December 2013

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

Farewell to 2013. May God be Glorified in 2014.

Our thanks to all who have joined us along the way this past year, and special thanks to those of you who have been with us through all or most of this journey. Our intention is to present bits and pieces of Presbyterian history in short, daily segments, and always as a testimony to what the Lord has done through His people. To God be all glory.

Along the way, we have seen accounts of sacrificial actions which men and churches have taken which didn’t improve their lot any better on earth, but did give them God’s blessing in heaven. And we have seen the wrong decisions reached by men and churches which have led to disastrous results in the testimony of the faith. But through it all, God always reigns supreme. He overcomes our sin, and triumphs in spite of it. Our prayer is that we would learn from church history, to avoid the errors, and to strive for similar victories. That is one of the purposes of this year-long study.

Second, it was our aim that you have read through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in this chronological manner which was placed down as a guide for you in the right-hand sidebar. I believe it was Ruth Graham, a Presbyterian missionary daughter and the late wife of evangelist Billy Graham, who once suggested that Christians should use different colored pencils or pens in their reading of Scripture for each year. That way, they will be able to follow their thoughts and feelings year by year and profit from their reading the next time they go through the Word of God in a year. Try that as you read the Bible in the new year upon us.

We do hope that you will stay with us in the coming year. We plan to cover some new territory, even traveling overseas on many occasions. So come back tomorrow and see what you think.

Words to live by: Look to the Lord every day, trusting Him for all that you are and all that you have, in testimony to His saving grace. Stand fast in the truth that is the Word of God, the Bible, and maintain a pure testimony, seeking always to point others to our only Savior, Jesus Christ.

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In All that We Say and Do, Let Us Live to His Glory.

Last year, when we could not tie some Presbyterian event or person to a given date, we had recourse to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. On this day last year, the following was our post, and it seems pertinent this year as well. We pray that all that we have done with our posts has in fact been to the glory of God. May God’s kingdom be firmly established throughout the world. May each of us rest in His grace and prayerfully, obediently seek to be used for His glory.

Remember when this writer said that many Presbyterian people must  have been taking a sabbatical in December?  Well, on this day of December 30, we conclude our substitute study  on The Lord’s Prayer with the last phrase of this prayer. The last Shorter Catechism question [Q. 107] asks, “What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” And the answer given is “The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”

David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 prayed, “So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly, and David said, ‘Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and forever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your Hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we think You, and praise Your glorious name.’”

All these are arguments to enforce our petitions.  And please notice that they are all based on God, on His works of creation and redemption, on Him alone. You will find no man-made encouragements in this Old Testament text. The conclusion, whether if was truly there originally or not, is God-centered, and whether we use the specific words, or simply other words in our pleading with God, it is a right and noble conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer.

Words to live by:  Our pleading with God must never be based upon our merit, of which we don’t have any in the first place anyhow, but only on the mercy of God. He and He along must receive the praise, and truly His is the kingdom or dominion. His is the power and authority. His is the glory and majesty. May all our prayers, even our most mundane requests, have the glory of God as their greater goal. Amen, and amen.

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Cunningly Devised Fables

By Rev. Lardner W. Moore
[THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.24 (15 April 1950): 8-9.]

(Sermon preached by Rev. L. W. Moore, retiring chairman, at the opening of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Mission in January.)

II Peter 1:16, 19:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables (myths) when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well to take heed.”

Attention is called to the words “cunningly devised fables.” The King James and the American Standard Versions translate the word “fables.” The Revised Standard Version translates it “myth”, which is no doubt closer to the original. Fables have to do with stories of animals which speak and talk like men, such as in Aesop’s Fables. But according to Webster a myth is “a story the origin of which is forgotten, ostensibly historical but usually such as to explain some practice, belief, institution, or natural phenomenon.” “A person or thing existing only in the imagination.” “Myths are especially associated with religious rites and beliefs.” A myth is a story “ostensibly historical” which explains a belief or institution associated with religion.

It is very interesting that both Peter and Paul, at the close of their ministries warn the believers against myths. Paul says in 1 Tim. 1:3 “Neither give heed to fables (myths) and endless genealogies” and again in 4:7 “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables (myths) and exercise thyself rather to godliness.” In 2 Tim. 4:4 “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables (myths).” And in Titus 1:13, 14 “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables (myths) and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

The contrast is brought out clearly in the two verses of our text. Peter and the apostles knew that the religions of their day not only were based on myths but that the great majority of the people knew nothing of any other form of religion. So he says, “Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my departure to call these things to remembrance.” “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables—but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The religions of his day were recognized as being cunningly devised but Peter claimed the authority of one who with his own eyes had beheld the glory of Jesus or as we find it in John, “we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” It will not be necessary to remind you that Paul bases his authority as an apostle on the fact that he had seen the Lord Jesus.

And yet Peter goes on to say in the 19th verse “and we have a more sure word of prophecy.” We need not go into the discussion as to whether Peter meant to speak of the written word of the Old Testament as on a par with or above the testimony of the apostles; it is sufficient that Peter says we have a surer word since they had seen the Christ and his works, they had been given the Holy Spirit and even the Old Testament prophesies bore the sign and seal of the word of God spoken through holy men who so recorded it. The contrast between the myths that formed the basis of the other religions of his day and the “surer word” which was the possession of the Christians of that day.

