July 2013

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2013.

A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

alexanderjwBorn near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, the eldest son of Archibald Alexander, James was raised in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But by the time that schooling had begun for James, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  Then in 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the Alexander family moved there, as Archibald Alexander became the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822–1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry  had him  variously teaching at both college and seminary in Princeton, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds. The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School / New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and related translation work. Perhaps his most famous translation was  that of the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His 1830 translation of the eleventh-century poem by Bernard of Clairvaux is the version most used by our churches today.

In 1859 James returned with his wife to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at this moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By: As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these same words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, KJV)

Tags: , , ,

The hour being late, today’s entry is drawn directly from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (p. 333), with just a little elaboration.

Third in an Illustrious Line of Medical Doctors

H. Lenox Hodge was born in Philadelphia, July 30th, 1838. His father was the eminent physician, Dr. Hugh L. Hodge. [His uncle was the equally eminent Princeton Seminary professor, Dr. Charles Hodge]. Lenox received a collegiate education, which terminated in 1855, in his native city, and afterwards studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1858.

In the Fall of the same year he became resident physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital, retaining that office till the Spring of 1860, when he opened an office for the practice of medicine in Philadelphia. He was appointed Demonstrator of Surgery in the University of Pennsylvania, and, in 1861 commenced giving instruction to private classes, on Chestnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, and subsequently lectured in Chant Street, on Anatomy and Operative Surgery. During the Civil War, Dr. Hodge served at West Philadelphia’s Satterlee Hospital, and he was also attached to the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps of Surgeons, serving as a field surgeon at Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In 1870 he was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania, and was, for nearly ten years, attending surgeon at the Children’s Hospital. At the opening of the Presbyterian Hospital, in 1872, he was appointed attending surgeon to that institution.

Dr. Hodge, by his talents, industry, integrity and energy, attained a high rank in his profession. He was a gentleman of polished address and peculiar benevolence. For a number of years he was an exemplary, active and useful ruling elder in the Second Presbyterian Church. Removed by death, in the midst of his years, June 10th, 1881 [surviving his uncle by not quite three years, Charles Hodge dying in 1878], he bore his last and lingering illness with marked resignation, and left the record of one who had adorned all the relations of life by his cultivated intellect, kind disposition, and exemplary Christian character. At the time of his decease he was a member of many medical societies and associations.

Words to Live By:
When we think of Christians who are, or were, medical doctors, the easy association is to the New Testament author, Luke, who wrote one of the four Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts. Next to the pulpit ministry, the medical profession is perhaps preeminently an appropriate one for Christians, focused as it is on the art and science of healing. As much as we need to be reminded to pray for our pastors, don’t we also need to be praying for doctors and other medical professionals? In a culture that seems fixated on death (Prov. 8:36), Christians in the medical profession face unique challenges today.

For Further Study:
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia maintains an archival collection of Dr. Hodge’s case notebooks. The finding aid for that collection can be viewed here.

H. Lenox Hodge was buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. His gravesite, with an accompanying photograph, can be viewed here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Teaching a Nation’s Leaders

Considered by many to have been the foremost educator in the South, Moses Waddell was of Irish parentage and was born in Rowan (now Iredell) county, North Carolina, on July 29th, 1770. He received his academic education at a school which was opened in the neighborhood under the name of Clio’s Nursery. For four years, beginning at the age of fourteen, he was engaged as a teacher (1784-1788) at various places in North Carolina and Georgia.

Leaving his employment as a teacher, he enrolled as a student at the Hampden-Sydney College, graduating there in 1891. The next year he was licensed to preach by the Hanover Presbytery, of Virginia, on May 12, 1792.

About 1793, Waddell opened his first school in Columbia county, Georgia, then another in 1801,  in Vienna, Abbeville District, South Carolina. He remained in that work until 1804, when he removed to Willington, six miles south of Vienna, and it was at Willington where he founded the famous Willington Academy. It was common for Presbyterian pastors to maintain an academy, in part for the extra income, and in part because they could thus guide the moral, religious and intellectual education of the children of their parish.

All of these schools were designed as preparatory schools, utilizing a classical education model. As the fame of the Willington Academy grew, it came to be called the “Eton in the woods”. To give one example of the school’s rigor, students were required to memorize, translate and recite some 250 lines of Greek or Latin every night. A Willington graduate, South Carolina governor George McDuffie, held the record, having once recited over 2200 lines of the poet Horace.

In 1818, Waddell was elected President of what was then Franklin College, later to become the University of Georgia. However, he did not actually step into the duties of this office until May, 1819. While serving as an educator, he also labored as a pastor, founding the Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia in 1820. During his tenure at the University, the school prospered greatly, and he continued here as President until 1829. Resigning his post, he returned to Willington. For forty-five years he had labored as a teacher. His labors as a pastor continued another six or seven years more, and the Rev. Dr. Moses Waddell’s life drew to a close on July 21, 1840.

Dr. James McLeod provides the following account of Dr. Waddell as a teacher:

“The boys called him ‘Old Moses,’ and while he believed in corporal punishment, he never spanked in a passion, and it finally evolved that he did this only upon a verdict of a peer jury of students. He never spanked for a deficient lesson but chiefly for defects in morals or actions that had to be punished.

“He was a cheerful man even playful in his disposition. He maintained a personal interest in each boy. He had a wry sense of humor. When boys on second floor dumped water on him as he went in a door, he said nothing, but later raised an umbrella as he went in the door to the delight of the boys.

“His strength seems to have been to analyze the boys accurately, then demanded accordingly. He was not a man who used sentiment to escape facing the laziness of adolescence. He demanded. They groaned, they gave, they griped, they worshiped him later. There was a chestnut tree outside the Doctor’s study window that the boys remembered watching as they waited to see the Doctor if they had done anything wrong. Others would climb it to see if anyone was punished by him.

“Dr. Smith, the president of Princeton College, was quoted as saying that he received no students from any school in the United States who stood better examinations than those of Dr. Waddel.”

As a pastor, Alfred Nevin notes that “he was pious, zealous, and well versed in theology generally. His style of preaching was plain, simple, earnest. He addressed himself much more to the understanding than to the imagination or passions. As a teacher he stands almost unrivaled.”

Words to Live By:
In The Great Doctor Waddell, by Dr. James McLeod, the author provides a compilation of the students educated under Waddell. The list includes two Vice-Presidents, three Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of War, one Assistant Secretary of War, one US Attorney-general, Ministers to France, Spain and Russia, one US Supreme Court Justice, eleven governors, seven US Senators, thirty two members of the US House of Representatives, twenty two judges, eight college presidents, seventeen editors of newspapers or authors, five members of the Confederate Congress, two bishops, three Brigadier-generals, and one authentic Christian martyr.

In light of which, this might be a good time to review again the words of Dr. R. B. Kuiper, posted here this past July 15th:

“God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.”

Tags: , , , ,

It was on this day, July 28, in 1881 that John Gresham Machen was born. For our Lord’s Day message today, the following message from Dr. Machen was first presented before a meeting of the League of Evangelical Students, a campus ministry which Machen had helped to organize in 1925. His words here remain timely for us today.

FACING THE FACTS BEFORE GOD.

By J. Gresham Machen
[excerpted from The Evangelical Student, 3.1 (October 1931): 6-10.]

In the nineteenth chapter of the Second Book of Kings, we are told how Hezekiah, King of Judah, received a threatening letter from the Assyrian enemy. The letter contained unpalatable truth. It set forth the way in which the King of Assyria had conquered one nation after another—and could the feeble kingdom of Judah escape?

When Hezekiah received the letter, there were three things that he could do with it.

In the first place, he could obey its behest; he could go out and surrender his kingdom to the Assyrian enemy.

In the second place, he could refuse to read the letter; he could ignore its contents. Like another and worse king, with a far better communication than that, he could take out his king’s penknife and cut it up and throw it bit by bit contemptuously into the fire.

As a matter of fact, Hezekiah did neither of these two things. He took the letter with all its unpalatable truth, and read it from beginning to end; he did not close his eyes to any of its threatening. But then he took the letter, with all the threatening that it contained, spread it open in the presence of Almighty God, and asked God to give the answer.

Now we too, believers in the Bible and in the blessed gospel that it contains, have received a threatening letter. It is not a letter signed by any one potentate, like the King of Assyria; but it is a collective letter signed by the men who are dominating the world of today and dominating to an increasing extent the visible Church. It is a letter breathing out threatenings of extinction to those who hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is set forth in God’s Word.

That letter is signed by the men who are dominating increasingly the political and social life of the world. That was not true fifty years ago, at least not in English-speaking countries. Then, to a considerable extent, in those countries at least, public opinion was in favor of the gospel of Christ. Today, almost all over the world, public opinion is increasingly against the gospel of Christ.

The letter of threatening against the gospel is signed also by the men who are dominating the literary and intellectual life of the world. To see that that is true, one needs only to read the popular magazines and the magazines that appeal to persons of literary and intellectual taste; or one needs only to read the books of the day or listen to what comes “over the air”.

The threatening letter is also signed, alas, by the men who are in control of many of the larger branches of the Protestant Church. In the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., for example, to which the writer of this article belongs, four out of eight ministerial members of the Permanent Judicial Commission, which is practically the supreme guardian of the doctrine of the Church, are actually signers of a formal document commonly called the “Auburn Affirmation” which declares to be non- essential even for the ministry the virgin birth of our Lord and four other great verities of the Christian faith; and very slight indeed is the representation of any clear-cut and outspoken evangelicalism in the boards and agencies of the Church. In many other ecclesiastical bodies, the situation, from the Christian point of view, is even worse than it is in ours.

But it is in the colleges and universities and theological seminaries that the threatening letter against the gospel of Christ has been most generally signed. In the faculties of some of our great universities today, you can count almost on the fingers of your two hands the men who believe in the gospel in any definite and outspoken way, and in the student bodies individual believers often seem to themselves to be standing nearly alone.

When we receive this threatening letter, there are three things, that we may do with it.

In the first place, we may obey its behest; we may relinquish our belief in the truth of the Bible; we may simply drift with the current of the times. Very many students in colleges and universities and theological seminaries have made that choice. They came from Christian homes; they are the subject of the prayers of godly parents. But the threatenings and persuasions of the unbelieving world have apparently been too strong for them. They have been unwilling to adopt the unpopular course. And so they have made shipwreck of their faith.

In the second place, we may refuse to read the threatening letter; we may close our eyes to the unpalatable truth that the letter contains. We may say, as so many are saying today, that the Protestant churches of our own country and of the other countries of the world are “fundamentally sound”; we may cry “Peace, peace; when there is no peace”; we may dig our heads like ostriches in the sand; we may refuse to attend to the real situation in the Church and in the world.

I pray God that we may never adopt this method of dealing with the letter of threatening; for if there is one thing that is preventing true prayer today, it is this foolish optimism with regard to the state of the times, this refusal of Christian people to face the true seriousness of the situation in which we stand.

But there is a third choice that we may make when we receive the threatening letter against the gospel of Christ. We may take the letter and read it from beginning to end, not closing our eyes to the threatening that it contains, and then lay the letter, with all its threatenings, open in the presence of Almighty God.

It is to that third choice that the League of Evangelical Students, by its Constitution, is irrevocably committed. The Prologue to the Constitution reads as follows:

“Inasmuch as mutually exclusive conceptions of the nature of the Christian religion exist in the world today and particularly in theological seminaries and other institutions of higher learning: and since it is the duty of those who share and cherish the evangelical faith to witness to it and to strive for its defense and propagation; and in view of the value for this end of common counsel, united effort and Christian fellowship:

“We, the undersigned representatives of Students’ Associations in Theological Seminaries and Schools for the Training of Christian Workers, do hereby form a league organized upon the following principles….”

