September 2016

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As explained below, the following article by Franklin Pierce Ramsay appeared posthumously in the July 1930 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY [the original series of this title, not the one you know today]. Ramsay had written a commentary on the Southern Presbyterian BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER, which was published in 1898 and so the article below can be seen both as an appendix to that volume and as a charge to a ruling elder. Much of the content of Ramsay’s commentary remains pertinent for the PCA’s BCO, since in many cases the text of the modern edition is still unchanged some 113 years later. Even where the comparable paragraph has changed, Ramsay’s comments still offer good insights into the underlying principles which remain.

The Rev. Franklin Pierce Ramsay was born on March 30, 1856. He was educated at Davidson College, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago (Ph.D.) and Columbia Theological Seminary. In his forty-five year career, he served as pastor of at least six Presbyterian congregations and also as president of several colleges, including King College, Bristol, Tennessee. The Rev. F. P. Ramsay died on September 30, 1926. Thus far I have not been able to locate a photograph of him. Note: Some portions of the following were apparently illegible or otherwise marred.]

The Office of Ruling Elder: Its Obligations and Responsibilities
by the Rev. F.P. Ramsay, Ph.D.

[The following address was made by the late Dr. Ramsay on the occasion of the installation of his son, R.L. Ramsay, Ph.D., professor of English in the University of Missouri, as an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Mo., on March 25, 1925.  It came into our hands through another son, the Rev. Mebane Ramsay of Staten Island, N.Y., who found it among the papers left by his lamented father.]

As one is to be here inducted into the office of Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, my remarks will seek to be appropriate to the occasion.

At this induction into office the elder makes a declaration of his doctrinal belief, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that the Confession of Faith (and Catechisms) contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures ; and he promises to study the (doctrinal) purity of the Church.  This is the covenant that he enters into with the Church when inducted into this office.  Here is the difference between an unofficial member and an officer in the Presbyterian Church : the member simply professes his personal faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ; the officer professes his belief in the Church’s doctrinal system.  One may become a member who does not believe that the Confession of Faith contains the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures or even that the Scriptures are the Word of God, if only he trusts in Jesus Christ and means to obey Him ; but one cannot become an officer in the Presbyterian Church without accepting its doctrinal system and intending to strive for the Church’s doctrinal purity—unless he is willing to come into his office on a false profession.

Let me stress this a little.  Note the difference between the unofficial members, who are required only to profess faith in Christ, and the officers, who are required to profess acceptance of a body of doctrine.  Thus the Presbyterian Church is both liberal and intolerant.

Note that it is intolerant of disbelief in its system of doctrine on the part of its officers.  Why?  The Church is a propagandist institution, an organization for the purpose of advocating and propagating certain beliefs.  It is true that the Church’s end is to produce and nourish a certain life ; but belief is an inseparable element of that life and necessary to it.  Or be that as it may, the Church is organized and works upon that assumption, and so sets itself to propagate certain beliefs.  This system of beliefs its officers are required to accept and maintain and propagate.

Here is a striking difference between the Church and the University.  The University is organized to search for truth ; the Church to propagate the truth.  The University, assuming that there is truth still hidden, sets itself to investigate and discover new truth ; but the Church, assuming that certain truths have been given to it by revelation from God, sets itself to teach and disseminate that truth.  The University asks questions, the Church answers questions.

The candidate on this occasion is a University man, filled with the University spirit ; and I therefore say to him that the Church is organized on the assumption that it already has the truth and exists for the purpose of disseminating and propagating this truth.  If a society were organized for the purpose of propagating Socialism, a man might conceivably belong to that society, and yet be a professor in the University.  If in the University he were teaching social science, he would endeavor to lead his students in investigations that would enable them to judge for themselves between Socialism and Individualism, seemingly indifferent whether they became Socialists or Individualists, but only concerned that they became capable of weighing the claims of both.  But if this same man joins the Socialist society, and is sent out as one of its speakers to expound and advocate its system of beliefs and make converts to it, and ground them in it ; he is then a propagandist of Socialism and will endeavor to gain adherents to the system.  He is then at work on the assumption that Socialism is true and established, and now needs to be propagated.  So the Church is a propagandist society ; and its officers, and especially its elders and ministers, are its agents to disseminate its system.

Now one may not believe that the system of beliefs held by the Presbyterian Church is truth, or that it is wise to have an organization for advocacy and propagation of this system ; but if he becomes an officer in this Church, pledged to promote its system and propagate its beliefs, then he professes himself to receive this system and covenants to cooperate with others in disseminating it.  He is not obliged to assume this obligation ; he is not obliged to make this profession and pledge, any more than he is obliged to become a lecturer for the Socialistic society.  But if he does make this profession and pledge, and does become an officer in the Presbyterian Church, he must be loyal to this profession and pledge, or disloyal.  If a man should join the Socialist society, not believing in Socialism, or not believing in its type of Socialism, and should accept a commission from it to go out as one of its speakers, and as such should really oppose its type of Socialism ; we and other honest men would accuse him of boring from within, of betraying his trust, and of paltry dishonesty.  I trust that the man to be now ordained will never sink so low.

Now the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church is not indeed a lecturer to advocate its principles to the same extent as the Minister is ; but he is, all the same, the conserver and guardian of its doctrinal purity.  The eldership has equal voice with the Ministers in the Presbyteries and higher courts of the Church, which judge its Ministers and administer its whole government and discipline, and control its administration ; and the eldership in the local Church, always more numerous than the ministry, have the control.  And it lies as a special obligation on the elders to see that the teaching in their church is loyal to the Confession of Faith of the Church.  If the pastor should be somewhat erratic, and yet in life and spirit is loyal to the system of truth, the elders should bear with him, and cooperate with him on the whole ; but if at any time the pastor departs from the system and becomes disloyal to the system, the elders are there to protect the Church against his false teaching.  So I say that the elders are the conservers of our system of doctrine.

Nor need we be ashamed of being members and agents of a propagandist society.  True, there is such a thing as progress in understanding religious truth ; and the Presbyterian Church makes provision for this progress.  It provides for amending its doctrinal standards ; and it has amended them again and again.  We do not say that we believe them to be errorless, but to contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures ; and any elder or minister may be discovered, or better statements of truth may be invented ; but this improvement of the system is to be made by those who believe in the system, and by methods that insure full discussion.

But while there is this provision for progress and change, the very nature of Christianity makes it a stable thing.  The process of revelation runs through many generations, a growth from its germinal beginning in the beginning of human history up to its fruitage in Jesus Christ.  This revelation of truth through the ages has reached its consummation in the Perfect Word.  We cannot now go back and make ____ history different.  We cannot go back now, _____ prevent the entrance of sin into the world.  ____ cannot change or improve the covenants with Abraham.  We cannot make the redemption from Egypt, and the Mosaic legislation, ____ the settlement in Canaan, throw any finer ____ on the teachings of Christ.  We cannot ____ the tabernacle or the temple, or fashion ____ priesthood and sacrifices, or turn the music ____ the temple, to clearer significance on what ____ Christ was to be.  We cannot alter the development of the Messianic monarchy, so that the Son of David shall mean more than it does.  We cannot adjust the birth of Jesus, His miracles, or His resurrection, more in accordance with modern skepticism, or make His bloody death more esthetic.  We cannot call Him down from heaven and instruct Him how to guide His Church and to apply His religion.  There are the facts, and we cannot now change them ; there is the Christ that God has given us, and we cannot modernize Him ; there is the unalterable revelation shining in the heaven of history, and we cannot remake it.

We can only accept Him as He is, and enthrone Him in our hearts and lives.  Let us be loyal to Him, and loyal to His Church.

And especially may educated men, men whose very occupations require them to push on the frontiers of inquiry in science and philosophy and literature, render this service to their Lord : they can be loyal to Him, and loyal to His revelation made once for all, and thus testify that progress in investigation does not mean putting out the light of the past ; and can show that humble faith in Christ is consistent with the scientific humility of willingness to learn.

Christianity as a system of truth is a great building.  Its foundation have been laid, and even its walls have already risen into the skies.  It rises like the Memorial Tower yonder on the campus.  We may come and build upon this building ; but we will not wreck its walls nor raze its foundation.  We will build ourselves and our lives into the rising structure, sure that we shall be safe on its walls that waver not, and on its foundations that tremble not.  For here is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.

Have You Improved the Sermon?

