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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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MRS. ANNIE EDGAR RANDOLPH
[excerpted from The Missionary, 35.5 (May 1902): 225-226.]

This beloved missionary, whose name has long been a household word throughout our communion, entered into rest in the early morning of Sabbath, March 23, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Thus one of our pioneers has gone from us, the story of whose life is almost that of our foreign missionary work itself.

Annie Edgar was born on this day, September 14, in 1829, at Union, Monroe County, Virginia [now West Virginia]. At the tender age of fifteen she united with the Presbyterian Church of her native place, and soon afterwards there sprang up in her heart a desire, never to be quenched, to serve her Lord in some heathen land. But she could not obtain the consent of her widowed mother, and thus her early purpose was postponed for nearly thirty years.

In 1850, when only twenty-one, she was happily married to Dr. Thomas G. Randolph, of Hopkinsville, Ky., and the following year they removed to Mobile, Ala. In the autumn of 1853 Mobile was visited by a fearful epidemic of yellow fever. Mrs. Randolph was stricken among the first, in September, and her husband only a day or two later. He soon died, while she was desperately ill. When she awoke to a consciousness of her great loss, the blow was almost more than she could bear; but God had yet a great work for His young and now widowed handmaiden, and He mercifully raised her up from the very gates of death. It is touching to know that only a little more than a year ago, when nearly half a century had passed, the long bereaved wife made careful arrangements to be laid to rest beside the dust of the husband of her youth.

When strength returned after her illness and sorrow, Mrs. Randolph first repaired to her husband’s relatives in Kentucky, and then to her mother’s home in Virginia. A year later, in the fall of 1854, she returned to Alabama to teach. For a number of years she did an admirable work in Gainesville, in antebellum days one of the most cultivated and refined communities in Alabama. After the lapse of thirty years her memory there is still as ointment poured forth. The late Dr. C. A. Stillman, one of the ablest men of our church, was then her pastor, and he ever afterwards held her in highest esteem. In 1868 she returned to Kentucky, settling in Paris, and there in the fall of 1871 the call to her life-work came to herthe call that she had heard in her girlhood, and whose echoes had never died away in her ears.

In January, 1868, Mr. and Mrs. Inslee, then our only missionaries in all the far east, had opened a boarding school for girls in the great city of Hangchow, China. Returning to America in the fall of 1870, Mr. Inslee died in New Orleans, April 8, 1871. Meanwhile, the China Mission had been reinforced by Messrs. Stuart, Houston, and Helm, three young, unmarried men. Consequently, an earnest call came from China, in the autumn of 1871, for a competent lady to come and assume charge of the girls’ boarding school. Mrs. Randolph, now at the age of 42, at once answered this call, having first conferred with Dr. Stuart Robinson. Her offer of service was accepted, and under appointment of the Executive Committee she was in Lousiville, February 15, 1872, ready to depart with the Rev. Hampden C. DuBose and his bride, who were also under appointment to the China Mission, but terrible snow storms so impeded travel over the new Pacific railway for weeks that not until April 15 were they able to set out for San Francisco, when, in company with a large company of other missionaries, they sailed on the steamship “America,” May 1st.

With her usual punctuality and system, Mrs. Randolph at once began a valued series of letters to The Missionary, a series only to be terminated twenty years afterwards, when broken health compelled her return. Her earlier letters are still exceedingly interesting, revealing the matured, noble traits of her character.

Her party arrived in Shanghai June 4, 1872, and five days later, June 9, they were in Hangchow. Mrs. Randolph at once assumed her new duties as principal of the girls’ boarding school, a position she was to fill with preeminent success and faithfulness for the next sixteen years. On entering the school she found as her native assistant that remarkable native Christian woman, Ah-tse, whose name nearly a generation ago was so familiar to readers of The Missionary. She also found among the pupils a no less remarkable girl, Ahmun, afterwards Ah-tse’s daughter-in-law, and the gifted and devoted companion and helper in the school, both to Mrs. Randolph and Mrs. Stuart. The affection that grew up and ever after existed between Mrs. Randolph and this lovely young Christian Chinese woman was touching and beautiful, and just as she was leaving Japan in 1892, Mrs. Randolph mourned her early death as if she had been her own child.

After sixteen years of devoted toil Mrs. Randolph’s health was so impaired that in 1888 it became needful to seek relief in Japan, and in the fall of that year she was regularly transferred to the Japan Mission. At first, for a few months, she conducted a class of women in Bible study; but in the summer of 1889 she opened the now well-known girls’ boarding school in the large city of Nagoya. For four years she labored here, laying the foundations of this admirable institution, which has now for more than a dozen years been a blessing beyond price to the women of Japan. But the incessant toil of four years again so impaired her health that her return to America became needful, for temporary rest, it was hoped; but it proved to be a final return.

She left Nagoya on a chill November morning in 1892, before day had dawned. Nevertheless, the love of her Japanese pupils and friends was such that a large company of them assembled at the station, and wept as her train sped away to Yokohama, where she was to take the steamer.

In 1895 she became a teacher in the Assembly’s Home and School at Fredericksburg, Va., and when that institution underwent changes in 1898, she came with the Rev. R. M. Hodge to Nashville, as a member of the faculty of the Nashville Bible Institute and Missionary Training School; she to became lady principal and teacher of the history and methods of missions. For nearly two years she filled this position, greatly endearing herself to all the missionary students who were privileged to share her companionship and daily instruction. Again returning to Fredericksburg, she counted it a privilege to do anything in her power for the cause so near her heart; and then, just as the week ended, and the Sabbath was being ushered in, she entered into the rest that remaineth to the people of God. Her last illness was brief, and during much of the time she was unconscious. She was often heard praying in Chinese, a touching proof of how her heart was still in China. During conscious moments she bore earnest testimony to the exceeding preciousness of her Saviour, reiterating, “He is precious, so precious, so precious,” and thus she sweetly fell asleep. After appropriate services in Fredericksburg, her body was taken by a beloved sister to Mobile, Ala., where again, on Tuesday, services were held in the Jackson Street Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Messrs. Planck and Sims, after which she was laid to rest in the beautiful Magnolia Cemetery. There, half a century ago, she had felt her life’s one great sorrow; and there she shall rise to life’s everlasting joy.

Her sister writes: “Her last thoughts were of missions. She was very anxious to have $50 to send to the Committee from the Ladies Missionary Society of Fredericksburg the week she was called away. When roused to be told that the sum proved to be $58, she said, ‘I am so glad, so glad.’ And thus with God’s work still first in her heart, she went up to see the King in His beauty, and to be joined again to the companion of her youth, and the beloved saints who had gone before her from the land of Sinim.”

Words to Live By:
Is God’s work first in your hear, dear reader? Let us all pray for one another, that we would not fall from our first love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but remain ever faithful and steadfast in pursuing His will.

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Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1857).

ALEXANDER CUMMING
He was full of prayers.

WAS born at Freehold, New Jersey, in 1726.  His father, Robert Cumming, from Montrose, Scotland, was an elder, and often sat in synod.

He was educated under his maternal uncle, Samuel Blair, and studied theology with his pastor, William Tennent.  Licensed by the New-Side Presbytery of Newcastle, in 1746 or ‘’47, he was sent by the synod, in compliance with pressing supplications, and spent some time in Augusta county, Virginia.  He was the first Presbyterian minister that preached within the bounds of Tennessee.  Remaining some time in North Carolina, he married Eunice, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, the President (in May, 1775) of the Mecklenburg Convention.

He was a stated supply in Pennsylvania for some time.  Though not ordained, he opened the Synod of New York with a sermon, in September, 1750.  In the following month he was ordained, by New York Presbytery, and installed collegiate pastor with Pemberton, in New York.

Unanimously called, his clear, discriminating mind, his habits of close study, his instructive and excellent preaching, his happy faculty of disentangling and exhibiting difficult and abstruse subjects, peculiarly attracted and delighted his more cultivated hearers.  The Hon. William Smith, in writing to Bellamy, says, “His defect in delivery was not natural, but the effect of bad example:  his elocution, however, is not, and cannot ever be, as prompt as yours.”  But before the second year of his ministry closed, the presbytery was called to consider the difficulties which had arisen, and, in 1752, referred the case to the synod.  The complaints against him were, that, when disabled by sickness, he did not invite Pemberton to preach; that he insisted on his right as pastor to sit with the trustees, and manage the temporalities; for encouraging the introduction of Watts’s Psalms, and for insisting on family prayer as a necessary prerequisite in every one to whose child he administered baptism.

He requested to be dismissed, October 25, 1753, because his low state of health would not allow him to go on with his work in the divided, confused state of the congregation.  No opposition was made, and he was dismissed.

Cumming joined with his parishioners, Livingston, Smith, and Scott, in publishing the “Watch-Tower,” the “Reflector,” the “Independent Whig,”—spirited, patriotic appeals against the steady encroachments of the royal prerogative on our constitutional liberties.

In feeble health, and with little prospect of usefulness, he remained without charge till February 25, 1761, when he was installed pastor of the Old South Church in Boston.  He preached on that occasion, and Pemberton gave the charge, and welcomed him.  “I do it with the greater pleasure, being persuaded, from a long and intimate acquaintance, that you are animated by the spirit of Christ in taking this office upon you, and that you desire no greater honour or happiness than to be an humble instrument to promote the kingdom of our adorable Redeemer.”

William Allen,[1] of Philadelphia, Chief-Justice of Pennsylvania, wrote to Dr. Mayhew, of Boston, in 1763, and thanked him for the gift of two sermons, “which, you hint, were preached on account of Mr. Cumming’s reveries; for I can call nothing that comes from him by a better name, nor ought I, if he continues to be the same man he was with us.  He offered himself to the congregation here, of which I am a member:  though the greater part are moderate Calvinists, they could not relish his doctrines.” After charging Cumming with teaching that works are dangerous to the soul, faith being every thing, he adds, “He may be a pious, well-disposed man, but I believe he is a gloomy, dark enthusiast, and a great perverter of the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in the gospel.”

To Allen and Mayhew, Cumming seemed “an extravagant fanatic.”  It was a wonder how he could have been admitted a minister in Boston.  Yet he was condemned as a Legalist by the favourers of the other extreme.

Andrew Croswell, a zealous follower of Davenport, had settled in Boston.  He published a sermon, with the title, “What is Christ to me if he is not mine?” presenting the view—perhaps distorted—of Marshall, in his “Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” and Hervey, in his “Theron and Aspasio.”  Cumming replied, taking the ground of Bellamy.  It was perhaps his earnestness on this point that arrayed his Scottish hearers against him in New York. They had the Erskines in great reverence:  they loved the doctrines which rallied Scotland’s best men against the Assembly’s decision in the Marrow controversy. Smith speaks, in his history, contemptuously of the opposition, as of the lower class; and Robert Philip brands it as a cabal of ignorance and bigotry. The fact that these persons called the Rev. John Mason from Scotland, and that they and their children constituted the congregation of Dr. John M. Mason, is a sufficient refutation of these charges.

Cumming died on this day, August 23, in 1763.  “He was full of prayers, with a lively, active soul in a feeble body.”  This was the testimony of the excellent Dr. Sewall, with whom he was joined as colleague in Boston.

Words to Live By:
We pray this can be said of you as well, that you are “full of prayers.” It is the mark of a true Christian and the blessing of a Christian who is being used in the Lord’s kingdom, seeking His will upon earth.

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The Day of Small Beginnings

Drawing from three separate quotations, we have in short compass the story of Jenny Geddes and her little wooden stool, which God used to bring about a revolution and return to biblical truth. 

*    *    *

Two years ago, while walking about in Old St. Giles’ church in Edinburgh, with Dr. W. G. Blaikie, whose fame as author, scholar, and preacher, is known throughout the Presbyterian Church, he said, ― this is the first time I have been here in seventeen years. And yet this is the church in which Knox preached and where Jennie Geddes worshiped. Here she threw the famous stool at the head of the Dean who was reading the liturgy, under orders from King Charles. The outburst of popular indignation, occasioned by this act, was the beginning of the great struggle for religious liberty in Scotland.

*    *    *

The war in behalf of purity in religion began in Scotland. Archbishop William Laud [1573-1645] prepared a new Prayer-book and sent it to Edinburgh for the use of the churches. On July 23, 1637, the priest of St. Giles Church came forth in white surplice to read the new ritual. Jennie Geddes flung her stool at his head, and a riot drove the minister from the chancel. All Scotland arose in arms against Laud’s innovations, and in 1638 the National Covenant was signed, binding the Scottish people to labor for the purity and liberty of the gospel. In the same year, at Glasgow, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland deposed the bishops and re-established the Presbyterian system.

Two brief wars with Scotland were waged by King Charles, but the lack of money compelled him to summon the representatives of the people. The combatants stood face to face in the arena of debate. The issues of religious and of civil liberty were at length to be decided in a conflict between Charles Stuart and the English Parliament.

*    *    *

It has been said, and not without a show of propriety, “that the First Reformation in Scotland was commenced by a stone cast from the hand of a boy, and the Second Reformation by a stool from the hand of a woman.” By causes in themselves so insignificant does God often produce the grandest results. Detach them from their connections, and they are nothing. Associate them with the other links in the chain of providential influence to which they belong, and they become mighty for good or for evil. The bite of a spider has caused the death of a monarch, and the monarch’s death a revolution in his empire.

*    *    *

Words to Live By:
The Lord delights to use the weak things of this world to accomplish His purposes.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NASB)

And in closing, we would direct your attention to a book that many might enjoy reading—Jenny Geddes, or, Presbyterianism and Its Great Conflict With Despostism (1869), by William Pratt Breed [1816-1889].

Every one of God’s dear children who have ever truly accomplished anything in His kingdom, are found to be those who placed a great emphasis on prayer and made a regular habit of it in their lives.

We could talk about the usual biographical information, like the fact that Ashbel Green was born on this day, July 6, in 1762, in Hanover, Morris county, New Jersey. Or we could mention that Green, at the urging of his mentor, Dr. John Witherspoon, accepted a call to serve as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Or we could even discuss how, by some accounts, it was Green’s motion at General Assembly that eventually led to the formation of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

But I think it is more telling of the character and worth of a pastor to hear just what sort of man he was. And who better to tell us that information than his close associate, the Rev. Jacob J. Janeway, who first served as his associate pastor and then remained a close friend until the day that Rev. Green died, on May 19, 1848. Dr. Janeway writes:—

“In imitation of his teacher, Dr. Witherspoon, for whom he always entertained a high veneration, he observed the first Monday of every month as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. At what time he commenced this practice I do not know. The fact first came to my knowledge in 1802, when, during the prevalence of the yellow fever in Philadelphia, we were both staying at Mr. Ralston’s country seat, Mount Peace, from which we went on the Sabbath and preached to that portion of our people, who were willing to assemble in the church. He had, it is probable, commenced the habit years before; and I think he continued it till the close of his life.”

“Three times in the day, he retired to converse with his Heavenly Father, by prayer and supplication, thanksgiving and praise. His love for social prayer was manifested by his inviting his ministerial brethren to meet at his house every Monday morning for the purpose of reading the Scriptures, offering united prayer to God, and singing His praises.”

“His piety prompted him to acts of charity. He was ready, according to his ability, to relieve the needy, and aid in the accomplishment of all benevolent purposes. He settled in his mind what proportion of his income he ought to consecrate to benevolent purposes. One tenth he deemed the proper proportion for himself. On occasions he went beyond this rule. Warmly attached to the Theological Seminary at Princeton, and ardently desiring its enlargement and prosperity, he purchased and gave to the Trustees two acres of ground additional to what they held, for that valuable institution.”

Or for a different take on Dr. Green’s life and ministry, we might turn to an interesting volume, acquired last year by the Historical Center, namely Recollections of Useful Persons and Important Events, within Seventy Years, by the Rev. S.C. Jennings, D.D. [Vancefort, PA: J. Dillon & Son, 1884]. Rev. Jennings was a member of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh (PCUSA), and over the term of his long life apparently had opportunity to meet and get to know just about everybody in early nineteenth-century Presbyterianism. Here are his recollections regarding the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green, the prominent Philadelphia pastor who was so instrumental in the establishment of the Princeton Theological Seminary:—

“Dr. Ashbel Green was chaplain to Congress during the Revolutionary war, and was once a pastor in Philadelphia. He was for a time President of Princeton College, New Jersey; which position he resigned, and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1824, where I heard him deliver the opening sermon the next year with a good deal of vigor and oratorical power. He became the editor of the Christian Advocate, a sound, conservative monthly magazine, which had great influence in the Church, though the editor was not so severe in his condemnation of error as some when the troubles were brewing which divided the Presbyterian Church. He was paternal and mild. In person he was rather large, with full face and swarthy complexion, wearing his diminished hair (not entirely gray) somewhat long. Though I had often seen him at the Princeton Seminary, I found when in the Assembly with him in 1834, that he was enfeebled. He sat thoughtfully and moved his face as though he was chewing, and yet I believe he eschewed the vile stuff—tobacco.”

Words to LIve By:
A life of prayer. Every one of God’s dear children who have ever truly accomplished anything in His kingdom, are found to be those who placed a great emphasis on prayer and made a regular habit of it in their lives. A life of prayer exhibits, first and foremost, a dependence upon our heavenly Father.  Note the examples of the Psalmist, who rose early to pray (Ps. 5:3) and Jesus, who also rose early to pray (Mk. 1:35). Our time with the Lord in prayer should come first, because truly it is the most important thing we can do each day; because it orders and sets the tone for each day; and because, if delayed, it is all too quickly crowded out by both the regular and unexpected concerns the day may bring.

Ought_the_Confession_to_be_Revised_1890

It is easy enough to criticise the language of the Westminster Divines ; but it is not so easy to write formulas on the same subjects, which will command as general an assent throughout the Church.

 

Criticism Is Easy; Real Work Is Hard. Tread Lightly Here.

For some time I’ve known of a little volume titled OUGHT THE CONFESSION OF FAITH TO BE REVISED?, a slim paperback acquired a few years ago by the PCA Historical Center. [Click on the embedded link to view a digital edition of this work.] The historical context for this book is the effort led by Henry J. Van Dyke and Charles A. Briggs to bring about a revision of the Westminster Standards as adopted by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., while men like Benjamin B. Warfield and W.G.T. Shedd, along with Rev. John DeWitt, opposed the campaign to revise the Westminster Standards.  Their denomination had officially adopted the Standards in 1789, albeit with some changes to suit the American political situation. The matter was debated openly in the Presbyterian newspapers of that day, and the campaign begun by Van Dyke and Briggs eventually won acceptance by a sufficient number of Presbyteries, with the PCUSA General Assembly later voting to adopt a number of changes to the Westminster Standards in the early years of the 20th century, changes that arguably furthered denominational decline.  

But looking back to when the matter was being debated, this little book of papers begins with a powerful opening argument presented by the Rev. John DeWitt and dated on this day, June 7th, in 1889

Rev. Dr. John De Witt, D.D. [10 October 1842 - 19 November 1923I. LETTER OF DR. DE WITT.

The subject of the Revision of the Confession will now come before the Presbyteries in a form which will enable our ministers seriously to consider it. One does not need to express the hope that they will bring to its study an adequate appreciation of the importance of rightly answering the Assembly’s questions, or of the magnitude of the task they will impose on the Church if they shall decide in favor of Revision. This may safely be taken for granted.

There is, however, a suggestion which any minister may properly take on himself to make at the outset. This is, that if a Presbytery shall express a desire that the statements of the Confession on a particular subject be amended, this desire should be given not only a general and negative form, but a positive and constructive form also. Let us know exactly the words which a Presbytery may wish to substitute for the present words of the Confession.

It is easy enough to criticise the language of the Westminster Divines ; but it is not so easy to write formulas on the same subjects, which will command as general an assent throughout the Church. This is a fair suggestion. I do not know whether a committee was appointed by the General Assembly lately in session, to receive the Presbyterial replies ; but it is clear to me that such a committee might quite properly eliminate as valueless, and leave unreported, any reply which does not give a confessional or symbolical form to a Presbytery’s proposed amendment. Let us have samples of the new or revised statements. If any one wants revision on any subject, let him try his hand at a formula correlated to the formulas which he does not want revised. Why not? If the present confessional declarations are made to stand up for critical inspection in the fierce light of the open day, why should the proposed future confessional declarations be suffered to half conceal themselves in a sort of dim moonshine ? It is possible that some of our ministers have, or suppose they have, formulas in their heads better than those in the Confession. Let us see the formulas. Let them be subjected to the criticism that can be offered only after they shall have been printed. Let no one be permitted to suppose that he is doing anything for Revision by simply saying, “The sections on Predestination should be amended,” but compel him to write out a section which he is prepared to defend as better.

Respectfully yours,

John De Witt.
McCormick Theological Seminary, June 7, 1889.

Words to Live By:
Our Confession of Faith does itself clearly imply that it is capable of revision:

  1. “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are
    not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”—Westminster Confession of Faith, 31.3.

But as Rev. DeWitt has said above, such work is quite difficult and those who would propose such changes should, to use the vernacular, “put up or shut up.”


The table of contents for the above volume are as follows:

I. Letter of Dr. De Witt (New York Evangelist, June 7, 1889)
II. Response of Dr. Van Dyke (New York Evangelist, June 27, 1889)
III. Dr. De Witt’s Response to Dr. Van Dyke (New York Evangelist, July 11, 1889)
IV. Dr. Van Dyke’s Rejoinder to Dr. DeWitt (New York Evangelist, July 18, 1889)
V. Dr. De Witt on Dr. Van Dyke’s Rejoinder (New York Evangelist, July 25, 1889)
VI. Replication of Dr. Van Dyke to Dr. DeWitt (New York Evangelist, August 1, 1889)
VII. Prof. Warfield’s Paper presented to the New Brunswick Presbytery, June 25, 1889
VIII. Dr. Van Dyke on the Action of the New Brunswick Presbytery (Herald and Presbyter, July 31, 1889)
IX. Prof. Warfield in reply to Dr. Van Dyke (Herald and Presbyter, August 21, 28, September 4, 1889)
X. Dr. Van Dyke’s reply to Prof. Warfield (Herald and Presbyter, September 11, 18, 25, 1889)
XI. Letter of Prof W. G. T. Shedd (New York Evangelist, September 5, 1889)
XII. Dr. Van Dyck on Prof. Shedd’s Letter (New York Evangelist, September 26, 1889)
XIII.—Further Remarks by Prof. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 10, 1889)
XIV.—Dr. Van Dyke in reply to Prof. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 17, 1889)
XV.—A Note from Dr. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 24, 1889)
XVI.—God’s Infinite Love to Men. Dr. Van Dyke. (The Presbyterian, October 5, 1889)
XVII.—God’s Infinite Love to Men and The Westminster Confession. Prof. Warfield. (The Presbyterian, 2 Nov. 1889)
XVIII.—The Confession and God’s Infinite Love to Men. Dr. Van Dyke. (The Presbyterian, November 16, 1889).

 

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