December 2016

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

THE SUBJECT : Comfort in Our Lack of Perfection.

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : I Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; I John 1:8; James 3:2; Isa. 12:1; John 16:33.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession : IX; Larger Catechism : Q. 149; Shorter Catechism : Q. 82.

The Shorter Catechism, in Question 82, asks : “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” The answer, at first reading, could lead a soul into despair. For the answer states, “No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word and deed.”

I say, “at first reading,” because the answer sets for us a standard so high that it would seem there is very little hope for those of us who have been saved by His grace.

The doctrine of Perfectionism has never had much attraction for me. In the providence of God I learned early in life as a believer about the doctrine. I can remember the definition taught to me: “The doctrine that it is possible for a Christian, in this life, to reach a state where he no longer commits sin.”

No one had to persuade me that I did not reach perfection. It was obvious to me and probably far more obvious to others. The knowledge of my falling far short of perfection was a constant source of anxiety to me. Every time I sinned against the Holy God I knew once again the despair of grieving the Holy God.

I remember well, early in my Christian life, struggling with this problem. I finally went to an older Christian with my problem. He reminded me of two things that have been helpful to me for these many years. Both of them are comforts to my soul.

First, I was reminded that I must not make God a liar. He says in His Word, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Here is comfort offered to His children by the Sovereign God. He is a faithful and a just God and will forgive when the confession is one characterized by repentance. How could we go on without such comfort?

Second, I was reminded that I am not living under the Covenant of Works but rather the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Grace teaches me that God will indeed accept my striving with sin, my daily combat with it, even though I sometimes will fall. Thus, I was able to find real comfort from the Sovereign God in the midst of all of my sin.

However, there is a danger lurking here for believers. In the midst of the comfort the believer might make two mistakes :
(1) Fall into the age-old, false doctrine of sinning that grace may abound, and thus rationalizing himself into excusing himself. Paul answers this very plainly in Romans 6.
(2) Forgetting that though perfection is impossible, perfection means 100 percent and any fraction below that is not perfection! Most of us have a long way to go to reach that 99 percent!

The very Bible that tells us that perfection is impossible also tells us that we must strive daily, fight the good fight of faith, resist the devil, be overcomers. All of these mean that we must stay in the battle against sin with all that is within us, depending on the grace of God for help.

God, in His Word, does not give us any cause to relax in the warfare simply because He has told us we can’t be perfect. God is pleased with us not because of what we do but because of what Christ has done in the finished work of the cross. Yet, at the same time, He calls us to be holy, even as He is holy.

As believers in Jesus Christ we do have comfort in the midst of our failings. He has promised to forgive us if we come to Him in repentance, confessing our sins. But in the framework of that comfort is the teaching from the Word of God that as believers we will strive to the highest standard possible within us. We know we are not able to reach perfection, but sometimes we limit our standard by our lack of “working out” our salvation “in fear and trembling.” Our Lord is looking for us to press forward toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. When He sees us doing this, He will be willing to forgive us for the sins we are prone to commit. We dare not separate the comfort from the striving.

Our thanks to all who have joined us along the way this past year, and special thanks to those of you who have been with us through all or most of this journey. Our intention is to present bits and pieces of Presbyterian history in short, daily segments, and always as a testimony to what the Lord has done through His people. To God be all glory.

Along the way, we have seen accounts of sacrificial actions which men and churches have taken which didn’t improve their lot any better on earth, but did give them God’s blessing in heaven. And we have seen the wrong decisions reached by men and churches which have led to disastrous results in the testimony of the faith. But through it all, God always reigns supreme. He overcomes our sin, and triumphs in spite of it. Our prayer is that we would learn from church history, to avoid the errors, and to strive for similar victories. That is one of the purposes of this year-long study.

