February 2020

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On the Value of History
stewartAM

At the time of his decease, the Rev. Alexander Morrison Stewart, D.D. was serving as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chico, Butte county, California. He died in that town on Wednesday morning, February 24, 1875. Dr. Stewart was born in Lawrence county, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1814. He graduated at Franklin College, in New Athens, Ohio at an early age, and immediately commenced the study of theology under the Pittsburgh Reformed Presbytery, and was licensed to preach in December, 1841, after which he traveled extensively in the interests of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, through the Middle, Southern and Western States.

The winter of 1844-45 he spent in attending divinity lectures under the late Dr. Samuel Brown Wylie, and medical lectures at Jefferson College, in Philadelphia.  In 1845 he became pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Chicago, which charge he resigned in 1855 on account of ill health.  His next charge was the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, which he left at the breaking out of the war, to enter the army as chaplain. He remained in active service in the army of the Potomac until the war was over.  After the close of the war, he accepted the united charge of East Whiteland and Reeseville Churches, in Chester county, Pennsylvania, and, in 1869, with a transfer of his ministerial credentials, went to the Pacific coast as district secretary of the Board of Home Missions for the PCUSA.  In 1870 he became pastor of the Gilroy Presbyterian Church [PCUSA], from which, in June of 1874, he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Chico, which charge he held up to the time of his death.

Dr. Stewart was an impressive preacher, a patriotic citizen, and an earnest worker in the cause of Christ.

[Adapted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 9.4 (April 1875): 141.]


Elsewhere, Joel Beeke has stressed the value of reading sermons. The text presented below is from the opening of Rev. Stewart’s sermon titled simply Historical Sermon. This sermon was delivered in 1850 while he was the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian church in Chicago, and his purpose in the sermon is to present a brief overview of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination. Perhaps we can present more of this sermon at another time; but for now, this is just the opening paragraph:

“Historical Sermon”

“History connects the present with the past, and enables us to profit by every advance man has made in his civil and ecclesiastical relations. No good accomplished has ever been finally lost. No right principle once developed has entirely disappeared. The province of history is to collect and arrange these; that, with the acquisitions of the past, joined to the energies of the present, civil society and especially the church of God may move confidently on to their high destiny. Nor is it without advantage to mark the errors and failures to which men have been subject, if by so doing we shall be better able to avoid the reefs on which they broke. Were history made more frequently the subject of pulpit exhibition, how different would be the interest and edification of the hearers to that produced by many of the shabby as well as tinselled modern productions.The most eloquent and instructive discourses on record consist of a simple narration of events. When Judah would interest the ruler of Egypt in behalf of the lad, his younger brother, his unvarnished rehearsal of facts has moved many an eye to tears. Paul’s masterly defence before Agrippa was a recital of God’s promises and dealings with His chosen Israel; and Stephen’s dying eloquence–an historical discourse–silenced every argument of his opponents save that of violence.”

[emphasis added]

Words to Live By:
It is a commonplace to acknowledge that Americans are a people with little regard or appreciation for history. I don’t think that was the case in the early years of this nation, and I wonder if the declining regard for history runs parallel with the declining influence of the Church in general. Rev. Stewart’s conclusion, shown above in bold, accords perfectly with the lesson of John Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, where he demonstrates how frequently the Scriptures call us to remember God’s works, both His work of redemption and His works of providence. Christians should be a history-minded people, and how different the Church would be, if only we made a practice of daily remembering what God has done for us in His Son.

Image source: Photo from A History of the Pittsburgh Washington Infantry,by John H. Niebaum. Pittsburgh: Burgum Printing Co., 1931, pg. 114.

A photo of the Rev. Stewart’s grave can be viewed here.
The School & Family Catechist
by Rev. William Smith (1834)




Q. 86.  What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A.  Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

EXPLICATION.

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace. –Faith, as here described, is called a grace, because it is a gift freely bestowed, by the favor of God, upon the sinner, who has no merit of his own, to give him any claim to it.  This faith is called a saving grace, because wherever it is, the work of salvation is begun, which God will assuredly complete in due time.  This saving grace is called faith in Christ, because he is the only object on which it rests.

