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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. 

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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.

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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).

 

Return to Duty: Three Tips from John Witherspoon on ‘Hearkening the Rod’
by Joseph Sunde

 

witherspoonIn the spring of 1776, John Witherspoon preached his first sermon on political matters, about a month before he was elected to the Continental Congress. The sermon, “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” is a fascinating exploration of how God can work through human crises, and how even the “wrath of man” can lead us to glorify God in unexpected ways.

Surrounded by the conflict of the Revolution, Witherspoon calls on his countrymen to “return to duty,” neither letting blind rage get the best of them, nor retreating out of fear or for idols of security and “peace.” Yet while all this is directed specifically to the crisis of his time, I’m struck by how far his wisdom actually applies.

In today’s context, our conflicts vary, from economic woes to fights about religious liberty to racial tensions to terrorist threats to brazen abuses of power and authority within the halls of our own government. In each area, we can benefit from Witherspoon’s advice, learning to “hearken the rod” when times get tough, not only in terms of our own salvation, but for the sake and the cause of a free and virtuous society.

Witherspoon sets the stage as follows, highlighting how God through tough times so often remind us of and points us toward the source of every good and perfect thing:

Both nations in general, and private persons, are apt to grow remiss and lax in a time of prosperity and seeming security; but when their earthly comforts are endangered or withdrawn, it lays them under a kind of necessity to seek for something better in their place. Men must have comfort from one quarter or another. When earthly things are in a pleasing and promising condition, too many are apt to find their rest, and be satisfied with them as their only portion. But when the vanity and passing nature of all created comfort is discovered, they are compelled to look for something more durable as well as valuable. What therefore, can be more to the praise of God, than that when a whole people have forgotten their resting place, when they have abused their privileges, and despised their mercies, they should by distress and suffering be made to hearken to the rod, and return to their duty?

He moves from there to a lengthy commentary on human nature, divine providence, and a variety of detailed applications to the American Revolution. But his conclusions are rather universal.

Witherspoon offers three specific recommendations, which I’ve excerpted below under my own simplistic headers. The primary takeaways may seem obvious, and the excerpts overly excessive, but Witherspoon connects the dots between the spiritual, social, economic, and political with remarkable depth and unusual clarity.

1. Turn to God, and orient your life around obedience to His will.

sermon2 (1)Suffer me to recommend to you an attention to the public interest of religion, or in other words, zeal for the glory of God and the good of others. I have already endeavored to exhort sinners to repentance; what I have here in view is to point out to you the concern which every good man ought to take in the national character and manners, and the means which he ought to use for promoting public virtue, and bearing down impiety and vice. This is a matter of the utmost moment, and which ought to be well understood, both in its nature and principles. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue.

On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed. This will be found equally certain, whether we consider the great principles of God’s moral government, or the operation and influence of natural causes. What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.

2. Work hard, and work for the glory of God and the service of neighbor.

I exhort all who are not called to go into the field [of warfare], to apply themselves with the utmost diligence to works of industry. It is in your power by this mean not only to supply the necessities, but to add to the strength of your country. Habits of industry prevailing in a society, not only increase its wealth, as their immediate effect, but they prevent the introduction of many vices, and are intimately connected with sobriety and good morals. Idleness is the mother or nurse of almost every vice; and want, which is its inseparable companion, urges men on to the most abandoned and destructive courses.

Industry, therefore is a moral duty of the greatest moment, absolutely necessary to national prosperity, and the sure way of obtaining the blessing of God. I would also observe, that in this, as in every other part of God’s government, obedience to his will is as much a natural mean, as a meritorious cause, of the advantage we wish to reap from it. Industry brings up a firm and hardy race. He who is inured to the labor of the field, is prepared for the fatigues of a campaign. The active farmer who rises with the dawn and follows his team or plow, must in the end be an overmatch for those effeminate and delicate soldiers, who are nursed in the lap of self-indulgence, and whose greatest exertion is in the important preparation for, and tedious attendance on, a masquerade, or midnight ball.

3. Deny yourself (which demands frugality, humility, and discernment).

In the last place, suffer me to recommend to you frugality in your families, and every other article of expence. This the state of things among us renders absolutely necessary, and it stands in the most immediate connexion both with virtuous industry, and active public spirit. Temperance in meals, moderation and decency in dress, furniture and equipage, have, I think, generally been characteristics of a distinguished patriot. And when the same spirit pervades a people in general, they are fit for every duty, and able to encounter the most formidable enemy…

… In the early times of Christianity, when adult converts were admitted to baptism, they were asked among other questions, Do you renounce the world, its shews, its pomp, and its vanities? I do. The form of this is still preserved in the administration of baptism, where we renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh. This certainly implies not only abstaining from acts of gross intemperance and excess, but a humility of carriage, a restraint and moderation in all your desires. The same thing, as it is suitable to your Christian profession, is also necessary to make you truly independent in yourselves, and to feed the source of liberality and charity to others, or to the public. The riotous and wasteful liver, whose craving appetites make him constantly needy, is and must be subject to many masters, according to the saying of Solomon, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” But the frugal and moderate person, who guides his affairs with discretion, is able to assist in public counsels by a free and unbiassed judgment, to supply the wants of his poor brethren, and sometimes, by his estate and substance to give important aid to a sinking country.

His conclusion:

Upon the whole, I beseech you to make a wise improvement of the present threatening aspect of public affairs, and to remember that your duty to God, to your country, to your families, and to yourselves, is the same. True religion is nothing else but an inward temper and outward conduct suited to your state and circumstances in providence at any time. And as peace with God and conformity to him, adds to the sweetness of created comforts while we possess them, so in times of difficulty and trial, it is in the man of piety and inward principle, that we may expect to find the uncorrupted patriot, the useful citizen, and the invincible soldier. God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.

In whatever public conflicts we face, some will feel powerless, others apathetic, and others prone to blindly join the foam and fervor of the latest conformity mob. Witherspoon shows us that the path forward is actually quite straightforward, requiring hard work, persistence, and self-sacrifice applied with discipline and diligence over time and with a steady attention on obedience to God above all else.

These things matter for our own souls, but also for the spirit and prosperity of our communities and nations — from here and there and back again. As Ellis Sandoz reminds us in his introduction to the sermon, “Ministers of the Gospel have more important business to attend to than secular crises, but, of course, liberty is more than a merely secular matter.”

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 10.

Q.10. How did God create man?

  1. God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

EXPLICATION.

Created.—Made or formed.

Male and Female.—Man and Woman.

After his own image.—After God’s likeness or resemblance.

With dominion over the creatures.—Having power, or authority, over the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea.

ANALYSIS.

In this there are four things taught:

  1. That God made man male and female.—Genesis i. 27. God created man—male and female created he them.
  2. That man was made after the image or likeness of God.—Genesis i. 27. God created man in his own image.
  3. That God’s image consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.—Colossians iii. 10. And have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him.—Ephesians iv. 24. The new man, who, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.

4. That man, when first created, had dominion over the creatures.—Genesis i. 28. And God blessed them, and said unto them,—Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Happy Birthday! The following PCA churches were organized [particularized] on this day, in the year indicated. Nearly one-third of all PCA churches pre-date the 1973 formation of the PCA, and for most of those churches, we do not presently know their exact date of organization. Typically it is the newer churches where we have that information. Please let us know if we missed a church’s anniversary date and we’ll add it to our list for future use. In some cases here we are using the date when the church came into the PCA, rather than when it was organized.

Covenant Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL [Evangel], organized March 4, 1979.
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC [Calvary Presbytery], organized March 4, 1951 and was among the founding churches of the PCA in 1973.
Parish Presbyterian Church, Franklin, TN [Nashville Presbytery], organized March 4, 2007.
River’s Edge Community Church, Oella, MD [Chesapeake Presbytery], organized March 4, 2007.

From the brief church history presented on the web site of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina:

Covenant Presbyterian Church was formally organized by a commission of Congaree Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States on Sunday, March 4, 1951, in a service held at Watkins School. The Reverend Harry F. Petersen, Jr., Executive Secretary of Congaree Presbytery, was instrumental in the founding of the church and leading it during the early years before a pastor was called. Pastors of the congregation have included the Rev. Cecil D. Brearley, Jr. (1954 – 1960), the Rev. Harry T. Schutte (1960 – 1977), the Rev. J. Gary Aitken (1977 – 1990), the Rev. LeRoy H. Ferguson (1991 – 2001) and the Rev. Eric R. Dye (2004 – present).

The congregation met in Watkins School until August of 1951. We moved when construction of the first sanctuary was completed on property on Alms House Road in the rapidly growing northeastern area of Columbia. Alms House Road was later renamed Covenant Road after the church. In 1959, a new church sanctuary and children’s building were dedicated on the same property. Additional buildings have been added since then to support our ministry.

On July 1, 1973, Covenant Church voted to pull out of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and join the newly organized, more reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

In addition to its witness to Christ, Covenant has served members of the congregation and community with a Christian school. Beginning with a kindergarten and adding elementary grades in 1982, Covenant Presbyterian Day School was established. The school, now known as Covenant Classical Christian School, has grown to a full K4-12th grade Classical Christian School with a current enrollment of 166. Many of Covenant’s members are now serving as ministers in Presbyterian churches, on the mission field and other Christian ministries.

Covenant has always taken an active part in the work of the higher courts of the church. Its pastors and many of its members have served on Presbytery and General Assembly committees.

This short history offers only a glimpse of the way in which God has blessed and used the ministry of Covenant Church. All over the state and nation are those who for a time were touched by the ministry of Covenant. “To God be the glory … great things He hath done.”

 

Mind Your Tongue!

The following letter will serve to illustrate the state of Mr. Tennent’s mind at this period:—

“GILBERT TENNENT [1] TO JONA. DICKINSON.

“February 12, 1742.

“I have many afflicting thoughts about the debates which have subsisted in our synod for some time.  I would to God the breach were healed, were it the will of the Almighty.  As for my own part, wherein I have mismanaged in doing what I did, I do look upon it to be my duty, and should be willing to acknowledge it in the openest manner.  I cannot justify the excessive heat of temper which has sometime appeared in my conduct.  I have been of late, since I returned from New England, visited with much spiritual desertion and distresses of various kinds, coming in a thick and almost continual suc-cession, which have given me a greater discovery of myself than I think I ever had before.  These things, with the trial[2] of the Moravians, have given me a clear view of the danger of every thing which tends to enthusiasm and division in the visible church.  I think that while the enthusiastical Moravians, and Long-beards or Pietists, are uniting their bodies, (no doubt to increase their strength and render  themselves more consider-able,) it is a shame that the ministers who are in the main of sound principles in religion should be divided and quarrelling.  Alas for it!  my soul is sick for these things.  I wish that some scriptural methods could be fallen upon to put an end to these confusions.  Some time since I felt a disposition to fall on my knees, if I had opportunity, to entreat them to be at peace.

“I remain, with all due honour and respect, your poor worthless brother in the ministry.

“P.S.—I break open this letter myself, to add my thoughts about some extraordinary things in Mr. Davenport’s conduct.  As to his making his judgment about the internal states of persons or their experience, a term of church fellowship, I believe it is unscriptural, and of awful tendency to rend and tear the church.  It is bottomed upon a false base,—viz.:  that a certain and infallible knowledge of the good estate of men is attainable in this life from their experience.  The practice is schismatical, inasmuch as it sets up a term of communion which Christ has not fixed.  The late method of setting up separate meetings upon the supposed unregeneracy of pastors is enthusiastical, proud, and schismatical.  All that fear God ought to oppose it as a most dangerous engine to bring the churches into the most damnable errors and confusions.  The practice is built upon a twofold false hypothesis—infallibility of knowledge, and that unconverted ministers will be used as instruments of no good in the church.  The practice of openly exposing ministers who are supposed to be unconverted, in public discourse, by particular application of times and places, serves only to provoke them instead of doing them any good, and declares our own arrogance.  It is an unprecedented, divi-sial, and pernicious practice.  It is lording it over our brethren to a degree superior to what any prelate has pretended, since the coming of Christ, so far as I know, the pope only excepted; though I really do not remember to have read that the pope went on at this rate.  The sending out of unlearned men to teach others upon the supposition of their piety in ordinary cases seems to bring the ministry into contempt, to cherish enthusiasm, and bring all into confusion.  Whatever fair face
it may have, it is a most perverse practice.  The practice of singing in the streets is a piece of weakness and enthusiastical ostentation.

“I wish you success, dear sir, in your journey; my soul is grieved for such enthusiastical fooleries.  They portend much mischief to the poor church of God if they be not seasonably checked.  May your labours be blessed for that end!  I must also express my abhorrence of all pretence to immediate inspiration or following immediate impulses, as an enthusiastical, perilous ignis-fatuus.

Well might “Philalethes” array Gilbert against Tennent, when this letter issued from the press, at the very time the third edition of the Nottingham Sermon appeared.  How Tennent could so entirely have forgotten his own guiltiness in the main with Davenport, is not to be conjectured.  The letter is like David’s condemnation to death of the rich man who furnished his guest with a feast on the only lamb of his poor neighbor.  Did Dickinson reply with Nathan’s rebuke to him?  Probably he was so rejoiced to be furnished for his journey with this weapon of proof, that he forgot to notice the inconsistency.

[1] Published in Pennsylvania Gazette, and reprinted in Hodge’s History.

[2] Brainerd to Bellamy, March 26, 1743, writes as follows—“The Moravian tenets cause as much debate as ever; and for my part I’m totally lost and non-plussed about ‘em, so that I endeavour as much as possible to suspend my judgment about ‘em, for I cannot tell whether they are eminent Christians, or whether their conduct is all underhanded policy and an intreague of Satan.  The more I talked to Mr. Noble and others, the more I was lost and puzzled; and yet Mr. Nobel must be a Christian.

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