How the church has been cursed with myths in spite of the warning and assurance of these apostles! We can only refer to some of the myths which grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, many of them still cherished. The myths of the childhood of Jesus; how he and his friends made clay pigeons and when he commanded, they actually came to life and flew away. Or the myth of the Immaculate Conception; that is, that the Virgin Mary was born sinless. Or the myth that the Virgin Mary has special access to Jesus in Heaven and our prayers will be answered more readily if made through her. Or the assumption of pontifical authority by the Apostle Peter. All of these things are held as historical and much of the life of that church is built on the assumptions associated with them.

As for us here in Japan, we blushed with shame as we read of the ceremonies throughout the land and the world as the arm of Xavier was carried from city to city. We grieved to hear the Japanese Buddhists referring to those performances as being very similar to Buddhist practice. It would seem to insult the reason of man, to say nothing of the power of our Lord, and yet the whole mythical ritual was carried out by a world church.
But has Protestantism, or the Protestant Church, a better record? Since the name of Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Seminary, New York, has been in the religious news, Japanese ministers have asked me of his theological views. Being ashamed to say I had not read any of his books, I was compelled to buy his “The Nature and Destiny of Man.” In that book, he speaks not infrequently of “the myth of the fall” (of Adam). In other words here was a so-called leader of Protestantism who believes that some of the theories of Genesis are based on myth.

It has not been more than ten years ago that I sat in a church in New York and heard Dr. George Buttrick, also of Union Seminary, preach a sermon based on “that beautiful myth” of the raising to life of the man thrown on Elisha’s bones, found in 2 Kings 13. Now when I was in the Seminary in Richmond some thirty years ago, it was generally understood that Union New York had departed from the faith as to the authenticity of the Bible. This year I find Dr. Buttrick speaking at the Centennial of Austin College, and Dr. Coffin, of the same Seminary, invited to speak in Richmond. In other words, we find our own beloved church making common cause with men who believe that much of our Scripture and hence our religion originated in myth and legend.

Now if we are to follow the counsel of the apostles appointed by our Lord we must not “be given to Jewish myths” and Peter denies that the things he preached had anything to do with “cunningly devised myths.” If there are Jewish myths in the Old Testament they should be avoided and yet the leaders of Protestantism for the last half century have been more and more accepting, approving and proclaiming the mythological origin of much of our Bible or, what is worse, they tell us, as long as we follow Jesus, it makes no difference.

What of the effect of this teaching among the Japanese? Now it is readily admitted that the Shinto religion of the Japanese is based on myth. And there are among them stories which could not be published in the language of the people because of the actual filthiness of some of the deeds of the so-called gods. But they were “ostensibly historical” stories which were revered by hosts of people, old and young. What has modern Protestantism offered the Japanese in place of their own myths? We have witnessed the Christian Church trying to lead people to substitute “Jewish myths” for their own revered legends. It is easy to see how the mind of the modern Japanese refused to admit that “Jewish myths” were superior to Japanese myths. And yet we find modern Protestantism trying to do just that It is no wonder that there were and still are, many Japanese who felt that they could fit the moral precepts of the New Testament onto the mythological origins of Shinto. At this point, Protestantism has done, not only the cause of Christ, but the intellectual feelings of the Japanese people a deep injury; an injury which is more devastating than the atom bomb since the atom bomb had to do with physical death while belief in myths is equivalent to “turning away from the truth.”

But there is another myth which Protestantism is propagating to the injury of the cause of truth in Japan. It is that the defeat in war has wrought a miracle in the hearts of the Japanese people. Shinto is dead! The Japanese are turning to the church in crowds! If defeat in war can bring true repentance to the heart of the people, where is the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion? It is true that doors have been opened to the free course of the gospel but we also know that as far as the hearts of the people are concerned there is more knavery of every kind going on freely in Japan than was allowed under the regime of the Militarists. The doors have been opened both ways and it does no good to us nor to the work to preserve “cunningly devised myths.”

What can we as a Mission offer the Japanese? It is our glorious opportunity and duty to present the truth of God in contrast to myths, Jewish or otherwise. Luther and Calvin found the world of their day so burdened with myth and legend that it was impossible to tell what was Christian and what was not What did they do? They turned to “the surer word of prophecy” namely, the Old and New Testaments. They proclaimed the evil of myths on every hand as man made and as the work of the Devil. In contrast, they proclaimed God’s word from Genesis to Revelation as of God and true and for the edification of all, both Jew and Greek. If the Old Testament is myth, let us shun it as we would poison. If the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are myth, let us face the facts and tear these legends out of our Bibles and be fair with our fellow workers, be they American or Japanese. But the testimony in our hearts bears witness with the testimony in the Scriptures that they are the word of God. We are a Mission which has taken its stand on the word of God as defined in our Confession of Faith. If we hold fast we will be able to repair a part of the breach in the wall in defense of our faith and with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, we can go forth to breach the gates of Hell. No, not with “cunningly devised myths” but by “a more sure word of prophecy.”

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Lardner Wilson Moore was born on May 20, 1898, in Osaka, Japan. His father was the Rev. John Wallace Moore and his mother, Kate (Boude) Moore. His parents were among the very first Protestant missionaries to serve in Japan.

Lardener received his collegiate education at Austin College, in Texas, earning his BA there in 1918 and an MA in 1919. He then pursued his preparation for ministry at Union Theological Seminary, in Richmond, Virginia, where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1922.