As he is offered to us in the gospel. –That is we are to receive Christ in all his offices, as our prophet, our priest, and our king, and as an example, that we should follow his steps; in all of which, he is offered to us in the gospel.

ANALYSIS.

The information here received, respecting faith in Christ, may be divided into five parts:

1.  That it is a saving grace. –Heb. x. 39.  We are not of them that draw back to perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

2.  That it is by faith, that we receive Jesus Christ. –John i. 12.  As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.

3.  That by it we rest upon him. –Matt. xi. 28, 29. Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

4.  That by this faith, we are enabled to receive and rest upon CHRIST ALONE for salvation. –Acts.    iv. 12. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  Eph. ii. 8. By grace are ye saved, through faith. 5.   That it receives and rests upon Christ, as he is offered in the gospel. –Rom. x. 17. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (or the gospel).

Bethel’s Second Pastor, 1782 – 1789

Bethel Presbyterian Church, in Clover, South Carolina, ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA, having been founded in 1764. Francis D. Cummins was Bethel’s second pastor serving from 1782 – April 17, 1789 He was born in 1752 near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Charles Cummins and Rebecca McNickle Cummins who were from Northern Ireland. When Francis Cummins was in his 19th year, his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The neighboring college, then Queens Museum, afforded him the opportunity for his higher education. It was there that he graduated about the year 1776.

Francis Cummins was an active and zealous Patriot in the Revolutionary War. He was present at the reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775. After leaving college he was engaged chiefly in the business of teaching. He was for several years a preceptor at Clio Academy, a respectable German Seminary in Rowan County (now Iredell County), North Carolina. While Mr. Cummins was engaged in teaching, he studied theology under the direction of Dr. James Hall. Francis Cummins was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Orange on December 15, 1780. During the year 1781 he preached at various places and in the spring of 1782 accepted a call from Bethel Church where he was ordained at the close of that year.

Rev. Cummins was one of the original members of South Carolina Presbytery when it was set off from Orange Presbytery in 1785. In the spring of 1788 while residing at Bethel and serving both as pastor and teacher of the youth, he was elected by the people of the York District as a member of the South Carolina Convention called to decide upon the Constitution of the United States. Although all his colleagues were for rejecting it, Rev. Cummins voted in its favor. Sometime between 1782 and 1789 Bethel Academy was organized by Rev. Cummins. The first school was built about one and a half miles north of the church. Education and religion were closely associated in the early days of the church. It was a common practice that the minister of the church also taught in the school. In 1788 the old Presbytery of South Carolina held its seventh session at Bethel. This was perhaps the first Presbytery meeting ever held at Bethel Church. Rev. Cummins was the Moderator.

Rev. Cummins was married to Sarah Davis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Cummins died December 10, 1790. Rev. Cummins married the second time in October 1791 to Sarah Thompson.

After leaving Bethel Rev. Cummins was the pastor at several churches in the western part of South Carolina. In 1793 he was appointed by the Presbytery to collect facts in regard to the early history of all the churches at that time. These records were received and approved by the Presbytery.

In 1803 Rev. Cummins moved to the state of Georgia. He was the first minister to preach at Salem Presbyterian Church (formerly named Liberty Presbyterian Church), Philomath, Georgia in their new location.

Rev. Cummins was the first rector or principal of the Meson Academy, Lexington, Georgia. In 1920 Meson Academy became Oglethorpe County High School.

Rev. Cummins had a great vigor of constitution. He was an admirable scholar and a well-read theologian. He was uncommonly gifted in prayer, was vivid and clear in his conceptions, having great power of condensation in the use of language. In stature he was above the common size with broad shoulders, expanded frame, large limbs, a high forehead and a deep-toned, guttural voice.

In January 1832 he was attacked with influenza which terminated his life. He died on February 22, 1832, and is buried in the Greensboro City Cemetery, Greensboro, Georgia.

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

THE OLD ARCH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

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

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

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

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

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

PAUL.

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER31.6 (7 February 1852): 21, column 5.]
The Rev. John Witherspoon’s works really do need to be dusted off and brought to greater public attention. As one proof of the usefulness of his works, we present this short article today. Sprinkle Publications did reprint Witherspoon’s Works a few years ago, and copies are still available, though those volumes haven’t gathered too much attention and we’re the poorer for that neglect.

THE DOWNWARD COURSE OF SIN.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revival Values
By George W. Ridout

[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN (19 February 1925): 8-9.

The history of the Christian church is featured ever and anon with the story of great and significant revivals of religion.

In 1847, the denominations confessed that “there is a flatness over the churches, revivals are rare, and conversions few, while the power of godliness among professors of religion is low.” About the same time, Dr. Chalmers, in The North British Review, speaking of Scotland, said: “As things stand at present, our creeds and confessions have become effete, and the Bible a dead letter, and the orthodoxy which was at one time the glory, by withering into the formal and lifeless, is now the shame and reproach of all our churches.”

The widespread revivals of religion in 1857 and 1859 woke up the churches, kindled new fires, and re-established vital religion in both America and the old country.

Moody taught that there are four things essential to the promoting of a revival: (1) We must believe in revivals ; (2) [text obscured]; (3) We must pray for a revival; (4) We must work for a revival.

Dr. Robert Boyd, when pastor in Chicago long ago, had a church which was signally blessed with a continuous ingathering of souls. At one of his morning services, he said, at the close: “Brethren, so far as I can learn, there has not been a conversion in this church for the past four weeks. I would like all who are concerned for the salvation of souls to meet me this afternoon for special prayer.” A large number met the pastor in prayer and in that service an infidel bookseller was converted and the fire was started afresh.

Mr. Sankey tells the story of a man who was visiting one of the big cathedrals in England. A verger was showing him through and pointing out with admiration the beautiful windows and statuary. The American very suddenly turned to his guide and said, “Do you have many conversions here?” Amazed at such a question, the verger turned to him and said, “Conversions? Conversions! Why, my friend, what kind of a place do you think this is? Do you lake this to be a Wesleyan chapel ?”

The work of converting men and turning them from “darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God,” appears to have dwindled down alarmingly in the average church. We need another revival of religion to bring back to the churches the power of conversion.

Talmadge tells this incident in connection with his Tabernacle: “In the winter of 1875, we were worshipping in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. We had great audiences, but I was oppressed by the fact that conversions were not numerous. On Tuesday, I invited to my house five old, consecrated. Christian men. These men came, not knowing why I had invited them. I took them to the top of the house. I said to them: ‘I have called you here for special prayer. I am in agony for a great turning to God of the people. We have vast multitudes in attendance, and they are attentive and respectful, but I cannot see that they are saved. Let us kneel down and each one pray, and not leave this room until we are all assured that the blessing will come, and has come!’ It was a most intense crying unto God. I said, ‘Brethren, let this meeting be secret,’ and they said, ‘It shall be!’ The next Friday night came the usual prayer-meeting. No one knew what had occurred on Tuesday night, but the meeting was unusually thronged. Men accustomed to pray with great composure broke down under emotion. The people were in tears. There were sobs and silences and solemnity of such unusual power that the worshippers looked unto each other’s faces as much as to say: ‘What does this mean?’ And when the following Sabbath came, although we were in a secular place, over four hundred arose for prayer, and a religious awakening took place that made the winter memorable.”

Robert Hall has said: “The prayer of faith is the only power in the universe to which the great Jehovah yields. Prayer is the sovereign remedy.” John Foster said: “More and better praying will bring the surest and readiest triumph to God’s cause. The church has its sheet anchor in the closet, its magazine stores are there.”

“Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian armor bright;
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.”


1. Let us close with a few propositions. Revivals of religion are not inconsistent with intellectual activity and learning. Think of the Wesleys—Oxford men; Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s greatest metaphysicians; Chalmers, of Scotland; Baxter, Howe, Charnock, Owen, and others of former days, and Pierson, Peck, Odin, and Torrey, of modern times.

2. Revivals of religion are not inconsistent with a methodical and symmetrical ministry. Think of Theodore Cuyler, the great pastor of Brooklyn, and J. O. Peck, the remarkable pastor-evangelist of Methodism.

3. Revivals of religion are not inconsistent with good psychology and sound philosophy. At this point we are again reminded of Jonathan Edwards. Finney illustrates this fact, also. Moody was by no means a philosopher, but no man had a keener sense of the psychological moment, and all effective soul-winners learn this art.

