July 2015

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A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

Born the eldest son of Archibald Alexander near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, James was in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of the Presbyterian  Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But when schooling began for the son, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  In 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the family of the Alexanders moved there, so Archibald  Alexander could become the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822 – 1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry had him in the college and seminary field of teaching at Princeton Seminary, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds.  The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and translations. The most famous translation was the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His translation from 1830 from Bernard of Clairvaux in the eleventh century, is the version most used by our churches today.

James in 1859 went with his wife back to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at his moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By:
As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

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As historians write the story of American religion in the 20th century, they will continue to focus on out-front figures such as Billy Sunday, W. B. Riley, and Billy Graham. But countless others had major influence on how the Christian faith was preserved and extended, both in the United States and around the world. One was Lemuel Nelson Bell.

Best known as the father-in-law of Billy Graham, Nelson Bell was a significant figure in his own right: missionary surgeon to China, founder of two magazines, and leader for southern Presbyterian conservatives and American evangelicals. In many ways he represented the thought, hopes, and aspirations of the new evangelicalism of the mid–20th century—for there was a time when it appeared that God was going to revive America once again to reach the world with the gospel. That was Bell’s longing and vision as a missionary to the world.

Missionary to China

Born 120 years ago today on July 30, 1894, in Longsdale, Virginia, Bell was the child of hardworking Presbyterians: his father the superintendent of a mining company, his mother a doctor’s daughter. He grew up in Waynesboro, Virginia, where he gained a reputation as a straight arrow, a sharp student, and a strong athlete. He was especially good at baseball, developing a curveball that eventually brought him an offer to play in the minor leagues.

Central to Bell’s identity was his personal commitment to Jesus Christ. In 1906 he went forward at an evangelistic meeting at his home church, First Presbyterian in Waynesboro, and committed himself to be a disciple of Jesus. That commitment ultimately led him toward medicine with the intention of serving as a medical missionary. He graduated from Washington and Lee College in 1912 and the Medical College of Virginia in 1916. He was not yet 22 years old.

The year of his medical school graduation brought other gifts—marriage to his lifelong love, Virginia, and an assignment from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) mission board to Tsing-kiang-pu, China. There, the Bells would join a medical team led by Dr. James Woods. As Woods handed off leadership of the medical work to Bell, the Love and Mercy Hospital (as it was called in Chinese) at Tsing-kiang-pu would expand to become one of the largest medical dispensaries in the region.

This medical mission aimed to support evangelistic outreach and church planting. Each year the hospital hosted a week of evangelistic meetings. A church developed in connection with the mission work, soon overseen by a Chinese pastor and elders. They launched regular evangelistic forays into the countryside. Bell’s love for the Chinese he served brought him the native name “the Bell who is the lover of the people.” His passion for the mission work brought him into contact with Benjamin Clayton, a wealthy layman from First Presbyterian Church in Houston; through this connection, thousands of dollars would be directed to sustaining the mission.

While in China, Bell’s family multiplied: Rosa was born in 1918 and Ruth in 1920. After the family lost their newborn, Nelson Jr., in 1925, Virginia was born two years later. In 1934, the last child, Benjamin Clayton, was born. With a growing family came new risks, especially as the political situation in China deteriorated—both because of internal battles and external Japanese military threats. In 1927 the family was forced to evacuate because of the advance of the Nationalist army, and again in 1937 in advance of the invading Japanese army. In 1941 the Bells returned to the United States for good.

Missionary to America

Simply because they returned to America did not mean the Bells ceased to care about evangelism, missions, and the church. Even prior to returning permanently to Asheville, North Carolina, where he set up a surgical practice, Bell had grown concerned about the spread of theological and social liberalism in American Protestantism generally and in the PCUS in particular.

In order to combat this he helped start the Southern Presbyterian Journal in 1942. Although listed as the associate editor, Bell was the mainspring: he wrote more than anyone else, solicited articles, committed financial resources, and guided the policy of the board of directors. The magazine offered a blend of American religious and political conservatism. From the first issue, Bell and the other writers hammered American religion for replacing the gospel of redemption with a program of social reform. He believed that if the church would simply preach the good news faithfully, it could provide “the spiritual and moral stamina which is essential for world stabilization.” The result would be spiritual awakening and revival.

Alongside this longing for revival he was determined to buttress American civilization, which was being undermined by a range of social and political enemies. One great enemy was global communism: Bell would write countless articles attacking the advance of communism in Russia and especially in China and castigate American political leaders for their policy of containment. Another enemy was racial integration: in numerous articles Bell laid out a case he considered racial moderation—no one should force integration; at the same time, within the boundaries of a segregated society, individuals should be treated equally before the law and violence should be eschewed. (One wishes that Bell’s love for gospel expansion around the world had translated to a more multiethnic vision for the church in the States.) A third enemy was moral license: as youth culture began to go astray, Bell blamed popular culture, especially movies and novels, that titillated and ultimately destroyed moral fiber. His defense of social conservatism would earn him seven awards from the right-wing Freedom’s Foundation of Valley Forge.

In order for America to be rescued from these enemies, God needed to send Spirit-filled evangelists who would turn America to God and fit her for a special place in worldwide evangelization. Bell had little idea that one such evangelist would be part of his own family when in 1943 Billy Graham married Bell’s daughter Ruth. However, as the Youth for Christ crusades drew stadium-filling crowds at the end of World War II and as Graham drew national attention during his 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, it appeared God was raising up such an evangelist.

Bell supported his son-in-law in every endeavor and became his private confidant and public defender. Eventually, their partnership would birth one of the most significant institutions of the new evangelicalism: Christianity Today, a magazine launched in 1956. Bell served on the original board of directors, secured financing from wealthy supporter J. Howard Pew, and contributed a regular column entitled “A Layman and His Faith.” It was part of an effort to provide a counterweight to Protestant liberalism and spark a spiritual renewal that would transform America.

Missionary to the World

Yet the work was never ultimately about America for Nelson Bell. His passion was for the gospel to spread throughout the world. That’s why his most thrilling times were the international crusades led by his son-in-law, especially the 1954 Harringay Crusade in London. When more than 36,000 people filled out decision cards at that campaign, it appeared God was on the move. Bell would challenge southern Presbyterians to pray “for a world-sweeping revival which will solve the problems of individuals and of nations.” And though the revival did not fully come in his time, he did not stop praying or working for it.

Bell served from 1948 until 1966 on the PCUS Board of World Missions, making a number of trips to encourage missionary workers: not only to Presbyterian works in Brazil and Korea, but also to a number of countries in Africa, Europe, and Palestine. Moreover, through his role on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Bell played a role in the developing 1966 World Congress of Evangelism in West Berlin, Germany. And he supported Graham’s evangelistic efforts around the globe.

Even as his own denomination was fragmenting, Bell worked as a statesman to maintain a platform for global missions. To honor his efforts, the PCUS elected him to serve as moderator of its 1972 General Assembly. He used his moderator’s year to seek peace in his denomination, but also to promote the revival he knew must come if the church would be an agent for global evangelization. Two months after his term as moderator ended—on August 2, 1973—Bell died in the confidence of his Savior’s ultimate victory through the cross and empty tomb.

Bell’s significance to 20th-century evangelicalism is vastly underrated. He represented both the deep longing for revival and the passion for evangelism that has characterized the movement at its best. He also served as an example of the marriage of religious and social conservatism that has sometimes undercut evangelicalism’s gospel mission. Above all, Bell’s commitment to Christ’s cause gave him a global vision that made him a missionary to the world and faithful in his own generation.

Sean Michael Lucas is senior minister at the First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He taught previously at Covenant Theological Seminary and currently teaches for Reformed Theological Seminary-Jackson. He is the author of several books, including On Being Presbyterian: Our Beliefs, Practices, and Stories.

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Teaching a Nation’s Leaders

Considered by many to have been the foremost educator in the South, Moses Waddell was of Irish parentage and was born in Rowan (now Iredell) county, North Carolina, on July 29th, 1770. He received his academic education at a school which was opened in the neighborhood under the name of Clio’s Nursery. For four years, beginning at the age of fourteen, he was engaged as a teacher (1784-1788) at various places in North Carolina and Georgia.

Leaving his employment as a teacher, he enrolled as a student at the Hampden-Sydney College, graduating there in 1791. The next year he was licensed to preach by the Hanover Presbytery, of Virginia, on May 12, 1792.

About 1793, Waddell opened his first school in Columbia county, Georgia, then another in 1801,  in Vienna, Abbeville District, South Carolina. He remained in that work until 1804, when he removed to Willington, six miles south of Vienna, and it was at Willington where he founded the famous Willington Academy. It was common for Presbyterian pastors to maintain an academy, in part for the extra income, and in part because they could thus guide the moral, religious and intellectual education of the children of their parish.

All of these schools were designed as preparatory schools, utilizing a classical education model. As the fame of the Willington Academy grew, it came to be called the “Eton in the woods”. To give one example of the school’s rigor, students were required to memorize, translate and recite some 250 lines of Greek or Latin every night. A Willington graduate, South Carolina governor George McDuffie, held the record, having once recited over 2200 lines of the poet Horace.

In 1818, Waddell was elected President of what was then Franklin College, later to become the University of Georgia. However, he did not actually step into the duties of this office until May, 1819. While serving as an educator, he also labored as a pastor, founding the Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia in 1820. During his tenure at the University, the school prospered greatly, and he continued here as President until 1829. Resigning his post, he returned to Willington. For forty-five years he had labored as a teacher. His labors as a pastor continued another six or seven years more, and the Rev. Dr. Moses Waddell’s life drew to a close on July 21, 1840.

Dr. James McLeod provides the following account of Dr. Waddell as a teacher:

“The boys called him ‘Old Moses,’ and while he believed in corporal punishment, he never spanked in a passion, and it finally evolved that he did this only upon a verdict of a peer jury of students. He never spanked for a deficient lesson but chiefly for defects in morals or actions that had to be punished.

“He was a cheerful man even playful in his disposition. He maintained a personal interest in each boy. He had a wry sense of humor. When boys on second floor dumped water on him as he went in a door, he said nothing, but later raised an umbrella as he went in the door to the delight of the boys.

“His strength seems to have been to analyze the boys accurately, then demanded accordingly. He was not a man who used sentiment to escape facing the laziness of adolescence. He demanded. They groaned, they gave, they griped, they worshiped him later. There was a chestnut tree outside the Doctor’s study window that the boys remembered watching as they waited to see the Doctor if they had done anything wrong. Others would climb it to see if anyone was punished by him.

“Dr. Smith, the president of Princeton College, was quoted as saying that he received no students from any school in the United States who stood better examinations than those of Dr. Waddel.”

As a pastor, Alfred Nevin notes that “he was pious, zealous, and well versed in theology generally. His style of preaching was plain, simple, earnest. He addressed himself much more to the understanding than to the imagination or passions. As a teacher he stands almost unrivaled.”

Words to Live By:
In The Great Doctor Waddell, by Dr. James McLeod, the author provides a compilation of the students educated under Waddell. The list includes two Vice-Presidents, three Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of War, one Assistant Secretary of War, one US Attorney-general, Ministers to France, Spain and Russia, one US Supreme Court Justice, eleven governors, seven US Senators, thirty two members of the US House of Representatives, twenty two judges, eight college presidents, seventeen editors of newspapers or authors, five members of the Confederate Congress, two bishops, three Brigadier-generals, and one authentic Christian martyr.

In light of which, this might be a good time to review again the words of Dr. R. B. Kuiper, posted here this past July 15th:

“God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.”

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Raising a Leader for the Church

During the course of this historic Presbyterian blog, there have been seven references to the life and times of J. Gresham Machen. This is no surprise, because he was God’s choice to lead His true church in tumultuous days of the early twentieth century. This event recognized today begins the whole story  on July 28, 1881, J. Gresham Machen was born in Baltimore, Maryland.

On both sides of his family, there was a firm commitment to the Calvinistic truths of the Westminster Standards.  His grandfather, on his father’s side, was a ruling elder of Old School Presbyterianism. His father, Arthur Machen, was a well-known attorney, and member of the Presbyterian church. Marrying Mary Gresham in 1872, a home was divinely ordered together.

