April 2013

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“He fought and preached alternately”

John Craighead was the second son of John and Rachel R. Craighead and the grandson of the Rev. Thomas Craighead. His great-grandfather was the Rev. Robert, a Scotsman who immigrated to Ireland around 1657 and served as pastor of churches in donoughmore and Londonderry. Robert later moved to Dublin and is noted for having authored several works on the Christian life. Thomas Craighead, the son of Robert, came to New England in 1715 and preached for about eight years near Fall River, Massachusetts, before moving to Delaware, where he was installed as the pastor of the White Clay Creek church. In 1733, Thomas answered a call to serve the congregation at Pequea, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and his last pulpit was in Hopewell, PA.

John was born in 1742, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, his parents having relocated from Lancaster in 1742. He graduated from Princeton College in 1763, where he had been a classmate with Robert Cooper, then studied theology with Dr. Robert Smit, of Pequea. John was ordained by the Presbytery of Donegal and installed, on April 13, 1768, as pastor of the Rocky Spring church, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. His salary, upon accepting this call, was L100 per year.

Rev. Craighead continued his ministry at the Rocky Spring church until 1789, when, on account of declining health and mental derangement, his pastoral relation was dissolved. Apparently he was prone to fits of deep depression which made ministry difficult, if not impossible. Yet by 1791 he was noted as being in regular attendance at the meetings of the Carlisle Presbytery and was even appointed to serve the Presbytery as its commissioner to General Assembly that year.  He served as commissioner to General Assembly again in 1793. Finally on April 9th, 1799, the Presbytery was compelled to dissolve his pastoral relation “solely due to inability,” and his death followed soon after. He died on April 20, 1799, and was buried in the Rocky Spring graveyard.

Mr. Craighead is noted in history for his earnest and patriotic appeals to his people during the struggle for American Independence, and for his services as captain and chaplain to a company formed from his own congregation in response to his patriotic appeals, at a solemn crisis in the war, when the whole male portion of the congregation rose to their feet in token of readiness to embark in defense of the country.

The old church at Rocky Spring was still extant as late as the 1880’s. Though somewhat altered, it retained substantially the original main features. The aisles were paved with brick; the pews were straight-backed and unpainted oak; the pulpit was narrow, with its sounding board painted a light blue; the elders’ bench was a simple thick slab of wood; the communion service was made of pewter, imported from London, but black with age. Two ten-plate stoves, of a very primitive form, were used to warm the building, with their stove pipes ascending through holes cut in the ceiling, where the smoke released into the attic and escaped, without any chimneys, the best way it could. The side door was still there, where Mr. Craighead stood and cajoled the men assembled in the churchyard, and so stirred their patriotic passions that they soon organized themselves into a company and went through the Revolutionary War with their pastor as captain and chaplain.

One biographer of Rev. Craighead wrote that he preached “in glowing terms, Jesus Christ, the only hope of salvation, and after the delivery of his sacred message, in eloquent and patriotic strains exhorted the youth of his congregation to rise up and join the noble band, then engaged under the immortal Washington, in struggling to free our beloved country from British oppression,” and that “On one of these occasions, the patriot preacher declaimed in such fervid and powerful terms respecting the evils his country was enduring, and presented such a description of each man’s duty that ‘the whole congregation rose from their seats and declared their willingness to march to the conflict.’ “

Words to Live By:
Having read that last account, the obvious question by comparison is, What does it take to get a congregation to rise up for the cause of Christ? When so many endeavors so easily obtain our whole attention, what does it take for the Lord Jesus Christ to have first place in our hearts and minds? Or what does it take just simply for the congregation to regularly, faithfully go to their knees in prayer?

Lord, may we be a praying people, intent upon doing Your will, ever watching to see Your hand at work, waiting upon your every provision.

Sources:
Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle, vol. 2, pp. 47-48; Nevin’s Encyclopedia, p. 162.

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Isaac Van Arsdale Brown was born in Pluckamin, Somerset county, New York, on November 14, 1784. Little seems to be known of his parents or his early years. He graduated at Nassau Hall, as Princeton University was known in those days, and then studied theology privately under the tutelage of Dr. John Woodhull, of Freehold, New Jersey. He was licensed and then later ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1807, being installed as the pastor of the church at Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Three years later, in 1810, Rev. Brown established the Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial Boarding School, located near Princeton, and up until 1833 Rev. Brown remained the head of this school. The school has continued to this day and is one of the oldest private boarding schools in the nation. Then in 1833, both his wife and his son died, and it seems likely that their deaths led to his decision to leave Lawrenceville. In 1834, he sold the school and relocated to Mount Holly, New Jersey to plant a church there, while also preaching at Plattsburg, NJ and working to establish another church there. The last two decades of his life were spent preaching in the areas around Trenton and New Brunswick.

