Articles by davidtmyers

You are currently browsing davidtmyers’s articles.

“Rise, George, and Defend the Blood-bought Church of Christ”

gillespieGeorgeSome thought that he was the one who framed that Shorter Catechism answer about God’s character. Other doubted that he was the author of it.  We may never know for sure, but it was stated that whoever framed the answer to the question, “What is God?” was the youngest minister present on the Assembly committee tasked with the question’s answer. And Rev. George Gillespie was the youngest minister present in that committee of the historic Westminster Assembly. Maybe only eternity will reveal for sure the real author of Shorter Catechism Number 4.

The issue came to the forefront on an important discussion on the attributes of God. Asked to help formulate an answer, Rev. Gillespie (if indeed it was he who was the author) asked first for divine help. And so he led with a prayer for wisdom, saying in his prayer, “O God, thou art a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in Thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The whole prayer was eventually written down by the court recorder with the magnificent answer to the character of God set in place for us to adore, memorize, pray, and teach our covenant children and others of God’s  family.

Our Presbyterian character today is George Gillespie. Born to a clergyman father in Kirkcaldy, Scotland on January 21, 1613, little is known of his early life in the manse.  We do know that he had a brother named Patrick.  We know that his mother was inclined to favor that child and not George. We know that the father would often come to the aid of George, telling prophetically that George would one day be a mighty servant of the Lord in Scotland. But beyond those tidbits, his growing up days are scarce of events.

That he was a Presbyterians was a given, as he was supported by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy financially to attend at age 16 the University of St. Andrews. While there at this school, it was said that he gave ample evidence of genius and industry, with a rapid growth of mental power, and extensive learning. What remained solid in his classes were his convictions regarding the biblical basis of Presbyterianism, including its government. It was expected that if he wanted to be ordained into the ministry in those days, it would be the ordination approved by the Church of England. This he refused to do, so he became a domestic chaplain ministering to three families in Scotland.

A year before he was ordained, at a critical time in the life of Scotland when the English Liturgy was going to be forced on the kingdom of Scotland, George Gillespie wrote a book entitled A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded upon the Church of Scotland. It plainly dealt with the purity of worship. It was so overwhelming in its thoroughness that no bishop ever attempted to refute it.

Eventually, when the Presbyteries of the land were recognized as being able to ordain individuals, George Gillespie was ordained to the gospel ministry on this day, April 26, 1638, by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy. He became the pastor of a congregation in Wemyss, Scotland, for four years. Then he was called to High Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, in the same year, he was appointed with four other ministers of the Church of Scotland—Alexander Henderson, Robert Douglas, Robert Baillie, and Samuel Rutherford, along with some elders—to go to London as non-voting members of the Westminster Assembly. Not all of them went, but George Gillespie did attend and was a major participant for four years in the Assembly. He would deliver some 167 speeches to the assembly on a variety of issues.

Once, when a famous older proponent argued for a point contrary to Presbyterianism, Samuel Rutherford urged George to “rise, George, and defend the church for which Christ has purchased with his own blood.” After the proponent of the opposite side had finished his delivery, during which time George Gillespie was constantly writing in his notebook, the latter stood and absolutely demolished his opponent’s arguments. When they opened the notebook later, expecting to find the notes for his speech, they could only find short statements, such as “Give light, O Lord.”

At the Assembly was closed, Rev. Gillespie returned to his charge in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was soon elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1648, even though he was obviously weakened in his physical condition. He would go to be with the Lord on December 17, 1648, with what we call now tuberculosis.  Truly, he was one of the leading divines of his day.

Words to Live By:
To our Christian readers who may be among the younger servants of the Lord Jesus, as was George Gillespie, Paul’s Word to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 is, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example to those who believe.” (NAS)

For Further Study:
A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded upon the Church of Scotland has recently been reprinted in an improved edition. Click here for further details from the publisher.

The Flagship Church of the German-language Synod of the West
by Rev. David T. Myers

For fifty years, Second Presbyterian Church of Grundy County, Iowa, was the “flagship” church of the Presbyterian Church USA in their Synod of the West. Back in 1871, two Presbyterian men, Poppe Meints and Klass Kruger, traveled seventeen miles from their homes in Grundy County to persuade the pastor of East Friesland, the Rev. John Vanerlas, to begin a testimony to the countless German pioneers who had moved to Iowa. They were successful in that purpose, and soon worship was begun on Sunday afternoons in a schoolhouse. It was eventually named Second Presbyterian Church of Grundy County, Iowa, having been organized with 30 members. The first pastor was the Rev. Jacob Brinkema. Within two years, they built a church building and manse, plus a cemetery, across the road from the site of the original schoolhouse.

