April 2014

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WarfieldBB_1903It was on this day, April 20th, in 1880 that the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, at the age of twenty-nine, was inaugurated as Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Literature at the Western Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We take as the text of our post today the introductory part of Warfield’s inaugural lecture. A link follows at the close of this section for those who would like to read the whole of the lecture.

First, Barry Waugh provides us with a fitting introduction, setting the stage for our post today:

“In September of 1878, Benjamin began his career as a theological educator when he became an instructor in New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. Western Seminary had been formed by the merger of existing seminaries including Danville Seminary, which R. J. Breckinridge, Benjamin’s grandfather, had been involved in founding. The following year he was made professor of the same subject and he continued in that position until 1887. In his inaugural address for Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Literature, April 20, 1880, he set the theme for many of his writing efforts in the succeeding years by defending historic Christianity. The purpose of his lecture was to answer the question, “Is the Church Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the New Testament Endangered by the Assured Results of Modern Biblical Criticism.” Professor Warfield affirmed the inspiration, authority and reliability of God’s Word in opposition to the critics of his era. He quickly established his academic reputation for thoroughness and defense of the Bible. Many heard of his academic acumen and his scholarship was awarded by eastern academia when his alma mater, the College of New Jersey, awarded him an honorary D. D. in 1880.”

 

INAUGURAL ADDRESS

BY

PROF. BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD.

Fathers and Brothers:

It is without doubt a very wise provision by which, in institutions such as this, an inaugural address is made a part of the ceremony of induction into the professorship. Only by the adoption of some such method could it be possible for you as the guardians of this institution, responsible for the principles here inculcated, to give to each newly-called teacher an opportunity to publicly declare the sense in which he accepts your faith and signs your standards. Eminently desirable at all times, this seems particularly so now, when a certain looseness of belief (inevitable parent of looseness of practice) seems to have invaded portions of the Church of Christ,—not leaving even its ministry unaffected;—when there may be some reason to fear that “enlightened clerical gentlemen may sometimes fail to look upon subscription to creeds as our covenanting forefathers looked upon the act of putting their names to theological documents, and as mercantile gentlemen still look upon the endorsement of bills.”* [*Peter Bayne in The Puritan Revolution.] And how much more forcibly can all this be pled when he who appears before you at your call, is young, untried, and unknown. I wish, therefore, to declare that I sign these standards not as a necessary form which must be submitted to, but gladly and willingly as the expression of a personal and cherished conviction; and, further, that the system taught in these symbols is the system which will be drawn out of the Scriptures in the prosecution of the teaching to which you have called me,—not, indeed, because commencing with that system the Scriptures can be made to teach it, but because commencing with the Scriptures I cannot make them teach anything else.

This much of personal statement I have felt it due both to you and myself to make at the outset; but having done with it, I feel free to turn from all personal concerns.

In casting about for a subject on which I might address you, I have thought I could not do better than to take up one of our precious old doctrines, much attacked of late, and ask the simple question : What seems the result of the attack? The doctrine I have chosen, is that of “Verbal Inspiration.” But for obvious reasons I have been forced to narrow the discussion to a consideration of the inspiration of the New Testament only; and that solely as assaulted in the name of criticism. I wish to ask your attention, then, to a brief attempt to aupply an answer to the question :

IS THE CHURCH DOCTRINE OF THE PLENARY INSPIRAITON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ENDANGERED BY THE ASSURED RESULTS OF MODERN BIBLICAL CRITICISM?

At the very out-set, that our inquiry may not be a mere beating of the air, we must briefly, indeed, but clearly, state what we mean by the Church Doctrine. For, unhappily, there are almost as many theories of inspiration held by individuals as there are possible states imaginable between the slightest and the greatests influence God could exercise on man. It is with the traditional doctrine of the Reformed Churches, however, that we are concerned; and that we understand to be simply this :—Inspiration is that extraordinary supernatural influence (or, passively, the result of it,) exerted by the Holy Ghost on the writers of the Sacred Books, by which their words were rendered also the words of God, and, therefore, perfectly infallible. In this definition, it is to be noted: 1st, That this influence is a supernatural one—something different from the inspiration of the poet or man of genius. Luke’s accuracy is not left by it with only the safeguards which “the diligent and accurate Suetonius” had. 2d. That it is an extraordinary influence—something different from the ordinary action of the Spirit in the conversion and sanctifying guidance of believers. Paul had some more prevalent safeguard against false-teaching than Luther or even the saintly Rutherford. 3d. That it is such an influence as makes the words written under its guidance, the words of God; by which is meant to be affirmed an absolute infallibility (as alone fitted to divine words), admitting no degrees whatever—extending to the very word, and to all the words. So that every part of Holy Writ is thus held alike infallibly true in all its statements, of whatever kind.

Fencing around and explaining this definition, it is to be remarked further:

1st. That it purposely declares nothing as to the mode of inspiration. The Reformed Churches admit that this is inscrutable. They content themselves with defining carefully and holding fast the effects of the divine influence, leaving the mode of divine action by which it is brought about draped in mystery.

2d. It is purposely so framed as to distinguish it from revelation;—seeing that it has to do with the communication of truth not its acquirement.

3d. It is by no means to be imagined that it is meant to proclaim a mechanical theory of inspiration. The Reformed Churches have never held such a theory* [*See Dr. C. Hodge’s Systematic Theology, pFW `57, volume I]; though dishonest, careless, ignorant or over-eager controverters of its doctrine have often brought the charge. Even those special theologians in whose teeth such an accusation has been oftenest thrown (e.g., Gaussen) are explicit in teaching that the human element is never absent. The Reformed Churches hold, indeed, that every word of the Scriptures, without exception, is the word of God; but, alongside of that, they hold equally explicitly that every word is the word of man. And, therefore, though strong and uncompromising in resisting the attribution to the Scriptures of any failure in absolute truth and infallibility, they are before all others in seeking, and finding, and gazing on in loving rapture, the marks of the fervid impetuosity of a Paul—the tender saintliness of a John—the practical genius of a James, in the writings which through them the Holy Ghost has given for our guidance. Though strong and uncompromising in resisting all efforts to separate the human and divine, they distance all competitors in giving honor alike to both by proclaiming in one breath that all is divine and all is human. As Gaussen so well expresses it, “We all hold that every verse, without exception, is from men, and every verse, without exception, is from God;” “every word of the Bible is as really from man as it is from God.”

