February 2017

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2017.

A Voice from the Past on a Present Issue

The Psalmist David in Psalm 11:3 asks the haunting question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” That is the same question many evangelical Presbyterians are asking in the light of the Presbyterian Church, USA, having opened the door to gay and lesbian ministers last year. Yet if the truth be told, this sad decision was the natural outcome of an attack upon the authority of the Word of God some 88 years ago, when the infamous Auburn Affirmation was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Northern Presbyterian Church. A past devotional on January 9 spoke of it. We refer to it again, because on this date, February 28, 1935, Dr. Gordon H. Clark addresses a group of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia on the significance of the Auburn Affirmation. Remember, he was writing a mere eleven years after its presence in the church. Note the following words of Dr. Clark on it.

“The reason the Auburn Affirmation is so important is that it constitutes a major offensive against the Word of God. It, or at least its theology, is the root of Presbyterian apostasy. The five doctrines involved are the truth of Holy Scripture, the factuality of the Virgin Birth, His miracles, His sacrifice on Calvary to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to Christ, and His resurrection.”

Dr. Clark would deal with each of these five doctrines one by one, pointing out how some 1250 signers of the Affirmation [over 10% of the ministers in the denomination at that time!] went on to use familiar language with respect to them, but denying their importance in historic Christianity. They were, in their words, just theories, and denials of them were acceptable to them and should be acceptable by the church at large.

Gordon Clark set the matter to the laymen long ago by stating “This is not a trivial matter; it is rather a life and death struggle between two mutually exclusive religions. One religion can without harm to its integrity reject the infallible Word of God, deny the Virgin Birth, repudiate Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, and deny the resurrection. That religion will remain complete, even if all these things are eliminated; but that religion is not Christianity. The other religion is Christianity, because it accepts the Bible as the very Word of God, who cannot lie, because it makes Christ’s sacrifice to satisfy divine justice the only basis of salvation, and because it glories in the historical fact of the resurrection.”

The entire article can be found at the PCA Historical Center, which we recommend the reader to reference. But what can the righteous do, when the very foundation of historic Christianity is being destroyed? Our Presbyterian fathers fought that destruction from 1923 to 1936 to reclaim the church from the inside. Failing that, they voted with their feet and sought to form a more perfect union with a separate Bible-believing, gospel-preaching denomination.

Also on this date:
In 1638, Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant on the grounds of Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh.

Words to Live By: There is always a call for the righteous to uphold the foundation of biblical Christianity. Are you among the righteous heeding that call?

Presbyterian denominations in the United States no doubt do some things differently from what is described in the following article, but by comparing we can sometimes learn some important lessons about our own practice. 

The First Institution of Elders and Deacons in the Church of Scotland, the Qualifications of these Office-bearers, and their Proper Functions, according to a Form of Church Policy submitted to the Convention of Edinburgh, 1560. From Spottiswood’s History, Edition of 1655. Published by the Evangelist.
[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian 31.34 (19 February 1896): 2. Spelling has been modernized.]

The eighth head concerning Elders and Deacons.

Men of best knowledge, of purest life, and most honest conversation that can be found in every Church, must be nominated for these offices, and their names publicly read unto the congregation, that from amongst those some may be chosen to serve as Elders and Deacons. If any be nominated, who is noted with public infamy, he must be repelled; for it is not seemly that the servant of corruption should have authority to judge in the Church of God: or if any man know others that are of better qualities within the Church, then those who are nominated, the same shall be joined to the others, that the Church may have the choice. If the Churches be few in number, so as Elders and Deacons cannot conveniently be had, the same Church may be joined to the next adjacent; for the plurality of Churches without Ministers and order doth rather hurt, than edify.

The election of Elders and Deacons ought to be made every year once, which we judge most convenient to be done the first of August yearly, lest men by long continuance in those Offices presume upon the liberty of the Church. And yet it hurts not, if a man be retained in office more years then one, so as he be appointed yearly thereto by common and free election: Providing always that the Deacons, and Treasurers of the Church be not compelled to receive again the same Office for the space of 2 years. How the suffrages shall be given and received, every several Church may take the order that seems best to them.

The Elders being elected must be admonished of their Office, which is to assist the Minister in all public affairs of the Church; to wit, in judging and discerning of cases, in giving admonition to licentious livers, and having an eye upon the manners and conversation of all men within their charge: for by the gravity of the Elders the loose and dissolute manners of other men ought to be restrained and corrected. The Elders ought also to take heed to the life, manners, diligence and study of their Ministers; And if he be worthy of admonition, they must admonish him; if of correction, they must correct him; and if he be worthy of deposition, they with the consent of the Church and Superintendent may depose him.

The Office of Deacons is to receive the rents, and gather the Alms of the Church, to keep and distribute the same as they shall be appointed by the Ministry and the Church; yet they may also assist in judgment the Minister and Elders, and be admitted to read in public Assemblies, if they be called, required and found able thereto.

The Elders and Deacons, with their wives and families, must be subject to the same censure, that Ministers are subject unto; for they are Judges to the manners of others, and therefore they must be sober, humble, entertainers of concord and peace amongst neighbours; and finally, an ensample of godliness to the rest of the flock: whereof if the contrary appear, they must be admonished by the Minister or some of their brethren, if the fault be secret; but if it be open and known, they must be openly rebuked, and the same order kept with them that is prescribed against Ministers offending. We think it not necessary that any public stipend be appointed either to the Elders or Deacons, because their travel continues but for a year; as also because they are not so occupied with the affairs of the Church, but that they may have leisure to attend their private business.

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

THE SUBJECT : God’s Work of Grace.

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Eph. 2:8; John 15:5; I Cor. 6:17; I Cor. 1:9; I Pet. 5:10.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession of Faith, chap. X; Larger Catechism, Q. 67; Shorter Catechism, Q. 29 and 30.

God’s Word states, “for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). This is a very necessary teaching today. There is too much preaching and teaching that contradict the Biblical view of man’s utter and complete dependence on God for saving faith.

It is true that in the midst of being saved by God it is sometimes difficult for man to understand the working of God. But the hymn writer was correct when he said : 

“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; 
It was not I that found, O Savior true; 
No, I was found of Thee.” (George Chadwick)

Calvin’s definition of faith is found in his Institutes (III.2.7) : 

“Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

The difficulty in the minds of many people regarding how God saves sinners is understandable. There are two strong pressures in the evangelical world that cause many to become confused. The first is the overwhelming practice of putting pressure on people to “accept Christ.” The second is the excessive importance placed on success and popularity. A church is not a success unless it attracts people by much that is subjective experience rather than the teaching and preaching of the authoritative Word of God. The latter does turn some people away.

Certainly, those who follow the pressures will charge those who insist on direct adherence to the teaching of the Standards with lack of evangelistic zeal. But the question must be : Are the Standards correct when they teach it is God who draws His people by the irresistible regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible teach? The following outline might be of help in thinking through how God saves sinners.

Repent (turn from) your sins in sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10).

Appropriate (take possession of) the righteousness of Christ (John 6:29).

Cast yourself on My mercy, the God who justified and adopted you (Matt. 11:28; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Submit yourself to the Bible which is the sum of the moral standard God requires of you (I Pet. 1:22).

Remember, the Bible is your only rule of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Now : 

Christ is your Teacher (through His Word) – (John 5:24-25).

Christ is your Savior and Intercessor (John 14:6; Rom. 8:34).

Christ is your King in all areas of your life (Eph. 1:22).

Your responsibility and privilege now is to live to the glory of your God (Rom. 15:6).

This does not relieve the believer from evangelistic zeal. Biblical evangelistic zeal is for every believer to make known the Christ of the Scripture. This is the Christ that sinners need and the One who is sufficient for the salvation of all who will turn to Him, by His grace, as they repent, appropriate, cast themselves on Him, and submit to the Word of God.

The proclaiming of this Gospel is the responsibility and privilege of every believer. But our knowledge of what the Sovereign God has proclaimed should control our methodology. And the results are not up to man, nor are the results the measure of success or failure. The results are up to the Sovereign God!

Some ninety-two years later, it is remarkable how pertinent these articles remain.

The Presbyterian Church at the Cross Roads
Address Delivered at the Meeting of Princeton Theological Seminary Alumni, in New York City.

By Rev. Clarence Edward Macartney, D.D.

[Excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 95.8 (19 February 1925): 6-7]

BOTH the historic polity and the blood-bought doctrines of the Presbyterian Church are in danger. Christianity is never in danger, for it is the will of God for the world’s redemption, and our faith standeth not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. But churches are always subject to error and declension from the truth of the gospel. It is that danger which now confronts the Presbyterian Church.

The Form of Government of the church declares that in perfect consistency with the principle of freedom and private judgment, Christian people have a right to associate themselves in groups or churches and to declare what the terms of admission to that church shall be, and what the qualifications of its ministers. The Presbyterian Church does not seize and press men into its ministry. On the contrary, it bids them search their hearts, and carefully examines them as to their acceptance of the doctrines which the church declares all her ministers must hold.

The purpose of such association into a church on the part of men holding the same views of the Bible and of the way of salvation is two-fold: first, to make a corporate witness to the world concerning Jesus Christ; and, second, to strengthen and encourage one another. But both of these purposes are now seriously threatened, for it is clear that with one part of the Presbyterian Church witnessing to certain facts and truths concerning Christ and another part of the church ignoring or denying those facts and truths, the corporate witness of the church is broken, and the peace and mutual fellowship of the communion are destroyed.

The Presbyterian Church has ever been the fearless friend of religious liberty; and tyranny in every form, ecclesiastical or political, has had no more dreaded foes than the Presbyterians. But it is an outrage on liberty to confuse that historic witness of our church with acquiescence with unbelief, or to say that protest and discipline in the case of the violation of our doctrines and our polity are inconsistent with the Presbyterian principle of religious freedom.

The Presbyterian Church believes that men should be as free to teach and to preach as the winds out of the four heavens are to blow. But it also believes that it has the right to say what doctrines must be taught and preached and believed by ministers who stand in Presbyterian pulpits and under Presbyterian orders. There are many theories and guesses and ventures of opinions on the great matters of Christianity, but the Presbyterian Church has its own carefully articulated and logically defined views, and these views it declares must be held and taught by its ministers. That is what a creed and a constitution mean. Throughout the Presbyterian Church, and by even non-religious men outside of the church, there is an increasing feeling that men who cannot in good conscience receive and defend and declare the doctrines of the church should take off the Presbyterian uniform and withdraw from the fortress.

If men can be received into the presbyteries of the church and installed in the pulpits of our congregations without accepting whole-heartedly doctrines which the church has repeatedly declared must be held by all its ministers, then the Creed has become a scrap of paper. Or, if the interpretation of the Creed be left so wide and vague that men can deny or “refuse to affirm” many portions of it, in other words, if the Creed is so stretched that it will take in almost any kind of religious view, then the Creed becomes an absurdity.

The friends of modernism, within and without the evangelical churches, would like nothing better than to see the Creed of the Presbyterian Church stripped of its meaning and its restraining power. In the whole tattle fine of the evangelical churches, the creedal position of the Presbyterian Church has ever been a source of strength and hope to evangelical Christians and a sore distress to those of radical and rationalistic opinions. They realize that they must capture this Presbyterian salient in the battle line of New Testament churches; before they can hope to effect much in the way of turning the whole position. Hence the eagerness to press into our church, and when once in to declare doctrines which are more like those of the Reformed Synagogue than those of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

To receive men into the ministry of the church who disavow doctrines of the church, is to defy the government of the church. The instances where this has been done are not lacking, and protests and complaints against such action will be made to the highest court, the General Assembly. The question now before the Presbyterian Church is “whether or not it has the intention and the courage to enforce its own mandates. Nothing would please destructive liberalism and modernism so much as to see the Presbyterian Church tamely submit to affront or disobedience on the part of any one of its constituent presbyteries or congregations, for such acquiescence would mean that he Presbyterian Church had hung out the banner, “All welcome,” to every kind of religious adventurer and theological freebooter.

With the present extraordinary popularity of a misty agnosticism, the great need of the church ii for preachers who know what they believe and are able to give a reason for the faith that is in them. Preachers who are tossed about with every wind of doctrine may interest the people, but can lead them nowhere. When one reads some of the outputs of the popular teachers and preachers of Christianity to-day, their glib and facile comments remind one of the celebrated inventor and architect of Laputa, in “Gulliver’s Travels,” who had devised a scheme whereby houses could be built from the roof down, instead of beginning with the foundation. This plan might do for the gossamer fabric of the spider; but a church which is going to serve a lost humanity must be built upon the granite foundation of great convictions and beliefs, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone.

Princeton Theological Seminary has long been the despair of the liberal theologians and all the sons of restatement and reinterpretation, which, being interpreted, means evacuating the New Testament doctrines of their Christian meaning. They would rend the heavens with a shout if they thought that Princeton Theological Seminary shook in a single stone of its ancient foundations. This noble nursery of faith and piety, and the other evangelical seminaries of the Presbyterian Church, are the hope of the church for to-morrow, if these foundations be destroyed, then woe to the church!

It may seem idle and beyond the mark to speak a word of warning and entreaty to our evangelical seminaries, Princeton, and the others. But who, fifty years ago, could have predicted the sad declension of Union Theological Seminary from the Presbyterian Standards? Let what has happened there serve as a warning to our other seminaries! In eternal vigilance is the price and the secret of loyalty to the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Any one who at this time shrinks from defending the doctrine and government of his church, lest he should become a target for ridicule, criticism and abuse, is not worthy of the great and glorious name, Presbyterian.

The eyes of the whole Christian world are on the Presbyterian Church in this, its struggle to make a great witness to the truth of Divine Revelation and to the honor of Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer from sin. We are not contending for Presbyterian peculiarities, but for the great facts of the Everlasting Gospel.

———————————–

Words to Live By:
Dr. Macartney might well have concluded by reminding his hearers of this verse from the prophet Jeremiah : 

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Jeremiah 6:16

Calvary was his hiding place

It must be some sort of record. Think of it! The pastor ministered all sixty-three years in the same church. And those six decades were through some of the momentous years in our nation, to say nothing, of the history of the Presbyterian church.

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on February 24, 1785, Gardiner Spring attended Berwick Academy in Maine. He then went to and graduated from Yale University in 1805. Married the following year, he and his new bride Susan moved to Bermuda where Gardiner Spring taught the classics and mathematics. This was only for some income, as his real purpose was to study law. And he was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut in 1808. Receiving a call to the ministry, he went to Andover Theological Seminary for one year and was called to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1810, never to leave its pulpit.

It was an active pulpit for the minister. After 40 years of ministry, it was said that he had preached 6000 sermons, received 2092 into the membership roll, baptized 1361 infants and adults, and married 875 couples. Along the way, he had written also 14 books, at least one of which is still being printed today. If the reader doesn’t posses “The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character,” he is urged to buy one immediately. It answers the question as to how do we know we have eternal life.

Many Christians, and especially those in our Southern states are aware that it was Gardiner Spring who authored the resolutions in 1861 to place the Presbyterian Church (Old School) solidly behind the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. That action split the Presbyterian Church into two — North and South Old School. We will consider on May 16 the pros and cons of that resolution.

For now, consider the following words in a letter of Gardiner Spring, just nine years after he had begun his ministry at Brick Presbyterian. On occasion of his birthday, he wrote:

“Still in this world of hope! In defiance of all sins of the past years, and a guilty life, I am permitted to see another birthday. I have been often surprised that I am suffered to live. Blessed be God, I am not afraid to die, and often more afraid to live. I am an abject sinner, and it will indeed be wonderful grace if I ever sit down with Christ at the Supper of the Lamb. That grace is my strong refuge; Calvary is my hiding place. I hope in the grace and guardianship and faithfulness of that omnipotent Redeemer, to be kept from falling and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. This text has often comforted me, when I have been afraid of trusting in the divine mercy. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ It affords me unutterable pleasure to feel that I am not denied the privilege of laying my own soul beneath the droppings of the same blood I have for nine years recommended to my dying and guilty men.”

Words to Live By: We should take the opportunity which a birthday gives to us, as well as other proverbial milestones in our lives, to meditate on the grace of God in Christ in our lives, as well as the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit is doing within those lives.

Trust in God, and you shall not fear

The subject of today’s historical devotional was not a Presbyterian, but in the closing days of his life and ministry on earth, he was the president of the foremost Presbyterian college in America. Jonathan Edwards was born into a ministerial families in 1703. Trained in the home, he entered into scholarly pursuits by attending Yale College at age 13. In the latter portion of his collegiate training, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and convinced him of his need of Jesus Christ. He received Jesus as Lord and Savior at that pivotal time. Graduating from Yale in 1720, he continued his studies for the gospel ministry. When a congregation in what is now the New England area of our country became vacant, he went as the pastor in 1729, following his father-in-law as the minister. It was there under the preaching of the Word, including the famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God,” that the Great Awakening movement came to the church and area. Over three hundred souls were awakened to their sinfulness and brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was not only effective as an awakening pastor, but through his writings, the then known world of Christendom was challenged as to the authority of God’s Word in the life of the church and the sphere of culture. He was America’s foremost apologist, or defender of the faith. Even in the midst of church controversy, such as developed in that Northampton congregation over the issue of qualified participants of the Lord’s Supper, he did not allow his departure to stop him in his ministry. He evangelized among the native Americans for six years in the Stockton, Massachusetts area.

It was in 1758, that a delegation came from the College of New Jersey, with an offer to become the president of that Presbyterian school of the prophets. After some objections were answered satisfactorily, he did accept the offer in January of 1758 and became associated with what would later become Princeton University. As smallpox was present in the area, a noted physician came down from Philadelphia on February 23, 1758 to inoculate President Edwards and two of his daughters. Edwards had never been in the best of health and as the effects of the inoculation were subsiding, a secondary fever took hold and Jonathan Edwards died of small pox approximately one month later, March 22, 1758.

Just before his death, some people were attending him on his death-bed, and remarked about the approaching effect of this certain demise on the Christian church. Jonathan Edwards, hearing those remarks, spoke to those attending him with his dying words “Trust in God, and ye need not fear.”

Words to Live By: Let us ever and always trust in God, indeed the God of providence, with whom there is no mistake in life or death.

All Good Things Must End

The last numbered meeting of the Westminster Assembly, marked as “Session 1163”, met on this day, February 22d, 1649. The Assembly was never officially dissolved. Finally the last pretense of a meeting occurred on March 25, 1652.

In his History of the Westminster Assembly, (1856), William Hetherington writes of those final days:—

“The business of the Assembly was now virtually at an end. The subjects brought before them by Parliament had been all fully discussed, and the result of their long and well-matured deliberations presented to both Houses, to be approved or rejected by the supreme civil power on its own responsibility. But the Parliament neither fully approved nor rejected the Assembly’s productions, nor yet issued an ordinance for a formal dissolution of that venerable body. Negotiations were still going on with the king; and in one of the papers which passed between his majesty and the Parliament, he signified his willingness to sanction the continuation of Presbyterian Church government for three years; and also, that the Assembly should continue to sit and deliberate, his majesty being allowed to nominate twenty Episcopalian divines to be added to it, for the purpose of having the whole subject of religion again formally debated. To this proposal the Parliament refused to consent; but it probably tended to prevent them from formally dissolving the Assembly, so long as there remained any shadow of hope that a pacific arrangement might be effected with his majesty.

In the meantime many members of the Assembly, especially those from the country, returned to their own homes and ordinary duties; and those who remained in London were chiefly engaged in the examination of such ministers as presented themselves for ordination, or induction into vacant charges. They continued to maintain their formal existence till the 22d of February 1649, about three weeks after the king’s decapitation, having sat five years, six months, and twenty-two days; in which time they had held one thousand one hundred and sixty-three sessions. They were then changed into a committee for conducting the trial and examination of ministers, and continued to hold meetings for this purpose every Thursday morning till the 25th of March 1652, when Oliver Cromwell having forcible dissolved the Long Parliament, by whose authority the Assembly had been at first called together, that committee also broke up, and separated without any formal dissolution, and as a matter of necessity.

Words to Live By:
Having served its purpose, the Westminster Assembly at last closed its sessions. All good things must eventually come to an end. Ministries wax and wane. Lives come to an end. It is part of the human condition, given our fallen, sinful nature. It is part of the curse of sin. But it will not be so in heaven, when we are changed from corruptible to incorruptible. Then not just our existence, but our very reason for existence and our purpose in life will be eternal, for we will, without sin, perfectly worship and serve the one eternal Lord God.

But as it is written:  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV)

From the Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, Vol. 4, pp. 799-800, the recorded content of that last numbered session of the Westminster Assembly:—

Sess. 1163. Feb. 22, 1649. Thursday morning.

Mr Johnson to pray.

Mr Craddock be approved.

R.: Mr Savory respited till this day forthnight.

Ord[ered]: Mr Dawson be approved upon his ordination.

Ord[ered]: Mr <Horson> be approved upon his former <approbation.>

Ord[ered]: Mr Ackworth be examined.

Ord[ered]: Mr Mason be approved.

R.: The hundred pounds now to be distributed shall be distributed according to the rule observed in the last distribution.

It was done accordingly, and approved off.

“From this point forward, there are no more numbered sessions, and many different hands appear, rather than noting hands other than those of the assembly scribes, the presence of the scribal hands is noted, This session is another hand.”

The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, Chad Van Dixhoorn, editor. Oxford University Press, 2012. Volume IV, pp. 799-800.

Another of the many tracts found as a collection among the papers of PCA pastor “Bud” Moginot was one titled “The Crime of the ‘Auburn Affirmation’ (A Sermon)”. This tract was authored by the Rev. Ira Miller, and is dated 4 February 1942. Miller had been a minister in the Presbyterian Church,U.S.A., from around 1906 until 1942, at which point he was entered on their rolls as honorably retired. He attended the Fifth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church in 1942 and in November of that year, transferred his credentials to the BPC. He was active in the BPC Presbytery of the Midwest, and served as the moderator of Session when the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis was without a pastor, up until that church called the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer. Rev. Miller even participated in Schaeffer’s installation as pastor, with Miller giving the Charge to the Congregation. By 1948 he was no longer on the roll of Presbytery and we think he may have moved to California.

THE CRIME OF THE
“AUBURN AFFIRMATION”
(A SERMON)

But if any provideth not for his own, and
specially for his own household, he hath
denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”
(I Tim. 5:8, R.V.)

I

Let no one suppose that I am ignorant, or seeking to take advantage of your ignorance, in denying that Paul is here speaking of provision for the PHYSICAL and TEMPORAL needs, especially of a man’s parents, widow and children. He is exposing to well-deserved contempt the conduct of a man who would be indifferent to these while at the same time pretending to be devoted to the service of God. His faith, says Paul, is worse than NO faith ; his service worse than NO service ; his state worse than an unbeliever’s state. The condemnation is severe.

II

But let us suppose this same man, or the men of an entire Christian congregation, or the minister of that congregation, or the entire denomination to which that congregation belongs, is equally indifferent to proper provision for SOULS under their care? Is that not a greater fault? Consider that the soul, unlike the body, is not for a fleeting day, and then dissolves into dust. No, it is for ETERNITY, and must live eternally, or die eternally. Then consider that God has constituted each father a shepherd and provider for the souls of his household, each congregation for its people, each pastor for his flock. If they neglect this duty, would not the guilt be greater, seeing that eternal, and NOT temporal loss, would be the certain consequence? Then should not the condemnation be more severe even than this of Paul here? 

III

Should any doubt concerning this remain in your minds, consider again the words of Jesus when tempted by the devil to satisfy the needs of the body in an act which might imperil the welfare of the soul. He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Two facts are plainly evident in this utterance. First: The needs of the soul are paramount, and take precedence over the needs of the body. Second: Those needs meet their provision in “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This “Word of God,” we now know, is contained in a volume which has long been known and revered under the honored name of “THE BIBLE.”

IV

Now concerning this Book, Presbyterians have said, ever since their name, and the idea contained in their name, have been known upon earth, “IT IS THE WORD OF GOD.” But, about nineteen years ago, nearly thirteen hundred ministers of the “Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” resenting the action of a General Assembly in witnessing to the Bible’s INERRANCY, signed a document which was known as an “AFFIRMATION,” but more properly should have been called a “DENIAL,” because it denied the traditional faith, not of Presbyterians only, but of the entire Church of all ages as well. This document actually taught, “It is not necessary for members, Elders or even Ministers of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to affirm their belief that the Bible is INERRANT.”

V

Now, these assailers of the Word of God numbered less than one-seventh of the ministers of the “Presbyterian Church in the United States of America” at that time. Being heretical, they should have been tried, disciplined, rebuked, or even expelled from the Church. And being only one-seventh in number, they should NOT have been permitted to take control of the doctrine, discipline, and donations of the Church. But they were NOT tried, disciplined, rebuked, and expelled. And they DID take control of the doctrine, discipline, and donations of the Church. As a result, any effective testimony within the Church has been almost completely hushed, lo, these nineteen years.

VI

For what were the teachings of the Bible in respect to which these men demanded liberty to teach that “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT?” Were they troubled, as is common among blasphemers of the ignorant sort, because the Bible does not explain where Cain got his wife? Were they shocked, as Bob Ingersoll claimed to be, at being asked to believe that good men go to hell for not believing “that rib story” of the creation of woman? Did they wish to be permitted to smile at the ludicrousness while, as intelligent men, they, of course, deny the historicity, of Balaam’s ass speaking? Did their astronomy contradict the fantastic tale in Joshua of the sun and moon standing still? Were they unwilling to be sponsors of the world’s greatest “fish story” of a whale swallowing Jonah without Jonah dying? Or did they think, as I once heard a certain minister explain, that, although the Book of Daniel is unhistoric, and its miracles fabricated, yet in the days of Antiochus,—and no doubt often since—true religion, and many souls, were saved through believing them? Not these speaks on the marble, but THE ETERNAL FOUNDATIONS UNDER THE WHOLE STRUCTURE OF GOD’S SAVING TRUTH were the matters concerning which they wished to be permitted to believe that “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT.” This the remaining five points of their infamous “AFFIRMATION” prove.

VII

That God actually became incarnate, taking upon Himself human nature through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary ; that Jesus actually performed many miracles, which were signs of His Deity and proofs of His saving power ; that God actually laid my sins on Jesus, who bore the penalty for them on the Cross, thus satisfying completely the righteous demands of a just and holy God ; that the same body in which He suffered actually lived again on the third day, a proof that the sacrifice has been accepted, and both my body and my soul redeemed ; that He will actually and personally return to earth some day, to raise, glorify, and reward His saints, to judge the world, and to usher in His Kingdom which men have failed to build ; there are the teachings of the Bible concerning which these men demand the rights to differ, and to assert, if they wish, “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT.” To these teachings the official testimony of the Church has been completely silenced. Those who still insist upon proclaiming them are forced to do so on the outside.

VIII

Now consider the enormity of the CRIME of these men, and especially against the two-millions of souls who comprise the present membership of a great historic Church. Consider that they have taken away, not the SHELL of the NUT of God’s grace, but it’s KERNEL ; not the CRUMBS which fall from the table, but the children’s very BREAD. For they have thrown doubt upon EVERY ONE of the mighty acts of God for man’s redemption. And the testimony of this entire Holy Book, of every truly Christian sermon and hymn, of every saint of God who has gone shouting home to glory, has been that we are saved, not by what WE have done, but BY BELIEVING IN what GOD has done for my poor soul. But now come these BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they say, “Forget all that.” It is not at all certain that Christ was born of a virgin, that His blood cleanses from sin, that His body lived again the third day, or that He is coming back to earth again. Besides, to believe all this is not necessary. It is better to say, ‘I am against war,’ ‘I am for social justice,’ ‘I believe in the brotherhood of man,’ ‘I choose the Jesus way of life.’—than to say, ‘I BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED FOR ME.’ ” Do these men know that the Cross on which Jesus died for sinners is all that stands between your soul and Hell? It seems not. But I know it ; and I now solemnly declare to such of you as have been repeating their vain shibboleths exalting human works, that unless YOU REPENT and look to the Cross and believe in it as your only hope, YOU WILL GO TO HELL! I hope you understand me.

IX

Now, I said, “Repent.” But these men too say, “Repent.” Yes, now that they have led us into the world’s greatest horror, now that our feet are sunken deep into the mire in the horrible pit of hopelessness, they cry, “You men had better pull yourselves out of the mire—by your bootstraps!” For they have taken away the motive for repentance—the wonderful love of God in Christ. They have robbed us of the power for repentance—the blessed renewing of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. They have denied us the only hope of deliverance in repentance—the coming of the Lord. So they have failed to provide for the deep and dire needs of the souls of those in their own households. They are like a householder who, having starved slaves and children all winter, at the coming of spring thrusts them forth into his fields, saying, “Now go work! Repent!” “The bread of God,” Jesus said, “is he who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” This bread they have failed to provide. They did not provide for their own. They have denied the faith. They are “Unbelievers—and worse!”

X

But I too, shall say, “Repent.” I shall do more, I shall tell you where to begin. Repent first of all of listening to a hireling who is not the shepherd. Repent of following the deceiver and follow the true. “The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America” is now in control of unbelievers. I know this, and therefore have no choice but to leave it and to seek other fellowship. I advise all truly Bible-believing ministers and congregations to do the same. I reason thus : “Should the darkness control the light? Should unbelievers govern believers? Should the people of God be taught by the ministers of unrighteousness? And what repentance, what penitence, what remorse, can avail those who insist upon following blind guides? Shall they not surely fall into the ditch?

I believe that God is now punishing our Church for the manner in which we have mistreated His true servants in the past. But God has promised to send His people a true shepherd if they ask Him. So repent—I do not know that it is too late,—although it may be. But I do know this : The Church of God must shake herself free from Modernism and Modernists—or perish. And may God save our souls from the infidelity and tyranny of shepherds who are UNBELIEVERS AND WORSE.

Rev. Ira Miller, B.D.
Feb. 4, 1942.

Today’s uncovered jewel, something I came across while working on an unrelated project. This short article reminds me that the works of the Rev. John Witherspoon really do need to be dusted off and brought to greater public attention. Sprinkle Publications did recently reprint Witherspoon’s Works, but I think those volumes haven’t gathered too much attention. We’re the poorer for that neglect.

THE DOWNWARD COURSE OF SIN.

1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by smaller sins. Heinous sins are too alarming for the conscience of a young sinner; and therefore he only ventures upon such as are smaller, at first. Every particular kind of vice creeps in this gradual manner.

2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something greater and more daring. His courage grows with his experience. Now, sins of a deeper die do not look so frightful as before. Custom makes everything familiar. No person who once breaks over the limits of a clear conscience knows where he shall stop.

3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions. Open sins determine his character, and give him a place with the ungodly. He shuns the society of good men, because their presence is a restraint, and their example a reproof to him. There are none with whom he can associate but the ungodly.

4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom; he becomes rooted and settled in an evil way.—Those who have been long habituated to any sin, how hopeless is their reform! One single act of sin seems nothing; but one after another imperceptibly strengthens the disposition, and enslaves the unhappy criminal beyond the hope of recovery.

5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame, and sin boldly and openly. So long as shame remains, it is a great drawback. But it is an evidence of an uncommon height of impiety, when natural shame is gone.

6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far as to sin without remorse of conscience. The frequent repetition of sins stupefies the conscience. They, as it were, weary it out, and drive it to despair. It ceases all its reproofs, and, like a frequently discouraged friend, suffers the infatuated sinner to take his course. And hence,

7. Hardened sinners often come to boast and glory in their wickedness. It is something to be beyond shame; but it is still more to glory in wickedness, and esteem it honorable. Glorious ambition indeed!

8. Not content with being wicked themselves, they use all their arts and influence to make others wicked also. They are zealous in sinning, and industrious in the promotion of the infernal cause.—They extinguish the fear of God in others, and laugh down their own conscientious scruples. And now,

9. To close the scene, those who have thus far hardened themselves, are given up by God to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. They are marked out as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. This is the consequence of their obstinacy. They are devoted the judgment they deserve.

Reader! view it with terror. — Dr. Witherspoon.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 461-462.]

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

THE SUBJECT : Our Intercessor

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Isa. 53:12; John 17:9; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession : Chap. VIII.1 and 4; Larger Catechism : Q. 39; 42; and 44; Shorter Catechism : Q. 25.

The Word of God tells us, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” (I John 5:14). A wonderful secret of our confidence, our peace, is our ability to be heard by our Heavenly Father. That we have access to the Father in prayer is a promise from Holy Writ.

This informs us that all prayer made in the will of God, prayer dictated by the Holy Spirit—in that it is consistent with the Word of God—reaches the ear of our Sovereign God. What a glorious promise! It is almost too much to imagine that our Lord Jesus Christ is pleading on our behalf.

Our Intercessor, Jesus Christ, sits on the right hand of God the Father, ever making intercession for us. This is an important source of our confidence as we live the Christian life day by day. We need never worry about whether or not He hears us. We need never think we are alone. We need never be concerned that because of our inability to put things into words He will not hear us. We can put the finger of faith on I John 5:14 and KNOW that He hears us. What a wonderful privilege!

When our Lord uttered the words, “It is finished” on the Cross of Calvary, He was speaking of His atoning sacrifice. His work was not finished. His work of reconciliation continued for His children. His work on our behalf in heaven is summarized by the use of the word “intercession.”

We are told that our Lord is well suited for this work. “We have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15). He has experienced everything we experience. He knows of all the temptations that come upon us.

If we are faced with the temptations of pride, He has been there. If we are faced with the temptation of rebelling against God’s Law, He has been there. If we are faced with the temptations of feeling sorry for ourselves in the midst of loneliness, or sorrow, or trouble, He has been there. He has a perfect understanding of every human experience for He became truly man and now is our intercessor before God.

We need to be reminded that His intercessory work also includes our sanctification. He sanctifies our prayers and is ever present to separate us from evil unto holiness. He represents us before the Throne of God against Satan, and intercedes for our prayers.

However, we should remember that our access to God, through this Intercessor, puts upon us an awesome responsibility. This responsibility is to behave ourselves as the children of God. Too many times we seem to rely upon our theological position rather than on our attitude, our relationship to our Father through Jesus Christ. If we are indeed saved by God, and expect to enjoy the privileges that salvation gives to us, we must remember that responsibility always comes with privilege.

The next time we go to our God in prayer it would be good for us to ask ourselves a question. With what kind of spirit are we praying? Our approach to our Lord should always be that of recognizing certain Biblical truths about ourselves. Let us list a few to help us examine ourselves :

Many times we should have a chastened spirit because of our sin as we approach Him;

Our approach to Him should always be encompassed with obedience, for it is the obedient heart He desires to hear;

We must be willing to approach Him with an attitude of submission to His Word.

Our prayers must always be accompanied with the spirit of praise to our God who is so precious to us.

We need to remember our prayers should be constant, not just when we are in need of help.

One further word could be helpful as we think of the intercession of Christ for His saved ones. Thomas Watson says it clearly : “. . . a Christian when he prays must chiefly fix his eye on Christ’s intercession. We read in Lev. 16 that Aaron made atonement by the incense as well as by the blood. So we must look to the cloud of incense, viz., the intercession of Christ.” (A Body of Divinity, p. 183).

Let us praise God for our Intercessor, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember His intercession is not based on our worthiness, it is of His free grace. Let us make use of His intercession more and more!

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: