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A Christian of Exceptional Personality and Evangelistic Appeal

Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. Thirty-five hundred naked natives have gathered together at one site that summer of 1933. Missionary evangelist Charles J. Woodbridge no doubt had something to do with that great gathering in the French Cameroons. He was the sole evangelist for a five thousand mile mission station in that African country. These natives were in great need of hearing the plain and simple gospel message from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission executive from America. What they heard in reality was an hour message on, (are you ready for this?), “the Power of Personality.” There was no greater proof to young Charles Woodbridge of the deepening apostasy of the official missions board of the Presbyterian Church.

When he heard that he himself had been singled out to serve as the General Secretary of the newly formed Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in June of 1933, he gathered his wife and two daughters and returned immediately to America to take up his new post. In less than four years, he would be censured by the highest court of the Presbyterian church for accepting this new ministry.

Charles Woodbridge, born January 24, 1902, was described by his fellow Reformed Christians as being no ordinary General Secretary. From his heritage as the fifteenth generation minister of his family line, dating back to 1493, from his own father who had been a missionary in China, from the fact that he married the daughter of a missionary, Charles Woodbridge would be known as “a man of exceptional personality and evangelistic appeal.” His spiritual gifts made him the perfect architect of a new mission strategy in reaching the world for Christ.

Yet the main line denomination of which he was a part, did not take kindly to this new mission upstart. Within a year, steps were taken to force him to abandon this new missions work, and when he chose not to follow their directives, Charles Woodbridge was censured by the church. He left in 1937 to become a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina for several years.

Eventually, he served as a theological seminary professor and author, always seeking to warn Christians of the danger of compromising the Word of God. He died on 16 July 1995, at the age of 93.

Words to Live By: Committed to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ is a great goal for everyday life and service.

Postscript:
Dr. Woodbridge served as General Secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and also as the editor of the Independent Board Bulletin, from March 1935-June 1937. Some of his more important publications included the following:
1935 – “The Social Gospel: A Review of the Current Mission Study Text Books Recommended for Adults by the Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.,” Christianity Today 5.9 (February 1935): 209-211.
1937 – “Why I Have Resigned as General Secretary of the Independent Board,” The Presbyterian Guardian 4.5 (12 June 1937): 69-71. Available here.
1945
 – The Chronicle of Salimbene of Parma: A Thirteenth Century Christian Synthesis.
Durham, NC: Duke University, Ph.D. dissertation. 305 p.
1947 – Standing on the Promises: Rich Truths from the Book of Acts.
1953 – A Handbook of Christian Truth, co-authored with Harold Lindsell.
[Rev. Vaughn Hathaway has noted that Bob Jones University, which was/is generally anti-Calvinistic or anti-Presbyterian nonetheless used this Woodbridge/Lindsell collaboration as its undergraduate text for the one-year course in Bible Doctrines that was requisite for every student for several years.]
1953 – Romans: The Epistle of Grace.
1962 – Bible Prophecy.
1969 – The New Evangelicalism.

Image source: News clipping [publisher not known] from the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, Scrapbook no. 1, page 34.

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A good sentence found on Page 287 in McCrie’s Lives of the Scottish Reformers, which might be used as an opener on some post:

“The year 1596 is memorable in the history of the church of Scotland. “It had,” says James Melville, “a strange variety and mixture; the beginning thereof with a shew of profit in planting the churches with perpetual local stipends; the midst of it very comfortable for the exercise of reformation and renewing the covenant; but the end of it tragical in wasting the Zion of our Jerusalem, the church of Edinburgh, and threatening no less to many of the rest.”

James Melville (26 July 1556 – 1614) was a Scottish divine and reformer, son of the laird of Baldovie, in Forfarshire. He was educated at Montrose and St Leonard’s College, St Andrews.

In 1574 he proceeded to the University of Glasgow. There his uncle, Andrew Melville, the reformer and scholar, was principal. Within a year James became one of the regents.

When, in 1580, Andrew became Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews (then called New College), James accompanied him, and acted as Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages. For three and a half years he lectured in the university, chiefly on Hebrew, but he had to flee to Berwick in May 1584 (a few months after his uncle’s exile) to escape the attacks of his ecclesiastical enemy, Bishop Patrick Adamson. After a short stay there and at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and again at Berwick, he proceeded to London, where he joined some of the leaders of the Scottish Presbyterian party.

The taking of Stirling Castle in 1585 having changed the political and ecclesiastical positions in the north, he returned to Scotland in November of that year, and was restored to his office at St Andrews. From 1586 to his death he took an active part in Church controversy.

In 1589 he was moderator of the General Assembly and on several occasions represented his party in conferences with the court. Despite his antagonism to James’s episcopal schemes, he appears to have won the king’s respect. He answered, with his uncle, a royal summons to London in 1606 for the discussion of Church policy.

The uncompromising attitude of the kinsmen, though it was made the excuse for sending the elder to the Tower, brought no further punishment to James than easy detention within ten miles of Newcastle-on-Tyne. During his residence there it was made clear to him by the king’s agents that he would receive high reward if he supported the royal plans. In 1613 negotiations were begun for his return to Scotland, but his health was broken, and he died at Berwick in January 1614.

Melville has left ample materials for the history of his time from the Presbyterian standpoint, in (a) correspondence with his uncle Andrew Melville (MS. in the library of the university of Edinburgh), and (b) a diary (MS. in the Advocates Library, Edinburgh). The latter is written in a vigorous, fresh style, and is especially direct in its descriptions of contemporaries. His sketch of John Knox at St Andrews is one of his best passages. It is an original authority for the period, written with much naïveté, and revealing an attractive personality.

As a writer of verse he compares unfavourably with his uncle. All his pieces, with the exception of a libellus supplex to King James, are written in Scots. He translated a portion of the Zodiacus vitae of Palingenius, and adapted some passages from Scaliger under the title of Description of the Spainyarts naturall. His Spiritual Propine of a Pastour to his People (1598), The Black Bastill, a lamentation for the kirk (1611), Thrie may keip Counsell, give Twa be away, The Beliefe of the Singing Soul, Davids Tragique Fall, and a number of sonnets show no originality and indifferent technical ability.

The Diary was printed by the Bannatyne Club in 1829, and by the Wodrow Society in 1842. Large portions of it are incorporated in David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) History of the Kirk of Scotland (first printed in 1678). For the life and times, see Thomas McCrie’s Life of Andrew Melville.

 

Page 350 – death of Melville, January 19th, 1614.

“A letter from Sir James Fullerton, which he received in the month of April, 1614, gave a shock to his feelings which it required all his fortitude to bear. His dearest friend, and most affectionate and dutiful nephew, James Melville, was no more. His health had for some time been in a state of decline, which was accelerated by grief at the issue of public affairs in Scotland, which his extreme sensibility disposed him to brood over with too intense and exclusive an interest. In consequence of the importunity of his friends and an apparent earnest invitation from archbishop Gladstanes, he set out for Edinburgh, in the beginning of the year 1614, to arrange matters for his return to Kilrinny, or, if this was found impracticable, to resign his charge and make permanent provision for that parish. But he had not gone far when he was taken so ill as to be unable to proceed on the journey, and with difficulty returned to Berwick. The medicines prescribed by the physicians failed in arresting the progress of the distemper, which soon exhibited alarming symptoms. He received the intimation of his danger with the most perfect composure, and told his friends that he was not only resigned to the will of God, but satisfied that he could not die at a more proper season. On Wednesday the 19th of January, he “set his house in order;” and all his children being present, except his son Andrew, (who was prosecuting his theological studies at Sedan,) he gave them his dying charge and parental blessing. His friend Joshua Drury, minister of St. Andrews, and Patrick Hume of Ayton, a gentleman who had shown him great kindness during his residence at Berwick, waited by his bed-side. The greater part of his time was spent in prayer. When he mentioned the Church of Scotland, he prayed for repentance and forgiveness to those who had caused a schism in it by overturning its reformed discipline; and, addressing those around him, he said: “In my life I ever detested and resisted the hierarchy, as a thing unlawful and antichristian, for which I am an exile, and I take you all to witness that I die in the same judgment.” He made particular mention of his uncle at Sedan; gave him a high commendation for learning, but still more for courage and constancy in the cause of Christ; and prayed that God would continue and increase the gifts bestowed on him. In the midst of the acute pain which he endured during that night and the succeeding morning, he expressed his resignation and confidence chiefly in the language of Scripture, and often repeated favourite sentences from the Psalms in Hebrew. Being reminded by some of his attendants of the Christian assurance which the apostle Paul had expressed in the prospect of his death, he replied: “Every one is not a Paul; yet I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, and I am assured that I shall enter into glory.” — “Do you not wish to be restored to health?” said one of the attendants. “No; not for twenty worlds.” Perceiving nature to be nearly exhausted, his friends requested him to give them a token that he departed in peace; upon which he repeated the last words of the martyr Stephen, and breathed gently away.

[McCrie, Life of Andrew Melville, pp. 350-351; cf. Calderwood, MS. vii. 505-513.]

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Tis’ the Season

You may have noticed that “everyone” is currently considering how they will read through the Bible in the coming year–what plan they will use.

The first rule of success is to have a plan. And there are a number of good plans out there for reading through the Bible.

I’d like to suggest a rather straight-forward way to accomplish this most necessary and commendable goal.

It all boils down to just reading 3-1/2 to 4 chapters of the Bible each day, and that typically takes about fifteen minutes. With this plan, there is no specific text for a particular day. Just pick up the Bible and read. Start where you want and keep reading.

Another key to accomplishing this goal is to do your reading at the very start of the day, before other things intrude. Email will wait and so will social media. Breakfast will wait as well. 

Stay after this schedule of 3-1/2 to 4 chapters per day and you will have read through the entire Bible by year’s end.

But if you feel ready to tackle a bigger accomplishment, I’d like to suggest that you consider taking that same fifteen minutes for reading the Word, not just at the start of the day, but again before bedtime. With a second reading of the same text you are more likely to better understand and remember something of the content. And at the end of the year, having kept after your daily readings, you will instead have through the whole Bible TWICE!

Finally, with this plan it’s easy to see how you could also add another reading at lunch time, another fifteen minutes set aside to spend with the Word of God. And at the end of the year, you would have read through the Bible THREE times. Think what that would do for your comprehension, your understanding, and your ability to find and turn to portions of Scripture when needed.

I leave it to you to decide what fits your schedule best. And it any of the above options don’t fit, please review the many other plans presented by Ligonier Ministries over on their blog—truly something to suit every possible preference or schedule: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

May our Lord richly your time spent in His Word in 2020.

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It is well also for another reason, that—if obliged to publish at present only a part of these records—Drs. Mitchell and Struthers should have selected the “Minutes,” beginning with November, 1644, for this first volume.  From “Lightfoot’s Journal of the Assembly of Divines,” extending from the opening of the Assembly, July 3d, 1648, to December 31st, 1644, and from George Gillespie’s “Notes of Proceeding of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster,” extending from February 2 to May 3, from September to December 31, 1644, we are enabled to form a much clearer conception of the course of discussion in the As­sembly, than could possibly be done from the imperfect memo­randa of these Minutes.  This will be very apparent on a com­parison of the jottings of these Minutes with the Notes of Lightfoot and Gillespie, covering, with several omissions, the brief period from November to December 31, 1644.  The three records of December 9th, 1644, are as follows:

  1. Lightfoot’s account is:

“We speedily fell upon the business about burial as soon as we were set ; and the matter was, whether to have anything spoken at the burial of the dead.

“Dr. Temple moved that something might be said at the very interment of the body ; but this was thought not fit to be given any rule for, but rather to pass it over in silence ; and so the minister left something to his liberty.  Dr. Temple moved again, whether a minister, at putting a body into the ground, may not say, ‘We commit this body to the ground,’ etc.  And it was conceived of the Assembly that he might ; and the words ‘without any ceremony more,’ do not tie him up from this.

“Then fell our great controversy about funeral sermons ; and here was our difficulty—how to keep funeral sermons is England for fear of danger by alteration, and yet to give content to Scotland that are averse from there.  It was the sense of the Assembly in general, that funeral sermons may be made, if a minister be called on for it; and the debate was now to find terms to fit and suit with both parties.  At last we fixed on this: ‘That the people should take up thoughts and conferences concerning death, mortality, etc.; and the minister, if he be present, shall put them in mind of that duty.’  Here I excepted at the last word, ‘duty,’ for that a little speech would put them in mind of medi­tating and conferring spiritually; therefore I moved an alteration, which was much backed by divers, and it was changed, ‘of their duty.’  The mind of the Assembly was that these words give liberty for funeral ser­mons.  And thus we had done the directory for burial.

“Then fell we upon the report of our votes concerning Church Gov­ernment, where we had left off the last day; and when we had done them, Mr. Burroughs entered his dissent against two or three propositions, viz. against the subordination of Assemblies one to another, and against the instance of the Church of Ephesus for a Presbytery ; and so did Mr. Nye, Mr. Carter, Mr. Sympson, and Mr. Bridges; and Mr. Sympson offered from Mr. Goodwin to enter his dissent ; but we would not admit of any proxies.”

  1. Gillespie’s account of the same debate, under date Decem­ber 9, 1644, is :

“The votes of Government were read and ordered to be transcribed, that they may be sent to the Parliament.

“Messrs. Burroughs, Nye, Bridges, Sympson, and Carter entered their dissent from three of the propositions :  1. That there is a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national Assemblies for the government of the Church.  2. That the example of the Church of Ephesus proves the propositions concerning Presbyterial government.

  1. That no congregation which may associate ought to assume all and sole power of ordination. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Greenhill were not present.”

It will be seen that he omits the debate on funerals altogether.

