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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.

The Rev. J. J. Janeway’s Review of The Divine Appointment, the Duties and the Qualifications of Ruling Elders; a Sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, in the City of New York, May 28, 1819, by Samuel Miller, D.D., in The Presbyterian Magazine, 1.4 (April 1821) 170-177.

[Rev. Janeway is pictured at left; Rev. Miller, at right]

The Church of God is that holy society established by Himself on earth for the maintenance of His worship, and the promotion of His glory, in the midst of a race of rebellious creatures. It is styled His house or family; and it ought not to be doubted, that this house of the living God, like that of every wise man, is subject to wholesome regulations.

Under the former dispensation it was governed by laws delivered with great solemnity, and placed under the ministry of men, whose offices and duties were defined with great precision. As government is as necessary to the welfare and prosperity of the church under the present, as under the preceding economy, it were marvelous indeed, if, at a period when God has blessed His people with the clearest light and the greatest privileges, he should have deprived them of the benefit of a government framed by His own wisdom, and committed to their interests to one devised by the wisdom and prudence of fallible men. We believe that He has provided a constitution, and appointed officers for the government of the Christian, as He had done before for the Jewish church.

Great diversity, it is true, does exist in the views of Christians in regard to the plan prescribed in the New Testament for ordering the affairs of this heavenly society; but this diversity of sentiment no more proves that no such plan is to be found in the inspired writings, than the discordance in the views which Christians of different denominations entertain in regard to revealed truths, proves that the particular doctrines in dispute are not taught by the sacred writers. That some doctrines are not revealed with such clearness as to secure uniformity of faith among all the pious disciples of Christ, is manifest; and therefore, while we deplore this want of unity of judgment, and pray for the arrival of that time when all shall be of one mind, we ought to bear with the infirmities and errors of others, and cordially love all who hold the head, Jesus Christ, how much soever they may differ from us in points not essential to the existence of unfeigned piety.

From the fact, that men of great learning and acknowledged godliness have differed widely from each other in regard to church government, it is equally manifest, that the principles of it laid down in the New Testament, are not stated with sufficient clearness to harmonize the views of all Christians on this important subject, in the present state of the world, liable as men are to have their sentiments affected by education and a thousand different circumstances. Whether one and the same ecclesiastical polity will prevail over the whole church, in that day of light and glory, to which the finger of prophecy directs the eye of faith, we shall not undertake to assert. But this we venture to affirm, that, although diversity of sentiment has sadly cut up the church into many sects, yet Christians, by whatever name called, are bound to love one another; and we see no reason why pious Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, and Methodists, and Baptists, &c. might not, in proper circumstances, hold occasional communion with each other at the table of our common Lord and Saviour.

Principles of ecclesiastical government, however, are not to be regarded as matters of indifference. They are important; and it is the duty of every church, to endeavour to discover those which have been laid down in the records of divine truth, and to adopt them in the management of its affairs. A greater degree of harmony of views on this subject existed among the reformers, than exists among ministers at present. Archibishop Cranmer, and many bishops and learned divines of the Episcopal Church of England, so far from advancing the exclusive notions embraced by some of their successors in that church, and elsewhere, entertained the same opinions on church government as the Helvetic churches. (See note N., p. 427, in Mr. McCrie’s Life of John Knox). As Presbyterians, we are sincerely attached to that form of ecclesiastical government which was adopted by the wisdom and piety of our forefathers; and we believe that it approaches nearer to the Scriptural plan than that of any other church.

The Christian public are indebted to the pen of the author of this sermon for an able and temperate vindication of the great doctrine of ministerial parity, in opposition to diocesan Episcopacy. In this discourse he has selected as the subject of discussion the office of ruling elders. It was preached in May, 1809, when several individuals were ordained to that office in the First Presbyterian Church in the city of New York, of which he was at that time one of the pastors; but owing to the delicate state of his health, and unavoidable engagements, he was prevented from complying with his promise to his friends, who had requested its publication, till January, 1811.

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

Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:14; I Thessalonians 4:4-5; I Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 4:29.

Questions:

1. What is meant by the word “chastity”?

The word “chastity” means a hatred of all uncleanness, no matter whether it be in the body or in the mind and affections (Job 31:1),

2. What is the two-fold duty involved in the keeping of this commandment?

The two-fold duty involves both ourselves and others, there is an equal responsibility here.

3. How can the seventh commandment be broken?

It can be broken by an act, but also by impure thoughts; and it should be recognized that it is from within the heart of a man that sin comes. Therefore the real source of violations of this commandment is the sinful heart.

4. How can we preserve both our own and our neighbor’s chastity?

We can best preserve it by keeping in the right relationship with our Lord. If we do that, then there will be certain characteristics about us such as: loving with a pure heart (I Pet. 1:22); speaking in a way that will only edify ourselves and our neighbor (Eph. 4:29); behaving in such a way that we are always a testimony for Jesus Christ, never giving any cause for criticism in this area (I Pet. 3:1, 2).

5. How can we best keep in that right relationship with the Lord in this regard?

We must be watchful over our hearts and spirits, over our eyes and ears. We must be diligent in our walk with the Lord remembering we can never take even “minute vacations” from our watchfulness. We must follow after temperance in all things. We must be careful of the company we keep, the marriages we contract. We must seek the mind of Christ with regard to things sinful and unclean. We must study the Word and pray daily.

6. Why must we be careful to keep this commanment?

We must be careful to keep it because it is a command or God, but one which in this age is bypassed time and time again by society.


THE LAW OF CHASTITY

Our Lord well knew the dangers to which we would be subjected when He had His servant pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” He knew that our only method of living was by His grace. He knew that His Word dare not be left out of our approach to life.

When we ask the question as to why there are so many divorces, wrecked homes, broken hearts, and all kinds of vice and immorality in the world of today, we must remember that the difficulty lies in ignorance of, or rebellion against, God’s will. People have lost knowledge that the married state in God’s sight is holy—holy in origin, in essence, and in purpose. It is holy in origin because God Himself instituted it. It is holy in essence because God intends that it shall be a life-long covenant between one man and one woman. It is holy in purpose because it is God’s institution for the propagation of the human race, the living together of two people, all to the glory of God.

Today we must be on guard, especially against the false ideas about marriage, about morality. The “New Morality” is one of the worst lies of Satan ever to be spread in this country. And to think it is being spread by the church itself! Actually it is nothing new. It is nothing but a rejection of the Ten Commandments and this is what the true church of God has been living with for years—the rejection of the Word of God. The difference today is that the proponents of immorality are becoming bolder, for they realize now there are few who will stand against them. How deplorable it is to think they are playing right into the hands of the Communists whose first rule has always been: “Corrupt the youngl”

As believers we need to be on our guard in two ways. FIrst, that none of these so-called new rules creep in unawares into our lives and we begin to excuse wrong behaviour with the old “everybody is doing it” sort of approach. Second, that we might raise up the standard of the Word against them. We must declare the Word of God against all unchastity. We must remind people again and again that our Lord puts His finger on the difficulty: “For out of the heart proceed evU thoughts…” We must preach Jesus Christ to a dying world! There is no other method of dealing with the problem. The “New Morality” is taking hold because people do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Such should be our constant messagel

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Testimony of a Scottish Lass
|by Rev. David T. Myers

Lilias Dunbar was born in 1657 to parents of high society in Scotland. Yet such extraordinary circumstances did not guarantee a long life.  Early in her young life, both parents died, leaving her an orphan. Reared by a cousin, she eventually was taken into the family of a pious woman by the name of Lady Duffus, who reared this adopted daughter not just in manners, but also in the things of the Lord. When Lilias was seventeen years of age, a bout with small pox brought her dangerously ill. The sickness led her to promise God that if He healed her, she would strive to be His servant.  Made well, she responded to her promise to be the Lord’s servant by seeking to establish her self-righteousness. It was only when her adopted mother passed away in 1677, that she became a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus.

Listen to her profession of faith as found in her diary for May 1, 1677.  She writes: “The Lord, who is the Almighty, by his power, made my soul to close with the Lord Jesus, wholly on the terms that the gospel holdeth forth; and the Lord himself gave me faith to believe in Jesus Christ, that he was my Savior, which I could never attain before that time on good grounds. On that blessed morning to me, I got the Rock of ages to be my support, and I got Christ Jesus to be to me the end of the law for righteousness, to comfort me inwardly, under my disconsolate condition outwardly; for it was but fifteen days after the death of my Lady Duffus, who was in place of my parents and all my relations to me. Now I cannot pass by without observing the wisdom and goodness of God to me, in choosing that day and time for my deliverance out of the hands of all mine enemies, that I might serve him without fear. It was the time wherein I was more desolate. I was deprived of my parents by death, and had not the expectation of other means to supply my wants. It was then I was deprived of the only person in the world who took care of me, when it pleased the wise Lord by death to put a separation betwixt my Lady Duffus and me, who died April 16, 1677. Then it was that the gracious God, who delights in showing mercy, did enlarge my heart and make me to take hold of him who is the pearl of great price, in whom all fullness dwells.”

What is interesting to this author about this profession of faith is the custom in those days for new-born Christians to have their religious experiences tested, by communicating their profession of faith with godly minister.  In Lilias Dunbar’s case, she went to a minister who was then in prison due to his field preaching, under whom this young convert had heard him preach to her. She brought all that the Lord had done for her soul, which her pastor confirmed the Spirit’s work in her.

At age 22, she married Alexander Campbell. Eventually they would have a dozen children, but not without difficulties in the way.  She was charged by the authorities with not attending the parish church where the prelacy pastors led the worship.  They brought charges that she instead was attending the outdoor worship of banished Presbyterian pastors meeting in the pastures of the land.  She pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to be banished from the kingdom of Scotland. Such punishment was never carried out however.

Words to Live By:  What a worthwhile practice our historical character  had in seeking to test her religious conversion before a godly minister. Such a practice today would remove the “easy-believism” experiences which are too often found today in the visible church. Second Corinthians 13;5 is clear: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (NAS)

Misperception of Ministry Hard to Overcome
by Rev. David T. Myers

Partial information and misperceptions about one’s ministry are hard to overcome, especially when it involves an action which has taken place in the past.

Think either back to the years of World War Two, or remember in your history this calamitous time in our nation’s history.  The Axis powers of Germany and Japan had suddenly captured large areas in foreign lands, or in the case of Japan, delivered devastating blows to the Western world,  as in the case of Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii.  Many foreigners were caught in what had been friendly territory, but now were enemy countries.  These included diplomats and their families, tourists, and missionaries of the cross.

Enter the Geneva Convention.  It specified that treatment of non-combatants would be carried out with kindness and care.  Further, plans would be made to extradite such individuals back to their home via neutral nations.

In the United States during these War Years, the State Department operated a small number of internment facilities, many of them being resorts and hotels in isolated parts of the country.  Some of them were the Homestead Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), Greenbriar Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), a hotel in Asheville, Virginia, and other Virginia sites in Staunton, Hot Springs, New Market, and Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania.

The sole North Carolina retreat and conference center was at Montreat Assembly Inn.  This was a Presbyterian retreat center, run by the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  From October 29, 1942 to April 30, 1943, it held 133 Japanese and 131 German diplomats and their families.

It was an interesting opportunity to witness to these Axis diplomats.  Into each of the hotel rooms had been placed New Testaments in both the German language and the Japanese languages.  Further, church groups visited at Christmas and handed out presents to all the children.  Christmas carols were sung at the retreat center, with many joining in the familiar carols.   One simply doesn’t know what seeds of the gospel were being planted by the Holy Spirit during this time.

When the time of exchange came with our diplomats, business people, and missionaries, it soon became clear that their experience in German and Japan held internments  was not as plush as their counterparts in American areas.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Border Patrol escorted the foreign diplomats and their families to trains which took them to ships from neutral countries.  Usually they were marked clearly so enemy submarines would not torpedo them on their way back to their home countries.

Words to Live By: Consider with gratitude the amazing exchange program in the gospel.  Our sins were imputed or laid to the account of Christ, and His righteousness is imputed or laid to our account.  We who were enemies of God became His friends.  Thank God for this great exchange today.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:13; Eph. 5:29; Matt. 10:23; Ps. 82:3, 4; Job. 29:13.

Questions:

1.
What is the meaning of the word “kill”in this question?

The meaning of the word “kill” is to commit murder. The correct rendering of the Hebrew here is “Thou’ shalt do no murder”. This would mean the unjust taking of life.

2.
What does the sixth commandment require in reference to our own lives?

It requires that we use all lawful endeavors to preserve it.

3.
What are these lawful endeavors?

The Larger Catechism teaches: that this commandment requires “the just defense thereof against violence; – a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreation.” (Q. 135)

4.
What does the sixth commandment require in reference to others?

The Larger Catechism teaches: “By resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any.” (Q. 135)

5. What does the commandment mean by “lawful endeavors” toward ourselves and others?

By “lawful endeavors” it means a “sober” use of them as the Larger Catechism states it. We need such things as food, drink, recreation, labor-these are all an important part of human life. We need to be equally careful in our action towards others. In all areas we need to be certain our actions are consistent with the Word of God. Love, as presented in The Word, should be our basis of action.

6. Does this commandment speak only of the body?

No, this commandment is also speaking of the soul. There should be, on our part, a careful avoiding of sin and an equally careful and deli gent use of the means of’ grace.

THE SOBER LIFE

This devotional on the sixth commandment is one that I, as a busy minister of the Gospel, should take to heart even as I write it. And I pray that I, and you, might do so, all to the glory of God. Intemperance on the part of the saved is one of the most flagrant of sins. It seems that the more dedicated the believer is, there is a danger of breaking the sixth commandment by committing an evangelical form of suicide. Let me be very explicit here in what I mean by “an evangelical form of suicide”. There is the terrible temptation, used time and time again by Satan, for the believer in Christ to burn out his life for the Lord in a way that is not consistent with the whole counsel of God. There is actually here a form of self murder.

The born again believer is a person who must realize at all times that he is to be a good steward of what God has given him, realizing that his body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is a strange thing but the very believer who would not think of indulging in the gross forms of intemperance will tum right around and indulge in a so-called lesser form. He will not drink intoxicating beverages, but he will try to burn the candle at both ends. He will not attend parties that last far into the night, but he will overeat or try to live without exercising his body, keeping it in shape that he might have the stamina to do what God wants him to do when God wants him to do it. In these areas he is very inconsistent.

The Lord has brought to my mind the past few days that possibly the error here is that the dedicated believer might be looking upon the work of the Lord as an idol, that here we have a form of idolatry. Be assured that I am not advocating slothfulness or laziness in the work of our Lord. I am simply wondering if sometimes we forget the teaching of Titus 2:12, forgetting that the word “soberly” means “a constant reign on passions”. Need it be said that “passions” include our burning desire to serve Him? May God help us to be certain we walk in the Spirit and be sober, sensible in regarding how we spend our time. Looking back, do we take one day out of seven?

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches
The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 5 No. 1 January, 1966
Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

Hopefully our readers will have a bit more time today and can bear with us as we post the sermon delivered at the funeral of Rev. John Niel McLeod, delivered in 1874 by the Rev. David Steele, pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. John Niel McLeod was the son of the Rev. Alexander McLeod [1774-1833], the latter so well known for his resolute stand against slavery in 1801. Rev. Steele’s sermon is entitled,

“Endless Life the Inheritance of the Righteous. 

DISCOURSE.
Thy dead men shall live,” — Isaiah 26:20 (first clause).

Among the writings of Old Testament Scrip­ture, the prophecy of Isaiah occupies a prominent place. For sublimity and fervor it is unsurpassed, while its animated strains of poetry well accord with the golden age of Hebrew literature. Perhaps the most marked characteristic of this inspired oracle is its evangelism. Rapt in profound and holy thought, and ravished with visions of coming glory for the church of Christ, with seraphic ardor the prophet utters his messages of comfort and instruction in the ears of his country­men. With prophetic eye he penetrates the future. In the horoscope of coming events he beholds the aurora of the world’s redemption, by the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings. Under the afflatus of the Spirit he perceives event succeeding event, providence linked to providence, until, in the fulness of time, the mystery of godliness is manifested, the rod comes forth from the stem of Jesse, a branch grows out of his root, and to the ever-blessed Shiloh is the gathering of the people. To the son of Amos ages are condensed into moments, centuries revolve with the rapidity of thought, and unborn generations are rolled up into one glorious present. In pursuance of the Divine purpose, the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, is led to the top of Calvary; and as the sword of Divine justice descends upon the head of the victim, personally innocent, but by imputation chargeable with the sins of millions born and unborn, the prophet declares, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” The results are glorious. The mediator sees his seed, prolongs his days, and the pleasure of the Lord prospers in his hand. In this twenty- sixth chapter the prophet personating the church sings, — “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks,” and redeemed saints exult in God. He warms as he proceeds with his theme. Under the figure of a resurrection he describes the church’s ultimate triumphs over her enemies. The dry bones live, Death is robbed of its sting, dissolution is succeeded by regeneration, and life and immortality are brought to light. In the application of our text, the transition from the figurative to the literal resurrection is easy. Personating Christ, who has destroyed death, the prophet announces the cheering fact, “Thy dead men shall live,” and then, with energy adds, together “with my dead body shall they arise.” The sententious declaration of the text is not of difficult analysis. It includes two thoughts: —

I. The solemn fact that men are dead.
II. The comforting promise that the dead shall live.

We proceed to remark : —
I. That death is an event which happens to all mankind. No labored argument is necessary to confirm this statement. Scripture abounds with declarations to this effect. The afflicted man of Uz declares, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Paul with emphasis asserts, “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men; for that all have sinned.” Death is not the debt of nature, as some have frequently and vainly asserted; for to nature no such debt is due. Upon man at his creation the principle of immortality was enstamped, and the threatening of death for disobedience could have had no significance if the dissolution of the body must take place as the original and normal condition of human being. Nor is death annihilation. To the sentient being no idea is more revolting than reduction to non-existence. A little reflection, however, serves to show that death is not the destruction of anything. The physical system is dissolved, it is true, but not a particle of the dying body ceases to be. The noble bark which once rode proudly on the ocean, the glory of her builder as well as the hope of her owner, may be wrecked and scattered in broken fragments over the waters, and some of its parts may sink in the mighty deep. We say that it is lost; but it is not annihilated, nor has a single particle passed out of existence. Likewise in death the soul is separated from the body. The latter decays and mingles with its kindred earth, but not an atom of it ceases to exist. The former is borne into the presence of its Judge; but, like its eternal Author, it is indestructible, and from its very essence is incapable of being destroyed by dissolution.

Whence, then, it may be asked, comes death, and why the extensive character of its commission? Why must man, with his stately bearing, his vast affections, his far-reaching thought, the masterpiece of Jehovah’s works, fearfully and wonderfully made, die? The answer is at hand : “The wages of sin is death.” God is angry with the children of men. He has armed Death with fatal strength, and sent him forth the executioner of a just sentence, the avenger of a broken law. In virtue of a Divine constitution, all men descending from the first pair by ordinary generation are involved in guilt. As a consequence, death is as widespread as the human race; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. To the young creation death was unknown, but with sin this cruel monster entered our world, thenceforth destined to subject everything that lives and moves to his sceptre. Sin has armed Death, as it were, with omnipotence, and what power can resist him? The kings of the earth lie in the desolate places which they built for themselves. The marble in its sculptured pomp acknowledges the struggle with death to have been in vain. Neither talent, nor youth, nor beauty, nor strength has been able to effect a discharge in this war. The generations of the past have crumbled into dust. All the living are following in one vast funeral. All posterity shall follow us. The silence of those who have gone down to the grave, the sorrow of surviving friends, and the mortality of all that shall be born of mortals, proclaim the power as well as the universality of death.

mcleod_gravesPictured above, grave stones of the Rev. Alexander McLeod, in the foreground, and his son, John Niel McLeod, in the distance. Photograph courtesy of Mr. Anthony Elia.

2. The certainty of death, and the broken rela­tionships which it entails, enhance the solemnity of this event.
Many things are uncertain, but death is inevitable. “It is appointed unto men once to die.” “Man dieth and wasteth away.” The Holy Spirit, speaking by the mouth of prophets and Apostles, appears to multiply figures, in order that he may set the uncertainty of life before the human race. The flower that flourisheth in the morning, and in the evening is cut down; the shadow that flings itself for the moment in the pathway of the traveler, and then fleeth and continueth not; and the morning cloud or vapor skirting the mountain side, until the first rays of the sun fall upon it, and it is dissipated in the surrounding atmos­phere, are all employed to image forth the fleeting character of man’s stay upon earth. Although the days of every man are determined, and He who knows the end from the beginning has appointed his bounds that he cannot pass, nevertheless, God in his wisdom has hidden from the children of men the precise period in the cycle of time when the earthly career of each shall terminate. Under such circumstances it is a solemn thing to live, as well as to die.

Death puts an end to all schemes for the future. All the relations of time, the speculations of business, and the enjoyments of this world, it hides in the darkness of the tomb. Upon the husbandman, absorbed with concern for an approaching harvest, it lays its icy hand, and thus makes havoc of his earthly hopes. To the merchant, intensely earnest in solving the mystery of trade, it comes, and summons him to render up his account to God. It knocks at the door of the philosopher, and snatches him from his books and his meditations, that his immortal spirit may wake up to a clearer apprehension of eternal certitudes. Nor does it pass the faithful minister of Christ, striking him down in the midst of usefulness, and severing the tender tie that binds him to a loving people, that he may rest from his labors, give an account of his stewardship, and receive his reward.

Death is a solemn and affecting event, as it breaks asunder all the tender and endearing ties existing between parent and child, husband and wife, benefactor and friend. Pensively, but with pious submission, the Psalmist sings,—

Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”

The experience of every earth-born child of Adam is similar to that of the Son of Jesse. To the death of friends, many considerations add poignancy. By the removal of connections we are deprived of their society. The eye that beamed with kindness is sealed up in darkness, and the tongue which charmed us is dumb forever. Their example, reproofs, counsels, and prayers, which shed light upon our pathway and stimulated to duty, are no more; no longer can they rectify our mistakes or warn us of our danger. Convinced that his usefulness to his successor was restricted to this life, Elijah, in his last walk with Elisha, says, “Ask now what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” Moreover, death terminates our relation to the Church and her divinely appointed ordinances. Our eyes are closed upon the scenes of earth, and we bid farewell to all terrestrial objects. The sound of the Gospel no longer falls upon the ear. The last meeting for prayer has been attended and the Eucharistic feast never returns again. Solemn reflections! They teach us the necessity of improving everything we know or possess, for the good of men and the glory of God.

