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Standing Against Conformity to the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Plan of Action for Revival

If you look at some of the early Presbyterian Guardian issues on-line, you will notice on the masthead the name of the Constitutional Covenant Union.  What was this organization?

The Covenant Union was an independent agency organized after the 1935 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That national meeting brought some powerful indications that the conservative Presbyterians days were numbered in the visible church.  So there went out a call to the supporters of the true Presbyterians to come to Philadelphia for a meeting on June 27, 1935.  Over one hundred people answered the call.  The Constitutional Covenant Union was organized, with officers elected, an executive committee named, and a constitution adopted.  Chapters were to be organized, and a program of reform of the Presbyterian Church USA promoted.

That program was set introduced by an opening statement.  The purposes were two-fold.  It said, “we, the members of this Covenant Union are resolved, in accordance with God’s Word and in humble reliance upon His grace, to maintain the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, (1) making every effort  to bring about a reform of the existing church organization and to restore the church’s clear and glorious Christian testimony, which modernism and indifferentism have now so grievously silenced, but (2) if such efforts fail, and in  particular, if the tyrannical policy of the present majority triumphs, holding ourselves ready to perpetuate the true Presbyterian Church, USA, regardless of cost.”

The meeting in Philadelphia would last from June 11 to June 14.  It was upon its closing promptly attacked by not only the church machine of the denomination, but also from a surprising corner in the Rev. Samuel Craig, editor of Christianity Today.  Remember, the latter magazine had been set up by Samuel Craig to expose the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church USA.  But there were changes being made in his purposes around this time.  Instead of supporting the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, he had resigned from both it, and the Board of Trustees of Westminster Seminary.  Now Craig was advocating the support of sound missionaries of the official Board of Foreign Missions.  When that became known, the Rev. McAllister Griffiths resigned as managing editor of Christianity Today, and became the editor of the Presbyterian Guardian.

Rallies began to be held in all parts of the country sponsored by this Covenant Union, with chapters formed in those areas.  However, even with this remnant meeting, it was obvious that the second purpose of the Covenant Union would be realized.  When the 1936 General Assembly met, and the supporters of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions were disciplined with expulsion, there was a call for another meeting.  Taking place on June 11 – 14 in Philadelphia, the Covenant Union was dissolved and the Presbyterian Church of America came into being.   (See June 11)

Words to Live By: J. Gresham Machen said on this occasion that we cannot trust the world.  We cannot trust civilization.  We cannot trust the visible church.  When God speaks through His Word, we can trust only Him.  His words are still true today.  Make the blessed Book of books your guide this day.

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John Gloucester [1776-1822] was the first African American to become an ordained Presbyterian minister in the United States. Born into slavery in Tennessee in the year 1776, he was able to relocate to Philadelphia in 1807. His preaching ministry began there in a house on Gaskill Street, and as his ministry bore fruit, the growing congregation later moved to the corner of 7th and Shippen [or what is now Bainbridge] Streets in Philadelphia. It was at this location that the First African Presbyterian Church was built and dedicated in May of 1811.

Our post today is drawn from the account provided by the Rev. William T. Catto, in his Semi-Centenary Discourse, delivered in The First African Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia… (1857).

How the Good Man Dies

Of Mr. Glouchester’s subsequent labors in the Church, I have not much to record. His failing health, which for some time gave unmistakable evidence that his day of pilgrimage was wellnigh spent, gave no small uneasiness to his flock and anxiety to friends. Consumption had settled fairly upon him, and making a wreck of the once strong man. It was a heart-rending sight to behold the faithful venerable pastor, wasting away gradually but surely for the tomb; it was crushing to behold him, in the strength of manhood, weakened and wasted away by the destroyer, and no possibility of escape.

To him, however, it was a very little matter to decay and die; but his anxiety lay in another direction—it was towards his Church—the people, the object of all his anxieties, these lay near his heart; to them, during the latter part of his life, he gave the remaining energies of his mind, without much regard to anything else; hence his petition to his presbytery on the 27th June, 1820, stating his weakened condition and failing health, and requesting supplies for the pulpit, and also, knowing that the day of his stay on earth was wellnigh over, why, one year before he died, he took the occasion to address a letter to presbytery, dated April 18, 1821, recommending his son Jeremiah as a candidate for the Gospel ministry.

Previous to this, however, Mr. Gloucester, through the concurrence of the Church, had brought forward Samuel Cornnish and Benjamin Hughes to presbytery, to be received under their care as candidates for the ministry; and, from what I have gathered from the Minutes of Presbytery, these young men sustained themselves creditably in the parts of trial assigned to them by presbytery, from time to time as they were examined. In this, also, Mr. Gloucester’s qualities for perception were conspicuous. It will be perceived that his vision was not circumscribed within the narrow limits of his own immediate wants or interests; he was, as I have once before stated, a man of extensive observation; he threw his furtive glance far away into the future, and contemplated the Presbyterian Church, in the States of the Union, rising in the distance as in miniature, and still later looming up in greater magnitude, until he fully recognized its swelling proportions, from every point of view, spreading out and extending itself far and wide. Hence, as can easily be perceived, he took the timely precaution to have prepared the proper material in these young candidates for the ministry, in due time to supply the growing wants of these rising churches; and it is mainly to him and to this First African Presbyterian Church that the now respectable number of Presbyterian church in this land are supplied with ministers.

It pleased the great Head of the Church to remove Mr. Gloucester from his earthly toils and labors, on the 2d day of May, 1822, in the 46th year of his age. This solemn even was expected, from the known nature of his disease, and though it shrouded the hearts of his people and friends in mourning and sorrow, still they were prepared for the sad announcement; in fact, he himself, though feeble and weak, daily exhorted them to resignation to the will of God. I need not inform the reader of the gloom that his death cast over the community where he was known, and he was extensively known to the religious community; they all felt that not  only a great man had fallen that day in Israel, but a father, a light in the church, a shining light was extinguished.

His death was a peaceful one, full of hope; it might, perhaps, more properly be said that he fell asleep in Jesus. Could it be otherwise? His life was Christ-like, that was his life to be like Christ; for this he lived, for this he labored. I close the life of this devoted servant of God by a remark or two. That there were other colored men in Philadelphia laboring for the religious elevation of their people, is known, but if there ever was a man in Philadelphia of Mr. Gloucester’s position, whose upright and Christian walk and general character, considered from every point of view, that won for him the respect and esteem of the great and good men of his day, that man was Mr. Gloucester.

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A Desire to Effect a Reformation

J.J. JanewayThe Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

When the new year of 1800 opened, the Rev. J. J. Janeway was found on its threshold with a strong desire to “effect a reformation” in his heart and life. He wrote in his diary, “On examination, it is found that early rising, fervency in devotion, religious reflections in company, humility, courage, disinterested benevolence, and much engagedness are particularly worthy my attention in this reformation. May God enable me to reform. Amen.”

It was not a short-lived expectation or goal for Rev. Janeway. He persisted. On June 26th of that same year, he wrote in his diary:

“This day I spent in fasting and prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on my ministry. I have read the Scriptures; meditated and prayed. Confession of sins has been made. I have entreated God to bestow on me courage, wisdom, prudence, ardent piety, circumspection, a feeling sense of the importance of divine truth, compassion for the souls of men. I have prayed that I may propose divine truth with clearness, illustrate it with wisdom, and urge it with affection and energy; that I may be furnished for my work abundantly; that I may be a wise, faithful, able and successful minister of the Lord Jesus.”

Words to Live By:
An able, effective, and pointed prayer for any pastor. And in a similar way, for any and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. May each of us press closer to know the Lord, to seek His face, to draw near to Him day by day. Read the Scriptures. Dwell upon their meaning and pray. Confess your sins and ask God to give you what is needed for this day, to live to His glory.

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

Q. 15. — What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A. — The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

Scripture References: Gen. 3:6. II Cor. 11:3. Ps.49:12.

Questions:

1. Why did God forbid our first parents to eat this fruit?

He forbade them because He was making a test of their obedience. It was not that the fruit had in itself any evil. It was God’s method of seeing whether or not they recognized His Lordship over them.

2. Were our first parents guilty of sin before they tasted of the fruit?

Yes, they were guilty of listening to the devil. But when they tasted o of the fruit they completed the act of sin.

3. Where was the first sin committed?

The first sin was committed in Paradise where God had placed man and created woman.

4. Was Adam deceived in this first sin?

The Bible tells us that he was not deceived. Probably his love for Eve motivated him to join her in this transgression. But he suffered the consequence of this sin just the same and betrayed the whole human race whose representative he was.

5. What was involved in the eating of the forbidden fruit?

There were many sins involved in this act of disobedience. By eating they rebelled against their Sovereign God. By eating they were guilty of treason as they were in league with the devil. By eating they were gratifying ambition, to be as God. By eating they were guilty of unbelief because God had said it was wrong. By eating they were bringing death upon themselves and all their posterity.

6. If one word had to be used in describing this first sin, what word would be best?

Probably the word “pride” would come closer to describing it than any other one word. Calvin states, “Augustine is more correct, who says that pride was the beginning of all evils, and that by pride the human race was ruined …”

THE SECOND LOOK

One often wonders how much time Adam spent in meditation and prayer in the Garden when he was offered the forbidden fruit by his wife. He knew that it was forbidden. He -knew the rule of obedience set up in the Garden. He had everything he wanted. And yet he disobeyed the command of his God and accepted the fruit as offered to him. One wonders whether or not Adam took a second look, whether or not he did much thinking about the step he was a:bout to take.

A great lesson to be learned by God’s children today from the trial in the Garden of Eden is the lesson of thinking twice, of praying twice, before taking important steps. God’s children always need to learn the lesson of resistance, the resistance of the first temptation to sin In the heart. The hymn writer put it this way: “I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear. The sensibility of sin, the pain to feel it near.” Yet so often God’s children move into the realm of sin without giving it a second thought, without thinking the matter through, without praying to the Lord for help and guidance. Many times a second look would save them from sinning against God and thereby sinning against themselves and others.

Wordsworth has a few lines in one of his poems that has a great lesson in it which Christians might apply to the matter of temptation. “Look for the stars. You will say there are none; look up a second time, and one by one, you mark them twinkling out with silvery light, and wonder how they could elude the sight!”

Many times we wonder why we did not take that second look, why we could not see the evil surrounding the thought, the action, the word when we first saw it and it seemed good to our eyes. How can we be sure we take a second look? Only by recognizing that we are kept by the power of God and that power will be operative in us if we keep living close to Him and keep His commandments. We can not, we dare not, trust ourselves but only in Him. We must stay close to Him through the study of the Word, through prayer, through service to Him, all to His glory. May God help us ever to take the second look before we leap. (2 Tim. 3:13-17)

His Epitaph was “An Honest Man”

He was the fifty-fifth delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence, even though he signed the historic document  three months after July 4, 1776.  He was a Presbyterian, and a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church of Londonderry, New Hampshire.  He was in local, state, and Federal governments, serving his fellow citizens.  But beyond all these kudos, it was said that he was “consistent and zealous Christian.”  He was Matthew Thornton.

Born in Ireland of Scottish ancestry, from the northern Ireland Protestant section of that country, Matthew Thornton was brought to this country by his parents at the age of three.  Settling in what later on became Maine, God’s providence preserved them from hostile Indian attacks.  Once, his parents and Matthew had to flee a burning cabin to save their lives.  They all moved to Worcester, Massachusetts.  Later they moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1740, where Matthew would live for the next four decades.

Studying medicine there, Matthew Thornton became a successful physician.  Even through this, he served his country, accompanying New Hampshire militia as they fought the French.  In other regiments, death came heavily through fighting and disease, but in Dr. Thornton’s regiment, only six soldiers lost their life in the campaign, due to the skill of this man.

With the rise of the American Independence movement, he entered politics, but not in a way so as to divorce his biblical background.  He would serve in local and state government, as justice of the peace, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a member of the Second,  Third,  Fourth and Fifth Provincial Congress.  In fact, he was the President of the last Provincial Congress.

Elected next to the Continental Congress, he went to Philadelphia where on November 4, 1776,  he signed the Declaration of Independence.  He served his one year but refused a second year in the national body.

As a Christian, it has been said that “no man was more deeply impressed with a belief in the existence and bounties of an overruling Providence” than Matthew Thornton.  He used Providence as a synonym of God here, as many of our forefathers did.

Married to Hannah Jack, the union produced five children.  He died on June 24, 1803.  Upon his grave stone is the epitaph, “An Honest Man.”

Words to Live By: As the country approached war with England, Thomas Thornton wrote a letter to all the citizens of New Hampshire, telling them that they needed to come together as Christians and rest upon their faith.   The separation of church from state did not mean separation of the state from the God of the Bible.  We must be diligent to interpret that familiar expression in the right sense of which it was understood by our forefathers.

The Rebel’s High Priest

On this day of June 23, 1780, an American Revolutionary Battle took place in Springfield, New Jersey.  Ordinarily we might think that this has no place in a historical devotional, but it does, because of the presence of the Rev. James Caldwell, pastor of the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church.

Rev Caldwell was known as “the Rebel’s High Priest.”  His congregation in present day Elizabeth, New Jersey, had provided forty line officers to the American Continental army.  And Caldwell himself was the chaplain of  Col. Elias Dayton’s Regiment in George Washington’s army.

This military campaign by the British and their German Hessian compatriots was a major push into New Jersey.  They had a total of 6000 men.  George Washington’s army, faced with diminishing supplies and desertions of men,  had only about 3500, and not all of them  at Springfield, New Jersey.  So they were outnumbered 5 to 1 in their battles.

At the key point outside of Springfield, N.J., the American troops were out of wadding, the paper necessary to fire their muskets accurately.  All along the line, there came cries of “Wadding!  Give us wadding.”  Rev. Caldwell was then riding  up on his horse to encourage his men when he heard the cry for wadding.  Riding back to the Springfield Presbyterian church and manse, he gathered the psalm hymn books, and threw them to the men.  Referring to English hymn writer Isaac Watts, he called out “Give ’em Watts, boys, give ’em Watts boys.”

That line of “given them Watts, boys” has become the symbol of the forgotten battle of Springfield.  The British eventually retreated from the battlefield, making the battle of Springfield an American victory.  British troops never again entered New Jersey, with this battle being the last one up north in the Colonies.

Words to Live By:
Rev. Caldwell would be killed a little over a year later, just as his wife had been killed at this battle.   The sacrifices of all our American Revolutionary forefathers involved much sacrifice.  The question naturally arises, what are we willing to give up for the sake of the victory of the gospel over the enemies of the faith?

Unwavering Devotion to Christ and Country
by David T. Myers

Here and there in these posts, you have read about Presbyterian clergy who were instrumental in preparing and molding the popular minds of Americans for the great struggle of the American Revolution. From both pulpit and battle field worship service, these Presbyterian chaplains challenged the troops to fight for their freedom and win the day. The British were certainly aware of the tremendous influences of these clergy toward that end and viewed it with alarm that it was thrown into the side of the rebellion. Among the many pastors of all denominations who joined the ranks were Presbyterians such as the Reverend Hezekiah James Balch, who is our character study today.

Born in 1741 in Deer Creek, Hartford County, Maryland to Col. James Balch and Anne Goodwin, there is little known about his early years. The whole family moved south to Mecklenburg, North Carolina when he was young. At some time in his teens, due to a recommendation from a minister who must have seen certain spiritual gifts in the young man, he entered the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, graduating from there in 1766.

In the historical accounts, there is much confusion as to his work due to two other Balch members in the extended family, one his brother. Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has him laboring for the Lord and eventually dying in Tennessee, albeit serving as a Presbyterian pastor and educator. All this is wrong.

After graduating from Princeton, he was licensed to preach the gospel and sent him to various fields as a missionary in Virginia and North Carolina in 1768. A year later, on June 22, 1769, he was called to the Presbyterian Churches of Rocky River and Poplar Tent, North Carolina as pastor, after being ordained to the gospel ministry.

An interesting event happened before that call however. He was reproved by the Presbytery because a Church of England minister had married him. They called it a “reprehensible circumstance.” Obviously, the memory of the Church of England and the Presbyterian experience in the old country was not forgotten by this Presbytery. It didn’t seem to have an effect upon his installation of the two charge congregation where he labored until his death in 1776.

What may have had an influence upon the Presbytery was his participation in what is known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. A full year before the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, PA, Rev. Balch was one of the Committee of Three who wrote up its resolves declaring independence from England. While modern revisionist history has doubted the existence of this declaration (and we will not go into that history now), it is is celebrated even now in North Carolina with Rev Hezekiah James Balch being remembered as one of the key players in its formation.

Words to Live By:
God calls His people to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world in many spheres of life. Whether in the church and/or the state, we are called to be faithful to the cause of the gospel. Our featured character today, the Rev. Hezekiah James Balch let his light shine in the establishment of both church and state in his beloved North Carolina home and ministry. We as American Christians are to be active in both spheres, good Christian citizens in our land, and faithful Christians soldiers in the church of Jesus Christ.

It was on this day, June 21st, in 1925, that J. Gresham Machen’s famous essay, “What Fundamentalism Stands for Now” appeared on the pages of The New York Times. What follows is a condensed version of that essay, suited perhaps to your busy schedule today. The full essay can be found reprinted in J. GRESHAM MACHEN: SELECTED SHORTER WRITINGS.

“WHAT FUNDAMENTALISM STANDS FOR NOW”
by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

The term “fundamentalism” is distasteful to the present writer and to many persons who hold views similar to his. It seems to suggest some strange new sect; whereas in point of fact we are conscious simply of maintaining the historic Christian faith and of moving in the great central current of Christian life . . . Despite changes in the environment, there is something in Christianity which from the very beginning has remained the same . . .

The basis of the Christian view of God—by no means all of it, but the basis of it—is simply theism: the belief, namely, that the universe was created, and is now upheld by a personal Being upon whom it is dependent but who is not dependent upon it . . . The transcendence of God, what the Bible calls the holiness of God, is at the very root of the Christian religion. God is indeed, according to the Christian view, immanent in the world; but He is also personally distinct from the world . . .

According to historic Christianity, all mankind are under the just condemnation of God, and are utterly helpless because of the guilt and power of sin. According to another very widespread type of belief, human resources are sufficient for human needs, and self-development, especially the development of the religious nature, is the Christian ideal. This type of belief is optimistic about human nature . . . while historic Christianity regards all mankind as being hopelessly lost . . .

We deserved eternal death, but the Son of God, who was Himself God, came into this world for our redemption, took upon Himself the just punishment for our sins, died in our stead upon the cross, and finally completed His redeeming work by rising from the tomb in a glorious resurrection. There and there alone is found the Christian gospel; the piece of “good news” upon which all our hope is based . . .

Acceptance of this New Testament account of Jesus involves a certain attitude toward Him that is widely different from the attitude assumed by many persons of the Church today. Jesus . . . was not the first Christian, the initiator of a new type of religious life. He stood in a far more fundamental and far more intimate relationship to Christianity than that, because He was the One who made Christianity possible by His redeeming work. At no point does our attitude appear in more characteristic fashion than just here.

Words to Live By:
Most churches these days have a web site. Does your church’s web site have as one of its features a page where there is a clear presentation of the Gospel? Or to rephrase the question in a more personal way, if someone asked you, could you give a good, brief explanation of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Machen’s words above can serve as an example, though I know you can find others as well. Look for a few, print them out and rehearse them, reading them out loud every few days until you come to a place where you are sure that you could give that account “in your sleep.”

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”—1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)

hillWEThe following article was written by the Rev. William E. Hill, Jr. and published in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL about three years after the formation of the PCA. Rev. Hill is particularly remembered as a faithful pastor, as the founder of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and as a leading voice in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America. As such, the following also serves as an evidence of what at least some of the founding fathers stood for, and what they were seeking in the formation of the new denomination. As the Rev. Bill Iverson has said many times, “God doesn’t have grandchildren,” meaning, that the work of evangelism must be done afresh in every generation. We can’t rest on the labors of prior generations:—

We Need Revival
Not more organization and programs, but the dividends of Spirit-filling—

We of the Presbyterian Church in America have come through a traumatic experience. New churches have been formed, enduring birth pains sorrowfully yet joyfully.

Some churches have been able to gain their freedom from earlier connections without difficulty. Others have suffered. Ministers and members whose heritage stretches back for generations in one denomination which was their lifelong home now find themselves in a new one. For some, the transition has been relatively easy. For many it has been exceedingly difficult. Some churches and ministers have endured bitter persecution.

However, now that the agony is over, there is joyful elation, very much akin to the joy experienced by people in the early Church as recorded in Acts 2-3. They “ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” So, also, some have been enabled by the Spirit to rejoice that they were ‘‘counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.”

We are free at last. This is good, but we are compelled to raise the question: So what? And the “so what?” reminds us that the early Church, after the traumatic experience and joyful elation, still found dangers to be encountered (Acts 4-5). For some, disillusionment was ahead. As in the case described in the epistle to the Hebrews, we face certain definite dangers of disillusionment.

We also face another danger—having escaped one ecclesiastical strait- jacket, we proceed to put ourselves into another, not quite so bad but nonetheless real. We face dangers of infighting among ourselves. We have our hyper-Calvinists, our moderate Calvinists, and our charismatics, our premillennialists and our amillennialists, each a little bit concerned about what the new denomination will do to them.

Looking at the situation after our third General Assembly, we raise the question: Does the PCA need revival? Some may say, “That is a silly question—we are already in revival.” This I question. Some may suggest that we need doctrinal instruction. Others may say we need to perfect our organization and outreach.

It seems to me, however, that what is most desperately needed in the PCA is real revival. Of doctrinal identification we have enough. Of ecclesiastical machinery we have too much. Of debating fine points we are weary. Now the question is or should be: How in the world are we going to meet the needs of many of our small, struggling groups? This is a big question.

Indeed, how are we going to find ministers to pastor these people? Another big question. The answer to all these questions, I believe, is revival. Without it we will degenerate into an ecclesiastical machine, grinding out materials, spewing forth pronouncements, fussing over theological distinctions, and languishing in barrenness and sterility.

The primary mark of real spiritual awakening for any people or any individual is repentance. On the Day of Pentecost there was real repentance with people crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” as their “hearts were pricked” by the Spirit-filled preaching of the apostles. In the revival at Ephesus (Acts 19-20), the people confessed their sins openly, publicly burning the instruments of their sins. Paul recounted in Acts 20 how he had preached with a twofold thrust, the first of which was “repentance toward God” (Acts 20).

Indeed, even back in the early days (Acts 3:19) Peter preached repentance, calling out to the multitudes who were listening, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Years later Peter was still calling upon church people to repent, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” (I Pet. 4:17).

I have seen very little sign of any repentance in all of the struggle to form the PCA and I see little sign of repentance even now after the third General Assembly. No, we have not had revival. The fundamental sign of revival is lacking and we will not have revival until we see repentance, on the part of those who know the Lord and of those who are coming to Him by conversion.

We preach, but where is repentance? As a matter of fact, there is precious little preaching on the subject of repentance. We have plenty of talk about doctrine and plenty of talk about discipline, but mighty little about repentance.

The second mark of revival is true stewardship. ‘‘Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32). Now just where do you find this in the PCA? We talk about the “financial crisis” and how to meet it through General Assembly action which likely will be purely materialistic, not spiritual.

Shame, thrice shame upon us that we should be so low in spirituality and our leaders so utterly lacking in spiritual power that we have to resort to the help of the world to raise money for the Lord’s work and to instruct our people in Biblical stewardship.

Shame! Thrice shame upon us! Lord, help us! We do need revival! Whenever the Church has to call upon the world for help in its work, there is something wrong with the Church—spiritual power lacking, the Word of God ignored.

The third sign of true revival is the filling of the Spirit. Where do we find this in the PCA? On the Day of Pentecost the people were “filled with the Spirit.” Our Presbyterian doctrine tells us (reflecting the Scripture) that we “receive” the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit has applied to us the redemption purchased by Christ; and further, that we grow in the Spirit. But here in the book of Acts is something not directly referred to in our Presbyterian doctrine—the “filling of the Spirit.” In some cases, the book of Acts refers to men as “filled with the Spirit,” but in other places it refers to a specific action at a specific time when men experienced the filling of the Spirit.

The indwelling of the Spirit is continuous in the Christian but there are special times, I take it from these passages of Scripture, in which the Spirit takes complete possession of us and fills us. This results in a stronger faith, in greater boldness to witness, in greater power and effectiveness in witness, in a different attitude toward material things, in a greater power for those who preach, and an increased joy and fellowship among Christian people (Acts 4:31).

Indeed, we are commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). All of this is a mark of true revival. Personally, I have heard just as little about the “filling of the Spirit” in the PCA as I did in the Presbyterian Church US. Do we really have in the PCA men who can be called “filled with the Spirit”? I hope we do, but I haven’t heard anybody speaking about it.

If we had a real filling of the Spirit, would there not be men among us evidently “full of the Spirit” and would there not be more talk about it? Is the reason, possibly, that we need real revival to create within us a deeper spiritual discernment, spiritual expectation, zeal, eagerness, and effectiveness in witness?

In the fourth place we need revival because truly spiritual churches should grow by making converts, not just by accepting transfers. We have seen churches springing up. We have seen churches growing. But we’ve seen mighty little of growth by conversions.

Just by looking at the figures for 1974 on additions by profession, one can tell that our churches are not growing by the method God ordained by which churches should primarily grow: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Additions to our churches have not been, for the most part, by conversion. We need the kind of revival that will bring people in great numbers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we need churches that grow by converting. A few churches here and there are exceptions; they do grow primarily by converting, but possibly you could name them on the fingers of one hand.

A fifth characteristic of revival, particularly if it is revival among Reformed people, should be a respect for the Lord’s day, the Christian Sabbath. Just where do we find this? I travel all over the Southland and beyond. I go into hundreds of churches but rarely do I run across anyone who has a high sense of regard for the sanctity of the Lord’s day, except at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday or possibly Sunday evening—if their church happens to have an evening service.

Our people use the Lord’s day to travel, to run around and find entertainment, or to visit their kinfolk and friends. They take Sunday newspapers, patronize stores that stay open on Sunday, buy gasoline on Sunday, take vacations on the week-end, neglect the house of God on His day, and the prophet remains silent nor bothers even to set them a good example. Nothing short of real revival will correct this situation.

In the Old Testament, God told the Jews that the Sabbath would be a sign to the nations around them that they were God’s people. This was a primary way by which they could testify to the heathen world around them. We Christians are utterly failing in testifying to the heathen all around us that we have a Lord who arose from the dead on the first day of the week, because  for most of us it’s just more or less like any other day.

The world sees us and passes on without even pausing to stop, but they mutter, “These folks are in just as big a hurry to get to the lake or the seashore or the mountains as we are.” So far as I can tell, the PCA is no different from the others. We do need revival.

Another characteristic as well as result of revival is living by the Word of God which we profess to believe. We brag about taking our doctrine from the Bible, but in many ways we completely ignore the Bible in our living.

For instance, I go into hundreds of homes, and seldom do I find a home that is disciplined according to the Word of God with the husband and father taking his rightful place as clearly delineated in the Scriptures, the wife taking her rightful place in “submission,” and the children in “subjection.” I’m sorry to say that in too many homes of ministers, elders and deacons where I visit, the children are brats.

Then in the area of money and material things we do not discipline ourselves. We are grabbing just like the world. Our children are growing up to think that the dollar is the most important thing because they see this in their parents. We’ve never learned to discipline ourselves. Quite naturally, we don’t discipline our children. The world looks on and says, “That fellow is living for the same thing I am—to get money,” and the world sneers.

In the area of sex purity we depart continually from the Scriptures in exposing our young people to the filth so often displayed on the television. The way our young people dress and the slavish way our women follow the styles are geared to sex appeal and designed by pagan people.

Among Presbyterians I hear a good deal of talk today, particularly from those of the Reformed faith, about Christian liberty. Oftentimes all kinds of questionable practices, just like those in the world, pass in the guise of Christian freedom. Our sessions and boards of deacons have too many divorced and remarried members, to say nothing of ministers in the same situation. How then do we expect the Church to exercise discipline?

In the area of our motivation, the ego is too often quite as prominent in us as it is in people of the world, though our Lord said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself.” Self seems to reign in the actions and motives of most people. Indeed, we have a hard time getting along together; feuds, bitterness and ill will abound, and paralysis results because someone’s ego is not surrendered to the Lord.

Real revival results in unity of mind and heart. We have had a great deal of this unity in the PCA but is it growing thin now? Are tensions building up in behind-the-scenes maneuvering? Are pulling and pushing beginning to be evident? It broke out into the open one night during the second General Assembly; however, it is heartening to recall the fine spirit present at the third General Assembly.

May God grant to us a fresh filling of the Spirit in real revival that it may be clearly seen that we are “of one mind and one heart” as were the disciples after the filling of the Spirit.

Do we need revival? As far as I can see, there is but one answer. Yes indeed we do! Above all else in the Presbyterian Church in America we need revival. Without it, I am personally fearful for the future. With it, there are great things ahead for the PCA in the service of the kingdom of God, if the Lord tarries. More than we need organization and programs, we need revival.

If we have revival there will be no problem about finances, no “money manipulation,” no tugging and pulling and competition between various departments of the work. If we have revival our struggling churches will have adequate funds to provide buildings for the glory of God, not great cathedrals and beautifully ornate churches but simple meeting places which are useful in the service of God.

If we have revival our missionary force will be doubled, tripled, quadrupled and the witness of our missionaries will be increasingly effective. If we have revival it will shake some of our churches to their foundations. It will revolutionize some of our members and send them out to witness.

Revival will galvanize some of our pastors into action. It will revolutionize things in many of our homes. It will cause our churches to bring new members on profession of faith, “the Lord adding daily.” It will cause our ministers to speak with “great power” (Acts 4:33).

Revival is more desperately needed than anything else in the PCA. I need revival! Don’t you? Let us pray the prayer of Habakkuk (3:2), “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Also the prayer of the psalmist (85:6), “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Then will be sounded forth effectively from our pulpits, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Then we will hear with great power, “The Spirit and the bride say come; let him that heareth say come, let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him come and partake of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

[This article originally was published in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, vol. 34, no. 39 (28 January 1976): 7-9.]

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