Upon graduation from Seminary, Lardner then married Grace Eagleton, in Sherman, Texas on July 6, 1922. To this marriage, three children were born, including George Eagleton, John Wallace and Robert Wilson.

Moore was licensed and ordained on September 15, 1921 under the authority of Durant Presbytery (PCUS), being installed as a pastor of the PCUS church in Caddo, Oklahoma. Additionally, he served as Stated Supply for a smaller Presbyterian church in Caney, Oklahoma. These posts he held from 1922-1924. [Returning to the States from Japan in 1942, Rev. Moore was able to return to Caddo to conduct the funeral of a member of his former church]

But his heart was set on foreign service and in 1924 he began his career as a foreign missionary to Japan, remaining there until 1968.  A term of service in the US Army, from 1943 – 1947 had interrupted his work in Japan. In that military service, he was commissioned to oversee the translation work of a core group of Japanese Americans. At the conclusion of the War, he also served as a language arbiter during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

In the years following the War, he became president of Shikoku Christian College in Zentsuji, Japan, serving in that post from 1950 – 1957.

In 1968, Rev. Moore was honorably retired, and returning the United States, went on to serve as Stated Supply at a Presbyterian church in Antlers, Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1972. It was in 1973 that he was received by the PCA’s Texas Presbytery. Later, on October 31, 1981 he transferred his credentials into the OPC.

Rev. Moore died peacefully in his sleep on December 28, 1987, within a few months of his 90th birthday.

Words to Live By:
The Lord gifts all of us differently. To some, He gives a great facility with languages, thus equipping them to be particularly useful in the work of missions. If you know someone with such gifting, do all you can to help them along their way in serving the Lord. More than anything, pray for them, even now, long before they ever reach the mission field. Pray that the Lord will prepare them and that He will use them to advance His kingdom. Pray that they will stand strong in the Lord, firmly anchored in Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

Sunday: Come back tomorrow for a sermon by the Rev. Lardner W. Moore.

For Further Study:
For more insight into Major Lardner W. Moore’s work as language arbiter with the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, click here. [See under #8. Language Arbiter]

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A Son of Presbyterians and Patriots —

Charles HodgeSurprisingly, there is some dispute as to exactly on what date in December Charles Hodge was born.  Several sources, one of them a Presbyterian one, states that he was born on December 28, 1797. On the other hand, Dr. David Calhoun, author of the celebrated book on Princeton Seminary, states that he was born on December 27, 1797. That is the date we will use for this historical devotional.

There is no doubt that his ancestors were, as our title puts it, “Presbyterians and Patriots.” His grandfather, Andrew Hodge, had, like so many others, emigrated from Ireland in the decade of 1730′s, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the Great Awakening occurred all over the colonies, the Presbyterian church which he attended, resisted that spiritual work, so the grandfather withdrew from First Presbyterian and helped to organize Second Presbyterian Church in the same city. The new congregation called the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, who was the chief proponent of the New Side Presbyterians.

Charles’s father, Hugh Hodge, a graduate of the College of New Jersey, became a successful surgeon in the city.  He married Mary Blanchard of Boston in 1790, who was of French Huguenot stock. Thus, Calvinism was alive and well in his parents.  Unhappily, life expectancy was not high in those early years of our country, and with the incursion of yellow fever in the city, it was even lower. Three of their children succumbed to the disease, along with their father, after Charles was born in 1797. That left the mother with two infants with very little income to rear them.

Mary Hodge, however, made their upbringing her whole life work.  Taking boarders in her home for financial income, she continued to rear her two sons, including Charles, in the things of the Lord.  Primary among them was the learning of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Standards. Their pastor, now Ashbel Green, complemented this home training by teaching out of that historic catechism to the children of the church.

In 1812, after other training, the whole family moved to Princeton, New Jersey.  It would be a town which Charles Hodge would forever be identified with in his life and ministry.

Words to live by:  This writer cannot stress enough the valued practice of both home and church cooperating together in the memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It will produce a solid foundation for Christian faith and life in the heart of the young man or woman who learns it, and then applies it to all of life. This writer had that privilege, and has enabled me to stand the challenges of time with it. If your church does not have such a practice, ask the Elders in your church to institute it. It will make a tremendous difference in the life of your congregation, and in the lives of your church families.

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A  Church Planter One Year, A Country Politician the Next Year —

Born  on February 12, 1721, in Millington, Connecticut, Elihu Spencer studied at Yale College, graduating in 1746. Ordained two years later into the Presbyterian Church in America,  he was called to minister with David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards to the Iroquois Six Nation tribes of native Americans. After doing that for a number of year, he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey in 1750. He believed that wherever  he was needed, there he would go. And so when the French and Indian War broke out, he was appointed a chaplain to the troops in that conflict.  After that war, he would pastor five Presbyterian Churches in New Jersey for the next 15 years.

In 1764, he and the Rev. Alexander McWhorter was sent to North Carolina by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia to rally the scattered Presbyterians in that colony to begin congregations. They were successful in planting many Presbyterian churches in the colony.

On December 26, 1775, the provincial congress of North Carolina petitioned the Presbytery of New Brunswick in New Jersey to send the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer back down to North Carolina for the purpose of “uniting the people in the cause of independence.”  Evidently, some of the Presbyterians were loyalist or Tories, resisting the patriot cause. Who better to convince you that your path should be with the American independence movement than the one used by the Lord to organize your scattered groups of Scot-Irish believers!

Nine years later, on also December 27, 1784, Elihu Spencer would go to meet his Maker and Redeemer, with a life and ministry full of deeds for God and country.

Words to live by:  Today, Christian Presbyterians might be hesitant to stand so boldly in the political world, using their religious ministry as a basis for their actions. But the day of our American revolution was a challenging one. Certainly, there is nothing changed in the Proverb which states that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  We who are ministers of the gospel must seek to hold God’s Word before the people so that they can vote and act responsibly as Christian citizens.

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A Savior Has Come Among US. His Mercy Is for those who fear him.


Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

(Luke 1:26-56, ESV)

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A Presbyterian Physician Who Signed —

He has a number of “firsts” associated with signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. He was the only physician who signed that historic document. He was the only Presbyterian signer who was born in America. He was the first professor of Chemistry in America at the Philadelphia College. Who else can claim to have cured an epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia? He was considered the father of American Psychiatry.  He was a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society. Who was he? If you answered Benjamin Rush, pat yourself on the back.

Born December 24, 1745 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this fourth of seven children into an Episcopal home, he often went with his mother after the death of his father to Rev. Gilbert Tennent’s congregation in that eastern Pennsylvania city. Benjamin’s mother, under the latter’s influence, reared her son in Calvinistic principles. He memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism in his youth.

Early education was provided by Rev. Samuel Finney, later a president of  the College of New Jersey. Indeed, after training at West Nottingham Academy, Benjamin studies and graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760.

On January 2, 1776, Rush married Julia Stockton, the youngest daughter of Richard Stockton, a fellow signer of the Declaration. They were married by the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey and a fellow signer of the Declaration as well. On July 4, 1776, Benjamin Rush placed his signature on the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, he followed up that action by serving as a physician with the Continental Army, and in combat at  Trenton and Princeton.

Later in the 1780′s, the good doctor and patriot persuaded his fellow Presbyterians to establish Dickinson College, in Carlisle Pennsylvania.

We must acknowledge in this essay that while he received much training in both youth and adulthood, his convictions about Presbyterians were more passive than an active following. That would explain how he later on in life transferred his membership to the Episcopalian faith and even some branches of the Universalist church before finally coming back to the Presbyterian faith. Still in all of these moves, there was a love for the Bible, which he read daily, an esteem for Christ, to say nothing of Christian conduct. He would often mention the name of Jesus Christ in his writings, lectures, and letters.

He passed away in 1813 and was buried in Christ Church cemetery.

Words to live by:  There seems to be no doubt that Benjamin Rush was a consecrated Christian, albeit there were times when he disagreed with denominational figures. Still the training he received as a youth had a way of coming back into his life and making an impression there for true doctrine. This should encourage all Christian parents to both teach and live Christ, and Hims crucified, before their families. God is faithful, and will bring fruit, although it may be long in coming to our children.  See Proverbs 22:6.

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From Trash to Treasure.

Presbyterian pastors love to rumage through old books. Browsing through a used bookstore in Houston, Texas, in 1902, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney noticed a bound stack of papers set aside in a corner of the store. His curiosity piqued, he asked the store owner and found that the papers were going to be thrown out. Glad to be relieved of what he considered trash, the owner gave the pile of papers to Rev. Tenney, who then carried his prize home for closer inspection.

Back in his study, Rev. Tenney dusted off the papers and began to examine them closer. To his great surprise, he found these were class notes and other papers from around 1845 which had once belonged to Robert Lewis Dabney, from when Dabney was a student in Seminary. Dabney, as most know, went on to become one of the leading theologians of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. “Is this the way our Church treats her great men?,” Tenney asked himself.

This “chance” discovery became the inspiration that led Rev. Tenney to a lifelong obsession to preserve the history of his denomination. His 1902 discovery then led to his founding the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Synod of Texas, which later came to be located in Texarkana. Working without other support, Tenney spent the next twenty-five years gathering an impressive collection of records and memorabilia.

Then in 1926, when the 66th General Assembly of the PCUS met in Pensacola, Florida, that Assembly voted to establish a denominational archives, utilizing Rev. Tenney’s collection as the core of their new archives. The next year, the archives was given its official name, operating as the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Relocation of the archival collections from Texarkana to denominational property in Montreat, North Carolina followed shortly thereafter.

Rev. Tenney continued as director of the Historical Foundation until his death on December 23, 1939.

When the PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1983, the merged denomination now had two archives, the other being the Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia. Both institutions continued on, operated by the Presbyterian Church (USA), until early in 21st century, when the decision was made to close the Montreat location. So ended a great cultural institution. The major collections of the old Historical Foundation were relocated to Philadelphia, while arrangements were made to house the congregational history collections at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was founded in 1973, there were subsequent discussions about housing our denominational records and archival collections at Montreat, under a cooperative agreement. Thankfully that arrangement was never realized. Instead, in 1984, Dr. Morton Smith, then Stated Clerk of the PCA, stood before the Twelfth General Assembly and made his case for a PCA Archives. The Assembly approved his motion. This was at a point when the PCA still did not have central denominational offices for its agencies, and so Dr. Will Barker, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, offered free space for the Archives in the Seminary’s library. We’ve been there ever since, though we’re rapidly outgrowing our current facility.

Words to Live By:
There are a number of reasons why a denomination needs to maintain its own archive. But far and away, the most important is that these records stand as a testimony to what the Lord has done in our midst. I like to think of the Historical Center as a “Hall of Testimonies,”— witnesses to the reality of the Gospel and the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” — (Psalm 111:4a, KJV)

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” — (Psalm 145:4, KJV)

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I had hoped to post today a sermon by J. J. Janeway, but was unable to obtain a copy in time for posting. The full title of that sermon is The blessedness of the charitable : a sermon preached at the request of the Female Hospitable Society, of Philadelphia, in the Third Presbyterian Church, on Lord’s-day evening, December 22, 1811 (Philadelphia : printed for the Female Hospitable Society by James Maxwell, 1812). Perhaps we can get to that another time.

Lacking some other suitable sermon tied to today’s date, we will instead present a brilliant summary on “The Nature and Extent of Church Power,” by the Rev. Thomas E. Peck. This brief section is excerpted from his treatise on Ecclesiology (the study of the Church), and it afford an excellent cap to our previous look at James H. Thornwell and the Board Debates.

This will require some careful reading, but please give it your attention. I think you will find it worth the effort. Dr. Peck clarifies some essential principles in regards to the Church, not the least of which is the fact that the power of the Church is ministerial and declarative only; that the officers of the Church have no legislative power, for Christ alone is Lord of the conscience. These are foundational principles which must not be forgotten.

THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF CHURCH POWER.

1. The church may be considered either as to its essence or being, or as to its power and order, when it is organized. As to its essence or being, its constituent parts are its matter and form.

2. By the matter of the church is meant the persons of which the church consists, with their qualifications; by the form, the relation among these persons, as organized into one body.

3. The matter of the church has been fully considered in the preceding lectures, together with some of the other questions connected with the form ; and, first, as to church power—potestas.

4. The nature of church power must be considered before the consideration of the several modes in which it is exercised, because everything connected with these modes, offices, officers, courts, &c., is found in the grant of power to the church itself, and the institution of a polity and rule therein by Jesus Christ, her only Head and King.

5. This power comes from Christ alone. The government of the church is upon his shoulders, to order it (his kingdom), and to establish it with judgment and justice forever. All power is given to him, in heaven and earth, by the Father, and he is the head of the church, which is his body, and head over all things else for the sake of his body. (See Westminster Assembly’s Form of Government, Preface; and our Form of Government, Chap. II, Sec. 1, Art. 1; Isaiah ix. 6, 7; Matthew xxviii. 18-20; Eph. i. 20-23, compared with Eph. iv. 8-11, and Psalm lxviii. 18.)

6. This power, therefore, in the church is only “ministerial and declarative,” that is, the power of a minister or a servant to declare and execute the law of the Master, Christ, as revealed in his word, the statute-book of his kingdom, the Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments. No officer or court of the church has any legislative power. “Christ alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrine and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to the word, or beside it, in matters of faith and worship.” (Confession of Faith, Chap. XX. Sec. 2.) Slavery to Christ alone is the true and only freedom of the human soul.

7. This statement is opposed to the theories of, 1st, Papists ; 2nd, Erastians ; 3rd, Latitudinarians.

8. The papists, by their claim of infallibility for the church as the interpreter of the Scriptures, as well as by the claim to make scripture (apocrypha and tradition), make the power of the church magisterial instead of ministerial and legislative instead of declarative. Hence the brutal disregard, in that church, of the liberty of Christ’s people. Antichrist has usurped the prophetic and regal as well as the priestly offices of the church’s head. Hence the name Antichrist, in the place of, and therefore against, Christ.

9. The Erastians deliver the church into the hands of the civil magistrate, some of them admitting one of the keys to belong to the church (the key of doctrine) ; others, more consistently, denying to the church the power of both keys, and so destroying the autonomy of the church altogether. This is to be considered more fully hereafter. (Confession of Faith, Chap. XXIII.)

10. The Latitudinarians (I use the word for want of a better) hold a discretionary power in the church, limited only by the prohibitions of the word ; whatever is not prohibited, or contradicted by what is commanded, is lawful, is a matter of Christian liberty, and the church has power to order or not according to her views of expediency. This theory is held, or rather practically carried out, in various degrees. Some, as Archbishop Whately (Kingdom of Christ), contend that ecclesiastical power is ordained of God in the sense in which the civil is ordained. (Rom. xiii. 1, 2.) The “powers that be” are said to be “ordained of God,” because God has so constituted man that he cannot live except in society, and society cannot be maintained except by an organization, more or less complete, and a government of some sort. Now, men of different races and different histories require different forms of government. The government must be organic product, the outgrowth, the fruit of the people’s history ; and as, consequently, it is mere political quackery to prescribe the same civil constitution for all nations alike ; so, in the society of the church, there must be a government, and the government must be determined by the character and circumstances of the people ; and as no form of ecclesiastical polity is forbidden in the New Testament, the church is free to adopt any that suits her.

Others (see Hodge’s Church Polity, pages 121 ff.), afraid to go so far, contend that general principles are laid down in Scripture, but details are left to the discretion and wisdom of the church. This is obviously a very unsatisfactory rule. What are “general principles”? General principles may be either “regulative” or “constitutive.” Regulative principles define only ends to be aimed at, or conditions to be observed ; constitutive determine the concrete form in which those ends are to be realized. Regulative express the spirit, constitutive, the form of a government. It is a regulative principle, for example, that all governments should be administered for the good of the governed ; it is a constitutive principle that the government should be lodged in the hands of such and such officers, and dispensed by such and such courts. Regulative principles define nothing as to the mode of their own exemplification ; constitutive principles determine the elements of an actual polity. (Thornwell’s Works, IV., page 252.)

Now, if Dr. Hodge’s general principles are regulative only, then he is as much of a latitudinarian as Whately. If they are constitutive, he is as much a “strict-constructionist” as Dr. Thornwell. He uses an illustration which in one part would seem to indicate that his general principles are constitutive; but in the other, regulative. “There are fixed laws,” he says, “assigned by God, according to which all healthful development and action of the external church are determined. But, as within the limits of the laws which control the development of the human body there is endless diversity among different races, adapting them to different climes and modes of living, so also in the church. It is not tied down to one particular mode of organization and action at all times, and under all circumstances.” Now, the two parts of his illustration do not hold together. The organization of the human body is the same in all races, climes and ages. Differences of complexion, stature, conformation, et cetera, there doubtless are ; but the organization is the same. And this is the kind of unity and uniformity we claim for the church as a divine institute. Hodge elsewhere seems to acknowledge something like constitutive principles revealed in Scripture. He makes the three distinctive features of Presbyterianism to be : 1st, The parity of the ministry ; 2nd, The right of the people to take part in the government ; 3rd, The unity of the church. I do not acknowledge these to be distinctive principles of Presbyterianism ; but they look something like constitutive principles. We shall see hereafter that the second of these principles is no principle of Presbyterianism at all, much less a distinctive one.

In regard to this latitudinarian theory, I observe :

1st. That it differs little in effect from the Papal and Erastian. It makes man, and not God, to determine the whole matter.

2nd. It is contrary to the Protestant doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice. See Confession of Faith, Ch. I, Sec. 6; “the whole counsel of God,” &c. It implies that in regard to a large sphere of human duty, and that too, concerning so high a matter as the government of the kingdom of Christ, men are left to walk in the light of their own eyes.

3rd. It is contrary to the liberty of the people of God. Dr. Hodge and others speak of strict Presbyterians as if they were bringing the church under the yoke of bondage by insisting upon a “Thus saith the Lord” for everything. We answer, that the liberty of the believer does not consist in doing what he pleases, but in being the slave of Christ. “Be ye not the slaves of men” is the apostle’s command. And the assumption of this wide discretion by the church has been the great cause of the tyranny which has been exercised by church rulers over the poor sheep of Christ. Liberty, in the mouths of those who have the power in their hands, means doing what they please, serving their own lust of dominion, and lording it over the weak and defenceless. Witness the Pharisees, Papists, Anglicans, and the free democracies. Liberty is a mere word to juggle with, except in the sphere of the Spirit and in union with Christ. Where the largest discretionary power has been claimed and exercised in the nominal church of God, there have the people groaned under the hardest bondage; for it is the discretionary power of the rulers to impose burdens upon the people. First prelacy, then popery, with the aid of the “Catholic doctrine,” grew out of the notion that the constitution of the church in the apostolic age did not suit the church in its more advanced stage, and that a form corresponding with the organization of the empire would suit the people better, and not being condemned by the Word, it might be lawfully established. Hence, as there were prefects, ex-archs, et cet., in the civil, so there ought to be patriarchs, metropolitans, etc., in the ecclesiastical organization. And as the civil pyramid was capped with an emperor, so the ecclesiastical with a pope. But what became of the liberties of the people? So also in England—contest between Puritans and Anglicans. The liberty of the monarch, or the parliament, or the church, to convert the adiaphora into laws, was only the liberty to destroy the liberty of those whom God hath made free. The “judicious Hooker” laid the egg which was hatched by the imperious Laud. Another instance, sadder than all to us, is the history of the Old School Presbyterian Church of the North, which set up its deliverances on “doctrine, loyalty, and freedom,” as terms of communion in the church. The word of God, and that word only, is the safe-guard of freedom.

4th. It is founded upon a false analogy between a natural, social and civil, or political development, and a supernatural, social, and ecclesiastical development. In the sphere of man’s natural life, it is undoubtedly true, as has been already suggested, that the form of civil polity must be determined by the character, circumstances, or, in a word, by the history of a people; must be the fruit of the past, and not an arbitrary theory or utopian constitution, founded upon abstract notions of what is best. And, consequently, since the life of every people is its own, and different from that of every other people, the government must be different. A striking proof of this is to be found in the present condition of this country, where two sections of a country have had such different developments that one must be held, by main force, as a conquered province, because it adhered to the constitution of the country, and the other has forsaken and subverted the constitution. But the case is very different with the church, for the simple reason that her life is not natural, but supernatural ; she does not grow into a free commonwealth, but is free-born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. She is composed of all kindreds and tongues, and peoples and nations. All the members, whether subjects of a monarchy, or citizens of a republic, are spiritually and ecclesiastically free : “For where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Hence, in the early church, the subjects of a Nero or Caligula, or Domitian were at the same time, members of a free commonwealth. In the state the soul makes for itself a body, an external organism, through which it may act; in the church the soul, as in the old creation, has a body made for it by God, its creator. The polity of the church, therefore, like the body of man, ought to be everywhere the same organism essentially. It confirms this view, that the church changed its external organization only after she had become corrupt and had lost her internal and spiritual freedom. After she had become worldly in spirit, she became subject to like changes with the world, and this liability to change became the more marked when she became identified with the world through her union with the state under Constantine and his successors. In the middle ages the nominal church had become almost natural and earthly in her life, and, of course, lost her freedom altogether. For a great portion of her history her true life has been maintained in small bodies of witnesses, whom she disowned and persecuted. And so in the Northern States of this country, she identified herself with the civil power and exhibited more of the spirit of the harlot upon the scarlet-colored beast, than of the spirit of the spouse of Christ.