3. An interest in the great salvation through personal and indissoluble union with Christ secures victory in death.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” Union to Christ is for the most part expressed in Scripture by the phrases, “in Christ,” and “in Christ Jesus.” “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” From eternity a federal union was established between Christ and his people, yet unborn, when he was appointed or set up as their covenant head. Upon the ground of this union, Christ became answerable for them to the justice of God. Neither could their sins have been imputed to Christ, nor could his righteousness have been imputed to them, if both parties had not been identified, or one in the eye of law. Nor was this all that was necessary to the actual enjoyment of the benefits of Christ’s representation. Jehovah, on whose sovereign will the whole economy of grace is founded, had determined, not only that his Son should be one with those whom he represented, as their surety, but also as their living head; that a real and vital, as well as a federal and representative union should be established, as the foundation of communion with Christ in the blessings oi his purchase. Union to Christ is that mutual relation and reciprocal inbeing which secure to believers a participation in al) the blessings of which Christ is the depositary. This union is spiritual in its nature, ennobling in its effects, and indissoluble in its duration. What the vine is to the branches, what the City of Refuge was to the man-slayer, what the foundation is to the superstructure, and what the head is to the members of the body, Christ is to his people. Upon the ground of connection with him, pardon, heir-ship, sanctification, and perseverance in the divine life, proceed. Death cannot disannul the covenant of redemption; for, says God, “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my loving kindness shall not depart, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed.” Nor can this conquer or sever the connection between Christ and his people. It may sunder the closest bonds, desolate hearts, fill houses with mourning, marshal the funeral procession, and consign to the grave the sainted dust; but it cannot rend the union which subsists between the Mediator and his redeemed inheritance. Upon the cross, Christ spoiled principalities and powers, and through death destroyed him that had the power of death. And although the Lord of Glory fell beneath this destroyer, yet in the very hour and article of death he conquered. All his people triumph in him. To them death is unstinged, all its properties are altered, and all its terrors taken away. Feeling that the munitions of rocks are his defence; that the eternal God is his refuge, and that beneath him are the everlasting arms, in the hour and embrace of death the Christian sings with the Apostle, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” Or with another saint of God, he declares in confidence, “Christ in his person, Christ in the love of his heart, and Christ in the power of his arm, is the rock on which I rest; and now, Death, strike! ” Or with yet another conqueror, raised up with Christ and made to sit with him in the heavenlies, he ex­claims : —

“Open thine arms, O Death, thou fine of woe And warranty of bliss ! I feel the last,
Red mountainous remnant of the earth give way.
The stars are rushing upward to the light;
My limbs are light, and liberty is mine.
The spirit’s infinite purity consumes The sullied soul. Eternal destiny Opens its bright abyss. I am God’s.”

Let us consider,
II. The comforting promise, that the righteous dead shall live. Nothing is more mysterious than the principle of life, whether viewed in its animal or vegetable form. Science may analyze and classify the accidents and qualities of the living creature. It may compute the elements which enter into the organic being, gauging with precision the proportion and relation of each to other; but there are no means known to it by which to calculate or solve the enigma of life. Upon this subject nothing is more unsatisfactory than the theory of “spontaneous generation,” propounded by the ancients and adopted by Huxley. Equally absurd is the theory of “development,” to which Darwin has lent his name and authority; and the mind turns away astonished and disappointed at the materialistic utterances of Professor Tyndall in the year 1874, viz., that in matter itself we may find the “potency and promise of every form of life.” The truth announced in the text, therefore, is as surprising as it is agreeable, and furnishes us with an illustration that life and death are in the hands of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. And here we remark, —

1. That the pious dead live in the influences and fragrant recollections resulting from their life and labors when they were upon the earth.
It is a momentous and melancholy fact that men do not continue by reason of death. And the history of our race is a comment upon the Scripture declaration — “One generation passeth away, and another cometh.” But the beneficent influence which a good man, and especially a Christian minister, exerts while he is on the earth does not die with the dissolution of his body. No, it is as immortal as the Divine Being in whose grace it originated. It may be silent in its operations and unseen in its course, but it is, as an agency, as effective as it is deathless.

It seldom happens that histories and biographies make such account as they should of the influence which men exert over their fellow-men. Their pages glow with descriptions of how men have led armies, established empires, gained causes, sung, learned, and taught. But the streams of influence which, unbidden, flow from the persons and lives of men, no author can trace or compute. These, however, are not insignificant because they are noiseless. They are not lost because they have operated silently. An earthquake comes thundering through the solid foundations of the earth; it rocks a continent; the noblest works of man — cities, monuments, and temples — are in a moment levelled to the ground or swallowed down by the opening gulfs of fire. Such a phenomenon awes men into a recognition of its power; and yet the soft, genial, and silent light of every morning is an agent many times more powerful. For let the sun cease to rise, and let the light of day return no more, and soon, the chill of death would settle down on everything that lives and moves upon the surface of the globe. The Christian is a light, and his influence is felt when his sun has gone down and he has ceased to shine among his fellow-men.

Niagara is an object of wonder to the contemplative mind. In the presence of its magnificence and power we stand amazed. But the bubbling spring, far up on the mountainside, where the print of human foot is seldom found, and which forms the beautiful rivulet, flowing gently through farm and village, may be far more valuable and useful than the rushing flood or roaring cataract. The influence of the Christian is like the beautiful fountain which sends forth its waters to gladden, benefit, and bless thousands yet unborn.

Abel, the protomartyr, is dead, but he still speaks, by the Divine approval of his sacrifice, and lives by the influence of his example. David, the son of Jesse, is gone the way of all the earth, but in his immortal and inspired lyrics the prophet-bard is still alive. Paul is no more the Apostle of the Gentiles, but in his speeches and letters, his tongue and pen seem to be as eloquent as when he stood on Mars Hill, or dictated his commendations of love in the prison at Rome. Down the corridors of time Luther’s immortal declaration, Justificatio fide est articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ, reverberates, and is as potent today as it was, when it shook the Papal empire to its foundations. Calvin lives in his famous Institutes, and John Knox has enstamped upon Scotland its religious greatness. Travellers gaze upon the house where he lived. Posterity marks with a simple slab the spot where it is supposed rest his remains, and the Heart of Mid-Lothian, marked by a variegated setting of stone, and adjacent to each of these places, wakes the memories of Scotsmen; but by the influence of his prayers, and in his giant efforts to free the souls of men, the great reformer lives ten thousand times ten thousand lives at once, as time rolls on. We may attempt to gauge the influence of the sun and of the rain, we may take the dimensions of the planets and tell the parallaxes of the stars; but no scientist or philosopher can compute the influence of one Christian man, much less of one laborious and faithful minister of Christ. No wonder, then, that such men live in the memory and hearts of those who survive them from generation to generation.

2. The sanctified dead shall live in the resurrection. “Thy dead men shall live.”
Among the most comforting doctrines of Holy Scripture is the doctrine of the resurrection. It is taught, in no ambiguous terms, in both Testaments. It cheered the afflicted man of Uz, in prospect of death, as he declares, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The prophet Daniel was familiar with it, when, in finishing his prophecy and sketching the future, he writes, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” This doctrine the Saviour taught in the days of his flesh. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, writes, “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” That the resurrection of the dead is possible, we have only to turn to nature and providence for illustration. What is morning but a resurrection from the shades of darkness? What is spring, with its buds, blossoms, and fragrance, but a resurrection from the chill and death of winter? What is the emergence of the insect, with all the beautiful colors of the rainbow, from its chrysalis, but a quickening from death?

By actual example, the Scriptures of both Testaments furnish us with proof that the body is capable of residence in heaven. Enoch and Elijah were translated that they should not see death. The body of neither of these men was in the grave; but both of them, in the possession of the earthly house, changed and glorified, ascended to the right of God. Upon the doctrine of the resurrection there oracles are no less explicit. When the prophet Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, we are told that the child breathed, and sneezed seven times, and his soul came to him.

At the memorable words of the Saviour, “Lazarus, come forth,” death relinquished its grasp upon him who had been in the grave three days. By the same almighty power, at the gates of Nain the widow’s son rose from the bier. These instances of bodies translated from earth to heaven, and of quickening brought to the dead, are pledges of the resurrection, — a few specimens of how the dry bones shall live, and the temple of the Holy Ghost shall be built up again.

But the crowning argument of all is the resurrection of Christ. He has arisen, the first fruits of them that slept. “Even them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” In their resurrection, as well as in their death, the saints shall be conformed to their living Head. Death is not an eternal sleep, as the French philosophers of the last century aimed to persuade themselves and others. No doubt, to the impenitent it is a curse, but to the child of God it is a blessing; and as one has well said “The blow which inflicts it is the last stroke of the rod of paternal disci­pline which the Father holds in his hand, and by which he corrects for eternity.” At death the soul is released from the clay tabernacle, and hies [goes quickly or hastens] its way to regions of everlasting light. Ordinarily, the body borne by the hands of love is laid in the grave, and mingles with its kindred dust. At the last day the trumpet of God shall wake the sleeping dust. No indignity done to the body on earth, whether in life or in death, can serve to detain it in the tomb when God says to the prisoners, “Go forth, and to them that are in darkness, shew yourselves.” Body and spirit shall be reunited, and both shall dwell in the house of the Lord for evermore.

“But some one will say, with what body do they come?” Let an apostle answer. “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” In the hands of man matter is capable of astonishing sublimation : to what ethereal beauty may it not be raised in the hands of Jesus Christ? Is it not matter that sparkles in the dewdrop, dances in the sunbeam, corruscates in the electric flash, dissolves in the colors of the rainbow, and regales the sense in the delightful fragrance of the rose? To what exalted perfection and beauty, then, may not the bodies of the saints be carried? They shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Mortality shall be swallowed up of life. And from all that is unsightly and inglorious in death, they shall be changed to all that is imperishable and fadeless in the presence of God.

3. The saints shall live forever in heaven. Death shall have no more dominion over them. How this thought quickens the pulse, warms the heart, and stirs the soul to its depths! Heaven is the home of the righteous. Their estate lies there. And “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The reunions of heaven shall be joyous. Parents and children, pastors and people, shall meet to part no more. The recognitions of heaven shall be inspiriting. The loved and honored of earth shall be the objects of renewed and reciprocal regard. The fellowships of the better country shall be enchanting. The saints of every land and clime shall dwell together in everlasting concord. The employments of the upper sanctuary shall be transporting. Praise shall fill the heart and oc­cupy the lips forever. But above and beyond all, the glories of the celestial abode shall be enrapturing. Not a tear shall trickle down the cheek of poverty or distress. Not a sigh shall pass across the breast of anguish or disappointment. Not a shadow shall fall upon the brightness of heaven’s unspoken glory; for the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And upon the whole inheritance of light, life, and glory eternity shall be enstamped.

Like their living Head, those who become one with Christ are invested with the power of an endless life. If the saints of God are streams from the fountain head of life in glory, then before they can die Christ the fountain must be dried up. If they are branches in the vine of heaven, then before they could become extinct Christ, the parent stock, must perish. If the people of God are sparks from the central sun of heaven, then before they can die the Sun of righteousness must be quenched forever. But because he lives they shall live also. Christ gives to his people eternal life, and they shall never perish.

The theme which has been under consideration is comprehensive. It embraces the past, the pres­ent, and the future. Turning from its discussion, we proceed to unfold, in a few particulars, the salient points in the life and death of the venerated father, brother, and pastor whose departure from earth we mourn, whose virtues and worth we desire to hand down to posterity, and to whose memory we would pay the tribute of the hour.

[pp. 3-22 of “Endless Life the Inheritance of the Righteous: A Discourse delivered in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, New York, on Sabbath, October 11, 1874, in Memory of Rev. John N. McLeod, D.D., the Pastor, by Rev. David Steele, D.D. [1826-1906], pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.]

Note: There are two ordained men by the name of David Steele in Reformed Presbyterian history. The author of the above funeral sermon was the Rev. David Steele [1826-1906], who was the pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church, a member church of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (New Light). Rev. Steele was also the nephew to the Rev. David Steele, Sr.[1803-1887], who initially remained with the Old Light RP’s after the 1833 split, but later separated from the RPCNA or Old Light Covenanters. The small separatist group which gathered around David Steele, Sr. came to be nicknamed “Steelites.”

The lithograph shown below is taken from what I gather was a Scottish publication (based on some of the text on the reverse side). The original painting is by an artist named John Stirling. Another of his works, also on a religious theme, is shown below. After studying this lithograph a bit, I’m intrigued to find out more about Mr. Stirling.

The caption beneath the artwork reads:

“SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIANS IN A COUNTRY PARISH CHURCH.—THE SERMON.—PAINTED BY JOHN STIRLING.—FROM THE EXHIBITION OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY.

It would seem that the painting is intended to be humorous. Behind the sleepy and distracted congregation, a plaque hangs on the wall. It reads:

IN MEMORY
The Rev. John Stirling.
[illegible text—possibly “Trinity Presbyterian Church”]
Of this Parish.

Was Stirling both an artist and a pastor? Even if he wasn’t a pastor in reality, with his name on the plaque, he seems here to at least imagine himself as the previous pastor of this little congregation. And if he was also a pastor, then all the more the sly prophetic joke that his successor couldn’t possibly be the preacher he was, and so will be unable to hold the congregation’s attention.

Another Stirling artwork, located on the web, is the painting shown below. In the description provided on that web page, the painting has erroneously been given the title of the above artwork. So for the moment we’ll call this one simply, “The Sermon.” The information provided gives it a date of 1859. It may be my own eye, but in this painting, the pastor looks remarkably similar to the one and only fellow in the above work who appears to  be paying attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either of these would be nice to have as reproductions. Maybe Andrew Moody of Reformation Art might take it up as a project?

Words to Live By:

While the artwork above may have been meant to be humorous, it also serves as a reminder of how we ought properly to approach the worship of our Lord and God, with all due reverence and attention, with our hearts prepared to give all glory and praise to the Redeemer of our souls.

 

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