May 2014

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Anyone who has been called into the ministry of the Word of God prays for a godly response in the hearts of the listeners. Certainly this was the desire of the Reformers in Scotland in the sixteenth century. To put away all things that dishonor His name was the prayer of those who entered into the sacred calling. But it didn’t always work out that way in practice.

knoxJohn04John Knox had returned to Scotland from Geneva Switzerland on May 2, 1559 (See that post on TDPH for a review). Beginning to preach the Reformed Faith to his fellow Scotsmen, John Knox had preached a thunderous sermon to the citizens of Perth, Scotland. The subject of his sermon exposed the idolatry of the Roman Church which included the worship of images.

Immediately following that message, a Roman Catholic priest unwisely attempted to serve mass. A young boy showed his displeasure at the attempt, for which he was struck by the priest. The boy retaliated by throwing a stone, which broke one of the images on the altar. Soon, the spectators of the altercation proceeded to favor the young boy’s action, by breaking all the images in the church. It turned into a riot when a mob proceeded to enter into all the Roman Catholic churches and even the monasteries, and lay them to ruins. Even John Knox, who tried to stop the unruly mob, referred to them as “a rascal multitude.”

Queen Mary of Guise, the queen regent, responded by calling forth her army, augmented by French troops in the area, and advanced to the city of Perth, threatening to lay waste the town and the citizens of it. The Protestant Lords of the congregation were able to assembly 25,000 soldiers to protect the Protestants. Obviously, a military showdown was about to take place. The queen regent, Mary, anxious to avoid such a showdown, entered then into an agreement that the town would be left open to the Queen, that none of its inhabitants would be interfered with, that the French troops would not enter the city, and that when the Queen would leave, there would be no garrison of troops left in the town.

All of these actions led to that which has been called the Second Covenant, signed and sealed on May 31, 1559. By this, those who signed the covenant resolved 1) to maintain their evangelical confederation; 2) to do all things required by God in the Scriptures; 3) to observe true worship; 4) to preserve the liberty of the Congregation and each member of it. These four points made up this Second Covenant, which was signed in the name of the whole Congregation, with the specific names of the Earls of Argyle and Glencairn, Lord James Stewart, Lord’s Boyd and Ochiltree, and Matthew Campbell. 

The Second Covenant was immediately put to the test as the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, turned her back on all of her promises to the Protestants. The battle for the soul of the nation was set to continue in the land.

Words to Live By:
It would be easy to resort to fleshly means to bring about the spiritual kingdom of God in a land. Our spiritual ancestors in Scotland were under a different standard as they sought to put away all things that dishonor His name. That is what this Second Covenant was all about on this day in 1559. Through godly prayer and spiritual works, as our Confessional Fathers put it, we are to destroy the kingdom of Satan, advance the kingdom of grace, and hasten the kingdom of glory.

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A Foundation Often Overlooked

As noted in an early printing of the Form of Government for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the “Preliminary Principles,” with the exception of the first sentence, were originally composed by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, and prefixed to their Form of Government, as published by that body in 1788, “In that year, after arranging the plan on which the Presbyterian Church is now governed, the Synod was divided into four Synods, and gave place to the General Assembly, which met for the first time in 1789.” These principles are generally recognized as having been authored by the Rev. John Witherspoon.

At its formation, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was careful to institute these same Principles at the forefront of its Book of Church Order. As noted in one recent PCA study:

“Since the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, there have been numerous Reformed denominations with varying forms of church polity — some more hierarchical and others more democratic. These eight principles were originally adopted by the first American General Assembly in 1789. Our American Presbyterian forefathers had come to America with fresh memories of the persecutions under the Act of Supremacy fostered by Henry VIII in England. They did not want to form a denomination that was governed “from the top down” but “from the bottom up.”

“In 1787, when the original four Synods agreed to have a General Assembly, they appointed a Committee to first draft a series of Preliminary Principles to be approved before the Book of Church Order was written. This Committee worked for a year and presented these eight Preliminary Principles to the meeting of the Synods in 1788. These Preliminary Principles were approved so that the denomination would not be hierarchical in its polity. They then appointed a committee to draft a Book of Church Order based on these eight Preliminary Principles. This Book of Church Order was adopted at the first American Presbyterian General Assembly in 1789.

“It is interesting to note that by 1973 …. after we had decided to separate from the PCUS and before the PCA was actually formed, we called our group THE CONTINUING CHURCH, meaning that we intended to organize a denomination continuing the polity that our American forefathers adopted in 1789 based on these eight principles.”
[excerpted from the Minutes of the 30th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, page 111.]

