christ, I think the propositions of evangelical truth corresponding to the sensible and temporal things just stated, are plainly the three following—

I. That the believer’s hope of salvation must derive its very origin from Christ Jesus, or be placed on him alone.
II. That a resort must constantly be made to the never-failing fulness of the Saviour, for all those supplies of grace and strength, which are necessary to refresh and invigorate the Christian, in his passage through the world.
III. That the ultimate design, and the sure result of all, is, that the faithful disciple of Christ shall at length possess the heavenly inheritance. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Near-Sighted Man with a Great Vision.

Jackson_SheldonThe seals and the whales in Alaska were disappearing fast for the native people up in Alaska.  So the Rev. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary, traveled to Siberia to purchase reindeer to be introduced in Alaska for food, clothing, and transportation.  He would eventually bring over 1300 of them, and train the natives how to care for them.

Sheldon Jackson was born on May 19, 1834 in Minaville, Montgomery county, New York, the only son of Samuel Clinton Jackson and his wife Delia (Sheldon) Jackson. He graduated from Union College in 1855, prepared for ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, taking the full three year curriculum and graduating in 1858. He had been licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Albany in 1857 and was ordained by the same Presbytery on May 5th, 1858.

Wasting no time, Rev. Jackson was married to Mary Voorhees on May 18th, 1858, and immediately they applied to the Presbyterian Foreign Mission board for passage in Siam or Columbia, but we turned down—get this!—for “lacking in physique.”  Jackson was only five feet tall.

So Rev. Jackson and his wife began their ministry, teaching in a Choctaw Indian boarding school in what was later Oklahoma, beginning on September 16, 1858.  He spent only one year there, contracting malaria, which greatly weakened his health.  But he was not done serving his Lord.

Until 1877, he ministered in  ten states and territories of the West.  How was this possible?  He simply followed the westward extension of the railroad, coming to a make shift town, visiting every house witnessing of Christ, seeing converts, organizing them into small missions and churches, and move on to the next railroad town.   He organized over 100 missions and churches, including several educational institutions, in this way.

But it was in Alaska that his greatest work for Christ took place, especially among the native Alaskans.  The Lord opened up this territory in a unique way.  A close friend of President Benjamin Harrison, Jackson was appointed the First General Agent of Education in Alaska, and told to educate the native tribes of the territory.  He followed the practice of using contracts to accomplish it, only his contracts were with religious denominations.  In all, he divided up the vast area and  invited in the Baptists, Anglicans of Canada, Methodists, Moravians, Congregationalists, Quakers, Lutherans, Covenant, Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, to join the Presbyterians already starting schools in the territory.  It worked admirably until 1893 when Congress began to get uneasy about subsidizing religious bodies  for their work of education!

He also laid the groundwork for the territory to be recognized at a state later on in history.  His critics were amazed at what he had accomplished, and among those accomplishments, of traveling over one million miles for the Lord.  He passed away in 1909, but not before being elected as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1897.  With all his official governmental service, he was still the evangelist, having preached over 3000 sermons on missions.

Words to live by: There is a monument on a bluff in Sioux City, Iowa, which was erected by the Presbytery of Iowa in 1913.  It commemorates the prayer meeting which the Rev. Sheldon Jackson held with two other home missionaries. They looked out to the unchurched west, and went out to win those western areas for Christ.  It is this writer’s conviction that the church today needs to look around, see their spiritually lost cities, towns, and neighborhoods, and go out with a renewed zeal to take the gospel message to them. Only such a conviction as that, will result in another spiritual awakening so desperately needed for our land.  Will you be one of the ones who will pray for this?  And go too?

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For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ

McIntireCarl_01The young Presbyterian minister had been called to candidate at Collingswood Presbyterian Church in the fall of 1933.  That he had been just a few years out of seminary, and Westminster Seminary at that, didn’t seem to matter to the congregation in that New Jersey town.  He had  a few years experience as a pastor in an Atlantic City, New Jersey Presbyterian Church.  But it was in Collingswood, New Jersey that Carl McIntire was to be a lighting rod during some very challenging years for that Presbyterian congregation. On September 28, 1933, he became the pastor of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church at Ferm Avenue in Collingswood, New Jersey.

Seeing his conservative leaning in regard to the great issues of the gospel, J. Gresham Machen invited him to join the board of the fledgling Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which McIntire did in 1934.  That same year, the General Assembly of the denomination met and issued a directive or mandate to all ministers, churches, and presbyteries of the church.  In essence this mandate said that anyone who was affiliated with this independent agency had ninety days to desist from participation in or support of the agency, or face the consequences of discipline by their respective presbyteries.

Carl McIntire was charged with six counts of error by his Presbytery, but found guilty on only three of those charges.  These three were:  1. defiance of the government and discipline of the denomination, 2. unfaithful in maintaining the peace of the church, and 3. violation of his ordination vows.   He was convicted of sin and suspended from the ministry.  McIntire’s case was appealed to the PCUSA General Assembly of 1936, and that Assembly sustained the action of the Presbytery of West Jersey.

On March 27, 1938, after the Sunday evening service, the congregation stood on the front lawn of the church and sang two hymns of the faith. The first was “Faith of Our Fathers,” followed by “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”  And with that, they left the church, giving up the property, the memories, and all their associations with their former denomination. The very next Sunday, the newly formed Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, New Jersey, met in a huge tent.  Present were 1200 people, with eighty-one new members joining the new church at that first Sunday’s worship.

