June 2019

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THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 29 & 30

Q. 29.
How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

EXPLICATION.

Partakers. –Sharers.

Redemption. –Deliverance from sin and misery, and the possession of holiness and everlasting happiness in the heavenly world.

Purchased by Christ. –Our redemption, or salvation, is said to be purchased or bought by Christ, because he gave his life for it, that he might secure it for his people.

Effectual application of it to us. –The making of this redemption and all its blessings really ours, as much as any possession or inheritance can be.

ANALYSIS.

The doctrines contained in this answer, are three in number :

  1. That redemption is purchased by Christ, for his people. –Eph. i. 7. We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
  2. That we are made sharers of this redemption by application. –John i. 12. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.
  3. That this redemption can only be effectually applied to us by the Holy Spirit. –Titus iii. 5,6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Q.30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ ?

A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ, in our effectual calling.

EXPLICATION.

Working faith in us. –Causing us to believe in Christ, to the saving of our souls.

Uniting us to Christ. –Joining us to Christ, or making us one with him, in the like manner as the different members are joined to the same body, and with it make one person.

ANALYSIS.

We have here three doctrines:

  1. That the Holy Spirit, in applying redemption, works faith in us. –Eph. ii. 8. By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
  2. That by faith, thus wrought in us, we are united to Christ. –Eph. iii. 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.
  3. That this union takes place in our effectual calling. –1 Cor. i. 9. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his son Jesus Christ.

With some slight editing, we present today a portion of the text from George P. Hays’s 1892 work, PRESBYTERIANS.

Each in Turn, Briefly Center-stage

By act of Parliament, Presbyterianism was legally established as the state religion of England on this day, June 29, 1647. But before it could be further set up, proceedings in that direction were halted by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. In 1649, King Charles I. was beheaded by the authority of the Rump Parliament, and finally all parliamentary government was destroyed. The tidal wave toward Independency, which rose at the time of Cromwell, began to get ready for its return as the English people saw the Lord Protector’s soldiers dispersing Parliament.

Cromwell was as much opposed to Presbyterianism as he was to Episcopacy. His Latin secretary, the poet John Milton, had quite famously and precisely expressed Cromwell’s sentiments when he said that, “Presbyter was only Priest writ large.” The English nation, however, soon found out that Cromwell, while he was pious and honest, was also a dictator, and had at his back a thoroughly disciplined army. Under him the nation was quiet and orderly and voiceless at home and powerful abroad. The navy swept the seas clear of competitors; and a shake of the head by Cromwell, concerning the persecution of the Waldensians, as expressed in that magnificient poem of his secretary Milton, “Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints,” made even the Duke of Savoy and France’s king Louis XIV. call home from the Alps their relentless bloodhounds, and the Pope to cringe in his palace.

Oliver Cromwell, the absolutist, died in 1658 and he left no viable successor. Social chaos rolled over the kingdom when his son Richard tried to fill his father’s chair. In 1660 General Monk forestalled the movement for a parliamentary contract with royalty by calling Charles II. back to England and by the army putting him on the throne. Charles came, a thorough-going Stuart, without having learned any wisdom from the experience of his father. His return sent the Puritans into retirement and brought the rollicking Cavalliers all to the front. Amusement ran riot over England.

The Episcopal bishops immediately found that their success needed that they should keep still and flatter Charles. The Presbyterians yielded in quiet, in the hope that that the Savoy Conference to adjust religious matters, held in 1661, would secure religious toleration. Instead of that the Act of Uniformity came in 1662, and two thousand non-conformist ministers were forced to leave their pulpits and their worldly support, rather than violate their consciences. In the providence of God, all of this tended to increase emigration out of England and into America.

Words to Live By:
Nothing in the political and social machinations of man ever surprises the Lord of all creation. Jesus Christ remains King of Kings and Lord of lords, sovereign over all the nations of this earth. Great hope was perhaps raised on this day, June 29, 1647, but within a short span of years that hope seemingly came to naught. Then what seemed a great defeat in 1662 was used of God to bring a greater triumph as the Church was established for the next several centuries in a more prosperous and strategic place across the ocean. We may not understand—in fact, in this life we most likely never will understand—but God’s purposes and plan are sure. Surely the Lord God oversees all of human history, and will bring it to His intended conclusion.

Standing Against Conformity to the World

FRANCIS HERRON:
Born, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1774.
Graduated, at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, May 5, 1794.
LIcensed to Preach, by the Presbytery of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, October 4, 1797.
Ordained to the ministry and Installed as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Rocky Spring, Franklin County, PA, April 9, 1809.
Removed to Pittsburgh, and Settled as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, May, 1811.
Resigned his Pastoral Charge, December 1850.
Died, December 6, 1860.

So in short compass the life of a venerable Presbyterian divine, as it is summarized at the head of a slim volume issued in his memory. Rev. Herron’s life, it was said, was “a life of more than usual historic importance.”

herronFrancis_portrait1862Francis Herron was born near Shippensburg, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1774. He belonged to that honored and honorable race, the Scotch-Irish, memorable in the history of the world, but especially in our country, for a thorough devotion to evangelical truth and constitutional liberty. The training of his early years bore rich fruit at a subsequent period of his life, making him so eminent among his brethren as an effective preacher and an orthodox divine.

Receiving the careful training indicative of his parents high regard for knowledge, he entered Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, then under the care of that distinguished Presbyterian, Rev. Dr. Nesbitt. Here he completed his classical course, and graduated May 5, 1794. The prayers of his pious parents were answered by the influence of grace upon his heart, and he was led to study for the ministry of reconciliation. He studied Theology under Robert Cooper, D.D., his pastor, and was licensed by Carlisle Presbytery, October 4, 1797.

He entered upon his Lord’s service as a missionary, going out into the backwoods, as it was then called, passing through Pittsburgh, Pa., then a small village, and extending his tour as far west as Chillicothe, Ohio. Stopping for the night at a tavern at Six Mile Run, near Wilkinsburg, Pa., the people prevailed upon him to stay till the following Sabbath, which he did, and under the shade of an apple tree this young disciple broke the bread of life to the people.

His journey resumed the next day, and with a frontier settler for his guide, he pushed on to his destination through an almost unbroken wilderness, his course often guided by the “blazes” upon the trees. Two nights he encamped with the Indians, who were quite numerous near what is now the town of Marietta, Ohio.

On his return from Chillicothe, Ohio, he visited Pittsburgh. The keeper of the tavern where he lodged, proved to be an old acquaintance, and at his request, he consented to preach. Notice was sent, and in the evening a small congregation of about eighteen persons assembled. The house he preached in was a rude structure, built of logs, occupying the site of the present First Presbyterian church. And such was the primitive style of that day, that during the services the swallows, who had their nests in the eaves, flew among the congregation.

At this time the churches in that portion of our country were visited with a season of refreshing grace, and Mr. Herron entered into the revival with all the ardor of youth filled with hopefulness and zeal. He preached for Rev. Dr. John McMillan at the Chartiers church, during a revival season. He also preached at the Buffalo church, where his fervid eloquence made a deep impression and the people presented him a call, and strongly urged it upon his attention. He however concluded to return to the vicinity of his home, especially, as a call from Rocky Spring church was awaiting him. This call he accepted, and he was ordained and installed as pastor of that church, by Carlisle Presbytery, April 9, 1800.

Some ten years later, he was invited to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian church, then vacant by the recent death of Rev. Robert Steele.

The people were charmed with his discourse, his ripening intellect modified by that refined spirituality, which was a prominent element in his ministrations, had a powerful effect upon his audience. They urged him to preach for them a second time, which he did, the result was a unanimous call was made out and presented to him in the usual manner.

The Presbytery of Carlisle dissolved the relation that existed between Rocky Spring church and Mr. Herron, and he was dismissed to Redstone Presbytery, April 3, 1811, and he was installed pastor of the First Presbyterian church, Pittsburgh, PA, the following June. In a few weeks he removed with his family to his new home, travelling in a large wagon, with his wife, children, and all his household goods.

He joined Redstone Presbytery June 18, 1811. The importance of his new position was fully and truly felt, the commercial importance of Pittsburgh had given all kinds of business an impetus, and prosperity was advancing rapidly; but this outward show referred only to worldly affairs, the religious condition of the people was cold and almost lifeless. The church to which he was called was embarrassed with debt, and the piety of the people manifested a degree of conformity to the world, which nearly appalled the preacher’s heart. But the experience of his ten years pastorate was to him invaluable, and girding himself, he entered upon his duties with a true heart and an earnest purpose. His preaching was the simple exposition of the truth as it is in Jesus, pointed, clear, and unwavering, revealing the enormity of sin and pleading with the fidelity of one who loved their souls. This style of preaching was sustained by his efforts to establish the prayer-meeting, which, strange as it now appears, met with much opposition, even among professors of religion; but this young pastor knew the holy influence of communion with God, and that God favored a praying people, he therefore went forward, and, in connexion with Rev. Thomas Hunt, who was pastor of the Second church, they persisted, and though to avoid a collision with the people the meetings were not held in the church, a small room was used for that purpose, in which Mr. Hunt taught a day-school. The first meeting consisted of the two pastors, one man, and six women, and thus for eighteen months did this meeting continue without adding a single person to their number.

The chilling indifference of the people soon grew into downright hostility, and husbands and fathers prohibited their wives and daughters from attending, and, finally, when the continued efforts of these pious people could be no longer borne, they waited upon Mr. Herron and told him that it must be stopped, his reply was the turning point in the spiritual condition of that people. He said, “Gentlemen, these meetings will not stop, you are at liberty to do as you please; but I also have the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of my conscience, none daring to molest or make me afraid.” From that time a spirit of piety manifested itself among the members of the church, several gay and fashionable persons were hopefully converted, and an impression was made upon the whole community, at once hopeful and healthful.

Words to Live By:
Do not expect courage of conviction from men who have no convictions, from those who have no anchor in the Word of God. The Scriptures must be drilled down deep into our souls if we are to stand against temptations and testings. May God give us pastors who will set an example, who will faithfully stand against the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil.

For more on the life of the Rev. Francis Herron, see the post by our friend Barry Waugh, here.

A helpful reminder, from the Rev. Robert Pollock Kerr, a prominent Southern Presbyterian pastor and author in the late 19th-century. This comes from his book, PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, a wonderful little volume written in non-technical language. Please note that there may be some understandable quibbles regarding some of Rev. Kerr’s points. For instance, he states that the courts of the church (other than the Session) are composed of equal numbers of ruling and teaching elders.  That may have been the case in his denomination and time, but it has not been the practice in all other Presbyterian denominations.

CHAPTER II. — WHAT IS PRESBYTERIANISM?

The invisible Church consists of all God’s true people in heaven and on earth, and the visible Church of all who profess the essential doctrines of Christianity and who are organized for work and for worship, together with their children.

This great visible Church is made up of several denominations holding various views of doctrine, government and worship, having separate organizations and distinguished by many different names, but all professing the essential truth that we are saved by faith in a divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose atoning grace is applied to our souls by the Holy Ghost, who renews us, sanctifies us, and prepares us for heaven.

The various denominations have grown out of different crises of Church history, and, whereas many of them started in dissention, God has overruled their existence to the glory of His name and the good of the world; so that, as they stand today, they are unquestionably an advantage, ensuring a continued study of doctrine and the maintenance of purity, and furnishing an incentive to aggressive effort in the redemption of mankind by the preaching of Jesus Christ.

But, whilst we work in separate organizations, we should love one another, and should let charity so conspicuously crown our efforts as to show in spirit a fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that we “might be one.” Thus shall we silence the sneers of the world at our lack of love.

There are two great questions which every denomination must answer: What to do? and How to do it? “What to do?” refers to the preaching of the gospel; “How to do it?” refers to Church government. This second question some answer by saying, “Do it by episcopal modes;” others, “By congregational;” others still, “By presbyterian.” So Church government is simply “how to do it.” “What to do?” is a question upon which we are all substantially agreed—”to preach Christ and Him crucified.” As to “How to do it?” we say, “Do it by presbyterian modes.”

There are only three great principles of Church government: (1) Episcopal, a government by bishops, including Protestant Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Catholic Churches; (2) Congregational, a government by congregations, including the Congregational, Independent and Baptist Churches; and (3) Presbyterian, a government by Presbyteries, including all Presbyterian and Reformed Churches throughout the world. In civil government there are two great systems, the monarchical, or oligarchical, and the republican; these correspond substantially with Episcopalian and Presbyterian. There is and can be, no such thing as a congregational or purely democratic government in the State if it include a large number of citizens. It is a government by the people without any rulers. Monarchy and republicanism, or self-government, have contended together from the beginning, with a gradual advance among the nations toward the latter; and the highest privilege claimed for the people under a republican government is to elect their own rulers. They are therefore called “representative.” Such is the case in the American republic and in others.

Presbyterian Church government is not a form, but a principle; and whereas the applications of this principle will have a strong resemblance, still the exact forms of its development are determined by circumstances. This principle may be briefly stated as follows: PRESBYTERIANISM IS A CHURCH GOVERNMENT BY REPRESENTATIVES ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE AND ALL OF EQUAL AUTHORITY, WHICH IS EXERCISED BY THEM ONLY WHEN ORGANIZED INTO AN ASSEMBLY OR COURT. These representatives are called Elders, or Presbyters, and are of two classes—Ruling Elders, who only rule, and Teaching Elders (or preachers), who both rule and teach. The assemblies, or courts, of the Church are composed of equal numbers of Ruling and Teaching Elders, except in case of the lowest, called the Session, or Consistory, where all except the presiding officer, or Moderator, are Ruling Elders.

These assemblies are arranged in the scale of a regular gradation from the Session, through the Presbytery and Synod, to the General Assembly, which is the highest. These are all Presbyteries, because composed of Presbyters, and had originally the same functions; but for the sake of efficiency and order there has been a distribution of duties, each one having its own province strictly defined. It is the duty of each higher court to review the proceedings of the next lower, and cases are carried from the lowest to the highest. In some parts of the Church minor classes of cases are not allowed to come before the General Assembly, but receive their final decision in the Synod.

To read all of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, or to see other of his works, click here.

Sad Schism Among the Saints
by Rev. David T. Myers

They were united in their conviction over the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. A number of the teaching and ruling elders had suffered over expulsion from the rolls of the visible church. Others had lost church buildings, manses, and pensions. But in God’s providence, they had gathered in great rejoicing to begin a new church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were one in coming out of the apostasy, but it was not too long before the members of the Presbyterian Church of America were divided over other issues. It was at the third General Assembly of the P.C.A. in Philadelphia, as reported by the June 26th, 1937 Presbyterian Guardian, that these divisive issues came to the floor of the assembly.

The first one dealt with the issue of independency versus ecclesiastical Presbyterianism within the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  Obviously, since 1933 at its organization, this mission board had not been affiliated with any denomination. It was independent of it. Independent agencies had always had a place within the American Presbyterian Church. But now with the advent of the Presbyterian Church of America, the majority of the elders desired that a Presbyterian affiliation be adhered to again. When Dr. J. Gresham Machen was voted off as president of the Independent Board, his place was filled by an Independent Presbyterian, with no affiliation with the new Presbyterian Church of America.  Further, the vice-president’s position was also filled by an individual who was independent of any ecclesiastical relationship to Presbyterianism. Many members, including the General Secretary, Rev. Charles Woodbridge, resigned from the Independent Board.

The commissioners to the Third General Assembly, meeting in Philadelphia at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, overwhelmingly voted that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was no longer to be an agency for foreign missions by the Presbyterian Church of America. By that same margin, they voted to endorse a new Committee on Foreign Missions by the P.C. of A.

The second issue dealt with whether total abstinence from alcoholic beverages was to be the position of the church. While it was acknowledged that the greater number of delegates to the assembly abstained from alcohol, yet they were  hesitant to make it a rule for the church, but instead leave it as a matter of Christian liberty to its membership.  This position was especially difficult for pastors in the middle west of the country who were fighting the saloon trade in western towns.  Given the national issue then in the country over the temperance issue, it was thought that this would have been a wise decision. But again the Assembly refused by a wide margin to make total abstinence the only true principle of temperance.

It is interesting that Westminster Theological Seminary, soon after this assembly, stated to its students, that “to avoid any misconception by the public, a rule is established forbidding all beverage use of alcoholic liquors upon the grounds and in the buildings of the seminary.”

We mention in passing a third issue, “the millennial question,” which by many accounts was the major sticking point in this division. But this third issue is somewhat complicated and really deserves fuller treatment at another time. Hopefully we can return soon to discuss this further.

At the end of this assembly, those who had been in the minority on both of these issues, gathered to begin what became the Bible Presbyterian church. What had been a united front before the watching world became two smaller church bodies of Presbyterians.

Words to Live By:
It is easy to look back at a later date and see the “right thing” to do. But it is obvious that there were unfounded rumors of wild drinking parties on Westminster Seminary grounds as well as  a lack of understanding by some elders of the challenges facing pastors of western churches. To be sure, the guiding wisdom of a J. Gresham Machen was missing from the assembly with his entrance into the heavenly kingdom earlier that year. But all elders, both teaching and ruling elders, are to filled with the Spirit. And working within the framework of love, deal wisely with others who differ from them in points of contention. Let us learn to do this in our own circles.

“Ye shall be My witnesses”

Our post today is from an editorial by the Rev. David S. Kennedy, who served as the editor of THE PRESBYTERIAN, a Philadelphia-based magazine of long standing. Rev. Kennedy’s associate editor at this time and later successor in that post was the Rev. Samuel Craig, who went on to found the Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company. Rev. Kennedy’s editorial was written and appeared during the pitch of the modernist controversy.

The Main Function of the Church
[The Presbyterian 95.26 (25 June 1925): 3-4.]

THE church of Jesus Christ has many functions. Among these functions, however, there is one that takes precedence of all others. This function was given initial and summary expression by the supreme Head of the church himself immediately after his ascension and his resumption of that glory which he had had with the Father before the world was — in what were therefore the final instructions he gave to his church — in person rather than through the instrumentality of his apostles — in the words that are recorded in the eighth verse of the first chapter of the Book of Acts, “Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”

The primary function of the church is to bear witness, to make known its message of truth. The campaign launched by the apostles, at the command of Christ himself, was a campaign of witnessing. It was by the “foolishness of preaching” that they began the task, not only of bringing the thoughts and activities of individuals into captivity to their Lord, but of transforming the kingdoms of this world into his kingdom. It is not strange that it seemed foolishness to the then-living wise of this world that the apostles should expect to achieve any significant results by the use of such a method. One might think that the history of the last nineteen hundred years had abundantly justified the wisdom of their method; and yet there are still many, even within the Christian church, to whom the method seems foolish to such a degree that they have largely subordinated it to other methods. For the “foolishness of preaching” they substitute organization, mass movements, programmes, and such like, so that instead of being primarily “men with a message,” they are rather “men with a programme.” Plans and programmes and organizations have an important part to play in the great task of Christianizing the world, but in view of the method commended by Christ himself and followed by the apostles, it is clear that our chief dependence should be on the purity and sincerity of our testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

From the very beginning the campaign of witnessing carried on by the apostles included two elements — both of which were kept constantly in the foreground. In the first place, they made known what had taken place, the great historical events that lie at the basis of the Christian religion. In the second place, they expounded the meaning and significance of those facts or events.

The apostles were not mere philosophers, expounders and defenders of certain religious ideas which they had been led to adopt through their association with the great Nazarene teacher; neither were they mere ethical teachers, those primarily interested in leading men to accept certain ethical or moral ideals that would lead them to live as Jesus lived. Certainly they were religious and ethical teachers who urged men to take Jesus as their example, but primarily they were concerned about telling men of certain events that had happened and of the meaning and significance of those events. “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,” wrote Paul, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” They testified to the facts, in the sense of events that have happened, that lie at the basis of the gospel — apart from which there would be no gospel. They told, men that Christ had died and that he had risen. That was not all, however. They also pointed out the meaning of those facts — that Jesus had died “for our sins,” and that he was “raised for our justification.” They did not suppose that the facts alone—what are sometimes called the “bare or naked” facts, that is, the facts apart from any interpretation of them—gave them a gospel of redemption to proclaim. It is more than questionable whether we can conceive such a thing as a “bare” or “naked” fact, but it is at least certain that such a fact would be meaningless. It is true that apart from such facts as the death and resurrection of Jesus there would be no gospel for a sin cursed world; but it is equally true that there would be no such gospel if the meaning and significance of those facts were not known. Only as we realize that the death and resurrection of Jesus was the death and resurrection of the God-man, and that he was “delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification,” do they beget in us a living hope concerning “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” In other words, the gospel is constituted, not by facts apart from doctrines, still less by doctrines apart from facts, but by facts and doctrines, so bound together that in effect they coalesce. As the late James Orr, to whose writings so many of this generation are indebted, once put it: “The gospel is no mere proclamation of ‘eternal truths,’ but the discovery of a saving purpose of God for mankind, executed in time. But the doctrines are the interpretation of the facts. The facts do not stand blank and dumb before us, but have a voice given them and a meaning put into them. They are accompanied by living speech, which makes their meaning clear. When John declares that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh and is the Son of God, he is stating a fact, but he is none the less enunciating a doctrine. When Paul affirms, ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,’ he is proclaiming a fact, but he is at the same time giving an interpretation of it.”

It is impossible for the church of Jesus Christ to adequately function in the world except as it bears clear and positive testimony to the facts and doctrines of the Christian religion. After all, the fundamental thing about Christianity is that it is a revelation of truth. From the Christian viewpoint, therefore, there can be no greater evil than the evil of compromising with truth or even of minimizing the value and importance of truth. Neglect or even ascribe a secondary place to the truth as it is in Jesus, and the main purpose for which the church exists is surrendered.

If the church is functioning badly to-day, it is largely because of the evid [?] of divided conviction and divided testimony. The testimony given throughout the church is discordant and contradictory. What one minister commends as saving truth, another minister denounces as fatal error. Is it any wonder that the rank and file are distracted and confused? There is no more pressing need than the bringing about of a situation wherein the church, as far as is humanly possible, will bear undivided testimony to the gospel of the grace of God in its purity. In as far as such divided testimony exists within the Presbyterian Church, it largely finds its explanation in the fact that men have been admitted to its ministry — or have persisted in remaining in its ministry — in defiance of its constitutional requirements. The recent judicial decision makes clear that, according to the Constitution, only those who have “clear and positive” views as to Christian doctrines are eligible for licensure. “’The presbytery must be satisfied,” so the decision reads, ”that the applicant is clear and positive in his belief as to the doctrines of the church, and unless he is thus clear and positive, it is the duly of presbytery to defer licensure until he becomes clear and positive.” It is clear, of course, that if those lacking clear and positive beliefs as to the doctrines of the church have no right to enter the Presbyterian ministry, such have also no right to remain in this ministry. This action of the General Assembly, it need scarcely be said, added nothing to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church; it merely gave clear and definitive expression to what was already in the Constitution, but which in some quarters was being ignored or even denied.

On the Celebration of the Supper by the Courts

A few years ago my friend Ben Glaser, an Associate Reformed pastor, raised a most interesting question. He asked: 

“When did Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies begin regularly having the Lord’s Supper at their meetings?”

With a bit of digging, I found that in the Southern Presbyterian Church, it wasn’t until 1912, at the 52d General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., that we find this:

The Standing Committee on Devotional Exercises presented the following resolution, which was adopted:

We recommend that it be a standing rule in our Assembly that immediately following the Moderator’s opening sermon, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper shall be celebrated, the retiring Moderator presiding.
— W.O. Cochrane, Chairman.

Switching over to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (aka, Northern Presbyterian Church), we have to go all the way back to 1871 to find this report spread on their Minutes, at pp. 577-578:

6. The Lord’s Supper.—In regard to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, in connection with the stated meetings of the judicatories of the Church, your Committee feel hardly prepared to recommend any absolute and universal change. And yet it cannot be denied, that grave objections exist as to the manner in which this sacred service is often observed. Too much, as a matter of form, crowded in between hours of pressing business, if not of exciting discussion, with little or no preparatory exercises, it is not strange that this, which should be the richest feast of blessing, the very climax of privilege, has so often proved dull and formal, and of little spiritual advantage. As originally instituted by our Lord, this sacrament was a “supper,” observed at an appointed “hour,” “when the even was come” of “the same night in which he was betrayed.” Might not many impressive associations be secured if, in the imitation of his example, it were, whenever possible, appointed for [I]an evening service[/I], exclusively distinct from all the business of the day?

“With desire,” he said, “have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” Ought not his ministering servants, in their stated assemblies, to guard against any influences which may tend to cool the ardor of their “desire” for the recurrence of the Sacred Feast?

“Let a man examine himself,” said the apostle, “and so let him eat that bread and drink that cup.” Ought not careful arrangements to be made for “attending thereto with diligence, preparation, and prayer”? And, unless due opportunity be given for such preparation, would it not be better, at our ecclesiastical meetings, not to appoint the formal service at all?
Your Committee recommend, that the attention of Judicatories be called to this important subject, and that, independent of past customs, they be enjoined to take such action with reference to it, as may seem most in harmony with the Divine arrangement, and best calculated to promote the spiritual welfare of themselves and the congregations with which from time to time they may meet.

Resolved, That the Committee of Arrangements for the next General Assembly be instructed, to provide for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, on the evening of the first day of its sessions.

Looking back in the older Minutes of General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (Old School), those prior to 1869, we find that meetings are opened and closed with prayer, as we would expect. And there is mention of devotional exercises, but there is no mention of any observance of the Lord’s Supper, so far as I could find.

Two possibilities occur then:
1. Either the observance of the Lord’s Supper at General Assembly (and presumably at Presbytery and/or Synod as well) was a practice that has its beginning among the New School Presbyterians.
or,
2. When Assemblies met for eight days or more, as they used to, the included Lord’s Day was an obvious time of worship and likely also for celebration of the Supper. So perhaps as Assemblies began to meet for six or fewer days, the need began to be felt for more structured times of worship, with inclusion of the Supper.

Testing the first thesis, I found in the Minutes of the 1868 New School Assembly, on page 42, this note:

The Assembly met, and united with a large congregation of Christian believers in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

That Assembly had convened on Friday, May 22d, 1868, and met Saturday in continuation. Then there is no reference whatsoever in the Minutes as to what that Assembly did on Sunday. Business continued again on Monday through the week, and on Friday, celebration of the Supper at 3 PM. Business continued on Saturday, adjourned, no mention of Sunday, and business concluded on Monday, June 1st. There was only the one observance of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, May 28th.

In the 1839 New School GA Minutes, on page 13:

On Saturday evening, a quarter before 8 o’clock, a Lecture preparatory to the sacrament was preached by the Rev. Dr. Williston; and on Sabbath, P.M., at 5 o’clock, the Lord’s supper was administered, in the First Presbyterian Church [Philadelphia], to the members of the Assembly, and to a large congregation of Christian Brethren, according to the previous arrangement.

Admittedly there, in 1839, celebration of the Supper took place on the Lord’s Day, but it was nonetheless administered to the Assembly. Also noted is the fact that the Supper was not observed at the opening of that Assembly, but rather was observed later while the Assembly was in session. Checking other New School Minutes, there does not appear to have been any celebration of the Supper in 1840, 1843, or 1855. But in 1849 and 1850, at each of those Assemblies, there was the observance of the Supper on Thursday, at 4 PM and 7:45 PM respectively.

So while they might have been spotty in their observance, there does seem to be a case for the idea that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the higher courts of the Church is a practice that comes out of New School Presbyterianism. It is only after the reunion of 1869-70 that the practice becomes regularized in the PCUSA.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 28
Q.28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?

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

EXPLICATION.

Ascending into heaven. –Going up to heaven, or returning to “that glory which Christ had with the Father before the world was.”

Sitting at the right hand of God. –Being raised to the highest place of honor and dignity in the heavenly state, and having power over all things given to him by God the Father.

To judge the world. –To try all mankind, and to reward the good, and to punish the wicked, “according to their works.”

ANALYSIS.

The steps of Christ’s exaltation, stated in this answer, are four in number :

  1. His rising from the dead, on the third day. –1 Cor. xv. 4. He was buried, and rose again the third day.
  2. His ascending up into heaven. –Mark xvi. 19. So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven.
  3. His taking his seat at the right hand of God the Father –Mark xvi. 19. He sat on the right hand of God. Eph. i. 20. He set him at his own right hand, in the heavenly places.
  4. His coming to judge the world at the last day. –Acts xvii. 31. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

 

A Polymath of the First Order

miller01 copyWhile in the mad rush to finish preparing for the PCA’s General Assembly, we take this opportunity to press the Rev. Dr. Miller into service as guest author for today’s post. The following is Dr. Miller’s reply to William Buell Sprague’s request for a biographical account of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, who had long served as the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Rev. and dear Brother: It gives me pleasure to contribute the least effort toward the erection of an humble monument to the memory of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, late Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, whom I knew well, and whom I have much reason, on a variety of accounts, to remember with veneration and love.

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Rev. Dr. John Ewing, D.D.He was a native of Maryland, born in the town of Nottingham, in Cecil County, on the 22d of June, 1732. Of his ancestors, little is known. They emigrated from Ireland at an early period of the settlement of our country, and fixed themselves on the banks of the Susquehanna, near to the spot on which he was later born. His father was in circumstances which enabled him to give his five sons as good an education as the state of the Colonies with respect to schools could then well furnish. After the first elementary school to which he was sent, he was placed at the Academy of the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison, an eminent Presbyterian clergyman, who had emigrated from Ireland, and who was greatly distinguished for his classical literature, and who became instrumental in forming a number of excellent scholars in the Middle Colonies. His literary institution at New London, in Pennsylvania, was long celebrated. There young Ewing passed the usual course of study; and after completing it, remained three years longer in the Academy as a Tutor; directing special attention to the Latin and Greek language, and mathematics, in all which he was eminent through life.

In 1774 he became a member of the College of New Jersey, then located at Newark, under the Presidency of the Rev. Mr. Burr; and, as he was so far advanced and matured in the principal studies of the College, he was graduated at the annual Commencement of the same year. At the same time he was the principal instructor in the grammar school, which was connected with the College, and spent a portion of almost every day in instructing others in the languages and mathematics. In 1756, he was chosen Tutor in the College in which he had been graduated, and continued in that station two full years, enlarging and maturing his knowledge. During this course of service as a Tutor, he removed with the College from Newark to Princeton, which removal took place in 1757. In pursuing the study of Theology, he returned to his former teacher and friend, the Rev. Dr. Alison, and was subsequently licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Newcastle. At the age of twenty-six, before he undertook the pastoral charge, he was selected to instruct the philosophical class in the College of Philadelphia, during the absence of the Provost, the Rev. Dr. Smith. While thus employed, he received, in the year 1759, a unanimous call from the First Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, to become their Pastor. This call he accepted, and was ordained to the work of the ministry, and installed as their Pastor, in the course of that year.

About this time, Mr. Ewing formed a matrimonial connection with Miss Hannah Sergeant, the eldest daughter of Jonathan Sergeant, Esq., of Princeton,–a lady of great beauty and domestic excellence, with whom he lived in happy union more than forty years, and who survived him a number of years.

In 1773, Mr. Ewing was commissioned, with the consent of his congregation, in company with Dr. Hugh Williamson, late a member of Congress from North Carolina, to solicit contributions in Great Britain for the support of the Academy of Newark, in Delaware. His high reputation in his own country, together with an ample supply of letters which he took with him, gave him access to a number of men eminent in Church and State, in Great Britain, and prepared the way for the formation of a number of acquaintances and friendships, which were highly interesting to him, and, in some cases, valuable, as long as he lived. He seems to have made a deep impression, especially in North Britain, in favour of American character. The cities of Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, and Perth, presented to him their freedom; and from the University of Edinburgh, of which Dr. Robertson was then the Principal, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Robertson, in presenting this diploma, declared that he had never before conferred a degree with greater pleasure. At this time the contest between the Colonies and the mother country was beginning to be serious. It was, of course, the theme of much conversation while he was in England. He had frequent interviews with the Prime Minister, Lord North, and with all the intelligence of one recently from the Colonies, and with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig, he warned his Lordship against the prosecution of the contest, and confidently predicted its issue; but without effect.

But the narrative which Dr. Ewing, after his return to America, was wont to give with most graphic interest, was that of his first interview with the celebrated Dr. [Samuel] Johnson, at the table of Mr. Dilly, the wealthy and hospitable Bookseller of London. Dr. Johnson, it is well known, was violent against the Colonies; had written a popular pamphlet against their claims [The Patriot,(1774)] ; and heaped upon them and their advocates the coarsest abuse. Mr. Dilly, in inviting Dr. Ewing to dinner, apprized him that Dr. Johnson was to be of the party, and cautioned him against contradicting or opposing the great literary despot. During the dinner the contest with America became the subject of animated conversation. Dr. Ewing, the only American present, being appealed to, began, with his usual frankness, to defend the Colonies. Dr. Johnson, looking at him with sternness, said, “What do you know, Sir, on that subject?” Dr. Ewing calmly replied that, having resided in America all his life, he thought himself qualified to form and to express opinions on the situation and claims of the country. Dr. Johnson’s feelings were roused. The epithets of rebels and scoundrels were pretty liberally applied to the population of the Colonies. At length Johnson rudely said, “Sir, what do you know in America? You never read. You have no books there.” “Pardon me, Sir,” replied Dr. Ewing, “we have read the Rambler.” [a periodical published by Dr. Johnson, 1750-1752]. This civility instantly pacified him; and, after the rest of the company had retired, he sat with Dr. Ewing until midnight, in amiable, eloquent, and highly interesting conversation.

In the summer of 1775, Dr. Ewing returned from Europe. War was soon commenced between the United States and Great Britain. And he adhered to the cause of his country with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig. In 1779, the Legislature of Pennsylvania revoked the charter of the old College and Academy of Philadelphia, and gave a new one, creating the University of Pennsylvania. At the head of this new institution, Dr. Ewing was placed, under the title of Provost. In this station, united with that of pastor of a church, he continued to the end of life. Besides presiding over the whole University as its head, with dignity and commanding influence, he was Professor of Natural Philosophy, and every year delivered a course of lectures on that branch of science. But this was not all. Perhaps our country has never bred a man so deeply as well as extensively versed in every branch of knowledge commonly taught in our Colleges as was Dr. Ewing. Such was his familiarity with the Hebrew language, that I have been assured by those most intimately acquainted with his habits, that his Hebrew Bible was constantly by his side in his study, and that it was that which he used of choice, for devotional purposes. In Mathematics and Astronomy, in the Lating, Greek and Hebrew languages, in Logic, in Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, he was probably more accomplished than any other man in the United States. When any other Professor in the University was absent, the Provost would take his place, at an hour’s warning, and conduct the instruction appropriate to that Professorship with more skill, taste, and advantage than the incumbent of the chair himself. His skill in mathematical science was so pre-eminent and acknowledged, that he was more than once employed with Dr. Rittenhouse, of Philadelphia, in running the boundary lines between several of the States, in which he acquitted himself in the most able and honourable manner. He was one of the Vice Presidents of the American Philosophical Society, and made a number of contributions to the volumes of their Transactions, which do honour his memory.

Dr. Ewing had a strong constitution, and for a long course of years enjoyed vigorous health; being very seldom kept either out of the pulpit or from the Professor’s chair by indisposition. In the early part of the year 1802, he was attacked with a chronic disease, which gradually undermined his health, and finally terminated his important and useful life on the 8th of September of that year, in the seventy-first year of his age.

Few preachers in his day were more popular than Dr. Ewing, especially with the more intelligent and cultivated classes of hearers. His merits were all of the solid, instructive, and dignified character. And as a Collegiate Instructor, I suspect he had no superior.

This venerable man had a large family of children, ten or eleven of whom survived him; a number of respectable grandchildren still sustain the name and the honours of the family.

I am, Reverend and dear Brother, with the best wishes for the success of your biographical enterprise,

Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

SAMUEL MILLER.

[excerpted from Annals of the American Presbyterian Pulpit, by William Buell Sprague. Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005. Volume One, pp. 216-219.]

Words to Live By:
When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,
And put a knife to your throat, if you are a man of great appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies, For it is deceptive food.
[Proverbs 23:1-3, NASB]

Please note that some of Dr. Ewing’s sermons and other writings can now be easily accessed over at the Log College Press web site. Click here to access that page.

Rescue on Their Honeymoon
by Rev. David T. Myers

The seminary president had finally tied the knot in marriage with his secretary Grace Sanderson.  The happy couple went west from the campus in Delaware to the Grand Canyon for their honeymoon.  It was a trip which included the joys of married love, the rapture of God’s creation in the Canyon, the thrill of hiking on  the trails of that part of the state of Colorado, the rescue of the World War II flyers who had crashed in their bomber over the Canyon . . . wait, the rescue of crashed flyers on their honeymoon?  Yet that was the experience of Allan and Grace MacRae on their honeymoon on June 21, 1944.

The event was widely reported in newspapers around the country. Even a year later, the daring rescue was still being talked about. We quote from an article written by the Rev. Donald E. Hoke (later to become one of the founding fathers of the PCA), that appeared in the June 1945 issue of Sunday magazine :

When he rescued three army airmen from the depths of the Grand Canyon last summer, the Philadelphia Bulletin headlined him as “Bearded, Bespectacled, Theological Bridegroom.”
The editor’s description was timely, but by no means exhaustive of the versatile mountain-climber’s talents and appearance. For by profession, Allan A. MacRae is a semitic scholar, archaeologist, teacher, and president of a fast-growing interdenominational seminary with a nation-wide influence.
Front page publicity sky-rocketed him into prominence last June when together with a veteran ranger he descended the heretofore unscaled north wall of the Grand Canyon (Ariz.) and led out three fliers who had been marooned in the inaccessible gorge for a week.
Pictures of him, looking more like a Forty-niner than a dignified theologian as he brought the men out, made the front page on all big city dailies and news reels, for the marooned fliers had been spot news for a week. And the circumstances surrounding his presence in the canyon made a human interest story the news hounds devoured.
For Allan MacRae and his bride of less than a month were honeymooning in the beautiful but desolate valley where he was drafted for the rescue….
Rushed to the opposite side of the canyon by army jeep, MacRae and a veteran ranger studied maps of the steep north wall and started down. Soon they discovered a narrow deer trail, invisible on air maps, and followed it 550 feet down the famous precipitous  Red wall. Camping over night at its base, they found the three men the following day and started back the miraculous route they had discovered.

Words to Live By:

Back in Wilmington, Delaware a few weeks later, MacRae was besieged with invitations to tell his story. At first he demurred, then decided that there might be an unparalleled opportunity to give a gospel message…
Like the fliers, all men are lost, in the abyss of sin. For them there is no way out. Their need? A revelation from above, like the messages parachuted to the marooned men. But it is not enough to then just know your lost condition, some one must help you out. And Jesus Christ, he concludes, is God’s rescuer to lost men—He descended to our level that He might bring us back to His.

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