September 2015

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A Heart Firmly Attached in the Interest of His Country.

Abraham Keteltas was born in New York City on December 26, 1732. His father, Abraham Keteltas, Sr., was a merchant who had immigrated to the American colonies in 1720. The family had settled in New Rochelle, New York, which was at the time heavily populated with Huguenots. Young Abraham’s friendships among the Huguenots allowed him to become fluent in French. He later studied theology at Yale, graduating there in 1752, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1756.

Installed as pastor in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1757, he remained there but a year. Rev. Keteltas married about this time and resided at Jamaica, Long Island, yet without pastoral charge. Still, as he was fluent in the three languages dominant in the region and was a masterful preacher, he frequently was called to the pulpits of the Dutch and French churches, as well as the Presbyterian, and during this time his reputation grew among that population.

His reputation and stature apparently extended well beyond the Long Island community, for it is recorded that his advice was held in high esteem by many, George Washington being among that number and known to have frequently consulted him on various matters. Rev. Keteltas readily became a strong advocate in the struggle for independence, so public in his declarations that his personal safety required him to flee Long Island for the relative safety of New England. He was elected in 1777 to serve as a delegate to the New York State constitutional convention, though he did not attend.

Four of Rev. Keteltas’s sermons are extant, preserved in a small number of libraries. These are:

The Religious Soldier: or, The Military Character of King David, display’d and enforced in a sermon, preached March 8, 1759, to the regular officers and soldiers in Elizabeth-Town.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming poor for men displayed and enforced in a charity sermon preached in the French Protestant Church, in New-York, December 27, 1773.

Reflections on Extortion shewing the Nature, Malignity, and Fatal Tendency of that Sin to Individuals and Communities, displayed and enforced in a sermon preached at Newbury-port, on Lord’s Day February 15th, 1778.

and

God Arising and Pleading His People’s Cause: or, The American War in Favor of Liberty, Against the Measures and Arms of Great Britain, Shewn to Be the Cause of God.

The last mentioned of these, delivered in 1777, is perhaps the best known of his sermons. It is a bold and patriotic record of his support for the American cause. Reiner Smolinki, of George State University, has skillfully made this sermon available in digital edition (see the above link). Of this sermon, Mr. Smolinski states:

In the former sermon . . . Keteltas enlists Jehovah of Armies in defense of America’s rights. Drawing on typological parallels from both Testaments, Keteltas demonstrates that God always supports the cause of righteousness, liberty, and self-government, especially where His people are concerned. If God is on the side of His American Israel, Kelteltas prophecies, the British enemy cannot succeed for long. Religion and politics are joined in a bed of patriotism.

During the war years, Rev. Keteltas supplied the pulpits of many churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, continuing in that capacity until declining health forced his retirement in 1782. He died while residing in Jamaica, Queens County, New York, on this day, September 30, in 1798, at the age of 65 years, 9 months and 4 days. The New York Historical Society has preserved a portrait of Rev. Keteltas, which can be viewed hereHis gravestone, which can be viewed herereads as follows:

“He possessed unusual talents which were improved by profound erudition & a heart firmly attached in the interest of his Country. His mind was early impressed with a sense of religion, which fully manifested itself by his choice of the sacred office, in which he shone as the able & faithful Divine. It may not perhaps be unworthy of record in this inscription, that he had frequently officiated in three different languages, having preached in the Dutch & French Churches in his native City of New York.”

Something to Consider:
The question is still with us to this day, whether Christians,
as Christians, should be involved in politics. Without voting here on the matter, we only make an historical observation of the strong involvement of the clergy in favor of the American Revolution, so much so that the War was sometimes called the Presbyterian Rebellion. To discover how these pastors came to their convictions, it is necessary to take into account the wider context of, first, the English Civil War (1642-51), and second, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary (1688). The American Revolutionary War was very clearly at the time seen as a continuation of these earlier conflicts. For a Presbyterian defense of the struggle for liberty, see particularly Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex: The Law and the Prince, A Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People (1644).

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You Have This Day Promised to Starve.

Yesterday’s post relied in large part on an account found in a classic work on the history of Presbyterianism in South Carolina, written by Dr. George Howe. Lingering a bit longer on the pages of that classic, we find this story of the ministry of the Rev. David Humphreys, who died on this day, September 29th, in 1869.

Howe’s account reads in part:

The Rev. David Humphreys visited the Roberts Church for the first time in the latter part of the year 1820. A regular call was given him by the churches of Roberts and Good Hope in the spring of 1821, in which $300 was promised him for three-fourths of his time; he signified his acceptance of the call, and during the meeting of Presbytery one of the ministers who was receiving a better salary than was promised to the younger brother, jocosely remarked to him, “Well David you have this day solemnly promised to starve.”

He was ordained and installed pastor in the same year, at Good Hope, by an adjourned meeting of Presbytery. It was considered a very great effort on the part of these feeble churches, which for years had only received preaching once a month and for which they had paid a very small amount to undertake to support a pastor. The subscription list at Roberts for the Rev. John Simpson was still preserved and it was not likely to be much improved on. Five dollars was the highest subscription and from that amount others came down to fifty and even twelve-and-a-half cents, while some subscribed a bushel of wheat or corn, or a gallon of whiskey. Both congregations were much reduced by emigrants who had left to seek homes in some other section of our wide country, and especially was this the case with Good Hope.

When Rev. Humphreys first took charge of these churches there were, perhaps, in each some twenty or thirty families and thirty or forty members. He had a young family and no resources. He purchased a small farm with the hope that he could make a support upon it, while his small salary would go to pay for it, but to his great mortification, the salary was irregularly and but partially paid, and he was reduced to the necessity of borrowing money at fourteen per cent interest to pay for his lands, and in order to pay the borrowed funds, he was driven to the necessity of teaching school, which he said was a “herculean task for him, as all his sermons had to be written out in full and committed to memory.” He kept up this practice of committing to memory for nearly twenty years, when he gradually adopted the habit of using short notes or preaching extempore.

He taught school with some intervals, for several years and never contracted a debt without some good prospect of paying it. He had but a small library which needed a few additional volumes year by year, and a rising family, which increased his expenses. It was then a rare thing for a present of any kind to be made to the pastor. If any article of food or clothing was obtained from any of the church members, the amount was deducted from the subscription, and if it exceeded the subscription, the balance was paid back or credited to the next year. There were no deacons in these churches and no systematic plan adopted for the collection of the small amount subscribed. Some paid a part in provisions and the balance remained unpaid; others paid if they happened to think of it, while the amount promised by those who removed from the bounds was never made up. The consequence was in a few years that they were in arrears to the amount of about $1000. Thus writes the Rev. John McLees, himself reared in the midst of these congregations. It is a sad story of violated vows, of broken promises, of the life of the ministry crushed out by a narrowness of spirit and a want of commercial integrity which one could not expect in that region of country whose people have prided themselves on generosity and nobleness of spirit. The story is written not by an enemy but by a friend, not by a stranger to this people, but by one of themselves, and one who wishes them well.

Words To Live By:
Such were the times in that day and era when answering a call to enter the Gospel ministry was a thing to seriously consider before stepping forward. It could indeed mean a life of poverty. It was wrong that vows should be violated and promises broken, but men truly called to the ministry will always rise to meet the challenges they face.

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labour in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”—I Timothy 5:17-18, KJV.

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A Sad Story Told Time and Again

The old Catholic Presbyterian Church in Chester county, South Carolina, was founded in 1759. Sixty-two men from the congregation served in the Revolutionary War. The church was so named because the congregation was originally made up of emigrant families primarily from Ireland, who came from a number of different Presbyterian denominations. Uniting as one congregation, they agreed that the church would become aligned with whichever group should succeed in obtaining the first settled pastor. And so it was that the congregation came to be aligned with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., when Robert McCulloch answered a call to serve this church and the nearby Purity Church, under what was often termed a “yoked” pastorate.

Of the Purity church, it has been recorded that

“Communicants who did not live by the strict moral code of the church were brought before the congregation for chastisement. At a Sessions meeting in 1792, Purity Church brought a query to that larger governing body.

“What shall be done in the case of John Weir and his wife who apply for baptism to their child born within the time limited after marriage?” It was judged that “they be suspended until they make public acknowledgements and be publicly rebuked.”

And so we understand in that context just how injurious and painful it must have been when the pastor himself was charged with the sin of adultery. He was tried and found guilty by the Presbytery and barred from the ministry on November 13, 1800.

Of this sad occasion, George Howe writes in his famous work, Presbyterianism in South Carolina,

These things are proofs of human imperfection; and yet religion has its place in the world, and the Church still stands; nor were such instances of defection, even of renowned servants of God, wanting in Scripture times. It was probably in view of this, and moved by the evidences of his repentance, that his church petitioned for his restoration to the ministry on September 28, 1801. This the Presbytery did not then grant, first, because it would be improper to return him to the ministry before he was received into the communion of the Church, and secondly, there should be very satisfactory evidence of repentance, reformation and aptness to teach. But after he should give satisfaction to the Church, Presbytery had no objection that he should use his talents among them in their religious meetings for their instruction, yet in such a way as was consistent with the dtuies of a private Christian only. In those unofficial labors he engaged, holding prayer meetings, accompanied with exhortation, through the congregation, and drawing back to him the affection of his people.

