March 2017

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Located among the correspondence in the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, there is this letter from Dr. H. G. C. Hallock which has caught my attention. 

Henry Galloway Comingo Hallock, was born on 31 March 1870, and prepared for ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1893-1896. Upon graduation he immediately took a post as a PCUSA missionary to China. In 1905 he withdrew to independent ministry and teaching, serving later as Professor of Homiletics in the department of theology at the University of China, Chenju, Shanghai, 1925-1927.  For a time he had also been connected with the National Tract Society for China. Among some Princeton alumni information, there is indication that he remained in China up until at least June of 1942. Later returning to the United States, he died on 16 January 1951. 

The letter that follows is a powerful testimony from the field of conflict. It is a revealing letter, telling the truth about evil, and a hopeful letter, speaking the truth about our Lord who sovereignly prevails over evil, purifying His Church, raising up a strong testimony to His grace and glory. Today, Rev. Hallock’s “prophecy” of China’s future rings true. 

C.P.O.Box No. 1234, Shanghai, China, March 22, 1927.

Dear Friend,

I have written several times about our Bible School and of our work among its students and about our students’ work among the chil­dren and with the people in the country villages, I hope you are inter­ested and that your heart has prompted you to help. There has not been time for a reply from you, as it takes a month each way for letters to go and come; but let me write again and tell you more. We are having very serious troubles in China. Fighting and unrest are all about us. I hear cannon booming and see many houses burning in Shanghai now as I write. Tho’ our Bible School is in the danger zone yet we have not been molested in the least. The militarists have closed a secular school of 600 pupils near us, as the generals feared the students were cutting the telegraph wires, R.R. tracks, and doing other mischief; but our Bible School goes on without interference. We are very glad and thankful to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful also that you have been praying for us.

Pray much also for China. An idea is abroad that a spirit of nationalism is among the people. This is largely a mistake. I do wish there were a spirit of real nationalism abroad, the leaders seeking the real good of their country and people; but I am sorry it is not so. The people are driven about in fear—like a flock of sheep pursued by mad— dogs or wolves—by men in the pay of Bolshevists. Lest these beasts of men be moved by pity for their own people the Bolshevists enlist perfect strangers from a distance to carry on propaganda, terrorize people, stir up strikes and shoot those too poor to strike, initiating a reign of ter­ror, making the workers afraid to work—lest they be killed for working or their wives and children be killed while they work. As soon as ample protection is provided the people are very glad to flock back to work. The so-called Nationalists, led by the Bolshevists, say they are seeking the good of the people; but wherever they go they rob and kill the people and smash up schools, hospitals, churches and Chinese temples. You friends in good old America don’t want them and can largely keep the Bolshevists out; but the Chinese are not able to do so, so these fiends carry on with a high hand. There seems to be no limit to their deviltries. They cry, “Down with imperialists! Give the people freedom!” but they themselves are tyranic imperialists, and crush freedom. They are domineering over­lords making a comparatively free people slaves. Freedom is impossible where they come. Like fierce, wild animals they are over-running the country, and the people, poor and rich alike, are fleeing for their lives.

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before. Pray much, too, for the native preachers and Bible women, and also for the young men in our Bible School. They are staying firm in the school tho’ dangers are all around. — Shanghai just captured. Many Chinese killed. I can’t well flee. God guards. P.O. is closed. If this arrives you’ll know all’s well.

Yours in Christ’s glad service,

(Rev.) H. G. C. Hallock.

[emphasis added]

Admittedly this is long, but worth it. At worst, save it to read over the weekend. This is one of Dr. Machen’s lesser known works, a brief testimony, titled “My Idea of God,” which appeared in a book of the same name, a gathering of statements largely philosophical, which only served to make Machen’s testimony stand out all the more.

Editor’s preface:—

machen02JOHN GRESHAM MACHEN was born in Baltimore in 1881. After graduating from Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities and the Princeton Theological Seminary, he studied in Marburg and Gottingen Universities, and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1914. Since 1914 he has been associate professor of New Testament literature in Princeton Seminary, doing work betimes with the French Army and the A.E.F., in France and Belgium, during the World War.

Besides textbooks of Greek and many articles in reviews, Dr. Machen has written two books of unusual quality for general readers, Christianity and Liberalism (in which he holds that liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, but a confection of modern theories exactly opposed to the Christian faith, with which there can be neither compromise nor unity) and What Is Faith? which inspired an extraordinary symposium in The British Weekly.

In the recent discussion which has agitated the Churches – now happily subsiding – Dr. Machen was the outstanding exponent of the conservative attitude, adding to a vital mind a lucid logic and a cogent style which left no shadow upon his meaning. His essay has value equally for its directness and its sincerity.


MY IDEA OF GOD

by J. GRESHAM MACHEN, D.D. PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

IF my idea of God were really mine, if it were one which I had evolved out of my own inner consciousness, I should attribute very little importance to it myself, and should certainly expect even less importance to be attributed to it by others. If God is merely a fact of human experience, if theology is merely a branch of psychology, then I for my part shall cease to be interested in the subject at all. The only God about whom I can feel concerned is one who has objective existence, an existence independent of man.

But if there be such a really and independently existent Being, it seems extremely unlikely that there can be any knowledge of Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself: a divine Being that could be discovered apart from revelation would be either a mere name for an aspect of man’s nature – the feeling of reverence or loyalty or the like – or else, if possessing objective existence, a mere passive thing that would submit to human investigation like the substances that are analyzed in the laboratory. And in either case it would seem absurd to apply to such a Being the name of “God.”

A really existent God, then, if He be more than merely passive, if He be a living God, can be known only through

His revelation of Himself. And it is extremely unlikely that such revelation should have come to me alone. I reject, therefore, the whole subjectivizing tendency in religion that is so popular at the present time – the whole notion that faith is merely an “adventure” of the individual man. On the contrary, I am on the search for some revelation of God that has come to other men as well as to me, and that has come into human life, not through a mere analysis of human states of consciousness but distinctly from the outside. Such revelation I find in the Christian religion.

The idea of God, therefore, which I shall here endeavor to summarize is simply the Christian idea. I have indeed been enabled to make it my own; I love it with all my heart; but I should not love it if I thought that it had been discovered merely in the depths of my own soul. On the contrary, the very thing that I love about it is that it comes to me with an external authority which I hold to be the authority of God Himself.

At this point, however, there will no doubt be an objection. We have spoken about the knowledge of God; but in reality the knowledge of God, it is often said, is unnecessary to our contact with Him, or at least it occupies merely a secondary place, as the symbolic and necessarily changing expression of an experience which in itself is ineffable. Such depre-. ciation of knowledge in the sphere of religion has been widely prevalent in the modern world, and at no time has it been more prevalent than now. It underlies the mysticism of Schleiermacher and his many successors; it underlies the Ritschlian rejection of “metaphysics”; it underlies the popular exaltation of “abiding experiences” at the expense of the mental categories in which they are supposed to be expressed; and in general it is at the roots of the entire separation between religion and theology, experience and doctrine, faith and knowledge, which is so marked a characteristic of the religious teaching of the present day.

