September 2018

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He Was Always Preparing

In 1982, the denomination known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) was received into Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). This ecclesiastical merger was known as the Joining and Receiving (J&R). The RPCES was itself created by the union of two denominations, in 1965. One denomination had a shorter history. This was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), as it was known from 1961-1965. Prior to that, it operated under the name of the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, and this group was the larger portion of a split of the Bible Presbyterian Church [1938-1955].

The other denomination that merged with the EPC to create the RPCES was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (RPCGS), and this group had a much longer history, dating back to 1833. That was the year in which the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a split, thus creating the RPCGS. The other body created by this split is in existence to this day—the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

Are you thoroughly confused yet? To recap, the PCA received the RPCES in 1982, and the RPCGS was one of the two denominations that united to form the RPCES. (see! that wasn’t so tough!).

Black_John_1768-1849Which brings us to the Rev. John Black, who served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. And as the combined history of the denomination received in 1982 became part of the history of the PCA, it was in that sense, in a manner of speaking, that we might call Dr. Black the first Stated Clerk of the PCA.

John Black had been born in Northern Ireland, in the county of Antrim, on October 2, 1768, and it was only after reaching adulthood that he immigrated to this country. He had been educated at Glasgow College, in Scotland and left for America in 1797. For a while he worked as a teacher, but soon was licensed to preach by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in 1799. Upon his ordination, Rev. Black settled in the region of Pittsburgh, which was then just a small village, and there he remained the pastor of the same church for forty-eight years, until the close of his life, on October 25, 1849.

As a preacher, he was “distinct, plain, a fluent speaker, always interesting and often eloquent and powerful.” And time and again he proved himself as one who was always ready to preach, whenever called. Yet he never wrote out or memorized his sermons. “He was ready, because he had a full mental storehouse,—the power of abstraction, the gift of language, a great command of the resources of his own mind, and, above all, a strong, humble and unwavering dependence on the help of God’s Holy Spirit. He preached because he loved the work, and had found, by repeated trial, that he had from God the ready power to perform it. And, yet, Dr. Black prepared to preach. He was always preparing. His studies were never finished, and, to the close of his life, he was a laborious student. His views of the Christian ministry were too high to admit of the attempt to serve God with what had cost him nothing. He selected his subject, elaborated it in his mind, used all available helps, wrote upon paper an extended skeleton, and so went to the desk to speak on God’s behalf to sinners. He preached for nearly fifty years, and then died with the harness on.”

To give a flavor of his sermons, here is an excerpt from a sermon which he delivered at the opening of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church as it met in Philadelphia in May of 1816. The sermon is on the subject of “Church Fellowship;” Rev. Black begins:—

Saints by profession, are bound to hold communion and fellowship, in the worship and service of God.

I. I am to explain this Communion—

1. It is a communion of Saints. The house of God is holy, and holiness becometh it well forever. Here the social principle is exercised in its perfection on earth. It is devoted to holy purposes, and consecrated to the Lord of the whole earth. None have a right, in the sight of God, to this holy fellowship, but real Saints, and none but such really enjoy it. Others, though they may be present, and appear to participate in the communion of the Saints. yet it is only in appearance. Externally, they draw near to God in his holy institutions,. but their hearts have no concern in the solemnity. The character of such is given in Ezekiel, 33:31. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their month they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” But those who are Saints, were once, a very different character. They were, by nature, children of wrath, even as others. How then do they obtain this character? No way but by union to Jesus Christ, through the regenerating influence of the Spirit of God. Means are generally used, but the efficiency is of God. In the day of effectual working of his Holy Spirit, lays on them an arrest of mercy. They are apprehended by Christ, and are made to apprehend him. Their understandings are enlightened, so that they are enabled to discover the certainty, the value, the excellency, the suitableness of Jesus the Saviour, to their needy case. Objective testimony is furnished, with such undoubted evidence, that they become convinced, and are verily persuaded, not only that they may fully and freely accept of the offered salvation, but that it is the best and the most desirable thing so to do. The will, renewed by the Holy Ghost, follows the dictate of the understanding, and actually receives the Lord Jesus Christ, appropriating him for life and salvation. This completes a mystical and indissoluble union between Christ and the believer’s soul. Christ, by the bond of his spirit, unites himself to the elect sinner, in regeneration, and the sinner, effectually called, by the bond of faith unites himself to the person of the Redeemer. The believer, thus united to Christ, is in the court of heaven, sustained, as righteous. Christ and he being one, whatever is Christ’s is reckoned to the believer. Christ’s righteousness is his, and on account of that righteousness, he is justified. His name is changed from sinner to saint.

We have said, that only such as are thus really Saints, are, in the sight of God, entitled to the communion and fellowship of his church. But as the heart of man is known only to God—as it is his prerogative, and only his, to search the heart and try the reins, an absolute knowledge of this union to Christ, which constitutes men really Saints, cannot belong to this communion. Only Saints by profession, such as possess those distinctive characters which the head of the church has laid down in his word, by which we may, in the judgment of charity, know, and esteem men to be his followers. By their works shall ye know them. If they are sound in the faith, and have a life and conversation, such as becometh the gospel; they are to be reputed Saints, and with such, we are bound to have communion.

2. It is a communion of love and holy affections.

Not only are all Saints united to the Head Christ Jesus, but they are all united to one another in love. They are members one of another. They have one common interest, and they mutually seek each other’s good. They are all actuated by the same spirit. They are all concerned for the honour of their glorious head. They are brethren, children of the same Father and of the same Mother. God is their Father. By him they were spiritually begotten, through the instrumentality of the word of truth. The Church is their Mother. By her they were brought forth. The spouse (the individual believer) calls the church her mother’s house, the chambers of her that conceived her. There are, it is true, some mother’s children, that are not the Father’s children, nominal professors, who love not the real children of the family: but all who are the children of adoption, the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty—have a communion in one another’s love. They seek the good of the family, and they live together in unity, as it becometh brethren. This love, and kind affection, is opposed to the biting and devouring of one another. It is opposed to quarrels and intestine broils, the disgrace and the ruin of every family. It is opposed to schism and divisions. Those who possess this principle of love, will cover with the mantle of charity the failings and the infirmities of their brethren. They will bear one another’s burdens. They will be gentle and easy to be entreated. They will not willingly give, or take, offence. But bound up in the bundle of life and of love, with the rest of the members of the household of faith, they will take sweet counsel together, and walk to the house of God in company….”

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM.

Q. 101. What do we pray for in the first petition?

A. In the first petition, which is, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we pray, that God would enable us, and others, to glorify Him in all that whereby He maketh Himself known, and that He would dispose all things to His own glory.

Scripture References: Ps. 67:1-3; II Thess. 3:1; Isa. 64:1-2; Rom. 11:36; Isa. 11:9.

Questions:

1. What is meant by the word “petition” and how many are there in the Lord’s Prayer?

The word “petition” simply means the desiring or asking of anything. There are six in the Lord’s Prayer and we are considering the first.

2. How do we hallow the name of God?

Simply stated, it would mean to glorify His name. For example, Isa. 3:13 states, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear, and your dread” We should glorify (sanctify, hallow) Him in all ways as we walk in this world so that the world will see Him in us as much as possible.

3. How can we be certain that we shall do this?

We can be as certain as possible by endeavoring to be diligent about the attributes, ordinances, word and the works of God? It would be good for us to look back in our studies once again to our duties concerning these ways God makes Himself known to us and examine ourselves regarding them.

4. When we pray in this petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” what is the meaning of our prayer?

We are really praying for two things: 1. That God will hallow (glorify) Himself in this world; 2. That God, working through us, will enable us to glory His name in this world. The first part of this petition is accomplished as God magnifies Himself as He works out all things after His will, even those things which seem to us the opposite. The second part of this petition has been discussed in Question 3.

5. What are the things He works out after His will that are opposite from what we would expect?

A few we could mention would be the persecutions, the trials He takes us through and the times we sin and He overrules.

GLORIFYING GOD IN PRAYER.

In a summary of Richard Baxter’s directions on how to pray, taken from his Christian Directory, published in 1673, we find these words: “When you are about to pray, stir up in your souls the most earnest belief in those unseen things that your prayers refer to; and pray as if you saw them all the while–God in His glory, heaven and hell, and Jesus Christ as your Mediator in the heavens.”

Not long ago I noted a prayer by Richard Alleine, one of the Puritans, in which he said, “O Lord, our God, Thou high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, we know that Thou hast said that Thou dost dwell with him that is of contrite and humble spirit, that Thou dost revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

These two quotes then led to a study of what the Word of God says regarding intercessory prayer. Our question, after studying the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, should be: how do we prepare ourselves for real prayer as we begin by glorifying His name? What does God’s Word say about the methods that might be used to glorify His name? Let us check a few of the verses and see what we might find from them. Let us see if we can not put down some principles of how we, in prayer, may hallow His name.

1. Our prayer could well begin with Eph. 1:17 as we pray that God might give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.

2. Our prayer might continue with Eph. 1:13 as we pray that the eyes of our understanding might be enlightened.

3. From here we could progress to a continuation of Eph. 1:18 as we pray that we might know the hope of His calling.

4. Our prayer could continue with Eph. 1:19 as we seek to understand, comprehend, the exceeding greatness of His power.

5. We could end this short study of how to glorify Him in prayer by turning to Eph. 3:19 and ask that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Certainly there are many more principles. We could turn to Eph. 3:18; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9-10 and many others. The point is that we are not left without instruction in the Word of God as to how we can best glorify Him in our prayers. As we begin the Lord’s Prayer with those words, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” we can surely recognize that our attitude can be conditioned by some of the above principles.

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 7, No. 6 (June 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

As you prepare your hearts for times of worship this Lord’s Day:

HOW TO LEAVE THE HOUSE OF GOD.

[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 39 (29 September 1838): 154, column 2.]

And he sent them away.“—From these five short and simple words, Bishop Heber forms one of his most practical and interesting sermons. After repeating the Evangelist’s account of the miracle, at the close of the performance of which Jesus Christ uttered these words, he goes on to lay before his hearers the duties that are incumbent upon them, after being “sent away,” with a blessing from the house of God, and begs them, in his own impressive manner, to bow in supplication, as they leave that temple, to Him who can alone give them strength to go on their way rejoicing, or enable them to fulfil the duties that intervene between that time and the next period appointed for their assembling together. So should we go away strengthened, and refreshed in spirit by the words of the teacher, as the multitude left the Saviour, nourished in body by the miraculous food he had bestowed—”then would the dawn of each returning day bring increase of knowledge;” then, when another Sabbath calls us to God’s holy temple, we would return in the increased favor of God and the clearer light of His countenance; and at length, when the great Sabbath of nature is arrived, and he who once fed the poor flock in the wilderness returns in His father’s glory, to rule over heaven and earth, He will “send us away” no more, but cause us, world without end, to dwell in His tabernacle, and before His face, that “where He is, there we may be also.”Southern Churchman.

“Now the interesting question is, How have the people improved the preaching of the law and the gospel? Most of those who lived under the ministry of my predecessor have gone to the grave. But to you who are yet living and hearing the gospel, the question is solemn and important. Have you so improved the preaching of God’s word as to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

 

The bicentennial observation of the founding of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, of Fairton, New Jersey, commonly known back then as the Old Stone Church, was observed on September 29, 1880, the church having been organized in 1680. That congregation continues on to the present day and is a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America.

osbornEthanEasily the most distinguished pastor in the history of the Old Stone Church was the Rev. Ethan Osborn. The following is a transcript of the aged pastor’s last words to his congregation,

“the aged preacher, in all the faithfulness of his still loving heart, and under circumstances which could not fail to awaken for him the sympathy of his audience. He is now in his ninety-second year. The place where he stands was he scene of his eventful ministrations for more than half a century, and he does not expect ever to preach from that pulpit again. After referring to the ministry of his predecessor, who in 1780 preached the first sermon in the house, to his own labors there, and to those of the writer of this memorial, then the pastor of the congregation, he proceeds—”

“I may safely say that by the preaching of these three ministers, in this house, the doctrines and all things essential to duty and salvation, have been clearly explained and faithfully urged upon the people. The doctrine of human depravity has been explained and proved from Scripture and common observation. Here also the doctrine of regeneration has been repeatedly set forth, and the absolute necessity of it urged upon the people. It has been shown that we must be new created in Christ Jesus, must have the love of God ruling in our hearts, or we can never be admitted into his kingdom.

“Also the doctrines of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have been faithfully preached in this house, and their absolute necessity in order to obtain pardon and heavenly felicity. Likewise the duties prescribed in the gospel have been explained and insisted on. The people have been informed that supreme love to God is their indispensable duty. Here also they have been taught the duties we owe, one to another, to do good to all according to our abilities and opportunities; and to ourselves, to live sober and religious lives in the world. Here also, that the law forbids every sin, whether in action, word or heart, and pronounces a curse on every transgression of it. For ‘cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And as all have sinned, therefore no human being can be justified before God by the deeds of the law, or by meritorious obedience. The law requires perfect and perpetual obedience. But as no man has yielded such obedience, or possessed sinless perfection, therefore in vain do you now look to the law for justification.

‘Since to convince and to condemn,
Is all the law can do.’

“But, thanks to God : the gospel reveals a way of justification, how we may obtain forgiveness and the favor of God. And this blessed gospel has often been preached in this house, the gospel which offers a free pardon to every humble penitent. ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ The blessed Saviour invites the weary and heavy laden sinner to come to him, assuring him that he will raise him up at the last day to eternal life. Such is the inviting and beneficent language of the gospel. But at the same time, both law and gospel denounce everlasting punishment on such as reject the Saviour and die impenitent.

“Now the interesting question is, How have the people improved the preaching of the law and the gospel? Most of those who lived under the ministry of my predecessor have gone to the grave. But to you who are yet living and hearing the gospel, the question is solemn and important. Have you so improved the preaching of God’s word as to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

“To those who are pious believers, I would say, you have chosen the good part, and God has begun a gracious work in you which he will carry on until it terminates in glory. So that by faith in Christ, shaving laid hold on the hope set before us, you may have a strong consolation, and go on your Christian course rejoicing. Be not satisfied with your present relative attainments, but press forward to the work of perfection, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Use the appointed means of reading and hearing the word of God, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves for public worship, as many do, and by no means neglect the privilege and duty of prayer. Ask and receive, not only that you may have grace to serve God, but that you may also grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord Jesus Christ. In this way religion will become more pleasant. The nearer you advance toward heavenly perfection, the more delighted you will be with heavenly enjoyment. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’

‘Come leave his pleasant ways,
And let us taste his grace.’

“Never be weary in well doing, for in perseverance, you shall in due time reap a glorious harvest. As an inducement thus to live and spend your remaining days, remember your judge and mind will ere long call us to answer, how I have preached the gospel and how you have improved it.

“I now turn to those of you whose future happiness is not yet secured by faith in the Mediator. Your situation is awfully dangerous. You are now suspended between the possibility of eternal happiness or eternal misery. You are now between the two vast extremes, or if I may more plainly express it between heaven and hell. Either celestial happiness or infernal misery must in a short time be your everlasting portion. How solemn is the prospect before you—the joys of heaven or the sorrows of hell, one of which must be your everlasting portion,—the latter except ye turn at God’s reproof. ‘As though God did beseech you, by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’ Believe me when I say it is my heart’s desire and prayer to God, that you and I may have a joyful meeting at the judgment, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“As we expect this to be the last Sabbath on which I shall speak to you from this pulpit, let me say, in the presence of God who knows my heart, that I have endeavored and prayed that I might faithfully perform my ministerial duties. Though I am conscious of much imperfection, God is my witness, that I have ever preached such doctrine and precepts as I verily believe are agreeable to his word. I have repeatedly said, ‘the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’ With gratitude to God, I look back upon the religious revivals with which he has blessed us and the friendly relations which have subsisted between us. It is no small satisfaction that as pastor and people we separated as friends, and that a pleasant intercourse subsists between myself and my successor, your present pastor. Never were the people more dear to me, I shall love them as long as I live.

“Excuse my plainness, and permit me once more to say in the fullness of my feelings, that my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you all is, that you may be saved. As it will not be long before we must each answer to God—I for my ministry, and you for your improvement of it, let us be diligent in what duty remains and in advancing toward heaven. Let brotherly love continue and abound, until it shall be perfected in the heavenly kingdom. And may God prepare us all to meet in heaven! I now bid you a cordial farewell, praying that it may fare well with you in this world, in blessings of health and prosperity, as far as shall be for God’s glory and your own good, and that in the future world, entered with your blessed Saviour into the joy of your Lord, you may FARE WELL.”

[excerpted from The Pastor of the Old Stone Church (1858), pp. 52-56. To read this work online, click here.]

Chalmers Alexander was a ruling elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi. In an effort to acquaint our readers with some of his very astute work, we present this segment of a series published around 1949.

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

Jackson, Mississippi

This is the third 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.

The heretical Auburn Affirmation, bearing the names of almost 1,300 ordained ministers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, was published in 1924.

Since that time the Auburn Affirmation signers and their theological fellow-travelers have got hold of much of the machinery which controls the affairs of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Now what have the Auburn Affirmationists and the other Modernists been doing in that denomination in recent years? Have there been any recent evidences of their far-reaching influence?

You do not have to look very far to find the answer to those questions.

The “New Curriculum”

In 1948 the Northern Presbyterian Church inaugurated a new program of religious instruction to be used in the Sunday Schools of that denomination. This new educational program, known as the “New Curriculum,” is the result of the work of a committee appointed to undertake the task by that denomination’s Board of Christian Education (which has had among its members, from time to time, various signers of the Auburn Affirmation).

A clear and detailed analysis of the contents of the “New Curriculum” was given recently by one of America’s outstanding Old Testament scholars, Dr. Oswald T. Allis, Ph.D., who taught for some twenty years at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Allis, himself a member of the Northern Presbyterian Church, says, among other things:

“The New Curriculum clearly does not seek to impress on the minds of those who are to use it the fact that the Bible ‘being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages’ is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (see Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Sec. 8). On the contrary, the aim seems to be to convince the reader by both direct and indirect methods, that the doctrine of the plenary (verbal) inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is no longer tenable. Such is the view of the editor-in-chief, and it is apparently shared by his collaborators . . .

“If you have been using the International Uniform Lessons, continue to use them for the present and demand that they or any substitute for them, such as the New Curriculum aims to provide, be truly Bible-centered, and that the device of teaching modern Liberalism by the story-book method be definitely abandoned . . .

“It is pointed out in the prospectus to the New Curriculum that the subject for study during the entire second year will be ‘The Bible.’ This announcement would be most welcome, were it not for the fact that it at once raises the vital question. How will this great subject be presented? Will this ‘Bible’ be the Bible of Protestant Christendom, the Bible of the Presbyterian Church which, in its Confession of Faith, defines it as consisting of 66 books which make up the Canon of Holy Scripture and are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Or, will it be the Bible of the critics, the Bible of so-called Modern Scholarship?

“We believe that the answer to this question is given with sufficient clearness in the materials of the New Curriculum which are now available . . .The article on ‘Introduction to the Old Testament’ was supplied by Professor Rowley. The view presented is in general that of the so-called higher criticism . . .

“Such ‘straws’ as these seem to make it rather plain that there is little if any basis for the hope that the New Curriculum will gradually become conservative and advocate positions which are acceptable to the Conservatives who are expected, in loyalty to the Boards of their Church, to use it … But the indications seem clearly to be that unless a radical change is demanded and insisted upon by the Conservatives who we believe still constitute a majority in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the New Curriculum in its second year will be more decidedly and outspokenly modernistic and higher critical than in its first.”

In the May 1949 issue of Christianity Today, one of the sound church papers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, its Editor remarked: “A Presbyterian minister of our acquaintance wrote to the editor-in-chief of the New Curriculum expressing general agreement with the criticisms of it made by Dr. Allis in a ‘Critique,’ which was widely circulated throughout the Church last summer, and voicing the hope that the features objected to might be eliminated. He received a reply from which we quote the following: ‘I am sorry that I cannot promise any possibility that the curriculum will develop into closer accord with Dr. Allis’ viewpoint.’ This reply indicates how groundless is the hope of reform-from-within of the New Curriculum.”

(Dr. Allis’ detailed analysis of the “New Curriculum” first appeared in The Sunday School Times. It is now available in the form of a pamphlet entitled ‘A Critique of the New Curriculum.” It can be ordered from the Sunday School Times Publishing Co., 325 N. 13th Street, Philadelphia 5, Pa., or from The Southern Presbyterian Journal, and the cost is 15c per copy.)

The Westminster Study Edition Of The Holy Bible

In addition to their influence on the Sunday School literature which is to be taught to the children and adults in the Sunday Schools and the Bible classes of the Northern Presbyterian Church, the Auburn Affirmationists and the other Modernists in that denomination have definitely had an influence on the new Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible.

This Westminster Study Edition, commonly called the “Presbyterian Bible,” was published in 1948 by the Westminster Press, a subsidiary of the Board of Christian Education of the Northern Presbyterian Church (which Board has had among its members, from time to time, various signers of the Auburn Affirmation).

The Editor of Christianity Today wrote in the May 1949 issue of that paper: “The full significance of this Study Edition, at least for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., will not be clear unless it is noted that one of its chief editors is Dr. James D. Smart, editor-in-chief of the New Curriculum, and that it has been announced that the subject for study in the New Curriculum during the entire second year will be ‘The Bible.’ It seems certain, therefore, that Sunday School scholars in said Church, insofar as it uses the New Curriculum, will be taught that the Bible is a faulty book that abounds in conflicting and even in flatly contradictory statements. It is equally important to note an this connection that its chief editors include three professors from Princeton Seminary, three from MoCormick Seminary, one from Louisville Seminary (Northern), and one from San Francisco Seminary—a fact that more than suggests that the view of the Bible taught in this Study Edition is being inculcated in the institutions training the great majority of the future ministers of said Church (the Northern Presbyterian Church)”.

Dr. Allis’ Opinion Of The Westminster Bible

And Dr. Allis, in commenting on the tenor of the editorial comments and explanations contained in this edition of the Holy Bible, has remarked: “. . . the viewpoint of the Westminster Study Edition is definitely ‘critical.’ It is an attempt to present in popular form and for the average reader the more or less radical conclusions of the higher critics. Those who are at all familiar with the critical theories which have been advanced with ever increasing confidence and dogmatism, first in Germany, then in England, and finally in this country, during the last half century and more, will probably find little that is new or startling in this volume. But for those who are not so well-informed, a few examples will suffice to establish this obvious fact and to indicate its vast significance for the student and teacher of the Bible.

“The critics have been insisting with ever increasing dogmatism for nearly a century, that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) is composed of at least four major documents (J, E, D, P), that the earliest of these documents dates from about the time of Elijah, and that the composite work was not completed until about 400 B.C.

This view is definitely accepted by the editors, despite the fact that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to regard any part of the Pentateuch as really dependable history . . .

“According to the editors ‘it is questionable whether the story of Adam and Eve was ever intended to be simply a literal and factual account of what two people said and did at a particular time in history . . .

“In the New Testament we observe the same critical attitude on the part of the editors as in the Old. The genuineness of four of the books is more or less emphatically denied: of I and II Timothy and Titus, all of which claim to be by Paul, and of II Peter, which claims to be by Peter. The generally accepted view that James was written by the Brother of the Lord is rejected and it is regarded as possible that ‘late in the first century some unknown Jewish Christian composed this book of exhortation in the style of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament’ . . .

Dr. Allis’ Conclusion

“The aim of this examination of the Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible has been to make clear to the reader the vitally important difference between the Biblical and the Critical attitudes toward the Bible, and to establish the fact that the Study Edition is definitely critical, at times even radically so. A number of examples have been given. The number might easily be increased. But the important point in estimating the value of the Study Edition is not the question as to how much of the Bible the editors believe and how much they reject, how much they take in its clear and obvious sense and how much they interpret to mean something quite different from what it definitely states.

“The most important point is that they adopt an attitude to the Bible which cannot fail to undermine or destroy its authority and trustworthiness. An intelligent reader does not need to be told very many times that he is not to believe what the Bible plainly states, in order to get the impression that, if the editors are right, there is little or nothing in the Bible that he can be absolutely sure of.

“The editors are greatly concerned because of the widely prevalent ignorance of the Bible. Do they really believe that the way to get people interested in studying the Bible is to tell them again and again that they must not believe what it says? Do they really expect intelligent people to believe that an ancient Book which must be drastically edited, expurgated, and reconstructed in order to make it acceptable to its modern critics really speaks or can speak with the authority of God? It is hard to see how they can believe this. But apparently they do . . .

