January 2013

You are currently browsing the archive for the January 2013 category.

In His Time, the Lord Will Raise Up a Man.

There is so much that could be told here about our subject today. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was born in Pennsylvania, near what is now the city of Harrisburg, in 1746. His parents were godly Scots-Irish settlers who raised their children in the fear of the Lord. When Samuel was just nine, his parents moved the family to North Carolina where they settled a 300 tract of forested land and with great labor, turned it into a farm. The family also became members of the historic congregation that would later be known as the Thyatira Church, not far from Salisbury, NC.

Samuel excelled at learning and even taught his brothers and sisters before going off to the College of New Jersey, where he studied under Dr. John Witherspoon. Upon graduation, he studied theology with his uncle in New Jersey, and then began to seek ordination and a pastoral call to serve a church. In God’s providence, he returned to the Thyatira Church to serve there as pastor from 1777 until his death on January 21, 1811.

But what particularly caught my eye as I read through one account of his life was the following paragraph, which brought back a professor’s lesson in seminary. Teaching a course on “The Introduction to Theology” at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in the late 1970’s, Professor John Frame noted how often the Lord raises up one man to stand against the tide of unbelief and opposition. Besides some of the obvious Biblical examples of Moses and Daniel, he cited Athenasius and Martin Luther, among others. It is in that same vein that this following account seems so important. Here we have a picture of early America that we may not have seen before, but it is also a picture in many respects much like today:

During the Revolutionary war, and especially from the summer of 1780, when the South became the theatre of conflict, the country was in a state of utter confusion, and vice of almost every kind prevailed to an alarming extent. The civil character of the war, too, gave it a peculiar ferocity, and produced a licentiousness of morals, of which there is scarcely a parallel at the present day. The municipal laws of the country could not be enforced, civil government was prostrated for a time, and society was virtually resolved into its original elements. Mr. McCorkle came out in reference to this state of things in his utmost strength. He preached, prayed, reasoned, and remonstrated–nor were his labours in vain. From the close of the Revolutionary war, and especially from the breaking out of the Revolution in France,–North Carolina, in common with other parts of the country, was overrun with French infidelity. Here again, he stood forth the indomitable champion of Christianity : he not only preached but published in defence of Divine Revelation; and infidelity quailed before him. It has been confidently asserted that more was done, in that part of the country, by his efforts, to arrest this tide of evil, which threatened at one time to sweep every thing before it, than by any or all other opposing influences.

Words to Live By:
Surely our times today are no worse than what you read pictured in the quote above. Then should we think that the Lord’s arm is now too short to save? (Num. 11:23; Isa. 59:1). Surely not! God can still work a mighty work, as great or greater than He did in McCorkle’s day. The only question is, are we waiting on Him in expectant prayer?
Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

For Further Study:
A biography of Rev. McCorkle, titled The Prophet of Zion-Parnassus, was written by James F. Hurley and Julia Goode Eagan, and can now be read on the Web, here.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Only A Presbyterian For A Short While.

It was on this day, January 20, 1812, that the Rev. John Nelson Abeel died. John was born in New York City in 1768, the son of Colonel James Abeel. He attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and graduated there in 1787. Remaining at Princeton, he served as a tutor for two years, and then briefly began to study Law before deciding to pursue a call to the ministry. He studied theology privately, receiving guidance from both Dr. John Witherspoon, then president of the College, and Dr. John H. Livingston, a Dutch Reformed pastor.

In 1793, while serving as librarian at Princeton, Abeel found time to manage studies at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and was licensed to preach by the Classis of New York. Beginning his years of ministry in Philadelphia in 1794, he served in a yoked assistant pastor role, serving concurrently at both the Arch Street and Old Pine Presbyterian churches. His time there was brief and in 1795 Rev. Abeel accepted a call to serve the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church in New York City, and he continued in that pulpit until his death. It is also noted that Harvard University conferred the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree upon Reverend Abeel in 1804. Placing a high esteem on education, Rev. Abeel also served as a Trustee for both Columbia College and for Queen’s College (Rutger’s).