5th. It is contrary to the plain teachings of God’s word and of our constitution, in regard to the nature of church power. According to those standards, all church power is “ministerial and declarative.” The officers of the church are, collectively, a ministry, and each officer is a minister or servant. Christ himself condescended to be a minister, and in that memorable rebuke which he administered to the ambition of his disciples, he informs them that the power which they are to exercise in the church is unlike that of civil rulers, even of those civil rulers whose administration has entitled them to the denomination of “benefactors”; for it is a power of service, of obedience to him for the sake of his church, and not a power of lordship or dominion. The only honor in the church is the honor of hard work for the church. The power of a preacher is the power of a minister or servant to declare his Master’s will, both in reference to the credenda and agenda in preaching. The power of a ruling elder is the power to do the like in ruling, and especially to apply that will in the actual exercise of discipline. A presbytery, whether congregational, provincial or general, is a body of servants or ministers to declare the law and find the facts and render a verdict, such as is authorized by the word of Christ, who has established the court, created the judges, and defined their functions. A deacon, as his very name signifies, is a servant to do his master’s will in regard to the collection, custody and distribution of the revenues of his kingdom.

6th. Lastly, it is contrary to the nature of the believer’s life, which is a life of faith and of obedience, implying a divine testimony and a divine command. If the church officers, then, have power to make institutions and create officers which God has not ordained, then the people have the right to refuse obedience, and there is a dead lock in the machinery. There is no power to enforce obedience, for all church power is moral and spiritual, and no man can be required to promise or render obedience except in the Lord.

11. All church power then is simply “ministerial or declarative.” The Bible is a positive charter—a definite constitution—and what is not granted is, for that reason, held to be forbidden. A constitution, from the nature of the case, can only prescribe what must be. If it should attempt explicitly, to forbid everything which human ingenuity, malice, or audacity, might invent, the world could scarcely contain the things that should be written. The whole function of the church, therefore, is confined to interpretation and obedience of the word. All additions to the word, if not explicitly prohibited, are at least prohibited implicitly in the general command that nothing be added.

12. The ministerial and declarative power of the church has been distributed in the books into several classes. For instance, in the Second Book of Discipline of the Kirk of Scotland, Andrew Melville says: “The whole policy of the Kirk consisteth in three things, viz.: in doctrine, discipline and distribution,” where the alliteration is used for a mnemonic purpose. “Discipline” is used in the wise sense of government and “distribution” for everything pertaining to the office of deacon. Others (see Turretin, L. 18, Q. 29, ¶ 5), divide church power into dogmatic and judicial, or disciplinary, corresponding with the symbol of the “keys”—the key of knowledge and the key of discipline or government; or where the figure is that of a pastor or shepherd instead of a steward—the staff “Beauty,” and the staff “Bands.” Zech. xi. 7. There is a distribution of this power better still (see Turretin ut supra) into dogmatic, diatactic and diacritic. The first relating to doctrine, the second to polity and administration, the third to the judicial exercise of discipline. Another distribution of the potestas ecclesiastica is into potestas ordinis and potestas regiminis or jurisdictionis. (Note the sense in which these terms are used by papal writers, p. 49 supra. See Second Book of Discipline, chapter I.; also Gillespie’s Assertion of the Government of the Kirk of Scotland, in Presbyterian Armory, Vol. I, p. 12; of Gillespie’s Treatise, Chap. II.) This distinction signalizes the mode in which power is exercised, whether by church officers severally, or church officers jointly; the potestas ordinis being a several power; the potestas regiminis, a joint power. Teaching may be either. The preacher exercises the power of order when he preaches the gospel; a church court exercises the power of government when it composes or issues a creed, or when it testifies for the doctrine or precepts of Christ, and against errors and immoralities. It is teaching, and that jointly, the word of Christ, either in regard to what we are to believe concerning God or what God requires of us. The dogmatic power, therefore, may be either jointly or severally exercised. The didactic and the diacritic must be exercised jointly, and, therefore, belong to the potestas regiminis or jurisdictionis. The Westminster standards are composed and arranged according to this division. The Confession of Faith and the Catechisms belong to the potestas dogmatica ; the Form of Government, the Directory for Worship, and the Rules of Order mainly to the potestas diatactica; the Canons of Discipline mainly to the potestas diacritica.

13. Proof that this power belongs to the church. 1st. From the gift of the keys. Matthew xvi. 19, 20; xviii. 19; John xx. 22, 23. 2d. From the nature of society. This power constitutes the bands and joints by which it is at once able to live and to act. 3d. From the existence of offices in the church; but office implies power. 4th. From the titles given to these offices in 1 Tim. v. 17, I Thess. v. 12, Heb. xiii. 17, Acts xx. 28, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2; Titus i. 7; 1 Cor. xii. 28. 5th, From passages of Scripture in which the exercise of this power is mentioned, such as 2 Cor. x. 8, also as 1 Cor. ix. 4, 5, 6; 2 Cor. xiii. 10, where “power” corresponds with potestas. Also 1 Cor. v. 3, 4, 5. 6th, From the fact that a distinction was made, even in the Old Testament, between the civil and the ecclesiastical power; but of this more hereafter.

14. As to the diatactic [teaching] power of the church something must be said more particularly, for it is here that the greatest controversies have arisen. How far does this arranging, ordering power of the church extend?

According to the view we have taken of church power, as “ministerial and declarative,” this question amounts to the same as the question, “How far, and in what sense, has the church discretionary power over details of order, worship, etc.?” We have seen that there is no legislative power in the church, properly so called, but only a judicial and administrative power. The law is in the Bible and nowhere else, and Christ is the only lawgiver. But all the details of the application of the law are not given, and could not have been given without swelling the book to dimensions utterly incompatible with its ready use as a rule. Voluminous as human law is, it cannot enter into minutiae, e.g., Congress by law establishes the Department of War, or of State, in the executive administration of the government; but it leaves the making of “regulations” in circumstantial matters, or matters of detail, to the head of the department or of a particular bureau; and this officer, therefore, does not exercise legislative power in making such “regulations,” but a diatactic power, the power of arranging and ordering under the law. So in the church, the doctrine of the church and its government and worship are laid down in Scripture, and the declaration of this doctrine belongs to the potestas dogmatica. But there are “circumstances in the worship of God and the government of the church common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.” See Confession of Faith, Chap. I. Sec. 6, and 1 Cor. xi. 13, 14; xiv. 26-40. The acts of church courts in reference to these “circumstances,” are executive, or administrative, or diatactic “regulations,” “Circumstances,” in the sense of our Confession, are those concomitants of an action, without which it can either not be done at all, or cannot be done with decency and decorum. Public worship, for example, requires public assemblies, and in public asssemblies people must agree upon a time and a place for the meeting, and must appear in some costume and assume some posture. Whether they shall shock common sentiment in their attire, or conform to common practice; whether they shall stand, or sit, or lie, or whether each shall be at liberty to determine his own attitude—these are circumstances. They are necessary concomitants of the actions, and the church is at liberty to regulate them. Parliamentary assemblies cannot transact their business with decorum, efficiency and dispatch without moderators, rules of order, committees, etc.; and the parliamentary assembly, and, therefore, the church, may appoint moderators, committees, etc. All the details in reference to the distribution of courts, the definition of a quorum, the times of their meeting, the manner in which they shall be opened, details which occupy so large a space in our Book of Order, are “circumstances” which the church, in the exercise of her diatactic power, has a perfect right to arrange. We must carefully distinguish between those circumstances which attend “human actions” as such, i.e., without which the actions could not be, and those circumstances which, though not essential, are added as appendages. These last do not fall within the jurisdiction of the church.

She has no right to appoint them. They are circumstances in the sense that they do not belong to the substance of the act. They are not circumstances in the sense that they so surround it (circumstant) that they cannot be separated from it. (See Turretin, L. 18, Q. 31, specially ¶ 3, p. 242-243, of Vol. III. Carter’s ed., 1847.)

A liturgy is a circumstance of this kind, as also bowing at the name of Jesus, the sign of the cross in baptism, instrumental music and clerical robes, et cet. (See Owen’s Discourse on Liturgies and Thornwell’s Works, IV. p. 247.) With this view agrees Calvin. (See Institutes, Book. 4, ch. 10, pp. 28-31.) The notion of Calvin and our Confession is briefly this : In public worship, indeed in all commanded external actions, there are two elements, a fixed and a variable. The fixed element, involving the essence or the thing, is beyond the discretion of the church. The variable, involving only the “circumstances” of the action, its separable accidents, may be changed, modified or altered, according to the exigencies of the case. The rules of social intercourse and of grave assemblies in different countries vary. The church accommodates her arrangements so as not to revolt the public sense of propriety. Where people recline at the meals she would administer the Lord’s supper to communicants in a reclining attitude; where they sit she would change the mode. (Thornwell’s Works, IV. pp. 246-7. See also Cunningham’s Reformers and Theologians of the Reformation, p.. 31, “Of the views,” &c., to the bottom of p. 32. Also his essay on Church Power, ch. 9, of his Church Principles, p. 235 and ff. Also Gillespie’s Dispute against the English Popish Ceremonies, pt. 3, ch. 7, in Presbyterian Armory, Vol. I.

Laws bind the conscience per se or simpliciter. Regulations bind it secundum quid, i.e., indirectly and mediately in case of scandal and contempt. In the first, we regard the authority of God alone; in the second, we regard the good of our neighbors. In the first, the auctoritas mandantis; in the second, the mandati causa (the avoiding of offence.) See Turretin, L. 18, Q. 31, Vol. III., p. 255, Carter’s edition.

[Excerpted from Notes on Ecclesiology, by Thomas E. Peck (1892), pp. 106-119.]

[Note: Peck makes large use of George Gillespie’s work, Dispute against the English Popish Ceremonies, which has just been reprinted in a somewhat modernized form, here.]

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