March 2018

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A True Test of Our Hearts

Not too long ago we had a post about the Rev. John Holt Rice [1771-1831], a renowned early American pastor and founder of what became the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, a man who literally exhausted himself in pursuit of the ministry to which the Lord had called him. Wanting to know more about him, the other evening I picked up the Rev. Hiram Goodrich’s brief memoir of the Rev. Rice, and as I was reading, was particularly struck by this comment:

“He never allowed himself, even in the retirement of his own family, to speak unfavorably of the absent, and whenever any person told him the faults of another, he was wont to reply, ‘what good did you hope to gain by telling me that?’ “


Words to Live By:

Now, add to that, and take this to heart, 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NASB):

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Lately there has been a good bit of discussion on the nature of the offices in the Church. Addressing that subject, we’d like to present the following.

As explained below, the following article by Franklin Pierce Ramsay appeared posthumously in the July 1930 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY [the original series of this title, not the one you know today]. Ramsay had written a commentary on the Southern Presbyterian BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER, which was published in 1898 and so the article below can be seen both as an appendix to that volume and as a charge to a ruling elder. Much of the content of Ramsay’s commentaryremains pertinent for the PCA’s BCO, since in many cases the text of the modern edition is still unchanged some 113 years later. Even where the comparable paragraph has changed, Ramsay’s comments still offer good insights into the underlying principles which remain.

The Rev. Franklin Pierce Ramsay was born on March 30, 1856. He was 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. The Rev. F. P. Ramsay died on September 30, 1926. Thus far I have not been able to locate a photograph of him.

The Office of Ruling Elder : Its Obligations and Responsibilities
By the Rev. F.P. Ramsay, Ph.D.
[Christianity Today 1.3 (July 1930): 5-6.]

The following address was made by the late Dr. Ramsay on the occasion of the installation of his son, R.L. Ramsay, Ph.D., professor of English in the University of Missouri, as an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Mo., on March 25, 1925. It came into our hands through another son, the Rev. Mebane Ramsay of Staten Island, N.Y., who found it among the papers left by his lamented father.

As one is to be here inducted into the office of Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, my remarks will seek to be appropriate to the occasion.

At this induction into office the elder makes a declaration of his doctrinal belief, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that the Confession of Faith (and Catechisms) contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures; and he promises to study the (doctrinal) purity of the Church. This is the covenant that he enters into with the Church when inducted into this office. Here is the difference between an unofficial member and an officer in the Presbyterian Church : the member simply professes his personal faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ; the officer professes his belief in the Church’s doctrinal system. One may become a member who does not believe that the Confession of Faith contains the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures, or even that the Scriptures are the Word of God, if only he trusts in Jesus Christ and means to obey Him ; but one cannot become an officer in the Presbyterian Church without accepting its doctrinal system and intending to strive for the Church’s doctrinal purity—unless he is willing to come into his office on a false profession.

Let me stress this a little. Note the difference between the unofficial members, who are required only to profess faith in Christ, and the officers, who are required to profess acceptance of a body of doctrine. Thus the Presbyterian Church is both liberal and intolerant.

Note that it is intolerant of disbelief in its system of doctrine on the part of its officers. Why? The Church is a propagandist institution, an organization for the purpose of advocating and propagating certain beliefs. It is true that the Church’s end is to produce and nourish a certain life ; but belief is an inseparable element of that life and necessary to it. Or be that as it may, the Church is organized and works upon that assumption, and so sets itself to propagate certain beliefs. This system of beliefs its officers are required to accept and maintain and propagate.

Here is a striking difference between the Church and the University. The University is organized to search for truth ; the Church, to propagate the truth. The University, assuming that there is truth still hidden, sets itself to investigate and discover new truth ; but the Church, assuming that certain truths have been given to it by revelation from God, sets itself to teach and disseminate that truth. The University asks questions, the Church answers questions.

The candidate on this occasion is a University man, filled with the University spirit ; and I therefore say to him that the Church is organized on the assumption that it already has the truth and exists for the purpose of disseminating and propagating this truth. If a society were organized for the purpose of propagating Socialism, a man might conceivably belong to that society, and yet be a professor in the University. If in the University he were teaching social science, he would endeavor to lead his students in investigations that would enable them to judge for themselves between Socialism and Individualism, seemingly indifferent whether they became Socialists or Individualists, but only concerned that they became capable of weighing the claims of both. But if this same man joins the Socialistic society, and is sent out as one of its speakers to expound and advocate its system of beliefs, and make converts to it, and ground them in it; he is then a propagandist of Socialism, and will endeavor to gain adherents to the system. He is then at work on the assumption that Socialism is true and established, and now needs to be propagated. So the Church is a propagandist society; and its officers, and especially its elders and ministers, are its agents to disseminate its system.

Now, one may not believe that the system of beliefs held by the Presbyterian Church is truth, or that it is wise to have an organization for advocacy and propagation of this system ; but if he becomes an officer in this Church, pledged to promote its system  and  propagate its beliefs, then he professes himself to receive this system and covenants to cooperate with others in disseminating it. He is not obliged to assume this obligation; he is not obliged to make this profession and pledge, any more than he is obliged to become a lecturer for the Socialistic society. But if he does make this profession and pledge, and does become an officer in the Presbyterian Church, he must be loyal to this profession and pledge, or disloyal. If a man should join the Socialistic society, not believing in Socialism, or not believing in its type of Socialism, and should accept a commission from it to go out as one of its speakers, and as such should really oppose its type of Socialism; we and other honest men would accuse him of borrowing from within, of betraying his trust, and of paltry dishonesty. I trust that the man to be now ordained will never sink so low.

Now the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church is not indeed a lecturer to advocate its principles to the same extent as the Minister is ; but he is, all the same, the conserver and guardian of its doctrinal purity. The eldership has equal voice with the Ministers in the Presbyteries and higher courts of the Church, which judge its Ministers and administer its whole government and discipline, and control its administration ; and the eldership in the local Church, always more numerous than the ministry, have the control. And it lies as a special obligation on the elders to see that the teaching in their church is loyal to the Confession of Faith of the Church. If the pastor should be somewhat erratic, and yet in life and spirit is loyal to the system of truth, the elders should bear with him, and cooperate with him on the whole ; but if at any time the pastor departs from the system and becomes disloyal to the system, the elders are there to protect the Church against his false teaching. So I say that the elders are the conservers of our system of doctrine.

Nor need we be ashamed of being members and agents of a propagandist society. True, there is such a thing as progress in understanding religious truth; and the Presbyterian Church makes provision for this progress. It provides for amending its doctrinal standards; and it has amended them again and again. We do not say that we believe them to be errorless, but to contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures;  and any elder or minister may propose amendments. So new truth may be discovered, or better statements of truth may be invented ; but this improvement of the system is to be made by those who believe in the system, and by methods that insure full discussion.

But while there is this provision for progress and change, the very nature of Christianity makes it a stable thing. The process of revelation runs through many generations, a growth from its germinal beginning in the beginning of human history up to its fruitage in Jesus Christ. This revelation of truth through the ages has reached its consummation in the Perfect Word. We cannot now go back and make the history different. We cannot go back now, and prevent the entrance of sin into the world. We cannot change or improve the covenants with Abraham. We cannot make the redemption from Egypt, and the Mosaic legislation, and the settlement in Canaan, throw any finer light on the teachings of Christ. We cannot build the tabernacle or the temple, or fashion the priesthood and sacrifices, or turn the music of the temple, to clearer significance on what the Christ was to be. We cannot alter the development of the Messianic monarchy, so that the Son of David shall mean more than it does. We cannot adjust the birth of Jesus, or His miracles, or His resurrection, more in accordance with modern skepticism, or make His bloody death more aesthetic. We cannot call Him down from heaven and instruct Him how to guide His Church and to apply His religion. There are the facts, and we cannot now change them ; there is the Christ that God has given us, and we cannot modernize Him ; there is the unalterable revelation shining in the heaven of history, and we cannot remake it.

We can only accept Him as He is, and enthrone Him in our hearts and lives. Let us be loyal to Him, and loyal to His Church.

And especially may educated men, men whose very occupations require them to push on the frontiers of inquiry in science and philosophy and literature, render this service to their Lord : they can be loyal to Him, and loyal to His revelation made once for all, and thus testify that progress in investigation does not mean putting out the light of the past ; and can show that humble faith in Christ is consistent with the scientific humility of willingness to learn.

Christianity as a system of truth is a great building. Its foundations have been laid, and even its walls have already risen into the skies. It rises like the Memorial Tower yonder on the campus. We may come and build upon this building ; but we will not wreck its walls nor raze its foundations. We will build ourselves and our lives into the rising structure, sure that we shall be safe on its walls that waver not, and on its foundations that tremble not. For here is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.

Words to Live By:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”—Hebrews 13:17, NASB

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.

And it is exactly because of that precious Gospel, that some have stood resolutely for the eternal Truth of Scripture:

The Strange Church Trial of a Spiritual Giant.

It all happened around eighty-three years ago. Back in March of 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen was before a church court of his peers seeking to defend himself against the serious charges of denying his ordination vows, disapproval of the government and discipline of the church, advocating a rebellious defiance against the lawful authority of the church, and we could go on and on in the charges leveled against this spiritual giant. You would think that he was guilty of the most aggravated doctrinal error or moral shortcomings. But in reality, it came down to a single issue—that of refusing to obey the 1934 mandate of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to cease and desist from supporting an independent board of missionaries, of which board he was the president.

The trial itself was a farce in every sense of the word. Machen’s defense first tried to challenge certain members of the judicial commission itself as biased, seeking to have them recuse themselves, since at least two of these men had signed the theologically liberal Auburn affirmation. That was denied. Then the question of jurisdiction was argued, but that also was not sustained.

At the third session, upon hearing Dr. Machen declare himself “not guilty,” the Commission ruled that certain matters were out-of-bounds in the arguments of the defense case. Those included questions which surrounded the existence of the Auburn Affirmation, signed in 1924.  They next ruled out any question concerning the nature and conduct of the official Board of Foreign Missions, which had prompted much of the problem when it gave its endorsement to the book entitled Rethinking Missions. Further, arguments stemming from the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary were also outlawed by the commission. All of these were part and parcel of Dr. Machen’s defense, since they provided the background of the origin of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

All these rulings paled into insignificance, so to speak, however, when we consider the last ruling of the judicial commission. It stated that the legality of the Thirty-Fourth General Assembly’s Mandate for the ministers, members, and churches to cease supporting the Independent Board and only support the official Board of Foreign Missions could not be questioned.

It was obvious that with all of these rulings, that there was only one verdict which could come forth from this judicial commission, and that was guilty.  And so on this date, March 29, 1935, the judgment of “Guilty” was rendered by this seven member Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.   Appeals to the higher courts were in vain, and J. Gresham Machen was suspended by the church.

Words to Live By:  In whatever issue which confronts us inside or outside the church, we must remember that God is Lord alone of our conscience, with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments the  only infallible guide of faith and life. Let us hold to those, not fearing what man can do to us.

 

The Importance of a Christian Home
by Rev. David T. Myers

The father of five children—four girls and a boy—was a God-fearing man and a member of the Methodist church in Watsonville, California.  He was first a farmer, then a carpenter, and finally a builder.  He even built the house where his only son, Donald, was born on March 28, 1895.  In this home the Bible was read everyday for family devotions, and tithing—or keeping his “accounts with God”—was simply part of the family record.  The father made sure that the family was faithful in the services of church. In short, this head of the family had a simple faith in what the Bible said, and he raised his family accordingly.

His wife, Jane, had been raised a Roman Catholic.  Her brother even became a Jesuit priest, so it was surprising when Jane left the Roman Catholic church in her teens.  Apparently her reason was to preserve her virginity from a lecherous young priest, though sadly her parents sided with the church and abandoned her.  Finding her own way, she began to work in a dressmakers shop, and also began to attend a small Methodist church, where she met Theodore Barnhouse. They married and a strong Christian family began its existence.

Their only son, Donald, began his Christian service with the young people’s organization, Christian Endeavor.  There he was to be mentored by strong Christians who led him in the study of God’s Word.  That grounding in the Bible led him to the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola) and finally to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he would study under B.B. Warfield and William Benton Green.

As they say, “the rest is history.”  Donald Grey Barnhouse would spend the greater part of his 33 years ministry as pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  What began as one family’s faith continued and grew in Donald’s life and ministry until the fruit of that ministry influenced thousands of others in their faith and life, down to this very day. But it all began with that one little Christian home and a father who was faithful in leading his wife and children.

Words to Live By: Looking at your home and its influence upon your children or future family, can it be said that Christ is at the center of the home, the Bible is the foundation of the home, and God’s glory is the goal of the home?

For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ
by Rev. David T. Myers

The young Presbyterian minister had been called to candidate at Collingswood Presbyterian Church in the fall of 1933.  That he had been just a few years out of seminary, and Westminster Seminary at that, didn’t seem to matter to the congregation in that New Jersey town.  He had  a few years experience as a pastor in an Atlantic City, New Jersey Presbyterian Church.  But it was in Collingswood, New Jersey that Carl McIntire was to be a lighting rod during some very challenging years for that Presbyterian congregation. On September 28, 1933, he became the pastor of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church at Ferm Avenue in Collingswood, New Jersey.

Seeing his conservative leaning in regard to the great issues of the gospel, J. Gresham Machen invited him to join the board of the fledgling Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which McIntire did in 1934.  That same year, the General Assembly of the denomination met and issued a directive or mandate to all ministers, churches, and presbyteries of the church.  In essence this mandate said that anyone who was affiliated with this independent agency had ninety days to desist from participation in or support of the agency, or face the consequences of discipline by their respective presbyteries.

Carl McIntire was charged with six counts of error by his Presbytery, but found guilty on only three of those charges.  These three were:  1. defiance of the government and discipline of the denomination, 2. unfaithful in maintaining the peace of the church, and 3. violation of his ordination vows.   He was convicted of sin and suspended from the ministry.  McIntire’s case was appealed to the PCUSA General Assembly of 1936, and that Assembly sustained the action of the Presbytery of West Jersey.

On March 27, 1938, after the Sunday evening service, the congregation stood on the front lawn of the church and sang two hymns of the faith. The first was “Faith of Our Fathers,” followed by “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”  And with that, they left the church, giving up the property, the memories, and all their associations with their former denomination. The very next Sunday, the newly formed Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, New Jersey, met in a huge tent.  Present were 1200 people, with eighty-one new members joining the new church at that first Sunday’s worship.

Words to Live By:   From the hymn by Harry W. Veatch, “Looking unto Jesus,”  Copyright, 1939, by the Bible Presbyterian Church, Collingswood, New Jersey :

Verse 1:  “Look away from things that perish, Wood and stone will soon decay.    Fix your eyes on things eternal, God and heaven will stand for aye. He is able He is willing, He will guide you all the way.  Take your eyes off things that perish, Look to Him and trust and pray.”

Verse 2 states. “Look away from things that perish. Earthly treasures all are vain.  Cast your burden on the Saviour,  He who bore you sin and shame.  He is loving, He’s forgiving. Seeks His children when they stray;  Take your eyes off things that perish, Look to Him and trust and pray.”

Verse 3 closes out the thoughts, “Look away from things that perish, Trust in God, He will provide.  All you need in Earth and Heaven,  If you in His love abide.  He is reigning He is ruling, He’s the Victor in the fray.  Take your eyes off things that perish, Look to Him and watch and pray.”

Image source: Christ and Him Crucified: Bible Messages Broadcast Over the Blue Network, February, March and April, 1944. New York: The American Council of Christian Churches, 1944. Photograph facing page 9. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

Today’s entry comes from E.H. Gillett’s HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES. I found his account of Indian missions under the Rev. Peter Bullen an enjoyable read, and hope you will too. It is a stirring picture of the cost of such missions in the early days of this country!

In 1804 the Synod of Carolina directed the Presbytery of Orange to ordain James Smylie, who had been laboring at Natchez in the Louisiana Territory, with a view to his returning thither to engage in missionary labor. This region of the Southwest, rapidly filling up after the Louisiana Purchase, was for the most part under the supervision of the Synods of Virginia and Carolina.

The way had been prepared for the labors of Mr. Smylie by that veteran in the cause of Presbyterianism at the South, Rev. James Hall, of North Carolina. In the autumn of 1800, under a commission of the General Assembly, he commenced a mission to Natchez. Two other brethren whom the Synod appointed accompanied him. This was the first in the series of Protestant missionary efforts in the lower valley of the Mississippi. The report of the mission was made to Synod in 1801, and, as published in the papers of the day, excited a very general interest throughout the Southern country. The Presbytery of West Tennessee, erected in 1810, had this field under its care; but it was not till 1815 that, by a division of it, the Presbytery of Mississippi was formed.

In 1817 this body consisted of five ministers and had under its care eight congregations. At the head of its list stood the name of the venerable Joseph Bullen, verging upon his threescore years and ten, a pioneer in the cause of Indian missions. Soon after the formation of the New York Missionary Society, it was determined to attempt the establishment of a mission among the Chickasaws of “West Georgia” and Mr. Bullen was selected as the man to conduct it. He was a native of Vermont, and had already reached his forty-seventh year when he commenced the undertaking. At New York he received his public charge from the venerable Dr. Rodgers, and set out March 26, 1799, on his journey to the Southwest. He was accompanied by his son, a youth of seventeen years, who it was thought might render important aid in acquiring the language and giving instructions as a teacher of Indian children.

His route led him through Philadelphia, where he received the friendly attentions not only of Dr. [Ashbel] Green, but of Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, and other distinguished persons. Thence he proceeded westward, by way of Lexington, Va., to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. Here he was two hundred and seventy miles distant from his point of destination, and his friends urged him to delay his journey for several weeks, in order to secure company. Such were the dangers of the way that it was quite unadvisable to attempt the journey without guides. But the zeal of the missionary would not allow him to pause. He had already had experiences of hardship, exposure to storms, and perils from swollen streams, sometimes crossing “waters almost to the horse’s back.” Unappalled by the representations made to him, he resolved to press on. “Trusting in divine goodness to direct” their way, the travelers set out for the Indian country. Their horses were encumbered with baggage, and their movements were slow. But, provided with food, blankets, an axe, and a gun, they made such progress as they were able. Their lonesome way was occasionally cheered by meeting traders from Natchez and New Orleans, returning to Kentucky. Sometimes they were impeded by the rains and the swollen streams. The waters of the Tennessee were high, and places of entertainment were few and far between. The food which they could procure was not of the best kind,—sometimes hominy or damaged meat. A bed of bear-skin was a luxury for the night’s lodging.

At length Mr. Bullen reached his destination, worn, weary, and almost an invalid. The Chickasaws he found “without any kind of religious observance, and without temple and priest,” except that a few of their enchanters had images, the use of which was little understood among the people. He preached and conversed as he had opportunity, witnessed their frolics and their “mysteries,” their “singing, yelling, and running,” gained their confidence, and, with alternate experience of encouragement and disappointment, prosecuted his work. From one town he journeyed to another, distributing his labors among the Indians and whites, and coming in frequent contact with the hundreds of traders who, after their trip down the Mississippi, returned by land to their homes. His greatest success was among the slaves, five of whom he baptized on one occasion. Daunted by no difficulties or hardships, wet, hungry, shelterless oftentimes, he labored at all seasons to prosecute the missionary work in which all the sympathies of his soul were enlisted.

Worn out with labors, Rev. Bullen returned to the North in the fall of 1800. On his way he stopped at Maryville {TN], where Gideon Blackburn ministered to a church of over three hundred communicants. The two men, kindred in missionary zeal and devotion, conferred together; and, though we have no record of the themes upon which they conversed, we can scarcely doubt, from our knowledge of the men, that the subject nearest to Mr. Bullen’s heart claimed their attention. This, at least, we know, that within a few months of that meeting, Mr. Blackburn threw his whole soul into the work of Indian missions, and pleaded their cause with a glowing eloquence in the Eastern cities, both North and South.

Mr. Bullen soon returned to his field of labor, accompanied by his family, resolved thenceforth to make his home in the Southwest. Deacon Rice, who was employed as his assistant, proved unacceptable to the Indians, who forced him to leave the country. But Mr. Bullen remained; and ere long we find him disconnected with the Indian mission, and one of the original members of the Presbytery of Mississippi,–indeed, the patriarch of the body.

At last the Rev. Peter Bullen rested from his labors and entered his eternal reward, on March 26, 1825.

[excerpted from History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, by E. H. Gillett (1864), pp. 367-370.]

Words to Live By:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4, KJV)

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

Q. 60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified? 

A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Scripture References: Lev. 23:3; Ps. 92:1-2; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:11-12; Jer. 17:21,22.

Questions:

1. What do we mean ·by sanctifying the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is sanctified by God in that He made it holy. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by man by man’s keeping it holy, by his using it for other purposes than his regular employments.

2.
What two things are we to do on the Sabbath day?

We are given permission by God to do two things: holy resting and holy worship.

3.
From what are we to rest on the Sabbath day?

We are to rest from all things that are not of necessity and mercy. This means that we are to rest even from things that are not sinful; that are lawful on other days, such as worldly employments and recreations.

4. When we speak of “holy worship” do we mean we must spend all day in church?

No, it is not meant that all day must be spent in church but it is meant that we should spend our time in either public or private worship. It should be a time for our souls to be renewed by God as we worship Him in prayer, Bible study, family worship.

5.
Would you say it is alright to rest the body on the Sabbath day?

Yes, it would be well within the keeping of the commandment to rest the body. This is one of the reasons for the Sabbath day for God knew in the beginning that the body would need one day of rest out of seven.

6.
Should there be any preparation for the Sabbath day?

Yes, there should be both physical and spiritual preparation. For example, everything possible should be done prior to the day in the physical realm so that the day might be spent as unto Him. Our devotional article speaks of the spiritual preparation.

PREPARATION FOR THE SABBATH

The family is gathered in church on Sunday morning. The service is about to start. The minister asks a question, asks it even before the Invocation. He asks, “How many of you have taken time to prepare your souls for this, the Lord’s Day?” How would we answer such a question; what would have been our answer last Sunday morning?

There has been much said regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day, and this is proper. Indeed, our country is guilty of breaking it time and time again and born again Christians are joining in. But possibly some emphasis should be put on the matter of preparation for the day. There seems to be little said about this important aspect. It might well be there would be less breaking of the Sabbath if there was more preparation for it!

How can we prepare for the Sabbath day? What things would be important for us to do in order that we might be better prepared to spend the day as the Lord would have us to spend it? The following list might be helpful as we seek to live unto Him in this area:

1. Dedicate the day to the Lord beforehand and rejoice at the prospect of it. Recognize this is truly the Lord’s Day. We should seek, by His grace, to make it a special day of blessing to our souls.

2. Use a good portion of the time on Saturday evening for a spiritual retreat. Closet yourself with the Word, with prayer, filling your soul with the things that be of God. Recognize that your heart needs to be cleansed from the things of the world, necessary things possibly, but things that have entered in to choke the Word.

3. Use some time for meditation. Instead of only reading the Word and praying, think on the things of God and of God Himself. Think on His works, on His holiness, on the wonderful fact of redemption, on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Pray for the minister, pray that he will be prepared for the preaching of the Word, the primary means of grace. Hold him up before the Throne of Grace, pray that he will be a fit vessel for the Master’s use.

It is time that God’s people, His saved, prepare themselves for the Lord’s Day and its activities. As the people of Israel had to wash their bodies before the law was presented to them, so should the believers in Christ prepare their souls for the Lord’s Day. (Ex. 19:10). Think of what the result could be in His work if His people were to make some spiritual retreats in preparation for His day!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 55 (July 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Since we had a post earlier this week observing the birthday of Brother Bryan of Birmingham, I thought one of his sermons would be appropriate today, as we prepare our hearts for worship tomorrow. This sermon comes from an undated collection of his sermons, but one biographical detail in this sermon would place the publication at around 1930-31. Also, many of these sermons give the appearance of having been written down exactly as he preached them, and so some of the expressions may seem a bit odd. I still can’t make sense of a sentence toward the end of the third full paragraph, “We fail to fold the things to give the things we should…” Maybe that was just a typo.

SUBJECT: “THE FAILURES OF KING SAUL.”

I wish you to think prayerfully and carefully with me about some of the events and places where they occurred in the land which I saw connected with the life of Samuel and Saul and the wonderful peerless Jonathan, the son of Saul. The places that I saw connected with this narrative begin at the twelfth chapter of First Samuel. There was Ramah, Bethel, Bethlehem, Michmash, Gilgal, and Mizpah. Seven out of ten of the places mentioned in the sixty-six books of the Bible have been located by careful students, geographers and explorers. The time, no doubt, will come when every place mentioned in the Bible will be located. Yet I humble take off my hat in this study because I know that I am standing on the holiest ground, having had this responsibility rolled over on my tired heart and brain in this sacred task.

In this twelfth chapter is the wonderful speech of Samuel, the first in the great line of the Old Testament prophets and the last in the line of the judges. His character was clean, pure, holy, positive, outright, righteous. His circuits were from Ramah, his home and the place from where he judged Israel, to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpeh. His spoiled sons judged at Beersheba, the southern extremity of Palestine. But they took tribes and did not judge righteously as did their father. Here Samuel introduces the king’s walk before the people and says, “Behold, I have stolen nothing from you. I have taken no bribe or silver, gold, ox, ass, wine, of any hand to blind mine eyes with.” Then with a desire to glorify God he said, “It is the Lord that advances His mighty works. It is the Lord who when Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to God that He heard their cry and sent Moses down into Egypt to bring them out of Egyptian bondage.” This fact shows us that these old Hebrews had a deep spiritual life and an idea of God early in life. They had an idea of God’s people of old. Samuel had a knowledge of God since early childhood because he was taught about God from the cradle on up. Samuel said, “Consider all these great things the Lord hath done for you; and turn aside from idols and fear and serve God with all your heart.” Oh to lay aside the idols of our lives and worship only God. I think of a stanza my mother taught me:

“The dearest idol I have known, whate’er it may be.
Help me, Lord, to tear it from my throne
And worship only Thee.”

Then Samuel says, “My dear friends, do you know that I was not the cause of all this? You did not reject me, but God told me that you rejected Him.” Oh, have I rejected God? Have you rejected God? Have I turned my back on God? Now we come to Saul, and we can but notice his seeming success and his failures. I can visualize Bethel, a sacred place from of old, Abraham camped and built an altar there (Gen. 12:8), Jacob fleeing from his brother’s wrath, camped here and had a heavenly vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder from earth to heaven. He awoke the next morning, and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. I would not have stayed here had I known it.” As Jacob got up early before the gray dawn of the morning and despairingly said that he would not have been there if he had known the Lord was in the place, so I fear that many of us today avoid the places where God is. We fail to fold the things, to give the things we should to God, and fold to our hearts the things we ought to. I beg you today to tear from your heart and life anything that comes between you and God. It was here or very near here that the Spirit of the Lord came upon this man King Saul.

I now visualize Gilgal the first encamping place of the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan. It was here that circumcision was renewed, and the Lord “rolled away” their reproach. (Joshua 4:19; 5:9). It was the place no doubt where the people were taught by Joshua to worship God in the tabernacle until it was removed to Shiloh. It was from here that Joshua went forth on his great military achievements. There Samuel before the Lord slew Agag. It was here that an altar of twelve stones from the Jordan River, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, was built commemorating their crossing over into the Promised Land.

Now this place Michmash has not yet been located by scholars. It was a strong hold of the Philistines. Saul in choosing out a great army against the Philistines selected three thousand, two thousand of which were with him in Michmash. Now at first in all of Saul’s successes he was very humble. Notice that when he was asked to become king of Israel he said, “Why make me king when I am of the least of the tribes of all Israel?” I see him humbly anointed by Samuel for the kingship, a sign of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

We are now in Mizpeh, which means a watch-tower. It was here, as I have already said, Samuel judged, and here he summoned the people to elect a king. No doubt from this watchtower the Israelites stood to watch for the encounters and plans of the Philistines. Then they go to Gilgal, where the people saw the coronation of Saul and they said, “Long live the king.” But success sometimes is a very dangerous thing in one’s life. It must have been in the life of Saul since his heart was changed from humility to exaltation on the part of himself.

God gave the people a king, just what they wanted, because He had a plan to work out in it. I have known people to rebel because they had lost all of their loved ones and life was sad and lonely for them. But in it all, we are to remember that God’s plan is lined with love. God’s plan for Saul’s life was lined with love. Saul began to fail when he first began to envy and eye David and the peerless Jonathan. His presumption is another point in his fall. When Saul was anointed to be king, he like other kings, was to be a military leader. He rallied the people to fight against the Ammonites. No doubt at that time Saul inquired of the Lord and led a prayerful life. But triumphs in the Christian life are very dangerous sometimes. Many times in God’s Word we are told to humble ourselves in the sight of God that we may be lifted up.

Saul really had read and learned Old Testament history. He refers to the Amalakites who met Israel between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai and now he meets them. God told him to kill Agag and the cattle. But now Saul looms up in a presumptuous attitude and says, “Why wait I for any man? Samuel is late, and here are fat calves which I kept for sacrifices and my own use. I will just offer up a sacrifice myself.” Why in the world did Saul want to usurp the authority of a priest? He was the king and not a priest. I cannot go out and work on the railroad or in the shops, or in the bank or some other trade. My work is to preach the Gospel which I have humbly tried to do in Birmingham and other places for a period of forty-one years in a month from now. [Brother Bryan began his ministry in 1889, so that would date this sermon to 1930.]

Saul offered up the sacrifice and here comes faithful old Samuel. He hears the lowing cattle, for God is revealing to him the sin of Saul. He says “What meaneth all this lowing of cattle which I hear, Saul? Did not God tell thee to kill all the cattle? And, Saul, I see you have King Agag. You were supposed to have killed him, too. God bade thee to do so.” Saul was using the church to carry out his ambitious purposes. In other words he was commercializing on the church. Listen to Saul’s excuse which is like our excuses today: “Oh, I just wanted to keep the people together, so I just offered up one sacrifice of these goodly heifers which I saved back for the purpose.” Today so many people say, “O I could not do that because it would not please the church, the world, the people.” We must shun such sin. O if we would use our time alone in the work which God has given us to do. Forgive us, O Lord, if we are not grasping the opportunities Thou hast given us. Help us to try to make our lives count for Thee in these warning lessons which we get from the life of King Saul.

We now come to Bethlehem Ephratah, as it was first called and which means roses, vegetation. Then it was called Bethlehem, and after this the City of David. It is mentioned first as the home of Elimelech and Naomi. It is the place to which Samuel came from Ramah, having no doubt walked about 18 miles over that ancient highway from Damascus to Egypt, to select a king of the house of Jesse. I see Samuel walking along that road with a hickory switch in his hand driving a heifer down to Bethlehem. Someone says, “Where are you going?” He says, “I am going down to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse.” He, like wise people today, did not tell everything he knew. He did not tell them what his purpose there was. He wisely kept secrets. “He that dwelleth in the secret places of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

I see the sons of Jesse lined up for Samuel’s examination. Then Samuel, the great man of faith in God, said, “Jesse, have you any other sons?” I stood and looked toward the north of Bethlehem to the hill country of Judea and the shepherd hills. It was a Jewish custom that the youngest son of a family keep his father’s sheep. David, Jesse’s youngest son, was keeping the sheep on those shepherd hills east of Bethlehem. He was sent for and chosen and anointed king by Samuel. Why did God use him? The answer comes back that God used him because He could trust him. The question is not how much faith I have in God, but has God any faith in me? Am I treating God right? Am I treating my friends right? So as Samuel said, “Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart.” Are we holding on to this Bible on which my mother, dying, placed her hand and said, “My son, I have made no mistake in believing every word of this Bible.”

I see Saul baffled with a great army and yet no one dared fight Goliath, the great Philistine giant. David is sent to carry food and supplies to his brothers employed in Saul’s army. [Goliath] had challenged all Israel. But here comes David eagerly listening to the conversations about this dreaded giant. But yet no one has dared to fight the enemy of God. O my friends, are you willing to go out and fight the enemy of the Church? Goliath is a type of the enemy of the Church. Someone says, “Here comes a little red-headed Jew from Bethlehem, we will let him go try. He has killed a lion and a bear.” So saying they were met with an eager response on the part of David himself.

David then goes out to fight Goliath, the symbol of darkness, hell, and temptations which assail you and me like great avalanches. This giant looked in disdain at David and said, “You poor little thing. Would you dare come out to meet me, Goliath, with a sling and a few small stones?” I hear David say to Goliath, like you and I ought to say now, “You are coming to me with a sword and spear like a weaver’s beam, but I come to you in the name of the God of the army of Israel, the army of the living God.” My friends, we must meet these temptations, we must fight the enemy in the name of Christ.

A Life of Sacrifice for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Robert Waldo Chesnut was a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod (RPC,GS). This was the body which later merged with the larger side of the Bible Presbyterian Synod split in 1965 to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Dr. Chesnut served in the lean years of the denomination when, at its low point, there were just nine churches left on the roster. Eventually the Lord brought renewed vigor and growth, such that by the time of the merger in 1965, there were some 25 churches in the RPC,GS. No doubt the Lord used Chesnut’s sacrificial love for the Church as a great instrument in bringing about some of that later growth.

Reprinted here is a brief biography which originally appeared in The Reformed
 Presbyterian Advocate, 87.4 (April, 1953): 40-42.

chesnutrwOn March 23, 1953 at 8:35 P.M. our Church was deprived of its Pastor Emeritus by the death of Rev. Robert W. Chesnut, Ph.D. He was 94 years, 6 months, 8 days old when he passed on to be with his Lord. Dr. Chesnut had been Pastor Emeritus since his retirement from the active ministry in 1942 after 55 years as a minister. In 1950 he attended his last meeting of General Synod, at the Houston Mission [in Tennessee]. In November of 1952 he reported to work on the new church [in Duanesburg, NY], bringing his hammer and lunch pail. He worked from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. He later said: “I guess I pounded two or three pounds of nails and it helped some.” He was constantly interested in the new church and did all he could to advance its construction.

Robert Chesnut was born on a farm near Morning Sun, Iowa, on September 15, 1858. His parents had emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a boilermaker.”

“He had very little formal education in elementary or high schools. He never attended school during his early years for more than three months at a time. Until his entrance into college he had attended school only a total of twenty months.

In 1869 his family emigrated, by covered wagon, to Kansas and settled in Clay Center. There Dr. Chesnut, his father, and his brothers engaged in farming.

chesnut45yrsHe did not want to enter college or the ministry and, he has reported, fought the call of God to the ministry for some time. Finally one day, plowing in the fields (and he had not enjoyed good health for many months) he stopped his horses, sat down on a plowbeam and settled the matter with God. He said: “Lord, if you will give me health and see me through my education I will serve you in the ministry.” He finished the day’s plowing without being fatigued and God has kept His part of the covenant by blessing His servant with good health and length of days. Anyone who knew Dr. Chesnut knows that he kept his part of the covenant too, serving his God and his beloved Reformed Presbyterian church for sixty or more years.

He entered the Agricultural College of Kansas, at Manhattan, with a trunk containing a few clothes, his Psalm book, his Bible, and his Catechism, and $45 cash to see him through. He paid his way through school by raising a crop of wheat each Summer and selling it in the Fall. He also earned a little extra by tutoring his fellow students in Greek.

His college training was continued and completed at the University of Kansas, at Lawrence.

For theological training he spent a summer studying under his pastor, Rev. James S. Scott and entered the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Philadelphia the following term as a second year student.

He completed the course and was licensed to preach on March 22, 1887 in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

He was ordained on May 10, 1888 and installed the same day as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at Marissa, Illinois. The church is no longer in existence. Dr. Chestnut had been called to a church in New York City, but declined the call because he thought that he, a farm boy from Iowa and Kansas, would not be suited to a city pastorate. After sixteen years in Marissa he went to the church in Cutler, Illinois. In 1910 he accepted a call to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Duanesburg. Here he served as pastor and worked the parsonage farm until 1917. He then moved to the Seventh Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and remained two and one-half years. He then returned to Duanesburg, to save the congregation from disbanding. It was, at that time, a small and discouraged flock in need of a shepherd. From 1919 until his retirement in 1942 Dr. Chesnut served here as Stated Supply, worked the parsonage farm (and another larger farm which he purchased from his meager earnings) and ran a printing plant.

Robert Waldo Chesnut was pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Duanesburg (NY) from 1910-1917, and for forty years he served as Editor and Publisher of theReformed Presbyterian Advocate (although it was not always known by that name). He also served as Moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery and he served the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, as Assistant Clerk, as Clerk, and as Moderator in both 1903 and 1943.

Dr. Chesnut was survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna Heim Chesnut, who is his third wife. In 1885 he was married to Jennie Hulick, who died in 1896. Their daughter and son died while in their youth. His second wife and an infant also died–the wife just five weeks after they moved to Duanesburg in 1910. Dr. Chesnut was survived by three children, thirteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

The Duanesburg congregation, and the whole of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, has suffered a loss by the passing of our friend. But we can have no regrets, for he lived a long and full life and we are assured that he has gone to glory to be forever with his Lord, where there is no more pain, no sorrow, no struggle with sin, no more death, where death is swallowed up in victory.

“Truly a Prince has fallen in Israel. How he did love to come to General Synod and we have missed him these last few years. He really loved to preach the Gospel. Many lives have been touched by his long years of service.” [Rev. Robert W. Stewart]

Words to Live By:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”—
Philippians 3:8, KJV

At last! Minutes of the Second Presbytery
by Rev. David T. Myers

Today’s post is about the second presbytery ever established on North American soil. In 1707, beginning on March 22, this second presbytery was convened in Philadelphia.  George McNish, one of the seven ministers, was chosen Clerk of the Presbytery, while John Wilson was chosen the Moderator.   Present also were teaching elders Jedidiah Andrews and  Nathaniel Taylor.  Francis Makemie would show up on the 25th of March.  Ruling elders Joseph Yard, William Smith, John Gardener, and James Stoddard were present from several churches within the bounds of the Philadelphia Presbytery.

» Pictured above right, Old Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Rehoboth, Maryland (1683), which competes with Fairfield Presbyterian Church, Fairton, New Jersey (1680) in the claim for the oldest Presbyterian church in America »

Samuel Davis sent in his excuse as to why he missed the last Presbytery and would not be present at this meeting either. The presbyters did not sustain his reasons for his absence, and sent  a letter to teaching elder Davis requiring him  to be present at the 1708 presbytery meeting.  He did, and they immediately elected him the moderator of the next Presbytery!

The church at Snow Hill, Maryland, had called Mr. John Hampton to be their pastor, but the latter had declined their call.  He gave several satisfactory reasons to the presbytery as to why he was not in favor of going there as pastor.  They nevertheless moved that the call be left in his  hand until the next presbytery in 1708, hoping that the call would be finally accepted by Mr. Hampton.  In the meanwhile, they sent a letter of encouragement to the church to continue in their endeavors for a settled pastor among their ranks.

It was on the 25th of March, 1708, that two biblical sermons were given on Hebrews 1:1 and Hebrews 1:2 by teaching elders Francis Makemie and teaching elder John Wilson, which messages had been approved at the last Presbytery meeting.  These texts were no doubt taken from the Genevan Bible, as that was the version carried over to these shores by the early Presbyterian pilgrims.  And given the practice of early Scottish ministers, the length of the sermons easily could have been two hours long.  We are told  that both sermons were approved by the Presbytery.

Since Francis Makemie had been successful in convincing two ministers to come over and help the infant Presbyterian church previously, the Presbytery urged Makemie again to write to Scotland and a certain minister by the name of Alexander Coldin.   He was to give an account of the state and circumstances of the dissenting Presbyterian interest in and among the people, especially in and about Lewistown, and signify the earnest desires of those members that Mr. Coldin travel over to these shores and become their minister.

We conclude that their meeting was not unlike the gathering of Presbyterians in presbyteries across the modern world now.  Sermons are preached, though not as long as these early expositions of the Word.  Elections are held for presbyterial office.  Excuses are considered as to absences, and approved or disapproved.   Pastors without call are considered for vacant pulpits.  Overtures are recommended, discussed, and voted upon by the presbyters.  (See March 26)  All in all, the work of the Lord began in Philadelphia, 1706,  and continues today in hundreds of presbyteries across the world.

Words to Live By:  Speaking to elders, be faithful to your presbytery meetings, for there the work of the Lord is initiated, issues of interest to the church are  discussed by and for elders, warnings are heeded, encouragements are given, and support is given to the kingdom of grace.

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