Six other Presbyterian pastors were to come and minister the Word and Sacraments, with the Rev John E. Drake ministering the longest, from 1900 – 1935. Worship was all in German, until the mid-thirties, when it was changed to English. Increased attendance required an addition to the original frame structure in 1900. In 1917, that structure was replaced with a brick sanctuary seating around 400. Later in 1967, while still in the Presbyterian Church USA, the sanctuary was remodeled, and a new kitchen and 14 – room education wing was added. Further improvements have been added to the church complex with an attendance of around 150 members and friends.

On this day, March 20, 1983, the congregation, due to concerns about the Presbyterian Church, USA’s theological drift into liberalism, voted to join the Presbyterian Church in America which is committed to Biblical authority and historic Presbyterian theology. Their name is now Colfax Center Presbyterian Church. They have been served by four PCA pastors since that time, Rev. Arthur Ames, Rev. Larry Hoop, Rev. Eric Duble, and the Rev. Robert Grames, who is currently the under shepherd of the congregation. The church is a part of the Iowa Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Their ministry slogan is “Colfax Center is an historic rural church with a 21st century commitment to proclaim the word of life and reach out to the community around it with the love of Jesus.”

If you look at their website on-line, that purpose statement not only is being fulfilled to the community in which they exist, but this PCA church has a marvelous extension of witness to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, to which mission teams go each summer to build relationships with members of the Lakota Tribe. May each of our churches go beyond their bounds to take the blessed gospel by word and deed to those who are in need of the message of the gospel.

Words to Live By:
Take out the name of “Colfax Center” for a moment, and place in the name of your congregation, dear reader, for this church’s ministry slogan should be the purpose of every biblical Presbyterian congregation, and you in it. May all of us who are readers of This Day in Presbyterian history seek to take that blessed Word of Life and reach out to the relatives and friends of our neighborhoods, and beyond, with the good news of eternal life.

An Heart Exercised Unto Godliness

<

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Thomas Boston [1676-1732]The life of Thomas Boston could be considered a walking medical study. Frequently depressed both in life and ministry, in his autobiography he wrote of his recurring miseries, his dry spells, his sense of unworthiness and dullness even in the act of preaching, or while praying in his study. At one point in his life, all his teeth fell out gradually one by one.  Try speaking or preaching with that condition! His wife even joined him in suffering from a chronic illness of body and mind. Maybe it was something in the water!

Throw in two small congregations which, when he first went to them, were unresponsive to the ministry of the Word, whether publicly or privately. The manse in one congregation was in such bad shape that his family couldn’t stay there. In the other church, for a while they lived in a stable and even had one of their infants born there.

Thomas Boston was born this day March 17, in 1676, in Duns, Scotland, with Thomas being the youngest of seven children. His parents, John and Alison Boston, were Covenanters and his father was a strong supporter of Presbyterianism, even for a time being fined and imprisoned for his proclamation of the Gospel. Thomas would keep him company in one jail.  Despite his parent’s vibrant testimony, Thomas went through religious motions only.  It was only later under the preaching of the Rev. Henry Erskine, father of two sons who became ministers, that the Spirit brought him to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Thomas would says, “it pleased the Lord to awaken me under exercise about my soul’s state.”

He attended Edinburgh University at age 15 and met his future wife Katherine (sometimes spelled with a “C”) while there. Licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Chimside, he proposed to Katherine, and she accepted. Two  years later, he received a call from the Parish of Simprim. Accepting that call and entering into the ministry of that pulpit, he was faithful in home visitation, catechizing and engaging in pastoral care twice week. During these same years five children were born into his family.

It was in one of the homes of his Simprim congregation that Boston discovered a book on the shelf entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher. He read it and brought it to the established church. It afterwards became the basis for what is known as “the Marrow Controversy”.

In 1707, he moved with his wife and family to Ettrick, Scotland, where for the next twenty-five years, he ministered in the pulpit and homes of the congregation there. Especially did he wield the pen in writing a book still available today, often known simply as The Fourfold State [the full title is Human Nature in its Fourfold State: Of Primitive Integrity, Entire Depravity, Begun Recovery, and Consummate Happiness or Misery. Another five children were born into his family during his years at Ettrick, though in all, six of his children would die before reaching adulthood. When he himself died in 1732, he left behind his widow and four children.

<

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Words to Live By: 
Thomas Boston [1676-1732]Thomas Boston is a great example to the subscribers of This Day in Presbyterian History who are pastors. Their trials are often the same ones he suffered. Like Boston, these men faithfully minister each week, lovingly being the pastor in the pulpits and among the congregations given to their care, but often with great resistance and little encouragement. Those in the pew need to remember two Scriptural commands: First, that of 1 Thessalonians 5;12, 13, which says “But we request of you brethren, that you appreciated those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem very highly in love because of their work.  Live in peace with one another.” And second, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13;17)

Image sources: 
1. Above right, the most commonly seen portrait of the Rev. Thomas Boston, being the frontispiece portrait in A General Account of My Life, by Thomas Boston, A.M., Minister at Simprin, 1699-1707 and at Ettrick, 1707-1732. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908.
2. Above left, a less frequently seen portrait (and you can see why!) of Rev. Boston. This is the frontispiece portrait published in the volume Memoirs of the Life, Times, and Writings of Thomas Boston, of Ettrick. Glasgow: John M’Neilage, 1899.  

Boston’s Favorite Text:
“Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”—Psalm 71:20-21.

How Many of You Know . . .

Mention the name of Pearl Buck and countless Americans will immediately think of the award-winning book “The Good Earth.”  And indeed Pearl Buck did write that famous work and many other novels which earned her both a Pulitzer prize as well as a Nobel prize for literature.  But how many Americans, and even church folks, know that she was instrumental in bringing about the original Presbyterian Church of America in 1936?  And yet she was.

Born of missionary parents in China associated with the Southern Presbyterian church in West Virginia, Pearl Buck returned with her husband to China as missionaries under the Board of Foreign Missions of the northern Presbyterian Church.

In 1932, the book “Rethinking Missions” was published. It stated that its aim was to do exactly what the title suggested, namely, to change the purpose of sending foreign missionaries to the world.  Its aim was to seek the truth from the religions to which it went, rather than to present the truth of historic Christianity.  There should be a common search for truth as a result of missionary ministry, was the consensus of this book.  Pearl Buck agreed one hundred per cent with the results of this book.  She believed that every American Christian should read it.

To her, Jesus ceased to be the divine son of God, virgin born, and conceived by the Holy Spirit.  There was no original sin in her belief structure.  All these truths of historic Christianity made the gospel to be a superstition, a magical religion, and should be done away with by the church, and subsequent mission boards.

Obviously, with beliefs like this, Pearl Buck became the focus of men like J. Gresham Machen, who published a 110 page book on the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That treatment was freely presented to the congregations of the Northern Presbyterian Church.  The result was that Pearl Buck was forced to resign from the China mission, though the Presbyterian Board accepted that resignation with regret.

Eventually, the situation of the China Mission was a powerful basis for forming the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933. True Bible-believing Presbyterians needed to have one board which would only send missionaries to foreign lands who believed that Jesus was the only way, truth, and life to God.  Pearl Buck did not believe this biblical truth.

Pearl Buck passed into eternity on March 6, 1973.

For further study: 
“Pearl Buck’s Comments upon the death of J. Gresham Machen.”

Words to Live By: The New Testament author,  Jude, writes about those who “creep in unnoticed” into the church, who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  As long as the church is on earth, there will be a need for Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints.” (ESV  – James 3, 4)

A Manual for Members

What should we expect ourselves and our fellow members to be doing for the Lord through our respective congregations?  Various answers might be forthcoming, but it is interesting what a famous congregation in the Bible Presbyterian Church specified were its members responsibilities to the Lord.

In a leaflet written on March 3, 1946, a pamphlet was published of the Collingswood, New Jersey, Bible Presbyterian Church.  After listing its pastoral staff, including the Rev. Carl McIntire, and recording  the names of the Session of Elders, Trustees, and Deacons, as well as specifying all the ministry opportunities of the church in home and abroad,  there was a section stating the purposes of its members.  It read:

 “Every member a worker” is the idea for our church.  The church is falling short of its goal unless every member attends its services regularly and engages in at least one specific service or ministry.  Here is our program for every individual member:

  1. Read the Bible daily
  2. Pray every day
  3. Give thanks at every meal
  4. Have regular family worship
  5. By example and speech moment by moment, honor the Lord Jesus Christ
  6. Attend church services on the Lord’s Day regularly
  7. Attend the mid-week service
  8. Contribute your tithe regularly and proportionately to the work of the church
  9. Take an active part in at least one of the organizations or projects mentioned in this pamphlet, and
  10.  Invite at least one person a month to attend the services of the Church — someone who is unsaved or unchurched.

Now, in conclusion, some of our readers, and even some of the ministers, might have objections to this list, but as you read them again, there are very few items which are not taught or inferred in the Bible as necessary traits of the disciples of the Lord Jesus.  Nevertheless, however we might think of it,  this is one congregation’s attempts over eighty years ago which sought to help its members by being faithful members of the local congregation to which they were committed.

Words to Live By:
Let us seek to fulfill our promise as members of the local church to which we are committed, to  live as becomes the followers of Christ Jesus.

A Voice from the Past on a Present Issue

The Psalmist David in Psalm 11:3 asks the haunting question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” That is the same question many evangelical Presbyterians are asking in the light of the Presbyterian Church, USA, having opened the door to gay and lesbian ministers last year. Yet if the truth be told, this sad decision was the natural outcome of an attack upon the authority of the Word of God some 88 years ago, when the infamous Auburn Affirmation was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Northern Presbyterian Church. A past devotional on January 9 spoke of it. We refer to it again, because on this date, February 28, 1935, Dr. Gordon H. Clark addresses a group of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia on the significance of the Auburn Affirmation. Remember, he was writing a mere eleven years after its presence in the church. Note the following words of Dr. Clark on it.

“The reason the Auburn Affirmation is so important is that it constitutes a major offensive against the Word of God. It, or at least its theology, is the root of Presbyterian apostasy. The five doctrines involved are the truth of Holy Scripture, the factuality of the Virgin Birth, His miracles, His sacrifice on Calvary to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to Christ, and His resurrection.”

Dr. Clark would deal with each of these five doctrines one by one, pointing out how some 1250 signers of the Affirmation [over 10% of the ministers in the denomination at that time!] went on to use familiar language with respect to them, but denying their importance in historic Christianity. They were, in their words, just theories, and denials of them were acceptable to them and should be acceptable by the church at large.

Gordon Clark set the matter to the laymen long ago by stating “This is not a trivial matter; it is rather a life and death struggle between two mutually exclusive religions. One religion can without harm to its integrity reject the infallible Word of God, deny the Virgin Birth, repudiate Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, and deny the resurrection. That religion will remain complete, even if all these things are eliminated; but that religion is not Christianity. The other religion is Christianity, because it accepts the Bible as the very Word of God, who cannot lie, because it makes Christ’s sacrifice to satisfy divine justice the only basis of salvation, and because it glories in the historical fact of the resurrection.”

The entire article can be found at the PCA Historical Center, which we recommend the reader to reference. But what can the righteous do, when the very foundation of historic Christianity is being destroyed? Our Presbyterian fathers fought that destruction from 1923 to 1936 to reclaim the church from the inside. Failing that, they voted with their feet and sought to form a more perfect union with a separate Bible-believing, gospel-preaching denomination.

Also on this date:
In 1638, Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant on the grounds of Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh.

Words to Live By: There is always a call for the righteous to uphold the foundation of biblical Christianity. Are you among the righteous heeding that call?

Calvary was his hiding place

It must be some sort of record. Think of it! The pastor ministered all sixty-three years in the same church. And those six decades were through some of the momentous years in our nation, to say nothing, of the history of the Presbyterian church.

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on February 24, 1785, Gardiner Spring attended Berwick Academy in Maine. He then went to and graduated from Yale University in 1805. Married the following year, he and his new bride Susan moved to Bermuda where Gardiner Spring taught the classics and mathematics. This was only for some income, as his real purpose was to study law. And he was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut in 1808. Receiving a call to the ministry, he went to Andover Theological Seminary for one year and was called to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1810, never to leave its pulpit.

It was an active pulpit for the minister. After 40 years of ministry, it was said that he had preached 6000 sermons, received 2092 into the membership roll, baptized 1361 infants and adults, and married 875 couples. Along the way, he had written also 14 books, at least one of which is still being printed today. If the reader doesn’t posses “The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character,” he is urged to buy one immediately. It answers the question as to how do we know we have eternal life.

Many Christians, and especially those in our Southern states are aware that it was Gardiner Spring who authored the resolutions in 1861 to place the Presbyterian Church (Old School) solidly behind the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. That action split the Presbyterian Church into two — North and South Old School. We will consider on May 16 the pros and cons of that resolution.

For now, consider the following words in a letter of Gardiner Spring, just nine years after he had begun his ministry at Brick Presbyterian. On occasion of his birthday, he wrote:

“Still in this world of hope! In defiance of all sins of the past years, and a guilty life, I am permitted to see another birthday. I have been often surprised that I am suffered to live. Blessed be God, I am not afraid to die, and often more afraid to live. I am an abject sinner, and it will indeed be wonderful grace if I ever sit down with Christ at the Supper of the Lamb. That grace is my strong refuge; Calvary is my hiding place. I hope in the grace and guardianship and faithfulness of that omnipotent Redeemer, to be kept from falling and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. This text has often comforted me, when I have been afraid of trusting in the divine mercy. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ It affords me unutterable pleasure to feel that I am not denied the privilege of laying my own soul beneath the droppings of the same blood I have for nine years recommended to my dying and guilty men.”

Words to Live By: We should take the opportunity which a birthday gives to us, as well as other proverbial milestones in our lives, to meditate on the grace of God in Christ in our lives, as well as the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit is doing within those lives.

Trust in God, and you shall not fear

The subject of today’s historical devotional was not a Presbyterian, but in the closing days of his life and ministry on earth, he was the president of the foremost Presbyterian college in America. Jonathan Edwards was born into a ministerial families in 1703. Trained in the home, he entered into scholarly pursuits by attending Yale College at age 13. In the latter portion of his collegiate training, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and convinced him of his need of Jesus Christ. He received Jesus as Lord and Savior at that pivotal time. Graduating from Yale in 1720, he continued his studies for the gospel ministry. When a congregation in what is now the New England area of our country became vacant, he went as the pastor in 1729, following his father-in-law as the minister. It was there under the preaching of the Word, including the famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God,” that the Great Awakening movement came to the church and area. Over three hundred souls were awakened to their sinfulness and brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was not only effective as an awakening pastor, but through his writings, the then known world of Christendom was challenged as to the authority of God’s Word in the life of the church and the sphere of culture. He was America’s foremost apologist, or defender of the faith. Even in the midst of church controversy, such as developed in that Northampton congregation over the issue of qualified participants of the Lord’s Supper, he did not allow his departure to stop him in his ministry. He evangelized among the native Americans for six years in the Stockton, Massachusetts area.

It was in 1758, that a delegation came from the College of New Jersey, with an offer to become the president of that Presbyterian school of the prophets. After some objections were answered satisfactorily, he did accept the offer in January of 1758 and became associated with what would later become Princeton University. As smallpox was present in the area, a noted physician came down from Philadelphia on February 23, 1758 to inoculate President Edwards and two of his daughters. Edwards had never been in the best of health and as the effects of the inoculation were subsiding, a secondary fever took hold and Jonathan Edwards died of small pox approximately one month later, March 22, 1758.

Just before his death, some people were attending him on his death-bed, and remarked about the approaching effect of this certain demise on the Christian church. Jonathan Edwards, hearing those remarks, spoke to those attending him with his dying words “Trust in God, and ye need not fear.”

Words to Live By: Let us ever and always trust in God, indeed the God of providence, with whom there is no mistake in life or death.

A Complaint by an Irish Presbytery
by Rev. David T. Myers

The facts are very sketchy on the Rev. John Wilson back in 1730.

What we do know is that he came to the middle colonies of America from Ireland sometime in the early seventeen hundreds from the Presbytery of Armagh in Ireland. Presenting his credentials as a minister of the Presbyterian convictions, he was immediately received by the presbytery. Without a call to a particular church, he began to preach at Lower Octorara in eastern Pennsylvania with much acceptance by the members of the congregation. As Richard Webster says in his History of the Presbyterian Church, he made “a strong party in his favor.”

It was then that the Presbytery of New Castle received a letter from the Irish Armagh Presbytery on January 17, 1730 regarding the Rev. Mr. Wilson. What was transmitted in that letter is lost to history, but it must have been unfavorable to Rev. Wilson as they resolved not to employ him in the visible church.

The written record of Richard Webster states that a misunderstanding arose between the congregation and the Presbytery. A local Judge of the New Castle County Court, the Honorable Robert Gordon, wrote to the Synod to interpose between the two units of Presbyterianism. They did, but to what results we are not informed.

However it must have been not too favorable to Rev. Wilson, as he moved to Boston, Massachusetts.

The only other record of him is that at the age of 66, Rev. Wilson died on this day, January 6, 1733, just three years after the original complaint came from the Irish Presbytery to the infant Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Words to Live By:
As this author said at the beginning of this post, there is much left unsaid in the written record. And whenever we hear of an issue between a Presbytery and a local church, or a Presbytery and a members of that lower court, it is a day of sadness over the lack of unity in the work of the Lord. Let us resolve to pray when we find ourselves in such a situation, or hear of others of God’s people when they find themselves in the midst of such conflict. Let us pray for clarity of vision for all sides, love for the brethren, and that the purity of Christ’s church would be preserved in the ongoing dispute.

Tags: , , ,

With the settling of the American colonies, scattered congregations and groups of people ready to be gathered into churches, together with the small number of ministers anxious for mutual encouragement and guidance, inevitably brought about the need and occasion for the formation of the first Presbytery on these shores. The specific occasion came in due season, with the call for the ordination of Mr. John Boyd to become pastor of the church of Freehold, New Jersey.

John Boyd, a native of Scotland, came as a probationer [i.e., a man licensed to preach though not yet ordained], probably at the solicitation of his countrymen, who, fleeing from persecution, had settled in Monmouth between 1680 and 1690.

Boyd was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on this day, December 29, in 1706, at the public meeting-house, before a numerous assembly. The original minute book of the Presbytery is preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Regrettably though, the first leaf of that book, comprising the first two pages of the Minutes, was lost long ago. We can only speculate as to the content of those first two pages, but we can try to speculate intelligently. Page 3 of the Minutes begins with the end of a sentence which appears to be concerned with the subjects of Mr. Boyd’s trial for ordination. The last half of this broken sentence is as follows: “‘De regimine ecclesiae’ which being heard was approved of and sustained, and his ordination took place on the next Lord’s day, December 29, 1706.”

Of course, we will always wonder what else we could now know if we only had those first two pages. At whose call and by whose authority was this Presbytery convened? Did they consider and adopt the Westminster Standards as their system of faith and government? The best supported opinion is that by this time Francis Makemie’s leadership had become obvious. For one, his trip to the old country for the purpose of bringing additional ministers back to the colonial churches, and the success of that trip, was probably well known. So it seems likely that it was Makemie who convened the meeting.

The Freehold congregation had apparently written asking how Mr. Boyd should be ordained, and so it was Mr. Makemie who arranged for a meeting in the spring of 1706 for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements for his ordination, with Boyd’s ordination trials to take place at what became the inaugural meeting of the new Presbytery in December. The record is somewhat unclear, particularly as to why the delay in settling Rev. Boyd. That took place in May of 1708, with the presbytery requesting the congregation to consent to his preaching every third Sabbath at Woodbridge. But he died later in 1708, and while his tomb remains to this day, Makemie—who also died that same year—and other ministers, most of them, lie in unknown graves.

Of the new Presbytery, George Hays observed in his work Presbyterians (1892):

“Presbyterianism thus grew out of the soil and of the necessities of the case. It did not begin at the top as it had done in France and Scotland, but began at the bottom and by degrees rose to strength. Now Synods are constituted by the act of the General Assembly, and Presbyteries are organized by act of Synod. Then Presbyteries were by the necessity of the situation. In 1717, the Presbytery divided itself and constituted a Synod above it; and in 1788 the Synod divided itself into subordinate Synods and created itself a General Assembly. There is no good reason to believe that this first Presbytery adopted any standards for their own guidance. It looks as though they came together assuming the Westminster Standards as authoritative without any special adoption in this country. They adopted the ordinary parliamentary law as their method of action. They did not even adopt a name, as Presbyteries now have names. It was simply “The Presbytery”; not of Philadelphia, nor of New Jersey, nor of Maryland. There was no other, and when it was spoken of there was no ambiguity. When, in 1716, the Synod was constituted by dividing the General Presbytery into four, these were simply named First, Second, Third, and so on. It was a day of great demands for activity, and of small resources of men and means to meet the requirements. This first meeting at Freehold was the only meeting which was had outside of Philadelphia. That city was so central and so accessible that the early Presbyteries always met there. So, with three exceptions, did succeeding Synods and General Assemblies, all the way down to 1834. The three men who were present at this ordination of Mr. Boyd were Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, and John Hampton. The original members of the first Presbytery included these three, with George Macnish, John Wilson, and Nathaniel Taylor.”

Words to Live By:
Jesus promised that He will build His church. The promise is sure. And it is the Lord our God who sovereignly draws His people into the Kingdom as Christ is lifted up by the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.—Ps. 127:1, ESV.

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: