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A Most Pestiferous Rebel Priest and Preacher of Sedition
by Rev. David T Myers

What parents would give the first name of “Blackleach” to their son? The answer is that when it was the last name of the mother, namely, Elizabeth Blackleach, and her husband, Peleg Buritt, Jr., then it was considered as right and proper. Blackleach Buritt was born circa 1744, with no birth records of month and day found in Ripton Parish (now Huntington), Connecticut. His Buritt ancestors, of Covenanter and Huguenot faith, had sailed from Wales in 1640 and were among the first settlers of Stratford, Connecticut.

In 1751, Blackleach Buritt was made the heir of his grandfather’s large estate. With it, he furthered his education by enrolling at Yale University, and graduated in 1765. He married his first wife, who bore him twelve children. And one of them was given the name of Blackleach Buritt, Jr! Two children, after the death of his first wife, were born to his second wife, Deborah Wells, in 1788.

Theological education came from his pastor at Yale, the Rev. Jedidiah Mills in 1722, upon which he was licensed to preach by the Congregational Church on February 24, 1768. He must have changed his view of church government however, as a move to New York brought him ordination in the Presbyterian Church. Installed at Pound Ridge Presbyterian Church as pastor, he found himself in the midst of the events leading up to the American Revolution. It was not an easy pastorate as his people did not approve of his casting in his favor for independence. But like most Presbyterians, he became an active participant and partisan on the side of the colonists, earning the title of our post by the British as “a most pestiferous Rebel priest and preacher of sedition.” He even carried his rifle into the pulpit in case there was an immediately demand for his services from the Tories in the cause of American liberty.

It was on this day, June 18, 1779, that he was captured by British troops and imprisoned in the notorious Sugar House Prison, a virtual concentration camp in New York City, where he was to spend the next fourteen months. Allowed to preach to his fellow prisoners of war, he frequently opened up the Word of God to them on the Sabbath. However, due to the harshness of the captivity, Rev. Buritt was sick almost to death during that captivity. It is interesting that William Irving, father of Washington Irving, kindly ministered to him during these times.

After his release and the subsequent victory by the Americans, he returned to various Presbyterian churches, continuing to preach to the people of God. He had been influenced by the evangelical side of the Great Awakening, having heard George Whitefield preach in the colonies. Jonathan Edward’s books further aided his understanding of the Reformed faith. It was said that often, in the many Presbyterian churches in which he was called, one of his members would hand him a text as he walked to the pulpit. He would preach on that text for the sermon that day.

Whether from the effects of his incarceration, or simply from the rigors of church life, he died of a prevailing fever on August 27, 1794.

Words to Live By: It is somewhat easy to be committed to the Lord when all is going right. But let hardship, such as our character today suffered, then it can be very difficult. Let us resolve that in good times or bad, we will be wholly committed to the Lord and live for Christ. Let us take advantage of every opportunity to redeem the time for Christ’s cause, whether in the pulpit or in the pew.

Covenant Presbytery begins in 1973

Covenant Presbytery was one of the original sixteen Presbyteries constituted upon the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, and it is specifically numbered as the seventh PCA Presbytery.

From the Minutes of the organizational meeting of the Covenant Presbytery (PCA), we read that the meeting was held at the First Presbyterian church of Indianola, Mississippi, at 10 AM on June 18, 1973. The host pastor, the Rev. John W. Stodghill, preached a sermon on John 17:1-26, titled “One in Christ.” Following this, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was observed, conducted by Rev. Stodghill and assisted by ruling elders of the host church.

It was a humble beginning, with only two teaching elders and seven ruling elders numbered as official participants. Another eleven ruling elders were present as observers from other area churches and an audience of some forty-seven church members also attended. The meeting proceeded with the Rev. Stodghill elected as moderator and the Rev. Robert L. Mabson, pastor of the Eastland Presbyterian church, Memphis, TN, was elected as Clerk.

At this first meeting, the new Presbytery was careful to adopt a resolution stating certain foundational principles and in particular resolving:

  1. That we, the undersigned, do covenant together to form an association to be known as Covenant Presbytery; and,
  2. That this association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in the Scriptures and declared in the Westminster Standards; and,
  3. That we, the undersigned, met in Indianola, Mississippi, at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, June 18, 1973.

An appended document defined the rights of particular churches, with noted attention to insuring the property rights of local congregations.

Also noted among the audience at that organizational meeting of the Covenant Presbytery were two seminary students, Mr. Tom Barnes, approved as temporary student supply for the Itta Bena and Morgan City churches and Mr. Edwin Elliott, approved as temporary student supply for the First Presbyterian church, Water Valley, MS and the Oak Ridge church, also of Water Valley, MS.

From those humble origins, the Covenant Presbytery has grown to now number fifty-three churches, making it one of the largest Presbyteries in the PCA. The Presbytery represents a total membership of nearly 9,000 communicant and non-communicant members.

Words to Live By: 

Background to Current Missions Work

The Mission to the World collection shows how a modern mission sending agency grew from a movement within the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) to become an independent board, a committee within a new denomination and finally a mature, experienced denominational agency. This is a continuing story, and the collection is a dynamic set of active records and correspondence managed by the PCA Historical Center.

The collection begins late in the 1960s as a small group of pastors and laymen within the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF) organized to express dissatisfaction with the teaching and social activism of some missionaries and the “equalization policy” of the PCUS denomination. Under equalization an individual or church did not have the freedom to specifically support missionaries with whom they agreed theologically.
Conservatives’ money was being used to fund a quite-liberal world agenda.

A revival movemnt of the 1950s and 1960s in the PCUS, spread by PEF evangelists, created a new concern for world evangelism. In 1971 this movement culminated in formation of the Executive Committee for Overseas Evangelism (ECOE). Initially ECOE tried to be a liason between conservatives and the Board of World Missions, PCUS. Instead, the Board saw ECOE as a dangerous competitor, and it became a rallying point in the controversies leading to the withdrawal of churches into the National Presbyterian Church [the name initially chosen by the PCA]. In 1973 ECOE became Mission to the World, the sponsoring agency for six missionaries who left the Board of World Missions at the formation of the PCA.

