October 2014

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Remembering October 31

It is my earnest hope that no reader is going to wonder why this writer wants them to remember Halloween!  October 31st, and specifically October 31, 1517, is the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On this date, an obscure Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenburg, because that was the usual custom of advertisement for the people’s attention.  It was the twenty-first century bulletin board.   Luther nailed them up at noon sharp because it was the time of the most frequent feasts.  Professors, students, and the common people would be coming from all four corners to the church, which was filled up with relics for transfers of credit.

A lot of Protestants, while  hearing of this incident of the nailing of ninety-five theses, think that they were ringing endorsements of Protestant theology.  In reality, they were more Roman  Catholic than Protestant.  There is no protest against the Pope and the Roman Catholic church, or any of  her doctrines, not even against indulgences.  They were silent about justification by faith alone.   They were primarily opposed to the abuse of indulgences.

But while the form is Romish, the spirit and aim is Protestant.  They represent a state of transition between twilight and daylight.  We must read between the lines, as the leaders of the Roman Catholic church did in the sixteenth century.  As they did, they saw a logical drift which sought to undermine the whole fabric of Romanism.

Luther hoped that there would be a scholarly debate of the abuse of indulgences.  But no one came to debate him.  Instead, with the recent invention of the printing press, the copies of the ninety-five theses were sent all over the empire.  The pope  had a copy within two weeks.  The common people read them and rejoiced over them.  Luther was the talk of Germany.  There was a trumpet call being sounded for what later on became   the Protestant Reformation.

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Words to live by: In less than five years, in 2017,  we will celebrate the five-hundredeth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Will there be a revival of its themes in your church and more important, in your heart, such as  Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Only to the Glory of God?  That sums up what Luther, and Calvin, and Knox thundered to the masses and the visible  church.  Reflect on  the story of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in your heart, home, and  church.

What better reason for remembering this day. No, not Halloween. Rather, October 31st, and specifically October 31, 1517, as it marks the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On this date, an obscure Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenburg, because that was the usual custom of advertisement for the people’s attention.  It was in effect a public bulletin board. Luther nailed the document up at noon sharp because that was the time of the most frequent feasts.  Professors, students, and the common people would be coming from all four corners to the church on “All Saints Day,” for that was a time when it was filled up with relics for transfers of credit or “merit” under the Roman Catholic system.

 

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Strongly Inclined to Be Devoted to the Ministry

Samuel Miller was born in Dover, Delaware on October 30, 1769. As was typical for his day, he studied theology privately in preparation for the ministry. Upon completion of his examinations he was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on June 5, 1793 and installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of New York City, where he then served from 1793-1801. He next served the Wall Street church from 1801-1813, before answering the call of General Assembly to serve as professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. As the second professor at the Seminary after Archibald Alexander, Miller served the Seminary from 1813-1849, finally taking emeritus status at the age of 80. He died less than a year later, on January 7, 1850.

Resting behind the simple facts of our first paragraph is the spiritual depth of this man of God.  Upon taking the new ministry at Princeton, he sat down and wrote out seven resolutions.  We don’t have space for all seven of them, but the first one stands out and indeed sums up all the rest.  It reads, “I will endeavor hereafter, by God’s help, to remember more deeply and solemnly than I have ever yet done, that I am not my own, but Christ’s servant; and, of course, bound to seek, not my own things, but the things which are Jesus Christ’s”  That says it all with respect to the character and conduct of this seminary professor.

Words to Live By: Samuel Miller’s first resolution is but a summary of those words written down by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, when he stated in the context of the need to live a moral life, the following: “Do you not known that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (NIV)  Whether soul or body, each of us should make Samuel Miller’s resolution our own resolution, and indeed recommit ourselves to it at pivotal points of our life, such as our birthday. It would be exciting to see what God would do with such a committed Christian if this is true of you and me.

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Written by Smectymnuus

Smectymnuus! What? Who? What rational parent would give his kid this confusing name? Yet it wasn’t a birth name. It was rather the nom de plume framed by the initials of five authors to a book against episcopacy in seventeenth century England. To be exact, this was 1641 and the book itself had a title which may well be one of the longest titles in existence, ever!  It was “An Answer to a Book entitled, An Humble Remonstrance in which, the original of Liturgy and Episcopacy is discussed: and Queries proposed concerned both. The Parity of Bishops and Presbyters in Scripture demonstrated.  The Occasion of their Imparity in Antiquity discovered. The Disparity of the Ancient and our modern Bishops manifested. The Antiquity of Ruling Elders in the Church vindicated. The Prelatical church bounded.” It would seem to this writer that the outline of the book was put into the title thereof!  Oh yes, and it written by Smectymnuus or S(tephen) M(arshall), E(dmund) C(alamy), T(homas) Y(young), M(atthew) N(ewcommen), and W(illiam–rendered as “UU“) S(purstow).

calamy_edwardOur attention  today in Presbyterian History is on the “E” and the “C” of the title, or on Edmund Calamy, known as Calamy the Elder. Born in London, England, in February 1600, day unknown, he was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. England.  He pastored and lectured at three Anglican churches from 1626 to 1639 when he was chosen to serve as the pastor of the London church of St.Mary Aaldermanbury.  In most of these parishes, he conformed to some of the ceremonies of the Anglican tradition, like bowing when the name of Jesus was mentioned, but resisting other practices of the Anglican liturgy.  Indeed, he was a Presbyterian delegate at the Savoy Conferences between April and July in 1661, attempting to find some compromise in the liturgy of the Anglican Church.  He, along with the other authors of the above title, were members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines from 1643 onward.  With the passing of the  Uniformity Act of King Charles II, the Rev. Edward Calamy was one of 2400 Presbyterians and Puritans who were ejected from his pulpit.   He preached his farewell sermon to his congregation at St. Mary’s on August 17, 1662.

Calamy continued to worship at the services of his old church. Once the appointed preacher did not attend the worship service, he was prevailed upon by his old congregation, and so took the pulpit and preached “with some warmth,” it was reported. Arrested for disobeying the Uniformity act, he was imprisoned for a time on January 6, 1663. He was freed later by the king and closed out his public ministry.

He survived to witness the terrible fire of London in 1666, which catastrophe contributed to his death when he saw his last congregation in ruins from the fire. He died on this day, October 29, 1666, and was buried in the ruins of the church as close as his mourners could guess was the place of the pulpit.

Words to Live By:
Where there had been earlier compromises of Presbyterian principles in his early life and ministry, he ended well with a firm commitment to Presbyterian principles and practice. Let that be our resolve as Christians, that we will end well in commitment to Biblical principles and practices. As Scottish pastor John Livingstone put it: “Let God be your only rule; Christ your own hope; The Holy Spirit your only guide, the Glory of God your only end.” 

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An Unusual Name No Hindrance to God’s Working

This writer has to acknowledge that I was curious regarding the name of this Presbyterian minister for this day of October 28, 1871.  It was on this day that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. His name was Septimus Tustin.

My first thought upon seeing that name “Septimus” was what parent would possibly bestow upon their son such a name. But then, I noted that his father’s name was “Septimus,” so I understood that it was a case of “like father, like son.” He was the son of Septimus and Elizabeth Tustin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his father died when he was quite young. Septimus was reared by his mother, and she is described as a pious woman and a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. With such a home and church like that, it is no great surprise that he went into the pastoral ministry. Ordained by the Presbytery of the District of Columbia (the first such from that new Presbytery), he began his pastoral ministry in Leesburg, Virginia in 1825.

Between the years of 1826 and 1861, he ministered to six more Presbyterian churches, five of them in the Northern states and one in the South.  The latter was in Mississippi, and his time there came quickly to an end when that Southern state joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Rev. Tustin worked hard to unify the two sectional Presbyterian churches, but without success.

What is interesting about this minister is that on two occasions, he was called to the halls of Congress as a chaplain.  First, he was the House of Representatives Chaplain for two years, and following up that ministry with the United States Senate Chaplaincy for five years.  He also served as a trustee of Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania.

Words to live by: What might be seen as a hindrance to effective work in God’s kingdom, as in this case a name, is proven to be the opposite when God’s Spirit is  in control.  Indeed, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, this is the norm rather than the exception.  From the Amplified, it reads, “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren: not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth.  [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what is the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.  And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is low-born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.

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Victory Over England Brings Celebration in a Presbyterian Church

Granted! After the final victory over the British military forces at Yorktown, Virginia, there were celebrations being held everywhere in 1781 in the United States. But one of those celebrations took place in the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey on October 27, 1791. And this was no sparsely attending worship service. The Revolutionary War Governor, William Livingston, the Council of the state of New Jersey, the entire Assembly of Representatives, and citizens of the town came together to hear the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer delivered a discourse adapted to the occasion.

The pastor of this church, Elihu Spencer, was no stranger to the vicissitudes of the Revolutionary struggle. Indeed, he was the chaplain to colonial troops in the long battle for liberty. As such, he was a marked man by the British and his parsonage suffered damage as a result of his affiliation with the Continental army. Two revolutionary battles were fought in Trenton, including the famous midnight crossing of the river to do battle with the German mercenaries, or Hessians, in the town, which battle Gen George Washington and his troops won, bringing new morale to the American citizenry.

This celebratory day began with the beating of drums. The American flag was displayed throughout the town. At eleven o’clock, this worship service was held.  In the afternoon, after artillery discharges, there came a series of toasts to everybody and anybody by the assembled political and general citizenry. In fact, it was good that they began with a worship hour, because had they done it after these toasts, none of them would have been able to stand up and sing praises to the Lord! There were many, many toasts of gratitude to those who brought about this victory. The night of celebration was over by 7 p.m. and the whole town was illuminated by candles in the evening.

Words to live by:  Today in our secular culture, post-Christian era, the idea that you mention that God is the God of war, or the God of battles, or the One who brings victory over your enemies, is considered anathema. Yet our forefathers did not think so, and frequently mentioned the God of providence in the events which made up our country. We need to return to the God of our Fathers, in conversation, in conduct, in celebrations of liberty by our people, in concerns of patriotism in our assembly halls — in all of life. Without Him, we would be a defeated people long ago.

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On the Utter Necessity of Humility in Theological Studies

plumerws02“It therefore becomes a matter of great practical importance how we shall treat the mysteries of the religion we profess to embrace. The errors on this subject are two. Some give up all that is mysterious as untrue, or at least doubtful. Others pretend to explain every thing so as to make it comprehensible. The former go in the open road to infidelity. The latter travel the parallel road of rationalism. If God teaches a truth either by nature or revelation, we err, just so far as we hesitate to receive it. There is hardly any better test of humility of mind than our treatment of inscrutable things in religion. Pride of intellect is very turbulent & delights in the persuasion that it is as God knowing all things. He, whose reason is never surpassed, whose reasonings are never confounded, whose philosophy is never nonplussed, is a poor self-conceited creature, who will in the end be found to possess only the folly of fools. Let every man love whatever his Creator teaches. If he cannot measure the azure vault above him, he may still perceive that it is there. If Jehovah hides himself, he is still Jehovah. If salvation is wonderful, God so revealed it from the first. Therefore, beware lest you come boasting rather than praying, lest you use great swelling words of vanity, rather than the fitting petition, ‘Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.’ (Ps. 119:18).”

Something for all of us to consider.

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Learning to Wait Upon the Lord.

The Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

In October of 1829, Dr. Green decided to accept a call to serve as president of Princeton College, and the people in his Philadelphia congregation, out of respect to his views of duty, made no opposition. Along with this pastoral bond, a union of the colleagues of thirteen years was to be dissolved. Never had there been variance, but always peace, friendship, and harmony. The junior pastor invoked God’s blessing upon his departing friend, and thus it was that Rev. Janeway wrote in his diary:—

October 25, Sabbath.

J.J. Janeway“This day I stood before my people as their sole pastor. Last Tuesday, Dr. Green was dismissed from his charge. Thus a connection which has subsisted between him and me for almost fourteen years has been dissolved. My burden is great, my station very responsible. I feel its importance and my own insufficiency. I am meditating on the promises, and endeavour to trust in God for all needed aid. He hath said, ‘Lo, I am with you always! My grace is sufficient for you. I will never leave nor forsake you!’ Precious promises ! May my faith be strong! What may be the Lord’s will, I know not. I am praying to know it. Sometimes I think of retiring from this place, in the expectation of becoming more useful by having more time for study. The Lord direct me and preserve me from error. When I touched on the dissolution of our connection, my soul felt, and my voice faltered. I have loved my colleague, and he has loved me. May our friendship be perpetual!”

A separation of the two churches was under discussion. As the one in the Northern Liberties had increased, and was now able to sustain the gospel, Dr. Janeway was in favour of the movement. It drew from the people in the new church, expressions of the most ardent attachment, and they urged as their chief objection, their unwillingness to leave his pastoral care. The Presbytery confirmed the separation, and dissolved the pastoral relation. Dr. Janeway was appointed to organize the First Presbyterian church in the Northern Liberties. Fourteen years and more had he served them, and he was honoured of God in building up the church, by increase in the number of their worshippers, and in bringing souls into his kingdom. When he announced to them that he was no longer their pastor, a great sensation was produced, and in the afternoon he laboured to show that the new arrangements were for their good; and finally, to soothe their feelings, it was required by them, that he should continue to preach with them, in exchange with the minister whom they might call. Deeply gratifying to his feelings was the affection manifested, and long was his memory precious among those who heard the gospel from his lips.

” God has given me,” he writes about this time, ” a very conspicuous station. But my ambition is to have a people that love me, and if it were the pleasure of God, I think I could without reluctance, retire from my present charge to one in the country. What avails being known, except deriving from it opportunity for doing good? May I be humble, active, diligent, successful, useful.” So much was his mind exercised on the subject, that after much prayer, it seemed to him to be his duty to resign his charge, though he decided to wait until the ensuing spring. As far as he could see, his mind decided, for reasons which satisfied him then, to seek a place more retired, and where he hoped to live in the hearts of a rural population. He did not fail to confer with his venerable preceptor, and lay his heart bare. In reply, he received the following letter [from Dr. Green], which, for its excellent spirit and Christian friendship, and as exhibiting a specimen of that excellent and holy man, we insert:—

” With much attention and tender concern I have read your last esteemed letter. I enter fully into your meaning, and I think I know your feelings and views. They are, I hope, correct and proper. The desire you cherish may be well founded; and as such, it will meet with the Divine approbation. But let me remind you, that it is usual with the Lord in His divine providence, to make His children wait for the accomplishment, even of those designs which He Himself has excited. In this way, they learn to live by faith, and exercise patience, which last is one of the most difficult to learn and practise, of all the Christian graces. Let what passes in your mind remain there undisclosed, at least for the present; what you impart to me is sacred and secret, but it will not be advisable as yet, to intimate any fixed design of this kind to your people, because it might alienate your best friends, and until the Lord opens another door it would expose you to very unpleasant consequences. Wait for the Lord and upon the Lord in his time, which is always the best. He will help and provide for you, and perhaps sooner than you may anticipate. In the meantime be not discouraged nor uneasy; read the 37th Psalm, exercise trust and confidence in your covenant Lord—all will be well. But remember, a good place is better than a bad change; but, if a change for the better can be effected, it will be a matter of praise and gratitude. It is sufficiently known among your faithful friends, that you contemplate, if practicable, a removal; they will be mindful of you, and do all they can to meet your wishes.”

[excerpt from The Life of Dr. J. J. Janeway, D.D., pp. 185-186.]

Words to Live By:
A pastor once counseled another, “If you don’t know what you should do, stay where you are until you do. I am convinced that God has important work where you are; see it and enter into it zealously until God clearly shows you the next move.”
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

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Courage in the Cause of Mission
The young seminary graduate traveled with his bride to a two year foreign mission stint in Alberta, Canada. Settling in the apartment underneath the church sanctuary, the newly ordained minister on Reformation day in 1966 began his first pastorate to the small Canadian mission church. Sometime during the first few months, he discovered in a used book store the two volume set of John G Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides. That stirring mission account became the Lord’s Day reading for the  young couple all during their stay and ministry in the capital city of the province.
Yet the author of this post in Presbyterian history did not have to worry about his physical safety, or that of his bride during our time there. Being eaten by cannibals was never on our minds and hearts. But to the Rev. John G. Paton and his wife, this was a constant danger in a society utterly depraved in word and deed. Indeed the lives of some earlier missionaries to those islands did end in that terrible way, while attempting to minister the Word of Grace to these same inhabitants. Yet still these Presbyterian missionaries in the mid-eighteen hundreds went courageously to these islands with a firm belief in the sovereignty of God and a loving desire to see the natives converted to Christ.
Paton believed in the power of the gospel. Yes, there were difficulties. His first wife and child both perished in childbirth. He was subject to threats of life and limb on a day by day basis. More than once, he had to flee for his life to a tree limb or to a ship which came providentially off the coast. But with the provision of a second wife, he was blessed with a quiver full of children. In God’s timing, he was also blessed with a quiver full of spiritual children, as the entire island of Aniwa inhabitants came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And it was on this day October 24, 1869, that he was able to offer the Sacrament of Communion, in the Presbyterian manner, as he was apt at saying in his ministrations on that island.
He would go to be with the Lord on January 28, 1907, with his wife proceeding him by two years. Both are buried in Australia.
Words to Live By:
There is a notable quotation which was given to a Scotsman who, upon hearing of John Paton’s desire to minister in the islands of the South Pacific, said to him, “Cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals.” Paton replied to the old saint, “You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” May you and I, dear Reader, have a similar desire to go and minister for the Savior, come what may, knowing . . . knowing that our lives are sure and firm in the Savior’s plan for our lives.

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Massacre in Ulster

Some of our readers may be acquainted with the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France when Romanism decided to rid their nation of the Huguenots, or French Calvinists in the land. Well, did you know that a similar massacre occurred in Ulster, or Northern Ireland in the mid seventeen hundreds?

The atrocities were so horrible during this massacre that some historians try to downplay the whole scene. It was to them purely a nationalistic issue in that the Irish wished to reclaim their ancient lands from the Scotchmen who had occupied them. Yet Sir Phelim O’Neill, one of the leaders of this movement, stated that he would never leave off the work he had begun until Mass should be sung and said in every church in Ireland, and that a Protestant should not live in Ireland, be he of what nation he would. Certain elements of the Roman Catholic clergy recommended that a general massacre was the safest and most effectual method of putting down the Protestant ascendancy. Immediate entrance into heaven, without stopping in purgatory, was promised to the assailants. And so on this day, October 23, 1641, the initial outbreak of this cruel rebellion took place. It would not end fully until eleven years had passed.

This author does not wish to describe in detail the atrocities which transpired upon Protestant men, women, and children. After all, these posts are devotionals. Yet certainly the events of those days rival and even surpass the terrible times of the early church under persecution, as described in Hebrews 11:32-40. Thousands of Irish Presbyterians, along with their pastors, were slaughtered by their Roman Catholic neighbors.

The mass killings were stopped by the arrival of Major General Munro and ten thousand Scottish troops, who arrived in February of 1642. Partial order was restored, even though it was the beginnings of a decade of war in the land.

Words to Live By:
Incidents like this are hard to understand for God’s people, whether then or now. What purpose did God have in allowing His people to be removed from France or Ulster? It is a question which no one but God can fully answer. This is why theologians have spoken of “hard or dark providences” on earth. Moses answers under the Holy Spirit a biblical answer in Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

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An Old School Presbyterian Ministers in both North and South

William Swan Plumer was not a name which I had recognized until someone gave me a commentary written by him.  It was filled with the rich meat of the Word of God, and I wanted to know more of his spiritual gifts.

Born in July 26,  1802 in Darlington, Pennsylvania, William Plumer was of the Scottish heritage.  When he turned nineteen years of age, he walked to Lewisburg, Virginia to begin spiritual training at the Academy of the Rev. John McElhenney, known as the Apostle of Western Virginia, where he learned the first fruits of Christian education.  Moving on to Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he continued his studies under Dr. Baxter.  Finally, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825.  Two years later, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Orange and began two congregations  in Virginia and North Carolina.  Ordained in 1827, he began a long series of pastorates in Petersburg, Virginia and Richmond, Virginia from 1830 – 1846.  It is interesting to me that he left the south to be at Franklyn Street Presbyterian in Baltimore, Maryland for twelve years.  Then for another eight years, he was at Central Presbyterian in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, while teaching at Western Theological Seminary as well.  He finished up his teaching call while a professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary.  He went to his heavenly home on October 22, 1880.

He was the preeminent pastor and teacher of the church.  He evidently had a voice which stopped people in their tracks to pause and listen. He was a soul-winner par excellence as soul after soul met the Redeemer and were converted. He was a pastor’s pastor as well, and met the needs of his congregations with pathos and sympathy, when that was needed.

As a church pastor, William S. Plumer also watched the movements away from the faith once delivered unto the saints. At the 1837 General Assembly, he powerfully made the distinction between the Old School Presbyterians and the New School Presbyterians clear and plain.  There was a call to come out and be separate from the entangling alliances which the New School Presbyterians had with the Congregationalists.  Thus when the Assembly voted to stop their compromising union, Rev. Plumer had a large part in preserving the Calvinistic convictions of the General Assembly, to say nothing of the biblical basis of Presbyterianism.

Words to live by:  It is often a case where the people in the pew only recognize the emoluments of a person if he has a string of degrees behind his name and is recognized in the leading organizations of the church.  Then a man by the name of William Plumer comes along and we hear and see the Spirit of God residing in a  pastor and teacher, and our minds are overcome with what God can do through a mere man. The only qualification which God recognizes in His servants, for loving and obedient service to Him, is faithfulness.  Let us be faithful to the Word of God in the places where He has put us.

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