May 2015

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

Q. 21. — Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. — The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

Scripture References: I Tim. 2:5; John 1:1,14; John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11.

Questions:

1.
Why is the Redeemer of God’s elect called the Lord Jesus Christ?

He is called the Lord because of His sovereignty and dominion (Acts 10:36). He is called Jesus because He is the Saviour of His people (Matt. 1:21). He is called Christ because He is anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost which was given to Him without measure (Acts 10:38). He is fully qualified by God.

2. How does the Lord Jesus Christ redeem the elect of God?

He purchases them by His blood and rescues them by His conquest by spoiling principalities and powers. (I Peter 1:18,19. Col. 2:15)

3. What did the Lord Jesus Christ become in order to redeem God’s elect?

He became man but did not cease to be God. He became Immanuel, God with us.

4. Why was it necessary that He become man?

It was necessary in order that He might be capable of suffering death for man and that He might become their High Priest that could reconcile them to God (Heb. 8:16,17).

5. How could Christ be both God and man?

Christ is God and man by a personal union. Both His natures are distinct, the divine nature is not subject to change and the human o nature is not omnipotent.

6. Could some compact statements be given regarding the constitution of the Redeemer’s person?

J. B. Green has probably put it in the most concise way:
“1. The reality of the two natures.
2. The integrity of the new natures.
3. The distinctness of the two natures after the union.
4. The oneness of the personality.”

BE VERY SURE

The fact that Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer of God’s elect is one for which we should ever thank God. Though it is difficult for us to understand the intricacies of how He could be both God and man; of how the two natures are distinct and yet He is one; we can certainly thank and praise God He that did purchase us by His own blood and thus become the only Redeemer of God’s elect.

The fact is a wondrous fact and yet the question must be asked and answered by all: Are we certain that we are among those He purchased and saved? The hymn writer puts it very well when he says, “Be very sure, Be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One, This Rock is Jesus, The only One.” (Mrs. Ruth Caye Jones). For indeed, as the title of the hymn so aptly puts it, “In Times Like These” we need a Saviour.

To be able to discuss, and have an understanding of, theology is a good and healthy thing. The church needs this discipline, the church needs to have a better understanding of what the Standards teach. It is a sad fact that many Presbyterians could not even name what makes up the Standards. We repeat, it is good to have theological knowledge. But as we approach in this Catechism Question another theological fact, that of the Redeemer of God’s elect, it is even more important to have a personal knowledge of the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ.

As you read this short article, two questions are in order. First, Do you know Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Joseph Alleine puts it very plain when he says, “Though of yourselves you can do nothing, yet you may do all through His Spirit enabling you, and He offers assistance to you. God bids you ‘wash and make you clean.’ God invites you to be made clean and entreats you to yield to Him. O accept His offers, and let Him do for you, and in you, what you cannot do for yourselves.” (Prov. 1:24, Rev. 3:20). Second, If you believe Christ has saved you, are you acting as if He has saved you? Has your life changed, are old things passing away, are all things becoming new?
To have the theological knowledge that He is the Redeemer of God’s elect is good. Do you have the Heart knowledge? Isa.47:4.

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This is one of those days where few Presbyterian events seem to have happened. In a previous year we wrote of how John and Louisa Lowrie set sail for the mission field in India on this date. This year, we wanted to discuss something more of Rev. Lowrie’s wife, Louisa. The following brief account is drawn from the Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent (1876), p. 194:—

Louisa A. Lowrie, wife of the Rev. John C. Lowrie, D.D. was a daughter of Thomas and Mary Wilson, of Morgantown, Virginia [later of West Virginia, which became a state in 1863], and sister of the late Hon. Edgar C. Wilson, of the same place. She belonged to the first band of missionaries sent by the Pittsburgh Society to India, and sailed from Philadelphia on May 30, 1833. She died in Calcutta, November 21, of the same year, in the twenty-fourth year of her age.

The annual report of 1834 says of her : “Her desires to devote herself to the spiritual good of the heathen were fervent, and her qualifications for the work were, to human view, uncommon; but He for whose glory she left her native land and bore her feeble exhausted frame half round the globe, was pleased, doubtless for wise reasons, to disappoint her earthly hopes, and require her associates, a few short weeks after their arrival, to consign her to the dust, there to proclaim, as she sleeps in Jesus on India’s distant shores, the compassion of American Christians for its millions of degraded idolators, and to invite others from her native land to come and prosecute the noble undertaking in which she fell.”

Her pastor at Morgantown, Rev. Ashbel G. Fairchild, D.D., prepared a memoir, soon after her death; and few who have seen in it the excellent likeness of that lovely face will ever forget it. Her memory was still affectionately cherished in Western Pennsylvania for many years after. The Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyteries of Pittsburgh and Allegheny eventually built a house at Mynpurie, India, naming it her memory, “The Louisa Lowrie Home.” It’s purpose was to serve as a dwelling for unmarried women laboring as missionaries at that particular station.

A few years before her death, Louisa Lowrie wrote the following in her journal:—

Saturday, June 11th. (1831).—In reviewing my life for a year past, I find so much for which to praise the Lord, that I feel oppressed with a sense of my ingratitude. Mercies unnumbered have crowned this year, the most blessed of my life. In it, the Lord has changed my heart; and given me to feel that Jesus is my friend; and, as often as I have wandered from Him, He has drawn me back by mercies or chastisements. During the last autumn my way was so clear, the current of my life so smooth, and my path so strewed with flowers, that I almost feared I was not one of those who should “come out of great tribulation.”

In examining my views and feelings, I find that I am very much changed. I can scarcely recognize my former self. Added to a disposition naturally cheerful, I possessed an intense desire for happiness; and perhaps enjoyed as much as was ever felt by an unregenerate heart. But, in the midst of all, I found there was something wanting, without which I could not rest. The Lord gave me to see that this was religion. I sought religion–I tasted of his love; and found that all I had hitherto enjoyed was nothing;—mere negative happiness. I desired to love the Lord with my whole soul. I cared not what should befall me; I only asked holiness of heart. Oh, my God! thou knowest I was sincere; and if I have since murmured against thee, on account of the means thou hast employed to subdue me, forgive I beseech thee—pity my feeble frame! I do not ask theee to lessen my sufferings; I only ask suffering grace.

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An excerpt from a brief article by Samuel Brown Wylie, titled “Prayer, A Reasonable Duty,” as found in the March 1821 issue of The Presbyterian Magazine. Dr. Wylie was the first Reformed Presbyterian to be ordained in the United States, in 1799, by the Reformed Presbytery as it met in Ryegate, Vermont. Born on May 21, 1773, Wylie was installed as pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian church of Philadelphia in 1803, and served there until his death on October 13, 1852. Dr. Wylie was also Professor of Ancient Languages in University of Pennsylvania, 1828-45, and Emeritus Professor, 1838-45. 

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“Although God could accomplish all His purposes instantaneously by a word of power, He chooses to work by means, and has made it our duty to be diligent in their observance. We are so prone to dwell on the visible surface of the effect, that we are in danger of ascribing to the mere machinery in the hand of the Deity, that agency which ought to be referred to the efficiency of an omnipresent Spirit. While, therefore, Christianity inculcates the diligent use of the means of grace generally, and of prayer particularly, it at the same time cautions against resting in them. We must look through them and beyond them to their divine Author, who alone can render them efficacious for the purposes for which they were intended.

“There is no feature more characteristic of the Christian than a disposition to pray, and a delight  in the duty. These are an immediate result of the new birth, “Behold he prayeth.” Where this disposition does not exist, there is no evidence of spiritual life. We do not deny, that in spiritual as well as natural life, there may be temporary swoons and occasions of suspended animation : but we do aver, that a continued habitual neglect of this medium of holy intercommunion with God, is as decisive evidence of a state of spiritual death, as a continued cessation of breathing would be, of the soul’s departure from it’s clay tenement. The true Christian, therefore, will be diligent and careful in the performance of this duty. He will endeavour to be careful for nothing, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, make his requests known unto God, who will abundantly supply all his wants, according to His riches in glory  which is by Christ Jesus.”

[If you would like to see the full article transcribed in PDF format, please send an email to wsparkman {AT} pcanet /DOT/ org].


Chronological bibliography—
1803
The Obligation of Covenants : A Discourse delivered, Monday, June 27, 1803, after the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, The Reformed Presbyterian Congregation, Glasgow (Paisley : Printed by Stephen Young, 1816), 36 p. [Reprinted in 1804 and 1816].

1806
The Two Sons of Oil, or, The Faithful Witness for Magistracy & Ministry upon a Scriptural Basis.Also, A Sermon on Covenanting. Being the substance of two discourses.  (Greensburg [Pa.] From the press of Snowden & M’Corkle, 803), 117 p., 1 l.  [Reprinted in 1806; 1832; 1850; 1977; and 1995].

1811
Wylie, Samuel Brown and Alexander M’Leod, The Constitution of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church : with an address, &c. (New-York : S. Whiting & Co., 1811), 12 p.

1817
The first Annual Address read before the Religious Historical Society : May 20th, 1817 (Philadelphia : Printed at the Office of Religious Remembrancer, by John W. Scott, 1818), 22 pp.; 23 cm.  Includes the Constitution of the Religious Historical Society of Philadelphia, pp. 17-18.  Note: Dr. Wylie’s presentation is his statement of the value of historical studies and collections, stating that absolute truth may be discovered through such studies.

1821
“Prayer, A Reasonable Duty,” in The Presbyterian Magazine (March 1821): 97-101.


1832
Sentiments of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, A.M. in 1803, respecting civil magistracy and the government of the United States : contrasted with sentiments of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, D.D. in 1832, on the same subjects.(Montgomery, N.Y. : Thomas & Edwards, 1832), 12 p.

1838
An Introduction to the Knowledge of Greek Grammar (Philadelphia : J. Whetham, 1838), 149 p.

1855
Wylie, Samuel Brown and John Niel McLeod, Memoir of Alexander McLeod (New York : C. Scribner, 1855), xv, 535 p.

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Our post today comes from a biographical sketch written for the PCA Historical Center by Barry Waugh. Our thanks to him for permission to use this portion for today’s blog post. Click here to read the full article.

He Sold the Books!

smythT_150As with many ministers and theologians, Thomas Smyth was afflicted with bibliomania. His symptoms appeared early in his life. As a young child, he was a voracious reader and while at Belfast College he worked as the librarian. Reading and cataloging were not sufficient to alleviate his love for books; he had to own them as well. He wrote in 1829, “My thirst for books, in London became rapacious. I overspent my supplies in procuring them, at the cheap repositories and left myself in the cold winter for two or three months without a cent …” (Autobiography, 39). Dr. Smyth’s comments on his developing bibliomania are reminiscent of Erasmus and his practice of buying books first, and then, if any money was left, he bought food. A few years later as he entered his ministerial service in Charleston, he specifically purposed to develop a theological and literary library similar to Dr. Williams’s Library in London. Over the years, he accumulated about 20,000 volumes. One unusual book in his possession was a Hebrew Psalter with the autographs of Jonathan Edwards, Edwards’s son, and Rev. Tryan Edwards, who gave it to Dr. Smyth. The Grand Debate and other original documents of the Westminster Assembly were procured at great cost, as well as forty works by members of the Assembly along with ten quarto volumes of their discourses. Dr. Smyth’s compulsive, though purposeful, book buying may have been a point of tension for he and his wife. In a letter written by Margaret to him in the summer of 1846 she informed him of the expenses they were incurring due to the addition of three rooms to their home:

“I tell you all this now as a preface to a caution, not to involve yourself too deeply or inextricably in debt by the purchase of books & pictures; of the last, with the maps, we have enough now to cover all the walls, even of the new rooms; & the books are already too numerous for comfort in the Study & Library. … But I would enter a protest not only against books & pictures, but all other things not necessary & which can come under the charge of extravagance. Do be admonished & study to be economical.” (Autobiography, 384f).

It should be noted that one of the reasons the three rooms were built was to accommodate Dr. Smyth’s ever-growing library; one of the new rooms was thirty feet long and intended for his use. As Dr. Smyth’s health continued to deteriorate, he made the difficult decision to sell over half of the volumes of his library to Columbia Theological Seminary. He was concerned that since he could not take full advantage of his magnificent library it would be best that ministerial students have access to the books. The actual sale was dated May 28, 1856 and the seminary contracted to pay the Smyths $14,400 for the volumes. The seminary organized the collection in a special area designated the Smyth Library. Dr. Smyth continued to add to the collection by donating other books so that by May of 1863, the special collection contained 11,845 volumes, and by the time a posthumous inventory was taken in November of 1912, the number was over 15,000. Even though he had sold and donated thousands of volumes to Columbia Seminary, his remaining library was still large, but it was reduced once again when a fire, in 1870, burned about 3,000 books. Though the affliction of bibliomania can become all-consuming, it is certain that many Presbyterian ministers trained at Columbia Seminary benefited from the collection gathered by Thomas Smyth.

Words to Live By:
Suffering a similar affliction (though my own library paled in comparison), I found some years ago that the best way to temper the disease was to realize that I was responsible before the Lord for each volume I purchased. Was it a truly necessary purchase? Would I in fact read it, or at least use it in a way that would justify the expense? Pastors typically need the resources of a good many books and so it is never a foolish expenditure when they are first wisely chosen and then wisely and well-used. Software programs for the study of the Bible add new abilities for search and access, and even make it possible to carry an entire library on a single laptop, tablet, or even a phone.

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith

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When Dr. John B. Adger returned for physical recuperation from the mission field in Smyrna [part of Turkey], he soon began to preach to a congregation of blacks whom he gathered in the basement of the Second Presbyterian church of Charleston, South Carolina, where his brother-in-law Dr. Thomas Smyth was pastor. With appeal to the city and to the Presbytery on behalf of the newly gathered congregation, Dr. Adger delivered a sermon before the Presbytery on May 9, 1847. His text was “the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5). Without delay, Dr. James H. Thornwell prepared a review of the sermon, which appeared on the pages of The Southern Presbyterian Review, giving support to Adger’s plan, as unveiled in the sermon. Dr. Adger had argued that blacks ought to have their own congregations, a full-time white minister, and the Gospel preached in terms that they could understand. While this plan certainly encountered opposition, nonetheless the leading citizens of Charleston and particularly those of Second Presbyterian gave enthusiastic support to the idea.

It was with this support that a chapel was built for the fledgling congregation on Anson Street in Charleston, at a cost of $7,700, and the building was dedicated on this day, May 26th, in 1850.

Dr. John L. Girardeau succeeded Adger as pastor of the congregation, and the Anson Street chapel soon became too small. Expansion required a move to Calhoun Street, where the largest church building in Charleston. Dr. Girardeau noted that he was only kept from going to the foreign field by the call to preach to the mass of slaves on the seacoast. The church records for Zion Presbyterian Church give evidence of Girardeau’s diligence in caring for his flock and how often he was called upon to minister to them in their dying hours.

But Girardeau had stiff opposition from many of the citizens of Charleston, including the mayor. In a 2005 essay titled “A Lost Moment in Time”, (now Dr.) Otis W. Pickett observed that

Girardeau had become so unpopular that he was almost lynched by a crowd of angry as well as nervous CharlzionPC_CharlestonSCestonians in 1859. However in the midst of all this Girardeau press on with his ministry and it continued to prosper. Many African Americans flocked to his church because he acknowledged the need of the African American community to have an identity independent of the white congregations in Charleston. He acknowledged that the African Americans needed to be religiously empowered; by providing this in a limited way at Zion Church, he endeared himself to his flock. Distinct from all other churches of the time, Girardeau’s church allowed African Americans to sit in the pews while the white families were made to sit in the balcony. The environment that Girardeau created for African Americans in his church has been described as “their church, as no other church in Charleston has been theirs since Morris Brown and the African Methodist Church. It was a building, a place, that had been built for them. Here they could gather, could claim a community and thus a humanity in the very midst of an alienating and dehumanizing bondage.”

However, his most revolutionary act was allowing the slaves in his church to have surnames. For hundreds of years, slave owners throughout the south had denied their slaves surnames in order to show that slaves had no lasting family connections because of their status as property. Hence, claiming surnames was a bold display of independence for slaves. By allowing this, Girardeau made Zion Presbyterian Church a place where slaves could publicly declare they had a family history and they had an allegiance to people other than their owners. As a result of this training and ministry experience, unlike many of his contemporaries, Girardeau was more than adequately prepared to extend greater racial equality after the Civil War was over.

After the War and before Girareau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to “the Holy City” and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, Girardeau worked arduously among both black and white in Charleston. He labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the Church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his Session, laid hands on his black brothers.

Unfortunately, the pressures of Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the hardened positions of notables like B. M. Palmer and R. L. Dabney brought the church to a pivotal moment. The weight of political and social issues eventuated in “organic separation” of white membership and black membership and the formation of churches along the color line. Girardeau alone dissented against the resolution at the 1874 General Assembly in Columbus, Mississippi, for which he served as Moderator.

By 1959, the historic building of the Zion Presbyterian Church was demolished to make room for the expansion of two insurance companies. The building had been sold to Public Savings Life Insurance Company for $70,000, after the congregation made the decision that the building was larger than needed and began seeking a smaller, more modern building to better suit the needs of the congregation. The church continues to this day, having merged with another to become the Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church.

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Words to Live By:

As Dr. Pickett observed at the opening of his essay,

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that eleven o’clock Sunday morning is America’s most segregated hour still rings true today. As sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith have noted, American Christians are “divided by faith” along racial lines. While a number of factors—social, economic, educational—have contributed to this segregation, the most significant determining factor continues to be historical.
In the early days of Reconstruction, American evangelicals in the south missed an opportunity to break down racial barriers by fostering interracial congregations. Instead of seizing the moment, evangelical Christians buttressed the dividing walls of hostility, failing to live out the reality of the Gospel. While each mainline denomination in the south had its own way of proliferating racial separatism, none provided a more heart-breaking example of this than the Southern Presbyterians.

The challenges that confront our culture today present Bible-believing Christians with a great opportunity, one in which we truly can, if we will rise to the occasion, show that the Gospel cuts across all dividing lines. As the wider culture is increasingly fractured, the Church is afforded an opportunity for witness. How can you pray? How can you support new works like Crown & Joy Presbyterian Church, or older works like New City Fellowship? How can you strengthen men in their preparation for the ministry? How can you extend a hand of fellowship? Will you?

 

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The Great Secret of True Comfort

It was on this day, May 25th, in 1823, that Dr. Archibald Alexander wrote to his ailing mother, rejoicing in her recent recovery, yet seeking also to console and comfort her in the last days of her old age. The language of his letter may seem rather formal—we attribute that to the times. That he loved his mother dearly is no less certain. But his counsel here is so apt and useful for all to profit from. Take it to heart!  

Dr. Alexander to his Mother

Princeton, May 25, 1823.

My Dear Mother:—

“When I last saw you, it was very doubtful whether you would ever rise again from the bed to which you were confined. Indeed, considering your great age, it was not to be expected that you should entirely recover your usual health. I was much gratified to find that in the near prospect of eternity, your faith did not fail, but that you could look death in the face without dismay, and felt willing, if it were the will of God, to depart from this world of sorrow and disappointment. But it has pleased your Heavenly Father to continue you a little longer in the world. I regret to learn that you have endured much pain from a disease of your eyes, and that you have been less comfortable than formerly. Bodily affliction you must expect to endure as long as you continue in the world. ‘The days of our years are three-score and ten, and if by reason of strength they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’ But while your Heavenly Father continues you in this troublesome world, He will, I trust, enable you to be resigned and contented and patient under the manifold afflictions which are incident to old age.

“The great secret of true comfort lies in a single word, TRUST. Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain them. If your evidences of being in the favour of God are obscured, if you are doubtful of your acceptance with Him, still go directly to Him by faith; that is, trust in His mercy and in Christ’s merits. Rely simply on His word of promise. But not afraid to exercise confidence. There can be no deception in depending entirely on the Word of God. It is not presumption to trust in Him when He has commanded us to do so. We dishonour Him by our fearfulness and want of confidence. We thus call in question His faithfulness and His goodness. Whether your mind is comfortable or distressed, flee for refuge to the outstretched wings of his protection and mercy. There is all fulness in Him; there is all willingness to bestow what we need. He says, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. As thy day is so shall thy strength be. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’ Be not afraid of the pangs of death. Be not afraid that your Redeemer will then be afar off. Grace to die comfortably is not commonly given until the trial comes. Listen not to the tempter, when he endeavours to shake your faith, and destroy your comfort. Resist him, and he will flee from you. If you feel that you can trust your soul willingly and wholly to the hands of Christ, relying entirely on His merits; if you feel that you hate sin, and earnestly long to be delivered from its defilement; if you are willing to submit to the will of God, however much He may afflict you; then be not discouraged. These are not the marks of an enemy, but of a friend. My sincere prayer is, that your sun may set in serenity; that your latter end may be like that of the righteous; and that your remaining days, by the blessing of God’s providence and grace, may be rendered tolerable and even comfortable.

“It is not probable that we shall ever meet again in this world; and yet, as you have already seen one of your children go before you, you may possibly live to witness the departure of more of us. I feel that old age is creeping upon me. Whoever goes first, the rest must soon follow. May we all be ready! And may we all meet around the throne of God, where there is no separation for ever and ever! Amen!

“I remain your affectionate son,

“A.A.”

Note: Dr. Alexander was born on April 17, 1772, and was 51 years old when he wrote this letter. He was the third of nine children born to his parents. Of those children, his sister Nancy died in childhood and seven of the siblings were still living in 1839. Dr. Alexander’s declining years began about 1840 and he died on October 22, 1851 at the age of 79. His mother died October 11, 1825.

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

Q. 20. — Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. — God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into the estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.

Scripture References: Eph. 1:4-7; Titus 3:4-7; Titus 1:2; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-22.

Questions:

1. Whom does God bring into a state of salvation?

God brings all his elect people into an estate of salvation to which he has chosen them.

2. Who are the elect people of God?

The elect people of God are those whom He has chosen to eternal life, chosen from all eternity out of His good pleasure.

3. What do we mean when we use the term “out of His good pleasure?”

We mean that even though man is lost and fallen, deserving nothing from God, it was God’s good pleasure to make provision for some men in what is called the covenant of grace.

4. How does God bring His elect into an estate of salvation?

God brings His elect to salvation by a Redeemer, (Act. 4:12)

5. What is the covenant of grace?

It is a covenant of eternal life and salvation to sinners, to be given them in a way of free grace and mercy. It is an arrangement between God and his elect.

6. Are there conditions to the covenant of grace?

Yes, there is a condition. The condition is faith, by which the elect have an active interest in Jesus Christ, (John 3:16. Act. 16:31)

7. What is the promise inferred in the covenant of Grace?

The promise is that God will cause His Holy Spirit to dwell in the elect and to work in them, creating the faith and virtue that He desires. In other words, what God requires, He gives. (J. B. Green)

A COVENANT WITH A CONDITION

The covenant of grace is that which heals and comforts a wounded soul, it is a covenant that shows an open door of escape to the sinner. The promises of this covenant are absolutely free as they concern us. And yet the covenant of grace is a covenant with a condition.

A. A. Hodge puts it very well when he states, “Here is a covenant with a condition—whosoever believes shall be saved, whosoever believeth not shall be damned. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to view and is represented as the Mediator of the covenant, because it all depends upon his mediatorial work, and, above all, he is represented as the Surety. You promise faith upon your knees, and the Lord Jesus Christ endorses for you.”

It is true that the covenant of grace, taken by itself, is pure grace and excludes all works. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is Good Tidings and it is simply a gift from God. But this Gospel comes to us within the framework of a condition, the condition being none other than that of our willingly accepting in faith what God wants to give us. The will of God in this regard realizes itself in no other way than through our reason and our will.

This all puts upon us as Christians a great responsibility to preach the Gospel to everyone with whom we come in contact. For indeed whosoever believes shall be saved and whosoever believeth not shall be damned, such is the condition involved with the covenant of grace. It can be rightly said, theologically speaking, “that a person, by the grace he receives, himself believes and him s elf turns from sin to God.” (Bavinck). This means that evangelism according to the Westminster Standards is something that should be carried out by every born again believer. There is no place in the Reformed Faith for the mistaken notion held by many that there is no place for personal work within the framework of the Westminster Standards.

It behooves all of us who hold to the Standards to remember our responsibility as so aptly stated by Paul, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Cor. 9:22). The Covenant of Grace, with its condition, should motivate us to personal evangelism.

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He Wrote for the Ages
His name was John Ross Macduff. Born this day, May 23, 1818, in Bonhard, near Perth, Scotland, John received all his education in Edinburgh. Ordained into the Church of Scotland, he went on to serve in three Presbyterian churches, including one fifteen year ministry in Glasgow, Scotland. And while he was faithful in the pulpit to proclaim God’s Word, yet he also had a further ministry through the writing of devotional and practical books, many of which are still available by means of the Internet. And we are talking here around 200 years later. As my title puts it, he wrote for the ages.
It was in 1857 that his fellow elders in the Church of Scotland appointed him to the Hymnal Committee of the Church. He went on to write 31 hymns, all of which were then widely used in the Church of Scotland. While his hymn on the Second Advent of Christ was not republished in the Red Trinity Hymnal, it was found in the old Blue Trinity Hymnal on page 238.  Read its words found in the four stanza hymn:
Christ is coming! Let creation from her groans and travail cease;
Let the glorious proclamation Hope restore and faith increase;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, thou blessed Prince of Peace.
Earth can now but tell the story Of thy bitter cross and pain;
She shall yet behold thy glory, When thou comest back to reign;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Let each heart repeat the strain.
Long thine exiles have been pining, Far from rest, and home, and thee:
But, in heav’nly vestures shining, They their loving Christ shall see;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Haste the joyous jubilee.
With that blessed hope before us, Let no harp remain unstrung;
Let the mighty advent chorus; Onward roll from tongue to tongue;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!” Amen.
Unlike ancient hymns of the second advent, this one by John Macduff focused in on the Second Coming as an occasion of triumph and joy. It was based on Scriptures like Romans 18:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Titus 2:13; Revelation 1:7; and Revelation 22:20.
John Macduff would retire from the ministry of the preached Word in 1871 and lived until 1895.
Words to Live By:
To still have sermons and devotional classics available to read is a remarkable testimony for our instruction from his heart and lips.  He truly wrote for the ages.  And of course, it is as we faithful pastors preach the inexhaustible riches of God’s Word that our sermons become timeless in their comfort and instruction.  Lay people! Treasure  pastors who are faithful to proclaim the whole counsel of God to you.  They are few and far between in our generation.

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As settlers moved ever westward in North America, the problem of planting churches in these new regions forced questions of Christian unity and cooperation. So it was that in 1801 that a Plan of Union was agreed to, first by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and a year later by the Congregational Association of Connecticut, which would allow a pastor of the one denomination to gather and serve a church of the other denomination. But within some thirty-odd years, the Plan was increasingly seem to be causing problems. For one, the Congregationalists who had been almost unanimously Calvinistic at the turn of the century, were now charged with being infected with elements of heterodoxy, and the influence of these elements was seen as making inroads among Presbyterians. There were other issues and problems, voiced from both sides, and for the Presbyterians, the matter came to a head at the General Assembly of 1837. In the weeks before the Assembly, those opposed to Plan of Union met in conference and drew up a fifteen point Memorial, citing their complaints with the Plan and other matters. These “memorialists” then arrived at the General Assembly, organized and prepared to take action. What follows is E.H. Gillett’s account of that Assembly and the action by the memorialists to bring the Plan to an end. This was the battle between the Old School (the memorialists) and the New School:—

Abrogation of the Plan of Union [1837]

The General Assembly of 1837 met in the Central Presbyterian Church, in Philadelphia, on the 18th of May, and was opened with a sermon by the Rev. John Witherspoon from the words (1 Cor. 1: 10-11), “Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared to me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

The parties into which the Assembly was divided were ably represented. On one side were Rev. Messrs. Breckinridge, Plumer, Murray, and Drs. Green, Elliott, Alexander, Junkin, Baxter, Cuyler, Graham, and Witherspoon. On the other were Drs. Beman, Porter, of Catskill, McAuley, Peters, and Cleland, and Rev. Messrs. Duffield, Gilbert, Cleaveland, Dickinson, and Judge Jessup. The respective strength of the parties was declared in the vote for moderator, the candidate of the former receiving one hundred and thirty seven votes, while the other candidate, Baxter Dickinson, received but one hundred and six. Thus encouraged, the memorialists were confident that they should now be enabled to adopt decisive measures.

The Committee on Bills and Overtures consisted of Messrs. Witherspoon, Alexander, Beman, Cleland, Murray, Todd, and Latta, with four elders. To them along with overtures from Presbyteries on the same subject, the memorial was referred. The report of the committee recommended the adoption of the testimony of the memorialists concerning doctrines, as the testimony of the Assembly. Objection was made. The list of errors noted was fifteen in number. Some members thought that others should be added. One member proposed four others. Dr. Beman thought the list already too long. Of some mentioned in it he had never before heard. It was finally resolved to postpone the question for the present, and to take up the portion of the report bearing upon the Plan of Union.

This subject came before the Assembly on the afternoon of Monday, May 22. It was resolved, first, that between the two branches of the Church concerned in the Plan of Union, sentiments of mutual respect and esteen ought to be maintained, and that no reasonable effort should be spared to preserve a perfectly good understanding between them; secondly, that it was expedient to continue the plan of friendly communications between them as it then existed; but, thirdly, that as the Plan of Union adopted for the new settlements in 1801 was originally an unconstitutional act on the part of the Assembly,—these important rules having never been submitted to the Presbyteries,—and as they were totally destitute of authority as proceeding from the General Association of Connecticut, which is vested with no power to legislate in such cases, and especially to enact laws to regulate churches not within her limits, and as much confusion and irregularity have arisen from this unnatural and unconstitutional system of union, therefore it is resolved that “the act of the Assembly of 1801, entitled a ‘Plan of Union,’ be, and the same is hereby, abrogated.” The vote upon this important measure, which tested the relative strength of the parties in the Assembly, stood one hundred and forty-three to one hundred and ten.

So the Plan of Union was ended. Those interested in reading further in Gillett’s account may click here.

Words to Live By:
In retrospect, Rev. Witherspoon’s opening sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:10-11 was both plaintive and somewhat prophetic of events to follow that week in 1837. While he was a leading voice among the “memorialists,” John Knox Witherspoon [1791-1853] was also the grandson of Dr. John Witherspoon [1723-1794], a prominent founding father of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Perhaps it was in the light of that heritage and so as something of a statesman for the Church that John Knox Witherspoon delivered his sermon that day, knowing what was ahead, yet hoping for better things. Pray for the Church when self-seeking, bitterness and needless contention arise; stand peaceably for the truth of God’s Word and for the unity of the Body of Christ, remembering that the battle is the Lord’s.

Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared to me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

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