January 2015

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2015.

Distinctive Calvinism

The wording of the postal telegram in 1933 was simple enough to Rienk Bouke Kuiper, who was president of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   Printed in all capital letters, it said, “UPON THE UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATION OF THE FACULTY AND THE TRUSTEES OF WESTMINSTER SEMINARY IN SESSION MAY NINTH BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE HAVE ELECTED YOU TO THE CHAIR OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY.  THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD WILL SEND YOU FULL INFORMATION.  WE HOPE AND PRAY THAT YOU MAY BE LED TO ACCEPT THIS POST.  (signed) C. E. MACARTNEY, SAMUEL CRAIG, T. EDWARD ROSS, (for the board).

[Note: Today, in electronic communications, it is commonly thought that the use of “all caps” is a form of shouting.  Such was not the case in the 1930’s. The typewriters used in radio and telegraphic communications up through World War II were “all cap” writers, typing the message out in all caps on strips of paper that were then glued to a telegraph form. That was just the system of the day.]

R. B. Kuiper was not unknown to the faculty and trustees of this new Presbyterian seminary in Philadelphia.  He had served the first year of its existence as professor of Systematic Theology, but then had left it to become the president of Calvin College.  Now he was being asked to return two years later to become the professor of practical theology.  The prospective teacher had all the spiritual gifts necessary for such a post.

Born January 31, 1886 in the Netherlands to a ministerial father, the family had emigrated to the United States so the father could take a congregation in Michigan of the Christian Reformed Church.

Later, R. B. Kuiper was educated at the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and with a diploma from Calvin Theological Seminary, he  finished up his training at Princeton Seminary in 1912.

After this latter instruction from some of the finest minds of the Presbyterian world, such as B.B. Warfield, R.B. Kuiper began his ministry in the pastorate, serving several congregations in Michigan. He would have all that was necessary to be a pastor of practical theology from that experience.

Below, the Westminster faculty as composed upon Kuiper’s arrival, 1933-34.

R.B. Kuiper answered the telegram’s invitation in the affirmative  and went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where he taught for 20 years.  One of his students remarked that he had the gift of making the profound simple as he proclaimed the whole counsel of God.

Among that broad span of the whole counsel of God, and one which seminary professors and students often fail, is the area of Reformed  evangelism.   Listen to his words in his book “To be or Not to Be Reformed.”  He wrote “May God forbid that we should become complacent about our progress in evangelism!  Our zeal for evangelism is not nearly as warm as it ought to be.  Our evangelistic labors are not nearly as abundant as they should be.  Our prayers for the translation of souls from darkness into God’s marvelous light must become far more fervent.” (p. 77)   What R. B. Kuiper wrote fifty years ago is no  less true in our day.   Ask yourselves the question?  Am I a zealous evangelist?

Words to Live By:  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the LORD, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The apostle Paul, Acts 13:48 (ESV)  “Divine election, and it alone, guarantees results for evangelism.”  R.B. Kuiper

Pictured above: Some of the courses taught by R.B. Kuiper in his first year at Westminster.

Tags: , , ,

This day, January 30, marks the birth of Francis August Schaeffer, in 1912.

schaeffer02Dr. Schaeffer began his ministry with the Bible Presbyterian Church, was later a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and when that denomination was received into the PCA, spent his final few years, from 1982 until his death in 1984, affiliated with the PCA. Dr. Schaeffer was the featured speaker at the 1980 “Consultation on Presbyterian Alternatives” sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in America. His counsel, excerpted here from the full transcript of his Pittsburgh messages, was heard by participants from several Presbyterian communionsAdmittedly another long post today, but please save it to read tomorrow if you don’t have time today.

 

“We Don’t Have Forever.”

BY DR. FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER (1980; REPRINTED FROM THE PCA MESSENGER)

Two biblical principles must be practiced simultaneously, at each step of the way, if we are to be really Bible-believing Christians.  One is the principle of the practice of the purity of the visible church.  The other is the principle of an observable love among all true Christians.

Those of us who left the old Presbyterian Church USA (the “Northern” Church) 44 years ago made mistakes which marked the movement for years to come.  The second principle often was not practiced. In particular we often failed to manifest an observable love for the fellow believers who stayed in that denomination when others of us left.

Things were said which are very difficult to forget even more than 40 years later.  The periodicals of those who left tended to spend more time attacking the real Christians who stayed in the old denomination than in dealing with the liberals.  Those who came out at times refused to pray with those who had not come out.  Many who left totally broke off all forms of fellowship with true brothers in Christ who did not come out.

What was destroyed was Christ’s command to love each other.  And what was left was often a turning inward, a self-righteousness, a hardness, and, too often, a feeling that withdrawal had made those who came out so right that anything they did could be excused.

Further, having learned these bad habits, they later treated each other badly when the new groups had minor differences among themselves.

We cannot stress both of the principles simultaneously in the flesh.  Sometimes we stress purity without love.  Or we can stress love without purity.  In order to stress both simultaneously we must look moment to moment to the work of Christ and to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Without this, a stress on purity becomes hard, proud, and legalistic.  Without this, a stress on love becomes compromise. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our lives as we begin to exhibit (and the emphasis here is on exhibit, not just talk) simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.  Without our exhibition of both, our marvelous God and Lord is not set forth.  Rather, a caricature is set forth and He is dishonored.

We paid a terrible price for what happened in those early days.  As some of you now come out of your denominations, please do learn from our mistakes.  Each pastor, each congregation must be led by the Holy Spirit.  If some disappoint you, do not turn bitter.

One of the joys of my life occurred at the Lausanne Congress (the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland). Some men from the newly formed Presbyterian Church in America asked me to attend a meeting they and others had called there. When I arrived I found that it was made up of Southern men who had just left the Presbyterian Church US to form the PCA and some Christians who were still in the PCUS. Someone from each side spoke. Both said to me that the meeting was possible because of my voice and especially my little book, The Church Before the Watching World (published by InterVarsity Press). I must say I could have wept, and perhaps I did. It is possible for us to do better than we would naturally do. It is not possible if we ignore the fleshly dangers and fail to look to our living Lord for his strength and grace.

Those of us who left our old denomination in the Thirties had another great problem, as I see it. It was confusion over where to place the basic chasm which marks off who we are. Does that chasm mark us as those who are building Bible-believing churches and that on this side of the chasm we hold the distinctives of being Presbyterian and Reformed? Or is the primary chasm that we are Presbyterian and Reformed and that we are divided from all who are not? The answer makes a great deal of difference.

When we go to a town to start a church, are we going there with the primary motivation to build a church which is loyal to Presbyterians and the Reformed faith, or are we going there to build a church which will preach the Gospel which historic, Bible-believing Christianity holds, and then on this side of that chasm teach that which we believe is true to the Bible in regard to church government and doctrine? The difference makes a difference to our mentality, to our motivation, and to the breadth of our outreach. I must say, to me one view is catholic, biblical and gives good promise of success; the other is introverted and self-limiting, yes, and sectarian. I spoke of a good promise of success. I mean on two levels: First in church growth and a healthy outlook among those we reach; second, in providing leadership in the whole church of Christ.

We alone do not face this problem of putting the chasm at the wrong place, of course. A too zealous mentality on the Lutheran view of the sacraments is the same. A too sectarian mentality in regard to the mode of baptism is another. The zeal of the Plymouth Brethren for an unpaid ministry is often the same. No, it is not just our problem. But it is our problem. To put the chasm in the wrong place is to fail to fulfill our calling, and I am convinced that when we do so we displease our Lord.

Those who remain in the old-line churches have their own set of problems. In contrast to the problem of hardness to which those who withdraw are prone, those who remain are likely to develop a general latitudinarianism. One who accepts ecclesiastical latitudinarianism easily steps into a cooperative latitudinarianism which can become a doctrinal latitudinarianism and especially a letdown on a clear view of Scripture.

This is what happened in certain segments of what I would call the evangelical establishment. Out of the evangelical latitudinarianism of the Thirties and Forties grew the letdown in regard to the Scripture in certain areas of the evangelical structure in the Seventies. Large sections of evangelicalism today put all they can into acting as though it makes no real difference as to whether we hold the historic view of Scripture or the existential view. The existential methodology says that the Bible is authoritative when it teaches “religious” things but not when it touches that which is historic, scientific, or such things as the male/female relationship.

Not all who have stayed in the liberal denominations have done this, by any means, but it is hard to escape.  I don’t see how those who have chosen to stay in (no matter what occurs) can escape a latitudinarian mentality which will struggle to paper over the differences on Scripture in order to keep an external veneer of unity.  That veneer in fact obscures a real lack of unity on the crucial point of Scripture.  And when the doctrinal latitudinarianism sets in we can be sure from all of church history and from observation in our own period of church history that in just a generation or two the line between evangelical and liberal will be lost.

This is already observable in that the liberals largely have shifted to the existential methodology and have expressed great approval that the “moderate evangelicals” have done so.  The trend will surely continue.  Unless we see the new liberalism with its existential methodology as a whole, and reject it as a whole, we will, to the extent to which we tolerate it, be confused in our thinking.  Failure to reject it will also involve us in the general relativism of our day and compromising in our actions.

The second major problem of those who stay in the liberally controlled denominations is the natural tendency to constantly move back the line at which the final stand will be taken.  For example, can you imagine Clarence Macartney, Donald Grey Barnhouse or T. Roland Phillips being in a denomination in which the battle line was the ordination of women?  Can you imagine these great evangelical preachers of the Twenties and Thirties (who stayed in the Presbyterian Church USA) now being in a denomination which refuses to ordain a young man whose only fault was that while he said he would not preach against the ordination of women yet he would not say he had changed his mind that it was unbiblical? Can you imagine that these leaders of the conservative cause in an earlier era would have considered it a victory to have stalled the ordination of practicing homosexuals and practicing lesbians?  What do you think Macartney, Barnhouse, and Phillips would have said about these recent developments?  Such a situation in their denomination would never have been in their minds as in the realm of conceivable.

The line does move back.  In what presbytery of the Northern Presbyterian Church can you bring an ordained man under biblical discipline for holding false views of doctrine and expect him to be disciplined?

Beware of false victories.  Even if a conservative man is elected moderator of the general assembly (as Macartney was in 1924), it would amount to absolutely nothing.  Despite the jubilation among conservatives at Macartney’s election, the bureaucracy simply rolled on, and not too many years later conservative leader J. Gresham Machen could be unfrocked.  Nelson Bell was elected moderator of the Southern Church later (in 1972), and nothing changed.  The power centers of the bureaucracy and the liberally-controlled seminaries were unmoved.

There are always those who say, “don’t break up our ranks … wait a while longer … wait for this … wait for that.” It is always wait.  Never act. But 40 years is a long time to wait when things are always and consistently getting worse.  And (with my present health problem) I tell you soberly, we do not have forever to take that courageous and costly stand for Christ that we sometimes talk about. We do not have forever for that. We hear many coaxing words, but watch for the power structure to strike out when it is threatened. If the liberals’ power is really in danger or if they fear the loss of property, watch out!

What of the future? We live in a day that is fast-moving.  The United States is moving at great speed toward totally humanistic orientation in society and state.  Do you think this will leave our own little projects, our own church, and our own lives untouched?  Don’t be silly. The warnings are on every side. When a San Francisco Orthodox Presbyterian congregation can be dragged into court for breaking the law of discrimination because it dismissed an avowed, practicing homosexual as an organist, can we be so blind as to not hear all the warning bells go off?  When by a ruling of a federal court the will of Congress can be overturned concerning the limitation on the willful killing of unborn children, should not the warning bells go off as to the kind of pressures ahead of us?

Who supports these things?  The liberal denominations do, publicly, formally, and financially.  And it puts into a vise those of us who stand for biblical morality, let alone doctrine.  Beyond the denominations, it is their councils of churches that support not only these things but also terrorist groups. They give moral support and money.  Should we support this by our denominational affiliation? We may seem isolated from the results for a time but that is only because we are too blind to see.

I don’t think we have a lot of time.  The hour is very late, but I don’t think it is too late in this country. This is not a day of retreat and despair.  In America it is still possible to turn things around.  But we don’t have forever.

Tags: , , ,

The following account has been freely edited from Fowler’s History of the Synod of Central New York (1877) and from the funeral discourse delivered by J. Trumbull Backus.

At Home in the Joy of the Lord

Union College in Schenectady, New York, was chartered in 1795 and held its first commencement in 1797, with Dr. John Blair Smith serving as the school’s first president, 1795-99. The younger Jonathan Edwards followed as president of the school, but only lived a dozen months or so after taking the helm [1799-1801]. Dr. Jonathan Maxey followed him [1802-04], but retired in 1804, and then came Dr. Eliphalet Nott, who still holds the record as having served Union College longest in the post of President [1804-66]. Fifty years following his inauguration, he remarked, “Some forty students scattered over the then village of Schenectady, meeting for educational purposes in what was then a cabinet-maker’s shop, with a single Professor, was the whole of Union College,” and it may be added, only sixty-three had graduated from it at that time.

He addressed himself to the raising of needed funds and the erection of needed buildings, as well as the establishment and filling of new departments, and he wonderfully succeeded in this part of his work, while as President he attracted crowds of young men, four thousand of whom were graduated during his presidency.

nott_eliphaltet_graveThough incessantly occupied by his duties to the college, Dr. Nott was much engaged in outside preaching, and considerably in ecclesiastical affairs, and in 1811 was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly. He entered cordially into the temperance reform, and was the constant dependence and counsellor of Mr. Edward C. Delavan in his large and liberal enterprises for this cause. He published occasional addresses and sermons, and in 1810 his “Counsel to Young Men,” which passed through numerous editions, and in 1847, “Lectures on Temperance.” In 1860 he went for the last time to his lecture room, and presided at Commencement for the last time in 1862. Infirmities were gathering upon him for many years previously, and his decline ended in fatal paralysis, January 29, 1866. “His dying counsel to his nearest friend was, ‘Fear God and keep His commandments,’ and his last words were, ‘Jesus Christ, my covenant God.’ “

The immediate expectation of death is usually a severe test of man; and Dr. Nott had been conscious of that condition for years. Since 1860 he felt that he was within a momentary summons to go home to his Lord. During much of this protracted period of awaiting and expecting, he was enough of himself to discriminate clearly, and cautiously consider his prospects. Clouds and apprehensions would sometimes intervene; but always there was reverent, cordial submission to the Divine will, and for the most part a sweet, humble, child-like fearlessness of trust and hope. It was the manifestation of a true, soul-sustaining Christianity; and a demonstration of his sincerity, an interpretation of his life beyond all scope for cavil or doubt–a priceless testimony to the covenant faithfulness of God. . . He was ever to the end a little child before God, most pleased to sit at Jesus’ feet, and confiding firmly, gratefully, in the sovereignty and loving-kindness of his gracious Lord. He is now at home in the joy of his Lord.

Words to Live By:
We sometimes use that phrase, “at home in the joy of the Lord,” as a euphemism of death, though it does indeed express a reality for the departed Christian. But think about it—shouldn’t that be our goal even here and now, to be “at home in the joy of the Lord”? We can and should strive to be so daily conversant with our covenant God, in His Word and in prayer, that we can truly say that we are at home in the joy of the Lord, even now, and well before death’s inevitable call.

Historical Note: It was mildly interesting to note that there is some discrepancy regarding the death date for Dr. Nott. Some sources give January 25th as the date of his demise. Others state that he died on January 29th. Finally, a photograph of his gravestone was located and while grave markers have on occasion been chiseled with error, we will in this instance go with the date set down in stone.

Tags: , , ,

hillWENot more organization and programs, but the dividends of Spirit-filling—

 

The Rev. William E. Hill was for many years a distinguished pastor in Hopewell, Virginia, leaving that post to become the founder of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a work which continues to this day. Moreover, he was prominent among the founding fathers of the PCA, working faithfully to steer a true course for the new denomination. The following message by Rev. Hill was originally published in The Presbyterian Journal on January 28, 1976. While admittedly a bit long for a Wednesday morning, nonetheless it has many good things to say, things which remain pertinent now as well. (If pressed for time, at least read the paragraphs that begin with bold print).

We Need Revival!

WILLIAM E. HILL JR.

Some churches have been able to gain their freedom from earlier con­nections without difficulty. Others have suffered. Ministers and mem­bers whose heritage stretches back for generations in one denomination which was their lifelong home now find themselves in a new one. For some, the transition has been relatively easy. For many it has been exceedingly difficult. Some churches and ministers have endured bitter persecution.e of the Presbyterian Church in America have come through a traumatic experience. New churches have been formed, enduring birth pains sorrowfully yet joyfully.

However, now that the agony is over, there is joyful elation, very much akin to the joy experienced by people in the early Church as re­corded in Acts 2-3. They “ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” So, also, some have been enabled by the Spirit to rejoice that they were ‘‘counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.”

We are free at last. This is good, but we are compelled to raise the question: So what? And the “so what?” reminds us that the early Church, after the traumatic experi­ence and joyful elation, still found dangers to be encountered (Acts 4- 5). For some, disillusionment was ahead. As in the case described in the epistle to the Hebrews, we face certain definite dangers of disillu­sionment.

We also face another danger—hav­ing escaped one ecclesiastical strait- jacket, we proceed to put ourselves into another, not quite so bad but nonetheless real. We face dangers of infighting among ourselves. We have our hyper-Calvinists, our mod­erate Calvinists, and our charismatics, our premillennialists and our amillennialists, each a little bit con­cerned about what the new denomi­nation will do to them.

Looking at the situation after our third General Assembly, we raise the question: Does the PCA need re­vival? Some may say, “That is a silly question—we are already in re­vival.” This I question. Some may suggest that we need doctrinal in­struction. Others may say we need to perfect our organization and out­reach.

It seems to me, however, that what is most desperately needed in the PCA is real revival. Of doctrinal identification we have enough. Of ecclesiastical machinery we have too much. Of debating fine points we are weary. Now the question is or should be: How in the world are we going to meet the needs of many of our small, struggling groups? This is a big question.

Indeed, how are we going to find ministers to pastor these people? An­other big question. The answer to all these questions, I believe, is re­vival. Without it we will degenerate into an ecclesiastical machine, grind­ing out materials, spewing forth pro­nouncements, fussing over theologi­cal distinctions, and languishing in barrenness and sterility.

The primary mark of real spiri­tual awakening for any people or any individual is repentance. On the Day of Pentecost there was real repentance with people crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” as their “hearts were pricked” by the Spirit-filled preaching of the apos­tles. In the revival at Ephesus (Acts 19-20), the people confessed their sins openly, publicly burning the in­struments of their sins. Paul re­counted in Acts 20 how he had preached with a twofold thrust, the first of which was “repentance to­ward God” (Acts 20).

Indeed, even back in the early days (Acts 3:19) Peter preached re­pentance, calling out to the multi­tudes who were listening, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Years later Peter was still calling upon church people to repent, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gos­pel of God?” (I Pet. 4:17).

I have seen very little sign of any repentance in all of the struggle to form the PCA and I see little sign of repentance even now after the third General Assembly. No, we have not had revival. The funda­mental sign of revival is lacking and we will not have revival until we see repentance, on the part of those who know the Lord and of those who are coming to Him by conver­sion.

We preach, but where is repen­tance? As a matter of fact, there is precious little preaching on the sub­ject of repentance. We have plenty of talk about doctrine and plenty of talk about discipline, but mighty little about repentance.

The second mark of revival is true stewardship. ‘‘Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32). Now just where do you find this in the PCA? We talk about the “financial crisis” and how to meet it through General Assem­bly action which likely will be pure­ly materialistic, not spiritual.

Shame, thrice shame upon us that we should be so low in spirituality and our leaders so utterly lacking in spiritual power that we have to resort to the help of the world to raise money for the Lord’s work and to instruct our people in Biblical stewardship.

Shame! Thrice shame upon us! Lord, help us! We do need revival! Whenever the Church has to call upon the world for help in its work, there is something wrong with the Church—spiritual power lacking, the Word of God ignored.

The third sign of true revival is the filling of the Spirit. Where do we find this in the PCA? On the Day of Pentecost the people were “filled with the Spirit.” Our Pres­byterian doctrine tells us (reflect­ing the Scripture) that we “re­ceive” the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit has applied to us the redemp­tion purchased by Christ; and further, that we grow in the Spirit. But here in the book of Acts is some­thing not directly referred to in our Presbyterian doctrine—the “filling of the Spirit.” In some cases, the book of Acts refers to men as “filled with the Spirit,” but in other places it refers to a specific action at a spe­cific time when men experienced the filling of the Spirit.

The indwelling of the Spirit is continuous in the Christian but there are special times, I take it from these passages of Scripture, in which the Spirit takes complete pos­session of us and fills us. This results in a stronger faith, in greater bold­ness to witness, in greater power and effectiveness in witness, in a different attitude toward material things, in a greater power for those who preach, and an increased joy and fellow­ship among Christian people (Acts 4:31).

Indeed, we are commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). All of this is a mark of true revival. Personally, I have heard just as little about the “filling of the Spirit” in the PCA as I did in the Presbyte­rian Church US. Do we really have in the PCA men who can be called “filled with the Spirit”? I hope we do, but I haven’t heard anybody speaking about it.

If we had a real filling of the Spirit, would there not be men among us evidently “full of the Spirit” and would there not be more talk about it? Is the reason, pos­sibly, that we need real revival to create within us a deeper spiritual discernment, spiritual expectation, zeal, eagerness, and effectiveness in witness?

In the fourth place we need re­vival because truly spiritual church­es should grow by making converts, not just by accepting transfers. We have seen churches springing up. We have seen churches growing. But we’ve seen mighty little of growth by conversions.

Just by looking at the figures for 1974 on additions by profession, one can tell that our churches are not growing by the method God or­dained by which churches should primarily grow: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Additions to our churches have not been, for the most part, by con­version. We need the kind of re­vival that will bring people in great numbers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we need churches that grow by converting. A few churches here and there are exceptions; they do grow primarily by converting, but possibly you could name them on the fingers of one hand.

A fifth characteristic of revival, particularly if it is revival among Reformed people, should be a re­spect for the Lord’s day, the Chris­tian Sabbath. Just where do we find this? I travel all over the South­land and beyond. I go into hun­dreds of churches but rarely do I run across anyone who has a high sense of regard for the sanctity of the Lord’s day, except at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday or possibly Sunday eve­ning—if their church happens to have an evening service.

Our people use the Lord’s day to travel, to run around and find en­tertainment, or to visit their kinfolk and friends. They take Sunday news­papers, patronize stores that stay open on Sunday, buy gasoline on Sunday, take vacations on the week­end, neglect the house of God on His day, and the prophet remains silent nor bothers even to set them a good example. Nothing short of real revival will correct this situa­tion.

In the Old Testament, God told the Jews that the Sabbath would be a sign to the nations around them that they were God’s people. This was a primary way by which they could testify to the heathen world around them. We Christians are ut­terly failing in testifying to the heathen all around us that we have a Lord who arose from the dead on the first day of the week, because for most of us it’s just more or less like any other day.

The world sees us and passes on without even pausing to stop, but they mutter, “These folks are in just as big a hurry to get to the lake or the seashore or the mountains as we are.” So far as I can tell, the PCA is no different from the others. We do need revival.

Another characteristic as well as result of revival is living by the Word of God which we profess to believe. We brag about taking our doctrine from the Bible, but in many ways we completely ignore the Bi­ble in our living.

For instance, I go into hundreds of homes, and seldom do I find a home that is disciplined according to the Word of God with the hus­band and father taking his rightful place as clearly delineated in the Scriptures, the wife taking her right­ful place in “submission,” and the children in “subjection.” I’m sorry to say that in too many homes of ministers, elders and deacons where I visit, the children are brats.

Then in the area of money and material things we do not discipline ourselves. We are grabbing just like the world. Our children are grow­ing up to think that the dollar is the most important thing because they see this in their parents. We’ve never learned to discipline ourselves. Quite naturally, we don’t discipline our children. The world looks on and says, “That fellow is living for the same thing I am—to get mon­ey,” and the world sneers.

In the area of sex purity we de­part continually from the Scriptures in exposing our young people to the filth so often displayed on the television. The way our young peo­ple dress and the slavish way our women follow the styles are geared to sex appeal and designed by pa­gan people.

Among Presbyterians I hear a good deal of talk today, particularly from those of the Reformed faith, about Christian liberty. Oftentimes all kinds of questionable practices, just like those in the world, pass in the guise of Christian freedom. Our sessions and boards of deacons have too many divorced and remarried members, to say nothing of minis­ters in the same situation. How then do we expect the Church to ex­ercise discipline?

In the area of our motivation, the ego is too often quite as prominent in us as it is in people of the world, though our Lord said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself.” Self seems to reign in the actions and motives of most people. Indeed, we have a hard time getting along together; feuds, bitterness and ill will abound, and paralysis results because someone’s ego is not sur­rendered to the Lord.

Real revival results in unity of mind and heart. We have had a great deal of this unity in the PCA but is it growing thin now? Are ten­sions building up in behind-the- scenes maneuvering? Are pulling and pushing beginning to be evi­dent? It broke out into the open one night during the second Gen­eral Assembly; however, it is heart­ening to recall the fine spirit pres­ent at the third General Assembly.

May God grant to us a fresh fill­ing of the Spirit in real revival that it may be clearly seen that we are “of one mind and one heart” as were the disciples after the filling of the Spirit.

Do we need revival? As far as I can see, there is but one answer. Yes indeed we do! Above all else in the Presbyterian Church in America we need revival. Without it, I am per­sonally fearful for the future. With it, there are great things ahead for the PCA in the service of the king­dom of God, if the Lord tarries. More than we need organization and programs, we need revival.

If we have revival there will be no problem about finances, no “money manipulation,” no tugging and pull­ing and competition between vari­ous departments of the work. If we have revival our struggling church­es will have adequate funds to pro­vide buildings for the glory of God, not great cathedrals and beautifully ornate churches but simple meeting places which are useful in the ser­vice of God.

If we have revival our missionary force will be doubled, tripled, qua­drupled and the witness of our mis­sionaries will be increasingly effec­tive. If we have revival it will shake some of our churches to their foundations. It will revolutionize some of our members and send them out to witness.

Revival will galvanize some of our pastors into action. It will revolu­tionize things in many of our homes. It will cause our churches to bring new members on profession of faith, “the Lord adding daily.” It will cause our ministers to speak with “great power” (Acts 4:33).

Revival is more desperately need­ed than anything else in the PCA. I need revival! Don’t you? Let us pray the prayer of Habakkuk (3:2), “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Also the prayer of the psalmist (85:6), “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Then will be sounded forth effec­tively from our pulpits, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Then we will hear with great power, “The Spirit and the bride say come; let him that heareth say come, let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him come and partake of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

Tags: , , ,

SpragueWBA Life of Prayer and Practice.

Late in the month of January, 1850, the Rev. William Buell Sprague performed the difficult task of saying goodbye to an old friend, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller of Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Miller had died early that month, on January 7th, and now it was Sprague’s duty to bring this tribute in praise to God for a life well lived.

Rev. Sprague’s memorial was subsequently published, under the title, A Discourse, Commemorative of the Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D., late Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, Albany, on Sabbath evening, January 27, 1850 (Albany, Erastus H. Pease & Co., 1850).

Note: I don’t see where Sprague’s discourse can be found on the Web at this time, but if you care to have a copy, please write to me [archivist {AT} pcahistory /DOT/ org].

We present here just a small, but interesting portion of Sprague’s memorial concerning Samuel Miller:—

Dr. Samuel MillerHe possessed, in a high degree, the devotional spirit. No one could hear him pray without being struck with the humble, grateful, child-like temper that marked his supplications. There was a reverent freedom, an elevated fervour, in his approaches to the throne of grace, which showed that he was engaged in his favourite employment; and we felt that the fire which was burning so brightly in the lecture-room or the sanctuary, had been kindled in the closet. It was not necessary that one should be personally acquainted with his private religious habits, to feel perfectly assured that he was eminently a man of prayer; for his public devotional services proved it, as truly as the shining of Moses’ face proved that he had been on the Mount. And what he exemplified so well in his own character, he affectionately and impressively urged upon others, and especially upon his pupils. Many a student can testify that the last interview which his revered professor held with him, previous to his leaving the seminary, was concluded by his offering up a fervent prayer that God’s blessing might attend him in all coming time, and throughout a coming eternity.

Dr. Miller was distinguished by a benevolent spirit, in connection with a well directed Christian activity. I have already said that he possessed a large share of natural benevolence; but I refer here to that higher quality which is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and is habitually controlled and directed by Christian principle; and of this, I may safely say, he was a bright example. He walked constantly in the footsteps of Him who went about doing good. He watched for opportunities to do good; — good to the bodies and souls of men; — good to those near at hand and to those afar off. Without very ample pecuniary means, he was still a liberal contributor to the various objects of Christian benevolence that solicited his aid; and, in some instances, I know that he volunteered the most unexpected and generous benefactions. His benevolence, however, did not reserve itself for signal occasions; but was manifested in his daily intercourse with society and in connexion with all the little affairs of life. Indeed he seemed always to be acting in obedience to the impulses of Christian good will; and if an opportunity presented to confer innocent pleasure, much more substantial benefit, upon any of his fellow creatures, even the humblest, — provided no paramount interest required his attention, he deemed it an occasion not unworthy of his consideration and his efforts.

It was one great advantage that he possessed above many other good men, that his Christian life was ordered with the strictest regard to system. His purposes of good were formed, and his means of accomplishing them arranged, so as to occasion no perplexing interference. You would often find him greatly pressed with engagements which, with his feeble health and advanced age, he scarcely felt adequate to meet; but you would never find him thrown into an inextricable maze and not knowing what to do next, for want of due forethought and calculation. It was surprising to many that he accomplished so much, in various ways, in his last years: the secret of it was that he worked to the full measure of his strength and did everything by rule.

Tags: , , ,

In 2005, Solid Ground Christian Books did a great service in reprinting three volumes of William Buell Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit. The three volumes selected for reprinting were the Presbyterian portion of that set, and they have been a great help in preparing some of the posts that you have been reading. In the last of those three volumes, some coverage was given to pastors of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and today we look at the brief life of the Rev. Moses Kerr, quoting from Sprague’s work:

Moses Kerr, the third son of the Rev. Joseph Kerr, D.D., was born in St. Clair, Pennsylvania, on the 30th of June, 1811. Naturally of a serious and thoughtful cast of mind and manifesting in very early life decided piety, his education was directed, from the first, with a view to qualifying him for the sacred ministry. He was the first of the family to enter upon a classical course. But, in a short time, signs of failing health led to a suspension of his studies and thoughts of some other calling less trying to a feeble constitution. He was induced to devote himself, for a time, to preparation for mercantile life. For this he had no taste, and it soon proved as unfavourable to his health as his application to study had previously done. He then engaged in ordinary farm work, and in this he appeared to grow strong; and, feeling now that he had the prospect of comfortable health, he again turned his attention to the profession on which he had first set his heart. He now entered the Western University of Pennsylvania, in which he prosecuted his studies without interruption until he was honourably graduated in 1828. In the fall of the same year he began the study of Theology in the Seminary then under the care of his father. He had completed one session and entered upon a second, when his father died. He finished his theological course under the instruction of the Rev. Mungo Dick, a learned and excellent Minister, who consented to take charge of the students of the Synod of the West until a professor to succeed Dr. Kerr could be formally chosen.

He was licensed to preach as a probationer for the holy ministry by the Presbytery of Monongahela, on the 28th of April, 1831. The same year the First Congregation of Allegheny was organized, and he was chosen its first Pastor. He accepted this call on the 24th of April, 1832, and, from this date, preached to this congregation, until the fall of the same year, a short time before the meeting of Presbytery, at which it was expected he would be ordained and installed. But when the Presbytery met, he returned the call, on account of a hemorrhage of the lungs, which made it necessary for him to refrain from public speaking, he knew not how long. The Presbytery released him from his acceptance of the call to that particular congregation, but proceeded with his Ordination to the office of the ministry. This was on the 9th of October, 1832.

Regrettably, the remainder of Rev. Kerr’s short life seems to repeat that pattern. He found times of service to congregations and as a teacher, but they were short periods interrupted by poor health. The Rev. Moses Kerr died on January 26, 1840, at the age of 28 years and 6 months.

Tags: , , ,

We return today to Leonard Van Horn’s series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Today we come to Catechism Question 3.

Instruction in the Westminster Standards.

The Historic Standards of Presbyterian Denominations.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 3 What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Scripture References: Micah 6:8. John 20:31. John 3:16. 2 Tim. 1:3. Questions:

  1. Why does our Catechism place such importance on the Scriptures? There could be no Catechism without the Scripture, for the foundation of the Catechism itself is in the acceptance of the full truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God. It is within the Word of God we find our way to eternal life. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15)
  1. What is meant by the word “principally” in this question?

It means that though all things revealed in the Scriptures are equally true, yet everything in it is not equally necessary to salvation.

  1. What are the two important teachings of the Word of God?

The two important teachings are what we believe and what we should do.

  1. What is belief according to the Scriptures?

It includes three parts: (1) To be persuaded of the truth. (2) To credit the truth of a person. (3) To trust, to have confidence in a person. We must have faith (belief) in the words of God and in the God who speaks them. This is a personal trust in the living God through the living Christ.

  1. Why is belief placed before duty?

This is the order of Scripture. The Christian is saved by grace through faith and is created unto good works. The foundation of the faith, “I am the Lord thy God” is presented in the Law before God presents His people with the Commandments. What we believe is important in order that we might do what is well-pleasing in the sight of God. Alexander Whyte says, “An orthodox faith and an obedient life is the whole duty of man.”

  1. Could there be any significance in the fact that both the Larger and Shorter Catechisms have this same question?

Yes. True happiness for man comes only when he recognizes three important teachings of the Bible: First, that he is a lost sinner. Second, that Jesus Christ is his Redeemer from sin. Third, that he is to live a holy life based upon the revealed will of God, the Scriptures.

Our title is rapidly becoming a popular question of this age within the walls of the church. Back some years ago the cry was, “No Creed but Christ!” This slogan was accepted by many and led many away from established systems of belief. As a dangerous trend in the life of the church, this departure prompted some to look for “revelations” outside of the revealed Word of God. Even this trend though can not be compared to the danger that is spreading throughout the church today, the danger of suggesting what we believe is not really important.

It is important to note that Question No. 3 of the Shorter Catechism places the matter of our belief in a prominent place. Our Lord did the same thing. In Matthew 22:37, 38 he says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy MIND.” The Bible leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone that what we believe is important.

Today in many Presbyterian churches there is a prejudice against creeds, against doctrine. This is shown in our failure to teach our Standards. It is also seen in the failure always to insist that candidates for the ministry be thoroughly conversant with the Standards. Again it is seen in the growing emphasis within the church today of obedience to the church as an institution without regard to the teaching of the Bible or of the accepted Creed.

Does it matter what we believe? It certainly does, if we are going to be a confessing body. It certainly does, if we want to continue to hear a gospel message in our church. The very heart of the gospel message is that we may receive the gift of salvation by believing (trusting) in Christ as our Saviour. Without this act of faith or belief we are lost, with it we are saved. Thus what we believe does make a difference, namely, where we shall spend eternity — heaven or hell.

It is equally true that it matters what we believe because the duty which God requires of us is based on what we believe. The widely accepted definition of belief is that “it is the assent of the mind to what is told us on competent and credible authority.” Our Bible is our competent and credible and infallible authority. Our Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore any indifference to doctrine, any attempt to bypass or alter it to suit modern man, any movement to permit, as acceptable practice, less than a complete committal to our doctrinal standards should be recognized as contrary to historic Presbyterianism.

Originally published by THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 1, No. 3    March, 1961

By Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Bonus – An Outline of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

The Catechism uses 107 Q. & A. to give an overview of the central teachings of Scripture.

Q. 1-12 : concern God as Creator.
Q. 13-20 : Original sin & man’s fallen nature.
Q. 21-38 : Christ our Redeemer & the benefits of redemption.
Q. 39-84 : The Ten Commandments.
Q. 85-97 : The Sacraments of Baptism & Holy Communion.
Q. 98-107 The Lord’s prayer.

Tags: , , ,

reedrcOn this day, January 24, in 1851, the Rev. James Landrum Reed and his wife Elizabeth became the proud parents of a baby boy whom they named Richard Clark Reed. Richard was later educated at King College and prepared for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Graduating from Union in 1876, he was ordained by Memphis Presbytery and went on to pastor churches in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee before being called to serve as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1898. A true pastor-scholar, he was well suited to this post, and the remainder of his years were spent teaching at Columbia, until his death in July of 1925.

In 1914, Dr. Reed had returned from attending the General Assembly of his denomination. What follows is a portion of his review of that Assembly, and it is interesting for dating a change in the conduct of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly, from that of a more deliberative body to something more akin to a business model. The Assembly had been in the habit of meeting for nine days, and now had, since 1912, been meeting for only six. Here Rev. Reed complains of the hurried nature of the Assembly and the resulting lack of patient, reasoned debate. Elsewhere we have noted that on one occasion, in 1880, the Rev. John L. Girardeau spoke at length for two hours on the floor of the Assembly. More remarkable still, the Assembly paid attention to his every word!

The General Assembly, reviewed by Rev. Professor R.C. Reed, Columbia, SC.

The fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, met in the Central Church, Kansas City, Mo., May 21, 1914, and was dissolved at 3:30 P.M., Thursday, May 28th. This is the third Assembly in succession which has limited the span of its life to six working days. These precedents will probably have the force of law for the future. Time was when the Assembly had to rush its business toward the close, in order to dissolution by the end of the ninth day from date of organization. The volume of business has increased rather than diminished. The recent Assemblies have shortened the time not by covering less ground, but by increasing the speed. The liberty of speech has been abridged. it has come to pass that by the time a speaker gets fairly launched, the cry of “question,” “question,” warns the speaker that further effort to get a hearing for his views will be useless. Age and distinguished services do not secure immunity from such discourtesy. The Assembly is ceasing to be a deliberative body, and coming to be an organization merely for business routine.

Obviously, our Assemblies are inoculated with the speed-madness of the age. It could hardly be otherwise. The members, who compose the Assembly, are accustomed by the use of the telephone, rapid transit, and other time-saving devices, to dispatch business at a rate that would have made a former generation dizzy. The speed at which we live is constantly increasing, with the result that we are growing more and more restless. The slightest delay is irksome. The train that pulls into the station ten minutes late creates almost a mob-spirit in those who have been constrained to lose so much of their precious time. When men, who live and move and have their being in an atmosphere charged with the frenzy of hurry, come together in a General Assembly, it is not surprising that they should begrudge every minute that does not show a decided progress in the calendar of business. They are not in the habit of having time to spare. Speech-making is not business, rather it is a clog on the machinery, and the less of it the sooner the members can record their votes and get at something else. The moderator is a good moderator in proportion as he rushes the grist through the mill.

Click here to read the remainder of this excerpt.

Words to Live By:
If only Dr. Reed could have seen the breakneck speed of our lives! Some people seem to thrive on it, but I think we all need times of peaceful quiet, though it can be very hard to come by. Why not begin to carve out a time each day when you will turn off the TV, the radio and all the many devices, and set your priorities for the day? And what better way to set the standard for the day than by getting alone with God in His Word and in prayer? Notice how often Jesus went out early in the morning, by Himself, to pray. Could we have any better example?  I admit it is a discipline, but rising a bit earlier to have that time alone with God is worth it. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

Tags: , , ,

stillmanOur post today is authored by Barry Waugh, who currently serves as church historian for the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, South Carolina.

Charles was born in Charleston, South Carolina to James S. and Mary Stillman on March 14, 1819. He attended Oglethorpe University in Georgia and received his degree in 1841. He then received his divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1844 and proceeded to be licensed by Charleston Presbytery later that year. The Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston provided the opportunity for Charles to exercise his ministerial gifts until 1845. In 1845 he was ordained by Tuscaloosa Presbytery to receive a call to the Presbyterian Church in Eutaw, Alabama where he served until 1853. Remaining in Alabama, Rev. Stillman received a call to be the pastor of the Gainesville church where he ministered until 1870. It was in 1863, while he was at Gainesville, that Charles received the Doctor of Divinity degree from the

University of Alabama. Dr. Stillman’s next call was to the Presbyterian Church at Tuscaloosa where he began his longest ministry in 1870 and continued there until his death on January 23, 1895.

Dr. Stillman’s non-pastoral ministerial efforts were many. He was the Chairman of Tuscaloosa Presbytery’s Home Missions Committee. From 1847 until 1884 he served as the Stated Clerk of Tuscaloosa Presbytery. One of his most significant achievements was when a group of Tuscaloosa Presbyterians, headed by Dr. Stillman, presented an overture to the 1875 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States concerning a training school for Black ministers. The 1876 General Assembly followed the recommendation of its specially appointed committee and authorized establishing the Institute for Training Colored Ministers at Tuscaloosa. In the fall of 1876 Charles Stillman taught its first classes. The Institute came to be named the Stillman Institute in honor of its devoted founder who served as its superintendent from its founding until his death. The curriculum and nature of its educational program has changed over the years and it is known today as Stillman College.

Charles Stillman was married three times. He married his first wife, Martha Hammond of Milledgeville, Georgia, on October 15, 1846. His second marriage was to the widow Fannie Collins of Shubuta, Mississippi, whom he married on April 17, 1866. Elfreda Walker of Clarksville, Tennessee was his third wife and they were married on April 17, 1872. At least two of Dr. Stillman’s descendants continued to serve the Presbyterian Church–his daughter, Anna M. Stillman, was a secretary for Rev. T. P. Mordecai at the First Presbyterian Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, and his grandson, Rev. Charles Sholl, was the pastor of the Avondale Presbyterian Church, another of the Presbyterian churches in Birmingham.

Tags: , , ,

Have you ever heard of a “Junkin Tent”? It was a tent or lean-to structure erected in a rural setting where the Lord’s people could gather for worship and communion. The tent provided a covering for the pastor and for the communion elements, with the congregation seated around the tent. The term has now largely passed into history, and so today’s post is presented with the intent of raising your “PQ” – your Presbyterian Quotient.

The Junkin Tent

“The name of Junkin has been long known and honored in the Presbyterian church. The first of this name to settle in this region was Joseph Junkin who had married Elizabeth Wallace. They were emigrants from Ulster, and were married at Oxford, Pa. A little later they settled in the Cumberland Valley and “took up” five hundred acres of land including the site of the present town of New Kingston.To these parents was born a Joseph Junkin the second, on the 22d of January, 1750. He had two sisters older than himself. Mary, who became Mrs. John Culbertson, and Elizabeth, who died young; and one sister and two brothers younger than himself, John, who died without issue, and Benjamin, the grandfather of the Hon. Benjamin Junkin of Perry county.”

“Joseph Junkin was of the old Covenanter stock, and the “Junkin Tent” was a well known place of worship for those who held by the sturdy principles of this type of Presbyterianism. Here Black, and Cuthbertson, and Dobbin and others ministered in holy things to a congregation of hardy pioneers gathered from far and near. It is said that at this “Junkin Tent” was celebrated the first Covenanter Communion Service ever held in the New World.”

“Young Junkin was twenty-five years of age when the clouds of war began to gather over the infant colonies. He was not made of the stuff to meekly bear the insolent assumption of the British Crown. He was one of the first to enlist when the news reached his quiet home that Independence was declared. Leaving his intended bride unwedded until the storm of war should pass, he enlisted and went to the front. In the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, he commanded a company. In the sharp skirmish near White Horse Tavern, on the 16th, his arm was shattered by a musket ball. He was concealed by a patriotic Friend, and finally mounted on a horse with a rope bridle, and a knapsack stuffed with hay for a saddle, he made his way home, a distance of ninety miles, in three days. He put himself under the care of Dr. Samuel A. McCoskry of Carlisle, and paid all the expenses attendant on his cure; but he lost a full year in his recovery.”

“In May, 1779, he was married by the Rev. Alexander Dobbin, D.D., to Eleanor Cochran, by whom he had fourteen children, among whom we may mention Rev. George Junkin, D.D., LL.D. and Rev. David X. Junkin, D.D. In the spring of 1806 he removed with his family to Hope Mills, Mercer country, Pa., where he died February 21, 1831.”

[excerpted from volume 2 of the Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle (1889).]

Words to Live By:
What a wonderful privilege when the Lord’s people gather to praise Him, to worship in spirit and in truth. and to draw near to Him in praise. Regardless of where we meet to praise our Lord, it matters not whether we gather under a crude shelter or in a modern building, His promise is that He will be there with us.

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: