November 2016

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The following devotional is addressed to theological students, but I think others should find it profitable as well, if only to know and realize something of the standard to which pastors are called.

To God’s Glory : A Devotional Study of the Reformed Faith for Theological Students.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

The Subject : The Authoritative Preaching of God’s Word, part 1.

The Bible Verses to Read : II Tim. 4:1-8; Rom. 10:15; I Cor. 12:28-29; I Tim. 4:14.

Every book, every series of articles must have a beginning. And, there should be a reason for their existence. The experiences of the writer in theological seminaries both as a student and as a workman, coupled with the following statement by Dr. Benjamin B. Garfield, motivated this first in a series of articles : “You are students of theology; and, just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men – especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of profoundest concern . . . ” (Selected Shorter Writings, vol. I, p. 412).

The day is not too far off when you will stand behind God’s Holy Desk to proclaim the Gospel of Grace You will find yourself in a minority, even among evangelicals. It is the trend of the day to entertain and to present a shallow Gospel rather than preach the Doctrines of Grace.

God, in His sovereign pleasure, has ordained some to preach the Word of God. Those called of God to this task must recognize they are preaching an authoritative Word and are preaching it on God’s authority. John Calvin said, “Let the preachers boldly dare all things by the Word of God, of which they are constituted administrators. Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to, and to obey, the divine majesty of the Word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ.

This will be your task. It will be impossible for you to do it unless you are walking in the Spirit. There will be no place for your egotism, your desire for popularity, your arrogance. You must face the ministry with two “Woes” ever before you :
(1) Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel;
(2) Woe is unto me if I do not heed the Word of God myself.

You must realize the souls of men are involved. Paul told the Ephesian elders that he was “pure from the blood of all men.” Such must be your goal and you can only reach it as you understand your calling and commission, as you have a burden for those entrusted to your care, as you desire to please your Lord.

It is obvious the man of God must know God’s Word if he will fulfill His calling to preach it authoritatively. What is even more obvious is the necessary desire on the part of the preacher to glorify God and to magnify Christ in his preaching. When you enter the pulpit it must be with an awesome consciousness of Who you represent, and of how you must represent Him.

Our Shorter Catechism Question 89 states the preaching of the Word of God is especially “an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.” Since it then is the primary means of grace, how can you allow yourselves to be preoccupied with other things, how can you be unconcerned about your submission to God’s Word in all things?

As you think of preaching the authoritative Word of God, in an authoritative way, may you be exhorted by Paul : “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Be certain that your necessary, and important, studies do not wean you away from the living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ in which you give Him the preeminence in all things. There is no greater task than the one to which you feel called by God.

“To God’s Glory” by Leonard T. Van Horn. Centerville, AL, circa March 1977.

He Was the First
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was on this day, November 19, 1800 that John Chavis was licensed as a minister of the gospel by the Lexington, Virginia Presbytery. So what else is new, our readers might add?  Many of our readers who are teaching elders have dates like this. But what makes this licensing special  is that John Chavis was an African American, as we would say today, indeed the first African American minister ordained in  the Presbyterian Church.  As our title puts it, he was the first!

John Chavis was never a slave, but  from birth, a free black citizen. The dates for his birth are disputed, as is the place where he was born. Indeed, much of his early life is hidden from the researcher. But later on, his dates and events are well documented.

As a teenager, he joined the Fifth Virginia Regiment to fight in the American Revolution. He participated in six battles of that War of Independence –  at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth – as well as in the Siege of Charlestown. Three years later, he was given an official dismissal stating that he had faithfully fulfilled his military duties and entitled to all recognition for having done so.

He became a tutor after his military service for  Robert Greenwood’s orphan children, which gave him as taste for a calling which was to occupy his  life. Marrying Sarah Francis Anderson, who bore him one son in their married life, he moved his family to New Jersey, and particularly to Princeton, New Jersey, where he entered into a tutorial relationship with John Witherspoon, yes, that John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton Seminary). At age 29, he was accepted into formal classes of this College. With the death of Witherspoon, he returned to Virginia to enroll at Liberty Hall University as the first black student in that Presbyterian college, as well as becoming the first black student to graduate from any college or university in the land.

This brings us up to his licensure in the Presbyterian Church to preach the gospel, which he entered into with slaves, free black citizens, and whites. Many a soul came to the gospel through his faithful ministry. Along with that ministry, he returned to teaching both white and black children in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a private school with a high reputation.

His vocal support for an abolitionist by the name of Nat Turner brought condemnation from many white people. Indeed, several Southern States passed laws after that failed rebellion of Turner that caused free blacks to lose their standing as citizens, including John Chavis. He couldn’t preach or teach any longer.   But the Orange Presbytery, to which he had transferred. continued to support him financially to the tune of $50 per month. Also helping him and his family in financial ways after this time was a book which he published, entitled “An Essay on the Atonement” in 1833.  Four years later, he published a paper on “The Doctrine of the Extent of the Atonement of Christ.”  A secular writer termed it “a Calvinist pamphlet.”   One year later, he would die on June 15, 1838.

