February 2018

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It was on this day that we could say the name “Covenanter” was born.
For it was on the 28th February 1638 that the National Covenant was read out and signed in Greyfriars in Edinburgh. Upwards of 60,000 people had gathered in the city for the event.
On a ram skin parchment, the people of Scotland pledged to defend the Scottish Church against any such innovations that were against the Word of God and against anything that would undo the work of the Reformation and take the nation back to Roman Catholicism.
On the original Covenant there were more than 4000 names, hardly a space was left on it. In the days and weeks following hundreds of copies were made and sent throughout Scotland with hundreds of thousands flocking to sign them.
One minister describing the scene wrote “I have seen more than a thousand at once lifting up their hands and tears falling from their eyes, entering into Covenant.”
Oh that we would see a day like this again in Scotland! Sadly, today will pass for most Scots as though it were just another date in the calendar.

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Ninety-three years later, it is remarkable how pertinent this article remains.

The Presbyterian Church at the Cross Roads

Address Delivered at the Meeting of Princeton Theological Seminary Alumni, in New York City.
By Rev. Clarence Edward Macartney, D.D.

[Excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 95.8 (19 February 1925): 6-7]

BOTH the historic polity and the blood-bought doctrines of the Presbyterian Church are in danger. Christianity is never in danger, for it is the will of God for the world’s redemption, and our faith standeth not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. But churches are always subject to error and declension from the truth of the gospel. It is that danger which now confronts the Presbyterian Church.

The Form of Government of the church declares that in perfect consistency with the principle of freedom and private judgment, Christian people have a right to associate themselves in groups or churches and to declare what the terms of admission to that church shall be, and what the qualifications of its ministers. The Presbyterian Church does not seize and press men into its ministry. On the contrary, it bids them search their hearts, and carefully examines them as to their acceptance of the doctrines which the church declares all her ministers must hold.

The purpose of such association into a church on the part of men holding the same views of the Bible and of the way of salvation is two-fold: first, to make a corporate witness to the world concerning Jesus Christ; and, second, to strengthen and encourage one another. But both of these purposes are now seriously threatened, for it is clear that with one part of the Presbyterian Church witnessing to certain facts and truths concerning Christ and another part of the church ignoring or denying those facts and truths, the corporate witness of the church is broken, and the peace and mutual fellowship of the communion are destroyed.

The Presbyterian Church has ever been the fearless friend of religious liberty; and tyranny in every form, ecclesiastical or political, has had no more dreaded foes than the Presbyterians. But it is an outrage on liberty to confuse that historic witness of our church with acquiescence with unbelief, or to say that protest and discipline in the case of the violation of our doctrines and our polity are inconsistent with the Presbyterian principle of religious freedom.

The Presbyterian Church believes that men should be as free to teach and to preach as the winds out of the four heavens are to blow. But it also believes that it has the right to say what doctrines must be taught and preached and believed by ministers who stand in Presbyterian pulpits and under Presbyterian orders. There are many theories and guesses and ventures of opinions on the great matters of Christianity, but the Presbyterian Church has its own carefully articulated and logically defined views, and these views it declares must be held and taught by its ministers. That is what a creed and a constitution mean. Throughout the Presbyterian Church, and by even non-religious men outside of the church, there is an increasing feeling that men who cannot in good conscience receive and defend and declare the doctrines of the church should take off the Presbyterian uniform and withdraw from the fortress.

If men can be received into the presbyteries of the church and installed in the pulpits of our congregations without accepting whole-heartedly doctrines which the church has repeatedly declared must be held by all its ministers, then the Creed has become a scrap of paper. Or, if the interpretation of the Creed be left so wide and vague that men can deny or “refuse to affirm” many portions of it, in other words, if the Creed is so stretched that it will take in almost any kind of religious view, then the Creed becomes an absurdity.

The friends of modernism, within and without the evangelical churches, would like nothing better than to see the Creed of the Presbyterian Church stripped of its meaning and its restraining power. In the whole tattle fine of the evangelical churches, the creedal position of the Presbyterian Church has ever been a source of strength and hope to evangelical Christians and a sore distress to those of radical and rationalistic opinions. They realize that they must capture this Presbyterian salient in the battle line of New Testament churches; before they can hope to effect much in the way of turning the whole position. Hence the eagerness to press into our church, and when once in to declare doctrines which are more like those of the Reformed Synagogue than those of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

To receive men into the ministry of the church who disavow doctrines of the church, is to defy the government of the church. The instances where this has been done are not lacking, and protests and complaints against such action will be made to the highest court, the General Assembly. The question now before the Presbyterian Church is “whether or not it has the intention and the courage to enforce its own mandates. Nothing would please destructive liberalism and modernism so much as to see the Presbyterian Church tamely submit to affront or disobedience on the part of any one of its constituent presbyteries or congregations, for such acquiescence would mean that he Presbyterian Church had hung out the banner, “All welcome,” to every kind of religious adventurer and theological freebooter.

With the present extraordinary popularity of a misty agnosticism, the great need of the church ii for preachers who know what they believe and are able to give a reason for the faith that is in them. Preachers who are tossed about with every wind of doctrine may interest the people, but can lead them nowhere. When one reads some of the outputs of the popular teachers and preachers of Christianity to-day, their glib and facile comments remind one of the celebrated inventor and architect of Laputa, in “Gulliver’s Travels,” who had devised a scheme whereby houses could be built from the roof down, instead of beginning with the foundation. This plan might do for the gossamer fabric of the spider; but a church which is going to serve a lost humanity must be built upon the granite foundation of great convictions and beliefs, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone.

Princeton Theological Seminary has long been the despair of the liberal theologians and all the sons of restatement and reinterpretation, which, being interpreted, means evacuating the New Testament doctrines of their Christian meaning. They would rend the heavens with a shout if they thought that Princeton Theological Seminary shook in a single stone of its ancient foundations. This noble nursery of faith and piety, and the other evangelical seminaries of the Presbyterian Church, are the hope of the church for to-morrow, if these foundations be destroyed, then woe to the church!

It may seem idle and beyond the mark to speak a word of warning and entreaty to our evangelical seminaries, Princeton, and the others. But who, fifty years ago, could have predicted the sad declension of Union Theological Seminary from the Presbyterian Standards? Let what has happened there serve as a warning to our other seminaries! In eternal vigilance is the price and the secret of loyalty to the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Any one who at this time shrinks from defending the doctrine and government of his church, lest he should become a target for ridicule, criticism and abuse, is not worthy of the great and glorious name, Presbyterian.

The eyes of the whole Christian world are on the Presbyterian Church in this, its struggle to make a great witness to the truth of Divine Revelation and to the honor of Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer from sin. We are not contending for Presbyterian peculiarities, but for the great facts of the Everlasting Gospel.

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Words to Live By:
Dr. Macartney might well have concluded by reminding his hearers of this verse from the prophet Jeremiah :

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Jeremiah 6:16

“What other hope have we than that which this Reformed Faith gives us? The forces of evil are powerful in the world today in the sphere of human life. In the realm of religious thought sinister shapes arise before us, threatening our most sacred possessions. And if we look within our own hearts, often we find there treachery from the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, when we would fain keep our eye single for the glory of God. With foes on every hand around us and within; with dark clouds of yet unknown potency for harm forming on the horizon; we dare not put our trust in human help or in the human will, but only in the grace and power of God. We must take the standpoint of the Reformed Faith, and say with the Psalmist: ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God.'”

[excerpted from The Significance of the Reformed Faith Today, an address delivered by Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. upon his installation as Professor of Systematic Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. See the link below for the full text of this address.]

Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr., who was the Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology in Princeton Theological Seminary from 1921 until his death, died on the Friday morning of February 26, 1937, in the Princeton Hospital, of pneumonia. He had been ill for about one week, and died at the age of sixty-six years.

Dr. Hodge was a member of a family closely connected with the Princeton Theological Seminary for more than 100 years. His father, Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge and his grandfather, Dr. Charles Hodge, as well as his great-uncle, Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge, had all been members, like himself, of the seminary faculty.

Dr. Hodge was born at Princeton on September 22, 1870. He graduated from Princeton University in 1892, and after further studies received from that school the degree of Ph.D. in 1894. After a year of study abroad at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, he returned to Princeton in 1895, taking the post of instructor in Philosophy in the College. Dr. Hodge remained in that position for two years, going then to Lafayette College as associate professor of Ethics for one year. Thereafter he entered Princeton Seminary to study for the ministry.

Upon graduation from the Seminary in 1901, he was ordained a minister and remained at the Seminary as an instructor in Systematic Theology. After six years he was made assistant professor of Dogmatic Theology, and eight years later professor in the same department, from which he was transferred in 1921 to the Charles Hodge professorship.

Dr. Hodge was well known as a writer on Biblical and theological studies, as a contributor to religious periodicals in America and in Scotland, and as an editor and contributor for several published books.

In 1897, Dr. Hodge married Miss Sarah Henry, of Princeton. He was survived by one daughter, Mrs. Carl H. Ernlund, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a sister, Miss Madeline Hodge. Funeral services were held in the Miller Chapel of the Seminary at Princeton on Monday morning, March 1, 1937.

For Further Study:
The Significance of the Reformed Faith Today,” by C. W. Hodge, Jr., is a brilliant analysis of what is termed the new theology, in contrast with that old theology which has for so long proven faithful and true to the Scriptures.
[This PDF is a close reproduction of a typescript found among the Papers of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. The typescript is undated, but Dr. Hodge’s opening comments, particularly his reference to the recent death of Dr. B.B. Warfield, dates the paper to 1921 when Dr. Hodge was installed as Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology.

Words to Live By:
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.—Proverbs 22:28, KJV

And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.—Genesis 26:18, ESV. And if you have time today, we would encourage you to listen to a sermon by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on that same text of Genesis 26:18. It makes for a fitting reflection on Dr. Hodge’s above linked address.

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

Q. 55. — What is forbidden in the third commandment?

A. — The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Scripture References: Mal. 2:2; Isa. 5:12; Ps. 139.20; James 1:13; Matt. 26:74.

Questions:

1. In what ways does God make Himself known?

As we learned in the prior commandment, He makes Himself known by His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

2. How are these ways profaned or abused by man?

They are abused “by blasphemy, perjury, sinful cursings, oaths, vows and lots” (Larger Catechism, Question 113)

3. How can man profane God’s names, titles and attributes?

Man can profane these when he thinks hatred toward God; when he speaks irreverently toward God; when he swears by the name of God in a wicked way; when he blasphemes the name of God; when he curses himself or others in the name of God; when he uses the the name of the Lord in superstitious ways.

4. How can man profane His ordinances?

Man can profane the ordinances of God by being irreverent or irreverent or irregular in His attendance upon them; by attending to them not in the spirit but being in the flesh by allowing His mind to wander; by having a false and insincere profession of their faith in Christ and still partaking of them.

5. How can man profane His word?

Man can profane the word of God by denying parts of the Word or by perverting it; by teaching false doctrine as it pertains to the Word; by misapplying the Word of God.

6. How can man profane His works?

Man can profane His works by using His body in the wrong way; by being forgetful of God’s mercy and wonderful works to the children of men; by murmering against the Lord in the midst of adversity.

TAKING HEED TO THE WORD

One of the greatest responsibilities-and privileges-of the born again believer is that of taking heed to the Word. James tells us, “Let every man be swift to hear …. ” (James 1:19). This particular commandment, the third, is pertinent to us as each Lord’s Day and each Wednesday evening we go to hear the Word of God preached. Jeremy Taylor once said, “When the word of God is read or preached to you, be sure you be of a ready heart and mind, free from worldly cares and thoughts, diligent to hear, careful to mark, studious to remember, and desirous to practice all that is commanded, and to live according to it; do not hear from any other end but to become better in your life, and to be instructed in every good work, and to increase in the love and service of God.” (The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, p. 181).

Many times the Christian misses what the Lord has for him In the worship service because he comes unprepared. In the same first chapter of James there is a suggested outline regarding the duties of the Christian in his attendance at the house of God. Verse 21 tells hlm of his duties before the sermon: that Gf laying apart anything of filth, of sin. Verse 21 also tells him of his duties during the sermon: that of receiving with meekness the engrafted (implanted) word. Verse 22 tells him of his duties after the sermon: that of being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. God’s people will receive far more benefit from the preaching of the word of God, and will be able to apply it more effectively, if they have prepared their hearts beforehand for the hearing of the word.

How do we prepare ourselves for the hearing of the Word? So many times on the Lord’s Day our preparation consists of reading the Sunday paper, of sleeping late, of neglecting prayer and study of the Word. It is to be wondered what the result would be if the church on the Lord’s Day were filled with Christians who had actively prepared themselves for the preaching of the Word. Christians who had come with willing and obedient heart; with a deep-seated desire to hear the Word; with hearts in tune with the Almighty, Sovereign God. Indeed, the result would be a doing of the duties set forth in the Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 51 (March, 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

In recent weeks at the PCA Historical Center, my assistant, Kent Woodrow has begun processing the Papers of Albert F. Moginot, Jr., a PCA pastor known to all simply as “Bud”.  Rev. Moginot died in December of 2011, at the age of 88, just about a year after the death of his beloved wife Vivian. He was born in 1923, was educated at William Jennings Bryan College and Washington University, and then prepared for the ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, he was ordained in the Bible Presbyterian Church and installed as associate pastor to Francis Schaeffer in 1948, right about the time that the Schaeffer’s were preparing to move to Switzerland to begin a ministry of church planting and children’s ministry. Bud’s wife Vivian served as Dr. Schaeffer’s secretary. The picture on the cover of the funeral bulletin dates from about that time with the Schaeffers.

From 1948 to 1973, Rev. Moginot was the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alton, Illinois. He then stepped away from pulpit ministry to serve from 1974 to 1993 at Covenant Theological Seminary. In the latter years of that term, he also began to be active as a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol. I think he was especially proud of that ministry, serving in that capacity right up until about a year before his death. But it was probably his term of service as Pastor of Visitation at the Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church where Bud really hit his stride. He began that work in 1991, and continued faithfully until forced into retirement by a brain aneurism. Rev. Moginot led many to Christ and pointed everyone to his Savior.

 


Bud Moginot also served as the Stated Clerk for Missouri Presbytery from 1982 to 1995, and from what I can tell, the dear brother never threw anything away. He was the kind of guy that archivists love! Regrettably, not everything has been found in the best shape. Some things were stored in the basement; some things were stored in the attic. Neither location is suited to preservation. But in all, some thirty boxes of documents were retrieved from Bud’s house. An initial sorting of the papers was done at that time, and now finally the better work of arrangement and description has begun in earnest. Much of the material concerns the Missouri Presbytery, as you would expect. But unexpected jewels keep turning up as well. Hopefully we can find time to share some of those things later this year.

Words to Live By:
Bud and Vivian loved the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully all their years. They did not have much in the way of earthly wealth; their treasures were stored up in God’s kingdom. You don’t have to have a lot of money to serve the Lord. You don’t have to be a standout in any of the ways by which the world judges success. God calls us to simply remain faithful. Keep looking to Christ as your Savior, clinging to the Rock of your salvation, for He is your All in all. And know that the Lord will use you and your gifts in His kingdom.

It wasn’t but a few years ago when Ryan Laughlin, senior pastor at Covenant PCA here in St. Louis, notified me of the availability of the old building on the corner of Union & Enright, in St. Louis, where Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer served as pastor in the 1940’s. Schaeffer was the second pastor of the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, following John Sanderson. The building has an interesting history  as detailed below.


The building was originally constructed in 1907 as the fourth location of the Church of the Messiah, a Unitarian congregation led by William Greenleaf Eliot, noted also as the grandfather of T.S. Eliot.  That group moved to 5007 Waterman near Kingshighway in 1917 and it is unclear what the status of the building was between 1917 and 1938, though they did retain ownership of the property. An Orthodox Jewish body, the Agundas Hakhilos Congregation, used the building as their first place of meeting in 1938, but moved out in January of 1939 when they were unable to negotiate a successful agreement for purchase the building from the Church of the Messiah.

Thus in the providence of God, the property became available to the recently organized First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis. Comprised of people who were leaving the Memorial Presbyterian Church, the group had organized on 11 December 1938 at 5849 Cates, in the home of B.E. Fisher, and their first services were held on that day with services led by the Rev. Carl McIntire.  In the early months of 1939, Drs. Harold S. Laird and J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. each came to preach to the young congregation. Then in April of 1939, the building at 800 N. Union was purchased from the Church of the Messiah.

Until 1940, student supplies from Faith Theological Seminary served the church. Boyd Lentz was the first of these men, followed by Phil Lytle and Philip Stutsman. Some improvement on the situation was made when the Rev. Dwight C. Chapin came to serve as supply until the church was finally able to call the Rev. John Sanderson as its first pastor in 1941. In September of 1943 Sanderson left to serve as a professor at Faith Theological Seminary and the church called a young minister by the name of Francis A. Schaeffer as its next pastor. Schaeffer first came to preach for the congregation on 3 October 1943. A call was extended by the congregation on 20 October 1943, with provision for a salary of $175 per month and an allowance of $45 per month for rent [though a decision was soon made to purchase the property at 5842 Waterman Ave. as a manse].

Schaeffer “informed the congregation of his desire to build up and increase attendance, especially at the Sunday evening worship service and the Wednesday evening prayer meetings, emphasizing the importance of both meetings and requesting the elders to give prayerful thought to the matter. He also spoke of the importance of child evangelism and his desire to forward that movement. Children For Christ was one of the key ministries established by Rev. Schaeffer during his time in St. Louis. Much of this ministry was built on the Summer Bible School program established by the Rev. Abraham Lance Lathem, a program which Schaeffer utilized in his first pastorate, at Grove City, PA. His first sermon as the new pastor of the church was on 5 December 1943 and was titled “Believing in the Light of His Coming.”

Pictured above, Rev. Schaeffer and the Summer Bible School,
on the steps of the 800 N. Union property in 1944.
Click here to view a (much!) larger version of the photograph.

Not two years later, in September of 1945, the Session Minutes of the First Bible Presbyterian Church record this note:

Our pastor F.A. Schaeffer brought before us a letter he received from Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft general secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions asking if he would consider or be willing if he felt that the Lord had called him to go to Germany as a missionary to start a work there that would be sound. It was stated that Rev. Carl Straub pastor of the Afton Bible Presbyterian Church might go along as a helper.
There was much discussion about it and it was the general consensus of opinion that the board might have been hasty in the matter and not given it as much thought as it should have, due to the fact that it might have a detrimental effect on the work here in St. Louis.
No concrete action was taken at this time as it was the thought of the session as well as the moderators that the will of the Lord be done and since no one present knew what the Lord would have Mr. Schaeffer do the meeting was brought to a close after a season of prayer asking God for His guidance.

Finally in February of 1947, the Session Minutes record that

“Mr. Schaeffer asked the session for a leave of absence to go to a work located on the continent of Europe for the purpose of starting Bible Presbyterian Churches and getting sound ones to become a part of the American Council and also start children works where possible. After much discussion it was moved and passed to grant Mr. Schaeffer a leave of nine months to go to this work. . .”

Highly reluctant to let him go, when the congregation met to consider the matter, the leave of absence was reduced to three months, to be taken over the summer months. While Schaeffer was gone that summer, the Rev. John Sanderson returned to pastor the congregation in his absence. Then not long after his return, Schaeffer tendered his resignation in December 1947 , the Clerk of Session noting that the Session “voted to receive it with real regret.” After some time of preparation, the Schaeffers said their farewells. His final sermon before the congregation came on the evening of 25 July 1948—”Man’s Greatest Cause for Rejoicing”—and by the fall of 1948 the Schaeffers were getting established in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis left the Central West End district at the end of 1953 and began the new year meeting temporarily at the Maplewood Masonic Hall while construction was underway on their new building on Ballas Avenue. They moved into their new facility in 1954 and in 1961 the church’s name was change to The Covenant Presbyterian Church.

The old building at 800 N. Union was sold in August of 1953 to the Parrish Chapel, an A.M.E. church, for about $64,000. Most recently a congregation of the Church of God in Christ held the property, apparently from 2002 up until the decision to sell just a few years ago.

The realtor had this description of the property when it was listed:

800 N. Union, St. Louis, Mo. 63108 Central West End Price Reduced $100,000 for quick sale! Beautiful building with gorgeous stained glass, handcrafted in Europe, wood beamed ceiling. Handicapped access to sanctuary via left side door ramp. Pew seating for 300+. Features include a Balcony, beautiful chancel/podium area, pastor’s office on main, some finished lower level with fellowship area and warming kitchen. Updates since purchase in 2002 include new roof, all new forced air gas units 2004, and central air fully serviced and functioning.

Augusta County Presbyterians call for independence
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was simple and direct. The mass meeting of people from the Virginia county of Augusta in Stanton chose two delegates to represent them in Richmond, Virginia in the Virginia Convention. One was Thomas Lewis and the other one was Samuel McDowell. That these delegates would faithfully be the representatives of them, the following written instructions were given to them: “Many of us and our forefathers left our native land, and explored this once savage wilderness to enjoy the free exercise of the rights of conscience and of human nature. Those rights we are fully resolved with our lives and our fortunes inviolably to preserve; nor will we surrender such inestimable blessings, the purchase of toil and danger, to any ministry, to any Parliament, or to any body of men upon earth by whom we are not represented and in whose decision, therefore, we have no voice.” These people and delegates were almost all adherents of the Presbyterian faith. How had they come upon it? The only answer is that men of God of Presbyterian convictions were sent by the Holy Spirit of God to teach and train them in the principles of liberty, both spiritually and temporally.

The name which comes to our mind and hearts is that of John Craig. He is described as the first permanent pastor in this county of Augusta, Virgina. Consider the challenges of being an under-shepherd during the years of 1740 and afterwards. Every Lord’s day morning, Pastor Craig would walk five miles to the place of worship. In one hand, he would carry his Bible. In the other hand would be a rifle, for protection against the Indians of that territory. All the men of the congregation brought the same two objects to the worship – a Bible and a rifle. At ten o’clock in the morning, they would be seated to hear the sermon, on rude benches, which would last two hours til the noon time. A break for lunch would then be held, with each family sitting under the trees to partake of their meals. After this break, at one o’clock, the worship would begin again with the same sermon, and continue until sunset.

One of Pastor Craig’s sermon has been kept in written form. It had, for the readers who are pastors, fifty-five divisions in it! No wonder this was a sermon for a day, instead of just an hour. We might wonder whether there was any spiritual fruit to his labors, yet the truth is that multitudes were brought into the kingdom of God. He is described as a man whose heart was always full of tenderness.

John Craig would live until 1774, just two years shy of the American Revolution. Yet his proclamations of the gospel and presentation of the Word was to bear fruit in the call for Independence by the descendants of his congregations in Augusta County, Virginia. The Augusta County Presbyterians voted for independence from England on February 22, 1775.

A friend who knew him well observed that James never wrote out his name in full. It wasn’t that he disliked his name, but that he was scrupulously modest. For you see, his father—the Rev. Dr. Matthew Wilson—was not only a noted surgeon and pastor, but also a decided republican patriot. And so when his son was born on February 21 in 1769, he named him James PatriotWilson.

James grew to become an excellent student, graduating with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. He then devoted himself to the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1790. But the death of his first wife and the assassination of his brother before his eyes turned his focus to eternal matters.  Convinced of the truth of the Gospel, he then pursued the ministry and was ordained in 1804 and installed as pastor in Lewes, Delaware. In 1806, he became pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Philadelphia, and remained pastor of this church until his death in 1830.

Several men answered William B. Sprague’s request for accounts of James Patriot Wilson’s life and ministry. Albert Barnes, who succeeded Wilson as pastor, wrote in reflection on Wilson as a preacher:

“On the only occasion on which I ever heard him preach, several circumstances struck me as remarkable. His personal appearance was very impressive and solemn. He was very pale and apparently feeble. He sat in the pulpit, and as he was accustomed to do, used a large fan. He had a very dignified air, and his whole manner was calm, collected, and solemn.

“What first arrested my attention particularly in his pulpit performances, was the manner in which he read the Scriptures. It was a chapter in the Gospel by John. His reading was accompanied by brief explanatory remarks,—I thought the most clear and interesting exposition of the Bible that I had ever witnessed. It was so simple, so plain, so striking, that at the time it occurred to me that he could better prepare a Commentary for the use of Sunday Schools, than any man I had ever met with.

“His sermon was equally clear, impressive and solemn, and what was most remarkable about it, was a very clear and beautiful exposition of the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which he quoted from memory, and commented on as accurately as if he had had the passage before him. He used no notes of any kind. His preaching at first seemed to be merely conversational. He sat and talkedto the people before him, as a gentleman might be expected to do in his own parlor.

“Soon, however, I forgot entirely the man—his fan, his sitting, and his somewhat singular habit of lifting up and down his watch chain; when, for a moment, he laid down his fan, and I became wholly absorbed in what he was saying, and to me it was then of no importance what he was doing, or whether he made many gestures or none. I have never in my life found myself more absorbed in the subject on which a public speaker was discoursing, than I was on that occasion. And what was true of myself seemed to be true of the entire congregation.”

Words to Live By: Many speakers can hold the attention of a crowd, but when God truly calls a pastor to preach the Gospel, the power of the message resides not in the man, but in the Holy Spirit who works sovereignly upon the hearts of sinners.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

Image source: Frontispiece portrait from An Essay on the Probation of Fallen Men: or, The Scheme of Salvation, founded in Sovereignty and Demonstrative of Justice, by James Patriot Wilson. Philadelphia: Printed by William F. Geddes, 1827. Image scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

The Rebel Clergyman of New Jersey
by Rev. David T. Myers

With half of inhabitants of New Jersey being Scotch-Irish Presbyterians during the American Revolution, it is not surprising that the British labeled our focus today as “the famous rebel clergyman of New Jersey.” Certainly, the Rev. Azel Roe, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge, New Jersey preached independence from tyranny in the pulpit. And that made him a target of British forces in the area.

Azel Roe was born on Long Island, New York on February 20, 1738. Little is recorded of his early life, but there must have been some spiritual upbringing in that he graduated from the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, when he turned eighteen years of age. Later in his ministry, he would receive the Doctor of Divinity from Yale College, but for now, it was the pastorate that he committed his life and soul in ministry. Called to the First Presbyterian Church in Woodbridge, in New Jersey, he was to serve there as shepherd of their souls, for fifty-two years.

In the history and indeed church history of that church on-line, he was called to be the ninth pastor of the church in this congregation located between New York City and Philadelphia. And yet, his confines of ministry were not restricted to its boundaries. So often did he hold private meetings in a near by area, that its people united with Woodbridge Presbyterians in 1769, a union which would hold until the 1790’s when that portion of the congregation started their own church.

This devoted patriot pastor was “a man of commanding presence and excellent address, energetic and zealous in the Master’s work.” His style of preaching was “argumentative” and yet very effective, it was said. And it didn’t matter what color the people were. Way before his time, he received in men and women of color, or Negroes, baptizing and receiving them as members of the flock.

There was initially a militia among the members of the local church. There must have been some hesitation, despite the pastor’s preaching and urging to the cause of liberty, to get fully engaged in the struggle. So Rev. Roe, in a fire-fight with the British forces, put himself under enemy fire and refused to retire from the battle, until the Presbyterian militia promised to join him in that endeavor. They did finally, and the die was cast for the church to be heavily involved in the American independence. However, Rev. Roe was eventually captured, and spent time in the infamous Sugar House prison of New York, a virtual concentration camp for captured Americans. It was surely due to the providence of God that he came out of that experience alive, for countless Americans died in its squalid conditions.

After the war, he continued on his preaching and teaching ministry at Woodbridge, New Jersey. It was said that after the revolutionary war, his salary was paid in firewood and food, with the provision that his cows could be able to graze in the church cemetery! And it was in that cemetery, he is buried with his wife.

Words to Live By: This is not the first time this author has written on this Presbyterian pastor (See Feb 20, 2013), but it is the first time we have seen his commitment to the cause of liberty in the American Revolution. It is true that much prayer must go into a national commitment. Once that was over, he and his people made their commitment to liberty, and a wiliness to fight to gain it. We thank them for this commitment to God and Country.

When God Prepares a Vessel

Charles Hodge wrote one of the first major histories of the Presbyterian Church in America, which was published in 1851. A year later, the Presbyterian Historical Society was established, and the first major publication of that organization was another major work, this time by Richard Webster, issued in 1857. Where Hodge was more interested in the polity of the Church, alongside its history, Webster devoted a substantial portion of his work to biographical accounts of notable pastors.  The text of today’s post is excerpted from Webster’s work,  A HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, pp. 549-550—

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Samuel Davies was born near Summit Bridge,  in the Welsh Tract, in New-castle county, Delaware, November 3, 1723.  His father, David Davies, was a Welshman, a plain, pious planter.  His mother was an eminent saint; and having, like Hannah, asked a son of the Lord, and having in her heart dedicated him to the ministry, she named him Samuel.  She was his only instructor for the first ten years, and early imbued him with her prevailing desire that he might be a minister.  Though otherwise careless of divine things, he was mindful of his nearness to death, and daily prayed to be spared to preach the gospel.  He was sent to receive the rudiments of classical learning, under the Rev. Abel Morgan, afterwards the Baptist minister at Middletown, New Jersey.  Away from home-influences, he became more estranged from God; but, at the age of twelve, he was awakened to see his guilt, vileness, and ruin.  After much and long-continued distress, he obtained peace in believing.  This great event took place in 1736, probably under the preaching of Gilbert Tennent, whom he called his spiritual father.  It was a day of great deadness; but God was then preparing many wonderful men for the good day that was at hand.

He commenced keeping a diary, which, after his death, was examined by President Finley: it is a record of great distress relieved by large measures of heavenly comfort.

“About sixteen years ago,” he said, in 1757, “in the northern colonies, when all religious concern was much out of fashion, and the generality lay in a dead sleep of sin, having at best but the form of godliness and nothing of the power,—when the country was in peace and prosperity, free from the calamities of war and epidemic sickness,—when, in short, there were no external calls to repentance,—suddenly a deep general concern about eternal things spread through the country; sinners started from their slumbers, broke off from their sins, began to inquire the way of salvation, and made it the great business of their life to prepare for the world to come.  Then the gospel seemed almighty, and carried all before it.  It pierced the very hearts of men.  I have seen thousands at once melted down under it, all eager to hear as for life, and scarcely a dry eye to be seen among them.  Thousands still remain shining monuments of the power of divine grace in that glorious day.”

Amid such animating scenes, under the preaching of Whitefield, Blair, Robinson, Tennent, and Rowland, Davies pursued his studies.  There were obstacles in his way, but his uncommon application was followed by surprising progress.  Robinson supplied his wants.  Blair taught him, not only by his words, but by his holy example, as a man and his inimitable excellencies as a preacher.  He was licensed by Newcastle Presbytery, July 30, 1746, at the age of twenty-three, and ordained an evangelist, February 19, 1747.  He was desired by all the vacant congregations.  He was manly and graceful; he had a venerable presence, commanding voice, emphatic delivery; his disposition sweet, dispassionate, tender.

Words to Live By:
Real revival brings lasting change. May the Gospel again in our day be seen as almighty; may it again carry all before it, to the piercing of the hearts of men. Pray that the power of divine grace would again melt sinful hearts, to His greater glory.

For Further Study:
The original publishing of Richard Webster’s A History of the Presbyterian Church in America was an inexpensive production and not many copies have survived in good condition. Thankfully, the work was reprinted just a few years ago by Tentmaker Publications in England, and copies may still be available.

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