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller was also serving as a pastor in New York City in the 1790’s, and he knew Abeel well. Upon Rev. Abeel’s death, Miller provided a worthy tribute to a departed brother, and this portion of his eulogy is particularly noteworthy:

But the greatest glory of his character, as a Minister of the Gospel, was his ardent and eminent piety. This was uniform, prominent, and habitual. In every situation, public or private; in the pulpit or the prayer meeting; in the chamber of disease or the social circle; it was manifest that he walked with God, and that his great concern was to lead souls to Christ, and to minister to the spiritual good of all. His religion was personal, cordial, and practical; not merely official. It was evident to all who conversed with him, or who listened to his conversation, that his great object was, like his Master, to “go about doing good.”

Words to Live By:
Isn’t that what we want for all our pastors, and for ourselves as well? To exhibit an ardent and eminent piety, that it would be evident that we walk with God, and that our great concern would be to see others come to a saving faith in Christ Jesus our Lord?

For Further Study:
Two archival collections were located for Rev. Abeel. The Presbyterian Historical Society has preserved a small collection of a few sermons, and the New Jersey Historical Society has a slightly larger collection of items concerning both Rev. Abeel and his son Gustavus. The New York Public Library has preserved a portrait of Rev. Abeel, which can be viewed here. Information on Rev. Abeel’s grave site can be viewed here.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Long Pastorate Under the Pain of a Thorn in the Flesh.

James Francis Armstrong was born in West Nottingham, Maryland in 1750, the son of Francis Armstrong, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian church of that town. James began his education in Pequea, but he showed great promise and his parents were able to secure a place for him in the noted school founded by the Rev. Samuel Blair, at Fagg’s Manor, Pennsylvania. During the time that James was a student there, Samuel’s brother John was the primary teacher, and this was shortly before John Blair was elected to serve as Professor of Theology at Princeton College.

James entered Princeton in 1771 and was accorded the rare privilege of living with the family of the College President, Dr. John Witherspoon. Graduating in 1773, he immediately began preparing for the ministry, studying theology under Dr. Witherspoon’s tutelage. James was then received as a candidate for the ministry by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, in June of 1776, and had passed a number of his examinations and trials for the ministry, but his licensure was interrupted by war, when British troops invaded New Jersey.

With Dr. Witherspoon’s aid and certification, James was able to transfer to the Presbytery of Newcastle, was received there as a candidate and soon licensed to preach, in January, 1777. The battle of Princeton occurred that same month, and we previously told of the death of Chaplain Rosbrugh during that same battle. Like Rosbrugh, James too was stirred with patriotism and joined a volunteer company, though just a year later in 1778 he was ordained and commissioned a chaplain in the Second Brigade of the Maryland Forces. It was during this time of service that he contracted rheumatic fever, and he suffered from this illness for the remainder of his life.

Leaving the Army in 1782, Rev. Armstrong began preaching at the Presbyterian church in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. He married not long after and continued his preaching in Elizabethtown for about another year until his health weakened. When Dr. Elihu Spencer died at Trenton in 1784, Rev. Armstrong was asked to preach the funeral sermon, and this led to a call for him to serve the Trenton church. But it took nearly two years for the church to manage the financial aspects of the call, and Armstrong not installed as pastor until 1786.

Rev. Armstrong served the church from 1786 until his death on January 19, 1816. The entire time of his ministry in that church, he suffered the effects of the disease contracted during the war. Concerning his final year, one biographer wrote:

“It was in the summer of 1815 that he performed his last public service. There was no reason to suppose at that time, that he might not be spared for years, and be able occasionally to bear a part in the services of the sanctuary. On the Sabbath referred to, his text was “Wo is me, if I preach not the Gospel,” and it was noticed that the only Psalm used in the singing was the third part of the seventy-first; the first half being sung at the beginning, and the remainder at the close of the devotional exercises. Nothing could have been more appropriate to his circumstances, or more expressive of what seems to have been the habitual temper of his mind. A few months after this brought his sufferings to a close—he died on the 19th of January, 1816, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, the thirty-eighth of his ministry, and (counting from the date of his call) the thirty-first of his pastorship. The sermon at his funeral was preached by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton.”

[I can find no evidence that Dr. Miller’s funeral sermon was ever published.]

Words to Live By:
How remarkable to continue on in an effective life and ministry despite constant pain. Most of us are strangers to pain like that, though perhaps all of us know someone who suffers so. In the Apostle Paul’s case, what he termed a “thorn in the flesh” (II Cor. 12:7-10) was given to him by the Lord, in his case to humble him. And as much as there was the lesson of humility, there was an even greater lesson which applies to us all, that the Lord’s grace is sufficient in the face of every adversity. Moreover, as Matthew Henry notes, when we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A photograph of Rev. Armstrong’s grave can be viewed here.

Tags: , , , ,

From the Presbyterian Church of America to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

welbonThe Rev. Henry G. Welbon was a founding member in 1936 of the denomination that later became known as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His own convictions led him to next affiliate with the Bible Presbyterian Church in 1938. Eventually he became a member of the PCA in 1982, when the PCA received the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

Rev. Welbon [pictured at right] had a keen appreciation for history and gathered seven notebooks of news clippings and articles covering the modernist controversy in the 1930’s. These are preserved at the PCA Historical Center as an important part of his papers.

From among those clippings, there is the following, on how the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was forced in court to change the name that they had originally chosen, the Presbyterian Church of America.

Presbyterians of America Enjoined from Using Title
[a news clipping from a Philadelphia newspaper, dated January 18, 1937]

The fundamentalist group which split from the Presbyterian Church will have to find some other name than “Presbyterian Church of America,” President Judge Frank Smith ruled in Common Pleas Court No. 5 today.

The name, the Judge decided, resembles too closely the name of the main Presbyterian body, the “Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.”

The fundamentalist organization was formed in Philadelphia on June 10, 1936, by the late Dr. J. Gresham Machen and a group of other clergymen and laymen. The group declared itself a “General Assembly,” with Dr. Machen as moderator and Dr. Paul Woolley as clerk. The name Presbyterian Church of America was adopted.

The parent church countered with the court action, filed by the Rev. Henry B. Master, moderator, demanding that the “rebel” group be forbidden use of the name it selected.

A special meeting of the General Assembly probably will be necessary to select a new name for the church, Dr. Woolley said when he learned of the decision. He added that an appeal “is likely.”

The injunction handed down today forbids the Presbyterian Church of America and the individual defendants and all persons associated with them from using the name “or any other name similar to or imitative of or contraceptive of the name Presbyterian Church of the United States of America or the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., or ever doing any act calculated to mislead the public or members of the plaintiff church.”

Judge Smith remarked that he was not concerned with the “merits of the two respective doctrines,” but added:

“It would be a serious hurt to the reputation of the plaintiff church and a detriment to its work if the defendant church, bearing a name identical or similar, should enter areas occupied by the plaintiff church in real competition with it, thereby destroying the faith of those individuals in foreign countries insufficiently versed in English to comprehend the controversy.

“The acts done and threatened to be done by the defendant church are unfair and contrary to the principles of equity and good conscience, and violate the rights of the plaintiff church to use of its name and terminology.”

The decision concluded with the remark that the defendants are no longer members of the parent church, having severed their membership “in the ancient church when they were unable to impress their will on the General Assembly of the plaintiff church. Had they been successful in their determination, there would have been no defendant church.”

The thoughtful reader may ask, Why then wasn’t a similar lawsuit brought against the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), when it chose that name in 1974? It could only have been because the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. had merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1958. A true merger legally creates a new entity, and they had chosen the name United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). That UPCUSA name was so different from Presbyterian Church in America that no similar lawsuit could be brought in the 1970’s.

Words to Live By:
Denominations exist because Truth matters. We seek to know God’s will and to live accordingly. To that end, careful study brings us to certain convictions about what the Bible teaches. But we are sinful and know the Scriptures imperfectly, so our convictions may differ from those of other Christians. On the level of honest, studied differences, division among Christians is regrettable, but necessary, if our allegiance to Truth is to be upheld. Here we can amicably continue to work toward a better understanding of God’s Word and His will for our lives.

But when is it right to divide or leave a denomination? The work of Scottish theologian James Durham is helpful at this point. In sum, he concluded that only when staying would mean having to participate in sin, only then is division appropriate and necessary. Another work on this subject, by the scholar John Macpherson, is available here and makes for fascinating reading.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column, and also at the bottom of each blog page.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

tdw04_75Born at Greensboro, Alabama, January 17, 1836, educated at the famous academy of Professor Henry Tutwiler, in Green County, Alabama, then the University of Alabama, and the University of Mississippi, where he was graduated in 1856, Thomas Dwight Witherspoon had by that time decided to enter the gospel ministry, and took his theological course at the Presbyterian Seminary in Columbia, S.C., where Dr. James Henley Thornwell was the able and distinguished President. While attending Columbia, he fell in love with the seminary president’s eldest daughter, but death took her from him the day before the wedding.

Witherspoon was ordained on May 23, 1860, and installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Oxford, Mississippi, where he was exerting a very fine influence on the students of the university located there, and might well have considered it his duty to remain with his Church.

But no sooner had the great war between the States begun in April of 1861 than the young preacher promptly enlisted as a private soldier in the Lamar Rifles. But his life’s calling could not be squelched, and it was not long before he was reassigned as chaplain of the Second Mississippi Infantry, and latter attached to the Forty-Second Mississippi Infantry, Davis’ Brigade.  One who knew him well at that time said of Rev. Witherspoon, “that he was one of the most devoted, untiring, self-sacrificing, and efficient chaplains that we had in the army”.

An able and attractive preacher of the soul-saving truths of the gospel, and an untiring worker in the camp, on the march, on the battlefield, and in the hospital, he was ever found at the post of duty, even when that was the outpost of the army or the advance line of battle.

He bore no insignificant part in the labors of those great revivals which reached nearly every brigade, made nearly every camp vocal with God’s praises, and went graciously on until over fifteen thousand of Lee’s veterans had professed faith in Christ and enlisted under the banner of the great “Captain of our salvation.”

After the war, Dr. Witherspoon spent five years as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Resigning because of his health, he took the post of chaplain at the University of Virginia and served there for two years, after which he became the pastor of the historic Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. His final pastorate was at the First Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, later moving from that post to serve as one of the founding faculty at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, teaching homiletics and pastoral theology.

In all of these positions he fulfilled the prophecy of his earlier years, won the confidence of his brethren, and wide popularity especially among the young men, exerted a large influence, and was greatly useful.

TDWgrave_75dpiAlas ! I never saw him again.  We missed his genial presence and graceful, effective speech at our reunion, and but three months later we learned that he had closed his labors on earth and gone to receive his reward and wear his “crown of rejoicing.”

Old comrade, colaborer, brother beloved, farewell!  We shall sadly miss thee at our gatherings, but we shall “meet beyond the river,” and meantime we sing with glad acclaim:

Servant of God, well done;
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle fought, the vic’try won,
Enter thy Master’s joy!

[Freely adapted from an obituary which appeared in The Confederate Veteran, Volume 7 (1899), page 178.]

For Further Study:
The Thomas Dwight Witherspoon Manuscript Collection is preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Details about the collection can be viewed here.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column, and also at the bottom of each blog page.


Tags: , , , ,

The Rev. Robert W. Childress passed into glory on this day, January 16, 1956.

childressRobertWhen the Master has a big work to do, He raises up a big man to do it. The Lord does not always choose a man from places such as those where men would look. Such a man, from a most unlikely place, is the subject of this story. This man of God’s choosing was born in the mountains of Patrick County, Virginia, not far from the present Blue Ridge Parkway. He was born in a one-room mountain cabin, born into a large family, his people the direct descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants, and born into deep poverty and ignorance.

Robert W. Childress once said that he did not know when he was given his first drink of liquor. Sundays were spent in gambling, shooting and drinking parties. Schools were little thought of. A church was seldom visited, and the thought of Sunday school was anathema to the people of his community.

But out of this lawless backwater, God saved Robert. He used a young lady who later became his wife, but who died not long after two children were born to this couple. Even in death, his wife continued to live as a powerful influence. Childress said the devil threw him sixteen times, but Christ triumphed in the end, and Robert began to look to how the Lord might use him. Against all odds, he began to pursue an education and before long, now married again and in his thirties, the Lord at last brought him to seminary to prepare for the ministry.

childress_biographyA bunch of the boys dropped in with guns at one of Preacher Childress’ first services in the Virginia mountains. They told him to leave the country, or else.

“They were a little wrought up,” Childress explained. “I’d said something about their making whiskey and naturally it insulted them. They’d wanted me to apologize, and I hadn’t. I’d told them I could be just as crazy as they were.”

“So of course they were upset. They were drinking when they came to the service, and they didn’t know what they were doing. We had a little prayer,” he smiled, “and they let me off.”

“Some folks were a little rough,” he admitted, when he started work in the stretch of rugged country in Floyd, Carroll, and Patrick counties in Virginia.

“They were the best-hearted people in the world, but they just didn’t behave. There was a lot of killing, a lot of drinking, a lot of feuding. But they’ve changed.”

Time was, he recalled, when they said the politicians were afraid to come through the section, “even to solicit votes.” But no more. “There’s hardly any fighting now. There’s less drinking. The homes are better. People are happier.”

Words to Live By:
The Lord raised up Robert Childress to do a big work. He lifted him up out of incredible poverty and spiritual depravity and made him a useful vessel for His service. The faithful preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ brings real change to the hearts and lives of an otherwise lawless people, the world over.

Dust jacket of the biography, The Man Who Moved a Mountain, by Richard C. Davids :


Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column, and also at the bottom of each blog page.

Tags: , , , , ,

This day, January 15, in 1966 marks the death of the Rev. Flournoy Shepperson [10/10/1883-01/15/1966].

sheppersonSrFlournoy Shepperson was licensed and ordained in July of 1917 by the Ouchita Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. His first pastorate was in a yoked ministry to the Presbyterian churches of Magnolia and Mt. Holly, Arkansas, serving there 1908 to 1911. Rev. Shepperson next pastored the Presbyterian church in Monticello, Arkansas from 1911 to 1920, before answering a call to serve Purity Presbyterian church in Chester, South Carolina, from 1921-1925. His last pastorate in the PCUS was with the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC, which he served from 1925 to 1940. He then withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian denomination and united with the Bible Presbyterian Synod, while his brother David remained within the PCUS. Upon leaving the PCUS, Dr. Shepperson planted a Bible Presbyterian church in Greenville with an initial congregation of 335 members. The church later took the name Augusta Street Presbyterian church, and eventually became part of the PCA, though it was dissolved in 1996. The Augusta Street church was also notable as the original location of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


Oddly, Second Presbyterian of Greenville—the church that Dr. Shepperson left—later became one of the founding churches of the PCA, in 1973, and it was not until 1982 when the Augusta Street church also joined the PCA, as part of the Joining and Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

From the Memorial read at the 144th RPCES General Synod:

Dr. Shepperson was among those who very early sensed the rising tide of unbelief in his own Presbyterian denomination and took a strong stand against it. It was under his leadership that there was formed a new Presbyterian church in his own city of Greenville, South Carolina, completely separated from apostasy, which church has grown to be one of the largest and most influential churches of our Synod.

Dr. Shepperson was an able and faithful preacher of the Word of God. He possessed a sense of humor that often brightened and enlivened his messages. This he did not lose even in that period of ill health that preceded his death. Many of us can testify to the rich blessing of his ministry from our own pulpits. Those of us who knew him intimately can also testify to his deep devotion to his Lord and to the consequent blessing always experienced in fellowship with him.

We are all aware of the fact that our loss is his great gain. We know that for him to depart this earthly life was to immediately be with Christ, which is far better. We believe that he could honestly echo the words of the great apostle, “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Dr. Shepperson had three sons, two of whom entered the ministry, and a daughter. Flournoy Shepperson, Jr. was ordained in the BPC and later came into the RPCES. He pastored churches in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittstown, PA, Savannah, GA, Durham, NC and Tampa, FL. Dr. Shepperson’s son Sam was also ordained in the BPC and later affiliated with the PCA. He had a long pastorate in Arkansas and is now honorably retired. It was Sam who so graciously provided the news clipping and photograph of his father.

Words to Live By: The Church is blessed with many faithful pastors. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the relative few who stray in doctrine or practice, and we forget to praise God for how He works through those who remain faithful and steadfast year after year. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle, and your pastor is on the front lines. Remember to pray for him.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column, and also at the bottom of each blog page.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A child of the manse, Henry Brown was the son of the Rev. Samuel and Mary Moore Brown, born on November 28, 1804 in Rockbridge county, Virginia. Henry graduated from Washington College in Virginia in 1827 and prepared for the ministry at both Princeton and at Union Seminary in Virginia. He was licensed to preach in April of 1829. His first service was as a home missionary and evangelist in Kanawha county, Virginia and later in Randolph county, where the Lord blessed his preaching with great success. In 1832 he removed to Woodstock, Virginia for two years and again there saw the Lord’s blessing on his ministry.

Rev. Brown planted the Shemariah Church in Augusta county, Virginia in 1833 and served there until 1836. Always seemingly on the move, he next served as stated supply for the Brierly Church, from 1836-1838, after which he preached for two years in the churches of the Wilmington, North Carolina area, again with demonstrable blessing from the Lord. From there he went on to minister in the Virginia churches of Harrisburg, Goshen, and Pisgah before removing to Lake City, Florida for a year. Then Rev. Brown served as a missionary in Cherokee Presbytery for three years, 1859-1862, as stated supply in one Presbytery in Alabama, 1866-1867, then in another Alabama Presbytery from 1867-1872.

His final years were again in Florida, preaching in Pilatka, Enterprise, Cedar Keys and numerous other locations about the state. At last, this weary servant of the Lord entered his eternal rest on this day, January 14, in 1881. It was said of him that “he was a man of earnest piety, of deep humility, of sound mind, of great energy, of tender emotion, and of strong affections. He was intensely devoted to the work of the ministry and to the cause of Christ.”

Words to Live By: A tireless servant of Christ, and yet one whom history barely remembers. But he did not serve history, he served the Lord, and the Lord remembers and does not forget. History may forget most of us, but the Lord forgets none of His dear children. (Isa. 49:15; 44:21; Jer. 31:20)

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column, and also at the bottom of each blog page.


Tags: , , ,

What was life like for a pastor in the early days of this country? Today’s entry, an excerpt from A History Of Muhlenberg County, concerning the Rev. Isaac Bard [1797-1878], provides a good glimpse.


THE Reverend Isaac Bard came to Muhlenberg in 1823, then in his twenty-sixth year, and from that time for almost a half century led a very active life in the community. No local preacher was better known in his day than “Preacher Bard.”

It is quite probable that during his more active ministerial career he was heard by every citizen then residing in the county. Those who listened to his sermons evidently remembered that fact, for although he died thirty-five years ago all the older native-born citizens now living, and to whom I have mentioned the name of Isaac Bard, invariably remarked that they had heard him preach.

He devoted about half his time to ministerial work; much of the remainder he gave to his farm on Bard’s Hill, south of Depoy. He owned extensive tracts of timber lands in the Pond River country, on which he ranged his stock. It is said he was often heard calling his hogs with a fox-horn. He was a tall, muscular man, kind and generous to every person with whom he came in contact, and extremely gentle to all animals. One who knew him well says: “Preacher Bard was a scholar and a gentleman of the old school. He was one of the most sober looking and at the same time most pleasant men I ever met. I remember he always had cold feet and usually kept them wrapped up in heavy cloth, and frequently complained of the discomfort.”

Isaac Bard was a son of William and Mary (Kincaid) Bard, and was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, near Bardstown, January 13, 1797. He died at his home, seven miles west of Greenville, June 29, 1878. After spending a few years in Transylvania University, Lexington, he began, in 1817, a course in Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, and on April 27, 1820, was licensed to preach. During the same year he entered in the Senior class of Union College, Schenectady, New York, from which school he was graduated in 1821, and shortly after returned to Kentucky.

On July 26, 1823, he was ordained in Greenville by the Muhlenberg Presbytery and immediately took charge of the Presbyterian Church at Greenville and the congregation at Mt. Zion, near Green River. In autumn of the same year he organized Mt. Pleasant Church, near Pond River. These three congregations remained in his charge until about 1833. During this period he built a brick church in Greenville on a lot presented by pioneer James Weir. The old brick house was long ago abandoned as a place of worship, and is now used as a warehouse.

After the year 1833 no congregation was solely under his supervision, for from that time, and continuing for many years, he extended his ministerial work among many of the Presbyterian churches in Muhlenberg and all the adjoining counties. In 1862, when the division of the Presbyterian church took place, Mr. Bard adhered to the Southern General Assembly.

On March 15, 1827, he was married to Matilda Miranda Moore, daughter of pioneer Maurice Moore. They were the parents of five children: Henry Clay Bard, Luther Bard, Mrs. Verona Mary (Carrol) Larkins, Mrs. Martha Amaryllis (R. P.) Howell, and Doctor LaFayette Bard, all of whom made Muhlenberg their home.

When, in 1823, Isaac Bard first came to Muhlenberg, many of the Revolutionary soldiers and other pioneers were still alive. He was a college man, who from childhood had been in touch with the progress made in various cities and centers of culture and refinement. His constant association with the pioneers and their children undoubtedly had an influence in modernizing their habits and practices; and on the other hand, living among these people, many of their characteristic manners and customs became his own.

Farms, in those days, were few and far between. The county was still regarded as a new country. Most of the sermons then heard by the local people were delivered by men who, although deeply interested in religious work and well versed in the Bible, had a limited knowledge of theology and of logic. When Mr. Bard appeared on the scene he found a good field for the exercise of his college education and religious training. The uneducated as well as the educated recognized his ability as a “sermonizer.”

He kept pace with the times at home and abroad, and in some respects was ahead of his day. He lived during that period of the country’s history when “freedom and liberty” were known to be permanently established, and fighting for them was therefore no longer one of the principal objects in life. Local political questions, although discussed from the time the county was organized, were rapidly becoming more and more the leading topics of the day.

Mr. Bard was always interested in good books, and in the course of years accumulated a large library. He was very systematic and kept a written record of many of his transactions. His residence burned in 1876, two years before he died, and all his books and papers were destroyed except two of his own documents. One of these is a diary and the other contains some notes on local history. Isaac Bard probably never expected that these records would some day form a contribution to a printed history of Muhlenberg County.

The first of these personal documents is Bard’s Diary. This is a leather-bound book of two hundred pages, written with a quill pen. Although many pages are faded, the records are still legible. The greater part of this journal is devoted to the years 1848 to 1851; but it extends, with occasional entries, down to 1855, after which date about a dozen more records are added, bringing it to May, 1872. The diary evidently was written for his own gratification and convenience, and was not intended for publication. The second of Isaac Bard’s documents that has been preserved is what he designates a “Lecture on Muhlenberg County.” This is a sketch that seems to have been prepared for a lecture delivered some time after 1870.


Tuesday, November 7th, 1848: Rode to Rumsey and voted for Gen. Taylor to be president. May the Lord deliver our country from despotism and monarchy under the false name and disguise of Democracy. O Lord, have mercy on us as a nation, give us the grace of repentance that we may see our wickedness, turn from our national sins and seek forgiveness of Thee through the blood of atonement. O Lord, choose our rulers, preside in our destinies and make us a great people, distinguished for righteousness, love for pure civil and religious liberty and that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

August, Monday, 7, 1849: Mr. Donaldson and I went up to Greenville. I voted for Edward R. Weir, the Emancipation candidate. While here I met with Col. Wm. McNary and we got into an argument on Emancipation. At last we got on the Scriptures on this subject and he said he would go and get a Bible and read it and show I was in error. He got the Bible and read it and I answered him by reading several verses, Ex. 21 ch. and Leve. 25 ch. on jubilee and extended my remarks on the scope of the Old and New Testaments. Some private questions, not manly, were asked me by G. C. and J. E., and also H. R. made an unbecoming remark of private nature. The Rev. John Donaldson was present and heard what passed, which took place under a locust tree in the court yard. Before I left the Rev. Jones and ______ came up. The former opened his Bible and the latter drew out a written paper. Both were about to answer me and some person remonstrated and got them to go away. Mr. Donaldson, standing on the outer edge of the crowd, said he heard several say, “They had better let Bard alone.” When I saw Jones and ______ come up and ready to speak, I got on a bench and remarked publicly: “I wish it understood I do not seek controversy, but I do not care how many come and speak, I will answer them.” Maj. McNary said: “Well, I do not think that that remark is called for.” So terminated this little debate. Several told me afterwards: “They made nothing off of you. You outdone them and you are able to do it.” Donaldson said some of them said: “When they go to the Scriptures they have no business with Mr. Bard.” O Lord, bless my speech and may much good and no evil come of it. Help us to love our neighbor as ourself.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.

Also on this day:
In 1868, plans were laid for the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1973 – Dr. Oswald T. Allis, one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, died on this day, January 12, 1973, at the age of 92.

Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on September 9, 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til and the subsequent formation of the Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and as Professor of Old Testament at the same institution from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under Dr. Allis to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.

Words to Live By: Obviously not everyone is called to be a biblical scholar like Dr. Allis, but we can and should, each of us, bring a similar care and attention to our life and work, in all that we say and do.—”And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23, KJV.)

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.


Tags: , , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: