January 2016

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It was on this day, January 21st, in 1843 that The Charleston Observer published a letter from the Rev. Nathan Hoyt, in which he took care to defend the views of Dr. Samuel Miller, stating that Miller was quite clearly opposed to plagiarism and anything which might be construed as such. In proof of his point, Hoyt provided a letter from the Princeton professor, in which he sets for his high standard and consistent expectation for the ministry.

[For the Charleston Observer]

Charleston, S.C., January 21, 1843.

Brother Gildersleeve,—During the sessions of the Hopewell Presbytery, recently convened in Greensboro’, it was asserted, no doubt through mistake, that the Rev. Dr. Miller of Princeton, did not disapprove of one Minister’s making use of the plans or skeletons of another in his public performances. I addressed a letter to Dr. Miller, touching this point, and also requesting him to give me his views relative to Plagiarism, as I had been requested by some members of Presbytery to write and publish an article upon that subject. I send with this a copy of almost the entire letter of Dr. M., and would request you to publish it in the Observer, as I have his permission to make what use of it I think proper. It is due to this venerable Father in the Ministry that thosee portions of his letter which I herewith transmit, should be published, ast least, throughout the bounds of Hopewell Presbytery.

Whoever reads the Doctor’s letter will perceive that he is the last man upon earth to sanction any approach to Plagiarism. I regard this letter, (which the Doctor says was written in haste,) as richly worthy of being preserved. Yours, &c.

N. Hoyt.

Athens, Jan. 10, 1842.

(Copy,) “Princeton, Dec. 29, 1842.


miller_Samuel_1812Rev.
and Dear Brother,—Your letter of the 21st instant, reached me last evening; and, though somewhat pressed with engagements, I seize the first opportunity to reply. It has always been my aim, in my Lectures on Sermonizing, to express the strongest disapprobation of Plagiarism in every form, as basely deceptive and mean, as really immoral in its character, and as calculated to injure the man who practices it, and ultimately, if he be a Minister, those who attend on his ministrations. When I have been asked what Plagiarism is? I have uniformly answered, that it is not easy, in all cases to draw the line. On all the great leading subjects of pulpit instruction, there is a large mass of common-place ideas which have been repeated by successive writers, for hundreds of years past. He who, in preaching on Faith and Repentance—on Justification and Sanctification—on Christian hope and Eternal Blessedness—should resolve to say nothing but what was strictly original with himself; nothing that had ever been expressed, even in substance, by any one before, would certainly never be able to preach at all. In this sense, no man, however great his talents or his learning, can hope to be regarded as an original at the present day.

[pictured above right, Dr. Samuel Miller, as portrayed by the artist Thomas Sully, in 1812]

If a preacher, at the present day, were about to prepare a sermon on the doctrine of Original Sin, or on the doctrine of Atonement—and, as a preparation for the work, were carefully to read over President Edwards‘ Treatise on the former subject, and Mr. Symington’s on the latter—and even then to compose his Sermons on those subjects respectively in strict conformity with the Treatises just mentioned—but in his own language throughout—I should not charge him with Plagiarism; the substance would, in this case be borrowed, but the style, the form, would be all his own. I do not know that there is, in either of those books, a single truth which had not been substantially set forth by preceding writers; but there is in each of them a clearness, a force, and an amplitude of illustration, which render their works, respectively, of great value. But I have always denounced as Plagiarism, in the true and proper sense of that word, any of the following practices, viz.:—

I. When a writer or speaker delivers, as his own, the whole, or the greater part of the work of another, in the language of the original writer. This is the most gross and shameful form of the offence.

II. When a writer or speaker copies the whole plan of another—adopting his divisions, his subdivisions, and, in the main, his whole arrangement—making only some trivial alteration here and there in the style and minuter details, for the sake of avoiding the charge of being a servile copyist; such a person deserves to be called a Plagiarist. He is nothing but an humble retailer of the thoughts and language of others.

