March 2015

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This past Tuesday we wrote of the life and ministry of the Rev. Thomas Boston [1676-1732]. Today, through an address delivered by Dr. Alexander Whyte in 1902, we will examine closer a pivotal moment in the life of Boston, and by his actions, a moment of immense importance that has rippled down through the centuries. Dr. Whyte provides a wonderful introduction to the subject, and I think you will profit from the reading.

THE “MARROW MEN”

A sermon preached before the Baptist Union on Wednesday, October 9th, at St. George’s United Free Church, Edinburgh (1902).

By Dr. Alexander Whyte.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.”—Psalm lxiii. 5.

Thomas Boston [1676-1732]When Thomas Boston, our Scottish Father-in-God, was still in a half-converted state, and when he was still on the scent for salvation—to employ his own graphic expression about himself —in the course of his pastoral visitation, he made a call one day at the house of an old soldier, who had served in the great Civil War in England. The old Covenanter-soldier had brought home with him a little book that was an immense favourite with the puritan people of England at that period; and the little book lay on the old soldier’s window-sill when Boston made his visit that day. Boston was a great lover of books—he had very few of them—and he instinctively took up the little volume to see what it was.  “The Marrow of Modern Divinity,” by Edward Fisher, M.A., of Oxford.  Boston had never seen the little book before, nor so much as heard the name of its author, but the striking title-page, and the glance that Boston took at the contents of the book, led him to ask for a loan of the little volume, and for weeks and months to come the “Marrow” was never out of Boston’s hands till he had the  great evangelical classic by heart, and till, by the grace of God to Boston, Edward. Fisher had finished what Henry Erskine had long ago begun. Boston’s best people soon began to see that some great change had come over their minister. Boston had always been a powerful and a pungent preacher. Like John Bunyan, in his early ministry also, Boston had always preached sin with great “sense.” Boston’s early preaching, he tells us in his “Autobiography,” had “terrified the godly,” but that had been nearly all it had hitherto done. But, after the “Marrow” had done its work in Boston, his preaching began to take an entirely new character. He did not preach sin with any less “sense”—with any less passion, that is—but

HE NOW PREACHED SIN, AND EVERYTHING ELSE, WITH FAR MORE SOLEMNITY, AND TENDERNESS, AND LOVE.

His whole pulpit and pastoral work took on from that time an entirely new earnestness, an entirely new scripturalness, richness, inwardness, and depth, all of which was as new and as sweet to Boston himself as it was to his spiritually-minded people. Wherever Boston went to preach, and he was now more than ever sought after for communion seasons all over the south of Scotland, a special blessing went everywhere with him. And when any of his brethren ventured to remark on the new power of his preaching, Boston immediately attributed it all to the Marrow.

Having prevailed on its owner to part with the little book for its price, Boston lent the volume to friend after friend, till, at last, it fell into the hands of James Hog, of Carnock. James Hog of Carnock was one of the ablest divines, and one of the best preachers of his day, in Scotland, and, on reading the “Marrow,” the saintly scholar thought he saw his opportunity. Hog sat down and wrote a strongly-worded introduction to the hitherto unknown little book, and an enterprising and sympathising Edinburgh publisher put a Scottish edition of the “Marrow” upon the northern market; and the venture at once repaid both its editor and its publisher, for the “Marrow” was soon as well known in Scotland as the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and the “Saint’s Rest,” and “Rutherford’s Letters”—and what more can be said about the best success of any book?

THEN AROSE THE GREAT “MARROW CONTROVERSY,”

as it was called, a controversy in which the leaders of the General Assembly played such a deplorable part, and a controversy in which Thomas Boston and James Hog and Gabriel Wilson and Ralf and Ebenezer Erskine bore such a noble and ever-honourable part. That was a great day for the Gospel of the Grace of God in Scotland, when the “Twelve Marrow Men,” as they were called, stood at the bar of the General Assembly, and when Boston, as their spokesman, addressed the Moderator of the hostile house and said: ‘“Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” And from that notable day the doctrines of Grace took root again in the pulpits of Scotland, as those doctrines had first taken root two centuries before in the pulpits of Knox and Brown, and Balloch, and Welsh, and as those same doctrines again took foot during the “ten years’ conflict” of our fathers’ day, and during the memorable years that followed that conflict, and which are still following it down to this day. That great conflict is already arising in its deepest springs when we read in Thomas Chalmers’s diary such entries as these:

“I am reading the ‘Marrow,’ and I am deriving from it great light and satisfaction. It is a masterly performance.”

“August the 24th. Finished the Marrow. I feel a growing delight in the fulness and all-sufficiency of Christ. O, my God! Bring me nearer and nearer to Thy Son!”

And Chalmers’s reading of the Marrow was blessed to him, and his prayer was answered in the creation of the Free Church of Scotland, and in many other things that we see around us and before us in Scotland to-day. Read Dr. Chalmers’s Life by Dr. Hanna, and get your children to read it. The book is a masterpiece in literature, and its noble evangelical lessons cannot fail to impress, and quicken, and strengthen both the mind, and the heart, and the character of everyone who reads it. All ministers especially should have Chalmers’s Life by heart.

It was

THE FASHION OF THE DAY

to cast the teaching of the day into the form of a dialogue. William Law, among others, has made splendid use of that literary device. Law has immortalised that literary device in more than one of his immortal works. And Edward Fisher, being a man of letters as well as of religion, determined to cast his apostolical doctrine into the same dialogue device. And he accordingly makes his dialogue to be carried on between Evangelista, a minister of the Gospel; Nomista, a legalist; Antinomista, an anti-nomian, and Neophitus, a young and, as yet, an uninstructed Christian. If you can lay your hands on a copy of Edward Fisher’s Marrow, edited by Thomas Boston and enriched with his notes, you will have in your possession a very complete and a very ably-reasoned-out statement of apostolical, evangelical, and experimental truth. And if you add to Boston’s edition of the Marrow John Brown of Whitburn’s most valuable book, entitled, Gospel Truth Accurately Stated and Illustrated, you will possess in those two treatises, taken together, very masterly and a conclusive discussion of the whole “Marrow Controversy.” The exact scholarship, the wide reading, the intellectual power, and the spiritual fervour of both these books will be a great surprise and a great delight to everyone who has the mind and the heart to master them. I open the Marrow anywhere and I immediately come on something like this :

“ But, sir,” says the neophyte to his minister, “Has such an one as I am any title, or invitation, or warrant to come to Christ, and to claim him as my Redeemer?” “Your warrant to claim Christ as your Redeemer,” says Evangelista, “is just God’s call on you to do so. For this is His commandment that I we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, as He gave us commandment. And, furthermore, we have God’s sure and infallible promise that whosoever believeth on His Son shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.” “Listen to Luther,” says the minister : “ ‘He saw in me,’ says Luther, ‘nothing but wickedness, nothing but a lost sheep going astray. Yet the good Shepherd had mercy on me ; and of His pure and undeserved grace He loved me, and gave Himself for me. But who is this me?’ exclaims Luther. ‘Even Martin Luther, a wretched and already condemned sinner, was so dearly loved by the Son of God, that He gave Himself for me! O!’ cries Luther in every Reformation sermon of his, ‘O, print this word ME in your heart, and apply it to yourself, not doubting but that you are one of those to whom this ME belongs.’ ” “Indeed, sir,” replies the neophyte, “if I were as good as some men are, then I could easily believe what you say. But, alas, sir, I am such a sinful wretch, that I cannot believe that Christ will accept of me till I am much better than I am.” “Alas, man!” the minister replies, “in thus speaking, you take it upon you to correct and contradict, not Paul and Luther only, but Christ Himself. For, whereas Paul says that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the chief of sinners,

YOU SEEM TO HOLD THAT HE CAME TO SAVE SUCH AS WERE NOT REALLY LOST.

And whereas Christ Himself says that the whole need not a physician, you hold that a sinner must be well on the way to .recovery before he need call for Christ to come and heal him. You seem to think that the spouse of Christ must be adorned and perfumed with robes and ointments of her own providing before her husband will receive her. Whereas He Himself says to her, ‘No eye pitied thee to do any of these things unto thee. But when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold! thy time was a time of love. And I spread my spirit over thee: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a sure covenant with thee, and thou becamest Mine. And I will marry thee to Me in righteousness and in mercy and in everlasting faithfulness, and thou shalt be Mine.’” “Why, sir, then, it seems that the vilest sinner in this whole world ought not to be discouraged in coming to Christ.” “Surely not!” replies the minister. “Nay, let me say one word more : the greater, the more awful any man’s sins have been and still are, either in their nature or their number, the more haste that man should make to say with David, ‘for Thy Name’s sake, O, Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.’”

There was nothing that the Reformers in Germany and in Switzerland and the Marrow men in Scotland preached with more ability and eloquence and success, than just the particular and personal offer of Christ to every individual sinner. The Marrow men were very bold in this matter. They possessed a free and a full salvation in their own souls, and, in the name of God, they held out the offer of that same salvation to every man. Who are you? and what is your name? they demanded as they preached. Because we have a message from God immediately and personally to you. Is your name David in the matter of Uriah? Or Peter after his fall? Or Mary Magdalene, and she still possessed with seven devils? Or Saul still breathing out threatenings and slaughter? Is your name Luther the monk? or Bunyan the tinker? or Boston still in a half- converted state? You! they cried, singling out each individual hearer.

You! and you! and you!

TO YOU IS THE WORD OF THIS SALVATION SENT.

Here is a sample of their fine pulpit work taken out of Walter Marshall, that great master in Israel, that perfect Euclid of evangelical sanctification, as I am wont to call him to myself. Oh! where are such masterly books as the Marrow? Is the Gospel mystery to be found again on every window-sill in Scotland and England as was once the case? “You are to be fully persuaded,” says Marshall, “and in your own particular case, that if you trust in Christ sincerely and perseveringly you shall have eternal life in Him, as well as the greatest saint in all the world. For the promise is universal, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame. Conclude within yourself, then, that, howsoever vile and wicked and unworthy you may be, yet, if you come, you also shall be accepted. It is this that hinders so many wounded consciences and broken hearts from coming to the Great Physician. They are so dead in sin, they are so corrupt in heart, they are so without the least spark of any grace or goodness in themselves, that they think it to be nothing short of sheer presumption in them to expect to be saved. But why so? They can be but the chief of sinners; and is this not a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the chief of sinners? If they that are dead in sin cannot be saved, then all men must despair and perish; for no man has one spark of spiritual life in him till he comes for it, and receives it from Christ. Others think that they have outstayed their time, till there is no place of repentance left for them. But, behold, to every sinner still out of hell, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” And as Marshall and Fisher, following Luther and Knox, preached that personal, and individualising, and immediate Gospel of free grace, a great multitude of our own forefathers believed unto everlasting life.

But to my mind,

THE MARROW MEN EXCELLED THEMSELVES IN THE WAY THEY PREACHED THE ASSURANCE OF FAITH.

Both in Germany, and in Switzerland, and in France, the full assurance of faith was splendidly preached in those first days of a recovered Gospel. And to acknowledge his sources, and to confess his indebtedness, and to assure his readers concerning his doctrine of the assurance of faith, the author of the Marrow actually gives his readers the names of some sixty-four theologians and preachers in all the Reformed Churches of Christendom, out of whose writings he had drawn this substance of his great evangelical dialogue. Now, what exactly is the assurance of faith? Well, it is, in short, just this—that all true faith has its witness in itself. All true faith is its own best evidence and surest proof. As thus—a minister preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified to his people. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to his people. And he pleads with them as an ambassador to be reconciled to God. The people listen; they attend; they begin to think; they begin to believe. One thing, another thing, many things, all work together to lead them to believe. A bad conscience, a bad heart, trials in life and losses, approaching old age, fear of death and judgment—all these things, under the hand of the Holy Ghost, work together till the people are led to rest all their trust and hope on the Lord Jesus Christ. And, already, as they begin to believe and trust and hope, the peace of God begins to be shed abroad in their hearts, and their minister’s Gospel preaching leads the people on from faith to faith, and from strength to strength, till they are able to certify and assure their own hearts, till the Holy Ghost is able to assure and seal their hearts, as He sealed and assured Paul’s heart, into this full assurance of faith. “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” And as faith grows, its full assurance will grow till the true believer is able to say with the Apostle, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” It is something not unlike this. A man loves a woman. He has long loved her unknown to her, till one day he takes her and opens his heart to her. She listens to him. She believes him, till her heart is carried captive to him. And from that great espousal day she has his promise, and he has hers. And from that day she has an assurance of his truth and his love that nothing will shake. Absence, distance, land and sea between her and him—her assurance only the firmer holds her heart. No news, bad news even; other lovers approaching her lonely heart—No! In all these things her faith, her full assurance of faith in her espoused husband, conquers all. Now, the believing heart is just like that. Nothing can ever pluck the true believer out of Christ’s hands, nor Christ out of the true believer’s heart. He may not be always sensibly near you. He may be away in a far country. He is away, but, then, He is away preparing a place for you. Then He will come again, and receive you to Himself. Therefore make yourself ready. Keep yourself ready. Have your lamp burning. Have your heart waking. For, at any moment, the shout may be heard in heaven.

Boston, Thomas [1676-1732]_3d_imageI began with Boston, and I will end with him. Now, Boston was not a man of genius. He was not a Rutherford, nor a Bunyan, nor a Baxter, nor an Edwards, nor a Chalmers. Boston was

AN ORDINARY MAN LIKE ANY OF OURSELVES,

till his doctrine, and his life adorning his doctrine, made him what he became. For one thing, Boston was a true student all his days. He husbanded his time. He plied his books. He plied his pen. Like Goodwin, he studied down “his subjects, as a hunter starts and runs down his quarry.” My scarcity of books was a kind of providence to me, for it made me think out the thing.” “I plied my books” comes in continually. By plying his books he drove away headaches, and moroseness, and parish worries, and worse things, so he testifies. And both the substance and the style of his then classical, and still not unclassical, books was the reward of his incessant plying of his few great books and of his pen among them. In his pulpit “the salvation of the hearer was the one motive of the preacher. He always preached his sermon first to himself, and this made his preaching ever fresh, ever pungent, ever full of “sense.” As often as he got good in the preparation of his sermon, he argued from that that his people would get good next Sabbath. And all this made him feel keenly, as his preaching and pastoral life went on, “a preacher’s need of Christ’s imputed righteousness.” As to his pastoral work, he began it at home, and practised it every morning and every night upon his family. He prepared for the exercise, till this entry continually recurs in his diary, how he got this and that good this morning and this evening at the “exercise.” And then, on the same faithful principle, he catechised his parish twice in the year till “he found that he had enough to do among his handful.” “Yes, Simprin is small, but then it is mine.” And then, to seal all, Boston was a man of prayer, if ever there was one in a Scottish manse. “I consulted God.” He continually made that consultation, as a student, as a probationer, as a lover, as a husband, as a father, as a preacher, as an author, with the result that is to be read in his memoirs of himself and in all his works. And then, out of all that he became such a theologian also that Jonathan Edwards discovered him from New England and described him as “Thomas Boston of Scotland, that truly great divine.” As high a seal, surely, as this world could set, according to the Ciceronian principle, Laudari a viro laudato—to be so praised by a man whom everybody praises. Two truly great divines.

Image sources: 
Interestingly enough, both portraits are of the Rev. Thomas Boston. The latter looks nothing like the former, in my estimation. The first portrait is the frontispiece in A General Account of My Life, by Thomas Boston, A.M., Minister at Simprin, 1699-1707 and at Ettrick, 1707-1732 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908). The second portrait comes from The Life and Times of Thomas Boston of Ettrick, authored by Andrew Thomson (T. Nelson & Sons, 1895).

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Please note that there was a typo in yesterday’s post, and that the correct death year for Dr. Carl McIntire was 2002, not 2005. That error was corrected yesterday evening. Our apologies for not catching it prior to posting.

“Brother Bryan”

 

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]Many years ago when a slim lad came to preach in Birmingham, he was “Mr. Bryan”; as the years passed an honorary title was prefixed and they called him “Doctor”; but this was many years ago, for long since the “Mister” and the “Doctor” have gone into discard and for the multitudes in and around Birmingham he is “Brother Bryan.” It was his own way of speaking to others. Christ had made all men, white and black, native born and immigrant, poor and rich, his brothers. He called them all “Brother,” and men realizing how truly he meant it fastened the name “Brother” to him. He is “Brother Bryan of Birmingham,” the brother beloved of all.

Do you know Brother Bryan? No?. Then you do not live in Birmingham, Alabama, for everyone in that great industrial city knows Brother Bryan. His stooped shoulders, Christlike face, and gentle voice are the best known in all the city. He is pastor of about the smallest church in Birmingham, but his parish is by far the largest. Among all the ministers he has had the longest pastorate, retiring from his pulpit finally after fifty-two years of service in one church. If you look in the denominational year book, you will find him listed as pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church, but all these years his church has been more or less a tethering post, allowing him to roam over the whole city in the service of Christ.

About statistics or bookkeeping he knows nothing, but since in Birmingham he makes good print, a newspaper some years ago put a reporter out to estimate in figures the reach of his ministry. After many hours spent over church, county, and city records, the reporter wrote for the Birmingham Post on November 5, 1926, the following estimate of Brother Bryan’s thirty-seven years and five months pastorate :

“He has married 4,589 couples

officiated at 7,926 funerals

preached 49,120 times

led 7,627 to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. James Alexander Bryan, Presbyterian minister, was born March 20, 1863, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, S. C; a son of John Robert and Mary M. (Savage) Bryan. He received his early schooling in Williamsburg County, S. C, was taught by his mother, and sent to Old Lovejoy Academy, Raleigh, N. C, for preparation to enter the University of North Carolina. He was graduated from the latter institution, 1885; received two scholarships to Princeton, and was graduated from the course in theology there, B. D., 1889.

With $1.85 in his pocket young Bryan arrived at Princeton in September, 1886, to begin his theological course. The three years at Princeton were a great experience for the young man from South Carolina. At that time Princeton was in her glory with such stalwart intellectuals as Dr. William H. Green, Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge, Dr. Francis L. Patton, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, Dr. John D. Davis, and others upon her faculty. The piety of the slim young Southerner brought to him the name “The Saint,” which after years has proven to have been well placed. The characteristics so marked in later years began to express themselves in these seminary days. Writing forty-five years afterwards, one of his seminary friends said, “I always felt that he was a modern St. Francis of Assisi. His Christlike spirit and his untiring devotion to his Master in the service of His children have been an inspiration to me always.” His recreation during these wonderful days was long walks with student friends along the beautiful roads leading into the country from Princeton, and on these long walks young Bryan revealed his deep spiritual nature to his intimate friends.

He became pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church at Birmingham in 1889, and held that charge for fifty-two years in all (1941). Twice he was sent to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) by the Presbytery of North Alabama, and also served as moderator of the Presbytery of North Alabama. He devoted his spare time to preaching outside of his church, and held meetings in Birmingham among the firemen, policemen, factory people, railroaders, and students. He conducted evangelistic work in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. He was as well a Prohibitionist.

Words to Live By:

Would you change your world? Here in Brother Bryan we find one great example of how to go about that work.

The Brother Bryan Mission continues this dear pastor’s work, as does the Third Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Alabama. Remarkably, this church, organized in 1884, has had only three pastors in its one hundred thirty-one years of existence:

James A. Bryan, 1889-1941

James S. Cantell, 1941-1978

Richard C. Trucks, 1978-current:

 

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McIntireCarl_01

“The last of the 20th Century’s Fighting Fundamentalists has been called to glory. Only eternity will tell of the countless souls rescued from cults and the modernist churches due to the influence of this man” commented Dr. Morris McDonald of the Presbyterian Missionary Union when word began to spread today that Dr. Carl McIntire had passed away late on March 19, 2002, at Virtua Health Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Born May 17, 1906, McIntire was just short of 96 at the time of his death.

“An exhaustive preacher, writer, and publisher, McIntire was best known for his motto “A man who will not use his freedom to defend his freedom does not deserve his freedom.” In support of his causes, Dr. McIntire published the Christian Beacon newspaper, preached on the 20th Century Reformation Hour, and at various times directed the American Council of Christian Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches.”

“Dr. McIntire started his ministerial career in Collingswood and served the congregation there from 1933 for more than 60 years. Under his leadership the church left the Presbyterian Church (USA) as the flag ship congregation of what would become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Bible Presbyterian Church, and a large portion of the Presbyterian Church in America. Though originally partners in supporting the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Gresham Machen and Dr. Carl McIntire moved in different directions after the break with the Northern Presbyterian Church. Machen became identified with Westminster Seminary while McIntire developed Faith Seminary.”

The son of a Presbyterian pastor, Carl Curtis McIntire was born on May 17, 1906 in Ypsilanti, Michigan during his father’s first pastorate. The little that is known about his early years is gathered in bits and pieces. His father, Charles Curtis, was a Princeton Seminary graduate, class of 1904. Leaving his first pulpit in 1907, he next pastored the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City from 1907 – 1910 and then served as the executive secretary of the Presbyterian Laymen’s Foreign Mission Movement from 1911 – 1912. By 1912 however, Charles Curtis McIntire had suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. Details of this setback are lacking, but for whatever specific reason, Carl’s mother Hettie divorced and raised her sons Carl and Blair alone in Durant, OK. (According to an article several years ago in the Philadelphia Inquirer, there may also have been at least one other brother in the family, Forest McIntire, who was located in Oklahoma City). During these years Hettie McIntire worked as the Dean of Women at the Southeastern State Teacher’s College in Durant in order to support her family. By 1920, Charles Curtis had recovered and was serving as the pastor of the Presbyterian church of Vinita, OK, as a lecturer and as a prison evangelist. Charles Curtis McIntire died in 1929.

Carl McIntire graduated from Park College, Parkville, MO in 1927 and attended Princeton Theological Seminary from 1928 to 1929. McIntire was among those who left Princeton in protest over a reorganization of Princeton Seminary that left modernists in control, leaving to follow J. Gresham Machen and others who then quickly founded Westminster Theological Seminary.Graduating from Westminster in 1931, he was ordained by the Presbytery of West Jersey (PCUSA) and his first pastorate was at the Chelsea Presbyterian Church of Atlantic City, NJ. In October of 1933 he became the pastor of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church, Collingswood, NJ. McIntire was among the founding members of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM), a conservative agency started by J. Gresham Machen in opposition to the observed theological decline in the Foreign Missions Board of the Northern Presbyterian Church. But by 1934, the General Assembly of the PCUSA declared that participation in the IBPFM was unconstitutional and Machen, McIntire and others involved with the IBPFM were ordered to resign or face charges in the ecclesiastical courts of their Presbyteries. Like Machen, McIntire was suspended from the ministry in 1935 and the suspension was later upheld by General Assembly. Suspension included exclusion from the pulpits of the denomination and excommunication from the Lord’s Table.Thus forced, Machen led a small group of pastors and laymen in the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America in the summer of 1936. A lawsuit by the PCUSA charged a conflict of interest and the fledgling denomination had to quickly change its name, taking the title Orthodox Presbyterian Church. McIntire was thus a founding member of the OPC, but the new denomination was immediately beset with arguments over the issues of premillennialism and abstinence.By the end of 1937, following Machen’s death early that same year, McIntire and a twelve other pastors within the OPC had left to establish yet another Presbyterian denomination, taking the name Bible Presbyterian Church. Within this newest group, McIntire’s church was easily the largest, with some 1200 members. This support base allowed for a diverse number of ministries, including the publication The Christian Beacon, which began in 1936 and which operated as a journal of record for the Bible Presbyterian Church for many years. In 1937 McIntire founded Faith Theological Seminary, aided in part by the assistance of then-student Francis A. Schaeffer.

By the start of American involvement in World War II in 1941, McIntire had seen the need to get conservative men into the military chaplaincy. The American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) was started to represent Biblically conservative churches. As the chaplaincy was then run on a quota system, McIntire worked to increase the numbers of people represented by the ACCC. His success in this work allowed many conservatives into the chaplaincy, but this same success later led to excess, and by 1955 the Bible Presbyterian Church was in turmoil over charges that McIntire was inflating the membership numbers of the ACCC.

Those charges were leveled by Francis Schaeffer and Robert G. Rayburn, among others, and in reaction McIntire led a small group of stalwart followers out to form a competing Bible Presbyterian Church while the larger original group carried on for a few years under the same name and eventually merged in 1965 with the Reformed Presbyterian Church to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). While the RPCES joined the PCA in 1982, McIntire’s Collingswood Synod wing of the Bible Presbyterian Church was split yet again in 1984 with another division that saw McIntire leading out a still smaller number of followers.

Our record of the story largely ends at this point, based upon the materials that are here at the PCA Historical Center. The story of Carl McIntire is truly deserving of a longer work, and could never be properly told in such limited space. He was a brilliant man, gifted, able to accomplish much in life, a controversialist and a skilled propagandist, and a man who suffered from a number of fatal flaws that eventually undid much of his life’s work.

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The End of an Institution

spj02The first issue of The Southern Presbyterian Journal appeared in May of 1942.  Dr. L. Nelson Bell, Dr. Henry B. Dendy and a handful of like-minded men had founded the magazine to combat the liberalism that was beginning to influence the Southern Presbyterian Church [the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., or PCUS].  The Journal began in Weaverville, North Carolina, but later moved to Asheville, North Carolina.  The magazine continued under the name The Southern Presbyterian Journal until 1959, at which time the name was changed to The Presbyterian Journal. This name change coincided with a change of editors. Henry B. Dendy had originally signed on as editor at Bell’s urging. As he stated at his resignation, “the temporary position stretched out to over seventeen years.” Dendy continued to serve as managing editor and business manager as the post of Editor was handed over to the Rev. G. Aiken Taylor. That change was effective with the October 7, 1959 issue (Vol. 18, No. 23). Taylor was committed to continuing Nelson Bell’s agenda:  awakening Southern Presbyterians to the decline of their church.  However, Taylor had a different result in mind.  He despaired of reforming the PCUS and set about working toward a large, non-regional, conservative Presbyterian denomination.

taylorgaikenNo one was more instrumental in organizing the Presbyterian Church in America, and making it a national denomination, than Aiken Taylor.  Ironically, the formation of the PCA—the Journal’s main goal as far as Taylor was concerned—caused the beginning of a long decline in circulation.  As more and more Journal readers became PCA members, there was decreasing need for a periodical designed to warn of liberalism in the PCUS. Dr. Taylor left the Journal in 1983 [to serve as president of the Biblical Seminary of Hatfield, PA], and he died shortly after his departure.  Dr. William S. Barker became editor, but the Journal continued for only a few more years.  Its last issue was that of March 18, 1987.

Pictured above right—the original home of the Southern Presbyterian Journal.
At left, Dr. G. Aiken Taylor.

Words to Live By:
While Presbyterian newspapers and magazines have rarely been financially viable, there remains a place for denominational and trans-denominational news services. The PCA has byFaith; the OPC has  New Horizons; the RPCNA has the RP Witness; and the Associated Reformed Presbyterians have the  ARP Magazine. Whether in print or digital format, these services provide a much-needed connectionalism between a denomination’s churches and members. They can make us aware of ministries and opportunities for service, as well as informing our prayers. In short, they strengthen the necessary connections that undergird each denomination. And for this reason, these publications deserve your prayers and support. Subscribe if you can to the print format, and encourage your church to make issues available to its members. Bookmark the web link and visit weekly to stay abreast of the news within your denomination. Better, visit the other links provided above and get to know your brothers and sisters in other denominations. Pray for them too, for they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, engaged with you in this great spiritual battle to proclaim the Gospel and extend God’s kingdom across the whole earth.

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An Heart Exercised Unto Godliness

Thomas Boston [1676-1732]The life of Thomas Boston could be considered a walking medical study. Frequently depressed both in life and ministry, in his autobiography he wrote of his recurring miseries, his dry spells, his sense of unworthiness and dullness even in the act of preaching, or while praying in his study. At one point in his life, all his teeth fell out gradually one by one.  Try speaking or preaching with that condition! His wife even joined him in suffering from a chronic illness of body and mind. Maybe it was something in the water!

Throw in two small congregations which, when he first went to them, were unresponsive to the ministry of the Word, whether publicly or privately. The manse in one congregation was in such bad shape that his family couldn’t stay there. In the other church, for a while they lived in a stable and even had one of their infants born there.

Thomas Boston was born this day March 17, in 1676, in Duns, Scotland, with Thomas being the youngest of seven children. His parents, John and Alison Boston, were Covenanters and his father was a strong supporter of Presbyterianism, even for a time being fined and imprisoned for his proclamation of the Gospel. Thomas would keep him company in one jail.  Despite his parent’s vibrant testimony, Thomas went through religious motions only.  It was only later under the preaching of the Rev. Henry Erskine, father of two sons who became ministers, that the Spirit brought him to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Thomas would says, “it pleased the Lord to awaken me under exercise about my soul’s state.”

He attended Edinburgh University at age 15 and met his future wife Katherine (sometimes spelled with a “C”) while there. Licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Chimside, he proposed to Katherine, and she accepted. Two  years later, he received a call from the Parish of Simprim. Accepting that call and entering into the ministry of that pulpit, he was faithful in home visitation, catechizing and engaging in pastoral care twice week. During these same years five children were born into his family.

It was in one of the homes of his Simprim congregation that Boston discovered a book on the shelf entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher. He read it and brought it to the established church. It afterwards became the basis for what is known as “the Marrow Controversy”.

In 1707, he moved with his wife and family to Ettrick, Scotland, where for the next twenty-five years, he ministered in the pulpit and homes of the congregation there. Especially did he wield the pen in writing a book still available today, often known simply as The Fourfold State [the full title is Human Nature in its Fourfold State: Of Primitive Integrity, Entire Depravity, Begun Recovery, and Consummate Happiness or Misery. Another five children were born into his family during his years at Ettrick, though in all, six of his children would die before reaching adulthood. When he himself died in 1732, he left behind his widow and four children.

Words to Live By: 
Thomas Boston [1676-1732]Thomas Boston is a great example to the subscribers of This Day in Presbyterian History who are pastors. Their trials are often the same ones he suffered. Like Boston, these men faithfully minister each week, lovingly being the pastor in the pulpits and among the congregations given to their care, but often with great resistance and little encouragement. Those in the pew need to remember two Scriptural commands: First, that of 1 Thessalonians 5;12, 13, which says “But we request of you brethren, that you appreciated those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem very highly in love because of their work.  Live in peace with one another.” And second, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13;17)

Image sources: 
1. Above right, the most commonly seen portrait of the Rev. Thomas Boston, being the frontispiece portrait in A General Account of My Life, by Thomas Boston, A.M., Minister at Simprin, 1699-1707 and at Ettrick, 1707-1732. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908.
2. Above left, a less frequently seen portrait (and you can see why!) of Rev. Boston. This is the frontispiece portrait published in the volume Memoirs of the Life, Times, and Writings of Thomas Boston, of Ettrick. Glasgow: John M’Neilage, 1899.  

Boston’s Favorite Text:
“Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”—Psalm 71:20-21.

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From a small collection of juvenile literature at the PCA Historical Center, the following artwork is from a Scottish publication titled THE MORNING WATCH, dated 1910. The caption reads:

“These young Scottish theologians are settling the point as to whether the Shorter Catechism says the Sum of the Ten Commandments is . . .  to love our NEIGHBOR, or, our NEIGHBORS. The upper boy says it’s the plural, the under says it’s the singular, each of them, especially the upper one, forgetting that the important thing in the sentence is not the letter S, but the word LOVE. But so did their fathers before them!

youngTheologians

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 10. — How did God create man?

A. —  God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Scripture References: Gen. 1:27. Col. 3:10. Eph. 4:24. Gen. 1:28.

Questions:

1. What is the difference between the creation of other creatures and the creation of man?

God simply commanded the other creatures into existence; but when man was created the Trinity decided that man should be made in the image of God.

2. Why is this difference important?

It is important as man is God’s only self-conscious creature that He has created. God made man in his mental and moral image. Dr. Albertus Pieters says, “It involves self-conscious reasoning power, the capacity for self-determination, and moral sense. In other words, to be a being that can say, ‘I am, I ought, I will,’ – this it is to be made in the image of God.”

3. Why did God create man?

Man was created by God that man should serve his Creator. God does not exist for man’s sake but man exists for God’s sake, to serve and to glorify Him forever.

4. What kind of knowledge, righteousness and holiness did man have at his creation?

Man’s knowledge was a perfect knowledge of God, of his duty and of many other things for which we probably strive today. Man’s righteousness was an inherent righteousness which enabled God to declare him as “very good.” Man’s holiness was the hidden root of his righteousness that was shining forth in hls heart.

5. What sort of dominion did man have over the creatures?

God made man head of the world. He was given the right to reign over the creatures and name them. He was to rule them for God’s glory and his own good.

6.
In so many of our schools today the theory of Theistic evolution is being taught. Is this consistent with the teaching of Scripture?

No. Theistic Evolution (Evolution as God’s method of Creation) is not consistent with the Scripture.

The position of the Bible could be outlined in this way:

1. The Bible says God created out of nothing and this creation included every thing which has or will or can exist. It all owes its being and substance as well as its form to God. Though this is bewildering to man, it is absolutely necessary if we are to hold to the Christian faith.

2. The Bible says that God is eternal, not that matter is eternal as would be necessary for any theory of evolution.

3. The Bible says man came into existence by a special creative act of a free, self-determined will.

4. Recognizing that we must I’eject both evolution in its atheistic connotation, and the philosophical overtones of evolution as a way of leaving God out of the universe, we must recognize that there is possible such a thing as variation and such would not contradict Scripture. There is much we do not understand about the ways and means God has used to bring man and the world to their present state. But that variation is within the limitations of the norm set up by God, as presented in the Scriptures, and is not to be confused with evolution.

BACK TO GENESIS!
In his unparalleled book, A Harmony of the Westminster Presbyterian Standards, Dr. James Benjamin Green states, “The best knowledge is the knowledge of God. The next best is the knowledge of man. The Jew came saying, Know thy God. The Greek came saying, Know thyself. The Christian comes saying, Know thy God and thyself in Jesus Christ.”

When we are faced with the problem of the origin of man, we would point all to the divinely inspired words, “In the beginning God … ” The call we have to all is: Back to Genesis ,and be thankful for this remarkable and incredible truth of God’s Word!

There are too many today who want to substitute their view of the origin of things for the doctrine taught in Scripture. It seems that the devil himself, in his most conniving manner, is saying, “If I can just get that young person wrapped up in the theory that man evolved from the simplest forms of matter and life and developed by a perfectly natural process, then the Bible will not mean much to him.” And so it has been proven time and time again. When a person accepts evolution rather than the creation doctrine of the Scripture, and refuses to believe that man was the result of a special Creative Act of God, then the ‘God of the Bible is no longer the Creator and Sustainer.

The time has come today for all Christians to recognize the dangers of this false doctrine and especially the important part it plays in the theory of those who deny the inspiration of the Bible. Nothing less than a full committal to the creation doctrine of the Bible will keep us from the apostasy that breaks down the church of the living God. We should remember that the Creator is supreme. He is the absolute cause of all that happens, the eternal and all_blessed Being that chose to create the world through His will.

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Prayer in Times of Apostasy

This is a rare bit of early Westminster Seminary history, located in an old issue of THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, dated June 1937.  Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen, the annual Day of Prayer was held on the Westminster campus in March of 1937. Arrangements had been made to have the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn [1889-1959] present as the main speaker at the event.

Blackburn is interesting on several levels. His mother was Annie Williams Girardeau, one of the daughters of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau. [His father, George A. Blackburn, authored The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.DJohn Cavitt Blackburn was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1914-1918, back when the Seminary was still located in Columbia, SC. John also became quite the bibliophile. He had a significant library, built in part upon the libraries of his father and grandfather, and which collection later became a significant early addition to the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, by way of a donation from Blackburn’s widow. Rev. Blackburn’s library was apparently sizable enough that duplicates and other items even made their way to the Buswell Library at Covenant Theological Seminary.

It is also interesting to note Blackburn’s presence as indicative of a connection between Westminster Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  To engage in a bit of speculation, the invitation to have Rev. Blackburn speak at the annual Day of Prayer would have been extended months prior, certainly well before Machen’s death, and perhaps even by Dr. Machen himself. Without troubling ourselves to access Machen’s correspondence to confirm that idea, we do know that Dr. Machen had presented his lectures on the virgin birth of Christ at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia. These were the Thomas Smyth Lectures for 1927, and during that time, Rev. Blackburn pastored a church just twenty-some miles away. He could easily have attended those lectures. Lastly, Machen’s father served for a time as one of the trustees at the Seminary. So in light of those connections, it is entirely possible that Machen might have known Rev. Blackburn for many years prior to 1937.

Though he was a pastor for over thirty years, to my knowledge, this is the only surviving example of a sermon by Rev. Blackburn.

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY.
by the Rev. John C. Blackburn
[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian Guardian 4.3 (15 May 1937): 40-42.]

This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary last March. Mr. Blackburn is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.

The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity. The ends justified the means.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshipped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!!

Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes. While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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You Can’t Keep a Good Presbytery Down

The value and help of a Presbytery full of godly men—men who truly fear the Lord and who seek His will in all things—cannot be overestimated. The whole point of the Presbyterian system is that we should be connected, one to another, in the Body of Christ. Our Lord intends that we should be about the work of building up one another, each of us consistently working at pointing the other to Christ as our only Savior and Lord.

On pages 254-255 of Richard Webster’s work, A History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1857), we read this account which serves to make our point:

The Rev. Eleazer Wheelock, afterwards President of Dartmouth College, wrote from Lebanon, Connecticut, March 13, 1749, to Dr. Bellamy :—

” There are many things that have a threatening aspect on our religious interests in these parts: Antinomian principles, and the Korah-like claims which are the usual concomitants of them; prevailing worldliness and coldness which has become a common distemper among us; growing immorality, justified by the wildness and errors of many high professors; a want of promising candidates for the ministry, and the great difficulty that commonly attends the settling of any, chiefly through the strait-handedness of parishes toward the support of the gospel; the want of a good discipline in our churches, and the difficulty upon many accounts of reviving it, &c. &c. I am fully of the opinion that it is time for ministers to wake up for a redress of these evils; and I can think of no way more likely, than for those, who are in the same way of thinking about the most important things in religion, to join in a presbytery. 

Don’t you see that Arminian candidates can’t settle in the ministry? Don’t you see how much those want the patronage of a godly presbytery, who do settle? For want of it, they get broken bones, which will pain them all their days. Would not such a presbytery soon have all the candidates of worth under them, and, consequently, presently most of the vacant churches? Our wild people are not half so much prejudiced against the Scottish constitution as against our own. Many churches in these parts might easily be brought into it, and my soul longs for it. . . . 

For my part, I think it high time that men who have been treated as Mr. Robbins (of Branford) was, should have some way of relief, which I am informed was the view of that honest Calvinist who first moved in that proposal. . . . Is there not some reason to hope that hereby there will be a door opened for bringing things into a better posture among the Calvinist party? You know how God has overruled things in the Jerseys.”

Words to Live By:
Now, there is much in that letter that would take more time to explain than we have here today. But reading the broader strokes of Rev. Wheelock’s letter, the lesson to take away concerns the value of a godly presbytery. A good presbytery is first of all a guard against error, setting a biblical standard for who can serve in the pulpit, and so protecting the churches of the presbytery. Moreover, in a godly presbytery, we can expect to find a continued exhortation, one to another, to maintain that high standard.

A good presbytery is a home and refuge to the men who make up the presbytery. Much more than offering mere fellowship, it should be a place to find encouragement, exhortation, and challenge in our high calling as Christians and as under-shepherds of the Lord’s people.

A good presbytery seeks to advance the Kingdom of God, and so seeks to plant new churches, while also building up and encouraging its existing churches. The work of planting new churches is guided by men who have themselves done that same work. They know the pitfalls and errors to avoid. They know the strengths and abilities that will be needed if the work is to prosper.

A godly presbytery will also keep an eye on its established churches, not wanting that any should suffer. I’ve long thought that presbyteries should encourage small and struggling churches by choosing to meet at those locations, with the presbytery covering all the expenses of their time there. Why meet in the prosperous churches when there is opportunity to build up the weaker ones? By meeting in our weaker churches we come to know the people in that church and so are reminded to pray regularly for them. By meeting there we offer a testimony to the watching world, and particularly in a small town, that can be a powerful testimony. Extending the opportunity, the men of presbytery might arrive early to do the work of evangelism in the community. A small conference, open to the public, might be offered on some suitable subject. The presbytery should also strive to include the host congregation in times of worship, fellowship, and prayer.

What else should we find among the qualities of a godly presbytery? And what can you do to bring that about? How can we be actively engaged, day by day, in building up one another in Christ?

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.”—Ephesians 4:11-16, ASV

 

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Just the Bare Facts, Ma’am

Henry MillsBeginning this post with an old line from a television detective drama back in the day, the bare facts are indeed about all we have for today’s post about the Rev. Dr. Henry Mills. Born this day on March 12, 1786 in Morristown, New Jersey, information about that birth, his parents, and the circumstances of his growing up days are absent. The only bit of information next is that he was a student at the College of New Jersey in Princeton, New Jersey, graduating in 1802. [The College was renamed Princeton University in 1896].

So it was that Henry Mills graduated from the College just ten years before the Princeton Theological Seminary was established. The president of the College of New Jersey at that time was Samuel Stanhope Smith. The school’s first president had been John Witherspoon, with Samuel S. Smith among the first graduating class when Witherspoon was president. Further, Samuel Smith married John Witherspoon’s daughter. Smith’s ministry after that graduation and marriage was that of being a missionary, a pastor, and the first president of what is today Hampden-Sydney College. With this background, he returned to the College of New Jersey in Princeton in 1779. He is particularly noted for having strengthened the academic life of the college with the appointment of qualified men as professors. Thus in his own training, Henry Mills had the great benefit of well-established professors at the College.

Following graduation, Mills taught and tutored for a number of years before being called into the ministry. In that era, men often prepared for the ministry under the tutelage of a single pastor. Mill’s choice of mentor was that of the Rev. James Richards, who had just left his pastorate at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Evidently he chose well and his training was to good effect, for in 1816 the Presbytery of New Jersey ordained Henry Mills and installed him as pastor of the Woodbridge Presbyterian Church, and there he remained for the next six years.

Another feature of that era, you will almost consistently find that men who were called to the ministry would wait until they were ordained and installed as the pastor of a church before they would consider taking a wife. And if the situation at that first church was at all tenuous, they might wait even longer. And so we find that Rev. Mills was married in 1821 precisely at the point when he left the pastorate and was appointed to be the Professor of Biblical Criticism and Oriental Languages at a new seminary called Auburn Theological Seminary. He taught there for thirty-one years. Retiring from his teaching position in 1854, he was accorded standing as professor emeritus up until his death on June 10, 1867.

Besides being a theological professor, he was also a hymn writer. Most of his hymns were taken from German hymns, which he thought the American church needed to hear and sing. One volume was published from his pen, titled Hymns from the German (1845). However, though the book did see a second edition in 1856, still none of these hymns appear to have remained in use, and so these have passed from the church scene today.

Words to Live By:
If we were to list the number of ministers who have come and gone without any great notice by the visible church except to note their birth dates, years and place of training, some bare record of what churches or schools they were at, and the date of their death, the list would be unending. The great majority of God’s servants fall into this category. Perhaps you, reader, fall into this listing.  Unnoticed by the world, not mentioned by denominational magazines, your name would be one such pastor or teacher. But . . . but, there is another record being written which is of greater importance.  Found in Malachi 3:16 – 17, the prophet writes, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. They shall be mind, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.” Faithful Christian: be glad that you are found in His heavenly book of remembrance rather than simply in some earthly book. His book is what matters in the long run, indeed for eternity.

Image source: Photograph facing page 24 in A History of Auburn Theological Seminary, 1818-1918, by John Quincy Adams. Auburn, NY: Auburn Seminary Press, 1918.

A More Personal Insight to the man:
In the above referenced history of the seminary, there is this interesting comment on Dr. Mills’ character:

It is said that cases of discipline of the students were generally referred to him for settlement, and there came a time when the other members of the Faculty felt that he did not deal seriously enough with them so that again and again they took him to task for too great frivolity or leniency in his relations with them. It had no effect, however, for he could quickly turn the edge of his colleagues’ criticisms with a humorous reply, and serious dealing with him became increasingly difficult. He was greatly beloved by his colleagues and many friends and his students.A History of Auburn Theological Seminary, p. 77.

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