It is also worth noting that the Presbyterian Church, U.S. [aka, Southern Presbyterian Church] did not incorporate the Preliminary Principles into its Constitution. Technically, the Principles were part of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America [1861-1865] and again, technically the Principles remained a part of the PCUS Constitution up until 1879, when the PCUS finally adopted the first edition of its own Book of Church Order. But as the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. moved slowly over the next fourteen years towards the approval of its first official Book of Church Order, the Preliminary Principles were excised, and were clearly not part of the PCUS Constitution after 1879. This fact is evidenced by the total absence of the Principles from any published edition of the PCUS Book of Church.

Thus, when the PCA was formed, it is striking to realize that the new Church was in effect reaching outside of its immediate tradition of the PCUS and by the incorporation of the Preliminary Principles was thereby claiming the larger tradition of American Presbyterianism. Or as the above statement indicated, “we intended to organize a denomination continuing the polity that our American forefathers adopted in 1789 based on these eight principles.”

Not surprisingly, both the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church retained the Preliminary Principles in their Constitutions, each denomination being comprised of pastors and congregations that had originally been a part of the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. To my knowledge, the Preliminary Principles remain a part of the PC(USA) Constitution to this day.  A chart comparing the various editions of the Preliminary Principles can be viewed here.

The Text of the Preliminary Principles (PCA edition, 2008):—

The Presbyterian Church in America, in setting forth the form of government founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, reiterates the following great principles which have governed the formation of the plan:

1. God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from any doctrines or commandments of men (a) which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God, or (b) which, in regard to matters of faith and worship, are not governed by the Word of God. Therefore, the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable. No religious constitution should be supported by the civil power further than may be necessary for protection and security equal and common to all others.

2. In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed. In the exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

3. Our blessed Saviour, for the edification of the visible Church, which is His body, has appointed officers not only to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments, but also to exercise discipline for the preservation both of truth and duty. It is incumbent upon these officers and upon the whole Church in whose name they act, to censure or cast out the erroneous and scandalous, observing in all cases the rules contained in the Word of God.

4. Godliness is founded on truth. A test of truth is its power to promote holiness according to our Saviour’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). No opinion can be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon the same level. On the contrary, there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.

5. While, under the conviction of the above principle, it is necessary to make effective provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ. In all these it is the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.

6. Though the character, qualifications and authority of church officers are laid down in the Holy Scriptures, as well as the proper method of officer investiture, the power to elect persons to the exercise of authority in any particular society resides in that society.

7. All church power, whether exercised by the body in general, or by representation, is only ministerial and declarative since the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may make laws to bind the conscience. All church courts may err through human frailty, yet it rests upon them to uphold the laws of Scripture though this obligation be lodged with fallible men.

8. If the preceding scriptural principles be steadfastly adhered to, the vigor and strictness of disciplines will contribute to the glory and well-being of the Church. Since ecclesiastical discipline derives its force only from the power and authority of Christ, the great Head of the Church Universal, it must be purely moral and spiritual in its nature.

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As the PCA meets for its 42d General Assembly this June 17-20, in Houston, the PCA Historical Center will sponsor its first ever Conference on Presbyterian History. [For more details on the Conference, see here or article #3, here]. Among those presenting papers at this conference, the Rev. Caleb Cangelosi will present his paper, “Congre-terians and Presby-gationals: Seeking the Sources of the 1801 Plan of Union” We hope you will be able to join us for the Conference, June 17th at 1 PM, meeting in Ballroom J of the Hilton Americas−Houston.

The Ends Don’t Justify the Means

The desires to grow increased members on the rolls can be dangerous in that questionable methods can be used to accomplish that end.   From the year of the first General Assembly in 1789, the church slowly grew from 419 churches to 511 in 1803. It is important to note that these increases did not come from proselytizing of members in other denominations.  As late as 1794, the General Assembly had approved a circular which discouraged “sheep stealing” from other denominations.:

But there was still a problem.  As the population shift in people continued to the west and south, there was a scarcity of pastors and congregations to reach the expanding growth.  Thus, the idea of some type of cooperation between churches was suggested at the General Assembly in 1800.  By the next year, and specifically on this day, May 29, 1801, this cooperation was given a name, that of the Plan of Union.  And it was to take place between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalist denominations.

The goal was admirable. For the purposes of not duplicating the work of either Presbyterian or Congregational ministers, Congregational mission churches or established churches could call a Presbyterian minister, and Presbyterian mission churches or established churches could call a Congregational minister.  Each could interchange to the other church with no problem.