III. He who allows himself to copy verbatim even a single paragraph, without acknowledgment, exposes himself to the charge of Plagiarism. One who means to be strictly delicate and accurate on this subject will never copy the very words of another, without advertising his hearers or readers of the fact, by saying, as he passes along–”to use the language of another,” or “in the language of an elegant writer,” &c. I would certainly advise that this be done, even if the quotation extend only to a single sentence.

IV. If a thought be very striking and original, I would not allow myself to adopt it, without acknowledgment, even if it were expressed in my own language. It were easy to select some remarkably beautiful thoughts from Bacon, from Milton, or other great masters, of sentiment and diction, which so exclusively belong to them, and that it were great injustice to repeat any of them without tracing the property to its right owner, either by directly naming him, or acknowledging, in some way, that they do not belong to him who quotes them.

I have sometimes advised my pupils, whenever they hear sermons which exhibit a very striking or happy plan, to make a record of it, and have suggested to them, that although copying the plan or plans, thus recorded on the same texts, or even when treating the same subjects, would be Plagiarism; yet, that to a watchful, active mind, looking out for analogies and relations, a happy plan on one subject may suggest a still more happy one on an allied subject—or even on one very remote at first view.

I have never given any advice or counsel different from what I have above stated. If Mr. _____” makes any different representations, he misunderstood and misrepresents me. Yet I can easily imagine how he might have mis-apprehended my suggestion—stated in the preceding paragraph—respecting striking plans of sermons. By a little inadvertence, he might have supposed me to mean, that such plans might, with propriety be used, when preaching afterwards on the same texts.

I am, my dear Sir, with much respect, your friend and brother in Christ,

SAMUEL MILLER.”

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, III.17 (21 January 1843): 9, where it first appeared in print. The letter was subsequently included in volume 2 of The Life of Samuel Miller, pp. 450-452.]

Image source: The Princeton University Library Chronicle, volume XIV, Number 3 (Winter 1953)

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How did it get so bad?

by Rev. David T. Myers

When I was a pastor, the question of our title was once asked of me by a couple of Christians who simply did not know how their local PCUSA church, which had been started by their Scottish and Irish ancestors, could have sunk so low in its adherence to the Bible. It was the beginning of a spiritual journey by them into the Presbyterian Church in America.

BriggsCharlesACertainly there were many instances of spiritual departure all through the early years of Presbyterianism in America, many of which have been discussed on this blog since we began in 2012. But the real and damaging departure into apostasy, which continues today, came with the introduction into theological liberalism by Charles Augustus Briggs. He was the first major advocate of Higher Criticism into the American Presbyterian scene.

As American theological students finished their training here and then went to Europe for advanced training, they were introduced there to liberal ideas regarding Holy Scripture. The question was simply stated: “Were the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments inspired of God, the only infallible rule of faith and life, without error in the original languages?” Higher Criticism concluded that the Bible was not inspired, inerrant, and infallible. And so Charles Briggs studied under their Bible-denying ideas in Germany, 1866-69, and returned to America, eventually taking a post teaching Hebrew at Union Theological Seminary in New York, 1874-91, and then becoming the school’s new Professor of Biblical Theology. He was inaugurated as Professor on this day, January 20, in 1891. In his opening address to the seminary, he boldly set forth his denial of the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.

While this seminary of the Presbyterian Church was friendly to this new view, the denomination was not. Led by the conservative theologians of Princeton Theological Seminary, like A.A. Hodge, the General Assembly refused to accept that appointment. Twice he would be tried by the New York Presbytery of the denomination for heresy, and twice the regional body would declare him not guilty of errors. Soon the denomination entered by appeal into the issue, and two years later, deposed him, assessing him as a heretic with his denial of Scriptures. He joined the Episcopal church, and continued on at Union Seminary.

Union Seminary kept the polarizing figure by withdrawing from the Presbyterian denomination. However, the latter continued to receive into its ranks graduates of Union Theological Seminary. By 1924, the Auburn Affirmation was published, as has been described in other posts on this blog. The modern apostasy had begun in the church with this denial of Scripture. Once Scripture is denied, then other biblical truths fall by the wayside in both doctrine and practice.

Words to Live By:

The first ordination vow of the Presbyterian Church in America reads, “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Every teaching and ruling elder, to say nothing of deacons in the church, must adhere to this vow. Our presbyteries and the General Assembly must seek to keep the church pure in doctrine. If we do not, then present and future members might be asking how our church has became so theological liberal in faith and life. Let us learn from the past and remain true to the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God, the Bible.

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After Much Coldness and Insensibility of Heart
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was on Sunday evening, January 19, 1812, that Daniel Baker wrote in his diary the following words:

“This day, after much coldness and insensibility of heart, it pleased God to revive my spirits, and grant me sweet comfort and refreshment in attending upon our praying society. I would desire to return the Great Fountain of all mercies my humble and sincere thanks for the establishment of this society, inasmuch as he has made it so beneficial to my soul, and that of my fellow members, and has permitted sweet delight and comfort to flow from it, to water and refresh our thirst souls.”

Let me zero in on the expression above “after much coldness and insensibility of heart.” Reader, if you attend a Bible-believing Presbyterian Church, please be aware that your pastors are men of like passions as you are. They are flesh and blood believers, albeit men trained by both life and education to handle the Word of God in pulpit and in homes. Sometimes, the people in the pew expect too much of them, demanding every moment of their time. This is seen in the pastoral schedules that the members of the church demand that they keep.

This author began his pastoral ministry in this country in a smaller congregation. It was expected of me to preach two sermons on the Lord’s day, besides teaching an adult Sunday School class and leading the youth group that Sunday evening. Once a quarter, the church had committed to a rest home service, where another sermon was expected. Then of course, the Wednesday night study and prayer time, a Bible study during the week in the home, visitation to hospitals and homes were regularly required. I can understand Daniel Baker’s acknowledgment of “much coldness and insensibility of heart” on occasions during that pastorate.

To our subscribers of This Day in Presbyterian History, understand that your pastor’s role in the church from both the pulpit and to the pew is for “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (See Ephesians 4:11 – 12) The more spiritual equipping which is done in the body of Christ will cause the congregation to join him in the great spiritual work of that local church to itself, to the community, to your state, and to the world.

Words to Live By:
Pray weekly for your pastor, his spiritual needs, for him in his responsibilities to his family, for him as he equips you for ministry to build up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11 – 16)

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This day, January 18th, marks the publication in 1937 of H.L. Mencken’s now famous obituary in memory of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Here was perhaps a fine example of Proverbs 16:7—”When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” As James Daniel Barr has noted elsewhere:

Even the atheist Mencken, who often wrote caustically against those who held the Christian faith, actually defended Machen’s stance. After a cogent analysis of Machen’s argument, he completely sided with him, saying: “The body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general” (Mencken, 1937, p. 15). Furthermore, he said, the efforts of modernists to square their positon with the faith in the Bible “is a vain enterprise” (1937). Mencken concluded by saying that though Machen tried to persuade his fellow Presbyterians throughout his career, “he failed–but he was undoubtedly right” (1937).

H. L. MENCKEN’S OBITUARY OF MACHEN

The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D., who died out in North Dakota on New Year’s Day, got, on the whole, a bad press while he lived, and even his obituaries did much less than justice to him. To newspaper reporters, as to other antinomians, a combat between Christians over a matter of dogma is essentially a comic affair, and in consequence Dr. Machen’s heroic struggles to save Calvinism in the Republic were usually depicted in ribald, or, at all events, in somewhat skeptical terms. The generality of readers, I suppose, gathered thereby the notion that he was simply another Fundamentalist on the order of William Jennings Bryan and the simian faithful of Appalachia. But he was actually a man of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.

What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen’s attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.

My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious. I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism. But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear. Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position. On the one hand they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful, but on the other hand they presumed to repeal and reenact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested. In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there. Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. His operations, to be sure, did not prove that Holy Writ was infallible either as history or as theology, but they at least disposed of those who proposed to read it as they might read a newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what they chose.

In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. When the Prohibition imbecility fell upon the country, and a multitude of theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for it into the New Testament, he attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily. He not only proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly; he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused, as a convinced and honest Christian, to have anything to do with the dry jehad.