Words to Live By:
John Chavis is still remembered in Raleigh North Carolina by two road signs, the first ones to an African American in that southern city. Far greater honor has come to this African American for the work which he accomplished in difficult days for the Savior.  Souls are in heaven due to his faithful preaching of the good news of eternal life. Remember dear reader, what we do for the Lord on this old earth may not translate out to temporal remembrance by the public. What we do however for our Savior has eternal rewards in heaven.

The Lord Our Righteousness
by Rev. David T. Myers

Robert Murray McCheyne portraitWe have posted articles before on the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the Scottish Presbyterian pastor and missionary who lived in the middle part of the nineteenth century. In the period of a short life on this earth, he accomplished much for the Lord Jesus, leaving his contemporaries much to ponder by his godly example as well as later saints of God to read and admire his life.

By his own testimony, accurately recorded by his contemporaries, like Andrew Bonar, as well as himself, he lived for the world, not heeding the call to receive Christ as Savior given often by his old Christian brother. But upon the death of that brother, whom he loved deeply, he laid aside his opposition to Christ and Him crucified, and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Soon afterwards, he was called into the gospel ministry.

One of his many gifts was that of gospel poetry, and many of them were put to music by writers in the hymnals of the day, as was the following hymn/poem. It tells the story of his own conversion in rhyme, and written on this day, November 18, 1834. It is called Jehovah Tsidkenu, The LORD my righteousness, which name is found in Jeremiah 23:6 and Jeremiah 33:16. It follows:

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the cross,
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu – ’twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see –
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Savior must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name,
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the Fountain, life-giving and free –
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field –
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from Life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

Words to Live By:
Do not trust in any supposed righteousness found in yourself or your good works. They are all filthy rags in the Lord’s holy sight. We are only made righteous by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. This is the blessed gospel. When that is done, then His perfect righteousness will be laid to your account. We will be able to stand and only stand alone by that divine righteousness. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB) Reader, have you received Jehovah Tsidkenu, or the Lord as your righteousness alone?

Lengthy, if you read the whole of it, but well worth the time. 

Befitting a long name, a longish sermon on a most important point.

sheddWGTWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd was born in June of 1820 of a distinguished New England lineage. Sensing the call to the ministry, he attended Andover Theological Seminary, and then became a pastor in the Congregational denomination in Vermont. Even though he was Old School Reformed in his thinking, he taught briefly at the New School Presbyterian institution of Auburn Theological Seminary, from 1852-1854. Leaving Auburn, he was professor of church history at Andover from 1853-1862, and then for two years as co-pastor at the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. His life’s primary work occurred while teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was to teach for eleven years, 1874-1892. He died on November 17, 1894.


ROMANS i. 28.—”As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”

In the opening of the most logical and systematic treatise in the New Testament, the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul enters upon a line of argument to demonstrate the ill-desert of every human creature without exception. In order to this, he shows that no excuse can be urged upon the ground of moral ignorance. He explicitly teaches that the pagan knows that there is one Supreme God (Rom. i. 20); that He is a spirit (Rom. i. 23); that He is holy and sin-hating (Rom. i. 18); that He is worthy to be worshipped (Rom. i. 21, 25); and that men ought to be thankful for His benefits (Rom. i. 21). He affirms that the heathen knows that an idol is a lie (Rom. i. 25); that licentiousness is a sin (Rom. i. 26, 32); that envy, malice, and deceit are wicked (Rom. i. 29, 32); and that those who practise such sins deserve eternal punishment (Rom. i. 32).

In these teachings and assertions, the apostle has attributed no small amount and degree of moral knowledge to man as man,—to man outside of Revelation, as well as under its shining light. The question very naturally arises: How comes it to pass that this knowledge which Divine inspiration postulates, and affirms to be innate and constitutional to the human mind, should become so vitiated? The majority of mankind are idolaters and polytheists, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that the truth that there is only one God is native to the human spirit, and that the pagan “knows” this God? The majority of men are earthly and sensual, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that there is a moral law written upon their hearts forbidding such carnality, and enjoining purity and holiness?

Some theorizers argue that because the pagan man has not obeyed the law, therefore he does not know the law; and that because he has not revered and worshipped the one Supreme Deity, therefore he does not possess the idea of any such Being. They look out upon the heathen populations and see them bowing down to stocks and stones, and witness their immersion in the abominations of heathenism, and conclude that these millions of human beings really know no better, and that therefore it is unjust to hold them responsible for their polytheism and their moral corruption. But why do they confine this species of reasoning to the pagan world? Why do they not bring it into nominal Christendom, and apply it there? Why does not this theorist go into the midst of European civilization, into the heart of London or Paris, and gauge the moral knowledge of the sensualist by the moral character of the sensualist? Why does he not tell us that because this civilized man acts no better, therefore he knows no better? Why does he not maintain that because this voluptuary breaks all the commandments in the decalogue, therefore he must be ignorant of all the commandments in the decalogue? that because he neither fears nor loves the one only God, therefore he does not know that there is any such Being?

It will never do to estimate man’s moral knowledge by man’s moral character. He knows more than he practises. And there is not so much difference in this particular between some men in nominal Christendom, and some men in Heathendom, as is sometimes imagined. The moral knowledge of those who lie in the lower strata of Christian civilization, and those who lie in the higher strata of Paganism, is probably not so very far apart. Place the imbruted outcasts of our metropolitan population beside the Indian hunter, with his belief in the Great Spirit, and his worship without images or pictorial representations;[1] beside the stalwart Mandingo of the high table-lands of Central Africa, with his active and enterprising spirit, carrying on manufactures and trade with all the keenness of any civilized worldling; beside the native merchants and lawyers of Calcutta, who still cling to their ancestral Boodhism, or else substitute French infidelity in its place; place the lowest of the highest beside the highest of the lowest, and tell us if the difference is so very marked. Sin, like holiness, is a mighty leveler. The “dislike to retain God” in the consciousness, the aversion of the heart towards the purity of the moral law, vitiates the native perceptions alike in Christendom and Paganism.

The theory that the pagan is possessed of such an amount and degree of moral knowledge as has been specified has awakened some apprehension in the minds of some Christian theologians, and has led them, unintentionally to foster the opposite theory, which, if strictly adhered, to, would lift off all responsibility from the pagan world, would bring them in innocent at the bar of God, and would render the whole enterprise of Christian missions a superfluity and an absurdity. Their motive has been good. They have feared to attribute any degree of accurate knowledge of God and the moral law, to the pagan world, lest they should thereby conflict with the doctrine of total depravity. They have mistakenly supposed, that if they should concede to every man, by virtue of his moral constitution, some correct apprehensions of ethics and natural religion, it would follow that there is some native goodness in him. But light in the intellect is very different from life in the heart. It is one thing to know the law of God, and quite another thing to be conformed to it. Even if we should concede to the degraded pagan, or the degraded dweller in the haunts of vice in Christian lands, all the intellectual knowledge of God and the moral law that is possessed by the ruined archangel himself, we should not be adding a particle to his moral character or his moral excellence. There is nothing of a holy quality in the mere intellectual perception that there is one Supreme Deity, and that He has issued a pure and holy law for the guidance of all rational beings. The mere doctrine of the Divine Unity will save no man. “Thou believest,” says St. James, “that there is one God; thou doest well, the devils also believe and tremble.” Satan himself is a monotheist, and knows very clearly all the commandments of God; but his heart and will are in demoniacal antagonism with them. And so it is, only in a lower degree, in the instance of the pagan, and of the natural man, in every age, and in every clime. He knows more than he practises. This intellectual perception therefore, this inborn constitutional apprehension, instead of lifting up man into a higher and more favorable position before the eternal bar, casts him down to perdition. If he knew nothing at all of his Maker and his duty, he could not be held responsible, and could, not be summoned to judgment. As St. Paul affirms: “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” But if, when he knew God in some degree, he glorified him not as God to that degree; and if, when the moral law was written upon the heart he went counter to its requirements, and heard the accusing voice of his own conscience; then his mouth must be stopped, and he must become guilty before his Judge, like any and every other disobedient creature.

It is this serious and damning fact in the history of man upon the globe, that St. Paul brings to view, in the passage which we have selected as the foundation of this discourse. He accounts for all the idolatry and sensuality, all the darkness and vain imaginations of paganism, by referring to the aversion of the natural heart towards the one only holy God. “Men,” he says,—these pagan men—”did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” The primary difficulty was in their affections, and not in their understandings. They knew too much for their own comfort in sin. The contrast between the Divine purity that was mirrored in their conscience, and the sinfulness that was wrought into their heart and will, rendered this inborn constitutional idea of God a very painful one. It was a fire in the bones. If the Psalmist, a renewed man, yet not entirely free from human corruption, could say: “I thought of God and was troubled,” much more must the totally depraved man of paganism be filled with terror when, in the thoughts of his heart, in the hour when the accusing conscience was at work, he brought to mind the one great God of gods whom he did not glorify, and whom he had offended. It was no wonder, therefore, that he did not like to retain the idea of such a Being in his consciousness, and that he adopted all possible expedients to get rid of it. The apostle informs us that the pagan actually called in his imagination to his aid, in order to extirpate, if possible, all his native and rational ideas and convictions upon religious subjects. He became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart as a consequence was darkened, and he changed the glory of the incorruptible God, the spiritual unity of the Deity, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Rom. i. 21-23). He invented idolatry, and all those “gay religions full of pomp and gold,” in order to blunt the edge of that sharp spiritual conception of God which was continually cutting and lacerating his wicked and sensual heart. Hiding himself amidst the columns of his idolatrous temples, and under the smoke of his idolatrous incense, he thought like Adam to escape from the view and inspection of that Infinite One who, from the creation of the world downward, makes known to all men his eternal power and godhead; who, as St. Paul taught the philosophers of Athens, is not far from anyone of his rational creatures (Acts xvii. 27); and who, as the same apostle taught the pagan Lycaonians, though in times past he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, yet left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. (Acts xiv. 16, 17).

The first step in the process of mutilating the original idea of God, as a unity and an unseen Spirit, is seen in those pantheistic religions which lie behind all the mythologies of the ancient world, like a nebulous vapor out of which the more distinct idols and images of paganism are struggling. Here the notion of the Divine unity is still preserved; but the Divine personality and holiness are lost. God becomes a vague impersonal Power, with no moral qualities, and no religious attributes; and it is difficult to say which is worst in its moral influence, this pantheism which while retaining the doctrine of the Divine unity yet denudes the Deity of all that renders him an object of either love or reverence, or the grosser idolatries that succeeded it. For man cannot love, with all his mind and heart and soul and strength, a vast impersonal force working blindly through infinite space and everlasting time.

And the second and last stage in this process of vitiating the true idea of God appears in that polytheism in the midst of which St. Paul lived, and labored, and preached, and died; in that seductive and beautiful paganism, that classical idolatry, which still addresses the human taste in such a fascinating manner, in the Venus de Medici, and the Apollo Belvidere. The idea of the unity of God is now mangled and cut up into the “gods many” and the “lords many,” into the thirty thousand divinities of the pagan pantheon. This completes the process. God now gives his guilty creature over to these vain imaginations of naturalism, materialism, and idolatry, and to an increasingly darkening mind, until in the lowest forms of heathenism he so distorts and suppresses the concreated idea of the Deity that some speculatists assert that it does not belong to his constitution, and that his Maker never endowed him with it. How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!

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The Apostle of Presbyterianism to Western Pennsylvania
by Rev. David T. Myers

You cannot miss the connection. William Tennent sets up the Log College in New Jersey to train ministers for the infant Presbyterian Church in the colonies.  Samuel Blair studies under his oversight and eventually becomes the pastor of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, near Cochranville, Pennsylvania. A classical school and pastoral school of theology are set up at the latter church. John McMillan, who is born on November 11, 1752, near Faggs Manor of Scots-Irish parents who emigrated from Ireland, studies at Blair’s school, both in the grammar school and then at his pastoral school. He finished his training at Pequea Academy, at Pequea, Pennsylvania under another Presbyterian minister.

Completing his training for the ministry, he attended the College of New Jersey at age 18 and finished by graduating in 1772. There, he studied at the feet of John Witherspoon. Licensed by the Presbytery of New Castle, he began a trek west on foot, preaching to scattered groups of Presbyterians along the way.  Arriving in Western Pennsylvania in 1775, he organized two Presbyterian churches, Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church, where he ministered for nineteen years, and Chartiers Presbyterian Church, where he ministered for forty-seven years. But to clear up one important detail, McMillan hadn’t forgotten his roots or his training, and was ordained in 1777.

Rev. McMillan set up a classical school and training school for ministers in 1785, which became Canonsburg Academy in 1790, and later, Washington and Jefferson College.  Later on, the University of Pittsburgh came into existence through his efforts. His influence can also be seen in the establishment of the Pittsburgh Xenia Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania.

It was thought that he had a direct influence upon 100 ministers as they studied for the gospel ministry under him.  It was said of him that he aided the church and education more than any other man of his generation.  He was a pioneer, preacher, educator, and patriot as he engaged in being “The “Apostle of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania.” He would receive his “Well done, good and faithful servant” on November 16, 1833.

Words to live by:  It was reported that he had preached 6000 sermons in his endeavor to reach the West (Western Pennsylvania) for the gospel. That simply proves that the Word will not return to us empty or void, but will accomplish what the Lord wills for His glory and the good of the elect. Let us all remember as witnesses, whether ordained or not, that God is opening and closing doors all the time. Give us insight to see what spiritual doors are open, and by faith to enter into them boldly and faithfully.

For further reading:
• Guthrie, Dwight R., John McMillan: The Apostle of Presbyterianism in the West, 1752-1833. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1952. Hb, 296 pp.; indexed; bibliography, pp. 277-287.
• Bennett, D.M., “Concerning the Life and Work of the Rev. John McMillan, D.D., Journal of the Department of History (of the Presbyterian Church), 15.4 (1932): 208-216.
• Guthrie, Dwight R., “John McMillan Pioneer Educator,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, 33.2 (1955): 63-86.
• Macartney, Clarence Edward, “John McMillan: The Apostle of the Gospel and Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania,” Journal of the Department of History (of the Presbyterian Church), 15.3 (1932): 121-132.
• Slosser, Gaius J., “Concerning the Life and Work of the Reverend John McMillan, D.D.” Journal of the Department of History (of the Presbyterian Church), 15.3 (35.1): 133-158.

The Preacher and Politician Meets His Savior
by Rev. David T. Myers

These days, we don’t meet many preachers or politicians who have accomplished as much in the realms of both church and state as the Rev. John Witherspoon did in his seventy-one years of life—and those accomplishments spanned two nations, as well! He had a well-deserved reputation as one who was faithful to his Savior, to the saints of God, and to the average citizens of this great republic. He would go to be with his Lord and King on November 15, 1794.

Born in Scotland and raised to an effective ministry for the kingdom of God there in that “mother country,” Witherspoon answered the call to come to the American colonies. John and Elizabeth Witherspoon, along with their five children, traveled here by ship in 1768. Taking the presidency of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), he brought stability to that educational facility in their instruction, library, and financial matters. In the twenty-six years in which he was president, preaching in the nearby Princeton Presbyterian Church known as Nassau Presbyterian, which he founded, and teaching six courses of college level instruction, he taught a president of the United States (James Madison), a Vice-president, nine cabinet members, twenty-one senators, thirty-nine congressmen, three justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, twelve state governors, five members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and fifty-two delegates out of one hundred and eighty-eight teaching and ruling elders of the first General Assembly in 1789 of the Presbyterian Church in America. Talk about a vital presence in both the church and the state!

We have all heard of John Witherspoon being the only clergyman who signed the Declaration of Independence, present on that occasion as one of four delegates from the State of New Jersey. But how many of us are aware of the fact that he was to serve on one hundred of the committees working to set up the new nation? He helped draft the Acts of Confederation and supported the adoption of the United States Constitution.

Despite the importance of this civil side of John Witherspoon, he never forgot that first and foremost, he was a herald of the gospel. Consider his words in a sermon he preached in 1758:

“I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other. If you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish.”

Witherspoon understood that, as his precious Savior put it in the gospels, you could possess the whole world but lose your own soul outside of Jesus Christ. There was and is no profit in that sad situation.

John Witherspoon would become blind two years before his death at seventy-one years of age. He is buried in the Princeton Cemetery with an inscription on his tombstone of 239 words, all in Latin!

Words to live by:  It is rare to find someone in history who accomplished so much for church and state.  Usually, when we find someone who has been known for his work in government, it is at the impoverishment of his Christian testimony. But in John Witherspoon’s faith and life, he simply believed strongly that his faith should impact every area of life, including that of the national affairs of his new country.  This culture mandate is no different from what is demanded of all believers today.  We must enter into every sphere of life with the changeless message of the gospel, seeking to influence those spheres in which God has placed us for His glory and the good of the people found there.

In the last years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, preparations were underway on several fronts, laying the groundwork for a new denomination. Providentially, two critical legal cases in the 1960’s had established the property rights of congregations. With that assurance in hand, churches that were leaving the PCUS in the early 1970s also knew that they could not properly leave to a status of mere independency. Thus there was also a need for a Presbytery structure, and this led to the formation of Vanguard Presbytery. Vanguard began its existence some fifteen months before the organization of the PCA, and Vanguard continued to serve as a Presbytery of the denomination until 1977, when Vanguard Presbytery was merged into Tennessee Valley Presbytery, on April 8, 1977.

The PCA’s First Presbytery, Before There Was a PCA.

On September 7, 1972, 16 persons representing 10 churches which had already withdrawn or were planning to sever their connection with the Presbyterian Church U.S. met at Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

In a unanimous vote they adopted this resolution:

WHEREAS, We, the undersigned have met together to study the situation in the Church of Jesus Christ, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of Doctrine declared in the Scriptures, and
WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1934 edition) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization, therefore

1. That we the undersigned do covenant together to form an Association to be known as VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, INC., a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed Churches uniting, and
2. That this Association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it was proclaimed in the Southern Presbyterian Church prior to the year 1938.

Read at the meeting was a letter which the Rev. Arnie Maves, a Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship evangelist, wrote to the Rev. Todd Allen who convened the meeting:

” … This is to confirm our telephone conversation on Monday evening concerning the upcoming meeting in Savannah, Georgia. I want to say on paper what I said on the phone, that I stand ready and willing to become a part of the Vanguard Presbytery which hopefully will be formed very soon. I want to be counted as one of the charter members of that Presbytery as soon as it is officially formed.

“I am presently a member of Cherokee Presbytery of the P.C.U.S. and have never changed in my beliefs as first stated some years ago upon my ordination. I still believe the Bible to be the Word of God written, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and I still adhere to the Westminster Confession with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms as the best interpretation of the Scriptures that I know.

“I feel that my denomination has changed and left me. I have not changed my views … nor my vows. Therefore, I can no longer hold to nor adhere to what the PCUS is now doing. I am in disagreement with them in most points … although I love them and do pray for them.

“Therefore, as you gentlemen come to do an historic work … I simply want to say, I am with you … and I want to become a part of this continuing Presbyterian work called Vanguard Presbytery. I don’t know who chose that name . . . but it’s a good one. Praise the Lord.”

Vanguard Presbytery was formally organized at a meeting held in Tabb Street Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Va., on November 14, 1972. It was reported that their plan was to adopt the Confession of Faith and Book of Church Order which were in effect in 1933 (before the liberals started tampering with them) except for one very significant change, namely that the Book of Church Order would provide explicitly that the local congregation has sole ownership and control of its own property.

The Rev. Todd Allen, who was elected Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery, also served on the Steering Committee for the Continuing Church. Chester B. Hall whose church, First Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Ky., had renounced the jurisdiction of Louisville-Union Presbytery earlier that same year, was elected Clerk and Treasurer.

Words to Live By:
More than anything else, unbelief was the reason these churches left their old denomination. The unbelief of modernism was not necessarily a problem in the pews, but among the prevailing leadership of the old denomination, it was a different story. The crux of the problem was, as the patriarch Abraham said, “There is no fear of God in this place.” (Gen. 20:11). And more than anything else, these churches left to protect and preserve their ability to faithfully preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their purpose was to remain, as the long-standing motto says, Loyal to the Scriptures; True to the Reformed FaithObedient to the Great Commission.

Trivia Question: Who came up with that name for the Presbytery?

Answer: The name Vanguard was suggested by the Rev. Todd Allen, one of the founding members of the Presbytery and later one of the founding fathers of the PCA.
Rev. Allen is honorably retired and resides in Kennesaw, GA. His last pastorate was with the First Presbyterian Church of Villa Rica, GA. This church celebrated its 160th anniversary in 2015!

To God’s Glory : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

THE SUBJECT : The Worship Service

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : John 4:24; Exodus 15:11; I Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 95:6; Revelation 14:7.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession XXI.1-8; Larger Catechism, Q. 178-185; Shorter Catechism, Q. 59 and 60.

Today the worship service is coming under increasing attack and much of it is coming from inside the church. Some leaders and many young people are calling for more involvement, more dialogue and less monologue, and more congregational participation.

Many changes have taken place in some churches. Some of these changes have taken place after pressure from those desiring change. For a time there seems to be an increase in numbers. When this is noted another church takes up the cry: “We must be more contemporary in our worship!”

To add to the problem, in many Presbyterian churches the charge is often made that the services are too cold, too formal. The argument is based many times on the need to be youth-oriented. The logic (?) is: To attract youth the service must be full of life, therefore the worship must be changed.

There are many dangers to the modern approach. To base our worship on the desire to please any one group is to ignore other groups. In addition, the desire to please man in the worship service is an invitation to disaster. This shows a contempt for purity in worship and this has always been a hallmark of the Reformed Faith.

Form is not the real problem in the worship service. Worship is the Biblical rendering to God the honor due Him. The real heart of the worship service lies in the penitent, reverent, believing heart of the worshiper as he comes to give the Lord the esteem due Him.

What should be involved in Biblical worship? On the Lord’s Day, or on any other day the people gather together for worship, the people come and should join in with the minister the attitude expressed in Rev. 4:11 — “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”

The minister, along with the ruling elders, must be certain the worship is well-pleasing to God. What standard should be used to accomplish this purpose? Our directory of worship must be  the Word of God. Calvin held that worship should contain only what is ordained by God in His Word. He did not accept forms of worship about which the Bible is silent. (Tracts and Treatises, Vol. II, page 56).

This is difficult to achieve in this day. This means the worship service must be Christocentric. The Bible makes it plain that the believer should come to God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). As the Head of the Church, Christ should have the preeminence in worship.

Therefore, the aim should be to point the congregation to Christ in the worship service. All things should be excluded that uplift man. In addition, the minister and congregation should come to the worship service having prepared themselves, by God’s grace, to worship. It would seem, in this sense, that Saturday evening is a very important time for the preparation for worship. It should be used as a time of preparation, rather than a time of amusement.

Each person must come to the worship service with a right attitude. Arthur W. Pink suggests these attitudes are godly fear, implicit obedience, entire resignation, and deep thankfulness and joy. Indeed, these are a good beginning to worship. They would certainly enable all to come to worship with a spiritual approach and with a desire to hear God’s Word proclaimed.

A church in Cornwall, England after World War II had a sign in it which said, “We do not really worship God until we love the things God requires!” The church was devoid of ceremonial trappings. The service was simple but included praise, confession, the reading of God’s Word. The proclamation and practical application of God’s Word was central. This enabled those worshiping to hear the sermon with a hearing ear.

Worship must be “in Spirit and in truth”. It can not be religious entertainment, no matter what form such might take. It can not be ceremonial in its emphasis. It can not be materialistic in its emphasis. It must be to the glory of God and will only reach such a standard when it is consistent with God’s Word and therefore is to His glory.

1. What is the difference between subjective and objective worship? (2 Tim. 3:16; 4: 2-4).

2. How should a worshiper enter the worship service? (Note The Directory for the Public Worship of God, composed by the Westminster Assembly).

3. Whose responsibility is it to make certain that the worship service is consistent with God’s Word? (Note Westminster Confession of Faith, XXXI, 3).

4. Are we to be worshipers first or workers first in our relationship with God? (Note Larger Catechism, Q. 160).

“To God’s Glory” was published monthly by The Shield and Sword, Centreville, AL. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.
The above text was first published circa February 1977.

Thanksgiving Proclamations and Congressional Fast-Days
by Dr. David W. Hall

A previous post introduced the custom of the Continental Congress calling for days of fasting and thanksgiving. This was premised, of course, on the existence and biblical attributes of God. Excerpts from those over a short period (1776-1781) may be instructive for us in our own day. Then again, it is seldom wrong to call for thanksgiving or due repentance. A review of some of these may be timely.

In December 1776, Congress called for another day of fasting and humiliation, once again highlighting the providence of God, who was “the arbiter of the fate of nations.” It is fair to note that this Congress believed that individuals had limited ability to establish their own destinies because “the arbiter” of entire nations controlled human events. In accordance with the received Calvinism, this December 1776 proclamation called for “repentance and reformation,” and the forbidding of swearing and immorality. Each state, in this proclamation, was allowed to set the day as it saw fit to “implore Almighty God [for] the forgiveness of the many sins prevailing among all ranks.”

No proclamation for fasting and prayer was issued in 1777. Under the enormous pressures of conducting and financing the war, Congress combined fasting with Thanksgiving that year. In 1778, however, Congress called for yet another day of “fasting, humiliation, and prayer” to implore God for mercy and forgiveness and to avoid immorality and evil. This proclamation also called for the nation to “be a reformed and happy people,” and asked God to bless the schools and seminaries to “make them nurseries of true piety, virtue, and useful knowledge.” The Congress’ call for true piety was hardly the kind of neutrality that would later oppose public expression of all religion. The following year, the congressional proclamation would include numerous biblical references.[4] That later act also reaffirmed belief in God as the “Supreme Disposer of all events,” and admitted that his judgments were “too well deserved.” In addition, these congressional evangelists also asked the citizens to pray toward a specific goal: that God, “our kind parent and merciful judge through time and through eternity” would “extend the influence of true religion.” Most of these theological affirmations are unthinkable apart from a broad, basically Calvinistic consensus.

In March 1780, Congress again named God “the sovereign Lord,” and prayed that he would “banish vice and irreligion among us, and establish virtue and piety by his divine grace.”[5] This proclamation went so far as to forbid both labor and recreation on that declared sabbath, although the enforcement mechanism is by no means clear. Earlier Genevans and Zurichers could have adopted the same declaration.

In what would become a customary part of these bills, the March 1781 proclamation asked the citizenry to pray for “all schools and seminaries of learning . . . [that] pure and undefiled religion may universally prevail.” This explicit statement, besides calling for true repentance, also asked that such repentance would “appease [God’s] righteous displeasure, and through the merits of our blessed Savior, obtain pardon and forgiveness.” With James Madison’s approval, the Congress of 1782 measured itself against the still applicable “holy laws of our God,” and denounced “arbitrary power” which had sought to steal “invaluable” (the original “unalienable” was stricken to give way to this preferred idiom) privileges. Moreover, the 1782 proclamation asked God to “diffuse a spirit of universal reformation (emphasis added) to “make us a holy, that so we may be an happy people.” In light of the continental and British Puritan history of the previous century, “reformation” had definite connotation. The standard of holiness summoned was that of the Scriptures, and this Congress even desired (in the words of Isaiah 11:9) that “the religion of our Divine Redeemer, with all its benign influences, may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”

Thanksgiving proclamations of the Continental Congress strummed the same strings. The first was signed by George Washington and forwarded to the individual states. In November 1777, the Congress combined elements of thanksgiving “to their divine benefactor” with notes of contrition, making “penitent confession of their manifold sins.” This Thanksgiving proclamation also pled for forgiveness “through the merits of Jesus Christ.” They viewed ministerial training academies as “necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety . . . to prosper the means of religion for the promotion . . . of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,’” a clearly Trinitarian reference.[6] No attempt was ever made in any of these to express pluralism (e. g., by citing the Koran) or to invoke any other sacred canon. A Genevan-like sabbath was declared again by the 1777 proclamation.

On occasion Congress even interrupted its proceedings, as it did on July 5, 1778, to attend divine worship corporately, with chaplains officiating and preaching to the assembled representatives.[7] Later, on October 12, 1778, Congress entertained a resolution (which was defeated) endorsing that “true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness.”[8] In view of the earlier and manifold references to theology, this defeat may have been an exception to the rule, for the following month they once again endorsed God’s “overruling providence,” and called for “penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior.”

The next Thanksgiving proclamation (October 1779) urged that God “grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine grace and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel.” Moreover, they supported education as a means to this end: to “spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth.” This Congress asked for God’s mercy, and prayed that these states would be established “upon the basis of religion and virtue.”

The Thanksgiving proclamation of 1781, authored by Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon, again invoked the blessing of Isaiah 11:9 and pled with “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) to “incline our hearts . . . to keep all his laws.” It was not common law alone that guided, but God’s law. The next year, the Scotsman of Knoxian descent would also lead the Congress in committing to “a cheerful obedience to his laws,” and the practice of “true and undefiled religion [James 1:27] which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.”

Our heritage of prayer and thanksgiving days might be helpful if dusted off, moving forward.

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.

[4] The references are to Ecclesiastes 9:11, Exodus 9-11, Psalm 18:2, and John 14:27.

[5] Deleted from the final adoption, although sincerely held by some, was the call to revive patriotism and eschew hedonism that rendered “us forgetful of our country and of our God.”

[6] Taken from Romans 14:17.

[7] Similarly in October 1781, Congress processed to corporate worship in a Dutch Lutheran church to thank God for the surrender of the British army.

[8] In April 1785, an attempt was thwarted to set aside a section in every town, “immediately adjoining [the school] to the northward for the support of religion.” Although supported by some delegates, mainly from Rhode Island, Maryland, and New York, the motion to set aside a locale for a religious center in every town failed.


Covenanters Begin with Colorful Ceremony
by Rev. David T. Myers

Following the first schism of the Presbyterian Church in 1741, Rev. Alexander Craighead in 1742 argued that the New Side Presbyterian branch should renew the historic Scottish National Covenant of 1581 and also the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, thus committing themselves to be in opposition to the British government. When the New Side Presbytery responded with opposition to the proposed covenant that his views were full “of treason, sedition, and distraction,” Craighead and his congregation, the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, withdrew  from the New Side Presbyterians on November 11, 1743.  They then renewed these covenants themselves with four swords pointing to the four winds.

In their declaration, they professed their adherence to the true Reformed Presbyterian religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as it is contained in the Word of God and summed up in the Westminster Standards, along with the book of church order, which included the directory of worship and the covenants of the mother church.

Further protestations were made against the Adopting Act of 1729, which gave allowance to the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church of America to declare exceptions to the subordinate standards of the church. They charged that the present adoption act was “contrary to the true Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Christ.:

Last, they protested against the rulers of England as  having any legal right to rule over the colonies. The leaders of the New Side Presbyterians were not ready to do that in 1743, but a bare three decades later, that is exactly what American Presbyterians did, when they supported the Revolution.

The significance of the drawn swords was to remember the heritage of their Covenanter forefathers, who adhered to a true Reformation.  The swords were a pledge to defend their lives and their religion rather than relinquish it.  They wanted to stand body and soul with their spiritual forefathers in this matter.

< Gravesite of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, at the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Words to live by:   One of the reasons why this historical devotional is being published by the PCA Historical Center is that Presbyterians in our pews, and even some behind our pulpits, do not know the history of our Church. And in not knowing it, they can fail to appreciate stands for righteousness and against wickedness which our forefathers took at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. Reader, you need to make the PCA Historical Center’s pages a “favorite” on your computer, and check with it frequently to read the resources and frequent new additions there. You might also send some financial help to the Historical Center regularly, and have your church put the Center in their annual benevolences. If we forget the past, we will continue to make mistakes in our church faith and life in the present and future.

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