As far as numerical growth was concerned, the Plan of Union worked admirably.  For thirty-five years, until 1837, the best statistics show that the numbers of churches went from 511 to 2,965 churches.  The number of ministers grew from 180 in number to 2, 140 clergy in 1837.  The church had increased eleven fold in barely four decades.

But at what cost doctrinally, was the question?  While there were some Congregational ministers who were Calvinistic in theology, others were influenced by liberal beliefs from New England with respect to sin and salvation.  Original sin was denied as well as the substitutionary satisfaction of Christ’s death on the cross for sinners.  Something had to be done if  Presbyterian government and doctrine was to continue.

In 1837, the Plan of Union was dissolved by the General Assembly, and particularly the Old School General Assembly,  having been declared “unnatural and unconstitutional.”  Entire synods, presbyteries, ministers, churches, and members were cut off from the Presbyterian church.  The Assembly was determined that purity came before growth in the order of importance.

Words to Live By: The ends, especially evangelistic ends, do not justify the means to those ends.  Rather, both ends and means must glorify God and be according to the Word of God.  Biblical ends must be justified by biblical means.

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Union of  Presbyterians

Ordinarily when you read of an event which brought together two separate bodies of Presbyterians, you would rejoice over the union.  But when you read of a conservative body of Presbyterians uniting with a liberal body of Presbyterians, one tends to be sad.  And yet the latter is what happened on this day, May 28, 1958 when the United Presbyterians Church of North America united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The new denomination arising from this union was named the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA).

We have in these historical devotionals spent enough time on the decline of testimony of the historic Christian faith which the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. has had since the early part of the last century. What you may not know is the history and  testimony of the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

It was almost to the day of this union in 1958 that two Scotch-Irish Presbyterians joined together in 1858 to make up the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Those two bodies which made up that union were the Seceders or Associate Presbyterians and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They had in the old country of Scotland left the Church of Scotland, and then immigrated over to what later became America. The latter Associate Reformed Presbyterians had come from a union of the Associate Presbytery and Reformed Presbytery in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 (see historical devotional for that date). The primary strength of membership lay in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

What is even more important than these facts is to sum up their faith and life.  With their Scotch-Irish roots, they held to the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms as their subordinate standards, exclusive psalmody, Sabbatarianism, being a part of the abolitionist movement, and strong Protestantism. While the psalmody was abandoned in 1925, this church still held to a conservative Calvinism.

All this is then perplexing as to why they voted to merge into the liberal Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. almost one hundred years later in 1958.  In less than ten years, the wider body would replace the historic Westminster Standards with the Confession of 1967, relegating the former to a book of confessions.

Words to Live By: All of us need to carefully examine what we will gain and what will be lost in uniting together with others. Our associations matter. Not just who our friends are, but what we read, watch, and listen to, not to mention all the many social, religious and political groupings that we may be involved with, all these things bring influences that affect us far more than we may realize. Which is why prayerful, consistent time in the Word of God is so important, as a anchor against anything that might seek to sway and divert us away from honoring our Lord and Creator in all that we say and do.

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Today we are pleased to have as our guest author the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA. It was Dr. Hall who so competently headed up the Calvin 500 celebration just a few years back, a celebration which included the publication of almost a shelf of new works on the life and ministry of John Calvin, with several of those works written by Dr. Hall himself.

Calvin’s Death

calvinJohn02On April 25, 1564, sensing the nearness of death, Calvin filed his final will. In it he pled his unworthiness (“Woe is me; my ardor and zeal have been so careless and languid, that I confess I have failed innumerable times”1) and thanked God for mercy. He appointed his brother, Anthony (whose reputation for divorcing an earlier wife due to adultery had been maliciously used to malign Calvin himself), to be his heir, and in his will he bequeathed equal amounts to the Boys’ School, the poor refugees, and his stepdaughters. He also left part of his meager estate to his nephews and their children. To vindicate Calvin against charges of greed, Beza reiterated what Calvin had stated earlier: “If some will not be persuaded while I am alive, my death, at all events will show that I have not been a money-making man.”2 When his will was notarized and brought to the attention of the Senate,3 members of that council visited the declining Calvin to hear his final farewell personally.

Calvin’s importance and relationship to the city leaders may be gleaned from his Farewell Address to the Members of the Little Council.4 The members of this council had gone to his home to hear his advice and to express their appreciation for the “services he has performed for the Seigneurie and for that of which he has faithfully acquitted himself in his duty.” A contemporary recorded his sentiments from April 27, 1564. In that chronicle, the dying Calvin first thanked these leaders for their support, cooperation, and friendship. Although they had engaged in numerous struggles, still their relationship was cordial. Even though he wished to accomplish more, Calvin humbly suggested that God might have “used him in the little he did.” He urged the senators to honor God and to keep “hidden under the wings of God in whom all our confidence must be. And as much as we are hanging by a thread, nevertheless he will continue, as in the past, to keep us as we have already experienced that he saved us in several ways.”

He concluded by encouraging each one to “walk according to his station and use faithfully that which God gave him in order to uphold this Republic. Regarding civil or criminal trials, one should reject all favor, hate, errors, commendations.” He also advised leaders not to aspire to privilege as if rank was a benefit for governors. “And if one is tempted to deviate from this,” Calvin added, “one should resist and be constant, considering the One who established us, asking him to conduct us by his Holy Spirit, and he will not desert us.”

Calvin’s farewell to these political leaders was followed by his Farewell Address to the Ministers on April 28, 1564. From his chamber, Calvin reminded them poignantly: “When I first came to this Church there was almost nothing. We preached and that was all. We searched out idols and burned them, but there was no reformation. Everything was in tumult. . . . I lived here through marvelous battles. I was welcomed with mockery one evening in front of my door by 50 or 60 rifle shots. Do you think that that could disturb a poor, timid student as I am, and as I have always been, I confess?” The farewell address continued to review his Strasbourg exile, the tensions he faced upon return, and some of his experiences with various councils. Calvin concluded by predicting that the battles would not lessen in the days ahead, warning, “You will be busy after God takes me, even though I am nothing, still I know I prevented three thousand uproars that there might have been in Geneva. But take courage and strengthen yourselves, for God will use this Church and will maintain her, and be sure that God will keep her.”

Calvin humbly confessed: “I say again that all that I did has no value, and that I am a miserable creature. But if I could say what I truly wanted to, that my vices always displeased me, and that the root of the fear of God was in my heart, and you can say that what I was subjected to was good, and I pray that you would forgive me of the bad, but if there is anything good, that you conform yourselves to it and follow it.”

He denied that he had written hateful things about others, and he confirmed that the pastors had elected Beza to be his successor. “Watch that you help him [Beza],” exhorted the dying Calvin, “for the duty is large and troublesome, of such a sort that he may be overwhelmed under the burden. . . . As for him, I know that he has a good will and will do what he can.” Further, he requested that senators not change anything in Geneva’s structures and urged them “not to innovate—we often ask for novelties—not that I desire for myself by ambition what mine remains, and that we retain it without wanting better, but because all change is hazardous, and sometimes harmful.” The advice from this leader is filled with layer upon layer of wisdom.

Always sensitive to the calling to lead in many sectors of public life, he concluded with a plea for his fellow ministers to recall how they would affect matters outside the walls of the church, too: “Let each one consider the obligation he has, not only to this Church, but to the city, which has promised to serve in adversity as well as in prosperity, and likewise each one should continue in his vocation and not try to leave it or not practice it. For when one hides to escape the duty, he will say that he has neither thought about it nor sought this or that. But one should consider the obligation he has here before God.”

calvin_deathbed When Calvin passed away almost a month after making these comments on May 27, 1564, “the whole State regretted” the death of “its wisest citizen . . . a common parent.” He was interred in a common cemetery at Plein Palais, finally finding the anonymity he craved. That, one historian wrote, was characteristic of Calvin in life as in death.5 The widespread notice and sadness at his death should serve to correct any faulty view that his contemporaries either despised him or underestimated his importance. He was mourned, and his large number of friends would keep his memory alive far more than some contemporaries would have predicted.

 

Source: David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington Books, 2003).

1 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin (contained in John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises on the Reformation of the Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958], vol. 1), cxxv.

2 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxxviii.

3 Beza refers to this Little Council as the “senate.” See Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxii.

4 This translation is from an unpublished translation of Calvin’s “Farewell Address,” trans. Kim McMahan of Oak Ridge, TN; originally published in 1999 at: http://capo.org/premise/99/jan/p990110.html.

5 Emile Doumergue, The Character of Calvin (Neuilly, La Cause, 1931), 173.

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First General Assembly Writes George Washington

witherspoonJ_03Back on May 21, we wrote about the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which met in Philadelphia in 1789.  It is interesting that part of their corporate decisions as a church was to send a letter on May 26, 1789 to President George Washington.  Its author of Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

After referring to President’s Washington military career and his unselfish surrender to the popular will of the people, it reads, “But we desire a presage even more flattering from the piety of your character. Public virtue is the most certain means of public felicity, and religion is the surest basis of virtue.  We therefore esteem it a peculiar happiness to behold in our chief magistrate a steady, uniform, avowed friend of the Christian religion; who has commenced his administration in rational and exalted sentiments of piety, and who in his private conduct adorns the doctrines of the gospel of Christ, and, on the most public and solemn occasions, devoutly acknowledges the government of Divine providence.

WashingtonGeorgeIt goes on to say “the example of distinguished characters will ever possess a powerful and extensive influence on the public mind; and when we see in such a conspicuous station the amiable example of piety to God, of benevolence to men, and of a pure and virtuous patriotism, we naturally hope that it will diffuse its influence, and that, eventually, the most happy consequences will result from it.  To the force of imitation we will  endeavor to add the wholesome instructions of religion.  We shall consider ourselves as doing an acceptable service to God, in our profession, when we contribute to render men sober, honest, and industrious citizens and the obedient subjects of a lawful government.  In these pious labors we hope to imitate the most worthy of our brethren from other Christian denominations, and to be imitated by them; assured that if we can, by mutual and generous emulation, promote truth and virtue, we shall render a great and important service to the republic, shall receive encouragement from every wise and good citizen, and above all, meet the approbation of our Divine Master.

In conclusion, the Assembly said, “we pray Almighty God to have you always in His holy keeping. May He prolong your valuable life, an ornament and a blessing to your country, and at last bestow on you the glorious reward of a faithful servant.”

The teaching and ruling elders of this first general assembly saw in the first president of this country a Christian president. And so they wrote him on this day at the same time the first Federal Congress was meeting.

Also on this date:
26 May 1858 — The United Presbyterian Church of North America(UPCNA) was formed by union of the northern aspect of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with the Associate Presbyterian Church. Their union was formalized in an assembly held in the Old City Hall in Pittsburgh, 26 May 1858. A century later, the denomination concluded its existence in 1958 when it merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to form the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., on 28 May 1958.

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Remember to take Christ home with you.

Earlier this week, we looked briefly at the life of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Today, we present a closer look at his ministry, with the reading of one of his sermons, drawn from Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. (Banner of Truth Trust, 1973, pp. 454-456.)

SERMON XX.

“It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found Him whom my soul loveth; I held Him, and would not let Him go, until I had brought Him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceiveth me.”—Song of Solomon, iii. 4.

Have you found Him whom your soul loveth? Have you this day seen His beauty, heard His voice, believed the record concerning Him, sat under His shadow, found fellowship with Him? Then hold Him, and do not let Him go.

I. Motives.

(1) Because peace is to be found in Him.—Justified by faith, we have peace with God,—not peace with ourselves, not peace with the world, with sin, with Satan, but peace with God. True divine peace is to be found only in believing—only in keeping fast hold of Christ. If you let Him go, you let go your righteousness; for this is His name. You are then without righteousness, without a covering from the wrath of God, without a way to the Father. The law will again condemn you; God’s frown will again overshadow you; you will again have terrors of conscience. Hold Him then, and do not let Him go. Whatever you let go, let not Christ go; for He is our peace, not in knowledge, not in feeling, but trust in Him alone.

(2) Holiness flows from Him.—No true holiness in this world, but it springs from Him. A living Christ is the spring of holiness to all His members. As long as we hold Him, and do not let Him go, our holiness is secure. He is engaged to keep us from falling. He loves us too well to let us fall under the reigning power of sin. His word is engaged: “I will put My Spirit within you.” His honour would be tarnished if any that cleave to Him were suffered to live in sin. If you let Him go, you will fall into sin. You have no strength, no store of grace, no power to resist a thousand enemies, no promises. If Christ be for you, who can be against you? But if you let go His arms, where are you?

(3) Hope of glory is in Him.—We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. If you have found Jesus this day, you have found a way into glory. A few steps more, you can say, and I shall be for ever with the Lord. I shall be free from pain and sorrow, free from sin and weakness, free from enemies. As long as you hold Christ, you can see your way to the judgment-seat. “Thou wilt guide me with such joy, such transporting desires after the heavenly world! But let Christ go, and this will be gone. Let Christ go, and how can you die? The grave is covered with clouds of threatening. Let Him go, and how can you go to the judgment—where can you appear?

II. Means.

(1) Christ promises to keep you holding Him.—If you are really holding Christ this day, you are in a most blessed condition, for Christ engages to keep you cleaving to Him. “My soul followeth hard after Thee, and Thy right hand upholdeth me.” He that is the Creator of the world is the upholder of it, so He that new creates the soul keeps it in being. This is never to be forgotten. Not only does the Church lean on her beloved, but He puts His left hand under her head, and His right hand doth embrace her. “I taught Ephraim how to go, taking them by their arms.” It is good for a child to hold fast by its mother’s neck; but ah! that would be a feeble support, if the maternal arm did not enfold the child and clasp it to her bosom. Faith is good; but ah! it is nothing without the grace that gave it. “I will put my fear in your heart.”

