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The Rev. Robert W. Childress passed into glory on this day, January 16, 1956.
When the Master has a big work to do, He raises up a big man to do it. The Lord does not always choose a man from places such as those where men would look. Such a man, from a most unlikely place, is the subject of this story. This man of God’s choosing was born in the mountains of Patrick County, Virginia, not far from the present Blue Ridge Parkway. He was born in a one-room mountain cabin, born into a large family, his people the direct descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants, and born into deep poverty and ignorance.
Robert W. Childress once said that he did not know when he was given his first drink of liquor. Sundays were spent in gambling, shooting and drinking parties. Schools were little thought of. A church was seldom visited, and the thought of Sunday school was anathema to the people of his community.
But out of this lawless backwater, God saved Robert. He used a young lady who later became his wife, but who died not long after two children were born to this couple. Even in death, his wife continued to live as a powerful influence. Childress said the devil threw him sixteen times, but Christ triumphed in the end, and Robert began to look to how the Lord might use him. Against all odds, he began to pursue an education and before long, now married again and in his thirties, the Lord at last brought him to seminary to prepare for the ministry.
“They were a little wrought up,” Childress explained. “I’d said something about their making whiskey and naturally it insulted them. They’d wanted me to apologize, and I hadn’t. I’d told them I could be just as crazy as they were.”
“So of course they were upset. They were drinking when they came to the service, and they didn’t know what they were doing. We had a little prayer,” he smiled, “and they let me off.”
“Some folks were a little rough,” he admitted, when he started work in the stretch of rugged country in Floyd, Carroll, and Patrick counties in Virginia.
“They were the best-hearted people in the world, but they just didn’t behave. There was a lot of killing, a lot of drinking, a lot of feuding. But they’ve changed.”
Time was, he recalled, when they said the politicians were afraid to come through the section, “even to solicit votes.” But no more. “There’s hardly any fighting now. There’s less drinking. The homes are better. People are happier.”
Words to Live By:
The Lord raised up Robert Childress to do a big work. He lifted him up out of incredible poverty and spiritual depravity and made him a useful vessel for His service. The faithful preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ brings real change to the hearts and lives of an otherwise lawless people, the world over.
Dust jacket of the biography, The Man Who Moved a Mountain, by Richard C. Davids :
One of the Twelve Signers
by Rev. David T. Myers
Many Presbyterians know that the Scotch-Irish had a pivotal part in the birth of our country. But they may not be aware that there were twelve Presbyterians who put their names on the line as well as their sacred honor to actually sign their name on the Declaration of Independence. Philip Livingstone was one of those signers.
Livingstone came from a distinguished family. His grandfather had been a minister in the Church of Scotland; refusing to take an oath of allegiance to King Charles II, he fled to Holland where he was pastor of a Presbyterian Church. Livingstone’s father, Robert, came to the colonies where Philip was born on January 15, 1716. At age 17, Philip graduated from Yale College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business. Moving to New York City, he soon made his mark as a merchant and importer. In 1740, he married Christina Ten Broeck, with whom he would father nine children.
His time in New York City would be spent in both political and civic organizations, serving as an alderman and as a governor of New York Hospital, participating in the founding of what later became Columbia University, and in the founding of a library. The national scene of the colonies did not escape his spiritual gifts as he was selected as one of the delegates from New York state to the First Continental Congress.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, he suffered financially for his stand for liberty. His house on Long Island became a barracks for British troops and his country estate a hospital. Yet he continued to serve in Congress, even as he developed dropsy in the chest. Despite being diagnosed with this death sentence, he fled Philadelphia for York, Pa. with the rest of the Congress. At the sixth Continental Congress, he died and was buried in York, Pennsylvania.
Congress as a body attended the funeral of one of their own, each member wearing a black crepe around his arm, mourning their loss of a compatriot for a month. His funeral was conducted by the Rev. George Duffield, Presbyterian chaplain of the Congress.
It was said of Philip Livingstone that he was a firm believer in the great truths of the Christian system, and a sincere and humble follower of the divine Redeemer. That faith and life was evident in his support for independence until his death at age 62.
Words to Live By: Like Joseph and Daniel of Old Testament times, Christians can and should serve the Lord through government. We need to pray for all such believers today in that sphere, that God would give them wisdom to serve rightly.
A Most Solemn Season of Prayer
by Rev. David T. Myers
“This morning I enjoyed a most solemn season in prayer: my soul seemed enlarged, and assisted to pour out itself to God for grace, and for every blessing I wanted, for myself, my dear Christian friends, and for the church of God, and was so enabled to see him who is invisible, that my soul rested on him for the performance of everything I asked agreeable to his will. It is then my happiness, to ‘continue instant in prayer,’ and was enabled to continue in it for nearly an hour. My soul was then ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’ Longed exceedingly for angelic holiness and purity, and to have all my thoughts, at all times, employed in divine and heavenly things.”
“Oh how blessed is a heavenly temper (i.e. spirit)! Oh how unspeakably blessed it is, to feel a measure of that rectitude, in which we were at first created! Felt the same divine assistance in prayer sundry times in the day. My soul confided in God for myself, and for His Son. Trusted in divine power and grace, that He would do glorious things in his church on earth, for his own glory.”
As you read over this marvelous prayer, you can see how thoroughly saturated Brainerd was in the Word of God. He wanted only to pray for requests which were “agreeable to His will,” as Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10. (NIV) He was able to “continue instant in prayer,” as Roman 12:12 commands. As a result of such prayer, he was able to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” as Ephesians 6:10 (KJV) enjoins the people of God. David Brainerd was able to guide his prayers through the language of Scripture.
Words to Live By: Take any of the prayers of Paul in his letters, like Ephesians 1:17-19, or 3:14-21, and personalize them. In so doing, you will be brought closer to your God, as you use the inspired Word of God to approach Him in prayer.
Under the Sovereign Eye of a Merciful God.
The following letter to Rev. John C. Lowrie was penned upon the occasion of the death of his brother, the Rev. Walter M. Lowrie, who had gone to Shanghai, China, as a member of the committee for the translation of the Bible. As he was returning to Ningpo, the Chinese junk on which he had taken passage was attacked by pirates, and the young and gifted missionary was thrown overboard and drowned, on August 19, 1847, about twelve miles southeast of Chapoo, in the Hangchow Bay.
From the Rev. J. L. Wilson, of the Gaboon Mission, Africa.
Mount Clio, January 13th, 1848.
REV. JOHN C. LOWRIE—
MY DEAR BROTHER:—The papers brought us yesterday the astounding intelligence of the death of your dear brother. If it is the slightest alleviation of the grief that you must all feel, be assured of our most cordial sympathies, and I have no doubt but thousands of other Christian hearts feel equally as much.
Your honored father must have been almost overwhelmed by this event. And yet, why should he? It was under the sovereign eye of a most merciful God that this deed of violence was perpetuated; and as inexplicable as it may be to us, I have no conviction more firmly made on my mind, than that this very event will be overruled, so as to subserve the cause of missions and the salvation of the heathen more effectually even than the life of your brother.
My own aged father, who could more easily enter into the feelings of your father than most persons, could scarcely compose himself to sleep last night after hearing the painful intelligence read; and if such were his feelings, what must have been those of your own family? God grant you all grace to recognize his hand in this event, and to exercise the most cheerful resignation of his holy will!
Accept of my sincere sympathies, and believe me, as ever,
Your affectionate brother in Christ,
Words to Live By:
Truly our lives are in His hands. Every breath we take is by the grace of God. How can we not praise Him for His mercy and grace? But so very much more, because in love He sent His only Son to die for an elect people, how then can we not strive to live each and every day for His greater glory? To give our very lives in His service is no sacrifice, but only a fitting tribute of thanks.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 76 & 77.
Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Exod. xx. 16.
Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own, and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.
Bear false witness. –Tell what we know to be a lie.
Maintaining and promoting truth. –Defending the truth when it is opposed and denied, and otherwise exerting ourselves to forward, and carry it on.
Witness-bearing. –Giving evidence, or testimony upon oath, or making known the truth when called upon to do so.
The duties required in the ninth commandment, are four-fold:
- The maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man. –Zech. viii. 16. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor.
- The maintaining and promoting of our own good name. –1 Pet. iii 16. Having a good conscience, that when as they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed, that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
- The maintaining and promoting also, of our neighbor’s good name. –Psalm ci. 5. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off.
- That this is especially to be attended to, in witness-bearing. –Prov. xiv. 5, 25. A faithful witness will not lie. A true witness delivereth souls.
Another Presbyterian First
by Rev. David T. Myers
Looking at a listing of the Nationwide Life Insurance Company today in the phone book, the average reader would not guess that part of that company constituted the nation’s first life insurance. And certainly, that same average citizen would not know that this first life insurance company had roots in Presbyterian history.
Started in 1718 by the Synod of Philadelphia, the fledgling company was known originally as “The Fund for Pious Uses.” Its purpose was to assist local Presbyterian ministers and their families. One of the original seven ministers of the Philadelphia Presbytery, Jedidiah Andrews, was its first treasurer. Other directors down through the years included Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Finley, and Frances Allison.
The name of the Fund changed in 1759 when it was chartered on January 11, but its purposes were unchanged. The new name became “The Corporation for Relief of the Poor, and Distressed Ministers, and of the Poor and Distressed Widows, and Children of Presbyterian Ministers.” Try writing that on a check! Mercifully, it came to be known simply as the Presbyterian Ministers Fund.
It is interesting to this contributor that the organization’s money, meager at best in the early years, was sometimes spent on matters other than poor servants of Christ. A new organ was purchased for Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Children captured by Indian raids on the frontier in central Pennsylvania were literally redeemed by the fund and brought back to their families. And perhaps the most astonishing of all outlays of funds was to the Continental Congress. The Presbyterian life insurance company loaned out five thousand dollars so the political body could pay its bills, most of which went to pay soldiers in the American Revolution.
John Baird wrote a full account of the Presbyterian Minister’s Fund in Horn of Plenty: The Story of the Presbyterian Ministers’ Fund, published in 1982 by Tyndale House Publishers (pictured above). The book is out of print, but copies can be found on the used market, here, here, or here.
The organizational records of the Presbyterian Minister’s Fund are preserved at the facilities of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, with a finding aid available here.
Words to Live By: “If anyone fails to provide for his relatives, and especially for those of his own family, he has disowned the faith [by failing to accompany it with fruits] and is worse than an unbeliever [who performs his obligation in these matters.]—1 Timothy 5:8 Amplified Bible
Bestow On Us a Spirit of Prayer
Given some recent discussion on the Web, over whether it is appropriate to speak on political matters from the pulpit, the following seems an appropriate post today, an excerpt from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century.
Politics ran high, and Philadelphia was the headquarters of the excitement. The old federal party was fast losing its power. “War with Great Britain was advocated by one party, and deprecated by the other. The rancorous debates were unfavourable to religion, and the hopes of the pious were mocked then, as they have been since. Dr. Janeway would have been more than than human, not to have felt some of the influences around him. But we see from his journal, the jealous guard he maintained over his heart.
January 10, 1808, Sabbath.
“Praise to God for prolonging my life to another year. Oh! may this year be spent in the service of my God. Make thy grace, O my God, sufficient for me, and thy strength perfect in my weakness. At the commencement of the year I felt not right; may the latter end be better than the beginning. In conversing on politics, I am too apt to be too engaged, and to feel too keenly. May God give me grace to govern my temper and conversation, and preserve me from taking too great an interest in them. In the heat of debate, I am urged to say what is imprudent and unbecoming. Two instances of such behaviour have occurred last week. May no more occur. I fear lest our expectation of a revival of religion, may not be realized. O Lord God, let the blessing come, and bestow on us a spirit of prayer, that we may wrestle and prevail. Hope, still hope, my soul.”
LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 130-131.
The Root of the Presbyterian Apostasy
[For those wanting to do more reading on this matter, click here to see the resources gathered at the PCA Historical Center.]
When church historians evaluate the history of American Presbyterianism, the publication of the “Auburn Affirmation” will stand out in importance like the nailing of Luther’s ninety-five theses on the Wittenberg Germany church door in 1517. Except this Affirmation, unlike that of the German reformer, constituted a major offensive against biblical Christianity.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1923 had repeated the earlier high court’s affirmations of five essential truths which made up the fundamentals of Christianity. They were the inerrant Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, His literal bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day, and supernatural miracles. However the very next year, on January 9, 1924, one hundred and fifty Presbyterian elders issued an affirmation in Auburn, New York which stated that these five fundamentals were not necessary and essential doctrines for the church. Eventually the number of ministers to sign it would increase to 1,294 ordained ministers, about ten per cent of the clergy on the rolls of the Presbyterian church. None were ever disciplined for their “affirmation” of the document.
[Pictured above, publication of the Auburn Affirmation as it appeared in its first edition, including a list of 150 signers.]
The Auburn Affirmation used many familiar terms on which unsuspecting Christians might be deceived. Thus, it affirmed inspiration, but denied Scripture to be without error. It affirmed the incarnation, but denied the Virgin Birth. It affirmed the atonement, but denied that Christ satisfied divine justice and reconciled us to God. It affirmed the resurrection of Christ, but denied Jesus rose from the dead with the same body in which He was crucified. It affirmed Jesus did many mighty works, but denied that He was a miracle worker.
The tragedy of this Affirmation was that not one of its signers were ever brought up for church discipline by their respective presbyteries. This sin of omission hastened the apostasy of the church, as many of the signers would later find placement in every agency of the church.
Words to Live By: “Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you in regard to our common salvation. [But] I found it necessary and was impelled to write you and urgently appeal to and exhort [you] to contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered verbally to the holy people of God”] Jude v. 3 (Amplified)
In God’s kingdom, there are no little people. Nor are any forgotten by our Lord, though we ourselves may forget. Today we will touch on the life of a pastor that most of us have never heard of.
William Hooper Adams was born in Boston, MA on this day, January 8, 1838, the son of the Rev. Dr. Nehemiah and Martha Hooper Adams. A graduate of Harvard, he first began his studies for the ministry at Andover Seminary, but left there on instructions from his father to take a teaching position in Georgia. That in turn led to his enrolling at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1861, to complete his studies. When the war started, he found he could not return home and so continued his preparations at Columbia. Licensed to preach by Hopewell Presbytery in 1862 and ordained by that same Presbytery in 1863, he was installed as an pastor in Eufala, Alabama, where he labored until 1865. Then in the summer of 1865, he returned to Boston.
A visit by Rev. Adams to Charleston, South Carolina, in February of 1867 led to a call from the famous Circular Church of that city. The original structure of this church had been designed by the architect Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument, and the church was the first large domed structure built in the United States. But by 1867 when the call was extended to Rev. Adams, the church had suffered several setbacks. Its building had burned to the ground late in 1861, then followed the Civil War, and finally, the formerly multi-racial congregation lost its African American congregants as they left to form a separate congregation. In accepting the call to serve as their pastor, Rev. Adams agreed to take on the burdens of a dispirited congregation.
And there he labored faithfully in Charleston for the next ten years. The Memorial published in his honor gives us a picture of a pastor who was genial, exuberant in his love for the Lord, sacrificial of his own time and energy, a man of strong Presbyterian convictions, yet a man who could work right alongside any other Christian who truly loved the Lord Jesus as Savior. This was a man who was greatly loved not just by his own church, but by much of the Charleston community. In his final act of selfless devotion, he gave up his post as pastor of the Circular Church and returned to Boston to care for his dying father. Seeking to honor his father, he put many of his own goals aside with the intent of editing his father’s papers. In God’s providence, the Rev. William Hooper Adams survived his father by just about three years, and he died on May 15, 1880.
Words to Live By:
With Christ his Savior as his example, William Hooper Adams sought to live a life of humility and sacrifice. He honored his father. He gave himself in love and devotion to his people. The fact that we today may not know his story does not diminish the powerful ways in which the Lord used him in His kingdom. After all, he wasn’t after fame and fortune. He labored faithfully to glorify the Lord, not himself.
To view information about his grave site, click here.
1. Frontispiece portrait, from A Memorial of the Rev. William Hooper Adams. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1880.
2. Public domain stereoscope photograph, from the Wikimedia Commons.