February 2018

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 The Christian patriot

We don’t know much about him other than broad general facts, but the Rev. Moses Allen deserves to have a record of remembrance written up in the annals of the history of our great nation and the Presbyterian church.  He was born in Northampton, Massachusetts on September 14, 1748.  Nothing is known about his family or early life.  We are told that he was educated at the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton University), graduating in 1772.  He was then licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick on February 1, 1774 and later ordained to the gospel ministry on March 10, 1774.  The celebrated New Side minister William Tennent took part in that ordination, which took place in Savannah, Georgia.

A group of fifty-two Congregationalists from New England had settled in South Carolina, landing at Seawee Bay seventy-five years earlier in the history of the southern colony.  They soon planted an independent church at Wappetaw.  While the church was Congregationalist in spirit, it was in reality a Presbyterian church in doctrine.  In fact, more Presbyterian ministers were  pastors there than Congregationalist pastors.  To this congregation, young twenty-six year old Moses Allen was installed as its pastor.

To everyone’s surprise, his fast courtship of a young fifteen year old girl, and subsequent marriage of her, took place at this congregation.  Her name was Elizabeth Odingsell, who is described as a “ward” of a Revolutionary general from Georgia. Then just three years later, he went to Midway Church in Georgia.  It was there that he joined the Georgia Brigade of Patriots, to fight on the side of George Washington in that battle of independence from England.

» The old Midway Church, which was built in 1778. Rev. Allen would thus have been the pastor who oversaw the construction of old Midway, and he would have been able to preach there some number of times before his decease. »

It wasn’t safe to be a Presbyterian, and for that matter a Presbyterian pastor during the time of the Revolution.  Churches were subject to being burned down.  Congregations were subject to dispersal.  And the Midway Church was one such church and congregation which was to suffer from British occupation of the colony.  Allen, by this time, had left the pulpit to be a chaplain in the Georgia Brigade.  Captured by the British, he was placed in the hold of a prison ship in the Charleston harbor.  Just five years into his marriage with his young bride, he attempt to escape from captivity, by jumping overboard and swimming to the shore along with two French prisoners-of-war.  Twenty yards from the shore, he was afflicted with a cramp, and drowned, on this day of February 8, 1779.  His young bride was twenty years of age when he died.

It was said by way of testimony that he was faithful in exhortation and in  field service with the troops of Georgia.  Certainly, he faithfully ministered the Word of God in the two congregations which he served in South Carolina and Georgia.

Words to Live By:  This Presbyterian pastor is little known in Reformed circles today, but well-known to the annals of heaven.  He took the Word of grace to civilians and soldiers alike, uncaring about his safety, for he was in the hands of God.  We can go in life and calling with the same assurance that he possessed, knowing that our times are in His hands.

While searching earlier for an obituary (not found) in an old issue of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, I came across this interesting brief article concerning pastor, the congregation and the original edifice of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. My primary interest is in the first few paragraphs. After that, well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

THE OLD ARCH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The instrumentality of Whitfield [pictured at right] in the erection of the ancient square edifice, that once stood on the north west corner of Arch and Third streets, is probably known to some of your readers, as well as the fact, that the people worshipping there, were styled “new lights,” and that sundry opprobrious epithets were applied to the memorable Gilbert Tennent, their pastor. I have sat in the old square house, more than once, and well remember when it was succeeded by the oblong building that occupied the site, until after the settlement of the late Dr. Cuyler, in the pastoral office.

There was no cellar under the original house, and the remains of the venerable and beloved Tennent were deposited beneath the brick floor, and so remained until the contemplated change in the place of worship was effected. The new edifice was furnished with a cellar; and being well suited to storage, was often perverted to the strange use of a place of deposit for the article that manufactures paupers so rapidly. In this cellar were deposited the remains of Tennent, a suitable brick enclosure having been made for the purpose.

The late Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was a warm personal friend and admirer of Mr. Tennent, was sorely grieved, that such a disposition had been made of the venerated dust of his favorite preacher. Horrified at what he deemed a kind of sacrilege, the following impromptu, pronounced while in conversation with a lady who was then a member of Arch street Church, gave vent to his feelings. The lady who is yet living, and who penned the memorable lines at the time of utterance, favored me with a copy, some months ago; and as they are well worth a place in your useful paper, they are forwarded for insertion. They represent the spirit of the departed saint, roused by the resurrection trump, as quitting his heavenly abode, to visit earth in search of his body, and run thus :

The trumpet sounds, the sleeping dead arise,
And Tennent’s spirit quits its nature skies;
To his dear church it wings its favor’d way
To seek reunion with its kindred clay,
Where is my body? cries the reverend saint,
“Lo here, good Sir, the Sexton, “no it ain’t,”
“My body rested under my church floor
That body rises from a liquor store!”

Your readers are aware, the Dr. Rush hated intemperance and all its relations.

PAUL.

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, 31.6 (7 February 1852): 21, column 5.]

Scientist, Educator, and Inventor.

James Henry Coffin was born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, on September 6, 1806 and died on February 6, 1873, at the age of sixty-six. Orphaned as a young child, he was educated by his uncle, the Rev. Moses Hallock and later graduated from Amherst College in 1828. Exhibiting an independent, entrepreneurial character, he made a career of teaching and founded a successful manual labor school in Greenfield, MA. In 1837, he became principal of an academy in Ogdensburg, NY, and it was during this time that he began to develop an interest in meteorology, writing treatises on solar and lunar eclipses and on the moon. The Greylock Observatory on Saddle Mountain, at 3500 feet above sea level, was established under his guidance. For use at this observatory. Professor Coffin devised the first self-registering instrument ever constructed for determining the direction, force, velocity, and moisture of the winds. His life’s final work was was the manufacture of an improved instrument for this same purpose, for the National Astronomical Observatory at Buenos Ayres, Argentina.

Then in 1846, he was called as professor of mathematics and astronomy at Lafayette College, where he served for the remaining twenty-six years of his life. His greatest contributions to science culminated in these years. One biographer notes that “During more than thirty years Prof. Coffin was engaged in collecting from all quarters, either in printed documents, or by an extensive correspondence, the data necessary to determine the mean direction of the surface winds in all parts of the Northern Hemisphere, their rate of progress, their relative velocity when blowing from different points of the compass, and the modifications they undergo in all these respect in the various seasons of the year.” It was a meticulous work which ultimately proved to be of great use.

Not long after Professor Coffin died, a bronze tablet was erected in his honor on the campus of Lafayette College, in recognition of his place as one of Lafayette’s most distinguished instructors and as a scientist of world-wide reputation. His associate, Professor Francis A. March, prepared the inscription for the tablet, which in part read:

“He annexed the atmosphere to the realm of science and searched the highways of the winds and the paths of vagrant storms.”

Professor Coffin was for many years a ruling elder in the Brainerd Presbyterian Church in Easton, PA. Alfred Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia reports that Coffin “united with the Church at an early age, and lived a sincere and devout Christian. He was fitted for his work as an educator and an investigator by the best gifts of heart and head. A man of clear, strong and candid mind, of scrupulous integrity of character, of conscientious regard for accuracy, and above all, a lover of truth for its own sake.”

Words to Live By:
James H. Coffin exhibited in his life a love for his fellow man and a consistent Christian character. Taking the gifts and abilities that God gave him, he faithfully sought to serve both God and man. Every honorable calling in life can glorify God. As Martin Luther taught, “in making shoes, the cobbler serves God just as much as the preacher of the Word.” Regardless of your calling in life, seek to serve and honor the Lord in all your ways.

For Further Study:
Click here to read as archival assistant Caitlin Lowery writes of her experience processing some of the records compiled by Professor Coffin.
The James Henry Coffin Papers are preserved at Lafayette College. To learn more about that collection, click here.

A Force for God and Country is born
by Rev. David T. Myers

On July 4, 1776, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian pastor and educator who was at that time serving as the president of the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton University).  We will in this year’s historical devotions focus on this man in five separate days because he was  such an effective influence for God and country.

Born February 5, 1723, John Witherspoon would grow up in a church manse in the tiny town of Gifford, Scotland, which was fourteen miles from Edinburgh, Scotland.  We have a scarcity of information about his parents.

His father, the Rev. James Witherspoon, was a Church of Scotland minister who served the parish of Yester from 1720 until his death in 1759. We do know that he attended the denomination’s General Assembly as a delegate, and even preached before that Assembly on one occasion, and was appointed a royal chaplain in 1744.  We have no doubt that like many faithful Scottish pastors, he was eminent for his holiness, learning, and faithfulness.

John’s mother, Ann Walker,  was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.  She was to bear six children from this union with James, all in the space of ten years.  John Witherspoon later gave credit to his mother for his early religious education in the Bible, reading it through for the first time when he was only four years of age, and later hiding a lot of it in his heart by way of memory. Some historians have concluded that she was a descendant of the Reformer John Knox, while others are unconvinced. Whatever may be said, the training of John Witherspoon began early in the home and continued at the Haddington Grammar School, which had also trained John Knox. Along with secular subjects, the Westminster Shorter Catechism was part of the training at that school. When he left at age thirteen for the University of Edinburgh in 1736, he had a good command of Latin, Greek, and French.  He also had a solid foundation in biblical Christianity.  All of this was to bear him well as he continued preparing for the divine calling which was his in both Scotland, his native country, and in the colonies and United States of America.

Continuing his education in divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Witherspoon was licensed in 1743 and ordained and installed as the minister of the parish of Beith in the Church of Scotland, on April 11, 1745.  He was twenty-two years old.  Two years later,  he married Elizabeth Montgomery.  They would both learn the sorrow connected with  a family when of the ten children which came from this union, only five would survive to adulthood.

This young Church of Scotland minister soon gained a reputation beyond his own parish.  The national body was divided into two splinters composed of the Popular party and the Moderates.  The first was akin to our orthodox party and the latter was akin to the liberals.  The former emphasized the important of the Westminster Standards as a summary of the Scriptures, while the latter group generally ignored the proper place of the Westminster Standards in the church.  Witherspoon was a solid member of the Popular party, and attacked the Moderates in the pulpit and by the pen.  Even in his second pastorate at Laigh Parish, his reputation as an orthodox minister began to expand in Scotland, and extended across the Atlantic to the colonies of America.

[more on Rev. Witherspoon’s story at a later date.]

Words to Live By:
God prepares His own people for present and future work.  As Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV)  Remember this as you rear your children in the ways of the Lord.  Commend them into the hands of the Lord at an early age, indeed when they are born is best.  Then everything you do, do so in the Lord’s strength and for His glory.

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

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in His word.

Scripture References: Deut. 4:15, 16; Acts 17:29; Deut. 12:30-32.

Questions:

1. What is the great sin forbidden in the second commandment?

The great sin forbidden in the second commandment is idolatry.

2. How does the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment differ from the sin forbidden in the first commandment?

The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment has to do with an object, where in man worships something else other than the true and living God. The idolatry forbidden in the second commandment has to do with the means of worship, and forbids us to worship God o in ways contrary to His will.

3. How is it possible for a person to worship images and thus commit the sin of idolatry?

There are many ways this can be done. Some of them are: (1) By worshipping false gods such as the heathen idolatry in the culture of the Greeks. (2) By worshipping the true God by the use of an image or a representation of Him. (3) By worshipping the true God by creating in one’s minds a false image of Him.

4. Is it permissible for any image or representation to be made of God?

No, it is forbidden because He is infinite, incomprehensible. (Isa. 40: 18) Any attempt to represent God necessarily involves limitations which misrepresent Him.

5. Is it lawful for us to have pictures of Jesus Christ?

No, it is not lawful for us to do so. It is true, He was man as well as God, but the Bible teaches He is even fairer than the children of men. (Ps. 45:2) It is impossible for us to know what He was like and therefore, any representation of Him would be a guesswork. If He had wanted us to know He would have made it clear in the Word.

6. Does the second commandment forbid ceremony in our worship?

No, it does not forbid ceremony in our worship, as long as the ceremony is taught in the Word of God. Therefore, the ceremony would have to be “decent and in order” and only what is appointed in the Word of God. (Matt. 15:9)

WORSHIP ACCORDING TO THE WORD

The matter of worship in the church today is of grave concern. In churches which are creedal churches, and claim the Westminster Standards, the matter of worship should at all times be consistent with the Word of God. If it is not, there is the danger of breaking the second commandment, breaking it by not endeavoring to worship according to the pattern of the Word of God. In this area we should be zealous, refusing to allow anything within the worship that is not consistent with the Word.

There are many areas today where the church stands in danger of departing from the Word. Doctrinally speaking, the church is departing from the historic position of the Reformed Faith regarding the Scripture by allowing a lower view of inspiration than that of an infallible, verbally inspired Word of God. The church is departing by absolutely by-passing the Scripture-taught doctrine of discipline and thereby the purity of the church is falling into disrepute. These, and many others that could be mentioned, are ways in which the church is departing from the faith in matters of doctrine.

In addition, the church should always be careful regarding its worship. Nothing should be allowed in the service that is not taught by the Scripture. The worship of the church exists for the glory of God, for the purpose of carrying out His Great Commission, for the evangelization of the world. The early church was careful lest something be introduced into it that would hinder its mission.

What about your church in its worship? Have things been added that can not find their warrant in Scripture? Is your church more concerned with the building than the preaching of the Word of God, with itself instead of its outreach, with friendship instead of its purity? Is the second commandment being broken?

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 48 (December 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Attempts to found democracies, or rather, true lawful liberty, are doomed to failure unless they are built on a proper foundation.

What follows is another article discovered during a foray into an old dusty volume :

THE FOUNDATION OF TRUE LIBERTY.

Some time since an interesting Sabbath School celebration was held in a town in the interior of this State. On one of the banners borne in the procession, there was a beautiful tree, spreading its tall and stately branches in every direction, and beneath it was a volume, in which its roots were deeply fixed, and from which it derived all its nourishment and strength.—The tree was Liberty, that volume the Bible. The idea was not only beautiful, but true. The Bible is the great protector and guardian of the liberties of man. There never has been on earth true liberty, apart from the Scriptures and the principles of the Bible. This remark is fully sustained by the history of the world. Go to the plains of Babylon, and the entire history of that Empire, until its destruction by Cyrus, is a history of the most absolute despotism. Egypt and Persia were equally strangers to civil liberty. The same was true, with some slight modifications, of Greece and Rome. Facts spread on every page of the world’s history, point to the Bible as the only basis of the temple of freedom.

Where the Bible forms public opinion, a nation must be free. “Christianity,” says Montesquieu, “is a stranger to despotic power.” De Tocqueville, “it is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its claims.” The Abbe de la Mennais, whom the late writer distinguishes as one of the most powerful minds in Europe, speaks eloquently of the Divine author of Christianity, “the great republican of his age.” Everywhere the men whose minds have been imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible, have been the devoted friends of civil liberty. Such were the Lollards in England, the adherents of Luther in Germany, and of Knox in Scotland. Such were the Huguenots of France, who fled their country, or sealed their testimony with their blood on the fatal revocation of the edict of Nantes. Such were the Puritans, who, with the courage of heroes and the zeal of martyrs, struggled for and obtained the charter of liberty which England now enjoys. Hume, with all his hostility to the Bible, says, “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone, and it was to this sect the English owe the whole freedom of their Constitution.

Pass we to the period of the American revolution! Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Who were the men, whose wisdom in council, and whose daring in the field, delivered us from foreign oppression, and made us a free and independent nation? Who was Washington? His character is settled beyond all dispute—his sentiments are known and recorded. The infidel can never refer to him for authority. The Atheist can never enroll him among those who believe the universe is without a Father and a God. His examples and his opinions are to travel down with the richest influence to future ages, and his purity of life in the cabinet and the camp, his reverence for the Bible and the institutions of religion, are to be spoken of with the profoundest regard by millions yet unborn.

Who was Patrick Henry, the man who struck the notes of freedom to which this nation responded, and were changed from subjects of a British king to independent freemen? He has not left his religious sentiments in doubt. In his will is found the following passage : “I have now disposed of all my property to my family—there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the religion of the Bible. If they had that, and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

Who was Samuel Adams, one of the brightest stars in the constellation of great names, that adorned that era? “Adams,” says his biographer, “was a Christian. That last production of his pen was in defence of Christian truth, and he died in the faith of the gospel.”

And who was Roger Sherman? His biographer says, “few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention, and a few were more intimately acquainted with its doctrines?” And who does not know that Livingston, and Stockton, and Witherspoon, and Benjamin Rush, bowed with profound reverence to the teaching of the Bible, and drew from its precepts their strongest incentives in their self-sacrificing labors? The Bible, then we say it without the fear of successful contradiction—the Bible, in its influence more than any thing else, has made us what we are—a free and independent nation. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupt public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 442-443.]

A Man of Genius and Eloquence

The minister showed up at the door of his new congregation in Philadelphia, only to find the door locked, obviously by some dissenters who did not like the fact that the majority of the congregation had called this new preacher.  The dissenters were primarily opposed to his stance on the New Side – Old Side schism, then in full swing in the infant Presbyterian denomination.  He stood solidly on the New Side.  Eventually, some of his supporters threw him into the sanctuary through an open window.  What a beginning to a ministry!  But it was in this way that the Rev. George Duffield began his long pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church, where he was to remain there until his death on February 2, 1790.

George Duffield was educated first at Newark Academy in Delaware.  He followed that  with training at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1752.  A personal study in theology, under Dr. Robert Smith, of Pequea, Pennsylvania, came next in his years of ministerial preparation.  Ordination to ministry in the Presbyterian Church enabled him to serve three churches in central Pennsylvania, namely, Carlisle, Newville, and Dillsburg.  After the last congregation he was called in 1771 to the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  It was to be his greatest work.

The national issues of independence from England were on the horizon.  George Duffield set his ministry in support of liberty from tyranny.  So vocal was he that eventually the church became known as “The Church of the Patriots.”  When the first chaplain to the newly formed Continental Congress went over to the British side, the Congress named two chaplains to replace him.  One was an Anglican pastor, and the other George Duffield.  He would serve alongside the Anglican pastor as well as serving as chaplain of a Pennsylvania regiment in the war for Independence.

Such attachment to Revolutionary ideals would not go unnoticed by the British occupational forces in Philadelphia.   They placed a price on his head, thereby putting him in great danger.   The Pine Street Presbyterian building  was turned into a hospital, with the pews being burned for warmth of the British wounded inside of it.  Then it was made into a stable for their animals.  The greatest insult of all came when one hundred deceased Hessian (German mercenaries serving the British army) soldiers were buried in the church cemetery of Pine Street Presbyterian.

During the war, Duffield counseled and comforted founding father George Washington with Scriptural truth.  After the war, Duffield returned to Pine Street Presbyterian to rebuild and continue his ministry.  John Adams, after hearing him one Sunday, told his wife that Duffield was “a man of genius and eloquence.”

He was married first to Elizabeth Blair, who died in 1757.  Two years later, he married Margaret Armstrong.  Among his descendants were two others named George Duffield, each of whom continued serving both Church and nation as Presbyterian clergy.  George Duffield died in Philadelphia.

Words to Live By:  Taking a stand for God and country has its own perils.  But if the cause is right and biblical, then it is worth the cost.  Our times are in His hands.

WCF 4:2
“After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.  Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept it, they were  happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

For further reading:
Duffield’s works are few and none are freely accessible on the Internet at this time.
Here is a chronological bibliography of Duffield’s published and unpublished works—

1775-1780

George Duffield sermons, 1775-1780, Archival Material .21 linear foot (1 volume). George Duffield was pastor of the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and served as chaplain to the Continental Congress and the Pennsylvania Militia. These seven sermons are dated “at P[ine] St.” June 18, 1775; July 30, 1775; and May 5, 1776; “at York” April 5, 1778; and at “P[ine] St.” July 18, 1779; March 30, 1780, and undated. [Preserved at the New York Public Library Research Library]

1776-1783
George Duffield sermons, 1776-1783, Archival Material, 5 items.  Holograph (i.e., handwritten) manuscript sermons, including a sermon fragment dated [1776?], a sermon on Isaiah 9:12, 13 dated 1777 Aug 10, a sermon on Jeremiah 4:14 dated 1779 May 6, and two manuscript copies of Duffield’s “Sermon on the Occassion of the Peace,” [1783], one in his hand, the other in an unidentified hand. Accompanied by a memorandum in Duffield’s hand dated 1777 Sep 7, concerning a cloud formation, and an ALS from George Duffield (1818-1888) to Noah Porter dated 1876 May 29, with which he donated the manuscripts to Yale. [Preserved at the Yale University Library]

1784
A sermon preached in the Third Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, on Thursday December 11, 1783. The day appointed by the United States in Congress assembled, to be observed as a day of thanksgiving, for the restoration of peace, and establishment of our independence, in the enjoyment of our rights and privileges. By George Duffield, A.M. Pastor of said church, and one of the chaplains of Congress. [Five lines of Scripture quotations]. [Boston] : Philadelphia printed : Boston : Re-printed and sold by T. & J. Fleet, 1784. (26, [2] p.)

1787
A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green, in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia : Printed by F. Bailey, at Yorick’s Head, Market Street., 1787. (53, [1] p.)  Note(s): Ewing’s sermon has separate title page (p. 3): Fidelity in the gospel ministry. A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Revd. Ashbald Green in Philadelphia, May 15, 1787. By John Ewing, D.D. … And the charge, delivered by the Revd. Dr. Duffield.

Secondary sources—
Coblentz, David Herr, “George Duffield (1732-1790), Pulpit Patriot,” Manuscripts 14.4 (Fall 1962): 26-32.

Mackie, Alexander, “George Duffield, Revolutionary Patriot,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 33.1 (March 1955): 3-22.

Swaim, William T., “The Tempestuous Life of the Rev. George Duffield, D.D., 1732-1790 : A Biographical Address. Carlisle, PA: The Hamilton Historical Library Association, 16 December 1948. Revised for the 210th anniversary of the Monaghan Presbyterian Church. Dillsburg, PA: s.n., 1955. 15 p.; 28 cm.

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

THE DOWNWARD COURSE OF SIN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words to Live By:
By contrast, study to keep your hearts tender before the Lord, always ready and quick to repent at the slightest disobedience. Humble yourselves before His throne; draw near to Him; seek the Lord with your whole heart.

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