December 2018

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Despite Your Weaknesses—Often Because of Your Weaknesses—God Can Use You.  

It has always been an issue with some of the covenant people of God that they often cannot relate a particular time when they came to a saving relationship with Christ.  Such was the case with a young man by the name of Eleazer Whittlesey, who moved from Bethlem, Connecticut, to Pennsylvania in the mid 1700’s.

We don’t know much about his background, either his parents or what spiritual influences he had from any church.  He showed up to meet Aaron Burr in Newark, New Jersey by a recommendation from a man named Ballamy.  The infant and later Princeton Seminary was located there, with Pastor Burr as its second president.  The latter clergyman noted that he was “not converted in the way” that many of the Presbyterian clergy of his day thought was necessary.  In fact, President Burr spoke of  having “some doubt” of  his spiritual experience.  He went on to state that “he has met with others of God’s dear people, who cannot tell of such a particular submission as we have insisted on, though the substance of the thing may be found in all.”  However, Rev. Burr placed Eleazar under his pastoral care and believed that he was making good progress in learning.  He ended his thoughts by stating that “I trust the Lord has work for him to do.”

Seven years later, Eleazer would graduate from Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey, to which the new college has moved.  He was licensed by the New Castle Presbytery soon afterwards.  We could find no record of his ordination however.  In 1750, he began to supply vacancies, of which there were many at this time in American Presbytery history.  Yet while  doing that “with zeal and integrity,” Eleazer complained of “melancholy”  which kept  him from being able to study or make preparation for sermons in the pulpit.  His days, he acknowledged, were often spent in “painful idleness.”

In 1751, Whittlesey settled in what is now York County, Pennsylvania, where  he began to preach in a log church in Muddy Run.  Faithful in labor in all the neighboring settlements, it was said that he formed the Slate Ridge and Chanceford Presbyterian churches, composed of Scots-Irish  people.

In 1752, he left a pastor’s house one cold day to travel to the Muddy Run church.  On the way, he became ill with pleurisy, and died about a week later on December 21, 1752.  His last words were “O  Lord, leave me not.”

Words to Live By: We remember the apostle Paul who had “a thorn in the flesh,” and prayed earnestly that it might depart from him. ( 2 Corinthians 12:7, 8)  God answered his request with the word “My grace is sufficient for you, for power in perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor 12;9) God can use us for His kingdom despite our bodily and mental weaknesses.   Remember that, Christian.

The  Apostle of Kentucky —

There were several pseudonyms given David Rice. The apostle of Kentucky was one. Or the pioneer minister of the Presbyterian Church of Kentucky was another.  Perhaps the best title was that of “Father” Rice. The Rev. David Rice was all these titles to the state of Kentucky, and especially to the Scots-Irish saints of Kentucky.

Born December 20 in 1733 in Hanover County, Virginia, he was one of twelve children of a farmer in that county. Reared Episcopalian originally, he early associated with the Presbyterian cause.  Educated at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, New Jersey, he afterwards was trained in theology under one of the assistants of Samuel Davies, a man by the name of John Todd. Ordained by Hanover Presbytery in December of 1763, he became the pastor of Hanover Presbyterian Church. When the period of the Revolution came in the colonies, he took a decided stand in favor of the Revolution, serving as a chaplain to the Hanover militia. He was married by this time, having  married Mary Blair, the daughter of Samuel Blair, of Faggs Manor. Together, they would rear twelve children.

The Hanover Virginia congregation, where Samuel Davies had been the pastor before his move to the College of New Jersey, was weakened in number due to many of the Scot-Irish Presbyterians moving west for better opportunities. In fact, it was a number of those immigrants who invited David Rice to move to Kentucky in 1783. He was the first Presbyterian pastor to move into the state.

His ministry here included both church and state. As far as the church part, he would eventually pastor four Presbyterian congregations in the state. During this important pastoral work, he founded the first presbytery, the first synod, and the first seminary, called Transylvania Seminary, which is now a university. It was also here that he became convicted over the slavery issue, and sought to have it abolished by both the church and the state.  His organ for doing so was the Kentucky Abolition Society, for which David Rice was a life-time member.  He felt that Christians should lead the way for a gradual abolition of the slave trade as a result of their religion and conscience. Though he worked hard to this end, he was never able to accomplish it.

As far as the state was concerned, he was a member of the Constitutional convention of Kentucky to write the state constitution. He took up his call for abolition of slavery there as well, but was rebuffed again by the other citizens in the convention. Despite this failure, he stayed true to his convictions on the evils of slavery and was forever urging its demise.

They described him as tall and slender, quiet in his movements, with a remarkable degree of alertness even in his seventies. “Father Rice” is buried in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church of Danville, Kentucky.

Words to live by:  David Rice was one of those Christian men who took his stand for righteousness even as he faithfully ministered the Word of God to the masses in Virginia and Kentucky.  He was used of the Lord in both church and state.  What a challenge to be at the starting points of so many works of the Lord.  God has especially called some of His church to engage in similar ministries.  In whatever Presbyterian denomination you are in, pray for the missions agencies, as well as individual church planters, who start with a few and then by God’s Spirit, build up a congregation for His glory.

Photos of the grave site of the Rev. David Rice can be viewed here.

Dr. R.C. Sproul died on December 14, 2017, and what follows was posted on this blog site a few days later (12/19). It seems quite appropriate to revisit what was posted then, as time and experience have only deepened our appreciation for how the Lord so powerfully used R.C. in the lives of so many. And as for the links at the end of this post, I’ve not checked, but hope that most, if not all, are still working.

“God buries His workers and carries on His work.”

As most know by now, Dr. R.C. Sproul passed away on December 14th. We have lost a great pastor and teacher. A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Wednesday Dec. 20th at 2:00 PM Eastern Time, at the Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida. The entire service will be live-streamed at RCSproul.com. There will also be a public visitation, at the Saint Andrew’s Chapel, today, Tuesday December 19th, from 9 AM to 3 PM.

As you might imagine, there have been many, many tributes published in memory of Dr. Sproul, acknowledging the inestimable ways in which he was used so mightily in the Lord’s kingdom. In particular, I was quite taken with what my friend Tom Martin, a retired judge who lives near Philadelphia, wrote upon hearing of Dr. Sproul’s passing.

R.C. Sproul, A Tribute
by Tom Martin

When James Montgomery Boice died of liver cancer in June of 2000, one of the men asked to speak at his memorial service at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was his close friend R. C. Sproul. As Sproul rose to the pulpit he reminded the crowd gathered (as he often did) of an historic parallel. He told of the words of Philip Melanchthon at the funeral held for Martin Luther in 1546, when Melanchthon compared the death of Luther to the removal from this world of the Jewish prophet Elijah, whose very name meant “Yahweh is God!” in defiance of idol worshipping king Ahab. 

Melanchthon used the words of Scripture in II Kings 2, which were Elisha’s lament at the loss of his dear friend and mentor, the prophet Elijah:

“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

“And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

“He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

“And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.”

It has taken a few hours for the death of R.C.Sproul to sink in to my thinking, for Sproul was a giant I was honored to know. I remember the first time he spoke to me by my first name “Tom” and I thought how privileged I was to have been with him from time to time and to have gotten to know the man well. R.C. was a true Christian. Imperfect. At times more hesitant than he seemed in public. Yet, a man with a genuine heart and love for Jesus.

Now he is gone. Others must carry on his work, and shrink from the reality that we don’t have him any longer to rely upon in the work of the Kingdom of God. We want to cry out “My father! My father!” Yet we see him no more.

We must recall that even in the sorrows of the death of Elijah his follower Elisha “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him,” smote the rivers of the Jordan River, and the waters parted. The power of God is not diminished by the loss of God’s saints. As John Wesley wrote: “God buries His workers and carries on His work.” May the God of Elijah, the God of James Montomery Boice, and the God of R.C. Sproul carry on His work until Jesus comes again.

Links to some of the other many tributes have been gathered here: 

Tributes to Dr. R.C. Sproul

Dr. Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, has also shared two very memorable audio recordings of Dr. Sproul,
(1.) of his address at Westminster’s 83rd commencement ceremony, in 2012 and (2.) an interview with Dr. Sproul conducted earlier this year by Dr. Scott Oliphint.
Click here for the link to listen to either of these recordings.

Lastly, I would close with what Darrell B. Harrison and many others have pointed to as one of R.C.’s most important messages,
“The Curse Motif of the Atonement”

Pictured: Dr. R.C. Sproul speaking at a press briefing of the Congress on the Bible, March 1982.
Seated with him at the table are Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade and Dr. Jim Boice, pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA.
This photo is from the Presbyterian Journal collection at the PCA Historical Center.

 

A Life, and Death, Surrendered to the Lord

This day, December 18th, in 1928, marks the birth of Cecil John Miller. Raised in California, he earned his BA at San Francisco State College in 1953 and a doctorate in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1966, but by an uncommon arrangement had previously been ordained by the OPC some seven years earlier, in October of 1959, whereupon he was then engaged in church planting work in Stockton, California from 1959 to 1963. He later began serving as pastor of the Mechanicsville Chapel in Pennsylvania a year before graduating from Westminster, serving that pulpit from 1965 to 1972.

Jack Miller was my pastor when I was a student at Westminster Seminary in the late 1970’s. The church at that time was still meeting in the rented gymnasium of a local YMCA. Every Sunday we’d get there early to set up folding chairs, and then prepared for a time of worship, typically up to two hours in length and including a sermon from Dr. Miller which might easily run up to 60 minutes long. But we never noticed the clock. We simply went home for lunch and spent the afternoon dwelling on all we had heard. Then we’d go back at the end of the day for more. Dr. Miller was the pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church from 1973 to 1990, and a number of other New Life churches sprang from the model he established. But his greatest legacy came from his heart for missions, which led him on frequent trips to several countries, most notably Uganda, and from this work, World Harvest Mission began, and Dr. Miller served as director of WHM from 1991 until his death, April 8, 1996. World Harvest is now known as Serge, a name change which was announced just this past summer.

Without recounting here his many books, which have been a great blessing to so many, I will simply note today that a new work has recently been issued under the titleSaving Grace. This new book consists of 366 excerpts drawn from Dr. Miller’s sermons, portioned out for daily devotional reading. 

As a sample of the entries in this book, the following is the entry for December 18:

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)–John 21:18-19.

How do we develop character in ourselves and others? We can’t teach character unless we have it, and that’s a problem because the church often lacks character. We can only get it as we learn about Jesus’s holy, powerful, transforming love. But we want so many other things besides the love of Christ : an easy life, popularity, acceptance, good principles, and even sound theology. But without love to Christ forming the character, all of it is only self-will. And without the love of Christ shaping our will and character, even good things become demonic, divisive, and cruel.

So Jesus ends his message to Peter by saying, “Follow me. Follow me to your death and you will glorify God. Follow me and I will make you great.” Peter desired to be great and God is going to do that through his death. The heart of love for God is surrendering our will to him. Peter surrendered to Christ and became great. As we surrender to God’s love, our character is formed like Christ, and we also become great in God’s kingdom.

To find out more about the book and how to order from the publisher, New Growth Press, click the title here: Saving Grace.

A Man Who Cared Greatly, Standing Faithfully in Christ.

Our post today comes from guest author, Rev. Dennis Bills, who since 2012 has served as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New Martinsville, West Virginia. Besides his recent publication, A Church You Can See: Building a Case for Church Membership, and in addition to his labors as shepherd of the Lord’s people there at Trinity, he is also a diligent student of history and for the last several years has been preparing a volume on the history of Presbyterianism in West Virginia. That work will likely see publication some time in the coming year.A Ma
Today’s post draws from this forthcoming book, and accordingly we have chosen to retain his footnotes, as they are a further help and interest:

The Rev. Henry Ruffner, D.D. (1790-1861)

Presbyterians should remember Henry Ruffner as the founder of Presbyterianism in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia, including three prominent churches that still exist today; for his vocation as professor and president at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University); and for his influential anti-slavery efforts in the years leading up to the Civil War.

Dr. Ruffner was born in the Shenandoah Valley on January 16, 1790. In 1796, his grandfather Joseph Ruffner and father Colonel David Ruffner moved the family to the Kanawha Valley to build the area’s first salt works on a 502 acre tract by the Kanawha River.[1] Young Henry Ruffner preferred scholasticism to salt, so in 1809, at age nineteen, he moved to Lewisburg to study at Dr. John McElhenney’s classical school. He was so well prepared by McElhenney that he was able to move on to Washington College to finish the complete curriculum in only a year and a half. As was the way for ministers in the frontier regions, he was tutored in theology by the president of the college for an additional year before being licensed to preach by Lexington Presbytery in 1815.

For the next four years, the young licentiate preached up and down the Kanawha Valley. The Society of Christians Called Presbyterians gathered to hear him preach in two locations:  on his father’s property near the saltworks in Malden—a place known as Colonel Ruffner’s Meetinghouse—and at the courthouse in Charleston six miles downriver to the north.[2] At the same time, he also taught at and apparently paid for much of the construction of the new Mercer Academy near the courthouse. The wealthy Ruffner family’s influence was still on display, as young Henry’s work was subsidized by and the academy was built on land donated by his father.

In the fall of 1818, the Presbytery ordained Ruffner in Lexington, and he immediately returned to start one of the oldest churches in the Presbyterian Church in America.[3]Under his authority, the Society for Christians called Presbyterians organized in 1819 to become the united “Presbyterian Church on Kanawha and in Kanawha Salines.” At first, the church met in one place or the other under a single session but eventually divided in 1841 to become the Kanawha Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and the Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church (then PCUS, now PCA). Still a third church divided from the Kanawha Church in 1872—ironically named the First Presbyterian Church of Charleston (PCUS). To this day, all three churches claim to have been constituted in 1819 by the famed Henry Ruffner, and each claims the prestige of being the lineally original church.[4]

Ruffner did not stay to pastor the church he founded. Soon after, he embarked on a career in education at his alma mater Washington College, progressing from Latin and Greek professor in 1819 to president in 1838. In 1847, Ruffner wrote a widely-distributed anti-slavery pamphlet called “Address to the People of West Virginia.” [5] The controversy of the pamphlet occasioned his retirement from the presidency in 1848, whereupon he returned to the Kanawha Valley around 1850. With an eye toward finishing out his years in serenity, he bought property seven miles up Campbell’s Creek and tried his hand at sheep farming.[6] He was unsuccessful. Thankfully he was still a preacher, so he returned once again to the pulpit of the church he had started forty years before. He may have served as pulpit supply until they called their next pastor in 1853. When the pulpit became vacant once again in 1857, Ruffner appears in the records once again for one year as the moderator of the session and the church’s stated supply.[7] He died on December 17, 1861 and was buried in the small family plot a few hundred yards north of the church.[8] Toward the end of his life, he expressed regret that he had not stayed home all those years to minister in West Virginia. He wondered whether he could have perhaps done more for the Kanawha Valley if he had spent his life preaching in the hills and hollers.[9]

Henry Ruffner’s son, William Henry Ruffner, wrote the following about his father’s final years:

During the decade preceding the Civil War, Dr. Ruffner foresaw the approaching catastrophe, as is shown by his Union speech delivered during that period, and it depressed him grievously in both body and mind, and no doubt shortened his life. About the time that the Cotton States seceded his nervous system broke down utterly, and he was no longer able to preach. Gradually his strength failed without any attack of acute disease. His mind continued clear and that sweet peacefulness of spirit which had always characterized him never changed. His trust in God and his own hope in the future retained firm to the latest hour. He ceased to breathe December 17, 1861, aged 71 years and 11 months. 

[1] History of the Presbytery of Kanawha, p. 59-60.

[2] In the 1700s “Societies for Christians” were formed by pioneers in areas where ordained ministers of the Word and Sacrament were unavailable or where colonial prejudices and policies obstructed the organization of non-Anglican churches. By Ruffner’s time, the Commonwealth no longer enforced such rules on the frontier, so the Society was free to organize as a church.

[4] The first two churches have the most obvious claim to direct lineage. The Kanawha Salines Church may hold the original constitutional document signed by Henry Ruffner and still meets in an original Malden structure built in 1840 before the congregation divided. The Kanawha Presbyterian Church continues the name of the original congregation and holds certain key historical records, but the First Presbyterian Church (which is ironically the third chronologically), retains and has built upon the original property donated by the Ruffner family in Charleston.

[6] History of the Presbytery of Kanawha, p. 91

[7] History of the Presbytery of Kanawha, p. 5-6.

[8] The location of the plot is not easy to find, although many of the older locals no doubt know its location. I was able to locate it using descriptions, photos, and google maps on an out of the way spot on an industrial property nearby. The company maintains the cemetery, and the family tells me the company will open it up for inquirers who provide notice.

[9] Specifically, he regretted that he did not stay to foster a short-lived church he had started in Teays Valley at the same time as the Kanawha Church.  He also regretted that he was unauthorized to organize a church up the Pocatalico River when he was only licentiate. Instead, the folks he had been preaching to were turned over to another preacher who successfully started a Methodist church.  He did not begrudge this—he and the preacher were friends, and he felt that some religion was better than none at all. But he felt the loss for his denomination. He also regretted that, during his brief time preaching in the Kanawha Valley, he had focused too much on outreach to rural areas, and not enough on areas where churches were likely to be more viable in the long term. West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly, April 1902. The Ruffners No. IV. Henry. First Article. By Dr. W. H. Ruffner.
http://www.wvculture.org/history/antebellum/ruffnerhenry01.html

Shown here, a tentative cover for the new book by Rev. Dennis Bills:

Here at the end of the year we are returning to post a few entries which were missed or overlooked along the way. Today we have Rev. Van Horn’s consideration of Question 69 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. But as we are short on time here this Saturday as this is being prepared, we trust you will bear with us as we simply post an image of each page, front and back of the bulletin supplement:—

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander

Jackson, MS

This is the fourth in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

Some Popular Attitudes Toward The Auburn Affirmation Today

When the Auburn Affirmation is mentioned to-day, there are several conventional comments or replies which are usually made by those who are in sympathy with it. And these comments or replies, which more or less fall into a set pattern, are made by some Southern Presbyterian ministers as well as by the Auburn Affirmation sympathizers in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Those who give these replies do so as though they seem to feel that the Auburn Affirmation can be dismissed with a “bon mot” and a shrug of the shoulders. Very often their comments on the subject, when given a moment’s consideration, appear to be explanations which really explain nothing at all.

“That Took Place 25 Years Ago”

One of the most popular remarks is this: “Why bring that up now? The Auburn Affirmation took place 25 years ago. All that is a dead issue today.” This terse reply has a ring of finality and conviction about it, and it has but one glaring defect: it is simply not in accord with all of the facts and the truth.

Far from being a dead issue today, the Auburn Affirmation is very much alive, and its influence is powerfully at work in the Northern Presbyterian Church. Many of the Affirmationists occupy high places of power in that denomination today and they have a voice in the council chambers where many far-reaching church decisions are made.

As long as the signers of the Affirmation do not retract their affirmation of its heresies, that document will continue to be a vital, Modernist force in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

It is true that the Auburn Affirmation was published 25 years ago. It is equally true that the Communist Manifesto was published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 101 years ago. But no sensible person today would contend that, because the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, it is now a dead issue. Not until the Communist Manifesto is repudiated by the Communist Party, and not until all of those who subscribe to its teachings are disciplined, can any one claim that it is no longer a vital force in the thinking and in the beliefs of those who run the affairs of the Communist Party.

And not until the Auburn Affirmation is repudiated by the Northern Presbyterian Church, and not until its many signers are disciplined, can any sensible person contend that the Affirmation is no longer a vital force in the thinking and in the beliefs of those who hold places of great power and influence in that Church.

“It Was Not An Official Document”

Another comment which is often heard in defense of the Auburn Affirmation is: “It was not an official document of the Northern Presbyterian Church.” Now that remark is true in the sense that the Affirmation was never officially adopted by that Church.

But the Affirmation is thoroughly official as regards the almost 1,300 ministers who signed it. It clearly states in carefully written terms their views and beliefs regarding some of the great cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith. The document in which those terms are contained reveal heresies of the most serious kind.

And the action of the Northern Presbyterian Church in approving many of the Auburn Affirmationists for places of high honor and great power and influence makes that denomination a party to the heresies contained in that document. To what extent the Northern Presbyterian Church has in this manner approved the Affirmation is widely known. Auburn Affirmationists have been put on many of the most important Standing Committees of the General Assembly; they have been placed on the faculties and the board of trustees of some of the theological seminaries; and they have even been elected to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly of that denomination.

“It Was A Constitutional—Not A Doctrinal Protest”

Very often it is stated that the Auburn Affirmation was in reality “a constitutional, not a doctrinal protest.”

But as that great Bible scholar, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, who taught for so many years at Princeton Theological Seminary, once remarked:

“Let it not be said that the Affirmation attacked the General Assembly’s pronouncement merely on technical grounds. The Affirmation does, indeed, raise the technical point that the General Assembly had no right to issue such a pronouncement. But it proceeds at once to something far more fundamental. It attacks the content of the pronouncement on its merits. It declares that not a single one of the great verities mentioned by the General Assembly of 1923 is essential; and it declares that all of the five verities are merely ‘theories’ (among other possible theories), which some may and some may not hold to be satisfactory explanations of something else.

“Thus according to the Auburn Affirmation a man may be a minister in the Presbyterian Church and yet deny the lull truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, the bodily resurrection, the miracles of our Lord.” To deny that these five doctrines (which are commonly referred to as the “Five Points”) are essential doctrines most clearly indicates that the protest of the Affirmationists involved doctrinal matters.

When the 1,082 Bible-believing ministers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, including three former Moderators of the General Assembly of that denomination, organized the Presbyterian League of Faith in 1931, they realized fully that the Auburn Affirmation was most assuredly a doctrinal protest, for one of the formally stated objects of the Presbyterian League of Faith was: “To oppose the attack made by the document called the Auburn Affirmation.”

Whatever else it might be considered as being, the Auburn Affirmation was definitely a doctrinal protest.

“It Is Not Contrary To The Constitution of The Presbyterian Church”

Some ecclesiastical legalists occasionally remark: “The Auburn Affirmation is not contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church.” What an amazing statement that is! To say that the doctrinal teachings of the Auburn Affirmation are not contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church is to claim that it is not contrary to that Constitution to deny that the infallibility of the Scriptures, the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection, the substitutionary atonement, and belief in Christ’s miracles are essential doctrines of the “Word of God and of our Standards.” How any Presbyterian, be he minister or untutored layman, could make such a statement is beyond human comprehension.

Even if it were true that the Auburn Affirmation was not contrary to the Constitution of the Northern Presbyterian Church, would the Southern Presbyterian Church want to be a part of a denomination whose Constitution does not condemn the kind of heresies contained in the Affirmation?

“Some Affirmationists Believed The ‘Five Points’”

Some of the Auburn Affirmationists and their friends point to the part of the Affirmation which contains this statement: “Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines.” But the serious issues involved in the Affirmation cannot be evaded by claiming that some of the Affirmationists personally believed the “Five Points.”

As Dr. Machen so clearly put it: “In the first place, no signer of the Affirmation, if he knew what he was doing when he signed the document, can believe in the first of the five verities—the full truthfulness of Scripture — for that is definitely attacked in the name of all the signers in the earlier part of the Affirmation.

“In the second place, if he himself accepts this or that one of the five verities, he does so, according to the terms of the Affirmation, only in the sense that he is accepting it as one theory among other possible theories in explanation of something else. Thus, according to the Affirmation, a man may say, ‘I believe myself that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary’; but he also says, according to the Affirmation: ‘I hold that that view, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary,’ is only one of the theories that the Scripture allows a man to hold in explanation of the incarnation, and I am perfectly willing to receive into the ministry of the Church a man who holds to some theory of the incarnation which does not affirm that ‘our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary,’ which holds, for example, that Jesus was the son, by ordinary generation, of Joseph and Mary.’

“What a morass we find ourselves in here! It is a well-known morass, the morass of that destructive Modernism which is engulfing our Presbyterian Church, as it already has engulfed so many other Churches, to the ruin of countless souls.” It should be evident that the belief in the “Five Points” cannot be very deep on the part of any Presbyterian minister who complacently contemplates leaving those five doctrines out of the Christian message because he considers them as being really non-essential.

The Attitude Of Some Southern Presbyterian Ministers

There is one attitude which has been very surprising when the Auburn Affirmation is mentioned at times, and that is the attitude shown by some of the young ministers in the Southern Presbyterian Church. By an indulgent smile, and a pleasant shrug of the shoulders, they give the impression that any serious consideration of the Auburn Affirmation by intelligent people today is really quite amusing.

The attitude of these young ministers toward the Affirmation, an attitude which at times almost amounts to flippancy, is one of several reasons why a large company throughout our denomination believes that it is now time to overhaul completely some of our theological seminaries where these young ministers were trained.

What a contrast with their attitude toward the Auburn Affirmation was the attitude of that careful Presbyterian scholar and veteran defender of the Faith, Dr. William M. McPheeters! Dr. McPheeters taught at our Columbia Theological Seminary for some 47 years, prior to his death in 1935. And concerning the Auburn Affirmation he wrote: “… the oftener I read it the more deeply I am convinced that its conception of Christian liberty in connection with subscription to the system of doctrine set forth in the Standards of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. is intellectually absurd, historically false, ethically detestable and pernicious, and religiously blasphemous.”

What shall every Southern Presbyterian, as a Bible-believing Christian who repudiates completely the views contained in the Auburn Affirmation and who wishes to remain separated from the signers of the heretical Auburn Affirmation, say with regard to the proposed union with the heresy-tainted Northern Presbyterian Church?

Thou Shalt Say, No!

