February 2016

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In the Minutes of the Thirty-third General Assembly (2005) of the Presbyterian Church in America, pp. 56-58, we find this tribute to the life and ministry of Alta Woods Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, which was organized on this day, February 29th, in 1948, and which was merged with the Pearl Presbyterian Church of Pearl, Mississippi in 2005:—

COMMUNICATION 3 from Mississippi Valley Presbytery

Recognition of the Alta Woods Presbyterian Church 1948 – 2005

Whereas, Alta Woods Presbyterian Church was established as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States on Daniel Loop in South Jackson by Central Mississippi Presbytery on February 29, 1948 unto the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and

Whereas, Alta Woods sought to uphold the inerrancy and sufficiency of Holy Scripture in a time when both have been seriously challenged and she held forth freely the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way of
salvation, and

Whereas, Alta Woods under the leadership of Rev. B. I. Anderson was instrumental in the formation of the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley in 1973 for the preservation of a Biblical church through a well trained
and Bible believing ministry, being a charter church, and

Whereas, the pastor and ruling elders of Alta Woods Presbyterian were actively engaged in the formation and establishment of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, being represented at the convocation of sessions on May 18, 1973 and at subsequent General Assemblies of the PCA, and

Whereas, Alta Woods directly encouraged men to pursue the gospel ministry through generous support of students, sending out many sons into the ministry of the PCA and impacting our community, country and world
with gospel zeal, and

Whereas, Alta Woods was directly responsible for the support of Rev. Al LaValley with his planting of the West Springfield Covenant Community Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the support of Rev. Rodney
Collins for his planting of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Laconia, New Hampshire, for the sending of Rev. Bill Inman to Crystal, New Mexico to pastor the Navajo Indigenous Church, and for the establishment of South
India Reformed Theological Institute through the work of Dr. Tom Cherian, and

Whereas, Alta Woods nurtured a missionary vision that supported and sent missionaries who served around the world, as well as mission groups to Columbia, South America; Crystal, New Mexico and West Springfield, Massachusetts, and

Whereas, Alta Woods grew to become the second largest Presbyterian Church in Jackson under the able leadership of pastors: Rev. A. N. Moffett (1948-55), Rev. B. I. Anderson (1955-85), Dr. Steve Jussely (1989-96), and Dr. Merle Messer (1996-present). She further enjoyed the dedicated leadership of associate pastors: Rev. Bill Bratley and Rev. Roger Collins, and assistant pastors: Rev. Don Craft, Rev. John Keubler, Rev. Timothy Meyer, and Rev. Judson Davis as well as many notable youth ministers and interns. Moreover Alta Woods has been blessed with many dedicated ruling elders who have guided the church and participated in presbytery and the PCA with sacrificial service and devotion, and

Whereas, under the faithful leadership of Dr. Merle Messer, Alta Woods desires to continue her ministry in union with the Pearl Presbyterian Church, of Pearl, Mississippi,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley give all praise to Jesus Christ as the head of the church for his mighty work in and through the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation over the last fifty seven years and that we offer thanksgiving for her valuable role in the establishment of our presbytery and her faithful work among us for the building up of the church. Moreover, let us express our joy and extend our deepest desires for the successful union of the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation into the Pearl Presbyterian congregation that together they might know the continued blessing of our sovereign God upon their ministry and outreach. May this united work serve to bring greater glory to Jesus Christ.

Let it further be resolved that this resolution be signed by the clerk of Mississippi Valley Presbytery and spread upon the minutes of this presbytery, and

Let it further be resolved that an official copy of this resolution be sent to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to be included in the official minutes of the PCA General Assembly that all might marvel at the great work of Christ as the head of the church and might pray for his greater blessing upon the union of the Pearl and Alta Woods congregations.

To God alone be all the glory given!

Adopted by The Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley on June 7, 2005.
/s/ Roger G. Collins
Stated Clerk

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Back-tracking slightly, we present today our previously missing treatment by Rev. Van Horn of Q. 65 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.


Q. 65  What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to everyone in their several places and relations.

Scripture References: Romans 13:7-8.


1. What are the sins of the superiors?

The sins of the superiors include the following: the neglect of those who are under their authority; the seeking of their own glory in the midst of their responsibility; the encouraging of inferiors into things that are wrong; the wrong use of authority toward inferiors, thus provoking them to wrath; the exposing of inferiors to wrong or temptation to wrong; the subjecting of the inferiors to a bad example because of wrong conduct.

2. What are the sins of inferiors?

The sins of the inferiors include the following: the neglect of obeying their superiors; the sin of envy toward their superiors; the act of rebellion toward those who are their superiors; the sin of wrong conduct against those in command; the showing of dishonor toward their superiors and the government they represent.

3. What are the sins of equals.

The sins of equals include the following: the neglect of Christian love toward one another; the despising of those that are good; the sin of envy because an equal has been blest by God with a gift greater than one’s own; the lack of rejoicing at the success of an equal; the usurping of pre-eminence over equals when such pre-eminence has not been granted by God.

4. Do these sins relate to all relationships of man?

Yes, these sins are applicable to the relationships of man whether they be parent-child, husband-wife, master-servant, ruler-subject, minister-congregation, older-younger relationships.

5. In what areas of our lives today does this commandment relate?

It is pertinent in the family relationships, in the church relationships, in employment relationships and in the civic relationships. Sin in any of the areas is sin in the sight of God.


“As long as you think a law or a rule is wrong it is alright to disobey it.”—such is the reasoning being used today by children toward superiors, by the citizen toward the state, by the worker toward the boss, by the congregation toward the man called of God to preach The Word. It is a dangerous philosophy that is becoming very prevalent in our country and has even spread to conservative churches. This seems to be a day when everyone feels he has the perfect right to make his own rules and not be concerned about The Rulebook handed down by God. This fifth commandment speaks very clearly to the person following this false philosophy.

The Almighty, Sovereign God knew that respect for authority was very important in order that a family, a nation, an economy, a church might be able to carry on its duties in the world. Therefore He emphasized proper respect for authority in His Word time and time again. His words, “Obey them that have rule over you” are stated over and over again in different ways by different writers in The Word. he knew that a lawless society becomes a mob and a mob becomes a group of people out of hand.

What has caused the loss of respect for authority? What has caused this new philosophy to make inroads into our way of thinking? There is not space in this short devotion to answer the question for all of life but a suggestion could be offered as to why it is happening in conservative churches. It is simply another indication of a departing from what God hath said, a closing our eyes to certain portions of The Word because we find them too unpopular for the certain portion of society in which we find ourselves. Whenever a Christian or a Christian church breaks a principle of Scripture the result is always disaster. Disaster in this area not only comes to the person or the church but it also comes to the young people committed to the care of the person or the church.

Why are the young people of today showing such a disrespect for authority? Could it not be that they see such inconsistencies in their elders that they have no example to follow? Where is church discipline today? Where is Christian love toward all people today? Where is the unqualified stand against compromise today? Do our children see things in us? Might we read again Titus 2 – 3:3?

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 4, No. 59 (November 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

An Election Sermon by Samuel Payson (Feb. 28, 1778)

The Rev. Samuel Phillips Payson (1736-1801) was a classical scholar and Pastor. His family migrated from England, and his father was a pastor before him; his wife was also a daughter of the manse. He graduated from Harvard in 1754 and pastored in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He delivered this sermon on February 28, 1778 to a State Convention in Boston just before the state constitution was considered.

Payson took this sermon from Gal. 4:26 and 31. He began praising liberty: “We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state.” He also denounced bondage, corruption, tyranny, and lust. Payson preached, “Hence a people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will really enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud.”

In this sermon, he was clearly an advocate of ‘republican’ governance: “Much depends upon the mode and administration of civil government to complete the blessings of liberty; for although the best possible plan of government never can give an ignorant and vicious people the true enjoyment of liberty, yet a state may be enslaved though its inhabitants in general may be knowing, virtuous, and heroic.”

Payson also sounded Calvin’s warnings against either pure democracy or monarchicalism:

. . . a government altogether popular, so as to have the decision of cases by assemblies of the body of the people, cannot be thought so eligible; nor yet that a people should delegate their power and authority to one single man, or to one body of men, or, indeed, to any hands whatever, excepting for a short term of time. A form of government may be so constructed as to have useful checks in the legislature, and yet capable of acting with union, vigor, and dispatch, with a representation equally proportioned, preserving the legislative and executive branches distinct, and the great essentials of liberty be preserved and secured.

Rather than espousing an abstract theory or presuming a dictatorial posture, his sermon targets to, “ask the candid attention of this assembly to some things respecting a state, its rulers and inhabitants, of high importance, and necessary to the being and continuance of such a free and righteous government as we wish for ourselves and posterity, and hope, by the blessing of God, to have ere long established.”

Aware of the excesses of both Greek and Roman governments, Payson’s knowledge of history led him to aver: “There are diseases in government, like some in the human body, that lie undiscovered till they become wholly incurable. The baneful effects of exorbitant wealth, the lust of power, and other evil passions, are so inimical to a free, righteous government, and find such as easy access to the human mind, that it is difficult, if possible, to keep up the spirit of good government, unless the spirit of liberty prevails in the state.”

Americans were “children, not of the bond woman, but of the free”; thus, their government should rightly reflect that. Slavery, he declared, was born of ignorance. Education was critical, but nothing was more important for good government than “public virtue.”

Payson was not naïve:

The exorbitant wealth of individuals has a most baneful influence on public virtue, and therefore should be carefully guarded against. It is, however, acknowledged to be a difficult matter to secure a state from evils and mischiefs from this quarter; because, as the world goes, and is like to go, wealth and riches will have their commanding influence. The public interest being a remoter object than that of self, hence persons in power are so generally disposed to turn it to their own advantage. A wicked rich man, we see, soon corrupts a whole neighborhood, and a few of them will poison the morals of a whole community.