In opposition to this entire tendency, I for my part must still insist upon the primacy of the intellect. It may seem strange that the intellect should have to be defended by one who has so slight an experimental acquaintance with it as I; but reason in our days has been deposed from her queenly throne by pragmatism the usurper, and, wandering in exile as she does, cannot be too critical of any humble persons who rally to her defense. And, as a matter of fact, the passionate anti-intellectualism of the present age is having its natural fruit in a lamentable intellectual as well as moral decline. Such decadence can be checked – I, for my part, believe – only by a reemphasis upon truth as distinguished from practice, and in particular only by a return from all anti-intellectual mysticism or positivism to the knowledge of God.

Certainly, unless our contact with God is based upon knowledge of Him it ceases to possess any moral quality at all. Pure feeling is non-moral; what makes my affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which I possess of the character of my friend. So it is also with our relation to God: religion is moral and personal only if it is based upon truth.

If then, in order that there may be a moral and personal relation to God, there must be knowledge of Him, how may that knowledge be attained? I have no new ways to suggest: the only ways of knowing God which I can detect are found in nature, in conscience, and in the Bible.

God is revealed, I hold, in the first place through the things that He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” This revelation of God through nature is commonly called – or used to be commonly called – “natural religion.” And natural religion is by no means altogether dead. Modern men of science, if they be thoughtful, admit that there is a mystery in the presence of which the wisdom of the wisest men is dumb; the true man of science stands at length before a curtain that is never lifted, a mystery that rebukes all pride. But this revelation through nature is far richer than many men of science suppose; in reality it presents to us not merely a blank mystery, but the mighty God. The revelation comes to different men in different ways. For example, when I viewed the spectacle of the total eclipse of the sun at New Haven on the twenty-fourth of January I925, I was confirmed in my theism. Such phenomena make us conscious of the wonderful mechanism of the universe, as we ought to be conscious of it every day; at such moments anything like materialism seems to be but a very pitiful and very unreasonable thing. I am no astronomer, but of one thing I was certain: when the strange, slow-moving shadow was gone, and the world was bathed again in the wholesome light of day, I knew that the sun, despite its vastness, was made for us personal beings and not we for the sun, and that it was made for us personal beings by the living God.

In the second place, God is revealed by His voice within us. I am perfectly well aware that that voice is not always heard. Conscience has fallen on evil days: it is drowned by a jargon of psychological terms; it is supposed to be rendered unnecessary by an all-embracing network of legislative enactments.

The categories of guilt and retribution are in many quarters thought to be out of date, and scientific sociology is substituted for the distinction between right and wrong. But I for my part am not favorably impressed with the change; self-interest seems to me to be but a feeble substitute for the moral law, and its feebleness, despite bureaucratic regulation of the details of human life and despite scientific study both of individual human behavior and of the phenomena of human society, seems to be becoming evident in an alarming moral decline. The raging sea of passion cannot, I think, be kept back permanently by the flimsy mud embankments of utilitarianism; but recourse may again have to be had to the solid masonry of the law of God.

In the third place, God is revealed in the Bible. He is revealed in the Bible in a way which is entirely distinct from those ways that have just been mentioned. The Bible tells us things about God of which no slightest hint is found either in nature or in conscience. Of those things we shall speak in a moment.

But first it should be observed that, in addition to that fresh information, the Bible also confirms the revelation which has already been given. The confirmation is certainly necessary; for the revelation of God both in nature and in conscience has been sadly obscured. In comparing the fortieth chapter of Isaiah or the first verse of Genesis or the teaching of Jesus with the feeble and hesitant theism which is the highest that philosophy has to offer, and in comparing the unaided voice of conscience with the fifty-first Psalm or the searching law presented in the Sermon on the Mount, one feels that in the Bible a veil has been removed from the eyes of men. The facts were already there, and also the gift of human reason for the apprehension of them; but the light of reason somehow was obscured until in the Bible men were enabled to see what they ought to have seen before.

Thus, in these three ways there is attained, I hold, a genuine and objective knowledge of God. Certainly that knowledge does not remove the feeling of wonder which is dear to the mystic’s heart. Indeed, it ought to accentuate that feeling a thousandfold. There is nothing in the knowledge of God which should stifle, but everything which should awaken, the “numinous” quality in religion of which Otto speaks. God has gently pulled aside the curtain which veils His Being from the gaze of men, but the look thus granted beyond only reveals anew the vastness of the unknown. If a man’s knowledge of God removes his sense of wonder in the presence of the Eternal, then he has not yet known as he ought to know.

Yet partial knowledge is not necessarily false, and there are certain things which are known about God.

At the very centre of those things stands that which is most often denied to-day; the very centre and core of Christian belief is found in the awful transcendence of God, the awful separateness between God and the world. That is denied by modern men in the interests of what is called, by a perversion of a great truth, the “immanence” of God. We will have nothing to do – men say – with the far-off God of historic theology; instead we will worship a God who exists only in and with the world, a God whose life is found only in that life which pulsates through the life of every one of us. Pantheism, in other words, is substituted for theism, on the ground that it brings God nearer to man.

But has it really the desired effect? I, for my part, think not. Far from bringing God nearer to man, the pantheism of our day really pushes Him very far off; it brings Him physically near, but at the same time makes Him spiritually remote; it conceives of Him as a sort of blind vital force, but ceases to regard Him as a Person whom a man can love. Destroy the free personality of God and the possibility of fellowship with Him is gone; we cannot love a God of whom we are parts.

Thus, I for my part cling with all my heart to what are called the metaphysical attributes of God – His infinity and omnipotence and creatorhood. The finite God of Mr. H.G. Wells seems to me to be but a curious product of a modern mythology; He is to my mind not God, but a god; and in the presence of all such imaginings I am obliged to turn, very humbly but very resolutely, toward the dread, stupendous mystery of the Infinite, and say with Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

This devotion to the so-called metaphysical attributes of God is unpopular at the present day. There are many who tell us that we ought to cease to be interested in the question how the world was made, or what will be our fate when we pass through the dark portals of death. Instead, we are told, we ought to worship a God who is not powerful but merely good. Such is the “ethical theism” of Dr. McGiffert and many others; Jesus, it seems, was quite wrong in the stress that He undoubtedly laid upon the doctrine of heaven and hell and the sovereignty of God. We moderns, it seems, can find a higher, disinterested worship – far higher than that of Jesus – in reverence for goodness divested of the vulgar trappings of power.

It sounds noble at first. But consider it for a moment, and its glory turns to ashes and leaves us in despair. What is meant by a goodness that has not physical power? Is not “goodness” in itself the merest abstraction? Is it not altogether without meaning except as belonging to a person? And does not the very notion of a person involve the power to act? Goodness divorced from power is therefore no goodness at all. The truth is that overmuch abstraction has here destroyed even that which is intended to be conserved. Make God good and not powerful, and both God and goodness have been destroyed.

In the presence of all such abstractions, the heart of man turns with new longing to the Living and Holy God, to the God who is revealed in nature, in the dread voice of conscience, and in the Bible. But as one turns to such a God, there is no comfort but only despair; the whole human race is separated from God by an awful abyss. Strange indeed, to us Christians, seems the complacency of the world; the very root of our religion is found in the consciousness of sin.

But at that point, on the basis of such presuppositions, there comes the really distinctive revelation that the Bible contains. It is not a revelation of things that already were true, but the explanation of an act. The Christian religion is based not merely upon permanent truths of religion, but upon things that happened in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago; it is based not merely upon knowledge of what God is, but also on a record of what God did. Into our sinful world – the Christian holds – there came in God’s good time a Divine Redeemer.

His coming, marked by a stupendous miracle, was a voluntary act of condescension and love. During the days of His flesh, He proclaimed by His word and example the law of God. He proclaimed it in a new and terrible way that of itself could only deepen our despair. But with His proclamation of’ the law there went His proclamation of the gospel; with His pronouncement of the Divine judgment upon sin there went His offer of Himself as Saviour. When that offer was received in faith, there was not only cure of bodily ills, but also forgiveness in the presence of God.

At first faith was implicit; men trusted themselves to Jesus without fully knowing how it was that He could save. But even while He was on earth He pointed forward with ever increasing clearness to the redeeming work which He had come into the world to do. And at last, on the cross, that work was done. The Divine Saviour and Lord, for the love wherewith He loved us, bore all the guilt of our sins, made white and clean the dark page of our account, and reconciled us to God. There is the centre of our religion. But how pitiful are my words! I may perhaps make men understand what we think, yet I can never quite make them sympathize with what we feel. The holy and righteous God, the dreadful guilt and uncleanness of sin, the wonder of God’s grace in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the entrance through Christ into the very house of God, the new birth by the power of God’s Spirit, the communion with the risen and ascended Lord through His Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s heart – these are the convictions upon which rest our very lives.

If these convictions are false, they must be given up. But so long as we think them true we must act in accord with them, and it is morally wrong to ask us to do otherwise. At this point appears the profoundly unethical character of most of the proposals for Church union that are being made at the present day. The right way to combat us who call ourselves evangelical Christians is to combat honestly and openly our central convictions as to God and sin and redemption, not to ask us to hold those convictions and then act contrary to them. So long as we think as we do, we cannot, if we love our fellow men, allow them, so far as our testimony is concerned, to remain satisfied with the coldness of what we regard as a baseless and fatal optimism. We must endeavor, by the preaching of the law of God and of the gospel of His love, to bring them into the warmth and joy of the household of faith.

[This work by Dr. J. Gresham Machen was first issued as a chapter in the book, My Idea of God, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1927, and appeared on pages 39 – 50 of that volume.] To view or download a PDF of this work, click here.

April is coming on fast, and thoughts begin to turn to General Assemblies. Well, indulge the policy wonks if you would please, and hopefully others will find this somewhat interesting. The following concerns why or how it is that we have the safeguard in place, that says a man coming from another denomination cannot become the pastor of a church until he has first met with and been approved by the Presbytery. Why do we have that rule? Where did it come from? Well, as they say, here’s the rest of the story:—

The PCA’s Book of Church Order, in the first paragraph of the chapter treating of the ordination and installation of ministers, states in part that

Ordinarily a candidate or licentiate may not be granted permission by the Presbytery to move on to the field to which he has been called, prior to his examination for licensure or ordination. Likewise an ordained minister from another Presbyterian Church in America Presbytery or another denomination, ordinarily shall not move on to the field to which he has been called until examined and received by Presbytery.

Where does that requirement come from? Why is it important? Well, history is what we do here, so a bit of background seemed important as I came across it recently.
As the PCA’s Book of Church Order is based directly on the polity of prior denominations, this history is also directly relevant.

The setting of this story is the meeting of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern). It is the third day of their General Assembly, and the report comes that an entire Presbytery wants to join the denomination. There is testimony that these men are entirely orthodox. But they would rather not suffer the pain of a theological examination by the receiving body. At which point the Rev. E. Thompson Baird rose to address the issue:

Rev. Dr. Baird sketched the history of the origin of the rule requiring the examination of ministers passing from Presbytery to Presbytery. Dr. Lyman Beecher came to a Presbytery in New York from some Congregational Association, and was admitted without examination, and immediately took a letter of dismission to an Ohio Presbytery, and was received, and subsequently stated that he had never signified his adoption of the Confession of Faith. The late Dr. Alexander therefore advocated the adoption of the examination rule, for without it a single Presbytery might deluge the church with heretical ministers. The rule was not directed especially against the New School Church, for at the time of its adoption that church had no existence. Nor had it been suspended in the case of the United Synod.—They had examined the Old School and the Old School had examined them, and it was not until they were thoroughly satisfied as to one another’s soundness that they came together. Nor could it be reasonably objected to. He was not ashamed to proclaim anywhere what he believed as to the great doctrines of religion, and he was not willing to alter our whole system to open the door to a few who were not willing to come in the same way that others had been received. The importance of it is increased at this time—it is more necessary than ever in these days of fanaticism that we should have such a rule. Even in the case of old ministers he thought it a good thing to talk over our views occasionally. When a venerable father in the church comes to be examined, if we cannot find any heresy in him, we can at least learn a great deal from him about the great doctrines of grace. The speaker continued that if the rule is absolute, nobody’s feelings can be hurt by it. He therefore saw no necessity for its repeal.

And apparently he made his case well, for when the report was adopted, the Assembly refused to repeal the rule requiring the examination of all ministers entering a Presbytery. So our Book to this day still expects and requires a Presbytery to examine and receive a minister before he can be allowed onto the field of ministry within that Presbytery.

Again, we’re off the calendar by a few days with this post, but the following article from the April 1949 issue of THE BIBLE TODAY may have some contemporary interest. This particular article is a transcript of a radio message by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and it was the third in a series of five messages on the general theme “The Biblical Basis of Liberty.” These messages were delivered over the ABC Network in the spring of 1949, under the auspices of the American Council of Christian Churches.

What the Bible Teaches About Economic Liberty

DR. BUSWELL’S RADIO MESSAGE, MARCH 19, 1949.

THE Biblical doctrine of economic liberty begins in the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden before any sin had entered into the good world which God had made. Moses tells us, “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” Genesis 2:15. Here we have the elements of harmonious economic activity. It is in the spirit of the Scripture for us to expand the sentence in its setting, to include the tilling of the soil and the entire range of the cultivation of natural resources, as a normal activity for man.

The next step in the economic doctrine of the Bible is found in the third chapter of Genesis after man’s fall, after sin had entered into the world, after man had corrupted the holy character which God had given him. As a part of the disciplinary punishment for sin we read that God said, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Genesis 3:17-19.

Reflecting upon the symbolism which Moses here gives, it appears that one of the best disciplines God has given to a sinful race is the economic necessity of earning a livelihood. We need not look far to see many illustrations of the fact that hard work, the necessity of providing food, shelter, education and development for our children, is a stabilizing, integrating factor in human life.

The economic implications of the Mosaic law are too vast to examine in detail in a brief message of this kind. Suffice it to say that the principles of thrift, industry, provision for one’s family, and care of the unfortunate are all implied, or expressly taught. Much attention has been focused upon the law of the year of jubilee. Some have falsely supposed that a sort of communistic economic principle was implied. But nothing could be further from the facts. The import of the law of the year of jubilee was to keep the agricultural lands distributed among the families of the nation. Monopoly of natural resources was prevented. Fair opportunity for all was the end in view.

The prevention of monopoly of natural resources is a constant theme in the Bible from the time of Moses through to the end of the New Testament. Isaiah says, for example, “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room . . .” Isaiah 5:8. The clear implications of Isaiah’s teaching are in accordance with the principle of modern reform legislation keeping the natural resources of the land available for all.

The central text of the New Testament in the realm of economic doctrine is, I believe, Ephesians 4:28, in which St. Paul places before the church the Christian ideal of economic activity, namely, “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Here we have liberty, thrift, industry, saving, private property, and care for the weak and unfortunate all clearly implied as economic principles.

Some have taken their chief text for New Testament economic doctrine from the experiment in communism recorded in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. It is true that under the spiritual impulse of Pentecost, the Christian community in Jerusalem practiced economic communism. All who have carefully read the record have observed, however, that the community of goods was purely voluntary. The record makes it perfectly clear that there was no compulsion, and one who did not wish to contribute his property to the common fund was equally in good standing with one who did so contribute.

Beyond the immediate record, however, there are other facts in the New Testament which have not been so commonly understood. When Saul of Tarsus was converted and became the Apostle Paul, and when he began the establishment of churches throughout the great cities of the Roman world, with his keenness and wisdom, he instituted an economic principle diametrically opposed to the community of goods which the Jerusalem group had been practicing. In his earliest epistles, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he teaches individual thrift and industry, private property and individual responsibility, and he said most emphatically “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thess. 3:10. A moment’s reflection will show that Paul had seen the weakness of the Jerusalem practice.

When there was a famine in both Antioch and Jerusalem, Antioch, where Paul was in charge, had to feed Jerusalem where the communistic experiment had been going on. Thus the New Testament demonstrates the communistic experiment to have been a failure.

At the end of Paul’s life, we find his same doctrine of economic liberty clearly taught in his latest writings. With reference to the care of widows in particular, but with application to all dependents, Paul taught “But if any provide not: for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (I Timothy 5:8)

Not only in the clear and direct teachings of the Scripture, but also in the prophetic portions, looking far on into the future and forecasting the conditions under the reign of the Messiah, the visible kingdom of God on earth, individual liberty and responsibility is the ideal. Both Isaiah and Micah, his contemporary, predict that when the Messiah of Israel rules over all the earth, and when all harmful pests and pestilences, noxious weeds and poisonous reptiles, are done away, when the “desert shall blossom as the rose” and when an “handful of corn” in the tops of the mountains shall bring forth fruit “like Lebanon,” in that day of economic peace and blessedness, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; [not the public vine and fig tree] and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” Micah 4:4

It is thus the ideal of the Scripture from beginning to end that economic liberty and economic responsibility shall prevail.

This does not mean that Bible believing Christians must necessarily oppose all social economic enterprise. We have no argument as to whether the government of society in general shall, or shall not, own and operate the public utilities. We do not claim Scripture sanction for detailed economic policies of State for all believers under all circumstances. What we claim is that the Bible teaches that the economic world at all times should be so organized that individual responsibility and enterprise will be free to engage in productive activities with honest hope of economic reward.

Some will say, “This theme seems remote from the gospel. It does not sound like Bible teaching.” Let me emphasize the fact that Bible teaching is practical teaching, and that there is much instruction in the Bible for the daily conduct of our lives; finally, and most important, let me point out that economic liberty taught in the Bible, economic liberty coupled with individual responsibility, is quite in harmony with, and is a necessary implication of, the gospel of God’s grace, offered freely to all mankind. Just as the “earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” and just as he has “given it to the children of men,” (Psalm 24:1 and 115:16), so the grace of God for salvation, for everlasting life, is free and boundless, and offered to all mankind “without money and without price.” As free as the air we breathe, as free as the rain which God sends upon us all, so free for all who will receive it is God’s saving grace.

Christ has come into the world to reveal the love of God for the race of mankind which has corrupted itself and gone the way of sin and confusion. If we obey God’s economic law, economic peace and harmony will prevail; if we accept God’s spiritual plan, we shall discover that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13. See Joel 2:32)

I find E.H. Gillett to be an engaging writer. Copies of his History of the Presbyterian Church are almost impossible to find, but it is at least available in digital form on archive.org. Browsing a bit further in this volume today, I came across the following account of a series of revivals that took place in North Carolina in 1802. 

Presbyterians don’t generally know what to do with such accounts. We like to keep our hands at our sides. Still, I think there is a place in our theology for reformation and revival, to admit there are exceptional times of harvest, when God’s people are particularly conscious of sin and turn from it, and when the Lord brings in great harvests of souls. 

In the preceding pages, the author has described three previous occasions of revival that took place in the first three months of 1802. The author opens this account with these striking words: “There had been already–subsequent to the close of the war–two marked seasons of revival in this region. The first began in Iredell county; the second commenced at a period when the prospects of religion were exceedingly dark, and when immorality and vice had come in like a flood.” Also noteworthy is how, in each of the first three accounts, he enumerates the number of Presbyterian pastors who were present on each occasion, numbering from six to fourteen, along with a few Baptist and Methodist ministers.

Now he comes to this last account of the revival in North Carolina:

The fourth general meeting was appointed on Friday, March 27, and was held at New Providence Church, under the charge of Mr. Wallis, in Mecklenburg county, about twelve miles southeast of Charlotte, and somewhat more than seventy miles north of Camden. The encampment was on a beautiful mount, easy of ascent from every direction, and more than half surrounded by a little crystal stream, which afforded water sufficient for the people and horses. It was clothed with a thick growth of giant oaks, with very little undergrowth. By three o’clock in the afternoon it was swept clear of timber, the tents were pitched, the fuel was gathered, and thousands, with their covered wagons and stretched canvas arranged in regular lines of encampment, covered the summit.

The services then commenced. A holy fervor glowed on the faces of the ministers, and a grave solemnity rested on the countenances of the people. A loud and lofty song of praise,—like “the sound of many waters,”—swelled by the united voices of the great assembly, and waking the echoes of the neighboring hills, rose to heaven. Prayer was then offered; and as the words of the text, “This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven,” were uttered, it seemed but the instinctive expression of the feelings of every heart.

During the evening, and throughout the greater part of the night, there were exercises of singing, prayer, and exhortation in the several tents. The novelty of the scene, the fervor of devotion, and the depth of feeling so affected the multitude that few closed their eyes in sleep to the dawn of day. Before the services commenced on Saturday morning, three persons were struck down. At the close of the forenoon sermons several more were similarly affected; and the number continued to increase until the close of the meetings. Seventeen ministers were present, and about five hundred communicants participated in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which was administered in the midst of the camp without noise or disturbance. At the same time preaching was going forward at three different stations. At the close of the services on Monday, continuing as they did till midnight, there were about one hundred persons prostrate on the ground, the greater part of whom were shouting aloud, and many of them in the most earnest manner entreating for mercy. While Dr. Hall was at prayer, about forty fell at the same instant. It was estimated that the whole assemblage amounted to at least five thousand persons. How large a number were “stricken” could not be ascertained. Besides those affected at the preaching-stations, many were taken in their tents, many more in their wagons, and a great many in the woods while at prayer or on their return to their homes.

Still other meetings were held; but their general features were substantially the same with those already described. The scenes they presented were pronounced “truly august and solemn,” especially in the night-season. When the fires were lighted up, the whole camp was illuminated, and revealed the canvas tents, the overhanging boughs of the trees left for shelter, and the eager listening groups, while the air was laden with solemn sounds which seemed more impressive amid the strangeness of the scene. Lofty songs of praise, pathetic prayers, thrilling appeals, stirring exhortations, groans or sighs of keen mental anguish, loud cries for mercy, or rapturous shouts of “glory” and thanksgiving from those who had found relief, were heard from every quarter of the encampment, and yet “with as little confusion and disturbance as the people of a city pursue their various occupations in the busy scenes of life.”  Every object, every utterance, seemed to conspire to deepen the solemnity. All that might interfere to distract attention was shrouded in darkness. The devout spirit seemed to realize the immediate presence of Jehovah, the presence of Him whose temple is all space, and beneath its dome of stars, with fellow-worshippers around him, bowed with reverence and awe appropriate to a “house not made with hands.”

The impression made upon those who had been drawn thither by curiosity was one which they could not shake off. It was almost impossible for them to sneer at what they witnessed. Those who came to mock often “remained to pray.” The most hardened cases were the very ones whose “exercises” were the most marked. In some instances not more than one in five, in others not more than one in ten, of those who were supposed to have been converted, were in the least physically affected. But where a person had been noted for his opposition or his incredulity, he was one of the most probable candidates for the “exercises.”

Words to Live By:
Revival depends upon God’s people coming to grips with their sin, repenting and turning from their wicked ways, humbling themselves and earnestly seeking the Lord. Then He will bless. It may not be in a way such as that described above. But He will bless, and His people will prosper spiritually.

For Further Study:
An old work well worth reading is John Preston’s set of six sermons on 2 Chronicles 7:14, titled The Golden Sceptre. You can find it on the web, here.

E. H. Gillett’s History of the Presbyterian Church was published in two volumes, available
here [vol. 1] and here [vol. 2]

We return today to Leonard Van Horn’s series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Today we come to Catechism Question 3.

Instruction in the Westminster Standards.

The Historic Standards of Presbyterian Denominations.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 3 What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Scripture References: Micah 6:8. John 20:31. John 3:16. 2 Tim. 1:3. Questions:

  1. Why does our Catechism place such importance on the Scriptures? There could be no Catechism without the Scripture, for the foundation of the Catechism itself is in the acceptance of the full truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God. It is within the Word of God we find our way to eternal life. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15)
  1. What is meant by the word “principally” in this question?

It means that though all things revealed in the Scriptures are equally true, yet everything in it is not equally necessary to salvation.

  1. What are the two important teachings of the Word of God?

The two important teachings are what we believe and what we should do.

  1. What is belief according to the Scriptures?

It includes three parts: (1) To be persuaded of the truth. (2) To credit the truth of a person. (3) To trust, to have confidence in a person. We must have faith (belief) in the words of God and in the God who speaks them. This is a personal trust in the living God through the living Christ.

  1. Why is belief placed before duty?

This is the order of Scripture. The Christian is saved by grace through faith and is created unto good works. The foundation of the faith, “I am the Lord thy God” is presented in the Law before God presents His people with the Commandments. What we believe is important in order that we might do what is well-pleasing in the sight of God. Alexander Whyte says, “An orthodox faith and an obedient life is the whole duty of man.”

  1. Could there be any significance in the fact that both the Larger and Shorter Catechisms have this same question?

Yes. True happiness for man comes only when he recognizes three important teachings of the Bible: First, that he is a lost sinner. Second, that Jesus Christ is his Redeemer from sin. Third, that he is to live a holy life based upon the revealed will of God, the Scriptures.

Our title is rapidly becoming a popular question of this age within the walls of the church. Back some years ago the cry was, “No Creed but Christ!” This slogan was accepted by many and led many away from established systems of belief. As a dangerous trend in the life of the church, this departure prompted some to look for “revelations” outside of the revealed Word of God. Even this trend though can not be compared to the danger that is spreading throughout the church today, the danger of suggesting what we believe is not really important.

It is important to note that Question No. 3 of the Shorter Catechism places the matter of our belief in a prominent place. Our Lord did the same thing. In Matthew 22:37, 38 he says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy MIND.” The Bible leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone that what we believe is important.

Today in many Presbyterian churches there is a prejudice against creeds, against doctrine. This is shown in our failure to teach our Standards. It is also seen in the failure always to insist that candidates for the ministry be thoroughly conversant with the Standards. Again it is seen in the growing emphasis within the church today of obedience to the church as an institution without regard to the teaching of the Bible or of the accepted Creed.

Does it matter what we believe? It certainly does, if we are going to be a confessing body. It certainly does, if we want to continue to hear a gospel message in our church. The very heart of the gospel message is that we may receive the gift of salvation by believing (trusting) in Christ as our Saviour. Without this act of faith or belief we are lost, with it we are saved. Thus what we believe does make a difference, namely, where we shall spend eternity — heaven or hell.

It is equally true that it matters what we believe because the duty which God requires of us is based on what we believe. The widely accepted definition of belief is that “it is the assent of the mind to what is told us on competent and credible authority.” Our Bible is our competent and credible and infallible authority. Our Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore any indifference to doctrine, any attempt to bypass or alter it to suit modern man, any movement to permit, as acceptable practice, less than a complete committal to our doctrinal standards should be recognized as contrary to historic Presbyterianism.

Originally published by THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 1, No. 3    March, 1961

By Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Bonus – An Outline of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

The Catechism uses 107 Q. & A. to give an overview of the central teachings of Scripture.

Q. 1-12 : concern God as Creator.
Q. 13-20 : Original sin & man’s fallen nature.
Q. 21-38 : Christ our Redeemer & the benefits of redemption.
Q. 39-84 : The Ten Commandments.
Q. 85-97 : The Sacraments of Baptism & Holy Communion.
Q. 98-107 The Lord’s prayer.

A Watchful Shepherd After God’s Own Heart
by David Myers

It is true that Today in Presbyterian History has already posted two articles on Robert Smith, one on October 3rd and a second one on December 27th. So why post another one on this early Presbyterian pastor on March 25, 1751? The answer is that he was indeed that important in the church history of early America.

Summing up what we had written before, Robert Smith had been born in Ireland and emigrated with his parents to the American Colonies when he was around seven years of age. His parents were farmers, tilling the rich land around about 40 miles west of Philadelphia along the Brandy wine River. An early conversion to Christ through the Gospel preaching of George Whitefield brought him new life in Christ. An equally early call to be a servant of the Lord brought him to Samuel Blair’s school in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he received gospel training to prepare him for the pastoral ministry.

It was on this day, March 25, 1751, that Robert Smith was installed the pastor of a double call, in Leacock and Pequea, Pennsylvania. After a while, he left the Leacock congregation to concentrate on the spiritual field ready for harvest in Pequea, Pennsylvania, where he was to minister for the next 42 years.

It was here that the title of our post was proven to be true, as he was “a watchful shepherd after God’s own heart.” It was said that he made it his gospel business to enlighten the understanding . . .

In this ministry, he had the loving support of his wife, Elizabeth Blair, the sister to his friend and former teacher, Samuel Blair. They were married May 22, 1750 and through the years, enjoyed the arrival of seven children. Two died in their early years, two became doctors, and three followed their father into the spiritual ministry of others. The latter three included Samuel Smith, who became the second professor succeeding John Witherspoon at Princeton . His brother John would both pastor and become the first president of Hampden-Sidney College down in Virginia. William served as the pastor of a Presbyterian church before he switched his allegiance to the Reformed Dutch Church in New Jersey. In all three cases, however, the godly ministry of Robert Smith’s echoed in their ministry to saints and sinners alike.

Robert Smith was a strict Calvinist with an earnest adherence to the Westminster Standards. As such, he was recognized for his conviction by becoming the second Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. He was elected a trustee of Princeton after that school of prophets was begun, and was faithful to his call to educate students. In fact, it was after he had been present at such a meeting that he fell from his horse, returning home after the week’s meetings. An elder of a nearby church found him, with his horse grazing near his body, and took him to his own home. He would die soon afterwards and is buried in Pequea’s church cemetery, east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Words to Live By:
If you are a member of a Presbyterian church with such a pastor like Robert Smith, pray much for his ministry to you and yours (Remember Ephesians 6:18, 19); serve the Lord in the area of your spiritual gifts, (Remember 1 Peter 4:11), and obey his spiritual leading as Scripture commands. (Remember Hebrews 13:17)

Another post “from the month” but not tied to the day. This particular article appeared while Samuel G. Craig was editor of THE PRESBYTERIAN, a Philadelphia based magazine. Just a very few years later, Mr. Craig started the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, now known to most as P&R Publishing.

A PLEA FOR THE CATECHISM
by E.P. Whallon
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 4.]

A church that educates its children in the doctrines of God’s Word and trains them in the performance of Christian duty, is sure to be a stable and strong organization, and without this there is no promise of abiding strength nor assurance of any real stability. The children and young people must be trained to be intelligent in their conception of Christian truth, and substantial and reliable in their rendering of Christian service, and we may confidently expect the Holy Spirit to bless this to their regeneration.

The children of this generation, even those of our Presbyterian families, are exactly similar to those in corresponding families, are exactly similar to those in corresponding situations in earlier days. Those who are carefully and prayerfully trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will be found, according to the divine promise, not departing when they are old, from the way in which they should go. If they are neglected, they will turn every one to his own way. As ministers of the gospel, as Christian parents, and as professed believers, we cannot afford or consent to believe anything else or less than this. The responsibility is, as it always has been, since the time of Eli, whose “sons were vile and he reproved them not,” largely with the parents, where God first lodged it and from whom he does not remove it. Children must be taught and trained, if they ultimately walk in ways of pleasantness and paths of peace.

No matter what may be said by unpractical and inexperienced theorists, there is no way of teaching the great and essential Christian doctrines comparable with what we know as the catechetical method. In our Westminster Shorter Catechism we have a most valuable and condensed compendium of gospel truth. Those who have been so fortunate as to be possessed of this, by having been taught and encouraged to lay it up in their memory, are greatly rich, and those who are disposed to be good and wise friends of their children will see that they lay this away in memory, that they may treasure it as a great possession, strengthened by it in their minds for the practice of it in their lives.

It is not such a formidable task to “learn by heart” all of the Shorter Catechism. If one has learned it well, it can be gone through with question and answer succeeding one another promptly, in twenty minutes, and that is not an exercise that is at all beyond the reach of any young person of ordinary ability. The mastery of these well-prepared, Scriptural answers is adapted to sharpen the intellect for almost any task, and to fortify the heart and soul for the great conflicts of life as to faith and morals. A catechism drill is a most valuable item for Sabbath afternoon in any Christian home, and children who are thus drilled will rise up in after years and call “blessed” the parents who were forceful and attractive and conscientious enough to make this a part of the program of their life.

We do not overlook the fact that there are two other catechisms that are accessible and valuable. One is the “Catechism for Young Children,” beginning with : “Who made you?  God.” The other is the “Intermediate,” prepared, under the direction of our General Assembly, only a few years ago. These three are adapted to the needs and comprehensions of our children and young people, of all ages. It would be well for everyone to go through all three of these, even if they are not all committed to memory. But it would be greatly advantageous to have every answer of the Shorter Catechism thoroughly memorized and laid away for use all through the life.

Nor do we overlook the fact that the learning of Scripture passages, on the great matters of faith and practice, is supremely valuable, and akin to the catechetical method which has just been considered. Every one should know at least one hundred verses of Scripture as familiarly as the figures of the multiplication table or the letters of the alphabet. Many of the Psalms should be memorized, as well as the great passages from the Gospels and the Epistles.

The one who is thus fortified by a knowledge of precious passages from the Holy Scriptures may say: “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Those who have learned the Catechisms have come, under God’s good Providence, to know very much as to what we are to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.

E.P. Whallon.

Here’s a great sermon illustration, drawn from an earlier time, before GPS navigation.  (Our March date is a bit off, but what can you do?)

WITHOUT POSITION
by C. Laing Herald, Ph.D.
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 6-7.]

“Without position” is a nautical term ; it savors of the sea. Years ago, if one sailed the seas on a sailing ship, or wind-jammer, as such vessels were rudely called, one would have become familiar, more or less, with this term. Two vessels at sea, while passing each other within signaling distance, always exchanged the courtesies of the sea by giving their respective nautical positions. Each ship ran her colors to the masthead, thus displaying her nationality; then a board, painted black, was lashed to the shrouds of the mizzen rigging; and on this board was written in large letters, with chalk, the latitude and the longitude each captain thought his ship was in, according to his latest observations. In this way, for the sake of safety, the two captains compared positions. Sometimes, however, especially after a period of heavy or foggy weather, the words written on the board were, “without position.” In other words, the captain of the ship who wrote these words admitted that he did not know where his ship was nautically; that he was really without position; having failed to obtain observations of sun, or the moon, or the stars, so that he might learn from them his latitude and longitude, and being in doubt as to the accuracy of his “dead reckoning,” he was all “at sea” as to his position. Therefore, the words “without position” are significant.  

The science of navigating consists in the knowledge necessary to conduct a ship safely across the ocean, enabling the mariner to determine, from the position of the celestial bodies, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the position of his vessel at any given time. And while navigation is a science to itself, yet, in a practical sense, it must, of course, be supplemented by seamanship.

There are three ways of determining the position of a ship at sea; namely, by piloting or bearings, by dead reckoning, and by observation of the celestial bodies, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The first is simple, primitive, and answered so long as a ship remained in sight of land. In this way the position of the ship is determined from the visible objects along the shore, and from soundings. Dead reckoning consists in keeping an hourly and careful record of the course the ship is steering from a known point of departure, the rate of speed she is making, with due allowance for leeway, caused by drift, ocean currents and tides. This method of navigation is largely guess-work, and is, therefore, far from being accurate and trustworthy. The science of navigation really consists in the observation of the celestial bodies and the consequent calculations of the ship’s latitude and longitude from these observations.

But even this science is subject to interruption, and, therefore, subject to error and consequent danger and loss. Suppose, for example, that a captain, because of cloudy or foggy weather, cannot obtain an observation of any of these bodies for several days; suppose that tides and ocean currents, unknown or misunderstood by the navigator, carry the ship out of her course; and suppose that magnetic influences due to atmospheric conditions, or particular latitudes, or induced by the nature of the ship’s cargo, affect the ship’s compass, even her chronometer; under these conditions what is to be done? The most careful calculations of the navigator will of necessity be affected by one or by all of these conditions, and, as a result, his calculations will be erroneous. Thus the ship may be entirely out of position.

But when I think of a ship at sea without position, my thoughts turn in particular to that large, important and necessary institution, the Christian church. Now be careful, you say. Yes; I shall be careful. Do not lay profane hands on the Ark of the Lord, you warn. No; I shall not, for I have in mind the fate of Urriah, who forgot himself and profaned the Ark. Notwithstanding, the church of to-day reminds me so forcibly of a ship without position that I cannot refrain from the reference and its necessary implications. Although I shall speak as one outside of the church, yet I shall speak with reverence, for I regard the church as the most necessary institution to our existence as a nation and to our well-being as individuals. And although, in my criticism, I may be severe, yet I shall try to be just.

It is to be admitted, gladly and gratefully, that the church is the largest, the wealthiest, the most intellectual, and the most necessary organization in American life. And this being true, it is only honorable, on the part of the church, that she stand true in her obligations to the people she professes to serve and to save. Malfeasance in office is one thing the American people will not stand for—not on the part of church officials. No later than yesterday, one of the professors in the university was in my home, and when asked his opinion of a certain minister, replied at once, “Oh, he is not reliable.” This unreliability was not applicable to the morals of the minister, but to his theology, his teachings; or, in nautical words, to his science of soul navigation. How long would the owners of a valuable ship tolerate a captain who was unreliable in his knowledge of navigation and seamanship, and who would, consequently, run their ship upon the rocks? No, no, it will not do. Then what is one to think of these unreliable ministers, these “sky-pilots,” as they are called, in navigating our souls to the next world?

Account for it as one may, the feeling is abroad in the land that the church at the present time is without position. She does not have her headings; she is off in her dead reckoning; in other words, she is all at sea in her theology. Therefore, she is not capable of saving the souls of men.

What has caused the church to lose her position? Have murky skies, thick fogs, heavy storms, contrary winds, uncertain tides, treacherous currents, been the cause?

There are probably two principle reasons : First, certain men occupying the pulpits of the church, like some college professors, have become too brilliant intellectually; at least they think they have; second, sinful nature is essentially opposed to the fundamental teachings of the Bible; the devil hates the truth like the devil. As to the first reason, nearly all the ministers occupying our pulpits are college-bred. While in college, they were taught to believe that the Bible was such an old Book it was out of date, behind the times, and that modern philosophy and science were far in advance of what the Bible taught. These men, being weak mentally and morally, and without a deep religious experience, accepted the teachings of these professors, and have carried these superficial unreasonable, skeptical and dangerous notions into their pulpits; thus they have turned from the Old Book to their own superficial thinking and irrational conclusions.

In other words, they have become wiser than what is written. Accordingly, they have thrown the Compass overboard, and are navigating the ship in accordance with what they think is the right course to steer. I cannot imagine the captain of a ship being such a blockhead. When the captain of a ship does such an irrational thing as to throw the compass overboard, the ship is doomed and all hands with her. Second, inasmuch as this is a fast, wealthy, pleasure-loving, luxurious period in the history of the American people; and inasmuch as the Old Book calls for self-denial in the things which are harmful, and for simplicity in living, the pulpit has surrendered to this appeal of the age; the pulpit has conceded, yielded, compromised; and now it is deceiving. Ministers enjoy popularity; to many of them, life without this vanity is drab, colorless. Hence they are making the popular appeal by preaching a supposed new doctrine, a doctrine which never entered the divine mind, and which, therefore, is not found in the Book. They have given up the ship; they have struck their colors to the enemy. Nevertheless, they are deceived themselves; for, instead of their preaching being popular, common-sense, thinking men reject it, lose respect for the minister, ignore and neglect the church.

As an outsider, let me say there are men in our pulpits to-day I would not go to hear, neither would I commit the souls of my family to their guidance in spiritual matters. Moreover, there are millions of men who feel just as I do in this matter, for these ministers are just what the university professor said they were—unreliable. They are wreckers. I should hate to cross the ocean with the captain of a ship who did not understand the science of navigation, and shaped his course according to his notion of things. And how true it is that I will not attend a church the pastor of which does not understand the science of theology, and who is likely, therefore, to wreck my soul and the souls of my family. Enter the different churches to-day—there are noble exceptions, thank God!—and listen to the pseudo-sermons. From these sermons does one receive clear and definite directions of the way to glory? Exactly what course to steer in order to reach that Haven of Rest? Indeed not! Compass overboard, chart torn to pieces, the sky overcast, no observations, contrary winds, treacherous currents, uncertain tides, and the church without position!

As I have said, “without position” is a nautical question. In the sense in which I have tried to elucidate it, it may be a naughty question. Nevertheless, one must grant that it is a knotty question.

Wellston, Ohio.

[Robinson’s Ministerial Directory (1898, p. 306) indicates that Rev. Charles Laing Herald was born in Scotland and educated at Queen’s College, Ontario, B.A., 1884 and McCormick Theological Seminary, 1892. Rev. Herald was ordained May 1892 by the Presbytery of Bloomington and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Wenona, IL, where he served from 1892-94. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the Tontogany, Ohio church, beginning in 1894. Apparently he remained in the general Ohio area throughout his ministry.]

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gregg Singer, but he will always hold a special place in my life. His papers were the first collection that I ever attempted to process. As I confidently opened the box and opened one large envelope, the first thing I saw read:

I might as that I amtill mysitifed ax  p why you noukdfinnd my feeble efforts and writig of value to the Church But I wllstill try to coopeate as be t Ican. I may be able to sendyou a copy of over ure whichIhave drfated for a commite of Central CArolina Presbyery for the BCO.

Dismayed and defeated, I put Singer’s papers back on the shelf for some braver day.

But where I thought it was because of his age, it turns out his foibles in typing were a life-long affliction. His friends would tease him about it. Aiken Taylor once replied, “I was able to read your last letter with the help of a ouija board and a crystal ball.”

Charles Gregg Singer was born in Philadelphia on June 3, 1910. His parents were Arthur Gregg and Edith Elizabeth Singer. He graduated magna cum laude from Haverford College in 1933 and received his Masters (1935) and Doctorate (1940) from the University of Pennsylvania. At one point during his years at the University, he served as chauffeur for Dr. J. Gresham Machen, when Machen was speaking on campus.

During World War II, Dr. Singer was the director of the War Manpower Commission in Illinois, and later was appointed to serve on the staff of the US Senate Commission investigating the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Dr. Singer was a highly skilled historian and an excellent teacher. His academic career included posts at Wheaton College, Salem College, the University of Pennsylvania, Belhaven College, Montreat-Anderson, Catawba College, Furman University, and the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies. He was also among the founding faculty at the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and he was teaching there at the time of his death, on March 22, 1999.

Dr. Morton H. Smith, first Stated Clerk of the PCA, said of Dr. C. Gregg Singer, that he “was committed to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. He sought to live his faith as well as to teach it. He was a loving and faithful husband, and a loving father to his children. …[H]e was always a warm friend, and an example of what a teacher should be. He was the dean of church historians. His loss will be greatly felt by all who knew him.”

Dr. Singer taught history with a moral purpose. Another account of his life remembers that he would typically lecture using a tall stack of 3 x 5 cards, supplying students with lengthy quotations, often involving original languages, all touching on the major themes and personalities of church history. Whether he was covering Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther or Calvin, it was clear that he had a close familiarity with the works of each of his subjects. More than simply relating dates and events, Singer’s teaching culminated with interpretation. On that note, it should be mentioned that Dr. Singer’s book, A Theological Interpretation of American History remains in print to this day. [http://www.solid-ground-books.com/detail_1362.asp?flag=1]

It should also be noted that Dr. Singer had long been active as a ruling elder in the context of the old Southern Presbyterian denomination. Singer was also active in the renewal groups which worked to stem the tide of modernism in that denomination and he was the last president of the Concerned Presbyterians organization, staying to man the ship after most left with the formation of the PCA. He was himself received into the PCA in 1987, with ordination as a teaching elder under the authority of Central Carolina Presbytery.

A Sample of his Writing:

A Cultural Intrusion
by C. Gregg Singer

The intrusion into Christian life and thought of cultural influences originating in a non-Christian environment has been a continuous factor in the history of the Church. At no time in its history has the Church been free from the effects of its necessary contact with various forms of pagan culture, and the more highly civilized the paganism, the more insidious have been the results of these contacts.

The Church was brought face to face with the almost overpowering influences of Greece and Rome when it was most zealous for the purity of the Gospel message and when it was most acutely aware of the great chasm between the message of the Scriptures and Greek-Roman thought.

…Today in the contemporary Church modern paganism may well be invading Christian thought and practice in much the same way as its ancient counterpart infiltrated the early Church. The ecumenical movement stands in relation to Christian orthodoxy today in many respects as cultured paganism in its Greek trappings stood to the Church of the first four centuries. This movement represents a kind of synthesis between Christian and non-Christian thought.

The ecumenical attack on the pure Gospel is much more dangerous because it is more subtle. Although some who are active in the movement would openly sacrifice the supernaturalism of the Gospel in the interests of religious inclusiveness, they are in the minority.

The great majority would prefer a blend of Christian and humanistic elements with a synergistic conception of redemption exalting the value of human effort. In either case they resort to Christian verbiage, thus concealing from the unwary the non-Christian elements in their thinking.

The contemporary invasion of paganism into the Church is not confined to doctrine, it includes government and polity. In fact, there is a curious and remarkably close similarity between the rise of the papacy as the embodiment of absolutism within the Christian community during the Middle Ages and the increasing interest in the ecumenical movement of the present day.

Both developments are but the lengthened shadow of the theory of the corporate state and society over the life of the Church. It was against this heresy that the Reformers brought forth the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.

The ecumenical movement reflects the dual trend in modern society toward a consolidation and centralization of power. No sphere of American life has been immune to this disease.

In the area of politics it has taken the form of the constant attempts of the federal government to claim for itself those powers reserved to the states by the Constitution. In the realms of business and commerce it is seen in the continuing trend toward mergers and combination. In the field of labor it has been signaled by the emergence of huge organizations which claim jurisdiction over large numbers of trade unions.

In this country there is an inclination toward bigness for its own sake, to look upon bigness in government, industry, labor and the Church with awe and to regard it as necessarily more efficient. Whether arising in the state, the labor unions, business or education, corporations must inevitably snuff out liberty in the interests of some form of absolutism.

However disastrous its appearance in government may be, its entrance into the life of the Church must be regarded as even more dangerous. The intrusion of absolutism into the Christian community under the guise and cloak of the ecumenical movement is not only the entrance of an essentially pagan political philosophy into the government of the Church but also of paganism itself into the Church’s doctrine and practice.

[excerpted from The Presbyterian Journal, 32.5 (30 May 1973): 7-8. There is more to this article, but it is too lengthy to reproduce here.]

Words to Live By:
Dr. Singer knew the value of history for the Christian. The Christian faith is historically based, being particularly founded on the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is eternally the Second Person of the one Triune God. History matters, as it is the unveiling of God’s redemptive and providential plan.

For Further Study:
I did in fact get back to the arrangement and description [aka, processing] of Dr. Singer’s papers. There are still some items to add to that collection, but the bulk of it is described here.

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