[at right, Arthur W. Machen, father of J. Gresham Machen, pictured at about 75 years of age.]

His mother came from the southern Presbyterian tradition resident in Macon, Georgia.  While we do not know much of her early life, after her marriage to Machen’s father, she exhibited an influence upon young J. Gresham Machen’s life which could not be rivaled.  The whole family was influential members of the  Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.  Machen’s father served as an elder for many years.

When J. Gresham Machen was born, and here we simply quote Ned Stonehouse’s book on J. Gresham Machen,

“he entered a home of devout Christian faith, of a high level of culture and social standing, and of a considerable degree of prosperity.  Both parents were persons of strong character and extraordinary intellectual and spiritual endowments, and our understanding of J. Gresham Machen is illumined as we observe how various qualities and interests of his ancestors were blended in generous portions in his own personality. . . the intense affection and loyalty that distinguished the Machen home were to prove one of the most influential and fascinating factors in shaping the course of things to come.” (p. 39, J. Gresham Machen, by Ned Stonehouse, Eerdmans).

Words to Live By:
Certainly God’s sovereign grace can change an individual’s life for the better, but also God’s grace can use the faithful upbringing of a Christian family into even greater outreach of service.  And the latter was evidenced in the home religion of Dr. J. Gresham Machen.  We simply cannot stress too much the vital principles and practices of a godly home on a child’s life and life work. Parents! Labor hard in prayer and perseverance to make your home a godly one, leading by example and exhortation the faith of your children in the things of the Lord.

To read more of Dr. Machen’s reflections on his own parents and their home, click here.

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Father of Arkansas Presbyterianism

moorejwIt is hard to believe that at one time in this country, Arkansas was considered to be mission territory. But that was exactly the way that it was, when James Wilson Moore was appointed after his studies at Princeton Theological Seminary to go there as a Presbyterian missionary. It was still not a state, but a territory. Moore, who had been born in 1797, was sent there by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, to develop the church in that territory. In the whole town of Little Rock, with a population of 150 people, there were only three whites and three blacks professing Christ as Savior.

It was on July 27, 1828, that he organized the First Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, with two males and five females. In so doing, this congregation was the only active congregation and he was the only ordained minister when the territory became a state. This church became the “mother church” of all Presbyterian churches in the state. Thus, the James Wilson Moore was properly called the “father of Presbyterianism in Arkansas.”

In 1830, Moore returned to New Jersey so he could marry his wife, Elizabeth Green. Soon afterwards, he organized the Arkansas Presbytery, and was the only commissioner of it back at the General Assembly in 1846. Moving thirty miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1840, he established a church in Sylvania as well as a school for boys. He taught at the latter educational facility for the next 30 years. He died in 1873, having successfully by God’s grace brought Arkansas the gospel and the Presbyterian church to worship and serve God.

Words to Live By:
Home missions has as much of a call to it as does Foreign Missions. After all, the disciples just before the ascension of our Lord Jesus into heaven, were told to be witnesses of His life, death, burial, and ascension, first in Jerusalem, then Judea, next Samaria, and finally to the whole earth. Your Jerusalem is where God has placed you right now. It is there that we need the filling of the Spirit upon us to go and witness of Jesus. Think again of your witness by your life and lips in this first place. Until you have been faithful here, you cannot be an effective witness in your county, state, region of the United States, the whole country, and finally the world. Serve God where you are first!

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

Q. 29. — How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. — We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Scripture References: John 1:12-13; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-6.

Questions:

1. What do we mean by the word “redemption” in this particular question?

The word redemption in this question could be labeled as the complete doctrine of salvation that is revealed in the Scripture. The “broad” use of the word is in use here. Warfield states, “He died as a ransom certainly; but the salvation purchased by this ransom-price works itself out steadily in its successive stages unto the very end.” (Biblical Foundations, Pg. 244).

2. How was this redemption purchased?

This redemption was purchased by the precious blood of Christ, I Pet. 1:19.

3. Is it not possible in some way for the believer to make of himself a partaker?

No, it is impossible for the believer to make of himself a partaker of redemption. The Bible teaches that we are totally unable to save ourselves, much less to deserve It.

4. By whom is our redemption applied?

Our redemption Is applied by the Holy Spirit. It is his effectual working on us that brings it to pass.

5. How does this question help to make complete the doctrine of the Trinity?

It helps to make the doctrine of the Trinity complete by showing the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption. We have seen how the Father ordains, the Son purchases and now the Spirit applies. Spurgeon had a favorite saying for the end of many of his sermons:

“We have heard the preacher,
Truth by him has been made known;
But we need a greater Teacher
From the everlasting Throne.
Application Is the work of God alone.”

THE PROCESS OF REDEMPTION

The above title may seem strange to many readers and yet it is theologically true. Warfield, in his book, “The Plan of Salvation”, states: . . . God’s plan is to save, whether the individual or the world, by process . . .  Redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified through faith, received into the very household of God as his sons, led by the Spirit into the flowering and fruiting activities of the new life, our salvation is still only in process and not yet complete.”

The process of redemption is taking place and yet there are so many Christians who insist that there is no room in others for mistakes and will criticize their brethren in the Lord greatly if sin is committed. This is a strange and dangerous happening in the church of today.

A. A. Hodge had a favorite saying, “The Lord leads us, you know, by devious ways through our pilgrimage, and he appoints for us all our changes.” Many times these “devious ways” are ways in which we fall prey to temptation. Now this in no way gives us any right to compromise with evil. The standard the Lord has placed before us is a standard of absolute perfection. The Christian can not live knowing there is a process going on, and then take advantage of it and use it as his ever-present excuse when he sins. This should be understood by all who name the name of Christ.

However, there is a danger that when the Christian recognizes the facts of the last paragraph he will, at the same time, come down with the disease of refusing to excuse, tolerate, or understand sin in other people. He forgets the Bible teaches that it is only when the last trump will sound that the incorruptible body shall enter into the glory for God’s children, and that then the process of redemption will be complete. A great Christian had the right perspective when he said, “Toward God, a heart of fire. Toward myself, a heart of steel. Toward others, a heart of love.” He recognized that he must put God first in all things. He recognized to do this he must rule out anything that would hinder him. He further recognized that others would be going through the same process as himself and his attitude toward them should be one of love.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 29 (March 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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Chapter V. – Post-Apostolic Presbyterianism.

The order of apostles was a temporary one, just as the priesthood had been, both having grown out of the exigencies of their respective periods. The priests passed away with the completion of their work, when Christ came. The apostles were chosen to be eye-witnesses of the great fact that Christ rose from the dead. The order, therefore, could not exist after those died who were contemporaries of Christ. To be an apostle it was necessary to have been appointed to that office, and to have seen the Lord after his resurrection. This is plainly set forth in 1 Cor. ix. 1, where Paul is vindicating his apostolic authority. He says, “Am I not an apostle? . . . Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?”

The apostles all passed away, and the government of the Church remained what it had been from the beginning—a government by assemblies of elders, or “presbyters.” It was a spiritual republic, admitting of no distinctions of rank; and even Peter, whom Roman Catholics claim as the first of the popes, said of himself in his First Epistle (v. 1), “I who am also an elder” (presbyter).

After the apostles we have historical proof of the true Presbyterian organization of the Church.

Clemens Romanus, writing in the first century, says, “It is a shame, my beloved, and unworthy of your Christian profession to bear, that the most firm and ancient church of the Corinthians should be led to rise up against the elders. Let the flock of Christ enjoy peace with the elders which are set over it.”

Again, in the third century, Hippolitus writes, “The elders cited Noëtus, who was charged with heresy. Having summoned him a second time, they condemned him and cast him out of the church.” Here is a trial by Session too plainly set forth to need argument.

It is with peculiar pleasure that the testimony of a great Episcopalian is here introduced. Dean Stanley, of Westminster Abbey, London, writes, “The most learned of all the bishops of England, whose accession to the great see of Durham has recently been welcomed with rare unanimity by the whole Church of England, has, with his characteristic moderation and erudition, proved beyond dispute, in his celebrated essay attached to his edition of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, that the early constitution of the apostolic churches of the first century was not that of a single bishop, but of a body of pastors indifferently styled bishops or presbyters, and that it was not until the very end of the apostolic age that the office which we now call episcopacy gradually and slowly made its way into Asia Minor; that Presbytery was not a later growth out of Episcopacy, but that Episcopacy was a later growth out of Presbytery; that the office which the apostles instituted was a kind of rule, not by bishops, but of presbyters; and that even down to the third century presbyters as well as bishops possessed the power of nominating and consecrating bishops; and, besides, there were, from the commencement of the Middle Ages down to the Reformation, large exceptions from the principle of episcopal government which can be called by no other name than Presbyterian.

This testimony, coming from Bishop Lightfoot—“the most learned bishop of the Church of England”—endorsed by Dean Stanley (who for his scholarly attainments and elegant diction was the pride and favorite of the British aristocracy), is of immense value in establishing our claim to apostolic Presbyterianism.

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It was an astonishing request by the Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Unable to join the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War due to an abundance of volunteers, a captain in the western part of Pennsylvania had requested Secretary Cameron for permission to raise an independent regiment for the war effort. To Captain (and later Colonel) Leisure, the Secretary had responded to the question with “Yes, Captain, if they will be men that will hold slavery to be a sin against God and a crime against humanity, and will carry their Bibles into battle.” Carry their Bibles into battle? What military recruiter today lays down that requirement? The good captain answered “I have no other to bring.” And with that, what became known as the Roundheads, the One Hundreth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment came into existence in 1861.

From a love of their country, some 1400 men from the counties of Washington, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Mercer, and Westmoreland in western Pennsylvania, all of them being Psalm-singing Presbyterians and Covenanters, entered the Union war effort to fight for their country. They were to fight in some of the bloodiest contests of the entire war, engaging the Confederates at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Applomatix. During this time, they kept their biblical faith.

In Horatio Hackett’s book “Christian Memorials of the War,” we read the following account of a chaplain’s worship service on page 28: “It was my lot to meet the Roundheads, officers and men, for the first time in the house of God, the Sabbath after I landed in Beaufort, December twenty-second. The chaplain of the regiment, Rev Robert A. Brown, of Newcastle, Pa, lay ill of fever at that time, and the colonel had invited me to preach to them at the usual hour of morning worship. The appointment was made accordingly; and at bell-ringing the colonel marched his men, nine hundred strong, into the Baptist meeting-house, under arms, and with measured tread; but quiet and reverent, as became the place, the service, and the day. It was an impressive spectable. The soldiery, intermingled with members of other corps, filled the entire area of the lower floor, and most of the spacious galleries, which projected on either side. At the end stood, close crowded together, groups of ‘colored people.’ There, listening to the word of God, or rising in prayer, or singing, after their ancient metrical version, some of the Psalms of David, the Roundheads joined in worshiping the God of their Fathers, – their God and our God, – just as they had been wont to worship, in their several sanctuaries, with kindred and friends at home.”

Their service brought casualties to their ranks, with nearly as many dying of disease as from the wounds of war. And at the end of the war, on this day, July 24, 1865, they were mustered out, to go home to their loved ones and friends, mindful of their faithful service to God and their chosen country.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes our convictions of faith brings us into difficult days associated with conflict. Our faithfulness to God doesn’t end on those occasions with regards to God and His Word. It continues to persevere in difficult days as well as peaceful days. Let us be faithful to bring God’s Word, the Bible, with us everywhere we go, but especially in our hearts. In fact, prepare today, or continue today, by memorizing significant texts and chapters of God’s Word. In that way, you will have this means of grace available for your spiritual needs when you need its comforting words.

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The Day of Small Beginnings

Drawing from three separate quotations, we have in short compass the story of Jenny Geddes and her little wooden stool, which God used to bring about a revolution and a return to biblical truth.

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GeddesStool03Two years ago, while walking about in Old St. Giles’ church in Edinburgh, with Dr. W. G. Blaikie, whose fame as author, scholar, and preacher, is known throughout the Presbyterian Church, he said, ― this is the first time I have been here in seventeen years. And yet this is the church in which Knox preached and Jennie Geddes worshipped. Here she threw the famous stool at the head of the Dean who was reading the liturgy, under orders from King Charles. The outburst of popular indignation, occasioned by this act, was the beginning of the great struggle for religious liberty in Scotland.

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The war in behalf of purity in religion began in Scotland. Archbishop William Laud [1573-1645] prepared a new Prayer-book and sent it to Edinburgh for the use of the churches. On July 23, 1637, the priest of St. Giles Church came forth in white surplice to read the new ritual. Jennie Geddes flung her stool at his head, and a riot drove the minister from the chancel. All Scotland arose in arms against Laud’s innovations, and in 1638 the National Covenant was signed, binding the Scottish people to labor for the purity and liberty of the gospel. In the same year, at Glasgow, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland deposed the bishops and re-established the Presbyterian system.

Two brief wars with Scotland were waged by King Charles, but the lack of money compelled him to summon the representatives of the people. The combatants stood face to face in the arena of debate. The issues of religious and of civil liberty were at length to be decided in a conflict between Charles Stuart and the English Parliament.

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GeddesStool02It has been said, and not without a show of propriety, “that the First Reformation in Scotland was commenced by a stone cast from the hand of a boy, and the Second Reformation by a stool from the hand of a woman.” By causes in themselves so insignificant does God often produce the grandest results. Detach them from their connections, and they are nothing. Associate them with the other links in the chain of providential influence to which they belong, and they become mighty for good or for evil. The bite of a spider has caused the death of a monarch, and the monarch’s death a revolution in his empire.

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Words to Live By:
The Lord delights to use the weak things of this world to accomplish His purposes.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NASB)

Elsewhere on the Web today, PCA pastor George Grant shared this poem by J.S. Blackie. Thank you, George. I did not previously know of this poem.

The Song of Jenny Geddes by J.S. Blackie

‘Twas the twenty-third of July, in the sixteen thirty-seven,
On the Sabbath morn from high St. Giles the solemn peal was given;
King Charles had sworn that Scottish men should pray by printed rule;
He sent a book, but never dreamt of danger from a stool.

The Council and the Judges, with ermined pomp elate,
The Provost and the Bailies in gold and crimson state,
Fair silken-vested ladies, grave doctors of the school,
Were there to please the King, and learn the virtues of a stool.

The Bishop and the Dean came in wi’ muckle gravity,
Right smooth and sleek, but lordly pride was lurking in their e’e;
Their full lawn sleeves were blown and big, like seals in briny pool;
They bore a book, but little thought they soon should feel a stool.

The Dean he to the alter went, and, with a solemn look,
He cast his eyes to heaven, and read the curious-printed book:
In Jenny’s heart the blood upwelled with bitter anguish full;
Sudden she started to her legs, and stoutly grasped the stool!

As when a mountain wildcat springs upon a rabbit small,
So Jenny on the Dean springs, with gush of holy gall;
Wilt thou say mass at my lugs, thou popish-puling fool?
No! No! She said, and at his head she flung the three-legged stool.

A bump, a thump! A smash, a crash! Now gentle folks beware!
Stool after stool, like rattling hail, came twirling through the air,
With, well done, Jenny! Bravo, Jenny! That’s the proper tool!
When the Devil will out, and shows his snout, just meet him with a stool!

The Council and the Judges were smitten with strange fear,
The ladies and the Bailies their seats did deftly clear,
The Bishop and the Dean went in sorrow and in dool,
And all the Popish flummery fled when Jenny showed the stool!

And thus a mighty deed was done by Jenny’s valiant hand,
Black Prelacy and Popery she drove from Scottish land;
King Charles he was a shuffling knave, priest Laud a meddling fool,
But Jenny was a woman wise, who beat them with a stool!

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John, Father of Samuel

You see it in the Bible—when you wanted to bless someone, you looked to bless their father (1 Samuel 17:56). Conversely, a curse on a son was understood as a curse on the father (Gen. 9:25; 1 Kings 11:9-12). All Christians want their children to grow strong in the Lord, to be greatly used in His kingdom. So when we see such a child now grown, it is understandable that we might look to the parents, to see their character and method with their children, that we might learn and profit from their wisdom. Dr. Samuel Miller, of Princeton, was a man greatly used of the Lord, and so it fitting that we should look at the life of his father, the Rev. John Miller. This day, July 22, 1791, marks the date of Rev. John Miller’s passing.

John Miller was born in Boston, on December 24, 1722. By ancestry, he was the great-great-grandson of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. His father, John Miller, Senior, had immigrated from Scotland in 1710 and found remarkable success as a manufacturer, refining sugar. The Millers had two children, John, the eldest, and Joseph, who never married and who, in early adulthood, was lost at sea during a voyage to Great Britain. John, the subject of our post today, never graduated from any college, but did manage to obtain an excellent classical education at a public school of high reputation in Boston. Here he became proficient in Latin and Greek, and it was during this time that he also came to faith in Christ and began to aim toward the pulpit ministry.

In May of 1748, John was licensed to preach by the Congregational association in Boston and soon began to travel throughout the Delaware and Maryland colonies. When a call came to serve the Presbyterian church in Dover, Delaware, John returned to Boston to secure ordination. Once installed in the Dover church, it was not long before an additional call came, to also serve the Presbyterian church in Smyrna (also known as Duck Creek), which was twelve miles north of Dover. Rev. Miller’s solution was to pastor both churches concurrently, establishing his home between the two churches, some four miles from Dover. And in this arrangement he spent the remaining years of his ministerial career, serving as pastor of these two churches for over forty years.

As seems so often to have been the pattern in those times, Rev. Miller had deferred marriage until he was established in a charge. But now, wasting no time, he courted and then married Margaret Millington, the daughter of a successful planter.  Dr. John Rodgers of New York was  on one occasion heard to pay the compliment that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Yet her physical beauty was exceeded by her moral beauty, and she proved to be a great blessing to her husband, to her children, and to all who knew her. Margaret was known for her good sense, for her prudence, for her skill and wisdom in keeping her home, and for her active engagement in charity towards others. Above all, Margaret’s life was characterized by an honest and sincere love of her Lord.

Not long after having been settled as a pastor, Rev. Miller purchased a farm of 104 acres, and here he resided for the remainder of his life. Never a man of great means, the farm allowed him to supply many of the basic needs of his family, and by careful husbandry, allowed Rev. Miller to eventually send four sons to college.

“On this estate his children were born, and from here they went forth to do good.” Of his children, two sons died in infancy, and one son died before his own passing—John, a medical doctor, who died in 1777,  at age 25. The remaining children were present at his beside when the Rev. John Miller died, at the age of 69, and in the 44th year of his ministry. These were: Elizabeth [1755-1817], wife of Col. Samuel McLane; Mary [1762-1801, wife of (1) Vincent Loockerman, Jr. (he died in 1790,) and (2) wife of Major John Patten; Edward [1760-1812];Joseph [1765-1798], who married Elizabeth Loockerman; Samuel [1769-1850],  who was twenty years pastor of the Wall Street Church in New York, then Professor of Theology in Princeton Seminary; and lastly, James [1772-1795]. Thus Samuel, who never enjoyed robust health himself, was the last surviving child of the Rev. John Miller, and that by over thirty years and more.

Words to Live By:
What distinguished the rearing of the Miller children? There are undoubtedly many things that we could look at and discuss. But one moment in their parents’ lives seems particularly significant. Ten years before Samuel Miller was born, his parents lost their first child, Joseph. A few days following, Joseph’s death, his father made this entry in his journal:

“October 5th, 1759. Last night my son Joseph, a promising child, aged nineteen months and eight days, departed this life, after a short but violent illness in the lungs. My heart was far too much bound up in the child. His little, pretty ways insensibly stole my affections from objects infinitely superior to all earthly comforts; the parting stroke has given me a much more affecting view of this than I had before. Oh that I may see the rod and him that has appointed it—see that God has a controversy to plead with me and my house.”

Our children belong to the Lord, and they are His alone. Perhaps what the Rev. John Miller learned is summed up in the words of Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

God gives us a great blessing in our children, but they belong to Him. And as difficult as it may be, our hearts must never be set upon His gifts, but always only upon the Giver.

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