  1. Now, under the same date of December 9, 1644, the Minutes before us make the following record :

Sess. 337, Dec. 9, 1644, Monday Morning.

“ Protestation read.  Debate of the Directory for Burial…. Neverthe­less this doth not inhibit any minister at that time being present to give some seasonable word of exhortation.

Mr. Marshall offered a paper to express the affirmative part.

“ Debate about something to be added to the negative.

Dr. Temple made report of the alterations in the frame* of govern­ment.

“ Ordered, this draught of Government be transcribed, to be sent to both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Burroughs enters his dissent from the subordination of Assem­blies in that proposition, ‘it is lawful and agreeable ;’ and that ‘of par­ticular congregations assuming the power of ordination ;’ and that ‘of the Church of Ephesus,’ if you mean [that they were congregations, fixed.]

Mr. Nye enters his dissent to the same propositions.

Mr. Carter desires the same.  Mr. Sympson desires the same.  He also desired that Mr. Goodwyn’s dissent may be entered, he being not well.

Ordered, That he have leave against to-morrow.

“ Mr. Bridges desired the same.”

This comparative exhibition of what is said in the “Journal” of Lightfoot, and the “ Notes” of Gillespie, and in these Mi­nutes,” touching the debate of December 9, selected by us at random, will enable the reader to form some conception of the general nature and style of these recently discovered records.

  • “Draught” is written above “frame” in the manuscript, which, as will be seen from Lightfoot, quoted already, is more proper.

The words in these brackets are crossed over with a black line.

 

 

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Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Sr., was born in Abington, Pennsylvania, 2 March 1822. He was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating there in 1843 and later graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1846. He was ordained by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia in June of 1845 and installed as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church at Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he served from 1845-1852. He was next called to pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, PA, but only served there briefly, 1852-1853. His his final and longest pastorate was at the First Presbyterian Church (Later renamed the Second Presbyterian Church, following a merger) of Brooklyn, New York, 1853-1891. He died in Brooklyn on 25 May 1891. Honors conferred during his life included the Doctor of Divinity degree, awarded by Westminster College of Fulton, Missouri, 1865. In 1876, he served as Moderator of the 88th General Assembly of the PCUSA, as it met in Brooklyn, NY, just seven years after the reunion of the Old School and New School divisions of that denomination. Rev. Van Dyke was survived by his wife, Henrietta Ashmead Van Dyke [1820-1893]. Their marriage produced two sons, Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Jr. [1852-1933], who later became a noted author and poet; and Paul Van Dyke [1859-1933]. Paul was a Presbyterian minister at Geneva, NY, 1887–89, and then taught church history at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1889–92.

The Special Collections Department at Princeton University houses the Van Dyke Family collection, which include materials by Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Sr.  His papers include manuscripts of sermons (1844-1891), essays, speeches, Bible lessons, and theological notes. The correspondence subseries contains many letters to Van Dyke from clergymen, parishioners, friends, and family, often regarding the controversy caused by his publication of The Character and Influence of Abolitionism, the Reunion movement in the Church, and matters of the General Assembly. Men such as N. C. Burt, Howard Crosby, Cyrus Dickson, William H. Green, James O. Murray, E. D. Prime, and Nathaniel West are representative of Van Dyke’s correspondents. Searches on the Web tend almost entirely to only produce results dealing with his son, a well known author and poet of his era, who was theologically a moderate liberal. The question occurs of course, did the father’s errors push the son to react with yet more error. Would that both had instead listened to Rev. Sloane (see below) and repented of their sins.

It was on this day. December 9, 1860, that Rev. Henry J. Van Dyke delivered his discourse on “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism.”

He set forth four main points in his argument to undermine the abolitionist cause:

“Abolitionism has no foundation in the Scriptures.
Its principles have been promulgated by misrepresentation and abuse.
It leads, in multitudes of cases, and by a logical process, to utter infidelity.
It is the chief cause of the strife that agitates and the danger that threatens our country.”

Read Van Dyke’s discourse online here (HathiTrust) – http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009565957
or download here (Archives.org) – https://archive.org/details/characterinfluen07vand.
That work and some of his other works can also be found on a page set up under his name, over at the Log College Press web site

By all means then you must also read the review written by James Renwick Willson Sloane [1823-1886], a Reformed Presbyterian pastor and contemporary of Rev. Van Dyke. See the link below, or again, visit the page listing Rev. Sloane’s works, at the Log College Press.

Review of Rev. Henry J. Van Dyke’s discourse on “The character and influence of abolitionism,” a sermon preached in the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church, Twenty-third Street, New York, on Sabbath evening, December 23, 1860

Please be aware there is also an uplifting biography of Rev. Sloane that you should read, for he was a stalwart defender of Scriptural truth even in the face of determined opposition.

Life and work of J. R. W. Sloane, D. D., professor of theology in the Reformed Presbyterian seminary at Allegheny City, Penn. 1868-1886 and pastor of the Third Reformed Presbyterian church, New York, 1856-1868

Words to Live By:
Rev. Sloane was quite right to call out Henry Van Dyke for the error of what he was teaching. Apparently it is all too easy to get caught up in the prevailing culture and even Christians can be found living without a Biblical discernment on some matters. May our Lord give us discernment and conviction to repent of the sins of our time and culture. Better still, to mourn over the sins of our times. It is easy to condemn the sins of an earlier time; what are we doing to oppose the sins of today?

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In his day, Dr. Joseph S. Edie, M. D., was a venerable and esteemed elder of the Presbyterian Church at Christiansburg, Va.

He was born in Brooke county, Virginia on November 27th, 1798, and graduated at Hampden Sidney College in 1825.

About that time he came to Christiansburg as a teacher. Here he entered at once with great energy upon Christian work, and established the first Sabbath School in the place. Subsequently he established another school on Mr. Van Lear’s place on the North Fork of Roanoke, and did much in circulating tracts and religious reading among the people. After the organization of the Church at Christiansburg, in which he exerted a strong influence, he went to teach school in Lewisburg, Virginia, and pursued the study of medicine. During an absence of several years he taught also at Union, Monroe county, and completed his medical course in Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned to Christiansburg in 1832, and continued in the practice of his profession there for the remainder of his life.

He was a member of the Presbyterian church at Christiansburg for over fifty-six years, and a ruling elder for forty-nine years. “It is,” said his pastor, “perhaps enough to add that during all this time the church has never had a more valued or valuable member or officer. His name will be linked especially with the names of R. D. Montague and William Wade, and it is no disparagement to those excellent men and women who have stood with them, to say that to these three men, more than to any others, is due, under God, the success of the church in all its early struggles, and in much of its subsequent history. The church has never had in it men more devoted to its interests, or men of greater piety, weight of character and practical wisdom.”

Words to Live By:
Every good church has those faithful men and women who really are the ones who keep the church operating and who get things done, not for themselves, but selflessly and for the whole congregation. Remember to pray for these saints.

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The following short article appeared on the pages of The Charleston Observer in 1840, reprinted there from The Presbyterian, a Philadelphia paper.  The article was written in response to actions taken in the Presbyterian Church at that time, correcting the error of disuse into which the diaconal office had fallen

We are pleased to observe that the injunctions of the General Assembly, relative to the appointment of Deacons in our several Churches, has attracted attention, and in many instances, has led inferior judicatories to take immediate measures to supply the glaring defect which is so general, and has been so long continued.  The disuse into which the office has fallen, has arisen from a wrong impression, that it may properly be dispensed with in any Church which has no poor dependent on its charity, or where the Elders without inconvenience, can attend to the poor.  In reply to this, we refer to the requirements of the Church, which are imperative on the subject.  The Deacon is an officer who is spoken of as an indispensable part of a rightly organized Church, and if he may be set aside by such a plea, as the one above alluded to, with the same propriety may the Ruling Elder be dispensed with, on some similar plea.  The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.  Is he under no obligations to accompany these charities with kindly visits, religious conversation, and prayer?  Is he not to give counsel to the widow in her affliction, and instruction to the orphan?–He may be a co-adjutor to the Elder, and aid the Pastor materially in the well-ordering of the Church.  The office of the Deacon was not designed to be a temporary one ; there is not one intimation in Scripture to this effect ; and although it originated in the peculiar wants of the Church at the time, yet those wants will always exist in a degree sufficient to justify its continuance.–The duty of the Churches, therefore, is clear: they should forthwith choose out suitable men to fill this office.–The Presbyterian.

[The Charleston Observer, 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 6]

CHURCH OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD GETS ITS FIRST FULL-TIME PASTOR.

Center Point Presbyterian Church, in Moore, South Carolina, established in 1875, had its first full-time minister installed on the evening of this day, November 2, in 1980, by a commission of the Calvary Presbytery. Their new minister, the Rev. John David Love, was a native of York, South Carolina, and was married to Molly Plexico Love, of Sharon, SC. They had two daughters, Mary Bratton and Caroline Jane. Rev. Love was a graduate of Presbyterian College and Columbia Theological Seminary, having served churches in McConnells and Woodruff, SC. Prior to coming to the Center Point pulpit, his most recent ministry and most fruitful work had been with the management of Camp Eva Good at Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, where he served for many years. There he served both as manager of the property and as counselor and minister to all who had the privilege of coming in contact with him.

Concurrent with a portion of his years as pastor of the Center Point church, Rev. Love also served as pastor of the Reidville Presbyterian church, in Reidville, South Carolina, 1987-1989. His final years of pastoral ministry were spend as Stated Supply for the historic Bullock Creek Presbyterian church of Sharon, South Carolina, 1996-1997. Pastor Love was honorably retired in 1998 and but a few years later, entered into the presence of his Lord and Savior, on September 16, 2002.

Source: The Calvary Link. Published by the Mission to the U.S. Committee of Calvary Presbytery (PCA), Vol. 3, No. 7 (November 1980).

A Fine Commentator In His Day

JacobusMWTHE DUTY OF DEDICATING OUR SONS TO GOD, FOR THE GOSPEL MINISTRY.
By the Rev. M. W. Jacobus, D. D.

Theme—” That Christian parents be exhorted to give their sons to God with a view of their being trained by the Spirit and by the Church to the work of the Gospel Ministry.”

There are certain cardinal truths affecting most deeply the life of the Christian church, which, by reason of long neglect, have died out from the common recognition, and need at intervals to be re-argued and re-established. Such a truth, we take it, is this duty of Christian parents to dedicate their sons to God, with a view to the Gospel ministry. Like most other great practical truths, it has had its counterfeit in systems of formalism ] and the false practice has prevailed instead of the genuine, until the very abuse has thrown discredit upon the true doctrine. So that even now, at the suggestion of so important a topic, we think it needful to vindicate it against any suspicion of fellowship with that absurd system of designating a particular son of the family to the ministry, just as another is set apart to the army or navy.

It should not be forgotten, however, that the counterfeit points to the true ; and it is our business to inquire what is the truth, in doctrine and practice, which is disguised under this empty formalism.

Under the old economy, the original ordinance required the first horn son to be set apart for the priesthood, or rather this sacerdotal office was one of the birthright privileges. The principles underlying this arrangement, were,

1. That God’s service at the altar was the highest and best;
2. That this sacred office required the first and best of the offspring;
3. That they who had been pre-eminently spared—as their first born had been in the Egyptian scourge—should be solemnly dedicated to God as his of double right ; while thus also they should point to him who is the great

First Born among many brethren. Reasoning from all analogy, these principles are of full force under the Christian dispensation ; and are even expected to prevail more specially, as the shadow merges into the substance. Do Christian parents doubt that God’s service at the altar is still the highest and the best ? Or is this indeed the lurking /a/^ac^^, the worm at the root of our ministerial supplies, that fathers and mothers in the Church seek worldly avocations for their sons, as more lucrative, or more honourable ? Have they, indeed, ceased to regard the sacred office as the birthright privilege of their Samuels, and Johns, and Timothys, which it were profane to part with for a mess of pottage ? And will it be for one moment disputed by Christian parents that this service of God in the sacred office, calls for the first and best of their offspring ? And if this be so, then does it not in effect set up the first claim to each one of those who, as sons, are able to serve Him in the ministry ? Or, for which of their sons shall they make out an exemption on the ground of inferiority ? Does not this principle, so essentially belonging to both economies, of consecrating to God’s altar the best of its kind, cut off the plea that any son is too talented, or too promising, or too useful in a worldly point of view, to be given up to this religious work ?

And further ; as ” the first born” were claimed, as a class, for the ancient ministry because these, as a class, had been savingly distinguished from Egypt’s first born, who were swept off by the destroying angel, does not God’s effectual call to any of our sons, so far set a mark upon them as being claimed for his service in the New Testament priesthood ? Let it not be answered that under the New Testament the priesthood is only the common Christian vocation, inasmuch as every believer under this economy is ordained to be a priest ; for the same argument, if pressed, would abolish the sacred office altogether, and merge the christian ministry into the common christian discipleship. If, then, we see our sons hopefully converted to Grod, does not this so far indicate that He who separated them from their birth, would put them into the ministry ? Is there any provision made under the New Testament, for their redemption with money, from so blessed and privileged a service ? If so, where is the family of Aaron, upon whom, in their stead, the office can fall ? And if there be misconception here, may not the church be failing of her supplies, and the ministry of its reinforcements, just because this family resource is neglected, and there is none appointed in its stead ? Christian parents do rather ignore their own priesthood when they deny the duty of their sons, and God’s claim upon them as the pro-per sons of Levi. Should they not ask importunately for their new birth, as Hannah asked for Samuel, with the pledge, that if God would but convert them, they should be dedicated to his service in the gospel ministry ? ” For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him. Therefore, also, I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.”—1 Sam. i. 27, 28. But it may be contended that we should rather dedicate our sons to God’s service in general, without any special reference to the work of the ministry ; that we ought rather to leave it to

his providence to indicate their function, lest we seem to dictate to God. But if it be conceded that the sacred office is that in which ordinarily God may be most eminently served ; and if our dedication of sons to such service supposes always his effectual preparation of them for the work, and the inward call of his Spirit as a special personal requisite, and if also it implies a submission to the order of his providence as to the outward call, then surely there can be no danger here of trenching upon the divine prerogative. But, consider 1. that the pressing wants of the field are such as to call for such a system of recruits. If the whole tribe of Levi was needed for the old temple service, and all the sons of Aaron for the priesthood, it is quite as necessary now that all the sons of Christian parents be separated for this work, if they can have the requisite qualification. And whence should the recruits be looked for more appropriately than from this very quarter ? And is not this always the fair presumption in the case, that the ministry will be taken from families of the covenant ? And if Christian parents have any right to presume upon their children being owned as the Lord’s, have they not a corresponding obligation to devote them as the Lord’s, to his most eminent service in the ministry ? Is not the presumption then always on this side, that while this immense want continues^ if our sons are owned by God as his children, through his converting grace, they should be consecrated to his highest service, to be his gospel ministers if he so please f And how can Christian parents respond to the divine command, and with an eye upon the whitened harvest, pray that the Lord would send forth labourers into his harvest, if, at the same time, they are not using their proper influence with God and with their sons, to put those of their own household into the harvest field ? Who shall tell how many loud prayers in our church assemblies, for the reinforcement of the ministry, have been powerless, just because of this lurking self-deception in many a parent’s heart ? Amidst all the crying demands of the foreign and domestic field, the sad deficiency of labourers, and the dismal prospect for any forthcoming supplies, worldly parents have rather sought for their sons the position of merchant princes than of ministers of Christ.

And what wonder, that God often as now, rebukes such worldliness, and shows them that this, their birth-right, has been profanely parted with for a mess of pottage ? May we not presume then, that while such immense destitutions in the harvest field continue—while the Master is so urgently calling for men—while the church is trembling before the gates of hell, just for lack of some such systematic reinforcement of her troops, the sons of the church are demanded for the ministry, and Christian parents ought so to calculate, and to train them with this in view ?

Consider also the positive power in the household of such parental dedication. Can it be doubted that our sons, thus set apart, and instructed, and prayed for, with a view to such a holy service, would be placed at every advantage for their early conversion to God? What a train of pious influences would needs go forth from such a parental aim in the daily education! What fervency in prayer would come from such a prospect and hope of seeing these sons ministering in holy things ! What lofty Christian conversation and example would naturally ensue! And have we not reason to believe that the prayers which look toward such a dedication would be heard, and that thus our sons would be converted much more commonly than at present ?

Would it not oftener occur, as with Hannah, that the vow accompanying the petition would draw down a gracious answer from a covenant God? But we have staggered at this point! We have hesitated to say, “If thou wilt give unto thy servant this son, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life;” and therefore often our sons have grown up unconverted for lack of this very parental dedication.

Observe : We do not contend that all our sons should be put into the ministry, whether converted or not. Nor even that all of them who are hopefully the Lord’s should be, of course and at any rate, absolutely designated to that office. God must call them as he called Aaron. But we urge that, on our part, we should hold them as devoted to the Lord for this work^ as that to which we may fairly hope that God will call them; and that, with this view, we should train them, and pray for them, and lead their minds, and direct their course, looking to his providence and his Spirit to second our efforts and open the way. This would contemplate quite a different course of conduct from that which most commonly obtains in our households, with respect to our sons. It would point to the highest aims for their usefulness and their devotedness, and it would call for an exalted Christian culture, such as a mere passive dedication could never reach. We would not, by any means, maintain any such presumption as would dispense with a particular, personal call, in any case. But we believe that this call more often comes to our converted sons than is commonly admitted. And we believe that among them at least, the misapprehension is much more often against the caP than for it, and keeps out of the ministry more of these who are called, than it brings into the ministry of those who are not called.

But this view of the subject has not been overlooked by the General Assembly of our church. In 1840, we find them using such language as this : “We suggest to Christian parents the important duty of dedicating their children to God, and especially of pleading continually with the Most High, in subordination to his holy will, to sanctify their sons and prepare them for the sacred ministry. Our feelings (they add) have been deeply enlisted in this subject by the statements laid before us from the Board of Education, which show that the number of our candidates for the ministry is decreasing. We call upon all the pious parents in our communion to consider this affecting circumstance. We have hundreds of vacant churches in our connection. Several millions of the population of the Union are believed to be destitute of the stated means of grace; the heathen world spread out before us in one vast scene of crime, and cruelty, and woe, appeals to us with an unyielding and soulpiercing importunity, to send them relief. And yet our candidates for the ministry are fewer now than they have been for some years. Will you not lay this to heart? Will you not bring your sons and consecrate them anew to your covenant God ? Will you not give over seeking for them the transitory honours and riches of this world, and pray the Lord of the harvest, if it seem good in his sight, to anoint them with his Spirit, and send them forth into his harvest which is perishing for lack of labourers V—Minutes 1840, p. 310.

We would only urge, in conclusion, the striking facts which so attest the importance and value of such parental dedication. The celebrated John Newton testifies : ” I have been told, that from my birth my pious mother had, in her mind, devoted me to the ministry ; and that, had she lived until I was of a proper age, I was to have been sent to St. Andrews, in Scotland, to be educated. But the Lord had appointed otherwise. She died before I was seven years of age.” Yet, mark the training of which he testifies :

“When I was four years old, I could repeat the answers to the questions in the Shorter Catechism, with the proofs, and all Dr. Watts’s smaller catechisms, with his children’s hymns.” This was the power of that parental dedication in such daily training, not only for the ministry, but for heaven. How the hand of a covenant God wrought with him through all his after impieties, and with all the persistency of a divine ordination, checked, disciplined, and reclaimed him, till he became an able and faithful minister of the New Testament, according to that pious mother’s prayer, is a notable chaptei in the annals of the church.

Of Rev. John Belfrage, his biographers remark that his Christian mother laboured to prepare him for the sacred office, to form pious sentiments in his mind, and to cherish devout feelings in his heart. She marked, with pleasure, her son’s early inclination for the ministry, which had been awakened by means of her own early religious influences upon him. Accordingly, when, at a suitable age, he was sent to the College of Edinburgh, it pleased God to work in him the graces of a Christian character, and he became a devoted and faithful minister of Christ, after his pious mother had been laid in the dust.

Dr. Claudius Buchanan was, from his childhood, devoted by his parents to the ministry. He was, however, a reckless youth, and pursued a course of wandering through several years, until, at length, the God of Newton brought him to attend on the ministry of that reclaimed wanderer, and he was led to Christ. It was on hearing a sermon from the passage in Isaiah : ” How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,” that all his early parental dedication to the ministry forced itself upon his heart. He became, at length, a preacher of the gospel in England, and afterwards filled an important post in India, as a herald of the Cross.

It is recorded, also, of the celebrated Philip Henry, that his godly mother devoted him, in his tender years, to the service of God in the work of the ministry, and though she died before he was fourteen years of age, he always spoke of her as being to him, what Timothy’s mother and grandmother were to him—acquainting him with the Scriptures from his childhood. She prayed with him daily ; catechized him, and thus laid the foundation for his future usefulness in the great and holy work to which she had devoted him.

Of the Rev. John Bailey, who was a faithful minister of the gospel in Ireland, and in New England, it is recorded that his godly mother dedicated him to the service of God in the gospel ministry, from his earliest moments. He was accordingly trained in a way befitting such a sacred aim, and from being reared like Timothy, he became, like him, an eminent minister of the New Testament. We add the name of the celebrated President Davies. His mother, says his biographer, took example from the mother of the prophet Samuel, and vowed a vow unto the Lord, that if he would indeed give her a man-child, she would devote him to his service all the days of his life. Hence he was called Samuel. At twelve years of age, it is remarked that he was more ardent in his supplications for being introduced into the gospel ministry, than for any other thing. ‘^ The event proved,” says President Finley, in his sermon on his death, ” that God accepted the consecrated boy—took him under his special care—furnished him for, and employed him in, the service of his church—prospered his labours with remarkable success, and not only blessed him, but made him a blessing.” To the same effect, is the case of Rev. Dr. Mc Millan, as narrated in The History of Jefferson College, by Rev. Joseph Smith, D. D. “In a manuscript of Dr. Mc Millan, found among his papers, there is the following statement which he makes of his history:

“Before my birth my parents had some children, I think two sons, who died while they were young. My father told me that he had promised to Grod that if he would give him another son, he would call his name John, and devote him to his service in the ministry of the gospel. Accordingly, as soon as I had acquired a sufficient degree of English literature, I was sent to the grammar school, &c. While there the Lord poured out his Spirit upon the students. I went to College on a day which had been set apart by a number of the students to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer. While the others were at dinner, I retired into my study, and while trying to pray, I got some discoveries of divine things which I had never had before. I felt it now easy to submit to the gospel plan of salvation, &c. I had great difficulties in my own mind about undertaking the work of the gospel ministry. However, I at last came to this determination, to leave the matter wholly with God : if he opened the way, I would go on—if he shut it, I would be satisfied ; and I think if ever 1 knew what it was to have no will of my own about any matter^ it was about this.’

God has not left himself without witness. His faithfulness to his household covenant, and to his New Testament Church, has been signally manifested in a long line’ of ministers, parentally dedicated to him in this holy work. From Samuel, and those that follow after, a great cloud of witness-bearers have testified of these things. Many ministers now living could testify to the same effect, of such early parental dedication in their case. It has always pleased God to propagate his church by means of the descendants of a pious ancestry.

He has transmitted his gospel ministry by this means. The sanctity of the domestic relation, and the power of parental influence and prayer, have been employed by him for so momentous a result as the recruiting of labourers for the harvest field of the world. And by all the necessities of his church, and of perishing millions in all lands, he calls upon Christian parents to lay their sons at the foot of his altar, and to crave for them, as their high Christian birthright, the distinguished honour of serving him in the ministry of reconciliation. Where are our sons who have attained to years of maturity, or who are fitting for their stations in life? Have we honestly devoted them to the sacred ministry, and then, in good faith, pleaded with God to train them up for so high and holy a calling, if it were his will? Or have we borne no testimony in the household, and used no influence with God toward this result ? Might it not be expected that the Christian ministry would be recruited from our families ? Does not God’s service need them?

Are not the churches calling for men ? Are we not now to labour and pray that the promise may soon be fulfilled, as the glory of the latter days, that our sons and our daughters shall prophesy, and that our young men shall see visions, as well as our old men dream dreams; and that, ‘^ in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning, the church shall have the dew of her young men V Ps. ex. 3. After the reading of this paper before the Synod of Pittsburgh, one of the most experienced among the pastors rose, and, with much emotion, made the following statement, illustrating the influence of parents in the training of their sons for the ministry :

“I once knew a young man of fine talents, whom I tenderly loved. He started in his preparatory course for the ministry. His father was a praying man, and his mother devotedly pious. The mother would have made any sacrifice ; but the father could not bear the idea of spending so much money, as well as losing the time of his son. After a while the young man became disheartened, and gave up his studies, with the hope that he could make money and educate many poor young men to take his place. He did get wealthy and was tolerably liberal, but a sad mistake was made. One of the brightest young men I ever knew, was stopped in his course by the continued opposition of his brother. Once a father said to me, I have educated my son to be useful to me in my profession ; and just when he has begun to be useful, he has abandoned me, and chosen the life of a beggar. That father had long been a professor of religion, and a trustee of the church. Even the mother regretted her son’s course. She had pictured to herself a son, talented, wealthy, &c., and now, she said, he would be nothing but a minister!

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Today we present the Inaugural Address of the Rev. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, delivered upon his installation as profoessor at the Princeton Theological Seminary on this day, September 21, 1900. Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was a close friend of Dr. Wilson’s, and he composed a hymn for the inaugural occasion, later published on page six as part of Four Hymns and Some Religious Verse, and which can be viewed here

How many people know that Benjamin B. Warfield was much more than “just” a theologian and exegete of first rank?
He also wrote at least four hymns and a small grouping of religious verse.  Among these, the following example was composed for the occasion of the installation of his close friend, the Rev. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, as professor of semitic philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, on 21 September 1900:

HOW GLORIOUS ART THOU, O OUR GOD!
Opening Hymn for the Service of Installation (to the tune of St. Anne, composed by William Croft, 1708)

How glorious art thou, O our God!
’Tis Thou and Thou alone
Who dwellest in Thy people’s praise,
On Thine eternal throne.

From Charran and Chaldean Ur,
The River’s banks along,
From Canaan’s heights and Egypt’s sands,
Arose the constant song,—

From all the towns that stud the hills
Of teeming Galilee,
From marts of Greece and misty lands
Beyond the Western Sea.

How many voices, diff’ring tongues,
Harmonious, join to raise
To Thee, O Rock of Israel,
Accumulated praise!

Fain would we catch the accents strange,
Fain train our ears to hear
The notes that hymn Thee, through the years,
O Israel’s Hope and Fear!

’Twas thou didst teach thy sons of old
Thy varied laud to sing,
School Thou our hearts that we may too
Our hallelujahs bring.

How glorious art Thou, O our God!
How mighty past compare!
Thou dwellest in Thy people’s praise,—
Accept the praise we bear.

INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
[delivered on 21 September 1900]

  1. MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

Let me thank you for the great honor which you have conferred upon me in calling me to take a part in the succession to the labors of those illustrious men who, in their day, made the name of Princeton known and revered throughout the world, and whose memory still is blessed.  May the portion of their mantle which has fallen upon me, cause me to be filled with the same spirit which was in them, and make me worthy of a place among my learned and distinguished confrères in the present faculty of this mother of Presbyterian Seminaries.

It gives me especial pleasure and comfort, in leaving a city which for nearly a quarter of a century has been my home, to see among you here so many of the old familiar faces of those who in College and Seminary were my professors or fellow students, and to receive a charge from one whom I have always deemed one of the dearest of my Seminary friends.

Will you pardon my for expressing the hope that those of you who have known me for so many years and yet have esteemed me fitted for this place, may never be disappointed in your choice

Before discussing the subject which I have chosen for my inaugural address, a few definitions may be necessary.  By Lower Criticism I mean grammar, lexicography and textual criticism ; by Higher Criticism, any literary criticism of the text or any systematic statements of truth, which may be derived from the purest possible text, in strict accordance with the rules of grammar and the most probably results of lexicography.  Following these definitions, we restate the theme of our discourse as follows:  A thorough knowledge of the principles of grammar, lexicography and textual criticism is necessary as a preparation for the critical study of the Scriptures along any line of thought, literary, historical or theological.

Before passing to the discussion of our subject, let us remark that the three branches of Lower Criticism are not mutually exclusive nor logically distinct.  Indeed, there is a sense in which both lexicography and textual criticism may be looked upon as parts of grammar, while on the other hand, no part of grammar or lexicography can be considered without reference to the criticism of the text.

After these preliminary remarks by way of definition and limitation, I proceed to the discussion of the kind and amount of lower criticism which are demanded by the times, and which it shall be the endeavor of the incumbent of the Chair of Semitic Philology and Old Testament Criticism to impart.  The first department of Lower Criticism is that which is commonly called grammar.  For convenience of treatment Hebrew Grammar may be divided into three parts, Phonics, Graphics and Morphics, or sounds, signs and forms.  The study of sounds, in their relation to Higher Criticism, is important only because of its bearing upon the derivation and the variations of the forms of words, and upon the errors of text arising from the confusion of consonants of similar sound.  The study of Graphics, especially in MSS. and in palaeography, is necessary in order to understand the transmission of the text, and in particular the variations arising from mistakes in reading letters which, at some time, have been similar in form.  And when we come to the first part of Morphics, which is commonly called etymology, it is not sufficient to study the forms of words as they are embodied in the traditional punctuation of the Massoretes.  The origin of the sounds back of the written forms, the inflection and meaning of the forms, the ability to change forms in accordance with the demands of exegesis, this must be thoroughly learned before one is prepared to advance with steady tread by the paths of syntax and textual criticism to the higher regions of history, theology and literary criticism.  But if the origin, inflection and meaning of single words is indispensable, what shall we say of the more complex forms of syntax?  You will agree with me, that this is one of the most difficult tasks in the learning of any language.  You will agree with me, further, in my belief that no part of a theological education was formerly more neglected than the study of Hebrew Syntax.  In fact, it was scarcely taught at all in our theological seminaries a generation ago.  If you will look at an old Hebrew grammar, you will find that very little space is given to it.  One was expected to know it by intuition, or to pick it up.  The advance in the importance attributed to a special knowledge of Hebrew syntax, may be gauged by comparing the different editions of Gesenius’ Grammar which have appeared in the last fifty years, or the translation of Conant with the last editions of the English version of Kautzsch’s Gesenius.  We are convinced that the reason why so many of our ministers have neglected the independent exegesis of the Old Testament, has been that they were ignorant of syntax.  Certainly no one acquainted with the subject would suppose for an instant that a knowledge of that difficult and varied instrument for the expression of thought, the Semitic verb, could be gained otherwise than by thorough and protracted study.  The Hebrew imperfect is as varied in its usage as the Greek Aorist, the Hebrew genitive and article as the Greek, and the exegete who attempts to expound the Old Testament, without being master of these, is just as insensible to the requirements of the case as is he who would try in like ignorance to expound the Greek of the New.

The second division of Lower Criticism is lexicography, the science or art of determining the meaning of words.  By most students of the Old Testament, this department of research is given over entirely to the dictionary makers.  What appears in a standard current dictionary is considered final and decisive.  I remember  that when I was in the Seminary two great theologians carried on an important discussion, which depended upon the meaning of a single word, and neither of them thought it necessary to appeal to other authorities than the English edition of Gesenius.  Who was Gesenius, that our Presbyterian ministers and professors should appeal to his dictionary as the final court in linguistic matters?  Should a rationalist of his type, whose opinions in Higher Criticism would be rejected as untenable, shall the work of such a man be accepted as the standard in the field of lexicography?  Do a man’s views of God not enter into his definition of miracles and prophecy and holiness and sin?  Those of you who are conversant with Gesenius’ dictionary will remember the frequently recurring note:  See my Commentary on Isaiah, in loco; and there we find the discussion of the reasons for defining the word as it is given in the dictionary.  In short, a dictionary is but the dicta of the writer on the words defined.  The exegete should be prepared to go back of the dictionary so as to examine the reasons for the definition.  As my learned colleague, in his masterly review of the meaning of the word for inspired, so every searcher after truth should, so far as possible, be prepared to search out the meaning of any disputed term and to thoroughly investigate his premises before arriving at a conclusion.  But it is a pertinent question here to ask, whether this is ever in the range of possibility for the ordinary theological student?  To which I answer : Yes; in large part.

Every theological student learns enough Hebrew to use a concordance.  Now, a concordance of a language like the ancient Hebrew, whose entire literature is found in a single book, gives a comprehensive survey of the usage of a given word.  If the construction in which the word occurs is always exactly the same, little information can be gained in this way ; but if the word is of frequent occurrence, and is found in several or many different connections, a tolerably accurate definition of most words may be made without further help than a concordance.  If there is profit in using Cruden’s and Young’s concordances in the explication of the text, much more might one argue the utility of using those in the original languages in which the Word of God was written, as “The final appeal in all questions of faith and practice.”   The Greek and Hebrew concordances are the airbrakes on hasty conclusions, the safety-valves of the Church against the rash judgments of professional dictators or ignorant enthusiasts.

A second aid which the ordinary student may find in determining the meaning of words, is that to be derived from the meaning of forms.  If it be true that forms have meaning, then a knowledge of the usual meaning of these forms will enable the student to demand that the lexicon shall give a sufficient reason for any departure from the customary meaning of a form.

A third aid which the ordinary student can use in the control of the dictionary is to be found in the ancient versions into Greek and Latin.  These versions are fortunately within the reach of all, and their daily use in the interpretation of the original is to be most highly commended.  It will not merely keep up and increase a knowledge of those languages upon which so much time has been expended, but it will certainly call attention to matters of grammar and exegesis which would otherwise be entirely overlooked.  But as to the point in question, it will be immediately perceived that when there is a difference between one or more of the ancient versions and the lexicon as to the meaning of a word, that there is a subject worthy of the investigation of the exegete.  To my mind no better method for mastering the ancient Hebrew, and at the same time for retaining and perfecting our knowledge of the classics, can be found than the study of the ancient versions in connection with the original text, discovering and seeking to explain every slightest variation of thought or expression.  As tests of dictionaries and suggesters of new ideas they are invaluable and unsurpassed.  While ordinary students must remain satisfied with the study of the Greek and Latin versions, the extraordinary student will acquire Syriac and Aramaic in order to make use of the other great primary versions, that he may derive a full benefit from these great masterpieces of interpretation of the word of God which have been handed down from antiquity.

A fourth aid in the control of lexicons is not open to the ordinary student.  It is that to be derived from the cognate languages.  Its value in correcting the errors of citation and logic on the part of lexicographers can scarcely be overestimated.  I shall never forget the shock which went through my frame when upon looking at an Arabic dictionary in confirmation of a statement made by that imperial scholar, Ewald, with regard to the meaning of a word, I found the facts to be the very opposite to that which he had stated to be the case.  It caused a revolution in my methods ; I have never since accepted the references to the cognate languages in the commentaries and dictionaries without first making an investigation for myself, and even then often with the admission to myself that the inductions of meanings in the dictionaries at hand may be incomplete or misunderstood.  Some of the commentaries and lexicons cannot be comprehended without a partial knowledge of Arabic and Syriac at least.  Would that every one who had the opportunity of perfecting himself in the use of all the means which God has given us for ascertaining with as much fullness as possible the meaning of every word which the Holy Scriptures contain would avail himself of the advantages which this institution may afford of learning these sister tongues of the inspired.

The third department of Lower Criticism is Textual Criticism, the purpose of which is to discover the original text.  One would suppose that the first endeavor of all students of the Bible would be to discover the very words which were written through the inspiration of God.  It is only lately, however, that any critical apparatus, approximating in any suitable degree what it should be, has been prepared.  The publication of the Polychrome edition of the Hebrew bible and the amount of textual changes suggested in many of the latest commentaries, such as Klostermann’s, and in religious magazines, like the Expository Times, have rendered it necessary for the intelligent and conscientious reader to gain as good as possible a knowledge of the correct principles of Old Testament textual criticism.  While Old Testament books are costly, every man can have at least one polyglot which will give most of the data upon which the conclusions of the critics are based.  As to the methods of textual criticism, this is neither the time nor the place to enter into a full statement of what they are.  Let it suffice to say that they should be objective rather than subjective.  The purpose of the critic should be to find out what the author said, not what he would like him to have said, nor what he thinks he ought to have said.  Such a method, moreover, must be scientific, i.e., it must seek to secure a complete induction of the facts without selection or exclusion, because of preconceived opinions or tendency theories of any kind whatsoever.  What the men of God wrote, that is the task of the critic to discover and to pass on to the exegete, the historian and the theologian, that they may have correct premises on which to base the conclusions in their commentaries, histories and theologies.

Here let me guard against two common misconceptions.  One is the supposition that the Hebrew original of the Old Testament has been so preserved as to render all revision objectless.  No one can hold such a theory in view of the evidences of the Hebrew MSS. and the parallel passages alone.  No more will any one who accepts the evidences of the New Testament quotations in their bearing upon the text of the Old, and who recognizes the need for a revision of the New Testament, have a locus standi in defending the impeccability of the text of the Old.

The other error is that the ancient translators or the later revisers of their versions were so characterized by prejudices and tendencies that their translations were intentionally inaccurate and biased from the start, so as to render them largely useless in enabling us to re-establish any original Hebrew text.  In answer to this it may be said that (except in isolated instances and books) no sufficient proof of these intentional variations from the original text has as yet been produced.  My own conviction is (and this is a conviction based upon a more or less extensive study of all the versions), that all of them, primary and secondary, by whomsoever made, bear undeniable evidence of having been designed to be faithful to their original.  Had we the original texts of the versions, we could doubtless, with the aid of the Hebrew textus receptus, reconstruct in most instances the originals from which they were translated.  As it is, the first question to be asked when we find a variation in a version is, why this variation?  Was the original of it different from the textus receptus?  Did the translators misunderstand the original?  Do we misunderstand either the original or the translation, or is either one or other text corrupt?  It will be seen that before one is fitted to answer these questions with anything like accuracy, he must be acquainted with all the departments of grammar and lexicography mentioned above.  Phonics, palaeography, the concordances, versions and cognates will all contribute their portion toward the settlement of every question of text.  The failure to use any one of these factors may cause an error in the result.

Such, then, are the three great divisions of Lower Criticism—text, grammar, lexicon—and knowledge of all three is indispensable to any one who will rightly divide the Word of Truth.  A correct view of the possibilities and attainments of textual criticism, a thorough knowledge of all the parts of grammar, an intelligent control of lexicography – these must be the possession of him who would understand the biblical literature of the day ; these give the logical premises for all conclusions based upon the Word of God.  These are the foundations upon which are to be built the stately structure of literary criticism, history and theology.

We shall seek to lay the foundations deep and broad and firm in the minds of our students, that all men may admire the uprightness and strength and beauty of the superstructures which they shall build.

You will all have noticed that throughout this discourse I have emphasized the study of the cognates, and of the primary versions, at least, for those who would fully master the details of Lower Criticism.  Only after having learned these will they be fully furnished for the more attractive but not more important work of Higher Criticism.  Not forgetting that the primary object of the Theological Seminary is to train men for the Gospel ministry, I should like to see Princeton, and I think that the Church would like to see Princeton, offer to young men of the Presbyterian faith facilities for the acquisition of any branch of knowledge that will help them to discover and defend, in its full meaning, every word of God.  It shall be my aim and ambition, with the hoped for hearty aid of the faculty and directors of this institution, and of our Alma Mater across the way, to present to every student the opportunity of acquiring any language which, as cognate to the Hebrew, throws light upon its grammar and lexicon, or any language in which a version of the Bible was made before the Sixth Century, A.D.  Some of my fellow professors have kindly offered to assist in this plan, which is only an extension of what has hitherto been offered.  With the assistance which the University can render, and which we are happy to believe it will be glad to render, we hope that soon it will not be necessary for any of our students to go abroad to perfect themselves in any branch of theological science.

In my plans for the offering of increased facilities for the more thorough understanding of the Old Testament, I have projected a number of works and series of works which seem necessary to fill out the apparatus criticus. In the completing of these works, I shall invoke the assistance of the students whom I expect to train, the advice of my fellow professors, and, when needed, the financial aid of the friends of this Seminary.

And may God grant His grace and His strength that all our labors may be well done and fully done, to the increase of knowledge and faith, to the honor of His Word and the glory of His name.

Photo source: Inset from a photographic postcard of the 1919 Grove City College Bible Conference, preserved as part of the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, at the PCA Historical Center.

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