April 2016

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WarfieldBB_1903Our post today was written some years ago for the PCA Historical Center by guest author Barry Waugh. Today is the anniversary date of Dr. Warfield’s inaugural address at the Western Theological Seminary of Pittsburgh, PA, upon his installation as Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Literature.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born to William and Mary Cabell Breckinridge Warfield in the rolling bluegrass country of Lexington, Kentucky, on November 5, 1851.  His father bred cattle and horses and was a descendant of Richard Warfield, who lived and prospered in Maryland in the seventeenth century.  William also served as a Union officer during the Civil War.  Benjamin enjoyed both the finances and heritage of the Breckinridges of Kentucky, along with the prosperity and ancestry of the Warfields.  His mother’s father was the minister Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, who was a leader of the Old School Presbyterians, an author, a prominent Kentucky educational administrator, a periodical editor, and a politician.  The Warfields financial prosperity enabled them to have Benjamin educated through private tutoring provided by Lewis G. Barbour, who became a professor of mathematics at Central University, and James K. Patterson, who became president of the State College of Kentucky.  L. G. Barbour wrote some articles for the Southern Presbyterian Review on scientific subjects and his own scientific interests may have encouraged Benjamin in a scientific direction.  Ethelbert D. Warfield, Benjamin’s brother, has commented that:

His early tastes were strongly scientific.  He collected birds’ eggs, butterflies and moths, and geological specimens; studied the fauna and flora of his neighborhood; read Darwin’s newly published books with enthusiasm; and counted Audubon’s works on American birds and mammals his chief treasure.  He was so certain that he was to follow a scientific career that he strenuously objected to studying Greek.

Following the years of private tutorial instruction, Benjamin entered the sophomore class of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in 1868 and was graduated from there in 1871 with highest honors at only nineteen years of age.  Having concluded his college years, he then traveled in Europe beginning in February of 1872 following a delayed departure due to illness in his family.  After spending some time in Edinburgh and then Heidelberg, he wrote home in mid-summer announcing his intent to enter the ministry.  This change in vocational direction came as quite a surprise to his family.  He returned to Kentucky from Europe sometime in 1873 and was for a short time the livestock editor of the Farmer’s Home Journal.

Benjamin pursued his theological education in preparation for the ministry by entering Princeton Theological Seminary in September of 1873.  He was licensed to preach the gospel by Ebenezer Presbytery on May 8, 1875.  Following licensure, he tested his ministerial abilities by supplying the Concord Presbyterian Church in Kentucky from June through August of 1875.  After he received his divinity degree in 1876, he supplied the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio, and while he was in Dayton, he married Annie Pearce Kinkead, the daughter of a prominent attorney, on August 3, 1876.  Soon after he married Annie, the couple set sail on an extended study trip in Europe for the winter of 1876-1877.  It was sometime during this voyage that the newly weds went through a great storm and Annie suffered an injury that debilitated her for the rest of her life; the biographers differ as to whether the injury was emotional, physical, or a combination of the two.  Sometime during 1877, according to Ethelbert Warfield, Benjamin was offered the opportunity to teach Old Testament at Western Seminary, but he turned the position down because he had turned his study emphasis to the New Testament despite his early aversion to Greek (vii).  In November 1877, he began his supply ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, where he continued until the following March.  He returned to Kentucky and was ordained as an evangelist by Ebenezer Presbytery on April 26, 1879.

In September of 1878, Benjamin began his career as a theological educator when he became an instructor in New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh.  Western Seminary had been formed by the merger of existing seminaries including Danville Seminary, which R. J. Breckinridge, Benjamin’s grandfather, had been involved in founding.  The following year he was made professor of the same subject and he continued in that position until 1887.  In his inaugural address for Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Literature, April 20, 1880, he set the theme for many of his writing efforts in the succeeding years by defending historic Christianity.  The purpose of his lecture* was to answer the question, “Is the Church Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the New Testament Endangered by the Assured Results of Modern Biblical Criticism.”  Professor Warfield affirmed the inspiration, authority and reliability of God’s Word in opposition to the critics of his era.  He quickly established his academic reputation for thoroughness and defense of the Bible.  Many heard of his academic acumen and his scholarship was awarded by eastern academia when his alma mater, the College of New Jersey, awarded him an honorary D. D. in 1880.

[*Warfield’s inaugural lecture can be found under the title “Inspiration and Criticism,” published in the volume Revelation and Inspiration. (Oxford University Press, 1927): 395-425. In the P&R reprint (1948), the lecture is included as Appendix 2, pp. 419-442.]

According to Samuel Craig, Dr. Warfield was offered the Chair of Theology at the Theological Seminary of the Northwest in Chicago in 1881, but he did not end his service at Western until he went to teach at Princeton Theological Seminary beginning the fall semester of 1887.  He succeeded Archibald Alexander Hodge as the Charles Hodge Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology.  His inaugural address, delivered May 8, 1888, was titled “The Idea of Systematic Theology Considered as a Science.”  As he taught theology, he did so using Hodge’s Systematic Theology and continued the Hodge tradition.  The constant care Annie required and the duties associated with teaching at Princeton, resulted in a limited involvement in presbytery, synod, and general assembly.  Annie lived a homebound life limiting herself primarily to the Princeton campus where Benjamin was never-too-far from home.  The Warfields lived in the same campus home where Charles and Archibald Alexander Hodge lived during their years at Princeton.

Isaac Van Arsdale Brown was born in Pluckamin, Somerset county, New York, on November 14, 1784. Little seems to be known of his parents or his early years. He graduated at Nassau Hall, as Princeton University was known in those days, and then studied theology privately under the tutelage of Dr. John Woodhull, of Freehold, New Jersey. He was licensed and then later ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1807, being installed as the pastor of the church at Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Three years later, in 1810, Rev. Brown established the Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial Boarding School, located near Princeton, and up until 1833 Rev. Brown remained the head of this school. The school has continued to this day and is one of the oldest private boarding schools in the nation. Then in 1833, both his wife and his son died, and it seems likely that their deaths led to his decision to leave Lawrenceville. In 1834, he sold the school and relocated to Mount Holly, New Jersey to plant a church there, while also preaching at Plattsburg, NJ and working to establish another church there. The last two decades of his life were spent preaching in the areas around Trenton and New Brunswick.

Dr. Brown was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society and also an original member of the American Bible Society. He died on April 19, 1861. (for historical reference, Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and the Civil War thus began, a week prior, on April 12, 1861)

Dr. Isaac V. Brown is noted as the author of several works, but most importantly, that of A Historical Vindication of the Abrogation of the Plan of Union by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (1855). This is a careful treatment in defense of the Old School position on the 1837-1869 Old School/New School split in the PCUSA. It can be read online, here.

To read about the efforts of the Lawrenceville School in relocating Rev. Brown’s grave to a more appropriate location, click here.

Words to Live By:
In all likelihood, Rev. Brown started the school in Lawrenceville simply as a way to make ends meet. Pastors were not well paid in those days, and it was quite common for a pastor to turn to teaching in order to augment his salary. Nonetheless, the works that you do may live well beyond your own life-time. God will use what He will use. It is our part to be faithful in doing what He calls us to, and to do all things as unto the Lord.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ASV)

A list of Rev. Brown’s published works which are available on the Web:

Ordained on this day in 1833.

Though reared in a Christian Presbyterian home in Albion, Maine, where the family emphasis was that of a religious obligation to help rid the world of sin in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, young Elijah  Lovejoy did not receive the Savior during those years. Instead, he grew up on the family farm of the Rev. Daniel and Elizabeth Lovejoy, assisting in the tent-making ministry.  In 1823, he attended Waterville College, where he was a serious student who made strides in journalism, so much that he became a tutor for many in his class.  Graduating at the top of his class in 1826, he moved west to St. Louis, Missouri to raise up a high school and teach many children of the wealthy and important families of that city.  Still however, he did not know the Master.

His relationship with God was to change in 1832 when the Rev. David Nelson held a series of revival meetings at the First Presbyterian Church of that city.  From the sound preaching of the Word of God, God’s Spirit regenerated his soul.  That same year, he began to study at Princeton Theological Seminary back in New Jersey.  The following letter from the Illinois State Historical Library, in Springfield, Illinois, tells of his spiritual state to his parents:

“So I am here preparing to become a minister of the everlasting gospel!  When I review my past life, I am astonished and confounded, and hardly know which most to wonder at, my own stupidity and blundering and guilt or the long suffering and compassion  of God. That He should have blessed me with such opportunities of becoming acquainted with his holy word — should have given me parents who in the arms of their faith dedicated me to them according to his gracious covenant, and who early constantly and faithfully and with many tears warned and entreated me to embrace the salvation through Jesus Christ, and not-withstanding all this, when he saw me hardening my heart, resisting the prayers of my parents and friends, grieving his Holy Spirit, counting the blood of the covenant into which I had been baptized an unholy thing, that He should have still borne with me, should have suffered me to here, and last given me season to hope that I have by his grace been enabled to return to my Father’s house, all this seems a miracle of goodness such as God alone could perform and far too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I can only bow down my head and adore.”

Graduating early from Princeton, it was on this day, April 18, 1833, that Elijah Lovejoy was licensed to preach the gospel by the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Leaving this city, he traveled back to St. Louis, where he began his ministry in Presbyterian churches of that western city.  Using journalism gifts, he became a powerhouse for the abolition of slavery, which eventually was to take his life by violent means in 1837.  (We will cover that part of his history on November 7 devotional)

Words to Live By:  When the good news of eternal life transforms a life by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, then a new creation has come into existence.  It manifests itself not only by godly words but also in godly actions.  Have you reader. have that religious experience in your spiritual life?

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

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Scripture References: Zech. 8:16; I Pet. 3:16; Acts 25:10; III John 12; Prov. 14:5, 25; Eph. 4:25.

Questions:

1. How can we maintain and promote truth between man and man? We must speak the truth, the absolute truth to one another if we are to promote truth with each other. Further, we must speak truth of one another in all situations.

2. What does this commandment require in regard to our own good name?

This commandment requires, in regard to our own good name, that we must at all times act in such a way that we deserve our good name. Further, we must always defend our good name.

3. How can we deserve a good name before men

We can deserve it by always acting in accordance with the Word of God. We must live a holy life, showing forth the fruits of the Spirit in our actions, words and thoughts.

4. How can we defend our good name before men?

We can defend our good name by clearing ourselves from all false accusations. This is a responsibility before God as taught in His Word (Acts 24:10-13), We can also defend our good name by giving God the glory for anything we have done which is praiseworthy in the sight of God. (l Cor. 15:10).

5. How can we maintain and promote our neighbor’s good name?

We can help our neighbor’s good name by:
(1) Recognizing his good qualities;
(2) By rejoicing with him over his acts of goodness;
(3) By refusing to listen to those who would seek to slander him and speak evil of him;
(4) By giving honor to him as it is due;
(5) By reproving him before others only when there is need to do so and then showing mercy towards him.

A GOOD NAME

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16). There is, in the Word of God, a responsibility presented to the believer to maintain before all a good name. However, there is a false approach abroad in the world of today that has made its way into the realm of the camp of the believers in Christ. This false approach is the worldly emphasis to be accepted of men and forgetting that we only have a “good name” when our actions are consistent with the principles of the Word of God.

Somehow today there is a confusion among believers in this area. They seem to think that it is important to keep their name free from any sort of condemnation even though to do so they keep quiet when they should speak; they compromise when they should not; they negotiate when they should be on the offense. So many times believers in Christ are heard saying, “I’m not going to have any black mark against my name and have it hurt my reputation before men.”

What reputation are we to keep as those saved by grace? The only reputation we are to be concerned about is our reputation before God, as to whether or not we are dishonoring the cause of the Christian religion before men. We do not deserve, before God, to have any other kind of good name. We have been saved by grace and we recognize that whatever we are, we have reached that place by the grace of God. But there is one area about which we are to have a good name and that area is our standing before God, all to His glory.

We should have a good name in regard to standing for the truth. Nothing should cause us to be quiet when we should speak out for the truth. We must defend the faith at all times, even if it means standing up when to stand up and speak means our speaking will bring dishonor on our name among the world.

We should have a good name in regard to the position we take, making sure that the thought of compromise never enters into our actions. We cannot compromise the Truth at any time even if it means reaping coals of fire on our heads by the world.

We should have a good name in regard to being sure we are not willing to negotiate in order to keep the black marks of the world against our names. A good plan of living for the believer in the area of having a good name can be found in Philippians 2:12-16. As this is followed, God will bless us, all to His glory, and our name will be good before Him.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 5 No.7 (July, 1966
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Our guest author for our current Saturday series on Election Day Sermons, Dr. David W. Hall, is taking a well-deserved break today while he attends to some pressing pastoral matters. With great trepidation then I’m taking his place today, and have the following to offer, and only mostly tongue-in-cheek, have found this sermon by the Rev. Lyman Beecher, titled A Remedy for Duelling. A most fitting election day sermon, don’t you think?  Well, maybe not. Maybe not on several levels, in fact. Anyway, . . . .

beecherLyman02Duelling was serious problem in the early days of this nation. What began as a practice among the nobility in Europe had no class boundaries when brought to America’s shores. So today we will look briefly at one earnest sermon against the practice, delivered first before his own congregation and then before the Presbytery of Long-Island, by the Rev. Lyman Beecher. The year was 1809 and Beecher’s sermon was considered by his peers as worthy of a large edition at a low price, for wide publication of the arguments presented. Perhaps the so-called drive-by shooting is our nearest modern counterpart. The former was called “one of the foulest blots on our national character,” and the latter certainly deserves that title as well.

The published edition of the sermon begins with a Preface, rehearsing the decision made by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1805, declaring “their utter abhorrence of the practice of duelling,” . . . “utterly inconsistent with every just principle of moral conduct;” “a direct violation of the sixth commandment, and destructive of the peace and happiness of families.” In calling its ministers to action, the Asssembly urged pastors to “refuse to attend the funeral of any person who shall have fought a duel, and that they admit no person, who shall have fought a duel, given or accepted a challenge, or been accessory thereto, unto the distinguishing privileges of the church, until he manifest a just sense of guilt, and give satisfactory evidence of repentance.”

“And Judgment is turned away backward, and Justice standeth afar off; for Truth is fallen in the streets, and Equity cannot enter.”—Isaiah 59: 14-15.

So having picked up his text, Rev. Beecher began:

beecher_1809_remedy_for_duelling“The people of Israel, when this passage was written, had become exceedingly corrupt, and were sinking under the pressure of awful judgments. But although hardened in sin, they are not insensible to misery; and though regardless of God as their benefactor, they murmur and tremble before him as the author of their calamities.

Beecher’s sermon is simply too long to rehearse here. Forty pages long, in good early 19th-century fashion! But to focus on just one portion of his sermon, and here is where I think Beecher speaks in principles that cross over readily for contemporary application, he continues with a major point we will look at closer:

4. The system of duelling is a system of absolute despotism, tending directly and powerfully to the destruction of civil liberty. A free government is a government of laws, made by the people for the protection of life, property, and reputation. A despotic government is where life and all its blessings are subject to the caprice of an individual.

So dueling is a threat to civil liberty. How so? Beecher explains:

(1.) Equal laws are essential to civil liberty, but equal laws are far from satisfying the elevated claims of duellists. That protection which the law affords to them in common with others, they despise. They must have more–a right to decide upon and to redress their own grievances.

Thus duelling is a form of vigilantism, a taking of the law into your own hands.

(2.) The administration of justice ought, above all things, to be impartial; the rich and the honourable to be equally liable to punishment for their crimes with the poor, and, according to their desert, punished with equal severity. But while duellists bear sway, this can never be. It is a fact in this state, at the present moment, that the man who steals a shilling is more liable to detection, and more sure to be punished, and to experience a heavy penalty, than the man who, in a duel, murders his neighbor.

Duelling survives because the crime is not punished; a system has developed that protects the practice.

(3.) A sacred regard to law is indispensable to the existence of a mild government. In proportion as obedience ceases to be voluntary, and the contempt of law becomes common, must the nerves of government be strengthened, until it approach in essence, if not in name, to a monarchy. We must have protection; and the more numerous and daring the enemy, the more power must be delegated to subdue and control them. That contempt of law, therefore, which is manifested by the duellist, is a blow at the vitals of liberty.

Duelling tramples our rights and freedoms:

(4.) The tendency of duelling to restrain liberty of speech and of the press, is certainly direct and powerful. The people have a right to investigate the conduct of rulers, and to scrutinize the character of candidates for office; and as the private moral character of a man is the truest index, it becomes them to be particular on this point. But who will speak on this subject? Who will publish, when the duellist stands before him with pistol at the breast?

Duelling endangers our children’s futures:

(5.) Duelling, in its operation, exposes, to additional risk and danger, those who would rise to usefulness and fame in civil life. With what views can a Christian parent look to the law as a profession for his son, where, if he rise to fame, he must join the phalanx of murder–or if he refuse, experience their united influence against him?

Words to Live By:
As Rev. Beecher continued, his solution seemed to boil down to denying public office to those who supported the practice of dueling. This evil had infected what amounted to the ruling class of the young nation. But apart from urging his listeners to action and specifically to the polls, Beecher closes with the admission that “It is the gospel which must heal the nations; and the more the spirit of the gospel can be diffused, and made to express itself in the arrangement of society, the more will the world recover from its deadly wound. Salvation belongs to the Lord. So too any true change for the better in any society. To read the full sermon, click here:  A Remedy for Duelling (1809).

A Helpful Book For All Home Libraries

It was said that in most colonial homes in America, Presbyterians owned at least several books for use by and for their families.  The first one was, of course, the Bible.  And contrary to many expectations, that Bible version was not the King James Version, but rather the Genevan Bible.  Remember, the King James version was introduced because of the Reformed foot notes of the Genevan Bible.  That introduction was marked by mistakes, such as the inclusion of the Apocrypha into the first edition of the King James Version.  It was left out in the second edition, and indeed, to cause people to buy it, the printer of the version placed on the flyleaf “Authorized Version.”   All these caused the many Presbyterian and Reformed Christians to bring the Genevan edition to the shores of America.

A second book essential for early American immigrants was the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.  These were studied in many a home, with catechetical instruction and memorization being part and parcel of family devotions.

Another important book was Thomas Boston’s “Four-fold Nature of Man.”  This was clear theology as it explained the state of innocency, the state of sin, the state of salvation, and the state of glorification.

A fourth book would be a commentary, such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible.  This would enable the husband and father of the home to explain the Word of God in daily devotions to the family members gathered morning and night.

Last, a history book of the church to explain God’s providential ways in the church in the past was helpful to remind the church members of what had been done by the Lord of history, and what could be expected by the Lord to extend His church in the present age. There could be any number of choices at this point, depending on what you want to cover. One great advantage of living with today’s technological marvels, is the ability to find any number of substantial history books, all at no charge. Web sites like www.archive.org, for instance, provide generally excellent scans of old classics, and in a variety of formats to suit your need. Just use the search box on that site and browse to your heart’s content. Then download to your computer what you find useful. And for a most recent publication, we cannot recommend highly enough Dr. Sean M. Lucas’s new work, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America[P&R, 2015].

