Articles by Wayne Sparkman

You are currently browsing Wayne Sparkman’s articles.

By Rev. David T. Myers

Josiah Welsh had cried out at the moment he entered glory, “O victory, victory, forevermore,” on June 23, 1634. He was only thirty-six years of age.  But what he had accomplished for Christ in those short thirty-six years was remarkable.

Born in 1598 in Scotland, he was of good Presbyterian stock! How could this not be said when we acknowledge that his mother was one of John Knox’s—yes, that John Knox—daughters. Elizabeth was the third daughter of the great Reformer from his second wife. So that made our topic of today’s post the grandson of John Knox. In addition, his own father John Welsh was a Presbyterian minister as well.

Josiah studied first at Geneva, Switzerland, much as his grandfather had done.  Then he returned to Scotland to study at St. Andrews. He even taught some at the University of Glasgow. He evidently moved to Northern Ireland, or Ulster, due to his opposition to papacy. Yet God moved in two men as the helps of that move.

Humphrey Norton was an English Puritan layman who first employed Joshua Welsh as the chaplain for his household. This was followed by the Rev. Robert Blair, the first Presbyterian preacher in Ulster, who had come over himself from Scotland to Ireland.

It was said that Josiah Welsh had “outstanding spiritual qualities” which enabled him to settle down as the pastor of Templepartrick, Ireland in 1626. While many of his fellow Scottish Presbyterians under-shepherds who moved to Ireland accepted Church of England parishes under the bishops of that land, Josiah Welsh did not and labored without the benefit of membership in an organized presbytery.

It was said of Josiah Welsh that he possessed an ability to preach directly to the consciences of his people in the pew. He was a fervent preacher of the Word which was backed up by a godly lifestyle. One of three famous revivals in Ulster, called the Six Mile Water Revival, occurred under benefit of his preaching to the Irish populace.

Words to Live By: There is an old saying which states “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Certainly this was true in the life and ministry of John Welsh. Question? Is it true in your life, dear reader? Talk to your pastor to see what biblical counsel he might impart to you on how it might be your life testimony as well.

By Rev. David T. Myers.

Do you own the Sanquhar Declaration?  That question would be asked again and again by the authorities in the land of Scotland in the latter part of the seventeenth century against Presbyterians in the kingdom.  If it was answered in the affirmative, then your very life was in danger, either at that very time or later.

The name of the declaration was in reference to a small town in the southwest part of Scotland.  It was the very center of persecution.  Fugitives from the east or west naturally passed through it for passage to safer areas.  On one of its streets was a village cross to which people would affix various messages to the outside world.

It was on this day, June 22, 1680, that a band of horsemen who were heavily armed with swords and pistols rode into the town early in the morning.  Led by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Richard Cameron, the group stopped, sand a psalm, prayed, and then publicly read the following declaration.  It is found at the bottom of this post.  There was  no doubt as to what it maintained, namely, a declaration of war against the present king in London, England.

Consider its chief sentence: “Therefore, although we be for government and governors, such as the Word of God and our covenant allows; yet we, for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us as the representative of the true Presbyterian Kirk and covenanted nation of Scotland, considering the great hazard of lying under such a sin any longer, do, by these presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning, or rather tyrannizing, as we may say, on the throne of Britain these years begone, as having any right, title to, or interest in the said crown of Scotland for government.”

And further, “As also we being under the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of salvation, and his cause and covenants, do declare war with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of his practices, as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ, and his cause and covenants . . . .”

There was no doubt as to the intention of this declaration.  The sword was to be taken up from its sheath and used to bring about the Presbyterian cause once and for all.  There was equally no doubt as to what it proclaimed from the Crown.  They, in a Proclamation on June 30, 1680 that Richard Cameron and his followers were Rebels and Traitors.  Large rewards were offered for them dead or alive.

Words to Live By: Alexander Smellie in his book “Men of the Covenant” says regarding this declaration, “What had they done?  They had cast off the authority of their monarch.  But they had not done it in mischievous anarchy and blatant revolt.  They made their adjuration a religious act.  They prefaced and followed the oath of insurrection by the worship of God.  Moreover, they had disavowed King Charles in the interest of King Jesus.  They disobeyed the unworthy ruler, that they might obey the Ruler who is incomparable…We may not approve every phrase in their Declaration…It contends for the essentials, for a free Parliament and an unshackled Church…Its principles triumphed in 1688 (the arrival of William and Mary.“


The text of The Sanquhar Declaration:—

“The Declaration and Testimony of the True Presbyterian, Anti-prelatic, Anti-erastian, persecuted party in Scotland, published at Sanquhar, 22 June 1680. 

It is not amongst the smallest of the Lord’s mercies to this poor land, that there have been always some who have given their testimony against every cause of defection that many are guilty of; which is a token for good, that he doth not, as yet, intend to cast us off altogether, but that he will leave a remnant in whom lie will be glorious, if they. through his grace, keep themselves clean still, and walk in his way and method as it has been walked in, and owned by him in our predecessors of truly worthy memory; in their carrying on of our noble work of reformation, in the several steps thereof, from Popery, Prelacy, and likewise Erastian supremacy—so much usurped by him who, it is true, so far as we know, is descended from the race of our kings; yet he hath so far debased from what he ought to have been, by his perjury and usurpation in Church matters, and tyranny in matters civil, as is known by the whole land, that we have just reason to account it one of the Lord’s great controversies against us, that we have not disowned him, and the men of his practices, whether inferior magistrates or any other, as enemies to our Lord and his crown, and the true Protestant and Presbyterian interest in this land—our Lord’s espoused bride and Church.

Therefore, although we be for government and governors, such as the Word of God and our covenant allows; yet we, for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us as the representative of the true Presbyterian Kirk and covenanted nation of Scotland, considering the great hazard of lying under such a sin any longer, do, by these presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning, or rather tyrannizing, as we may say, on the throne of Britain these years bygone, as having any right, title to, or interest in, the said crown of Scotland for government, as forfeited, several years since, by his perjury and breach of covenant both to God and his Kirk, and usurpation of his crown and royal prerogative therein, and many other breaches in matters eccelesiastic and by his tyranny and breach of the very reges regnandi in matters civil. For which reason we declare, that several years since he should have been denuded of being king, ruler, or magistrate, or of having any power to act or to be obeyed as such.

As also we’ being under the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of Salvation, do declare a war with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of his practices, as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ, and his cause and covenants; and against all such as have strengthened him, sided with, or anywise acknowledged him in his tyranny, civil or ecclesiastic; yea, against all such as shall strengthen, side with, or anywise acknowledge any other in like usurpation and tyranny-far more against such as would betray or deliver up our free reformed mother Kirk unto the bondage of Antichrist, the Pope of Rome.

And, by this, we homologate that testimony given at Rutherglen, the 29th of May 1679, and all the faithful testimonies of those who have gone before, as also of those who have suffered of late, and we do disclaim that Declaration published at Hamilton, June 1679, chiefly because it takes in the king’s interest, which we are several years since loosed from, because of the aforesaid reasons, and others which may, after this, if the Lord will, be published.

As also, we disown and by this resent the reception of the Duke of York, that professed Papist, as repugnant to our principles and vows to the Most High God, and as that which is the great, though not alone, just reproach of our Kirk and nation. We also, by this, protest against his succeeding to the crown, and whatever has been done, or any are essaying to do in this land, given to the Lord, in prejudice to our work of reformation. And to conclude, we hope. after this, none will blame us for, or offend at, our rewarding those that are against as they have done to us, as the Lord gives opportunity. This is not to exclude any that have declined, if they be willing to give satisfaction according to the degree of their offence.

When one leans upon the Lord, anxiety and fear flee away.


Our post today comes as a reminder of the life and ministry of one of the stalwarts among the conservative Presbyterians of the early twentieth century, Dr. Harold Samuel Laird. The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions published this message by Dr. Laird in its newsletter in 1941:

MAKING THE LORD OUR TRUST

Rev. Dr. Harold Samuel Laird

[The Independent Board Bulletin 7.6 (June-July 1941): 3-4.]

Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust.Psalm 40:4.

How many of us can honestly say “Amen” to the great truth set forth in this verse! We have tasted of the blessedness promised those who honestly make the Lord their trust. This blessedness is to many of us the more pronounced because it is in contrast to the anxiety and fear experienced before we learned to make Him our trust, and while we were making someone else or something else our trust.

It is quite possible that many have not yet made the Lord their trust simply because it is not clear to them just what this means. This word “trust” is the characteristic Old Testament word for the New Testament words “faith” and “belief,” being found more than one hundred and fifty times in our English Bibles, and many more times in its Hebrew forms throughout the Old Testament. A careful study of these Hebrew forms of the word “trust” will disclose that in their literal sense there are three which cover the entire period of the soul’s experience—past, present, and future.

There is the Hebrew word frequently rendered “trust” which literally translated means “to cast upon.” The very first picture that comes to one’s mind in connection with this thought is that of one weighed down with a heavy burden which is too much for him to bear. The heaviest burden mankind bears is the burden of sins unconfessed and unforgiven. There are other burdens such as poor health, financial troubles, or family difficulties, but none of these can compare in weight with the burden of sins unconfessed and unforgiven when conviction of sin is wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost. It was unquestionably of this burden that the Lord Jesus was speaking when He extended His gracious invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This, is a call to discipleship, and discipleship involves first of all acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, the One who on Calvary’s tree bore in His own body our sins. Because He actually bore our sins there, He now is able graciously to invite us to cast the burden of them, however many or great they have been, upon Him. Thus we may trust Him for the past. The Word of God says, “Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust” in this sense. We have the same thought in Psalm 32:1: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

Then there is the Hebrew word frequently rendered “trust” which literally translated means “to take refuge,” this with respect to the present. In this sense the word is used as a picture of one who in the hour of present trouble finds a refuge in the Lord. Such was David’s testimony in the forty-sixth Psalm, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This was also the testimony of the man Moses at the very close of his long life of fellowship with God. Indeed it was almost the last word he spake, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

The third Hebrew word which is frequently rendered “trust” when literally translated means “to lean on,” this with respect to the future. This word we find used by the Psalmist in Psalm 56:3, as he looks to the future with its almost certain fearful experiences, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee,” or “I will lean upon thee.” Again in Psalm 37:5, “Trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” In Proverbs 29:25 we read, “Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.” These are but a very few of the many passages where this word is thus used. In all of these we will note that the thought is directed toward the future.

“Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust,” simply because when one thus leans upon the Lord, anxiety and fear flee away. Some lean upon their possessions, others upon earthly friends, but only those who learn to lean upon the Lord experience the blessedness of peace which is freedom from anxiety.

As we are in the season when so many of our various Presbyterian denominations meet in annual Assembly, this short note defining “fraternal relations” and “corresponding relations” between denominations may be a helpful reminder. This comes from the Minutes of the Twenty-eighth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (2000), page 63:

28-14   [from the] Committee of Commissioners on Interchurch Relations

III.       Recommendations:

Item 3.         That the General Assembly establish two levels of relations with other denominations:       Adopted

  1. Fraternal Relations – The General Assembly may maintain a fraternal relationship with other Presbyterian/Reformed denominations that are voting members of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council and with other such Churches with whom the General Assembly wishes to establish fraternal relations unilaterally.  This would involve the exchange of fraternal delegates, exchange of General Assembly or General Synod minutes, communications on matters of mutual concern, and other matters that may arise from time to time.

  2. Corresponding Relations – The General Assembly may maintain corresponding relation with other evangelical Churches in North America and in other continents for exchanging greetings and letters of encouragement.  This may include the exchange of official observers at the broadest assemblies, and communications on issues of common concern.

Words to Live By:
Pray for the unity of the Church. That unity must be based upon a clear understanding and affirmation of what the Scriptures teach. And thus we have these two categories of fraternal and corresponding relations. The one is a closer fellowship than the other, where we have a closer similarity of convictions as to what the Scriptures teach and require. The second group is a bit more distant, but still recognizes our common standing in Christ. Someone one said, “Are you a Presbyterian? Then be the best Presbyterian that you can be. Or are you a Lutheran? Then be the best that you can be.” Divisions will persist among Christians as long as we are in this sinful flesh. But as we ever seek to remain faithful to our Lord and Savior, obedient to His Word, some of those divisions may well be healed, while others become less threatening, more manageable. In all things, may God be glorified.

According to this account by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., there was apparently some confusion during the Second General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church [nee Presbyterian Church of America], over the matter of how exactly to dispose of the 1903 PCUSA amendments to the Westminster Confession. Buswell writes here in THE CHRISTIAN BEACON, 17.17 (5  June 1952): 2, 4.

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION AND THE AMENDMENTS OF 1903.

We who are Calvinists are such not because we admire the work of a man, but because we admire the work of a man who clearly expounded the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures. When we speak of great historical Calvinistic documents the word “Calvinistic” signifies the preservation in sharp and clear outline of what the Bible teaches. The Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, is a basic document for all English-speaking Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational, and Baptist churches. The Savoy Confession of the historical Congregational Churches (Congregationalism before the apostasy of that denomination) is The Westminster Confession with a change in one chapter only. The Philadelphia Confession, which is a basic document for large groups of Baptist churches in the Southern states and in England, is The Westminster Confession with changes in two chapters only. The New Hampshire Confession, which is accepted by many Baptist churches in the Northern states is largely adapted from The Westminster Confession. It is therefore an interdenominational document in the truest sense. It is a rich deposit of treasure in the common heritage of Bible-believing Christians. We Calvinists accept The Westminster Confession not as being an infallible document, not as being verbally inerrant, but as being thoroughly based upon the Scriptures, and as setting forth in clear and positive language the integrated system of doctrine which the Scriptures teach.

In 1903 the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. adopted certain amendments in order to please groups which were doctrinally weak and poorly instructed. Dr. Benjamin Warfield, one of the greatest Calvinistic teachers of the past generation, strongly protested against the adoption of these amendments, but when they were adopted, Dr. Warfield declared (as Dr. J. Gresham Machen related the matter to me) that these amendments, weak and misleading as they were, did not actually change “the system of doctrine.”

In the months preceding May, 1936, Dr. Machen explained to me that he did not wish to take his stand as contending for any change in the constitution of the Church (Presbyterian, U.S.A.) as it then existed, though he hoped that the amendments of 1903 might sometime be eliminated. His great fight at that time was that the Foreign Mission Board (and other agencies of the Church) might at least be true to the simple elementary principles of the Gospel. He could be loyal to the constitution as it was then, since, as Dr. Warfield had said, the constitution, in spite of the weak and misleading character of the 1903 amendments, still set forth the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures.

I understood Dr. Machen to advocate that if we should be compelled to form a new church, it would be wise to start with the doctrinal constitution just as it had been in the U.S.A. Church at the time the controversy arose. It was on this basis that Dr. Machen organized the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

In May, 1936, Dr. Machen and the rest of us were unfrocked and put out of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. An incident took place in the fall of 1936 at the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America which, I have recently learned, has caused confusion in the minds of some of our friends. I am glad to take this occasion to make a correction. The incident was as follows : When the proposal to adopt the Westminster Standards came before the Assembly, as moderator, I suggested that it would expedite matters if we adopted the Standards as they then existed in the U.S.A. Church, and then proceeded with deliberation to remove the 1903 amendments and make such a declaratory statement as might seem appropriate. At this point Dr. Machen gained the impression that I had somehow changed my convictions, and that I wished the amendments of 1903 to be retained, which certainly was not the case. He made a forceful address urging the adoption the Confession without the 1903 amendments. I could readily see that either I had misunderstood his former opinions, or he had changed his mind. I did not consider the matter worth a reply, since we were all agreed that the 1903 amendments should ultimately be eliminated.

I should never had referred to the matter again had I not been informed rather recently that some sound Calvinistic bodies overseas have been told that “the Bible Presbyterian Church is un-Calvinistic, since one of the leaders of the Bible Presbyterian Church, moderator of the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, actually spoke in defense of the weak and misleading 1903 amendments of the Westminster Confession.”! I did not at any time speak in defense of the 1903 amendments. When the Bible Presbyterian Church was formed, it adopted The Westminster Confession, without the objectionable 1903 amendments.

[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, vol. 17, no. 17 (5 June 1952), pages 2, 4.]

Words to Live By:
Even face to face, let alone on social media, people have always been prone to misunderstand one another. We speak imprecisely and are too often self-centered in our considerations, not taking into account the other person’s point of view, their values and their goals. With patience, we may at last discover that we agree more than we disagree. Or we may patiently dig down to the heart of our disagreement and find the path to correction and reconciliation. Changing a heart is truly the Lord’s work. God works through us when we display genuine concern for others and strive to glorify Him in all our conduct toward those with whom we differ.

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

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

Scripture References: Prov. 19:5; Luke 3:14; Ps.15:3; Prov.6:16-19; James 3:14.

Questions:

1. In general what does this commandment forbid?

This commandment forbids all falsehood, lying of any type. James 3:14 teaches this commandment: “Lie not against the truth.”

2. What does the Bible mean by a lie?

A lie, according to the Bible, would be to speak or express what we know to be false.

3. Name some ways we can lie and break God’s Law.

There are many ways we can lie according to the Bible. We can falsely accuse others. We can lie to make gain our own ends. We can invent stories that are not true. We can lie in order to make excuses for things we have not done. We can lie to try to cover our faults. We can lie in our jesting (course, foolish talking).

4. Who is the author and father of lies?

The author and father of lies is the devil (John 8:44).

5. How may we injure our own good name?

We may injure our own good name by doing something that would be offensive in the eyes of the world, such as adultery, theft or any kind of baseness and wickedness. We may injure it by false boasting. We may injure it by accusing ourselves when we are not guilty before God or by not using the gifts that God has given to us.

6. How may we injure the good name of our neighbor?

We may by false accusations or bearing false witness against him; by judging and censuring him over small, unimportant or doubtful matters; by talking about him in a way that would detract from his reputation; by listening to bad reports about him that are false.

7. What should we remember regarding the breaking of this commandment?

We should remember that at the last Day, we shall have to answer for our words and our actions. (Matt. 12:36, 37.)

SLANDER OR WITNESS

The ninth commandment makes it very plain that we should not slander our neighbor in any way. This sin is predominant today even within the Christian Church. Time and time again we hear of men and women of God being slandered, sometimes even by those who are professing Christians. Indeed, this commandment points out that such is using the tongue as an instrument of unrighteousness. Thomas Watson once said that the Lord put two fences up for the tongue, the teeth and lips, and then this commandment is the third fence!

There is a positive side to this commandment implied, however, of which we should take heed. The positive side is that we should stand up for those who are being slandered! Indeed it is true that we should not take part in slander. But sometimes we can take part in it by refusing to witness for the truth in the midst of slander.

The Bible is very plain about this in various places. For example, in Acts 2:15 Peter spoke up when the apostles were being charged with drunkenness. He knew that he dare not be quiet but had to witness for truth and the truth was that they were filled with the Spirit! Jonathan took the part of David when he was slandered by Saul. The men of the Bible knew very well that the time comes when one Christian must stand up for another and refusa to be party to slander in any way.

This particular teaching is very. pertinent for today. The way of si- lence, of not wanting to get involved, is the way of the world today. It is rapidly becoming an important part of our culture. People are rapidly forgetting the teaching of the Golden Rule and are very fast to allow ethers to be treated in a way that would grieve them. Certainly there are human arguments in favor of not getting involved. Sometimes one gets into trouble, sometimes the law does not uphold the person trying to help. But these are human arguments and we as Christians are not to live by such a standard. Our standard is the Word of God and that Word tells us that we have the responsibility to speak up when our brethren are slandered and their names are cast down into the gutter of false accusation.

The familiar words, “Silence Gives Consent”, are applicable in this case. We can break this commandment by our silence in addition to breaking it by our slander. Instead of slander our motto should be “Witness” for our brethren and tell the truth about them at all times! Then God will be pleased with us as we fulfill this responsibility before Him.

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.

Vol. 5 No. 7 (August, 1966)

Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

My Life is in the Custody of Him Whose Glory I Seek
by Rev. David T. Myers

The great Reformer, John Knox, had been  in the land of Scotland for a mere six weeks, arriving on May 2, 1559.  He had been preaching continuously along the coast of the kingdom when there came to him an invitation from the Protestant Lords of the congregation.

The invitation took place in a historical context.  On May 31 of that year, the Second Covenant had been signed by these very same Lords which pledged them to mutual support and defense in the cause of religion, and by that, they meant the Protestant religion.  There were also certain promises made by the Queen Regent with respect to the town of Perth and its people, who had demonstrated against the Roman Catholic faith and life.  As soon as she took possession of the town with the help of French troops, she began to violate every promise she  had made, excusing her actions by stating that she was not bound to keep promises made to heretics.

In reaction to that, the Protestant Lords invited John Knox to come to St. Andrews to preach the Word in the Abbey Church there.  The Reformed accepted the invitation.  When the Archbishop heard of this invitation and its acceptance, he informed John Knox that his military forces would seek to stop him by force should he appear in the pulpit.  Further, the Queen regent herself was but a dozen miles away with French troops who were hostile to the Reformation cause.

Alarmed at the circumstances which had arisen from their invitation to the Reformer, and unwilling to have his life in imminent peril, they communicated with Knox their concern for his life if he agreed to their invitation.  His answer to them was typical of the great Reformed and should serve as an example to all entrusted with the gospel.  He replied:

“As for the fear of danger that may come to me, let no man be solicitous; for my life is in the custody of Him whose glory I seek.   I  desire   the  hand and weapon of no man to defend me.  I only crave audience; which, if it be denied here unto me at this time, I  must  seek farther where I may have it.”

This was clearly the man who never feared the fact of man.  Knox preached at St. Andrews on June 16, 1559.   His audience not only included the town people, but also the arch bishop, and “scowling bands of armed retainers prepared for the assassination of the fearless preacher.” (Rev. W. M. Hetherington, “History of the Church of Scotland” (p. 45)

His theme was that of the Lord Jesus ejecting the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem, which he applied as a necessity of the true church in removing the corruptions of the Roman Catholic church, and purifying the church.  Such was the effect of this sermon, and three like it in the same pulpit, was that the inhabitants of the area set up Reformed worship in the town.

Words to Live By:

When Scotland was on Fire

In this dear land in days of yore,
God moved in mighty power;
His Word He blessed and souls found rest,
When Scotland was on fire.
And in those days of yesteryear,
Men loved the Word of God;
They preached it true and lived it too,
When Scotland was on fire.

Once more Lord, once more Lord;
As in the days of yore;
On this dear land, Thy Spirit pour,
Set Scotland now on fire.

There were Welsh and Peden, Craig and Knox;
McCheyne and Rutherford;
Bonar and Wishart, Livingston,
These loved the Word of God,
And many others of renown,
For Christ their lives laid down;
When Scotland was on fire for God,
When Scotland was on fire.

In this dear land in days of yore,
Men honoured Christ the Lord;
They followed him, come loss or gain,
When Scotland was on fire.
In castle grand and but’n ben,
God had the chiefest place,
Nor stake nor rack could hold them back,
When Scotland was on fire.

Once more, once more, once more Oh Lord,
On this dear land of heather and glens
And lochs and hills,
Set Scotland now on fire.

Ask God to Use His Rod
A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
By Max Belz

belzmax03aIt is a blessed experience, at least after the initial shock, to know the chastening stroke of God’s rod. In Psalm 23:4 David says to his Lord, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Many pastors and members of modernist controlled churches who yearn to be separate from the apostate bodies are still struggling as captives in the ecclesiastical web, being forced constantly into compromising positions, yet never making the final, important decision to separate. Any true Bible-believer who contends for the faith within a modernist controlled church body soon finds that real comfort of conscience is impossible.

I believe that the first step for many such troubled brethren is simply this: “Ask God to use His rod.”

Three years ago I asked God to remove me from the ownership and management of a prosperous grain business if it was in any way a hindrance to my Christian witness in His sight. I did not really want to leave the business, because it was profitable, I enjoyed the work, and 60 years of family tradition were back of it. But I did open the question with the Lord. He took care of the rest. He used His rod, rapping my financial knuckles just hard enough to make me willingly let go of the big warehouses and 60 years of family tradition in the grain business. I started training for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

But that was not enough. I still needed more rod treatment. Against the pleadings of many friends I stubbornly determined to get my training from the nearest Presbyterian university, even though modernistic teachers and speakers were openly tolerated and honored there. At the same institution were instructors and speakers who held earnestly to the “faith once delivered,” and I assured my protesting fundamentalist friends outside that they did not need to worry about my spiritual welfare. Then, about two years later, a doctrinal dispute arose in the school, and it became apparent that fundamentalist forces were not in control of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It seemed impossible that I could avoid the issue further, and, finally, on my knees I asked God to use His rod again if I needed it. He did not long delay in making a vigorous answer. This time He rapped my ecclesiastical knuckles, removing me from a thriving Presbyterian student pastorate and my faithful wife and four children from a comfortable Presbyterian manse at Rowley, Iowa. These rapid removals came fast on the heels of my utterance of the following words at a Presbytery meeting:

“I am persuaded that the executive committee and the administration of the University of Dubuque have now openly committed themselves by their actions to a ‘middle-of-the-road,’ lukewarm theological policy. I fear the consequences both for them and myself it it continues thus. I cannot return (as a student) unless there is a sharp turn toward a true Calvinistic position.”

Although the battle thus precipitated still rages, God’s rod and staff have led us into the happy fellowship of the Bible Presbyterian fold, and graciously led the little Cono Center Presbyterian Church congregation along with us. I an joyfully testify today to the riches of God’s grace in Christ to me as a sinner and to the fact that His rod has comforted me.

Just a few hours before writing this I accompanied Jim Andrew, Iowa Choirtet second tenor, in a visit at about a dozen homes in our Cono neighborhood. Most of these folks have been through the thick of the battle which arose from our renunciation of the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and I never talked with people more radiant and happy in their daily Christian testimony. Jim Andrew made the same observation several times between visits. These Cono people have been deprived of their little church building and denied the use of their church treasury by virtue of a court order instituted by the Presbytery of Dubuque in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Yet in the midst of this apparent confusion they have seen God answer their prayers, leading them into the pleasant pastures of a marked spiritual revival. Souls are being saved in the Cono neighborhood, and attendance at the Sunday morning, evening, and midweek services is better than for many years.

Has God’s rod been on this little flock? We believe it has. But it has brought comfort – a living, happy and real comfort – a dynamic, militant and moving comfort. God’s rod has driven us graciously to the table prepared in the presence of our enemies. Our cup at Cono is running over, and, though the Presbytery of Dubuque has forced us from the little church built by our fathers, we believe surely that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and we look forward to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

Many dear brethren in the modernist controlled churches today can be led out into real comfort if they will open the question earnestly with their Lord. The first step for many may simply be to “Ask God to use His rod.” The next step will surely be a definite step of separation from apostasy, and the results will be a happy and blessed surprise.

“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The Peaceable Fruit of Biblical Ecumenism

In the Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world, (See December 7) the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (though it was called originally National Presbyterian Church)  had specifically stated that they invited “into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain our principles of faith and order.”  It was at the Fifth General Assembly of PCA, meeting in Smyrna, Georgia, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod sent a communication requesting closer relationship and engagement of cooperative ministries.

Two assemblies later in 1979, a small committee with a long name, namely, “The Ad Interim Committee to Discuss Areas of Agreements, Differences, and Difficulties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America” was constituted by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  They would meet many times in the two years of discussion with representatives of the various Presbyterian churches.

In June of 1980, at the Eighth General Assembly of the PCA, that body issued invitations to the aforementioned denominations to join the PCA.  The invitation was not to be a long courtship but rather a quick “tying of the knot” by simply merging into the PCA by a common commitment to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly and the Book of Church Order.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, citing exclusive psalmody and other considerations, pulled out of the discussions.  The invitation to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church come up to a vote of presbyteries in both bodies.   It failed by a narrow margin to arrive at the necessary vote by both assemblies, first by the PCA and then by the OPC.  Fraternal relations continue between both bodies with each other.

For the remaining two denominations of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, joint General Assemblies were scheduled for their next national meetings at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The pivotal vote of the RPCES on June 14, 1982  accepted the union by a majority vote of 322 – 90.  Elected as moderator was former RPCES scholar and minister, Dr. R. Laird Harris, from Covenant Theological Seminary.

By this union, the PCA received 164 churches, 416 ministers, 20,615 communicant members, 6,139 covenant children, Covenant Theological Seminary, Covenant College, a direct line to the Scottish Covenanters from the Reformed Presbyterian Church branch of the former RPCES, and the God-given experience of  recognized theologians, teaching and ruling elders in both churches.

The “marriage” has lasted now  30  years (as of 2012), with continued prayers and work to make it a lifetime of married bliss.

A Union of Scottish Presbyterians

A noted Reformed Presbyterian theologian was once asked in the early eighteen hundreds in this country to identify his branch of the Presbyterian Church.  He replied that he belonged to no branch of Presbyterians, only to the root of Presbyterianism.  This answer revealed the deep view of history which Covenanter Presbyterians have of their church.

Any article on Scottish Presbyterians must really have an understanding first of the religious  situation  in  Scotland,   to say nothing   of the   Church of Scotland coming out of Romanism in the Protestant Reformation under reformer John Knox.  We don’t have room enough to enter into that topic on this site, but a good perusal or even a scan of any of the books which deal with that history will bring you up to speed on this.   Suffice to say that the American colonies were the happy recipients of countless Scot-Irish immigrants from Scotland through Ireland to this land.  They brought with them their distinctives which were (1)  a perpetual obligation to the Scottish covenants which their spiritual forefathers had signed, many with their blood, (2)  the sole headship of Christ over all, and last, (3) the concept of Christian civil government, where the new nation would be recognized as a Christian nation under King Jesus.

In their Scottish history, there had been many breakaways from the Church of Scotland for alleged errors in doctrine and practice.  One was called the Associate Presbytery, while another breakaway was called the Reformed Presbytery.

The latter was organized in the American colonies on March 9, 1774 as the first Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of Pennsylvania.  In fact, there is a blue historical sign by the state of Pennsylvania which recognizes this religious event beside one of the roads in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It was composed of three ministers: John Cuthbertson, William Lind, and Alexander Dobbins.

The first, John Cuthbertson,  was a missionary who traveled all throughout Pennsylvania, visiting the scattered societies, as they were known, ministering to them by the Word and Sacrament.  Often, their place of worship was under the sky and known as a Tent, such as the Junkin Tent in New Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Rev.  William Lind ministered in Paxton, outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a church.  And  the third minister from Ireland, Rev, Alexander Dobbins, was ministering outside of Gettysburg, Pa.  Thousands eat today as the Dobbins House Restaurant near the 1863 Gettsyburg Battlefield, not realizing that Rev. Dobbins had a pivotal part in the establishment of Presbyterianism in Pennsylvania.

That union of three ministers in the Reformed Presbytery lasted about eight years as another union took place in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 between  the Associate Presbytery and the Reformed Presbytery.  Somehow the Scottish distinctions between the two presbyteries were not as relevant in this new land.  This produced the Associate Reformed Presbytery.

Words to Live By:  Their current membership in the various Scottish Presbyterian Covenanter churches might be small in comparison with other Presbyterian churches, but in their minds and hearts, they are the root of Presbyterianism, never just another branch.  It is good to have a clear sense of history of your church.  In fact, this yearly historical devotional has that as one of its purposes.  This contributor desires that you, the reader,  know from where you have come in the past, so you won’t make the mistakes of the past, but labor effectively in the presence and future for King Jesus.

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: