September 2017

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The following is part of a sermon preached by Dr. Franklin Pierce Ramsay on June 13, 1926, in his son’s pulpit at Calvary Presbyterian Church of Staten Island, New York, some three months before his lamented death on September 30, 1926. Dr. Ramsay was himself a member of the Southern Presbyterian Church [properly the Presbyterian Church, U.S. or PCUS, by its initials], and author of an esteemed commentary on the PCUS Book of Church Order. He was born on March 30, 1856 and educated at Davidson College, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago (Ph.D.) and Columbia Theological Seminary. In his forty-five year career, he served as pastor of at least six Presbyterian congregations and also as president of several colleges, including King College, Bristol, Tennessee. In retirement, he resided with his son on Staten Island, and as we shall see, took the opportunity to attend the General Assembly of what was often called the Northern Presbyterian Church. So moved by what he observed there, he secured permission to bring a sermon before the congregation pastored by his son.

In his sermon, after mentioning some of the outstanding features of the 1926 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Dr. Ramsay stated that he would confine himself for the most part, to thoughts suggested in connection with the Report of the Special Commission of Fifteen [space does not permit an explanation of that Commission or its Report]. And so after a careful analysis of the report, he concludes with these words:]

The General Assembly of 1926: A Warning
by the Late Rev. Franklin P. Ramsay, Ph.D.

The report was adopted almost unanimously. I was present. The report made a profound impression, and gave general satisfaction. Nevertheless, I fear that the church is headed toward a most dangerous conclusion. The conviction did not come to me while I was under the spell of the report, but since I have come to reflect upon it. There are three evils in the church to-day, against which I lift a voice of warning.

First. I warn against the suppression of discussion.

There is a general impatience with controversy. It pervades the atmosphere of the general public. And there is especially the strongest prejudice against “heresy-hunting.”  This feeling has broken down discipline in the church generally. Even when it comes to licensing and ordaining ministers, there is a restless impatience with those who seek to guard against admitting unfit men into office. When there is so widespread and powerful a prejudice against discussion and against the prosecution of heresy, the cry for peace rises loud above every other cry. In words, this commission was to aim at “the purity, peace, unity, and progress of the church”; but it is commonly spoken of as the Peace Commission, and never as the Purity Commission. And by peace is too often meant the doing away with discussion, debate, controversy.  And now that the party opposed to discussion has control of the machinery of publicity, we see how those who would protest are silenced. This sermon, for instance, could not hope to get itself published in two of the three church weeklies; the man who is preaching it could not hope to get a half hour to present to his presbytery his reasons for fear of danger to the church. It would have been impossible at the General Assembly to adequately discuss this report.  Agitation is under taboo. And men in high positions in the church are well aware that for them to take an active part in controversy would endanger their positions; and prudence pleads powerfully for silence.

But is controversy is suppressed, the truth is suppressed. Discussion, full and open discussion, is the way to truth. It is true in science; behold the controversies in every department of scientific inquiry. It is true in politics. Our own political institutions originated and were shaped in prolonged debate, and are based upon the principle that political wisdom emerges only from the contributions of many minds to the discussion of the questions involved. And in religion, the dead Church of England protested the agitation of the Wesleys; but it was that agitation that saved England from the dry rot of a formal piety. The Church of Rome sought to suppress the Reformers; but the Protestant Reformation burned to flame and light in debate. Luther was temperamentally unfit to conduct such a discussion; and Calvin was harsh and merciles to opponents, so much so that, if one like them should arise in the Presbyterian Church to-day, he could not get appoints as a secretary of one of our Boards or confirmed as a professor to one of our seminaries. What would become of Paul who was uncompromising in his controversies with the advocates of another gospel? And our Lord himself, who spent his ministry largely in combatting the heresies of his day, and was sent to crucifixion by enraged ecclesiastics for disturbing the peace with his fierce denunciation of error, would he to-day be dumb and sweet when the greatest intellectual battle that Christianity has ever known is on? It is a pity that men must fight this battle out to a finish, imperfect men, with imperfect tempers, and making many mistakes; but so it must be. So let it be. The truth must not be betrayed by a conspiracy of silence. Let every man speak who is not afraid; and let the timid get courage from the Christ that was crucified.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe most heartily with the Assembly that all controversy within the church should be conducted in humility, in a most earnest effort to understand, in a horror of misrepresentation, and with a desire to promote the truth in peace. Let all mis-statement and all ill-feeling be put away. But let us discuss among ourselves as brethren the questions at issue, endeavoring to reach agreement by reaching the truth; and if we must disagree, to disagree in love. First purity, and then peace.

Second. I warn against the abolition of the Constitution by construction and non-use.

What I mean is this: “Changes in the meaning and use of language and diverse understanding and interpretations of the same words have led to much confusion and uncertainty. Some are disturbed because they believe that others are departing from the faith while making use of its forms of speech, and some are disturbed because they believe that they are accused of such departure, though they declare that in their own consciences they are confident of full loyalty to all essential truth.” So says the report, and says truly. The same words may be used by two men in very different senses. And so a united church may go on saying the same words, but using the words in quite different senses.

But that is not all. Men can use words without intending thereby to express any definite meaning. How easy it is to recite the Lord’s Prayer in concert; but how little do we really understand and mean what we say? So the creed formulated in our Constitution may become a form of words, accepted as a form of words, but not expressing present and living beliefs.

Still worse is the intentional use of words without intending the meaning which they properly signify. Thus people and ministers recite the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” when they do not believe in the resurrection of the body, but only in a sort of spiritual continuance of life, and intend to say one thing when they mean another. This is called accommodation of language for the sake of venerable association by some; by others it is called lying for convenience.

Now the danger that threatens the Presbyterian Church is that it will keep its creed unchanged in form while ceasing to believe it. Some will believe it, some will say it without definitely believing anything, and some will intentionally say what they do not believe for the sake of continuing in the church. This species of immoral deception, largely self-deception and to some extent intentional falsehood, is the peril that lies before us. When discussion is suppressed, this disease can grow, till the moral honesty of the church is eaten through.

There are influences that are making for this result. One is the effort to prevent debate, and to put all controversy under taboo. Another is the demand for unity. Ours is the largest Presbyterian Church in the country or in the world; and we are impatient to grow larger still. There is a demand for a more inclusive church, for the breaking down of denominational barriers, for uniting separated denominations into one denomination. We are told all Presbyterians ought to be one. The passion for unison persuades itself that it is the Christ-like thing and is always speaking of the good that will come when unification is accomplished. This devotion to unification is horrified at the thought of division, and will endeavor to keep our great church together.

In such an atmosphere, when it is impossible to persuade the church to make a change in its Constitution consciously and formally, it is possible to really change the Constitution in its spirit without changing it in words, and silently to bring about a departure from what has been believed, to some new doctrines, until unawares the church shall have ceased to be distinctly Calvinistic, militantly Protestant, or consciously evangelical, shall have ceased to be Trinitarian and loyal to the Scriptures, and shall have become really Unitarian.

And Third. I warn against the church’s forsaking its proper function of preaching and teaching the gospel of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ and becoming simply a humanitarian society of co-operation for social reform.

Take this last Assembly. The one thing which stirred the greatest enthusiasm, and brought the thousand commissioners to their feet cheering, was the declaration of the moderator that he stood uncompromisingly for the Eighteenth Amendment. Now this is a political expedient for a social reform, an expedient that has never before been tried and is therefore a political experiment; and personally I myself believe in carrying the experiment through to ultimate success by thorough enforcement; yet I see clearly that it is a political experiment for a social reform, and it is not the business of the church as such to favor it.  Yet the Assembly was hot for this political good.

And I attended a dinner given by leading Presbyterians in one of our cities to outgoing missionaries. With the exception of one speech and faint notes in one or two others, I heard nothing of the passion for souls that must forever be the great motive of missionaries of the cross of Christ. The dominant thought was uplift of backward peoples by giving them the elements in which our civilization may be superior to theirs, a sort of Near East Relief. But the burning zeal to herald a crucified and risen Christ to men dead in their sins did not speak out.


I am raising my feeble voice with little hope of turning the tide. The controversies of the past have resulted one by one, in lowering the standard of orthodoxy and liberalizing the Presbyterian Church, and that with little formal change in its Constitution. It has gradually and insensibly moved in the direction that I have pointed out, toward looseness of creed, toward a lessening vitality in its distinctive work of witnessing for Christ, and toward a broader interest in causes that lie outside of its proper work. And this is not true of the Presbyterian Church alone. It is true of the Methodist Church, which has done so much by its zeal for Scriptural holiness to bring the millions to a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ; for it will be generally conceded that the great, the rich, and the cultural Methodist Church of to-day is inferior in spiritual life and evangelical zeal to the Methodist Church of a century ago.  So of the Congregational Church. Behold, how its Harvard has gradually passed from being the nursery of orthodoxy to being the garden of Unitarian laxity! The trend of the times is toward laxity of dogma and comprehensiveness of activities. Creeds are left dead on the field of history, though not always buried; and controversy about doctrine is ruled a thing of the crude ages that have gone by. To this stage the Presbyterian Church is moving, and at this stage it will arrive, unless it can be awakened before it has been put to sleep on the grave of its glorious past, its past when its elaborate creed was its treasure, and its zeal for gospel truth was its pearl of price.

I am well aware that my voice will not carry far. But it is my mission to cry the warning, whether it shall be heeded or not. It may be that some abler man will come to the kingdom in this critical day, some younger man O Luther, come, and rouse the church with your zealous witness and your lashing tongue! O Calvin, come with your relentless logic, and save the day when the battle is turned toward the gate! It is a day of crises; God raise up a man of war!

Peace? Who is crying Peace, peace, when there is no peace? Brethren, there is such a thing as righteous zeal for truth, for soundness in the faith, for right dogma; and woe be to that church which for the sake of an illusive peace silences honest testimony, and dopes itself with sentimental devotion to union. The price of sound doctrine is eternal vigilance, and the ceaseless ringing of the alarm bells in the night.

And victory will yet come. The people of God may be enslaved in Egypt, may be corrupted in Palestine, may be rent asunder from about their temple of glory, may be carried into captivity, and may be given over to lifeless formalism. They may come to have so little of real truth that they shall be so blind as not to know the Christ when he comes.  But there is the True Witness, and there is the resurrection from the dead. I shall not live to see the decadence of the church which I fear, much less the revival of dogmatic truth afterwards. But the revival will come. For Jesus Christ is on the throne, and sheds forth His Spirit of light and truth. His gospel will live. The battle may be long, and the weary hours may move and the splendor of truth will shine forth. If we cannot speak in the high places of influence for the truth, we can live it; if we cannot lead, we can follow; and if we cannot wield the sword for truth, we can pray for the battle thundering afar.

[excerpted from The Presbyterian, 19 May 1927, pages 6-7.]

If You are Number Two, Do You Try Harder?


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Samuel Miller was definitely number two among that faculty of Princeton Seminary that year of September 29, 1813.  Started only one year before, Archibald Alexander was the first professor of the Presbyterian Seminary with only a handful of students.  As another war with Britain was raging (the War of 1812), it was a trying time for a smooth start. On top of that, the students of Princeton College were anything but spiritual. College pranks had brought the college close to shutting down. Samuel Miller, fresh from a pastoral experience in a city church, would arrive on the campus and quickly became a force for spiritual good at both the seminary and the college, even in his position as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government.

Helping this whole process were a number of personal resolutions which Miller wrote down for himself, as a way of guiding his relationship with other people at both the college and the seminary. Those resolutions are too long to print here, but two of them speak to Christian people being in a supporting role, whether in the church, your called profession, or in any organization.

Number 3 reads, “I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary, as never to give the least reasonable ground of offence.  It shall be my aim, by divine help, ever to treat him with the most scrupulous respect and delicacy, and never to wound his feelings, if I know how to avoid it.”

Number 4 reads, “. . . Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my college, I will, in no case, take offence at his treatment of me.  I have come hither resolving, that whatever may be the sacrifice of my personal feelings—whatever may be the consequence—I will not take offence, unless I am called upon to relinquish truth or duty.  I not only will never, the Lord helping me, indulge a jealous, envious, or suspicious temper toward him; but I will, in no case, allow myself to be wounded by any slight, or appearance of disrespect. I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or context.  What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master.”

These were only two of the seven resolutions.  But even considering these two alone, what would be the result in our churches if both officers and members would more fully reflect in their character and conduct these two resolutions.  Truth and duty indeed were the only two exceptions to the rule.  Otherwise, the guiding principle was to always esteem others more highly than yourself.

Words to live by:  Samuel Miller wrote above, “I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or conflict.”  What a magnanimous spirit!  What a change this would cause in many local churches, to say nothing of our evangelical and Reformed denominations, if all the officers and members possessed Samuel Miller’s spirit.  Examine yourself, dear reader, or examine your small group, or examine your local fellowship. How do you measure up?  What can be done if you find your character and conduct lacking?  Is it not time for a revival of religion in your circles?

If you will pardon a bit of a digression today, the question sometimes comes up regarding the theological education of the founding pastors of the Presbyterian Church in America. Working from a list of 180 pastors, as found in the Minutes of the First General Assembly, the following list indicates where these men were educated. Of those 180, 172 were educated at seminaries; for 8 no indication has been found of a seminary education and this raises the question of whether those 8 were ordained under the extraordinary clause.
Numerically, most of the PCA’s founding fathers had attended Columbia Theological Seminary, where Manford George Gutzke and William Childs Robinson were on the faculty. These two stalwart conservative professors effectively mentored those who would become the future leaders of the denomination. Westminster Theological Seminary was something of a draw for confessional students, but I’ve come across some mention of resistance to hiring pastors who had graduated from a “Yankee” school. 

Following each school name, the following dates indicate years of graduation. Concluding this list is a statistical summary.

5 – Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, attending there in 1929, 1939, 1942, 1951, 1953.
2 – Biblical Seminary [New York], 1961, 1963
83 – Columbia Theological Seminary, 1934-1970
2 – Dallas Theological Seminary, 1937, 1941
3 – Erskine Theological Seminary, 1953, 1966
2 – Faith Theological Seminary, 1948, 1955
3 – Fuller Theological Seminary, 1953, 56, 59
2 – Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1953, 1970
1 – Grace Theological Seminary, 1970
2 – Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1942, 1955
1 – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1965
1 – Northwestern Evangelical Seminary, 1938
1 – Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, 1951
2 – Princeton Theological Seminary, 1928, 1954
1 – Reformed Episcopal Seminary, 1952
35 – Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS 1969-1973
1 – Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, 1957
1 – Toronto Bible College 1948
13 – Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA, 1919-1968
15 – Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1972
1 – WTNC [Western Tennessee College?], 1934
8 – College only indicated [e.g., James R. Graham, Wheaton College, 1939]

By comparing some of the above dates, it becomes clear that as soon as RTS opened up [Fall of 1966], students soon began going there instead of to Columbia. Some appear to have finished at Columbia rather than transfer, while others did transfer mid-program. It may also be noteworthy that the entire group of RTS graduates would have been among the youngest pastors in the new denomination. Alumni from UTSVA and Westminster were about equal in number among the founding fathers. The remaining number were scattered among another eighteen schools.

Statistically then, the founding pastors of the PCA graduated from the following schools:
46.1% – Columbia
19.4% – RTS Jackson
8.3% – WTS
7.22% – UTSVA
14.4% – Other

4.4% – no seminary education indicated in the record [ordained under the extraordinary clause?]

[There may be some small error in the above calculations, but the numbers are at least fairly close.]

He was a wanted man
by Rev. David T. Myers


p style=”text-align: justify;”>George Tybout Purves [27 September 1852 - 24 September 1901]The Presbyterian pastor-teacher was a wanted man, that is, wanted by theological seminaries to teach at their school.  Princeton Seminary wanted George T.  Purves to teach church history on their faculty.  Western Seminary wanted the scholar to teach theology.  McCormick Seminary in Chicago want the veteran pastor to teach theology on their faculty.  But the heart of this Princeton Seminary alumni was in New Testament, so when a vacancy opened up with the death of Caspar Wistar Hodge, he came to Princeton Seminary.

George Tybout Purves was born on September 27, 1852 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His undergraduate studies were at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1872.  Immediately, he went to Princeton Seminary for the years of 1873 to 1877.  Becoming ordained by the Chester Presbytery, he served three Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and back in Pennsylvania at the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.  With pastoral experience behind him then, he went back to Princeton where for the next eight years (1892 – 1900), he taught New Testament Literature and Exegesis.

In 1900, Rev. Purves resigned his professorship in New Testament at the seminary to return to the pastorate.  When he was a pastor Dr. Purves was sought by the seminaries, and when he became a professor he was besieged by the churches.  B. B. Warfield said of him, “He was never more the profoundly instructed scholar than when he stood in the pulpit: he was never more the preacher of righteousness than when he sat in the classroom.”  During his eight years at Princeton, Purves taught New Testament and preached regularly, serving for a time as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Princeton.  During 1897 the church experienced “a year of prosperity greater than at any previous time” in its history and credited this to “the very faithful and efficient labors of Dr. Purves.”  In 1899 Purves accepted a call to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City (once served by J. W. Alexander).  After a short ministry there of eighteen months he died in 1901, at the age of forty-nine.

Not known for his authorship of volumes (though he wrote about twenty books), his spiritual legacy was found in the men who sat under him in classes and graduated to change the world for Christ.  That legacy continued in the pastoral field as during his teaching duties at the seminary, he also supplied the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton.

Words to live by:  What spiritual gifts this man of God possessed!  When he was in the pastorate, the theological schools wanted him. When he was in the sacred halls of seminaries, the churches wanted him. The point is this! Everyone, every Christian, has been given at least one, and no doubt many more Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts.  In one sense, it doesn’t matter where you use them.  The important thing is that you use them somewhere. Do you know what your spiritual gift is?  Ask your spouse, or a close Christian friend, or your elder, or your pastor. Then finding it, use it for God’s glory and the good of His church.

For further study : Dr. Purves’s inaugural lecture at Princeton, “St. Paul and Inspiration,” can be read on the web here.
The George Tybout Purves Manuscript Collection is preserved at the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary, and described in a finding aid, here. [I note that this finding aid was written by PCA pastor Ray Cannata, back when he was a student at PTS.]

Image source : Frontispiece portrait from Joy in Service, from a copy preserved in the PCA Historical Center. Scan prepared by the Center’s staff. This was Dr. Purves’s final work, published posthumously by the American Tract Society (New York, 1901).

by Prof. Wm. C. Robinson

[excerpted from The Christian Observer 121.38 (20 September 1933): 7.]

Recent research is giving an increasingly prominent place in the establishment of early Christianity to catechizing. The Greek verb, “katecheo,” occurs seven times in the New Testament. In five of these instances it is used in our technical sense of elementary religious instruction. Luke wrote the third Gospel to confirm Theophilus in the irrefragable certainty of the topics, “logoi,” in which he had been catechized (Luke 1:4). Mark labored as a catechist under Peter. His Gospel may be described as Peter’s catechism “concerning the things Jesus began to do.” Indeed, the fact of this early Christian catechizing is so well recognized that it has become one of the basic presuppositions of the new investigation in the origins of the Gospels known as “Formegeschichte.”

Paul exhorts the Thessalonians: “Stand fast and hold the traditions which ye were taught whether by word or by epistle of ours” (II Thessalonians 2:13). He reminds the Romans of that “pattern of doctrine which had been delivered unto them” by teachers other than himself (Romans 6:17). A fragment of the original formula or belief is preserved in I Corinthians 15:3f. This confessional formula “was made known to Paul already at the time of his baptism” (Cf. I Corinthians 15:3f. with Romans 6:3f.).

Professor R. Seeberg says that “the primitive Christian ‘traditions’ (I Corinthians 11:2; cf. ‘first principles,’ Hebrews 6:2) offered more or less fixed formulas and traditions of the faith and moral life.” “Thus over against the freely working spirit principle, the individualization of inspiration and enthusiasm there stood from the beginning a structure of fixed representations, doctrines, regulations, morals, usages, historical authorities. The interworking of these two features made possible an ordered historical development. The form did not remain an empty form, but the personal experience gave it content; on the other hand, the experience did not become a formless enthusiasm but inclosed itself in the forms of the primitive knowledge of Christ.

The contents of “The Catechism of Primitive Christianity” have been carefully collated by A. Seeberg, R. Seeberg, and A.D. Heffern. It included:

(1) The Formula of Belief. In the case of Jewish converts this was chiefly “the things concerning Jesus” (Luke 24:19), the “elucidation and defense of the Gospel facts.” In the case of the Gentiles it certainly included the Jewish catechesis concerning monotheism (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 3:30). R. Seeberg offers ample New Testament evidence to show “that to this belonged also the triadic formula,” which “trinitarian belief in God” rests on the revelation which Christ made during the forty days.” “The words of faith,” I Timothy 4:6, gradually crystallized into the Roman symbol, the primitive form of the Apostles’ Creed. This “pattern of sound words” was taught the neophyte just before baptism, and was confessed by him at that sacrament.

(2) “The Ways,” I Corinthians 4:17, or “how one ought to walk and to please God” (I Thessalonians 4:1). This “sound teaching” was a rule of morals, a catalog of virtues and vices which became the “Two Ways” of the Didache.

(3) Instruction concerning the new life of Christian fellowship or “how to conduct oneself in the Church of God” (I Timothy 3:15). This included the formula of baptism, the words with which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Prayer, the gift of the Spirit, offices, ordination with the laying on of hands, and other instructions concerning the work, worship and discipline of the Church.

(4) “The Last Things” or “Concerning the times and the seasons” (I Thessalonians 5:1, Acts 3:20). Catechizing on the eschatological hope, the resurrection, the judgment, etc., seems to have depended directly on Christ’s own discourse “on the last things.”

Such examples as Timothy (especially II Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15; I Timothy 6:20), Polycarp and Irenaeus indicate that this catechetical instruction was not limited to adult converts. From their childhood these men continued in the “deposit” of the “good doctrine” which had been early committed unto them. At the time of his martyrdom Polycarp had served Christ eighty and six years. Near the end of his life he was able to rescue many Roman Christians from the toils of Marcion and Valentinus just because he was “stedfast” in the doctrine which he had received at such an early age from the Apostle John. Irenaeus declares that he remembers the instructions received while “still a boy” from Polycarp “better than events of recent occurrence; for the lessons received in childhood, growing with the growth of the soul, become identified with it.”

Even a cursory examination of this outline will show that Calvin and the Westminster divines were but following the apostolic example in placing the Catechism in such prominence in the Church. The Westminster Catechisms follow with remarkable exactitude the lines of catechesis marked out by the primitive Christian Church. In teaching the Shorter Catechism parents and teachers are following directly in the footsteps of Paul and Mark and the host of unnamed teachers who brought victory to the Christian banner in the first four centuries.

Our Catechisms have that noble fourfold balance which is evident in the Catechism of Primitive Christianity. They take account of the four elements which Professor Pratt attributes to a sound religious consciousness, i.e. (1) the “traditional” or “historical;” (2) the “rational” or “intellectual;” (3) the “volitional;” and (4) the “mystical.” They minister to faith, duty (love), worship, and hope. The Shorter Catechism includes Professor F.L. Patton’s comprehensive summary of religion: Creed, code and cult.[1] It feeds head, hand and heart. Its emphasis on the commandments opposes exaggerations of Gospel grace which become antinomian. On the other hand it gives those great “concentrations of theology” toward which the student mind is now turning wearied by the “unreality” of that trinity of nothing but war, race and industry with which Sherman Eddy and Kirby Page have plied them in the summer conferences.

Dr. C.E. Burts, prominent Baptist divine and dry leader, expressed the regret that his denomination did not have the equivalent of the Presbyterian Shorter Catechism. And yet we have not used as we may this great asset. Among the American soldiers, Dr. W.A. Brown found that only the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans knew the common tenets of Christianity. The former had learned them in the parochial schools; the latter in the catechetical classes.

At the Jerusalem Congress Professor Hocking protested against the pedagogical error that the young mind could not comprehend metaphysical truth. After teaching theological students six years, I can testify that my theological classes have brought me no more metaphysical questions than have been raised by two young minds in my own home. Dr. Lynn, of Thornwell Orphanage, declares that it is easier to preach doctrine to the children of his orphanage than to the business men in the First church of his city. The children respond; the business men are preoccupied.

It belongs to the minister’s office, “to catechize the children and youth.” Jesus’ first command to Peter was not “discipline My sheep,” not “feed My sheep,” but “feed My lambs” (John 21:15). To meet this primary obligation of a pastor I found it necessary to put in a week-day hour of religious instruction in which, with the help of public school teachers, I taught the Bible, the Shorter Catechism and great hymns to the children of my congregation. This week-day hour met such a felt need that it continued to be carried on even during pastoral interims. As a second step in meeting this pastoral responsibility I attended the closing exercises of the Sabbath school and heard each class recite a Catechism answer. One result of this intensive inculcation of the Catechism was that after a long dearth of candidates from the congregation, several of the most promising young men decided to enter the Gospel ministry. Other methods, such as those which are being so successfully used in Thomasville, Georgia, might well be suggested by the respective pastors.

Few services will pay greater dividends in time and in eternity than a faithful following of the apostolic and Presbyterian custom of catechizing.

Decatur, Ga.

[Footnote 1] :
1885 —
The earliest found use of the phrase “creed, code, cult” appears in The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, by Josiah Royce. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1885.

It is only fair, however, that we should also judge this book from the author’s point of view, and we must do Dr. Royce the justice to say that he appears to be an earnest man seeking light in regard to very pressing and very profound religious problems. In short, he is a philosopher in quest of religion. Very correctly he declares that religion must contain the three elements of creed, code and cult; and in his opinion the most important of these, or rather, the one that is first to be sought, is a code. Before inquiring whether there be a God, or propounding any theory of the universe, the writer begins to seek for a moral ideal. Here, we think, he is mistaken,…”
[Patton, Francis L., Review of The Religious Aspect of Philosophy by Josiah Royce. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1885, in The Presbyterian Review, Volume 7 (1886): 197-200.]

“Westminster Theological Seminary: Its Purpose and Plan” was delivered by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen at the first convocation address at the Seminary on September 25, 1929. Dr. Machen’s address was subsequently published on the pages of The Presbyterian, in its October 10, 1929 issue (pages 6-9) and later reprinted in What Is Christianity?, edited by Ned B. Stonehouse (Eerdmans, 1951). The most recent reprint of this address appears on pages 187-194 of J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, edited by D.G. Hart (P&R, 2004):—

machen03Westminster Theological Seminary, which opens its doors today, will hardly be attended by those who seek the plaudits of the world or the plaudits of a worldly church. It can offer for the present no magnificent buildings, no long-established standing in the ecclesiastical or academic world. Why, then, does it open its doors; why does it appeal to the support of Christian men?

The answer is plain. Our new institution is devoted to an unpopular cause; it is devoted to the service of One who is despised and rejected by the world and increasingly belittled by the visible church, the majestic Lord and Savior who is presented to us in the Word of God. From Him men are turning away one by one. His sayings are too hard, His deeds of power too strange, His atoning death too great an offense to human pride. But to Him, despite all, we hold. No Christ of our own imaginings can ever take His place for us, no mystic Christ whom we seek merely in the hidden depths of our own souls. From all such we turn away ever anew to the blessed written Word and say to the Christ there set forth, the Christ with whom then we have living communion: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

The Bible, then, which testifies of Christ, is the center and core of that with which Westminster Seminary has to do. Very different is the attitude of most theological institutions today. Most seminaries, with greater or lesser clearness and consistency, regard not the Bible alone, or the Bible in any unique sense, but the general phenomenon of religion as being the subject matter of their course. It is the duty of the theological student, they maintain, to observe various types of religious experience, attested by the Bible considered as a religious classic, but attested also by the religious conditions that prevail today, in order to arrive by a process of comparison at that type of religious experience which is best suited to the needs of the modern man. We believe, on the contrary, that God has been pleased to reveal himself to man and to redeem man once for all from the guilt and power of sin. The record of that revelation and that redemption is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and it is with the Holy Scriptures, and not merely with the human phenomenon of religion, that candidates for the ministry should learn to deal.

There is nothing narrow about such a curriculum; many and varied are the types of intellectual activity that it requires. When you say that God has revealed Himself to man, you must in the first place believe that God is and that the God who is is One who can reveal Himself, no blind world force, but a living Person. there we have one great division of the theological course. “Philosophical apologetics” or “theism,” it is called. But has this God, who might reveal Himself, actually done so in the way recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments? In other words, is Christianity true? That question, we think, should not be evaded; and what is more, it need not be evaded by any Christian man. To be a Christian is, we think, a truly reasonable thing; Christianity flourishes not in obscurantist darkness, where objections are ignored, but in the full light of day.

But if the Bible contains a record of revelation and redemption, what in detail does the Bible say? In order to answer that question, it is not sufficient to be a philosopher; by being a philosopher you may perhaps determine, or think you can determine, what the Bible ought to say. But if you are to tell what the Bible does say, you must be able to read the Bible for yourself. And you cannot read the Bible for yourself unless you know the languages in which it was written. We may sometimes be tempted to wish that the Holy Spirit had given us the Word of God in a language better suited to our particular race, in a language that we could easily understand; but in His mysterious wisdom He gave it to us in Hebrew and in Greek. Hence if we want to know the Scriptures, to the study of Greek and Hebrew we must go. I am not sure that it will be ill for our souls. It is poor consecration indeed that is discouraged by a little earnest work, and sad is it for the church if it has only ministers whose preparation for their special calling is of the customary superficial kind.

J. Gresham Machen “Westminster Theological Seminary: It’s Purpose and Plan,”The Presbyterian 99 (October 10, 1929): 6-9.

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by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?

A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Scripture References: I Cor. 15:3,4. Acts 1:9. Eph. 1:19,20. Acts 1:11; Acts. 17:31.


1. How many parts are there to Christ’s exaltation?

There are four parts to his exaltation. The first part is his resurrection from the dead; the second, his ascension into heaven; the third, his sitting down at the right hand of the father; the fourth, his coming to judge the world.

2. Is it possible to prove that he rose from the dead?

It can be proven by the many witnesses who saw him and talked with him after his resurrection. Another proof is that if it were not so our faith would be in vain as is taught in I Cor. 15:17.

3. Who was responsible for this miracle of rising from the dead?

Christ did this by his own power and Spirit as is taught by such verses as John 10:17,18, Rom. 1:4.

4. What does the resurrection of Christ teach us?

It teaches us to walk in newness of life. Rem. 6:4.

5. Why did Christ ascend into heaven?

He ascended into heaven that he might be returned to the glory he had before the world was formed (John 17:5). By his ascension he also took over, as Head of the church, the destination of all believers.

6. What does Christ do at the right hand of God?

Christ makes intercession for all believers at this place and is also preparing a place for them.

7. When and how will Christ come to judge the world?

He will come to judge the world at the last day. He will judge the world in righteousness, giving to everyone w hat is deserved. (2 Cor. 5:10)


The fourth part of Christ’s exaltation is to judge the world at the last day. As believers, we can thank God that at the judgment we will be declared righteous on the ground of our participation in the righteousness of Christ. The “book of life” will be opened, the book of God’s eternal electing love. It is indeed a day to which the believer can look forward, by faith.

There is a thought concerning the judgment that should cause us to sincerely examine our hearts before the Lord. The secrets of all hearts, the inward states and hidden springs of action will be brought in as the subject matter of judgment, as well as the actions themselves. As professing Christians, this thought needs to be considered.

It is a truth that “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9), And yet it is an equal truth that the person who is sincerely saved through faith will show forth the fruits of good works as it is brought out very clearly in the next verse: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we claim Christ as our Saviour, the question is pertinent: Are we showing forth good works, are the fruits of the Spirit habitual with us or are the works of the flesh?

A. A. Hodge, in treating the judgment, states of the believers:
“Their holy characters and good deeds … wlll be publicly declared as the evidences of their election, of their relation to Christ, and of the glorious work of Christ in them.” (Matt. 13:43; 25:34-40).

It is important for us to ask of ourselves today, right now, Are we showing evidence of our election, of our relation to Christ, of the glorious work of Christ in us? Jim Elliot once wrote in his diary, ” ‘He makes His ministers a flame of fire.’ Am I ignitible? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame.” Is such our prayer? Will the day of judgment declare it and show forth the evidences of our election?

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 28 (April 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor
April, 1963

Yet another form of a children’s catechism. This version was published in THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY’S SHORTER CATECHISM, WITH SCRIPTURE PROOFS.  [Portland : Hyde, Lord and Duren. New-York City : Eli French. 1847.] 


  1. Who made you, child, and bade you live?
    God did my life and spirit give.

  2. Who keeps you safely, can you tell?
    God keeps me safe, and makes me well.

  3. How has God shown the way of truth?
    The Bible is the guide of youth.

  4. How should you act to God above?
    With fear and honour, praise and love.

  5. Does God know all you do and say?
    Yes, and my thoughts both night and day.

  6. Have you and evil heart within?
    Yes; I was even born in sin.

  7. How does your heart its badness show?
    By sinful words and actions too.

  8. Is not God angry when we sin?
    Yes. Oh how wicked I have been.

  9. What do your sins deserve t’ obtain?
    Present and everlasting pain.

  10. And can you save yourself from wo?
    I cannot save myself, I know.

  11. Have you the power to change your heart?
    No; it is prone from good to start.

  12. Who, then, can peace and pardon give?
    Jesus, who died that we might live.

  13. What proves that Jesus Christ will save?
    His life, his cross, his death, his grave.

  14. Can none but Christ for sin atone?
    The blood of Jesus Christ alone.

  15. And how may you his grace receive?
    In Jesus Christ I must believe.

  16. Must you repent with humble heart?
    Yes, and from every sin depart.

  17. From God what blessings should you seek?
    Lord, save my soul for Jesus’ sake.

  18. Should you love Christ, who was so good?
    Oh yes, with all my heart I should.

  19. Did Christ become a little child?
    Yes, holy, humble, meek and mild.

  20. What did his early his’try shew?
    Jesus in strength and wisdom grew.

  21. What was foretold of Jesus’ grace?
    The Lambs he’ll on his bosom place.

  22. And were the young thus loved and blest?
    Christ took and clasped them to his breast.

  23. What did Christ say, though young we be?
    Let little children come to me.

  24. Does Christ still view the young with love?
    Yes, on his glorious throne above.

  25. How should a child begin to pray?
    Lord, teach me what to think and say.

  26. Will God regard the hymns you raise?
    Yes, Jesus loves an infant’s praise.

  27. Who only can direct your youth?
    The Holy Spirit, God of truth.

  28. Must you of ev’ry lie beware?
    Yes, with most strict and constant care.

  29. Must you all evil tempers flee?
    I must not in a passion be.

  30. Must you your book and wisdom prize?
    Yes, I must be both good and wise.

  31. How must a child to others be?
    As I would have them act to me.

  32. What must you to your parents shew?
    Obedience, love, and honour too.

  33. What must your brother(s)* in you find?
    A heart that’s always mild and kind.

  34. Must you your sister(s) always love?
    Yes, and be gentle as a dove.

  35. How must you act to all you know?
    I must all love and kindness know.

  36. Do little children often die?
    Yes, quite as young and strong as I.

  37. Will Jesus judge the “small and great?”
    Yes, and will fix their endless state.

  38. Where shall the wicked sinner dwell?
    With everlasting flames in hell.

  39. What should you wish if call’d to die?
    To be with Christ above the sky.

  40. Where will good children ever be?
    In heav’n, their Saviour Christ to see.

* Or sister(s).
Or brother(s).

Recently in processing the Papers of Dr. Morton H. Smith, the first Stated Clerk of the PCA, I came across this letter written to Smith when he was just twenty-five years of age and considering a call to ministry and pondering which Seminary to attend.  The pastor of his home church, the Rev. James E. Moore, wrote to offer the following advice.  Moore and his brother Lardner were raised in Osaka, Japan. James prepared for the ministry at Westminster  Seminary, graduating in 1933 and was pastor of the Mt. Washington Presbyterian church in Baltimore, Maryland from 1934-1951. He was received into the PCA in 1974.
This letter continues to offer, I think, some sage advice to those considering a call to ministry. The letter also offers a bit of historical insight on the situation as it stood then for theologically conservative Presbyterians, and in that light, it is interesting and even encouraging to compare that situation with where we are today.


22 September, 1948

Dear Morton:

Rockwell told me on his return from the West that you had about decided to go to the Seminary but were undecided as to which one. I’m not sure of the reasons he gave but I did ask him for your address. I have been thinking about the Seminary and what is involved in a Seminary education. I hope you won’t think me presumptuous but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity of expressing my views on the matter. I hope the Lord will take my words and give you help so that you can know without any doubt whatsoever His will may be in your whole future.

The first thing that I would say is that you don’t have to go to the Seminary to preach the Gospel. It is not a necessity because the New Testament doesn’t say one word about it. There was no such school in the days of the Apostles and they didn’t take the time to start one. More, the law of our church does not presuppose a Seminary education. The requirements for ordination are given. Then it says that certain of these parts may be omitted if the candidate is a graduate of a seminary.

If then neither the New Testament nor our church requires a Seminary education, why bother to go to one? The answer should be given along these lines. See how far you can agree with me. First, the Gospel, the only Gospel, which we have to preach is found exclusively in the New Testament, that is, the Bible. God’s message of salvation for a lost world is not found in nature nor in conscience nor in the church. The Bible is the only source of information and instruction. We don’t deny the value of philosophical and scientific truth anywhere, but those truths, regardless of how valuable they may be, do not shed any light on the Gospel. The story of Jesus and His love is found only in the Bible. That will be the first part of our answer. We go to the Seminary to better study the Bible.

Second, we go to the Seminary to study all the Bible. If the Bible is the exclusive source of the Gospel, then we dare not neglect the Bible, lest somewhere it teach something that would have a tremendous bearing on the Gospel. The world can’t be impressed by ill-equipped men who don’t know what they are talking about. The world is educated to-day so that anyone who takes the time to study can know a tremendous lot about the Bible. Therefore a preacher must be equipped so that he knows enough of and from the Bible to be able to declare the “whole counsel of God.” You will appreciate this point of view. You weren’t brought up on the idea that five or six truths were adequate for your life. The Shorter Catechism covers the whole range of Scripture truth. Now it stands to reason that a man studying under those who are competent and experienced can learn more of the Bible than he can by trying to do it himself.

Third. A man goes to the Seminary that he may learn to convey the truth of the Bible, all of the Bible, to others. Now not just a certain class of others, laboring people, or miners, or sailors, or Wall Street. He attempts to equip himself so that he can meet poor sinners wherever he may find them, present the claims of Christ in language that is intelligible to them, demolish their excuses and lead them to repentance and faith. Personally, I want you so armored that you can go into any community, environment, race or creed and present the riches of Christ Jesus so persuasively that men will have no excuse. Therefore, I say, we go to the Seminary to learn to present all the Bible to All men.

That line of reasoning and only that line can possibly answer the question of the Seminary. There is one argument that is used that has entirely too much weight in the minds of men. It is this—I want to work in a certain church. To do that, I’ve got to attend one of that church’s Seminaries. In reply, I would say, does a man want to serve the church or serve Jesus Christ? ‘No man can serve two masters!’ Let anyone take his choice. If the church comes first, then I say better that man not go into the ministry. Any man who goes into the ministry must burn his bridges behind him.

But we have to be affiliated with some group of the Lord’s people. Yes. And personally I hope to serve the Southern Church all my life. But the Southern church did not call me to preach. Christ called me to preach. It was only after I had prepared myself that the church gave me her blessing. I can promise you this, it makes no difference what seminary you go to, you won’t have any trouble serving our church. There is a desparate need right now and I believe I’ll have a place for you next summer. Don’t let the Devil fool you with false arguments.

I think you may agree with what I have said so far. If so there remains only one thing to be said. There are a few seminaries that will fill the requirements of the above line of reasoning. There are none in the South that will. Every seminary in the South has Modernists right along with Fundamentalists teaching something of a hodge podge for a seminary education. I’d rather you not go to any seminary. The Professors of Systematic Theology in all four of our southern Seminaries deny the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration. Your education won’t be worth the time and trouble it takes to get one. Of course Southern scholarship is notorious for its lack. I think we have only one man who is a scholar of first rank in all four seminaries. Wm. C. Robinson of Columbia is the only man ever heard of outside the United States.

If you are interested further, I have just a final word to say. There is a Seminary that will fulfill all the requirements of a Seminary in a Biblical, scholarly way. That is Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. There are about 20 graduates of that school in the ministry of the Southern church. I would love to talk with you further about the matter if you would care to discuss it.

Morton, the world needs men who are equipped to fight a warfare with a brilliant and cruel enemy. The Church is crying for men who know the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Don’t spare any pains to prepare yourself in the best way possible, in order that you may do all in your power to become a vessel fit for the Master’s use.

I’m dreadfully sorry that I haven’t kept up our friendship. I should have written you long ago with regard to Covenant Baptism. I hope you are still interested. Rockwell tells me you are interested in the study of the last things. When you come East we’ll have to get together.

Please give my love to your nice wife. The Lord bless you both.

Sincerely, /s/ Jim Moore

A New Help for Conservative Presbyterian Chaplains in our Armed Forces

Being a military chaplain in any of our Armed Forces was always viewed with favor by this contributor.  That was probably because my father served his God and country as an Army chaplain from World War Two through the Korean Conflict. There were divine appointments in the context of a military which are not found in any civilian context.  And when the chaplain is a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching minister to men and women in the military, there is an extraordinary opportunity to see God’s kingdom and church grow in the faith and knowledge of the Triune God.

Prior to 1976, the National Association of Evangelicals were endorsing chaplains on behalf of young Presbyterian Church in America.  As good as that was, there was a conviction on the part of some, which was communicated by the Pacific Presbytery of the P.C.A., to request a study to consider whether sister Presbyterian churches could join together to endorse their own chaplains to the Chief of Chaplains. Committees were formed in the respective Presbyterian churches, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  Ministers in all three churches who had been or were then military chaplains formed these committees.  A working group was organized and a name was suggested, which was, “Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel.”

On September 21, 1978, the initial meeting was held at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis to form such a commission.  The combined churches had over 100,000 members and could therefore endorse chaplains on its own.  Some of the added benefits of having our own endorsing agency included the ability to hold our own spiritual retreats, an increased awareness of our chaplains and their ministries at national denominational meetings, better representation before the Chief of Chaplains in Washington, D.C., and a national newspaper, called the Guardian.

Other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies joined in the commission, such as the Korean American Presbyterian Church, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the United Reformed Churches in North America.  Col. (ret.) David Peterson, after a thirty year career in the United States Army as a chaplain, became the Executive Director in 1995.  He served until just recently when Brig. General (ret.) Douglas Lee took over the helm of that position.

To read more about this ministry, now led by CH (LTC) Jim Carter, RET, click here.

Pictured above right, Chaplain David Peterson

Words to live by: There are opportunities and challenges for our military chaplains which pastors in their civilian churches do not have normally.  Young men and women in uniform are facing war tours away from families.  How great is it to have a Bible-believing chaplain to be there with the Word of God to meet them in public and private.  Temptations are always present in a military situation.  How good is it to have a gospel-preaching chaplain present who can provide an escape from that temptation with other Christian soldiers for a Bible-study, or meaningful worship time.  Family life without a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, is stressful.  A Reformed chaplain can be there to counsel in difficult times.  Pray for our military chaplains.  Write them letters or emails of encouragement.  Provide them and their soldiers with care boxes from home.  Support them in their important callings.

For further reading : “The Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel,” by Robert B. Needham — Chapter 24 in Confident of Better Things, edited by John Muether and Danny Olinger (pp. 471–484). Needham provides a succinct history of the PRJCMP, undergirding that history with a very useful Scriptural defense of military chaplaincy.

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