Dr. Howe continues in his account:

On the 17th of March, 1802, the congregation renewed their petition, being satisfied of his repentance and that he would be as useful as ever in the ministry, if not more so, if restored. Presbytery, after careful enquiry and full communication with the offender absolved him from the sentence of deposition and appointed him to preach in their vacant churches. This he did both to his own church and to others. For several years he was reported as a minister without charge, and Catholic Church as vacant.

Sin has its cost, as Howe notes:

The defection of Mr. McCulloch was followed by a great decline in Catholic congregation just when the interests of religion were advancing rapidly elsewhere. Many withdrew from the communion of the Church, some of whom joined the Covenanters, sole the Old Associate, and some the Associate Reformed, and some remained out of the communion of any Church. . . Mr. McCulloch continued to preach at Catholic, later dividing his time with the church at Rocky Mount, and again later preaching one-fourth of his time at Bethlehem church in Beckhamville.

Words to Live By:
Sin always has a cost, sometimes more evident and devastating than others. The pastor’s sin drove people from the church. But how much worse could the situation have been, had the Presbytery not been there to exercise discipline? From Howe’s account it seems that some in the congregation were pushing the Presbytery to reinstate the pastor sooner than the Presbytery thought wise. Perhaps that in turn is what caused some to leave the congregation for other churches. God’s grace, extended through Christ’s death and resurrection, can always overcome our sin. Grievous sin can be forgiven and we can be restored to useful service. But take time to wait upon the Lord and pay attention to the wisdom of godly pastors whom the Lord has established as servant-leaders in His Church. Godly discipline always bears a good fruit.

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

Q. 39. — What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. — The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

Scripture References: Deut. 29:29. Micah 6:8. I Sam. 15:22.

Questions:

1. Why do believers have duties toward God?

(1) God is the Creator and Preserver of all men, but believers belong to Him also by right of redemption and have added reason for obedience.
(2) God has made it very plain in His Word that the duties of the believers are the responsibilities that go with the privileges. In our catechism we have studied the privileges, now we o come to the responsibilities.

2. What is the revealed will of God?

The revealed will of God is found in the scripture of the Old and New Testaments.

3. Could not the Holy Spirit lead a believer to act apart from the Scriptures ?

Any leading by the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the Word of God. A Bible teacher put it this way: There are three main characteristics of the leading of the Holy Spirit:
(1) It is controlling, not compelling.
(2) It is continuous, it always “Puts to death”.
(3) It is mediate, always by and with the Word, “Into the truth”.

4. Should believers obey God rather men?

There is a responsibility on the part of believers to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake”, (I Pet. 2: 13) but if the duty required of us by man would cause us to disobey God (according to His revealed will) we must obey God. (Acts 5:29).

5. Does God require of the believer what is impossible for the individual believer?

No, God only requires of the believer what he will give the believer the strength, wisdom, courage and power to perform. (Ezekiel 36:27. I Cor. 10:13).

HOLINESS AND TRUTH

We learn in this question that our duty is obedience to the revealed will of God. This brings forth the teaching that we as believers need to be reminded of again and again: to simply know the truth is not enough, there must be a working out of the truth in our lives every day. This teaching is vital, for the real test of Christian discipleship is continuance in Christ and in His Word. (John 8:31, 32).

In this day and age, among conservative circles, there is much teaching about the Truth. Well should there be for the battleground today is over the Truth, whether it is verbally inspired or not, whether or not it is the authority for the believer. We recognize the importance of the Word and are always ready to do battle for it. But are we: ready, always ready, to live it day by day? Possibly our trouble is that of making the process too difficult. We feel it is too hard to do and so end up doing little or nothing. Would it not be good for us·to get back to the simple principles of obedience to the revealed will of God? Let us check a few of them again, all to the glory of God.

First, remember that we are God’s children. Since we have been born into His family we should no longer seek to do our will but His will. If we will but settle right now, once and for all, the important principle that we are to do all to the glory of God we will avoid many difficulties. Remember that doing His will in no sense depends on feeling, it is simply a self-discipline.

Second we should be steadfast Christians. We can do this by always abiding in the vine. The Spirit of Christ dwells in the true believer and is ready every moment to impart wisdom, courage, patience and give victory over sins from within and without. Keeping close to. Him will help us to be steadfast.

Third, honor God’s Word. It would be better to give up one meal a day than to miss one day without reading the Word. Remember ever to turn to the authoritative Word of the sovereign God, remember it is our objective authority and from it we learn how to live.

Fourth, pray without ceasing. Prayer can . lay hold of the throne and spiritual forces are set into motion far beyond the understanding of man. It is an offensive weapon.

Fifth, be faithful in the little things. Faithfulness is the great test of true discipleship. He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in much.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 39 (March, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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CHAPTER III.

CALVINISM AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.

The Roman Catholic Church is Arminian; the Episcopal Church is Calvinistic in its creed and Arminian in its clergy; the Methodist Church is Arminian in its clergy and creed. The Episcopal Church has a formula, called the “Thirty-nine Articles,” which is Calvinistic, but the greater part of the Church has grown away from it, and Arminianism is preached from nearly all its pulpits. In churches organized on the monarchical or oligarchical principle the doctrines of Calvinism cannot live. In proportion as the rulers absorb power into themselves the Church becomes Arminian. The greater the authority of the clergy, the deeper the shade of this doctrine. Consequently, the Roman Catholic Church is the most Arminian of all, because it is the most thoroughly monarchical. Albert Barnes, a great American writer, says, “There are no permanent Arminian Presbyteries, Synods, General Assemblies, on earth. There ii< no instance where this belief takes on the Presbyterian form. There are no Presbyterian forms of ecclesiastical administration where it would be long retained.”   On the other hand, it is a conspicuous fact that the Churches in which the principle of self-government is maintained are all Calvinistic. It is also to be noted that those Churches which are most nearly approximating toward ecclesiastical republicanism are becoming more Calvinistic in their theology. The two great distinctive features of the Presbyterian or Reformed Church are Calvinism, and self-government. Wherever the Church is established, these are its peculiarities.

The connection of these two principles of government and theology is by no means accidental. There is a strong moral twinship between them. One cannot long exist without the other, and minds which are constructed to believe one almost uniformly accept both. After a man has contemplated the Calvinistic conception of God—a Being absolutely supreme over all creation, everywhere present and everywhere almighty, one who decrees alike the death of a sparrow and the downfall of an empire—he turns a wearied gaze on human grandeur. What are earthly potentates compared to his God! All human distinctions sink to a level before this awful majesty, and he feels “the rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the Maker of them all” (Prov. xxii. 2).

The history of Calvinism is the history of self- government. Beginning with Geneva in the sixteenth century, trace the progress of this great institution of human liberty through the changes of three hundred years. Says Renan, the unbelieving French author, “ Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” He meant it as sarcasm, but it is a splendid compliment to the last two names; and it is true. Calvin discovered in the Bible the great foundation of all theology—God’s absolute supremacy ; he found it where Augustine found it —where it had been since Paul by inspiration wrote it; and he built upon it the most powerful system of theology ever constructed. Froude, the historian, says, “Calvinism is the spirit which rises in revolt against all untruth. It is but the inflashing upon the conscience of the laws by which mankind are governed—laws which exist whether we acknowledge them or deny them, and will have their way to our own weal or woe according to the attitude in which we place ourselves toward them; inherent, like the laws of gravity, in the nature of things; not made by us, not to be altered by us, but to be discerned by us and obeyed by us at our everlasting peril.” Calvin felt the power of this colossal truth in his soul, and it became the inspiration of his life; he never flinched before tyranny, but continually waged war against it, and in Geneva developed a republic in Church and in State which has been the model of all similar institutions since.

Holland was liberated by Calvinism. Never until these doctrines took possession did that country prevail against Spain. William the Silent became a strong Calvinist. Then he conquered, because Calvinism allied him, as he believed, with the Almighty. “ If God be for us, who can be against us ?” Motley writes: “ It would certainly be unjust and futile to detract from the vast debt which the Dutch republic owed to the Genevan Church. The earliest and most eloquent preachers, the most impassioned converts, the sublimest martyrs, had lived, preached, fought, suffered and died with the precepts of Calvin in their hearts. The fire which had consumed the last vestige of royal and sacerdotal despotism throughout the independent republic had been lighted by the hands of Calvinists.

“Throughout the blood-stained soil of France, too,” writes this historian, “the men who were fighting the same great battles as were the Netherlanders against Philip II. and the Inquisition, the valiant cavaliers of Dauphiny and Provence, knelt on the ground before the battle, smote their iron breasts with mailed hands, uttered a Calvinistic prayer, sang a song of Marot, and then charged upon Guise and upon Joyeuse under the white plume of the Bearnese. And it was upon the Calvinistic weavers and clothiers of Rochelle the great prince relied in the hour of danger, as much as on his mounted chivalry.

“In England, too,” continues Motley, “ the seeds of liberty, wrapped up in Calvinism and hoarded through many trying years, were at last destined to float over land and sea, and to bear the largest harvests of temperate freedom for the great commonwealths that were still unborn.” Henry VIII. did not reform the English Church: he merely cut it off from Rome. The Reformation of that Church was done by Calvinists. “ The Lambeth Articles,” drawn up under the authority of Elizabeth, “ affirm the Calvinistic doctrines with a distinctness which would shock many in our age who are reputed Calvinists.” But England was still under a despotism. With difficulty, a body of Calvinists called Puritans were preparing, in the providence of God, for the liberation of the people. Cromwell with the Puritans destroyed the despotism of centuries. True, after Cromwell passed away, the horrid spectre again made its appearance; but it was too late: the people had seen liberty, and under the guiding genius of William III., the Calvinist, the “divine right of kings ” met its final overthrow, and the grand principle of self-government was for ever fixed in the British constitution.

Turning to Scotland, we discover a great personality towering above all others—John Knox, the greatest benefactor that country ever had. He had learned theology under Calvin in Geneva, and he had tasted Romanism as a galley-slave in France. Froude says of him, “No grander figure can be found in the entire history of the Reformation in this island than John Knox. The time has come when English history must do justice to one but for whom, the Reformation would have been overthrown among ourselves, for the spirit which Knox created 6aved Scotland; and if Scotland had been Catholic again, neither the wisdom of Elizabeth’s ministers, nor the teaching of her bishops, nor her own chicaneries, would have preserved England from revolution. lie was the voice which taught the peasant of the Lothians that he was a free man—the equal, in the sight of God, of the proudest peer or prelate that had trampled on his forefathers.”

Thomas Carlyle writes: “This that John Knox did for his nation, I say, we may really call a resurrection as from death. . . . He is the one Scotchman to whom, of all others, his country and the world owe a debt.”

Thus it is seen by the testimony of men who were not Presbyterians that those who fought the great battles of human liberty were inspired by the doctrines of Calvinism.

These principles of self-government having beer, worked out in Geneva, France, Holland, England and Scotland, the time came for their establishment in other lands. There was a new world in the West to be colonized and developed. The Catholics took the southern part, and the Calvinists the northern. South America, Central America and the West Indies have stagnated under Catholic influence, while the United States and Canada have continually gone forward in progress. The free institutions of this country have been an asylum for the oppressed of all nations. Coming to North America, they have found liberty to think and to act according to the dictates of their own consciences. Free from cramping influences, they have developed in all departments. No country on earth ever before made such progress as that which has been seen in the short history of the American republic. To what principles are we indebted for the conditions which made this wonderful advancement possible? To those of Calvinism.

The early settlers of North America were largely Calvinists. The Huguenots from France, the Dutch from Holland, the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish, the Puritans from England, were the real pioneers of Western civilization, and they were all disciples of Calvin. These distinguished colonists came to the New World because, being Calvinists, they were not tolerated at home. They sought for liberty to worship God. They had tasted the bitterness of royal and ecclesiastical tyranny in Europe, and the high Calvinism with which they were imbued inspired them with an unconquerable desire for self- government. When the great conflict arose between the colonies and England, the Episcopalians generally sided with the mother-country; the Calvinists were for independence. They had their Church established by law, and before the Revolution the Presbyterians were denied a charter in New York. They were not allowed “ a legal title to a spot to bury their dead.”

But this was not to continue. They had left Europe to escape tyranny, and were not willing to submit to it in America. The feelings which inspired the break with England were as much religious as political, though a political act was the occasion of the rupture. A historian quotes an article published in a weekly journal of that day: “ This country will shortly become a great and flourishing empire, independent of Great Britain, enjoying its civil and religious liberty uncontaminated, and deserted of all control of bishops, . . . and from the subjection of all earthly kings.” Monarchy and Episcopacy stood together. The clergymen of that faith belonged to a State-Church and had sworn to support the authority of England. The king was the head of the Church, and they were bound by their allegiance to him.

But the Puritans, the Scotch, the Scotch-Irish, the Huguenots and the Dutch rallied under the banner of revolution. They fought for the right of self-government in Church and in State; God was on their side, and they won it. They framed their government according to the principles for which they had so long contended. They were building for the future, and were divinely guided in laying the foundation of a structure which is still rising before the nations, the inspiration of freedom in other lands and the admiration of mankind. Who were the men that did this work ? Calvinists—men who derived their principles, strong as granite, from the quarries of God’s eternal decree, “ according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Ranke says, “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America,” and Renan said, “Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” But who, we ask, begat Paul ? Who was the author of that system of truth which has been the mainspring of civilization and the bulwark of human liberty? We answer, It was born in heaven, and claims paternity from God.

“ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage ” (Gal. v. 1).

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The Assembly Subscribes the Solemn League & Covenant [1643]

Dr. Will Barker, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary and professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, has written of “The Men and the Parties” that comprised the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The full text of this article can be found here: http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/creeds-confessions/the-men-and-the-parties-by-william-s-barker/, but our post today focuses on the first portion of that article, where Dr. Barker provides a very helpful overview of the five groups which played a role in the history of this great Assembly.

I.  The Parties

Discussions of the Assembly tend to focus on the different parties, often to the neglect of the great unity that existed among the members.  It must never be forgotten that their first concern was for the gospel of Christ and for the unity of all who truly belong to him.  One of the most beautiful chapters in the Confession, “Of the Communion of Saints”, begins: “All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head by His Spirit and by faith have fellowship with Him…: (WCF XXVI/1).  Further, as teachers they were all Calvinists in theology and could all be called Puritans, depending on the definition of that controversial term.  The main controversy among them was church government and the related matter of church discipline, including the role of the state.  The parties, therefore, are perceived along the lines of church polity:  episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregationalist, with two additional categories being relevant – the Erastians and the Scottish delegation.

Episcopalians

All of the Westminster divines appointed by the Long Parliament in 1643 were ordained ministers in the Church of England, although many had refused to conform to some Anglican practices and some had temporarily gone into exile in the Netherlands.  This means that they had entered the ministry in an episcopal system, and many still favored a moderate episcopacy.  Men such as James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, did not attend the Assembly because it did not have the approval of King Charles I.  Others dropped out in the early stages.  But all were opposed to prelacy, that is, the functioning of bishops like secular princes rather than as the teaching and preaching ministers of the New Testament.  Some who favored a moderate episcopacy remained in the Assembly and were gradually persuaded to prefer the presbyterian position.

Presbyterians

The Presbyterians, who favored a system with parity of the clergy, but with a graded system of church courts so that local congregations were bonded together and in submission to a regional presbytery, and presbyteries were in submission to a national general assembly, were in the majority in the Assembly.  They were of two persuasions, however:  those who believed in presbyterianism by divine right – i.e., that it is the only system prescribed by the New Testament – and those who believed presbyterianism was simply the system most consistent with the principles of church government taught in the New Testament.  The latter was the prevailing view among the English divines at Westminster.

Congregationalists or Independents

Those who favored congregational church government were led by a very able and vocal group that became known as “the five dissenting brethren.”  These five had all gone into exile in the Netherlands in the 1630’s and had close relations with the congregationalists in New England.  These were non-separating Puritans who wanted local church autonomy while still maintaining an association among churches and with the state.  Although the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay enforced the New England congregational way through the civil magistrate, the English congregationalists were led by circumstances to prefer toleration.

Erastians

The Erastians, whose name is derived from a 16th-century Swiss theologian, were not in favor of any particular church polity – episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational – by divine right, but were mainly concerned that church discipline be finally carried out only with the approval of the state.  This view was upheld in the Assembly by a small but learned group and was supported by many in Parliament, which had called the Assembly and whose approval was necessary for the implementation of the Assembly’s decisions.

The Scottish Delegation

As a result of the Solemn League and Covenant, approved by the Scottish Parliament on August 17, 1643 and subscribed by the English Parliament and the members of the Westminster Assembly on September 25, four Scottish ministers joined the Assembly in September of 1643.  These were not voting members but had the right to speak.  In exchange for the assistance of the Scottish army to the Parliamentary forces in the Civil War against the King, the Solemn League and Covenant sought to bring the churches of England and Ireland into conformity to the Reformed religion in Scotland in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government.  The Scottish commissioners, with almost a century of presbyterian history behind them, favored presbyterianism by divine right.

Such were the parties that emerged as church government proved to be the most controversial issue in the Assembly.  Again we should remember that all of the Westminster divines were Calvinists.  As we look back to the Assembly with gratitude primarily for the setting forth of the Reformed faith in the Confession and Catechisms, we should celebrate the doctrinal unity which it had.  Where there was diversity, there was also a spirit of accommodation on the part of many.  Richard Baxter, a contemporary Puritan but not a member of the Assembly, had immense appreciation of its members and its accomplishments.  He later commented that if all Episcopalians had been as Archbishop Ussher, all Presbyterians as Stephen Marshall (the great preacher of the Assembly), and Independents as Jeremiah Burroughs, the divisions of the church might soon have been healed.

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A New Scientific Procedure Takes a Spiritual Giant Away

Our focus is not on a Presbyterian per se, but rather a theological giant who accepted an invitation to become the third president of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University, which was a Presbyterian institution.

His name was Jonathan Edwards.  And at this time, this Congregational minister was easily the greatest Biblical theolgian and philosopher which the American colonies had produced.

He had been a pastor.  He had experienced the challenge of missionary work among the native Indian tribes.  He had an exemplary family life, from which would come,such following generations, many  great men of God who served in both church and state.  His theological works were famous even then. But best of all, he was the chief architect of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies.   In short, there was nothing to dislike in Jonathan Edwards, and everything to rejoice in with this choice by the College trustees.

Now the College of New Jersey had  its share of presidents and professors.  Jonathan Dickinson and Aaron Burr, Sr., both Presbyterian pastors in colonial America, had taken on the extra burden of being educators of the  handful of students who enrolled at the College of New Jersey.  Rev. Dickinson lasted all of four plus months in that dual role.  And Rev. Burr lasted longer but not more than four years in teaching the small student body.  He was the one used of the Lord to make the strategic move to Princeton, New Jersey.  Now the invitation went out to Jonathan Edwards, in the fall of 1757, just five days after the death of the school’s second president, Aaron Burr, Sr.

John Brainerd, the brother of missionary David Brainerd, was one of two commissioners who was appointed to press the invitation to Edwards.  The latter was most reluctant to receive it.  Edwards felt that the book which needed to be written next by his pen was that of one on Arminianism.  So it took several days of approaching Edwards until finally, the New England minister, upon consultation with valued friends, replied in the affirmative on September 24, 1757.

He would take several months to prepare himself for the new ministry, so it wasn’t  until February 16, 1758 that he was installed as President of the College of New Jersey.  He began to speak in chapel and meet with the student body, to the delight of those privileged to sit at his feet.

With small pox prevalent in the area, it was decided to follow a new scientific method and inoculate President Edwards with a small portion of small pox, with the idea that he could then fight off the advances of the disease.  However a fever came upon him, and after serving just thirty-four days, Jonathan Edwards died from small pox on March 22, 1758.  It was a loss to the College, a loss to the American colonies, and a loss to the kingdom of Christ on earth.

Words to live by:
With a firm dependence on God’s sovereignty, one might be tempted to affirm that God had made a mistake in providence.  But there are no mistakes with the holy and wise God.  There is only the will of God, exercised sometimes in permissive providence before His people.  And this was certainly one example of it.  We may not know the reason why our God acts this or that way.   But we know the God of the past, present, and future, and so can say, “Thy will be done.”

For further reading : There are those who contend the President Edwards was, at least in principle and heart-affection, a Presbyterian. See, for instance, the account here : President Edwards a Presbyterian.

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Home School Education in the Nineteenth Century

They are still being used today! McGuffey Readers, that is. But what an important force they have had from the early days of our land up to the present. In a day when modern textbooks are known to tear down what is right about America and Christian values, the McGuffey Readers would instead reflect the values of hard work, industry, honesty, loyalty, Sabbatarianism, and temperance, or in other words, exactly what is needed today in our modern society.

Their name comes from William Holmes McGuffey, who was born on September 23, 1800. From an early age, he demonstrated a prodigious command of both languages and literature.  Educated by his mother in their home and schooled in Latin, as was the practice then, by a Presbyterian minister, William committed large passages of the Bible to memory. Eventually he studied at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) which was an early Presbyterian college. He graduated with honors from the college in 1826.

William McGuffey was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and although we cannot find his name associated with any local church, he preached regularly, delivering some 3000 messages by his own account.  His ministry was in education, serving as president and professor at five different colleges and universities.

He would be remembered primarily for his Eclectic Readers, though afterwards those readers were more commonly called by his name, and they had a profound influence on American public education for over two centuries. He died in 1873, but like the prophets of old, being dead, he yet speaks through these remarkable readers for young ages.

Words to live by:  The proverbs of old told us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV – Proverbs 22:6). That is as true today as it was when it was first written down in holy Scripture. The Hebrew word for “train up” speaks of “across the roof of.” It referred to the practice of birthing when the midwife would spread the olive juice across the roof of the mouth of the just born infant, teaching that infant how to draw milk from the mother’s breast. It therefore came to mean “create a desire for.” Christian dads and moms, you are to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit to create a desire for spiritual things in the hearts and minds of your children.  By being faithful to do this, you can then claim the general promise of this favorite text.

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The Last of An Amazing Family

Has there every been an equal to one family name serving the same educational institution in the history of American Christianity? We would be hard pressed to find a similar example to the Hodge family at Princeton Theological Seminary.

First, there was Charles Hodge, serving the Lord as a professor from 1820–1878. There is fifty-eight years of continuous service, preparing ministers for the gospel ministry. His “Systematic Theology” has stood the test of time as being the greatest exposition of Reformed theology in America.

Charles Hodge had eight children, including two sons who also taught at Princeton Seminary. Caspar Wistar Hodge taught from 1860 to 1891, while Archibald Alexander Hodge taught from 1877–1886. Both carried on the line of the family name, but more importantly, carried on the same committed to the infallible Word of God as summarized up in the Westminster Standards.

The grandson of Charles Hodge, and son of Caspar Wistar Hodge, was Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. He was born this day, September 22, 1870, in Princeton, New Jersey. Studies at Princeton College, the Seminary, and oversees school at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, this grandson of Charles Hodge taught on the collegiate level at Princeton and Lafayette. It was noted that he had a deep Christian spirit and a breadth of learning and scholarship in those assignments.

It was no wonder that he was asked then by the Board of Directors to take over the Chair of Systematic Theology to which his immediate family had made so much a blessing to students down the ages. His inauguration to that post took place on October 11, 1921. It seemed fitting that the grandson of Archibald Alexander, Maitland Alexander, who was the president of the Board of Directors of Princeton, be the one who gave the charge.

This second decade of the twentieth century was a challenging one, in that, at the end of the decade, Princeton Seminary would suffer the loss of both J. Gresham Machen and Robert Dick Wilson. The former would grieve over the fact that Caspar Hodge would stay on at the faculty of Princeton, after the board was reorganized to allow two signers of the infamous Auburn Affirmation to sit on it. Yet, while Caspar Hodge did stay on, his heart was at Westminster Seminary, in that time and time again, he would send financial contributions to the new seminary. Further, he spoke of the fact that he would openly defend the name of Dr. Machen in conversations, sometimes with heated exchanges. He would go to be the Lord in 1937, having spend thirty-six years at Princeton Seminary, and the last of the famous Hodge family to be associated with this school.

Words to live by:
Doctrinally, this last of the Hodge line at Princeton Seminary was in complete agreement with every other Hodge family of professors, that is, adherence to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as well as adopting the Reformed faith of the Westminster Standards. It is to be both a prayer request as well as a praise item that the message of the gospel goes on through generations. Let us commit ourselves to the family and its spiritual growth in the things of the Lord.

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A New Help for Conservative Presbyterian Chaplains in our Armed Forces

Being a military chaplain in any of our Armed Forces was always viewed with favor by this contributor.  That was probably because my father served his God and country as an Army chaplain from World War Two through the Korean Conflict. There were divine appointments in the context of a military which are not found in any civilian context.  And when the chaplain is a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching minister to men and women in the military, there is an extraordinary opportunity to see God’s kingdom and church grow in the faith and knowledge of the Triune God.

Prior to 1976, the National Association of Evangelicals were endorsing chaplains on behalf of young Presbyterian Church in America.  As good as that was, there was a conviction on the part of some, which was communicated by the Pacific Presbytery of the P.C.A., to request a study to consider whether sister Presbyterian churches could join together to endorse their own chaplains to the Chief of Chaplains. Committees were formed in the respective Presbyterian churches, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  Ministers in all three churches who had been or were then military chaplains formed these committees.  A working group was organized and a name was suggested, which was, “Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel.”

On September 21, 1978, the initial meeting was held at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis to form such a commission.  The combined churches had over 100,000 members and could therefore endorse chaplains on its own.  Some of the added benefits of having our own endorsing agency included the ability to hold our own spiritual retreats, an increased awareness of our chaplains and their ministries at national denominational meetings, better representation before the Chief of Chaplains in Washington, D.C., and a national newspaper, called the Guardian.

Other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies joined in the commission, such as the Korean American Presbyterian Church, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the United Reformed Churches in North America.  Col. (ret.) David Peterson, after a thirty year career in the United States Army as a chaplain, became the Executive Director in 1995.  He served up until just a few years ago, when Brig. General (ret.) Douglas Lee took over the helm of that position.

Chaplain David Peterson

Words to live by: There are opportunities and challenges for our military chaplains which pastors in their civilian churches do not have normally.  Young men and women in uniform are facing war tours away from families.  How great is it to have a Bible-believing chaplain to be there with the Word of God to meet them in public and private.  Temptations are always present in a military situation.  How good is it to have a gospel-preaching chaplain present who can provide an escape from that temptation with other Christian soldiers for a Bible-study, or meaningful worship time.  Family life without a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, is stressful.  A Reformed chaplain can be there to counsel in difficult times.  Pray for our military chaplains.  Write them letters or emails of encouragement.  Provide them and their soldiers with care boxes from home.  Support them in their important callings.

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