October 2016

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My friend Tom Martin, a Reformed Baptist brother in Christ, recently provided this very apt summary of the Reformation, which I would like to share as a preface to our post today:

“What history calls the Protestant Reformation began 499 years ago this week. The event most consider the opening round of the contest was the distribution of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses on the eve of All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1517, declaring his objections to the system of church absolution involving “indulgences.”
This was a contest of thought and idea, although it threatened the very lives of those who disagreed with the conventional wisdom in the church. Because Luther’s interference with the sale of papal indulgences for sins seriously disrupted the commercial interests of the pope and the Roman church, the very lives and safety of Protestant reformers were in jeopardy.
Five doctrines have been identified as being at the heart of this controversy, and they are usually referred to in their Latin form: “Sola fide! Sola gratia! Sola Christus! Sola Scriptura! and Soli Deo Gloria!”
1) Sola fide is the truth that we are saved by our faith alone, no part of our salvation being due to our own good works. See, Romans 3:28 & 1:17.
2) Sola gratia is the truth that all of our salvation is by grace alone, totally apart from any merit in us. See, Ephesians 2:8,9
3) Sola Christus teaches that anything apart from Christ – masses, crucifixes, relics of the saints, indulgences, fasts or feasts – which the church can offer add no merit in our cause. See, I Peter 1:18,19
4) Sola Scriptura separates all human traditions and practices from our one and only absolutely reliable authority for Christian faith and life–the Bible. See, Galatians 1:8,9; II Timothy 3:14-17
5) Soli Deo Gloria means that all that we do should be only for the glory of God. See, Romans 11:36.”

[unsolicited advertisement: Tom is planning to lead a Reformation Tour March 22 to April 5, 2017, to England and Scotland. If interested in details of the trip, including cost and itinerary, please email him.]

Remembering October 31
by Rev. David T. Myers

What better reason for remembering this day. No, not Halloween. Rather, October 31st, and specifically October 31, 1517, as it marks the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On this date, an obscure Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenburg, because that was the usual custom of advertisement for the people’s attention.  It was in effect a public bulletin board. Luther nailed the document up at noon sharp because that was the time of the most frequent feasts.  Professors, students, and the common people would be coming from all four corners to the church on “All Saints Day,” for that was a time when it was filled up with relics for transfers of credit or “merit” under the Roman Catholic system.

refday_luther02A lot of Protestants, when hearing of this incident of the nailing of ninety-five theses, think that they were ringing endorsements of Protestant theology. In reality, they were more Roman Catholic than Protestant. There is no protest against the Pope and the Roman Catholic church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences. These theses were silent about justification by faith alone. They were primarily opposed to the abuse of indulgences.

But while the form is Romish, the spirit and aim is Protestant. They represent a state of transition between twilight and daylight. We must read between the lines, as the leaders of the Roman Catholic church did in the sixteenth century. As they did, they saw a logical drift which sought to undermine the whole fabric of Romanism.

Luther hoped that there would be a scholarly debate of the abuse of indulgences. But no one came to debate him. Instead, with the recent invention of the printing press, the copies of the ninety-five theses were sent all over the empire. The pope had a copy within two weeks. The common people read them and rejoiced over them. Luther was the talk of Germany. His ninety-five theses had gone viral! There was a trumpet call being sounded for what later on became the Protestant Reformation.

Words to live by: In 2017—now mere months away—we will celebrate the five-hundredeth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Will there be a revival of its themes in your church and more important, in your heart—those magnificent, God-honoring themes of Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Only to the Glory of God?  That sums up what Luther, and Calvin, and Knox thundered to the masses and the visible church. Reflect on the story of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, for all it has meant, in your heart, home, and church.

“The Shorter Catechism should be of high value to us. It has in it the confessional convictions on which our system of doctrine, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, is found. It has in it the evangelistic zeal that must be a part of us if we would safe-guard the faith delivered to us. May God help us to continue to study it, all to the glory of God. Amen!”