Dr. Brown was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society and also an original member of the American Bible Society. He died on April 19, 1861. (for historical reference, Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and the Civil War thus began, a week prior, on April 12, 1861)

Dr. Isaac V. Brown is noted as the author of several works, but most importantly, that of A Historical Vindication of the Abrogation of the Plan of Union by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (1855). This is a careful treatment in defense of the Old School position on the 1837-1869 Old School/New School split in the PCUSA. It can be read online, here.

To read about the efforts of the Lawrenceville School in relocating Rev. Brown’s grave to a more appropriate location, click here.

Words to Live By:
In all likelihood, Rev. Brown started the school in Lawrenceville simply as a way to make ends meet. Pastors were not well paid in those days, and it was quite common for a pastor to turn to teaching in order to augment his salary. Nonetheless, the works that you do may live well beyond your own life-time. God will use what He will use. It is our part to be faithful in doing what He calls us to, and to do all things as unto the Lord.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ASV)

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“But honey!, these books are an investment!”

Today we will look briefly at the life and ministry of the Rev. John Dorrance. Recently I’ve come to the realization that if you dig deep enough, there is always an interesting story or two to be found in every life. That proved to be the case with Rev. Dorrance. To begin our account of Rev. Dorrance, we turn first to E.H. Gillett’s history of missions in Louisiana:—

“One of the first—if not the first—to labor as pastor at Baton Rouge, was Dr. John Dorrance, a native of Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Nassau Hall and of Princeton Seminary. On the completion of his studies, in 1826, he was sent to the South under a commission from the Board of Missions, and his field of labor was Baton Rouge and vicinity. This had been, and still was, a place of great immorality. Its population, numbering about twelve hundred, had been collected from every State of the Union and every part of Europe. It is not strange that infidelity should have been common and openly avowed. Yet, in view of the temporal benefits of Christian institutions, the people invited the missionary to remain, and contributed to his support. He was ordained and installed, by the Mississippi Presbytery, pastor of the church at Baton Rouge in 1827; and during a pastorate of four years his labors were eminently successful.”

“Although the future scene of his ministry was in a Northern State (Wilkes Barre, PA), he left behind him a testimony that he had not labored in vain. Possessed of rare intellectual endowments, his mind was not brilliant, but admirably balanced, and capable of a prodigious grasp. If he did not shine as a student, he was wise and prudent as a man. He died in the triumph of a Christian faith, April 18, 1861.”

The first known Presbyterian services in Baton Rouge were conducted by the Rev. William McCalla, while he was a chaplain stationed there with the U.S. Army. Then in 1822, the Presbytery of Mississippi sent a Rev. Savage, who preached for a short while at several locations in the area. Then in 1827, Rev. Dorrance was installed over the work. During his ministry the church was organized and left its mission status behind. At its organization, the church had only fifteen members, but just five years later it was strong enough to plant a daughter church in Zachary, Louisiana. The Zachary church, now known as Plains Presbyterian Church, was founded in 1832, and it became one of the strongest in the South. It later became one of the founding congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America, in 1973.

So there’s that interesting aspect to our story. The other interesting note comes from an unexpected angle. A little searching on the Internet turns up a bookseller who has a rare volume for sale, once owned by Rev. Dorrance. The work is titled Liber Psalmorum Hebraice, or The Book of Psalms, in Hebrew. It was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1809 as part of the first American printing of any part of the Hebrew Bible. It is a small book, about the size of a common paperback, and has almost 500 pages. Part of the leather cover is now detached and there are other signs of wear that you might expect for a book this old. The first book published on American soil was an edition of the Psalter, published in 1640 by Harvard College. This became known as the Bay Psalm Book. You may have seen in the news recently that an old historic church plans to sell one of their two copies of this rare book, which may bring as much as $30 million dollars at auction. By contrast, the asking price for this copy of the Hebrew Book of Psalms is a steal at a mere $20,000. To read the bookseller’s full description, click here.  So yes, those books you are buying could be an investment. The problem is waiting around 200 years to cash in.

Words to Live By:
Books are among a pastor’s best tools. Much thought goes into picking the best available. Many are used frequently. Some are constant companions. The best books are those worth reading more than once. That’s true for all of us, whether pastors or not. And with the best book of all, I urge you to turn to the Bible at the start of each day, before the press of life interrupts. And learn to read the Scriptures meditatively—slowly, thoughtfully, and with application.

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books, there is no end; and much study is a wearness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, KJV)

For Further Study:
A small collection of Rev. Dorrance’s papers, consisting of ten sermon manuscripts, was preserved and is housed at the Special Collections Department of the Princeton Theological Seminary.  To see more about this collection, click here.

Sources: Gillett, Ezra Hall, History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, volume 2, 1864, pp. 379-380. (available on the Internet, here.

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The Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., LL.D. (April 17, 1772 – Oct. 22, 1851)

AlexanderArchibaldThe Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander was born near Lexington, Va., on April 17, 1772. His classical and theological studies were pursued under the direction of the Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, afterward Washington College. He was licensed to preach the gospel at the early age of nineteen. After spending a year or more in missionary labor according to the rules of the Synod, he was ordained and installed pastor of Briery Church, November 7, 1794. In 1796 he was chosen President of Hampden-Sydney College at the age of twenty-four. On May 20, 1807, he was installed pastor of the Pine Street Church, Philadelphia. In the same year, being thirty-five, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and in his sermon made the suggestion of a Theological Seminary. In 1812 he was appointed Professor in the Theological Seminary just established at Princeton. Here he remained for the rest of his life.

Dr. Alexander was seized with his final illness in the summer of 1851, and he died on October 22, 1851.

Dr. Alexander’s published writings are too numerous to recite here. We may only mention “History of the Colonization Society,” “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” “Thoughts on Religion,” “Counsels to the Aged,” “Practical Sermons.” He also published numerous tracts and was a frequent contributor to the Princeton Review.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.—[Dr. Archibald Alexander.

Words to Live By: Our Lord calls us to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life, giving evidence of the reality of our saving faith in Christ. We are not saved by our faithfulness, nor by our works, but if our trust in Christ as Savior is real, there will be evidence of that reality in our lives. We will die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness.

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“A nail driven in a sure place.”

William Miller Paxton is another of those names that seems now forgotten to the modern ear. He was notably a pastor in Pittsburgh, then a professor of homiletics (preaching), first at Western Theological Seminary, also in Pittsburgh, and later at the Princeton Theological Seminary, with a pastorate in New York City falling between those two appointments. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, was also a noted pastor, who was born on April 1, 1760 and who died on April 16, 1845. But in researching the extended family, I was intrigued by this account and so am posting here today an account of the grandson, rather than the grandfather. The full account, and more, can be read here, but in abbreviated form and touching on just a few of the significant events in Dr. Paxton’s life, here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield for his friend and colleague:—

paxtonWmMWilliam Miller Paxton was descended from a godly ancestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions…The earliest of his paternal ancestors who has been certainly traced—the fourth in ascent from him—is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth century living in Bart township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshiped at Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of the family served as an elder in that church; and out of it came his son, Dr. Paxton’s grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who, after having like his father before him fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceasing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna, he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek church, in what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania, and there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century’s duration.

Dr. Paxton’s father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton, was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence and large influence in the community, engaged in the manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, and later near Gettysburg and Chambersburg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Paxton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth was passed mostly at Gettysburg…his collegiate training at Pennsylvania College. He began the study of law, [but] united on profession of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, in March, 1845, …[and] Not more than a month after uniting with the church, on April 9th, 1845, he was received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a candidate for the ministry, and in the ensuing autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological training.

…”I well remember,” he has told us himself, “that when I was a student, no young man could pass through his first year without being constrained to reexamine his personal hope and motives for seeking the sacred office.” No doubt this is primarily an encomium upon the pungency of the religious training of those four great men under whose instruction he sat—Drs. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge and Addison Alexander….One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated himself upon was that he had had a double training in theology. “The class to which I belonged,” he tells us, “heard” Dr. Archibald Alexander’s “lectures upon Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its logical development, in its beautiful balance and connection with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words ringing through my mind, “A nail driven in a sure place.”

…The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during Dr. Paxton’s New York ministry was, of course, the reunion of the Old and New School branches of the Church. He was of the number of those who did not look with satisfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough, however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when corresponding delegates to the New School body were for the first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consummated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor in both the beginning and end of the movement…When once the union was accomplished, he became one of the chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long separated bodies.

…In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his hands from 257 members to 409 in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown with the years, was loath to give him up.

Words to Live By:
Dr. Warfield continued in his eulogy for Paxton, with a message that was close to Warfield’s own heart:—

…what he took his real stand upon was the perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warning those who were charged with the administration of these institutions against permitting them to degenerate into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-long friend, Dr. A.A. Hodge—whom he loved as a brother and admired as a saint of God—when Dr. Hodge was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permitting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations of a scholastic conception of theological training, and insistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the seminary buildings—he was speaking in the First Church—he exclaimed: “There stands that venerable institution. What does it mean? What is the idea it expresses? . . . Is it a place where young men get a profession by which they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a company of educated young men are gathered to grind out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic literature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialects, to master the mystic techniques of the schoolmen, and to debate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees? If this is its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch and burn it! . . . We do not in any way deprecate a learned ministry. We must have learning . . . .But whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men. . . .No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological seminary . . .It is a school of learning, but it is also a cradle of piety!”

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Wise Words

In his eulogy for Professor George Howe, the Rev. John L. Girardeau prefaced his comments with this fitting summary on the subject of Christian biography and eulogy:

“In doing honor to those who have attained to eminence, there is a tendency unduly to exalt the perfection of human nature, from the indulgence of which we are restrained by the principles of Christianity. It can never be forgotten by those who are imbued with its instructions and possessed of a consciousness illuminated by its light, that all men, even the greatest and best, are sinners; and that, whatever advancement in mere moral culture may be effected by the force of natural resolution, neither the beginning nor the development of holiness is possible without the application of the blood of atonement, and the operation of supernatural grace. To signalise, therefore, the virtues of a departed Christian is to celebrate the provisions of redemption, and to magnify the graces of the Holy Ghost.”

In other words, we write biographies of leading Christians and seek to preserve their papers—their writings and their correspondence—not to emulate them, but to praise the God who worked through them, that future generations of believers might profit from their walk with the Lord.

howeGeorge Howe was born at Dedham, Massachusetts on November 6, 1802. His father was William Howe, whose lineage ran back to one of the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock. His mother was Mary (Gould) Howe, daughter of Major George and Rachel (Dwight) Gould.

When he was still quite young, George came across a copy of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana (The Glorious Works of Christ in America — vol. 1 of which can be read here.) among his father’s books. There he encountered Latin sentences peppered throughout the text, and so began his study of the Latin language. He pursued that study formally at Mr. Ford’s school in Dedham, and, as he later related, “said his hic, haec, hoc in his trundle-bed.”

At the age of twelve the family relocated to a town near Philadelphia. As a young teenager, he was able to attend First Presbyterian Church in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, where the Rev. Dr. James Patterson was pastor. It was Patterson’s habit to speak with every member of the family when he visited, and on one such occasion, he turned to George and asked George whether he had come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation. The question caused George a great deal of discomfort, but this brought him under conviction of his sin, and not long after he made a public profession of his faith there at First Presbyterian.

Graduating with first honors from Middlebury College, in Vermont, in 1822, George then entered Andover Theological Seminary, taking the full three year course of studies. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Abbott scholarship, which afforded him another year and half of study, after which he was appointed, at the age of twenty-seven, as Phillips Professor of Sacred Theology at Dartmouth College. This was during the presidency of the Rev. Dr. Bennett Tyler, who was closely tied with the troublesome New Haven Theology. At about the same time as Howe’s appointment, he was also ordained, on August 7, 1827.

For three years he served at this post, when his health was threatened with consumption (tuberculosis), and medical advice urged him to remove to the South. Rev. Howe soon sailed from Boston in a ship bound for Charleston, South Carolina, and he spent the month of December, 1830 in that city.

Providentially, it was about this same time that the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia met and took up a request from Dr. Thomas Goulding, asking for the appointment of a teacher of Greek and Hebrew. Dr. Goulding had only recently been appointed head of a new seminary in South Caroliina, and already the school needed another teacher. Rev. Howe’s reputation with the languages preceding him, he was elected to the post. Thus began Dr. Howe’s lengthy career of fifty-two years at the Columbia Theological Seminary. When the Seminary’s semi-centennial was observed at the end of 1881, Dr. Howe was there to celebrate the occasion, with many congratulations focused on his own central role in the establishment of the school. A year and a half later, he was gone, passed to his eternal reward, on April 15, 1883.

Dr. Howe did not write many books, but of the less than ten, several remain monumental works, to this day.  In particular, his two volume magnum opus on The History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina is still required reading for anyone interested in the subject of religion in the Southern states. Print copies are rare, but the text can be found on the Web here [vol. 1] and here [vol. 2].

Words to Live By:
As George Howe lay near death, he expressed his desire to receive visits (despite his doctor’s wishes) from the other faculty of Columbia Seminary. One colleague asked him, “My dear brother, do you trust in Jesus?,” to which Dr. Howe readily answered, “Yes; what would I do, did I not trust in Him?”

What will you do, if you do not trust in the only Savior appointed for our salvation?

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NASB)

For Further Study:
Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana (The Glorious Works of Christ in America), can be read here. (vol. 1) and here (vol. 2)

A Further Historical Note:
One issue in the Old Side/New Side split of the PCUSA in 1741 was the matter of educating candidates for the ministry. The New Side thought themselves competent to train pastors on American soil. Thus William Tennent’s Log College. The Old Side maintained that candidates had to secure their training back in the old country. After that split was mended in 1758, the way was cleared to establish American schools for the training of ministerial candidates—seminaries, so called—seedbeds or nurseries for prospective pastors. It took some time to get the ball rolling, but soon a number of Presbyterian seminaries were established:
1806 — Andover Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts.
1810 — New Brunswick Seminary, in New Jersey.
1812 — Princeton Theological Seminary, in Princeton, New Jersey.
[Also in 1812, the Rev. Moses Hoge was appointed to serve as professor of theology at the Hampden-Sydney College.]
1821 — Auburn Theological Seminary, Auburn, New York.
1824 — Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia.
1830 — Columbia Theological Seminary [technically the school began a year earlier in another location]

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A Children’s Sermon

This Lord’s Day, our sermon is from the Rev. William Swan Plumer [1802-1880], a noted Southern Presbyterian pastor, scholar, and prolific author. And to do something a bit different, this sermon is taken from Plumer’s work, Short Sermons to Little Children (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1848). Perhaps you will want to share this sermon today with your own children or grandchildren. It is full of great and good theology.

We All Belong to God.
Ye are not your own.—1 Cor. vi. 19.

A little boy found a knife, and the first thing he said, was, “It is very handsome.” He looked at it a little while, and then said: “It is not mine. I should love to have a knife, but I wish the owner of this knife had it.” So he asked all the boys that he met, the question: “Whose knife is this?” At last he found the owner, and gave it to him. One boy said, “If I should find a knife, I should keep it, and not tell any one.” But it would have been mean, and wicked too, to keep that which was not his own. It would have been a kind of stealing. The commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.” When he had found the owner, and given up the knife, he felt that he had done right. We ought all to give to every one what is his own.

Now you do not belong to yourselves, nor to any man. You belong to God alone. Both your soul and body are His. I will prove it.

I. He made you. A boy went out and got a piece of wood, and made a bow and arrow. Now, it was his, because he made it. It would have been wrong for any other boy to have taken it, and carried it away. He, who made it, had a clear right to it, because he had made it. So God made your soul and your body. No one else made you. “He that built (or made) all things is God.” “The sea is His, and He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” (Ps. 95:5) Thereforem, the sea and the dry land belong to God. If, when a boy or a man makes a thing, it is his, why, when God makes a thing, should it not be His also? We have belonged to God ever since we were born, and we shall be bound to love Him, and serve Him to all eternity.

II. God, as our king, has a right to us. He is strong, and wise, and good. He can rule us, and guide us, and help us. He is just such a king as we all need over us. “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Men sometimes try to rule over us, when they have no right to do it. But God has all right. He is so strong, that He can do any thing. He is so good, that He cannot be unkind. There is none like Him. It is better for us to belong to God, than to belong to ourselves, or to any one else. If God were to give us up, and never again to claim us as His own, it would be the worst thing in the world for us.

III. God has kept you, and blessed you all your days. He has been a friend and a father to you. He has heaped many blessings upon you. He has given you life, and food, and raiment, and friends, and books, and teachers, and all the health and joy you have had. None has been so kind to you as God. None could have done so much for you as God has done. It must be very wicked to claim to be your own, when you belong to God. He says, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth : for the LORD has spoken ; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib : but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isaiah 1:2-3) If the ox knows his owner, you ought to know your owner. If the ass knows his master’s crib, you ought to know the hand that feeds you. Again, God says, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear?”

IV. All of you who have, or have had a pious father or mother, belong to God by their vows. Every Christian, who has children, loves to give them and all he has to God, and he begs God to take them. He is not more afraid of any thing than of having God reject his gifts. And if your parents were not pious, they ought to have been, and they ought to have given you to God. Samuel’s mother gave him to God. Your parents had a right to give you to God. They were bound to give you to Him. What sort of a Christian would that be, who would say, “Lord, I give Thee my soul and my body, but I will not give Thee my time, nor my money, nor my children?” You belong to God, every one of you.

V. Jesus Christ has a right to you, because He died for sinners. It was great love in Christ to come, and suffer, and die  for so vile creatures as we all are. Every one, who shall ever be saved, has been bought with a price far above his value. Peter says, “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; ….but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish, and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) If you will not yield yourselves to God out of love to Christ, I cannot say less than that your hearts are very wicked.

REMARKS
1. God asserts and always will assert His right to you and to all men. He says, “All souls are mine.” (Ezekiel 18:4). He says, “The world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalm 50:12).
2. God will enforce His right to you, and to all men. He says He is “A jealous God.” That is, He is jealous of His own rights. He says again, “My glory will I not give to another.” And again, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
3. It is very wicked not to give God His own. Sin is robbery. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.” (Malachi 3:8). If it is wrong to take a bow and arrow from the boy, to whom they belong, it must be very wrong indeed not to give ourselves to God; for we all belong to Him.
4. All who have given their hearts and themselves to God have done right. They have done their duty; but they have done no more than their duty. It would have been a great sin to have done less. O that you would give your hearts to Him. It would be the very best thing you ever did. You would be glad of it, not only as long as you live, but for ever and ever. Will you give Him your heart? Say,—will you?

LET US PRAY.
O Lord, we are not our own. Our hands, and feet, and head, and heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and time, and body, and all belong to Thee. Though we have sinned, do Thou take us, just as we are, and make us Thine by divine grace. Adopt us as Thy children. Let us never go astray from Thee. Teach us to keep Thy word, and find delight in serving Thee. Apply to us the precious blood of Christ, and be our God, and Father, and friend for ever, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Words to Live By:
Matthew 22:16-22 (KJV)
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; rmale and female he created them.

For Further Study:
In addition to a number of books on particularly difficult theological subjects, William Swan Plumer also wrote at least three books addressed to children:
1. Short Sermons to Little Children (1848).
2. Plain Thoughts about Great and Good Things for Little Boys and Girls (1849)
3. Words of Truth and Love (1867)

For a great deal more information on Dr. Plumer and his writings, click here.

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Sometimes You Just Need to Copy Someone.

A long week with a tiring end. And so today we turn to Alfred Nevin’s account of the Rev. Robert Wilson James…:

…who “was born in Williamsburg District, South Carolina, June 3d, 1793. His father, Captain John, and grandfather, Major John James, were distinguished for their patriotism in the war of the Revolution, and were also consistent members of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated at the South Carolina College in 1813. His theological studies, which were commenced and prosecuted for a time under Rev. James W. Stephenson, and Rev. Dr. M. Wilson, were completed at Princeton Seminary, in 1817. On the 3d of June, of the same year he was licensed by Concord Presbytery (in North Carolina), to preach the gospel, after which he labored for several months, as a missionary within its bounds, in company with the venerable Dr. Hall.”

“In May, 1819, he was ordained and installed over the churches of Indian Town and Bethel, in Williamsburgh District, S.C., where, during a pastorate of nine years, the work of the Lord, to some extent, was made to prosper in his hand, and particularly among the blacks, many of whom became hopeful subjects of grace under his ministry. He subsequently became pastor of Salem Church, in which relation he continued, faithful in labor, for over thirteen years. He died on April 13th, 1841.”

“As a minister, Mr. James was both doctrinal and practical. In his public ministrations he gave special attention to the African American portion of his flock. As a theologian, he was much respected by his brethren. As a member of the judicatories of the Church, his opinions were highly valued, and often determined the most important questions. His mouth and his purse were ever open to advance the institutions of religion and learning. As a man, he was truly benevolent, gentle and urbane, and possessed that kind of magnanimity  which led him cordially to despise everything that was envious, little, or selfish. As a Christian, he was exemplary, and enjoyed the comforts of that religion which he preached to others. His death was one of triumph.”

It should also be mentioned that Rev. James was the uncle of John Leighton Wilson, and that he had a very formative influence on John’s decision to pursue the ministry and more, to pursue the work of missions in Africa. From the Memoir of the Rev. John Leighton Wilson, we read that Rev. James was one of the eminent pastors in South Carolina, and of his influence on young John Leighton, that

“what more natural than that his uncle, so well known for learning and piety, should be to him a pattern he might safely imitate? He visited frequently at his home, had access to his rare and ample library, sat under his ministry, listened to his counsels, and spent one winter under his roof. The nephew was the minister’s friend and young companion. Blessed relationship !”

The Rev. Thomas R. English gave the funeral sermon for Rev. James. A Sermon:
Preached in Salem Church February 6th, 1842 in Commemoration of Its Late Pastor Rev. Robert Wilson James. (A. E. Miller, 1842), 23 p.

To view pictures of his grave site, click here.

Words to Live By:
The relationship of mentor to student does not always have to be a formal one, in order to be effective. Discipleship not only can take place in informal settings, but is probably all the more effective in the more real situations and places of everyday life. Growth in your own Christian walk is but one benefit of discipling or mentoring a younger believer. Pray that the Lord would give you the opportunity to share your faith in Christ.

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“The Little Moses”

James Muir was a son of the Rev. Dr. George and Tibbie (Wardlaw) Muir, and he was born on the 12th of April, 1757, in Cumnock, Scotland. Both his father and grandfather were highly respected ministers in the Church of Scotland, and the town of Cumnock was where his father served as pastor.

Little is known now of his early years. He studied at the University of Glasgow, and then studied theology at Edinburgh, completing his preparation in London. James was there licensed to preach by six clergymen who called themselves “dissenting ministers in the city of London” and who were loyal to the Church of Scotland. James then worked as a teacher in London until, in 1781, this same Presbytery ordained him and he answered a call to serve a congregation of Scotch Presbyterians on the island of Bermuda.

Rev. Muir’s story becomes rather complicated to tell from that point on until his death in Alexandria, Virginia, August 8th, 1820. The details are more than can be easily related in our small space here. It has been noted that Rev. Muir and his wife are two of  the very few buried inside the city limits of Alexandria, despite an 1809 restriction on cemeteries there.

When the Rev. William Buell Sprague was gathering biographies of various pastors, the Rev. Elisha Harrison replied to his request with a good account of Rev. Muir’s life. In part, he related that

“Dr. Muir was a severe student. He could not tolerate the idea of addressing immortal souls on the most momentous of all concerns, without having prepared himself for it by careful study as well as earnest prayer; and few things would put down a ministering brother in his estimation more than to be told that his discourses were either almost or altogether unpremeditated. I rarely ever saw him more out of temper than he was with a young licentiate, who, burning with what he regarded as holy zeal, remarked that it seemed to him a waste of time to study and write sermons. The Doctor could not be called an active man, though he was always regular in visiting his people, and ministering to the sick and afflicted; and when he made an engagement eiher to preach or perform any other duty, it was never his own fault if it was not fulfilled.

“But for nothing was he more distinguished than an exemplary Christian life. I lived with his family and was in close proximity with him, for more than three years; and, during the whole of that time, was never able to detect a word, an action, or even a feeling, which I would dare to pronounce decidedly wrong. And yet, during that period, his church was rent with factions, many of his congregation inflamed with bitterness and wrath, and in the issue, about half of the number separated and constituted a new church. Against all these untoward influences, he struggled hard and prayed much; and the result was that he sustained himself throughout with the utmost Christian forbearance and good will. He was often called, in reference to his large share of gentleness and meekness, in connection with his smallness of stature,–“the little Moses.”

“Dr. Muir enjoyed, in a high degree, the good opinion and affectionate regards of his brethren in the ministry, and great weight was given to his counsels in the judicatories of the Church. The whole community in which he lived, reverenced him for the purity of his life, and the memory of his exalted virtues is still dear to many, though he has long since passed away.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Muir clearly had learned to bridle his tongue. In this age of blogs and email, one constant problem is the ease with which we can address people and issues. Too often we speak without thinking, or hit Send before re-reading what we have written. If I may offer one guideline which would eliminate many of the problems we so often see in those settings–always speak or write from a context of true Christian humility, and in that context, strive to never say anything for which you might later have to apologize.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1, KJV)

If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26, KJV)

For Further Reading:
McGroarty, William Buckner,  “Reverend James Muir, D.D., and Washington’s Orphan Wards,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Second series, Vol. 20, no. 4 (October 1940): 511-523.

Time did not permit securing a copy of the above article, but how fitting, that a man who had bridled his tongue should also be renowned for his work with orphans.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27, KJV)

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“Old Rex”

In 1812, the Synod of Virginia resolved to establish within its boundaries a theological seminary. Thus began Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. To lead the school, the Rev. Dr. Moses Hoge was unanimously chosen to serve as the first professor of the fledgling institution, and he served faithfully in that capacity until his death in 1820. Then with Hoge’s death, the school languished for several years until the appointment of John Holt Rice, who began his duties on behalf of the Seminary in the latter half of 1823. In turn, Dr. Rice died early in September of 1831, and it is at this point that we turn to E.H. Gillette’s always lively, if somewhat ebullient, history for an account of Holt’s successor as head of Union Theological Seminary.

“But a permanent successor of Dr. Rice as Theological Professor, one well worthy to wear his mantle, was found within the bounds of the Synod, and inaugurated April 11, 1832.

baxterGeorgeAddison_225w“At the head of Liberty Hall–Washington College–stood, at the time of Dr. Rice’s death, a man who in the qualities of intellectual and moral greatness had scarcely a superior in his native State. This was George Addison Baxter, a graduate of the institution [i.e., Washington College] in 1796, and a theological pupil of the rector, William Graham. After laboring as a missionary for some time, he took charge of New London Academy, from which in 1798 he was called to the Professorship of Mathematics at Liberty Hall. Upon the death of the principal, Mr. Graham, in the following year, he was chosen to succeed him; and in this post he continued–officiating at the same time as pastor of New Monmouth and Lexington churches–until 1829.

“Few men, for the same period of time, have undertaken so much; and fewer still have accomplished what he achieved. [And he performed his duties with great Christian love and magnanimity. His students at Washington College affectionately called him “Old Rex.”] In seasons of revival he was known to spend five hours each day in his college duties, and to preach every night for weeks together. His desire to devote himself exclusively to pastoral labor led him to relinquish his connection with the college; and two years afterward, in the autumn of 1831, he was called as Theological Professor to succeed Dr. Rice.

“The Seminary at the time was in an embarrassed state, and the several vacations of the institution were devoted by Dr. Baxter to soliciting pecuniary aid on its behalf. Until his death, in 1841, he continued almost uninterruptedly to devote himself to the duties of his office. The successor to Dr. Baxter upon his death was Dr. Samuel B. Wilson, who for more than twenty years had been settled at Fredericksburg.

“With a mind exceedingly well balanced, an understanding vast in its powers of comprehension and eminently profound and lucid, a judgment accurate and discriminating, and a memory remarkably retentive, he combined an amount of fervent emotion which in his pulpit utterance “sent forth his great thoughts in burning and melting masses.” Always clear, he was almost always convincing. He seemed to grasp a difficult subject and apprehend all its bearings almost by intuition. His power of condensation, moreover, was remarkable. Few ministers whose sermons, like his, extended to three-quarters of an hour, have been requested, as he was by his hearers, to preach longer. His prayers were brief but comprehensive. He rarely used the pen, and wrote but few of his lectures. In the pulpit he scorned the aid of even the briefest outline. Yet his words were well chosen and weighty. Nor were they made less impressive as the hearer gazed upon his tall, manly frame, and the expanded, massive brow on which the very majesty of mind seemed enthroned. He had imagination, and he had pathos; and in his preaching he not rarely had to struggle powerfully to suppress his emotions. His mind was more rapid than his words, and his heart kept pace with his intellect.

“His modesty was equal to his merit, and in a strange pulpit he was as easily embarrassed as the humblest and plainest student fresh from the seminary. Yet, while he seemed to shun notice, his abilities were equal to the highest position.”

Words to Live By:
In William Henry Foote’s Sketches of Virginia [p. 262-3], we read that Rev. Baxter’s mother “left among her descendants a memory precious for her exemplary piety and prudent conduct as a wife and mother, in situations calling every day for the exercise of Christian graces, and seldom offering occasion for the lofty display of any accomplishment. The lives of her children were her best eulogy. George Addison was the second son, and the third of eight children, all of whom he survived. Vigor, frankness, uprightness, and industry characterized all the members of the family, reared in the simplicity and hardships of a frontier life. The mother laid the foundations of morals and religion in her children while they were young; and expressed the most decided unwillingness to part with any of them till their faith in Christ was established. Her unremitting attention to the spiritual concerns of her children was followed by the unspeakable reward of seeing them all consistent professors of religion, according to the faith she trusted for her own salvation. The Bible, the Sabbath, the Assembly’s Catechism, the preaching of the gospel, family worship and private instruction were things of solemn interest to the family from the earliest recollections; and connected indissolubly with the memory of their parents, the influence was tender and perpetual. The image of the mother stood before the children rejoicing when their faith triumphed, and weeping when they sinned.” Blessed is the mother that knows her God-given power to raise covenant children.

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