4th. Nor is this a mysterious doctrine—except, indeed, in the sense in which everything supernatural is mysterious. We are not dealing in puzzles, but in the plainest factcs of spiritual experience. How close, indeed, is the analogy here with all that we know of the Spirit’s action in other spheres! Just as the first act of loving faith by which the regenerated soul flows out of itself to its Saviour, is at once the consciously-chosen act of that soul and the direct work of the Holy Ghost; so, every word indited under the analogous influence of inspiration was at one and the same time the consciously self-chosen word of the writer and the divinely-inspired word of the Spirit. I cannot help thinking that it is through failure to note and assimilate this fact, that the doctrine of verbal inspiration is so summarily set aside and so unthinkingly inveighed against by divines otherwise cautious and reverent. Once grasp this idea, and how impossible is it to separate in any measure the human and divine. It is all human—every word, and all divine. The human characteristics are to be noted and exhibited; the divine perfection and infallibility, no less.

This, then, is what we understand by the church doctrine:—a doctrine which claims that by a special, supernatural, extraordinary influence of the Holy Ghost, the sacred writers have been guided in their writing in such a way, as while their humanity was not superseded, it was yet so dominated that their words became at the same time the words of God, and thus, in every case and all alike, absolutely infallible.

 

— We will close there before Professor Warfield begins to get into the heart of his discourse. If you would like to read the whole of his inaugural discourse, click here.

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A  Funeral in the White House

Phineas Dinsmore Gurley, D.D.The memorial service in the East Room of the White House began with the solemn reading of Holy Scripture by the Presbyterian clergyman. Dr. Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. obviously wished to set the tone of God’s place in this whole tragedy. What was that tragedy which prompted their gathering onApril 19, 1865? Nothing less than the assassination of the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Gurley was the pastor of the church where the President and his family attended while they lived in Washington, D.C. He became a close friend as well as a spiritual advisor. He had often been a counselor to the President in the dark days of the Civil War. Moreover, when the Lincoln’s son Willie died in 1862, it was Dr. Gurley who ministered to the family and he delivered the funeral sermon for their son. Now in 1865, he was again present at the death-bed, giving counsel to Mrs. Lincoln. And again he was asked by Mrs. Lincoln to give yet another funeral sermon, this time for her deceased husband.

Readers can “google” the entire sermon on-line. And I urge everyone who reads this devotional to read that sermon. You will find it a wealth of comfort for any kind of “dark providence” in your life.

Dr. Gurley, who was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and a committed member of  Old School Presbyterianism, says right at the beginning of the memorial service that “we recognize and adore the sovereignty of God.”  He quoted the old hymn’s words “Blind unbelief is prone to err and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter. And He will make it plain.”   To all his quotations of Scripture, like Psalm 97:2  “Clouds and darkness are round him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” and Job 11:7, 8 “Canst thou by searching find out God?  canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?  It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?” — to all of these high and holy theological points, Gurley answers that his intent at that memorial service should be to ”bow before His infinite mystery.” Indeed all the grieving citizens should respond to his words to “bow, weep, and worship.”

And then, Dr. Gurley spoke of the character of the president, and how often he told those of his family, his cabinet, and any other people he would meet, to have faith in God. That was the only response they should give in that hour of sadness. To Dr. Gurley, there was no doubt in the minister’s mind that Abraham Lincoln was a firm believer in the Lord Jesus and thus a Christian.

It would be doubtful today that even such a religious service complete with a Biblical message could take place today in the White House.  But it did back then, and it was a message which could only be characterized as the Reformed faith in the Sovereignty of God.

The Presbyterian minister traveled on the funeral train to Springfield, Illinois, and gave the final prayer at the service beside the grave site. He stayed at the church until his death of 1868. While he was in the pulpit, traditional Calvinism was the underpinning of the message of the church in the pulpit.

Words to Live By: God’s sovereignty is never a mere doctrinal truth for believers. It is also a tremendous comfort for Christians when unexplained things occur in our lives. If you haven’t done so already, commit to memory some texts like Romans 8:28 or Daniel 4:35 or Psalm 55:22, along with a host of others. Traditional Calvinism must always lead to a practical Calvinism, or it isn’t Calvinism at all.

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lovejoyThough reared in a Christian Presbyterian home in Albion, Maine, where the family emphasis was that of a religious obligation to help rid the world of sin in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, young Elijah  Lovejoy did not receive the Savior during those years. Instead, he grew up on the family farm of the Rev. Daniel and Elizabeth Lovejoy, assisting in the tent-making ministry. In 1823, he attended Waterville College, where he was a serious student who made strides in journalism, so much that he became a tutor for many in his class. Graduating at the top of his class in 1826, he moved west to St. Louis, Missouri to raise up a high school and teach many children of the wealthy and important families of that city. Still however, he did not know the Master.

His relationship with God was to change in 1832 when the Rev. David Nelson held a series of revival meetings at the First Presbyterian Church of that city.  From the sound preaching of the Word of God, God’s Spirit regenerated his soul. That same year, he began to study at Princeton Theological Seminary back in New Jersey. The following letter from the Illinois State Historical Library, in Springfield, Illinois, tells of his spiritual state to his parents:

“So I am here preparing to become a minister of the everlasting gospel!  When I review my past life, I am astonished and confounded, and hardly know which most to wonder at, my own stupidity and blundering and guilt or the long suffering and compassion  of God. That He should have blessed me with such opportunities of becoming acquainted with his holy word — should have given me parents who in the arms of their faith dedicated me to them according to his gracious covenant, and who early constantly and faithfully and with many tears warned and entreated me to embrace the salvation through Jesus Christ, and not-withstanding all this, when he saw me hardening my heart, resisting the prayers of my parents and friends, grieving his Holy Spirit, counting the blood of the covenant into which I had been baptized an unholy thing, that He should have still borne with me, should have suffered me to here, and last given me season to hope that I have by his grace been enabled to return to my Father’s house, all this seems a miracle of goodness such as God alone could perform and far too wonderful for me to comprehend. I can only bow down my head and adore.”

Graduating early from Princeton, it was on this day, April 18, 1833, that Elijah Lovejoy was licensed to preach the gospel by the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Leaving this city, he traveled back to St. Louis, where he began his ministry in Presbyterian churches of that western city.  Using journalism gifts, he became a powerhouse for the abolition of slavery, which eventually was to take his life by violent means in 1837.

Words to Live By:  When the good news of eternal life transforms a life by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, then a new creation has come into existence.  It manifests itself not only by godly words but also in godly actions. Have you reader. have that religious experience in your spiritual life?

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The Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., LL.D. (April 17, 1772 – Oct. 22, 1851)

AlexanderArchibaldThe Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander was born near Lexington, Va., on April 17, 1772. His classical and theological studies were pursued under the direction of the Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, afterward Washington College. He was licensed to preach the gospel at the early age of nineteen. After spending a year or more in missionary labor according to the rules of the Synod, he was ordained and installed pastor of Briery Church, November 7, 1794. In 1796 he was chosen President of Hampden-Sydney College at the age of twenty-four. On May 20, 1807, he was installed pastor of the Pine Street Church, Philadelphia. In the same year, being thirty-five, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and in his sermon made the suggestion of a Theological Seminary. In 1812 he was appointed Professor in the Theological Seminary just established at Princeton. Here he remained for the rest of his life.

Dr. Alexander was seized with his final illness in the summer of 1851. He died on October 22, 1851.

Dr. Alexander’s published writings are too numerous to recite here. We may only mention “History of the Colonization Society,” “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” “Thoughts on Religion,” “Counsels to the Aged,” “Practical Sermons.” He also published numerous tracts and was a frequent contributor to the Princeton Review.

Words to Live By: Our Lord calls us to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life, giving evidence of the reality of our saving faith in Christ. We are not saved by our faithfulness, nor by our works, but if our trust in Christ as Savior is real, there will be evidence of that reality in our lives. We will die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness.

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Called to an Uncompromising Stand

One reward that comes from researching and writing these posts is the discovery of details previously unknown to the writer. Plus, with having to find something attached to a given date, we are often prompted to address people or events that we might have otherwise overlooked. Today we have one such example.

The name of George S. Christian shows up a few times among the collections preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and I’ve often thought of trying to find out a bit more about him. We have no known photographs of him, and from the few writings and items of correspondence that we have, there is enough to spark some interest and make us wish we knew more about the man. George Spaulding Christian was born in Philadelphia, PA, on April 16, 1917. He completed his undergraduate education at both Lehigh University and the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1941. From there, he next attended the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1941-43, and completed his seminary education at Faith Theological Seminary, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1947. A gap in the biographical record may indicate a term of military service during the years 1943-1945. Further work was completed at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he earned the Th.M. degree in 1951.

Rev. Christian was ordained by the Presbytery of New Jersey (BPC) in June of 1948, but there is no record at hand as to where he might have served from 1948 until 1951, when he was called to serve as pastor of the Faith Presbyterian Church of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania. This was an unaffiliated church, one of many which seemed to hover in the Bible Presbyterian orbit, but which never formally became part of the Bible Presbyterian Church. George served this church from 1951 until 1957. Then on April 23 of 1957, he transferred his credentials into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, being received by their Presbytery of New Jersey.

Again, the available record has a gap from 1957 to 1959. Leaving pulpit ministry for a time, he worked as an instructor at the Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1959 to 1965. The time from 1966 to 1983 is also lost to our record, but in 1984 Rev. Christian returned to pulpit ministry with a call to serve as teaching minister at the Emmanual Presbyterian church (OPC) in Morristown, New Jersey. He remained at this point until 1991, at which time we presume he retired. George breathed his last and entered glory on February 26, 2008, at the age of 90.

To give a sample of Rev. Christian’s writing, here below is the first chapter from his work, Dispensationalism, Arminianism, Lutheranism and the Reformed Standards of the Bible Presbyterian Church, in which Rev. Christian wrestled with a problem facing the BPC at the time, whether to receive and ordain men who did not whole-heartedly agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

For context, the Table of Contents from this work is as follows:

Chapter I — The Bible Presbyterian Church Is Facing One of Her Greatest Crises

Chapter II — Hodge’s Statement On The Seriousness of The Ordination Vow: and His Statement On Zeal For Orthodoxy

Chapter III — There Have Been Three Historical Views as to The Terms of Subscription to The Westminster Confession

Chapter IV — Subscription “Ipsissima Verba” Has Never Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter V — Subscription to The “Substance of Doctrine” Has Never Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter VI — Subscription to The “System of Doctrine” Has Alone Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter VII — Arminianism Is Excluded

Chapter VIII — Lutheranism Is Excluded

Chapter IX — The Great Turning Point Between The Systems

Chapter X — Dispensationalism Is Excluded

Chapter XI — Is The Bible Presbyterian Church Going to Depart From Presbyterianism? If So A Change In Standards Is Nevertheless Better Than Dishonesty

Chapter XII — The Synod of The Bible Presbyterian Church Can Prove The Bible Presbyterian Church True to Her Standards.


Chapter I — The Bible Presbyterian Church Is Facing One of Her Greatest Crises:

Every Bible Presbyterian minister and elder at the time of his ordination was asked the following question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church?” It was a solemn occasion, one of life’s most sacred moments. Surely no Bible Presbyterian minister or elder would consider himself worthy of the name if he did not take this solemn public vow with all the seriousness of which his soul was capable.

Since it is such an important matter, an occasional reminder as to the meaning of the vow is highly in order. And it is especially in order at the present juncture of the history of our church.

At the meeting of the Philadelphia Presbytery this year, the chairman of the National Missions Committee of our church brought to the attention of Presbytery a letter received from a minister of another denomination. The letter, it seems, bean by the writer’s announcement that he was a Dispensationalist. The writer then asked if he would have liberty to preach his beliefs in the Bible Presbyterian Church should he join. In view of the fact that an increasing number of such requests are anticipated, the National Missions Chairman felt that the Bible Presbyterian Church should adopt a definite, standard policy on the matter. A committee to study the matter to prepare an overture to Synod was accordingly appointed.

What is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to do?

Is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to change her present standards to suit the beliefs of the clamoring outsiders or with all diplomacy, self-sacrifice, and love will she stick to her precious Presbyterian heritage and endeavor to bring the outsiders to her doctrinal position?

Will the Bible Presbyterian Church be as valiant and as uncompromising in clinging to her Scriptural doctrine position as she has clung in the past to her Scriptural ecclesiastical position? God has blessed our church in the past for clinging to Scriptural separation: will He not bless her in the future for clinging to Scriptural doctrine? She has suffered for the one:  will she be willing to suffer for the other? She has already confessed that her doctrinal position is the Scriptural position: she can not go back on her word. This decision she made at her founding after full deliberation and public profession. “The Westminster Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” has been her proud doctrinal statement all down through the years, just as separation from apostate denominations and all entangling alliances has been her proud position on separation all down through the years.

When a large Presbyterian denomination by changing the terms of subscription shamefully set aside her Confession some years ago that she might let down the bars to Modernism she deceived no one. That whole world knew. Everyone knew what her terms of subscription had been historically.

Our own historic terms of subscription have been the same every since 1729. We in the Bible Presbyterian Church, the true Presbyterian Church we claim, will likewise deceive no one if we should change our terms of subscription. There is no question as to Bible Presbyterian terms of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been the same for over two centuries. When a Bible Presbyterian elder or minister under oath and by solemn vow before God today says “I do” during his ordination service in answer to the question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” he is subscribing to just that. He is not subscribing to every word, nor is he subscribing to “the substance of the doctrine,” but he is subscribing to “the system of doctrine.”

What is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to do? Is she under the present pressure going to change her terms of subscription letting down the bars to let in the Dispensationalists, or is she going to stand fast in love?

“In love” we say, Yes! There are many ways of winning outsiders to our doctrinal as well as to our separated position. Why should we not have a fund, for instance, to assist earnest inquirers? Why could we not help them to look over our doctrines for a semester at our seminary? With a strong desire to come our way doctrinally, we may be sure that we would win most of them and bless their souls at the same time in getting them to see that the Augustinian plan of salvation actually & really is the plan of salvation of Scriptures. They would bless us throughout eternity for bringing them to this light.

This is the question of the year before the Bible Presbyterians.

From the writings of Charles Hodge, revered spiritual father of us all, let us see the significance of subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” Let us see reflected herein the answer which centuries of Presbyterian history gave to this question. Let us look into a matter settled long ago, a matter which admits of no question, of no doubt.

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Wise Words

howeIn his eulogy for Professor George Howe, the Rev. John L. Girardeau prefaced his comments with this fitting summary on the subject of Christian biography and eulogy:

“In doing honor to those who have attained to eminence, there is a tendency unduly to exalt the perfection of human nature, from the indulgence of which we are restrained by the principles of Christianity. It can never be forgotten by those who are imbued with its instructions and possessed of a consciousness illuminated by its light, that all men, even the greatest and best, are sinners; and that, whatever advancement in mere moral culture may be effected by the force of natural resolution, neither the beginning nor the development of holiness is possible without the application of the blood of atonement, and the operation of supernatural grace. To signalise, therefore, the virtues of a departed Christian is to celebrate the provisions of redemption, and to magnify the graces of the Holy Ghost.”

In other words, we write biographies of leading Christians and seek to preserve their papers—their writings and their correspondence—not to emulate them, but to praise the God who worked through them, that future generations of believers might profit from their walk with the Lord.

George Howe was born at Dedham, Massachusetts on November 6, 1802. His father was William Howe, whose lineage ran back to one of the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock. His mother was Mary (Gould) Howe, daughter of Major George and Rachel (Dwight) Gould.

When he was still quite young, George came across a copy of Cotton Mather’sMagnalia Christi Americana (The Glorious Works of Christ in America — vol. 1 of which can be read here.) among his father’s books. There he encountered Latin sentences peppered throughout the text, and so began his study of the Latin language. He pursued that study formally at Mr. Ford’s school in Dedham, and, as he later related, “said his hic, haec, hoc in his trundle-bed.”

At the age of twelve the family relocated to a town near Philadelphia. As a young teenager, he was able to attend First Presbyterian Church in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, where the Rev. Dr. James Patterson was pastor. It was Patterson’s habit to speak with every member of the family when he visited, and on one such occasion, he turned to George and asked George whether he had come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation. The question caused George a great deal of discomfort, but this brought him under conviction of his sin, and not long after he made a public profession of his faith there at First Presbyterian.

Graduating with first honors from Middlebury College, in Vermont, in 1822, George then entered Andover Theological Seminary, taking the full three year course of studies. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Abbott scholarship, which afforded him another year and half of study, after which he was appointed, at the age of twenty-seven, as Phillips Professor of Sacred Theology at Dartmouth College. This was during the presidency of the Rev. Dr. Bennett Tyler, who was closely tied with the troublesome New Haven Theology. At about the same time as Howe’s appointment, he was also ordained, on August 7, 1827.

For three years he served at this post, when his health was threatened with consumption (tuberculosis), and medical advice urged him to remove to the South. Rev. Howe soon sailed from Boston in a ship bound for Charleston, South Carolina, and he spent the month of December, 1830 in that city.

Providentially, it was about this same time that the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia met and took up a request from Dr. Thomas Goulding, asking for the appointment of a teacher of Greek and Hebrew. Dr. Goulding had only recently been appointed head of a new seminary in South Caroliina, and already the school needed another teacher. Rev. Howe’s reputation with the languages preceding him, he was elected to the post. Thus began Dr. Howe’s lengthy career of fifty-two years at the Columbia Theological Seminary. When the Seminary’s semi-centennial was observed at the end of 1881, Dr. Howe was there to celebrate the occasion, with many congratulations focused on his own central role in the establishment of the school. A year and a half later, he was gone, passed to his eternal reward, on April 15, 1883.

Dr. Howe did not write many books, but of the less than ten, several remain monumental works, to this day.  In particular, his two volume magnum opus on The History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina is still required reading for anyone interested in the subject of religion in the Southern states. Print copies are rare, but the text can be found on the Web here [vol. 1] and here [vol. 2].

Words to Live By:
As George Howe lay near death, he expressed his desire to receive visits (despite his doctor’s wishes) from the other faculty of Columbia Seminary. One colleague asked him, “My dear brother, do you trust in Jesus?,” to which Dr. Howe readily answered, “Yes; what would I do, did I not trust in Him?”

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An Ambassador for King Jesus

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Samuel Davies was born in Delaware in 1723. His Welsh mother had named him after the prophet Samuel. Ever afterwards, he considered himself to be a son of prayer, as the biblical name Samuel inferred. His early dedication to God induced him to devote himself to God personally.  Joining the church at age 15, he entered Samuel Blair’s classical and theological school at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, in Pennsylvania. He was ordained as a Presbyterian  evangelist in February 1747 by the New Castle Presbytery.

On April 14, 1747, Samuel Davies stood before Governor Gooch and his council at Williamsburg, to ask permission to preach at four meeting houses in Hanover Country in Virginia. Readers need to know that Virginia in the pre-revolutionary days was officially Anglican in religion. Anyone outside of that denomination needed permission to minister. Later this law would be changed with a separation between church and state. But at this time, permission had to be sought. Receiving it, Davies preached faithfully and sacrificially at these four preaching points, some twelve miles north of Richmond, Virginia.

Suddenly, he wife was taken from him by illness which resulted in death. It was said of him at the time that, despite his sorrow, he was determined to spend what little remained of his exhausted lifestyle to advance his Master’s glory to the good of countless souls in need of the gospel. This dedication brought people from a wide circumference to hear the preaching of the Word of God, including a mother and her young son Patrick Henry.

On November 1, 1748, he returned to the Governor to ask that seven more places of preaching be granted to him. While there was some opposition to the increased number, he presented his case with such clarity and forcefulness of argument, his request was granted.

For eleven more years, he preached the Word of God in the county of Hanover, as well as four other counties of Virginia. He was, as one put it, the ambassador of a mighty king.  All, upon hearing his weekly sermons, knew that king to be no one except King Jesus.

Words to Live By: All believers are to be ambassadors of King Jesus, declaring the message by their lives and lips, freely proclaiming the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, calling for all to be reconciled to God.

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O, That All Men Would Humble Themselves in the Presence of Our God.

A good Lord’s Day pastime, the following sermon by John Knox is one of the few committed to writing by him. His text is Isaiah 26:13-21. The historical setting of the sermon is explained in this preface:

knoxJohn04“Henry Darnley (king of Scotland by his marriage with queen Mary,) went sometimes to mass with the queen, and sometimes attended the protestant sermons. To silence the rumours then circulated of his having forsaken the reformed religion, he, on the 19th of August, 1565, attended service at St. Giles’s church, sitting on a throne which had been prepared for him. Knox preached that day on Isaiah xxvi.13, 14, and happened to prolong the service beyond the usual time. In one part of the sermon, he quoted these words of scripture, ‘I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them: children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.’ In another part he referred to God’s displeasure against Ahab, because he did not correct his idolatrous wife Jezebel. No particular application of these passages was made by Knox, but the king considered them as reflecting upon the queen and himself, and returned to the palace in great wrath. He refused to dine, and went out to hawking.

That same afternoon Knox was summoned from his bed to appear before the council. He went accompanied by several respectable inhabitants of the city. The secretary informed him of the king’s displeasure at his sermon, and desired that he would abstain from preaching for fifteen or twenty days. Knox answered, that he had spoken nothing but according to his text, and if the church would command him either to preach or abstain, he would obey so far as the word of God would permit him. The king and queen left Edinburgh during the week following, and it does not appear that Knox was actually suspended from preaching.”

The following are Knox’s reasons for the publication of this Sermon, extracted from his preface to the first edition.

“If any will ask, To what purpose this sermon is set forth? I answer, To let such as satan has not altogether blinded, see upon how small occasions great offence is now conceived. This sermon is it, for which, from my bed, I was called before the council; and after long reasoning, I was by some forbidden to preach in Edinburgh, so long as the king and queen were in town. This sermon is it, that so offends such as would please the court, and will not appear to be enemies to the truth; yet they dare affirm, that I exceeded the bounds of God’s messenger. I have therefore faithfully committed unto writing whatsoever I could remember might have been offensive in that sermon; to the end, that the enemies of God’s truth, as well as the professors of the same, may either note unto me wherein I have offended, or at the least cease to condemn me before they have convinced me by God’s manifest word.”

A SERMON ON ISAIAH XXVI.

Isaiah 26:13-16, etc. — O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish. Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord, thou hast increased the nation, thou art glorified; thou hast removed it far unto the ends of the earth. Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them, &c.

As the skilful mariner (being master,) having his ship tossed with a vehement tempest, and contrary winds, is compelled oft to traverse, lest that, either by too much resisting to the violence of the waves, his vessel might be overwhelmed; or by too much liberty granted, might be carried whither the fury of the tempest would, so that his ship should be driven upon the shore, and make shipwreck; even so doth our prophet Isaiah in this text, which now you have heard read. For he, foreseeing the great desolation that was decreed in the council of the Eternal, against Jerusalem and Judah, namely, that the whole people, that bare the name of God, should be dispersed; that the holy city should be destroyed; the temple wherein was the ark of the covenant, and where God had promised to give his own presence, should be burnt with fire; and the king taken, his sons in his own presence murdered, his own eyes immediately after be put out; the nobility, some cruelly murdered, some shamefully led away captives; and finally, the whole seed of Abraham rased, as it were, from the fate of the earth. The prophet, I say, fearing these horrible calamities, doth, as it were, sometimes suffer himself, and the people committed to his charge, to be carried away with the violence of the tempest, without further resistance than by pouring forth his and their dolorous complaints before the majesty of God, as in the 13th, 17th, and 18th verses of this present text we may read. At other times he valiantly resists the desperate tempest, and pronounces the fearful destruction of all such as trouble the church of God; which he pronounces that God will multiply, even when it appears utterly to be exterminated. But because there is no final rest to the whole body till the Head return to judgment, he exhorts the afflicted to patience, and promises a visitation whereby the wickedness of the wicked shall be disclosed, and finally recompensed in their own bosoms.

These are the chief points of which, by the grace of God, we intend more largely at this present to speak;

First, The prophet saith, “O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have ruled us.”

This, no doubt, is the beginning of the dolorous complaint, in which he complains of the unjust tyranny that the poor afflicted Israelites sustained during the time of their captivity. True it is, that the prophet was gathered to his fathers in peace, before this came upon the people: for a hundred years after his decease the people were not led away captive; yet he, foreseeing the assurance of the calamity, did before-hand indite and dictate unto them the complaint, which afterward they should make. But at the first sight it appears, that the complaint has but small weight; for what new thing was it, that other lords than God in his own person ruled them, seeing that such had been their government from the beginning? For who knows not, that Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, the judges, Samuel, David, and other godly rulers, were men, and not God; and so other lords than God ruled them in their greatest prosperity.

For the better understanding of this complaint, and of the mind of the prophet, we must, first, observe from whence all authority flows; and, secondly, to what end powers are appointed by God: which two points being discussed, we shall better understand, what lords and what authority rule beside God, and who they are in whom God and his merciful presence rules.

The first is resolved to us by the words of the apostle, saying, “There is no power but of God.” David brings in the eternal God speaking to judges and rulers, saying, “I have said, ye are gods, and sons of the Most High.” (Psal. lxxxii.) And Solomon, in the person of God, affirmeth the same, saying, “By me kings reign, and princes discern the things that are just.” From which place it is evident, that it is neither birth, influence of stars, election of people, force of arms, nor finally, whatsoever can be comprehended under the power of nature, that makes the distinction betwixt the superior power and the inferior, or that establishes the royal throne of kings; but it is the only and perfect ordinance of God, who willeth his terror, power, and majesty, partly to shine in the thrones of kings, and in the faces of judges, and that for the profit and comfort of man. So that whosoever would study to deface the order of government that God has established, and allowed by his holy word, and bring in such a confusion, that no difference should be betwixt the upper powers and the subjects, does nothing but avert and turn upside down the very throne of God, which he wills to be fixed here upon earth; as in the end and cause of this ordinance more plainly shall appear: which is the second point we have to observe, for the better understanding of the prophet’s words and mind.

The end and cause then, why God imprints in the weak and feeble flesh of man this image of his own power and majesty, is not to puff up flesh in opinion of itself; neither yet that the heart of him, that is exalted above others, should be lifted up by presumption and pride, and so despise others; but that he should consider he is appointed lieutenant to One, whose eyes continually watch upon him, to see and examine how he behaves himself in his office. St. Paul, in few words, declares the end wherefore the sword is committed to the powers, saying, “It is to the punishment of the wicked doers, and unto the praise of such as do well.” Rom. xiii.

Of which words it is evident, that the sword of God is not committed to the hand of man, to use as it pleases him, but only to punish vice and maintain virtue, that men may live in such society as is acceptable before God. And this is the true and only cause why God has appointed powers in this earth.

For such is the furious rage of man’s corrupt nature, that, unless severe punishment were appointed and put in execution upon malefactors, better it were that man should live among brutes and wild beasts than among men. But at this present I dare not enter into the description of this common-place; for so should I not satisfy the text, which by God’s grace I purpose to explain. This only by the way — I would that such as are placed in authority should consider, whether they reign and rule by God, so that God rules them; or if they rule without, besides, and against God, of whom our prophet hero complains.

If any desire to take trial of this point, it is not hard; for Moses, in the election of judges, and of a king, describes not only what persons shall be chosen to that honour, but also gives to him that is elected and chosen, the rule by which he shall try himself, whether God reign in him or not, saying, “When he shall sit upon the throne of his kingdom, he shall write to himself an exemplar of this law, in a book by the priests and Levites; it shall be with him, and he shall lead therein, all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and to keep all the words of his law, and these statutes, that he may do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left.” Deut. xvii.

The same is repeated to Joshua, in his inauguration to the government of the people, by God himself, saying, “Let not the book of this law depart from thy mouth, but meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest keep it, and do according to all that which is written in it. For then shall thy way be prosperous, and thou shall do prudently.” Josh. i.

The first thing then that God requires of him, who is called to the honour of a king, is, The knowledge of his will revealed in his word.

The second is, An upright and willing mind, to put in execution such things as God commands in his law, without declining to the right, or to the left hand.

Kings then have not an absolute power, to do in their government what pleases them, but their power is limited by God’s word; so that if they strike where God has not commanded, they are but murderers; and if they spare where God has commanded to strike, they and their throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth, for lack of punishment.

O that kings and princes would consider what account shall be craved of them, as well of their ignorance and misknowledge of God’s will, as for the neglecting of their office! But now, to return to the words of the prophet. In the person of the whole people he complains unto God, that the Babylonians (whom he calls, “other lords besides God,” both because of their ignorance of God, and by reason of their cruelty and inhumanity,) had long ruled over them in great rigour, without pity or compassion upon the ancient men, and famous matrons: for they, being mortal enemies to the people of God, sought by all means to aggravate their yoke, yea, utterly to exterminate the memory of them, and of their religion, from the face of the earth. Read the rest of this entry »

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While still new to the pastorate, and not yet thirty years old, it was on this day, April 12, 1797, that the the Rev. Samuel Miller delivered a discourse in New York City, before the Society for the Manumission of Slaves. [For those unfamiliar with the term, manumission is the act of freeing a slave.] Only an excerpt of this discourse, the fifth of Miller’s published works, is presented below, but a link has been provided in the title for those who would like to read the entire discourse. Would that Miller’s words had gripped early American society to conviction and action, to the eradication of evil! For one practical example of manumission in that same era, in which Reformed Presbyterians freed their slaves and at great personal cost, read chapter four of the Memoir of the Rev. Alexander McLeod.  