Fitting words for the conclusion of this, the final installment in Rev. Van Horn’s series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Given the interest we have seen in this series, we intend to run it again, but to keep our readers’ interest, will be adding some new material to each Sunday’s post. Some other similar items by Rev. Van Horn may first be posted, to get us closer to the end of this year.

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

Q. 107. What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise Him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to Him, and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, “Amen.”

Scripture References: Daniel 9:13, 19; I Chron. 29:11-13; Rev. 22:20-21; I Cor. 14:16.

Questions:

1. What may we learn from the word “For” in this question?

We may learn from it that we are concluding our prayer with a strong basis. We have great and mighty arguments from the Word of God for all of our petitions. We are simply saying, “Lord, because of Who Thou art, because of the sovereignty off Thy power, grant our petitions.”

2. What do we mean in this prayer by the “kingdom, and the power, and the glory?”

Our Larger Catechism (Question 196) tells us we mean the “eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency” of God alone.

3. What is His “kingdom” as mentioned in this question?

We are speaking here of God as Creator and as Redeemer. The first has to do with the kingdom of nature and the second with the kingdom of grace.

4. Why do we add the word “power” to the portion of the prayer?

We add “power” to it because we desire Him to perform His will for us. We claim by faith His power to do so (Rom. 4:21).

5. As we add the word “glory” what are we denoting?

We mean here that we are to praise Him continually for His wondrous works to the children of men. God should be praised without ceasing by us for He is glorious. (Ps. 119:27).

6. What is the use of the word “Amen” to end our prayers?

It is used to signify “So shall it be” by us. It is our earnestness of faith and our intensity of desire.

“AMEN”

It is very suitable to end our catechism studies with “Amen” even as so many times we have ended our prayers with this great word from the Word of God. As our catechism question points out so very well, the God with whom we have to do is able to help us. He is the Almighty, Sovereign God. He is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Indeed we do well to end such a statement with “Amen” and mean by it a sincere expression of our belief that He is well able to do far beyond what we ask or think!

The word “Amen” is an indication of reverence, it is a way of saying, “May it be so in very truth!” It comes from a Hebrew word meaning “faithful” and is used in the Greek New Testament 50 times as the word “Amen” and 100 more times as the word “Verily,” and with the same meaning.

The word has been used in three ways by the church of Jesus Christ. It has been used in unison by the congregation at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. Many have no idea of what they are saying and certainly need to be taught the meaning of it. It has been used by the congregation in many liturgical churches at the end of the prayer delivered by the person praying. Here it is not meant to be simply an indication that the prayer is finished but it is meant to be an indication that the prayer is finished and it is mean to be an indication on the part of the worshippers that they are sincerely responding to the prayer that has been uttered.

There is a third way it has been used in the church. It has been used as a vocal “Amen” on the part of worshippers during the sermon as they respond to the preaching of the Word of God. Indeed, this can be used when it should not be, can become a habit rather than a heartfelt response. However, it is wondered if there must not be something lacking in the preaching, or the response, or both, when years can pass without an “Amen!” escaping now and then!

It is a good way to end our catechism studies. The Shorter Catechism should be of high value to us. It has in it the confessional convictions on which our system of doctrine, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, is found. It has in it the evangelistic zeal that must be a part of us if we would safe-guard the faith delivered to us. May God help us to continue to study it, all to the glory of God. Amen!

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of instruction in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 7, No. 8 (December 1968)

Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

hallDWDr. David Hall is back today with the penultimate (i.e., “next to the last”) entry in his Election Day Sermon series. I’ve enjoyed this series, and hope you have as well. The entire series has presented us with an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand how our forebears handled aspects of the church-state relationship.

“Thanksgiving Sermon”
by George Duffield (Dec. 11, 1783)

Rev. George Duffield, Sr., 1732-1790John Adams was certainly influenced by the heritage of Calvinism. In his diary entry for February 22, 1756, Adams wrote: “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law-book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! . . . In this commonwealth, no man would impair his health” with vice, but would live together in frugality, industry, “piety, love, and reverence towards Almighty God. . . . What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this be!”1

In 1775, the second President of the United States attended the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The preacher on that occasion, The Reverend George Duffield (who was later targeted by the British), preached a revolutionary sermon that made quite an impression on John Adams. Adams wrote to his wife on June 11, 1775, that Duffield’s preaching was reminiscent of the fiery expositions he had been accustomed to back in Massachusetts. Duffield applied a Hebrew prophecy2 to America and “gave us as animating an entertainment as I ever heard. He filled and swelled the bosom of every hearer. . . . by this you will see that the clergy this way are but now beginning to engage in politics, and they engage with a fervor that will produce wonderful effects.”3

Adams would later refer to himself as a “church going animal.”4 By any estimation one of the most important figures for the founding of America, Adams, nevertheless, did not identify himself as a Calvinist.5 Toward the end of his life, he championed anti-Trinitarian legislation, and bitterly reviled Calvinists, on occasion, as “snarling, biting” divines. However, the impress of Calvin was so deep on Adams’ predecessors that a certain Genevan fingerprint is indelibly inked on Adams’ writings. Adams believed that knowledge in general could dispel “arbitrary government and every kind of oppression.” In his 1765 Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law, he recognized lust for power or a yearning for dominion as both the cause of much oppression and the effect of human depravity.

Rights, which Adams saw as general but not purely secular, were derived from the “great Legislator of the universe.” Human rights were squelched when human rulers wrested from the people the inalienable grants given by this great Legislator. Liberty was also derived from humanity’s Maker, and the right to knowledge came from the great Creator, certainly not from a secular basis.

On December 11, 1783, Congress had appointed a day of thanksgiving “for the restoration of Peace and establishment of our Independence, in the Enjoyment of our Rights and Privileges.” In a service for that occasion at the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, George Duffield (who was a Chaplain of Congress as well as pastor of the church) resorted to an OT passage to make this point about God’s providence extended to America: “Nor was military prowess only given. He that put of the Spirit of Moses on the elders of Israel [cf. Ex. 18], raised up Senators and guided them in council to conduct the affairs of his chosen American tribes.” Clearly, the biblical basis for republicanism and the institution of a “senate” was the same for Duffield as it had been for Calvin and Beza two centuries earlier.

Duffield (1732-1790), a 1752 Princeton graduate, served a lengthy pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church—even during the war, when at one time the British put a price on his head—and he was consistently popular with members of the Continental Congress.

A New Light Presbyterian, he chose Isaiah 66.8 as the text for this sermon. In answer to Isaiah’s question—“Shall a nation be born in a day?”—he affirmed: “The earth has indeed brought forth, as in a day. A nation has indeed been born, as at once. It has not been Israel’s forty years of tedious wilderness journey; nor Rome’s, or the United Belgic provinces, long continued scene of arduous, dubious struggle: But almost as soon as our American Zion began to travail; and without experiencing the pangs and pains which apprehensive fear expected; she brought forth her children, more numerous than the tribes of Jacob, to possess the land, from the north to the south, and from the east to the yet unexplored, far distant west: That with great propriety, may we hail every friend of liberty, on this auspicious day, in the language nearly following our text; rejoice ye, with America, and be glad with her, all ye that love her, rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourned for her.”

He castigated the “venal Parliament” of England for her design to crush the American efforts. Moreover, comparing the Crown to Pharaoh, he preached:

Pharaoh, indeed, might have reason to fear, because Israel were an entirely different people; and in their religion and manners separated far from the people of the land. But in the present case, though the court of Britain appear carefully to have copied the Egyptian model; and their measures have produced a similar event; yet, as the people of these states were the same as the people of Britain, their religion and manners the same; and no disposition to separate from them had ever appeared: But an attachment, even to enthusiastic fondness, had always obtained; it must have required an exorbitant share of infatuation to have raised a suspicion so high, as to produce the spirit and zeal that directed the British cabinet. To raise a revenue, and bring America to bear her proportion of the national debt has been assigned as the motive. America, by centring her trade in Britain, contributed her liberal share, nor had she ever withheld her blood or her treasure when requisitions were made; that even malevolence itself had been nonplussed from thence to derive a plea, unless through a mad desire to take by compulsion, what would otherwise be cheerfully given. It seems therefore most probable, his Britannic majesty wished to increase the power of the crown, so as to wrest the very shadow of liberty out of the hands of all his subjects, and reign an absolute monarch; and for this end began where he hoped, by bribes and craft, to cloak his design under the cover of parliamentary sanction.

Both liberty and charity were threatened by this monarchical oppression, preached Duffield. Whatever the motive, he thought, “America was marked out, for servile submission, or severe subjugation: and the power of Britain employed to accomplish the end.” Duffield commended America for choosing “liberty as her prize,” and attempting to battle the greatest military power of the day. His pulpit oratory is still impressive, to wit:

Already had Britain planted her baleful banner on our coast; and her proud insulting flag had possessed our harbours. Her oppressive edicts had gone forth; and her naval and military strength were combined to enforce obedience. As the careful mariner watches the heavy gathering cloud, and dreads the approaching storm; America, with anxiety beheld, and waited the event. Prudence would have seemed to dictate an early resistance to manifest hostile designs; nor suffer an avowed enemy to every privilege to entrench in quiet, and strengthen themselves in a capital town. Nor was America blind to the measure: but that God, who so early espoused her cause, that her innocence in the case, and her reluctance to arms, might be evident to all, withheld her from the deed; and left Britain, on Lexington’s ever-memorable day, to open the scene of war. Quick as the flash of lightning glares from pole to pole, so sudden did a military spirit pervade these then united colonies; but now, blessed be God, confederated, established states. The peaceful husbandman forsook his farm; the merchant relinquished his trade; the learned in the law dismissed their clients; the compassionate physician forgot his daily round; the mariner laid aside his compass and quadrant; the mechanic resigned his implements of employment; the sons of science ceased their philosophic pursuits; and even the miser half neglected, for a time, his gold and his gain, and the griping landlord his rents. All prepared for war, and eagerly flew to the field.

He that put “the spirit of Moses on the elders of Israel, raised up senators, and guided them in council, to conduct the affairs of his chosen American tribes.” Duffield further extolled, “America’s day, the morning of which had lowred with heavy clouds, began to brighten a pace; and its hurrying hours hastened their way to a noon tide glow. The justice of her cause; the influence of her great ally; and the insults and injuries experienced by other nations, from British arrogance, procured her still farther support; and narrowed the distance to the object of her wish. Britain saw, with indignation: And in firm alliance with every infernal power . . . she resolved on utmost vengeance.” He predicted: “generations yet unborn will look back with wonder; and venerate the memories, and long perpetuate the names of those who guided the helm through the storm.”

He mentions that He “who raised up Cyrus, to break the Assyrian force, and say, ‘let Israel be free,’ endued the monarch of France with an angel’s mind, to assert and secure the freedom of his United American States. And, by him were the hearts of other nations disposed to our aid.” Finally, he concludes with this exhortation: “It is, that we love the Lord our God, to walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, to observe his statutes and his judgments. That a sacred regard be maintained to righteousness and truth. That we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Then shall God delight to dwell amongst us. And these United States shall long remain, a great, a glorious, and an happy people. Which may God, of his infinite mercy, grant. Amen.”

This sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and on the web at: http://consource.org/document/a-sermon-preached-on-a-day-of-thanksgiving-by-george-duffield-1783-12-11/.
See also: http://www.thisday.pcahistory.org/2015/12/december-11-rev-george-duffield/.

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.

1 Adrienne Koch and William Peden, eds., The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 5.

2 See Isaiah 35.

3 Maurice W. Armstrong et al, eds., The Presbyterian Enterprise: Sources of American Presbyterian History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), 85.

4 James H. Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1998), 81.

5 Adams, apparently was headed toward the congregationalist ministry at one time. His later reflections explain that “an uncharitable spirit of intolerance” kept him from divinity, and made him more fit “for the bar than the pulpit.” Selected Writings, 151. Yet, by the end of his life he expressed to Jefferson (1817) that he did not believe in total depravity: “I believe there is no individual totally depraved. The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his conscience, and while conscience remains, there is some religion.” Cited in John Witte, Jr., “‘A Most Mild and Equitable Establishment of Religion’: John Adams and the Massachusetts Experiment,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 41 (Spring 1999), no 2, 236. Adams clearly rejected Calvin’s ideas of depravity, election, and the trinity. See Jonathan C. D. Clark, The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 370.

Earlier this year my co-author, Rev. David Myers, wrote of the Old Brick Church. Of this church, pastor Richard Hodges added this comment :—

“This is recognized as the ‘mother church’ of the ARP and the property and grounds are well-maintained by the local ARP Presbytery. It is located 10 miles south of the PCA church I pastor (Salem PCA) and it has been my privilege to conduct several field trips to and tours of the building for students in my “Presbyterian Church History” class taught at Columbia International University (CIU) in Columbia, S.C. The small, penciled apology is still legible on the white wall near the side (west) entrance. It is now protected by a framed piece of Plexiglas. It was almost painted over by a volunteer painter when the interior was renovated several years ago. The ARP maintains an active presence in Fairfield County (SC) to this day in several rural churches and the Bethel ARP Church in Winnsboro. Thanks again for a fine article of a historic Presbyterian church.”

oldbrickchurchARPNow comes the news that there will be a worship service this Reformation Sunday, October 30, 2016 at the Old Brick Church. Please pray for those who will be attending, for safe travel, as this should indeed be a wonderful time of worship and fellowship with the Lord’s people. Dr. Derek Thomas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, will be preaching. 


WORSHIP SERVICE AT HISTORIC OLD BRICK CHURCH

Join us this Sunday, Reformation Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3pm.

Faithful Preaching, Dr. Derek Thomas, First Presbyterian, Columbia

Witness Through Music, Centennial ARP Church Choir

Great Fellowship!

Directions: Highway 213, 14 Miles West of Winnsboro, SC

Hosted By: Catawba Presbytery’s OBC Commission

The historic place of worship was built in 1788, but there was a congregation in existence before the American Revolution. The most important event in the church’s rich history occurred on May 9, 1803. It was then that the Associate Reformed Synod of the Carolinas was organized at OBC to become one of the four synods that constituted the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which had been earlier organized in 1782 in Philadelphia. Each Synod became independent, and by 1822 the Synod of the Carolinas, which had grown beyond the Carolinas, became the Synod of the South. Although the northern synods formed a new denomination in 1859 (United Presbyterian Church), the Synod of the South retained the name, Associate Reformed Presbyterian. Damaged by Union troops in 1865, the church was repaired and remained in active use until 1920. Catawba Presbytery formed the OBC Commission in March 2007 to oversee and maintain the building and its properties, and to organize a special worship service at least every 5 years. This unique gathering serves to remind us of the role this church played in the founding and life of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Therefore, please join us for worship on Reformation Sunday, October 30, 2016, at 3 pm.

To view a painting of the Old Brick Church, click here.

New Beginnings Are Not Always Promising
by Rev. David T. Myers

This author and his wife had the experience of once seeking to begin a new congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America in a Midwestern city in the fall of 1980. Scheduled to meet on a certain Lord’s Day, two of the three families committed to starting the mission went on a vacation that weekend, leaving only one family to meet with my wife, daughter, and myself. The signs were not promising at all, believe me. We wondered whether we had made a mistake in leaving our established congregation in a nearby city. Yet today, that congregation is flourishing as a Presbyterian and Reformed congregation, despite that small beginning.

Ezra Hall Gillett [1823-1875], in chapter 2 of his History of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., relates the story of the first Presbytery in the colonies. That beginning was equally small and not at all promising. Dr. Gillett states:

“The first Presbytery formed in this country, dates (on this day October 27) from 1705 or 1706. The loss of the first leaf of the records leaves the precise time uncertain. (This author has a copy of those minutes.) Our first view of it is obtained from the minutes of a meeting, called probably at Freehold, N.J., for the purpose of ordaining Mr. John Boyd.

“It consisted at this time of seven ministers, Francis Makemie, John Hampton, George Macnish, Samuel Davis, John Wilson, Jedediah Andrews, and Nathaniel Taylor. Some of these men had been for many years laboring in their respective fields.

“In 1684, Makemie was performing the duties of pastor of the church at Snow Hill, which he had assisted to organize. He had been ordained as Evangelist in 1681, and sent out by Laggan Presbytery, on the application of Colonel Stevens of Maryland, as a missionary to this country. For some time he labored in Barbados, and afterwards on reaching Maryland, notwithstanding all obstacles, his hearers and congregations multiplied. It became, consequently, his great anxiety to obtain more laborers, for the extensive and inviting field which was opened before him. With this great object in view, he . . . crossed the ocean and applied for aid to the Presbyterian Union of London. His application was not in vain.

“Makemie returned in the fall of 1705 with two ministerial brethren, his ‘associates’ John Hampton and George Macnish. Macnish commenced preaching at Monokin and Widomico; Hampton, who had applied with him to Somerset Court to be qualified, mean-while going north with Makemie to New York. Of the other members of the Presbytery, Samuel Davis was residing in Delaware as early as 1692. John Wilson, as early as 1702, preached in the court-house at New Castle. Jedediah Andrews was born in Massachusetts in 1674 and moved to Philadelphia after he graduated from Harvard. The prospect of his young congregation was far from promising. But it did increase.”

Words to Live By :
Perhaps some of our subscribers are in a local congregation—a people small and without promise to the eye—and in this so very similar to the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church in this land. Yet if the Spirit has called you to it, take heart, and continue on in the work. Be faithful to study the Word of God as summarized in the Westminster Standards, so that you will have a foundation in theology. And believe Acts 13:48c as you share the gospel to your friends and neighbors, that “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” God will bring spiritual fruit to your endeavors for Christ.

Image Source : First page of the Minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, from Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841.

1706presbytery

Our subscribers have noted our recent problems with this blog, a software glitch which apparently showed up sometime Saturday and continued through until late Monday. That problem is now resolved and we’re back up and running. But it does make us very aware of how we must depend upon the Lord moment by moment, for we can so easily be rendered powerless and all our own efforts are found insufficient to deal with what comes against us. In a word, humility is the lesson that should be learned. And more than that, an utter dependence upon our Lord who is our Creator and Sustainer. Thanks to our subscribers for bearing with us and pray that we would have greater wisdom in dealing with these technical matters in the future.

On the Utter Necessity of Humility in Theological Studies

plumerws02“It therefore becomes a matter of great practical importance how we shall treat the mysteries of the religion we profess to embrace. The errors on this subject are two. Some give up all that is mysterious as untrue, or at least doubtful. Others pretend to explain every thing so as to make it comprehensible. The former go in the open road to infidelity. The latter travel the parallel road of rationalism. If God teaches a truth either by nature or revelation, we err, just so far as we hesitate to receive it. There is hardly any better test of humility of mind than our treatment of inscrutable things in religion. Pride of intellect is very turbulent & delights in the persuasion that it is as God knowing all things. He, whose reason is never surpassed, whose reasonings are never confounded, whose philosophy is never nonplussed, is a poor self-conceited creature, who will in the end be found to possess only the folly of fools. Let every man love whatever his Creator teaches. If he cannot measure the azure vault above him, he may still perceive that it is there. If Jehovah hides himself, he is still Jehovah. If salvation is wonderful, God so revealed it from the first. Therefore, beware lest you come boasting rather than praying, lest you use great swelling words of vanity, rather than the fitting petition, ‘Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.’ (Ps. 119:18).”

Something for all of us to consider.

SIX INTERCHURCH GROUPS MEET

The interchurch relations committees of six denominations met together on October 25 -26 [1974] in Pittsburgh, Penna. Represented were the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Christian Reformed Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. The joint group also invited the Reformed Church, U.S. (Eureka Classis) to participate in later such meetings.

A sub-committee was established to prepare a plan for cooperation among the respective churches, drawn from proposals suggested in the joint meeting. Such a plan would be presented to the full body for possible recommendation to the denominations themselves.

Among the proposals made was one urging the various churches to cooperate in world-wide relief services; the Christian Reformed Church has the most extensive such service now. Another proposal recommended publication of a directory of all the co-operating churches.

It was also proposed that there be a federation of Presbyterian and Reformed churches that would include coordination of agencies and the holding of consultative assemblies. The ultimate goal of union into one church was urged.

The Presbyterian Guardian, 43:10 (December 1974): 167.

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In writing up this post, it will be important to note that this was an independent foreign missionary society. Thus, when the PCUSA issued the Mandate of 1934, they were being hypocritical (perhaps too strong a word–they were at least going contrary to their own history), in that their in own history the PCUSA had twice utilized independent agencies, the other being the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (check to make sure that’s the correct name of the latter organization]

 

The centennial of the Western foreign missionary society, 1831-1931 [microform]Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Presbytery of Pittsburgh. Committee on the centennial of the founding of theWestern foreign missionary society
“Bibliography … of Sadhu Sundar Singh”: p. 111-112; “Bibliography of the Western foreign missionary society“: p. 227-234

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“Surely a Christian nation should be governed by Christian rulers; and surely they do not deserve to be called Christian people who would vote for any others.  Put men into office who are possessed of a competent amount of intelligence, who fear God, and make his law the rule in the government of the nation, and we augur for our country a speedy riddance from her present dangers, and a long future of peace and prosperity.”

And now for something completely different. Dr. Hall is away today, overseeing a worship conference at his church. Today’s post presents what was for many years a conviction of the Reformed Presbyterians in this nation. Some still do hold this conviction, first that Jesus Christ is King of all nations on earth, and second, that because the U.S. Constitution does not acknowledge this fact, that therefore they cannot in good conscience participate in the government. They will not hold office or otherwise participate in the government and so they conclude that they also cannot vote in elections. The following article, dating from 1856, is a good reflection of these views.:—   

T
HE PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST.

Excerpted from THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN, Volume 20, No. 8 (October 1856)

THE present state of political excitement throughout the country arising from the approaching election of an incumbent for the presidential chair, furnishes matter for interesting and even painful reflection.  To us, who are unconnected with any of the parties, and stand without the suck of the political whirlpool, the question is perfectly natural, what is there in the present realities, or the future probabilities, that produces this wide-spread social paroxysm?  A cause adequate to the effect must exist somewhere, for men do not voluntarily become insane.

It is easy to see that to certain classes the election of a president is a matter of private and selfish interest.  The country is filled with office-seekers; men who seem to think the ship of state is sure to be wrecked, unless they have something to do with its helm or its rigging. Some of these are in office; far more of them are out.  But the outs want to be in, and the ins want to stay in.  To hear these men talk, a person might suppose that they were the purest patriots on earth, wishing to serve their country for their country’s good.  They have no personal interest in the matter—not they; if left to their own choice, they would prefer to retire from public life; but as matters are, they are willing to sacrifice ease and fortune on the altar of their country!  Of this kind are the speakers at ratification meetings, pole raisings, and other gatherings of the different parties.  Now it is not strange that there are men who have the effrontery to put forward their personal claims backed by the plea of the public good, for the country abounds with men who will do anything that will inure to their own advantage; but it is strange that steady, sober, sane people, can not only listen to such pretensions, but even catch the excitement, and enter into the cause of these pretenders with all the ardor of enthusiasm.  This is strange—passing strange.

It is, indeed, true that in the present political campaign there are certain issues which skillfully managed must exert a powerful influence over the public mind.  We are willing to confess that we feel this ourselves.  Without giving credit for honesty to brawling politicians,but making up our judgment from well known facts, we must admit that the country has reached a crisis, through which it will require no ordinary skill to guide it in safety.  And it must be admitted also, that those who have the management of its affairs manifest an utter unfitness for the places they occupy.  If ever a country was cursed with incompetent rulers, ours is so cursed.  We can view the present administration in no other light than as a judgment that God has sent on our land for its sins.

The question that is now brought before the country for its decision is, shall slavery be 
restricted or extended; shall it remain where it is, or shall it spread itself into the new territories?This is the naked issue; and it is easy to see that with neither party can consistent anti-slavery men identify.  It is true there is a bad, and a worse.  The bad, however, is too bad to be touched;and that is to engage to protect slavery where it is.  The question is not respecting the evil of slavery in general—it regards merely the evil of it in certain localities.  The Republican party say, in effect, slavery is a very good thing where it is; but you must confine it there.  We will agree to guard and defend it in its present limits, but we insist that it shall not go beyond them.

While, however, we speak thus of the parties in this contest, we still have our preference between them.  And we can have this without yielding any of our principles.  We can have a choice between two moral evils, if we are not to be actively engaged in producing either.  If the question was presented to the country, whether Mormonism, with all its abominations should be established, or merely tolerated, we would prefer the latter, while we would refuse to have any hand in either, and would testify against both.  We would certainly rather see slavery restricted to its present limits than extended beyond them; but we would much rather see it rooted out where it is.  This, the Republican party not only do not propose to do, but they bind themselves not to do it.  They, indeed, declare themselves “opposed to the extension of slavery into free territory;” but they also assert that “the rights of the States must and shall be preserved.”  Now,it does not require proof that “the rights of the States,” here means, the rights secured to the States by the Constitution; and it is equally evident, that to hold slaves in the States where slavery exists, is one of these rights.

Such a creed we cannot subscribe; and for the success of the party holding it, we dare not pray.  With the so-called Democratic party, we have no affinity.  The course pursued by the present administration with regard to Kansas, and endorsed by that party, leaves it without a claim to ordinary respect.  Whether it continue in power, or there be a change in the administration, we are willing to leave with Him who orders all things.  The hearts of men are in His hand.  We earnestly desire the welfare of our country.  We pray for, and we seek its peace.  If God be pleased to grant relief from present evils, by driving from power those who have made a bad use of it, we will be thankful.  At the same time, we have no hope of permanent good from the accession to their place of those who are still in league with sin..

But we are reminded that we are preaching politics. For this, the mass of our readers will not condemn us. They are accustomed to such preaching. If they are not, we have overrated the faithfulness of our ministers. What minister, worthy of the name, does not preach politics?  We know that there are watchmen who are described in Isaiah 56:10,11. Alas! there are many of them. And they are the first to cry down preaching politics. There is one kind of political preaching that we do condemn—political party preaching. To make the pulpit the means of advancing the interests of either of the parties in the present contest, would be to degrade, to prostitute it.  But to use it to point out the sins of the nation, whether constitutional or administrative—of men, whether in public or private station, is to honor it, and to honor Him whose message is declared from it. The same thing is true of the religious press. And we do say, that we would rather our tongue and our hands were paralyzed, than that we should be induced, by any consideration, to cease to reprove sin, whether public or private—whether of the nation, of rulers, of parties, or of individuals.

There is something amusing in the earnestness with which the charge of being a Roman Catholic is urged against one of the candidates by the opposing party, and denied by his own.  One would be ready to think that to be a papist was to be constitutionally disqualified for the office.  And yet the clause of the Constitution which both parties profess most to admire, is that which forbids a religious test to be required.  Why do the Democrats virtually attack the instrument which they seem to think it is their mission to preserve intact?  And why do not the Republicans charge them with a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, by making a man’s religion an objection to his fitness for office?  It is quite likely that it is hard to tell what Mr.Fremont’s religion is, or rather that he has none at all. And in itself, it is a matter about which the parties do not care a straw.  Were he the most bigoted Papist, his friends would stick to him;and were he the most liberal Protestant, his enemies would continue to denounce him.  It is not principle, but policy, that has excited all this zeal on the subject of a religious test for office.
We cannot but wish both parties were sincere in their pretensions on this subject.  Surely a Christian nation should be governed by Christian rulers; and surely they do not deserve to be called Christian people who would vote for any others.  Put men into office who are possessed of a competent amount of intelligence, who fear God, and make his law the rule in the government of the nation, and we augur for our country a speedy riddance from her present dangers, and a long future of peace and prosperity

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