On the role of faith and an authentic view of establishment, he proclaimed that “religion, both in rulers and people,” was of the highest importance to public matters, preaching:

This is the most sacred principle that can dwell in the human breast. It is of the highest importance to men—the most perfective of the human soul. The truths of the gospel are the most pure, its motives the most noble and animating, and its comforts the most supporting to the mind. The importance of religion to civil society and government is great indeed, as it keeps alive the best sense of moral obligation, a matter of such extensive utility, especially in respect to an oath, which is one of the principal instruments of government. The fear and reverence of God, and the terrors of eternity, are the most powerful restraints upon the minds of men; and hence it is of special importance in a free government, the spirit of which being always friendly to the sacred rights of conscience, it will hold up the gospel as the great rule of faith and practice.

He also thought a ruler’s faith was important:

The qualities of a good ruler may be estimated from the nature of a free government. Power being a delegation, and all delegated power being in its nature subordinate and limited, hence rulers are but trustees, and government a trust; therefore fidelity is a prime qualification in a ruler; this, joined with good natural and acquired abilities, goes far to complete the character. Natural disposition that is benevolent and kind, embellished with the graceful modes of address, agreeably strike the mind, and hence, in preference to greater real abilities, will commonly carry the votes of a people. . . . A good acquaintance with mankind, a knowledge of the leading passions and principles of the human mind, is of high importance in the character before us; for common and well-known truths and real facts ought to determine us in human matters. We should take mankind as they are, and not as they ought to be or would be if they were perfect in wisdom and virtue. So, in our searches for truth and knowledge, and in our labors for improvement, we should keep within the ken or compass of the human mind.

He seemed to think that the Galatians passage led to this: “A state and its inhabitants thus circumstanced in respect to government, principle, morals, capacity, union, and rulers, make up the most striking portrait, the liveliest emblem of the Jerusalem that is above, that this world can afford. That this may be the condition of these free, independent, and sovereign states of America, we have the wishes and prayers of all good men. Indulgent Heaven seems to invite and urge us to accept the blessing. A kind and wonderful Providence has conducted us, by astonishing steps, as it were, within sight of the promised land.”

Payson even praised a specific foreign power in this sermon: “We must be infidels, the worst of infidels, to disown or disregard the hand that has raised us up such benevolent and powerful assistants in times of great distress. How wonderful that God, who in ancient times ‘girded Cyrus with his might,’ should dispose his most Christian Majesty the king of France to enter into the most open and generous alliance with these independent states!—an event in providence which, like the beams of the morning, cheers and enlivens this great continent. We must cherish the feelings of gratitude to such friends in our distress; we must hold our treaties sacred and binding.”

He concluded his address to the legislature with these words:

With diligence let us cultivate the spirit of liberty, of public virtue, of union and religion, and thus strengthen the hands of government and the great pillars of the state. Our own consciences will reproach us, and the world condemn us, if we do not properly respect, and obey, and reverence the government of our own choosing. The eyes of the whole world are upon us in these critical times, and, what is yet more, the eyes of Almighty God. Let us act worthy of our professed principles, of our glorious cause, that in some good measure we may answer the expectations of God and of men. Let us cultivate the heavenly temper, and sacredly regard the great motive of the world to come. And God of his mercy grant the blessings of peace may soon succeed to the horrors of war, and that from the enjoyment of the sweets of liberty here we may in our turn and order go to the full enjoyment of the nobler liberties above, in that New Jerusalem, that city of the living God, that is enlightened by the glory of God and of the Lamb. Amen.

A version is available at the Liberty Fund’s OnLine Library at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2066&chapter=188684&layout=html&Itemid=27. A printed copy is in the 2012 Kindle edition of Election Sermons (pp. 181-198; http://www.amazon.com/Election-Sermons-David-W-Hall-ebook/dp/B0077B2RLK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454974474&sr=8-1&keywords=Election+sermons+david+w.+hall#reader_B0077B2RLK)

by Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church


An absent without leave minister

One of the original seven ministers of the infant Philadelphia presbytery was Samuel Davis. We don’t know a lot about his background. He was believed to be born in Ireland. We are not sure when he immigrated to America, but we do find recorded in the records in Somerset County, Maryland, that he performed a marriage ceremony on February 26, 1684. He is listed as being the minister of Snow Hill, Maryland seven years later in August 1691. We do know that he had “a tent making” ministry besides his pastoral duties to add to his pastoral income. That business venture, whatever it was, might have been the reason for his sketchy attendance at Presbytery.

Though he was the fourth member of seven member ministers on the roll of the first Presbytery in 1706, he was not physically present on that historic first meeting. At the next meeting in 1707, his written excuse to be absent was not sustained, nor was his first absence in 1706. In fact, there was an order by the small group of presbyters to be present at the 1708 meeting in the same city. He did show up, and was promptly elected moderator! He did present his reason for being absent the previous two meetings, and his excuses were sustained by the others present.

Samuel Davis, as the moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery, was sent to participate in the installation of Rev. John Hampton in the church of Snow Hill, Maryland. However, Davis did not show up for the installation of Rev. Hampton. He was asked to preach at another way station of early Presbyterianism, but was absent on that occasion as well. A letter was sent to him with a complaint for not only these absences, but other delinquencies as well. He was ordered to prepare a sermon on Hebrews 1:4
for the next presbytery meeting.

In the Presbytery of 1712, there is the note in the minutes that, after inquiry, his fellow ministers were satisfied that their fellow pastor Samuel Davis was necessarily absent for the past three years. Two ministers were instructed to write him and exhort him to be present for future meetings, or failing that, to send a justified excuse if he couldn’t be present. He wasn’t present in 1712, nor did he sent an excuse for the meeting in 1713, but did send one in 1714. However, he did arrive later in at the meeting in 1714 and was part of an ordination for the new Presbyterian pastor of Cape May, New Jersey.

He was excused from attending the 1715 and 1716 meetings. At the 1716 meeting of the Philadelphia presbytery, he was transferred to the Snow Hill Presbytery, which was composed of him and two other ministers. It is not known if he was any more faithful in these new parts of the Presbyterian church. He died in 1725.

Words to Live By: Faithfulness in God’s work is the essential ingredient of a successful ministry. Let us pray for those who preach the Word of God and encourage them in that work.

A Plain, Good Minister of the Gospel
by David T. Myers

Our subject this day is Charles Tennent. Some readers might respond with, “Don’t you mean WilliamTennent, founder of the Log College?”. Or, of course you meant to say, “Gilbert Tennent,” the Presbyterian firebrand in the New Side, Old Side Presbyterian schism of the mid 18th century in the colonies? While both of these more Tennent’s were better known, and relatives of our subject, we wish to think on the Rev. Charles Tennent today.

Charles Tennent was born in Colerain, Ireland on May 3, 1711 in the home of a Presbyterian pastor by the name of William Tennent. At the tender age of seven, he emigrated to the American colonies with his parents and three brothers. Like the rest of the children, he was home schooled as well as received his theological training at the famous Log College. Graduating from there, he entered the Presbyterian ministry, becoming the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Whiteclay Creek, Delaware.

After only a short time there as under shepherd, the great revival in the American colonies under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield took place. Especially when the English Anglican Whitefield came to Whiteclay Church to preach the gospel, revival came to the Presbyterian Church of Charles Tennent. It was said that Whitefield assisted Charles Tennent with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper one Lord’s Day, while also preaching from the pulpit for four days the Word of God. What an auspicious start to the pastorate did Charles Tennent have!

Charles was described as a “plain good preacher,” and “not distinguished for great abilities.” But still God used him to do extraordinary things for the gospel.

He closed out his ministry in a Presbyterian church in Maryland, and went to be with the Lord on this day, February 25, 1771.

Words to Live By:
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 29 are a worthy application for our meditation. “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world, and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” (NASV)

Calvary was his hiding place

It must be some sort of record. Think of it! The pastor ministered all sixty-three years in the same church. And those six decades were through some of the momentous years in our nation, to say nothing, of the history of the Presbyterian church.

Gardiner SpringBorn in Newburyport, Massachusetts on February 24, 1785, Gardiner Spring attended Berwick Academy in Maine. He then went to and graduated from Yale University in 1805. Married the following year, he and his new bride Susan moved to Bermuda where Gardiner Spring taught the classics and mathematics. This was only for some income, as his real purpose was to study law. And he was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut in 1808. Receiving a call to the ministry, he went to Andover Theological Seminary for one year and was called to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1810, never to leave its pulpit.

It was an active pulpit for the minister. After 40 years of ministry, it was said that he had preached 6000 sermons, received 2092 into the membership roll, baptized 1361 infants and adults, and married 875 couples. Along the way, he had written also 14 books, at least one of which is still being printed today. If the reader doesn’t posses “The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character,” he is urged to buy one immediately. It answers the question as to how do we know we have eternal life.

Many Christians, and especially those in our Southern states are aware that it was Gardiner Spring who authored the resolutions in 1861 to place the Presbyterian Church (Old School) solidly behind the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. That action split the Presbyterian Church into two — North and South Old School. We will consider on May 16 the pros and cons of that resolution.

For now, consider the following words in a letter of Gardiner Spring, just nine years after he had begun his ministry at Brick Presbyterian. On occasion of his birthday, he wrote:

gspring02“Still in this world of hope! In defiance of all sins of the past years, and a guilty life, I am permitted to see another birthday. I have been often surprised that I am suffered to live. Blessed be God, I am not afraid to die, and often more afraid to live. I am an abject sinner, and it will indeed be wonderful grace if I ever sit down with Christ at the Supper of the Lamb. That grace is my strong refuge; Calvary is my hiding place. I hope in the grace and guardianship and faithfulness of that omnipotent Redeemer, to be kept from falling and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. This text has often comforted me, when I have been afraid of trusting in the divine mercy. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ It affords me unutterable pleasure to feel that I am not denied the privilege of laying my own soul beneath the droppings of the same blood I have for nine years recommended to my dying and guilty men.”

Words to Live By: We should take the opportunity which a birthday gives to us, as well as other proverbial milestones in our lives, to meditate on the grace of God in Christ in our lives, as well as the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit is doing within those lives. You might even keep a notebook or journal in which you write down your observation of God’s many providences and blessings. Such a journal can be a great blessing when faith may falter, and it can be a wonderful testimony to your children and your children’s children.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. You may have noticed postings on Facebook and elsewhere with recommended readings in commemoration of the occasion. Peter Lillback’s somewhat recent work, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, should be among that list. But it was on this day, February 23, in 1862, that the Rev. T.W.J. Wylie, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor (General Synod) brought the following message:—  

Washington a Christian.
A Discourse preached February 23, 1862, in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.

by the Pastor, T. W. J. Wylie.

(Philadelphia: William S. & Alfred Martien, 606 Chestnut Street, 1862.)

According to Thy manifold mercies Thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.” — Nehemiah ix. 27.

Why was yesterday, throughout our land, such a day of gladness? It was because, in the arrangements of Divine Providence, a succession of victories which had crowned our arms, was connected, by a delightful coincidence with the recurrence of the birthday of the patriot, the hero, the statesman, who, by universal consent, bears the honoured name of Father of His Country. It was well for us, with gratitude to Heaven, to observe the day; and while reflecting on the evidences which the past presented, that the Lord our God was with us, to gather hope and courage for the future.

It is proper for any nation to cherish the memory of those who have been its deliverers or benefactors. In one of the sacred Psalms (lxxxvii. 4) we have been singing, the inspired writer refers to Rahab, or Egypt, and Babylon, as distinguished for their great men. Ethiopia, also, then, as now, perhaps, despised by many, is not forgotten—”this man was born there.” But it is when the honours which may be accorded to any one, for the natural greatness which he may attain, are connected with the higher glory of a Christian life, that we find an object worthy of our chief admiration. “It shall be said of Zion, This and that man was born in her; and he that is the Highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well the singers, as the players on instruments, shall be there. All my springs are in thee.”

It is in this aspect then, especially, that we think it proper, to-day, to review the character of that illustrious man, whom our nation delights to honour. We do, indeed, think it would be unsuitable to introduce into this holy place what was purely political; and we consider it highly improper that any should substitute the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address for the usual exposition of divine truth; but we do think it is perfectly appropriate that we consider the illustration which the history of our country, and the life of Washington afford, of the language of our text: God, “according to His manifold mercies, has given us saviours, who have saved us out of the hand of our enemies.” Such men were Washington, and others, and it is proper for us to acknowledge, with gratitude, the manifold mercies of that gracious Being who raised them to save us from the hand of our enemies.

In thus referring to the history of Washington, we invite your attention, first, to his early life. We desire, naturally, to trace a mighty river to itds fountain; and as we notice how it gushes from the mountain-side, in some dark glen, almost entirely concealed from view; and as we trace its widening, deepening course, till it swells into the majestic stream, which floats a navy on its bosom, we admire the more the grandeur of a development so great, from a beginning so small. We ask what influences have produced such a result. So in the career of great men—so in the history of Washington. One of our first inquiries is, What was he when a child? How was formed then that noble character, which has gained him a place so exalted in the annals of our race?

We may notice, first of all, that he enjoyed the blessing of pious parents. His father, who died when his son was only about ten years old, was a religious man, and appears to have had a profound sense of the Divine existence and excellence, which he endeavoured to impress on the tender heart of his child. His mother, too, was a consistent Christian, and carefully brought up her children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” It is related of her daughter, that when parting with a son, as he first left his home, she gave him, as her farewell charge, “My son, never neglect the duty of secret prayer.” Washington, we doubt not, was early taught to pray; and from a child, he knew of the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, there is reason to believe that from a very early age he was a subject of regenerating and sanctifying grace. His case is one of many which prove the faithfulness of the divine promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

One of the principal features of his character was filial obedience. He was remarkable for the respect which he always showed his widowed mother. When quite a young man, a commission was obtained for him to enter the British Navy as a midshipman. His mother had given a reluctant assent, and all the necessary arrangements had been made. The vessel was lying in the Potomac to receive him on board; his baggage was ready; he was just going to say farewell, when he observed that his mother’s heart was grieved, and he resolved to remain. The firm spirit which never quailed before a foe, was bowed by a mother’s love. His whole career was changed. Had it not been that he was thus influenced, how different would have been his subsequent history, and ours!

Such was his general, we doubt not but we may say, his uniform character. When some one, after the great victory which terminated our Revolutionary War, hastened to announce the tidings to his mother, her reply was simply, “George was always a good child.” We question if any of the honours which were heaped upon him were more grateful than this praise from the lips of her whom he so much loved and revered.

He displayed in youth an intrepidity which foretokened the courage he afterwards manifested. The traveller who visits the Natural Bridge in Virginia may notice how one person and another, desirous of leaving a record of his existence, has climbed up its almost perpendicular sides and carves his name on the soft rock. High up above the rest is the name of Washington—the steady heart, the firm hand, the strong foothold of the boy, corresponding to the character of the man.

His habits of system and industry were remarkable from early life. In the language of an old writer, he “endeavoured to live by rule, and therefore had a rule to live by.” When he was about thirteen years of age he prepared a blank book to make a record of such things as he considered worthy of especial remembrance. Among other articles entered in this book we find a number of rules of conduct for the young. Some of these indicate the leading elements of his future character. “When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously in reverence.” “Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” “Be no flatterer.” “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.” “Let your conversation be without malice or envy.” “Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commending.” “Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.” “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.” “When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.” “In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than to procure admiration.” “Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you, to see if you be well-decked; if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly, and clothes handsomely.” One of the books which belonged to his mother, and which was found in his own library, having evidences of frequent use, was the writings of Sir Matthew Hale; and there is reason to believe that the valuable counsels which it contains were enjoined by his mother, and adopted by himself, for the regulation of his life.

His love of truth is shown by incidents in his history which are as familiar to all Americans as household words. His sense of justice, his impartiality and decision of character were conspicuous even when he was a child. His companions had such confidence in him that they were in the habit of calling on him to settle their disputes. Although naturally courageous, he would neither fight with his schoolmates himself, nor allow them to fight with each other, and braving their displeasure, he would inform the teacher in order to prevent such combats.

But we pass to consider his character as he entered upon public life—as the soldier and the statesman—in both the Christian.

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Bethel’s Second Pastor, 1782 – 1789

Bethel Presbyterian Church, in Clover, South Carolina, ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA, having been founded in 1764. Francis D. Cummins was Bethel’s second pastor serving from 1782 – April 17, 1789 He was born in 1752 near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Charles Cummins and Rebecca McNickle Cummins who were from Northern Ireland. When Francis Cummins was in his 19th year, his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The neighboring college, then Queens Museum, afforded him the opportunity for his higher education. It was there that he graduated about the year 1776.

Francis Cummins was an active and zealous Patriot in the Revolutionary War. He was present at the reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775. After leaving college he was engaged chiefly in the business of teaching. He was for several years a preceptor at Clio Academy, a respectable German Seminary in Rowan County (now Iredell County), North Carolina. While Mr. Cummins was engaged in teaching, he studied theology under the direction of Dr. James Hall. Francis Cummins was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Orange on December 15, 1780. During the year 1781 he preached at various places and in the spring of 1782 accepted a call from Bethel Church where he was ordained at the close of that year.

Rev. Cummins was one of the original members of South Carolina Presbytery when it was set off from Orange Presbytery in 1785. In the spring of 1788 while residing at Bethel and serving both as pastor and teacher of the youth, he was elected by the people of the York District as a member of the South Carolina Convention called to decide upon the Constitution of the United States. Although all his colleagues were for rejecting it, Rev. Cummins voted in its favor. Sometime between 1782 and 1789 Bethel Academy was organized by Rev. Cummins. The first school was built about one and a half miles north of the church. Education and religion were closely associated in the early days of the church. It was a common practice that the minister of the church also taught in the school. In 1788 the old Presbytery of South Carolina held its seventh session at Bethel. This was perhaps the first Presbytery meeting ever held at Bethel Church. Rev. Cummins was the Moderator.

Rev. Cummins was married to Sarah Davis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Cummins died December 10, 1790. Rev. Cummins married the second time in October 1791 to Sarah Thompson.

After leaving Bethel Rev. Cummins was the pastor at several churches in the western part of South Carolina. In 1793 he was appointed by the Presbytery to collect facts in regard to the early history of all the churches at that time. These records were received and approved by the Presbytery.

In 1803 Rev. Cummins moved to the state of Georgia. He was the first minister to preach at Salem Presbyterian Church (formerly named Liberty Presbyterian Church), Philomath, Georgia in their new location.

Rev. Cummins was the first rector or principal of the Meson Academy, Lexington, Georgia. In 1920 Meson Academy became Oglethorpe County High School.

Rev. Cummins had a great vigor of constitution. He was an admirable scholar and a well-read theologian. He was uncommonly gifted in prayer, was vivid and clear in his conceptions, having great power of condensation in the use of language. In stature he was above the common size with broad shoulders, expanded frame, large limbs, a high forehead and a deep-toned, guttural voice.

In January 1832 he was attacked with influenza which terminated his life. He died on February 22, 1832, and is buried in the Greensboro City Cemetery, Greensboro, Georgia.

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by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn.

Q. 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?

A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.

Scripture References: Ephesians 6:2-3; I Peter 3:10.


1. What type of “good” is this commandment speaking of, temporal or spiritual?

This commandment is speaking of temporal good, with a stipulation.

2. What is this stipulation?

The stipulation is that it must be to the glory of God. For the believer in Christ, whatever is good must be used for His glory.

3. What kind of temporal good is promised here?

The good promised here is long life and prosperity.

4. What is this “long life”?

It is not simply a matter of living long upon this earth but it is a long life of living for a reason-the glory of God. It is real living, living with a purpose and a blessing.

5. What kind of prosperity is promised?

The prosperity promised is a prosperity that must be seen within the framework of the glory of God. Sometimes it will be hard for the believer to understand how his lot might be called prosperity, but if through it God is glorified, it is for the believer’s own good and some day he will understand why God took him through what the world would never label “prosperity.”

6. Does this mean that all believers in Christ will have long life and prosperity?

No, only those believers who do not break this fifth commandment. They might find themselves in the position of the superior, or the inferior, or the equal. But whatever their position they must fulfill it as they should if they would receive the rewards spoken of here.

7. Why is the fifth commandment the first commandment with promise?

It is called this because it is the first commandment of the second table, and the only commandment in it that has a promise attached to it.


We are living In the midst of an age where trouble seems to be the order of the day. We hear of wars, arguments, riots, evils being practiced on fellow men and we should be asking ourselves the question: What can I do as a Christian? The answer to what we can do must be based on principles. We must act but we must act according to the teaching of The Blessed Book. In the midst of this age, what does The Word say?

Our Question from the Catechism has a lot to say regarding this age in which we live. Yet we are forgetting this important teaching, we are forgetting that there are such things as superiors and inferiors and both have responsibilities. We are forgetting that we can not, dare not. bypass the teaching of Scripture in any realm. In I Peter 2 and 3 we find many instructions regarding this matter of honoring our father and mother—or, as has been expressed in the foregoing, our relationships to others whether we are superiors or inferiors or equals—and it would do well for us to take heed to what Peter says. We should remember that Peter is God’s spokesman and such that should end the matter. We should remember that the instructions given by Peter are pertinent for today in spite of our likes and dislikes.

Peter concludes his counsel by stating: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another …. ” He tells us that we should show love, we should be pitiful and courteous. He tells us we should not fight back. He tells us that we should be careful that our tongues do not speak evil. He tells us that we should seek and pursue after peace. Why does he tell us these things? Why is it necessary for us to know them? It comes to us in The Word because Peter, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, was being consistent with the rest of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is always trying to teach us that we have responsibilities in this world. some of us as superiors and some of us as inferiors. But our responsibilities toward one another are ever present and we can never bypass them. This is true of those who are not saved but it is even more true of those who have called upon Christ as Saviour and Lord of their lives.

In the midst of these days of trouble, we are called by God to peace and concord. We must, by His grace, be willing to follow the teaching of The Word in all areas—that is if we would love life and see good days.
(I Pet. 3:10).

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC., Memphis, Tennessee.
Vol. 4 No. 60 December, 1965.  Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.


“Divine Providence Towards America” by James Madison (Feb 19, 1795)

madison_james_1749-1812Originally a lawyer (and cousin of an early President), the clergyman James Madison (1749-1812) had high academic potential (even teaching philosophy and math at the College of William and Mary) and was ordained to the Anglican ministry in 1775. Shortly thereafter he was appointed to the presidency of William and Mary, where he served until 1812. He was consecrated at Canterbury in 1790 to become the first American born bishop of Virginia.

Madison, though an Anglican, was a firm supporter of the Revolution, even venturing on occasion to speak of the kingdom of heaven as a “republic,” a political sentiment that raised eyebrows among loyalists and applause to be sure among colonists. He fought with the revolutionaries against Britain in the war. A polymath (a surveyor, cartographer, science teacher, and economics professor, using Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations as a text!), Madison was a faithful preacher as well.

His 1795 sermon was delivered on a designated Fast Day, declared by President George Washington to be observed on February 19th. His chosen text (from 1 Sam. 12) was “Only fear the Lord and serve him; for consider how great things he hath done for you.”

He noted from the outset that these American events were signal events, with unusual consequences; he also thought the tokens of divine providence were clear and self-evident. He would leave it to “the sons of irreligion, wrapped in their dark and gloomy system of fatality [to] refuse to open their eyes to the great luminous proofs of providential government, which America displays; let them turn from a light, which their weak vision cannot bear.”

In the tradition of Cotton Mather (see his Great Works of Christ in America), Madison sought to rivet the thoughts of his listeners to “those great things, which the Lord hath done for us, to those manifold displays of divine providence, which the history of America exhibits; and let the subject afford an opportunity to revive within us sentiments of lively gratitude, and excite sincere resolutions to fear the Lord, and to serve him; in a word, to increase daily in piety, and in all those noble affections of the soul which dignify the christian and the patriot.”

His sermon asserted the following points:

  1. The discovery of the new world was all according to God’s providence, including the timing of it. He thought the Glorious Revolution would “not be arrested in its progress, until the complete restoration of the human race to their inherent rights be accomplished throughout the globe.” “Let the tyrants of the earth,” he said “set themselves in array against this principle; ‘they shall be chased as the chaff of the mountain before the wind, and like the down of the thistle before the whirlwind.’”
  2. Closer to the present, the recent history also showed God’s providence and tender care for these colonies.
  3. As a banner, and as a moral obligation, he asserted that this providential tract was: “unequal, bold and hazardous as it appeared in its commencement, [not] soon terminated in the establishment of liberty and independence, [but] soon held aloft to the nations of the earth, the sublime example, which called, and still calls aloud, awake, awake, put on strength, O nations of the earth; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.” That was America’s place. Rather than spawning a “presumptive arrogance,” America was called to lead the world in liberty.

Under this third head, hear a sample of his piety and rhetoric:

Yes, brethren, if the effects, which we have, in your hearing, thus slightly traced; if the period of time when America was discovered, the necessity and the consequent production of other means for the restoration of human rights, than those, which had hitherto operated; if her origin, and the consequent possession of a principle, which, nurtured and matured, is now pervading, and will animate and excite the whole family of mankind to vindicate their lost rights; if her astonishing progress from infancy to the station, which she now possesses, a progress, which the opposition of a ten-fold force served only to accelerate: if, become free and independent, having accomplished the most unparalleled revolution, a revolution unstained by fratricide, or the blood of the innocent, she hath given to nations the first lesson by which their rights may be preserved . . . ; if she hath established upon a rock, the empire of laws, and not of men; if America, as a tender and affectionate daughter, is ready, from her exuberant breasts, to afford the milk of regeneration to her aged and oppressed relatives; if, in short, from a beginning the most inauspicious, she hath thus outstript all political calculation, thus risen to this day of glory, thus ascended on high, thus triumphed over every obstacle, and if all these be effects worthy of the divine interposition, then we will still cherish the fond idea, we will cling to the full persuasion, that our God hath been, ‘our strength, our refuge, and our fortress,’ a God, who, at the birth of creation, destined man for liberty, for virtue and for happiness, not for oppression, vice and misery.

  1. “Gratitude, warm and fervent, united to a sincere resolution ‘to fear and to serve him,’ is the return” that fits this divine beneficence.

He called for praise and renewed service to the Lord, warning against forsaking God, who he described equally as “the remunerator of virtue” and “the avenger of iniquity.” He preached that as soon as “that divine system of equality, fraternity, and universal benevolence” is abandoned, “the moment that religion, the pure and undefiled religion, which Heaven, in compassion to the infirmity of human reason, vouchsafed to mortals, loses its influence over their hearts, from that fatal moment, farewell to public and private happiness, farewell, a long farewell to virtue, to patriotism, to liberty!” Madison believed that “Virtue, such as republics and Heaven require, must have its foundation in the heart.” Moreover it had to be internalized, and had to derive its constancy “not from the changeable ideas of the political moralist, or the caprice of the wisest of human legislators, but from the unchangeable father of the universe, the God of love, whose laws, and whose will we are incited to obey by motives, the most powerful that can actuate the human soul.”

Hardly a secularist, Madison averred: “Thus taught by religion, man becomes acquainted with his real character; instead of being amenable only to human laws, whose utmost vigilance he may and often does elude, he sees himself accountable to a being, as just as merciful, as omnipotent as omniscient. He finds himself destined, not to the narrow range of the beasts that perish, but to immortal life. The bright prospect invigorates his soul.”

His conclusion should be considered:

Certainly, my brethren, it is a fundamental maxim, that virtue is the soul of a republic. But, zealous for the prosperity of my country, I will repeat . . . that without religion . . . the religion which our Saviour himself delivered, not that of fanatics or inquisitors, chimaeras and shadows are substantial things compared with that virtue, which those who reject the authority of religion would recommend to our practice.—Ye then who love your country, if you expect or wish, that real virtue and social happiness should be preserved among us, or, that genuine patriotism and a dignified obedience to law, instead of that spirit of disorganizing anarchy, and those false and hollow pretences to patriotism, which are so pregnant with contentions, insurrections and misery, should be the distinguishing characteristics of Americans; or, that, the same Almighty arm which hath hitherto protected your [country] and conducted her to this day of glory, should still continue to shield and defend her,—remember, that your first and last duty is ‘to fear the Lord and to serve him;’ remember, that in the same proportion as irreligion advances, virtue retires;—remember, that in her stead, will succeed factions, ever ready to prostitute public good to the most nefarious private ends, whilst unbounded licentiousness, and a total disregard to the sacred names of liberty and of patriotism will here once more, realize that fatal catastrophe, which so many free states have already experienced. Remember, the law of the Almighty is, they shall expire, with their expiring virtue.

Centuries later, columnist William Safire suggested that Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” speech could have been taken from this Madisonian homily.

Online versions are posted at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/816 and http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N22012.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext. A printed version is contained in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).

by Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

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