4. Revivals of religion are not inconsistent with good reason and sound sense. Nature has her revivals and freshets and outpourings. Business men seek after revivals in trade and learn the art of acquiring them and bringing them to pass. The church is not urging anything unreasonable when she calls upon her people to pray and work for a revival of religion. Indeed, the church that enjoys frequent revivals of religion is the church that keeps most intensely alive its spiritual life and adds to its communion new converts.

Christian principles should influence American society
by Rev. David T. Myers

William Strong was no mere cultural Christian. Listen to how he answered the question of what he thought of Christ. He said, “He is the Chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely — my Lord, my Savior, and my God.” Far from being a cultural Christian, William Strong was a committed Christian, and a Presbyterian as well.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, William Strong was born in Connecticut on May 6, 1808.  After graduating from Yale University in 1828 with honors as a Phi Betta Kappa, he then moved to Reading, Pennsylvania to begin his legal practice. In 1846, he became a Congressman, serving as an abolitionist Democrat in the House of Representatives. Serving two terms, he did not seek reelection in 1850, but returned to his private practice.


Seven years later in 1857, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as a Democrat but switched to the Republican party soon afterwards. He would serve eleven years on that state bench before returning to a lucrative law practice in Philadelphia.

On February 18, 1870, he was nominated by President U.S. Grant to the United States Supreme Court. Among his many important votes was the resolution of the disputed election of 1876, when the Court ruled in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate, thus ensuring his presidency. He served ten years, and then resigned even while he was in good health, believing that justices should not serve when they are infirm. William Strong would go to be with His Savior on August 19, 1895.

All of the above facts are about his service to the nation. And while true, yet they do not get to the character of this Christian Presbyterian. Listen to his words on what he thought about the Bible. He said, “It is the infallible Word of God, a light erected all along the shores of time to warn against the rocks and breakers, and to show the only way to the harbor of eternal rest.” With such a high view of Holy Scripture, there was no problem for Justice Strong to believe that biblical Christian principles should govern many facets of United States society. In fact, he would even go so far as to declare and work for a constitutional amendment declaring our blessed country to be a Christian nation. This in no way in his own mind meant that an established church or denomination was to be the sole church of the land. He was opposed completely to that idea. He believed in the separation of church and state, but he affirmed the connection between the God of the Bible and our nation. He desired a formal acknowledgement of the Christian foundation in American society.

During his long practice both privately and publicly, he served in many Christian organizations, among them, the American Bible Society and the American tract Society. He is buried in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By: As   was   his life   long   commitment  to both the living Word and the written Word, so all Christians today in whatever sphere they are in life, are to have the same commitment to Christ and His Word. Let us press today toward the goal of placing Christ and His Word into those areas into which we live, and move, and exist.
He Was of Old Knox’s Principles

Our title alone should interest all true Presbyterians. For anyone to be characterized by the principles of Scottish Reformer John Knox marks them as someone worth remembering. Such an individual was James Renwick. [His surname is correctly pronounced with a silent “w”]

Born in the little Scottish village of Moniaive, in Dumfriesshire, of Christian parents with little worldly wealth, James was dedicated to the Lord as an infant for the ministry of Christ’s Church. It was said that when only two years old, in his cradle, he could be seen “aiming at prayer.”  As the years went by, he did go through a brief period of questioning of spiritual things, but the Lord brought him through that period with full assurance of faith. Studying at the University of Edinburgh, he did well, but couldn’t graduate with his class because he refused to declare that the king was head of the church.

At age 19, he witnessed a martyrdom in Edinburgh of Donald Cargill, a Covenanter. What he said on that execution block made a profound mark on the young man. James began to attend some of the United Society meetings being held throughout Scotland. Indeed, it was this latter group of faithful Covenanters who sent him to Holland to be trained for the ministry. There he was ordained for ministry at the age of twenty-one. Returning back to Scotland, he was ready to be used for the glory of Christ’s kingdom.

James Renwick’s first sermon was to a huge crowd of Covenanter Presbyterians who had gathered in a field in 1683. Such public gatherings were forbidden by the crown, with both parishioners and preachers subject to imprisonment and even death.  But that did not stop the one who proclaimed the Word of God and offered the Sacrament of the Lord’s Super. Neither did it stop those who would walk many miles to attend the true preaching of the Word. It is estimated that Pastor Renwick baptized 600 covenant children in the first six months of his pastorate. His congregation was composed of 7000 Presbyterian members from the Central and Southwest part of Scotland. Riding on a strong horse, he went from field to field, from woods to woods, declaring the unsearchable riches of the gospel.  Often, the British dragoons would narrowly miss arresting him. Truly, his time was not yet come, but one day in 1688, the Lord allowed the enemies of the gospel to capture him.

Three distinct charges were laid against him. They were: 1. Refusing to acknowledge the king’s authority; 2. Refusing to pay the War Tax; and 3. Counseling his followers to come armed to the field meetings. Defending himself against the charges, it was around this time that it was said that he was of old John Knox’s principles. Judged guilty, he was condemned to die by hanging. It was on this day, February 17, 1688, that he was the last Covenanter to publicly die for the Covenanted Reformation of Scotland. He was twenty-six years of age.

Words to Live By: We live in different times today, but that doesn’t mean that persecution will not and does not come upon believers for their faith. There is such a situation today called “the persecuted church.” With persistent prayer we should come before the Lord in remembering our brothers and sisters in other lands where simply professing Christ as Lord and Savior brings suffering and death. I suggest taking Psalm 79 to guide you in prayer for these dear saints, God’s own children. And in our own land, while freedom of religion is the stated principle of the First Amendment of our Constitution, increasingly we find Christians losing their livelihood due to their Christian convictions. Let us pray now, more than ever, for the freedom to proclaim the gospel. And if, when times of trial may come, may we fully rely upon God’s grace and strength to keep us faithful to the gospel once delivered unto the saints.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 85 & 86.

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

EXPLICATION.

Faith in Jesus Christ. –Believing in the name of Christ, and receiving him as the only Saviour of our souls.  (See Explic. Q. 86.)

Repentance unto life. –A true and heartfelt sorrow for sin, accompanied with such a hatred of it, and such a complete turning from it, as is necessary to eternal life.  (See Explic. Q. 87.)

Outward means. –The preaching of the gospel of Christ, the reading of God’s word, the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and the exercise of the duty of prayer, &c.  (See Explic. Q. 88.)

Communicateth to us. –Imparts to us, or bestows upon us.

Benefits of redemption. –The blessings of the gospel salvation, which are procured or purchased by Christ, for his people; such as, a free and full pardon of all our sins, the sanctification of our souls by the Holy Spirit, &c.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer, there are four very important matters made known to us:

  1. That there is a possibility of escaping the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin. –Isa. lv. 7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
  2. That means are appointed by God, to be used by us, for this purpose. –Matt vii. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  3. That faith in Christ, and repentance unto life, are necessary parts of these means. –Acts xx. 21. Testifying, both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. That the outward means, by which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption, are also to be diligently used. –Rom. x. 13, 14. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. How, then, shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?


Q. 86.
What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

EXPLICATION.

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace. –Faith, as here described, is called a grace, because it is a gift freely bestowed, by the favor of God, upon the sinner, who has no merit of his own, to give him any claim to it.  This faith is called a saving grace, because wherever it is, the work of salvation is begun, which God will assuredly complete in due time.  This saving grace is called faith in Christ, because he is the only object on which it rests.

As he is offered to us in the gospel. –That is we are to receive Christ in all his offices, as our prophet, our priest, and our king, and as an example, that we should follow his steps; in all of which, he is offered to us in the gospel.

ANALYSIS.

The information here received, respecting faith in Christ, may be divided into five parts:

  1. That it is a saving grace. –Heb. x. 39. We are not of them that draw back to perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
  2. That it is by faith, that we receive Jesus Christ. –John i. 12. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.
  3. That by it we rest upon him. –Matt. xi. 28, 29. Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
  4. That by this faith, we are enabled to receive and rest upon CHRIST ALONE for salvation. –Acts. iv. 12. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  Eph. ii. 8. By grace are ye saved, through faith.
  5. That it receives and rests upon Christ, as he is offered in the gospel. –Rom. x. 17. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (or the gospel).

Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of the late Moses Hoge, D.D. (1821)
hogeMoses

Moses Hoge was born on February 15, 1752. He studied at the famous Liberty Hall Academy during the time that William Graham was headmaster and later studied theology under the tutelage of Dr. James Waddel. Thereafter, Hoge was licensed to preach in 1781 and ordained a year later, being installed as the pastor of a congregation in Hardy, Kentucky.

Health concerns for both he and his wife prompted several moves over the years, with his wife succumbing to illness in 1802. From 1807 until his death in 1820, Rev. Hoge was president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

A year after his death, a volume presenting thirty-two of his sermons was published, edited from his manuscripts. The Rev. W. S. Reid wrote of Hoge, that “As a preacher, his manner was ungraceful, even uncouth; but there was so much depth and originality of thought, such richness and force of illustration, and such clear and cogent reasoning, that the awkwardness of his manner was very soon quite overlooked or forgotten.

For considerations of space, we will draw from just one sermon, “Ministerial Piety.”—

(p. 23) : “A minister of the Gospel must not withhold from his people, any doctrine, or truth, which he shall judge necessary for their edification, because it may be unpopular, nor may he connive at any sinful custom, because it may be fashionable, where Providence has cast his lot. It is, indeed, far from being my wish to recommend any unnecessary strictness, in opposition to the customs and manners of the age in which we live. The attempt, however, which has so often been made, and always without success, to reconcile religion with the predominant manners and customs of the world, must ever be found impracticable. Equally far am I from recommending an attention to the unessential peculiarities of a party in the pulpit. For a preacher to put off his people, who are either hungering, or famishing, for the bread of life, with the dry husks of controversy, and that about matters confessedly not essential to their edification, is in my opinion a miserable prostitution of his sacred office.”

(p. 24) : “A minister of the Gospel must deny himself the pleasure and advantage of literary pursuits and theological researches, when the ignorant among his people are to be instructed, when the sick are to be visited, when the dying are to be assisted in their last conflict; or when in any other way he can render more essential service to the great cause in which he is engaged than by the studies of the closet. Nor is he permitted to consider any service too humiliating, or any toil or suffering, too great for him to undergo, for the honour of his Lord, and the best interests of his fellow-men.—Not that he should, without evident necessity, wear out his constitution and shorten his days, by oppressive labours or services of any kind. Quite the reverse. But when duty calls, let him never count the cost, never shrink from any toil or any sufferings. No, not even though his life were to be spent in the service of his Lord and Master. For he who thus loseth his life shall find it.”

(p. 33) : “And now, my brethren, before I take my leave of you, permit me to request you to turn your attention to the people committed to your care. See what a large proportion of them are perishing in sin. And are we sure that we have done every thing in our power to prevent their destruction?—that no more effectual measures can be adopted than those already employed, for their salvation? Let us not be too hasty in concluding that we have exhausted all the treasures of Divine mercy, either with respect to ourselves, or our people,—that no superior assistance for ourselves in the discharge of ministerial duty, or more effectual grace for them, is within our reach. The hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. I will venture to affirm there is one thing which we might do for them more than we have yet done. We might pay greater attention to ourselves—to the state of our own souls. Ah! did we feel for ourselves as we ought, we should soon see a glorious change in the state of our people. We should then feel for them, preach to them, pray for them, and live for them, in a way that would scarcely fail to be attended with the happiest effects.”

And for our Word to Live By, Rev. Hoge concludes:
(p. 36) : “Look around you, my Christian brethren, and behold the ignorance, the impiety, the profligacy of the world still lying in wickedness—behold the multitudes everywhere perishing in sin, and say, Is it not time to awake from your guilty slumbers? is it not time to seek the Lord until he come and rain righteousness upon us, upon our churches, and our country? Ah! would only all the friends of Zion of every name, laying aside their most unnatural animosities, and disputes of little importance, thus unite with one heart and one soul in the great cause of our Common Christianity, we might soon expect to see better times—times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Yes, we might then, confidently expect that our heaven would shower down righteousness and our earth bring forth salvation.”

Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of Moses Hoge, D.D. was published in 1821, and to my thinking should be reprinted. But in the meantime, thankfully, it is available here.

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