May 2018

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John Calvin died on May 27th, in the year 1564. The following article, though quite long, seems appropriate to post at this time. Tomorrow we will run the second part of the article. The following, its title aside, forms a nice, succinct summary of the life and ministry of John Calvin. And as to “reconstruction,” I’ll admit to having never closely studied the whole matter of theonomy, but the title alone of this article raises questions as to the origin of, or rather, the theological application of the term “reconstruction”.  At what point was the word first used in a theological sense?

John Calvin, the World Reconstructionist

By the Late Rev. James Mitchell Foster, D.D.
(Revised and Edited by his Daughter)

[Christianity Today 6.8 (January 1936): 173-178.]

[Reverend James Mitchell Foster, D.D., was pastor of the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Boston, Massachusetts, for 37 years exactly, from his ordination, a Sabbath afternoon, November 11, 1891, to the day of his death, a Sabbath afternoon, November 11, 1928. He was killed almost instantly by an automobile soon after he had left his church, so that it was said of him at his funeral service, “He stepped from the pulpit into Heaven.”]

IN THESE days of Dictators with standing armies, greater navies, and air forces of increasing size, is it not timely to turn our thoughts to John Calvin, whose work in Geneva produced an efficient, orderly and prosperous civil polity ruled “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts”? The old aphorism of the historians that the history of the world cannot be understood apart from the government of the world is a tribute to Calvinism. History is God’s plan of governing the world in which He moves towards a perfect order as the goal of the human race.

John Calvin had a little city. Geneva had only 20,000 people. But he gave an object lesson for all the world. It was not the size but the kind of temple he built that counted—like a little leaven that leaveneth the whole. He ceased from his labors and fell asleep May 27, 1564, as Beza remarks, just as the sun was setting. But the sun will never set on Calvinism. The Huguenots kept Calvinism alive in France until it produced the Republic. William the Silent and the reformers established Calvinism in the Netherlands as the Dutch Republic. Knox established Calvinism in Scotland, Cromwell and William Prince of Orange made England by Calvinism. The Pilgrims and the Puritans of England, the Presbyterians of Ireland, the Covenanters of Scotland brought Calvinism to America.

Candid judges, like Mark Pathson, have written: “In the sixteenth century Calvinism saved Europe”; like Bancroft, “He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows little of the history of American liberty”; like John Morley, “To omit Calvin from the forces of Western evolution is to read history with one eye shut.” “Calvin shaped the mould in which the bronze of Puritanism was cast.” In a lecture by James Anthony Froude before the students of St. Andrew’s University on Calvinism, Dr. Froude accentuated the fact that Calvinism has produced some of the world’s greatest men. “It is enough to mention the names of William the Silent, of your own Knox and Andrew Melville, and the Regent Murray, of Coligny, of our English Cromwell, of Milton, of John Bunyan. These men were possessed of all the qualities which give nobility and grandeur to human nature — men whose life was as upright as their intellect was commanding and their public aims untainted with selfishness: unalterably just where duty required them to be stern, but with the tenderness of a woman in their hearts; frank, true, cheerful, humorous, as unlike sour fanatics as it is possible to imagine anyone, and able in some way to sound the keynote to which every brave and faithful heart in Europe instinctively vibrated.”

John Calvin was a man of poverty — like Jesus of Nazareth. He left only $200 at his death but he had hewed Plymouth Rock from the Alps of divine truth. And Calvinism will yet give civil and religious liberty to all nations and kindreds and tongues and peoples, because Calvinism is God’s order for the sons of men upon earth. And when Calvinism has become triumphant in all nations, Abraham’s vision will be realized.

On October 31, 1517, when Calvin was eight years old, Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. The sound of that hammer was heard through all Europe. Luther and Zwingli and Melancthon were iconoclasts rather than builders. A master-builder was needed for the constructive work of the Great Reformation. And God raised up John Calvin, French by birth, born and bred a Roman Catholic in God’s Providence, taken away from his native country because France would not have his reformation views, after trying in vain to find a hiding place, going about Savoy, to Bavaria, to Italy, and at last to Geneva, where, after being banished and recalled, he established a true Christian church and a true Christian state, according to the pattern shown him in the mount of God’s word.

The Providential Preparation of Geneva for Calvin

Geneva is situated at the end of Lake Leman, between the Jura and Alps Mountains. Caesar carried his conquests here and left Roman laws. After the breaking up of the Roman Empire, King Goudebald led his Burgundian Christian soldiers into this basin of the Rhone and brought freedom to Geneva in the 5th century. In 534 A. D. the Merovingian Kings of France seized and held Geneva until 888 A. D. when the second Burgundian Kingdom began there.

As early as 381 A.D. Geneva had a bishop. In 1091 A.D. we find one Aymon, Count of Geneva, at the helm. There was a conflict between the counts and bishops for supremacy. Peter of Savoy attempted to subjugate Geneva and failed in 1267. Twenty years later Amadeus of Savoy renewed the assault on Geneva and again it came to naught. In 1418, the Counts having become Dukes of Savoy, the Duke appealed to Pope Martin V to confer upon him the secular authority of Geneva. The syndics, counselors, and deputies of the municipal organization protested but the Pope acceded. In 1504, Charles III, Duke of Savoy, entered the struggle for the subjugation of Geneva, which had become characterized by its passion for independence and playing of one rival ruler against another. The struggle lasted for twenty years. The fairs at Geneva were destroyed and the prevalent distress of the 15th century became worse in the 16th. Finding that he could accomplish nothing by wily plots with the citizens themselves, he procured through the Pope Leo X the appointment of a scion of his own house (Savoy) as bishop, upon condition that the bishop should give the control of the city, so far as civil affairs were concerned, into the hands of the Duke. This resulted in a rebellion on the part of the citizens, which ultimately became a revolution, led by Berthelier, Pecotat and Bonivard, who in turn were subjected to the rage of the Duke’s authority but liberated the city from Savoy control and put the power, civil and military, in the hands of the people. The heads of Berthelier, the father of Genevese liberty, of Blanchet and Navis, nailed to the bridge of Arve, did more than their words and courageous deeds to arouse the people to action in the cause of their emancipation.

There were two parties among the people—the ducal or safeguard party, nicknamed the Marmelukes, and the popular or republican party, called Confederates or Eidgenossen —afterwards corrupted into Huguenots. The citizens’ party was triumphant. This was a victory for civil liberty. Once the Genevese were rid of Charles III they were able to organize their indepedent republic. Better times came at last, thanks to the commercial relations re-established between Geneva and the Swiss and Italians.

About this time a young French theologian, Guillaume Farel, a zealous reformer and an eloquent preacher, who had fled from France because of the persecution of Francis I, came to Geneva. He preached the doctrine of Martin Luther and showed up the idolatry, superstition and vice of those in power. His tireless zeal and flaming enthusiasm made the Genevese a pillar of fire. By order of the council, a public discussion was held at which Farel challenged anyone to discuss with him the subjects of debate between the church of Rome and the Reformers. The result of the discussion was a sudden and almost volcanic religious revolution.

The people, demoralized by their civil disturbances, impulsive and impetuous, impatient of restraint, carried away in part by the sense of freedom already gained in political affairs, rushed to the churches, destroyed the relics, overthrew the altars, and then by an act of council abolished the Roman Catholic religion and declared Protestantism established in its place. But the forces which had been set free by Farel and the liberty which had been proclaimed by edict, needed to be organized, controlled and directed and Farel felt his helplessness. A statesman and a religious reformer was needed in Geneva to organize their independent Protestant republic and God had both at hand in the person of John Calvin.

The beginning of an illustrious career. Dr. Charles Hodge was appointed the third professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary on this day, May 24, 1822.

Of Charles Hodge, the eminent Scottish theologian William Cunningham often said “that he had greater confidence in the theological opinions of Charles Hodge than in those of any other living theologian.”

Born in 1797, Charles was raised in Philadelphia by his widowed mother and later graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1815, and then Princeton Seminary in 1819. Ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1821, Hodge was appointed as stated supply over the church in Georgetown (now Lambertville). Though he saw the Lord’s blessing in his ministry, Rev. Hodge soon discovered an even stronger pull to academic studies, and it was not long before Dr. Archibald Alexander invited him to teach the biblical languages at the Seminary. Entering upon that work, he taught at Princeton for just a very few years before sensing a need to continue his studies, this time in Germany. After two years abroad, he returned to Princeton, New Jersey in 1828 to take up again his duties as Professor at the Seminary, returning as well to serve as the editor of the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review. In the course of his long career, Charles Hodge taught literally thousands of students, authored a monumental three-volume systematic theology, and wrote over 140 articles, many of which were 100 pages or more in length.
Above, “Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836 when he suffered from lameness.”

I could not locate the text of his inaugural address at Princeton, but his son, A.A. Hodge provides us with these important words from that address, in the biography that he wrote of his father’s life and ministry. In that inaugural address, Hodge made this declaration before faculty and students, setting the standard for the rest of his long ministry, :

The moral qualifications of an Interpreter of Scripture may all be included in Piety; which embraces humility, candor, and those views and feelings which can only result from the inward operation of the Holy Spirit.

It is the object of this discourse to illustrate the importance of Piety in the Interpretation of Scripture.

Could there be a more important message for both students and teachers to take to heart?

Words to Live By : The eminent scholar, John Owen struck a similar note when he wrote :

“I have demonstrated before that all spiritual truth which God has revealed is contained in the Scriptures, and that our true wisdom is based upon spiritual understanding of these Biblical truths. It will, therefore, be granted on all hands that diligent reading of the Scriptures and holy meditation upon them, is of absolute necessity for all aspirants to theology. Sadly, although a good deal of lip-service is paid to this principle, daily experience will show how few there are who really apply themselves to it with due application and a correct frame of mind. For the rest, a neglect of this is not a drawback to their studies but rather a death-blow…
…Perhaps the excuse is that they have immersed themselves in the works of ancient and modern theologians, and so learn from these guides as they painstakingly explain the Scriptures? I do not despise such means. I applaud their diligence. But still this is not to study the Scriptures! It is one matter to listen to these authorities and a very different matter to read the Bible itself after begging the illuminating aid of the Spirit, through faith in Christ, and to so meditate upon it as to be filled with that Spirit which indicted it and lives in it. What a difference this is to merely looking out through the eyes of other men, however learned and truthful they may be.—John Owen, Biblical Theology, Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1996, p. 694-695.

The following article is a mildly edited version of the obituary which appeared on the pages of The Christian Observer


Dr. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon was born January 17, 1836, at Greensboro, Alabama. After attending the country school he entered the University of Mississippi, from which he graduated with great honor in 1856, taking the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1858 he was made Master of Arts. Just after the war his Alma Mater complimented him with the degree of D.D., and a few years later bestowed upon him LL.D. All these honors were well deserved and worthily worn.

After graduating at the University of Mississippi he took a theological course in Columbia Theological Seminary. He was licensed to preach June 6, 1859, and ordained a minister of the gospel May 23, 1860.

His first pastorate was Oxford, Miss., 1861-5, but he resigned to go to the Confederate army, where he served as chaplain of the Second and Forty-second Mississippi infantry regiments. Throughout the war he was a devoted preacher among the soldiers in the army of Northern Virginia, and many were converted through his faith and instrumentality. No part of the battlefield was too perilous for him. He went to the thickest of the battle with the infirmary corps to bring the wounded back and minister to the dying.

When peace came he returned home, suffering from wounds received in battle. His devoted friend, Col. L.Q.C. Lamar, afterward Senator and Secretary under President Cleveland, had induced him to return as pastor at Oxford, Miss., and he remained pastor until 1865, when he was chosen pastor of the Second Presbyterian church at Memphis, Tenn.

His efforts in this charge were greatly blessed, and he remained for five years in charge of the church, from 1865-1870.

In 1870 he visited Kentucky and accepted a call to Christiansburg, where he hoped to have somewhat of a rest, but he was a little later elected Chaplain of the University of Virginia, which position he filled admirably for the full term of three years, 1871-2-3.

Students from Kentucky and all over the South and throughout the country generally affectionately recalled his charming services as Chaplain at Charlottesville.

His next position was at Tabb-street church, Petersburg, Va. Here his work was greatly blessed, and he remained until 1882, when he resigned to come to the First Presbyterian church, Louisville.

Here began the great work of his life, for, not content with arousing his own church, he lifted up the membership throughout the State by his evangelistic efforts, as chairman and treasurer of the Executive Committee of Evangelistic Labor in the Synod of Kentucky. Fresh vigor was put into old churches and the Gospel was carried even as far as to the destitute mountain regions of Southeastern Kentucky. By his magnetism and impressive personality he secured the widest co-operation of men, women and children in his good work. There are churches in the mountains built by the small collections he secured from children in Southern Presbyterian Sunday-schools. All this work was done while he was a busy pastor devoted to home duties. And all this was performed without salary or pay of any kind.

At the 1884 session of the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly held at Vicksburg, Miss., in recognition of his signal services, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, the highest office in the gift of the church.

To better advance the good work in Kentucky, it was found expedient to establish a Southern Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Together with Dr. Charles R. Hemphill, Witherspoon led the way in this wise work, and took a professorship in Central University, Richmond, Ky. Here he trained a class of young men in studies for the ministry, and when the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary opened its doors he came here, bringing his class, and thus largely laid its foundation. He became professor of homiletics, and filled the chair with marked ability until struck down by disease.

Dr. Witherspoon was not only a pastor and professor, but was a prolific writer for the press; he was also the author of two books, “Children of the Covenant” and “Letters on Romanism.”

Dr. Witherspoon left a most interesting family. His eldest daughter, who was Miss Lottie Witherspoon, later became the wife of Missionary Eugene Bell, in Korea; Miss Florence had charge of the Girls’ High School, Oxford, Miss.; Miss Eva was on the staff of the Christian Observer in Louisville, KY and performed valuable service in its general make-up, and Miss Nettie was a teacher at the High Schol for Girls. Two younger daughters, Misses Mabel and Pauline, were still of school age at the time of Rev. Witherspoon’s death.

His son, Dwight, was at Rose Polytechnic Institute, fitting himself to be a mechanical engineer. His other son, Vernon, was assistant librarian in the Polytechnic Library of this city.

The funeral took take place on Saturday afternoon following his decease, at the First Presbyterian church, 834 Fourth street, in Louisville. The Rev. J.S. Lyons conducted the service, and the remains were consigned to their last resting place in the Cave Hill cemetery.

As settlers moved ever westward in North America, the problem of planting churches in these new regions forced questions of Christian unity and cooperation. So it was that in 1801 that a Plan of Union was agreed to, first by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and a year later by the Congregational Association of Connecticut, which would allow a pastor of the one denomination to gather and serve a church of the other denomination. But within some thirty-odd years, the Plan was increasingly seen to be causing problems. For one, the Congregationalists who had been almost unanimously Calvinistic at the turn of the century, were now charged with being infected with elements of heterodoxy, and the influence of these elements was seen as making inroads among Presbyterians. There were other issues and problems, voiced from both sides, and for the Presbyterians, the matter came to a head at the General Assembly of 1837. In the weeks before the Assembly, those opposed to Plan of Union met in conference and drew up a fifteen point Memorial, citing their complaints with the Plan and other matters. These “memorialists” then arrived at the General Assembly, organized and prepared to take action. What follows is E.H. Gillett’s account of that Assembly and the action by the memorialists to bring the Plan to an end. This was the battle between the Old School (the memorialists) and the New School:—

Abrogation of the Plan of Union [1837]

The General Assembly of 1837 met in the Central Presbyterian Church, in Philadelphia, on the 18th of May, and was opened with a sermon by the Rev. John Witherspoon from the words (1 Cor. 1: 10-11), “Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared to me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

The parties into which the Assembly was divided were ably represented. On one side were Rev. Messrs. Breckinridge, Plumer, Murray, and Drs. Green, Elliott, Alexander, Junkin, Baxter, Cuyler, Graham, and Witherspoon. On the other were Drs. Beman, Porter, of Catskill, McAuley, Peters, and Cleland, and Rev. Messrs. Duffield, Gilbert, Cleaveland, Dickinson, and Judge Jessup. The respective strength of the parties was declared in the vote for moderator, the candidate of the former receiving one hundred and thirty seven votes, while the other candidate, Baxter Dickinson, received but one hundred and six. Thus encouraged, the memorialists were confident that they should now be enabled to adopt decisive measures.

The Committee on Bills and Overtures consisted of Messrs. Witherspoon, Alexander, Beman, Cleland, Murray, Todd, and Latta, with four elders. To them along with overtures from Presbyteries on the same subject, the memorial was referred. The report of the committee recommended the adoption of the testimony of the memorialists concerning doctrines, as the testimony of the Assembly. Objection was made. The list of errors noted was fifteen in number. Some members thought that others should be added. One member proposed four others. Dr. Beman thought the list already too long. Of some mentioned in it he had never before heard. It was finally resolved to postpone the question for the present, and to take up the portion of the report bearing upon the Plan of Union.

This subject came before the Assembly on the afternoon of Monday, May 22. It was resolved, first, that between the two branches of the Church concerned in the Plan of Union, sentiments of mutual respect and esteen ought to be maintained, and that no reasonable effort should be spared to preserve a perfectly good understanding between them; secondly, that it was expedient to continue the plan of friendly communications between them as it then existed; but, thirdly, that as the Plan of Union adopted for the new settlements in 1801 was originally an unconstitutional act on the part of the Assembly,—these important rules having never been submitted to the Presbyteries,—and as they were totally destitute of authority as proceeding from the General Association of Connecticut, which is vested with no power to legislate in such cases, and especially to enact laws to regulate churches not within her limits, and as much confusion and irregularity have arisen from this unnatural and unconstitutional system of union, therefore it is resolved that “the act of the Assembly of 1801, entitled a ‘Plan of Union,’ be, and the same is hereby, abrogated.” The vote upon this important measure, which tested the relative strength of the parties in the Assembly, stood one hundred and forty-three to one hundred and ten.

So the Plan of Union was ended. Those interested in reading further in Gillett’s account may click here.

Words to Live By:
In retrospect, Rev. Witherspoon’s opening sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:10-11 was both plaintive and somewhat prophetic of events to follow that week in 1837. While he was a leading voice among the “memorialists,” John Knox Witherspoon [1791-1853] was also the grandson of Dr. John Witherspoon [1723-1794], a prominent founding father of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Perhaps it was in the light of that heritage and so as something of a statesman for the Church that John Knox Witherspoon delivered his sermon that day, knowing what was ahead, yet hoping for better things. Pray for the Church when self-seeking, bitterness and needless contention arise; stand peaceably for the truth of God’s Word and for the unity of the Body of Christ, remembering that the battle is the Lord’s.

Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared to me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

The Life of a Man Who Walked with God

Our title came from the pen of C.H. Spurgeon who recommended the reading of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This author was given the Memoir to read in the beginning of his college years in preparation for the gospel ministry. I have returned to it frequently in some fifty years of ministry. It is that beneficial.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (sometimes spelled McCheyne) lived between May 21, 1813 and March 25, 1843. If you count those years, you immediately realize that he lived on this earth for only thirty years. And only seven of those years were spent in pastoral ministry. Yet the shortness of his life and ministry were abundantly fruitful in many respects, not the least of which was evangelistic at home and abroad. Countless Scottish people acknowledged him as their spiritual father in the faith.x

He was born on May 21, 1813 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest child of Adam M’Cheyne. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in 1827, distinguishing himself in all of his classes. His lifestyle was however given over to the pursuits of pleasure rather than the pursuit of holiness. The death of his older brother, David M’Cheyne, brought him to a sense of personal spiritual need.  David had often prayed for his conversion. Robert resolved to “seek a Brother who cannot die.” Reading the Bible and various books were  eventually used of the Lord to bring that spiritual change in his soul. His diary records evidences of a spiritual change.

Licensed to preach the Word by the Presbytery of Annan in 1835, after a brief stint as an assistant pastor, he was ordained  on November 24, 1836 and called by a new congregation in Dundee, Scotland. Soon crowds were attending the preached Word.  However, the labors of the pastoral ministry brought physical problems, which required him to desist for a season during the winter at Edinburgh.

Later, to a fellow laborer in the Lord’s work, he wrote, “Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity.”

Pastor M’Cheyne always felt that his time on earth would be short. Whether this was revealed to him by God’s Spirit in some way, or it was simply a recognition of his own bodily weakness, this author doesn’t know. But he always had a sense of his own mortality. And indeed, after a church-sanctioned trip with Andrew Bonar and other ministers to Palestine, to determine opportunities for the conversion of Jews in 1839, he returned to Scotland. It was but four years later in 1843, that he was seized with typhus fever and went to be with the Lord on March 25, 1843.

Words to Live By: It was his closest friend Andrew Bonar who wrote his Memoirsin 1844. In less than three years, seventeen editions were sold. Banner of Truth first reprinted it in 1960. Moody Press also came out with an edition of it. If you, dear reader, have never opened its pages, buy and read the book. If it has been some time since you have perused its pages, read it again, and feast upon the Spirit’s work in the life and ministry of this young man. It will repay your time and effort.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – (Ps. 90:12, KJV)

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

Scripture References:
Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 5:3-4

Questions:
1. What does God forbid in this commandment under the name of “adultery”?

God forbids all sorts of unchastity and uncleanness. (Eph. 5:3)

2. Where can such unchastity and uncleanness take place?

Unchastity and uncleanness can take place in the thoughts and desires of the heart as taught by our Lord in Matt. 5:28. It can take place in the words we use, whether we are talking seriously or in a jesting way. (Eph. 5:4). It can take place in our actions; the actual committing of adultery.

3. Are there actions that would tend to lead us into these forbidden areas?

Yes, in this day and age especially there are many things about which we must be very watchful. To name a few of them:

(1)
Modern psychology with its stress upon “self-expression”, with the idea that it is alright to commit adultery if you really love

a person. We must be careful we are not brainwashed in this area which would tend to lower our resistance to sin.
     (2) Impure books and magazines.
     (3) The theater and television. It would be good for us to make a “covenant with our eyes” (Job 31:1)
     (4) Modern dancing or, as stated in the Larger Catechism, “lascivious dancing”.

4. Why is it so important for us to preserve our chastity and of others?

We must preserve it because we were made in the image of God and are not beasts who are under no law. As Christians, we should walk in fear of the Lord at all times. Since our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, we are not our own.

5. What is divorce without grounds according to the Word and would one obtaining one be guilty of adultery if he remarried?

The Confession of Faith states the answer very well in Chapter 24.6 and the person obtaining a divorce without Scriptural grounds would be guilty of’ adultery if he remarried.

6. In this area is the innocent party under orders from the Word to sue for divorce?

No, this is a privilege of the innocent party, not something that must be done.

A PURE SOUL

“Abstain (hold oneself from) from all appearances of evil.” Such is the teachings found in I Thess. 5:22. If, as born again believers, we want to be certain that we do not break the seventh commandment, such must be our position. We must have such a sensibility to sin in this realm that we will flee from anything that looks like sin. We shall take such a stand for the Lord in all of our ways, our conversation even our thoughts, that holiness unto the Lord will shine forth from us and we will be lights unto the world.

In this day and age in which we live, we are bombarded on every side by the lowered standards of the world in this regard. The Hollywood and Broadway approach to marriage, to relations between male and female have taken over the country. In actions, in speech, in dress, the standards of the day are no longer the Bible, but the way prominent people live. Fornication, adultery, unscriptural divorce is the order of the day among many, and these things have been accepted as a matter of personal preference and have nothing at all to do with the law of God.

Not long ago a Christian said to me, “Pastor, it is so hard to live as one should today. Every book and magazine you pick up to read, every picture you go to see, every T.V. program is like another bit of darkness around you. What can a Christian do? How can he live in the midst of it?” It is true that things in this area seem to be getting worse. People have succumbed to the new way of thinking and the Christian finds himself in the midst of the world. But this is no more, or no less, than what God promised us. And He also promised us that He will not submit us to any temptation we cannot bear. There must be a greater effort on our part.

There must be a praying unto Him for a pureness of soul. “Create in me a clean heart, O, God” (Psalm 51:10) must be on our lips constantly. We must pray that the blood of Christ will cover us every day of our lives, wherever we go, whatever we do. The soul of the Christian is the “holy of holies” and it must be consecrated unto Him. The seventh commandment is from the Lord, and it must not be broken. If we simply depend on our own strength, we will break it time and time again. But by His help, praying for His grace, I Peter 1: 16 can be true of each of us.

Published By: The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 5 No.4 (April 1966)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Elsewhere on the Web, someone recently raised the question as to just how many books a pastor really needs. As you might expect, the answers ran the gamut. Here is an entirely unexpected answer to that sort of question:

“A scholar may think his library his storehouse of knowledge, and, in certain circumstances of continuous study, it is so; but we recall walking with the late Dr. Duryea through the alcoves of the fine Theological Library on Somerset Street, Boston, when he said: “This is a splendid and very complete collection, but I find that my work I have to do with a few old tools up in my attic study.” Even a scholarly minister finds his practical need of knowledge too suddenly pressing for the searching of libraries. He has not time to hunt up the needed book, or to hunt through the book for what he wants. His prompt work must be done at once as the need is felt, mainly with no help but such as he can draw from within; with little knowledge but what he has already gathered, with only the briefest suggestion added here and there to what memory already has in possession, stored away from former acquisitions. Here is the only available storehouse, and a man is rich or poor as that storehouse is well filled and so filled that its treasures may be reached promptly at need.”

[excerpted from The Pulpit Treasury, Vol. 19, no. 1 (May 1901): 63.]

A Foundation Stone Laid—The Formation of the Free Church of Scotland
by Rev. David T. Myers

A third Reformation or a sinful schism? The power of the people in the pews or a decision by a wealthy member to choose an under shepherd for the church pulpit? The nation’s House of Lords in control or Presbyterian government? Evangelical party or moderate party? These were the questions which swirled around the Church of Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the land of Knox.

Already divisions within the national church were producing separations of ministers and members.  In 1733, in what is known as the First Secession, a group led by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine and others had separated from the Church of Scotland. It was followed by the Second Secession led by reformer Thomas Gillespie in 1761 into what was called the Relief Church. Both breakaways will have future posts in This Day in Presbyterian History.

One common issue in all these secessions was an ancient tradition known as “patronage,” in which a wealthy individual in a church district had the authority to choose and install a pastor himself, despite what the people of that parish thought of the pastor. In 1834, the General Assembly would pass what was known as the Veto Act, which allowed for a majority of male heads of families to reject a patron’s sole choice of pastor. It was followed in 1842 by the General Assembly producing a Claim of Right, which stated that Jesus was the head of the church, not the government of Scotland. The latter responded by rejecting that action of the General Assembly. The background was set for a disruption in the Church of Scotland.

On May 18, 1843, 121 ministers and 73 elders walked out of the General Assembly at the Church of St. Andrews on George Street, Edinburgh, to form the Free Church of Scotland. Rev. Thomas Chalmers was elected to be the first Moderator of the new denomination. Eventually 475 ministers representing one-third of her clergy was joined be one-third of her members in separation from  the Church of Scotland.

FreeChurchOfScotland_Signing_the_Deed_of_Demission_1843The First Free Church Assembly—Signing the Deed of Demission.

Since the Church of Scotland was financially supported by the government, the ministers and members who left were without salaries, pulpits, manses, and the people, their church buildings. It was very much a “let goods and kindred’s go” type of separation. To solve the immediate problem of finances, Moderator Chalmers instituted a plan for a penny a week from every member to help the new church and its ministers. From this modest beginning, other monies were raised from Scotland and churches overseas to support the need of its clergy and the buildings necessary for ministry.

Fast forward 85 years, after the Church of Scotland had dropped its link to the state and even the issue of patronage was resolved, the two churches re-united in 1929. Not every pastor and people rejoined however, as there continues to be a Free Church of Scotland in the nation.

Words to Live By: Fast forward another century in your mind, dear reader, to 2013, when the General Assembly voted to allow homosexual clergy within its ministerial ranks. It is obvious by this action that another Protestant Reformation is needed again.  Let  us pray to that end.

Image source: Frontispiece portrait for Annals of the Disruption, by Rev. Thomas Brown. Edinburgh: MacNiven & Wallace, 1884.

A Political Issue Divides the Old School General Assembly
by Rev. David T. Myers

With the Old School General Assembly meeting on May 16, 1861, the unity of the nation was at stake. Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina has been attacked and captured.  Southern states had already seceded from the Union.  The slavery issue, which had been debated in previous assemblies, became secondary to the important matter of preserving the union. Thus, Rev. Gardiner Spring, the pastor of Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York suggested that a committee be formed to consider the following resolutions before the assembled elders.

          “Resolved, 1. That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of this country, the first day of July next be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds; and that on this day ministers and people are called on humbly to confess our national sins; to offer our thanks to the Father of light for his abundant and undeserved goodness towards us as a nation; to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers, and their counsels, as well as on the Congress of the United States about to assembly; and to implore him, in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of an honorable peace.

          Resolved, 2. That this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism . . . do hereby acknowledge and declare our obligations to promote and perpetuate . . . the integrity of the United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government in the exercise of all its functions  under our noble Constitution: and to this Constitution, . . . we profess our unabated loyalty.”

Interestingly, some of the main opposition to this resolution came from Dr. Charles Hodge, of Princeton Theological Seminary. He protested that the General Assembly had no right to decide to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians is due, that it was neither North nor South. His alternate resolutions lost before the assembly. When the issue came to a vote, with an amendment offered by John Witherspoon II, the Spring Resolutions, as they were known in church history, passed by 156 to 66. Tragically, they also brought about the schism between Old School Presbyterians, dividing North and South.

To read a full account of what came to be called the Gardiner Spring Resolutions,click here.

Words to Live By: There is a reason why the Confessional Fathers in chapter 31:3 specifically stated that “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

A Christian Apologist of the Twentieth Century
by Rev. David T. Myers

What more can be written about Francis Schaeffer that has not already been said?  Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912 . . . Born again in 1930 . . . College graduate from Hampton – Sydney, Virginia . . . Seminary student in two historic seminaries, Westminster and Faith Seminary . . . Pastor to three conservative Presbyterian churches for ten years before he went to Europe to begin L’Abri Fellowship, reaching intellectuals for Christ . . . An advocate of both the gospel and cultural mandate to the masses.  In short,  Francis Schaeffer had an effective ministry in the seventy-two years in which he lived in the twentieth century.

On a personal note, this contributor was barely an adolescent when he came to my chaplain father’s Army installation in Dachau, Germany for a series of evangelistic meeting in the late forties.  Night after night, the gospel was presented to lonely American soldiers in post-war Germany.  And the meetings were held right down the road from the infamous concentration camp building of Dachau where sinful depravity was the order of the day barely five years previous to these meetings. They were present in all their stark reality in that this was before the whole site had been memorialized by the West German government.   But beyond the meetings to the adults,   day by day, this youngster, and a whole host of others, learned Psalm 19 by Edith Schaeffer, which I remember today!  (Edith Schaeffer writes about all this  visit in her book, The Tapestry.)  In short, the Schaeffer’s were hungry for the power of the gospel unto salvation to be demonstrated  for all who believe.

It was in 1978 that cancer was discovered in Francis Schaeffer’s body.  Despite this disease, even by his own admission, more was done in his ministry in the last five years of his life than before. He rewrote his book legacy and ministered to large crowds everywhere. He spoke to the combined General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982, which had just merged together into one church. [click here to read “A Day of Sober Rejoicing”]

As the days grew difficult, Edith Schaeffer tells how ten days before he died, she brought him home from Mayo Clinic. She spoke about her conviction that he would want to go to the house he had asked her to buy in Rochester, Minnesota to pass from his body and be with the Lord. The medical staff agreed with that decision. Edith Schaeffer surrounded his bed with the things he loved, including music played into his room. All the favorites from Beethoven, Bach, and Shubert were played. On the morning of May 15, 1984, he was taken home to glory with Handel’s Messiah resounding in the background.

Words to Live By: Francis Schaeffer was a sinner saved by grace, as all believers are. We by no means believe that he was without difficulties in his life towards those nearest and dearest to him, as well as the Christian family as a whole. But despite these foibles, he will be remembered as the spiritual father of many a Christian today, while his work continues on in many lands today to reach the intellectuals of the twenty-first century with the same precious gospel. As God enables us, let us each be faithful, in word and in deed, in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

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