May 2014

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The Life of a Man Who Walked with God

Our title came from the pen of C.H. Spurgeon who recommended the reading of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This author was given the Memoir to read in the beginning of his college years in preparation for the gospel ministry. I have returned to it frequently in some fifty years of ministry. It is that beneficial.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (sometimes spelled McCheyne) lived between May 21, 1813 and March 25, 1843. If you count those years, you immediately realize that he lived on this earth for only thirty years. And only seven of those years were spent in pastoral ministry. Yet the shortness of his life and ministry were abundantly fruitful in many respects, not the least of which was evangelistic at home and abroad. Countless Scottish people acknowledged him as their spiritual father in the faith.

He was born on May 21, 1813 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest child of Adam M’Cheyne. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in 1827, distinguishing himself in all of his classes. His lifestyle was however given over to the pursuits of pleasure rather than the pursuit of holiness. The death of his older brother, David M’Cheyne, brought him to a sense of personal spiritual need.  David had often prayed for his conversion. Robert resolved to “seek a Brother who cannot die.” Reading the Bible and various books were  eventually used of the Lord to bring that spiritual change in his soul. His diary records evidences of a spiritual change.

Licensed to preach the Word by the Presbytery of Annan in 1835, after a brief stint as an assistant pastor, he was ordained  on November 24, 1836 and called by a new congregation in Dundee, Scotland. Soon crowds were attending the preached Word.  However, the labors of the pastoral ministry brought physical problems, which required him to desist for a season during the winter at Edinburgh.

Later, to a fellow laborer in the Lord’s work, he wrote, “Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity.”

Pastor M’Cheyne always felt that his time on earth would be short. Whether this was revealed to him by God’s Spirit in some way, or it was simply a recognition of his own bodily weakness, this author doesn’t know. But he always had a sense of his own mortality. And indeed, after a church-sanctioned trip with Andrew Bonar and other ministers to Palestine, to determine opportunities for the conversion of Jews in 1839, he returned to Scotland. It was but four years later in 1843, that he was seized with typhus fever and went to be with the Lord on March 25, 1843.

Words to Live By: It was his closest friend Andrew Bonar who wrote his Memoirs in 1844. In less than three years, seventeen editions were sold. Banner of Truth first reprinted it in 1960. Moody Press also came out with an edition of it. If you, dear reader, have never opened its pages, buy and read the book. If it has been some time since you have perused its pages, read it again, and feast upon the Spirit’s work in the life and ministry of this young man. It will repay your time and effort.

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

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Does Doctrine Divide While Mission Unites?

This was the sentiment when the schism of 1837 between the Old School and New School Presbyterians was healed in the days following May 20, 1869.  Doctrine had divided the Presbyterian church but it was not insignificant doctrines. It is what made the Presbyterian Church what it was, namely, a biblical, Reformed church according to its subordinate standards, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The Old School, led by Princeton Theological Seminary men, held to it, while the New School Presbyterians, led by men like Albert Barnes and Charles Finney, wanted to weaken it. (We will see all of the issues in an upcoming devotional on the schism on June 5)  But for this day, we look at the first day of the General Assembly in 1869 when there was talk of and actions of reunion. Why did this change take place?

The pivotal reason was that a terrible Civil War had taken place in the land which consumed their attention and placed concerns for doctrine to shift to secondary place. Ministers and churches of both Old School and New School Presbyterians were now united in political issues as it had to do with the support of the Federal government. Slavery concerns were now a dead issue in that the war was supposed to bring freedom for blacks. Reconstruction was now the matter on the front burner, and both Old School and New School pretty much agreed on that.

It can also be said that the New School had become more conservative in their theology. They had departed from the Plan of Union with the Congregationalist churches. The New England theology which denied of certain fundamental doctrines was, for the most part, no longer an issue in their ranks. In other words, if there was any problem with the Confessional Standards, it wasn’t an open one.  Many of the men and churches who had fought the earlier issues had passed to their heavenly reward, so they were not in the church any longer. Other men were filling their pulpits and positions.

With the opening of this Assembly, the presbyters voted to send the reunion plans down to the Presbyteries. In the intervening months, 113 Old School presbyteries approved it, with 126 out of 129 Old School presbyteries approving the reunion plans as well.  Only fifty–two ministers of the Old School Presbyterians protested, led again by Princeton Seminary men, like Charles Hodge.

At the next General Assembly in Pittsburgh in 1870, after the required number of presbyteries had passed it, there was a symbolic march of delegates from each assembly to a certain street in that city, where joining forces, arm in arm, they marched in tandem to Third Presbyterian Church for a mass meeting. A broadening church had begun in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Mission and how to serve the masses via ecumenical means, became the watchword for the church. It would be only a question of time when Reformed conservatives would begin to not recognize the church of their spiritual fathers.

Words to Live By: Many of us are in everyday life led into dozens of compromise situations which are necessary to simply get along with others. But when that compromise involves fundamental doctrines which weaken our Christian faith, then there is a call to stand up and be counted and hold firm to the faith once delivered unto the saints. Are you boldly standing for the historic Christian faith?

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There was No Ecclesiology 101 on How to Begin a Denomination

There wasn’t a manual on denomination beginnings. No teaching elder had ever taken seminary courses on it. No one on the steering committee had any experience in the process.  It was entirely new to everyone, and yet it was something which had to be done.

Much like the northern Presbyterian church, the seeds of apostasy had entered the Presbyterian Church in the United States in the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century. It was very small then, most often in the sense of shame of some of the language in the Confessional Standards. But then there came a decided effort to capture the Southern Presbyterian Church for the liberal agenda, led as usual by the seminaries of the church. Members would return from, for example, a war, and find that they no longer recognized the church of their fathers. Principles and practices began to be printed in the denominational agencies which were contrary to the essentials of the Presbyterian faith. And, like the Northern Presbyterian church experience, various conservative individuals and churches began to organize committees outside the church which would accomplish the work of the church.  So we read of the Southern Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United. These organizations, and the joint meetings they held, galvanized the conservatives of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Eventually all of these joined forces and established a Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church. Separation from unbelief would be demanded of them.

It was on May 19, 1973 in Atlanta Georgia in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church that 450 ruling elders from 261 churches representing 70,800 members joined together in a convocation of presbyters or Sessions. They listened to stirring messages. They viewed slide presentations which shared the kinds of churches and ministries which would be a part of any continuing church. They reaffirmed their committment to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission. And when the pivotal time came for a vote as to whether to proceed ahead and actually begin a new denomination separate from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the convocation voted 349 – 16.  Yet at the same time, they let it be clearly understood that there was love and respect toward any of their number, or within the church as a whole, who did not believe they should withdraw at this time. It would be seven more months that such a new denomination became a reality, but this was one of the important beginnings of what became known eventually as the Presbyterian Church in America. And this beginning came primarily from the ruling elders of the church.

Words to Live By: Pray much for your ruling elder in the congregation of which you are a part. They are men just like you who sit in the pews.  They have their fears and foibles just like you. Yet God has called them to be overseers of the flock, to pastor the flock of God whom the Son has redeemed with His own blood. Therefore, submit to them in the Lord, support them in the work, and be an encouragement to them in their work of shepherding the people of God. They are a vital part of the church.

For Further Study:
Three of the addresses presented at the Convocation of Sessions are available on the PCA Historical Center’s web site:

Law and Procedure, or, How and Why in 1973,” by RE W. Jack Williamson.

No Compromise Men and Church,” by Rev. William E. Hill, Jr. 

How Is the Gold Become Dim!,” by Rev. Morton H. Smith.


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A Foundation Stone Laid—The Formation of the Free Church of Scotland

A third Reformation or a sinful schism? The power of the people in the pews or a decision by a wealthy member to choose an under shepherd for the church pulpit? The nation’s House of Lords in control or Presbyterian government? Evangelical party or moderate party? These were the questions which swirled around the Church of Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the land of Knox.

Already divisions within the national church were producing separations of ministers and members.  In 1733, in what is known as the First Succession, a group led by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine and others had separated from the Church of Scotland. It was followed by the Second Secession led by reformer Thomas Gillespie in 1761 into what was called the Relief Church. Both breakaways will have future posts in This Day in Presbyterian History.

One common issue in all these successions was an ancient tradition known as “patronage,” in which a wealthy individual in a church district had the authority to choose and install a pastor himself, despite what the people of that parish thought of the pastor. In 1834, the General Assembly would pass what was known as the Veto Act, which allowed for a majority of male heads of families to reject a patron’s sole choice of pastor. It was followed in 1842 by the General Assembly producing a Claim of Right, which stated that Jesus was the head of the church, not the government of Scotland. The latter responded by rejecting that action of the General Assembly. The background was set for a disruption in the Church of Scotland.

On May 18, 1843, 121 ministers and 73 elders walked out of the General Assembly at the Church of St. Andrews on George Street, Edinburgh, to form the Free Church of Scotland. Rev. Thomas Chalmers was elected to be the first Moderator of the new denomination. Eventually 475 ministers representing one-third of her clergy was joined be one-third of her members in separation from  the Church of Scotland.

FreeChurchOfScotland_Signing_the_Deed_of_Demission_1843The First Free Church Assembly—Signing the Deed of Demission.

Since the Church of Scotland was financially supported by the government, the ministers and members who left were without salaries, pulpits, manses, and the people, their church buildings. It was very much a “let goods and kindred’s go” type of separation. To solve the immediate problem of finances, Moderator Chalmers instituted a plan for a penny a week from every member to help the new church and its ministers. From this modest beginning, other monies were raised from Scotland and churches overseas to support the need of its clergy and the buildings necessary for ministry.

Fast forward 85 years, after the Church of Scotland had dropped its link to the state and even the issue of patronage was resolved, the two churches re-united in 1929. Not every pastor and people rejoined however, as there continues to be a Free Church of Scotland in the nation.

Words to Live By: Fast forward another century in your mind, dear reader, to 2013, when the General Assembly voted to allow homosexual clergy within its ministerial ranks. It is obvious by this action that another Protestant Reformation is needed again.  Let  us pray to that end.

Image source: Frontispiece portrait for Annals of the Disruption, by Rev. Thomas Brown. Edinburgh: MacNiven & Wallace, 1884.


John Witherspoon Brings Politics into the Pulpit

In our last historical devotional, we saw how the Confession of Faith cautioned synods and council from making pronouncements on political matters. In this devotional, we see a Presbyterian minister enter the pulpit of a Presbyterian congregation in Princeton, New Jersey on May 17, 1776 to bring politics into the pulpit. That Presbyterian minister was John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey.

The timing is interesting.  Battles up north around Boston have already been fought.   In about three weeks, John Witherspoon will affix his signature to the Declaration of Independence.  As he enters the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church, he is going to speak on “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men. A SERMON preached at Princeton, on the 17th of May, 1776 BEING the General Fast appointed by the CONGRESS through the UNITED COLONIES. To which is added, An Address to the Natives of Scotland residing in America.”  And you thought your pastor had long sermon titles!

Witherspoon in taking politics in the pulpit in essence is going to preach on God’s providence, how that God guides and governs and directs and controls all things, from the greatest to the least. He further uses the appointment of a fast from Congress to proclaim this message at this time. Let me quote one paragraph from it.

     “You are all witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit.  At this season, however, it is not only lawful, but necessary; and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.  So far as we have hitherto proceeded, I am satisfied that the confederacy of the colonies, has not been the effect of pride, resentment, or sedition, but of a deep and general conviction, that our civil and religious liberties, and consequently, in a great measure, the temporal and eternal happiness of us and our posterity, depended on the issue. There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire.  If, therefore, we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.”

With words like this, no wonder that a speaker in England’s Parliament declared that “Cousin American has run away with a Presbyterian parson.”  And that Presbyterian parson was none other than John Witherspoon. He closed his sermon with the following words, “God grant, that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may, in the issue, tend to the support and establishment of both.”

Words to Live By:  We as American citizens have no right to pray for any kind of temporal prosperity without the necessity as Christian Americans to pray for spiritual revival in our blessed land.   The two ends must go together.

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A Political Issue Divides the Old School General Assembly

With the Old School General Assembly meeting on May 16, 1861, the unity of the nation was at stake.  Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina has been attacked and captured.  Southern states had already seceded from the Union.  The slavery issue, which had been debated in previous assemblies, became secondary to the important matter of preserving the union.  Thus, Rev. Gardiner Spring,  the pastor of Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York suggested that a committee be formed to consider the following resolutions before the assembled elders.

          “Resolved, 1.  That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of this country, the first day of July next be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds; and that on this day ministers and people are called on humbly to confess our national sins; to offer our thanks to the Father of light for his abundant and undeserved goodness towards us as a nation; to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers, and their counsels, as well as on the Congress of the United States about to assembly; and to implore him, in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of an honorable peace.

          Resolved, 2  That this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism . . . do hereby acknowledge and declare our obligations to promote and perpetuate . . . the integrity of the United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government in the exercise of all its functions  under our noble Constitution: and to this Constitution, . . . we profess our unabated loyalty.”

Interestingly, some of the main opposition to this resolution came from Dr. Charles Hodge, of Princeton Theological Seminary.  He protested that the General Assembly had no right to decide to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians is due, that it was neither North nor South. His alternate resolutions lost before the assembly.  When the issue came to a vote, with an amendment offered by John Witherspoon II,  the Spring Resolutions, as they were known in church history, passed by 156 to 66. Tragically, they also brought about the schism between Old School Presbyterians, dividing North and South.

To read a full account of what came to be called the Gardiner Spring Resolutions,click here.

Words to Live By: There is a reason why the Confessional Fathers in chapter 31:3 specifically stated that “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

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A Christian Apologist of the Twentieth Century

What more can be written about Francis Schaeffer that has not already been said?  Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912 . . . Born again in 1930 . . . College graduate from Hampton – Sydney, Virginia . . . Seminary student in two historic seminaries, Westminster and Faith Seminary . . . Pastor to three conservative Presbyterian churches for ten years before he went to Europe to begin L’Abri Fellowship, reaching intellectuals for Christ . . . An advocate of both the gospel and cultural mandate to the masses.  In short,  Francis Schaeffer had an effective ministry in the seventy-two years in which he lived in the twentieth century.

On a personal note, this contributor was barely an adolescent when Dr. Schaeffer came to my chaplain father’s Army installation in Dachau, Germany for a series of evangelistic meeting in the late forties. Night after night, the gospel was presented to lonely American soldiers in post-war Germany. And the meetings were held right down the road from the infamous concentration camp building of Dachau where sinful depravity was the order of the day barely five years previous to these meetings. They were present in all their stark reality in that this was before the whole site had been memorialized by the West German government.  But beyond the meetings to the adults, day by day, this youngster, and a whole host of others, learned Psalm 19 by Edith Schaeffer, which I remember today! (Edith Schaeffer writes about all this visit in her book, The Tapestry.) In short, the Schaeffer’s were hungry for the power of the gospel unto salvation to be demonstrated  for all who believe.

It was in 1978 that cancer was discovered in Francis Schaeffer’s body. Despite this disease, even by his own admission, more was done in his ministry in the last five years of his life than before. He rewrote his book legacy and ministered to large crowds everywhere. He spoke to the combined General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982, which had just merged together into one church. [click here to read “A Day of Sober Rejoicing”]

As the days grew difficult, Edith Schaeffer tells how ten days before he died, she brought him home from Mayo Clinic. She spoke about her conviction that he would want to go to the house he had asked her to buy in Rochester, Minnesota to pass from his body and be with the Lord. The medical staff agreed with that decision. Edith Schaeffer surrounded his bed with the things he loved, including music played into his room. All the favorites from Beethoven, Bach, and Shubert were played. On the morning of May 15, 1984, he was taken home to glory with Handel’s Messiah in the background.

Words to Live By: Francis Schaeffer was a sinner saved by grace, as all believers are. We by no means believe that he was without difficulties in his life towards those nearest and dearest to him, as well as the Christian family as a whole. But despite these foibles, he will be remembered as the spiritual father of many a Christian today, while his work continues on in many lands today to reach the intellectuals of the twenty-first century with the same precious gospel. As God enables us, let us each be faithful, in word and in deed, in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

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The Life of a Christian Minister Can Never Be Written.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Following the Lord, He Followed His Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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A Great Address from a Man Small in Stature

The smaller man of stature was waiting at the Chinese dock for his former student friend from Princeton Theological Seminary that day in 1904.  When he did not appear on the deck of their steamer, he was disappointed.  But who was standing there waiting to exit the boat was a young American woman by the name of Mabel Mennie.   Later, they would find out that they were both from the state of Missouri.  And Albert Baldwin Dodd, Presbyterian missionary to China, would obviously find out later of that meeting on that Shanghai, China dock was no accident.  The sovereign God makes no mistakes.  She would become his wife soon and become the mother to their four children in God’s good time, all born in China.

Albert and Mable Dodd would labor for 32 years in China under the Board for Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian U.S.A. church.  Founder and professor of North China Theological Seminary, he saw the approaching apostasy of the home church as it evidenced itself in foreign missionaries sent to the field of China.  Indeed, it was he who revealed that apostasy to Dr. J. Graham Machen, who spread by publication and proclamation the issue of foreign missions before the people in the Presbyterian denomination.  When request after request was denied from that foreign missions board, it was Machen, with others,  who organized the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933.   And among the veteran missionaries who joined that faithful board was Albert and Mable Dodd, who would continue their  service for another 39 years, first in China, then on the island of Taiwan.

On May 12, 1936, Albert Dodd was the commencement speaker at the Witherspoon Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Westminster Theological Seminary’s seventh graduating class.  Speaking on the subject “Be Strong,”  this famed missionary began his sermon with the following  words:

“You young men of Westminster Seminary are deliberately choosing to face a hopeless situation and to set your hands to an utterly impossible task — from a human standpoint.  Magnificently equipped with a clear-cut knowledge of, and love for, the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, and imbued by staunch martyr-spirited professors who count not the cost, with the divinely prescribed and only right attitude toward false brethren who would pervert that gospel, you are being called of God to the task of taking the message of salvation, in an age of intense crisis, to a world wherein countless millions have never heard, and to minister to a rapidly apostasizing church which is more and more inclined to reject that message and to hate and persecute that attitude.  Never before, not in any other calling, have stronger men been needed.”

The reader is invited to read the entire address as it is found in the Presbyterian Guardian Archive on-line for June 1, 1936, Volume 2, number 5, on pages 95-99 of that issue. No wonder the reporter of that magazine commented, “the veteran missionary carried his listeners along with him on a crest of conviction and spiritual power.”

Dr. Dodd, from texts like Ephesians 6:10 and 2 Timothy 2:1, challenged the graduating seniors and guests to be strong in the work of evangelism, be strong in the battle for the faith of the gospel, and be strong to love much, even those who are our enemies.  Such a message would be needful, for before the year was out, the Bible-believers in the Presbyterian church, would be outside the camp, but courageously caring on the work of the Lord in the church and in the world.

Words to Live By: Being strong in the Lord is a necessary trait in the home, at your calling, and in the church.  The only difference today from the days of Dr. Albert Dodd is that the intensity of the spiritual strength needed has increased a hundred fold.  But greater is He who is within you than he who is in the world.

For Further Study:
To read the full address by Dr. Dodd, click here.

For more on the seminary in China where Dr. Dodd taught, see the article by A. Donald MacLeod, “Watson Hayes and the North China Theological Seminary.

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