December 2013

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“A Quiet Stream Whose Waters Ran Deep”

It was on this day, December 19th, 1915, that Arthur W. Machen, father of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, died, at the age of 88. Arthur W. Machen was a noted Baltimore lawyer and served as a ruling elder in the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. The following testimony to the life of his father is found in the work Christianity in Conflict, a work which appeared in the volume Contemporary American Theology, edited by Vergilius Ferm (New York: Round Table Press, 1932-1933.

Dr. Machen writes:—

MachenAWMy father, who died in 1915 at the age of eighty-eight, and my mother, who died in 1931 at the age of eighty-two, were both Christians; from them I learned what Christianity is and how it differs from certain modern substitutes. I also learned that Christian conviction can go hand in hand with a broad outlook upon life and with the pursuit of learning.

My father was a lawyer, whose practice had been one of the best in the State of Maryland. But the success which he attained at the bar did not serve in the slightest to make him narrow in his interests. All his life he was a tremendous reader, and reading to him was never a task.

I suppose it never occurred to him to read merely from a sense of duty; he read because he loved to read. He would probably have been greatly amused if anyone had called him a “scholar”; yet his knowledge of Latin and Greek and English and French literature (to say nothing of Italian, which he took up for the fun of it when he was well over eighty and was thus in a period of life which in other men might be regarded as old age) would put our professional scholars to shame.

With his knowledge of literature there went a keen appreciation of beauty in other fields—an appreciation which both my brothers have inherited. One of my father’s most marked characteristics was his desire to have contact with the very best. The second-best always left him dissatisfied; and so the editions of the English classics, for example, that found place in his library were always carefully chosen. As I think of them, I am filled with renewed dismay by the provision of the Vestal Copyright Bill, nearly made a law in the last Congress, which would erect a Chinese wall of exclusion around our many things that are finest and most beautiful in the art of the printing and binding of books.

My father’s special “hobby” was the study and collection of early editions—particularly fifteenth-century editions of the Greek and Latin classics. Some fine old books were handed down to him from his father’s home in Virginia, but others he acquired in the latter part of his long life. His modest means did not suffice, of course, for wholesale acquisitions, but he did try to pick up here and there really good examples of the work of the famous early printers. He was little interested in imperfect copies; everything that he secured was certain to be the very best. I can hardly think of his love of old books as a “hobby”; it was so utterly spontaneous and devoid of self-consciousness. He loved the beautiful form of the old books, as he loved their contents; and the acquisition of every book on his shelves was a true expression of that love.

franklinStPCHe was a profoundly Christian man, who had read widely and meditated earnestly upon the really great things of our holy Faith. His Christian experience was not of the emotional or pietistical type, but was a quiet stream whose waters ran deep. He did not adopt that “Touch not, taste not, handle not” attitude toward the good things or the wonders of God’s world which too often today causes earnest Christian people to consecrate to God only an impoverished man, but in his case true learning and true piety went hand in hand. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and on Wednesday night, he was in his place in Church, and a similar faithfulness characterized all his service as an elder in the Presbyterian Church. At that time the Protestant churches had not yet become political lobbies, and Presbyterian elders were chosen not because they were “outstanding men [or women]* in the community,” but because they were men of God. I love to think of that old Presbyterian session in the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. [pictured, above right]

It is a refreshing memory in these days of ruthless and heartless machinery in the Church. God grant that the memory may some day become actuality again and that the old Christian virtues may be revived!

[* TDPH Editor: Dr. Machen wrote this article in the early 1930’s, when the effort to permit women to serve as ruling elders was gaining ground in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. His bracketed comment should be understood in that light.]

Words to Live By:
Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” – Exodus 20:12.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. – Ephesians 6:1-3.

Image sources:
1. Frontispiece portrait, facing title page, in volume 1 of Stories and Articles, collected by Arthur W. Machen, Jr.  Baltimore : Privately Printed, 1917.
2. Wikipedia page for the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church.

For Further Study:
See the Thomas G. Machen Collection of Incunabula and Fine Printed Books at the Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries.
Also at Johns Hopkins, see Machen (Minnie Gresham), Notebook 1874-1904

Also on this day:
December 19, 1794
– Ordination of the Rev. Daniel Dana, then installed as pastor of the historic First Presbyterian church of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

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A Life of Christian Conviction

How would you react if you discovered that an ancestor of yours had been James Stewart the First, the king of Scotland? That is what Woodrow Wilson found out in growing up in the home of Joseph Ruggles Wilson in the late nineteenth century. And the famous ancestors did not stop there. On his mother’s side, she had descended from Pocahontas of Jamestown fame. What a family ancestry!

His father was a Presbyterian minister who moved to Staunton, Virginia to take a church there. That was where Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856, the third of four children. Even though Ohio had been their first place of ministry, a Southward trip to Augusta, Georgia, where Woodrow Wilson would spend much of his growing up years, landed them square in the Confederacy in thought, fervor, and commitment. They owned slaves and defended their action on that social issue. For a while, the father was a chaplain in the Confederate army. After the War Between the States, he became a founder of the Southern Presbyterians Church, U.S., becoming its stated clerk and eventual moderator in 1879.

Meanwhile, young Woodrow was being trained privately by his father, attending Presbyterian schools, and eventually Princeton University, from which he graduated. In 1885, he married Ellen Axson, from which marriage three daughters were born. Serving initially as a lawyer in the south, Woodrow eventually became the president of Princeton University between 1902 – 1910. From the university to the governorship of New Jersey, the rise in politics was rapid. Campaigning on the Democratic ticket, Woodrow Wilson would serve for two terms, the latter of which was enveloped by World War I.

It was during the first term that his wife Ellen died. He became one of three presidents who were widowed while in the White House. Soon afterwards, he was married a second time, to Edith Galt on December 18, 1915.

You can read in any history book the accomplishments of his presidency. We are interested in the fact that not only did he have an upbringing in  Presbyterian convictions, he remained deeply religious all of his presidency and for that matter, his life. The Bible was the guide of his life, as he read and studied it daily. God’s guidance was frequently sought and received. He considered the United States a Christian nation. His Calvinistic convictions we’re particularly needed when he suffered a paralysis during the latter part of his presidency.  His wife Edith became the de facto president as she guided him in his duties as the chief executive. Three years after he left the office, he died. His wife survived him, living all the way into the presidency of John Kennedy.

Words to live by:  Too many believers separate their spiritual beliefs from their lives. Woodrow Wilson was different from that common practice. With a solid Calvinistic upbringing, he lived his faith and walked by faith. To him, everything he did was colored by the Christian conviction gleaned from the Word of God which he read and studied every day. You and I are to be no different in this one aspect of his life.  Read the Word, and then, live the Word. No sphere of life is to be divorced from the application of the Bible.

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Earliest Inklings of a Long Discussion

It was on this day, December 17th, in 1840, that James Henley Thornwell wrote of his intention to address an issue which would then be debated in the Presbyterian Church for the next twenty years.

Readers will please consider the following as an initial dipping of the toe in some very deep waters. Students of American Presbyterian history will (or should) know something of the famous “Board Debates” of the 19th-century. All others will no doubt be suitably bored to tears. 😉

The Board Debates began in 1841 and continued on until their culmination in the famous debate between Thornwell and Hodge on the floor of the General Assembly in 1860. By some accounts, the debate continued on for another few decades at least. These Debates were essentially a leftover or unaddressed issue that resulted from the 1837 split of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. into Old School and New School factions. That split had occurred for a number of reasons, but the heart of the matter lay in the 1801 Plan of Union, whereby Congregationalists and Presbyterians worked in concert to plant churches throughout the rapidly expanding western territories. That association between the two denominations soured when the heterodox New Haven Theology began to spread first among Congregationalists and subsequently among Presbyterians.

To see these debates sketched out, click here. For a thorough examination of the Board Debates, see Kenneth J. Foreman, Jr.’s doctoral dissertation
, The Debate on the Administration of Missions Led by James Henley Thornwell in the Presbyterian Church, 1839-1861.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 16 of The Life & Letters of James H. Thornwell (1875), by Benjamin M. Palmer. Note too Dr. Palmer’s aside concerning both Thornwell’s temper and his prevailing humility:—

thornwell02It has been stated, in a preceding chapter, that most of the discussions in which Dr. Thornwell was engaged, were a sort of remainder from the original controversy by which the Church was rent, in 1837-1838. The first that emerged into view was the discussion about Boards. During the period when the Church was brought under a species of vassalage to Congregationalism, the great National Societies, which usurped her functions, conducted their operations by the agency of Boards. The Church had become familiar with that mode of action; and when the effectual blow was struck for her emancipation, this was supposed to be fully accomplished, when these national organizations were disowned. The great principle upon which the argument turned, that the Church, in her organized form, must do her own work, was supposed to be satisfied, when Boards exactly analogous were established by the Church herself, as the agents by whom her will was to be carried out. It could not be long, however, before it was perceived that the above- named cardinal principle must be extended further: that a Board, consisting of many members, distributed over a large territory, to whom her evangelistic functions were remitted, did not satisfy the idea of the Church acting in her own capacity, and under the rules which the Constitution prescribed for her guidance. Dr. Thornwell was one of those who planted themselves firmly against their continuance in the Church. It is not the business of the biographer to discuss his views, but only to afford him the opportunity of presenting them. It may be remarked, however, that he was not opposed to combined or united action on the part of the Church, but only insisted that the central agency should be simply executive: the mere instrument by which the Assembly acts, and not an agent standing in the place of the Assembly, and acting for it. The first occasion on which he publicly developed his views was at the meeting of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia; where a stiff debate was held upon the principles involved, and in which the Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D., of Charleston, S. C, was his chief antagonist. An incident is related of this debate, so characteristic of the man, that it deserves to be recorded. In the heat of the discussion, he suffered himself to be borne beyond the bounds of strict propriety. The old spirit of invective and sarcasm, which later years so perfectly subdued, manifested itself in expressions a little too scornful of his opponent, and the impression was not pleasant upon the house. It so happened that his speech closed exactly at the hour of recess at noon, and there was no opportunity for rejoinder. Immediately upon re-assembling, he arose and apologised in handsome terms for the discourtesy into which he had been betrayed, and declared his profound esteem for the learning, ability, and piety of his adversary. It was done so spontaneously, and with such evident sincerity, that criticism was completely disarmed; and there was a universal feeling of admiration for the magnanimity and courage which could so fully redeem a fault.

This discussion is thus referred to in the first of many letters it will be our pleasure to transcribe, addressed to Dr. R. J. Breckinridge, with whom he was thoroughly associated in the discussion of all these Church questions:

 “COLUMBIA, December 17, 1840.

Above you have a draft on the Commercial Bank of Pennsylvania for seventy dollars. I endeavoured to procure one on some of the banks of Baltimore, but could not succeed. You will please apply the money to the Evangelical church at Lyons, and the Theological Seminary at Geneva. I read to my people the correspondence between your church and that of Lyons, and between yourself and J. H. Merle d’Aubigne; and without any other solicitation than what is contained in your Magazine, they made up among themselves the amount forwarded. It is but a pittance, but still it is a free-will offering. You may give half to the church and half to the Seminary.

You will probably hear exaggerated accounts of the discussion in our Synod on the subject of Boards and Agencies. For your February number, I intend to send you a document which I have carefully prepared upon this subject, and which has received the sanction of a very respectable minority among us. I would have sent it to you before; but affliction in my family, combined with other circumstances which it is useless to mention, prevented me from complying with the promise which I made in Philadelphia

“ Your sincere friend and Christian brother,


This was followed, a month later, with a fuller exposition of his views on the same subject, in a letter addressed also to Dr. Breckinridge:

“COLUMBIA, January 27, 1841.


I have detained my manuscript in my hands much longer than I had any idea of doing, when I wrote to you before. My object in the delay has been to copy it; but day after day has passed over, and I have been so constantly occupied that I have had no time for the drudgery of re-writing it. I send it to you, therefore, with all the imperfections of a first draft. It was written before the meeting of our Synod, with the view of presenting it to that body, and in their name sending it as a memorial to the Assembly. This, how- ever, was not done. I submitted the manuscript to a few members of Synod, who cordially concurred in its leading statements. My object in publishing it is not to gain a point, but to elicit discussion. I believe that the Boards will eventually prove our masters, unless they are crushed in their infancy. They are founded upon a radical misconception of the true nature and extent of ecclesiastical power; and they can only be defended, by running into the principle against which the Reformers protested, and for which the Oxford divines are now zealously contending. This view of the subject ought to have been enlarged on more fully than has been done in the article, because the principle involved in it is of vital importance; but I thought it better to reserve a full discussion of it for some subsequent article.

“There is a fact connected with the influence of the Boards that speaks volumes against them. A few men in the Church have presumed to question the wisdom of their organization. These men are met with a universal cry of denunciation from all parts of the land. If, in their infancy, they (the Boards) can thus brow-beat discussion, what may we not expect from them in the maturity of manhood ?

“It is not to be disguised, that our Church is becoming deplorably secular. She has degenerated from a spiritual body into a mere petty corporation. When we meet in our ecclesiastical courts, instead of attending to the spiritual interests of God’s kingdom, we scarcely do anything more than examine and audit accounts, and devise ways and means for raising money. We are for doing God’s work by human wisdom and human policy; and what renders the evil still more alarming, is that so few are awake to the real state of the case. Your Magazine is the only paper in the Church that can be called a faithful witness for the truth. I do sincerely and heartily thank God for the large measure of grace which He has bestowed upon you. I regard the principles which you advocate of so much importance, that I could make any sacrifice of comfort or of means, consistent with other obligations, to aid and support you.

“I rejoice that you remember me and my poor labours in your prayers. My field of labour in the College is arduous and trying; but God has given me the ascendency among the students. I have an interesting prayer-meeting and a Bible-class. My sermons on Sunday are very seriously listened to; and I have succeeded in awaking a strong interest in the evidences of our religion.

“I have formed the plan of publishing an edition of ‘Butler’s Analogy,’ with an analysis of each chapter, a general view of the whole argument, and a special consideration of the glaring defects in the statement of Christian doctrine, with which the book abounds. It is a subject on which I have spent much patient thought, and on which I feel somewhat prepared to write. What think you of the scheme ? If you should favour it, any suggestions from you would be gratefully received. At some future day—I shall not venture to fix the time—you may expect an article from me on Natural Theology. I have been carefully collecting materials on the subject, and shall embody them in a review of Paley’s Theology,’ Bell and Brougham’s edition.

“In regard to the article on Boards,* I give you leave to abridge, amend, correct, wherever you deem it necessary. If you can conveniently do so, I would be glad to have you return the manuscript, as I have no copy of it.

“Sincerely yours,


* This article appeared in the Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine, in 1841. It will be found in the fourth volume of his collected writings.

Words to Live By:
Thornwell’s views derived from a core principle—the idea that God is sovereign over His Church. His sovereignty is manifest in doctrine, in worship, and in polity or governance. In each of these three aspects of the Church, God has, in the Scriptures, revealed His sovereign will for the Church. We have no right to invent doctrine, we have no right to invent ways to worship Him, and we have no right to introduce structures and practices for the operation of His Church, other than what is revealed in His Word. That in sum is, I think, a fairly accurate summary of the heart of Thornwell’s system of thought. Others may disagree with him, but you have to admire Thornwell for never having backed away from his convictions.

Never mock a man for his studied convictions. If someone has put a lot of time, study and thought into carefully weighing a matter, then they at least deserve your respect, even if you disagree with them. If you must mock anyone at all, reserve your mockery for those who give little thought to a matter yet come down hard on one side or the other of an issue. Rash conclusions deserve to be belittled. Careful students, on the other hand, are in short supply and should be valued, wherever we find them.

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Did you know, that in a manner of speaking, the official archives of the Presbyterian Church in America—the PCA Historical Center—began with a devastating fire?!

Let me explain. The PCA Historical Center began its existence in January of 1985. At that time the PCA did not have central offices for its agencies, so the president of Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Will Barker, offered to host the newly founded archives. The PCA had just a few years before received another denominationthe Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES)and with that merger, Covenant College and Covenant Seminary both became PCA schools. It made sense to put the Historical Center at the Seminary, too, because the RPCES archives were already there.

But back to that fire: The RPCES was itself a merger of two denominations, a merger which took place in April of 1965. One wing of that merger was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, so named between 1961-1965. Prior to that it had been named the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod [1956-1960]. This was the larger portion of a split of the old Bible Presbyterian Church [1938-1955]. The other side of the merger creating the RPCES was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]. This group was also one portion of a prior split, the other side being the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. That latter group is still with us, and they are the denomination that operates Geneva College.

“So where’s the fire?”

duanesburgNY_02I’m getting to that (It takes patience to be a Presbyterian!): The General Synod, or “New Light” RP’s were a denomination that began shrinking in numbers during the last part of the 19th-century and the first part of the 20th. At their low point, there were only nine General Synod churches. Then, around the 1940’s and 1950’s, with the addition of some new pastors, they began to plant new churches. By the time of that 1965 merger, there were twenty-eight RP, General Synod churches. One of their oldest churches was located in Duanesburg, New York. It had been founded in 1795 [and still exists today, as a member congregation of the PCA]. The pastor of the Duanesburg church was one of the older RP pastors. It was he who almost single-handedly held the little denomination together in the first half of the 20th-century, serving as Stated Clerk and editor of a small denominational magazine, The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate.

Rev. Chesnut finally retired as pastor in 1942, but he could already see the Lord’s blessing and that the little denomination was actually starting to grow again. That meant it was important that future generations should know their history; they needed to know where they came from as a denomination; they needed to be reminded of the convictions, hopes and prayers of their founding fathers. If these things were preserved, then they would have a guiding standard for the future. And so Rev. Chesnut devoted much of his retirement years to building an archives for the General Synod group. He put out a call to other members of the denomination, soliciting donations of various materials. Notices like this began to appear in their various publications:

We have added some more valuable material to our collection of books and other literature, and added more case room and are now ready to receive antiques or valuable historical matter for the benefit of the coming generation. Have you anything to spare that would soon be lost, or valuable to the church for future reference? It will be in safe keeping for years to come. What we want, may be of no value to you, but very valuable to others in later years.

Slowly the collection began to develop. As added materials arrived, they were carefully stored away at the Duanesburg church by Rev. Chesnut. Then it was all lost in one night, when fire destroyed the church building. Rev. Harry Meiners, pastor of the church at the time of the fire, gave this account:

It was early evening, December 16, 1951. We were just getting our Sabbath evening supper on the table when Miss Bertha Wilber and Miss Charlotte Knowles burst into our front door with the exclamation: “Did you hear the fire siren? Our church is afire!” I believe I made the fastest trip from home to church that I had ever made.
When I arrived the fire was just breaking through the west windows and the firemen were fighting the flames. My first thought was to save something, especially having in mind the Historical Repository. As I opened the front door and tried to go in, the smoke drove me back and made it impossible to go in to get anything. Two other men had previously tried to get in, but were prevented by smoke.
A few minutes later the fire company ran out of water. In the country the trucks carry a tank of water and whenever possible pump water from a well or fire-pond. Neither was available near the church, so after the water supply in the tanks was exhausted there was nothing more that could be done. Firemen, church members, neighbors could only stand helplessly watching it burn. Our church, built in 1837, which we loved so well and had started to redecorate, was burned to the ground. There was nothing left standing but the chimney we had erected a short time ago.
As I left the scene to break the news to Dr. Chesnut, I went with a heavy heart. I was afraid the news would be a very great blow for him. But I was wrong—he encouraged me and immediately began talking about building a new church. His words: “Don’t be discouraged, Mr. Meiners, and tell the people not to be discouraged. With God’s help we can do anything,” are still ringing in my ears.

So, those things that were lost in the Duanesburg fire, had they been saved, would eventually have come to be part of the RPCES archives, and then later, with the Joining and Receiving of the RPCES in 1982, would again have become part of the PCA archives in 1985.
And that’s why I said that, in a manner of speaking, the PCA archives began with a devastating fire.

Words to Live By:
On December 23, following the fire, Rev. Meiners preached before his congregation from the text of Philippians 1:12—”But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.” And so he concluded, “This is our prayer, that our calamity will be a means in God’s hands to further the Gospel of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

As Christians, we must pray in this way, even though we perhaps only rarely know why the Lord allowed somethings to happen they way they did. As to archival collections, we work to preserve these things for so long as the Lord will allow. They are not forever, but for so long as we have them, they stand as a testimony to how the Lord has been at work among this small portion of His Church. In all things, may God be glorified!

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imbrieCharlesKToday’s post is taken from a funeral sermon by the Rev. Charles Herr, in memory of the Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie [1814-1891]. In looking for a sermon that fell on this particular day, this what what was at hand.
I dare say probably none of us have ever heard of Rev. Imbrie. So this sermon affords an interesting exercise: Can we read this sermon without seeing it as hagiographic? Can we read it for the lessons that the pastor presents from the Scripture text, without being distracted by personal references to a man we never knew? And can we read it in personal application, looking to our selves and asking “Has Christ done a similar work in my life?”
Funerals, and funeral sermons, are at once a particularly difficult aspect of any pastor’s ministry and a uniquely powerful opportunity to speak to the most challenging issues of human existence. Nothing can be more important than our standing before a righteous and holy God—whether we are in right relation to Him. And it is death that brings each of us inevitably to face that trial.

At right: Photograph of the Rev. Charles K. Imbrie, from the frontispiece for In Memoriam: Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie, D.D. (1891).

Sermon, preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Jersey City, on Sunday evening, November 22, 1891, by the Pastor, the Rev. Charles Herr, in memory of the Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie, born on December 15, 1814, died on November 20, 1891.

Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.— Heb. xi. 5.

A long drive from Geneva of flat, tame miles ends before the towering majesty of Mont Blanc. It is somewhat of a dull road through the genealogical records of Genesis, but when you come to Enoch the road sweeps up into the hills. It is a weary stretch of nobodyism, but at last you meet a man, a monarch, Enoch, of whom it is on record that he walked with God, and for a reward God took him— took him into heaven without the dark process of death. Magnificent man ! Magnificent finish !

It is proper and necessary for us to talk together to-night a little, though very inadequately indeed, of Dr. Imbrie whom we have lost. In truth we cannot keep our minds away from him. We talk of him, because the glory and the sadness absorb all our thoughts. And we do not anticipate anything which will be said at the funeral ceremonies to-morrow, because our feelings are such as no one else, having other relations with Dr. Imbrie, can utter.

In thinking of some starting-place for our thoughts, it seemed to me that there was hardly a more adequately suggestive personage than this Enoch, seventh from Adam, who so early in biblical history reached a point of renown in godliness. As we look at the details of his sparse record, we shall find that they admirably prompt the recollection of the dominant characteristics of our Pastor Emeritus.

1.  Enoch pleased God by seeking His heavenly companionship, by finding his happiness in God’s communion. The Genesis record reports him as one who walked with God, which signifies a very intimate, reverent and confidential intercourse.

And when we remember the times in which Enoch lived, that seems a wonderful thing indeed. He lived in the world that Cain had made, the world that was the offspring of selfishness and murder. The religion which controlled men’s actions was one which disowned the claims of God in righteousness. It confessed no sin and guilt. It refused to worship. It laughed at the words of the Almighty. It was an age when the evil thoughts of men’s hearts were far developed toward that height of wickedness which brought on the o’ersweeping flood in the days of Noah, Enoch’s great-grandson. A constituent part of the civilization of that day was a city, the stronghold in ungodly times of luxury and materialism. There were manufactures, the art of man was cultivated to the production of every possible comfort, ingenuity was taxed in ever-new devices to create what might make the world, out of which God had been rejected, bearable to man. It is truly wonderful that at such an early time and in such hard and uncongenial circumstances, Enoch walked with God. Original, peculiar, brave to oppose the religious negations of his fel- low-men, and turning his back with firm self-denial upon their ungodly lusts and luxuries, he walked with God. He is the one point of light in a black expanse.

I am sure we will all agree that it was eminently true of Dr. Imbrie thathe walked with God. His conversation was habitually and deeply with our heavenly Father.

He carried the proof of it upon his face and in his utterance. He did not try to prove it. He did not need to tell any one that he was a man of God. It proved itself. He had the Christ-spirit, the Christ- light, the Christ-speech. It was not peculiar that Moses’ face should shine with the reflection of Divine glory when he came down from the communion of the mount. Every man of God will carry the marks of the ethereal converse upon his face. No servant of the Most High ever had those marks more distinctly, more beautifully, imprinted upon his countenance than Dr. Imbrie. I suppose that he must always have been a very handsome man, of open face and clear fine features. But we know him best for something different from that and deeper than that. He had that which is not natural beauty, and which can make even plainness beautiful,— the outward signals of an inner life lived in the presence of God, lived under His smile, lived under the illumination of His grace.

And this was evident in all his action. The holiest and loveliest graces were the easy and natural features of his daily walk. There were no second-thoughts about him ; he did not need any. The first thought was always the Christ-thought, the heavenly thought. His talk never had need to be revised for any reason of spiritual inadequacy or moral lack. It was always in angelic vein. It was always the talk of a man who kept continuous company with our blessed Lord, and whose lips never for an instant dropped the continuity of their holy habit.

Perhaps no mark of his walk with God was more impressive to us than his prayers at our mid-week gathering. They were always so prompt, so helpful, so heavenly. They bore us all up so confidently, so joyfully to God. They so uttered our unutterable thoughts. They exhibited and interpreted to us the strange and fugitive sensations of our hearts with such ease of saintly power. His prayers were a sublime evidence of his reverent, yet childlike and confident familiarity with God. Their flow, their unlabored elevation, their sweet and even naturalness, their wondrous spirituality, and that amazing quality by which the delicatest thoughts were fixed and the most vanishing feelings caught and uttered in accumulating flow and splendor ; these things showed us, as few things could, that he lived in an attitude of prayer, that his life was spent in God’s presence.

2.  Enoch pleased God by the witness which he faithfully bore for Him, for the integrity of his truth against the falsehoods of unrighteous men. Though we have no record of this in Genesis, we can easily understand that his life would necessarily be of this sort. Living a rare saint of God in the midst of a wicked world, his very life would be a testimony. He must have been a martyr in every sense, a witness to the truth and a sufferer for it. We cannot believe that a character of his exceptional sort could have escaped the contumely and enmity of men, who did not even need words to condemn them while his life stood forth in silent but complete accusation. But the apostle Jude has preserved something for us out of the dying testimonies of tradition, which shows that Enoch’s life was not without its vigorous spoken protest against the wickedness of the world. “ Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold the Lord cometh among His holy myriads to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the impious concerning all their works of impiety which they impiously did, and concerning all the hard things which impious sinners spoke against Him.”

Dr. Imbrie was every way a witness for God, by life, by act, by word. He was profoundly learned in the Scriptures. I think he could be called a scientific theologian, a man who knew the testimonies of the word of God and was able to bring them together into a consistent and harmonious scheme. There are not many men in our country who can so amply justify that designation.

In all the large and burning questions that came before the Presbyterian Church he was a ready, faithful, courageous and splendidly intelligent witness for the truth of God, as he understood it. And he understood it in the old way, the way made glorious by the singing feet of the generations which echo to us from the past. The struggle connected with the proposed revision of the Confession of Faith saddened his heart deeply, and I somehow feel that he would not have found out how to adjust himself with repose of heart in the new conditions which now seem likely to come to pass. He was a redoubtable antagonist. Those who came forward from time to time with raw ideas and radical departures and sudden enthusiasms of revolution met in him an unconquerable foeman and found their propositions overwhelmed with the condemning testimony of scripture.

He was with us at communion seasons (and perhaps there we shall miss him most), and talked to us so winningly of the love of Christ, and ministered to our fainting souls the comfortable encouragements of Divine grace. He was with us at our prayer-meetings, and spoke upon all the varied subjects which come before us in the round of the year. His address was the glorious feature of the occasion, that for which our souls waited as (or their food. He was with us at protracted meetings, when the duties of the unworldly life in their multitudinous forms of expression,—the obligation and wisdom of early profession, the sinfulness of sin, the misery and despair of the ungodly life, the responsibility and privilege of responding to the redeeming love of God, the deceitful persuasions of Satan,—were declared by him with exceptional and pressing emphasis, with stirring freshness and power. His facility in all these things, his supreme adequacy for every occasion, was the mark of a great and faithful witness for God.

3. Enoch pleased God by his faith. This is asserted in the Epistle to the Hebrews as the explanation of his godly walk. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death ; and was not found because he had translated him : for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him ; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Dr. Imbrie believed that God is. He believed it with all his soul. He knew it. To him it was the truest of truths. It was more real to him than anything else in the wide universe.

And he grasped it as a truth that has meaning—a truth to live by. It was not an intellectual tenet; it was a life-faith. He accepted all that it entailed. It involved him in relations of love and duty which he entered into with sincere joy, into which he threw himself with abandonment of soul. This is the only belief in God’s existence which has value and virtue. With so many men that truth, though accepted, lies bedridden in the dormitory of the soul. It does not go like an arrow into their consciences ; it does not plough up their hearts like a coulter ; it does not shake them with its magnificent significance. With Dr. Imbrie it had all these pure and stirring effects. He saw what it meant that God is. He saw that it required the response of his adoration, his obedience, his love. And he gave them with gladness and without reserve.

He digged deep into this truth of truths. He felt it so fully and so intelligently that he became not merely a servant of God, but a son. The utmost that a large number of Christians realize in their religious experience is just that they are pardoned criminals. But Dr. Imbrie entered into the higher and sweeter relationship. He took God’s word for his adoption into the heavenly family, he under-stood the testimony of the Holy Spirit in his soul, and gave convincing evidence of his faith by acting out in all his life the spirit of a son. He was sweetly constrained to all happiness of temper and all gladness of service by the fact that he was an accepted and beloved child of the Heavenly Father. In his heart sprung up and lived the graces that belong to that relationship—confidence, serenity, love, courage, assurance.

And he believed that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. This is evident, because he devoted himself to the attainment of those rewards, and those only. He wanted nothing except what came from the hand of God. That which supported him in the patience and joyfulness of his daily walk, that which inspired his unrequired yet uninterrupted faithfulness in the service of this Church, that which fortified his exhaustless activity in every direction of usefulness, was not the hope of reward from men, not even their good opinion or their grateful word. Before the face of his unseen master he lived ; for Him he did all this; to Him alone he stood or fell.

The wholesome and serene sweetness of his mind amid many cares and trials shows to what comforts his heart was turned. No one would ever have judged from his words or manner that he had  quite the full measure of human griefs and burdens, if indeed he had not a little more than the common share. The pain and loneliness that came to him from his wife’s death only six months ago were absolutely undiscoverable to any except those to whom he was willing to utter them in words. I have never known any one who could more thoroughly make his own the declaration of the Apostle Paul: “ None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

And how has Dr. Imbrie been rewarded ?

I.  By blessedness here.
He pleased God—and behold the consequences in his revered and beautiful life—“ honor, love, obedience, troops of friends.” A face upon which were written the peace and grace of the Saviour. Lips which moved with delight to the motive of this ancient German hymn, which was his favorite :

Fairest Lord Jesus ! Ruler of all nature !
O Thou, of God and Man the Son !
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thee, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of Spring :
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels heaven can boast.

And above all, he had the sweet heart, glad in the inward testimony that he pleased God and having secret springs of heavenly joy and satisfaction.

Such are some of the rewards that God bestows in this world. Is anything else to be named beside them ? Is anything else desirable without them ? Can riches compare with the rewards of God’s favor ? Dr. Imbrie never wanted anything, for he was a child of the Father ; but he never was rich. He did not need to be. No man needs to be. Avaunt the despicable materialism which weighs men by their purses and strives for wealth as the chief good ! The greatest thing in the world is to be a Christlike man, a God-inhabited soul.

2.  Then God rewarded him with death. Strange reward, say you ? Oh, no !

Enoch was not—for God took him. His translation was supernatural. But many saints die not much dissimilarly. Dr. Imbrie’s death was such. It was just as little to him as translation was to Enoch. His death-bed was a sublime spectacle of faith. I suppose that most of us, if we should undertake to imagine an ideal picture of a believer’s closing hours, would illustrate them with expressions of confidence and hope, with triumphant utterances of fearlessness, with emotional testimonies and rapt prayers of faith. But though he had clearness and vigor of faculty, there was quiet in Dr. Imbrie’s room. No audible prayer; no last messages of warning or appeal ; no ejaculations of high confidence broke the tender hush. He had left nothing undone or unsaid in his holy life that needed fuller witness from his death-bed. His faith did not need to encourage itself with outward asseveration. Perfect self-control, self-restraint, rest, peace.

3.  Last of all, best of all, fulfillment of all, heaven ! As the gray line of light on the morning sky is the pledge of the shining sun and the risen day, as the blade above the soil is the earnest of the waving corn-field and the plentiful granary, so are these first rewards of service here the foretokens and prelibations of eternal joys. We know that our beloved Pastor and friend inherits the precious promises of God in the Scriptures.

They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. And the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

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Ready and willing to go for Christ . . . anywhere

beattyCharles03The young Irish salesman was sparring verbally with the small group of college students. Only he was doing it in Latin, remembered from his classical education classes of his youth in Northern Ireland.  Sensing his gifts, the head master of the Log College, the Rev. William Tennent, challenged the salesman to sell all of his wares and study for the ministry.  Charles Beatty did just that, entering the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Charles was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1712.  His parents were John Beatty, a British Army officer, and Christiana Clinton Beatty.  His early home education was in theology in a classical Christian education setting.  At age 14, his father died.  We are not told how he came to “own” Christ, but he traveled to the American colonies with his Uncle Charles Clinton in 1729, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Studying at the Log College, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick on October 13, 1742, and ordained the same year on December 14, 1742.

For a while, he assisted the Rev. Tennent at his congregation, and finally assumed the pulpit upon the latter’s death in 1743.  Three years later, he married Anne Reading, with whom he would  have ten children.  She must have been a remarkable woman, as her husband and their father would be gone many years on mission trips.  With very few Presbyterian ministers in the colonies, he was called first by the Synod of New York to travel to Virginia and North Carolina in 1754, preaching to the scattered Scot-Irish Presbyterian families.

But the westward expansion then going on in Pennsylvania also attracted his heart.  He would make two trips in 1758 and 1766 to that frontier of Cumberland County, which extended then all the way to Pittsburgh.  The first trip in 1758 was as chaplain to the army of General Forbes, with Col. Chapman’s Pennsylvania regiment.  He would preach the first Protestant sermon west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The second trip with the Rev. George Duffield of Carlisle’s First Presbyterian Church in 1766.  Their purpose was to report on the numbers of Presbyterian families then pushing west, for the purpose of establishing presbyteries to minister to those hardy pioneers.  Accompanying them was a Christian Indian by the name of Joseph Peppy, who was a valued interpreter when they established contact with the Indian tribes in the area.  They found numerous Presbyterian families, including around Fort Pitt itself.

Charles Beatty was involved in relief work as well.  Twice he took trips to England to raise funds for the Corporation for the Relief of Distressed Presbyterian Ministers.

Leaving “home missions,” Beatty sailed for the Barbados to minister the Word there, only to be called to his heavenly home on August 13, 1773.

Words to Live By:
Charles Beatty was a man who for the sake of the gospel was content to be used for Christ’s kingdom.  Reader: is God’s Spirit calling you to a similar ministry of service for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  In Matthew 9:37, 38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers in his harvest.” (ESV)

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The following obituary was published in The Presbyterian Quarterly, April 1899 (Volume 13, Number 2), pages 354-355:

John Bailey Adger, D.D., died in Pendleton, South Carolina, on the 3d of January in the 89th year of his age.

adger02Dr. Adger was born of Scotch-Irish parentage in Charleston, S.C., December 13, 1810. He graduated when 18 years of age at Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1833, of which, at the time of his death, he had been for some time the senior surviving alumnus. Shortly after his ordination by the Charleston Union Presbytery in 1834, he went as a missionary to the Armenians, under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and served in this work for twelve years at Constantinople and Smyrna, until the failure of his eyes and other circumstances compelled hisi withdrawal from the foreign field. During his missionary service he translated into Armenian the New Testament, Pilgrim’s Progress, the Shorter Catechism, and other books, which translations are still in use among that people.

After his return home he engaged in work among the negro slaves in his own native city. A church, connected with the Independent Presbyterian Synod, whose house of worship stands hard by his late residence in Pendleton, is appropriately named for him, “The Adger Memorial Church.”

Upon the withdrawal, in 1856, of Dr. Palmer from the Chair of Ecclesiastical History and Church Polity in the Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Adger was elected his successor, and filled that position with great zeal and ability for seventeen years. After his retirement in 1874, although he had then reached the age of 64, he entered with energy and vigor upon the pastoral work in his own Presbytery of South Carolina, which he continued until, having attained the age of 83, he was reluctantly constrained, by physical infirmities, to give up the public preaching of the Gospel.

At this advanced age, and amid these hindering infirmities, with courage and energy, he undertook what was perhaps the greatest task of his life, the writing of a large book, which he called “My Life and Times.” His life had been a long one, the times through which he had passed, eventful in Church and State; and he undertook to write a history and discussion of the various questions he had to meet and help to solve. With the assistance of a devoted daughter, and such other help as he could procure, he gathered up the facts, studied out the questions, and dictated chapter after chapter of his book. His mind, still clear and vigorous, and his body wonderfully strong and active, he labored systematically and diligently for several years at this work. And almost as soon as the last chapter was finished, the last page written, and the valiant servant of God had laid down his fruitful pen, the Master called him to the everlasting rest.

Dr. Adger’s magnum opus, My Life and Times, is a classic and was reprinted just a few years ago by the English publisher, Tentmaker.

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Mass Evangelism Crusades of an Astonishing Type

chapmanJWilburWe have already considered the life and pastoral ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman on April 13, 1881 (see there).  Leaving the pastorate in some five churches, two of them being Presbyterian, we look at his appointment by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to the position of General Secretary of Evangelism on December 12, 1902.  immediately he was placed as an overseer of 51 evangelists in 470 cities of the nation.  But as important as that post was, it was the mass evangelism techniques that he authored that became astonishing instruments of the Holy Spirit to win the lost to Christ.

Chapman would go into a city like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in Pennsylvania for a three to four-week evangelistic campaign.  He would then break down the cities into zones, with evangelists and song teams over each one of the zones. Then there would be simultaneous meetings every night with those teams in the zones of the cities.  Pittsburgh in 1904 was divided into nine zones. Philadelphia had forty-two sections divided into it. The conversions numbered in the thousands. At one of them in North Carolina, the Rev. David Otis Fuller was converted.

Chapman, in seeing the approaching liberalism of his own denomination, set the bar high with respect to belief in the Bible. He let go any of his evangelists who did not believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

The Presbyterian evangelist took this technique “on the road” as he ministered to eight cities in Australia, six cities in China, Korea, and Japan. By 1910, the evangelistic technique began to lose favor with the masses, and it was laid aside.

J. Wilbur Chapman became the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1918. He died in that same year, but we remember him by his great hymn of “One Day” and “Jesus, What a Friend For Sinners” today in our churches.

Words to live by:  In the early days of our twentieth century, there was much spiritual fruit from the evangelistic efforts of J. Wilbur Chapman. It is a shame that we have forgotten his name and efforts for souls so much in our churches. We need evangelists today who will reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men and women everywhere in our cities. Who will join me in praying that God will send a great revival of our church members in Presbyterian churches across this land? Who will join with me that God’s Spirit will bring another great spiritual awakening of the lost, driving them to embrace Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel?

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Our God Is Faithful, from Generation to Generation.

On this blog, now nearing the end of its second year, we have on numerous occasions made use of the news clippings preserved in seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Henry had a keen eye for the value of history, and those scrapbooks contain valuable coverage of the modernist controversy of the 1930’s. Additionally, Rev. Welbon also wrote histories of two churches that he served.

welbonHenryGHenry Garner Welbon was born in Seoul, Korea on September 28, 1904. His father, Arthur Garner Welbon [1866-1928], was a missionary sent to Korea under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Upon arriving in Korea in 1900, a year later he married Sarah Harvey Nourse, a missionary nurse who had arrived on the mission field a few years earlier.

The Welbons served at several mission stations, raising a young family there on the field, until Mrs. Welbon’s declining health forced the family to return to the United States in 1919.

Up until that time, Henry had attended the P’yongyang Foreign School in Korea. He then completed his secondary education in California, before the family relocated to Maryville, Tennessee. Henry graduated from Maryville College in 1927, though he had suffered the death of his mother in 1925, and his father returned to the mission field shortly thereafter.

Pursuing a call to the ministry, Henry entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 and was there during those turbulent years that witnessed the reorganization of Princeton and which in turn led to the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. Henry was one of those that left Princeton to complete his education at Westminster, graduating there in 1931. He was licensed just before graduation and ordained in September of 1931 by the Philadelphia Presbytery (PCUSA), being installed in what some term a “yoked” pastorate, serving both the Head of Christiana PCUSA church in Newark, Delaware and the Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Now settled as a pastor, he married his dear wife Dorothy the following June of 1932.

Following his convictions, Rev. Welbon led his congregations to take a stand for the gospel, though it meant the loss of their respective buildings. This was in 1936, and Rev. Welbon became one of the founding ministers of the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. Then in 1938, he was among those who left the PCofA to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Welbon serving the BP congregation in Newark, DE until 1942.

Our own records do not tell how he spent the years between 1942 and 1946, but in post-war years, his facility with the Korean language became important to the U.S. government. The government eventually wanted to relocate him to Korea, but wise friends there urged him not to take that appointment. Wise advice indeed, in the late 1940’s. Later in life, Rev. Welbon returned to missions, serving first as a teacher in Japan, 1966-69, and then as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Boatswain Bay, Grand Caymans, 1969-71. Thereafter, he was honorably retired as a member of the Delmarva Presbytery of the RPCES.

In the closing years of his life, and after the death of his beloved wife Dorothy, Rev. Welbon got on a train in the Spring of 1999 and left his home in Tucson, Arizona to travel across the country to research his family history. This had been a life-long project, and he hoped to finally locate some of the last necessary bits of information. St. Louis was one stop in his journey, and I was honored to meet him at that time. He continued on to Washington, D.C. to complete his research and then returned home to finish writing his family history. Completing that work, he took it to the publisher and died the very next day, on December 11, 1999.

Words to Live By:
Arthur and Sarah Welbon had six children, two of whom died in Korea while still quite young. They lived their lives in service to our Lord, as did their son Henry. Time does not permit us to search out the lives of their other children, but of the surviving children, one of Henry’s sisters, Mary, was the ancester—the great-grandmother—of Gabriel Fluhrer, a graduate of Greenville Seminary who served for a time at Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, and who now serves as an OPC pastor in Cary, North Carolina. And as Rev. Fluhrer himself once said, as he reflected on his family’s heritage,

“Praise God for His covenant faithfulness to generation after generation.” 

Rev. Welbon authored four books, of which the first two are currently preserved at the PCA Historical Center:

A History of Head of Christiana Church. (1933).
A History of Pencader Presbyterian Church,. (1936).
A History of Christian Education in Delaware. (Univ. of Delaware, M.A. thesis, 1937).
A History and Genealogy of a Welbon Family which Came from Lincolnshire, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1854. (1999).

[with gentle humor, it’s hard not to notice, that when Rev. Welbon found a title he liked, he stuck with it!]

The grave site of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon can be viewed here.


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Tragedy Turned to Triumph

It was on this day, December 10th, in 1815, that the Rev. J. J. Janeway wrote in his journal,

“It has pleased the Lord to send to this city the Rev. Drury Lacy [of Virginia] to die, and to edify us by his exemplary behaviour in his last illness. He submitted to a painful operation, which proved fatal. He was raised entirely above the fear of death, and repeated, on one occasion, with emphasis, two verses of the 116th hymn:

‘How can I sink with such a prop
As my eternal God,
Who bears the earth’s huge pillars up,
And spreads the heavens abroad?’ &c.

“I stood at his bedside about an half hour before his decease; and as I stood looking on him, then in a state of insensibility, I reflected. There is the servant of God just going to receive his reward; there is that mouth which was employed so often in proclaiming salvation to sinners, just about to be closed in death. But it will be opened again in celebrating the praises of our Redeemer in a new and nobler strain. There is that minister just about to receive his crown of life. Oh, may I profit by such occurrences! While meditating on something to say at his interment, I was refreshed; my soul melted within me; my eyes were filled with tears.”

Drury Lacy was born on 5 October 1758, in Chesterfield Co., Va., and died on 5 November 1815, at the home of a friend, Robert Ralston, in Philadelphia, PA. Death was caused by the effects of an operation for kidney calculi. Rev. Lacey had gone to Philadelphia in order to obtain the best medical service available. The operation was on a Monday and by Tuesday he was very low and said that he trusted in the Lord. He requested Robert to write a letter to Mrs. Lacy in case of his death to comfort her. By nightfall, he was in great pain and expired the next day. He was interred in the cemetery of the Third Street Presbyterian Church, later the Pine Street Presbyterian Church.

Drury was reared on his father’s farm in Chesterfield County in meager circumstances, with the full intention of following in the footsteps of his father as a farmer. But an accident in his youth, which at the time appeared catastrophic, abruptly changed the course of his life, to his great benefit , and to all of his descendants as well. The story of the accident is as follows:—

At a muster of the militia, a soldier had overloaded his musket and feared to discharge it himself. Without informing them of the over-loading and the consequent danger of firing it, he asked some boys if they would like to discharge it. Young Lacy volunteered; the weapon exploded, terribly mangling and tearing off Lacy’s left hand. The wound healed but, without the use of two hands, Lacy felt that he would be unable to earn a living as a farmer, and so turned his thoughts to the profession of teaching or clerking. This would require an education and he had not the funds to pay for tuition at a private school—there were no public ones—or to hire a tutor. His mother had died when he was about 12 years of age, and his father never remarried. His sisters, Keziah and Dorcas, assumed the duties of running the household as his elder sister, Agnes, had married in 1764.

At the age of 18, he secured a position as tutor in the family of Daniel Allen in Cumberland County, who was an elder in the Presbyterian Church of which Rev. John Blair Smith, President of Hampden-Sydeny College, was pastor. Here Drury became acquainted with Rev. Smith and his ministry. Shortly thereafter, he joined the church of which Rev. Smith had charge. This was an important move in Drury’s life, for Rev. Smith, noting his ability, took him “under his wing”. At this time, he was self-taught for the most part and had acquired a fair working knowledge of geography, grammar, algebra, geometry and surveying. He later became a tutor in the family of Col. John Nash of Prince Edward County, and while there, enjoyed the instruction of Rev. Smith one or two hours a week. With this assistance, he acquired a sufficient knowledge in Greek and Latiin so that at the age of twenty-three, he was offered the position of “tutor” at Hampden-Sydney College. He continued his studies there privately, leading eventually to his entrance upon the ministry.

In The Collections of the Virginia Historical Society“, Volume 5, it states that “he possessed marked powers of oratory. He could lift up his voice like a trumpet, and its silvery notes fell sweetly upon the ears of the most distant auditors in large congregations, wherever assembled, in houses or in the open air.

His son, Rev. William Sterling Lacy said of his father:

“He left but few sermons, and those not entirely finished, and far inferior to his ordinary pulpit performances, having been written in the earlier years of his ministry. During the last fifteen years of his life, the period of his greatest ministerial success, he rarely, if ever, wrote his sermons, and but seldom prepared even short notes for the pulpit. His preparation was almost exclusively mental and spiritual. He thought intensely upon his subject, and arranged the matter carefully in his mind, and then trusted to the occasion to suggest the appropriate language.

There is as well this account of him from the pen of his intimate friend, Dr. (Archibald) Alexander:

‘About the time that Mr. Lacy entered the ministry, commenced that remarkable revival of religion, which extended more or less through every part of Virginia where Presbyterian congregations existed. And although Dr. J. B. Smith was the principal instrument of that work, yet the labours of Mr. Lacy were, in no small degree, successful. His preaching was calculated to produce deep and solemn impressions. His voice was one of extraordinary power. Its sound has been heard at more than a mile’s distance. His voice was not only loud, but clear and distinct; in the largest assemblies convened in the woods, he could always be heard with ease at the extremity of the congregation.

Words to Live By:
God can take great tragedies and turn them to His purposes, redeeming the wasted years (Joel 2:25). The Lord is not limited; His ways are not our ways. Our place is but to look to Him in all things, regardless of what may come. A reward awaits, an eternity in His presence, enjoying Him forever.

The full hymn by Isaac Watts:

How can I sink with such a prop
As my eternal God,
Who bears the earth’s huge pillars up,
And spreads the heav’ns abroad?

How can I die while Jesus lives,
Who rose and left the dead?
Pardon and grace my soul receives
From mine exalted Head.

All that I am, and all I have,
Shall be for ever thine;
Whate’er my duty bids me give
My cheerful hands resign.

Yet if I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great
That I should give him all.

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