There we have a clear facing of the situation as it actually is and a brave willingness, despite that situation, to stand for the defense and propagation of the gospel of Christ.

Certain objections are sometimes raised against this method of dealing with the letter of threatening that has come to us today from a hostile world.

In the first place, we are sometimes told, it will discourage the faith of timorous souls if we tell them thus plainly that the world of today is hostile to the gospel of Christ; it will offend Christ’s little ones, men say, if we bid them open their eyes to the real strength of unbelief in the modern world.

But our Lord, at least, never used this method of raising false hopes in those whom He called to be His disciples. He told those who would follow Him to count the cost before they took that step, not to be like a man who starts to build a tower before he has funds to complete it or like a man who puts his hand to the plow and then draws back. He never made it easy, in that sense, to be a disciple of Him (though in another and higher sense His yoke was easy and His burden light); and any faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which is based upon the vain hope that a man can be a disciple of Christ and still have the favor of the world is a faith that is based on shifting sand. No, it is a poor religion which makes a man willing only to walk in golden slippers in the sunshine; and such a religion is bound to fail in the time of need.

In the second place, however, men say that if we face the real condition of the times, we shall be guilty of stirring up controversy in the Church.

No doubt the fact may be admitted. If we face the real situation in the Church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles; for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord Himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.

I do not know all the things that will happen when the great revival sweeps over the Church, the great revival for which we long. Certainly I do not know when that revival will come; its coming stands in the Spirit’s power. But about one thing that will happen when that blessing comes I think we can be fairly sure. When a great and true revival comes in the Church, the present miserable, feeble talk about avoidance of controversy on the part of the servants of Jesus Christ will all be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is really on fire with his message never talks in that feeble and compromising way, but proclaims the gospel plainly and boldly in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ.

If we do adopt this method of dealing with the present situation in the Church and in the world, if we spread the threatening letter of the adversaries unreservedly before God, there are certain things that God tells us for our comfort. When Hezekiah adopted that method in his day, God sent him Isaiah the son of Amoz, greatest of the prophets, with a message of cheer. But He has His ways of speaking also to us.

In the first place, he tells us for our comfort that this is not the first time of discouragement in the history of the Church. Often the gospel has seemed to superficial observers to be forever forgotten, yet it has burst forth with new power and set the world aflame. Sometimes the darkest hour has just preceded the dawn. So it may be in our time.

In the second place, He tells us that even in this time of unbelief there are far more than seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to the gods of the hour. In these days of doubt and defection and hostility, there are those who love the gospel of Jesus Christ. And how sweet and precious is our fellowship with them in the presence of a hostile world!

It is to be God’s instrument in giving that comfort that the League of Evangelical Students exists. It is founded to say to students on many a campus who are tempted to think that they are standing alone in holding to the gospel of Christ: “No, brethren, you are not alone; we too hold humbly to the truth of God’s Word, and we hold to it not through a mere shallow emotionalism but because to hold to it is a thoroughly reasonable thing, of which a real student need not for one moment be ashamed.”

In the third place, God tells us not to be too much impressed by the unbelieving age in which we are living now. Do you think that this is a happy or a blessed age? Oh, no, my friends. Amid all the pomp and glitter and noise and tumult of the age, there are hungry hearts. The law of God has been forgotten, and stark slavery is stalking through the earth —the decay of free institutions in the State and a deeper slavery still in the depths of the soul. High poetry is silent; and machinery, it almost seems, rules all. God has taken the fire of genius from the world. But something far more than genius is being lost—the blessing of a humble and virtuous life. There was a time, twenty-five years ago, when we might have thought that Christian living could be maintained after Christian doctrine was given up. But if we ever made that mistake, we must abandon it today. Where is the sweetness of the Christian home; where is the unswerving integrity of men and women whose lives were founded upon the Word of God? Increasingly these things are being lost. Even men of the world are coming to see with increasing clearness that mankind is standing over an abyss.

I tell you, my friends, it is not altogether an argument against the gospel that this age has given it up; it is rather an argument for the gospel. If this be the condition of the world without Christ, then we may well turn back, while yet there is time, to that from which we have turned away.

That does not mean that we should despise the achievements of the age; it does not mean that we should adopt the “Touch not, taste not, handle not” attitude toward the good things or the wonders of God’s world which Paul condemned in his day; it does not mean that we should consecrate to God an impoverished man, narrowed in interests, narrowed in outlook upon the marvellous universe that God has made. What it does mean is that we should pray God to make these modern achievements not the instruments of human slavery, as increasingly they are threatening to become, but the instruments of that true liberty which consists in the service of God.

But the deepest comfort which God gives us is not found even in considerations such as these: it is not found in reflections upon God’s dealings during the past history of the Church; it is not found in our fellowship with those who love the gospel that we love; it is not found in observation of the defects of this unbelieving age. Valuable are all these considerations, and great is the assurance that they give to our souls. But there is one consideration that is more valuable, and one assurance that is greater still. It is found in the overwhelming glory of the gospel itself.

When we attend to that glory, all the pomp and glitter of an unbelieving age seems like the blackness of night. How wonderful is the divine revelation in God’s Word! How simple, yet how majestic its presentation of the being of God; how dark its picture of the guilt of man; how bright against that background its promise of divine grace! And at the centre of all in this incomparable Book there stands the figure of One in whose presence all wisdom seems to be but folly and all goodness seems to be but filthy rags. If we have His favor, little shall we care henceforth for the favor of the world, and little shall we fear the opposition of an unbelieving age.

That favor is ours, brethren, without merit, without boasting, if we trust in Him. And in that favor we find the real source of our courage in these difficult days. Our deepest comfort is found not in the signs of the times but in the great and precious promises of God.

Tags: , , , , ,

For today’s post, we’ve pulled our founding author out of a premature retirement, and are pleased to have his contribution, which concerns his elder brother, the Rev. John Andrew Myers, IV.

Can Anything Good Come out of Thunder Hawk?

myersJohnBible readers might remember the famous  question of the future apostle Nathaniel upon being  informed by his friend Philip, that Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth had been found.  Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45, 46)  We might as well ask the question of this post, “Can anything good come out of Thunder Hawk?” Named for a famous Indian chief of the Sioux tribe, the tiny South Dakota town was the site of the birth of John Andrew Myers IV in 1936. Why there, you ask?  Because that was one of the preaching points of the famous “Athboy Circuit” of mission stations of the Rev. David K. Myers.  And John was his first son born into his family. Later that year, Rev. Myers would move his family to Lemmon, South Dakota and begin the first Bible Presbyterian church in the nation.

John was a sickly child in his birth. In fact, he was not expected to live long after his birth.  His mother, Hannah Myers, was also expected to die from this difficult pregnancy. The husband and father would spend hours on his knees praying that in God’s will, both wife and son would be spared from death’s dark door. Added to his inner turmoil was the outward turmoil of circumstances around his ministerial ordination. All of this occurred around the difficult days which occasioned his forced departure from the Presbyterian Church USA over the issues associated with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, of which our readers of these posts should be familiar.  God was gracious in granting his request. His wife and first son were preserved in life.

In his early years, like the rest of the family, John traveled with his military chaplain father to Army installations around the world. In time, he attended Shelton College, located in Ringwood, New Jersey, graduating in 1958. In addition to his degree, he married a college coed from Shelton named Janice Corby, who greatly aided his future home life and ministry. And to prepare for the latter, he went to and graduated from Faith Theological Seminary in 1961. Ordained into the Bible Presbyterian church, he served two B.P. congregations in Ohio and Delaware.

John always had a tremendous sense of humor. While a pastor in Delaware, he invited this writer, who was then a Senior at Faith Seminary, down to his home in Delaware for the Easter break. Both brothers spent happy times catching up with one another until the late hours of Saturday evening. Just before midnight, John asked me what was my sermon theme for the Sunrise service the next day? I replied that I wasn’t preaching, that I supposed that he was the speaker.  Whereupon he pulled out the church page of the local newspaper where it announced in big bold letters that Calvary Bible Presbyterian Church would have as their speaker at the Sunrise Service, “David Myers, Senior at Faith Theological Seminary.”

Leaving the Bible Presbyterian denomination, John, Janice, and their family of four traveled to Tennessee to pastor two more Presbyterian Churches in that southern state. Eventually, through the Joining and Receiving process by the Presbyterian Church in America and the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, in which the latter body, John was a member minister, he became a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America in 1982.

Due to complications from diabetes, John suffered the loss of both his lower limbs in his latter days. Still his dedication to the spiritual needs of the Church would be evident as he, now equipped with prosthetic legs, with obvious difficulty walked to many a podium to pray for revival in the visible church and a spiritual awakening in our land. As Rev. Myers so faithfully attended the National Days of Prayer, (never missing a time), another participant once confessed that seeing his example, he knew he had no excuse not to attend.

Clearly something good, by God’s sovereign grace, did come out of Thunder Hawk, South Dakota.  God would call John Myers home to Himself on July 27, 2003.

Words to Live By:

It wasn’t God’s sovereign will to take John Myers home to heaven in his infant years, simply because God’s Spirit had important work for him to do in His service.  And he was faithful in that work of ministry in four congregations. Faithfulness to God’s Word is ever the key to a successful ministry. Let others look to numbers, offerings, and buildings.  Keep your eyes on God and serve Him faithfully. God will bring the increase He intends, in His time.

Tags: , , ,

For today’s post, we have the Rev. Caleb Cangelosi, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Cookeville, TN, as our guest author, writing on one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church.

It is a great honor to be elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of a Presbyterian denomination. Yet one man was given this honor twice. His name was William Swan Plumer, and though he has fallen out of general knowledge in our days, he was a titan of the nineteenth century Presbyterian church. Moses Drury Hoge, who served under Dr. Plumer for several years in Richmond, Virginia, had this to say about his mentor:

plumerws02Probably no man in our time was more widely known in these United States than Dr. Plumer. His reputation as a preacher secured for him great audiences wherever he went. Those who did not care for the ordinances of God’s house, and who rarely attended any place of worship, would flock to any church where it was known that he would officiate. He touched society at so many points and had so many ways of impressing himself on the public that his reputation extended far and wide. As an editor; as a contributor to the periodical press; writing for reviews, for magazines, for the publication boards of all denominations; as the author of commentaries on the Scriptures, and many religious books, some of which were republished in Europe, and others translated into German, French and Modern Greek; as a professor in two theological seminaries, which have sent forth hundreds of ministers, with his impress upon them, to labor in every part of the world; as a lecturer before literary institutions and benevolent associations; as a correspondent, writing innumerable letters, especially to those whom he knew to be afflicted and bereaved, letters full of sympathy and consolation; in all these and many other ways, he gained the eye, the ear and heart of the great public, by availing himself of every channel of communication and every avenue of usefulness.

Born on this day in 1802, Dr. Plumer passed into glory on October 22, 1880. Thus his life spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century, and his ministry traversed the high points of that century’s controversies. He was born in Greersburg, Pennsylvania, a small town northwest of Pittsburgh, to Presbyterian parents. His family eventually settled in Washington County, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River outside present day Marietta. His father was a river trader, and as he grew up he desired to obtain a liberal education and one day become a doctor.

Though he had grown up in a Presbyterian home, hearing the gospel from his earliest days, yet it was not until the age of 17 that the Lord saw fit to convert him, through the ministry of a Congregationalist minister serving in a Presbyterian Church under the 1801 Plan of Union. In Plumer’s own words, “I surrendered to God’s will & ways. I saw a beauty & fitness in the plan of salvation. I saw it was right that God should rule everywhere, in particular in me & over me. I at once desired to honor him in every possible way, &, in particular, if he would open the way, I desired to serve him in the ministry of the gospel. For my idol, medicine, I now cared nothing. I was not ashamed to let all the world know that I loved Christ.” His sense of call to the ministry accompanied his conversion, and he moved to Lewisburg, Virginia, to study at the classical school of Dr. John McElhenny. In 1822 he began attending Washington College, in Lexington, Virginia, and in 1825 he enrolled at Princeton Seminary. He completed his studies in September 1826, and was ordained as an evangelist in May 1827.

His ministry was primarily in the South. He planted several churches across Virginia and North Carolina, and after marrying in 1829 he became the Stated Supply of Briery Church in Prince Edward County, Virginia. In October 1830 he was, for the first time, installed as pastor of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1834, he moved to First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where he labored until 1846. It was during this pastorate that he cemented his reputation as a preacher, presbyter, and theologian. He was present as a commissioner at the 1837 General Assembly that saw the Plan of Union abrogated, and the Old School and New School split. In fact, though only 34 years old, he was one of the primary advocates for abrogation; William Henry Foote states that Plumer’s speech “changed the fate of the question,” swaying those on the fringe to vote against the Plan of Union. Upon returning home, and discovering that Amasa Converse and his Southern Religion Telegraph supported the New School, Plumer began the Watchman of the South, an Old School newspaper he edited until 1845. Due to Plumer’s sound theology and wide influence, the 1838 General Assembly elected him as Moderator at the young age of 35.

In 1847, Plumer was called to Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Here he began writing in earnest, and became what Moses Drury Hoge alluded to, one of the most prolific authors the Presbyterian Church in America has known. His writings were of a practical nature, yet they were filled with theological meat as well, as evidenced by his election in 1854 to the chair of Didactic and Pastoral Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His Christ-centered and experientially-oriented piety is clearly seen in his Inaugural Address to the Seminary:

In proportion as men are truly pious, they make [Christ] the foundation and top-stone, the sum and substance and centre of all their hopes and rejoicings. He is believed on in the world, not merely because there is no other way of salvation, but because this way is so admirably adapted to all the necessities of sinners, and because it brings glory to God in the highest. The true believer not only trusts in Christ; he glories in him. He not only makes mention of him; he admits none into comparison with him…We sadly err, when we begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh; when we regard Christ as the author but not the finisher of faith. A legal spirit is the bane of piety. It is as great a foe to comfort as it is to gospel grace. Through the law believers are dead to the law that they might live unto God. This is the gospel plan. Here is the secret of growing conformity to God. Here is power, here is wisdom, here is life. We are complete in him.

Though nineteenth century Presbyterians, especially in the South, are well known for their reflection on ecclesiology, Plumer’s writings demonstrate that there was a breadth and depth to their theologizing that we often fail to see in them.

Plumer’s time at Western Seminary came to an end in 1862, as members of the Central Presbyterian Church (which he had pastored since 1855) became upset that he would not during corporate worship ask “God’s blessing upon the Government of our country in its efforts to suppress rebellion,” nor would he “give thanks to God for the victories which God has granted our armies.” Some have interpreted his inaction as due to pacifism. It is more likely that he was motivated by a conviction that the question of the war was a political question with which God’s ministers had nothing to do as such, coupled perhaps with Southern sympathies. Further research would be needed to discover the truth, but in any event, he resigned both pulpit and seminary chair, and five years later the Southern Presbyterian Church elected him to fill Dr. Thornwell’s chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary. During those intervening years, Dr. Plumer continued to write. Some of his most familiar books, including treatises on the law of God, experimental piety, and a commentary on the Psalms, were produced during this time.

Till his final months he was actively involved in preaching, teaching, writing, pastoring God’s people, and participating in church courts. In 1871 he was elected for a second time as Moderator of the General Assembly, this time of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Commentaries on Romans and Hebrews, as his Helps and Hints in Pastoral Theology, came out during the last years of his life. Unfortunately, though, his time at Columbia ended on a low note, as he was embroiled in disputes with other seminary professors, and many became disillusioned with his pedagogical effectiveness. At the 1880 General Assembly he was, against his wishes, made Professor Emeritus. A few months later, following complications from kidney stone surgery, he died.

To our loss, no Life and Letters was ever written of Dr. Plumer, perhaps in part because he had only two daughters and no sons (though one of his grandsons was a minister in the Southern Presbyterian Church). Yet his life was full and useful, and his writings call for our perusal and digestion. Several of his last words close this brief survey of his life and work. Upon being asked, “Do you suffer much, Doctor?” he replied, “Not nearly as much as my Saviour did.” When a visitor exclaimed, “I am sorry to see you suffer so, Doctor!” he responded, “One who loves me better than you do put me here.” When the word submit was used, he said, “Perhaps acquiesce is a better word for the Christian to use. We may submit, because we are obligated to – but the Christian cheerfully, joyfully yields all to his Lord’s will.” These sayings show the heart of this servant of Christ, devoted in every way to our reigning King who suffered for our salvation.

Tags: , , , ,

It was on this day, July 25, 1989, that the Rev. James Erskine Moore, one of the founding fathers of the PCA, passed on to his eternal reward. Two accounts will serve here to paint a good portrait of “Mr. Moore”, as the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway always respectfully refers to him. The first, shorter account is one drawn from Vaughn’s memory. The second and longer account is from the Rev. Rollin Keller, a retired OPC pastor in California. His recollection of Mr. Moore was first posted on his own blog, at http://rolliesword.blogspot.com/2013/03/james-e-moore.html

HATHAWAY:
The pastor had a challenging opportunity in front of him. He had been invited to a debate, and most of the audience was all on the other side of the issue! The “debate” was held at Harding College & High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The greater majority of the audience was made up of kids from high school and their parents. For the most part, they were all members of the Church of Christ denomination. The greater majority of these were novices. Rev. Moore didn’t go there to “debate” the guy. Or to shut him up. He went there to preach the Word. He went there to win souls. By the end of Mr. Moore’s first speech, he had the audience eating out of his hand. They were listening to him and the audience wasn’t listening to the Church of Christ minister. And, the Church of Christ minister was totally frustrated. He even said something outright, to the effect that Mr. Moore wasn’t responding to any of his points. Had you been judging the “debate” on technical merit, you might say that the Church of Christ minister won. But, he didn’t win any of the hearts of the people. Mr. Moore wasn’t concerned with winning the debate. He was concerned really with only one thing that night and that was to sow the seed of the Word and let the Spirit bring in the increase. As a result, the Church of Christ community was shaken by that debate and that Mr. Moore’s words lingered in their community for quite some time, because the Church of Christ minister was foolish enough in his “victory” to have the debate published.

KELLER:
mooreJEThere are several turning points in everyone’s life.  Some you recognize right away, but most you appreciate more as time gives a better perspective.  One of those turning points in my life was found in the person of the Rev. James Erskine Moore.  He became my pastor shortly after I became a Christian, and he taught me the distinctives of the Reformed faith, right from the Bible.

In the providence of God I met this man at the funeral of my beloved uncle Walter Saumert.  I vividly remember Mr. Moore reciting from memory I Thessalonians 4:13-18 as though God was speaking to me directly. The episode was dramatically enhanced by the fact that, as a new Christian, I had not yet read much of the Bible.  The fact that this was the first time death had struck down someone I loved also increased the impact of the moment.  God was working.  Anyone who knew Jim Moore will also understand that he had a flair of unaffected drama in his preaching and recitations.

Again I must attribute to divine providence the fact that my father decided the family needed to move about that time, and our move put us in the same area as the Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church and its pastor, the Rev. James E. Moore.  My mother and I began to attend the church, and that is when I first joined the O. P. C.

It was at this church that I came—albeit kicking and screaming—to be convinced of predestination.  Here also I was to meet the spunky girl who