October 2015

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SmithWm_1834_FamilyCatechistRecently the PCA Historical Center was able to add to its research library a copy of THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST, by Rev. William Smith, A.M. According to WorldCat, just three other institutions of record hold copies of this title.

Rev. Smith [birth & death dates not known], was a Scottish divine residing in Glasgow. An author of some note in his own era, he published at least four or five other works, and this particular work seems to have met with some success, going through at least three editions in Scotland and one in North America. As he opens this little volume in a Preface, I’m struck by true words which remain timely even today:

An acquaintance with the principles of our holy religion is a matter of high importance, both to our present happiness, and to our future welfare. It is always in a religious community that the best members of society are to be found, whether man be contemplated in the capacity of a magistrate, or of a subject, as filling the higher, or as occupying the more subordinate stations of human life. In those countries where true religion is unknown, or, which amounts to nearly the same thing, where it has little or no hold upon the minds of the people at large, crimes the most shocking, and the most revolting to humanity, are perpetrated without remorse. If then, a religious education be highly advantageous to us, even as members of civil society, and as beings appointed to act a part on the stage of time, how does it rise in importance, when we consider that it is essentially necessary, and indispensable, to our preparation for eternity, and for entering upon that state of being, in which our everlasting happiness or misery shall, as we are assured, greatly depend upon the habits we have formed in the present life. If we be desirous of reaping the proper fruit, let us take care that the soil be well cultivated, and the seed sowed in due time. If we are anxious, that our children should act their part in life in such a manner as to promote their comfort and respectability here, and their eternal happiness hereafter, let us be careful to have their minds stored, as early as possible, with sentiments of religion and of virtue. This is the only sure foundation that we can lay for their future usefulness and comfort in life, and for their welfare in another world. If a religious education is thus important, it must then be evident, that an acquaintance with the principles of religion is indispensably necessary, since without this no real progress can be made in spiritual knowledge. Hence the evident utility of those publications in which these princples are laid down clearly and distinctly, divested of all extraneous matter.

[emphasis added]

Smith’s approach is similar to that of Fisher in his Catechism, where additional questions and answers are added to explain and expound those found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Rev. Smith however is careful to note that his approach is to remain succinct and to keep the whole work short, thus the more likely to be used with some profit.

To provide a sample of Rev. Smith’s approach, here is his text for the first several questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism :—

Quest. 1. WHAT is the chief end of man?
Ans. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

EXPLICTION.

Chief end.—The principle purpose or design for which man was made, and to which he should, above all things, labor to attain.
To glorify God.—To do honor to his name, by loving him, and trusting in him, believing his word, and keeping his commandments.
To enjoy him for ever.—To have God’s favor, and the influences of his Spirit in this world, and to share in the happiness of his immediate presence in heaven hereafter.

ANALYSIS.

Here we learn that the principle design of every man’s being sent into the world is twofold:
1. To glorify God.—1 Cor. x. 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
2. To enjoy God.—Psalm lxxiii. 25, 26. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.—God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

EXPLICATION.

The Scriptures.—The writings, or books of the Old and New Testaments, so called, by way of eminence, on account of their great importance.
To direct.—To point out the proper method.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer there are four things pointed out:
1. The necessity of a rule to direct us in glorifying God.—Acts ii. 37. They said unto Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
2. That the Word of God is this rule.—2 Tim. iii. 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
3. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God.—Eph. ii. 20. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.
4. That the Word of God is the only rule given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him.—Isa. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Despise not the day of small beginnings. It was on this day, October 30, in 1973 that a small group of men representing just three churches came together to form the Presbytery of Texas, soon to become part of the National Presbyterian Church on December 4, 1973. The young denomination would be renamed the Presbyterian Church in America a year later, and the Presbytery itself would be split into North Texas and South Texas on January 1, 1985. Houston Metro Presbytery would later be formed from South Texas Presbytery on January 1, 2004. The other three Presbyteries with churches in Texas—Korean Southern, Korean Southwest, and Southwest—are multi-state presbyteries, and these latter three were not formed from the original Presbytery of Texas.

Our post today focuses on the minutes of that first Stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas:—

FIRST STATED MEETING

THE PRESBYTERY OF TEXAS

October 30, 1973

The first stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas was held in the First Presbyterian Church of Paris, Texas, October 30, 1973. A quorum was present.  The meeting was opened with prayer by the Moderator, the Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]. A Welcome was given by the Pastor of the Host Church, the Rev. Eric McQuitty.  The docket was adopted.

Jimmy Stewart, a candidate for the ministry, delivered a thoughtful ser­mon on the subject “The Measureless Love of God”, using John 3:16 as a text. He was examined by the Committee on Reception of Ministers and was received in the Presbytery as such. November 18, 1973 was set as the time for his or­dination and installation as Minister of Youth for the Fifth Street Presbyterian Church of Tyler.

The Rev. John Knox Bowling of Adamsville, Texas and the Rev. Lardner W. Moore of Sherman, Texas were examined and received into the Presbytery. Both men are honorably retired. The Rev. Bill Buckner of Strawn, Texas was examin­ed. He passed the examination but was not ready to join the Presbytery until he had taken care of two obligations.

The Treasurer, Alex McKenzie, gave his report and stated the Presbytery has received $300.00 and spent $63.50.

The Moderator gave a sunmary of the progress of the Continuing Church and discussed the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly to be held December 4th in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Oaklawn Presbyterian Church of Houston was received as a member of the Presbytery. Possible new churches and mission work was discussed and it was moved and adopted that a Home Mission chairman be appointed by the Moderator.

A commission to ordain and install James H. Stewart, composed of the following was elected: Presiding Officer, Rev. Dan McCown; Sermon, Rev. Carl Wilson; Charge to the Minister, Rev. Eric McQuitty; Charge to the Congregation Elder A. H. Burton; Prayer, Elder Jack Treloar, Raymond, Miss.

The next stated meeting of the Presbytery was set for January 29th, 1974 at the Oaklawn Presbyterian Church in Houston, the meeting to be called to order at 12:00 Noon.

The meeting was closed with prayer by Rev. Eric McQuitty.                                       ­­­­­­­­­

Dan H. McCown, Moderator

A. H. Burton, Clerk

Where are they now?
The Rev. James H. (Jimmy) Stewart was for many years a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong, then associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, and now works with Evangelism Explosion.

Many of the above mentioned men have now passed on to glory. They include:
Rev. John Knox Bowling [1904-1983]
Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]
Rev. Eric McQuitty [1930-2009]
Rev. Lardner Moore [1922-1987]

And the churches?

Fifth Street Presbyterian Church, Tyler, TX was organized in 1954.
Oaklawn Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX was organized in 1917.
First Presbyterian Church, Paris, TX, identified in the above minutes, was unable to retain its property and identity as First Presbyterian, so the congregation joining the PCA officially became Faith Presbyterian Church and is recognized as having been organized in 1973.

But look at what has happened in the years since, and how God has blessed:
When the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) began, just a small handful of churches left the mother church to form the new Texas Presbytery.
There are now 92 PCA churches in the State of Texas. Of these
14 are in Houston Metro Presbytery
16 are in Korean Southern Presbytery
1 are in Korean Southwest Presbytery
38 are in North Texas Presbytery
21 are in South Texas Presbytery, and
2 are in Southwest Presbytery

Words to Live By:
Clearly the Lord has blessed as His Word has been faithfully proclaimed.

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A Trinity Hymn Written by a Ten Year Old

We really don’t know when Joseph Griggs was born. One source suggests 1720, but others deny any knowledge of his birthday. We do know that his parents were very poor. We know that he was trained for mechanical pursuits.  We know that he became the assistant pastor of an English Presbyterian Church in 1743. There is no mention however of ministerial training or what Presbytery licensed and ordained him. So there is much which is unknown about him,

Four years after joining the ministerial team in London, the senior minister of that church died. With no explanation, Joseph Griggs resigned his position as assistant minister. The next fact we have about him was his marriage to a wealthy widow, with whom he devoted himself to literary pursuits. He would write some forty-three hymns for the church. His hymns were first published in 1756, and republished in 1765, 1806, and 1861!

The one hymn  which is found in the Trinity Hymnal (no. 511) is entitled “Jesus, and shall it ever be.”  What is interesting about this hymn is that Joseph Griggs wrote it at ten years of age! It was altered by Benjamin Francis in 1787. Its words  come from Luke 9:26 where Jesus states, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.”  The verses in the hymn from this young lad speak with conviction to many an adult.

Note verse 1, “Jesus, and shall it ever be, a mortal man ashamed of thee?  Ashamed of thee whom angels praise, whose glories shine through endless days!

Or verse 4: “Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend on whom my  hopes of heav’n depend! No, when I blush, be this my shame, that I no more revere his name.

And verse 6, “Till then — nor is my boasting vain — till then I boast a Savior slain; and O may  this my glory be, that Christ is not ashamed of me.”

Joseph Gregg died on this day in Presbyterian history, October 29, 1768.

Words to Live By:
Who has not  had the experience of seeing covenant children be an effective testimony to their own parents in our churches? As a retired pastor, I have seen that in a number of my charges. Certainly young Joseph Griggs had a testimony which speaks to adults then and today. Readers, our covenant children are precious  in His sight and are to be ministered to by church officers and lay people. Pray for the covenant children in  your church, for their salvation and spiritual growth.

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An Unusual Name No Hindrance to God’s Working

This writer has to acknowledge that I was curious regarding the name of this Presbyterian minister for this day of October 28, 1871. It was on this day that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. His name was Septimus Tustin.

My first thought upon seeing that name “Septimus” was what parent would possibly bestow upon their son such a name. But then, I noted that his father’s name was “Septimus,” so I understood that it was a case of “like father, like son.” He was the son of Septimus and Elizabeth Tustin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his father died when he was quite young. Septimus was reared by his mother, and she is described as a pious woman and a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. With such a home and church like that, it is no great surprise that he went into the pastoral ministry. Ordained by the Presbytery of the District of Columbia (the first such from that new Presbytery), he began his pastoral ministry in Leesburg, Virginia in 1825.

Between the years of 1826 and 1861, he ministered to six more Presbyterian churches, five of them in the Northern states and one in the South. The latter was in Mississippi, and his time there came quickly to an end when that Southern state joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Rev. Tustin worked hard to unify the two sectional Presbyterian churches, but without success.

What is interesting about this minister is that on two occasions, he was called to the halls of Congress as a chaplain. First, he was the House of Representatives Chaplain for two years, and following up that ministry with the United States Senate Chaplaincy for five years. He also served as a trustee of Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania.

Words to live by:

What might be seen as a hindrance to effective work in God’s kingdom, as in this case a name, is proven to be the opposite when God’s Spirit is in control. Indeed, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), this is the norm rather than the exception. From the Amplified, it reads, “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren: not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what is the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is low-born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.”

 

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pattonFLFrances Landey Patton [22 February 1843 – 25 November 1932] was certainly coming up in the world! This native of the Bermuda Island had pastored three churches, beginning in 1865, prior to his being installed in 1873 as professor of didactic and polemic theology at the Presbyterian Seminary of the Northwest [later renamed McCormick Theological Seminary]. Then in 1881, installed as professor of systematic theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Then, in 1888, he was installed as president of The College of New Jersey, and it was during his tenure that the school was renamed Princeton University, in 1896. He served as president of the school until 1902, when he was succeeded by Woodrow Wilson. Patton then became president of the Princeton Theological Seminary, and served in that capacity from 1902 until his retirement in 1913.

Patton was a thorough proponent of the historic Princeton position, which admitted no novelty in the sacred theology. He opposed modernism and the higher criticism. When in 1906 J. Gresham Machen began as an instructor at the Seminary, Dr. Patton proved to be a great influence on Machen. Later, in 1926, when Machen was nominated to take the chair of apologetics and ethics, Patton wrote in support of Machen’s bid for that position.

The following brief quote comes from Dr. Patton’s address on the occasion of his inauguration, on this day, October 27, 1881, as professor of systematic theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. With these closing words, Patton presents a clear and summary analysis of the choice confronting the world in the modern era:—

patton_1881_inaugurationThe question of the hour is not whether God is the logical correlative of our consciousness of moral obligation; nor whether happiness or holiness is the end of life; nor whether conscience is intuitive or developed out of a “strong sense of avoidance.” It is not expressed in the utilitarianism of Mill, or the altruism of Spencer. It does not reveal itself in the paradoxes of Sidgwick, or the transcendentalism of Bradley.

It is the question whether there can be any guarantee for the purity of home, or the stability of the social organism under a philosophy that makes man an automaton. And if, as Mr. Frederick Harrison says, the present age is “ the great assize of all religion,” it looks as if the time had come for the trial of the issue. We have had enough of demurrers and continuances, enough of answers and replications, enough of rejoinders and surrejoinders. The time has come when men must face the question of the possibility of morals. They must decide between a metaphysic that leads to an absolute vacuum in knowledge, absolute irresponsibility in morals, absolute mechanism in life, and a metaphysic that will secure the separateness, the sovereignty, the morality, the immortality of the soul.

With the soul assured, the way to God is plain. And if God is a revelation of God may be. With the possibility of a revelation conceded, the proofs are sufficient, And with a proved revelation before us it is easy to understand that in God we live and move and have our being; that the truth of history has been,the unfolding of His purpose; that the order of nature is the movement of His mind; that the work of the philosopher is to rethink his thought; that Christianity is the solution of all problems ; that the blood of Christ removes the blot of sin; that the Church is the flower of humanity; that the incarnation of the Logos is God’s great achievement; that Jesus is the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person; that in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that by Him all things consist.

Quote Source: Van Dyke, Henry J. and Francis L. Patton, Addresses at the Inauguration of the Rev. Francis L. Patton, D.D., LL.D. at Princeton, N.J., October 27, 1881. 1. The Charge, by Dr. Van Dyke, pp. 5-20; 2. Inaugural Address, by Rev. Francis L. Patton, pp. 21-46.

Words to Live By:
“If God is, then a revelation of God may be.” [The quote above lacks the comma, which I think helps make better sense of the sentence.] If there is a sovereign, personal God, then He may reveal Himself in such a way that we can understand something of who He is and what He demands of us as His creatures. The choice confronting modern man is simple. Either believe in an impersonal universe in which there can be no purpose, a universe in which everything is irrational, OR know that there is a God who is, a God who has purposed, at His own expense, to remove that which divides us from fellowship with Him, a God who has said to all who call upon Him in faith, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

 

 

 

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A Christian Patriot Who Suffered During the American Revolution

We are more apt to recognize the New Jersey delegates like the Rev. John Witherspoon, or maybe Richard Stockton, as signers of the Declaration of Independence. But joining them was one Abraham Clark.

Born February 15, 1726 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, his family was solid Presbyterians in their denominational affiliation. Baptized as an infant by the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, first professor of the College of New Jersey, he grew up in the thrilling but dangerous days of increasing agitation of separation from England. With his inclination to study civil law and mathematics, he became known to his neighbors. Popular as “the poor man’s counselor,” he refused to accept any pay for his helpfulness to his neighbors. He further served them as High Sheriff of Essex County.

But it was as a member of the Continental Congress on June 21, 1776, that he became interested in the issues of liberty and justice. Penning his name to the Declaration of Independence, representing New Jersey, he states that he and his fellow signers knew that “nothing short of Almighty God can save us.”

He knew full well the cost of liberty. To a friend serving as an officer in the Jersey contingent of troops, “this seems now to be a trying season, but that indulgent Father who has hitherto preserved us will I trust appear for our help and prevent our being crushed. If otherwise, his will be done.” There is no doubt with convictions like this that he saw himself and his country safely within the sovereign providence of God.

His two sons were captured by the British and put into the prison hold of a notorious prison ship called “Jersey.” Fellow prisoners fed one of the sons by squeezing food through a key hole. Abraham Clark did not wish to make his personal suffering public, so he told no one about his family stress. When they found out about it from other sources, the American authorities contacted the British and told them that as they were treating prisoner of war Clark, so they were going to retaliate against a British officers in captivity. Only then did the brutal treatment of Clark’s sons ease up.

Abraham Clark was recognized as the member of Congress who moved that a chaplain be appointed for the Congress of the United States. And ever since then, a chaplain has been elected for that spiritual position.

But there were religious responsibilities which Abraham Clark also kept. From October 26, 1786 to 1790, Abraham Clark was a trustee for the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church of which Pastor Caldwell was the minister. Abraham Clark died in his sixty-ninth year on September 15, 1794.

Words to live by: It was said that Abraham Clark was a Christian, a family man, a patriot, a public servant, and a gentleman. That about covers the sphere of influence which all Christians are to serve both God, the church, and our country. Once, he was offered freedom for his sons from their British captivity if . . . if he turned colors and became a Tory, or become loyal to England. He responded “no.” He was convinced, as he said to a friend in a letter in 1776, “Our fate is in the hands of an Almighty God to whom I can with pleasure confide my own. He can save us or destroy us. His counsels are fixed and cannot be disappointed and all his designs will be accomplished.” Amen, and Praise God

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

Q.43. —What is the preface to the ten commandments? 

A. —The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Q. 44. — What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?

A. — The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:2; Luke 1:74; I Peter 1:15-19.

Questions:

1. What three things are found in the preface to motivate us to holy living?
The three motivators are:
(1) He is our Lord.
(2) He is our God.
(3) He is our Redeemer.

2. Why should we keep His commandments because He is our Lord?

We should keep His commandments because He is our Lord since He is our Creator and our Sovereign and as His creatures and subjects we owe Him this. Ps. 100:2,3.

3. Why should we keep His commandments because He is our God?

We should keep His commandments because He is our God since He is our Covenant God and has brought us into a special relationship with Himself and therefore we have an obligation to serve Him.

4. Why should we keep His commandments because He is our Redeemer?

We should keep His commandments because He is our Redeemer since He bought us and made us free from sin and this should encourage us to be obedient unto Him.

5. What wonderful lessons can be learned from the grammatical construction used in this question?

The lesson that He is the Lord our God in the present time, not in the future; the lesson that He is the Lord God of every individual sinner (“Thy”) whom He calls.

6. From what bondage are ‘We delivered by the Lord our God?

We are delivered from the bondage of being under the wrath of God and the guilt, power and pollution of sin, from hell itself. This should teach us to keep His commandments out of praise to Him for what He has done for us and out of the sense that this is the least we can do to repay Him. (Philippians 1 :27)

OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE

By Israel’s deliverance from the house of bondage typifies the spiritual deliverance of the believer from sin, Satan and hell. Our spiritual deliverance is a wondrous thing, a mercy for which we should ever be praising God. The question is pertinent: Why don’t we praise Him more for such a deliverance? Why aren’t our lives a ceaseless hymn of praise to our God who is our Deliverer?

This deliverance is something the Christian takes for granted time and time again. There does not seem to be a realization of what He has done for us in this regard. We sing:

“In loving kindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Thro’ grace He lifted me.
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me,
From shades of night to plains of light,
Oh, praise His name, He lifted me!”

And yet though we sing it we do not realize all that is involved. We say we do, we can give the right answers under theological examination, but our manner of life so many times shows a lack of appreciation for our deliverance.

There might be help for us in this matter if we should realize once again from what we have been delivered. Let us think of the sinner for a moment. He is a man who is in bondage to sin. He is an absolute slave to his own sinful will. Sin reigns over him and there is nothing he can do about it. He is a man that is under the command of Satan. He rules the mind of the sinner and there is nothing the sinner can do about it for he is in ignorance. He rules the sinner’s will and since he does the sinner will obey him in each situation. Satan leads him into snares he sets for him, every step has at its end a Satanic mine that cannot be missed and will always destroy. He is a man who is on his way to hell, to everlasting torment. There is no worse way to describe misery, to paint a picture of it, than to use the term hell. The worst mire of life is easy compared to the terrible punishments of hell. From such a bondage is the redeemed man delivered by grace.

How is it possible for us not to praise our Lord God for such a deliverance? How can we help but bend every effort to thank Him for this wonderful grace? Nothing should stop us from magnifying the precious name of Jesus by giving Him the preeminence in all that we do, say and think, all to the glory of God. (Psalm 11:1)

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 43 (July 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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While still searching for some suitable material for our Saturday tutorials, we offer the following lecture, originally delivered on this day, October 24, in 1949, by the Rev. Dr. Allan A. MacRae, who was then serving as the president of Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. MacRae held that post until 1971 when he became president of Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA. The text is was offered as part of a short-lived series intended for laymen, with Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. presenting the second lecture. We have thus far never seen any other lectures from this series and conclude that something must have preempted the planned series. MacRae’s lecture is a bit long for one of our posts, but since its Saturday, hopefully you can pour a second cup of coffee and enjoy the lecture.

LECTURES ON THE

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH FOR LAYMEN

FIRST IN SERIES : THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

by

ALLAN A. MacRae, Ph.D.
President, Faith Theological Seminary
Wilmington, Delaware.

COPYRIGHT, 1950, by
THE EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN TRAINING ASSOCIATION

A lecture given before the Bible Presbyterian Elders’ Association on October 24, 1949.

 

As we look at the table of contents of the Confession of Faith; we note that it contains more than thirty chapters. It is interesting to see which chapter comes first.

Does the Confession start with a discussion of human needs? There is much in it about human need and its satisfaction, but that is not where the Confession begins.

Does the Confession begin with a statement about God and His attributes? Does it lay a foundation for belief in a certain type of God and then deduce everything else from that as a starting point? No; it does not start with God.

The Confession does not start with human need; it does not start with the presupposition of a certain theory or viewpoint about God; it starts with the Holy Scriptures. This was no accident, it was, instead, a clear expression of the viewpoint of the men who wrote the Confession of Faith of our church. They believed that there is one way) and only one way, in which we can learn what is vital about God and what is vital about the satisfaction of human need. They believed that God has given us a book which provides the knowledge that He desires us to have about sacred things, about Himself; and about the satisfaction of our needs, If we are going to find satisfactory answers to any of these questions, the place to start is with the Book which God has given us; this is the foundation viewpoint of the Westminster Confession,

There are men who think that a person can think and ponder and meditate, and can find within himself the answers to all the problems of the universe. That is not the view of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Still others make a beginning, not, like the Westminster Confession, with the Bible, but rather with a particular idea of God, and maintain that from a correct idea of God all else will necessarily follow This is very different from the approach of the Westminster Confession. There is, of course, a logical coherence in the universe.  After we learn correct views about God from the Bible we can see how these views fit together with other Biblical teachings and with the observed facts of life. But it is questionable how much coherence can safely be worked out by the human minds without first gaining the facts from divine revelation. Sin has darkened the human intellect and it is dangerous to build our views on human reason. We must not think we can safely start with a particular idea of God. We must start where the Westminster Confession starts; with the Bible and then get our ideas about God directly from that source.

The view of the Westminster Confession is:  we have just one source of truth in religious matters, and that is the Bible In other words, all knowledge of religious truth must come through revelation. This view has been characteristic of the Presbyterian Churches right from their foundations.

WHAT IS REVELATION?

What do we mean by revelation? Is it some sort of old fashioned out-of-date idea? Is revelation a medieval concept which science has now displaced?

Such questions illustrate the present wide-spread ignorance of what revelation really is, It is not some bizarre or fantastic notion but one of the commonest facts of daily lifeRevelation is merely communication from one personality to another. Divine revelation differs from ordinary revelation in that it comes from God rather than from another human being.

So far from being displaced by science; revelation is absolutely necessary to the progress of science. Science consists in gathering data, classifying them, building hypotheses, and then checking these hypotheses by further data. No man has ever been able to gather enough data in any field to build up a science all by himself. Each scientist must use many facts which others have observed. Knowledge of these facts reaches
him through revelation from other personalities.

Every worker in science is constantly studying the results of the work of others. Data inaccessible to him are made available through communications from others Thus revelation is one of the most vital factors in the increase of scientific knowledge. Without it no one man would have access to a large enough body of data to make a great advance in any science.

Personally I believe that our great progress in material things in modern days is largely the result of application of the scientific method. And I believe that progress in religious understanding must also be based on the scientific method. The method is exactly the same, whether you are dealing with religion or with science. There is only one vital difference, That difference relates to the accessibility of the data. In every science much of the data is inaccessible to an individual student, and must be learned through revelation. In religion all the vital data must be learned in this way. No man has direct access to the data from which he can learn about eternal things. What sort of a being is God, and what are His plans and purposes? Answers to such questions as these can be found in only one way. You must use exactly the same method as in any field of earthly knowledge that is not accessible to you. You must find someone who possesses this knowledge and get a communication from him—in other words, a revelation. Only in this way can you secure dependable knowledge about these matters. This was the belief of the framers of the Westminster Confession; and it was the belief of the founders of the Reformed churches throughout the world. To get knowledge of religion we must secure data from One who knows facts inaccessible to us. Then we study these facts and build up our conclusions on a basis of careful analysis of the data.

We cannot get the facts out of our imagination, nor can we simply infer them by a logical process from a few ideas and presuppositions. We must learn the facts from One who knows- This is why the Confession of Faith begins with the chapter on the Holy Scriptures.

Thus a correct attitude toward the Bible is the very foundation of our knowledge of religious matters. Please do not misunderstand me. I said that a correct attitude toward the Bible is the very foundation of all dependable knowledge in the sphere of religion. I did not say that a belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible is the beginning of the Christian life. Your Christian life is founded on your relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Your salvation depends on a personal relationship to Him. Faith in Christ, and nothing else, is the basis of personal salvation.

You can be saved and know very little of the Bible, but without knowledge of the Bible you will not be an effective Christian worker. You will not be a Christian who is growing in grace. You will not be one who is going forward in the Christian life as God wants you to go forward if you lack a clear understanding of the place that the Bible should have in the Christian life. It is the foundation of Christian knowledge and true knowledge is vital to progress in any one of these phases of Christian life.

Therefore it is from a viewpoint, not of the beginning of the Christian life, but of that Christian knowledge which is so vital to progress in the Christian life, that the Westminster Confession begins with this chapter on the Holy Scriptures, and puts right at the start the fact that it is necessary to have revelation (communication) from someone who knows the facts and data in this field. You have to get God’s revelation.

You don’t have to know a great many facts about God to start getting religious knowledge. You don’t have to know a great deal about what kind of a God He is; all you have to know is that He is, that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb, 11:6), and that He has given you a way to seek Him. He has given His revelation in which you may study what He has revealed about Himself. The way to learn about Him is to go to the revelation He has given. Naturally then, the Confession of Faith places the chapter on the Holy Scriptures at the very beginning,

GENERAL REVELATION

There has been much discussion by theologians of this question: Is there such a thing as general revelation? Some people say we cannot know anything about God except what we learn from the Bible. Others would say that we can know nothing about God except what He has directly revealed to some individual. They assert that we cannot learn about God from nature that we cannot start with the facts of nature and reach the knowledge that God exists. When men make statements like this they are sharply contradicting the Westminster Confession of Faith,

The Confession begins with the statement of a fact. It introduces this fact with the word “although”, thus indicating that its importance should not be exaggerated, but nevertheless recognizing it as a fact.

Let us read the first words of the Confession; “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave men inexcusable.” This opening statement in the Westminster Confession of Faith asserts that God has revealed His goodness, His wisdom, and His power through the light of nature and the works of creation and providence.

Many editions of the Confession have a footnote here, giving references to such passages as Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:19-20. These verses make it clear that the Confession is standing squarely on the teaching of the Bible, when it says that God is revealed in nature The Confession declares that “the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave men inexcusable.” It thus asserts that a man can know from nature that there is a God—that there is a good God; that there is a wise God; that there is a powerful God.

Here we see the reason why the Confession does not begin with God, Its writers believed that the basic facts about God were visible to all men; and that knowledge of additional facts about Him required special revelation, Therefore the Confession made the Bible the subject of its first chapter, as the only source from which knowledge about God can be obtained; beyond what is readily gleaned from general  revelation,

THE  EXISTENCE OF GOD

There are many today who profess to doubt the existence of God, According to the Westminster Confession such doubts are without excuse. It is possible to see in nature sufficient evidence of the existence of God to compel the honest seeker to admit this vital fact. If he leaves it out of his thinking; he is building on a foundation which omits data that are readily accessible to him. Such an attitude is not worthy of any true scientist. The whole universe speaks of God: the whole creation declares the goodness; wisdom; and power of God. The Christian has important common ground with every human being in this world. We don’t have to start by saying, “You are over there and we are over here, and there is an impassable gulf between us.” That is not true as far as knowledge is concerned. As far as knowledge is concerned the Christian and the unbeliever have vital common ground.

You remember the story of the Arab and the scientist in the desert. The scientist was making fun of the Arab for his simple faith in God. The scientist said: “How do you know there is a God? You’ve never seen Him; you’ve never touched Him; you’ve never talked with Him.” Night came and the two men retired to their beds. The next morning when they looked out from the tent they noticed footprints which had not been there the night before. The scientist said; “Someone must have passed by in the night.” The Arab replied: “Did you see anybody?” “No.” “Did you hear anybody?” “No. I slept right through “ “Well, what makes you think that there was anybody here in the night?” The scientist answered: “Look at the footprints,” Just then the sun came up coloring all the sky with lavender and purple. The Arab pointed to it and said, “Behold, the footprints of God!” The footprints of God are plainly visible in nature, if we but look for them. The Psalmist was right when he said:  “The heavens declare the glory of God,”  (Ps. 19:1)

Suppose that two men came to a great railroad station, and saw trains coming in and going out, and all according to schedule. They observed the signs put up for a train, the people filling it, the train pulling out, and another soon coming in on the same track. Suppose one of them were to declare to the other that all this was pure accident! If he were serious people would soon begin to question his sanity, Anyone with any sense at all knows that someone must have established such an organization, and that someone must still be directing it

A man walking through a mountain area observes three or four stones piled neatly one upon the other, in the form of a little tower. Twenty or thirty feet away he sees another similar pile of stones. A short distance beyond this second pile he finds a third, and so on; indicating a wavy line that extends for miles and guides him to his destination. Anyone who ever walked in the mountains is familiar with this type of trail markers. If you should tell him that their presence was purely accidental, he would surely laugh at you. He has no doubt that a human being has put these stones in this arrangement as a means of conveying directions. They show the activity of human beings. A mind has been at work.

It is the viewpoint of the Westminster Confession that anyone with intelligence enough to make reasonable decisions on the practical matters involved in ordinary living is intelligent enough to see that this earth is not a mere heap of dirt, but a set-up—an organism. It could not have come into existence by accident. There is an intelligence back of it, controlling it. There is a God who created it and who continues to direct its destiny. In this knowledge of God we have common ground with every human being on this earth. According to the Westminster Confession the fact that there is a God who is good, wise, and powerful is clearly seen in nature and in providence. When someone tells you that he does not believe there is a God, you can know that he is only kidding himself. If he has intelligence at all he knows deep down in his heart that there must be a God.

This does not, of course, mean that a man is lying when he says he is an atheist. It is possible to kid oneself to the point where one actually believes with his mind what he knows in his heart to be false.

A young woman told me of an interesting observation along this line. For a time she worked as a secretary in one of the offices of the DuPont Company. As the work involved the use of many chemical terms, she told the man for whom she was working that she would like to learn a little about these things. He suggested a certain book, which she found to be fascinating reading. It told about the various chemical elements, described their wonderful mathematical arrangement, and told how each was discovered. Chapter after chapter ended with words of praise for the wonderful brain of the particular scientist who had discovered a certain element. Yet there was no mention of the far greater Mind which originated these elements. She could not but be amazed! How stupid to be so entranced with the brilliance of a mind that could discover one of the wonders of nature, and yet to say nothing of the far greater Mind which originated all of them!

Personally I am convinced that people are not really quite as stupid as they pretend to be. Down underneath they know that God is revealing Himself in nature, and they know that they are inexcusable; they turn their face another way and pretend that they don’t see it. Actually they are merely kidding themselves.

All of us kid ourselves at times in one way or another. We know what we ought to do but we just look the other way and try to forget it. We know at point after point what the Lord requires of us, or what a situation requires of us. We know what we ought to do but we look the other way and go straight on and hope that people will think that we are just stupid enough not to see what we should do. At length we cease to think about the matter at all.

SPECIAL REVELATION

The statement about general revelation with which the Confession begins is introduced by the word “although”. The fact that all men can see proof of God in nature is taken as a starting point, but it is stressed that this is not sufficient for salvation. Much more must be known. And it can be learned only through a special   revelation from God Himself. The Westminster Confession of Faith begins with the claim that we have such a revelation in the Bible. The Scripture is the foundation of our knowledge in the field of religion.

Enemies of Christianity often speak of us as Bible-worshippers. The term is utterly wrong: nobody actually worships the Bible. But it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the Bible in religion, for it is our one and only means of learning religious things beyond the bare fundamentals which are displayed in nature. It is our means of access to the vital facts. It is the foundation of our knowledge. Without it we are blind in this field, because we have no access to its data.

Recently I played a mean trick on my little boy. Though he is less than a year old he has learned how to turn on the radio and make it start playing. Time after time he would hit it just right, but one day I played a mean trick on him, I pulled out the cord. He did this and that, twisting first one dial and then another. That is exactly the religious situation in the world today. People are twisting this dial and that, but they have lost the connection. If you dont have the connection you will get nowhere: and the connection is the Word of God, We have to have God’s Word if we are to learn facts in the religious field. As the Confession says, general revelation is not “sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will,   which is necessary unto salvation”.

So the section goes on, and says that “therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary: those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased”.

In the section which we have just read we notice that two aspects of the giving of the Bible are described. First; it is stated that God revealed His truth in various ways in the past, and second, that He chose “to commit the same wholly unto writing.”

It is rather important to distinguish these two aspects. We call them revelation and inspiration. Revelation is communication from one personality to another. Inspiration is not, like revelation, a common occurrence in daily life. Just as divine revelation, in the sense of direct special revelation from God to an individual has now ceased, so has inspiration ceased in the sense in which it is applied to Scripture.

Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit whereby He guided the writers of the books which were to be a part of His holy Scripture, so that their words should convey the thoughts He wished conveyed and should be free from errors of fact, of doctrine or of judgment.

Thus parts of the Bible came as a direct revelation from God to the writer. All of it, however, is inspired, and kept from error. All of it; as a result of inspiration, becomes a revelation from God to us.

Let us never get these two aspects confused, because they are entirely different. Revelation is God giving truth, but inspiration is God guarding the writers from error in what they wrote.

Some people say that they believe in inspiration but not in verbal inspiration, you might just as well say that you believe in food but not in meat, vegetables, fruit or grain–it would make just as much sense. Inspiration does not mean getting an idea. Inspiration, in the theological sense, means writing thoughts down in words which are free from error. If you don’t have verbal inspiration you don’t have inspiration at all—it is the only inspiration there is. Revelation deals with ideas, but inspiration deals with words. When one says that he believes in inspiration but not in verbal inspiration, he is like the man who said to me—“I believe in the resurrection of Christ. That is just the great principle of the permanence of personality.” He should rather have said that he didn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ at all! When

Christians have expressed belief in the resurrection of Christ they have meant an actual resurrection. We should use words in their historic sense, and not try to twist them into something else, Historically the theological term inspiration has referred to words. If we believe in inspiration we believe in verbal inspiration. If we do not believe in inspiration we ought to say so.

Of course sometimes people mistakenly think that verbal inspiration means that God has dictated the Bible to the various writers. Such an idea is not involved in the phrase at all. Men wrote what God had revealed to them, or what they had observed. Inspiration means that they were kept from error in their choice of words to express the ideas they wished to convey.

“TO COMMIT THE SAME WHOLLY UNTO WRITING.”

The Confession says that God led the writers “to commit the same wholly unto writing”. The word “wholly” requires examination. It does not mean that everything God ever revealed to the prophets was necessarily written in the Scripture, God led them to write such things as He desired to have preserved for the guidance of His people in future ages. It does mean that everything which God wished preserved as His revelation for His people was included in the Scripture. All the facts which God has revealed about that area of knowledge which is otherwise inaccessible to us are included in the Bible

The Roman Catholic church claims to possess tradition passed on by word of mouth, just as vital as the revelation contained in the Bible itself. This claim the Westminster Confession denies, by using this word, “wholly”. It leaves no room for tradition, According to the Westminster Confession, nothing that has come down by word of mouth has any standing in the Christian Church.

SECTIONS TWO AND THREE — WHAT BOOKS ARE INSPIRED?

Thus the first section of this first chapter of the Confession of Faith explains the vital principles and declares the importance of divine revelation and inspiration.

The second section of the chapter names the books which are included in the Bible, We need not read the names now, but it is very important that we know what they are. Everyone of the sixty-six books of our Protestant Bible is declared to be equally inspired

It has been the view of the Christian church since its foundation that God’s revelation is definitely limited in extent, These particular books reveal God’s will for us. These are the books from which we get our knowledge of religious truth and we do not get it in any infallible way from any other books. No other books are inspired of God, in the historic theological sense of the word. From these sixty-six books, and only from these sixty-six books; can we secure the data on which religious ideas can safely be based.

We should note that the Confession lists all sixty-six books as equally inspired and authoritative. It does not select certain books as more important than others. If one is to speak conclusively regarding any aspect of God’s rule of faith and life., the Confession requires him to be familiar with every one of the books of the Bible,- for it declares that all of them are “given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life,”

THE APOCRYPHA

The third section of the chapter deals with those books which only the Roman Catholic church takes as authoritative. It is a brief statement but an important one. It says: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

It is noteworthy that the Confession does not say that the books commonly called the Apocrypha are bad books, I think this is important to keep in mind, because it is so easy when you are opposing error to say: “That is what they believe, therefore the opposite must be true”—it is very easy to say that. Some people even think they can find truth that way. I have heard it said that if you want to know about God, there are two ways to find out about Him. One is to name all the good qualities you can think of, and multiply each one thousands of times and this will give an idea of the good qualities of God The other is to name all the bad qualities you can think of, and then think of these as entirely absent from God. Well, you can’t decide what God is like by working anything out of your head like that.   If you want to find out what God is like, study the Bible. You can’t work out a theory or a presupposition or an idea that will tell you what God is like—the Word of God gives the data, and it is our only source for knowledge in this field

It is easy to think that we can learn what is right by simply taking the opposite of that which is wrong, but it does not work out that way. There is not a cult or a movement, that does not contain some truth Its principal teachings may be wicked and wrong, but if everything it teaches were false it would immediately fall of its own weight. Very often the reason cults and false movements thrive is because they have gained hold on some great Scriptural truth which Christians are neglecting. Often it is so mixed with error as to be useless, but some truth is there. In our opposition to falsehood we must not go to an extreme, and oppose elements of the truth.

This chapter nowhere says that the Apocrypha are bad books; it says that they are not inspired books: They are not to be used in any way different from other human books. There is much that is good in them, but they are not authoritative. In opposing Roman Catholic error the Confession does not go to the other extreme: it seeks instead to find exactly what the truth is.

SECTIONS FOUR AND FIVE

The fourth section of the Confession says; “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.”

You would almost think this had been written quite recently, wouldn’t you? How timely it is! You would think the framers of the Confession had picked up our newspapers and seen big advertisements stating that the Bible is the Creation of the Church—alleging that for three hundred years there was no Bible, but that the church had brought the Bible into existence How flatly the Confession denies such unhistorical claims! The Bible’s authority does not come from any church, nor does it rest on the word of any man It derives its authority wholly from God.

This is a very important section.  It is dealing with one of the most central problems of our religion.

The fifth section continues the theme of the fourth. It is a wonderfully balanced section Three-fourths of it is devoted to assuring us that reasonable arguments are valid as evidence of the fact that the Bible is God’s Word. The last fourth of the section assures us that complete certainty does not come from reason alone; but “from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”.

The fourth section declared that our acceptance of the Bible as God’s Word does not depend upon the authority of any man or church. This fifth section declares that the testimony of the church may induce us to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. The church does have its place. The Bible as we have it did not just drop from heaven—there has been a church on the earth all through the ages. That church has passed on the Bible from generation to generation. God has used the efforts of Christian people as a means of calling attention to the truth of His Word. The testimony of the church through the ages has a real importance in the evidence of the Bible but the authority of the Bible does not rest upon any man but upon its Author, who is God Himself,

This section declares the validity and importance of various arguments and evidences of the truth of the Bible. It says that by these facts “it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.” Despite these statements of the Confession there are people who try to tell us that we have no common ground for discussion with the unbeliever. They say in effect: “Don’t try to bring various arguments before the unbeliever to show him that the Bible is true. You have no common ground with him. All you can do is to tell him that he is over there and we are over here and he must give up all the bases of his viewpoint and adopt those of ours.” Such an attitude is utterly contrary to that of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Confession clearly teaches that there are many facts by which the Bible “doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.”

We do not need to take a presupposition or adopt a particular basis of thought before we can examine the evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. This section of the Westminster Confession lists various types of evidence and then says that the facts which it has stated “are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God”.

Yet arguments alone do not win men to Christ. People come face to face with the clear evidence and then turn and go the other way. This is because the truth contained in the Bible is so contrary to all the impulses of the sinful fallen human heart. It requires the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to induce sinful man to accept the conclusions to which the evidence clearly leads. In spite of the validity of these arguments, as declared by the Confession, the Confession goes on to say that full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scripture “is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”.

Since the time is going rapidly we shall not be able to examine all the remaining sections of the chapter in detail. We must, however, briefly note their principal features.

SECTIONS SIX TO EIGHT

The sixth section has three main thoughts. First, it stresses the completeness and sufficiency of the Bible for revelation of those religious truths which God desires us to know. Second, it states that “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word”. Third, it points out that it is not to be expected that precise instructions for all acts of religion will be contained in the Bible. God expects His people to use the brains He has given them in working out satisfactory means of accomplishing desired ends, always keeping, of course, within the area of action circumscribed by “the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed”.

The seventh section opposes the idea that simple people must abstain from seeking to interpret the Word of God themselves, or that they must uncritically accept any view that learned men or church leaders claim to derive from it. Words of Scripture are clear enough that a simple Christian can judge as to the correctness of interpretations which may be presented. The necessary truths of salvation are so clearly stated “that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”

I like the eighth section very much. It declares that the Bible in the original languages is the final authority in all controversies of religion. But it balances this by a declaration that people who do not know the original languages are also commanded to read and search the Scriptures, and that therefore the Scriptures “are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come”.

It is to be feared that this declaration of the Westminster Confession is not sufficiently followed today. We have a wonderful translation of the Bible into the English language as it was spoken more than three hundred years ago. No one speaks it that way today. The King James version is not in “the vulgar language” of our nation; it is in a dialect which is rapidly becoming unintelligible to our people. Word after word phrase after phrase expression after expression in it is meaningless to the unlearned people of our day. The Confession declares that it is the duty of the learned to study the Bible in the original, which is the only final court of appeal in all controversies. The unlearned are to search through it in a good translation in their common speech. It would be absurd to call the King James version a translation into the common speech of America today

It is the glory of the King James version that it is the climax of a century of constant effort by many men to discover the best way to translate the Bible into the language of their day. Unless we make similar efforts to attain a thoroughly satisfactory translation into the language of our day, we are failing in one of the great obligations stressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

THE GREAT INTERPRETER OF THE BIBLE

The ninth section names the great interpreter of the Scripture. This is not a pope, nor a professor. It is not Luther or Calvin or Wesley. It is not even the Westminster Confession of Faith. Nor is it our idea of what is coherent, or what may seem to us logically to belong to a proper system. It is the Scripture itself.

The Westminster Confession is one of the great Calvinistic creeds. Naturally it follows the view of Calvin himself, who put the Bible high above all creeds. Truth is coherent with itself, and all truths together form a system of truth. But Calvin insisted that each element must be gained directly from the Scripture. The human mind is too prone to error to permit it to build its system apart from dependence on the Bible at every point.

According to the Westminster Confession the sole infallible rule of interpretation of a passage of Scripture is other passages of Scripture. Plainly it upholds the scientific method of approach to the data of the Word. We must gather all the data on a given subject. If we leave out any passage that, deals with the particular subject, we are in danger of making a false interpretation. We must interpret difficult passages in the light of plain ones. We must go from the simple to the complex. We must use exactly the same method of gaining truth in religion as we would in any other field of science. The Scripture itself is the only infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture

It is worthy of note, also that all Scripture is included in this authority Our knowledge must not come from human speculation or logic, but from God’s Word We must be constantly alert to gain new insights into every part of the Bible, All of it is important No one book or section is singled out Sometimes I hear a book of the Bible cast aside with the statement: “Oh that is a symbolic book. We must base our doctrine upon the didactic portions of the New Testament. Such an attitude is in direct opposition to the views of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which insists that all Scripture is authoritative.

Every book of the Bible contains plain passages and every book contains passages that are less plain. We must gather the simple passages from all parts of the Bible, study them, and build our views upon what they seem to teach. Then we must check these interpretations by other passages; constantly increasing our knowledge of Scripture, and standing ready at all times to alter our formulations as better understanding gives us more light on the full meaning of Scripture “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.”

The tenth section sums up the authority of Scripture in the strongest possible terms. It puts it above all gatherings of Christians, all human creeds all opinions of ancient writers. It declares that the Supreme Judge in all matters of religion “can be none other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture”.

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First Martyr of the Modernist Controversy

perkins03So claimed Rev. Harry Rimmer. In his book Crossed Fingers, Dr. Gary North notes that on the day J. Gresham Machen died, the funeral for Rev. Arthur Perkins was held in Wisconsin. Perkins had died just three days prior to Machen’s passing. A year prior he had been in good health.

The Rev. Leslie A. Dunn, converted under the ministry of Rev. Perkins, paid tribute to him and told the story of his ministry, his conflict, and his death:

One who has for many years taken an uncompromising stand for the truths of the Gospel has gone to his reward. The Rev. Arthur F. Perkins did not enter the ministry until he was almost thirty years of age. Following conversion, he immediately gave up his former occupation and entered Christian service, witnessing to the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus Christ in out-of-the-way places in Central Wisconsin, where many found Jesus Christ as personal Savior through his tireless efforts and challenging messages.

[Following a first pastorate in Milwaukee], Mr. Perkins was called by the largest Presbytery in Wisconsin to become Field Director of that Presbytery, ministering to pastorless churches and working among unordained missionaries in twenty-one counties of central and northern Wisconsin. Hundreds found in Christ their salvation through Mr. Perkins, and many struggling churches under his supervision took on new life and became independent of Presbytery for their financial support.

Because Mr. Perkins always vigorously opposed Modernism and any kind of compromise with error or worldliness, he had much opposition. Because he encouraged young people to attend Wheaton College instead of the Presbyterian College nearby, he was criticized severely by the powers that be.

Because of his faithfulness to his Lord in these stewardship matters, there were those who sought to oust Mr. Perkins from his field directorship, even though it had never thrived as it had under his leadership. When Mr. Perkins opposed the ordination of two men who denied the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, he made his enemies more determined to oust him.

That he was not a seminary trained man was one pretext given for seeking his release from the responsible position he held. Other pretexts failed until he organized the Crescent Lake Bible Fellowship, where young people were enabled to attend a strictly sound summer conference at less than half the cost advertised by the other two conferences in the state. Although there was no Presbyterian conference in his Presbytery, still they insisted he disorganize this independent camp and disown it altogether. He refused to do so and brought much opposition against himself, resulting in his trial for insubordination. Presbytery’s judicial commission suspended him from the ministry for two years. Although he appealed the case to Synod and to General Assembly, he observed his suspension, and for months refrained from preaching and exercising the prerogatives of a minister. It was a long, hard strain, with added financial burdens because of the ecclesiastical trials. Dr. Harry Rimmer was his counsel and labored much for him. His people in the Merrill, Wisconsin congregation stood by him courageously with their sympathy, prayers and financial help.

When the General Assembly ousted him, with others, from the ministry last June (1936), he came back to Philadelphia and was one among thirty-five ministers who organized the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. He then returned to Wisconsin, and in Merrill a large number of people renounced the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and asked him to minister to them. The work in Merrill progressed; and Mr. Perkins spoke in many surrounding towns on the doctrinal crisis in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It was then that he had a nervous breakdown that resulted finally in his death on December 29.

The Lord has wonderfully used this man of God who refused to compromise with worldliness or error, or to soften his message to please men, and refused to listen to the counsels of men in order to win their votes in the councils of the Church, when it meant a denial of his Lord. May God’s sustaining grace be with his widow and three children surviving him!

Words to Live By:

The Rev. John J. DeWaard, of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, brought the sermon at the funeral of Rev. Perkins. His concluding words drove home the abiding heart concern of Perkins’s ministry:

To be saved is so great a thing that no man can earn it whatever he might do, and certainly no sinner could earn it. For the sinner by nature cannot do anything well pleasing unto God. I need only remind you that the word “save” means healing. It is a healing of body and soul alike. To be saved is to be delivered from this world of sin; to be saved is to be translated into our Father’s House with its many mansions. Salvation is the redemption of soul and body from the guilt and power of sin. The saved soul rejoices in the blessed assurance that all sin is forgiven for the Saviour’s sake, and the saved body, “being still united to Christ does rest in the grave until the resurrection.” Comprehensively, but simply, the Bible defines salvation in the terms, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” God is not a God of the dead but of the living. Such is the promise of the Bible, and God’s Word cannot be broken. Such is the promise of our Lord who died on the cross that this promise might become a reality to those who trust only in His name.
Mr. Perkins would want me to ask you a serious question: Are you saved? Will you by the strength of the Lord endure to the end, and keep the faith?

Of Archival Interest:

Through the generous donation of Rev. Robert Smallman, former pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church, Merrill, Wisconsin, where Rev. Perkins was the organizing pastor, the PCA Historical Center holds what constitutes the papers of the Rev. Arthur Perkins. The collection is small, consisting of 27 folders, with about half the materials concerning the ecclesiastical trial brought against Perkins by the Winnebago Presbytery.

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The Quiet Influence of a Canadian Presbyterian

Quiet workers, in God’s kingdom, are often found to have an abiding influence.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” – (Col. 3:23, NASB)

kikJMIn 1965, the following obituary (slightly edited here) appeared on the pages of Christianity Today, observing the passing of one of the founding editors of that magazine:

The Reverend J. Marcellus Kik was one of the first three members of the editorial staff of Christianity Today, from its inception in 1955. When the magazine was initially planned, advice was sought from hundreds of men in this country and abroad. None of the replies showed more depth of understanding and vision for this Christian witness than Mr. Kik’s. His long experience as a pastor and as editor of a church paper in Canada enabled him to make a significant and lasting contribution to this maga­zine, which he served as associate editor.

About 1960, Mr. Kik assumed the post of research editor. In that capacity he spent many months in Europe, particularly in Switzerland and Holland. In Geneva he received permis­sion to study all minutes’ of the consistory for the period of Calvin’s great ministry in that city, and also the min­utes of the city council dur­ing the same years. Mr. Kik had these minutes micro­filmed and then translated from seventeenth-century French into English. These indefatigable efforts brought to light the clear distinction Calvin made between his duties as a Christian citizen and the spiritual role of the corporate church in society.

During 1927 and 1928 Mr. Kik attended Princeton Theological Seminary, and he was part of the first class graduated from Westmin­ster Theological Seminary in the Spring of 1930. For the next twenty­-two years he held pastorates in Canada, where he also conducted a weekly radio program for thirteen years. He wrote a number of religious books and served on the Board of Trustees of both Westminster Seminary and Gordon College and Divinity School.

Mr. Kik continued his Calvin research up to the week of his death. In 1964, he underwent radical surgery from which he never fully recovered but which never daunted him in his work and witness for his Lord. He died in Philadelphia on October 22, in 1965.

Funeral services were held in the Second Reformed Church of Little Falls, New Jersey, of which he had been pastor for eleven years before joining the staff of Christianity Today. A testimony to his life echoed through the hymns sung at the service: “O, for a Thousand Tongues,” “Hallelujah! ‘What a Saviour!,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Jacob Marcellus Kik was born in Phillipsland, Netherlands on 24 December 1903. He attended Hope College, graduating in 1927 and then went on to Princeton Seminary, attending there from the Fall semester in 1927 through the Spring semester of 1929. He then transferred to the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary in the Fall of 1929 along with other Biblical conservatives. He graduated from Westminster in May of 1930, was ordained by Miramichi Presbytery on 29 October 1930 and pastored the Bass River and West Branch churches in New Brunswick, Canada from 1930 to 1933.

Rev. Kik’s influential role began early on, as noted in this article, speaking of the situation in Canada in the 1930’s and following:

“A pattern had been established. Independent Presbyterian journals presented an opportunity for minorities to present their views and gain an audience. Only a decade after church union, a new independent journal would appear. Bible Christianity owed much to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s from which Canada was largely spared. The magazine, supported by W. D. Reid, minister of the well-heeled Stanley Church, Westmount, Montreal, became known for its outspoken opposition to what it perceived as liberalism in the continuing church. Bible Christianity was edited by J. Marcellus Kik, a Presbyterian minister who was among the first graduates of Westminster Seminary after it split from Princeton in 1929. Kik had been minister in New Brunswick but came to Montreal in 1936 and served there in various capacities (for a time as full-time editor and religious broadcaster) from 1936 to 1952. [The later Bible Presbyterian, which was published out of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, by dissident Presbyterian minister Malcolm MacKay.]” — Note: Vol. 1, no. 1 of Bible Christianity is now posted in PDF format.

Another article, on the early history of the Banner of Truth Trust, notes the influence of Rev. Kik:

“Among Professor Murray’s chief concerns was the restoration of true preaching. One who shared this view was the Rev J Marcellus Kik, a trustee of Westminster Seminary. This subject was discussed with Mr. Kik when he was present in London in 1961. As a result he carried back to Professor Murray in Philadelphia a proposal that a conference should be held for ministers the following year in the UK, concentrating specifically on the need for a renewal of preaching.” [Thus the beginnings of the annual Banner of Truth Pastors’ Conferences.]

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