Words to Live By: Remember this!—Individuals and nations are alike in this, that sin is not easily rooted out. Once it takes hold, it can be a most difficult thing to remove it, and like old injuries, the scars that remain constantly remind us of our sin. Far better to stop sin at its first rising, before it takes root.

A Discourse, delivered April 12, 1797, at the Request of and Before
the New-York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves,
and Protecting such of them as have been or may be Liberated.

by Samuel Miller, A.M., one of the ministers of the United Presbyterian churches
in the city of New-York, and Member of said Society.
New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, No. 99 Pearl-street, 1797.

. . . That, in the close of the eighteenth century, it should be esteemed proper and necessary, in any civilized country, to institute discourses to oppose the slavery and commerce of the human species, is a wonderful [i.e., a thing to be wondered at] fact in the annals of society! But that this country should be America, is a solecism only to be accounted for by the general inconsistency of the human character. But, after all, the surprise that Patriotism can feel, and all the indignation that Morality can suggest on this subject, the humiliating tale must be told—that in this free country—in this country, the plains of which are still stained with blood shed in the cause of liberty,—in this country, from which has been proclaimed to distant lands, as the basis of all our political existence, the noble principle, that “ALL MEN ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL,”—in this country there are slaves!—men are bought and sold! Strange, indeed! that the bosom which glows at the name of liberty in general, and the arm which has been so vigorously exerted in vindication of human rights, should yet be found leagued on the side of oppression, and opposing their avowed principles!

Much, indeed, has been done by many benevolent individuals and societies, to abolish this disgraceful practice, and to improve the condition of those unhappy people, whom the ignorance or the avarice of our ancestors has bequeathed to us as slaves. Still, however, notwithstanding all the labours and eloquence which have been directed against it, the evil continues; still laws and practices exist, which loudly call for reform; still MORE THAN HALF A MILLION of our fellow creatures in the United States are deprived of that which, next to life, is the dearest birth-right of man.

To deliver the plain dictates of humanity, justice, religion, and good policy, on this subject, is the design of the present discourse. In doing this, it will not be expected that any thing new should be offered. It is not a new subject; and every point of view in which it can be considered has been long since rendered familiar by the ingenious and the humane. All that is left for me is, to bring to your remembrance principles which, however well known, cannot be too often repeated; and to exhibit some of the most obvious arguments against an evil which, though generally acknowledged, is still practically persisted in.

And here I shall pass over in silence the unnumbered cruelties, and the violations of every natural and social tie, which mark the African trade, and which attend the injured captives in dragging them from their native shores, and from all the attachments of life. I shall not call you to contemplate the miseries and hardships which follow them into servitude, and render their life a cup of unmingled bitterness. Unwilling to wound your feelings, or my own, by the melancholy recital, over these scenes I would willingly draw a veil; and confine myself to principles and views of the subject more immediately applicable to ourselves.

That enslaving, or continuing to hold in slavery, those who have forfeited their liberty by no crime, is contrary to the dictates both of justice and humanity, I trust few who hear me will be disposed to deny. However the judgment of some may be biassed by the supposed peculiarity of certain cases, I presume that with regard to the abstract principle, there can be but one opinion among enlightened and candid minds. What is the end of all social connection but the advancement of human happiness? And what can be a more plain and indisputable principle of republican government, than that all the right which society possesses over individuals, or one man over another, must be founded either upon contract, express or implied, or upon forfeiture by crime? But, are the Africans and their descendants enslaved upon either of these principles? Have they voluntarily surrendered their liberty to their whiter brethren? or have they forfeited their natural right to it by the violation of any law? Neither of these is pretended by the most zealous advocates for slavery. By what ties, then, are they held in servitude? By the ties of force and injustice only; by ties which are equally opposed to the reason of things, and to the fundamental principles of all legitimate association.

In the present age and country, none, I presume, will rest a defence of slavery on the ground of superior force; the right of captivity; or any similar principle, which the ignorance and the ferocity of ancient times admitted as a justifiable tenure of property. It is to be hoped the time is passed, never more to return, when men would recognize maxims as subversive of morality as they are of social happiness. Can the laws and rights of war be properly drawn into precedent for the imitation of sober and regular government? Can we sanction the detestable idea, that liberty is only an advantage gained by strength, and not a right derived from nature’s God. Such sentiments become the abodes of demons, rather than societies of civilized men.

Pride, indeed, may contend, that these unhappy subjects of our oppression are an inferior race of beings; and are therefore assigned by the strictest justice to a depressed and servile station in society. But in what does this inferiority consist? In a difference of complexion and figure? Let the narrow and illiberal mind, who can advance such an argument, recollect whither it will carry him. In traversing the various regions of the earth, from the Equator to the Pole, we find an infinite diversity of shades in the complexion of men, from the darkest to the fairest hues. If, then, the proper station of the African is that of servitude and depression, we must also contend, that every Portuguese and Spaniard is, though in a less degree, inferior to us, and should be subject to a measure of the same degradation. Nay, if the tints of colour be considered the test of human dignity, we may justly assume a haughty superiority over our southern brethren of this continent, and devise their subjugation. In short, upon this principle, where shall liberty end? or where shall slavery begin? At what grade is it that the ties of blood are to cease? And how many shades must we descend still lower in the scale, before mercy is to vanish with them?

But, perhaps, it will be suggested, that the Africans and their descendants are inferior to their whiter brethren in intellectual capacity, if not in complexion and figure. This is strongly asserted, but upon what ground? Because we do not see men who labour under every disadvantage, and who have every opening faculty blasted and destroyed by their depressed condition, signalize themselves as philosophers? Because we do not find men who are almost entirely cut off from every source of mental improvement, rising to literary honours? To suppose the Africans of an inferior radical character, because they have not thus distinguished themselves, is just as rational as to suppose every private citizen of an inferior species, who has not raised himself to the condition of royalty. But, the truth is, many of the negroes discover great ingenuity, notwithstanding their circumstances are so depressed, and so unfavourable to all cultivation. They become excellent mechanics and practical musicians, and, indeed, learn every thing their masters take the pains to teach them.* And how far they might improve in this respect, were the same advantages conferred on them that freemen enjoy, is impossible for us to decide until the experiment be made.

[*Having been, for two years, a monthly visitor of the African School in this city, I directed particular attention to the capacity and behaviour of the scholars, with a view to satisfy myself on the point in question. And, to me, the negro children of that institution appeared, in general, quite as orderly, and quite as ready to learn, as white children.]

Aristotle long ago said—“Men of little genius, and great bodily strength, are by nature destined to serve, and those of a better capacity to command. The natives of Greece, and of some other countries, being naturally superior in genius, have a natural right to empire; and the rest of mankind, being naturally stupid, are destined to labour and slavery.”* [*De Republica, book 1, chap. 5, 6.] What would this great philosopher have thought of his own reasoning, had he lived till the present day? On the one hand, he would have seen his countrymen, of whose genius he boasts so much, lose with their liberty all mental character; while, on the other, he would have seen many nations, whom he consigned to everlasting stupidity, show themselves equal in intellectual power to the most exalted of human kind.

Again—Avarice may clamorously contend, that the laws of property justify slavery; and that every one has an undoubted right to whatever has been obtained by fair purchase or regular descent. To this demand the answer is plain. The right which every man has to his personal liberty is paramount to all the laws of property. The right which every one has to himself infinitely transcends all other human tenures. Of consequence, the latter can never be set in opposition to the former. I do not mean, at present, to decide the question, whether the possessors of slaves, when called upon by public authority to manumit them, should be indemnified for the loss they sustain. This is a separate question, and must be decided by a different tribunal from that before which I bring the general subject. All I contend for at present is, that no claims of property can ever justly interfere with, or be suffered to impede the operation of that noble and eternal principle, that “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These principles and remarks would doubtless appear self-evident to all, were the case of the unhappy Africans for a moment made our own. Were it made a question, whether justice permitted the sable race of Guinea to carry us away captive from our own country, and from all its tender attachments, to their own land, and there enslave us and our posterity for ever;—were it made a question, I say, whether all this would be consistent with justice and humanity, one universal and clamorous negative would show how abhorrent the principle is from our minds, when not blinded by prejudice. Tell us, ye who were lately pining in ALGERINE BONDAGE! [i.e., enslavement in Algeria. For several centuries Algeria was the primary base of the Barbary pirates]. Tell us whether all the wretched sophistry of pride, or of avarice, could ever reconcile you to the chains of barbarians, or convince you that man had a right to oppress and injure man? Tell us what were your feelings, when you heard the pityless tyrant, who had taken or bought you, plead either of these rights for your detention; and justify himself by the specious pretences of capture or of purchase, in riveting your chains?

. . . But higher laws than those of common justice and humanity may be urged against slavery. I mean THE LAWS OF GOD, revealed in the Scriptures of truth. This divine system, in which we profess to believe and to glory, teaches us, that God has made of one blood all nations of men that dwell on the face of the whole earth. It teaches us, that, of whatever kindred or people, we are all children of the same common Father; dependent on the same mighty power; and candidates for the same glorious immortality. It teaches us, that we should do to all men whatever we, in like circumstances, would that they should do unto us. It teaches us, in a word, that love to man, and a constant pursuit of human happiness, is the sum of all social duty.—Principles these, which wage eternal war both with political and domestic slavery—Principles which forbid every species of domination, excepting that which is founded on consent, or which the welfare of society requires.

Click here to read the whole of A Discourse, delivered April 12, 1797, at the Request of and Before the New-York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting such of them as have been or may be Liberated.

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Be Ready Always

The day of the debate had brought a crowd of Presbyterian elders to the sanctuary of the Fourth Presbyterian Church on that day of April 11, 1933.  The topic was “Modernism on the Mission Field.”  And the two individuals engaging in the debate were two “heavies” on opposite sides of the issue.

machenJG_1934speerRobertEDr. J. Gresham Machen was the recognized leader of the conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Founder and president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was still a member minister of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Presbytery, though he had tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the Philadelphia Presbytery.  Against him was Dr. Robert Speer, present head of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Dr. Machen began his presentation with a proposed overture from the Presbytery of New Brunswick to the General Assembly of 1933.  The first two of four parts are the key ones, which I will quote word for word from the April 1933 Christianity Today article, and sum up the other two.

Point 1 of his overture was: “To take care to elect to positions of the Board of Foreign Missions only persons who are fully aware of the danger in which the Church stands and who are determined to insist on such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles, as being essential to the Word of God and our Standards, as being necessary to the message which every missionary under our church shall proclaim.”

In essence, this first proposition simply summed up the Declarations of the General Assembly’s five fundamentals which were considered as essential for the Church, its boards, and its ministers.  It specifically repudiated the denials of the same by the Auburn Affirmation in 1924.

Proposition 2 of the proposed overture sought to “instruct the Board of Foreign Missions that no one who denies the absolute necessity of acceptance of such verities by every candidate for this ministry can possibly be regarded as a candidate to occupy the position of Candidate Secretary.”

This proposition addressed the important place which the Candidate Secretary has in ascertaining the theological convictions which each missionary candidate has to serve on the Foreign Field.  In other words, in people such as Pearl Buck, who was openly denying the exclusiveness of the gospel of Christ, it is obvious that the Candidate Secretary had “missed the boat” in approving her as being a missionary to China.

The third proposition summed up that those who held that the tolerance of opposing views was  more important than an unswerving faithfulness in the proclamation of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God, show themselves to be unworthy of being missionaries of the cross.

This proposition was aimed at those who had accepted the fundamental viewpoint of the book, “Rethinking Missions,” that denied the exclusivity of the gospel.

The last proposition sought to warn the Board of the great dangers lurking with union enterprises in view of wide-spread error.

Dr. Speer for his part of the “debate” simply dismissed each of the overture propositions.    When the vote was taken on Dr. Machen’s proposed overture, it was voted down by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, with a majority voting in favor of confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions.  Dr. Machen, Rev. Samuel Craig, and Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge asked that their names be recorded in  dissent of the motion.

For a fuller account of the debate, click here.

Words to Live By:  We are always called upon to stand faithfully for the gospel.  The results on this earth may be not what we have hoped for, but the results in the General Assembly of heaven are what counts for time and eternity.

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