(2) Faith in Christ.—The only way to hold fast is to believe more and more. Get a larger acquaintance with Christ,—with His person, work, and character. Every page of the gospel unfolds a new feature in His character,—every line of the epistles discloses new depths of His work. Get more faith, and you will get a firmer hold. A plant that has got a single root may be easily torn by the hand, or crushed by the foot of the wild beast, or blown down by the wind; but a plant that has a thousand roots struck down into the ground can stand. Faith is like the root. Many believe a little concerning Christ,—one fact. Every new truth concerning Jesus is a new root struck downwards. Believe more intensely. A root may be in a right direction, but not striking deep, it is easily torn up. Pray for deep-rooted faith. Pray to be stablished, strengthened, settled. Take a long intense look at Jesus,—often, often. If you wanted to know a man again, and he was going away, you would take an intense look at his face. Look then at Jesus—deeply, intensely—till every feature is graven on your heart. Thomas Scott overcame the fear of death by looking intensely at his dead child, who had died in the Lord.

(3) Prayer.—Jacob at Bethel. “Take hold of My strength.” (Isaiah 27:5). You must begin and pray after another fashion than you have done. Let it be real intercourse with God, like Hezekiah, Jacob, Moses, etc.

(4) By not offending Him.First, By sloth. When the soul turns sleepy or careless, Christ goes away. Nothing is more offensive to Christ than sloth. Love is an ever active thing, and when it is in the heart it will keep us waking. Many a night His love to us kept Him waking. Now, can you not watch with Him one hour? (Song. 5:2). Second, By idols. You cannot hold two objects. If you are holding Christ to-day, and lay hold of another object to-morrow, He cannot stay. He is a jealous God. You cannot keep worldly companions and Christ too. “A companion of fools shall be destroyed.” When the ark came into the house of Dagon, it made the idol fall flat. Third, By being unwilling to be sanctified. When Christ chooses us, and draws us to Himself, it is that He may sanctify us. Christ is often grieved away, by our desire to reserve one sin. Fourth, By an unholy house. “I brought Him into my mother’s house.” Remember to take Christ home with you, and let Him rule in your house. If you walk with Christ abroad, but never take Him home, you will soon part company for ever.

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The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]

In the preceding chapter we have seen the rise of Reformed Presbyterianism in Scotland in the seventeenth century together with its exportation to America in the eighteenth. By the first years of the nineteenth century the Reformed Presbyterian Church was firmly planted in American soil. The reconstitution of the Reformed Presbytery in 1798 under the leadership of James McKinney was followed by an outburst of optimistic energy in the Church. „Important additions were soon after made to the ministry, and the Church entered on a career of vigorous labour, crowned by a large measure of progress.‟1 As a result of this energy, the official judicial testimony of the American Reformed Presbyterian Church was published in 1807 under the title Reformation Principles Exhibited. Two years later—on May 24, 1809—„All the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, being convened, with ruling Elders delegated from different sessions, did unanimously agree to constitute a Synod.‟ The official name was to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America was well aware of her unique circumstances and opportunities. “God has, in his Providence, presented the human family in this country with a new experiment. The Church, unheeded by the civil powers, is suffered to rise or fall by her own exer- tions.‟4 So wrote Alexander McLeod in Reformation Princi- ples Exhibited. However, what would be the outcome of these unique circumstances? How would the Church respond to these unique opportunities? The Reformed Presbyterian Church looked upon the dawn of the nineteenth century with extreme optimism. In- deed, D. M. Carson entitles this chapter in the history of the Church “The New Optimism.‟5 This general attitude is well expressed in the words of James McKinney, uttered in 1797:

