August 2013

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One of the PCA”s Founding Fathers

Spencer_James_GraftonRemember that “One Way” symbol back in the Jesus People era? It showed up on posters, on T-shirts, and just about everywhere. Well, it turns out that symbol, with the index finger pointing heavenward, wasn’t original to those times. It actually dates back to around the 1830s, when Horatio Nelson Spencer, a South Carolina native and a graduate of Yale Law School, had moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi to establish his law practice and to raise a family. He also associated with the Port Gibson Presbyterian Church, and somewhere along the way he was the one who thought up the idea of having a hand with the index finger pointing to heaven, the hand firmly fixed atop the church’s steeple. The original hand was carved out of wood, though later it was replaced with a metal hand, measuring twelve feet high, from wrist to finger tip.

Horatio’s idea, with that silent finger faithfully pointing the way to heaven, could also be taken as expressive of the life and ministry of one of his descendants. James Grafton Spencer was born on August 22, 1904. James would grow to become a fine scholar who eventually studied for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary, graduating in 1933. While still in Seminary, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Mississippi, and then ordained by Paris Presbytery and installed as pastor of the PCUS church in Gladewater, Texas. Between 1933 and 1942, he served six Presbyterian churches in Texas, while also  earning the Master of Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, in 1939.

From 1942 to 1948, Rev. Spencer was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Fordyce, Arkansas. Then early in January of 1949, Rev. Spencer transferred his credentials into the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination. Here his call took him to Cincinnati, Ohio, but that association was apparently short-lived, for on November 27th of 1950, he was received back into the Presbyterian Church, U.S., as a member of the Presbytery of Mississippi. My guess is that he was just homesick! With that move he answered a call to serve as the pastor of the Thomson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Centreville, Mississippi. Then in 1959, the First Presbyterian Church in Crystal Spring, MS called him as their pastor, and he remained in that pulpit for fifteen years. This was his final pastorate, and he was entered on the rolls of Grace Presbytery (PCA) as honorably retired in 1974.

But for a man who is truly called of the Lord to preach the Gospel, there is no such thing as retirement. Rev. Spencer immediately took up a post as associate evangelist with the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF). This organization was one of four groups that were highly instrumental in the formation of the PCA back in the 1960’s. The other three groups were The Concerned Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Journal, and Presbyterian Churchmen United. Rev. Spencer had organized seven new churches in the first nine years of his ministry. Now he desired to turn his attention entirely to the work of evangelism. He said, “Having begun in evangelism, I plan to complete my ministry as an evangelist.” And a good number of years were spent in this work, until at last the Lord called this faithful servant home, on January 27, 1998.

Words to Live By:
To read over the comments of some of the many people who were blessed by Rev. Spencer’s ministry, their words form an outline of what you would want and expect in a godly pastor:

“He was both theologically and practically sound. His presentation was never dull and his illustrations were to the point.”
“High moral integrity, deep Christian convictions.”
“He loves the Lord and the Book.”
“A man of prayer and his messages have been used of the Spirit to move and stir the hearts of men.”
“His friendliness, goodwill and love create an atmosphere that extends to the congregation.”
“His dedication to his Lord and his high regard for God’s Word were obvious.”
“Mr. Spencer held Christ before us at all times.”

Did you know Rev. Spencer? We’d love to hear from you here at the PCA Historical Center.

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Amasa Converse, D.D. [21 August 1795 - 9 December 1872]From 1839 to 1960 plus, one family surely set the record for publishing in the news world.  That family was the Converse family and their religious magazine continues to be published on the web in the present day, though others are at the head of it.  The magazine is The Christian Observer.

The patriarch of the family was Amasa Converse, born on August 21, 1795 in Lyine, New Hampshire. His education included Phillips Academy in Andover.  After that, he taught for a while when he grew up in adulthood.  Then he entered Dartmouth College in 1818, where four years later he graduated with honors.  Feeling a call into the gospel ministry, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary.

His sole teacher was Dr. Archibald Alexander, where he learned the famous theological system of doctrine  of what later on became Old School Presbyterians.  In fact, so well did he learn it, that Dr. Alexander told him that he had enough book knowledge for a vocation and seek a milder climate in which to communicate it!

Ordained by the Presbytery of Hanover in 1826, he became a missionary in Virginia for two years.  But then the door opened for him for what would become his life’s calling in publishing.  He became editor of “Visitor and Telegraph” newspaper in Richmond, Virginia for twelve years until 1839.

converse_remembrancerThe Christian Observer came upon the scene in 1840.  This namesake of a magazine absorbed fourteen other periodicals of that day, like the Religious Remembrancer, The Family Visitor, the Religious Telegraph and Observer, the Protestant and Herald, and the Cincinnati Standard.  Its real basis was found in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Christian Observer was published first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1840 to 1861.  It was ruthlessly ordered closed by Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Stanton, but a local United States District Attorney rejected the attempt, citing freedom of the press.  Seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall, Amasa Converse closed up the publishing house in Philadelphia, and opened another one in Richmond, Virginia in 1861, where for the next eight years it was to be used of the Lord to help bring revival among the Confederate Army.  After the war, it moved to Louisville, Kentucky until 1872.

Amasa Converse died in December of 1872, but the work continued under his eldest son, and later by other descendants. In the 1960’s the work was taken over by the Rev. Edwin Elliott.

Words to live by: The power of the printed word, and often in this case, the printed Word of God, can be an effective tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to point sinners to Christ, and saints to sanctification.  When God calls an individual, and in this case, a family of publishers, much good will occur for Christ’s kingdom from such a ministry today. While now restricted to a purely digital format on the Internet, The Christian Observer continues to be a vehicle for Presbyterian and Reformed ministries as a web newspaper.

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In 1973, conservative Presbyterians left the old Southern Presbyterian denomination and formed The National Presbyterian Church. A year later, when it became known that there was a name conflict with another organization, the young denomination chose to simply change its name, and soon selected the name, Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) has a somewhat similar story. That denomination was originally organized in 1936 under the name of The Presbyterian Church of America. However, in this latter case, the mother church—the one they had leftfiled a lawsuit against the new denomination, seeking to prohibit their use of that name. Finally, in 1938, the defendants lost their case and were forced to adopt a new name. [Correction: My counterpart in the OPC, John Muether, was good to note that rather than actually losing their case in court, the OPC instead came to the conclusion that they did not have the resources to pursue the case through the courts, and so surrendered rather than spend more money and time on the fight.] Since that time the denomination has been known as The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The following several news clippings come from the collection of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon, preserved at the PCA Historical Center. 

1936_fight_for_namePhiladelphia Bulletin, August 20, 1936:
Fight for Name of Presbyterian.
New Body Engages Counsel to Defend Its Use of the Title
General Assembly Suit

Machen-Fundamentalist Presbyterians said today that they intend to make a vigorous legal fight to retain their right to use the name of the Presbyterian Church of America.

This decision comes as a result of the filing of a suit by the General Assemlbyof the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.–the parent organizationAug. 13, in which the use of that name by the new body is contested.

“The Presbyterian Church of America,” said the Rev. Edwin H. Rian, general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the new Presbyterian body, “has retained a well known Philadelphia law firm to represent it in the suit.

“The Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, D.D., has been employed to act as ecclesiastical counsel. Dr. Griffiths is regarded as an authority in Presbyterian law.

“Through its counsel, The Presbyterian Church of America expects to make a vigorous fight to protect its right to the use of that name.

“The very essence of religious liberty is involved in this case. Christians in every church will want to know if one church body can dictate to another.

“The Presbyterian Church of America has no desire to enter the civil courts, but the action of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. has made it obligatory. The Presbyterian Church of America will fight this case to a finish.”

New York Times, August 20, 1936, p. 23:
CHURCH GETS COUNSEL

Seceding Presbyterians Prepare to Fight Injunction Suit.

Philadelphia, August 19. — The Presbyterian Church of America, organized here in June by seceding Fundamentalists, prepared today to defend itself against an injunction suit filed in Commons Pleas Court last week by the parent denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

The defendant group announced that the firm of Sault, Ewing, Remick & Saul of this city will serve as its legal counsel, with the Rev. Dr. H. McAllister Griffiths of The Presbyterian Guardian, acting as ecclesiastical counsel.

The parent church is seeking to enjoin the secessionists from using the name Presbyterian, or any similar name or one with similar import, in the title of their organization.

machen-master-1936Lawrence, MA Evening Tribune, August 21, 1936:
Church Battle Goes to Court

Presbyterians of the nation have shifted to the courts the bitter fight which brought a schism in the church. Suit has been filed by Moderator Henry B. Master, of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., to prevent the new denomination headed by Dr. J. Gresham Machen from using the name “Presbyterian.” Dr. Machen leads the fundamentalists who split with the modernists.

 

Words to Live By:
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, ESV)

Set a guard over your tongue, and watch carefully your actions before men. In all that you say, in all that you do, live to the glory of our Lord and our God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

machen-master-1936

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That Christ Should Be Magnified in All We Do and Say

Kenneth A. Horner, Jr. [1918-19 August 1975]The Rev. Mr. Kenneth A. Horner, Jr. was called into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ on August 19, 1975Mr. Horner was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1918. Under the ministry of Dr. Harold S. Laird he confessed Christ as his Savior and gave his life to the preaching of the Gospel. In 1936 he joined in the formation of the First Independent Church of Wilmington, Delaware.

He received his B.A. degree from the University of Delaware in 1940 and his B.D. and STM degrees from Faith Theological Seminary in 1943 and 1945 respectively.

His first pastorate was that of the Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia where he served for 7 and 1/2 years. In 1950 his home congregation back in Wilmington—later to be called the Faith Presbyterian Church—called him to be their pastor. He served that congregation for 15 years before accepting the call of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Lakeland, Florida in 1965. In 1971 he was called to be the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which he served until his death.

Throughout his ministerial life Mr. Horner was active in the affairs of the denomination of which he was a part.

He was looked to for wisdom and leadership in the various presbyteries of which he was a member. The New Jersey Presbytery, of which he was a member when he died, states in its official memorial record: “We commend to all our people the example of Christian living, concern for the welfare of other Christians, desire for being a soul winner, faithful Bible expositor, and loving husband and father as demonstrated by Pastor Horner’s life.”

He was for 18 years a very faithful and active member of the Board of Directors of World Presbyterian Missions. For 12 years of this time he served as an officer or member of the Executive Committee. The numerous terms of service to which he was elected by his colleagues in the General Synod, or on the Board, were in recognition of his enduring keen interest in foreign missions and the vigor and enthusiasm with which he pursued his responsibilities.

His colleagues on the Board of WPM declared that “His understanding of the conditions under which the missionary lived, his patience in dealing with mission problems, and his wisdom in the conduct of Board affairs made him an extremely valuable member of the WPM Board.”

Mr. Horner was also deeply concerned for the work of Christian education. He served for many years as a member and as an officer of the Board of Christian Training, Inc. (CTI). He was in large measure responsible for the church Leadership Training Series published by CTI. He was the author of The Biblical Basis of Infant Baptism and of Biblical Church Government, both of which were widely used in a number of Presbyterian denominations.

Mr. Horner’s ecclesiastical statesmanship was especially manifest in his service on Synod’s Fraternal Relations Committee for several years prior to his death. His understanding of church law and his wisdom in applying it were especially manifest in his service on the Judicial Commission, part of the time as its Chairman. His burden for the lost, and concern that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod as a whole should become more aggressively evangelistic was manifest in his own pastoral ministry, and in his service on the Evangelism Committee of Synod.

In 1957 the 21st General Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church expressed its gratitude for service already rendered to the church, and its confidence in his leadership abilities, by electing him its Moderator.

Mr. Horner’s evident desire that Christ should be magnified in his body whether in living or in dying continued to the end. He quietly committed the results of his brain surgery to his Lord, confident that He could heal if He willed, and assured that if it was not His will, “To depart and be with Christ is far better.”

It is appropriate that we express our deep gratitude to God for the life, testimony, and fellowship of our brother, that we spread this Memorial upon our Minutes. [Note: One of Rev. Horner’s sons, Richard V. Horner, is an minister in the Presbyterian Church in America]

[Excerpted from the Minutes of the 154th General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, 1976, pages 174-175.]

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Gardiner SpringThis day, August 18th, marks the death, in 1873, of the Rev. Gardiner Spring. He was already 76 years old when he proposed his “Resolutions” at the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterian Church in 1861. Those were the Resolutions that split the denomination North and South. But long before Spring achieved infamy with his “Resolutions,” he had been, since 1810, the pastor of the Brick Church in New York City. In fact, his entire ministerial career of 63 years was spent at this one church.

Born in 1785, he was educated at Yale and for a short time practiced law before entering Andover Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry. A powerful preacher, he became a prominent pastor in that City and in the Church at large. Spring made great use of the press as an auxiliary to his preaching of the gospel, and a number of his works remain in print to this day. In 1816, Rev. Spring brought the following message on New Year’s Day, a message having to do with the subject of the revivals of religion.

To read or download the entire message in PDF format, click here.


SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

2 Chronicles 29:16-17:—
And the Priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify.

The passage just recited may give a direction to our thoughts. When Hezekiah came to the throne Aof Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father Ahaz was not only an idolatrous king, but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry, had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel, and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin. With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased, and the idols of the Gentiles exalted; and though but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival of the Jewish religion. He destroyed the high places; cut down the groves; brake the graven images; commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired; and exhorted the Priests and Levites to purify the temple; to restore the morning and evening sacrifice; to reinstate the observation of the Passover; and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.

The humble child of God in this distant age of the world, will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates, with devout admiration. As he looks back toward this illustrious period in the Jewish history, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is within our reach at the commencement of the present year, as really as it was within his, twenty-five hundred years ago. But to bring this subject more fully before you, I propose to show,

What a revival of religion is;

The necessity of a revival among ourselves;

What ought to be done in attempting it;—and

The reasons why we may hope to succeed in the attempt.

I. What is a revival of religion?

We have never seen a general revival of the Christian interest in this city. In two or three of our congregations, there have been some seasons of unusual solemnity, which have from time to time resulted in very hopeful accessions to the number of God’s professing people. But we have not been visited with any general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we talk about revivals of religion without any definite meaning; and hence, many honest minds are prejudiced against them. Some identify them with the illusions of a disturbed fancy; while others give them a place among the most exceptionable extravagancies, and the wildest expressions of enthusiasm. But we mean none of these things when we speak of revivals of religion. It is no illusion—no reverie—we present to your view; but those plain exhibitions of the power and grace of God which commend themselves to the reason and conscience of every impartial mind.

The showers of divine grace often begin like other showers, with here and there a drop. The revival in the days of Hezekiah, arose from a very small beginning. In the early states of a work of grace, God is usually pleased to affect the hearts of some of His own people. Here and there, an individual Christian is aroused from his stupor. The objects of faith begin to predominate over the objects of sense and his languishing graces to be in more lively and constant exercise. In the progress of the work, the quickening power of grace pervades the church. Bowed down under a sense of their own stupidity and the impending danger of sinners, the great body of professing Christians are anxious and prayerful. In the mean time, the influences of the Holy Spirit are extended to the world; and the conversion of one or two, or a very small number, frequently proves the occasion of a very general concern among a whole people.

Every thing now begins to put on a new face. Ministers are animated; Christians are solemn; sinners are alarmed. The house of God is thronged with anxious worshipers; opportunities for prayer and religious conference are multiplied; breathless silence pervades every seat, and deep solemnity every bosom. Not an eye wanders; not a heart is indifferent;—while eternal objects are brought near, and eternal truth is seen in its wide connections, and felt in its quickening and condemning power. The Lord is there. His stately steppings are seen; His own almighty and invisible hand is felt; His Spirit is passing from heart to heart, in His awakening, convincing, regenerating, and sanctifying agency upon the souls of men.

Those who have been long careless and indifferent to the concerns of the soul, are awakened to a sense of their sinfulness, their danger, and their duty. Those who “have cast off fear and restrained prayer,” have become anxious and prayerful. Those who have been “stout-hearted and far from righteousness,” are subdued by the power of God, and brought nigh by the blood of Christ.

The king of Zion takes away the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh. He causes “the captive exile to hasten, that he may be loosed, lest he die in the pit and his bread should fail.” He takes off the tattered garments of the prodigal; clothes him with the best robe, and gives him a cordial welcome to all the munificence of His grace. He brings those who have been long in bondage out of the prison house; knocks off the chains that bind them down to sin and death; bestows the immunities of sons and daughters, and receives them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

And is there any thing in all this so full of mystery, that it has no claim to our confidence? Behold that thoughtless man! Year after year has passed aaway, while he has been adding sin to sin, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. But the Spirit of all grace suddenly arrests him in his mad career. The conviction is fastened upon his conscience that he is a sinner. Fallen by his iniquity, he views himself obnoxious to the wrath of an offended God. He sees that he is under the dominion of a “carnal mind;” his sins pass in awful review before him, and he is filled with keen distress and anguish. He is sensible that every day is bringing him nearer to the world of perdition, and he begins to ask, if there can be any hope for a wretch like him? But, O! how his strength withers, how his hopes die! He is as helpless as he is wretched, and as culpable as he is helpless. The “arrows of the almighty stick fast within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirits.”

But behold him now! In the last extremity, as he is cut off from every hope, the arm of sovereign mercy is made bare for his relief. The heart of adamant melts; the will that has hitherto resisted the divine Spirit, and rebelled against the divine sovereignty, is subdued; the lofty looks are brought low; the selfish mind has become benevolent; the proud, humble, the stubborn rebel, the meek child of God. Jesus tells the despairing sinner where to find a beam of hope; the voice of the Son of God proclaims “forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace;” the Angel of peace invites and sweetly urges the soul, stained with pollution, to repair to the blood of sprinkling; stung with the guilt of sin, to look up to Jesus for healing and life.

Is this an idle tale? Nay, believer, you have felt it all. And if there is no mystery in this, why should it be thought incredible, that instances of the same nature should be multiplied, and greatly multiplied in any given period? If there are dispensations of grace above the ordinary operations of the Spirit, they may exist in very different degrees at different times. And if the immediate and special influences of the Holy Ghost are to be expected in the edification of a single saint, or the conversion of a single sinner, why may they not be expected in the edification and conversion of multitudes? It is not above the reach of God’s power; nor beyond the limits of His sovereignty. God can as easily send down a shower, as a single drop; He can as easily convert two as one; three thousand as one hundred.

Now this is a revival of religion. We do not pretend to have traced the features it uniformly bears, because it bears no uniform features. God is sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Still, wherever God is pleased to manifest His power and grace, in enlarging the views, in enlivening and invigorating the graces of His own people, and in turning the hears of considerable numbers of His enemies, at the same time, to seek and secure His pardoning mercy, there is a revival of religion. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Calvinistic Evangelist

Rev. Dr. Daniel Baker [17 August 1791 - 10 December 1857]Imagine your mother dying when you were an infant.  Then imagine your father dying when you were only eight years of age.  How difficult your upbringing would be.  In the case of little Daniel Baker, who was born at Midway, Liberty county, Georgia, on August 17, 1791, he could only look with sadness at his playmates who had loving parents to watch over them.  But Daniel  had a heavenly Father who watched over  him and was preparing him for great things in the kingdom of God.

Reared by a godly aunt, Daniel came to a knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior around 14 years of age.  Soon afterwards, he felt the call to be a preacher of the Word.  Receiving an offer of a scholarship to Hampden-Sydney College, he made a public profession of faith and joined the Presbyterian Church.  His spiritual attainments affected his fellow students there as well as at Princeton University to which he transferred.

Upon graduation, he was interested in enrolling at the Seminary, but instead placed his education under the Rev. William Hill of Winchester, Virginia.  While there was much lacking in this mentoring, his own study in the Westminster Shorter Catechism brought him to the place where the local Presbytery ordained him to the gospel ministry.

One of his greatest blessings was a godly wife, in the person of Elizabeth McRobert, who bore him several children, as well as helping him in his ministry.  While he labored as a pastor, it became almost common that revival would break out under his ministry.  Thousands came to the Lord, not only from the local church, but from those around the church. And so Rev. Baker decided to become a full time evangelist.

It must be remembered that Daniel Baker was a Calvinist evangelist.  He didn’t resort to producing the right emotional effect, but simply preached the whole counsel of God.  And the Lord added to the church such as should be saved.

The last part of his ministry took place in Texas from 1850 on. He became the president of Austin College and resided in Huntsville, Texas, what the school is located. There he preached the same gospel, with the same effects.  He died in 1857.

Words to live by:  Before Daniel Baker passed away, he called  his son to make sure that the epigraph on the tombstone read clearly, “Here lies Daniel Baker, Preacher of the gospel, A sinner saved by grace.”  The close of his life was one of triumph. He lifted his eyes to heaven, and exclaimed, in the calm exercise of a grounded faith, “Lord Jesus, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!” As these words passed his lips, he closed his eyes on earth, to open them forever on the face of that Saviour whom, not having seen, he so loved. Let us be known in life and death as Sinners saved by grace, God’s grace.

Daniel Baker at Princeton [excerpted from The Life and Labors of the Rev. Daniel Bakerpp. 69-70:
Chapter III. – While a Student at Princeton.
Having reached Princeton, I offered myself, on the opening of the winter session of 1813, as a candidate for the Junior Class, and after examination was admitted. I was located in room 39, and had for my room-mate a most estimable and pious young man named Thomas Biggs. At this time religion was at a very low ebb in the College. There were about one hundred and forty-five students, and of these, only six, so far as I knew, made any profession of religion, and even two of these six seemed to care very little about the matter; for although four of us, Price, Allen, Biggs, and myself, agreed to meet every evening for what was called family prayer, they kept entirely aloof. Feeling it my duty to do what I could for my fellow-students in Princeton, as at Hampden Sydney College, I selected certain individuals to be made the subjects of special prayer and effort, one named M and the other V. The first, during the revival which subsequently took place in College, professed conversion, and in after years became a Presbyterian preacher.
. . . During the whole of this session religion was at a very low ebb indeed; it was deemed a matter of reproach to be a professor [i.e., of the Christian faith]; and by way of contempt, those, who did make a profession of religion, particularly those who composed the praying band, were termed “the Religiosi.” Grieved to see the abounding of iniquity in College, I proposed to my three associates, Price, Allen, and Biggs, that we should establish a weekly prayer-meeting for the especial purpose of praying for a revival of religion in College. This proposition was made sometime during the second session, and was immediately and cordially acceded to. Accordingly this prayer-meeting was held regularly until the close of the session, and none attended but the four already named, and one non-professor, Symmes C. Henry, who subsequently became, for many years, pastor of Cranbury church, New Jersey. At the commencement of the third session, as our prayers seemed not to have been heard, I was somewhat doubtful about continuing our weekly prayer-meeting, but, very happily, my associates were clear for continuing it, and it was well; for although we knew it not, the blessing was nigh, even at the doors.”

For Further Reading : Works by the Rev. Daniel Baker
1. A Series of Revival Sermons (1846).
2. Revival Sermons. Second Series. (1854).
3. A Plain and Scriptural View of Baptism (1853),
[we encourage you to download these ebooks, in the format of your choice & save them to your computer’s hard-drive for your future use and edification.]

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Jesus Christ is Lord over All of LIfe

William Brenton Greene, Jr., was born this day, August 16th, in 1854 in Providence, Rhode Island.

WBGreeneJrEducated at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), and graduating there in 1876. he then worked as a teacher while preparing for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1877-1880. Rev. Greene was ordained by the Presbytery of Boston (PCUSA) on 3 June 1880 and installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Boston, where he served from 1880-1883. He next answered a call to serve as senior pastor of  the Tenth Presbyterian church, in Philadelphia, succeeding Dr. John DeWitt in that post and serving there from 1883-1892. Finally, he was then appointed to serve as the Stuart Professor of the Relations of Philosophy and Science to the Christian Religion, at the Princeton Theological Seminary, a post he held until 1903, after which he held the Chair of Apologetics and Christian Ethics, from 1903 until his death in 1928.  Among his many honors, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by the College of New Jersey in 1891.

[Note: The College of New Jersey was founded in 1746. The school’s name was then changed to Princeton University during its Sesquicentennial Celebration. in 1896. Particularly in earlier years, the school was commonly referred to as “Nassau,” “Nassau Hall,” “Princeton College,” or “Old North.”]

Upon Greene’s death in 1928, J. Gresham Machen wrote of him, “I loved Dr. Greene. He was absolutely true, when so many were not. He was always at Faculty and Presbytery, no matter how feeble he was. He was one of the best Christians I have ever known.”
[Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, p. 439.]

Dr. Greene is buried at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island.

Words to live by: Quoting from the inaugural address of Dr. William Breton Greene, he opened that address with these thoughtful words:

“A professorship in one of our theological seminaries is no ordinary trust. Its chief function is to teach and to train preachers of the Gospel. Because, therefore, it has “pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” the position of a theological professor must be as much more serious than that of the preacher as the work of the medical professor is than that of the physician. The theological teacher cannot fail largely to determine the spiritual health of all the congregations of his pupils.”

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it before now, but doesn’t Dr. Greene’s analysis prompt you to pray for those very seminary professors who train our candidates for the ministry?

Click here to read Dr. Greene’s inaugural address. “The Function of the Reason in Christianity.”

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Ideas & Actions Have Consequences

On this day, August 15th, in 1861, a group of pastors and ruling elders met in Atlanta to plan the division of a new denomination, splitting off from the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Strictly speaking, the Southern Old School men did not divide over the matter of slavery. Rather, their point of division was the Gardiner Spring Resolutions. What follows is an account of how that division came about, written by the Rev. Moses D. Hoge, and found as chapter 22 in the volume, Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative… (1892):—

In May, 1861, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Old School), which met in Philadelphia, adopted a paper in reference to the Civil War, which begun the month before. This paper became known as the Spring Resolutions, after the Rev. Gardiner Spring, pastor of the Brick Church in New York and the minister who brought these resolutions to the floor of that General Assembly. Three times these resolutions were put before the Assembly, and twice they failed of vote, but with some changes, passed on the third presentation. With the adoption of the Spring Resolutions, the Assembly undertook to decide for its whole constituency, North and South, a question upon which the most eminent statesmen had been divided in opinion from the time of the formation of the Constitution, namely, whether the ultimate sovereignty, the jus summi imperii, resided in the people as a mass, or in the people as they were originally formed into colonies and afterward into States.

Presbyterians in the South believed that this deliverance, whether true or otherwise, was one which the Church was not authorized to make, and that, in so doing, she had transcended her sphere and usurped the duties of the state. Their views upon this subject found expression in a quarter which relieves them of all suspicion of coming from an interested party. A protest against this action was presented by the venerable Charles Hodge, D.D., of Princeton Theological Seminary, and fifty-seven others who were members of that Assembly.

In this protest it was asserted, “that the paper adopted by the Assembly does decide the political question just stated, in our judgment, is undeniable. It not only asserts the loyalty of this body to the Constitution and the Union, but it promises in the name of all the churches and ministers whom it represents, to do all that in them lies to strengthen, uphold and encourage the Federal Government. It is, however, a notorious fact that many of our ministers and members conscientiously believe that the allegiance of the citizens of this country is primarily due to the States to which they respectively belong, and that, therefore, whenever any State renounces its connection with the United States, and its allegiance to the Constitution, the citizens of that State are bound by the laws of God to continue loyal to their State, and obedient to its laws. The paper adopted virtually declares, on the other hand, that the allegiance of the citizen is due to the United States, anything in the Constitution or laws of the several States to the contrary notwithstanding. The General Assembly in thus deciding a political question, and in making that decision practically a condition of Church membership, has, in our judgment, violated the Constitution of the Church, and usurped the prerogative of its Divine Master.”

Presbyterians in the South, coinciding in this view of the case, concluded that a separation from the General Assembly aforesaid was imperatively demanded, not in the spirit of schism, but for the sake of peace, and for the protection of the liberty with which Christ had made them free.

After the adoption of the Gardiner Spring Resolutions in May of 1861, Presbytery after Presbytery in the Southern States, feeling that by that act they had been exscinded, withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Assembly that had transcended its sphere and decided political questions. A conference of ministers and elders was held in Atlanta on August 15-17, 1861, and in response to a call thus issued the Assembly met.

Accordingly, ninety-three ministers and ruling elders, representing forty-seven Presbyteries, duly commissioned for that purpose, met in the city of Augusta, Georgia, on the 4th of December, 1861, and integrated in one body. The first act after the organization of that memorable Assembly was to designate a name for the now separated Church, and to declare its form and belief.

Something to Ponder:
The North/South division of the Old School Presbyterians did not happen in an historical vacuum. That brief comment above, “…feeling that by that act they had been exscinded,…” is an intriguing key. Could it be that the division of 1861 happened in part because of the division of 1837? In the division of 1837, the Old School Presbyterians unwittingly established a precedent when they exscinded four Synods which were predominantly New School. In making this observation, I am not arguing that they were right or wrong, but simply that ideas and actions have consequences. The overt exclusion of four Synods in 1837 was still a recent memory in 1861, and in that light it seems a more reasonable suspicion that now it was the Southern churches which were being excluded, whether overtly or not.

Our actions have consequences. Once you do something, it becomes easier to repeat that action. This is how habits are formed. This is how we learn. And this can be either good or bad. On the positive side of things, skills and abilities can be tuned to a fine pitch; all manner of tasks can be mastered. But, by allowing a first transgression, we can also become quite adept at sin. Instead, let us fear God and hate evil. Like Joseph, turn from sin at its first appearance, and run! Or, to return to our story, imagine how things might have turned out, had that first slave ship been refused access to our shores? What sort of nation would we be if a different precedent had been set from the start? We can’t undo history, but we can find forgiveness and mercy in Christ as our Lord and Savior.

[excerpted from Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements, by Rev. Geo. P. Hays, D.D., LL.D. New York: J. A. Hill & Co., Publishers, 1892, pp. 483-486.]

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Parting Words from the Rev. John A. Van Lear

On a grassy knoll in Virginia, surrounded by scenes of surpassing beauty, stands the Mossy Creek Church. The first settled pastor in the region of the Triple Forks, which included Mossy Creek, was the Rev. John Craig, who was born in August of 1709, in Antrim, Ireland.

Some years later, when the church called the Rev. John A. Van Lear in 1837, the church had by that time grown to be an independent, self-sustaining church. Moreover, the Rev. Van Lear proved to be a faithful pastor, and the people grew under his preaching. He was active in the work of Presbytery as well, serving as Stated Clerk for fourteen years. He even oversaw the construction of a new house of worship for the church.

Born in 1797, by the time Rev. Van Lear reached his fifty-second year, his health began to decline. He had spent himself for the sake of the Gospel. On August 14, 1850, just four days before his death, the Rev. John A. Van Lear wrote the following letter to his brethren of Lexington Presbytery:

Dear Brethren:—I have indeed greatly desired that it might be permitted me to meet once more upon earth a body of which I have been for so many years a member, in whose society I have enjoyed so much happiness, and for which I cherish the strongest affection. But such is not the will of God, and I am content. My days are nearly numbered, and my last remove is directly before me. I record it to the praise of the glory of His grace that God ‘hath counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.’ I have loved the work. I have preached, as I believe, in sincerity and truth, His gospel of salvation. I have tried to bring others to a like precious faith. I rejoice that I have been enabled to do this. But this is not the foundation of my hope. I trust in no labor of my hands. I fly to the cross and the covenant. There is my only hope. There I rest my soul, and my heart has peace. This is my testimony.

“It would give me please to send kind messages to you all by name, but I have not strength. I have come down now quite to the banks of the Jordan of death; but He who has passed through it for sinners has met me on this side of its dark waves, and all is well. My flesh and my heart faileth me, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. I leave you, hoping for a happy and eternal reunion in that heaven to which we have pointed so many of our fellow men.

“It is my parting prayer, that our faithful, covenant-keeping God may ever be with you, bless you, keep you in peace and love among one another, and send down His Holy Spirit upon all our churches, and fill the earth with His glory.

“Accept, dear brethren, my final farewell.

“Yours in the gospel of Christ, our Saviour.”

John A. Van Lear.

He died on the 18th of August, four days after writing his farewell words, in great peace of mind. On the 22d of August, at Goshen Church, nestled away among the hills of Highland county, this letter was read. Many were the tears its sweet and loving words called forth. His memory was duly honored by Session and Presbytery, with resolutions of respect well befitting the memory of this good man, who was a model character in all the relations of life.

[Slightly edited from The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 553-554.]

Words to Live By:
There are perhaps no more challenging and appropriate words for pastors than what we find from the pen of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, withgreat patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:1-8, NASB)

Preaching upon that same text, the Rev. J. R. Miller observed, “Life is very serious. We are always standing before God who is our Judge. Our commonest days—are judgment days. We should learn to do everything ‘in the presence of God.’ This makes every word and act serious. If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity—we would live better!

Rev. Van Lear’s gravestone is pictured here.

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A Heart for Missions

gilchristRWIt was a proud day in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on March 14, 1892, when Elizabeth Rowland Gilchrist and her husband Joseph James Gilchrist welcomed their new child into the world. George Riggle Monfort Gilchrist was, in part, named after a favorite uncle, the Rev. George Washington Riggle, who was a pastor in Socorro, New Mexico. The name Monfort was in honor of the Huguenot side of the family, in particular, Joseph Glass Monfort, who was George’s great uncle. He was quite involved with Old School Presbyterian Church, working primarily in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

George Gilchrist attended Occidental College, graduating with the Bachelor of Science degree in 1915, and from there proceeded to Chicago, where he attended the Moody Bible Institute for two years, graduating in 1918. Seminary added a few more years as he prepared for the ministry, and graduated in 1923. Even while in school, he had his eye on mission work, and in particular the field of Chile, annually serving there as a short term missionary during his Seminary years, primarily teaching in the Instituto Ingles, located in Santiago.

Rev. Gilchrist was ordained by the Presbytery of San Francisco (PCUSA) on April 27, 1924 and he was installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Richmond, California. He served this congregation less than two years before he departed as a foreign missionary, serving in Chile under the auspices of the PCUSA’s World Missions Board. He would remain on the field in that capacity for twenty years.

gilchristRW&RuthThen in 1945, Rev. Gilchrist transferred his credentials to the Bible Presbyterian Church, and continued to labor another fourteen years in Chile, now under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. When the Bible Presbyterian Church split in 1956, Rev. Gilchrist aligned himself with the Columbus Synod BP’s and concluded his missionary work in 1959 with World Presbyterian Missions. In retirement, Rev. Gilchrist eventually came to live in Mount Hermon, California (circa 1968).

George R. M. Gilchrist died August 13 at Bethany Manor in Ripon, CA, just a few weeks after a family reunion for his sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. His mortal remains were laid to rest in the cemetery in Felton, California. Gilchrist was a teacher and an evangelistic missionary in Chile for more than three decades. He was survived by his widow Ruth and four children. Of these children, the Rev. Paul R. Gilchrist is noted as having served as the second Stated Clerk of the PCA, from 1988 to 1998.

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