Words to Live By:
Remember Joshua in obedience to the Lord placed stones on the banks of the Jordan to not forget the Lord’s power in enabling Israel to pass by faith that seeming obstacle into the promised land, so we need to be reminded of those who have gone before so that we can by faith successfully confront anyone or anything who and which might confront us today.

A Tragedy of Speed
by Rev. David T. Myers

It seems every generation experiences at least one major catastrophe which, for that generation, defines our nation’s character and conduct. That tragedy then can be seen to offer spiritual lessons about life in general.

Back in the early nineties of the last century, most of our readers can remember what they were doing when the Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed by two planes under the control of Islamic terrorists.

Before that, many of our readers can relate exactly where they were when an assassin killed President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas in the early part of the nineteen sixties.

In 1912, an unthinkable catastrophe happened on April 14 when an ocean liner named the Titanic sunk while on her maiden voyage, with the loss of over a thousand of her passengers. The ship was supposed to be unsinkable, with one construction expert going so far as to make the foolish claim that God Himself couldn’t sink her. But it did sink when it struck an iceberg. And as you might expect, all over this land ministers took to their pulpits to reflect on this terrible loss of life.

One such minister was the Presbyterian pastor of Washington Heights Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., the Rev. William D Moss. The latter preached on the tragedy, using a text from Psalm 29:3 “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.”

His message spoke of the common responses of blaming this and that for this terrible tragedy. Was the cause the builders who constructed the great ship? Was it an Old World government that failed to properly govern the laws for ships in a new century? Could business corporations be held responsible, when they vie with other corporations for supremacy of the ocean? Are there individuals who should be held responsible, such as the president of the company, or the captain of the great vessel herself? Even back then, people were quick to blame other people.

In the studied conclusion of this particular Presbyterian minister, the loss of this great ocean liner ultimately came down to a matter of speed, the necessity of traveling faster and faster from one location to another. There was no stopping or slowing down, even as the great vessel entered into an area of icebergs. After all, nothing could sink her, or so they thought.

And then the Rev William D. Ross spread out the sin of speed in people’s lives, speaking to the spiritual needs of his own congregation, sparing no one, even including the teaching elders of many a congregation in our land in his aim. Ross’s words particular regarding pastors provide a terrible description of many ministers of our age as well. Consider his words:

“The minister of religion who thinks more of members than individual souls, who makes speed to add names to a church register, caring less that they also be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; anxious that respectable individuals be chronicled in his yearly report; and caring less to how dividends are raised or to what object they are contributed; content when the wheels of ecclesiastical machinery go smoothly around, even if tradition usurps the place of the Cross in homes and hearts under his care; who is ambitious merely for his own church and denomination and hesitates not to have success through the depletion of other religious institutions about him – that man is an individual who has also claimed that he has looked upon Calvary! And he is the land equivalent in daily life of this tragedy on the ocean.”

Other callings in one’s life receive the minister’s application as well in words equally convicting. You can read the entire sermon online, for those of our readers who are interested [though this is a rather poor scan of the document and somewhat difficult to read]. But let us, who look upon unthinkable catastrophes in life—and this is our Words to Live By— remember there are no accidents within the framework of God’s sovereign rule over earth. He either decrees or permits them for His own glory and our good. We do well to heed them in our lives, for His glory and our good. In all things seek to make the Lord your God the center of your life, and all else will fall into its proper place.

Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church. A brief account of a pastor unknown today. But think of all those names in all those chapters and books of the Bible, where so many of the Lord’s people are remembered, yet without elaboration or story. They are mentioned because they important. As Francis Schaeffer said, “there are no little people.” They are all important in the Lord’s eyes, and they have a place in His kingdom. Think of Daniel Lawrence as yet another of these names.

“In preaching, speak low, speak slow, and be short.”

Born on Long Island in 1718, Daniel Lawrence, the subject of our post today, is said to have been a blacksmith by training. He studied at the Log College, and was later taken on trials by New Brunswick Presbytery, September 11, 1744, and was licensed at Philadelphia, May 28, 1745.

The original organization of a church at Newtown, in Bucks county, seems to have simply died away. Initially Rev. Charles Beatty was sent, in the spring of 1745, to settle a church there.  And the record indicates that in the fall of 1745, Newtown and Bensalem asked for Lawrence, as did both Upper and Lower Bethlehem, and Hopewell and Maidenhead.  Finally, at the request of the Forks of Delaware congregation, he was sent on May 24, 1746, to supply them for a year, with a view to settling there as their pastor. In October, a call was presented to him. He was ordained, April 2, 1747, and installed as their pastor on the third Sabbath in June.

The Forks North and the Forks West had been favoured with a portion of Brainerd’s labours, and were by no means an unpromising field, having many excellent pious families.  But it was a laborious field,—a wide, dreary, uninhabited tract of fifteen miles lying between the two meeting-houses.  Lawrence was not robust; and, for his health, he was directed to spend the winter and spring of 1751 at Cape May, then in very necessitous circumstances. Rev. Chesnut supplied the Forks in his absence.

Lawrence’s health remained feeble despite his time of rest, and since there was no prospect of his being able to fulfill his pastoral office in the Forks, he was dismissed.  He relocated to Cape May. There at Cape May was one of the oldest Presbyterian congregations. Yet while this church was among the first that had a pastor, it had for the last thirty years remained vacant. The Revival was felt there, but the congregation was feeble in numbers and resources.  Beatty visited the people, and laid before the synod their distressed state.  Davenport passed some time there, but with no effect till the last Sabbath.  Lawrence was called; but a long delay occurred before his installation, which was not till June 20, 1754.  Of his ministry little is known.  The records mention him as a frequent supply of Forks, and as going to preach, in 1755, at “New England over the mountains.”

A meeting-house was built in 1762, the frame of which remained in use till 1824.

“It appears to be my duty, considering the relict of my old disorder, to take and use the counsel which, I have heard, the Rev. Samuel Blair gave, not long before his exit, to the Rev. John Rodgers:—in preaching, to speak low, to speak slow, and to be short.”

He died April 13, 1766.

Words to Live By:
Are you a Christian? Has the Lord sought you out, raised you from the dead and given you new life by His Spirit? Then you too have a place in His kingdom. The world will remember few of us one hundred years from now, but our Lord knows those who are His; He will never forget us.

miller_Samuel_1812While still new to the pastorate, and not yet thirty years old, it was on this day, April 12, 1797, that the the Rev. Samuel Miller delivered a discourse in New York City, before the Society for the Manumission of Slaves. [For those unfamiliar with the term, manumission is the act of freeing a slave.] Only an excerpt of this discourse, the fifth of Miller’s published works, is presented below, but a link has been provided in the title for those who would like to read the entire discourse. Would that Miller’s words had gripped early American society to conviction and action, to the eradication of evil! For one practical example of manumission in that same era, in which Reformed Presbyterians freed their slaves and at great personal cost, read chapter four of the Memoir of the Rev. Alexander McLeod.

Image : Pictured at right, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, a portrait roughly contemporaneous with the time of the following discourse.

Words to Live By: Remember this!—Individuals and nations are alike in this, that sin is not easily rooted out. Once it takes hold, it can be a most difficult thing to remove it, and like old injuries, the scars that remain constantly remind us of our sin. Far better to stop sin at its first rising, before it takes root.

A Discourse, delivered April 12, 1797, at the Request of and Before the New-York Society
for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting such of them as have been or may be Liberated.

by Samuel Miller, A.M., one of the ministers of the United Presbyterian churches
in the city of New-York, and Member of said Society.
New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, No. 99 Pearl-street, 1797.

. . . That, in the close of the eighteenth century, it should be esteemed proper and necessary, in any civilized country, to institute discourses to oppose the slavery and commerce of the human species, is a wonderful [i.e., a thing to be wondered at] fact in the annals of society! But that this country should be America, is a solecism only to be accounted for by the general inconsistency of the human character. But, after all, the surprise that Patriotism can feel, and all the indignation that Morality can suggest on this subject, the humiliating tale must be told—that in this free country—in this country, the plains of which are still stained with blood shed in the cause of liberty,—in this country, from which has been proclaimed to distant lands, as the basis of all our political existence, the noble principle, that “ALL MEN ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL,”—in this country there are slaves!—men are bought and sold! Strange, indeed! that the bosom which glows at the name of liberty in general, and the arm which has been so vigorously exerted in vindication of human rights, should yet be found leagued on the side of oppression, and opposing their avowed principles!

Much, indeed, has been done by many benevolent individuals and societies, to abolish this disgraceful practice, and to improve the condition of those unhappy people, whom the ignorance or the avarice of our ancestors has bequeathed to us as slaves. Still, however, notwithstanding all the labours and eloquence which have been directed against it, the evil continues; still laws and practices exist, which loudly call for reform; still MORE THAN HALF A MILLION of our fellow creatures in the United States are deprived of that which, next to life, is the dearest birth-right of man.

To deliver the plain dictates of humanity, justice, religion, and good policy, on this subject, is the design of the present discourse. In doing this, it will not be expected that any thing new should be offered. It is not a new subject; and every point of view in which it can be considered has been long since rendered familiar by the ingenious and the humane. All that is left for me is, to bring to your remembrance principles which, however well known, cannot be too often repeated; and to exhibit some of the most obvious arguments against an evil which, though generally acknowledged, is still practically persisted in.

And here I shall pass over in silence the unnumbered cruelties, and the violations of every natural and social tie, which mark the African trade, and which attend the injured captives in dragging them from their native shores, and from all the attachments of life. I shall not call you to contemplate the miseries and hardships which follow them into servitude, and render their life a cup of unmingled bitterness. Unwilling to wound your feelings, or my own, by the melancholy recital, over these scenes I would willingly draw a veil; and confine myself to principles and views of the subject more immediately applicable to ourselves.

That enslaving, or continuing to hold in slavery, those who have forfeited their liberty by no crime, is contrary to the dictates both of justice and humanity, I trust few who hear me will be disposed to deny. However the judgment of some may be biassed by the supposed peculiarity of certain cases, I presume that with regard to the abstract principle, there can be but one opinion among enlightened and candid minds. What is the end of all social connection but the advancement of human happiness? And what can be a more plain and indisputable principle of republican government, than that all the right which society possesses over individuals, or one man over another, must be founded either upon contract, express or implied, or upon forfeiture by crime? But, are the Africans and their descendants enslaved upon either of these principles? Have they voluntarily surrendered their liberty to their whiter brethren? or have they forfeited their natural right to it by the violation of any law? Neither of these is pretended by the most zealous advocates for slavery. By what ties, then, are they held in servitude? By the ties of force and injustice only; by ties which are equally opposed to the reason of things, and to the fundamental principles of all legitimate association.

In the present age and country, none, I presume, will rest a defence of slavery on the ground of superior force; the right of captivity; or any similar principle, which the ignorance and the ferocity of ancient times admitted as a justifiable tenure of property. It is to be hoped the time is passed, never more to return, when men would recognize maxims as subversive of morality as they are of social happiness. Can the laws and rights of war be properly drawn into precedent for the imitation of sober and regular government? Can we sanction the detestable idea, that liberty is only an advantage gained by strength, and not a right derived from nature’s God. Such sentiments become the abodes of demons, rather than societies of civilized men.

Pride, indeed, may contend, that these unhappy subjects of our oppression are aninferior race of beings; and are therefore assigned by the strictest justice to a depressed and servile station in society. But in what does this inferiority consist? In a difference of complexion and figure? Let the narrow and illiberal mind, who can advance such an argument, recollect whither it will carry him. In traversing the various regions of the earth, from the Equator to the Pole, we find an infinite diversity of shades in the complexion of men, from the darkest to the fairest hues. If, then, the proper station of the African is that of servitude and depression, we must also contend, that every Portuguese and Spaniard is, though in a less degree, inferior to us, and should be subject to a measure of the same degradation. Nay, if the tints of colour be considered the test of human dignity, we may justly assume a haughty superiority over our southern brethren of this continent, and devise their subjugation. In short, upon this principle, where shall liberty end? or where shall slavery begin? At what grade is it that the ties of blood are to cease? And how many shades must we descend still lower in the scale, before mercy is to vanish with them?

But, perhaps, it will be suggested, that the Africans and their descendants are inferior to their whiter brethren in intellectual capacity, if not in complexion and figure. This is strongly asserted, but upon what ground? Because we do not see men who labour under every disadvantage, and who have every opening faculty blasted and destroyed by their depressed condition, signalize themselves as philosophers? Because we do not find men who are almost entirely cut off from every source of mental improvement, rising to literary honours? To suppose the Africans of an inferior radical character, because they have not thus distinguished themselves, is just as rational as to suppose every private citizen of an inferior species, who has not raised himself to the condition of royalty. But, the truth is, many of the negroes discover great ingenuity, notwithstanding their circumstances are so depressed, and so unfavourable to all cultivation. They become excellent mechanics and practical musicians, and, indeed, learn every thing their masters take the pains to teach them.* And how far they might improve in this respect, were the same advantages conferred on them that freemen enjoy, is impossible for us to decide until the experiment be made.

[*Having been, for two years, a monthly visitor of the African School in this city, I directed particular attention to the capacity and behaviour of the scholars, with a view to satisfy myself on the point in question. And, to me, the negro children of that institution appeared, in general, quite as orderly, and quite as ready to learn, as white children.]

Aristotle long ago said—“Men of little genius, and great bodily strength, are by nature destined to serve, and those of a better capacity to command. The natives of Greece, and of some other countries, being naturally superior in genius, have a natural right to empire; and the rest of mankind, being naturally stupid, are destined to labour and slavery.”* [*De Republica, book 1, chap. 5, 6.] What would this great philosopher have thought of his own reasoning, had he lived till the present day? On the one hand, he would have seen his countrymen, of whose genius he boasts so much, lose with their liberty all mental character; while, on the other, he would have seen many nations, whom he consigned to everlasting stupidity, show themselves equal in intellectual power to the most exalted of human kind.

Again—Avarice may clamorously contend, that the laws of property justify slavery; and that every one has an undoubted right to whatever has been obtained by fair purchase or regular descent. To this demand the answer is plain. The right which every man has to his personal liberty is paramount to all the laws of property. The right which every one has to himself infinitely transcends all other human tenures. Of consequence, the latter can never be set in opposition to the former. I do not mean, at present, to decide the question, whether the possessors of slaves, when called upon by public authority to manumit them, should be indemnified for the loss they sustain. This is a separate question, and must be decided by a different tribunal from that before which I bring the general subject. All I contend for at present is, that no claims of property can ever justly interfere with, or be suffered to impede the operation of that noble and eternal principle, that “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These principles and remarks would doubtless appear self-evident to all, were the case of the unhappy Africans for a moment made our own. Were it made a question, whether justice permitted the sable race of Guinea to carry us away captive from our own country, and from all its tender attachments, to their own land, and there enslave us and our posterity for ever;—were it made a question, I say, whether all this would be consistent with justice and humanity, one universal and clamorous negative would show how abhorrent the principle is from our minds, when not blinded by prejudice. Tell us, ye who were lately pining in ALGERINE BONDAGE! [i.e., enslavement in Algeria. For several centuries Algeria was the primary base of the Barbary pirates]. Tell us whether all the wretched sophistry of pride, or of avarice, could ever reconcile you to the chains of barbarians, or convince you that man had a right to oppress and injure man? Tell us what were your feelings, when you heard the pityless tyrant, who had taken or bought you, plead either of these rights for your detention; and justify himself by the specious pretences of capture or of purchase, in riveting your chains?

. . . But higher laws than those of common justice and humanity may be urged against slavery. I mean THE LAWS OF GOD, revealed in the Scriptures of truth. This divine system, in which we profess to believe and to glory, teaches us, that God has made of one blood all nations of men that dwell on the face of the whole earth. It teaches us, that, of whatever kindred or people, we are all children of the same common Father; dependent on the same mighty power; and candidates for the same glorious immortality. It teaches us, that we should do to all men whatever we, in like circumstances, would that they should do unto us. It teaches us, in a word, that love to man, and a constant pursuit of human happiness, is the sum of all social duty.—Principles these, which wage eternal war both with political and domestic slavery—Principles which forbid every species of domination, excepting that which is founded on consent, or which the welfare of society requires.

[Dr. Miller’s discourse continues on at some length. To read the rest of it, please follow the link embedded in the title at the top of the page.]

Be Ready Always

The day of the debate had brought a crowd of Presbyterian elders to the sanctuary of the Fourth Presbyterian Church on that day of April 11, 1933.  The topic was “Modernism on the Mission Field.”  And the two individuals engaging in the debate were two “heavies” on opposite sides of the issue.

machen02speerRobertEDr. J. Gresham Machen was the recognized leader of the conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Founder and president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was still a member minister of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Presbytery, though he had tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the Philadelphia Presbytery.  Against him was Dr. Robert Speer, present head of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Dr. Machen began his presentation with a proposed overture from the Presbytery of New Brunswick to the General Assembly of 1933.  The first two of four parts are the key ones, which I will quote word for word from the April 1933 Christianity Today article, and sum up the other two.

Point 1 of his overture was: “To take care to elect to positions of the Board of Foreign Missions only persons who are fully aware of the danger in which the Church stands and who are determined to insist on such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles, as being essential to the Word of God and our Standards, as being necessary to the message which every missionary under our church shall proclaim.”

In essence, this first proposition simply summed up the Declarations of the General Assembly’s five fundamentals which were considered as essential for the Church, its boards, and its ministers.  It specifically repudiated the denials of the same by the Auburn Affirmation in 1924.

Proposition 2 of the proposed overture sought to “instruct the Board of Foreign Missions that no one who denies the absolute necessity of acceptance of such verities by every candidate for this ministry can possibly be regarded as a candidate to occupy the position of Candidate Secretary.”

This proposition addressed the important place which the Candidate Secretary has in ascertaining the theological convictions which each missionary candidate has to serve on the Foreign Field.  In other words, in people such as Pearl Buck, who was openly denying the exclusiveness of the gospel of Christ, it is obvious that the Candidate Secretary had “missed the boat” in approving her as being a missionary to China.

The third proposition summed up that those who held that the tolerance of opposing views was  more important than an unswerving faithfulness in the proclamation of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God, show themselves to be unworthy of being missionaries of the cross.

This proposition was aimed at those who had accepted the fundamental viewpoint of the book, “Rethinking Missions,” that denied the exclusivity of the gospel.

The last proposition sought to warn the Board of the great dangers lurking with union enterprises in view of wide-spread error.

Dr. Speer for his part of the “debate” simply dismissed each of the overture propositions.    When the vote was taken on Dr. Machen’s proposed overture, it was voted down by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, with a majority voting in favor of confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions.  Dr. Machen, Rev. Samuel Craig, and Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge asked that their names be recorded in dissent of the motion.

For a fuller account of the debate, click here.

Words to Live By:  We are always called upon to stand faithfully for the gospel.  The results on this earth may be not what we have hoped for, but the results in the General Assembly of heaven are what counts for time and eternity.

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