“Nine of the eleven editors of the Study Edition are ministers in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (the Northern Presbyterian Church). One of the nine is editor-in-chief of the New Curriculum . . .

“The question Presbyterians everywhere must face is whether they themselves believe that by any stretch of the imagination a teaching which does not hesitate to contradict the Bible and to empty precious passages of their most precious meaning can be called loyal to the Bible and to the Standards of our beloved Church; and whether they are willing to accept and use materials which do this. The issue is clear-cut. The Board of Christian Education and the Committee on the New Curriculum are clearly determined to make the higher critical interpretation of the Bible official in our Church. Shall we permit this? Shall we not rather insist that all the materials for Bible study published by or with the authority of the Boards and Agencies of our Church be, not critical of the Bible, but strictly and wholeheartedly Biblical?”

Dr. William Childs Robinson’s Opinion Of The Westminster Bible

Dr. Allis is not the only able scholar who raises serious questions about this new Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible. Dr. William Childs Robinson, Th.D., of our Columbia Theological Seminary, whom I consider to be the greatest theologian and the ablest defender of the Faith in our entire denomination, has remarked of this Westminster Study Edition that its editors seem hesitant to call Christ God, and that these editors’ whole doctrine of the Deity of Christ is weak.

Dr. Robinson has stated further: “The Westminster Study Bible offers to give the Church ‘some share in the gains that the new knowledge and the new methods have made available.’ It is advertised to give to ‘the modern reader’ ‘the discoveries of modern research in history and archaeology.’ From such statements one might infer that the editors had access to new information which had not been available or had not been used by those who have coma to conclusions other than those presented in the Westminster Bible . . .

“What we fear is that the reader may infer that the higher critical positions taken in this study Bible are also ‘the explanation of what the Church believes about the Bible,’ and that they are based on new information which was not at the disposal of the trusted Presbyterian scholars who have opposed these conclusions of higher criticism. Have the editors of the Westminster Bible information that men like Warfield of Princeton, George L. Robinson of McCormick, Henrickson of Calvin, Allis of Philadelphia, Mack of Richmond., McPheeters of Columbia and Gribble of Austin either did not have or did not use? . . .

“As a matter of fact there are some discoveries that militate against the higher critical view which have been made since these views were enunciated over a century ago. It used to be said that Moses could not have written, or stood sponsor for the writing of the Pentateuch because writing was not known in his age. The Westminster edition admits that writing was done in Moses’ day — in view of the Code of Hammurabi, it might have admitted that it was done in Abraham’s day. The Westminster Notes, however, continue to speak of oral tradition in a way that shows their authors have not fully integrated the fact of writing throughout Israel’s history into their conclusions . . .

“In the New Testament field the Westminster conclusion may also be compared with those offered by other competent scholars . . . Michaelis, Stauffer, Albright and E. K. Simpson hold and defend the view that John the Son of Zebedee wrote the Fourth Gospel. The Westminster Introduction does not. Michaelis also defends the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles and offers a chronology following a first Roman imprisonment into which they may be fitted. Bartlett in the Britannica defends them on the basis of a chronology ending with this imprisonment. Other scholars hold that Paul commissioned an amanuensis (one who is employed to write from dictation, or to copy manuscript) to draft these epistles in his name. This Westminster Bible concludes that they were likely not written by Paul.

“At least modern knowledge is not unanimous on the positions taken in the Westminster Study Bible and therefore these positions cannot be regarded as the united verdict of modern scholarship. Has the Church (the Northern Presbyterian Church) authorized the description of these views as ‘a thorough explanation of what the Church believes about the Bible’?”

The Opinion Of Time Magazine

In Time, issue of September 27, 1948, an article appeared which commented on this Westminster Study Edition of the Bible and made some comparisons between what it says and what a new Roman Catholic translation of Genesis says. Of the Roman Catholic translation Time stated: “But the new text is accompanied by very conservative Biblical criticism . . . Say the Catholic editors: ‘The Pentateuch … is substantially the work of Moses. It is a closely knit literary unit and was originally conceived as one work written for a single purpose’.”

This is the view which has always been held by the Bible-believing Conservatives.

With reference to the Westminster Study Edition, on the other hand, Time states that, though this edition sticks to the traditional King James wording, it “is far from conservative in commenting on it …. Say the Protestant editors: ‘The Pentateuch did not receive its final form until about 400 B.C. . . . The contents of Genesis preserve no hint as to the names of its authors and editors . . . Whoever the author of Genesis was, he must have had ancient sources at his disposal, for no man could have been witness to all the events described. This means that the present book is a composite work drawn from various sources.’ “

This is the view which has always been held by the Modernists and the so-called higher critics.

Not only do those now in control of the Northern Presbyterian Church intend to warp the minds of the children, and of the young people who attend Sunday School, by means of the Modernism and the destructive criticism contained in the “New Curriculum,” but they also intend to present as accepted truth to adults the destructive views of radical criticism which have been woven into the editorial comments contained in the Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible.

Influence Of The Affirmationists And Other Modernists

Evidently the strong impetus given to Modernism in the Northern Presbyterian Church by the appearance of the Auburn Affirmation in 1924 has not diminished in the quarter of a century since that event.

The “New Curriculum” and the Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible reveal clearly the fact that the influence of the Auburn Affirmationists and the other Modernists in the Northern Presbyterian Church is still powerfully active in that denomination at the present time.

If the Southern Presbyterian Church unites with that denomination, Southern Presbyterians can rest assured that their children will be hand-fed in the Sunday School classes with the destructive Modernism which is found in the “New Curriculum.” And the adults who are weak in the Christian Faith will, in using the Westminster Study Edition of the Bible, find much in it that will make their faith still weaker.

What shall every Southern Presbyterian, as a Bible-believing Christian who repudiates completely the views contained in the Auburn Affirmation and who rejects completely the Modernism which it has helped promote in the Northern Presbyterian Church, say with regard to the proposed union with that heresy-tainted denomination?

Thou Shalt Say, No!

Our post today, while a bit long and not tied to today’s date, is presented here because it speaks to some recent discussions that you may have seen elsewhere on the Web. I trust you will find it edifying.

The Christian’s Need of the Old Testament

By Rev. John T. Reeve, D.D.

[The Presbyterian 99.44 (31 October 1929): 8-10.]

Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”—John 5: 39.

“SEARCH the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye O have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5: 39). There is another verse that should be associated with this, recorded in Luke 24: 27—”And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” These words occur in the conversation between our Lord Jesus and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the first Easter afternoon. They were troubled about his death, for they had thought “It had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” But now he was dead and their hopes were all dashed to the ground. You remember how he chided them: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” asking them, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” Then it says, “And beginning at Moses and the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

It is strange that it seems necessary, in view of such words as these, to speak on the subject, “The Christian’s Need of the Old Testament.” But to-day there is a tremendous and increasingly greater tendency on the part of Christians to neglect and even to belittle the Old Testament. I presume this comes about partly from the terribly destructive work done on the Old Testament for the last fifty or seventy-five years. Many who call themselves Christians do not believe that it is the very Word of God, and consequently have lost their reverence and respect for it. But evidently our Lord and his Apostles believed in it and looked upon it as the very Word of God. He said to them, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself.” In another place, it says, “Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures,” and before that, it says, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” How could it be that these words had to be “fulfilled,” unless they had been predictions of events yet to be? How could these things be predicted by ordinary men unless they were inspired by Almighty God himself? Yet you read in the New Testament, again and again, that things ‘‘had to be,” in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.

There are few things that the Christian church needs more than a revival of interest in the Old Testament. It would bring a new vigor into the life of the people, and it would do away with some forms of worship offered to God in Christian churches, which must be an affront to his Holy Being. It would do away with many things that are done in the name of religion because there would be such a new conception of the dignity of the House of God and the place where His honor dwelleth.

Someone has said that the foundation of the Christian religion is in the Old Testament; its republication and explication are found in the New. The only Scriptures that Jesus and the Apostles had were the Old Testament.

The only Scriptures that any of those who wrote the New Testament had were the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Can it be that we are so much better than they, that we may ignore this great body of divine truth, the record of God’s redeeming plan for mankind? Can it be that we may neglect these great writings which tell about Christ’s coming and his redeeming work? Can we neglect all this, and yet properly understand his coming and the meaning of his mission? The modern conception of Jesus Christ, so common to-day, in some quarters, could not be if there were the proper regard for the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament, or alluded to, over 850 times, and if all the indirect allusions in the New Testament to the Old Testament, were recorded, I suppose the number would be much greater. There are 600 actual quotations from the Old Testament in the New. It would be impossible to intelligently understand the New Testament with all these 600 quotations and 850 allusions, without a knowledge of the Old—just as we cannot understand Shakespeare intelligently if we do not know the Bible, or Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” unless we know the Bible and classical history. Let me mention three reasons why I believe that Christians do need the Old Testament.

1. We need it that we may have a proper conception of man’s need and God’s plan for his redemption. The great word throughout the Old Testament is the word “sin,” and we can never have an adequate conception of the heinousness of sin and how God hates it unless we know what he has said about it and what methods he used to deal with it. All those minute laws relating to sacrifices, so minute that we can hardly take the time to read them, were for the purpose of impressing on the minds and hearts of the people how hateful sin was to God and how it brought guilt and pollution and uncleanness. All these laws about sacrifice were for the purpose of impressing on the minds of the people the truth that, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” As Paul says, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” Well, this modern world needs to have this great fact impressed upon it just as much as did the ancient one. Think of the looseness in the luxurious life of to-day. How shall men know the need of a Saviour and his redeeming blood, unless they first know how heinous sin is, and how utterly impossible it is for man himself to provide a remedy that can remove sin’s guilt and wash away its stain.

The late Principal Forsythe, in one of his books, speaks of the famous Dr. Dale talking with him about the loss of the word “grace” from the preaching of their day. And they concluded that the reason for the loss of this great and wonderful word from our language was the lost sense of sin. In other words, if man does not know what sin is (and he cannot fully know what it is unless he knows the Old Testament), he will not flee to God for salvation, but will try to save himself. And unless he does flee to God for salvation, he will never feel that it is “by grace” that he has been saved. He will never be able to sing with all the saints:

“Grace, ‘tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear;
Heav’n with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.”

Dr. Forsythe says, “For we have lost the sense of sin, which is the central issue of all ethics, because it turns on the relation of the conscience to the conscience of God. And apart from sin, grace has little meaning. The decay of the sense of sin measures our loss of that central Christian idea; and it is a loss which has only to go on to extinguish Christianity.”

The Old Testament not only reveals to man his sinful and lost condition, but also reveals to him the Saviour whom God has provided. The story of the redemptive purpose of God in Christ runs through the Scriptures from end to end. Moses writes about him in the proto-evangelism and predicts his coming when he foretells, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” David sings about him when he writes in the 110th Psalm, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” And our Lord took those words and applied them to himself when he was reasoning with the Jews. So Isaiah foretells his coming and his virgin birth when he says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”; or again, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty Lord, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Later on in the great 53rd chapter, which the Christian church has always cherished as a clear prediction and delineation, of the Saviour’s sufferings on the Cross, we read, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Still more clearly through these great prophets we trace the development of the kingdom, Christ’s coming again in power and his glorious reign.

Thus we see how necessary it is that the Christian of to-day be familiar with the Old Testament as well as with the New if he is to have an adequate conception of our Lord and his redeeming work. That was the reason that he himself, in explaining to the two disciples on the Emmaus road the meaning of his death, went back to the Old Testament, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

II. A better knowledge of the Old Testament would renew the moral vigor of the church and of the nation.

As we have said, there is a great deal of looseness in the luxurious life of to-day. Much of this has crept into the church. The great Alexander Maclaren wrote before he died, “Especially does that crash of Jerusalem’s fall thunder the lesson to all the churches that their life and prosperity are inseparably connected with faithful obedience and turning away from all worldliness, which is idolatry. Our very privileges call us to beware. The warning is needed to-day:for worldliness is rampant in the church.” In recent months the word came from our President that the dominant issue before the American people was the enforcement of and obedience to the laws of the United States, both Federal and State. He warned us that we are threatened with a breakdown in the moral sentiment of the country by reason of wide-spread disobedience to law. Think what it must have cost him to admit such a situation before the world! Think what it means—the “breakdown of the moral sentiment of the country!” How have we come to such a pass? How is it that there are 12,000 murders a year in our land—fifty times more than in Great Britain? How is it that there are 30,000 criminals at large in New York, and 10,000 in Chicago, as told us by the crime commissioner of the American Bar Association? Because we have disregarded the law of God. It is only a short step to disregard of the laws of the home, the church and the nation. A return to the faithful reading of the Old Testament, with such ringing words as those of David: “O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day,” would bring us back again to a new recognition of the sanctity of all law.

Wrong begins in a small way, but it goes from person to person like an epidemic. You would think it would take a thousand years for a community to become contaminated, but you are mistaken. It is like a disease. When one falls in error, another immediately falls, and so on, and it spreads through the people. If you read the Old Testament, you will see that that is the way it is. Take the awful sin of the Children of Israel at Baal-Peor, when Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. When he came down, the whole nation was contaminated with the awful sin of licentiousness. It was necessary to train the people to see the difference between clean and unclean. And one of the greatest needs of our day is the revival of the power of discrimination between the clean and the unclean, between right and wrong, between that which is moral and that which is immoral.

So the Christian needs the Old Testament, in order to have an adequate conception of right and wrong, of moral and immoral, of clean and unclean. A return to its mighty Scriptures would restore some of that moral and spiritual vigor which made our fathers great. The plow-share of the law of God needs to tear through the hardened crust of many of these ruthless and wicked hearts, of whom our President speaks, and awaken them to the evil of their ways that they may turn from them and repent.

III. The Christian needs the Old Testament because Christ and the Apostles felt their need of it. Christ never recognized any other authority on earth but the Scriptures of the Old Testament. He proved everything by them, he referred everything to them, and if things did not measure up to the Old Testament standard of truth, then they were cast aside.

Of course, in some instances, he went on and added to the Revelation given through Moses since he was God’s latest revelation to man. But in all the critical and important issues of his life, he went back to the Scriptures that he had learned at his mother’s knee and in the synagogue, for his guiding principles. It is interesting to note that in answer to all the queries put to him by the devil during the temptation in the wilderness, our Saviour used the very words of the Old Testament. He in whom were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge refused to rely on his own mind, but met the tempter with the very Word of God. It is significant to note that in all three instances, the answer came from Deuteronomy, once from the eighth chapter, and twice from the sixth.

Or take the instance when the young lawyer asked our Lord what he should do to inherit eternal life. Christ could have given him some very sound and helpful advice surely from his own fund of knowledge. But, instead, he referred him to the Scriptures and repeated to him those two great verses from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, which in another place he referred to as the first and greatest commandment.

If, as some would have us believe, we do not need to lean so heavily on the Old Testament, but can very well ignore it in these days, why did our Lord feel the necessity of quoting it verbatim on all these occasions ?

Take the occasion to which we referred in the beginning when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were so puzzled about the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem in connection with the crucifixion. One would think that Christ could have just talked to them in a brotherly way and have shown them the reasonableness of it all—how it was necessary that he should die. But, instead, it says: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Why was it that Jesus did not stop on the road and say: “My brethren, it is this way,” and tell them why it happened that he was crucified and how he rose again? Why did he not tell them in his own words? Why did he not draw out from his own wealth of knowledge, for he knew all philosophy and all wisdom? The only answer we can give is that for him there was no higher authority than the Scriptures of the Old Testament, for they were the Word of God.

Even as he hung upon the Cross and uttered that great word that no human mind can fully understand, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” he was quoting from the twenty-second Psalm. And the very last word of all, according to Luke, when he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” was a quotation, the words of Psalm 31: 5.

Surety, in view of all this, it is clear that we poor, faltering, ignorant creatures, with our finite knowledge, cannot afford to ignore this great wealth of inspired truth. “Just as necessary as a question is to the answer and an answer is to the question, so necessary is the Old Testament to the New and the New to the Old.” Let us search the Scriptures, for in them we think that we have Eternal Life and they are they that testify of Christ. The Christian to-day needs the Old Testament as well as the New. Let us to the law and to the testimony, for the entrance of God’s Word giveth light.

The Solemn League and Covenant Ascribed
by Rev. David T. Myers

Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 22:1 that “a good name is to be more desired that great wealth.” Our names are important because they are part of our identity. These posts go out to those whose convictions identify them as belonging to the name “Presbyterian.”  As part of their name, there are various events which took place in the past which help identify us. They educate us, inspire us, and challenge us to live our own Christian lives more fully and completely. Our topic this day in Presbyterian history is one of those events, namely, the Solemn League and Covenant.

The Solemn League and Covenant was written by the Rev. Alexander Henderson, a minister in the Church of Scotland. That Church approved this document on August 17, 1643.  It then was received by both the Englishh Parliament and the Westminster Assembly on this day, September 25, 1643. Why was it important that the English Parliament approved it? The answer is that looming in the background was an English Civil War between King Charles I and the English Parliament. The Parliament realized that unless they had help from the Scottish church and nation, they would not be victorious in this war. So they signed it as well.

We reproduce it here, in a paraphrased edition, copied from the book “Our Covenant Heritage,” written by T.E. Edwin Nisbet Moore (and used by permission).  With uplifted hand, the two nations pledged that they would endeavor:—

(1) . . . the preservation of the Reformed religion in the Church of England . . . [and} the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland . .  according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed churches: And shall endeavor to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and  uniformity of religion . . . .

(2) . . . the extirpation of popery, prelacy, . . . superstition, heresy, schism, Profanity, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness . . .

(3) . . . [the] preservation and defense of the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, . . . the king’s majesty’s persons and authority, .  . . the true religions and liberties of the kingdoms. . .

(4) . . . this discovery of all such as have been, or shall be incendiaries, malignants, or evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, dividing the king from his people, or one of the kingdoms from another, or making any fashion, or parties amongst the people contrary to this league and covenant . . .

(5) . . . [the conjoining] in a firm peace and union to all posterity . . .

(6) . . . [the assistance and defense of] all those that enter into this league and covenant . . . And [we] shall not suffer ourselves . . . to be divided and withdrawn from this blessed union. . .

And because these kingdoms are guilty of many sins, and provocations against God, and his Son Jesus Christ . . . we profess and declare before God, and the world, our unfeigned desires to be humbled for our sins . . . to amend our lives, and each to go before another in the example of a real reformation, that the Lord may turn away his wrath . . . . Most  humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit . . . to the glory of God, the enlargement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the peace and tranquility of the Christian kingdoms and commonwealths.”

How this covenant was put into practice however was less than desirable. Rather than allowing the Christian citizens of the kingdom voluntarily to sign it, as had been done with previous covenants, they required the ministers to report anyone who either disapproved or would not swear to the covenantal words.  The late J.G. Vos points out that this compulsory requirement ended up debasing the covenant.  Many, like Charles II, signed it for reasons other than genuine acceptance. It should have been left to a voluntary response by the people.

Words to Live By:
Moses in Deuteronomy 5:29 writes, “Oh  that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commands always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”  This is a worthy prayer to be prayed by all of God’s people in any age.  It is to be prayed for our families, our church families, and the citizens of our nation. Will you pray it today, this week, this month, and this year?

The judicatories of the church shall ordinarily sit with open doors. In every case involving a charge of heresy the judicatory shall be without power to sit with closed doors. In other cases, where the ends of the discipline seem to require it, the trial judicatory at any stage of the trial may determine by a vote of three-fourths of the members present to sit with closed doors.”
—Chapter IV, The Trial of Judicial Cases, The Book of Church Order of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 2011 edition, Section A.1.b., page 102.

As it turns out, the OPC has had this provision in their Book of Church Order ever since that document was first approved in 1938. Three denominations in fact, the OPC, the BPC and the RPCES—each looking back in common heritage to the modernist controversy of the 1930s—retain or retained virtually identical wording in their respective Books of Discipline. 

But where did this otherwise unique stipulation come from? It appears to have been a response to an ecclesiastical trial, one in which two lay people, Mary W. Steward and Murray Forst Thompson, were tried in secret, behind closed doors, for their refusal to step away from their participation in the ministry of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. This event led Dr. J. Gresham Machen to write at some length opposing secrecy in the courts of the church. To my knowledge, this particular work by Dr. Machen has never before been reprinted.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT
By J. GRESHAM MACHEN

machen03The Bible bids us walk honestly as in the day; it bids us commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

These commands are very broad in their application, but whatever else they require, they certainly require great openness in our relationship with one another and in the conduct of the affairs of the Church.

The Discouragement of Public Discussion

In marked contradiction to these Biblical commands, the ecclesiastical bureaucracy in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. discourages open discussion and seeks to withhold from the laity and the public what is really going on in the Church.

“If you do not like what the General Assembly does,” we are told in one form or another again and again, “use the ‘constitutional’ means of redress, but do not use the pulpit and the radio and the public press to air your criticisms; do not in that fashion disturb the peace of the Church.”

I think the appeal by the advocates of this policy of secrecy and bureaucratic tyranny to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. is one of the strangest things among all the strange things that are happening just at the present time. As a matter of fact, such a policy is abhorrent to the very heart and core of that Constitution.

There are many reasons why that is so. But one reason has sometimes escaped notice. It is the reason found in the democratic character of the government of our Church.

The Standards of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. require absolute subjection of all to God; but, so far as the human instruments of church government are concerned, they place the power and the responsibility—always subject in all things to the Word of God—in the hands of the rank and file.

The commissioners to the General Assembly are elected by the Presbyteries; the elders in the Presbyteries are elected by the sessions of the several churches; and the sessions of the several churches are elected by the rank and file. Even in the case of the ministers, a little reflection will show that the rank and file of the Church, so far as the human instruments in the choice of them are concerned, has a decisive voice.

Suppose, then, the General Assembly does wrong. How can that wrong be righted? Merely by an appeal in private to the commissioners to the next General Assembly? Not at all. But by the election of a different sort of commissioners.

But who chooses the commissioners? As we have just observed, the rank and file of the Church chooses them. Very well then; the reasons for choosing a different sort of commissioners must be presented to the rank and file.

How must they be presented? Obviously by the only means in which the rank and file can be reached—by the pulpit, the press, and every other means that may be used in communication among men.

Let it never be forgotten. The government of our Church is, on the human side, a government by the people. For that reason, therefore, if for no other and still more important reasons, the people should not be kept in ignorance. If the General Assembly does something that is wrong—if, for example, it establishes a Modernist board of foreign missions—that is not the business merely of committees or boards, but it is the business of every man, woman and child in the Church.

In asking us to keep the facts from the laity, and to reserve our criticisms of the General Assembly or the Boards for the privacy of committee rooms, the present ecclesiastical bureaucracy is asking us to do something that is against the inmost heart of the Constitution of our Church and is profoundly contrary to the Word of God.

The Disgrace of Secret Courts

At one point the policy of secrecy in ecclesiastical affairs becomes an offence to all fair-minded people whether in the Church or outside of it.

That point is found in the secrecy of church courts. In several of the “trials” of members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, the first decision of the court—reversed only after the appearance of a rising tide of public disapproval—was to close the doors; and this policy of secrecy has again been decided upon by a vote of the session of the Hollond Memorial Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia in the trial of Murray Forst Thompson, Esq., and Miss Mary W. Stewart.

The session seemed to lay great stress upon that vote. It was put through, by an alleged majority of 6 to 3, in the most hasty and illegal manner. Apparently great stress was laid upon keeping the public in ignorance of what was going on.

What will be the result? The result will be that the findings of such a court will utterly fail to win the respect of fair-minded people either within the Church or outside of it. Court proceedings certainly ought to be open and above-board; and the general public has a pretty shrewd notion that a thing which is not open is not very apt to be above-board.

That notion may be right or it may be wrong; but at any rate people generally will hold to it. Our Form of Government says that one of the things that give ecclesiastical discipline its force is “the approval of an impartial public.” Well, it is perfectly clear that no impartial public is going to have much respect for courts that deprive an accused person of the right of an open hearing.

That right is accorded the most degraded criminal under our civil laws. If men are deprived of it in church courts, that means that the Church is standing on a lower moral plane than the world at large. Religion will seem to many people to be little more than a delusion and a sham when it is made a cloak for tyranny such as that.

The Remedy for Secrecy

What is the remedy for the bureaucratic secrecy that now prevails so widely in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.? What is the remedy for this vicious notion that “constitutional” means of purifying the Church do not include the public denunciation of ecclesiastical unbelief and sin? What is the reason for the abomination of secret ecclesiastical courts?

The answer is very simple. The remedy for darkness is light.

It is the duty of every man in the Church to let the light of day into the dark places of ecclesiastical bureaucracy. It is the duty of every man to present the facts as he knows them.

Specious arguments are sometimes used to commend a contrary policy. The Church, it is said, ought to discuss her affairs quietly and not make a spectacle of her quarrels in the presence of a hostile world.

But such arguments are miserable half-truths. The Church cannot conceal her faults, even if she should desire to do so. The very attempt at concealment will make her seem all the more contemptible to those who are without.

Instead, she ought to stand forth openly in the light of day. She has never claimed to be perfect. God knows, and the world knows, that she has sin within her walls. But at least she ought not to claim to be better than she is. Light is sometimes very painful when it shines into dark places, but it is beneficent in the end.

So the long policy of concealment ought now to cease. We ought to break away from it resolutely and radically. We ought to present the full facts about the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., so that they may be known to all.

But how may the facts be made known?

There are many ways of making them known—the pulpit, the public press, the spread of information from man to man.

But the best way of all to make them known is to have a journal that shall present them fully and fearlessly and connectedly to all who will read. There is now great need of such a journal, but we are soon to have the need supplied by the appearance of THE PRESBYTERIAN GUARDIAN. AS is announced elsewhere in this issue of THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the new paper is to be the organ of The Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. It is to be under the editorship of the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths. It will satisfy many needs of Christian people. It will appeal to young and old. But a very important part of its function will be the presentation of the facts about the condition of the Church.

The time has gone by, if there ever was such a time, when Christian people, particularly in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., could afford to be in ignorance of the facts. We must know the facts in order that we may lay them before our God in prayer and ask Him to give us courage to act in view of them as Christian men and women ought to act.

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


Q. 98
What is prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.

Scripture References: Ps.62:8; I John 5:14; Matt. 26:39; John 16:23; Daniel 9:4; Phil. 4:6.

Questions:

1. Some feel that prayer is simply petitions of God. Is this the only part of prayer?

No, petitions are certainly not the only part of prayer though they are basic to prayer as we offer up our desires to Him.

2. What other kinds of prayer are legitimate?

We can confess in prayer and we can give our thanksgivings to God.

However, the matter of our supplications to God are important in His sight.

3. When we say we are to offer up our desires to God do we simply mean the Father?

Certainly we do not mean simply God the Father though most prayers are offered in that way, in the name of Jesus Christ. How- ever, when we pray to God it is understood that all members of the Trinity are being addressed.

4. Could you list some of the things that would be agreeable to His will in our prayers?

As we pray we can ask Him for spiritual grace and strength for each day, for deliverance from temptations, for the pardon of our sins, for the vision of that wonderful day we will be with Him, for our brethren in the Lord.

5. Why is it necessary that we pray in the name of Jesus Christ?

We must pray in the name of Christ because our sinfulness is 80 great that we have no ability to reach God without the Mediator that has been supplied for us.

6. Why is it necessary to confess our sins in our prayers?

It is necessary for us to confess our sins for He will not hear us if there is inlqulty in our hearts. (Ps. 66:18)

7. What are the mercies for which we should be thankful?

These mercies are His free gifts to us, both spiritual and temporal. His mercy is great and free and we could not live without it.

PRAYER IS VITAL

In the year 1898 two members of the Presbytery of New York returned to their work from a Bible conference. A called meeting of Presbytery was held. One asked a question concerning the prayer life of the brethren. “Brethren, let us today make confession before God and each other. It will do us good. Will everyone who spends half an hour every day with God in prayer regarding His work hold up his hand? Fifteen minutes?” Not a hand went up. The minister then said, “Prayer, the working power of the Church of Christ, and not one person spends fifteen minutes a day!”

We all know that our Bible reading and our Bible study is important to us. But supremely important is our regular, earnest, daily prayer. There is a parallel here between the spiritual and the physical. So far as our bodies are concerned we must have air to breathe. The spiritual air we have to breathe is our prayer life. When prayer dies out spiritual life dies out and becomes feeble.

E. M. Bounds, a great prayer warrior, once said, “Prayer is a privilege, a sacred, princely privilege. Prayer is a duty, an obligation most binding, and most imperative, which should hold us to it. But prayer is more than a privilege, more than a duty. It is a means, an instrument, a condition. Not to pray is to lose much more than to fail in the exercise and enjoyment of a high or sweet privilege. Not to pray is to fail among lines far more important than even the violation of an obligation.”

Time and time again in the history of the Christian Church it has been proven that the thing of supreme importance is the practice of daily, private prayer. God has used those who make use of this privilege before Him. We do not mean to intimate that Bible study is not important. But the more a believer knows of the Word of God the more he will know the important of his prayer life. J. Sidlow Baxter once said that the Christian service was the “Outer Court” of the Tabernacle. Bible study was the “Holy Place” of the Tabernacle. But prayer was the “Holy of Holies” and must be carried on without ceaSing.

How much time do we spend in prayer? Have we developed the sacred habit of daily prayer? May we read Rev. 5:8 and ask God to give us no rest until we are consistent in our prayer lives!

Published By THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches

Vol. 7 No. 5 (March 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

“Finally, we exhort the children of God to continue instant in prayer, that He, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, would grant us fresh, more plentiful and extensive effusions, that so this wilderness, in all the parts of it, may become a fruitful field; that the present appearances may be an earnest of the glorious things promised to the Church in the latter days; when she shall shine with the glory of the Lord arisen upon her, so as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, confound and put to shame all her enemies, rejoice the hearts of her solicitous and now saddened friends, and have a strong influence and resplendency throughout the earth. Amen!—Even so, come Lord Jesus; come quickly!”

Psalm 145:10-12
10.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.
11.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.
12.  To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

In the era of the First Great Awakening, Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors worked readily with one another in the proclamation of the Gospel, both groups being strongly Calvinistic in their theology. As you read through this document, you will see mentioned several of the concerns which figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church, 1741-1758. The issues prompting that split included itinerant preaching and ministerial authority, and both of these concerns are discussed in THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE.

[Originally published Boston : Printed, and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1743, and here excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 38 (22 September 1838): 149, columns 4-5.]

From the Pastor’s Journal.
ANCIENT REVIVALS.

After the remarkable work of God in New England in the beginning of the last century, it was suggested by a writer in the Boston Gazette of May 31st, 1743, that a Convention of Ministers should be held to “consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony, to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which through the permitted agency of Satan have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement.” Accordingly, on the 7th July of the same year, about ninety Ministers met at Boston for the above purposes. After a sermon, they proceeded to confer together, and to hear the letters of such as desired but were not able to attend the meeting. As the result of their deliberations they drew up and published the following document, which was signed by sixty-eight Ministers—the number of those who remained, the others having left.

THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE

Of an Assembly of Pastors of Churches in New England, at a meeting in Boston, July 7th, 1743, occasioned by the late happy Revival of Religion in many parts of the land.

If it is the duty of every one capable of observation and reflection, to take a constant religious notice of what occurs in the daily course of common providence; how much more is it expected that those events in the divine, wherein there is a signal display of the power, grace, and mercy of God in behalf of the Church, should be observed with sacred wonder, pleasure, and gratitude?—Nor should the people of God content themselves with a silent notice, but publish with the voice of thanks, and tell of all his wondrous works. More particularly, when Christ is pleased to come into his Church in a plentiful effusion of his Holy Spirit, by whose powerful influences the ministration of the word is attended with uncommon success, salvation-work carried in an eminent manner, and his kingdom which is within men, and consists in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, is notably advanced. This is an event which above all others invites the notice and bespeaks the praises of the Lord’s people, and should be declared abroad for a memorial of the divine grace; as it tends to confirm the divinity of a despised Gospel, and manifests the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption, which too many are ready to reproach; as it may have a happy effect, by the divine blessing, for the revival of religion in other places, and the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ in the world; and as it tends to enliven the prayers, strengthen the faith, and raise the hopes of such as are waiting for the kingdom of God, and the coming on of the glory of the latter days.—But if it is justly expected of all who profess themselves the disciples of Christ, that they should openly acknowledge and rejoice in a work of this nature, wherein the honor of their Divine Master is so much concerned; how much more is it to be looked for from those who are employed in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and so stand in a special relation to him, as servants of his household and officers in his kingdom? These stand as watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem; and it is their business not only to give the alarm of war when the enemy is approaching, but to sound the trumpet of praise when the king of Zion cometh, in a meek triumph, having salvation.

For these and other reasons, we whose names are hereunto annexed, pastors of Churches in New England, met together in Boston, July 7th, 1743, think it our indispensable duty, (without judging or censuring such of our brethren as cannot at present see things in the same light with us) in this open and conjunct manner to declare, to the glory of sovereign grace, our full persuasion, either from what we have seen ourselves, or received upon credible testimony, that there has been a happy and remarkable revival of religion in many parts of this land, through an uncommon divine influence; after a long time of great decay and deadness, and a sensible and very awful withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from his sanctuary among us. Though the work of grace wrought on the hearts of men by the word and Spirit of God, and which has been more or less carried on in the Church from the beginning, is always the same for substance, and agrees, at one time and another, in one place or person and another, as to the main strokes and lineaments of it, yet the present work appears to be remarkable and extraordinary, on account of the numbers wrought upon. We never before saw so many brought under soul-concern, and with distress making the inquiry, “What must we do to be saved?” and these persons of all characters and ages. With regard to the suddenness and quick progress of it, many persons and places were surprised with the gracious visit together, or near about the same time; and the heavenly influence diffused itself far and wide like the light of the morning. Also in respect of the degree of operation, both in a way of terror and in a way of consolation; attended in many with unusually bodily effects. Not that all who are accounted the subjects of the present work, have had these extraordinary degrees of previous distress and subsequent joy.—But many, and we suppose the greater number have been wrought on in a more gentle and silent way, and without any other appearances than are common and usual at other times, when persons have been awakened to a solemn concern about salvation, and have been thought to have passed out of a state of nature into a state of grace. As to those whose inward concern has occasioned extraordinary outward distress, the most of them, when we came to converse with them, were able to give, what appeared to us a rational account of what so affected their minds, viz. a quick sense of their guilt, misery, and danger; and they would often mention the passages in the sermons they heard, or particular texts of Scripture, which were sent home upon them with such a powerful impression. And as to such whose joys have carried them in transports and ecstacies, [sic] they in like manner have accounted for them, from a lively sense of the danger they hoped they were freed from, and the happiness they were now possessed of; such clear views of divine and heavenly things, and particularly of the excellencies and loveliness of Jesus Christ, and such sweet tastes of redeeming love, as they never had before. The instances were very few in which we had reason to think these affections were produced by visionary or sensible representations, or by any other images than such as the Scripture itself presents unto us.

And here we think it not amiss to declare that in dealing with these persons, we have been careful to inform them, that the nature of conversion does not consist in these passionate feelings; and to warn them not to look upon their state as safe, because they have passed out of deep distress into high joys, unless they experience a renovation of nature, followed with a change of life, and a course of vital holiness. Nor have we gone into such an opinion of the bodily effects with which this work has been attended in some of its subjects, as to judge them any signs that persons who have been so affected, were then under a saving work of the Spirit of God. No; we never so much as called these bodily seizures, convictions; or spake of them as the immediate work of the Holy Spirit. Yet we do not think them inconsistent with a work of God upon the soul at that very time; but judge that those inward impressions which come from the Spirit of God, those terrors and consolations of which he is the author, may, according to the natural frame and constitution which some persons are of, occasion such bodily effects. And therefore that those extraordinary outward symptoms are not an argument that the work is delusive, or from the influence and agency of the evil spirit.

With respect to numbers of those who have been under the impressions of the present day, we must declare there is good ground to conclude they are become real Christians; the account they give of their consolation and conviction agreeing with the standard of the Holy Scriptures, corresponding with the experiences of the saints, and evidenced by the external fruits of holiness in their lives; so that they appear to those who have the nearest access to them, as so many epistles of Christ, written, not with ink, but by the spirit of the living God, attesting to the genuineness of the present operation, and representing the excellency of it. Indeed, many who appeared to be under convictions, and were much altered in their external behavior, when this work began, and while it was most flourishing, have lost their impressions, and are relapsing into their former manner of life; yet of those who were judged hopefully converted, and made a public profession of religion, there have been fewer instances of scandal and apostacy [sic] than might be expected. So that, as far as we are able to form a judgment, the face of religion is lately changed much for the better in many of our towns and congregations; and together with a reformation observable in divers instances, appears to be more experimental godliness, and lively Christianity, than the most of us can remember we have ever seen before.

Thus we have freely declared our thoughts as to the work of God so remarkably revived in many parts of this land. And now, we desire to bow the knee in thanksgiving to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our eyes have seen and our ears heard such things. And whilst these are our sentiments, we must necessarily be grieved at any accounts sent abroad, representing this work as all enthusiasm, delusion, and disorder.—Indeed it is not to be denied, that in some places many irregularities and extravagances have been permitted to accompany it, which we would deeply lament and bewail before God, and look upon ourselves obliged, for the honor of the Holy Spirit, and of his blessed operations on the souls of men, to bear a public and faithful testimony against; though at the same time it is to be acknowledged with much thankfulness, that in other places, where the work has greatly flourished, there have been few if any of these disorders and excesses. But who can wonder, if at such a time as this, Satan should intermingle himself, to hinder and blemish a work so directly contrary to the interests of his own kingdom? Or if, while so much good seed is sowing, the enemy should be busy to sow tares? We would, therefore, in the bowels of Jesus, beseech men as have been partakers of this work, or are zealous to promote it, that they be not ignorant of Satan’s devices; that they watch and pray against errors and misconduct of every kind, lest they blemish and hinder that which they desire to honor and advance. Particularly, that they do not make secret impulses on their minds, without a due regard to the written word, the rule of their duty; a very dangerous mistake which we apprehend some in these times have gone into. That laymen do not invade the ministerial office, and under a pretence [sic] of exhorting, set up preaching; which is very contrary to Gospel order, and tends to introduce errors and confusion into the Church. That Ministers do not invade the province of others, and in ordinary cases preach in another’s parish, without his knowledge, and against his consent; nor encourage raw and indiscreet young candidates, in rushing into particular places, and preaching publicly or privately, as some have done to the no small disrepute and damage of the work in places where it once promised to flourish. Though at the same time we would have Ministers show their regard to the spiritual welfare of their people, by suffering them to partake of the gifts and graces of able, sound, and zealous preachers of the word, as God in his providence may give opportunity therefore; being persuaded that God has in this day remarkably blest [sic] the labors of his servants who have travelled [sic] in preaching the Gospel of Christ. That people beware of entertaining prejudices against their own pastors, and do not run into unscriptural separations. That they do not indulge a disputatious spirit, which has been attended with mischievous effects; nor discover a spirit of censoriousness, uncharitableness, and rash judging the state of others; than which scarce any thing has more blemished the work of God amongst us. And while we would meekly exhort both Ministers and Christians, so far as is consistent with truth and holiness, to follow the things that make for peace; we would most earnestly warn all sorts of persons not to despise these outpourings of the Spirit, lest a holy God be provoked to withhold them, and instead thereof to pour out upon this people the vials of his wrath, in temporal judgments and spiritual plagues; and would call upon every one to improve the remarkable season of grace, and put in for a share of the heavenly blessings so liberally dispensed.

Finally, we exhort the children of God to continue instant in prayer, that He, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, would grant us fresh, more plentiful and extensive effusions, that so this wilderness, in all the parts of it, may become a fruitful field; that the present appearances may be an earnest of the glorious things promised to the Church in the latter days; when she shall shine with the glory of the Lord arisen upon her, so as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, confound and put to shame all her enemies, rejoice the hearts of her solicitous and now saddened friends, and have a strong influence and resplendency throughout the earth. Amen!—Even so, come Lord Jesus; come quickly!”

The above was signed by sixty-eight Ministers, fifteen of whom, however, added the following exception:

“We concur with the testimony, for the substance of it, excepting that article of itinerancy, or ministers and others intruding into other Minister’s parishes without their consent; which great disorder we apprehend not; sufficiently testified against therein.”

[Note: In his reprinting of this document, the editor of THE CHARLESTON OBSERVERdid not see fit to provide the names of those signing THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE, and so those names cannot be provided here.]

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