This rebellion against a craze that now seems so incredible and so far away was not the chief cause of his break with his ecclesiastical superiors, but it was probably responsible for a large part of their extraordinary dudgeon against him. The Presbyterian Church, like the other evangelical churches, was taken for a dizzy ride by Prohibition. Led into the heresy by fanatics of low mental visibility, it presently found itself cheek by jowl with all sorts of criminals, and fast losing the respect of sensible people. Its bigwigs thus became extremely jumpy on the subject, and resented bitterly every exposure of their lamentable folly.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country’s most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan’s support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been challenged in recent years on many grounds, and in consequence there has been a considerable decline in religious belief. There was a time, two or three centuries ago, when the overwhelming majority of educated men were believers, but that is apparently true no longer. Indeed, it is my impression that at least two-thirds of them are now frank skeptics. But it is one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its essential substance, leaving it in the equivocal position of a sort of pseudo-science, comparable to graphology, “education,” or osteopathy.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again–in Henrik Ibsen’s phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed–but he was undoubtedly right.

[H.L. Mencken’s eulogy for Dr. J. Gresham Machen originally appeared in The Baltimore Evening Sun on January 18, 1937, second section, page 15.]

 

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

Q. 60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified? 

A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Scripture References: Lev. 23:3; Ps. 92:1-2; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:11-12; Jer. 17:21,22.

Questions:

1. What do we mean ·by sanctifying the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is sanctified by God in that He made it holy. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by man by man’s keeping it holy, by his using it for other purposes than his regular employments.

2.
What two things are we to do on the Sabbath day?

We are given permission by God to do two things: holy resting and holy worship.

3.
From what are we to rest on the Sabbath day?

We are to rest from all things that are not of necessity and mercy. This means that we are to rest even from things that are not sinful; that are lawful on other days, such as worldly employments and recreations.

4. When we speak of “holy worship” do we mean we must spend all day in church?

No, it is not meant that all day must be spent in church but it is meant that we should spend our time in either public or private worship. It should be a time for our souls to be renewed by God as we worship Him in prayer, Bible study, family worship.

5.
Would you say it is alright to rest the body on the Sabbath day?

Yes, it would be well within the keeping of the commandment to rest the body. This is one of the reasons for the Sabbath day for God knew in the beginning that the body would need one day of rest out of seven.

6.
Should there be any preparation for the Sabbath day?

Yes, there should be both physical and spiritual preparation. For example, everything possible should be done prior to the day in the physical realm so that the day might be spent as unto Him. Our devotional article speaks of the spiritual preparation.

PREPARATION FOR THE SABBATH

The family is gathered in church on Sunday morning. The service is about to start. The minister asks a question, asks it even before the Invocation. He asks, “How many of you have taken time to prepare your souls for this, the Lord’s Day?” How would we answer such a question; what would have been our answer last Sunday morning?

There has been much said regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day, and this is proper. Indeed, our country is guilty of breaking it time and time again and born again Christians are joining in. But possibly some emphasis should be put on the matter of preparation for the day. There seems to be little said about this important aspect. It might well be there would be less breaking of the Sabbath if there was more preparation for it!

How can we prepare for the Sabbath day? What things would be important for us to do in order that we might be better prepared to spend the day as the Lord would have us to spend it? The following list might be helpful as we seek to live unto Him in this area:

1. Dedicate the day to the Lord beforehand and rejoice at the prospect of it. Recognize this is truly the Lord’s Day. We should seek, by His grace, to make it a special day of blessing to our souls.

2. Use a good portion of the time on Saturday evening for a spiritual retreat. Closet yourself with the Word, with prayer, filling your soul with the things that be of God. Recognize that your heart needs to be cleansed from the things of the world, necessary things possibly, but things that have entered in to choke the Word.

3. Use some time for meditation. Instead of only reading the Word and praying, think on the things of God and of God Himself. Think on His works, on His holiness, on the wonderful fact of redemption, on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Pray for the minister, pray that he will be prepared for the preaching of the Word, the primary means of grace. Hold him up before the Throne of Grace, pray that he will be a fit vessel for the Master’s use.

It is time that God’s people, His saved, prepare themselves for the Lord’s Day and its activities. As the people of Israel had to wash their bodies before the law was presented to them, so should the believers in Christ prepare their souls for the Lord’s Day. (Ex. 19:10). Think of what the result could be in His work if His people were to make some spiritual retreats in preparation for His day!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 55 (July 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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A Review of a Book on the Scottish Covenanters
by Rev. David T. Myers

You take notice of a book when, on the covers are favorable reviews of the book by James Boice, D. James Kennedy, Morton Smith and J. Ligon Duncan. Even though two of the above Presbyterian ministers are now members of the triumphant church while two are still in the militant church on earth, their joint commendations should prompt each of our readers to buy and read this 432 page book. Written by a PCA ruling elder of Grace Presbyterian Church, Aiken, South Carolina, Edwin Nisbet Moore, it asks the soul searching question, “How much are you prepared to go through for the sake of the truth?”

In essence, Edwin Moore traces the religious heritage of his Scottish ancestor, John Nisbet and one John Nevay, who believed and lived in the late seventeenth century during the “Killing times” of the Covenanters in the land of Scotland. Episcopalian or Anglican clergy had replaced the faithful Presbyterian pastors in the land, sending their under shepherds away to the fields and mountains of the country to minister in difficult circumstances the truths of the Reformation in Scotland. When John Nisbet refused to baptize his child in the Anglican faith, all his worldly wealth was lost, his wife and daughter died, and ultimately he suffered execution for the faith of the Covenanters.

And yet what is remarkable about this book written in the year 2000, is not just the history of the life and times of these Scottish Presbyterian pastors and people who chose to preserve their God-given faith in difficult times. It is also the continuing challenge of living for Christ faithfully as we face increasing spiritual and physical difficulties as Christians, and Reformed Christians in our beloved land of America.

So for us today, author Moore spends the last half of the book of 190 pages in drawing lessons from the Covenanters. The six lessons which he amplifies, follows:

      1. All true Christians can be called Covenanters, for the central theme of the Bible is God’s Covenant of grace.

      2. The church must re-establish unity in truth as attained during the Second Reformation and the apostolic era.

      3. Christians must put their covenant obligations and duty to be God’s people first. This requires closing with Christ and improving the relationship daily.

      4. Christians must fulfill their biblical obligations to make disciples of all nations and to be the light and salt of the world.

      5. Christians must covenant with God and should covenant with one another to seek reformation of their lives, churches, and society in accordance with the Word of God.

This author believes that this book on “Our Covenant Heritage” would make an excellent group study for our Presbyterian Sessions, to say nothing of the members of our Presbyterian churches in church or home Bible studies.

After all, the haunting question remains, “How much are you prepared to go through for the sake of truth?”. And, we can add, how much is your church willing to go through for the sake of truth?

The book is entitled Our Covenant Heritage, written by Edwin Nisbet Moore, and published by Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, published in the year 2000.

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This day, January 15, in 1966 marks the death of the Rev. Flournoy Shepperson.

sheppersonSrFlournoy Shepperson was licensed and ordained in July of 1917 by the Ouchita Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. His first pastorate was in a yoked ministry to the Presbyterian churches of Magnolia and Mt. Holly, Arkansas, serving there 1908 to 1911. Rev. Shepperson next pastored the Presbyterian church in Monticello, Arkansas from 1911 to 1920, before answering a call to serve Purity Presbyterian church in Chester, South Carolina, from 1921-1925. His last pastorate in the PCUS was with the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC, which he served from 1925 to 1940. He then withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian denomination and united with the Bible Presbyterian Synod, while his brother David remained within the PCUS. Upon leaving the PCUS, Dr. Shepperson planted a Bible Presbyterian church in Greenville with an initial congregation of 335 members. The church later took the name Augusta Street Presbyterian church, and eventually became part of the PCA, though it was dissolved in 1996. The Augusta Street church was also notable as the original location of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

shepperson_BPchurch03

Oddly, Second Presbyterian of Greenville—the church that Dr. Shepperson left—later became one of the founding churches of the PCA, in 1973, and it was not until 1982 when the Augusta Street church also joined the PCA, as part of the Joining and Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

From the Memorial read at the 144th RPCES General Synod:

Dr. Shepperson was among those who very early sensed the rising tide of unbelief in his own Presbyterian denomination and took a strong stand against it. It was under his leadership that there was formed a new Presbyterian church in his own city of Greenville, South Carolina, completely separated from apostasy, which church has grown to be one of the largest and most influential churches of our Synod.

Dr. Shepperson was an able and faithful preacher of the Word of God. He possessed a sense of humor that often brightened and enlivened his messages. This he did not lose even in that period of ill health that preceded his death. Many of us can testify to the rich blessing of his ministry from our own pulpits. Those of us who knew him intimately can also testify to his deep devotion to his Lord and to the consequent blessing always experienced in fellowship with him.

We are all aware of the fact that our loss is his great gain. We know that for him to depart this earthly life was to immediately be with Christ, which is far better. We believe that he could honestly echo the words of the great apostle, “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Dr. Shepperson had three sons, two of whom entered the ministry, and a daughter. Flournoy Shepperson, Jr. was ordained in the BPC and later came into the RPCES. He pastored churches in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittstown, PA, Savannah, GA, Durham, NC and Tampa, FL. Dr. Shepperson’s son Sam was also ordained in the BPC and later affiliated with the PCA. He had a long pastorate in Arkansas and is now honorably retired. It was Sam who so graciously provided the news clipping and photograph of his father.

Words to Live By: The Church is blessed with many faithful pastors. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the relative few who stray in doctrine or practice, and we forget to praise God for how He works through those who remain faithful and steadfast year after year. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle, and your pastor is on the front lines. Remember to pray for him.

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With slighting editing, our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s work, A History of the Presbyterian Church in America: from its origin until the year 1760. (1857):—

The Rev. Daniel Elmer was pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, Fairfield, New Jersey, from 1729-1755. Rev. Elmer was the eighth pastor of this church, which had been organized in 1680. The church is now a member of the PCA. Rev. Elmer was preceded there by the Rev. Noyes Parris [1724-1729] and following him at that pulpit was the Rev. William Ramsey 1756-1771].

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Daniel Elmer was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1690, and graduated from Yale in 1713. He married soon after, and, “for some time, carried on the work of the ministry” in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
The General Court allowed the town twenty pound for three years, to aid in sustaining the gospel. Elmer received only half of this encouragement, having left before 1715. Where he spent the next twelve years is not known. In 1728, he settled at Fairfield, in Cohanzy. At the declaring for the Confession, in 1729, he was the only minister who professed himself unprepared to act. Time was granted him to consider; and the next year he informed the Synod that he had declared before the presbytery his cordial adoption of the Confession and the Catechism.

Whitefield visited West Jersey in the spring of 1740. Gilbert Tennent was there in the summer; and, while Whitefield was preaching (November 19) on Wednesday, the Holy Ghost came down “like a mighty rushing wind” at Cohanzy. Some thousands were present. The whole congregation was moved, and two cried out.

At the separation in 1741, Rev. Elmer and his elder, Jonathan Fithian, though present at the opening of the sessions, seems to have gone home before the Protest was introduced. He adhered to the Old Side. The congregation divided: even his own son occasionally went to Greenwich to hear Andrew Hunter.

Finley spent much time in the vicinity; and New Brunswick Presbytery was constantly importuned for supplies, and their most promising candidates were sent to Cohanzy.

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>At Elmer’s request, Cowell, McHenry, and Kinkaid were sent
 by the Synod, in September, 1754, to endeavor to remove the difficulties he complained of in his congregation; but all proceedings were stayed by his death. He lies buried in the Old New England town-graveyard, with this inscription:

In memory of the Rev. Daniel Elmer, late pastor of Christ’s Church in this place, who departed this life, January 14, 1755, aged sixty-five years.”

Dr. Alison wrote to President Stiles, July 20, 1755, informing him that the two parts of Elmer’s congregation had united on his death, and introducing Mr. Thomas Ogden, whom they had sent as their messenger to Connecticut to procure a minister.

Elmer married Margaret, daughter of Ebenezer Parsons, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, and sister of the Rev. Jonathan Parsons, of Newburyport; she was the mother of three sons and four daughters. His second wife was a Webster, the mother of two sons and three daughters.

His son Daniel was born in 1714, and was the father of Dr. Jonathan and General Ebenezer Elmer.

Words to Live By:
Honesty goes a long way. Courage too. As you have time it would be a worthwhile exercise to review what the Bible says about honesty. Rev. Elmer was forthright in declaring first, in 1729, his caution over subscribing to the Confession, and then a year later he was again honest in stepping forward to acknowledge his adoption of the Confession and Catechisms. Had he in good conscience been unable to adopt the Westminster Standards, we trust he would have done the right thing and withdrawn his affiliation to another, more like-minded denomination, for the basis of trust and fellowship rests upon a common affirmation or understanding of what the Scriptures teach, as exemplified in this case by the Westminster Standards. The historical reference here is to the Adopting Act of 1729, in which it was decided that all Presbyterian pastors would have to make a declaration, affirming their adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as being in full accord with what the Scriptures teach.

The text of the Synod minutes from that meeting, with mention of Rev. Elmer, is as follows (see the above link for the full context):

§ 8. The Adopting Act.
[The foregoing paper was adopted in the morning. In the afternoon took place “The Adopting Act.”]
“All the Ministers of this Synod now present, except one,* that declared himself not prepared, viz., Masters Jedediah Andrews, Thomas Craighead, John Thomson, James Anderson, John Pierson, Samuel Gelston, Joseph Houston, Gilbert Tennent, Adam Boyd, Jonathan Dickinson, John Bradner, Alexander Hutchinson, Thomas Evans, Hugh Stevenson, William Tennent, Hugh Conn, George Gillespie, and John Willson, after proposing all the scruples that any of them had to make against any articles and expressions in the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, have unanimously agreed in the solution of those scruples, and in declaring the said Confession and Catechisms to be the confession of their faith, excepting only some clauses in the twentieth and twenty-third chapters, concerning which clauses the Synod do unanimously declare, that they do not received those articles in any such sense as to suppose the civil magistrate hath a controlling power over Synods with respect to the exercise of their ministerial authority; or power to persecute any for their religion, or in any sense contrary to the Protestant succession to the throne of Great Britain.
“The Synod observing that unanimity, peace, and unity, which appeared in all their consultations and determinations relating to the affair of the Confession, did unanimously agree in giving thanks to God in solemn prayer and praises.”–Ibid.

[*Mr. Elmer. He gave in his assent at the next meeting of the Synod.]

 

 

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Resolute in the Face of Obstacle and Opposition.

cornish_samuelThe nation’s first Presbyterian church, organized specifically for African Americans, was located in Philadelphia and it was organized in 1807. But it was on this day, January 13th, in 1822, that what was sometimes labled the First Colored Presbyterian Church of New York City, or officially the New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church, was organized, with an initial congregation of twenty four members. The Rev. Samuel E. Cornish served as the organizing pastor, though despite his earnest efforts, the congregation’s early years were fraught with setbacks. First they lost their building, that had been built at a cost of $14,000, and then they lost their pastor in 1828, due to his declining health.

Samuel Eli Cornish [1795-1858], (pictured above), labored as a Presbyterian pastor, was an ardent opponent of slavery, and in 1827 became one of the two editors of Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans. He also served as a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (established in 1833), and held important positions within the American Bible Society and the American Missionary Association.

wrightTS_1797-1847The next man called by the congregation in 1829 was the Rev. Theodore S. Wright (pictured at right), trained in part at Princeton Seminary and licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Albany. Under his leadership the congregation was able to obtain the former German Lutheran church at Frankfort and William Streets and from that time forward, until Rev. Wright’s death in 1847, the congregation prospered.

Together with Samuel Cornish, Rev. Wright was in 1833 one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and served on its executive committee until 1840. Leaving that post, he next worked with fellow abolitionists to begin the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and also served to chair the New York Vigilance Committee which worked to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks who were then being sold into slavery. In conjunction with these efforts, he opened his home as a station on the Underground Railroad.

Of the Rev. Wright, one of his closest friends said of him,

“This devout man of God, ever in the service of his Divine Master, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of humble yet unyielding faith, full of the Holy Ghost, both as a preacher and a doer of the word, always interested, in season and out of season, in the religious state of his friends and parishioners, whose kindly voice would break in upon, no matter what discussion, with the inquiry, ‘Brother, do you enjoy religion?’ ‘Do you love Jesus Christ?’ An abolitionist of the purest water and most devoted zeal, this worthy minister cherished a warm interest in the necessity for educating to the fullest extent capable colored youth as a means of elevating his people.”

Words To Live By:
Time does not permit us here to tell at length their full stories, and I hope you will search out the matter further and read more about Rev. Cornish and Rev. Wright. There is much that we can learn from their ministries, and I don’t pretend that we have done them justice with the above brief account, other than to make you aware of them.
Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there a more important question? It is only when we are drawn to Christ and find forgiveness of our own sin that we can then offer hope and resolution to a sin-sick world. But lest those words become glib, remember that the Christian life is a sacrificial life, meant to be expended on behalf of others as we point a dying world to the only true Savior. The cost is real, but so is the Life.

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The Means for Revival at a Presbyterian College
by Rev. David T. Myer

Ashbel Green [1762-1848]In the Life of Ashbel Green, available on-line, we have a summary of the means of a biblical revival which took place at the College of New Jersey, of which Ashbel Green was its president. Prior to this revival, only twelve students out of one hundred and five were counted as professors of the Christian faith in the college. The report to the trustees of the college is too long to be reproduced here, but a succinct summary can be given to the divine means used, which means are remarkably up-to-date for professing Christians in our day and age. They are:

          1. The revival came “chiefly, in the study of Scriptures,” which were “accompanied with comments on the portion read, and a practical application of the leading truths contained in it.”

          2. Dr. Green continued to write that “under the divine blessing, it has served to enlighten and instruct the youth in their duty; it has rendered their minds solemn and tender beyond what they were themselves aware of at the time, it has given them a deep reverence for the truth of divine revelation, it has gratified them to hear preaching with advantage, and at length, revealed truth has, we trust, been powerfully and effectually applied to their consciences, by the Spirit . . . .

          3. The Presbyterian clergyman/college president went on to write of “their attendance at public worship” for the second means, as “favorable to their religious improvement.” He went on to state “the modes of conducting public worship must be considered as being a powerful instrumental cause, both in producing an awakened attention to religion at first, and in cherishing it through the whole of its progress.

          4. The effect of moral discipline, Dr. Green observed in this report to the trustees, “has been manifestly favorable to this revival.” Evidently, three students had been dismissed from the student body for conduct unbecoming to the biblical base of the college. The effect of that was used by the Spirit of God to impress upon the students the importance of godly living.

          5. Lastly, Dr. Green commends the few pious youth (remember only 12 students in the whole college) who prayed for revival and then happily sought to impress upon their fellow students the claims of Christian living upon their lives.

The entire report is a remarkable survey of revival in the early eighteen hundreds at this Presbyterian college. What stands out to this author is that there is nothing new under the sun, so to speak, for their day or for ours. All of our Presbyterian entities – colleges, seminaries, local churches, sessions, boards of deacons, presbyteries, and yes, even general assemblies, have access to the same means mentioned in this report to the college trustees.

Words to Live By:
The Psalmist David gave us our marching orders via a prayer for revival of ourselves and those of our relationships in Psalm 85:6 “Will You not Yourself revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?” Personalize this text . . . by praying it for yourself, for your family, for your local congregation, for your Presbytery, and yes, for your General Assembly!

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