Charles Curtis McIntire, Jr., called Carl from childhood, was born on May 17, 1906. He took his higher education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Park College (in Parkville, Missouri), Princeton Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary. McIntire was ordained in 1931 and installed as pastor of the Chelsea Presbyterian Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two years later, in 1933, he answered a call to serve the Collingswood church. After a long life of many accomplishments and not a little controversy, Dr. McIntire died on March 19, 2002, at the age of 95.

Words to Live By:
We close today’s post with a few paragraphs from the opening of a sermon by the Rev. Carl McIntire, delivered before the National Society of Magna Charta Dames, in Philadelphia, June 4, 1946. [The Magna Charta Dames are descendants of the barons who secured from King John, on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede, the Magna Charta. This charter forms the basis of all our English and American civil liberties.)

The State’s Responsibility Under God to Maintain Freedom

America is in greater danger of losing her freedom today than at any time since the Declaration of Independence. We have just won a war to destroy the idea of the all-powerful State, but we are turning to an all-powerful State — another King John — to save us, to feed and clothe us, to comfort and pamper us, and to answer our prayers. We are raising up a generation that knows little of King John and the charter the barons forced him to sign — a generation that is willing to barter the most priceless privileges of freedom for a mere pittance of security. We are confused and dazed. We thought the peace would be easy to win. We cannot even get a peace conference, much less win the peace. The atomic bomb has produced a neurotic and uncanny fear in the minds of people everywhere and is driving us on, if we are not careful, toward a world totalitarianism. The world is too small to be two worlds and it is ideologically too divided to be one world.

Furthermore, who said it was the responsibility of the State to guarantee full employment for everyone? In contrast to all this is our them, “The State’s Responsibility Under God to Maintain Freedom.” The authority for this statement is none other than the Almighty God Himself as He clearly reveals the powers and place of the State in His Holy Word.

Our founding fathers called God the Author of Liberty. “Our father’s God, to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.” They did not claim that they themselves had given birth to this idea of freedom. They believed that God had created man and that man was responsible to God. They also believed that God had ordained the State and the State was responsible to God. In this relationship there stood out above everything else the divine law, the Ten Commandments. This law is the greatest charter of liberty that the world has ever had. It is the first bill of rights ever promulgated, the most individualistic document that the world has ever seen. It is the Magna Charta of individualism. It is impossible to discuss the authority of the State without holding before us first the demands of God’s law.

The Ten Commandments are addressed to the individual, and they protect the individual. Take, for example, the command, “Thou shalt not kill.” God gives to every man the right to live. All the laws of our society that protect human life are based upon this divine law. Likewise the command, “Thou shalt not steal,” recognizes the right of every man to own property in his own name. It is this command that forms the basis of our capitalistic system and our private enterprise way of life. But it is individual. It is into this picture that the State must fit.

The State has no authority to encroach upon the liberty of the individual which God guarantees under His law. The State must respect the law of God as it concerns the individual. Only in honoring this law can it serve its true function and be truly free. Just as God made the creation for Himself and created man in His own image, so He has instructed in His Word that the State should serve the ends of God and be a champion of freedom for man. When men see this, they want this kind of State. When the State sees it, it will labor only for free men. In doing this there are certain things that the State must do and certain things it must not do. In both of these spheres, one of action and the other of inaction, the State becomes an agent for freedom.

We frequently say, “Our society is built on the Ten Commandments.” So it is. The Ten Commandments are a social order. Any society built upon them will not be socialistic or communistic or totalitarian, but truly free. It should be noted especially here, however, that the laws of the State deal with the outward acts of the relation of man to man in society. The State cannot deal with the inward thoughts of men, thus the command, “Thou shalt not covet,” dealing primarily with the heart, the State cannot enforce or minister. The State must desist from action in this sphere in order to insure freedom of thought.

Likewise the commands that relate to the inner and direct relations of men to God the State must leave to God and to the individual. The State must desist from action in this sphere in order to honor the command dealing with the worship and service of God. Thus the State is limited; it cannot go into the heart of man. God alone can do that. And it cannot attempt to legislate God for the individual. God alone can guide and control this.

For a State to attempt to enter into these spheres is to destroy freedom for the individual. When the State attempts to legislate in the matter of man’s heart and thought, it can do so or attempt to do so only by limiting man’s speech and controlling what he hears and sees. Thus free speech and free press, free radio, and all related freedoms go out the window. God has kept the heart of man for Himself. When the State attempts to legislate in the matter of man’s relation to God, it can do so, or attempt to do so, only by circumscribing man’s freedom in the matter of religion. In both of these matters, the framers of the Constitution of the United States absolutely limited the State and protected the freedom of man as the law of God requires.

[the above portion of Dr. McIntire’s sermon is excerpted from The Christian Beacon, 11.18 (13 June 1946): 1-2, 6.

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The Westward Expansion of Presbyterianism

As Presbyterians, all Presbyterian history is our history. Those who have gone before, regardless of their denomination, have had an effect and have left a testimony which affects the work of ministry today. Whether they sowed the good seed of the Gospel or whether they turned their hand from the plow, we today work that same soil. The faithful proclamation of the Gospel will always be difficult, but what others have done before us can and does affect the work today. Thus the importance of history–to know the work done before and to build upon that work in the wisest ways.

mcmillanJohnThe Presbytery of Redstone was an historic PCUSA Presbytery, the first court of that denomination west of the Allegheny mountains. The organization of this Presbytery marked the beginning of the Church’s occupation of the great valley of the Mississippi. The field actually occupied was, geographically, the key to the great westward expansion. This was the section of the country extending from the base of the mountains westward to Fort Pitt and the Forks of the Wheeling, comprising the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, together with an adjoining section of West Virginia. It can rightly be said that it was from this Presbytery that the PCUSA began to expand across the nation until at last it reached the Pacific ocean.

Pictured at right, the Rev. John McMillan, one of the leading ministers in the Presbytery of Redstone.

The Presbytery of Redstone was organized on May 16th, 1781, by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, in answer to a request from missionaries who were then serving west of the Alleghenies.  1781 was the closing year of the Revolutionary War and the Presbytery was formed but a month before the surrender of British forces at Yorktown.

After the division of what was termed the Old Synod inn 1788, the Presbytery of Redstone formed part of the Synod of Virginia, up until 1802, at which time the Synod of Pittsburgh was formed. With rapid growth, the Presbytery then divided in 1793 to create the Presbytery of Ohio. A later division in 1830 created the Presbytery of Blairsville.

The men who formed this Presbytery were Scotch-Irish settlers who were used to hardships and wilderness life, yet who were also resolute in their Reformed faith. The pastors numbered among the first members of Redstone were all well-educated men, most of whom had graduated from Princeton College. “Taken collectively, they were a body of well disciplined, orthodox and devoted ministers.” Among them, Thaddeus Dod, James Dunlap, Thomas Marquis, Elisha McCurdy, John McMillan, Joseph Patterson, and James Power. Among Redstone’s first ruling elders, many were notable men in business, government, and education.

Cumulatively, their influence was such that in most of the churches of western Pennsylvania, and in many churches throughout the western States in later years, a large part of the effective membership of those churches consisted of the descendants of those first ministers and elders whose names are found in the early records of the Presbytery of Redstone.

A history of the Presbytery was published in 1854, under the title of Old Redstone. And in 1878, the minutes of the Presbytery up to that point were gathered together in a published volume of over 400 pages. In 1881 the Presbytery held a centennial celebration, an occasion held jointly with some of the surrounding PCUSA Presbyteries of Pittsburgh, Washington, Blairsville and West Virginia.

There are actually a good number of published histories for Presbyteries in both the PCUS (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church, 1861-1983) and the PCUSA [1789-1958]. By comparison, we have preserved at the PCA Historical Center a few brief sketches that have been written for some of the PCA presbyteries. But the PCA is still a young denomination and I am sure that more such work will be done in the coming years. Off-hand I don’t know of any histories that may have been written for OPC or ARP presbyteries, outside of larger denominational histories. 

Something to Consider:
For all the practical value of church history, at the root of it all, we value our history as a record of what God has done in our midst. The history of the Church in all its parts is a testimony to our risen Lord who has redeemed us and who has employed us in His kingdom, to His greater glory.

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Living in an Abnormal World

May 15th marks the death of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, in 1984. Dr. Schaeffer and Dr. Robert G. Rayburn were close friends who had gone through many challenges together, as Dr. Rayburn relates here in the following eulogy, delivered in memory of Dr. Schaeffer. What is not told here in Rayburn’s eulogy is how they both faced death in the early 1980’s, both men having been diagnosed with cancer, and how Schaeffer continued to prove himself a constant friend, writing to Rayburn to encourage him. About three years before his own death, Dr. Schaeffer wrote, upon hearing of a recurrence of Rayburn’s cancer:—
“Living this way has one advantage and that is we have had brought into sharp focus the reality of what is true for everybody from conception onward and that is that we are all mortal in this abnormal world.” 

Dr. Robert G. Rayburn’s Eulogy for Francis Schaeffer:

schaeffer02My first contact with Francis Schaeffer came at a very critical time in my life. I had just suffered an experience which had a shattering effect upon me. I had been tried and deposed from the ministry of the denomination in which I was born, reared and educated and in which I had served as a chaplain on the battlefields of World War II. I was still in the uniform of my country when the sentence of deposition was pronounced upon me by my presbytery. Actually, I was declared guilty and deposed from the ministry for thinking about doing something which I had never done! No word of proof was ever introduced into the trial which established the fact that I had violated my ordination vows. My “guilt” was established entirely on my admission that I had written a letter in which I indicated deep distress over the growing liberalism in my denomination and confessed that I had seriously considered leaving it.

It would be difficult for anyone who had not passed through the experience of being stripped of his ministerial standing and told he was not welcome in the church he had sought to serve faithfully to understand what a traumatic incident this was in my life. The details of that episode in my life do not belong here. What is of deep significance to me is the fact that although he had never known me personally, when Francis Schaeffer learned of the action of my presbytery, he came to see me traveling the considerable distance from St. Louis where he was pastor of a growing congregation to Texas where my trial had been held and where I was endeavoring to decide what my future ministry was to be.

Although Francis had never personally experienced the shock of ecclesiastical censure, I was impressed almost immediately with the fact that here was a man who seemed to have grasped the reality of genuine Christian empathy. He could and did “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

He was quite willing for me to share with him the details of the event which had both grieved and humiliated me. He understood my pain. At the same time he kept reminding me of the never-faiiing love of the Lord and of His promises never to forsake those who are His very own. He reminded me that I had preached to others the never-failing grace of God and gently called me to that implicit trust in God which I had entreated others to demonstrate in their lives. I had never before experienced such an amazing combination of deep understanding based upon genuine Christian love and absolute loyalty to the sure word of Scripture. Francis and I sat alone for several hours sharing our thoughts. We continued this fellowship as we went for a long walk together. From that day on we were close friends!

Another aspect of Francis Schaeffer’s character became clear to me when it came time for me to be examined for reception into the presbytery of the small denomination in which he was a teaching elder. His personal vital interest in me had been a major factor in my decision to seek membership in the Bible Presbyterian Church, yet I realized that there were some potential doctrinal problems. I had come under the strong influence of Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer while doing my graduate work at Dallas Seminary and had embraced a substantial amount of his dispensational theology, enough so that I could be granted a degree from the seminary. I had been uneasy about certain points of doctrine in the dispensational system but had resolved to work out my problems in further study when I returned to the pastorate. I shared my concerns with Francis and discovered in him a wonderful willingness to be patient with my lack of precision in some areas of doctrine. On long walks together he questioned me carefully and thoroughly on all of the major doctrines of Presbyterianism as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, and because I held firmly to such distinctive doctrines as infant baptism and the so-called five points of Calvinism, he assured me that he felt I could come to more fully understand the unique facets of Covenant Theology as a member of the presbytery and that he would use his influence in the presbytery to bring about my reception. There was both kindness and patience manifest in his attitude.

It was not long before I had justified his confidence by embracing thoroughly the Reformed doctrine of the Westminster Standards in all details. I have asked myself many times since whether I would have the same patience and understanding with a young minister seeking admission to my presbytery that Francis Schaeffer manifested with me.

It was not long after I became a member of the Bible Presbyterian Church that a crisis developed and a division occurred which had profound effects upon the lives of both Francis Schaeffer and me. He had resigned his pastorate in St. Louis and had gone to Europe to work with children, thinking that this kind of evangelistic activity provided perhaps the best hope of exerting a strong influence on European society and bringing back a powerful evangelistic witness in the Protestant churches of that continent. I had been summarily and involuntarily called from my pastorate to return to the army chaplaincy and had spent several months on the battlefields of Korea where God had richly blessed the preaching of the Word.

Returning to civilian life I accepted the presidency of a small struggling college in Pasadena, California, which had been established by energetic minsters and laymen in my own denomination. The school was independent of denominational control, but I was assured by the board of trustees that it was founded to further the purposes of my denomination. This was a vital challenge.

As I once again became able to be active in the courts of my church, I began to be troubled by several things which were taking place, particularly in our participation in two small interdenominational councils of churches on both the national and world level. A discussion of these issues is not necessary here. It is of interest, however, that when I wrote to Francis about these concerns, he answered immediately assuring me that he was deeply troubled about the same matters, and he was looking at our church and its activities from a European perspective. In our correspondence we continued to share items from both continents which troubled us. Our principal concern was the honor of the Lord and the realization that He could not bless us as we needed to be blessed unless our denominational programs were conducted in complete accord with the high standards of the Word of God.

In the providence of God the Schaeffers returned to the States for a few weeks, and we invited Francis to come to preach the Word of God in southern California. Then we made arrangements to drive together across the continent to South Carolina for the annual meeting of the Synod of our denomination. I had been elected by the Synod the previous year to a place on the church’s delegation to the American Council of Christian Churches. Sensing my responsibility in this position, I had made serious inquiries into the activities of this association, and the more I learned the more disturbed I became. On our trip across the country we shared the information we had acquired, Schaeffer on the international scene with the work of the International Council of Churches, and I on the national activities of the American Council. We heartily agreed that the church must be aroused to the need of purifying its witness.

Since I was an official delegate of the denomination and therefore had the obligation to report my findings to the Synod, it was obvious that I had the responsibility to alert the church to the problems and sound a warning concerning the need for reform in certain areas if we were going to experience the blessing of the Lord. Neither Francis nor I had expressed any desire for anything but a recognition of the problems and a change in some of the policies of the council. Both of us were convinced that the testimony of these interdenominational councils was valuable and much needed. The changes we desired were to bring the work more fully under the blessing of God.

After I gave my report to the Synod, however, a wave of accusations against Francis Schaeffer and me swept over the church. It came largely from Dr. Carl McIntire in his paper The Christian Beacon, but his charges were echoed by those in the denomination who accepted his analysis of the situation without carefully examining the facts which had been presented.

It was then that i learned how completely lacking in a vindictive spirit Francis Schaeffer was and how forbearing he was in the face of false charges. He was denounced as having plotted with me to take over the denominational leadership. He was accused of putting me up to formulating the report which I had given so that it would enhance his leadership in the church and in the International Council. None of the charges had any basis in fact. It was a blessing to me, however, to observe how unconcerned Schaeffer was in defending himself. His continuing concern was to remove from the church any activities which did not reflect the glory of the Lord. As we prayed together in the fellowship of our long journey, our concern was entirely for the spiritual well-being of the church which both of us loved.

The tragic results of the bitter denunciations which were hurled against Schaeffer and me need not occupy our attention here. Dr. Schaeffer returned to Europe where fortunately he was beyond the reach of anyone who might want to punish him for being implicated with me in disturbing the church. The Bible Presbyterian Church at its Synod voted decisively to demand some changes in the policies of the American and International Councils. It was not long, of course, before Dr. McIntire led a small group of his followers out of the church and formed another denomination using the same name. Our denomination changed its name to avoid confusion and soon merged with another small denomination and became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, which was blessed with steady growth and in recent years has merged with the Presbyterian Church in America. In all of this progress Dr. Schaeffer’s influence has been strongly felt as in his correspondence as well as his occasional trips to the U.S.A. he has encouraged ministers and laymen alike to demonstrate their loyalty to the Scriptures and their love for one another.

When it came time for my two daughters to go to college, it was the desire of their mother and me for them to have an opportunity to gain a good command of a foreign language and to be exposed to European culture with all of its refinements in music, art, and literature. Because of the closeness of the friendship which had developed between Francis Schaeffer and me, I felt free to ask him for a special personal favor. We were unwilling to send our young daughters to one of the European universities where they would be subjected to pagan influences with little or nothing to encourage them in their Christian lives. Knowing that the Schaeffers had opened their home high in the Swiss Alps for a ministry to young people from all over the world, I asked them for that special care for our daughters as they studied at the University of Lausanne which would make it possible for them to spend their weekends with the Schaeffers. To this they responded with happy agreement and the assurance that our daughters would be treated as their own. Both of them feel a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. Schaeffer as do we. Their lives were enriched and their spiritual discernment deepened by their months of fellowship in the Schaeffer home.

As the Lord blessed the faithful witness of the Schaeffer’s at L’Abri and more and more troubled young people began to feel the impact of the life and teachings of this godly man and his wife, he began to be well known in many parts of the world. Young men and women whose lives had been radically changed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit during their time at L’Abri began returning to their homes and joining the evangelical churches and spreading the word of God’s amazing work through the ministry of the Schaeffers.

It was one of the blessings of my personal friendship with Francis Schaeffer that I was able to interest him in widening his influence by coming to teach at Covenant Theological Seminary on a regular basis for a few weeks every two years. This he did for some time to the great blessing of our student body and the faculty as well.

He became something of a celebrity in the Christian world and because of his enthusiastic endorsement of Covenant Seminary, we began to receive student applications from many men who had become Christians or had their Christian commitment deepened at L’Abri. Indeed, we soon found that Dr. Schaeffer was our most effective recruiter of seminary students. In our personal correspondence he continued to share his observations of movements in the theological world and his concern for the contnued faithfulness of our institution in doctrine, but also in Spirit-filled living.

During his frequent visits to our campus, he and Mrs. Schaeffer were always guests in our home, and we had many opportunities to observe their selfless consideration for others. They received telephone calls form people in many parts of the land who sought their aid in their spiritual problems and in their battles with evil. I remember one particular occasion very vividly. Dr. Schaeffer was on the telephone for nearly three hours with a deeply distressed man in Florida who had just lost his wife after having been assured by a “faith healer” that she had been cured. Schaeffer was unwilling to terminate the long telephone conversation until he had some assurance that the comfort of God’s Word had touched the heart and mind of the needy widower.

Some years ago a young man came to Covenant Seminary to pursue theological studies, and it was apparent early in my contact with him that he had an unusually sharp intellect. Knowing that he had been reared a Roman Catholic and had turned away from that faith to atheism and existentialism, I inquired as to his spiritual pilgrimage. He told me that he had gone to Paris to study with Sartre and other existentialists there hoping to find some meaning in his life, but his studies and contacts in Paris had only driven him deep into despair. Through a casual (but obviously providential) encounter with a stranger in Paris to whom he confessed his deep despair, he was advised to go to a little mountain village in Switzerland where he would come in contact with a man who could certainly answer his questions and provide him with meaning for life. He soon found himself at L’Abri listening intently to Francis Schaeffer, asking questions and frequently raising objections to what he heard. I asked then how he was brought to personal faith in Christ.

“It was not by the strength of the intellectual arguments which I heard,” he answered. “I still had questions, plenty of them. But it was the love of this man, Dr. Schaeffer, that touched my heart and made me see the reality of the living Saviour he talked about. He would spend hours with me, and he never seemed to grow weary of my almost endless questions. I couldn’t resist the love of Christ when I experienced it in this man.”

I am not unaware of the fact that Dr. Francis Schaeffer has been criticized by some and even ridiculed by a few who fail to recognize the immense impact of his life upon our generation. I have only deep gratitude in my heart for the way my own life has been enriched and blessed by this godly man. I am truly thankful for all those who share with me deep appreciation for the way the Holy Spirit has made manifest the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of Francis Schaeffer. He leaves behind for those who did not know him personally his written works, and in the memory of all of us who knew him and loved him, he leaves behind the aroma of his godly walk with his Lord and Saviour.

Words to Live By:
In our introduction we referenced a letter that Dr. Schaeffer wrote to Dr. Rayburn in 1981. Toward the close of that letter, Schaeffer said this:—
“…yet I am also increasingly conscious of the fact that Edith and I have been, as it were, carried along on an escalator for the entirety of our lives. I am left in awe and wonder with all this, and I very much feel the escalator is still in operation, not just in this matter of health, but in the battles that beset us on every side.”

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23, KJV)

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8, KJV)

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The Life of a Christian Minister Can Never Be Written.

Erskine Mason was born in New York City on April 16, 1805. He was the youngest child of the Rev. John M. and Anna L. Mason, D.D. As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825, Erskine was ordained on October 20, 1826 and installed as pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Cedar Street in the City. Almost a year later he married, and this at roughly the same time that he was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Schenectady. Then, with but three years experience, he was called to serve the prestigious Bleeker Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. Another six years later, he accepted a position as professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, while retaining his post as pastor of the Bleeker Street Church. By 1846, his congregation could see that he needed a time of rest and relaxation, and so enabled him to spend several months in Europe. He returned refreshed and it appeared that he had many years of ministry ahead of him. Yet surprisingly, his life proved short. Returning from an annual outing in the country in August of 1850, he soon felt weak and his health began to decline. When his last moments came, he declared, “It is all bright and clear.” Seated in his chair, he breathed his last, and died on May 14, 1851.

That too brief survey of his life will have to suffice this day, if we are to leave room for the wonderful opening words spoken in memory of Rev. Mason. The following, though admittedly a bit flowery (in good nineteenth-century fashion), was composed by the Rev. William Adams. Given the focus of our blog, I thought it appropriate to reproduce his words here:—

“The life of a Christian minister never can be written. Its incidents may be easily mentioned, for they are few. His parentage, birth, education, conversion, ordination, preaching, illness and death, comprise the whole. The whole? His real life consists not in striking and startling events. When the streams are flushed with the spring-freshet, overflowing the banks and sweeping away the dams and the bridges, the marvel is heralded in every newspaper; but when the same streams flow quietly along their ordinary channels, making the meadows to smile with verdure, refreshing the roots of the trees and turning the wheels of the mill, they excite no remark, even though their tranquil flow awakens a grateful admiration. Sum up the professional labors of a minister, and give the product in so many sermons, written and delivered!

“As well to attempt to gather up the rain, measure and weigh it. A certain amount of water you may show, but what of the moisture which has been absorbed by the tender vegetable, and the leaves of the trees? The life of a preacher is spent in addressing the intellect and conscience of his fellow-men. Ten, twenty, thirty years has he preached. How many thoughts, in how many minds has he suggested during such a period! What manifold judgments and purposes, what great hopes and wise fears have had their origin in his own thoughts and words! What sayings of his have been lodged in men’s minds, which have worked in secret about the roots of character! Even while despondent himself, because so few visible results of his toil are revealed, his opinions by insensible degrees are growing into the convictions of others, and his own life is infused into the life of a whole generation.

“It is a peculiarity of his position that he touches the life of his people at those points which are the most memorable and important in their existence. He unites them in marriage, baptizes their children, and buries their dead. He dies, and is soon forgotten by the world. The sable drapery which was hung about his pulpit on his funeral day is taken down; his successor is chosen and installed, and the tide of life rolls on as before. But he is not forgotten by all. His life is not all lost and dissipated. As the manners of a father are acted over in his son, and the smile of a mother will brighten again, after she is dead, on the face of her daughter, so will the sentiments of a minister be transmitted after his ministry is closed, his words be repeated after he has ceased to speak, and all his hopes and wishes live again in other hearts, long after his own beats no more. His biography will not be finished nor disclosed till that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed; and the seals of his ministry will be set, like stars in the firmament for ever and ever.

“To accommodate to a Christian minister, the language employed by Mr. Coleridge, in reference to Bell, the founder of schools:—“Would I frame to myself the most inspirating representation of future bliss, which my mind is capable of comprehending, it would be embodied to me in the idea of such an one receiving at some distant period, the appropriate reward of his earthly labors, when thousands of glorified spirits, whose reason and conscience had, through his efforts, been unfolded, shall sing the song of their own redemption, and pouring forth praise to God and to their Saviour, shall repeat his ‘new name’ in heave, give thanks for his earthly virtues, as the chosen instrument of divine mercy to themselves, and not seldom, perhaps, turning their eyes toward him, as from the sun to its image in the fountain, with secondary gratitude and the permitted utterance of a human love.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Adams concluded his memoir for Rev. Mason:—
“No one who goes hence returns to finish the work of life. But there is intensity of motive enough in the sober truth that every man is actually engaged day by day in writing that autobiography, which neither time nor eternity will efface. It may be written in high places or in low, in public remembrance or in the honest heart of domestic affection, but we are writing fast, we are writing sure, we are writing for eternity. Happy is he who, through the grace of God assisting him, like the subject of this memoir, records such lessons of kindness, truth and wisdom, that when he is gone, he will be held in grateful remembrance; happier still to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that when every memorial and monument of his earthly history has perished, he may ascend with the Son of God, to Honour, Glory and Immortality.”

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In Following the Lord, He Followed His Brothers

Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge [1838-1905]Francis Blanchard Hodge was the seventh child of Dr. Charles Hodge and his wife Sarah, and was born on October 24, 1838, the year after the schism of the Old and New School Presbyterians and a year before his father published the first volume of his Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in America. Frank, as he was called by family members, was named in memory of a favorite nephew of Dr. Hodge’s mother—Francis Blanchard, the son of Samuel Blanchard, of Wenham, Massachusetts. Among life’s tragedies, Francis suffered the death of his mother Sarah when he was just eleven years old. His father remarried when Francis was fourteen.

As might be expected, Francis was educated at Princeton, graduating at the college, and later at the theological seminary. His studies were hindered, however, by an inflammation of the eyes, the result of an accident. Not deterred, much of his learning was acquired by oral instruction, and in spite of the setback, he advanced rapidly. Francis had a fine voice and style of presentation, and was accorded the honor of being Junior Orator, and in turn appointed to deliver the Whig Hall anniversary Oration. Upon his graduation from Seminary, he first married, taking Mary, daughter of Professor Stephen Alexander, of Nassau Hall, as his bride in June of 1863. Then he answered a call to serve as the pastor of a congregation in Oxford, Pennsylvania, a position previously occupied by his brother Wistar Hodge. Francis was ordained and installed in this pulpit on January 5, 1864, and his father brought the charge to his newly ordained son. A copy of this charge is preserved among the papers of Dr. Charles Hodge [cf. Box 21, file 32, in the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Of this first pastorate, his uncle wrote, “Here his intelligence, great amiability and devotion to his parishioners, united with considerable eloquence of voice and manner, obtained for him much popularity and influence. His congregation was augmented in size, and, although chiefly composed of farmers, they were induced to pull down their old building, and to erect a handsome brick structure as a substitute.”

Meanwhile, Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest of the Hodge children, had married and sought an appointment to India as a missionary. After about three years on that field, his wife’s health was failing and her physician said it was impossible for her to remain in India. Returning to the States, Alexander and his family moved back to the home of Dr. Charles Hodge. Archibald soon accepted a call to a small church in Cecil county, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border, but here his support was meager and he had to teach to augment his income. Some time later a second call took him to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he became the pastor of a more prosperous church, serving that church from 1855-1861.

When the Civil War broke out, A.A. Hodge surrendered the Fredericksburg pulpit and managed to take his family and travel through West Virginia and Maryland into Pennsylvania, and finally to the home of Charles Hodge in New Jersey. Without much delay, he soon received an appointment to pastor the Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and afterwards, when a vacancy occurred in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, by the resignation of the Rev. William S. Plumer, Alexander was made professor of theology in that institution. He remained in that post until 1877, when he was called to Princeton, to serve as his father’s associate.

When A.A. Hodge left the church at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the church next called the Rev. Samuel Dod, who served the church for four years, leaving late in 1868. Upon his departure, the church now turned to the Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge with “a call so urgent, and pressed with so much importunity, that, after much hesitation, and with many regrets, he left his friends at Oxford, and settled at Wilkes-Barre.”

There in Wilkes-Barre he found new and admiring friends who were devoted to his ministry, his preaching, and his support. And there he remained as faithful pastor for the next thirty-five years, one of the longest pastorates in the history of that church. Under his leadership, the congregation grew significantly. Two-thirds of the annual church budget was allocated to benevolences. And a new modern building was constructed in the late 1880’s, and dedicated in 1894, free of any debt. Perhaps as an indication of how much he was devoted to the work of being a pastor, it does not appear that he authored any works for publication.

The Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge, D.D. died in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on May 13, 1905. Representing the Presbytery, Dr. McLeod, Dr. Brooks, and Dr. Logan followed the remains to Princeton, accompanied by a large delegation from the Wilkes-Barre Church. The pall-bearers were members of his Church who were also students at Princeton. With services conducted by Dr. Francis Landey Patton, president of the Seminary, the mortal remains of Rev. Francis B. Hodge were laid to rest in the Princeton Cemetery.

Words to Live By:
I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” (2 John 4, KJV)

What a joy, what a great blessing it is to see our children walking in the faith, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a commandment to walk in the truth of the Gospel. Let us so live, and serve as an example to our children, trusting the Lord for their salvation.


Image: Stoddard, Dwight J., Prominent Men: Scranton and Vicinity, Wilkes-Barre and Vicinity,… Scranton, PA: The Tribune Publishing Co., 1906, p. 202.

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Christian Education in its Principles

John Newton Waddell was born on April 2, 1812 in Willington, South Carolina to the Rev. Moses Waddell and his wife Eliza Woodson Pleasant Waddell. He received his education at the University of Georgia, attending there from 1826-1829 and graduating with the Bachelor of Arts degree. He taught at an Academy in Willington, SC from 1830-1832 and was principal of a grammar school in Athens, Georgia from 1833-1834. For a time he turned his hand to farming in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, 1835-1841, before answering a call to the ministry.

He was licensed to preach by Mississippi Presbytery on 15 September 1841 and then served as stated supply for the Mt. Hermon Presbyterian Church of Smith County, Mississippi in 1842. He was then ordained to the pastorate by Tombeckbee Presbytery on 23 October 1843, initially serving as stated supply for the Montrose and Mt. Moriah churches of Newton County, MS, while also serving as a teacher at the Montrose Academy from 1841-1848.

Rev. Waddell next served as stated supply for the Presbyterian church in Oxford, MS and concurrently as a professor of ancient languages at the University of Mississippi, from 1849-1857, having formerly served on the school’s Board of Trustees prior to his appointment. From 1857-1861, Waddell was a professor at the Synodical College in LaGrange, Tennessee. He then worked as an agent for the Bible Society attached to the Confederate States Army, from 7 February to 7 May, 1863 and as Commissioner to the Army of Mississippi (CSA), from 1863 until the close of the war in 1865.

After the war, Rev. Waddell was Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, from 1865 to 1874, and during these years he occasionally served as stated supply for the Oxford and Hopewell churches. Leaving the University of Mississippi, Rev. Waddell was Executive Secretary for the Georgia Commission on Education, from 1874-1879. He somehow also managed to serve as stated supply for the Lauderdale St. church in Memphis during these same years.

From 1879 to 1888, Waddell was Chancellor of the Southwest Presbyterian University, located in Clarksville, Tennessee. He is credited with calling Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, the father of President Woodrow Wilson, to teach at Clarksville. Illness forced his retirement in 1888, though he apparently remained in the Clarksville area until 1891, and he then resided in Avondale (Birmingham), Alabama from 1891 to 1895. Rev. Waddell died in 1895, and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Honors conferred upon Rev. Waddell included the Doctor of Divinity degree, awarded by the University of Nashville in 1850 and the Doctor of Laws degree (LL.D.), awarded by the University of Georgia in 1873. Rev. Waddell is noted as having called to order the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. He also served as Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1868 and as stated clerk for General Assembly from 1861-1865.

Prior to the War and before the Old School Presbyterian Church was divided North and South, Rev. Waddell brought a sermon before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (Old School), as it met in New Orleans on May 12, 1858. His message was brought on behalf of the Presbyterian Board of Education, and was titled Christian Education in its Principles:—

Christian Education in its Principles

“19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”—Matthew 28:19-20.

These are the words of the Great Teacher. They were uttered by him who was truly styled by Nicodemus, “a teacher come from God.” Concerning him also, it was the involuntary testimony of emissaries sent by his enemies to apprehend him, “never man spake like this man.” Accordingly, a serious study of the whole life of our incarnate Lord will inevitably lead to the conclusion that he came into the world to teach. To this end we find him, at the age of twelve years, in the temple, sitting among the doctors, “both hearing them and asking them questions,” thus preparing himself to become a teacher of others, and styling this, the being “about his Father’s business.” The prophets, in whose sublime writings Christ is the prominent subject, speak of him as the Counsellor, from whom God’s word and wisdom were to proceed in the form of instructions coming with authority divine. That phrase proper for human prophets commissioned of God, as a preface to their deliverances, “Thus, saith the Lord,” was to be substituted in the precepts of Christ by the emphatic declaration, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” And his history is the record of the great system which he came to establish.

Whether, therefore, by his preaching in the synagogues, when all “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth;” or, on the Mount, when he opened his mouth and taught the multitude by rectifying the false interpretations and glosses of the Jewish teachers, and presenting the true theory of his own moral code; or, to other multitudes that thronged and pressed upon him in his journeyings, by parables of inimitable beauty and appositeness; or at the well-side, in Sychar, where he sat wearied, and revealed to the sinful Samaritan, not only her sins, but the way of life and salvation; or, in the retired circle of his own immediate family, when he expounded to them more clearly the things of the kingdom; or by the refutation of cavils proposed by the designing enemies who constantly beset his path; or by the amazing wisdom which confounded those who sought to entrap him by questions into an expression of blasphemy or of disloyalty; or by miracles which, while they manifested forth his glory, and proved his divinity also in their character as redemptive acts, forcibly adumbrated some great doctrine of his Gospel; or when tempted in the wilderness; or when turning his cheek to the smiter, and giving his back to the scourge; or when going like sheep before his shearers, dumb to the slaughter, and instead of blasting with a bolt of holy indignation the murderous rabble on Calvary, praying for his enemies, and meekly bowing his head and giving up the ghost: we may not fail to gather from this view of the life-work and dying agony of Jesus, our master, that he was a teacher.

True to this great office, he is to be found, during his life, gathering around him multitudes whom he taught, as a vast school, these great truths which entered into the soul, and shed there a light, scattering the natural darkness of the mind, and the clouds of still more palpable gloom engendered by the false teachings of which they were the victims. A clear inspection of his system will present him narrowing his instructions within a circle of seventy, whom he qualified and sent forth to be themselves teachers of the erring and the ignorant. And yet again, we find him selecting from the number of his followers, twelve, as the favored recipients of the great truths of his Gospel, and daily for three years keeping them in constant attendance upon himself as the members of his own family, and then commissioning them as his representatives to teach all nations. And once more we may detect a still more minute subdivision of this class of twelve, in the favorite three, Peter, James, and John, to whom he imparted lessons, and whom he admitted to privileges of intimacy granted to none others, on the consecrated summit of Tabor, and in the memorable garden of Gethsemane.

To have recorded the lessons of wisdom that fell from his lips, or were imparted by his acts, is an acknowledged impossibility; the world itself would not have contained the books that should have been written to set them forth. We only catch glimpses as it were of the Sun of righteousness as it beamed upon the darkness that covered the earth, sufficient to assure us of the exhaustless nature of the Fountain of light. Confirmatory of this truth is the office assigned him in all scriptural systems of theology, as the prophet of his Church. Let it be observed that while the word of God is clear in setting forth that Christ is a priest and a king as well as a prophet, yet it is a very easily demonstrable fact, that these offices are both inseparably interwoven with, and indebted for their vital efficiency to his prophetic office.

For while the priestly office of Christ in its execution is the divinely appointed method of accomplishing the only plan of salvation, it is undeniable, not only that the knowledge of God, the knowledge of Christ, the knowledge of ourselves, the great truths of the scheme of redemption, must be taught before we can receive Christ as a priest; but also, that the very sacrifice itself, is the most impressive form in which these truths can be taught. For it is beyond all doubt, that when the Son of God was crucified, and offered as a sacrifice for his ransomed Church, he was filling the office of teacher of the great doctrine of the atonement, not only no less than by actual precept, but with far more impressive and irresistible energy and power. By the teaching office men are enlightened in the knowledge of those truths embodied in the sacrifice he offered as the great high priest of our profession.

Again, as to his kingly office in its dependencies upon his prophetic office, as the Church of Jesus Christ is the only visible representation of his kingdom, and as this kingdom is spiritual, and includes the solemn ordinances, the holy oracles, and the heaven-appointed ministry, you perceive from the very constitution of this kingdom, that the prophetic or teaching office is of primary importance, and absolutely essential to its establishment and prosperity. For, while he reigns as king in Zion, it is obvious that his ordinances symbolize, his oracles confirm, and his ministers expound and vindicate those truths, which are at once the law of his kingdom, the instruments of its conquests, and the bulwarks of its defence.

In his own declaration to Pilate, in reply to the question, “Art thou a king?” while he acknowledges that he claims this office—“thou sayest I am a king”—he also bears his own testimony to the teaching character of his kingly office : “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Thus declaring that as a king he reigns over men by enlightening and efficiently controlling their hearts and affections by the influence of the truth, applied spiritually and not by force. By his teaching office it is then that Christ, as King in Zion, first subdues us to himself, then reigns in and defends and crowns the work by conquering all his and our enemies. It is then a truth, of which we must not lose sight, that Christ Jesus the Lord was the model teacher. His teaching office he makes prominent in all he ever said to men on earth. It stands forever pre-eminent among the offices he fills in his Church. He taught in the temple, by the wayside, in cities and in villages. His example taught when in the wilderness with the tempter, and on the cross with his murderers. He was teaching as he sat at meat; he was teaching as he journeyed on the highway. He taught by parable, he taught by miracle. He taught when in the Mount of Transfiguration. He taught in the Garden of his agony. He taught on bloody Calvary. In life and in death he was the great teacher, and thus indicates to the Church he bought with his blood, and established as his kingdom on earth, that the teaching office was the peculiar distinctive function she, the Church, was designed to fulfill.

To read the rest of Rev. Waddell’s sermon delivered before the General Assembly, click here.

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