November 2017

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We Don’t Do Evangelism!
by Rev. David T. Myers

A speaker over the phone actually said the words of our title to a friend of this author. She was shocked, and so was I upon hearing it. Have they snipped out by scissors the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 – 20? The very existence of our Presbyterian Church in America is that of being committed to the Great Commission. Certainly the subject of our post today when he sailed for the New Hebrides in 1846 was for the purpose of evangelism. His name was John Geddie.

John Geddie was born in Scotland on April 10, 1815 to John and Mary Geddie. At the tender age of two, his parents sailed to Pictou, Nova Scotia in Canada. Joining the Succession Presbyterian Church there, the young Geddie was trained in the ordinary schools of that province while joining his father in his clock making business. But his real interest was spent in reading books sent by the London Missionary Society. He was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior through these means at age nineteen. Enrolling in theology courses, he would be licensed to preach the gospel in 1837 and ordained as a Presbyterian minister one year later. Marrying Charlotte MacDonald in 1839, they set about rearing a family which eventually reached eight children.

Having a call to serve the Lord outside of Canada was made difficult in that no Presbyterian church was actively involved in foreign missions. Geddie organized a mission society in his local congregation. Yet even with the organization established, missionary endeavors were slow in coming to fruition. This was all too obvious when the regional synod voted 13 to 12 to select a mission field to even evangelize!  Yet one year later, on November 30, 1846, John Geddie, his wife Charlotte, and two small children sailed for the New Hebrides. Landing on the island of Aneiteum, they set at once to build a ministry among the natives.

For the next fifteen years, they sought to be faithful to the Great Commission in the midst of these heathen tribes. Often John would be assaulted by spears and stones as he traveled from one place to another. Then six years after he landed, several native chiefs converted to biblical Christianity. Thirty-five hundred natives, nearly one half of the population, threw away their idols and avowed the true Jehovah as their God and Savior. Immediately, the converted natives began to obey the Great Commission and send Christian teachers to other islands in the chain of the New Hebrides. Indeed, if you look up the country today (known as Vanuatu), you will see their religion to be Christian.

James Geddie died on December 14, 1872, but not before he had translated the entire New Testament in their language. He was in the process of working on the Old Testament when he was taken home to glory.

The island memorial to John Geddie is stunning to behold. It reads, “when he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen.”

Words to Live By:
A friend of this author had made one rule his guide in his ministerial life. For every milestone he passes, he endeavors to share the gospel with that many strangers in his ministry area. Thus, if he has turned fifty years of age, then he endeavors to witness to fifty unsaved individuals. Now, whether that goal brings 50 conversions is entirely dependent upon the work of the Spirit of God. We Reformed Christians understand that!  But do we recognize the command of the Great Commission is to be carried out by us? Or is it our practice that we do not do evangelism?

Occasionally we cast off any tie to the calendar and post something simply because it is important. Given the times, such as they are, it would seem the following advice has never been more needed, never more urgent to implement. “There never was a day when the mind of youth should be so charged and fortified against the insidious and bold attacks of error and infidelity as the present. As parents are awake to the life and destiny of their children, will they use these effective agencies for their safety and salvation?”

The Value of Memorizing Scripture and the Catechism in Childhood

by the Rev. E.E. Bigger

[excerpted from Christianity Today 4.5 (Mid-September 1933): 6.]

Paul, in writing to Timothy charged him to “Hold fast to the form of sound words.” 2 Tim. 1:13. Dean Alford, in his Greek Testament, places the stress on the word “form” in this verse. His reason is, the rule that the position of the substantive (subject or object) in relation to the verb, before or after, determines whether the emphasis should be on the substantive or the verb. In this instance the object precedes the verb in the Greek text, hence the emphasis is on the object, “form,”–“The form of sound words,” doctrine. Paul tells us when and by whom Timothy came in possession of “the form of sound words,” viz. “from a child,” young child: “Continue thou in the things which thou has learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom (viz. thy mother Eunice and thy grandmother Lois, 2 Tim. 1:5) thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. 3:14, 15. Timothy, with his mother and grandmother, was probably converted under Paul at Lystra. The Holy Spirit naturally used the Scriptures, in the new birth and conversion of Timothy,, which he had known from a child, as Paul says it was able to make him wise unto salvation. So, many parents have had the great joy of seeing the early conversion of their children, as the gracious reward of the faithful training of their children, in storing their minds with the Scriptures followed by prayer. Paul says, “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Peter says, “The milk of the word” is necessary to the growth of the babe in Christ. So, “the milk of the word” is necessary to lay the foundation of spiritual life and growth of the babe in the flesh. The greatest heritage to which a child can fall heir in this world, is that of godly parents, faithful in the responsibility for the destiny of their children. Prov. 22:6.

What is true about memorizing Scripture in childhood is equally true of memorizing the Catechism. True, the Catechism is not so vital as the Scripture. But the Catechism provides definitions of the truths of Scripture essential to the understanding of Scripture. It also provides a system of Bible principles, showing the order and relation of the truths to each other, thus fixing in the mind the plan of salvation, and establishing and fortifying mind and heart against the false isms which would deceive, if possible, the very elect. Dr. John Hall, late pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, speaking of the importance of memorizing the Catechism, said, “Having no anchor in definite religious knowledge, it is no wonder that a speculation cannot be propounded among us so silly that it shall not find followers.” Considering the great value of this system of Bible truth, there are two reasons why it should be memorized in childhood: First, because it is a much easier task for the child than in later years; and second, because if it is not memorized in childhood, it is one in a thousand that it never will be. Some think it is a useless task to impose on the child, since he can have little or no understanding of the meaning of the words. But the meaning will come in later years when the reasoning powers of the mind are developed, and the need and importance of the truths embodied are realized. The late Dr. John Cumming, of London, tells his experience: “When I learned that Scriptural and extremely abstruse work, the Shorter Catechism, I did not understand it. But my memory was stored with the truths of that precious document. And when I grew up I found those truths, which had been laid aside in its cells as propositions which I could neither understand nor make use of, became illumined by the sunshine of after years, and, like some hidden and mysterious writing, reveal in all beauty and fullness, those precious truths which I had never seen nor understood before.”

The Catechism was drilled into me Sunday afternoons, and the answer to “What is sin?” I rattled off without even a thought of its meaning, until in the maturity of manhood, its meaning flashed upon me, that there are two classes of sin, viz., sins of omission and sins of commission, shall I not say, equally heinous in God’s sight, according to their equal “aggravations”? Q. 83. There never was a day when the mind of youth should be so charged and fortified against the insidious and bold attacks of error and infidelity as the present. As parents are awake to the life and destiny of their children, will they use these effective agencies for their safety and salvation?

[excerpted from Christianity Today 4.5 (Mid-September 1933): 6.]

The Time Was Not Ripe
by Rev. David T. Myers

This mysterious phrase is found on a stone memorial on the grounds of the Battle of Rullion Green which is located eight miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland. It tells the tragic story of defeat in the first battle of the Scot Covenanters—Presbyterians all—against the English government of Charles II.

This battle was part of the Killing Times era of Scottish Covenanters. In essence, the Anglican government had declared war against the Presbyterians of Scotland, asking for unconditional surrender on their part. Their pastors—some 400 of them—had been ejected from their pulpits, their manses, and their parishes. When some of them began to preach to their people in the fields and moors, that whole scene became a dangerous practice, with fines leveled against the attenders, and imprisonment and death as well. All that was needed was a spark to ignite the smoldering indignation of the Scottish people of God.

That spark occurred on November 13, 1666 when an old man by the name of John Grier was accosted by the soldiers of the English government. Unable to pay a fine for his absence from his church with its Anglican curate in the pulpit, he was beaten severely that day. Four local Covenanters  happened upon the scene, and tried first to reason with the soldiers. When that failed, words turned to actions, and one of the soldiers was shot. Other villagers joined in the fray and took the solders prisoners. At this point, the Covenanters numbered ninety people.

Aware of the danger posed by their actions, they marched to Dunfries, Scotland, where they attacked other soldiers, killing one in the process. By this time, their numbers had reached two hundred and fifty. On the way, they captured Sir James Turner, the overall military commander in the area. Continuing further, they encountered a soldier friend by the name of James Wallace, who had experience in warfare. He and his military subordinates joined the Covenanter crowd. They then headed to Edinburgh, the capital city, to find more support for their actions to stop “the killing times,” though to their surprise, the weapons of the citizens were turned against them. The time was not ripe for a rebellion against English rule, evidently, despite their numbers having reached some three thousand or more by this time.

The English government dispatched General Thomas Daiziel against them, who with an army of 3000 (some sources say 5000 soldiers), marched after them. The Covenanter force, with their inadequate weapons and supplies, began to fail, with many deserting the force, leaving some 900 left to do battle. On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28, 1666, on a long slope in the country side south of Edinburgh, three thrusts by the government forces eventually brought a crushing of the valiant forces of the Covenanters. Some fifty were killed, including two Presbyterian ministers from Ulster. But that was only the beginning of the killing done that day. A bloody retribution was exacted upon the prisoners, including starvation, death by handing, and sending many on prison ships to the American colonies and the West Indies.

Words to Life By:
On the monument which marks the battlefield, there is carved a biblical text from Revelation 12:11, which reads, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”  Another inscription reads,

“A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
who for Christ’s interest did not appear,
For to restore true Liberty
Overturned then by Tyrany
and by Proud Prelates who did rage
Against the Lord’s own heritage.
Their sacrifices were for the Laws
of Christ their king,  his noble cause,
These heroes fought with great renown,
By falling got the Martyr’ Crown.”

Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.—[Dr. Archibald Alexander.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q 38. — What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. — At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged, and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Scripture References: I Cor. 15:43, 44; Matt. 25:33, 34; Matt. 10:32; Psa. 15:1; I Thess. 4:14; I Cor. 2:9.

Questions:

1. What are the three benefits of the believers as contained in this question?

(1) The believers shall be raised up in glory.
(2) The believers shall be acknowledged and acquitted at the day of judgment.
(3) The believers shall be made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity.

2. What is the glory referred to in this question and what will be the result of it?

The glory referred to in this question is the glory of the resurrection, when the body will be restored and no longer subject to death and dissolution and “be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body.” (Phil. 3 :21).

3. What is the meaning of the believers being acknowledged and acquitted?

The believers will hear the Savior’s “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34). Their faith shall be vindicated; they shall be publicly acknowledged as the redeemed children of God, (I Cor. 4:5), and the declaration will be made that all their sins are pardoned.

4. What is the third blessing that will come to the believers?

The third is the greatest blessing of all, the full enjoyment of God. The believers will ever be with the Lord and will receive the inheritance prepared for them. There the believers will behold their Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and will finally be able to trace the ways in which the Lord has led and saved them. (I Pet. 1:6).

5. What will be the lot of the unbelievers at the resurrection?

Their bodies shall be released from the grave and they shall see Christ as their final judge. They shall stand before His judgment Throne and shall have their sins read out of the books and will be eternally cast into hell. (II Thess. 1:7-8; Rev. 20:11,12).

GOOD STEWARDS OF THE GRACE OF GOD

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Pet. 4: 10). Blessing after blessing has been mentioned in the past few questions; but with blessings come responsibilities. It is a good thing to be reminded of the benefits that come to the believer both in this life and at death and at the resurrection. But it is an important thing that the believer recognize that with these benefits there is a call from the Lord to be good stewards of his grace.

Archbishop Leighton said, “Thinkest thou that thy wealth, or power, or wit, is thine, to do with as thou wilt, to engross to thyself either to retain as useless or to use, to hoard and wrap up, or to lavish out; according as thy humour leads thee? No! All is given as to a steward, wisely and faithfully to lay up and layout, not only the outward estate and common gifts of mind, but even saving grace, which seems most appropriated for thy private good, yet is not wholly for that. Even thy graces are for the good of thy brethren.”

If believers are to live to the glory of God, (going back to the first question), then they must be good stewards of the grace of God. The benefits given now and those to be given to the believers at the resurrection should be daily motivators toward wanting to thank and praise God for them in the way He desires praise—living to his glory. It should be noted by the believer that benefits are given for the purpose of being exercised; that the design of these exercises is not only for the advantage of the believer but is also for that of the body of Christ at large. In addition, when a believer is exercising a gift, a benefit, he ought to consider himself as a steward who must be faithful, being a good manager of the manifold grace of God.

In I Tim. 6:17-18 we have the same teaching: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.”

To be a good steward of the manifold grace of God is indeed a way to “redeem the time” in these evil days. May God help us to do so, all to His glory.

Published by: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 33 (February, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

“The ripest fruit of the Assembly’s thought and experience.”

wsc_londonIt was on this day, November 25th, a Thursday in 1647, that the British House of Commons ordered the printing of the Shorter Catechism, composed by the Westminster Assembly.

The Westminster Assembly of Divines had first met on July 1, 1643, having been summoned by the two Houses of the British Parliament to advise as to a further and more perfect reformation in the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church of England. They immediately set about working on a revision of the Thirty-nine Articles. When the Commissioners sent by the Church of Scotland arrived to be seated as part of the Assembly, the work then began to take on a wider scope. The Assembly was now required to prepare creeds and directories, not for the Church of England alone, but for the Churches of Christ in the three kingdoms, so as to bring all of them into the nearest possible uniformity in doctrine and practice.

The documents which are today the authoritative secondary standards of so many Presbyterian Churches throughout the world (and not just English-speaking churches), were prepared by an Assembly of English Divines, men who were episcopally ordained clergymen of the Church of England. That Church was as yet undivided at that time. The members of the Assembly represented the different views of doctrine and order that were entertained within it. Many of the prelatic party who were nominated by Parliament declined to attend the Assembly, but others of them took the required oath, and assisted in the deliberations of the Assembly, at least for a time. The Independents [or Congregationalists, by another term] were represented by seven men who came to be known as the “dissenting brethren” in the Assembly.

The great majority of the members of this Assembly held Presbyterian views of Church polity, and were the successors of the Puritans, who formed a considerable body in the Church of England from the time of the Reformation. They had all along been working for a more primitive organization of the Church, and a freedom from the practices and priestly robes borrowed from the corrupt Roman Church. In the days of Elizabeth they had instituted a voluntary Presbyterian organization of the Church, and they had often suffered in her days, and during the reigns of James and Charles, for refusing to carry out the practices or wear the robes enjoined by the prelates [or high-Church Anglicans].

To this Assembly were added three ministers of the Reformed Church of France, and four learned divines of the Church of Scotland, who were seated as non-voting members, but whose voice carried great weight in the deliberations of the Assembly.

The committee first charged with the work of preparing a Catechism never managed to complete its work. Some time later, the Assembly directed that both larger and a briefer catechisms should be produced, both works keeping an eye to the content of the Confession of Faith. Work then proceeded, first on the Larger Catechism, and only as that work was nearing completion did the Assembly turn its attention again to a Shorter Catechism. A new committee was named and by most accounts, the successful completion of the work is due to the efforts of just four men, and in particular the work of Antony Tuckney, Minister of St. Michael’s, London, and Master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.

Completing their work, the committee presented its report to the Assembly. After some revision of the Catechism, the addition of the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed were considered. A vocal minority opposed the addition of the Apostles’ Creed, and to settle the matter, the Assembly determined that an explanation of the words “he descended into hell” would be added as a marginal notation. That postscript is typically not found in the American editions.

The work now finished, a message was prepared by a committee to be addressed to the Houses of Parliament when the Catechism was carried up. On Thursday, 25th of November, 1647, the House of Commons was informed that divers divines of the Assembly were at the door. They were called in, and the Prolocutor [moderator of the Assembly] delivered the Catechism and addressed the House. On the following day (November 26th) the Catechism was carried to the Lords. Each House thanked the Assembly for its care and pains in this matter. It was ordered that 600 copies be printed under the care of Mr. Byfield, for the use of the Members of Parliament and of Assembly, and that Scripture proofs be affixed in the margin of the Catechism.

Words to Live By:

One characteristic of the Shorter Catechism has not been sufficiently recognized in the past. It is a statement of personal religion. It appeals to the individual sinner, and helps the individual believer.

One anecdote serves to illustrate:

The Rev. Thomas Doolittle, a famous catechist, took great delight in catechizing and urged ministers to that work, as an effective way of establishing young people in the truth, and preparing them to read and hear sermons with advantage. Accordingly, every Lord’s day, he catechized the youth and adults of his congregation, and this part of his work bore great fruit. Once, when he had come to the question “What is effectual calling,” after some explanation, Rev. Doolittle proposed that the question should be answered by changing the words us and our to me and my. The congregation, hearing this suggestion, a long and solemn silence followed. Many felt the weight of the idea, but none had the courage to answer. At length, one young man stood up, and with every mark of a broken and contrite heart, was able to say, “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to me in the Gospel.”

The scene was truly affecting. The proposal of the question had commanded unusual solemnity. The rising up of the young man had created high expectations; and, the answer being accompanied with proofs of sincere piety and modesty, the congregation was bathed in tears. This young man had been converted by being catechized, and, to his honor, Rev. Doolittle says, “Of an ignorant and wicked youth, he had become a knowing and serious believer to God’s glory and my much comfort.”

There was an old expression, particularly among the Scottish Presbyterians, who would say, “I own the Confession.” By that, they meant that they had made its doctrine their own; they had taken the content to heart, and saw that indeed it was an accurate reflection of the teaching of Scripture. So too the Catechism, though briefer.

Reader, do you own the Catechism? Have you made it your own? Clearly it is not Scripture; no such claim is made, and that is why we speak of it as part of the secondary standards of the Church. But it is worthwhile reading, and a great help in understanding what the Bible teaches.

[The bulk of the above was based on and freely edited from an historical account written by William Carruthers [1830-1922], which is found bound with a facsimile reproduction of an original printing of the Shorter Catechism. A digital edition of that work is available here.

Image source: Pictured is a later edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, not the original first printing.

An Endeavor for the Brave of Heart

Assuming our readers are probably all off enjoying the extended weekend, here is a bit of post-Thanksgiving humor, for a change of pace. I could not locate a source in order to give proper attribution, but did enjoy this cartoon:


Time and again, the Lord has shown Himself faithful.

You would do well to take your Bible this Thanksgiving weekend and begin a study on how often throughout the Scriptures the Lord instructs us to remember His works. And why is that? Obviously, that we should not forget Him, that we should be conscious of His faithfulness, that we should be thankful for His daily providences, and all to the end that we should glorify Him and worship Him, as the Lord alone deserves.

The Psalms are, as we might expect, full of such instruction. To give but a few examples:

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. (Ps. 44:1)

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein . . . He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered;… (Ps. 111:2a, 4a)

One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. (Ps. 145:4)

Indeed, this is one of those themes of Scripture, which, once your eyes are opened to it, you begin to see it everywhere. Presbyterian history will take a break today, that you might reflect on your own history, and so praise God for all that He is to you.

John Flavel, in his Mystery of Providence, speaks to our point:

Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them.
Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed.

JOINT PUBLICATIONS VENTURE UNDERWAY

Representatives of the Christian Education committees of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America met in Philadelphia, Penna. on November 22, 1974 to inaugurate a joint publication enterprise to serve both denominations.

To be called Great Commission Publications, lnc., the new corporation will acquire the assets of the OPC’s similarly named agency. Operation of the new agency will formally begin on July 1, 1975 for an initial period of five years. (Either church may cancel its participation on eighteen months notice.)

Temporary officers of the new corporation are the Rev. Messrs. Robert Nicholas (OPC), chairman; Harold Borchert (PCA), vice-chairman; Kenneth Meilahn (OPC), secretary. The group also named the Rev. Robley J. Johnston, long-time generaI secretary for the O. P. committee, to be executive director.

A tentative schedule of production calls for a new Adult Sunday School series to be ready in the Fall of 1976; a new VBS curriculum for Summer 1977; a new Senior High Sunday school course for Fall 1978; and a Pre-school curriculum for Fall of 1979.

A spirit of confidence and unanimity has permeated discussions leading up to this joint endeavor. Problems for the future success of the venture are mainly in the area of securing needed and competent personnel for the proposed schedule of publications.

The Presbyterian Guardian, December 43.10 (December 1974), p. 167.

Words to Live By:
That the brethren can work together has been proven quite well in this venture, now some forty-two years later. Great Commission Publications does a wonderful job of fulfilling many of the Sunday School curriculum and other literature needs of the OPC and PCA. Other churches besides these two also utilize the services of GCP on occasion. The entire venture has been a good success, to the praise of our Lord and Savior.

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Four Presbyterian Chaplains Who Stayed Behind With the Wounded
by Rev. David T Myers

The army was moving, actually fleeing from the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg on July 4, 1863. Three terrible days of battle had been fought there in this battle of the War Between the States. The Union forces had been victorious. The Rebel forces were in defeat, fleeing south as the vanquished army. Staying behind were countless Confederate soldiers too wounded to move with their regiments. Also staying behind were over one hundred surgeons and doctors to help with their physical needs, and sixteen Confederate Army chaplains to minister to their spiritual needs. Of those immortal sixteen chaplains were four Presbyterian chaplains, all captured on this day, July 5, 1863 by the Union forces.

The most familiar Rebel chaplain to our readers is Chaplain Thomas D. Witherspoon, of the Forty-second Mississippi Regiment, of whom we have written before in This Day. In the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 8, number 2, (and on line) Chaplain Witherspoon writes “I was captured in the afternoon of a beautiful Sabbath day, the 5th of July, 1863 in a hospital tent in the midst of a religious service surrounded by the wounded on every hand to whom I was ministering and at whose urgent solicitation I had voluntarily remained within the enemy’s lines.”

Considered a non-combatant, as were all chaplains, Chaplain Witherspoon traveled to Baltimore, Maryland on a special mission. He planned to take the body of Col. Hugh Miller, commander of the 42nd Mississippi, his son Edwin Miller, under a flag of truce, back home to Richmond, Virginia, hoping to make the Confederate capitol in a couple of days. A very determined Union General in Baltimore wouldn’t let the small party proceed, even though they had a Union officer with their little party, and imprisoned Chaplain Witherspoon in Fort McHenry, Baltimore.

The other three Presbyterian chaplains who stayed with their wounded at Gettysburg, included Chaplain James H. Colton, of the Fifty Third North Carolina, Chaplain Paul Morton, of the Twenty Third Virginia, and Chaplain James H Gilmore of the Twenty-first Virginia Regiment. Along with seven Methodist chaplains, three Baptist Chaplains and two Episcopalian Chaplains, these faithful Presbyterian chaplains were allowed by the victorious Union Army to continue to minister to their wounded at Camp Letterman in Gettysburg, until August 7 of 1863, when they left for Baltimore.

Arriving in Baltimore, Maryland by train, the chaplains and the medical doctors stayed there until August 9th when they were moved to Fort Monroe, Virginia, then on to Fort Norfolk, Virginia, and finally back to Fort McHenry, outside of Baltimore. Maryland. They all were exchanged on this day, November 21, 1863 and sent on the steamer “Swan,” to City Point, Virginia.

After the Civil War, our four Presbyterian chaplains continued their ministries in civilian Presbyterian missions and churches, being faithful to the Captain of their salvation until their deaths.

Words to Live By:
Like civilian ministries, the biblical chaplain in our Armed Services, in peacetime and war, seeks to be faithful to the God of the Bible, earnestly proclaim the Lord Jesus and Him crucified, buried, and risen again, and proclaim the principles and practices of true Christianity. Here’s the question? Are you, our readers, earnestly praying for our Presbyterian and Reformed chaplains? Do you belong to a congregation which has chosen a chaplain and his work as your church chaplain. If not, contact the Presbyterian and Reformed Commission on Chaplains and Military Personal, Chaplain (Lt Col) Jim Carter, Director, to be a part of this Chaplain Sponsorship Program.

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