“Now the interesting question is, How have the people improved the preaching of the law and the gospel? Most of those who lived under the ministry of my predecessor have gone to the grave. But to you who are yet living and hearing the gospel, the question is solemn and important. Have you so improved the preaching of God’s word as to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

The bicentennial observation of the founding of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, of Fairton, New Jersey, commonly known as the Old Stone Church, was observed on September 29, 1880, the church having been organized in 1680. That congregation continues on to the present day and is a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America.

osbornEthanEasily the most distinguished pastor in the history of the Old Stone Church was the Rev. Ethan Osborn.

For our Lord’s day sermon, the following is a transcript of the aged pastor’s last words to his congregation,

“the aged preacher, in all the faithfulness of his still loving heart, and under circumstances which could not fail to awaken for him the sympathy of his audience. He is now in his ninety-second year. The place where he stands was the scene of his eventful ministrations for more than half a century, and he does not expect ever to preach from that pulpit again. After referring to the ministry of his predecessor, who in 1780 preached the first sermon in the house, to his own labors there, and to those of the writer of this memorial, then the pastor of the congregation, he proceeds—”

“I may safely say that by the preaching of these three ministers, in this house, the doctrines and all things essential to duty and salvation, have been clearly explained and faithfully urged upon the people. The doctrine of human depravity has been explained and proved from Scripture and common observation. Here also the doctrine of regeneration has been repeatedly set forth, and the absolute necessity of it urged upon the people. It has been shown that we must be new created in Christ Jesus, must have the love of God ruling in our hearts, or we can never be admitted into his kingdom.

“Also the doctrines of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have been faithfully preached in this house, and their absolute necessity in order to obtain pardon and heavenly felicity. Likewise the duties prescribed in the gospel have been explained and insisted on. The people have been informed that supreme love to God is their indispensable duty. Here also they have been taught the duties we owe, one to another, to do good to all according to our abilities and opportunities; and to ourselves, to live sober and religious lives in the world. Here also, that the law forbids every sin, whether in action, word or heart, and pronounces a curse on every transgression of it. For ‘cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And as all have sinned, therefore no human being can be justified before God by the deeds of the law, or by meritorious obedience. The law requires perfect and perpetual obedience. But as no man has yielded such obedience, or possessed sinless perfection, therefore in vain do you now look to the law for justification.

‘Since to convince and to condemn,
Is all the law can do.’

“But, thanks to God : the gospel reveals a way of justification, how we may obtain forgiveness and the favor of God. And this blessed gospel has often been preached in this house, the gospel which offers a free pardon to every humble penitent. ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ The blessed Saviour invites the weary and heavy laden sinner to come to him, assuring him that he will raise him up at the last day to eternal life. Such is the inviting and beneficent language of the gospel. But at the same time, both law and gospel denounce everlasting punishment on such as reject the Saviour and die impenitent.

“Now the interesting question is, How have the people improved the preaching of the law and the gospel? Most of those who lived under the ministry of my predecessor have gone to the grave. But to you who are yet living and hearing the gospel, the question is solemn and important. Have you so improved the preaching of God’s word as to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

“To those who are pious believers, I would say, you have chosen the good part, and God has begun a gracious work in you which he will carry on until it terminates in glory. So that by faith in Christ, shaving laid hold on the hope set before us, you may have a strong consolation, and go on your Christian course rejoicing. Be not satisfied with your present relative attainments, but press forward to the work of perfection, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Use the appointed means of reading and hearing the word of God, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves for public worship, as many do, and by no means neglect the privilege and duty of prayer. Ask and receive, not only that you may have grace to serve God, but that you may also grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord Jesus Christ. In this way religion will become more pleasant. The nearer you advance toward heavenly perfection, the more delighted you will be with heavenly enjoyment. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’

‘Come leave his pleasant ways,
And let us taste his grace.’

“Never be weary in well doing, for in perseverance, you shall in due time reap a glorious harvest. As an inducement thus to live and spend your remaining days, remember your judge and mind will ere long call us to answer, how I have preached the gospel and how you have improved it.

“I now turn to those of you whose future happiness is not yet secured by faith in the Mediator. Your situation is awfully dangerous. You are now suspended between the possibility of eternal happiness or eternal misery. You are now between the two vast extremes, or if I may more plainly express it between heaven and hell. Either celestial happiness or infernal misery must in a short time be your everlasting portion. How solemn is the prospect before you–the joys of heaven or the sorrows of hell, one of which must be your everlasting portion,–the latter except ye turn at God’s reproof. ‘As though God did beseech you, by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’ Believe me when I say it is my heart’s desire and prayer to God, that you and I may have a joyful meeting at the judgment, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“As we expect this to be the last Sabbath on which I shall speak to you from this pulpit, let me say, in the presence of God who knows my heart, that I have endeavored and prayed that I might faithfully perform my ministerial duties. Though I am conscious of much imperfection, God is my witness, that I have ever preached such doctrine and precepts as I verily believe are agreeable to his word. I have repeatedly said, ‘the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’ With gratitude to God, I look back upon the religious revivals with which he has blessed us and the friendly relations which have subsisted between us. It is no small satisfaction that as pastor and people we separated as friends, and that a pleasant intercourse subsists between myself and my successor, your present pastor. Never were the people more dear to me, I shall love them as long as I live.

“Excuse my plainness, and permit me once more to say in the fullness of my feelings, that my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you all is, that you may be saved. As it will not be long before we must each answer to God–I for my ministry, and you for your improvement of it, let us be diligent in what duty remains and in advancing toward heaven. Let brotherly love continue and abound, until it shall be perfected in the heavenly kingdom. And may God prepare us all to meet in heaven! I now bid you a cordial farewell, praying that it may fare well with you in this world, in blessings of health and prosperity, as far as shall be for God’s glory and your own good, and that in the future world, entered with your blessed Saviour into the joy of your Lord, you may FARE WELL.”

[excerpted from The Pastor of the Old Stone Church (1858), pp. 52-56. To read this work online, click here.]

The Purpose of the Bible for Unbelievers and Believers

Our post today concerns  that magnificent answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, at Question number 80, which asks and answers, “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?  A.  The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

Here we arrive at the first outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, namely and especially ”the Word,” or the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Focus in with me on the first five words of this answer,  “The Spirit of God makes.”  We must never limit the work of the Holy Spirit, for He is God.  Yet the means which the Triune God has appointed is the Holy Spirit working through and by the Word of God to make it effective for salvation. Thus, it behooves us to always pray that the Holy Spirit apply the reading and preaching of the Word to ourselves and others.

Our Confessional fathers then remind us of the two methods associated with the Bible, namely, that of reading and preaching. Every time we read and hear the Bible, we need to ask and answer three questions, namely, what does it saywhat does it mean, and what does it mean to me?.

There are two ways in which we can speak of the Bible being effectual. First, the Word of God “convinces and converts sinners.”  It convinces us that we are sinners.  It humbles our proud thoughts with respect to ourselves.  It convinces us that we cannot save ourselves. It convinces us that Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life. In short, it drives sinners out of themselves and draw us and others irresistibly to the Redeemer.

The Word, through the Holy Spirit, then converts us.  We are changed from a child of the devil to a child of God.  We go from death to life, from a hater of the holy God to a lover of God.  We have a change of mind which leads to a change of action.

What this convincing and converting should produce in us at the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word of God, is a prayer for the effectiveness of the Bible in the lives and souls of the elect. Let us not simply sit at “zombies” in the chairs of our homes, or the pews of the church, when the Word of God is read in family devotions, or Sunday worship. Let us constantly be in prayer when the Bible is read, that it might bring forth spiritual fruit unto salvation, and holiness of life, and preparation for service.

Second, the Word also is an “effective means” of ”building us up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”  There is a construction process going on around the Word of God. The Spirit of God is building spiritual stones in the temple of our hearts. The holiness of God is aimed at by the reading and hearing of the Word of God.  Comfort from the troubles of life is another profit achieved by the reading and hearing of God’s Word.  The Scriptures will expose the sins we should be putting to death. And it is in the Scriptures where we will find encouragement, not only for ourselves, but to others who need the comfort of God.

In summary, the reading of and listening to God’s Word, should never be a rote experience in our lives.  It is to be a living, changing progression in conversion and conduct.

Words to live by:  As a retired Presbyterian and Reformed  pastor, I once challenged the people of an evangelical and Reformed congregation by giving them a paper bag, so that they could smuggle their personal Bibles out of their homes on the Lord’s Day, use them in the church service, and then smuggle them back into their homes at the end of the Lord’s Day! It was an extreme suggestion (which no one did actually), and a humorous suggestion to get them to bring their Bibles to church.  I then followed it up with a Through the Bible reading plan in a year (the one I am using in this devotional guide) to make their Bibles a constant in their hearts and lives. It had its effect on the congregation, as some of them were saved, and others began to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Keep the Word of God before God’s people, by believing and living it yourselves, and encouraging others to be much in God’s Word, the Bible.

Our post today consists of an excerpt from an address delivered on this day, September 27, in 1874, by the Rev. Dr. Charles Hodge, on the occasion of the re-opening of the chapel at the Princeton Theological Seminary. This discourse was delivered in the same year that saw the publication of Dr. Hodge’s brief work, What is Darwinism?, and just two years after the appearance of his monumental three-volume Systematic Theology. The occasion was also less than four years before his death in June of 1878. We note too that almost certainly among the gathered students that day in the chapel was the young Benjamin B. Warfield, who had entered the Seminary the year before. In his wonderful history of the Princeton Theological Seminary, my dear friend and esteemed professor Dr. David Calhoun sets the scene:

hodgeCharles_grayIn 1874 the seminary chapel was remodeled—”Victorianized” with stained glass windows, carpeting, and upholstered pews—through the gift of trustee John C. Green, a generous benefactor of the seminary who died the following year. At the seminary’s opening in September Charles Hodge gave the sermon. Hodge noted that over 3,000 ministers of the gospel had been trained at Princeton. “With rare exceptions,” he said, “they have been faithful men. They have labored in every part of our own land and in almost every missionary field.” He told the present students that they had assumed “grave responsibilities in coming to this place,” “Your first duty,” he said, “is to make your calling and election sure.” It is important that you seek the ministry, he told them, with pure and honest motives—”love to Christ, zeal for his glory, and a desire to save your fellow men.” “Your second duty,” Hodge said, “is to throw your whole heart into the work and, while here, into the work of preparation and into the life of the Seminary, whether in the classroom, the chapel, the conference, or prayer meeting.” Finally, in the name of his colleagues Hodge made a request of everyone.

“It is a small matter to you, but a great matter to us. We beg that each of you, as long as he lives, would daily pray that the officers and students of this Seminary may be full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Let others believe and say what they please, we believe and know that God is the hearer of prayer. If each of the two thousand surviving alumni of this Institution would daily offer that prayer, what a place Princeton would be!”
[Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. Banner of Truth, 1996, p. 42.]

What a place any seminary would be, if so invested before the throne of Glory with such prayer! Let this be your exhortation to so pray!

The full text of Hodge’s discourse can be viewed by clicking here, but for our purposes today, we will limit our excerpt to his opening words which form at once a brilliant summary of the core of Christian theology and a beautiful presentation of the Gospel of saving grace. 

Princeton Theological Seminary. A Discourse delivered at the re-opening of the chapel, September 27, 1874, by Charles Hodge, the Senior Professor.

It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.—I Cor. 1:21.

The Bible assumes all primary truths—whether principles of reason or facts of consciousness—and by assuming, authenticates them.

It assumes
1. That man has a soul capable of conscious existence and activity without the body; and that the soul is the man—that in which his personality and identity reside. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, and are now the same persons as when they dwelt on earth.

2. It assumes that man is a free moral agent; dependent, responsible and immortal.

3. It assumes that the well-being of all creatures depends on their preserving their normal relation to God.

4. It assumes that man has by sin lost his normal relation to God, and that by no effort of his own, and by no aid from any creature, can he be restored to the divine fellowship and favor.

These are among the assumptions of the Bible; and they are all self-evident truths. They enter into the convictions of all men in all ages of the world.

The Bible teaches concerning fallen men :
1. That it pleased God, out of His mere good mercy, to determine not to leave them in their estate of sin and misery but to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

2. That the only Redeemer of men is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continues to be both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

3. That Christ effects our redemption by exercising in our behalf the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He is Prophet or teacher, not only as He is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer, the effulgent image of God, but specially as He reveals to us the will of God for our salvation. He is our Priest in that He offered Himself unto God as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and in that He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is our King because He subdues us unto Himself, rules in, and reigns over us, and conquers all His and our enemies.

4. The Bible further teaches that the divinely appointed means for applying to men the benefits of Christ’s redemption is “the foolishness of preaching.” It is so called because, so far as the method of salvation is concerned, the wisdom of men is foolishness with God; and the wisdom of God is foolishness with man. In the beginning the gospel was a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek. We ought not, therefore, to be either surprised or concerned when, in our day, we hear the hierarchs of science proclaiming from their high places, that the supernatural is impossible, and that all faith is superstition. It has always been so and always will be so. Nevertheless in spite of the opposition of the Jews and of the contempt of the Greek, the gospel was, is, and will continue to be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.

To read the entire discourse, click here, It is well worth your time.

Sin and Penalty are Substance and Shadow.

On most Saturdays over the past several months, our guest author Dr. David Hall has explored some of what are known as “election day” sermons. A similar and interesting study might be made of “fast day” sermons, and the most important of these in our national history would be those brought by Presidential request prior to and at the start of the Civil War. One such sermon was delivered on this day, September 26, 1861, by the Rev. J.B. Bittinger [1823-1885]
. His sermon text was from Numbers 32:23, and he spoke before what was apparently a gathering of Presbyterian churches in Cleveland, Ohio. Our post today is heavily edited for length. To read the full text, click here: https://archive.org/details/ASPC0001905400


Numbers 32:23.
—But if ye will not do so, behold ye have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.

In these words of Moses, we recognize a general principle; one that is applicable now as it was then, a principle that is fundamental to all government. It may be stated in these words:

LAW IS VINDICATIVE.

God has breathed a life into every statute that He has enacted, and whenever any of these laws are broken, they will certainly avenge themselves–the mode and time of vindication may differ, but the vindication is sure to come, and when it does come, is sure to be adequate. . . Sanctions are the crown and sceptre of law, not an incident but an element of its royalty,—and to send out His statutes without their penalties, would be to uncrown them, and to degrade them from the dignity of the law, to the humiliation of advice.

We may accept it therefore as a sound inference, that penalties are an essential part of all laws, and that whenever any law is violated, the offender must and will suffer. In the natural world, there is no escape from this irrevocable decree, except by a miracle—some sovereign act of suspension or repeal. In the moral world the same is true. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” is the inspired utterance of the law giver Himself, and unless repealed or suspended, the dishonored law will avenge itself.

Now the one great miracle in the moral world, is the death of Christ. It is the source of every arrest of judgment, of ever reprieve, of every acquittal. This is the law in respect to individuals. Of those aggregates of individuals, called nations, it is said, “the nation and kingdom that will not serve God shall perish.” This is a particular form of the text—”and be sure your sin will find you out.” Vengeance is on the track of guilty nations, no less than on that of guilty men—but there is this important difference, the nation must be overtaken in this world. Nations as such have no existence hereafter, and therefore, if their sins find them out, it must be here. If the nation that does not serve God shall perish, it must perish here.

The text suggests another principle—OFFENDERS ARE PUNISHED IN THE LINE OF THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS. Law is not merely vindicative, but it avenges itself in kind, “and be sure
your sin will find you out,”—not other sins, nor other people’s sins—but your sin. The drunkard is not punished for theft, nor the liar for gluttony; but each penalty moves on the track of its own sin. Perfidious nations are punished by perfidy, and for perfidy; covetous nations for covetousness, and by covetousness.

Summoned by the President of the United States, to observe a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, on account of our sins as a people, we must first know what those sins are, before we can rightly confess them, bewail them, and turn from them. Our sins will help us to understand our punishment, as also our punishment will help us to discover our sins—and both, I trust will teach us to abhor and forsake them.

In enquiring, what are national sins, we should make some distinctions. There are national sins, in which many individuals of the nation have no part, and to which they give no countenance. It is also true that there are many individual sins which are not national, and which do not affect the national welfare, nor provoke national judgment. National sins are those in which the great body of the people participate, eiher by committing them, or refusing to protest against their commission. National sins are embodied in the manners, customs and laws of a people; and especially are they such sins as are committed by our rules and approved of, or tolerated by the people. In a government where the subject can vote as well as pray against sin, corrupt rulers are the real and perhaps the truest exponents of national sins. In the light of these views, let us see what are some of our national sins.

It seems to me that, our first national sins is materialism. The habit of the national mind is to give undue prominence to material as opposed to moral interests.

Our next great national sin is licentiousness. The spurning of restraint. Making light of law. Despising authority. Exalting the individual above the state. The same causes which have exposed us to the temptations of materialism, have operated unfavorably on our sentiments of respect for authority and reverence for the law. Independence, amounting to arbitrariness, is the characteristic of the American mind.

From this radical sin have come three plagues to afflict this nation. The first of these is the so-called
freedom of speech and the press. The liberty to say any thing to any body. For fierceness of denunciation, for foulness of vituperation, for meanness of subserviency, and for unblushing mendacity; the campaign political party papers of this country, with few exceptions, have attained an unrivalled, and it is hoped, an unenvied “bad eminence.” So infectious is the malady that not a little of this moral unscrupulousness has trailed its slime even through some of our religious papers . . . If defamation and falsehood are sins, then we have grievously sinned through our freedom of speech and the press.

The next plague coming from our nations of independence, and must fostered by the free press spoken of, is the characteristic of our office-holders. We have for years exalted to office many of the vilest of men. We have made those our rulers whom we would be ashamed to introduce to our families. Self-seeking and unscrupulous men, flattering the people to blind them, have crept into place and power everywhere. Third-rate men intellectually, and men of no rate morally…

The third plague that has smitten us because of our materialism and arbitrary independence, is the kind of legislation we have had and have tolerated. The higher functions of government are seldom carried on on any principles higher than expediency—political expediency, or even partisan expediency . . . The morality of a statute is not its strong recommendation, for not claiming to derive our right to legislate from the divine nature and origin of government, we too generally assume the right to please our party, which is often only another name for benefitting ourselves. Our inalienable legislative rights seem to be: first, to do what we please; and second, to do what we can.

Our third great national sin is slavery. It is our greatest national sin, because it is infiltrated with materialism and licentiousness, and because it is the creature of law. It is an iniquity decreed by statute. American slavery is not merely the right of one man to another man’s services; but it is the right of one man to another man; not the right simply to work him, but to sell him. It is the right, by law, to erase the name of his Creator, and write upon him the name of his owner. This terrible forgery carries with it the slave’s wife and children, his limbs and senses, his faculties and earnings, and, if it should please God to convert him his gifts and graces. It takes him out of the category of man and puts him into the schedule of things.


But this is not all. Its power to beget sin has made it more formidable than its own iniquity. It is the snaky head of Medusa, poisoning all it touches, and petrifying all who look upon it. The materialism of our own country readily gathered about it.

But I will leave the sins to consider their visitation upon us. The text says: “be sure your sin will find you out.” The general principle asserted is that law is vindicative. This has been already considered. The special principle asserted is that the law vindicates itself in the line of its violation. This, too, has been partially unfolded, by showing what some of our national sins are. It only remains to show that we are now suffering the penalty of our sins; or, in the words of the text our sins have found us out. Sin and penalty are substance and shadow, each pointing to the other, and each helping to prove the other’s reality.

At length our sins have overtaken us. Our materialism blunted our moral sense so that we would not and could not see its benumbing touch, our fine spiritual discernment seemed gone. It defiled our newspapers, it poisoned our public charities, it infested our pulpits, and it depraved our politics. But we went to our farms, our merchandise, and our coarse pleasures. We grew rich and cared not, and only when taxes became too onerous or official misrule threatened our property, did safety committees spring from indignant communities, and execute a sort of wild justice upon official outlaws. Embezzlements, forgeries, defaultings, dishonest assignments, bankrupt laws, and city and State repudiation, are all proofs of our materialism, and in part the penalties of it. And now comes voracious war to glut itself on our gross wealth—to eat up our selfish gains, and, I trust, to deliver us from the thraldom of national covetousness. We can save our industry, our enterprise, our intelligence and our virtue. It is meant that we shall. We may learn economy, moderation, and trust in God; it is designed that we shall, but the price demanded is our money or our life.

But our sin has already found us out, and what shall we do to avert the full punishment? We must repent, and our repentance must be in line of our sins. If we have been guilty of covetousness, it will not do to confess something else; if we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear. If we have worshipped mammon, let us repent of our covetousness. If the love of material interests has made us negligent of our liberty, and forgetful of the liberties of others, let us confess our sin, and be vigilant . . . If we have been faithless to our promises, let us henceforth begin and speak each man truth to his neighbor, and owe no man anything. Let us repent of our pride, our boasting, and our evil inventions. Let us repent of slavery and put it away from us, for “we are verily guilty concerning our brother in that, for centuries, we have seen the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear, therefore is this distress come upon us. Let us accept the challenge. It is the crisis in our history—not commercial, nor industrial, but moral. We never had a grander opportunity, nor had any nation, to immortalize itself; to die nobly if die we must, to live nobly if live we may. Once and again this question has come before us. Will we write our name in the golden book of national glory?

One thought more and I have done. By our coming together this day; by our confessions and supplications we profess our faith in God, and the dominion of His justice. We shrink from that justice, and we have appointed a fast to avert our doom; or, if not avert, at least alleviate it. We afflict our souls, and bow down our heads, but shall we call these sorrowful words a fast? or these sings of mourning an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that He has chosen?

To loose the bands of wickedness;
To undo the heavy burdens;
To let the oppressed go free;
And to break every yoke?
Then shall we call, and the Lord will answer.
We shall cry, and He shall say: here I am.

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

Q. 103. What do we pray for in the third petition?

A. In the third petition which is, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” we pray, That God, by His grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to His will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

Scripture References: Matt. 6:10; Ps. 67; Matt. 26:39; Ps. 119:36; 2 Sam. 15:25; Job 1:21; Ps. 103: 20-21.

Questions:
1. What do we mean by the will of God?

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we mean by His will two things:
(1) His will of Providence in which He determines what He will do for us and to us. This is His secret will, the will of His decree (Isa. 46:10);
(2) His will that is revealed to us in the Scripture and one for which we should be constantly praying (Acts 21:12-14).

2. When we are praying for His providential will to be done, what is involved in our prayer?

We are praying that we might be made willing to comply with His will in our lives. A good example of this is found in I Sam. 3:18 where it states, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” We are willing to see God in the ways He takes us, though sometimes our “seeing” Him is by faith.

3. What is involved in our prayer when we pray for His revealed will to be done?

We are praying that we might understand, through His Word and the help of the Holy Spirit, the ways He would have us to go. We are praying, “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God; Thy Spirit is good.” (Ps. 143:10).

4. How can we be made willing to do His will?

We should recognize He is our Sovereign God and be willing to let the Holy Spirit lead su within that framework. We should recognize that His will is freer to work in us as our hearts are free from the love of the world. We should recognize that His way is the best for us and that someday we will understand.

5. What sort of obedience do the angels in heaven have toward God’s will?

Our Larger Catechism tells us it is one of “humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy” (Larger Catechism Q. 192).

THE DESIRE TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD.

“Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Eph. 6:6). “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8). Two verses from the Word of God and both of them speaking to us regarding the will of God. The first one tells us we have a duty, a privilege, to do the will of God as servants of Christ. The second one informs us we should delight to do that will. Do we have a desire to do the will of God? Is this something that is real to us, day by day?

Whenever I think of finding the will of God for my life, I turn immediately in my mind to my life verses: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6). Many years ago I began to see that knowing the will of God had more to do with identification than with education. The closer I walk to Him the easier it is for me to understand His will.

This is all saying that a knowledge of the will of God is always paralleled with a desire to do the will of God. And a desire to do the will of God comes with an attitude of commitment to our Lord. The desire to know the will of God and the denial of self is beautifully tied together in the hymn:

“Thy will, O Lord, not mine,
Teach me to say;
Not my will, Lord, but Thine,
I would obey;
Then shall I know the joy,
And Thy name glorify,
When I, on earth, shall try
To follow Thee.”

If we expect to know His will for our lives, if we expect to be called by Him to do His work and know–It is His work, we must accept commitment to Him as a prerequisite. The heart that is willing to surrender to Him in self-denial is the heart that will be led by the Spirit of God. Too many times we expect to know His will without being willing to pay the price involved of saying “No!” to self. OUR ways, our understanding, our desires must be submitted to Him and then we can pray the words: “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God . . .” (Ps. 143:10). And then He will answer our prayer by leading us with His gentle hand.

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. 7, No. 8 (August 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

“A Century Sermon of the Glorious Revolution”
by Elhanan Winchester (Nov. 16, 1788)  

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797) served as a pastor in New England, South Carolina, and even London—ultimately moving from the Baptist faith to Unitarianism later in life. He was also a popular and influential Baptist pastor in Philadelphia for the seven years just prior to the constitutional convention. After his conversion to universalism, he was removed from his pulpit and relocated to a more Unitarian friendly London.

During his London tenure, Winchester published many erudite works. Toward the end of his life, he distilled his political theology into a work that defended “the great principles of liberty and of the federal government,” entitled A Plain Political Catechism. This sermon was clearly as much a celebration of a historic anniversary as it was an exposition of a passage of Scripture.

Winchester began this sermon with a verse from the first song in Scripture (Ex. 15:11). In it, he extols the unrivaled glory and holiness of God. From this theology will come his political theology. He reviews the plagues and the Exodus narrative that led up to this song. It is against this specific backdrop that Winchester draws an important lesson: “For it may be observed, that when God is about to work a great deliverance for his people, he usually first brings them into a great strait, so that destruction seems inevitable.” However, the God of providence stands and fights for certain nations, as he did for Israel against Egypt. A brief overview of the attributes of God shows his greatness in every aspect of his character. Winchester, in the first part of his sermon, provides a straightforward explanation of the terms and phrases in Exodus 15.

Then, he turns abruptly to a historical review. He did not hesitate to cite Philip of Spain, who in 1588 was viewed as “a second Pharaoh for pride and cruelty.” This Spanish empire sought aggressively to expand their imperial reach. With its massive resources and capital (“the sinews of war”), Spain “had the best army, and finest navy in Europe; and the greatest commanders of the age, both by land and sea.” Spain intended to invade England and likely would have overpowered Great Britain.

Even with the backing of Rome, this ‘invincible armada,’ was thwarted by “the hand of Providence [which] plainly appeared.” Citing the various ways that this Spanish Armada was defeated or distracted, even seeing the Providence of God in the Armada’s taking on disinformation, which led it right into the strength of the British Navy. He stated it this way: “Thus was this formidable armada defeated, without having done the smallest injury to this kingdom, or even landing any troops upon the island. And thus England was miraculously saved from destruction, by the immediate hand of Providence; which was scarcely, ever more visibly manifested in any affair, than in that very great, and singular deliverance of this land, from tyranny, popery, and slavery.”

Winchester next jumps ahead exactly 100 years to 1688. He begins his review with William of Orange, who was a token of God’s providence over human affairs. William of Orange’s Glorious Revolution buttressed the following liberties: (1) the liberty of acquiring and possessing private property; (2) the liberty of personal freedom and safety, guaranteed by jury trials; (3) the liberty and freedom of the press; and (4) the liberty of conscience, including freedom to worship in keeping with that conscience.

On this final point, he amplifies (note the italicized wording that is epexegetical of First Amendment terminology):

There is but one country in the world where liberty, and especially religious liberty, is so much enjoyed as in these kingdoms, and that is the United States of America: there religious liberty is in the highest perfection. All stand there on equal ground. There are no religious establishments, no preference of one denomination of Christians above another. The constitution knows no difference between one good man, and another. A man may be chosen there to the highest civil offices, without being obliged to give any account of his faith, subscribe any religious test, or go to the communion-table of any church.

Winchester blames establishmentarianism (as Constantinianism) for “the almost total cessation of the progress of christianity, the rise of Mahometanism, the rise and spread of deism, the general contempt into which christianity is fallen; all may fairly be laid at the door of that establishment.” He envisioned a better world, once freed of an established church, as in America.

He then issued this distilled proverb: “the greatest maxim in politics that was ever delivered, and which deserves to be written in letters of gold, over the doors of all the state houses in the world. The great secret of governing, consists in not governing too much.”

True liberty, thought Winchester, would depress the love of money, lust for power, and cruelty. While crediting the William III’s accomplishments, this preacher did not fail his calling, when he segued: “As I never shall have a better opportunity, give me leave here to introduce a greater hero on the stage than William the Third; even Jesus Christ, the great deliverer of mankind.” As certain as the historical events were surrounding William III’s rule, more certain were the historical events of Jesus Christ. This impressive apologetic in the midst of this sermon argued that as helpful as William was, Jesus Christ did more. He stated it this way:

William came over here for the benefit of the people of this nation, who were his friends, invited him over, and joined his standard. But Jesus Christ came into the world for the benefit of all mankind, even those who were his enemies; he was hated, despised, opposed and rejected, by his own kindred, according to the flesh; yet still his love and kindness continued to the last towards them.

William did many things for the good of this land; suffered much, and ventured his life for the people of these kingdoms; for which his memory is precious, and ought to be regarded with sincere affection. But O, what love, gratitude and praises, are due to Jesus Christ, who came into the world, and wrought so many works of mercy for mankind?

Coming to the present, the year 1788 saw progress in liberty in many nations. Chief among those tokens of liberty were the US Constitution: “This is such an astonishing event to those who know the situation of the United States of America, that nothing less than a very special Providence, and divine interference could have brought it about. Many instances of the visible protection and goodness of God towards the American states, have appeared from the beginning of the unhappy contest, between them and the ministry of this nation, to the present time; but in no instance has a divine hand so plainly appeared as in the present.”

Winchester believed that one hundred years later, Christianity would continue its spread, the Turks would be in decline, and Jews would be in their own land. His sermon concludes: “When we consider the great things which God hath wrought already; and those greater things which he hath promised to perform in his own time, we may say in the words of my text, with which I shall conclude: ‘Who is like unto thee, O Lord, amongst the gods? who is like thee glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?’”

A version of this sermon is posted online at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/816. It also occurs in the published edition by Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).

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

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. And you can’t really make sense of Presbyterian history if you don’t know something of the various people who played out this grand story.

So Ad fontes! (To the sources!) — There is probably no better way to assess the character and mentality of an era or a group of people than to read what they themselves have actually written. Don’t be satisfied with reading secondary sources! And in the case of Christians, churches, and denominations, read or listen to their sermons, their discourses, and their theology.

The following address, delivered in 1941 by Dr. Carl McIntire on the occasion of the dedication of a new property and home for Faith Theological Seminary, at the beginning of the school’s fourth academic year. The Seminary was later to move to yet another location, the old historical Widener estate. While eventually the school fell on hard times and had to leave the Widener property, it has managed to continue on unto this day. 

Dr. McIntire was always a “scrapper,” ready for a fight and unafraid of any opposition. Clearly he had his faults, some of them glaring, but he was a most remarkable and interesting character in this story that was conservative Presbyterianism in the twentieth century. The address that follows provides us with some rich insights into American Presbyterian history, into the mentality of theological conservatives, and in particular, some better insight into just who Carl McIntire was.


ADDRESS AT THE DEDICATION OF THE PROPERTY GIVEN TO FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
September 23, 1941.
by the REV. CARL MCINTIRE
President of the Board of Directors.

Text:  “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23)

Faith Theological Seminary is not just “another seminary.” It stands as a pivotal citadel against a decaying Protestantism. It is not a small stream off a great river, but it moves in the very center of the current of the Christian faith.

The founding of this institution in 1937 was occasioned by the apostasy in the visible church, particularly the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and the need for ministers and missionaries would would stand without compromise for the faith once delivered unto the saints. It is not “another seminary” because of its cause. It is not “another seminary” because of its scholarship. It is not “another seminary” because of its consecration.

Faith Theological Seminary, 1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, De
[pictured above, the building donated to Faith Theological Seminary in 1941]

EARLY SCHOOLS OF THEOLOGY

The same motive that led to the establishment of the early schools of theology, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which was the need of a trained and sound ministry, was behind the establishment of this institution. The roots of this institution go back to the previous century and can be traced clearly in the rise of what is popularly called Modernism, the infiltration of the conclusions of destructive higher criticism into the theological seminaries, the colleges, and then down into the churches.

Harvard turned aside to another gospel, and the valiants of the faith broke from Harvard and established Andover Theological Seminary, but in time the termites of unbelief left only an outward shell at Andover, and it was joined again to Harvard. Satan focuses his strongest attacks on sound seminaries. Union Theological Seminary, New York City, at the close of the last century, was in the death throes of the same struggle. Men had crept in unawares, even denying the Lord who bought them. Their craft, their wiles gave them that institution, and it has since been a leading spokesman for a naturalizing and humanizing message. The last of these great institutions to fall was Princeton Theological Seminary, and it is in the succession to the stalwart, unyielding Princeton that Faith Seminary stands. But the softening and deadening effect that the infiltration of Modernism has had on Christianity in America had so affected the life of the church that when men objected to the presence of Modernism and cried out against it they could do nothing more than pass resolutions affirming their faith, when what the hour required was the discipline and rejection of those who denied. This was the hour of real defeat, and the fifth column’s victory. The struggle in the Presbyterian Church over the historic Auburn Affirmation was a weak, flimsy struggle compared to what that occasion required,, but the spirit and temper of the church easily explained the result. America in its dismal despair and desperate need can never be saved by that kind of leadership.

THE PRINCETON SEMINARY BATTLE

It was into this mist, with a deepening fog, that the storm broke over Princeton. God raised up several brilliant leaders, among them Dr. J. Gresham Machen and Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. They cried against Modernism, inclusivism, and indifference. Their cry was protected by a Board of Directors who stood with them. Though the great Northern Presbyterian Church, to which they belonged, straggled in response to their cry, the leadership of that body, under the spell of the voices of inclusivism, found that they could only silence the Princeton testimony by a reorganization. This was done in 1929. Princeton was made subservient to the inclusive trend of the church. Men were placed on the board of control who had said it was not necessary for preachers to believe in the essentials of the evangelical faith, such as the virgin birth, the blood of Christ, the miracles of our Lord, and His bodily resurrection, and they denied the inerrancy of the Bible.

THE LOSS OF PRINCETON

The change in Princeton since 1929 has been obvious to all. It ceased to be a militant contender for the faith; peace and quiet has been the order of the day. The hatchet between Union and Princeton has been publicly buried, and a recent General Assembly delighted in the union in fellowship and purpose of their presidents. Barthianism, with its relativism and subtle denial of the unique authority of the Scriptures as an objective deposit of truth, fills the halls where formerly the voices of the Alexanders, the Hodges, and the Warfields blazed forth in defense of the faith. Inclusivism is victorious.

But at the reorganization in 1929 those who were of the spirit of Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, walked out. They could be no party to the capitulation. Fifth columnists had captured Union in New York and Harvard, but it took a siege by politicians of the church to win Princeton.

WESTMINSTER STARTED

Princeton was the last of the old-line seminaries to go down, and the hopes of men turned toward Westminster Theological Seminary which was then organized in Philadelphia. There, under the leadership of Dr. Machen, the battle in the church continued. The same issues, loyalty to the Word of God, were raised by the publication of the pagan “Rethinking Missions” and its blanket endorsement by Pearl Buck, Presbyterian missionary. This opened the whole question of Modernism in the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. and its loyalty to the Word of God and the constitution of the church. The Presbyterian Assembly refused to reform the Board, or to order an investigation. Thus, in 1933. the famous Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was organized to receive the gifts of God’s people for the sending forth of missionaries, true and sound, and the lifting up of an uncompromising testimony to the Word of God. In 1936, our own Dr. Harold S. Laird succeeded Dr. Machen in the presidency of this historic and missionary testimony.

ECCLESIASTICAL PERSECUTION

But the fagots of ecclesiastical persecution were lighted in the Presbyterian Church. Machen and those associated with him on the Independent Board were tied to the stake, branded rebels, “cancers in the life of the church,” and because they would not bow their conscience to a mandate of the Assembly to disband their independent agency and support the compromising Board they were read out of the church, unfrocked, deposed. Some of us standing here have read the church fiats against our souls, telling us that we are no longer worthy to preach the Gospel, and forbidding us to partake of the Communion of Jesus Christ. But we have also read the Word of God telling us of God’s favor in obeying Him and standing for the precious blood of His Son. The Modernists, the inclusivists, the indifferentists, and some trembling, silent “Fundamentalists” joined in thus restoring the “peace,” not by purifying the church, but by disrupting it, and making it secure for the Modernists.

A new church was started and the movement had wide appeal. In the midst of the battle the emphasis of the defenders had been upon the Bible as the Word of God—the faith. But it is one thing to stand against apostasy, and it is another thing to build a church. Church history is replete with this lesson. Dr. Machen’s work was done. God called him Home at this crucial point. Had he lived, perhaps the turn of events would have been different. However, it is clear that God in His providence did not want them to be different.

THE FALL OF WESTMINSTER

There were elements smoldering in the movement closely associated with Dr. Machen which were not in accord with the historic position of American Protestantism and particularly of the historic Presbyterian Church in regard to the Christian’s position on certain vital matters of conduct. After Dr. Machen was removed there came to the fore an element in Westminster Seminary which told the students that they were not loyal to Christ if they did not substitute for the ordinary grape juice of the Communion cup fermented, intoxicating wine. Certain professors declared that they used intoxicating beverages, not, of course, to become intoxicated, but for their own pleasure. Under this influence certain students held drinking parties, and some even went so far as to become intoxicated. As this situation became known, the leaders of Westminster Seminary took refuge in the doctrines of Christian liberty. As to the validity and reality of those doctrines none in the movement disputed them, but there was question as to the expedient use of such liberty, particularly in our mechanized, high-tempered, present-day American life. In such an atmosphere the Seminary leaders practically forgot the old issue of Modernism and apostasy, and the young students were filled with the arguments for liberty. They went out as flaming apostles for liberty in the use of intoxicating drinks. Expedience, as taught in the Bible, was buried.

In a near-by community where there was a referendum being held against the saloon, one of the students arose and preached on Sunday morning a sermon in which he explained to the people their liberty in the use of intoxicating beverages. Church members broke down crying, some left never to darken the church door again.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

In the midst of such a situation, in love these brethren were approached and talked with, and urged to change their conduct as a matter of expediency, to consider the weaker brother, and to use not their liberty for an occasion of offense. They refused. These matters were raised in the new church, and to the amazement of so many, when a simple resolution by way of counsel and advice was presented, stating that it was the wisest policy for young people to abstain from the use of intoxicating drinks, the Westminster force rose and fought It as Satan. Also in such an atmosphere students who never had smoked began to use cigarettes.

Coupled with this, after the death of Dr. Machen, to the bewilderment of others there came to the fore an intolerance of those who believed in the premillennial return of Jesus Christ, and a Seminary spokesman accused those who loved this view of holding anti- Reformed heresy. Then there was a harsh intolerance for various opinions. The new church, they were determined, would be an amillennial body. The Seminary was going to present the “Biblical view,” which they held to be amillennialism. But many of the churches believed in the premillennial return of Christ, and young men were sent to them who immediately took up the battle against the premillenarians.

It seemed that one cannon after another was exploded by the Seminary to confuse and drive from the movement all who did not agree with the new leadership of the Seminary after Dr. Machen’s removal. A hyper-Calvinism even criticized former students who in their zeal for evangelism gave pulpit invitations for men to come forward and accept Christ. They seemed to make their emphasis on the “Reformed Faith” almost a fetish.

In the midst of such confusion utter despair and defeat seemed imminent. The enemies of the Gospel rejoiced and chortled. This new conflict was minor in comparison to the issues of Modernism, yet it was real and valid, for it represented the birth pangs of a new church, a continuation of the true Presbyterian succession, and a body free from Modernism. The enemies of the faith deliberately misrepresented the facts to justify their unrighteous stand and to misguide uninformed Christians. Many of the weaker brethren who had gone along with the struggle for the faith fell by the wayside, or turned back to the material comforts of an established church organization. But all this was a testing, a sifting, and purging. There were some who were ready to be made a spectacle All this was pain, but also a blessing!

FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY RISES

It was in this hour that Faith Theological Seminary was born. There was a Gideon’s band who saw the battle through!

I shall always thank God that I was privileged, together with many of my colleagues here on the Seminary Board and Faculty, to be in the thick of the historic struggle for the faith.

For the most confused hours God gave men faith, and this institution came forth with a conviction that the struggle for the faith against apostasy had to continue, with a proper emphasis on first things, and a sane balance on secondary issues. Faith Seminary would continue the defense of the faith represented by Dr. Machen in his celebrated works, such as “What Is Faith,” “Christianity and Liberalism,” “The Origin of Paul’s Religion,” and “The Virgin Birth.” It would sound the call to a consistent Calvinism, to an appreciation of the Reformed Faith in its warmth and zeal for the salvation of the lost, its implicit reliance on the sovereignty of God, and its full honoring of the grace of God. There is no other institution in existence with this single purpose and clear vision of America’s need. It is important whether ministers drink or do not drink, and whether the influence of the church be on the side of separation from worldliness. Since Westminster took the amillennial position, Faith Theological Seminary would lift a banner in behalf of premillennialism, granting full liberty to those Christians who differ.

FOR THE FAITH—BY FAITH

Faith Seminary has come through blood and fire, thunder and tears, and in those hours of battle there was one thing that kept and held it. It Was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His ultimate victory. Thus the institution was given its name and motto, “Faith Theological Seminary—for the faith—by faith.”

It was in this hour also that the Bible Presbyterian Church, a true successor to the Presbyterian Church, came into being. It has been singularly blessed of God, and many are rallying to its testimony. There is a chapter that perhaps should not be left unmentioned, for the sake of the record. Faith Seminary was not announced until the middle of July, 1937. In June of that year, a month and a half before, plans were being made for a seminary at Wheaton College under the direction of the Board of Directors of the College, but when the plan was presented to the Board they turned it down because they did not want to be too closely associated with the controversy. This action has proved to be a blessing. However, one prominent Philadelphia attorney who knew confidentially of the plans for the Wheaton seminary in June changed his will, leaving a substantial sum for the Wheaton project, and before he heard that the College had turned down the seminary he died. The Wheaton Board lost an opportunity of a century, and then later turned out its fearless leader, Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, for a more mollifying attitude toward the Modernistic larger denominations. Men everywhere seem to be afraid to get too close to the Seminary and the movement which it represents for fear of losing something, or being hurt in some measure. What a compliment to the Seminary! And what a sad commentary upon the superficiality of present-day Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists need to take a deeper view of the Scriptures. There, too, is Elijah versus Ahab, Nathan versus David, John the Baptist versus Herod. This hour, called by some leading liberals the twilight of Christianity, this day of darkening apostasy calls to high heaven for such prophets.

A DOUBLE BLESSING

When the decision was made in the middle of July, 1937, that Faith would be started, those who had the institution at heart thought that twelve students would be a token of the Lord’s blessing. It was to open the last of September. He sent twenty-four. We had no buildings, no money, few friends, but a great God, and a group of men who knew how faithful is Elijah’s God. What precious days these were, yea, what precious days these are!

God has given a Faculty—consecrated, scholarly, self-sacrificing. These men see the issue. They love the cause. This is the spirit of our fathers who forsook all and worshiped in caves, and instructed their students in blackouts. That spirit is more priceless than all earth’s treasures. God has given us distinguished men of gifts and vision, willing to suffer and bleed for the truth. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson groomed his successor for Princeton in Allan A. MacRae. He has nobly and ably picked up the mantle that fell from the old prophet’s shoulders, having seen also the chariot of fire. He is excelled by none in America as an Old Testament scholar and authority. Under the careful scholarship of Dr. Machen, Alfred W. Eppard was prepared for a teaching ministry and sent abroad for further preparation. He was ready when the opportunity came to present the historical, exegetical apologetic of the New Testament in the tradition of Machen. A younger, brilliant student, R. Laird Harris, was also being groomed in a similar manner for such a ministry while a student at Westminster, and God gave him to Faith. It was by an irresistible whirl of God’s providence that J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., was available to command the Chair of Theology for which God had qualified him. When God decides to build a Seminary, He first provides for spiritual needs. Buildings come later.

God has provided us directors with a determination, “This one thing I do.”

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE

It is out of the welter, the heat, the smoke of battle that we meet this afternoon to receive this gift of God’s choosing. He makes great and important decisions for us. He wants this Seminary to be here at Wil­mington close to the influences of the ministry of our secretary of the Board, Dr. Harold S. Laird. Here is visible a half million dollar church building from whose pulpit Dr. Laird was ejected—to remain there would have meant to deny Christ—in order to take his flock to an empty church by the railroad where they could worship Jesus Christ freely and fully with no yoke with compromise and unbelief in the Presbyterian Church.

America needs the prophets of Faith Theological Seminary. I see four varieties of seminary students and ministers today, but there is only one of these four that is worth having.

THE FIRST YOUNG MAN

First, there is the young man, trained in a liberal school. He is a liberal and not ashamed of it. He comes from such a school as Union in New York. He does not believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. He cannot accept the virgin birth, and openly says so. He has one credit to himself, and that is, he is honest. But he is doubly dishonest when he goes into a denomination whose creed affirms the things he denies. But there he easily cajoles his conscience, for the leaders of the church in letting him in are just as dishonest as he is in denying the creed; and besides, honesty, like all values in the new order, is only a relative matter. It is just thus with so many of the agreements of the world. They mean nothing more than the moment requires. So it is with the constitution of many of the larger churches. They are words written on paper, but not in the courts of the elders.

THE SECOND YOUNG MAN

Second, there is the young man who comes out of a compromising seminary, such as Princeton. He wants to be fundamental. He has learned the lingo of the Fundamentalists, but he has caught a vision of a great church, a church which is the hope of the hour. He sees great buildings and equipment ready for his use. He does not think they should be turned over to Modernists. He is ready to go in and work With them, to be a fellow traveler with the Modernists. He is willing to vote along with them, to keep the peace of the church. Such & person is a miserable servant of man. His vision is of the glory of the church, of the great good he can do, and not of Christ. He is no servant of Christ. He must take his cue from the higher authorities or make his own. He cannot take his orders from the Word of God. If he did, he would be out and be done with the wicked, adulterous fellowships of Modernists and believers. He would see that obedience to the commands of Christ calls for separation.

THE THIRD YOUNG MAN

Third, there is the young man who is outside of the present modernistic and compromising denominations. He delights to be called a Fundamentalist. He even loves to preach the premillennial return of Christ. But he is done with any controversy of any kind. That word is poison. He wants to be left alone to carry on his own work quietly here or there and not to worry about what is taking place elsewhere. Such a young man is to be commended in his separation from the sinful yoke of indifference and apostasy, but he has only embraced half of the demands of the Gospel. He does not stand in the succession with an Isaiah or a Jeremiah, an Augustine or a Savonarola, a Luther or a Knox. He will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor will he reprove them. He will not lift up his voice like a trumpet and cry aloud and spare not, showing God’s people their transgressions. He wants only a so-called positive Gospel. He fails to see that his mission is only partially fulfilled. There are many today who would delight to see Faith Seminary turn out such men, and see the leadership of the Seminary change to that end. But pray God that we may never fall in that slough!

THE FOURTH YOUNG MAN

The fourth man, the kind of man we have envisioned stepping through the corridors of this institution in Wilmington, has vision which is not limited to the few square feet upon which his own little church will stand. Here we see young men trained to face the issues of our day, disciplined in study, drilled in doctrine, experienced in sacrifice, separated in life, going out to build a new church. The status quo of a decaying Protestantism must be changed. That sturdiness, that drive, that passion which have been absent from American Protestantism for so long must be rekindled and restored in Faith. The future of our democratic liberty in America is involved also! Faith is not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

We must have men who can say with Paul when life’s journey is nearing its end, “I have fought a good fight,” and not be ashamed of the word “fight”; “I have finished my course”—and know that he has had a course, straight and clean; “I have kept the faith,” and rejoice that God’s grace enabled him to recognize the subtle forms of compromise and denial of our day. We are not ashamed of controversy, when it is in behalf of the honor and glory of Christ. We are not afraid to be despised, abused, When it is in behalf of the Gospel of Christ. We are not afraid to be poor, locked out, and alone, when it is in behalf of the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

It takes men such as these to turn the world upside down, to endure afflictions, to do the work of an evangelist. These are dark days, and they are getting darker. It is more difficult as the days go by to be Christians. The harder the times, the stronger the leadership needed. It is not saying too much to say that the hope of American Protestantism at the present time rests in the type of leadership that Faith Theological Seminary is able to give—leadership in evangelizing the lost; leadership in establishing new churches; leadership in opening new mission fields; leadership in preaching on the streets and in halls; leadership in calling people out of sin unto Christ; leadership in exposing apostasy and Modernism in the visible church; leadership that convinces those of the faith that they are a heavenly and a peculiar people; and leadership which lifts the eyes of born again ones into the heavens from whence they look for their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!

SOME PROPERTY GIVEN

But, now, God has given us some property. It feels strange to have some. There are many perils in this. Do not think we are going to return the prop­erty, for God who gave it will give the grace to keep it in its proper place while we look away from things that perish. May the lessons which have been learned in the brief period of fiery trial ever be kept paramount in the hearts of those who teach in these halls and those who study here.

The struggle to maintain this institution true to the faith must ever be vigorous. The men who lead must be those who know the issues and see the de­mands of God’s Word. The future is challenging and commanding. We must occupy until Christ comes. We thank God for Faith Theological Seminary. He established it. He undergirded it. He leads it. We thank Him for the property. We thank Him for those who have been His instruments in giving it. May He give us faith to endure to the end. Amen.

McIntire, Carl, Address at the Dedication of the Property given to Faith Theological Seminary, 1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware, September 23, 1941. [Collingswood, N.J. : Christian Beacon Press,
1941. [14] p. : ill. ; 20 cm.  A published copy of this address is preserved in Box 458 at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

The Last of An Amazing Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Madness Rules the Streets

“The whole tribe of libertines are so many vultures upon the body politic. Religion, patriotism, domestic peace, and public tranquility, are strangers to their bosoms. There is nothing lovely, nothing valuable on earth with which they are not at war. Beauty, health, reputation. The marriage covenant–that strong defence and glory of society–and all the tender sympathies and relations of social life, wither and die under their blighting touch.”

Samuel Clark Aiken (1790-1879) was born in Windham, Vermont on the 21st day of September, 1790. Educated at Middlebury College and Andover Theological Seminary, he served the First Presbyterian Church of Utica, New York for seventeen years before answering a call to serve the only Presbyterian church in Cleveland, Ohio. The remainder of his years were spent serving the Old Stone Church, from 1835 until his retirement in 1861. He died in the first hour of the first day of the first month of 1879, at the age of 88. While serving faithfully and efficiently as the pastor of the church, Rev. Aiken was also quite active in civic affairs, while also addressing a number of societal issues.

Here today we present the opening portion of one of Rev. Aiken’s sermons. In this sermon, he addresses the growing problem of prostitution in America in the 1830’s. As then, so today it seems we think that such things cannot be spoken of in polite society, and that in turns becomes a shielding cover for the problem. His description of Paris in the early nineteenth-century sounds all too familiar. Rev. Aiken’s sermon is wrapped in some of the typically elaborate nineteenth-century style, but cut past that to read the crux of what he is saying. That encumbrance aside, you don’t hear sermons on such subjects today. Why is that?


Moral Reform: A Sermon delivered at Utica, on Sabbath evening, February 16, 1834.

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” – Proverbs 7:27.

What a picture this book gives of the crime of lewdness! The painter threw upon canvas the reality as it existed three thousand years ago, and it worthy of notice, that since that period it has undergone no essential change. I question, whether in the infancy of the world, and in the days of ignorance that followed, this vice was generally more prominent or prevalent, even among gentiles, than it is at present moment, in some towns and cities in these United States.

I make no apology for bringing this subject before a Christian congregation. I give no pledge to hold my peace, even after speaking once, unless the friends of virtue pledge themselves to act.

As one set for the defence of religion and public morals, I acknowledge my error in having remained silent so long. I am happy to make the confession; for, with my present convictions of duty, whatever may be the views of my respected fellow-laborers in the ministry, until I expose the nakedness of this vice, and sound a note of alarm in this community, I can never say with the apostle, that “I am pure from the blood of all men,” and, that “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

My office out of the question, I hold no parley with that morbid fastidiousness which trembles and shrinks from any open and manly effort to cure the evil. Nor have I the least regard or veneration for that artificial and sickly delicacy, which, for ages, has bound the friends of virtue in fetters of iron, and charmed them into a most fatal silence and apathy. I believe it to be in part the creature of a false education, and in part the wily policy of the devil, to maintain his empire of pollution, by assuming so great and over-weening a regard for purity, as to be unable to endure the disclosures of vice. To cover up, to cover up, is the master policy of the prince of darkness. “He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Well fitted to sustain and advance his nefarious purposes, is the doctrine, coolly and deliberately advocated by the friends of virtue, yes, and by the pimps of vice also, that here is an immorality not to be spoken of in public. We may contemplate it in pictures, in books, in caricatures, as drawn by the moralist, the satirist, and the artist; we may see innocence seduced and ruined, and the villain walking the street and receiving the courtesies of the virtuous; we may know that haunts of crime are standing by day and night under the shade of our church-steeples; we may see our sons and daughters entering them, never to return, and in secret lamentation spend the residue of life, and finally sink in sorrow to our graves; we may see that cloud of wrath gathering over our land, which overthrew Sodom, the nations of Canaan, Babylon, and Nineveh; we may hear the dark waters rumbling beneath our feet, and breaking up the foundations of personal, domestic, and civil happiness; in short, we may see the monster invade the sanctity of the church, and plant his foot upon the very altar of God; but we must say nothing; we must do nothing. The habits of society–the claims of modesty demand silence, forbid action. Our lips are hermetically sealed, while the heart is bursting with anguish! The principle is absurd and cruel; unnatural, irrational, and anti-Christian. True virtue spurns its aid. Unaffected, native, heaven-born delicacy contemns the simpering smiles of the serpent, which, under the pretence of great regard for virtue’s cause, allows the young and beautiful of our land to rush in untold numbers, unheeded and unwarned, down to the bottomless pit.

I have not come here to portray the evils of lewdess as they exist in our cities. Were it proper or practicable, I have not the vanity to believe it to be within the compass of my talent to do it. Nor is the genius of Milton, or the pencil of Raphael competent to the task. It is a mystery of iniquity that must, to a great degree, remain hidden till the judgment, because it beggars description.

These remarks are not made on the strength of report. The Providence of God once placed me as a missionary in the city of New York. In company with the friends of humanity, I have visited the abodes of abandonment to attend upon the dead, and to preach the gospel to the living; and I should as soon think of drawing a picture of hell itself, as giving a complete view of one of its outer courts.

Were it my object to depict the demoralising influence of the crime of lewdness upon society, perhaps it could not be done better than by holding up the history of France, in the days of her pollution and blood. “In that reign of infidelity and terror,” says an eloquent writer, “it should never be forgotten, that contempt for the laws of chastity, and breaking loose from the legalized restraints of virtue, were the order of the day, and of the night. A republican or infidel marriage was in derision, and, by the vile themselves, denominated the sacrament of adultery! Prostitutes were enthroned–borne in triumph–and even worshipped as the goddesses of reason and the guardians of public morals and happiness. Lust and rapine, hand in hand, waded through clotted blood in the streets of Paris. Thus, when the ten commandments, and especially the fourth and seventh, were publicly abrogated in France, the mighty God stood aloof, and a scene of proscription, of assassination and woe ensued, unparalleled in the annals of the civilized world. In the city of Paris, there were, in 1803, eight hundred and seven suicides and murders. Among the criminals executed, there were seven fathers who had poisoned their children–ten husbands who had murdered their wives–six wives who had poisoned their husbands, and fifteen children who had assassinated their parents! Within eighteen months after the abrogation of the marriage covenant, in that reprobate kingdom, twenty thousand divorces were effected. In the space of ten years, three millions of human beings, as is computed, perished by violence, in that land of infidelity and lust.” [Waterman’s Address to the friends of moral reform in Providence.]

France discarded the Bible. The Almighty withdrew His restraining hand, and permitted a nation to try the experiment of living without religion. Human passions broke loose from moral responsibility, and flowed in torrents of pollution and blood. The world stood aghast, and trembled at the spectacle, and the result stands out in bold relief upon the records of that ill-fated kingdom. Let us mark it well, and remember the fearfl denunciation of Jehovah: “Ye shall not commit any of these abominations, that the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations which were before you.”

The whole tribe of libertines are so many vultures upon the body politic. Religion, patriotism, domestic peace, and public tranquility, are strangers to their bosoms. There is nothing lovely, nothing valuable on earth with which they are not at war. Beauty, health, reputation. The marriage covenant–that strong defence and glory of society–and all the tender sympathies and relations of social life, wither and die under their blighting touch. One house of abandonment in a community, is worse than the cholera. The noxious miasma perpetually issuing from it, poisons all the fountains and streams of life. It is impossible to estimate its baneful influence upon private and public morals. If the fire consumes your dwelling or merchandise, it is a loss which industry and economy will restore. If the pestilence removes our friends to another world, it permits them to leave behind a good name. If the pirate seizes upon his victim, he either kills or sends him adrift upon the high seas. If the robber or assassin enters a shop or family, they can at the most only take a little property, or the lives of a few individuals; and when the deed is committed, public indignation stands ready to burst upon them, and to hand them over to justice. But the libertine–more horrible than the pestilence, the pirate, the robber, or the boa-constrictor–rushes from his ambush, throws his deadly coils around his victim, not to give repose in death, but to bury alive in the grave of infamy. In what a fearful condition must be that town or city, where such demons in human shape collect and roam at large! Where is safety or happiness in the midst of such prowling wolves, and especially, when the public mind is overawed by their number and reputed respectability, and no voice dares utter a complaint . . .?

To read the entire sermon, click here.

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