Second, we have always sought to encourage you in the regular reading of the Scriptures, and so we have a permanent page with several reading plans [see the link above in the masthead]. Just this past Monday we presented yet another possible approach to reading through the Bible. I believe it was Ruth Graham, a Presbyterian missionary daughter and the late wife of evangelist Billy Graham, who once suggested that Christians should use different colored pencils or pens in their reading of Scripture for each year. That way, they will be able to follow their thoughts and feelings year by year and profit from their reading the next time they go through the Word of God in a year. Try that as you read the Bible in the new year upon us.

We do hope that you will stay with us in the coming year. We plan to cover some new territory, with perhaps some greater attention to the home fires, so to speak. So come back tomorrow and in the days to come, and see what you think.

Words to live by: Look to the Lord every day, trusting Him for all that you are and all that you have, in testimony to His saving grace. Stand fast in the truth that is the Word of God, the Bible, and maintain a pure testimony, seeking always to point others to our only Savior, Jesus Christ. Lift up His holy Name in glorious praise!

The Minister with the Smiling Face
by Rev. David T. Myers

bonarHoratius

It was a little child who gave our subject today this title.  It accurately describes the ministry of the Rev. Andrew Bonar in the 1800’s in Scotland.  He was definitely a “people person” as he went among all ages with the life changing message of the gospel.

Born in 1810 in  Edinburgh, Scotland, Andrew was the youngest of three sons.  His minister father died when he was seven.  His older brother took on the responsibility of helping the mother feed all three sons.  She was a wonderful and spiritual mother, rearing his sons in the fear of the Lord.  Andrew did well in school, becoming one of the best Latin students of his day.  He was scheduled to follow his older brother Horatius to the  University of Edinburgh, but delayed his entrance for two years.  Refusing to study theology until he was assured of his own salvation, he spent the time in reading books, such as William Guthrie.  Satisfied that the Lord had saved him, he then entered the University and graduated with honors.

Licensed to preach in 1835, he spent some time assisting another minister in the Church of Scotland before being called to the Collace church in Perthshire, Scotland.  He was the pastor there from 1838 – 1856.  Those of our readers who know the history of the Church of Scotland know that an ecclesiastical separation came in 1843 when the Free Church of Scotland began.  He took a stand, along with his brother Horatius, when he separated from the liberalism of the Church of Scotland.  Evidently his church did as well, for he continued to pastor it.

His pastoral ministry continued in his second and last congregation in Glasgow, Scotland, at the Finnieston Free Church of Scotland.  That congregation grew to over 1000 members during his time there.  He was to stay there from 1857 until his death in 1892.

It was said that he experienced four distinct revivals during his life time in Scotland.  Many of our readers have not even experienced one revival in their churches or denominations.  It was said of him that each hour, no matter what he was doing in that hour, he would stop to pray for those things the Lord laid on his heart.  He was a man of prayer.

He went to be with the Lord on this day, December 30, 1892.  It was said that he called his loved ones to his bedside, read the Bible to them, and then prayed for each one of them.

Words to Live By:
Through any of our Christian book stores, get the Life and Diary of Andrew Bonar.  You will enjoy it immensely.  This author read it while he was in college.  One of the observations he made was that Jesus sang a hymn in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as he realized the future of his time on earth.  Let us, Andrew Bonar observes, keep our friends from sorrow as long as we can.  In the face of difficulties, sing to the Lord if you have a dread of what is coming. Don’t brood over it, but sing to the Lord.

With the settling of the American colonies, scattered congregations and groups of people ready to be gathered into churches, together with the small number of ministers anxious for mutual encouragement and guidance, inevitably brought about the need and occasion for the formation of the first Presbytery on these shores. The specific occasion came in due season, with the call for the ordination of Mr. John Boyd to become pastor of the church of Freehold, New Jersey.

John Boyd, a native of Scotland, came as a probationer [i.e., a man licensed to preach though not yet ordained], probably at the solicitation of his countrymen, who, fleeing from persecution, had settled in Monmouth between 1680 and 1690.

Boyd was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on this day, December 29, in 1706, at the public meeting-house, before a numerous assembly. The original minute book of the Presbytery is preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Regrettably though, the first leaf of that book, comprising the first two pages of the Minutes, was lost long ago. We can only speculate as to the content of those first two pages, but we can try to speculate intelligently. Page 3 of the Minutes begins with the end of a sentence which appears to be concerned with the subjects of Mr. Boyd’s trial for ordination. The last half of this broken sentence is as follows: “‘De regimine ecclesiae’ which being heard was approved of and sustained, and his ordination took place on the next Lord’s day, December 29, 1706.”

Of course, we will always wonder what else we could now know if we only had those first two pages. At whose call and by whose authority was this Presbytery convened? Did they consider and adopt the Westminster Standards as their system of faith and government? The best supported opinion is that by this time Francis Makemie’s leadership had become obvious. For one, his trip to the old country for the purpose of bringing additional ministers back to the colonial churches, and the success of that trip, was probably well known. So it seems likely that it was Makemie who convened the meeting.

The Freehold congregation had apparently written asking how Mr. Boyd should be ordained, and so it was Mr. Makemie who arranged for a meeting in the spring of 1706 for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements for his ordination, with Boyd’s ordination trials to take place at what became the inaugural meeting of the new Presbytery in December. The record is somewhat unclear, particularly as to why the delay in settling Rev. Boyd. That took place in May of 1708, with the presbytery requesting the congregation to consent to his preaching every third Sabbath at Woodbridge. But he died later in 1708, and while his tomb remains to this day, Makemie—who also died that same year—and other ministers, most of them, lie in unknown graves.

Of the new Presbytery, George Hays observed in his work Presbyterians (1892):

“Presbyterianism thus grew out of the soil and of the necessities of the case. It did not begin at the top as it had done in France and Scotland, but began at the bottom and by degrees rose to strength. Now Synods are constituted by the act of the General Assembly, and Presbyteries are organized by act of Synod. Then Presbyteries were by the necessity of the situation. In 1717, the Presbytery divided itself and constituted a Synod above it; and in 1788 the Synod divided itself into subordinate Synods and created itself a General Assembly. There is no good reason to believe that this first Presbytery adopted any standards for their own guidance. It looks as though they came together assuming the Westminster Standards as authoritative without any special adoption in this country. They adopted the ordinary parliamentary law as their method of action. They did not even adopt a name, as Presbyteries now have names. It was simply “The Presbytery”; not of Philadelphia, nor of New Jersey, nor of Maryland. There was no other, and when it was spoken of there was no ambiguity. When, in 1716, the Synod was constituted by dividing the General Presbytery into four, these were simply named First, Second, Third, and so on. It was a day of great demands for activity, and of small resources of men and means to meet the requirements. This first meeting at Freehold was the only meeting which was had outside of Philadelphia. That city was so central and so accessible that the early Presbyteries always met there. So, with three exceptions, did succeeding Synods and General Assemblies, all the way down to 1834. The three men who were present at this ordination of Mr. Boyd were Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, and John Hampton. The original members of the first Presbytery included these three, with George Macnish, John Wilson, and Nathaniel Taylor.”

Words to Live By:
Jesus promised that He will build His church. The promise is sure. And it is the Lord our God who sovereignly draws His people into the Kingdom as Christ is lifted up by the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.—Ps. 127:1, ESV.

Lardner Wilson Moore was born on May 20, 1898, in Osaka, Japan. His father was the Rev. John Wallace Moore and his mother, Kate (Boude) Moore. His parents were among the very first Protestant missionaries to serve in Japan.

Lardener received his collegiate education at Austin College, in Texas, earning his BA there in 1918 and an MA in 1919. He then pursued his preparation for ministry at Union Theological Seminary, in Richmond, Virginia, where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1922.

Upon graduation from Seminary, Lardner then married Grace Eagleton, in Sherman, Texas on July 6, 1922. To this marriage, three children were born, including George Eagleton, John Wallace and Robert Wilson.

Moore was licensed and ordained on September 15, 1921 under the authority of Durant Presbytery (PCUS), being installed as a pastor of the PCUS church in Caddo, Oklahoma. Additionally, he served as Stated Supply for a smaller Presbyterian church in Caney, Oklahoma. These posts he held from 1922-1924. [Returning to the States from Japan in 1942, Rev. Moore was able to return to Caddo to conduct the funeral of a member of his former church]

But his heart was set on foreign service and in 1924 he began his career as a foreign missionary to Japan, remaining there until 1968.  A term of service in the US Army, from 1943 – 1947 had interrupted his work in Japan. In that military service, he was commissioned to oversee the translation work of a core group of Japanese Americans. At the conclusion of the War, he also served as a language arbiter during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

In the years following the War, he became president of Shikoku Christian College in Zentsuji, Japan, serving in that post from 1950 – 1957.

In 1968, Rev. Moore was honorably retired, and returning the United States, went on to serve as Stated Supply at a Presbyterian church in Antlers, Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1972. It was in 1973 that he was received by the PCA’s Texas Presbytery. Later, on October 31, 1981 he transferred his credentials into the OPC.

Rev. Moore died peacefully in his sleep on December 28, 1987, within a few months of his 90th birthday.

Words to Live By:
The Lord gifts all of us differently. To some, He gives a great facility with languages, thus equipping them to be particularly useful in the work of missions. If you know someone with such gifting, do all you can to help them along their way in serving the Lord. More than anything, pray for them, even now, long before they ever reach the mission field. Pray that the Lord will prepare them and that He will use them to advance His kingdom. Pray that they will stand strong in the Lord, firmly anchored in Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

For Further Study:
For more insight into Major Lardner W. Moore’s work as language arbiter with the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, click here. [See under #8. Language Arbiter]

Image : Photograph of Lardner and Grace Moore in Takamotsu, Japan, in 1963.

Training Others in the Work of Service
by Rev. David T Myers

Born in Ireland in 1723, Robert Smith accompanied his parents to America in 1730. He was of the stock of Scots who had moved from Scotland to Ireland and then on to America. Upon arrival in this new land, the family settled about forty miles from Philadelphia along the Brandywine River.

At age 15, Robert was one of the countless converts of the Spirit under the gospel preaching of George Whitefield in his first tour to America. Shortly afterwards, Robert Smith felt the call of that same Spirit to enter the ministry. His parents supported him in this divine call and encouraged him to enter the church academy of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania under the tutelage of its pastor, the Rev. Samuel Blair. This school trained him in theological and pastoral subjects, all of which he did well, quickly acquiring the subjects. It was not surprising then that Robert Smith sought licensure by the Presbytery of Newcastle, New Side, which was successful on this day, December 27, 1749. Less than a year later, after practical work in churches to test his call, he accepted a double call, upon ordination, to the Presbyterian congregations at Pequea and Leacock, Pennsylvania, for which he was to stay, at least in Pequea, for the next forty two years.

What is important for us today is that Pastor Robert Smith began an academy there which was instrumental in educating countless Presbyterian ministers of Pennsylvania and surrounding states. This was before Princeton Theological Seminary was begun in 1812, so its very existence filled the empty pulpits of Presbyterian meeting houses all over the then-known land. And it was no easy school to attend either. The language of choice was Latin, and speaking in class either to the teachers or one another in any other languages was punishable as a fault. Yes, Hebrew and Greek were also studied, and theological and Biblical books were included in the course work. Thus, the academy was preparatory to the College of New Jersey as well as preparatory for work in the pastorate. As many as fifty ministers received part of their education here as well as others who went into other callings in life. It continued for forty years and was one of the forerunners to Princeton Theological Seminary.

The churches of Pennsylvania and surrounding states required an earnest ministry. It was impossible to look abroad for its teaching elders. Further, the cost of travel to the centers of education in New England was too great for the infant church. A school for ministry in their own back yard, so to speak, was the only answer. And God’s Spirit answered that call by raising up the Academy at Pequea, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By:
Modern churches today face a different challenge, in that some of our future pastors are older in age when their call to ministry comes from the Holy Spirit. Often married with families, future pastors cannot leave established jobs and go to seminaries to study the three or four years required for graduation. This is where local Presbyterian churches can come to the fore. Covenant Theological Seminary, for one, has any number of seminary courses on line which can be inserted into a Sunday School curriculum or special classes during the church week for preparatory work in training. Those local ministries can then offer opportunities for service under the oversight of teaching and/or ruling elders in the local church. Local Presbyteries can take such students under care as they prepare for God’s work. As Jesus put it in Matthew 9:37, 38 “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” —(NASB). Are you asking the Lord of the harvest for a plentiful supply of workers in His kingdom? Pray today, and regularly, for that spiritual need.

“Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul…It is not he that reads most , but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

 

The daily reading of the Bible should be the regular, consistent practice of every Christian. The Bible is the very Word of God to His children and it is essential for our growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior.

We know this, and yet the reading of the Bible seems to be a great difficulty for many Christians. Various plans have been developed over the years to accomplish an annual reading through the whole Bible. Robert Murray McCheyne’s plan is perhaps the most famous of these, though there are many others. For years now here at This Day in Presbyterian History we have had links to McCheyne’s plan and others posted on a page of this blog (see “Reading Plans” in the masthead).

But too often it proves difficult to stick with these plans. For one, you have to keep track of the reading guide itself. A printed guide tends to get lost somewhere around the time we’re moving into Exodus and Mark in our reading and so we never get beyond Genesis and Matthew. Web-based reading plans eliminate that excuse of course, until a computer isn’t available.

But the bigger problem is that our reading can become perfunctory—something we labor to check off our daily “To Do” list. That seems to be what really kills our heart to keep after a regular reading through the Bible. We’ve moved from reading because we want to, over to reading because we have to.

As you look ahead to 2017 and consider again how you will approach your reading of the Bible, I’d like to suggest a different way to go about it : 

(1) The 260 Plan — Rather than have a plan guide that you have to consult every day to keep your place, this approach takes advantage of the fact that there are 260 chapters in the New Testament and that there are 260 weekdays in a year. So under this plan, you simply read one chapter of the New Testament each day of the year.

You might bolster this reading by following the instruction of Deuteronomy 11:19 : “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In other words, read the day’s chapter when you rise in the morning, when you sit down for a meals, and at the end of the day before bedtime. This way, the repeated exposure to the same content throughout the day gets us closer to the goal expressed by Thomas Brooks, when he said:

“Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul…It is not he that reads most , but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

That’s my hope, that with a smaller chunk of reading—a single chapter per weekday—that we will take more time to think about what we’re reading, meditating on those “holy and heavenly truths.”

Then, to complete your reading of the entire Bible, on the weekends read 8 or 9 chapters from the Old Testament on Saturdays and Sundays. You will typically have more time available for reading on the weekends, and it doesn’t take all that long to read that amount.

The only other suggestion that I would have would be to discipline yourself to start your day in the Word of God and in prayer. Do it before the other duties of the day intrude. Your email will wait thirty minutes; it simply isn’t that urgent. What is urgent is that you draw near to the Lord.

Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee. – Psalm 119:11

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. – Psalm 119:97

God’s provision : The promised Messiah, the sovereign Savior of a chosen people. 

Luke 2:1-20

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The Lady Who Saved Christmas
by David T. Myers

For our post today, we go away from the remembrance of some Presbyterian and Reformed person, place, and event to think on The Lady Who Saved Christmas. This title was taken from a commentary of the Rev. Dale Ralph Davis on the Old Testament History book, Second Kings, published by Christian Focus, of Ross-shire, Scotland, United Kingdom. And yes, permission was sought and given by both the author and the publisher to quote portions for this day’s post.

Dale Ralph Davis writes on page 159 that “God made the coming of his kingdom – and therefore of Christmas – depend on a promise he made, and he placed that promise, openly exposed, in all the turbulence and upheaval of human history. Sometimes we call that promise the Davidic covenant, as when Yahweh assured David ‘Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.’ (2 Samuel 7:16) Hence David’s line of kings, the ‘Davidic pipeline’, would never bite the dust, and, eventually, the future David, the messianic King, would bring this line to its awesome climax. The kingdom of Israel divided, however, and David’s line reigned over a postage-stamp sized kingdom called Judah, and there the days came about 840 BC when it looked like there wouldn’t ever be any Christmas and history would be Messiah-less.”

The author goes on in this chapter to describe the rampage of Queen Athaliah’s mystery of murder on Judah’s royal family, seeking to destroy all the royal seed of David’s line. She was successful with the exception of a baby named Joash, who with his caregiver, was rescued by the wife of the high priest, a courageous woman named Jehosheba. It is all recorded in 2 Kings 11:1 – 3 (read). The high priest’s stole the infant out of the palace and relocated him in a bedroom in the house of the Lord, thus preserving this last remaining royal seed. Seven years later, he was placed on the throne of Judah to reign with the help of a godly counselor. Here truly is the Lady Who Saved Christmas.

We learn first, The Huge Significance of Unsung Servants. I mean, who has ever heard of Jehosheba before? She is not mentioned again in Scripture. The promise of God to keep David’s line is hanging by a thread, and up steps this priest’s wife. The LORD could have sent twelve legions of angels to save the royal line, but He had Jehosheba in place at the right time and the right place.

Maybe no one has heard of you, dear reader. You, as a Christian, are in a small town, or small church. There may not be many who cheer you on in the Lord’s work. But God takes notice. As a Christian parent, Dale Ralph Davis noted on page 173, “you have responsibility over the church in your house, where you are meant to serve as prophet, priest, and king. As prophet you teach the word of God to your children, as priest you intercede and wrestle in prayer for t hem, and as king you rule over them with proper discipline and protection. . . . Don’t tell me your kingdom service doesn’t matter.”

In addition, Dale Ralph Davis sees The Subversive Presence of Yahweh’s Kingdom in verse 3 of Second Kings 11, which tells us that Joash was with Jehosheba for six years when the wicked queen was ruling over the land. There is the illegitimate kingdom of Athaliah and the secret existence of the true king, Joash, in God’s kingdom with Jehosheba. Queen Athaliah never even imagines that there is a potential king hidden away in the temple.

We have another instance of this same situation in Philippians 4:22. Paul is giving his greetings and mentions that even the saints of “Caesar’s household” greets the readers of the inspired letter. Saints in Caesar’s household? We are not given their names by the apostle for wise reasons, but God, the true emperor, has his servants even at this pivotal location. As Dale Davis comments, “in one sense, Caesar is the lord, but actually they have begun to serve a different Lord.” (p. 175)

Last, we must try to See God’s Hand at Work Long Before Luke 2. If Athaliah had had her way, as Dr. Davis comments on pg 180, “there would’ve been no angels or shepherds or swaddling clothes or good news of great joy.” As a result of Johosheba’s intervention, David’s line continued through Joash, and 850 years later, Jesus was born in Bethlehem as a descendant of David and yes, Joash, after the flesh, to save His people from their sins.

Words to Live By:
On this evening, some, if not many of you, will attend a Christmas eve celebration at your Presbyterian church. It is a traditional service, with the singing of Christmas carols and the simple retelling of the Christmas story. Some congregations will light candles at the close, and sing Silent Night. Others may sing enthusiastically “Go, Tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ is born,” by the lights of the many candles filling the church sanctuary. It will be a joyous time of worship.

Dear Reader: With Christmas falling on the Lord’s Day, resist the temptation to stay home with your family from your church worship, but instead make it a part of your Christmas Day. Keep Christ in Christmas is more than a slogan. Make it a practical part of your Christmas holiday!

Many 19th-century Presbyterians opposed the practice of slavery. Reformed Presbyterians, while comparatively small in number as a denomination, were notable for being uniformly and resolutely opposed to it.  

The Reformed Presbyterian Argument Against Slavery

Bring up the name of Henry Van Dyke and some might remember the “moderate liberal” who left the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, New Jersey rather than sit under the preaching of J. Gresham Machen. Some might also know this same Henry Van Dyke as a noted author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an author whose books were also beautifully bound works of art.

vandykeHJSrBut that was the son, Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Jr. [1852-1933]. Today we start by looking at Henry’s father, Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Sr. [1822-1891, pictured at right]. He was an otherwise orthodox man who served for many years as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Brooklyn, New York. While the son was a prolific author, the father’s published works were primarily sermons and addresses.

Regrettably, Rev. Van Dyke is remembered today, if he is remembered at all, for an infamous sermon in which he attempted to defend the practice of slavery. That sermon was delivered on December 9, 1860, and it was titled “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism.” Perhaps it was the shock of a Northern pastor saying such things, but the sermon gained instant notoriety. Van Dyke’s sermon reduces to four main points: 

1. Abolitionism has no foundation in the Scriptures.
2. Its principles have been promulgated by misrepresentation and abuse.
3. It leads, in multitudes of cases, and by a logical process, to utter infidelity.
4. It is the chief cause of the strife that agitates and the danger that threatens our country.”

sloaneJRWSo much for Rev. Van Dyke’s sermon. It serves to introduce you today to the review and rebuttal delivered just a few weeks later, on this day, December 23d, in 1860, by the Rev. J.R.W. Sloane, D.D., [pictured here on the left], who was at that time pastor of the Third Reformed Presbyterian church of New York City. Rev. Sloane later served as professor of theology in the Reformed Presbyterian seminary at Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, from 1868-1886.

The full discourse by Rev. Sloane is too long to reproduce here. But to focus on just the first portion of his review, here is the heart of his reply to Van Dykes first contention, edited for length. He begins: 

1. There is no word in the Hebrew language for slave, none for slavery. There is a word for servant, and one for servitude, but no word like our word slavery, denoting a condition of involuntary servitude; no specific term that expresses that form of relation between man and man. Had slavery been a divine institution, as Mr. Van Dyke argues, surely there would have been a word to express the idea specifically. The fact that there is no such word is a strong presumption that there was no such thing.

2. There is no account in the Old Testament of any permission for the sale by one person to another, of a third who was allowed no voice nor will in the transaction; no such transaction is recorded; on the contrary, all such traffic in human flesh, in “slaves and souls of men,” was absolutely prohibited; it never was attempted except in direct violation of the law, and never failed to bring down upon the people the withering curse of Heaven. There was no purchase of men, except from themselves, by voluntary contract for a specified sum, for a definite time, known and agreed upon by the parties; there were no slave-hunts in other countries for a supply of servants; there was not a single barracoon on the borders; there were no slave-pens in the cities –no auction blocks, upon which men, women, and children might be placed and sold to the highest bidder in all the land. You might have passed through all the tribes from Dan to Beersheba, without ever meeting a coffle of slaves!

3. The special statute designed to prevent this crime, “He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death,” (Exod. 21:16) forever brands with the stamp of God’s reprobation and curse American slavery, and rendered the practice of such an iniquity in the Jewish Commonwealtth impossible.

4. The law for the fugitive rendered involuntary servitude in the Hebrew Commonwealth impossible–“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee; he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him.” (Deut. 23:15)

5. The law of Jubilee rendered slavery impossible among the chosen people. “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” No limitation, no restriction; the Jubilee was glorious, because it was a proclamation of liberty to all without distinction; but if it had no reference to the foreign-born servant, it would have been a farce, a mockery, for all Hebrew servants went out at any rate by the law of their service. Mr. Van Dyke affirms that there was no jubilee for the heathen servant, nor for the Hebrew whose ear was bored. The idea, as it relates to the latter, is too absurd to be tolerated for a moment. Is it to be supposed that any man who possessed common sense would, merely because he loved his master, consign himself, wife, children, and children’s children, to the latest generation, to a hopeless bondage?–or, that God would have enacted a law which would have permitted such injustice to arise from such folly? The truth is, that the term forever, in this connection, is idiomatic, and means only to the year of jubilee. The very nature of the regulations as to land and property make this certain. The argument is fully elaborated in the larger works upon this subject. If any thing can be made clear, this has been, that the jubilee was a proclamation throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof; and that the first notes which pealed form every hill-top of Judea, on the first morning of this auspicious year, proclaimed to all servants the termination of their servitude. What a moral obliquity does it argue to find a man desirous to construe every passage in which there is room for a doubt, in favor of this atrocity! I do not wonder that a distinguished man said of such characters, that their god was hisdevil.

6. The whole nature of the covenant which God made with Israel was for the security of freedom and justice to all, not for the establishment of a hateful tyranny . . .  “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger. For I am the Lord thy God.” “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, thou shalt love him as thyself, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:33). 

7. I do assert, notwithstanding Mr. Van Dyke’s disclaimer, that the argument for polygamy, the twin sister of slavery, is stronger than for slavery. I can assure him that the day is not far distant when his arguments for oppression will be as abhorrent to all right-thinking men, as those of Brigham Young for the accursed system which he has established in Utah. Polygamy was tolerated, slavery was not.

8. Were we to grant all that these men claim for the system which prevailed in the Jewish Commonwealth, they would be as far from having found any justification of American slavery as ever. They must needs show the same divine warrant as they suppose the Jews to have possessed. They must take all the laws and regulations with it; for in cases of divine authority it will not do to select; all must go together. But how long would American slavery last under those laws?

They would pierce it through and through in a thousand directions. Their enactment would be equivalent to immediate emancipation. American slavery could not live a day under single enactments relating to Hebrew servitude. Give the American slave about three-sevenths or one-half of his time, as was given to the servants among God’s people, and how much would slave property be worth in the South?

But what sort of slavery is it for which Mr. Van Dyke pleads? He can not in accordance with his Presbyterian principles (belief in the unity of the race, descent from Adam, and representation through him,) put it on the ground of diversity of color and inferiority of race. Either of these positions would overthrow his entire system of belief–he knows that God hath made of one blood all nations of men. The logical consequence of his plea then is for the enslaving of the white, as much as the black; but would he dare to say this? What is the ground of right on which he plants himself? This he has not told us. [We?] would be curious to hear an explanation of this point.

Some thirty pages later Rev. Sloane concludes his review with these words, wise words for any time:

This is my answer to the charges, arguments, statements, and perversions of this remarkable discourse, a discourse which marks the lowest point that the northern pulpit has ever reached. Yet I rejoice that it has been preached. It will open blind eyes, and carry its own refutation where my words can never reach. Moreover, I am relieved at the thought that we have touched bottom–there is surely no lower deep.

But, I am asked, what is my remedy for present evils? . . . My remedy is, to stand firm, refuse all compromise, do our whole duty, think, speak, act, just as at other times, and leave the men who make the trouble to furnish the remedy; timidity, not firmness, has been the curse of every great and good cause in which it has been permitted to enter.

Be patient, forbearing, forgiving, kind, this is Christ-like, is divine; seek the best interests–the highest good–of all; but do not swerve a hair’s breadth from the path of duty, for the sake of averting evils which, like the stone of Sisyphus, must evermore return to plague and molest us. . .  This is the hour in which God and Liberty expect every man to do his duty, assured that, as always under the Divine guidance and protection, the path of duty will be found to be the path of safetyAmen.

[emphasis added]

For Further Study:

Review of Rev. Henry J. Van Dyke’s discourse on “The character and influence of abolitionism,” a sermon preached in the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church, Twenty-third Street, New York, on Sabbath evening, December 23, 1860

Life and work of JRWSloane, D. D., professor of theology in the Reformed Presbyterian seminary at Allegheny City, Penn. 1868-1886 and pastor of the Third Reformed Presbyterian church, New York, 1856-1868

The character and influence of abolitionism. A sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, on Sabbath evening, Dec. 9th, 1860. by Henry Jackson Van Dyke [1822-1891].

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