“The joint triumphs, of enlightened reason, and true religion, must soon become glorious.‟ Mankind would soon come to recognize the rights of God, and the millennium would be triumphantly ushered in. According to McLeod the Fall of the papal antichrist is fast approaching, and the time is near when the Lord will pour forth his Holy Spirit and the king- doms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).7 This optimistic spirit was accompanied by the substantial growth of the Church. In 1798 there were two ministers, a few scattered congregations, and some 1000 communicant members. By 1832 there were 36 ministers, 60 organized congregations, and some 5,000 members. The sources of this growth were Covenant children, Reformed Presbyterians from Ireland and Scotland, and converts from other denomi- nations.8 These converts were looked upon as those who had become dissatisfied with the use of human compositions in singing God‟s praises, the relaxation of church discipline, the prevalence of Hopkinsian and other doctrinal errors, and „the carnal, worldly spirit of professors, in the churches which they left.‟9 At the time of the appearance of the second edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited in 1824, it could be exclaimed: „Congregations are springing up in the desert, and the wilderness is becoming a fruitful field.‟10 The organization of the Church kept pace with this growth. The number of presbyteries increased. A representa- tive General Synod, to meet every two years, was established in 1823; and by 1832 the General Synod had constituted the Eastern and Western Subordinate Synods for yearly meetings. The Church was zealous for the education of her minis- ters, and in 1807 drew up a constitution for a theological seminary. This constitution is interesting, not only because it reveals the Church‟s conception of the nature of the ministry and of theological education, but also because it reveals her conception of what constitutes proper qualifications for the ministry. These are in order of importance: first, piety or practical godliness; second, good sense or talents commensurate with the calling; and third, a good theological education. As fund raisers for the seminary put it: “The Millennium is not to be introduced by ignorant enthusiasm. There must be an able ministry.‟ The Church was also conscious of her responsibility in the areas of discipline, evangelism, and doctrine. The Rev. David Graham was deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the Church for misconduct in 1812. In 1822 Covenanters in New York City founded the American Evangelical Tract Society to disseminate tracts in support of the principles of the Reformation. The ministers of the Synod were on the whole prolific authors. For a small number of men they produced a good deal of published material, much of which concerns doctrinal subjects. They were particularly concerned to defend traditional Calvinism against its modern substitutes. For instance, William Gibson wrote Calvinism vs. Hopkinsianism (1803), and Gilbert McMaster published a Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity (1815)—including the Trinity, the Person of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Depravity of Man, and the limited extent of the Atonement. McMaster inquires: What then? Shall men, in things of religion, be in a state of per- petual hostility? Shall the empire of the Prince of Peace never be united? Must each contend for his dogma? The Church of God is indeed lamentably distracted, and in that distraction all parties have a guilty hand. But can the malady be cured by an unprincipled abandonment of fundamental doctrines, merely to obtain a momentary repose from the pains of contest? Such repose would be that of death, to the interests of vital godliness.

It was in this spirit that Alexander McLeod wrote The Life and Power of True Godliness (1816).16 The position of the ministers of the Church on the matter of political dissent did not preclude their speaking out on political and social issues. McLeod puts it tersely in the first of his series of sermons in defense of the American cause in the War of 1812: „Ministers have the right of discussing from the pulpit those political questions which affect Christian morals.‟ The Church took a particularly strong stand on the slavery question, expressed in McLeod‟s Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1804); and as early as 1802 we read in the Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery: „It was enacted that no slave- holder should be allowed the communion of the Church.‟

As might be expected, one of the chief topics for discussion was the matter of the application of Christian principles to existing governments. It was chiefly differences in this area that led to the lamentable Disruption of 1833.

Disruption and Recovery In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America experienced a division which up to the present has been permanent. The majority adhering to the General Synod became known as the New Light General Synod, the minor- ity as simply the Old Light Synod. The Disruption of 1833 has its origins in the early years of the nineteenth century. To understand this momentous dispute in the Church it is necessary to mention some of the developments which led up to it.

Hutchinson, George P., The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. pp. 65-70.

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A Land So Far Away?
Just suppose, dear reader, just suppose now, that in our blessed country one year, a  bill was approved by both Houses of Congress, sent to the White House in Washington, D.C., signed by the president and it became the law of the land.  Oh yes, an important ingredient of this bill was that it had the support of The Episcopal Church (TEC).  What was its gist, you ask?

The first  section of the bill decreed deposition of all spiritual leaders who denied the federal government’s authority in ecclesiastical matters.

The second section excommunicated any spiritual leader who dared to preach and proclaim that the worship part of the bill was contrary to Holy Scripture.

Next, that same penalty of deposition was promised upon any who preached that the liturgical part of the bill was unbiblical.

Fourth, any and all clergy and churches in the land had to adopt the this governmental  liturgy for their congregations upon pain of deposition if they failed to adopt it.

Fifth, all congregational meetings could only be called by governmental decree; further, no ecclesiastical business could be discussed without the approval of the government; in addition, no biblical meeting could be held independent of government authority, and last, no spiritual leader could engage in extemporary prayers.

And last, governmental regulations were handed on regarding the manner of worship, gowns worn by clergy members, fonts used for baptisms, ornaments in the church building, and the conducting of the Lord’s Supper.

This author is sure that all of our readers would quickly acknowledge if the churches of America were recipients of such a federal law as this, the visible biblical church as we know and love would all but disappear from the land, or be so thoroughly compromised that it would be not longer a church where Christ Jesus is the Head of the church.

How glad we are that this alleged supposition is only that.   However to Scottish Christians in the Church of Scotland on May 23, 1635, the above supposition was an awful reality.  It was sent down to that church by the king with the blessing of the Anglican church upon the Church of Scotland.

After a couple of years of delay, on July 23, 1637, an attempt was made to introduce it in the cathedral church at St. Giles, Edinburgh.  From among the common people there that day, a woman named Jenny Geddes picked up her stool and flung it at the dean who thought that he was going to introduce it in the worship service.  A regular riot broke out as other chairs began flying toward the podium.  The dean was forced to flee for his life.  This result brought the city of Edinburgh under an episcopal interdict, which suspended all public worship, even on the hallowed Sabbath, because this sanctioned liturgy has been neglected.  We have a post on the reaction on July 23, 1637.

The second response was the signed of the National Covenant on February 28, 1638.  This Day in Presbyterian History also covered this reaction on February 28, 1638.

Words to Live By: You may be thinking that the separation of church and state would preclude this from ever happening in America.  But with countless Reformed and Presbyterian leaders proclaiming that we now live in a post-Christian land, the time may be soon upon us where such liberties of worship and work may soon be past.  Our Lord’s definition of His people,  found in Matthew 5:23, must be re-discovered by the church in our land.  He said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by man.” Let us not be good-for-nothing Christians.

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A Better Possession, and A Lasting One

Barbara Cunningham had all of the characteristics of a powerful family by her ancestry. But of far more importance than these temporal goods was that her ancestors were all warm supporters of the Protestant Reformation of Scotland.

Continuing in that rich biblical tradition, Barbara Cunningham married William Muir of Caldwell in 1657, thus enabling her to be known as Lady Caldwell. Her husband, like her ancestors, was zealous in his adherence to Presbyterianism, and especially to those who had been ejected from their parishes in 1662. Even though it was considered traitorous to do so, he abstained from attending the churches where Anglican priests now were in charge. Cited to appear before the civil authorities to explain his absence, the date was delayed time and again. Of course, this was of the Lord. When Covenanters began to take up arms to defend their faith, William Muir raised a troop of fifty neighbors to ride to the area around Pentland Hills to help their cause. But a force of government troops cut off their approach with the result that the small band was scattered. Forced to hide himself and eventually flee, William Muir eventually made his way to Holland.

Soon the weight of the opposition fell upon his wife, Lady Caldwell, and her four children, three of them female. She lost all of her and their property which was given to the general who had fought the Covenanters at Pentland Hills. Lady Caldwell joined her husband in Holland with her family. While there, they were allowed to worship God along with all the other Scottish exiles. In a short while however, her husband died in the faith. Lady Caldwell returned to Scotland with her family, hoping that the length of time being absent would make a difference. But it did not. The property still was in control of the anti-Covenanter forces, even taking the new furniture which Lady Caldwell had bought to make a new home. She was still destitute in her beloved homeland.

There is a wonderful paragraph on page 4 of her story in the Ladies of the Covenant. It states that “she did not distrust in  adversity the God whom she had trusted and served in prosperity. Confiding in his promises, she believed that He would provide for her and hers; and possessing too much self-respect to be dependent for the means of subsistence on the bounty of others, she, with her virtuous children, set themselves diligently to the task of supporting themselves by the labor of their own hands.”

Suddenly, without formal charges or even a trial, she, along with her four children, were arrested. Supposedly, a neighbor had observed a non-conformist minister lead a worship service in her home. On the authority of the provost of Glasgow, Scotland, Lady Caldwell was sent on May 22, 1683, along with her twenty year old daughter, Jean, to prison, and not any prison, but the notorious Castle of Blackness.

The daughter began to suffer health problems due to this cruel punishment after six months, and was set free after an appeal in 1684.  Her mother would serve another two years and eight months. During this time, her second daughter Anne would died of Yellow fever. Finally, after this time, she was set free. After William and Mary came to the throne, all of her property and rights were restored to her.

Words to Live By: Like the early Jewish Christians as described in Hebrews 10:34b, Lady Caldwell “accepted joyfully the seizure of property, knowing that (they) had a better possession and a lasting one.” A question to ponder! Would we be like these first century Christians and like Lady Caldwell if such a calamity would happen to us, losing all of our possessions for the sake of the faith delivered unto the saints? It is happening now in our blessed land! Let our prayer be to the God of all grace to help us to see those things which are eternal, and accept joyfully the loss of those things which are temporal.

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