We’re putting the calendar aside for today, in view of the current persecution of our brothers and sisters in China. If you’ve not kept up with the situation there, we invite you to above all else read the statement by Pastor Wang Yi titled “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience,” which can be found on the web site of PCA pastor and teacher, Steve Childers, here. Rev. Childers provided this introduction to Pastor Yi’s statement:

After being arrested and detained by Chinese police for 2 days, Wang Yi, Chinese pastor, renowned human rights advocate, and church movement leader just released this statement below called “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience.” Under President Xi Jinping, China’s increasing crackdown on religious freedom is escalating to frightening levels. What can you do?: 1) Pray, 2) Stay Informed-begin by reading his powerful statement [see the above link], 3) Protest this gross injustice by letting your voice be known to any and all you think could help stop it. And 4) Remember, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

But to our post today, this current persecution reminds us of a remarkable letter found among the correspondence in the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection here at the PCA Historical Center, written by Dr. H. G. C. Hallock. Henry Galloway Comingo Hallock, was born on 31 March 1870, and prepared for ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1893-1896. Upon graduation he immediately took a post as a PCUSA missionary to China. In 1905 he withdrew to independent ministry and teaching, serving later as Professor of Homiletics in the department of theology at the University of China, Chenju, Shanghai, 1925-1927.  For a time he had also been connected with the National Tract Society for China. Among some Princeton alumni information, there is indication that he remained in China up until at least June of 1942. Returning to the United States, his death came at last on 16 January 1951.

The letter that follows is a powerful testimony from the field of conflict. It is a revealing letter, telling the truth about evil, and a hopeful letter, speaking the truth about our Lord who sovereignly prevails over evil, purifying His Church, raising up a strong testimony to His grace and glory. Today, Rev. Hallock’s “prophecy” of China’s future rings true.

C.P.O.Box No. 1234, Shanghai, China, March 22, 1927.

Dear Friend,

I have written several times about our Bible School and of our work among its students and about our students’ work among the children and with the people in the country villages, I hope you are interested and that your heart has prompted you to help. There has not been time for a reply from you, as it takes a month each way for letters to go and come; but let me write again and tell you more. We are having very serious troubles in China. Fighting and unrest are all about us. I hear cannon booming and see many houses burning in Shanghai now as I write. Tho’ our Bible School is in the danger zone yet we have not been molested in the least. The militarists have closed a secular school of 600 pupils near us, as the generals feared the students were cutting the telegraph wires, R.R. tracks, and doing other mischief; but our Bible School goes on without interference. We are very glad and thankful to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful also that you have been praying for us.

Pray much also for China. An idea is abroad that a spirit of nationalism is among the people. This is largely a mistake. I do wish there were a spirit of real nationalism abroad, the leaders seeking the real good of their country and people; but I am sorry it is not so. The people are driven about in fear—like a flock of sheep pursued by mad— dogs or wolves—by men in the pay of Bolshevists. Lest these beasts of men be moved by pity for their own people the Bolshevists enlist perfect strangers from a distance to carry on propaganda, terrorize people, stir up strikes and shoot those too poor to strike, initiating a reign of terror, making the workers afraid to work—lest they be killed for working or their wives and children be killed while they work. As soon as ample protection is provided the people are very glad to flock back to work. The so-called Nationalists, led by the Bolshevists, say they are seeking the good of the people; but wherever they go they rob and kill the people and smash up schools, hospitals, churches and Chinese temples. You friends in good old America don’t want them and can largely keep the Bolshevists out; but the Chinese are not able to do so, so these fiends carry on with a high hand. There seems to be no limit to their deviltries. They cry, “Down with imperialists! Give the people freedom!” but they themselves are tyrannic imperialists, and crush freedom. They are domineering overlords making a comparatively free people slaves. Freedom is impossible where they come. Like fierce, wild animals they are over-running the country, and the people, poor and rich alike, are fleeing for their lives.

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before. Pray much, too, for the native preachers and Bible women, and also for the young men in our Bible School. They are staying firm in the school tho’ dangers are all around. — Shanghai just captured. Many Chinese killed. I can’t well flee. God guards. P.O. is closed. If this arrives you’ll know all’s well.

Yours in Christ’s glad service,

(Rev.) H. G. C. Hallock.

[emphasis added]

Words to Live By:
Learn to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, not just in your own church or denomination, but around the world. Pray that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, that they would stand strong in their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that they would have the freedom to assemble in corporate worship.

The following obituary was published in The Presbyterian Quarterly, April 1899 (Volume 13, Number 2), pages 354-355:

John Bailey Adger, D.D., died in Pendleton, South Carolina, on the 3d of January, 1899, in the 89th year of his age.

adger02Dr. Adger was born of Scotch-Irish parentage in Charleston, S.C., December 13, 1810. He graduated when 18 years of age at Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1833, of which, at the time of his death, he had been for some time the senior surviving alumnus. Shortly after his ordination by the Charleston Union Presbytery in 1834, he went as a missionary to the Armenians, under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and served in this work for twelve years at Constantinople and Smyrna, until the failure of his eyes and other circumstances compelled his withdrawal from the foreign field. During his missionary service he translated into Armenian the New Testament, Pilgrim’s Progress, the Shorter Catechism, and other books, which translations are still in use among that people.

After his return home he engaged in work among the negro slaves in his own native city. A church, connected with the Independent Presbyterian Synod, whose house of worship stands hard by his late residence in Pendleton, is appropriately named for him, “The Adger Memorial Church.”

Upon the withdrawal, in 1856, of Dr. Palmer from the Chair of Ecclesiastical History and Church Polity in the Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Adger was elected his successor, and filled that position with great zeal and ability for seventeen years. After his retirement in 1874, although he had then reached the age of 64, he entered with energy and vigor upon the pastoral work in his own Presbytery of South Carolina, which he continued until, having attained the age of 83, he was reluctantly constrained, by physical infirmities, to give up the public preaching of the Gospel.

At this advanced age, and amid these hindering infirmities, with courage and energy, he undertook what was perhaps the greatest task of his life, the writing of a large book, which he called “My Life and Times.” His life had been a long one, the times through which he had passed, eventful in Church and State; and he undertook to write a history and discussion of the various questions he had to meet and help to solve. With the assistance of a devoted daughter, and such other help as he could procure, he gathered up the facts, studied out the questions, and dictated chapter after chapter of his book. His mind, still clear and vigorous, and his body wonderfully strong and active, he labored systematically and diligently for several years at this work. And almost as soon as the last chapter was finished, the last page written, and the valiant servant of God had laid down his fruitful pen, the Master called him to the everlasting rest.

Dr. Adger’s magnum opus, My Life and Times, is a classic and was reprinted just a few years ago by the English publisher, Tentmaker. This same work can also be read online, here.

Mass Evangelism Crusades of an Astonishing Type
by Rev. David T. Myers

Some years ago we considered the life and pastoral ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman, who was ordained on April 13, 1881 (here).  Following his pastorate in five churches, two of which were Presbyterian, we look now at his appointment by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to the position of General Secretary of Evangelism on December 12, 1902.  Immediately upon his appointment, he was placed as an overseer of 51 evangelists in 470 cities across the nation. But as important as this post was, it was the mass evangelism techniques that he authored that became astonishing instruments which drew thousands to hear the Gospel, and we can only pray these occasions were used of the Holy Spirit to win the lost to Christ.

Chapman would go into a city like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in Pennsylvania for a three to four-week evangelistic campaign. He would then break down the cities into zones, with evangelists and song teams over each one of the zones. Then there would be simultaneous meetings every night with those teams in the zones of the cities. Pittsburgh in 1904 was divided into nine zones. Philadelphia had forty-two sections divided into it. The conversions numbered in the thousands. At one of them in North Carolina, the Rev. David Otis Fuller was converted.

Chapman, in seeing the approaching liberalism of his own denomination, set the bar high with respect to belief in the Bible. He let go any of his evangelists who did not believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

The Presbyterian evangelist took this technique “on the road” as he ministered to eight cities in Australia, six cities in China, Korea, and Japan. By 1910, the evangelistic technique began to lose favor with the masses, and it was laid aside.

J. Wilbur Chapman became the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1918. He died in that same year, but we remember him by his great hymn of “One Day” and “Jesus, What a Friend For Sinners” today in our churches.

Words to live by:  In the early days of our twentieth century, it appears there was much spiritual fruit from the evangelistic efforts of J. Wilbur Chapman. It is a shame that we have forgotten his name and his efforts to bring souls to Christ. We need evangelists today who will reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men and women everywhere in our cities. Who will join me in praying that God will send a great revival of our church members in Presbyterian churches across this land? Who will join with me that God’s Spirit will bring another great spiritual awakening of the lost, driving them to embrace Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel?

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