September 2014

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On the Spirituality of the Church—A Real-Life Example.

In his History of Columbia Theological Seminary, William Childs Robinson wrote:

DuBose, HampdenC_02Among the sons of Columbia sent out by the Southern Presbyterian Church, perhaps none has a deeper hold on the affectionate memory of the church than Hampden C. DuBose—the biographer of Dr. J. L. Wilson. Dr. DuBose was a South Carolinian, a Confederate Soldier—and for almost fifty years a soldier of the Cross, claiming for his King the city of Soochow, China (1872-1910). He preached indefatigably in the market and the street. He used his pen in translating and in writing a religious literature for the Chinese. Among these works he translated a book by his old Seminary professor, Dr. Wm. S. Plumer The Rock of Our Salvation. He was made President of the Chinese Anti-Opium League, and wrought so effectively in that endeavor that the movement to suppress the opium traffic became “the strongest movement in China.” Rev. DuBose died on September 30, 1910.

The Minutes of the China Mission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), provide many interesting insights into that work and time. We find one particularly noteworthy feature in their Minutes for 1899, when a stand was taken by the Mission in regard to the Mission’s relationship with the Chinese government. This would just prior to the time of the Boxer Rebellion, perhaps even only in the months prior.

The paper adopted by the PCUS China Mission, while a response to the pending crisis that faced them, also provides a good insight in the practical outworking of the doctrine of the spirituality of the Church, at least as held by Southern Presbyterians:

“This Mission overtures other Presbyterian bodies laboring in China to meet in conference the day previous to the General Missionary Conference, in 1901 [I presume here they were looking ahead two years to this then future meeting], to discuss the following questions: (1) Presbyterial union. (2) The establishment of a Presbyterian theological seminary. (3) The establishment of a weekly Presbyterian newspaper in Chinese. (4) The observance of the Sabbath.”

But, next to the division of the Mission, perhaps the most important action taken by the Mission was that defining the political status of missionaries. This paper is as follows:

“With regard to the political status of missionaries in China, and the regulations which should control their intercourse with Chinese officials,

Resolved, That the members of the Southern Presbyterian Mission ask nothing more than the rights of private citizens of the United States.
“This resolution is based upon the following considerations:

“1. That functions of a missionary are spiritual. His great work is to care for souls. To assume political power in reality, or even in appearance, is inconsistent with the nature of his office.

“2. Right relations between church and State forbid missionaries to claim ‘equal rank with viceroys and governors,’ ‘demand interviews,’ with them, and with them ‘negotiate and conclude affairs.’ The missionary is not an officer of the State. The United States’ Minister and the Consuls are in China to protect, and do protect, all their fellow-citizens, and the missionary must not usurp or disregard their authority. For a missionary to interfere int he government of China is wrong in principle and pernicious in practice.

“3. Whatever rights of appeal to local officials, or to officers of high rank, may be secured for all citizens of the United Stats, may, with propriety, be used by missionaries, who should, in exercising their rights, be on an equality with other private citizens, and in no way claim to be officers of the United States, or to be equal in rank with any Chinese officials.

/signed/

J.W. Davis,
S.I. Woodbridge,
J.L. Stuart.
Committee.”

Source: The Missionary, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1900): 81-82.

Words to Live By:
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ ”—John 18:36, ESV.

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If You are Number Two, Do You Try Harder?

Samuel Miller was definitely number two among that faculty of Princeton Seminary that year of September 29, 1813.  Started only one year before, Archibald Alexander was the first professor of the Presbyterian Seminary with only a handful of students.  As another war with Britain was raging (the War of 1812), it was a trying time for a smooth start. On top of that, the students of Princeton College were anything but spiritual. College pranks had brought the college close to shutting down. Samuel Miller, fresh from a pastoral experience in a city church, would arrive on the campus and quickly became a force for spiritual good at both the seminary and the college, even in his position as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government.

Helping this whole process were a number of personal resolutions which Miller wrote down for himself, as a way of guiding his relationship with other people at both the college and the seminary. Those resolutions are too long to print here, but two of them speak to Christian people being in a supporting role, whether in the church, your called profession, or in any organization.

Number 3 reads, “I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary, as never to give the least reasonable ground of offence.  It shall be my aim, by divine help, ever to treat him with the most scrupulous respect and delicacy, and never to wound his feelings, if I know how to avoid it.”

Number 4 reads, “. . . Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my college, I will, in no case, take offence at his treatment of me.  I have come hither resolving, that whatever may be the sacrifice of my personal feelings—whatever may be the consequence—I will not take offence, unless I am called upon to relinquish truth or duty.  I not only will never, the Lord helping me, indulge a jealous, envious, or suspicious temper toward him; but I will, in no case, allow myself to be wounded by any slight, or appearance of disrespect. I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or context.  What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master.”

These were only two of the seven resolutions.  But even considering these two alone, what would be the result in our churches if both officers and members would more fully reflect in their character and conduct these two resolutions.  Truth and duty indeed were the only two exceptions to the rule.  Otherwise, the guiding principle was to always esteem others more highly than yourself.

Words to live by:  Samuel Miller wrote above, “I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or conflict.”  What a magnanimous spirit!  What a change this would cause in many local churches, to say nothing of our evangelical and Reformed denominations, if all the officers and members possessed Samuel Miller’s spirit.  Examine yourself, dear reader, or examine your small group, or examine your local fellowship. How do you measure up?  What can be done if you find your character and conduct lacking?  Is it not time for a revival of religion in your circles?

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The bicentennial observation of the founding of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, of Fairton, New Jersey, commonly known as the Old Stone Church, was observed on September 29, 1880, the church having been organized in 1680. That congregation continues on to the present day and is a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America.

osbornEthanEasily the most distinguished pastor in the history of the Old Stone Church was the Rev. Ethan Osborn.

For our Lord’s day sermon, the following is a transcript of the aged pastor’s last words to his congregation,

“the aged preacher, in all the faithfulness of his still loving heart, and under circumstances which could not fail to awaken for him the sympathy of his audience. He is now in his ninety-second year. The place where he stands was he scene of his eventful ministrations for more than half a century, and he does not expect ever to preach from that pulpit again. After referring to the ministry of his predecessor, who in 1780 preached the first sermon in the house, to his own labors there, and to those of the writer of this memorial, then the pastor of the congregation, he proceeds—”

“I may safely say that by the preaching of these three ministers, in this house, the doctrines and all things essential to duty and salvation, have been clearly explained and faithfully urged upon the people. The doctrine of human depravity has been explained and proved from Scripture and common observation. Here also the doctrine of regeneration has been repeatedly set forth, and the absolute necessity of it urged upon the people. It has been shown that we must be new created in Christ Jesus, must have the love of God ruling in our hearts, or we can never be admitted into his kingdom.

“Also the doctrines of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have been faithfully preached in this house, and their absolute necessity in order to obtain pardon and heavenly felicity. Likewise the duties prescribed in the gospel have been explained and insisted on. The people have been informed that supreme love to God is their indispensable duty. Here also they have been taught the duties we owe, one to another, to do good to all according to our abilities and opportunities; and to ourselves, to live sober and religious lives in the world. Here also, that the law forbids every sin, whether in action, word or heart, and pronounces a curse on every transgression of it. For ‘cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And as all have sinned, therefore no human being can be justified before God by the deeds of the law, or by meritorious obedience. The law requires perfect and perpetual obedience. But as no man has yielded such obedience, or possessed sinless perfection, therefore in vain do you now look to the law for justification.

‘Since to convince and to condemn,
Is all the law can do.’

“But, thanks to God : the gospel reveals a way of justification, how we may obtain forgiveness and the favor of God. And this blessed gospel has often been preached in this house, the gospel which offers a free pardon to every humble penitent. ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ The blessed Saviour invites the weary and heavy laden sinner to come to him, assuring him that he will raise him up at the last day to eternal life. Such is the inviting and beneficent language of the gospel. But at the same time, both law and gospel denounce everlasting punishment on such as reject the Saviour and die impenitent.

“Now the interesting question is, How have the people improved the preaching of the law and the gospel? Most of those who lived under the ministry of my predecessor have gone to the grave. But to you who are yet living and hearing the gospel, the question is solemn and important. Have you so improved the preaching of God’s word as to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

“To those who are pious believers, I would say, you have chosen the good part, and God has begun a gracious work in you which he will carry on until it terminates in glory. So that by faith in Christ, shaving laid hold on the hope set before us, you may have a strong consolation, and go on your Christian course rejoicing. Be not satisfied with your present relative attainments, but press forward to the work of perfection, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Use the appointed means of reading and hearing the word of God, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves for public worship, as many do, and by no means neglect the privilege and duty of prayer. Ask and receive, not only that you may have grace to serve God, but that you may also grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord Jesus Christ. In this way religion will become more pleasant. The nearer you advance toward heavenly perfection, the more delighted you will be with heavenly enjoyment. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’

‘Come leave his pleasant ways,
And let us taste his grace.’

“Never be weary in well doing, for in perseverance, you shall in due time reap a glorious harvest. As an inducement thus to live and spend your remaining days, remember your judge and mind will ere long call us to answer, how I have preached the gospel and how you have improved it.

“I now turn to those of you whose future happiness is not yet secured by faith in the Mediator. Your situation is awfully dangerous. You are now suspended between the possibility of eternal happiness or eternal misery. You are now between the two vast extremes, or if I may more plainly express it between heaven and hell. Either celestial happiness or infernal misery must in a short time be your everlasting portion. How solemn is the prospect before you—the joys of heaven or the sorrows of hell, one of which must be your everlasting portion,—the latter except ye turn at God’s reproof. ‘As though God did beseech you, by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’ Believe me when I say it is my heart’s desire and prayer to God, that you and I may have a joyful meeting at the judgment, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“As we expect this to be the last Sabbath on which I shall speak to you from this pulpit, let me say, in the presence of God who knows my heart, that I have endeavored and prayed that I might faithfully perform my ministerial duties. Though I am conscious of much imperfection, God is my witness, that I have ever preached such doctrine and precepts as I verily believe are agreeable to his word. I have repeatedly said, ‘the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’ With gratitude to God, I look back upon the religious revivals with which he has blessed us and the friendly relations which have subsisted between us. It is no small satisfaction that as pastor and people we separated as friends, and that a pleasant intercourse subsists between myself and my successor, your present pastor. Never were the people more dear to me, I shall love them as long as I live.

“Excuse my plainness, and permit me once more to say in the fullness of my feelings, that my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you all is, that you may be saved. As it will not be long before we must each answer to God—I for my ministry, and you for your improvement of it, let us be diligent in what duty remains and in advancing toward heaven. Let brotherly love continue and abound, until it shall be perfected in the heavenly kingdom. And may God prepare us all to meet in heaven! I now bid you a cordial farewell, praying that it may fare well with you in this world, in blessings of health and prosperity, as far as shall be for God’s glory and your own good, and that in the future world, entered with your blessed Saviour into the joy of your Lord, you may FARE WELL.”

[excerpted from The Pastor of the Old Stone Church (1858), pp. 52-56. To read this work online, click here.]

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He was a wanted man

The Presbyterian pastor teacher was a wanted man, that is, wanted by theological seminaries to teach at their school.  Princeton Seminary wanted George T.  Purves to teach church history on their faculty.  Western Seminary wanted the scholar to teach theology.  McCormick Seminary in Chicago want the veteran pastor to teach theology on their faculty.  But the heart of this Princeton Seminary alumni was in New Testament, so when a vacancy opened up with the death of Caspar Wistar Hodge, he came to Princeton Seminary.

George Tybout Purves was born on September 27, 1852 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His undergraduate studies were at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1872.  Immediately, he went to Princeton Seminary for the years of 1873 to 1877.  Becoming ordained by the Chester Presbytery, he served three Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and back in Pennsylvania at the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.  With pastoral experience behind him then, he went back to Princeton where for the next eight years (1892 – 1900), he taught New Testament Literature and Exegesis.

Not known for his authorship of volumes (though he wrote about twenty books), his spiritual legacy was found in the men who sat under him in classes and graduated to change the world for Christ.  That legacy continued in the pastoral field as during his teaching duties at the seminary, he also supplied the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton.

Leaving the seminary halls for the pulpit once again, he accepted the call to become the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.  After serving one year, he answered his Savior’s summons and died in 1901.

Words to live by:  What spiritual gifts this man of God possessed!  When he was in the pastorate, the theological schools wanted him. When he was in the sacred halls of seminaries, the churches wanted him. The point is this! Everyone, every Christian, has been given at least one, and no doubt many more Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts.  In one sense, it doesn’t matter where you use them.  The important thing is that you use them somewhere. Do you know what your spiritual gift is?  Ask your spouse, or a close Christian friend, or your elder, or your pastor. Then finding it, use it for God’s glory and the good of His church.

For further study : Dr. Purves’s inaugural lecture at Princeton, “St. Paul and Inspiration,” can be read on the web here.
The George Tybout Purves Manuscript Collection is preserved at the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary, and described in a finding aid, here. [I note that this finding aid was written by PCA pastor Ray Cannata, back when he was a student at PTS.]

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God Will Surely Provide

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]It was on this day, September 26th, in 1759, that the Rev. Samuel Davies was installed as President of the College of New Jersey. [It was upon the occasion of its sesquicentennial celebrations in 1896, that the school’s name was changed to Princeton University.]  How did the Lord prepare Samuel Davies for such an important position? One part of that story is told on the early pages of his Memoir:—

During the first part of the eighteenth century, religion was, perhaps, in a lower state of declension, throughout the British dominions, than at any other period since the reformation. The concurrent testimony of churchmen and dissenters establishes this fact. Many clergymen of various denominations had become very lukewarm, and in many instances exceedingly corrupt; and the people were ready enough to follow the steps of their spiritual guides. It was in this season of darkness that several men were born, who, afterwards, were burning and shining lights in the world. The names of Tennent, Blair, Edwards, Davies, and Whitefield, may suffice to illustrate this remark. Since their day, vital piety has gradually increased, and the spiritual condition of the church of Christ has become more prosperous. The subject of this memoir was powerfully instrumental in producing the happy change.

Samuel Davies was born in the county of Newcastle, Delaware, November 3, 1724. The Christian names of his parents are unknown to us; nor can we say anything of the origin of the family, or trace it beyond the immediate progenitors. The father is represented to have been a plain farmer, in very moderate circumstances; the mother a very sensible and judicious woman; both were pious. Their son was a child of prayer; and was from the birth devoted to God by the name of Samuel.

It is known that the religious declension, of which mention was made above, extended to Virginia. About the year 1740, some individuals in the county of Hanover were awakened to a deep concern for their eternal interests in a very extraordinary manner. A few leaves of Boston’s Fourfold State fell into the hands of a wealthy planter, and made so deep an impression on his mind, that he never rested until he procured a copy of the work. This book it is believed, was instrumental in affording light to his mind, and peace to his heart. Another gentleman, Mr. Samuel Morris, derived similar advantages from Luther on the Galatians. The books that had been so useful to these persons were read to others, and produced very great and happy effects. So deep was the sensation, that multitudes were accustomed to assemble for the purpose of hearing Morris read. His house was in a short time too small to contain them; and a meeting-house was built for the purpose, long known by the name of Morris’s reading room. In this state of things, the Rev. William Robinson, a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, was sent on a mission to the frontier settlements. On his tour, he entered Virginia, and preached with great acceptance among the Scotch and Irish, who had made settlements in the counties of Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Campbell.

At Cub Creek, in the county of Charlotte, he was heard by some of the young people from Hanover who had gone to visit their friends, and who soon sent back word what manner of man was among them. On receiving this intelligence, two messengers were immediately dispatched from Hanover for Mr. Robinson. He had left the place, but they followed in his tract and at length overtook him. He was prevailed on to consent to visit Hanover, and at the appointed time he came. For four days he continued among them, preaching to the crowds that had assembled at the reading room. This is described as a very remarkable season.

On Mr. Robinson’s taking leave, some of the gentlemen presented him with a considerable sum of money, not merely as a compensation for his faithful labors among them, but principally as an expression of that gratitude they felt towards Mr. Robinson, as the honored instrument of so much good to them. But he modestly declined their liberality, assigning for the reason of his refusal, not only the delicacy of his and their situation–that the enemies of the cause of religion might, should he receive it, endeavor to represent him as a mere mercenary, and thus wound and injure the infant flock; but chiefly because he did not need it, the Lord having blessed him with independence as to fortune; and being thus able, he wished to labor without being burdensome to those among whom he went preaching the gospel. These reasons, though strong and unanswerable, could not silence the pleadings of their heart-felt gratitude–a gratitude which found no other way of exercising itself towards its object but by some offering of this kind. They therefore repeatedly urged its acceptance, but he constantly and firmly declined the offer.

Seeing no hope of his receding from the determination he had taken not to receive their money, the committee entrusted with it put it into the hands of the gentleman with whom he was to lodge the last night of his stay in the county, with directions to convey it privately into his saddle-bags, not doubting but when, after his departure, he should find himself in possession of the money, he would appropriate it to his own use. This was accordingly done. And in the morning Mr. Robinson, having taken an affectionate leave of his kind friends, took his saddle-bags to depart; but he found them much more ponderous than when he came there. Searching for the cause, like Joseph’s brethren of old, he found the money in the sack’s mouth. Pleased with the benevolent artifice, he smiling said, “I see you are resolved I shall have your money. I will take it. But, as I have before told you, I do not need it. I have enough. Nor will I appropriate it to my own use. But there is a young man of my acquaintance, of promising talents and piety, who is now studying with a view to the ministry; but his circumstances are embarrassing; he has not funds to support and carry him on without much difficulty. This money will relieve him from his pecuniary difficulties. I will take charge of it and appropriate it to his use. And so soon as he is licensed, we will send him to visit you. And if you should be pleased with him, and he should be pleased with you, it may be that you may now, by your liberality, be educating a minister for yourselves.” The proposition was immediately accepted, and the money faithfully appropriated to the benefit of young Davies while pursuing his theological studies.

“And that is the reason,” said a pious old lady who communicated this, “that Mr. Davies came to Hanover; for he often used to say that he was inclined to settle in another place; but that he felt under obligation to the people of Hanover.” — This anecdote is not only told by aged persons who were contemporary with Davies, but is handed down by tradition, and related in terms of the same import with those used above, by the grandchildren of some of Mr. Davies’s people.

Words to Live By:
It is delightful, from the present time, to look back to an occurrence apparently so trivial as the discovery of a few leaves in an old book, and trace the many important events connected with it; to see the workings of Providence accomplishing his purposes, and carrying on his great designs of mercy in our favored land. It is delightful to think on the ways of the Almighty, and contemplate the dealings and dispensations of the God of our Fathers.

“Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them. Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed. ‘My Father, thou art the guide of my youth’ (Jeremiah 3:4).”—excerpted from chapter nine of The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel.

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The Solemn League and Covenant

Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 22:1 that “a good name is to be more desired that great wealth.” Our names are important because they are part of our identity. These posts go out to those whose convictions identify them as belonging to the name “Presbyterian.”  As part of their name, there are various events which took place in the past which help identify us. They educate us, inspire us, and challenge us to live our own Christian lives more fully and completely. Our topic this day in Presbyterian history is one of those events, namely, the Solemn League and Covenant.

The Solemn League and Covenant was written by the Rev. Alexander Henderson, a minister in the Church of Scotland. That Church approved this document on August 17, 1643.  It then was received by both the Englishh Parliament and the Westminster Assembly on this day, September 25, 1643. Why was it important that the English Parliament approved it? The answer is that looming in the background was an English Civil War between King Charles I and the English Parliament. The Parliament realized that unless they had help from the Scottish church and nation, they would not be victorious in this war. So they signed it as well.

We reproduce it here, in a paraphrased edition, copied from the book “Our Covenant Heritage,” written by T.E. Edwin Nisbet Moore (and used by permission).  With uplifted hand, the two nations pledged that they would endeavor:—

(1) . . . the preservation of the Reformed religion in the Church of England . . . [and} the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland . .  according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed churches: And shall endeavor to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and  uniformity of religion . . . .

(2) . . . the extirpation of popery, prelacy, . . . superstition, heresy, schism, Profanity, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness . . .

(3) . . . [the] preservation and defense of the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, . . . the king’s majesty’s persons and authority, .  . . the true religions and liberties of the kingdoms. . .

(4) . . . this discovery of all such as have been, or shall be incendiaries, malignants, or evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, dividing the king from his people, or one of the kingdoms from another, or making any fashion, or parties amongst the people contrary to this league and covenant . . .

(5) . . . [the conjoining] in a firm peace and union to all posterity . . .

(6) . . . [the assistance and defense of] all those that enter into this league and covenant . . . And [we] shall not suffer ourselves . . . to be divided and withdrawn from this blessed union. . .

And because these kingdoms are guilty of many sins, and provocations against God, and his Son Jesus Christ . . . we profess and declare before God, and the world, our unfeigned desires to be humbled for our sins . . . to amend our lives, and each to go before another in the example of a real reformation, that the Lord may turn away his wrath . . . . Most  humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit . . . to the glory of God, the enlargement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the peace and tranquility of the Christian kingdoms and commonwealths.”

How this covenant was put into practice however was less than desirable. Rather than allowing the Christian citizens of the kingdom voluntarily to sign it, as had been done with previous covenants, they required the ministers to report anyone who either disapproved or would not swear to the covenantal words.  The late J.G. Vos points out that this compulsory requirement ended up debasing the covenant.  Many, like Charles II, signed it for reasons other than genuine acceptance. It should have been left to a voluntary response by the people.

Words to Live By:
Moses in Deuteronomy 5:29 writes, “Oh  that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commands always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”  This is a worthy prayer to be prayed by all of God’s people in any age.  It is to be prayed for our families, our church families, and the citizens of our nation. Will you pray it today, this week, this month, and this year?

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The judicatories of the church shall ordinarily sit with open doors. In every case involving a charge of heresy the judicatory shall be without power to sit with closed doors. In other cases, where the ends of the discipline seem to require it, the trial judicatory at any stage of the trial may determine by a vote of three-fourths of the members present to sit with closed doors.”
—Chapter IV, The Trial of Judicial Cases, The Book of Church Order of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 2011 edition, Section A.1.b., page 102.

As it turns out, the OPC has had this provision in their Book of Church Order ever since that document was first approved in 1938. Three denominations in fact, the OPC, the BPC and the RPCES—each looking back in common heritage to the modernist controversy of the 1930s—retain or retained virtually identical wording in their respective Books of Discipline. 

But where did this otherwise unique stipulation come from? It appears to have been a response to an ecclesiastical trial, one in which two lay people, Mary W. Steward and Murray Forst Thompson, were tried in secret, behind closed doors, for their refusal to step away from their participation in the ministry of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. This event led Dr. J. Gresham Machen to write at some length opposing secrecy in the courts of the church. To my knowledge, this particular work by Dr. Machen has never before been reprinted.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT
By J. GRESHAM MACHEN

machen03The Bible bids us walk honestly as in the day; it bids us commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

These commands are very broad in their application, but whatever else they require, they certainly require great openness in our relationship with one another and in the conduct of the affairs of the Church.

The Discouragement of Public Discussion

In marked contradiction to these Biblical commands, the ecclesiastical bureaucracy in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. discourages open discussion and seeks to withhold from the laity and the public what is really going on in the Church.

“If you do not like what the General Assembly does,” we are told in one form or another again and again, “use the ‘constitutional’ means of redress, but do not use the pulpit and the radio and the public press to air your criticisms; do not in that fashion disturb the peace of the Church.”

I think the appeal by the advocates of this policy of secrecy and bureaucratic tyranny to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. is one of the strangest things among all the strange things that are happening just at the present time. As a matter of fact, such a policy is abhorrent to the very heart and core of that Constitution.

There are many reasons why that is so. But one reason has sometimes escaped notice. It is the reason found in the democratic character of the government of our Church.

The Standards of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. require absolute subjection of all to God; but, so far as the human instruments of church government are concerned, they place the power and the responsibility—always subject in all things to the Word of God—in the hands of the rank and file.

The commissioners to the General Assembly are elected by the Presbyteries; the elders in the Presbyteries are elected by the sessions of the several churches; and the sessions of the several churches are elected by the rank and file. Even in the case of the ministers, a little reflection will show that the rank and file of the Church, so far as the human instruments in the choice of them are concerned, has a decisive voice.

Suppose, then, the General Assembly does wrong. How can that wrong be righted? Merely by an appeal in private to the commissioners to the next General Assembly? Not at all. But by the election of a different sort of commissioners.

But who chooses the commissioners? As we have just observed, the rank and file of the Church chooses them. Very well then; the reasons for choosing a different sort of commissioners must be presented to the rank and file.

How must they be presented? Obviously by the only means in which the rank and file can be reached—by the pulpit, the press, and every other means that may be used in communication among men.

Let it never be forgotten. The government of our Church is, on the human side, a government by the people. For that reason, therefore, if for no other and still more important reasons, the people should not be kept in ignorance. If the General Assembly does something that is wrong—if, for example, it establishes a Modernist board of foreign missions—that is not the business merely of committees or boards, but it is the business of every man, woman and child in the Church.

In asking us to keep the facts from the laity, and to reserve our criticisms of the General Assembly or the Boards for the privacy of committee rooms, the present ecclesiastical bureaucracy is asking us to do something that is against the inmost heart of the Constitution of our Church and is profoundly contrary to the Word of God.

The Disgrace of Secret Courts

At one point the policy of secrecy in ecclesiastical affairs becomes an offence to all fair-minded people whether in the Church or outside of it.

That point is found in the secrecy of church courts. In several of the “trials” of members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, the first decision of the court—reversed only after the appearance of a rising tide of public disapproval—was to close the doors; and this policy of secrecy has again been decided upon by a vote of the session of the Hollond Memorial Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia in the trial of Murray Forst Thompson, Esq., and Miss Mary W. Stewart.

The session seemed to lay great stress upon that vote. It was put through, by an alleged majority of 6 to 3, in the most hasty and illegal manner. Apparently great stress was laid upon keeping the public in ignorance of what was going on.

What will be the result? The result will be that the findings of such a court will utterly fail to win the respect of fair-minded people either within the Church or outside of it. Court proceedings certainly ought to be open and above-board; and the general public has a pretty shrewd notion that a thing which is not open is not very apt to be above-board.

That notion may be right or it may be wrong; but at any rate people generally will hold to it. Our Form of Government says that one of the things that give ecclesiastical discipline its force is “the approval of an impartial public.” Well, it is perfectly clear that no impartial public is going to have much respect for courts that deprive an accused person of the right of an open hearing.

That right is accorded the most degraded criminal under our civil laws. If men are deprived of it in church courts, that means that the Church is standing on a lower moral plane than the world at large. Religion will seem to many people to be little more than a delusion and a sham when it is made a cloak for tyranny such as that.

The Remedy for Secrecy

What is the remedy for the bureaucratic secrecy that now prevails so widely in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.? What is the remedy for this vicious notion that “constitutional” means of purifying the Church do not include the public denunciation of ecclesiastical unbelief and sin? What is the reason for the abomination of secret ecclesiastical courts?

The answer is very simple. The remedy for darkness is light.

It is the duty of every man in the Church to let the light of day into the dark places of ecclesiastical bureaucracy. It is the duty of every man to present the facts as he knows them.

Specious arguments are sometimes used to commend a contrary policy. The Church, it is said, ought to discuss her affairs quietly and not make a spectacle of her quarrels in the presence of a hostile world.

But such arguments are miserable half-truths. The Church cannot conceal her faults, even if she should desire to do so. The very attempt at concealment will make her seem all the more contemptible to those who are without.

Instead, she ought to stand forth openly in the light of day. She has never claimed to be perfect. God knows, and the world knows, that she has sin within her walls. But at least she ought not to claim to be better than she is. Light is sometimes very painful when it shines into dark places, but it is beneficent in the end.

So the long policy of concealment ought now to cease. We ought to break away from it resolutely and radically. We ought to present the full facts about the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., so that they may be known to all.

But how may the facts be made known?

There are many ways of making them known—the pulpit, the public press, the spread of information from man to man.

But the best way of all to make them known is to have a journal that shall present them fully and fearlessly and connectedly to all who will read. There is now great need of such a journal, but we are soon to have the need supplied by the appearance of THE PRESBYTERIAN GUARDIAN. AS is announced elsewhere in this issue of THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the new paper is to be the organ of The Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. It is to be under the editorship of the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths. It will satisfy many needs of Christian people. It will appeal to young and old. But a very important part of its function will be the presentation of the facts about the condition of the Church.

The time has gone by, if there ever was such a time, when Christian people, particularly in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., could afford to be in ignorance of the facts. We must know the facts in order that we may lay them before our God in prayer and ask Him to give us courage to act in view of them as Christian men and women ought to act.

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You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. And you can’t really make sense of Presbyterian history if you don’t know something of the various people who played out this grand story.

So Ad fontes! (To the sources!) — There is probably no better way to assess the character and mentality of an era or a group of people than to read what they themselves have actually written. Don’t be satisfied with reading secondary sources! And in the case of Christians, churches, and denominations, read or listen to their sermons, their discourses, and their theology.

The following address, delivered in 1941 by Dr. Carl McIntire on the occasion of the dedication of a new property and home for Faith Theological Seminary, at the beginning of the school’s fourth academic year. The Seminary was later to move to yet another location, the old historical Widener estate. While eventually the school fell on hard times and had to leave the Widener property, it has managed to continue on unto this day. 

Dr. McIntire was always a “scrapper,” ready for a fight and unafraid of any opposition. Clearly he had his faults, some of them glaring, but he was a most remarkable and interesting character in this story that was conservative Presbyterianism in the twentieth century. The address that follows provides us with some rich insights into American Presbyterian history, into the mentality of theological conservatives, and in particular, some better insight into just who Carl McIntire was.


ADDRESS AT THE DEDICATION OF THE PROPERTY GIVEN TO FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
September 23, 1941.
by the REV. CARL MCINTIRE
President of the Board of Directors.

Text:  “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23)

Faith Theological Seminary is not just “another seminary.” It stands as a pivotal citadel against a decaying Protestantism. It is not a small stream off a great river, but it moves in the very center of the current of the Christian faith.

The founding of this institution in 1937 was occasioned by the apostasy in the visible church, particularly the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and the need for ministers and missionaries would would stand without compromise for the faith once delivered unto the saints. It is not “another seminary” because of its cause. It is not “another seminary” because of its scholarship. It is not “another seminary” because of its consecration.

Faith Theological Seminary, 1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, De
[pictured above, the building donated to Faith Theological Seminary in 1941]

EARLY SCHOOLS OF THEOLOGY

The same motive that led to the establishment of the early schools of theology, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which was the need of a trained and sound ministry, was behind the establishment of this institution. The roots of this institution go back to the previous century and can be traced clearly in the rise of what is popularly called Modernism, the infiltration of the conclusions of destructive higher criticism into the theological seminaries, the colleges, and then down into the churches.

Harvard turned aside to another gospel, and the valiants of the faith broke from Harvard and established Andover Theological Seminary, but in time the termites of unbelief left only an outward shell at Andover, and it was joined again to Harvard. Satan focuses his strongest attacks on sound seminaries. Union Theological Seminary, New York City, at the close of the last century, was in the death throes of the same struggle. Men had crept in unawares, even denying the Lord who bought them. Their craft, their wiles gave them that institution, and it has since been a leading spokesman for a naturalizing and humanizing message. The last of these great institutions to fall was Princeton Theological Seminary, and it is in the succession to the stalwart, unyielding Princeton that Faith Seminary stands. But the softening and deadening effect that the infiltration of Modernism has had on Christianity in America had so affected the life of the church that when men objected to the presence of Modernism and cried out against it they could do nothing more than pass resolutions affirming their faith, when what the hour required was the discipline and rejection of those who denied. This was the hour of real defeat, and the fifth column’s victory. The struggle in the Presbyterian Church over the historic Auburn Affirmation was a weak, flimsy struggle compared to what that occasion required,, but the spirit and temper of the church easily explained the result. America in its dismal despair and desperate need can never be saved by that kind of leadership.

THE PRINCETON SEMINARY BATTLE

It was into this mist, with a deepening fog, that the storm broke over Princeton. God raised up several brilliant leaders, among them Dr. J. Gresham Machen and Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. They cried against Modernism, inclusivism, and indifference. Their cry was protected by a Board of Directors who stood with them. Though the great Northern Presbyterian Church, to which they belonged, straggled in response to their cry, the leadership of that body, under the spell of the voices of inclusivism, found that they could only silence the Princeton testimony by a reorganization. This was done in 1929. Princeton was made subservient to the inclusive trend of the church. Men were placed on the board of control who had said it was not necessary for preachers to believe in the essentials of the evangelical faith, such as the virgin birth, the blood of Christ, the miracles of our Lord, and His bodily resurrection, and they denied the inerrancy of the Bible.

THE LOSS OF PRINCETON

The change in Princeton since 1929 has been obvious to all. It ceased to be a militant contender for the faith; peace and quiet has been the order of the day. The hatchet between Union and Princeton has been publicly buried, and a recent General Assembly delighted in the union in fellowship and purpose of their presidents. Barthianism, with its relativism and subtle denial of the unique authority of the Scriptures as an objective deposit of truth, fills the halls where formerly the voices of the Alexanders, the Hodges, and the Warfields blazed forth in defense of the faith. Inclusivism is victorious.

But at the reorganization in 1929 those who were of the spirit of Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, walked out. They could be no party to the capitulation. Fifth columnists had captured Union in New York and Harvard, but it took a siege by politicians of the church to win Princeton.

WESTMINSTER STARTED

Princeton was the last of the old-line seminaries to go down, and the hopes of men turned toward Westminster Theological Seminary which was then organized in Philadelphia. There, under the leadership of Dr. Machen, the battle in the church continued. The same issues, loyalty to the Word of God, were raised by the publication of the pagan “Rethinking Missions” and its blanket endorsement by Pearl Buck, Presbyterian missionary. This opened the whole question of Modernism in the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. and its loyalty to the Word of God and the constitution of the church. The Presbyterian Assembly refused to reform the Board, or to order an investigation. Thus, in 1933. the famous Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was organized to receive the gifts of God’s people for the sending forth of missionaries, true and sound, and the lifting up of an uncompromising testimony to the Word of God. In 1936, our own Dr. Harold S. Laird succeeded Dr. Machen in the presidency of this historic and missionary testimony.

ECCLESIASTICAL PERSECUTION

But the fagots of ecclesiastical persecution were lighted in the Presbyterian Church. Machen and those associated with him on the Independent Board were tied to the stake, branded rebels, “cancers in the life of the church,” and because they would not bow their conscience to a mandate of the Assembly to disband their independent agency and support the compromising Board they were read out of the church, unfrocked, deposed. Some of us standing here have read the church fiats against our souls, telling us that we are no longer worthy to preach the Gospel, and forbidding us to partake of the Communion of Jesus Christ. But we have also read the Word of God telling us of God’s favor in obeying Him and standing for the precious blood of His Son. The Modernists, the inclusivists, the indifferentists, and some trembling, silent “Fundamentalists” joined in thus restoring the “peace,” not by purifying the church, but by disrupting it, and making it secure for the Modernists.

A new church was started and the movement had wide appeal. In the midst of the battle the emphasis of the defenders had been upon the Bible as the Word of God—the faith. But it is one thing to stand against apostasy, and it is another thing to build a church. Church history is replete with this lesson. Dr. Machen’s work was done. God called him Home at this crucial point. Had he lived, perhaps the turn of events would have been different. However, it is clear that God in His providence did not want them to be different.

THE FALL OF WESTMINSTER

There were elements smoldering in the movement closely associated with Dr. Machen which were not in accord with the historic position of American Protestantism and particularly of the historic Presbyterian Church in regard to the Christian’s position on certain vital matters of conduct. After Dr. Machen was removed there came to the fore an element in Westminster Seminary which told the students that they were not loyal to Christ if they did not substitute for the ordinary grape juice of the Communion cup fermented, intoxicating wine. Certain professors declared that they used intoxicating beverages, not, of course, to become intoxicated, but for their own pleasure. Under this influence certain students held drinking parties, and some even went so far as to become intoxicated. As this situation became known, the leaders of Westminster Seminary took refuge in the doctrines of Christian liberty. As to the validity and reality of those doctrines none in the movement disputed them, but there was question as to the expedient use of such liberty, particularly in our mechanized, high-tempered, present-day American life. In such an atmosphere the Seminary leaders practically forgot the old issue of Modernism and apostasy, and the young students were filled with the arguments for liberty. They went out as flaming apostles for liberty in the use of intoxicating drinks. Expedience, as taught in the Bible, was buried.

In a near-by community where there was a referendum being held against the saloon, one of the students arose and preached on Sunday morning a sermon in which he explained to the people their liberty in the use of intoxicating beverages. Church members broke down crying, some left never to darken the church door again.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

In the midst of such a situation, in love these brethren were approached and talked with, and urged to change their conduct as a matter of expediency, to consider the weaker brother, and to use not their liberty for an occasion of offense. They refused. These matters were raised in the new church, and to the amazement of so many, when a simple resolution by way of counsel and advice was presented, stating that it was the wisest policy for young people to abstain from the use of intoxicating drinks, the Westminster force rose and fought It as Satan. Also in such an atmosphere students who never had smoked began to use cigarettes.

Coupled with this, after the death of Dr. Machen, to the bewilderment of others there came to the fore an intolerance of those who believed in the premillennial return of Jesus Christ, and a Seminary spokesman accused those who loved this view of holding anti- Reformed heresy. Then there was a harsh intolerance for various opinions. The new church, they were determined, would be an amillennial body. The Seminary was going to present the “Biblical view,” which they held to be amillennialism. But many of the churches believed in the premillennial return of Christ, and young men were sent to them who immediately took up the battle against the premillenarians.

It seemed that one cannon after another was exploded by the Seminary to confuse and drive from the movement all who did not agree with the new leadership of the Seminary after Dr. Machen’s removal. A hyper-Calvinism even criticized former students who in their zeal for evangelism gave pulpit invitations for men to come forward and accept Christ. They seemed to make their emphasis on the “Reformed Faith” almost a fetish.

In the midst of such confusion utter despair and defeat seemed imminent. The enemies of the Gospel rejoiced and chortled. This new conflict was minor in comparison to the issues of Modernism, yet it was real and valid, for it represented the birth pangs of a new church, a continuation of the true Presbyterian succession, and a body free from Modernism. The enemies of the faith deliberately misrepresented the facts to justify their unrighteous stand and to misguide uninformed Christians. Many of the weaker brethren who had gone along with the struggle for the faith fell by the wayside, or turned back to the material comforts of an established church organization. But all this was a testing, a sifting, and purging. There were some who were ready to be made a spectacle All this was pain, but also a blessing!

FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY RISES

It was in this hour that Faith Theological Seminary was born. There was a Gideon’s band who saw the battle through!

I shall always thank God that I was privileged, together with many of my colleagues here on the Seminary Board and Faculty, to be in the thick of the historic struggle for the faith.

For the most confused hours God gave men faith, and this institution came forth with a conviction that the struggle for the faith against apostasy had to continue, with a proper emphasis on first things, and a sane balance on secondary issues. Faith Seminary would continue the defense of the faith represented by Dr. Machen in his celebrated works, such as “What Is Faith,” “Christianity and Liberalism,” “The Origin of Paul’s Religion,” and “The Virgin Birth.” It would sound the call to a consistent Calvinism, to an appreciation of the Reformed Faith in its warmth and zeal for the salvation of the lost, its implicit reliance on the sovereignty of God, and its full honoring of the grace of God. There is no other institution in existence with this single purpose and clear vision of America’s need. It is important whether ministers drink or do not drink, and whether the influence of the church be on the side of separation from worldliness. Since Westminster took the amillennial position, Faith Theological Seminary would lift a banner in behalf of premillennialism, granting full liberty to those Christians who differ.

FOR THE FAITH—BY FAITH

Faith Seminary has come through blood and fire, thunder and tears, and in those hours of battle there was one thing that kept and held it. It Was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His ultimate victory. Thus the institution was given its name and motto, “Faith Theological Seminary—for the faith—by faith.”

It was in this hour also that the Bible Presbyterian Church, a true successor to the Presbyterian Church, came into being. It has been singularly blessed of God, and many are rallying to its testimony. There is a chapter that perhaps should not be left unmentioned, for the sake of the record. Faith Seminary was not announced until the middle of July, 1937. In June of that year, a month and a half before, plans were being made for a seminary at Wheaton College under the direction of the Board of Directors of the College, but when the plan was presented to the Board they turned it down because they did not want to be too closely associated with the controversy. This action has proved to be a blessing. However, one prominent Philadelphia attorney who knew confidentially of the plans for the Wheaton seminary in June changed his will, leaving a substantial sum for the Wheaton project, and before he heard that the College had turned down the seminary he died. The Wheaton Board lost an opportunity of a century, and then later turned out its fearless leader, Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, for a more mollifying attitude toward the Modernistic larger denominations. Men everywhere seem to be afraid to get too close to the Seminary and the movement which it represents for fear of losing something, or being hurt in some measure. What a compliment to the Seminary! And what a sad commentary upon the superficiality of present-day Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists need to take a deeper view of the Scriptures. There, too, is Elijah versus Ahab, Nathan versus David, John the Baptist versus Herod. This hour, called by some leading liberals the twilight of Christianity, this day of darkening apostasy calls to high heaven for such prophets.

A DOUBLE BLESSING

When the decision was made in the middle of July, 1937, that Faith would be started, those who had the institution at heart thought that twelve students would be a token of the Lord’s blessing. It was to open the last of September. He sent twenty-four. We had no buildings, no money, few friends, but a great God, and a group of men who knew how faithful is Elijah’s God. What precious days these were, yea, what precious days these are!

God has given a Faculty—consecrated, scholarly, self-sacrificing. These men see the issue. They love the cause. This is the spirit of our fathers who forsook all and worshiped in caves, and instructed their students in blackouts. That spirit is more priceless than all earth’s treasures. God has given us distinguished men of gifts and vision, willing to suffer and bleed for the truth. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson groomed his successor for Princeton in Allan A. MacRae. He has nobly and ably picked up the mantle that fell from the old prophet’s shoulders, having seen also the chariot of fire. He is excelled by none in America as an Old Testament scholar and authority. Under the careful scholarship of Dr. Machen, Alfred W. Eppard was prepared for a teaching ministry and sent abroad for further preparation. He was ready when the opportunity came to present the historical, exegetical apologetic of the New Testament in the tradition of Machen. A younger, brilliant student, R. Laird Harris, was also being groomed in a similar manner for such a ministry while a student at Westminster, and God gave him to Faith. It was by an irresistible whirl of God’s providence that J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., was available to command the Chair of Theology for which God had qualified him. When God decides to build a Seminary, He first provides for spiritual needs. Buildings come later.

God has provided us directors with a determination, “This one thing I do.”

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE

It is out of the welter, the heat, the smoke of battle that we meet this afternoon to receive this gift of God’s choosing. He makes great and important decisions for us. He wants this Seminary to be here at Wil­mington close to the influences of the ministry of our secretary of the Board, Dr. Harold S. Laird. Here is visible a half million dollar church building from whose pulpit Dr. Laird was ejected—to remain there would have meant to deny Christ—in order to take his flock to an empty church by the railroad where they could worship Jesus Christ freely and fully with no yoke with compromise and unbelief in the Presbyterian Church.

America needs the prophets of Faith Theological Seminary. I see four varieties of seminary students and ministers today, but there is only one of these four that is worth having.

THE FIRST YOUNG MAN

First, there is the young man, trained in a liberal school. He is a liberal and not ashamed of it. He comes from such a school as Union in New York. He does not believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. He cannot accept the virgin birth, and openly says so. He has one credit to himself, and that is, he is honest. But he is doubly dishonest when he goes into a denomination whose creed affirms the things he denies. But there he easily cajoles his conscience, for the leaders of the church in letting him in are just as dishonest as he is in denying the creed; and besides, honesty, like all values in the new order, is only a relative matter. It is just thus with so many of the agreements of the world. They mean nothing more than the moment requires. So it is with the constitution of many of the larger churches. They are words written on paper, but not in the courts of the elders.

THE SECOND YOUNG MAN

Second, there is the young man who comes out of a compromising seminary, such as Princeton. He wants to be fundamental. He has learned the lingo of the Fundamentalists, but he has caught a vision of a great church, a church which is the hope of the hour. He sees great buildings and equipment ready for his use. He does not think they should be turned over to Modernists. He is ready to go in and work With them, to be a fellow traveler with the Modernists. He is willing to vote along with them, to keep the peace of the church. Such & person is a miserable servant of man. His vision is of the glory of the church, of the great good he can do, and not of Christ. He is no servant of Christ. He must take his cue from the higher authorities or make his own. He cannot take his orders from the Word of God. If he did, he would be out and be done with the wicked, adulterous fellowships of Modernists and believers. He would see that obedience to the commands of Christ calls for separation.

THE THIRD YOUNG MAN

Third, there is the young man who is outside of the present modernistic and compromising denominations. He delights to be called a Fundamentalist. He even loves to preach the premillennial return of Christ. But he is done with any controversy of any kind. That word is poison. He wants to be left alone to carry on his own work quietly here or there and not to worry about what is taking place elsewhere. Such a young man is to be commended in his separation from the sinful yoke of indifference and apostasy, but he has only embraced half of the demands of the Gospel. He does not stand in the succession with an Isaiah or a Jeremiah, an Augustine or a Savonarola, a Luther or a Knox. He will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor will he reprove them. He will not lift up his voice like a trumpet and cry aloud and spare not, showing God’s people their transgressions. He wants only a so-called positive Gospel. He fails to see that his mission is only partially fulfilled. There are many today who would delight to see Faith Seminary turn out such men, and see the leadership of the Seminary change to that end. But pray God that we may never fall in that slough!

THE FOURTH YOUNG MAN

The fourth man, the kind of man we have envisioned stepping through the corridors of this institution in Wilmington, has vision which is not limited to the few square feet upon which his own little church will stand. Here we see young men trained to face the issues of our day, disciplined in study, drilled in doctrine, experienced in sacrifice, separated in life, going out to build a new church. The status quo of a decaying Protestantism must be changed. That sturdiness, that drive, that passion which have been absent from American Protestantism for so long must be rekindled and restored in Faith. The future of our democratic liberty in America is involved also! Faith is not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

We must have men who can say with Paul when life’s journey is nearing its end, “I have fought a good fight,” and not be ashamed of the word “fight”; “I have finished my course”—and know that he has had a course, straight and clean; “I have kept the faith,” and rejoice that God’s grace enabled him to recognize the subtle forms of compromise and denial of our day. We are not ashamed of controversy, when it is in behalf of the honor and glory of Christ. We are not afraid to be despised, abused, When it is in behalf of the Gospel of Christ. We are not afraid to be poor, locked out, and alone, when it is in behalf of the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

It takes men such as these to turn the world upside down, to endure afflictions, to do the work of an evangelist. These are dark days, and they are getting darker. It is more difficult as the days go by to be Christians. The harder the times, the stronger the leadership needed. It is not saying too much to say that the hope of American Protestantism at the present time rests in the type of leadership that Faith Theological Seminary is able to give—leadership in evangelizing the lost; leadership in establishing new churches; leadership in opening new mission fields; leadership in preaching on the streets and in halls; leadership in calling people out of sin unto Christ; leadership in exposing apostasy and Modernism in the visible church; leadership that convinces those of the faith that they are a heavenly and a peculiar people; and leadership which lifts the eyes of born again ones into the heavens from whence they look for their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!

SOME PROPERTY GIVEN

But, now, God has given us some property. It feels strange to have some. There are many perils in this. Do not think we are going to return the prop­erty, for God who gave it will give the grace to keep it in its proper place while we look away from things that perish. May the lessons which have been learned in the brief period of fiery trial ever be kept paramount in the hearts of those who teach in these halls and those who study here.

The struggle to maintain this institution true to the faith must ever be vigorous. The men who lead must be those who know the issues and see the de­mands of God’s Word. The future is challenging and commanding. We must occupy until Christ comes. We thank God for Faith Theological Seminary. He established it. He undergirded it. He leads it. We thank Him for the property. We thank Him for those who have been His instruments in giving it. May He give us faith to endure to the end. Amen.

McIntire, Carl, Address at the Dedication of the Property given to Faith Theological Seminary, 1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware, September 23, 1941. [Collingswood, N.J. : Christian Beacon Press,
1941. [14] p. : ill. ; 20 cm.  A published copy of this address is preserved in Box 458 at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

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A Presbyterian blog promoting a Baptist reading the works of an Anglican? Could we get any more ecumenical?

We are still big fans of this resource, and if you aren’t already aware if it, we will take the liberty here of reminding you. Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of the Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., has for the past several years been adding to this rich resource, a reading of the sermons of the Rev. Richard Sibbes. As the Capital Hill web site states, “The great value of Puritan writing continues to be in its depth of scriptural insight and timeless application.”

These sermons as read run from 30 minutes to just over an hour in length. They are presented in mp3 format and can be downloaded to your mobile devices. If you have the Works of Richard Sibbes, you may find it profitable to follow along with Dr. Dever’s reading. Dever will occasionally add some helpful background comments. If you are unfamiliar with Puritan literature in general, Dever’s readings form a convenient introduction.

Title Date Posted under
Sibbes – Lydia’s Conversion July 9, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Spiritual Favourite at the Throne of Grace June 19, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on II Corinthians 1:17 May 30, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on II Corinthians 1:5 May 23, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Matchless Love and Inbeing, Part I May 2, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Saint’s Refreshing March 19, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Art of Self Humbling March 12, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud,Sermons
Sibbes – The Tender Heart February 19, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud,Sermons
Sibbes – Commentary on II Corinthians 1:18 January 29, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Demand of a Good Conscience January 8, 2013 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Spiritual Mourning December 11, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on II Corinthians 1:23 December 4, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Christ is Best November 26, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – A Glimpse of Glory October 16, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Discouragement’s Recovery October 9, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Vanity of the Creature September 25, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Unprosperous Builder September 18, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – A Funeral Sermon, Balaam’s Wish, on Numbers 23:10 September 4, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Matchless Love and Inbeing, Part II August 28, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:19 August 21, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:14 August 14, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:13 July 10, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:6 July 3, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Sword of the Wicked June 26, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Church’s Echo May 31, 2012 Dr. Mark Dever,Reading Sibbes Aloud

 

Title Date Posted under
Sibbes – Pattern of Purity May 17, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – St. Paul’s Challenge May 10, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Son of Righteousness May 1, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Matchless Mercy April 17, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Spiritual Mourning April 3, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 March 20, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Church’s Visitation March 13, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – David’s Conclusion March 6, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:15 February 21, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Dead Man January 31, 2012 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Saint’s Privilege May 5, 2011 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Coming of Christ January 18, 2011 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Mary’s Choice January 11, 2011 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Discreet Ploughman January 4, 2011 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Miracle of Miracles: The Second Sermon December 21, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Miracle of Miracles December 14, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Church’s Blackness December 7, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Ungodly’s Misery September 28, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Christ’s Last Sermon: The Second Sermon September 21, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Touchstone of Regeneration September 14, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Spouse, Her Ernest Desire After Christ September 7, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Christian’s Watch August 31, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – The Success of the Gospel August 24, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:7 August 17, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud
Sibbes – Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:2 August 10, 2010 Dr. Mark DeverReading Sibbes Aloud

 

 

 

Given the Ken Burns program on the Roosevelts that has been running on PBS this past week, it seemed timely to re-run this story and sermon. This is a story that was not included in the program last night, when treating of FDR’s final days.

Dr. David Calhoun has recently published a volume on the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, the Columbia Seminary professor who was such a powerful influence in the lives of many of the founding fathers of the PCA. [Pleading for a Reformation Vision. Banner of Truth, 2013]. I can do no better than to call upon Dr. Calhoun to introduce the substance of our post today, a sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. Wm. Childs Robinson:—

rooseveltFD02On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Robinson preached on “God Incarnate for Suffering Men” in Warm Springs, Georgia. Among the worshipers were seventy-five polio sufferers including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The whole front of the chapel was free of pews so that the patients could be brought in on stretchers and in wheelchairs. . . . It was President Roosevelt’s last Easter. The day before his death, April 12, 1945, he wrote to Robinson, “That was indeed a grand service and it was wonderful that you could participate.” “It is not likely that I shall ever again preach to a president of the United States,” Dr. Robinson said, “but I may well remember that the King of kings is always in the audience and that I ought to preach Him as in His presence.”

   “God Incarnate For Suffering Men”

robinson_wm_c_72dpiBy Rev. Wm. C. Robinson, D.D.,
Professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia
(Hebrews 1, 11:9-18 and 5:7-8.)

As a nation we seem to stand on the edge of a great victory. But when the hope of victory is near, that is the moment to see ourselves in the light of God’s presence and to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Otherwise we shall give ourselves to such boastings as the Gentiles know. And lest we forget, the war has given us the solemn reminder of the fearful cost at which the victory has come. The Christmas season just past piled up the longest casualty list in American history. At Chicamauga there were thirty-three thousand casualties, at Gettysburg fifty-three thousand, at the Battle of the Bulge over fifty- five thousand American casualties. No wonder a recent weekly ran the Odyssey of a casualty, the story of one of our three hundred and eighty-odd thousand American wounded. Has the Church an answer to this chorus of suffering and heart ache that is rising from every heart and in every home? Blessed be God she has. To suffering man we offer the suffering Saviour. For the torn in body, for the shocked in mind, for the broken in heart the Gospel presents God who became incarnate that He might suffer with us and for us in our own human flesh.

The solace for the sorrow and the suffering of the last Christmas is in the first Christmas. It is precisely this—that “the Lord of glory of His own will entered into our life of grief and suffering, and for love of men bore all and more than all that men may be called to bear.” “God, the Almighty and Eternal God, has shared our experience in its depths of weakness and pain.”* [*William Temple.]

I.  The LORD who in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth and who upholds them by the Word of His power laid aside the glories of heaven and took our flesh and blood that in our nature He might suffer. In Himself God is the being of pure activity living in the blessedness and glory which no creaturely force can attack. But God willed to put Himself into our frail and suffering humanity that therein He might be susceptible to the flings and arrows of man’s rage and hate, and to all the suffering brought on by the creature’s rebellion against his Maker, and by man’s subsequent inhumanity to man. Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death that by the grace of God He might taste of death for every man. He entered into our life with all its miseries. The joy of heaven and the Lord of angels became the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. While He was here He was so busy healing the sick and ministering to the suffering that the first Evangelist remembered what was written by the prophet: Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.

It pleased God in bringing many sons unto glory to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering. Have your nerves twitched and pained where some limb was no more? His nerve centers, His very hands and feet, were pierced with cruel spikes. Have your temples throbbed with a fever that would not abate? His throbbed with thorns crushed into them. Have the implements of war torn and lacerated your body? The war-spear of the soldier was thrust into His side.

In the long days of agony are you asking why does He not work a miracle and restore you at once as He healed the multitudes in old Galilee? In The Robe, Lloyd Douglas has fancied the story of Miriam, a bed-ridden Jewish lass, whose body He did not heal, but in whose heart He placed a song. The Gospels have a surer story than Douglas’ fancy. There is one Person for whom Jesus did not work a miracle to avert suffering. That Person fasted forty days until He was tempted to turn the very rocks into bread. That Person was mocked and scourged and spit upon, but He never whimpered and He never beckoned for the twelve legions of angels that were at His call. When He suffered He threatened not. My brother, if He does not heal you with a word, He is inviting you to follow in the steps He Himself has trod without a single miracle to ease one bit of His agony. Refusing the deadening effect of the ancient drug He drained the bitter cup the Father gave Him to drink.

With the suffering, sorrowing people of Holland Pastor Koopman pleads: “Why so much suffering comes no one can say. But one thing I know and whoever knows it has the true faith in life and in death—it does not happen outside the merciful will of Jesus Christ. He understands your suffering because He has borne it all before you did.

Yes Christ bore our suffering, all that we bear and more. For He suffered not only the cruel scourging and the agonizing crucifixion by which His form was marred more than any man and His visage more than the sons of men. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. Thus He endured in His soul the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. He suffered as the Lamb of God for the sins of the World. It pleased the Father to bruise Him for our transgressions. And all this suffering with us and for us He freely took of His own loving and sovereign will. He who was God freely became man that His flesh might be torn and His body mangled for us men and for our salvation. And today:

“He, who for men in mercy stood,
And poured on earth His precious blood . . .
Our fellow-suffered yet retains A fellow feeling of our pains . . .
In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of sorrows had a part;
He sympathizes in our grief,
And to the suffered sends relief.”

II.  God incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth not only suffered our bodily pains, His breast also throbbed with our heart aches. He who numbers the stars heals the broken in heart. He who marshalls the spiral nebulae binds up our sorrows. The vast diamond-studded Milky Way is but as “dust from the Almighty’s moving Chariot Wheels.” And yet in all our afflictions He is afflicted and the Angel of His Presence saves us.

The Epistle to the Hebrews shows the Saviour walking by faith as we walk, beset by our anxieties and fears. So really did He share our flesh and blood that these words express the faith He placed in God: “I will put my trust in Him.” More even than the Gospels, the Epistle to the Hebrews unveils the agony of Gethsemane: “Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death and having been heard for his godly fear, though He was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” In becoming our complete and compassionate High Priest Christ passed through the whole curriculum of temptation, trial, patience, fear, anxiety and heart agony we face. Therefore He is a faithful and merciful High Priest who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring in that he himself was also compassed with infirmity.

In the days of His flesh our Lord showed the deepest concern for the heart anxieties, the worries and the fears of those about him. As he stood with Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus their sorrow so moved His heart that Jesus wept with them. The last week shows him time and again weeping over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest those that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered Thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not.” At the last when the women bewailed and lamented him, Jesus turned and said unto them: “Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but weep for yourselves.” The dreadful punishment in store for Jerusalem brought tears that his own cross was not then extorting from His eyes.

The acme of tender consideration is reached in Jesus’ treatment of Jairus. As he goes to heal the daughter the report arrives that the child is dead and there is no need to trouble the Master further. But before Jairus has time to answer Jesus word of encouragement is steadying his wavering faith, “Fear not only believe, and she shall be made whole. Though the weight of a world’s redemption is upon Him, the anxieties of Mary are all met as her crucified Son says: “Mother, behold thy son,” and (to John) “Son, behold thy mother.”

Nor has this concern for our anxieties been dimmed by the glories and blessedness of heaven. When Stephen is stoned the Son of Man rises from His Father’s Throne and so manifests Himself to His dying martyr that Stephen’s face shines like the face of an angel. When He manifested His glory to John on Patmos, He was quick to manifest with it His understanding grace. “And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not: I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive forever-more, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

As little children in their games stand in a circle about a common center so we all face one great fear, the fear of death. And that is the particular fear our Lord came to face with us and for us. He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that by the grace of God He might taste of death for every man. He died that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage.

On land, on the sea, under the sea, and in the air the Lord Christ is entering into the hearts of His men when they find terror on every side. A letter was recently received from a lieutenant in the 79th Division telling how depressed he was as he contemplated the near approach of D-Day. Then God spoke to him through the chanting of the ninety-first, the soldier’s Psalm. The terror by night and the arrow that flieth by day; the pestilence that walketh in darkness and the destruction that wasteth at noonday are no mere figures of speech to our men. But deeper than the dangers of war there is the calm of the presence of the Lord, the steadying touch of His hand, the understanding assurance of His voice. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man may do unto me.”

Let us then draw near the Table with Gospel viands for our sorrows spread. And as He gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness let our overwhelming wonder be—

“That the Great Angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze, to shine in a poor Shepherd’s eye;
That the unmeasur’d God so low should sinke,
As Pris’ner in a few poore Rags to ly;
That from his Mother’s Brest he milke should drink,
Who feeds with Nectar Heaven’s faire family,
That a vile Manger his low Bed should prove,
Who in a Throne of stars Thunders above;

That he whom the Sun serves, should faintly peep
Through clouds of Infant Flesh! that he, the old
Eternall Word should be a Child, and weepe;
That he who made the fire, should feare the cold,
That Heav’ns high Majesty his Court should keepe
In a clay cottage, by each blast control’d;
That Glories self should serve our Griefs and fears,
And free Eternity submit to years.”

III.  The ever-blessed God became incarnate that He might suffer the pangs of our torn flesh, the ever active Creator became a man that He might be susceptible of the creature’s fears and tears. But the Great Gospel paradox is yet to be uttered: He who has life in Himself and who giveth life to whom He will became mortal man that for our sins He might die. He whose years shall not fail became obedient unto death and that the death of the Cross. To the dregs He drank our cup of woe that we might quaff His cup of salvation. That He might bring many sons unto glory He tasted death for every man. Christ both died and rose again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Thus, He calls us to go through no darker room than He has gone through before us. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me and even death is no new way to Thee.

This Friend has gone through the strait gate of death, His own death, before He goes through the gate of death with us. And in that going through of His own death He drew the sharpest sting out of our death. For the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But Christ died for our sin, the Just for the unjust. There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Compare the death of Jesus with the death of Stephen and you are immediately struck with the contrast. Why should the face of Stephen shine like the face of an angel while the visage of Jesus was so marred more than any man? Why? Because Jesus who had no sin of His own was made sin for Stephen in order that Stephen who had no righteousness of his own might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Therefore,

“In peace let me resign my breath
And Thy salvation see:
My sins deserved eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”

It is a proper thought that one draw the veil of charity over the short comings of those who die, especially of those who die in faith. For the spirits of those who die in the Lord are beautified, made perfect in holiness. By the grace of the Lord their spirits are glorified like Him who takes them to Himself. The noble, fine, generous, loving spirit is changed into His likeness and all that was base and wicked is done away. Thus we properly think of them as pure and kind all through like the angelic spirits which surround the throne.

“All rapture, thro’ and thro’
In God’s most holy sight.”

The Christ who pierced the mystery of the tomb rose again from the dead and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father where He ever liveth to intercede for us. There His understanding heart, His unceasing prayers, His constant grace keep our faith from failing and carry onward the Church of God until that day when He shall appear a second time apart from sin unto salvation. By tasting death for us He drew its sting. By rising from the dead and ascending to the Right Hand of the Majesty on High He has given us an anchor sure and steadfast. Even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Accordingly, to a gold-star mother there comes the victory of faith:

“God has given me a guiding Light,
A star called Faith
‘That substance of things hoped for,
That evidence of things not seen.’
And now within me peace and joy are born,
For some day there shall come a Resurrection morn!
And I shall see again and know my son.”

[“God Incarnate for Suffering Men,” can be found included in the volume by Dr. David B. Calhoun, Pleading for a Reformation Vision: The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982), on pages pp. 258-265.]

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