It was through the Joining-and-Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) that a new component was added. The Committee on Mission to the World was merged with World Presbyterian Missions. WPM was born on June 11, 1957 as the sending agency of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Its origins were in the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which was itself the central point of contention in the heresy trials and subsequent division of the Presbyterian Church in the USA during the 1930s. In WPM’s 25th anniversary year, 1982, it was absorbed by MTW. This now larger organization immediately had to cope with a conflict of management styles. The RPCES had used an agency approach, while the PCA utilizes a committee structure. There also were differences in philosophy and strategy. MTW had more joint agreements with non-Reformed groups and an urban church-planting approach.

From an historical perspective, the MTW collection is of immense value since it provides a detailed account of the problems and thinking unique to late-20th century missions as a new organization was founded and then incorporated into a new denomination. Particularly noteworthy is the determination of such leaders as Jimmy Lyons, Ben Wilkinson, and William E. Hill. There is an immense body of correspondence from these men which candidly presents their philosophy and goals. Interaction between these men and the Board of World Missions also shows the lack of common ground available in the PCUS for conservatives and moderate/liberals.

The assembled materials also document how the organization grew as a business and the problems and potential which data processing advances brought in the 1970s. There also are significant indiations of the lfie and ministry of the MTW missionary in the field and policies and criteria for fielding missionaries.

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An Opportunity for Vindication
by Rev. David T. Myers

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>The letter is still preserved at the state history building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Written to the Rev. William Marshall on June 6, 1786, it states simply that he, the pastor of the Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had infringed on the rights of several members of the congregation. The letter continued on to state that he had a right to answer their complaints by appearing before these men, and this is the interesting part of the letter, his appearance was “for his own vindication.”

Whether such a meeting ever took place, the records of the church do not say. But we do know that the alleged confrontation between the pastor and several men of the congregation did take place against the backdrop of a schism in that local church. It seems that half of the congregation wished to separate from the mother synod in Scotland and united with the American Presbyterian denomination.  The dissenters who desired the latter must have had the majority as Rev. Marshall and his followers were forced out of the pulpit and pew.  They relocated to another place in Philadelphia and built their church.

The original majority continued on at their place of ministry, seeking fellowship with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1822. It was said that they desired this union as there would be “more catholicity of communion and more liberty of worship.” As they were closely aligned with the covenanting side of the Scottish Presbyterian church, this contributor assumed that they wished to have more fellowship as well as not being bound by exclusive psalmody.  From 1866 to 1884, the church was without a pastor and for all intents, closed. In 1883, the remaining congregation was merged with the young South Broad Street Presbyterian church, under the Scots Presbyterian name. Pictured at right is the building constructed in 1886 for the recently merged congregation. Eventually this church merged with the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, which today now has the oldest pre-Revolutionary Presbyterian building still in use in Philadelphia.  It is associated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Words to Live By: Christians in general need to think twice about how they approach the teaching elder, or pastor of their church with a critical spirit. Scripture is clear on this. Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (NASB)  And 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 reads, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB) Pastors need prayer more than criticisms by the congregation. When there are serious, real problems, invest much time in prayer and then follow Matthew 18:15.

For further reading : Scots Presbyterian Church, Old and New, 1766-1887, by John C. Thompson. [copies of this history may be found preserved at the PCA Historical Center (St. Louis); the New York Historical Society Library (New York City); the American Antiquarian Society (Boston); and at the Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia).]

American independence has been achieved. The colonies have taken their place as free and independent States among the nations of the earth. In bringing about this the most momentous political event of the last century the ministry and laity of the Presbyterian Church bore an essential and a conspicuous part. These men were the descendants of the Huguenots whose blood, shed in the cause of religious freedom, had baptized almost every acre of France; of the Dutch, who under William the Silent, had struggled and fought against civil and religious despotism amidst the dikes of Holland; of the Scotchmen who signed the Covenant with the warm blood of their veins, and who had fought to the death under the blue banner of that Covenant; of the heroes whose valor at Londonderry turned the scale in favor of the prince of Orange and secured the Protestant succession in England—sons of the women who, during that memorable seige, carried ammunition to the soldieres, and in the crisis of the assault, sprange to the breach, hurled back the assailants and turned the tide of battle in the critical, imminent moment of the conflict.

These were not the men to be dazzled by specious pretexts, or to stand nicely balancing arguments of expediency, when issues touching human freedom were at stake. These were not the men to barter away their birthright for pottage. They who had endured so much in the cause of freedom in the Old World, who, for its sake, had left all and braved the perils of an unbroken wildernes, were not the men tamely to submit their necks to the yoke, how smoothly soever it might be fitted for them by the deft hands of king, Church or Parliament. Consequently, the Presbyterians in the colonies were almost to a man, and to a woman, patriots “indeed, in whom there was no guile.”

In a Presbyterian community not far from the spot where the first blood of the Revolution was shed, in a Presbyterian convention which had for its presiding officer a ruling elder, was framed and promulgated the Mecklenburg Declaration, which embodied the spirit and the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and which antedates that document by the space of a year and more; and even earlier than this, within the bounds of old Redstone Presbytery, the “Westmoreland Declaration” was made at Hanna’s Town, in Western Pennsylvania.

None in all the land better understood the nature of the struggle, or more thoroughly appreciated the importance of the issue, than those men. They saw in the impending conflict more than a tax on tea or a penny stamp on paper—more even than “taxation without represention.” In addition to political tyranny they perceived the ominous shadow of spiritual despotism, which threatened to darken the land to which they had fled as an asylum, and they esteemed their fortunes and their lives a cheap sacrifice at which to purchase for their posterity in succeeding generations the blessings of religous freedom.

Into the struggle, therefore, they threw themselves heart and soul. WIth enthusiastic devotion, they put at the service of their coutnry the last penny of their substance and the last drop of their blood. Wherever a Presbyterian church was planted, wherever the Westminster Confession of Faith found adherents, wherever the Presbyterian polity was loved and honored, there intelligent and profound convictions in regard to civil and religious liberty were developed as naturally as the oak grows from the acorn, and there, when the crisis came, strong arms and stout hearts formed an invulnerable bulwark for the cause of human freedom. As the Spartan defended his shield, as the Roman legions fought for their eagles, as the chivalrous knight leaped to the rescue of his sweetheart, so our Presbyterian ancestors, with a prodigal valor and an unquenchable ardor, sprang to the defence of their sacred rights.

“From the Adoption of the Presbyterian Form of Government to the Present Time,” by the Rev. Samuel J. Wilson, D.D., pages 151-215 in Centennial Historical Discourses, delivered in the City of Philadelphia, June, 1876, by appointment of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1876.

https://archive.org/details/centennialhistor00pres

The Mother of All Schisms in Presbyterianism
by Rev. David T. Myers

Old School Presbyterians . . . New School Presbyterians. You were either one or the other in the early to mid-nineteenth century in the Presbyterian Church in the United States. And the issue was not at all a light one.  The fundamentals of the faith were at stake.

First, the Old School Presbyterians held to strict subscription to the church standards, such as the Westminster Standards, with church discipline for any dissenters. The New School Presbyterians were willing to tolerate lack of subscription if evangelism was being accomplished.

Second, the Old School Presbyterians were opposed to the 1801 Plan of Union with the Congregational church, while New School Presbyterians were committed to it.

Next, the Old School Presbyterians were opposed to the false gospel methodology of a Charles Finney, for example, while the New School Presbyterians did not wish to hinder revival, regardless of a less than theological basis for revivals.

Last, there was the matter of theology. Influencing the New School Presbyterians were two “isms” like Hopkinism and Taylorism from New England, which denied original sin and gospel redemption. Old School Presbyterianism held to the Westminster Standards on both of these essentials of the faith.

For several General Assemblies, there were more New School Presbyterian delegates than Old School Presbyterian delegates. But on June 5, 1837, that majority was reversed, with the Old School Presbyterians in strength. In the assembly that week, the Assembly was able to abrogate the 1801 Plan of Union with the Congregationalists. They then proceeded to expel four largely New School synods from the church, composed of 28 Presbyteries, 509 ministers, and 60,000 members!  In one swift vote, they were no longer members of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

But Presbyterian polity demanded that two General meetings approve of an action like this. And here the operation took on more of a shady spirit to it than would otherwise be proper for any Christian group. At the 1838 assembly in Philadelphia, Old School Presbyterian delegates arrived early and took every seat in the convention hall of Seventh Presbyterian Church. When the New School Presbyterian elders arrived, the Moderator, who was an Old School elder, simply wouldn’t recognize them as legitimate delegates. The “we don’t know you” phrase was used a lot.  When attempts were made to appeal his ruling, the appeal was put out-of-order by the moderator.

Soon the New School Assembly of Presbyterians were meeting at the back of the church, setting up their own assembly.  Eventually they went down to the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia for a separate assembly. An appeal by the New School Presbyterian Church was eventually made to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which declared the abrogation by the Old School Presbyterians as “certainly constitutional and strictly just.”

Presbyterian churches all over the land were in schisms. One Presbyterian church in Carlisle Pennsylvania  epitomized the false principle of “the ends justifies the means.” The session of First Presbyterian Church (Old School)  voted out of love to give $10,000 to the departing New School Presbyterians of the new Second Presbyterian Church in the same town.  When the check had cleared the bank, the Session of Elders of First Presbyterian who had voted to give the money, promptly went over to the New School Presbyterian session! Another church literally cut in two the building between the Old and New School sides. All over the land, churches were being divided or left over these important issues.

Words to Live By: Scripture commands us to use biblical means to accomplish His will. Certainly, in hindsight, there was a real apostasy in the Presbyterian church in the early nineteenth century. But Bible believers should have dealt with it according to Scriptural principles, not man’s principles.

The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church convened in Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, June 3rd, 1954. The whole of the next day, Friday, was given to worship and prayer. Following devotional exercises that morning, the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer brought a message. Then in the afternoon, the Rev. John W. Sanderson spoke and the Synod broke out for group prayer meetings. Finally, the Rev. Robert G. Rayburn brought the concluding message that evening, followed by a united prayer meeting.

So much for what you can tell from the official Minutes.  To my knowledge there were no tape recordings made as the General Synod met that year.  If we were left with the official record, we might be impressed that they spent the day in prayer and worship, but that would be about it.  But stored away among the Buswell’s papers, in Box 283 there is a half sheet of onionskin paper with this typed report prepared by his son, the Rev. John Buswell, who was at that time the pastor of a church in Philadelphia:

From the Church Bulletin
Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia

The Pastor’s Paragraph * * * The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church experienced the reality of revival in their midst. On the second day of meeting no business was allowed, and three messages were given, followed by three seasons of prayer. The morning message was concerning Reformation and Revival, the afternoon one concerning Prayer and Revival, and the evening message was on the Holy Spirit and Revival. The times of prayer were characterized first by tears of confession. Person after person got to his feet to pour out his soul in repentance before God. Then the prayers turned to praise : praise for the great and marvelous opportunity God had set before the Bible Presbyterian Church for evangelism. Then the prayers centered on the need to take advantage of that great opportunity. There settled on the Synod a great and binding hunger for greater love among God’s people; love which would unify our hearts and churches for the glory of God. Then there was a greater hunger for the compassion and love for lost souls that they might find Christ. A year passed and not enough souls had been saved by the work of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Seventeen years have passed and we stop and consider where are we going? A firm and settled conviction that the stand of the Bible Presbyterian Synod for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ was the right one, pervaded the body of ministers ; and yet there was dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with progress, dissatisfaction with the brightness of our testimony. We must go forward with the proper balance for the TRUTH of God and for the LOVE of God. We must maintain the purity of the Testimony and at the same time we must allow the Holy Spirit to pervade the Testimony of our church with compassion for our brethren in Christ, as well as those who are unsaved. Romans 12:5—”So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another . . .” ; Philippians 2: 15, 16—”. . . in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life . . . ” 

Words to Live By:
This account is particularly interesting, in that these events occurred one year prior to the division of that denomination.  In the  context of what must have been building tensions and conflicts, there was this time spent before the Lord on their faces in repentance and humiliation for their sins. If God would bless with healing and restoration, this was the way to that goal. If the Lord would sift, cleanse and refine, this was the way. May our lives be so ordered even today, that we might find true unity in the Church.

Admittedly this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But General Assembly season is upon us, which makes this relevant. I would suggest you read this one paragraph, if you read nothing else. It’s by the Rev. F.P. Ramsay, writing in 1898 on the authority of the General Assembly to make a doctrinal pronouncement that applies to the whole Church. Such pronouncements are called “in thesi deliverances:

This is a power peculiar to the Assembly; for, while the other courts decide in the sense of rendering a judgment, that judgment, if controverted, is not the DECISION of the controversy; but the Assembly’s judgment is the judgment of the Church, and is, therefore, the end of the controversy. When, then, the Assembly has decided, is that a prohibition of further discussion? By no means. But the Assembly’s decision in a controversy respecting doctrine is thenceforth the doctrine of the Church; and further opposition to this doctrine is opposition to the doctrine of the Church, and is permissible only within the limitations within which opposition to the doctrine of the Church is permissible. And the decision of the Assembly in a controversy respecting discipline fixes the status of the parties affected, and they are to be treated accordingly in their ecclesiastical relations by all who prefer to remain in this Church and free from its censure.

And with that, we’ll let you read on if you are interested. Hopefully you found the above profitable.

Words to Live By:
Be sure to be praying these next many weeks for the Commissioners to the General Assemblies or Synod of the various Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, that they would prayerfully approach their work in the fear of the Lord, fully submitted to His will, and that in all their efforts, they would seek to work to His glory.

A Working Bibliography on In Thesi Deliverances

Following some recent discussion on this topic, I thought a bibliography might be helpful.

[The entries below with added comments were taken from David Coffin’s bibliography on ecclesiastical judicial procedures, in particular, the section, ‘On the Powers of the Assembly in Judicial Cases and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis’]

• Adger, John B., “Deliverances of Church Courts,” Southern Presbyterian Review, 31.3 (July 1880): 535-603.

• Chapell, Bryan, Note 1 of “PRJC Letter Regarding Women in Combat”. [accessed here, on 27 June 2012 : http://www.pcamna.org/chaplainministries/PRJCWomen2004.pdf ]

• Cunningham, William, “Church Power,” being Chapter IX (pp. 235-256) in Discussions on Church Principles. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1863. Reprinted, Edmonton, AB: Still Waters Revival Books, 1991. See particularly pages 245-246.

• Gordon, E. C. (Edward Clifford, 1842-1922), “Laws and Deliverances In Thesi,” The Union Seminary Review, 31.2 (January 1920): 175-183.

• Hodge, J. Aspinwall. What is Presbyterian Law as Defined by the Church Courts?Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1884, p. 271.

Can the Assembly answer questions in “thesi”? It does not appear that the constitution ever designed that the General Assembly should ever take up abstract cases and decide on them, especially when the object appears to be to bring these decisions to bear on particular individuals no judicially before the Assembly.” [citing Presbyterian Digest, p. 279.] What authority have the decisions of the Assembly? Even its recommendations are of authority, coming as they do from a body representing the whole Church. Its recommendations concerning the Boards are obligatory. Its replies to overtures are authoritative interpretations of the constitution. Its testimony on doctrine and morality is the Church’s declaration of the meaning of the “Confession of Faith,” and its application. And its judicial decisions are final and obligatory in all similar cases.” No later Assembly can reverse its judicial acts or revise its proceedings. A manifest error may be corrected. [citing Presbyterian Digest. p. 689.] (Emphasis added.)

• Leslie, J.D. Presbyterian Law and Procedure in the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1930, pp. 182-185, 188.

Deliverances and General Assembly decisions. Two forms of decisions: 1. The General Assembly sits as a deliberative body which is legislative. 2. The General Assembly frequently sits as a court, in the trial of judicial cases…. 1. The deliverance that is of the highest authority is that of a decision in a judicial case, the case having come up by appeal or complaint from the lower court. The General Assembly sits as the supreme court of Jesus Christ, and its decision is final. It determines and concludes a particular case. (see also paragraph 418.) The Assembly in 1879 made a deliverance stating that the deliverances of 1865, 1869 and 1877 on the subject of worldly amusements are not to be accepted and enforced as law by judicial process upon the following grounds:

(1) That these deliverances do not require judicial prosecution expressly, and could not require it without violating the spirit of our law.

(2) that none of these deliverances were made by the Assembly in a strictly judicial capacity, but were all deliverances in thesi, and therefore can be considered as only didactic, advisory and monitory. [p. 183; Note that this phrase, “didactic, advisory and monitory” applies only to in thesi statements, not judicial decisions.”]”

(3) That the Assembly has no power to issue orders to institute process except according to the provisions of the Rules of Discipline found in the Book of Church Order (revised 1925).” (A.D. 1910; M.G.A. 1879, p. 23.)….

Force of in thesi deliverance. A judicial sentence cannot be set aside by an in thesideliverance. While it is competent for one General Assembly, under the rules provided by the constitution, to grant a new hearing to a case which has been judicially decided by a previous Assembly, a deliverance by the Assembly could not modify or set aside the judicial sentence. (A.D. 1922, p. 166, 167; M.G.A. 1879, p. 57.) (Also see par. 416.) [p. 185]…. Original jurisdiction in judicial cases. The General Assembly has no original jurisdiction in matters of discipline; but when a judicial case comes before the Assembly, by appeal or complaint, it has the power to declare the law in this particular case. This judicial interpretation of the law is the interpretation in connection with a given case. This decision becomes the law of the Church in cases similar to this given case. Decisions of this kind are not to be construed as in thesi deliverances, but are of biding authority. These decisions have been made after the matter has been discussed in two or more courts and after everything connected with it has been discussed freely, not only in the lower court but also in the Assembly. [p. 188]. (Emphasis added.)

• Mullally, Francis, “The Church’s Power to Make Declarations,” The Presbyterian Quarterly, 9.1 (October 1895): 571-583.

• Patton, Francis L. The Revision of the Confession of Faith, read before the Presbyterian Social Union, New York, December 2, 1889, p. 6 [reprinted from The Independent].

There is no doubt that there is an area of tolerated divergence from the Confession of Faith. How large that area is will depend upon the degree of readiness there may be in the Church to move the ecclesiastical courts, and upon the decisions reached in the court of last resort. Historical students may tell us what the Church has thought upon the subject, and dogmatic theologians may tell us what the Church ought to think; but it is only as the General Assembly decides concrete cases in appellate jurisdiction, and the principle of stare decisis may be supposed to govern subsequent deliverances, that the area of tolerated divergence can be defined. (Emphasis added)

• Peck, Thomas E. “The Action of the Assembly of 1879 on Worldly Amusements, or the Powers of Our Several Church Courts.” Southern Presbyterian Review 31.2 (April 1880): 218-243. Reprinted in Miscellanies of Rev. Thomas E. Peck. Edited by T.C. Johnson. Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1895, II.331-360.

Review of the action of the Assembly in 1879, cited by Leslie supra, provides the occasion for a masterful discussion of the nature and authority of Assembly in thesis statements, as contrasted with the authority of Assembly judicial decisions, the constitution, and the lower courts, by one of the main theorists and chief authorities on Presbyterian polity and procedure for the Southern Church. Argues Peck:

“The principle here involved is one of immense importance. It lies at the root of all the struggles between the advocates of a constitutional government and the advocates of an `absolutism.’ The forms of constitutional government and of absolutism, both in church and in state, have varied indefinitely; but the essence of the struggle has always been the same. Abstracted from its accidental forms, the question has always been, whether the power of the whole is over every part, or only over the power of the part….” [335-336.]

“[W]e must repeat the `state of the question’ once more: Does the same force belong to the deliverances in thesi of the higher courts as to their judicial decisions? Do the two classes of decisions regulate and determine the administration of discipline in the same way and to the same extent? Or, to express the same thing in other words, does the interpretation of a law by an appellate court—the interpretation being given in thesis—bind a court of original jurisdiction in such as sense as to deprive it of its power of judgment as to the meaning of said law, and compel it to accept and act upon the interpretation of the appellate court as the law of the Church? … The General Assembly of 1879 answers it clearly and unanimously in the negative; and, we think, truly and righteously….” [pp. 337-338.]

“We confess to a great astonishment that brethren should insist that deliverances in thesihave the same force and judicial decisions. The two classes of acts are reached by processes wholly different. A deliverance in thesi may concern a subject which has never been before the church or any of its courts; may be `sprung’ upon the Assembly by some ardent and eloquent member, and be carried by his personal influence and eloquence. A judicial decision by that court necessarily implies discussion in a least two of the lower courts-in a cause originating in the session it is implied that the matter has been discussed in three—before it is called to decide. The cause is represented on both sides by counsel, who are fully heard; and the members of the court next below are heard, etc., etc.; all circumstances which give assurance that the matter has been fully discussed by those most competent to do it. Further, the deliverance in thesi is apt to be sweeping and general. The judicial decision is upon a case, is interpreted by it, and is applicable only to similar cases. The responsibility in delivering a judgment in a judicial case will be more sensibly felt by the members of the court, because they are not only interpreting the law, but are judging a brother, and are determining his ecclesiastical status….” [pp. 344-345.]

“[I]f the idea of the unity of the church is to be realized on any larger scale than that of a single coetus fidelium, there must be appellate jurisdiction, and a power given to some higher court to `decide’ all controversies. This is the reason why a `judicial decision’ of the General Assembly becomes law and continues to be law until a contrary decision is rendered by the same court-law, in the sense of a regulator of the exercise of discipline in the courts below…. [T]he courts of original jurisdiction have the right to interpret the law for themselves, until a judicial decision of the highest court shall decide the matter.” [p. 346, 348.] (Emphasis added)

[Note : Peck’s article, soon published in The Southern Presbyterian Review, initiated a long-running discussion which appeared on the pages of The Christian Observer in 1880 :

◊ “The Assembly and Worldly Amusements,” by Rev. James Stacy [1830-1912], The Christian Observer, 59.5 (4 February 1880): 2, columns 5-6.
◊ “Power of the Assembly to Restrain Worldly Frivolity,” by the editor [either Rev. F. Bartlett Converse or Rev. Thomas E. Converse], The Christian Observer, 59.5 (4 February 1880): 4, columns 1-3.
◊ “The Assembly and Its Deliverances,” by Rev. James Stacy, The Christian Observer, 59.8 (25 February 1880): 7, columns 1-3.
◊ “Deliverances “In Thesi” of the Assembly,” by Rev. D.W. Shanks [David William, 1830-1894], The Christian Observer, 59.9 (3 March 1880): 7, columns 1-3.
◊ “The General Assembly: Its Deliverances and Modern Dance,” by Rev. E.C. Gordon, The Christian Observer, 59.11 (17 March 1880): 1, columns 4-5.
◊ “‘In Thesi’ Deliverances of the Assembly,” The Christian Observer 59.22 (2 June 1880): 5, columns 1-6.
◊ “The Power of the Assembly,” The Christian Observer, 59.23 (9 June 1880): 2, columns 1-6 and 3, columns 1-3.
◊ “What Did the Assembly Decide About Dancing?,” The Christian Observer, 59.25 (23 June 1880): 4, columns 3-4.
◊ “The Great Debate and the Deliverance of 1880,” by “Knox,” The Christian Observer, 59.27 (7 July 1880): 4, column 6 – 5, column 1.
◊ “Action of the Assembly: An Open Letter from Dr. Girardeau,” The Christian Observer, 59.30 (28 July 1880): 2, columns 4-6.

• Presbyterian Church, United States of America. “The Plan of Union, Synods of New York and Philadelphia.” Minutes of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia. 1758, p. 3; reprinted in Minutes of the Presbyterian Church in America 1706-1788. Edited by Guy S. Klett. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Historical Society, 1976, p. 341.

II. That when any Matter is determined by a Major Vote, every Member] Shall either actively concur with, or passively Submit to Such Deter[min]ation; or, if his Conscience permit him to do neither, he Shall, [after] Sufficient Liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceab[ly withdraw from our Communion, without attempting to make any Sc[hism:] provided always, that this Shall be understood to extend only to [Such] Determinations, as the Body Shall Judge indispensable in Doct[rine] or Presbyterian Gover[n]ment.

III. That any member, or Members, for the Exoneration of his, or t[heir] Conscience before God, have a Right to protest against any A[ct, or] Procedure of our highest Judicature, because there is no [fur]ther [App]eal to another for Redress, and to require that Such Prote[st]ation [be] recorded in their Minutes…. And it is agreed, that Protestations ar[e only to be entered] against the publick Acts, Judgments, or Determina[tions of the Judica]ture, with which the Protester’s Conscience is offe[nded.]

• Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario (OPC), “Recommendations for Presbyters Regarding in thesi Statements of GA and Examining Candidates” [accessed here, on 27 June 2012 : http://www.pmocc.org/Presbyters/H603_2007-05-19_Response_to_the_Letters_of_C-O-L_and_Marsh_Draft.pdf ]

• Ramsay, F.P. An Exposition of the Form of Government and the Rules of Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1898, pp. 112-113.

This is a power peculiar to the Assembly; for, while the other courts decide in the sense of rendering a judgment, that judgment, if controverted, is not the DECISION of the controversy; but the Assembly’s judgment is the judgment of the Church, and is, therefore, the end of the controversy. When, then, the Assembly has decided, is that a prohibition of further discussion? By no means. But the Assembly’s decision in a controversy respecting doctrine is thenceforth the doctrine of the Church; and further opposition to this doctrine is opposition to the doctrine of the Church, and is permissible only within the limitations within which opposition to the doctrine of the Church is permissible. And the decision of the Assembly in a controversy respecting discipline fixes the status of the parties affected, and they are to be treated accordingly in their ecclesiastical relations by all who prefer to remain in this Church and free from its censure. (Emphasis added)

• Taylor, L. Roy, “Status of in thesi Statements,” [accessed here, on 27 June 2012 :  http://www.pcahistory.org/bco/articles/Taylor-inthesi.pdf ]

• Thompson, Ernest Trice, Presbyterians in the South. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1973. Volume II : 1861-1890, pages 392-400.

• Willborn, C.N., “The ‘Ministerial and Declarative’ Powers of the Church and In Thesi Deliverances,” The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. I (2005): 94-101.

Long as it is, nonetheless, this is an edited form of the address given by Mr. Claude Bunzel during the First Annual Commencement Exercises of Covenant College* on June 1, 1956, held at Pasadena City Church, whose building housed the college prior to its permanent relocation in St. Louis.
[*See the explanatory note at the end of this post.]

The Place Where Responsibility and Opportunity Meet

By Rev. Claude Bunzel, Director of Twentieth Century Evangelism, Minister of Pasadena City Church.

THE SUBJECT which I have chosen is The Place Where Responsibility and Opportunity Meet. I realize that these words, responsibility and opportunity, seem to contradict each other. Responsibility, as you know, carries with it the idea of obligation, something that we must do. In other words, a responsibility is a duty. But opportunity conveys an entirely different meaning. An opportunity is some “favorable chance,” to quote the dictionary, which leaves a person the freedom to undertake or decline.

I remember a cartoon which I saw one time. A young man was seated in an elegant home, holding a conversation with a woman who was obviously well-to-do. This young man had apparently been trying to get this woman to contribute to the cause he was representing. The caption below the cartoon, however, quoted the woman like this: “I was ready to make out a check for you until you started talking to me about my duty.”

Yes, that is the attitude most people take when the matter of responsibility is mentioned. Opportunities they will consider. But the majority of people seem to shy away from anything that so much as resembles responsibility. Yet there is a place where responsibility and opportunity meet. When Jesus was with His disciples for the last time prior to His ascension, His disciples asked Him: “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Jesus replied (vs. 7,8):

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
In plain words, the answer which Jesus gave to His disciples was this. Their mission was not to be a temporal mission to reform society. It was to be a spiritual mission to tell the world about the One who had come to redeem sinners. This means that evangelism is the place where responsibility and opportunity meet!

WITNESSES UNTO CHRIST

It is our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ, because He said, “And ye shall be witnesses unto Me.” But what does it mean to be a witness unto Jesus Christ? Today, certainly, different people will give different answers to that question. I contend, therefore, that the only reliable answer is to be found in that portion of Scripture known as the Acts of the Apostles. This has to be so, for the simple reason that the Gospels and the Epistles were written to those who had already turned to Christ for His salvation.

Witnessing That Jesus Is the Promised Messiah

Salvation is not an emergency measure which God thought up because sin caught him by surprise. God’s plan of salvation was laid in eternity. No doubt this is why the Apostles were constantly emphasizing the truth that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Peter, and those who witnessed with him on the day of Pentecost give us the first recorded example of this emphasis. The closing remark that Peter made was (Acts 2:36): “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah].”

We can never win anyone to Christ by seeming to present Him as an accident of history, or as the natural outcome of some supposed evolutionary process. Jesus the Christ came into this world in order to accomplish the redemption of His people; and the bulk of the Old Testament deals with who He is and what He did.

This leads us into the next great truth regarding the promised Messiah: Jesus Christ is the only possible Saviour for sinful men. I realize that this will sound intolerant to many in a day of loose doctrine. Nevertheless, when Peter and John found themselves in custody before the high priests, because God had used them as the human means of miraculously healing a lame man, Peter bluntly said:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Under the deepest conviction that no one else but Jesus could save men from sin, those Apostles defied the high priests who sought to silence them, and continued to witness for their Messiah day after day.

The next lengthy message with an evangelistic content that we read in the Acts of the Apostles is that of Stephen before the Sanhedrin, recorded in chapter seven. No doubt different people will be impressed by different things when they read this testimony Stephen gave. This is what impresses me, in connection with our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ. Loyalty to Christ must take precedent over loyalty to any and all man-made institutions, whether those institutions are political, cultural, religious or of any other kind. Stephen remained loyal to Christ, even to the extent of praying for those who, in their spiritual blindness, were stoning him to death while he prayed.

This raises a question. Will you and I be as loyal to Christ as Stephen was, if we are ever faced with possible death for our testimony? The days of martyrdom are not over, as many missionary boards will quickly tell you. Nor are the days of the martyr-spirit over. Therefore, we should challenge men and women to give up everything for Christ. This is not too much to expect; for they will respond — if God speaks to their hearts!

The Acts of the Apostles is filled with valuable lessons such as these. The one more to be mentioned is the instance of Peter and Cornelius, found in chapters ten and eleven. And I still have in mind witnessing that Jesus is the promised Messiah when I point out the central thought of this passage: God is no respecter of persons in His offer of salvation.

God’s salvation is for both Jew and Gentile. It is for high and low. It is for the wealthy and the poor, for the strong and the weak. It is for those who are educated and for those who are ignorant. That is why Peter began his message to Cornelius and his family by saying: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons : but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34,35).

This means that Christ is for all. It means that Christ can meet the need of all. Let us, then, not hesitate to witness to all, as God leads, that Jesus is the promised Messiah!

Witnessing That Jesus Died and Rose from the Grave

Is witnessing that Jesus is the promised Messiah to be the extent ofour testimony? No! The heart of the Gospel is that this promised Messiah died and rose from the grave on the third day. Listen to the Apostle Peter, in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among
you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it (Acts 2:22-24).

Or listen to Peter as he speaks to the household of Cornelius: “And we are witnesses of all things which He [Christ] did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem ; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly . . .” (Acts 10:39,40).

Deeper into the Acts of the Apostles, especially in the messages of Paul, there is a steady stream of testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified and raised from the dead the third day. This is doctrinal preaching, to be sure; but it is the kind of doctrine that brings salvation to repenting and believing sinners. Paul’s experience in Thessolonica is a case in point:

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with
them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few (Acts 17:2-4).

No one has truly preached the Gospel, no one has properly witnessed for Christ, no one has actually given sinners the message they need, unless he has set forth the Scriptural truths that Jesus is the promised Messiah, that Jesus died for our sins, and that Jesus rose from the dead the third day. But once having presented these truths we can say, as Paul said in Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:38,39):

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

WITNESSES UNTO CHRIST THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

It is our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ throughout the world, because He said: “And ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

We are to be witnesses unto Christ throughout our world, just as the early Christians were to be witnesses unto Christ throughout their world. The world that we face in the Twentieth Century, however, is not the same world that believers of the First Century had to face. It is not the same world politically. It is not the same world economically. It is not the same world technologically or culturally. It is not even the same world geographically, in the sense of population distribution.

There are certain ways in which our world is the same world that the early Christians faced. The world of the Twentieth Century is the same philosophically ; it is the same psychologically. And quite obviously it is the same religiously. There will be more about these matters later, but for the moment let us think about the differences between our world and theirs.

Our World and Theirs Contrasted and Compared

What kind of a world did the Early Church face ? In contrast to the complexity of modern society, the world which the Early Church faced was exceedingly simple. For one thing, its institutions were few. There was the government apparatus, the various religions centered about a temple or shrine, and perhaps a few guilds or crafts loosely organized. With this and little more, it meant that the bulk of mankind was a homogeneous body, moving through life with humdrum monotony, except for periodic wars among nations.

How different is the world we face today! We have ultra-fast transportation facilities. We have instantaneous communications systems, including the magic of television. There are media for the spread of news, propaganda and entertainment on a national and even an international scale. Our society is split up into tiny fragments, each fragment of which is highly organized, most fragments of which are waging war against some other fragment.

Yet in the midst of all this organizational diversity, we must be careful to remember that’ there is but one Church of Jesus Christ, comprised of all those who have been born of the Spirit of God. We must also remember that to which ever of these man-made organizations we happen to belong, our first allegiance must be to Jesus Christ as Head of the Church which is His Body.

If we are to be witnesses unto Christ throughout the whole world — our world — how are we to go about such an immense task? I can only speak for myself, in answering this question; but I hope you will agree with my answer. In the same way that the lawyer investigates before he argues, in the same way that the doctor diagnoses before he treats, in the same way that the contractor plans before he builds, so we must investigate, diagnose and plan before we seek to evangelize our world. To state the problem in as simple a manner as I know how, we must analyse the situation we face, and then tackle it in any legitimate way that seems practical. And lest you jump to a wrong conclusion, I am not advocating a single, simple analysis, to apply for all time. I am advocating repeated analysis — that is a fresh analysis every time some vital factor in the previous analysis changes.

What We Can Learn from Successful Salesmen

It was earlier said that the world we face is the same as the world the Early Church faced in three major areas: philosophy, psychology, and religion. In other words, men’s minds and hearts are the same today as .always. Yet no two men are alike in their temperament, their education, their emotion, their experience, or their desires. This means that we must be as flexible in witnessing to men as the successful salesman is in his approach to a prospective customer.

Strange as it may sound to you at first, in my opinion it would do much good for us occasionally to read one of the many How to Be a Successful Salesman books, then to take the examples they give and the lessons they teach and adapt them to our efforts to witness for Christ.

I recall one story in particular, about a salesman who desired to obtain a large account from an important firm. He inquired discreetly until he discovered the key man whose confidence he had to win in order to gain that firm’s business. When he found out who that key man was, he next sought to find out what he was like. He learned that his man was a golf-lover. So this salesman purchased some books on golf, and read up on golf and golf players. He joined a country club and took golf lessons. After all this, he practiced and practiced until he could play golf as well as he had learned to talk golf. Now he was ready to contact this key man in this important firm. You can guess the result, of course: he won that large account.

Perhaps you and I can win more souls for Christ when we show a willingness to proceed as sensibly in the spiritual realm as the successful salesman does in the commercial realm.

The Inspired Example of an Inspired Apostle

Lest you think I am advocating a Yes and No attitude, or am suggesting that we compromise our testimony merely to gain a hearing, I refer you to the Apostle Paul to illustrate what I mean by flexibility. He it was, you remember, who said: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (I Corinthians 9:22,23).

The Apostle Paul journeyed to Antioch in Pisidia for the one purpose of witnessing for Jesus Christ. Why did he begin his sermon with a long review of Jewish history? Was he so foolish as to imagine that those Jews in that synagogue did not know their own history ? Of course not! His aim was to establish a point of contact on the basis of that which was of interest to them, in order that he might gain favorable attention to that which was of interest to himself.

It is Paul’s experience in Athens, however, that seems to me to have special meaning for us today.
Mind you, this was the same man; yet his language was entirely different, and his point of contact was entirely different. If you study carefully his address, found in Acts chapter 17, you will notice these things. First, Paul based his remarks upon something which was a part of their local environment, the altar with the inscription To the Unknown God. And he had discovered that altar as he walked about the city of Athens, waiting for Silas and the others to join him. Next, he demonstrated that he was familiar with their philosophical beliefs and could even quote from their poets. Finally, he combined denial of that which they .believed with an affirmation of that which he believed, and wanted them to believe. This kind of approach, I can add, gives thinking people an opportunity to think!

A Key That Unlocks Society for a Gospel Entrance

Our world is highly organized. The people of today have what can be called group-consciousness. Sometimes the same individual belongs to different groups that work against each other. This is even true of evangelical believers. Yet it is still our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ in this kind of a world. Is there a key with which we can unlock this tangled maze ? To me there is.

If we concentrate our efforts upon those areas which remain unchanged, that is, if we concentrate upon the areas of philosophy, psychology and religion, we can penetrate the highly organized society of today and reach men and women who have unwittingly allowed the walls that separate group from group to isolate them from their fellow-men. When I use the words, philosophy, psychology and religion, however, I use them in the basic and elementary meaning of how men think, how men act, and how men worship. Such intimate knowledge of such basic matters will enable all believers to witness more effectively for Christ.

WITNESSES UNTO CHRIST THROUGHOUT THE WORLD IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Therefore, it is our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ throughout the world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can know the Gospel of God’s grace unto perfection. We can have analyzed completely and correctly the society in which we live; and we can have singled out a point of contact that is ideal. We may speak with the tongue of an orator and reason with the mind of a philosopher. But if we do not possess the power of the Spirit of God, our testimony will fall upon deaf ears and accomplish little or nothing.

Why We Need the Power of the Holy Spirit

We realize that those believers who gathered together in one accord on the day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit. But do we also realize that the conviction of sin which was then produced was the work of the Holy Spirit, and not of the Apostles ? In other words, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to produce conviction of sin.

The Sanhedrin attempted — unsuccessfully — to silence Peter and the other Apostles. Then the Apostles and disciples prayed for boldness to witness [Acts 4:23-33]. God answered their prayer, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they later declared: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Do you ever hesitate to witness because you fear opposition? The same Spirit of God who gave Stephen the courage to withstand the official opposition of unbelieving priests will also give you courage!

Perhaps you have a desire to serve Christ, and to witness for Him; but you cannot make up your mind exactly how to go about it, and where to attempt it. All of Us can learn a lesson from Philip. He was in the midst of such a great soul-winning campaign in the city of Samaria that the Apostles came from Jerusalem to investigate, and then to help. Yet the Spirit of God directed Philip to leave that great city campaign in order to lead one lone man to Christ in the middle of a lonely desert. This same Holy Spirit will guide us into fruitful service, if we but commit ourselves into His hands.

Who would ever have thought that a vengeful man like Saul of Tarsus was destined to become, by the grace of God, the Apostle who labored more abundantly than they all? Acts chapter nine tells of his conversion, and of his filling with the Holy Spirit, then adds: “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (v. 20). This is bound to be the result, in the case of any and all who become filled with the power of the Spirit of God!

Opportunity As Well As Responsibility

I have spoken of our responsibility to be witnesses unto Christ throughout the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. This responsibility is our opportunity as well!

Why is our responsibility to witness for Christ also our opportunity ? Because we are sinful and He is sinless. Because we are unrighteous and He is righteous. Because we are, apart from saving grace, unholy, but He is holiness itself. So it is an opportunity for persons such as ourselves to witness for One like Him.

The world is an opportunity for us, as well as a responsibility — our world, today, in spite of apostacy, in spite of materialism, in spite of the thousand and one things that keep men from thinking about the welfare of their souls. If we analyze our world, if we adapt ourselves to its need, if we seek the guidance of the Lord in establishing a point of contact, we can win souls for Christ — today.

When we as believers stand before the mirror and look at ourselves, we see someone whom the Holy Spirit indwells. It is a wonderful privilege, beyond the ability of human language to describe, just for this alone. In addition, we have the priceless opportunity of enjoying the power of the Spirit of God, who will give us courage, who will guide us, who will bless our efforts to witness for Christ.

There is a place where responsibility and opportunity meet. That place is the place of evangelism. It is the responsibility of every believer to be a witness unto Christ; and believers collectively are to be witnesses unto Christ throughout the world. Each of us individually must, however, give forth our testimony to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. May this be true of each one of us, both this day and all the days that follow!

[*Note: As stated in the brief preface above, Dr. Bunzel’s message was delivered at the first annual commencement exercises of Covenant College. The College began in the fall of 1955 and Covenant Theological Seminary began a year later and after the College had relocated to St. Louis, Missouri.  However, since both schools shared the same property location until the relocation of the College in 1964, the Seminary accordingly has numbered its annual commencement exercises based upon the College’s first commencement in 1956.]

From Prisoner of War to Professor of Bible
by Rev. David T. Myers

Clyde Wayne Field was his name. College students at the now closed Highland College in Pasadena, California had him teach classes for the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, as well as English Bible. He was an able teacher, instructing those who sat in the daily sessions at the small Presbyterian College week after week. But his experiences in life prior to this was anything but orderly.

Born in Braymer, Missouri, when he came of age, he joined the Army Air Corps of the United States. As our country had entered World War 2, First Lieutenant Clyde Field began to fly in heavy bombers over Germany, seeking to defeat the Nazi’s in their global plans for world domination.

Early in 1944, his plane was hit by aircraft fire, forcing Lt. Clyde Field to jump out of the burning plane. Seeking to steer himself by the rip cords to miss the population center beneath him, he tried everything within his power to accomplish that. But he landed in the middle of the German town. He was a prisoner of war.

Clyde was sent to a Gestapo-run prisoner of war camp for the next year. One of six thousand Allied prisoners, he suffered emotionally and physically. His daily food was cabbage soup and bread made from flour and sawdust. Once, he was given a small portion of food and realized that if he didn’t add to it, it would be gone in a day or so. So he went around the prison camp, adding grass, and leaves, anything, to make it stretch longer. However, it tasted terrible, so he had to throw the whole concoction out.

As Russian forces closed in from the east on the prison camp, the whole contingent of captured Allied troops were forced to walk in their weakened conditions one hundred miles. Desperate times called for desperate measures. As Clyde Field engaged a German farmer in his best high school German, he knew that his fellow prisoners were in the rear raiding the farm animals. Eventually, Allied forces came and rescued the prisoners of war. He was released on this day, May 29, 1945, and returned to the United States.

He attended and graduated from Wheaton College and Faith Theological Seminary. Further Master of Theology studies were done at Grace Theological Seminary. Ordained in the Bible Presbyterian Church, he served two BP churches in California and Montana. But his main teaching ministry was at Highland College, where this author studied under him from 1959 to 1963.

Clyde Field went to be with his Lord and Savior on December 24, 2007.

Words to Live By:
One of his Highland College students, Shirley Larsen, of the state of Washington, commented to this author in an email that (Clyde Field) “really helped me form a strong basis for my view of Scripture as God-breathed, authoritative, and reliable. His emphasis on who Jesus was from John chapter 1, because of the language structure of the text, gave me a life long foundation for belief and trust in our Triune God.” Would it be the same for all of us, as we communicate the Reformed faith to our families and the church family, the result will be a stronger faith in Christian doctrine and life in them.

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