January 2013

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Last year we wrote of the founding of the Presbyterian Ministers Fund on this day, January 11, in 1718. Rather than cover that ground again, and lacking some other significant Presbyterian event or person for this day, it seems good instead to turn to Leonard Van Horn’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Rev. Van Horn was born in 1920, educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, and pastored churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and New Mexico. He also served as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. His work on the ruling elder remains in print, but his series on the Shorter Catechism has, regrettably, never been published. It was originally issued in the form of bulletin inserts, and the PCA Historical Center is pleased to have a complete set of these inserts.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Scripture References: I Cor. 10:31. Psalm 73:24-26. John 17:22,24.

Questions:

1.    What is the meaning of the word “end” in this question?
The word means an aim, a purpose, an intention. It will be noted that the word “end” is qualified by the word “chief”. Thus it is noted that man will have other purposes in this life but his primary purpose should be to glorify God. This is in keeping with the purpose for which man was made. It is when we are alienated from God that we have the wrong end or purpose in view.

2.    What does the word “glorify” mean in this question?
Calvin tells us that the “glory of God is when we know what He is.” In its Scriptural sense, it is struggling to set forth a divine thing. We glorify Him when we do not seek our own glory but seek Him first in all things.

3.    How can we glorify God?
Augustine said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds repose in Thee.” We glorify God by believing in Him, by confessing Him before men, by praising Him, by defending His truth, by showing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, by worshiping Him.

4.    What rule should we remember in regard to glorifying God?
We should remember that every Christian is called of God to a life of service. We glorify God by using the abilities He has given us for Him, though we should remember that our service should be from the heart and not simply as a duty.

5.    Why is the word “glorify” placed before “enjoy” in the answer?
It is placed first because you must glorify Him before you can enjoy Him. If enjoyment was placed first you would be in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of men for God. If a person would stress the enjoying of God over the glorifying of God there would be danger, of simply an emotional type of religion. The Scripture says, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy. . . .” (Ps. 16:11). But joy from God comes from being in a right relationship with God, the relationship being set within the confines of Scripture.

6.    What is a good Scripture to memorize to remind us of the lesson found in Question No. 1?
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: …” (Ps. 42:1,2a). This reminds us of the correct relationship for the Christian, looking unto Him. It is there we find our ability to glorify Him and the resulting joy.

THE PRIMARY CONCERN OF MAN
It is a fact to be much regretted that the average Christian who gives allegiance to the Westminster Standards is a Christian that many times leaves out the living of these Standards in the daily pursuits of life. It is good to believe, it is good to have a creed in which to believe. But there is much harm that can result from believing in a creed and not living it day by day. From such an existence we arrive at a low tone of spiritual living and the professing believer becomes cold, formal, without spiritual power in his life.

We should always recognize that the first lesson to be learned from our catechism is that our primary concern is to be of service to the Sovereign God. Our Westminster Shorter Catechism does not start with the salvation of man. It does not start with God’s promises to us. It starts with placing us in the right relationship with our Sovereign God. James Benjamin Green tells us that the answer to the first question of the Catechism asserts two things: “The duty of man, ‘to glorify God.’ The destiny of man, ‘to enjoy Him.’ ”

It is to be regretted that though we have inherited the principles of our forefathers, in that their Creed is still our Creed, so many times we have failed to inherit the desire to practice their way of living. Many people will attempt to excuse themselves here by stating that we live in a different age, that the temptations and speed of life today divert us from spiritual things. But no matter what excuses we might give, the Catechism instructs us right at the outset that our duty is to glorify God, such is our chief purpose in life. All of us need to note the valid words of J. C. Ryle in regard to our Christian living: “Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the high tone of conversation, the patience, the humility that marked so many of our forerunners . . . ?”

May God help each of us to stop right now, read again the first question and answer of our Catechism, and pray to God that in the days to come our primary concern might be that we will live to His glory. It is not difficult for us to know the characteristics of such a life. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are plain enough.

The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 1 No. 3  January, 1961
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Words to Live By:
Given our comments in yesterday’s Words to Live By, it seemed quite appropriate today to touch on this first question from the Catechism. Dr. Van Horn’s summary statements, above, are particularly apt.

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The Stuff of Operettas

There must be a shelf of books or more that have been written about the Beecher family. The Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher, patriarch of this eccentric family, was born in 1775, studied theology with Dr. Timothy Dwight at Yale in preparation for the ministry, and served as pastor in East Hampton, Long Island, where he was blessed to see nearly three hundred added to the church. In 1826, he became pastor of the Hanover Church in Boston, MA.

Then in 1830, Beecher was named President and Professor of Theology at Lane Theological Seminary. So devoted were the people of Boston to him that nearly two years elapsed before arrangements were made, and he was able to move to Cincinnati, the location of the Seminary. The following spring, concurrent with his seminary duties, he was installed as the pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati.

Above, right: Portrait of Dr. Lyman Beecher, standing, with his son Henry, seated.

Having given twenty years of his life to Lane Seminary, Dr. Beecher ended his public labors in 1852, when he returned to Boston and later to Brooklyn, where he lived near the home of his son, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and the church that Henry pastored. For some ten years he resided there and was “an honored landmark of a former generation,” before passing to his eternal rest on January 10, 1863.

In one of the better known biographical accounts of the Beecher family, Milton Rugoff gives in interesting glimpse into the lives of the Beechers. He writes:

Toward the end of his years in Cincinnati, Lyman Beecher would occasionally try to put his papers—a lifetime of sermons, lectures and records, many of them yellow with age—in order, but they would soon be scattered around his study again. Then, in the summer of 1851, after he and Lydia had moved in temporarily with the Stowes in their big house in Maine, he began, with the help of one of Lydia’s daughters, to prepare his writings for publication: selected sermons, lectures on atheism, temperance, dueling and such, together with his Views in Theology. Despite the fact that Harriet was already working on installments of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the National Era, her father and his assistant took over the kitchen table while Harriet sat on the back steps with her writing portfolio on her lap.

Theology had never been Dr. Beecher’s strong point, and now many of his writings seemed only echoes of bygone issues and controversies. In print, without his vital presence and verve, they were lusterless and lacking in urgency. They would have received little attention had they not begun to appear not long after the sensational  publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and shortly before Edward Beecher’s The Conflict of the Ages stirred the church world. How strange it must have seemed to Lyman Beecher to be increasingly identified as the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Edward Beecher—not to speak of Henry Ward Beecher. Lyman hardly knew what to make of the astonishing success of Harriet’s novel, but his opinion of Edward’s book he packed into one pungent sentence: “Edward, you’ve destroyed the Calvinist barns, but I hope you don’t delude yourself that the animals are going into your little theological hencoop!”

[excerpted from The Beechers: An American Family in the Nineteenth Century, by Milton Rugoff. New York: Harper & Row, 1981, pg. 293.]

Words to Live By: Caution keeps one from being too critical about Dr. Beecher and his family. They certainly had their problems, but our own lives are often equally messy. But that one comment, that “theology had never been Dr. Beecher’s strong point,” is a telling one [and ironic, given his post at the seminary], and perhaps it serves well to point out just how much we need the strong mooring of good theology. Good theology, after all, is nothing more than a right understanding of what Scripture teaches. And good theology is well taught in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Which is why we have been careful to include it as part of our daily blog. We hope you are making good use of it.

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Image source: Clipping from an undetermined source which appears to have been part of a promotional advertisement for a work on the life of Dr. Beecher. Scanned by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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A Young Pastor Caught in the Middle

boardman01The Old School/New School division of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  officially took place in 1837. But the controversy had been roiling along for many years prior, and by the time that  Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was organized, in 1829, the controversy was really coming to the fore. The first pastor of the church was Thomas A. McAuley, a New School man who managed to steer the new church into the only New School Presbytery within the Synod of Philadelphia, all to the dismay of the Rev. Ashbel Green and the other Old School men in Philadelphia, who had such hopes for the new church.

But Rev. McAuley only stayed for four years before leaving for greener fields (he went on to found Union Theological Seminary in New York). And in God’s providence, Henry Augustus Boardman was graduating from Princeton right about that same time. Boardman had been born in Troy, New York on January 9, 1808, graduated from Yale and then Princeton, but thought he would prefer being the pastor of a rural church. Instead, he was urged to supply the vacant pulpit at Tenth, and despite some misgivings on his part, finally accepted the call to serve there as pastor.

In a published history of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Allen Guelzo tells the story of the challenges that immediately confronted Boardman as he became the new pastor of the church :


Not that all the qualms in Boardman’s stomach were thereby stilled. There remained the unsettling business of Tenth’s attachment to the New School Second Presbytery. That business was made even more unsettling when on the eve of his ordination and installation the Synod of Philadelphia finally lost its patience with the New Schoolers and ordered the Second Presbytery dissolved. Since this drastic action could not be made final until the General Assembly met the following May, the New Schoolers held onto a brief stay of execution. But that left Boardman in the unhappy predicament of having to seek ordination at the hands of a presbytery that was virtually an outlaw organization; nor could he wait until the following May to see where the chips would fall, since his ordination and installation had been set for November 8, 1833.

Once again, he began to question whether he ought to join a presbytery under such suspicion and when he had such little sympathy with its tenets. “Unquestionably,” wrote Boardman, “it was a controversy which involved both the purity of our faith and the integrity of our ecclesiastical polity. Two incompatible systems of doctrine and two no less irreconcilable theories of ecclesiastical authority and policy” were at stake. In Boardman’s mind, there was no hope of compromise “between those who training had made them decided and earnest Presbyterians and others who had adopted our standards in a loose and general way.” Nor was it, he observed, “a mere war of words, It took hold upon the central truths of the Gospel, such as original sin, the atonement, regeneration and justification.”[1]  Nevertheless, Boardman decided to go ahead with the ordination, a move that was to set a precedent for later pastors of Tenth Church who found themselves with similarly difficult choices. In time, his decision proved wise. Boardman was able to sever Tenth’s connections with the New School Presbytery, and in 1837 the General Assembly removed the thorn of New School Presbyterianism from Boardman’s side by moving to lop all New School Presbyteries off its rolls. Not until 1869 were Old School and New School Presbyterians reunited.

[1] Boardman, Henry A., Two Sermons Preached on the Twenty-fifth and Fortieth Anniversaries of the Author’s Pastorate. Philadelphia: Inquirer Book and Job Print, 1873, p. 31.

[Excerpted from Making God’s Word Plain: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 150 Years (1829-1979).   Philadelphia, PA: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 1979, pp. 45-46.]


Words to Live By:
Scripture does not promise an easy path in life for the Christian. If anything, we are promised conflict (2 Tim. 3:12). But we also have clear promises of God’s wisdom, as well as the charge to be at peace with all men, so far as we are able. (Rom. 12:18). Through diligent study of the Bible, godly counsel, and prayerful trust in God, we can find our way through life’s challenges.

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adamsWmHIn God’s kingdom, there are no little people. Nor are any forgotten by our Lord, though we ourselves may forget. Today we will touch on the life of a pastor that most of us have never heard of.

William Hooper Adams was born in Boston, MA on this day, January 8, 1838, the son of the Rev. Dr. Nehemiah and Martha Hooper Adams. A graduate of Harvard, he first began his studies for the ministry at Andover Seminary, but left there on instructions from his father to take a teaching position in Georgia. That in turn led to his enrolling at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1861, to complete his studies. When the war started, he found he could not return home and so continued his preparations at Columbia. Licensed to preach by Hopewell Presbytery in 1862 and ordained by that same Presbytery in 1863, he was installed as an pastor in Eufala, Alabama, where he labored until 1865. Then in the summer of 1865, he returned to Boston.

A visit by Rev. Adams to Charleston, South Carolina, in February of 1867 led to a call from the famous Circular Church of that city. The original structure of this church had been designed by the architect Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument, and the church was the first large domed structure built in the United States. But by 1867 when the call was extended to Rev. Adams, the church had suffered several setbacks. Its building had burned to the ground late in 1861, then followed the Civil War, and finally, the formerly multi-racial congregation lost its African American congregants as they left to form a separate congregation. In accepting the call to serve as their pastor, Rev. Adams agreed to take on the burdens of a dispirited congregation.

circular_church_ruinsPictured here is a stereoscope photograph of the ruins of the Circular Church

And there he labored faithfully in Charleston for the next ten years. The Memorial published in his honor gives us a picture of a pastor who was genial, exuberant in his love for the Lord, sacrificial of his own time and energy, a man of strong Presbyterian convictions, yet a man who could work right alongside any other Christian who truly loved the Lord Jesus as Savior. This was a man who was greatly loved not just by his own church, but by much of the Charleston community. In his final act of selfless devotion, he gave up his post as pastor of the Circular Church and returned to Boston to care for his dying father. Seeking to honor his father, he put many of his own goals aside with the intent of editing his father’s papers. In God’s providence, the Rev. William Hooper Adams survived his father by just about three years, and he died on May 15, 1880.

Words to Live By:
With Christ his Savior as his example, William Hooper Adams sought to live a life of humility and sacrifice. He honored his father. He gave himself in love and devotion to his people. The fact that we today may not know his story does not diminish the powerful ways in which the Lord used him in His kingdom. After all, he wasn’t after fame and fortune. He labored faithfully to glorify the Lord, not himself.

To view information about his grave site, click here.

For Further Study:
A Memorial of the Rev. William Hooper Adams: For Twelve Years Pastor of the Circular Church, Charleston, S.C.

Image Sources:
1.
Frontispiece portrait, from A Memorial of the Rev. William Hooper Adams. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1880.
2.
Public domain stereoscope photograph, from the Wikimedia Commons.

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Dr. Samuel MillerOn this date, January 7, 1850, Dr. Samuel Miller, distinguished Professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary, passed into his eternal reward. Our readers may well know something of Dr. Miller and his long career as Professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. But in the years prior to that appointment, from 1793 until 1813, Rev. Miller served as a pastor in New York City. Here below is an account of his ordination, reading from the Presbytery records. It is interesting to see the requirements expected of a candidate for the ministry in the late 18th century, and also to compare the general order of ordination then, with how it is done today.

Samuel Miller was born in 1769, the fourth son of the Rev. John Miller, and later graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1789. Under the direction of his father, he studied theology privately in preparation for the ministry, as was typical in that era. He was subsequently licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Lewes, in Delaware, where his father had long been a leading member.

After the death of his father in the summer of 1791, his father’s congregation extended a call to Miller, in the spring of 1792, to serve that congregation as its next pastor. He declined that call, and instead answered a unanimous call from the United Presbyterian churches of New York City, in 1793.

What follows is an account of young Samuel Miller’s ordination, extracted from the Minutes of the Pres­bytery of New York—

At South Hanover, January 15th, 1793. Mr. Samuel Miller appeared before the Presbytery, and produced an extract of a minute of the Presbytery of Lewes, setting forth that the United Congregations in New York had brought before them a call for Mr. Miller, and that, having been put in his hands, he had accepted of it, and containing a dismission and recommen­dation of Mr. Miller ; and he was received under the care of the Presbytery.

Mr. Van Gelder, a commissioner from the United Congregations in New York, requested the Presbytery to take the necessary steps for Mr. Miller’s ordination as soon as possible. And the Presbytery examined him as to his experimental acquaintance with religion, and his views in entering the ministry, in which he was approved.

January 16th, 1793.—Mr. Carle and Mr. Miller were examined in Latin and Greek, in geography, logic, rhetoric, natural philosophy, astronomy, moral philosophy, divinity, ecclesiastical history, and church government, in all which they were approved.

Mr. Miller was appointed to prepare a sermon on Rom. iii. 24, and an Exegesis on “An Christus post mortem ejus, in gehennam descenderit?”

At Orangedale, May 7th, 1793. The Presbytery was opened with a sermon by Mr. Samuel Miller, from Rom iii. 24.

The Presbytery having heard Mr. Samuel Miller’s Exegesis, sustained it and his sermon preached at the opening of Presbytery.

May 9th, 1793. The Presbytery agreed to ordain Mr. Samuel Miller, and install him on Wednesday the 5th of June, at 10, A. M., and appointed Dr. McKnight to preach, Dr, Rodgers to preside, and Dr. McWhorter to give the exhortation to the people.

At New York, June 5th, 1793. The Presbytery proceeded to the ordination of Mr. Miller. Dr. McKnight preached from 2 Cor. iv. 5 ; and Mr. Miller, having answered the prescribed questions, was set apart to the work of the gospel ministry, by prayer and the laying on [of the hands] of the Presbytery, and installed as co-pastor with Dr. Rodgers and Dr. McKnight of the United Presbyterian Congregations in New York; after which Dr. McWhorter gave an exhortation to the people, and Mr. Miller took his seat in Presbytery. [1]

A true copy of the minutes.
JOHN M. KREBS. Stated Clerk
New York, March 5th, 1852.

[1] There is no record of the charge to the pastor, it being probably included in the sermon.

Words to Live By:
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1). For those who are truly called of God to serve as under-shepherds of the Lord’s people, it is a terrifying, yet inescapable calling and obligation. Where a man takes on this mantle lightly or with little consideration, it is a good indication that he is not truly called. True shepherds must exhibit great humility and piety, great courage in the face of inevitable opposition, and a great love of the Lord and of His elect people. It is a calling which can only be accomplished by the empowering grace of God. Pray for your pastors!

Also on this date:
1832 – birth of Henry Martyn Baird, D.D., Ph.D. [1832-1906]
1851 – death of the Rev. David Porter [1761-1851]

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The Lord’s Work Must Be Done in the Lord’s Way

Here was a man who, by all accounts was destined for success. Edward Dorr Griffin was born on this day, January 6, 1770, to pious parents who dedicated him from birth to the Lord’s service, much the way that Hannah dedicated Samuel [ 1 Sam. 1:21-24 ] . Faithfully they prayed for him as he grew. They took every opportunity to see to his advancement, both spiritually and intellectually. And young Edward did succeed. He gave good evidence of a heart that was greatly concerned with spiritual matters. He excelled in his studies, and went on to graduate with honors from Yale. Turning to prepare for the ministry, he had the great privilege of having the Rev. Jonathan Edwards as his mentor.

At last the young candidate, well regarded by many, was ordained and installed as pastor of of the Congregational church in New Hartford, Connecticut. June 4, 1795. Here under his ministry, scores of people came to saving faith. Later, his wife’s health prompted a move to New Jersey, where he soon found a place of ministry in the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, NJ. Again, scores of people were converted under his ministry.

One success led to another, and he was called to serve as Professor of Homiletics at Andover Seminary, and later, he was again called to the pastorate, this time to serve the pulpit of the newly formed Park Street Church in Boston. Important, influential people were among the founders of this church, and the stated purpose of the church was to stand in opposition to the tide of Unitarianism sweeping over Boston. Here Rev. Griffin served for nearly four years. But oddly, they were years without success, years without an evident spiritual vitality in the congregation.

The eminent Princeton professor Samuel MIller wrote a review of Rev. Griffin’s sermons as they were published in 1839. In that review, he makes a point of drawing attention to these years at the Park Street Church:

Dr. Griffin continued to be the Pastor of the Park Street Church between three and four years. During this time, he was diligent, eloquent, and popular, both as a Preacher and Pastor. During this period, too, he delivered and published his Park Street Lectures, which have generally been considered as the ablest of all his publications. And no one acquainted with the consistency and uniformity of his character can doubt that he preached now with an ardour and a power as great as ever before. And yet, if we mistake not, Dr. Griffin’s ministry in Boston was not attended with any thing like the success with which it pleased God to connect it in every preceding and subsequent stage of his pastoral life. We know not whether we are justifiable in attempting to account for this fact—supposing it to be a fact;—but we will venture to make one suggestion which our readers may regard as little or as much as they thing proper.

We are constrained, then, seriously to doubt, whether the enterprize of those public-spirited and excellent men who undertook the creation of the “Park Street Church,” was not undertaken and conducted in a spirit of a very questionable character. We have no doubt that they were pious and sincere men, who really believed as they professed to believe, who were filled with a laudable zeal, and who honestly aimed to oppose error, and to promote the reign of truth and righteousness. But what we doubt is, whether they did not calculate too much on carrying their point by means of outward splendor and human eloquence. They felt that there were great learning, and wealth, and taste, and eloquence firmly intrenched in Boston, and to be met and opposed by the friends of truth. And the calculation seems to have been to meet and vanquish the adversary by corresponding weapons. Hence they concluded that it was necessary for them, in order to insure success, to erect a splendid house of worship—in a public, prominent and commanding situation;—and to call a minister whose pulpit talents would enable him to cope with the most admired of their opponents. They acted upon this plan. They erected a church among the most spacious and splendid in Massachusetts, if not in the United States; and they called a pastor among the most eloquent and admired pulpit orators in the country. The question which arises in our minds in contemplating these facts is, Did the leaders in this undertaking go to work in the best way? Did they not count too much on human instrumentality? Were they not chargeable, in too great a degree, with “making flesh their arm?”…Would not the undertaking have been more likely to succeed had it been entered upon and pursued with less of a spirit of worldly calculation; had outward splendor been less consulted; had, of course, a less profuse expenditure of funds been indulged;…in a word, had there been less reliance on carnal weapons, and more on those of a purely spiritual kind?…the longer we live, the more considerations of this kind impress us as deeply important. The more we look above and beyond human instrumentality the better. The King of Zion will not give His glory to another. None, we believe, are so likely to succeed in spiritual enterprizes as those who place least reliance on human resources, or “the enticing words of man’s wisdom;” and most on the Spirit of the living God, who can make the humblest and feeblest instruments to triumph over the proudest and most mighty.

Or as the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer once said,The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way.”

Quote citation:
Miller, Samuel, “Sermons by the late Rev. Edward D. Griffin, D.D., The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, 11.3 (July 1839): 404-415.

Also on this day, January 6th:
1806 – First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia called the Rev. James P. Wilson as pastor.

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[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, 1.48 (7 January 1937)] :

Simplicity marked the funeral service of the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen in the Spruce Street Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Tuesday morning, January 5, 1937.  More than an hour before the service, people began to arrive, and by the time the service was to be begin every available space was taken.  People were standing all about the church, and individuals were turned away.  A reserved section in the center of the church was held for the student pallbearers, the immediate relatives, and the directors of Westminster Seminary

At exactly 10:30, eight students of Westminster Theological Seminary, acting as pallbearers, carried into the church the casket which was blanketed with green smilax, and across the top red roses formed a cross.  The casket, unopened, was placed in front of the pulpit which was surrounded on every side with beautiful floral sprays.

The Rev. Edwin H. Rian, General Secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the Presbyterian Church of America, and the Rev. R. B. Kuiper, professor of Homiletics in Westminster Seminary, had charge.  Not one word of eulogy was spoken.  His name was not mentioned.  The service opened by the congregation singing one of Dr. Machen’s favorite hymns, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”  Mr. Rian read certain portions of Scripture—the 23rd Psalm, the 90th Psalm, and Job 19:23-25.  After one of the Seminary students sang a solo, the Rev. R. B. Kuiper led in a magnificently simple prayer which he followed by the reading of passages of Scripture—Romans 8:35-39; Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 25:15, 20; Revelation 1:18,19; Revelation 2:7, 17, 26-28; Revelation 3:5, 12, 21; I Thessalonians 4:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:2, 5-8; I Corinthians 15:20-28.

The congregation joined in singing the favorite hymn on which Dr. Machen had preached many ordinations for his students:

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall.
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough,
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in
Oh dearly, dearly, has He loved,
And we must love Him, too,
And trust in His redeeming blood,
And try His works to do.

The benediction was pronounced and the two ministers led the procession from the building followed by the student pallbearers carrying the casket.  Familiar faces from all over the eastern part of the United States, and as far West even as Iowa, were seen.  These friends had come for a last farewell tribute to Dr. Machen.  The words of the Scripture spoke more eloquently of the true servant than any words the ministers might have said.  The deep affection in which he was held was manifested throughout the crowded church on every hand as people were unable to restrain the tears.  They loved him so much.

[end of transcript]

To give our readers another perspective on the funeral, there is this excerpt from a letter that Dr. Allan MacRae wrote to his mother on January 18th of that year :

At Dr. Machen’s funeral the Faculty were asked to act as honorary pallbearers. The service was held in a Church in West Philadelphia. It was a very simple service. The Church was packed beyond its capacity. After the service we all went down to Baltimore for the actual interment. It was a lovely day. this was very fortunate since a January day in Baltimore can be extremely disagreeable for an outdoor service.
I find it hard to realize that Dr. Machen has gone. The first day after the funeral, it was my turn to lead Chapel. Every time I looked at the front row I could see his empty seat, and every time there was a sound at the door it was hard not to believe that he was coming in. Frequently he used to come in during the Chapel Service and stand in the hallway until its conclusion. To go through that service was one of the hardest tasks I ever did in my life. He towered so high above all my other associates that his departure leaves an immeasurable gap.

Also on this day:
Death of Dr. Robert Gibson Rayburn, first president of Covenant Theological Seminary, January 5, 1990.

Words to Live By: It is said that no Christian ever entered heaven a moment too soon. God is sovereign over our lives and over the moment of our death. And as much as one of His dear children might be missed here, as much as their ministry to others might seem irreplaceable, know that God is in control and that He will continue to lead and guide those of us still here, until at last He calls each of us home as well.

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Fast Day Sermons; or The Pulpit on the State of the Country is a collection of sermons which were delivered on January 4, 1861, in answer to a proclamation from President James Buchanan, setting that day “apart for fasting, humiliation, and prayer throughout the nation.” When that day arrived, across the nation special services were held in churches, public buildings were closed, and many businesses were shuttered for the day. Later these sermons were gathered as representative of the divisions splitting the nation apart.

The unnamed editor of the volume, in his introductory Preface, sets out the purpose of the book,

The following Discourses are collected in a volume in the belief that they will have a historical interest. These are Revolutionary times. The country is profoundly agitated, not on a question of party, but of National existence. On the very brink of dissolution, we are led to pause and review the causes that have brought us to this. While the people attend eagerly to the appeals of their leaders, thoughtful men will listen silently to the calm voices of the Pulpit, from which they will expect a clearer statement of the principles which underlie all this popular turbulence.

Even after all these years, the editor’s approach seems surprisingly academic and sterile. Disturbingly so. For our purposes, the book is noteworthy because Presbyterians are well represented on both sides of the terrible debate. Our little blog isn’t the appropriate place to try to lay out an understanding of how we might appreciate the bulk of a man’s teaching while at the same time entirely rejecting what is sinful in his life. Nor do we have space here to wonder at how otherwise seemingly good men can be so misled by their culture, or to ponder how has our own culture may have blinded us to sins that an earlier generation would never have tolerated?

From among the sermons, this one quote from “The Union to be Preserved,” by Robert J. Breckinridge will have to suffice, to give a flavor of the book and to give some words of comfort, as we in our own day strive to trust in God in the face of trials and troubling times:

After all, my friends—after all, we have the great promise of God that all things shall work together for good to them that love Him. I do not know but that it may be the mind of God, and His divine purpose, to break this Union up, and to make of it other nations, that shall at last be more powerful than it, unitedly, would have been. I do not know, I do not pretend to say, how the Lord will use the passions of men to glorify His name. He restrains the remainder of wrath and will cause the wrath of man to praise Him. We have His divine assurance that all nations that have gone before us, and all that will follow us, and we ourselves, by our rise, by our progress, and alas! by our decay and ruin, are but instruments of His infinite purpose, and means in His adorable providence, whereby the everlasting reign of Messiah, the Christ of God, is to be made absolute and universal.

Great then is our consolation, as we tremble for our country, to be confident in our Lord! Great is our comfort as we bewail the miseries which have befallen our glorious inheritance, to know that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Infinitely precious is the assurance, amidst the trials now impending, and the woes which threaten us, that the heroic self-devotion with which our personal duty is discharged, is one part of our fitness to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light!

Words to Live By: As true today as ever, we need humility and repentance as we stand before our Lord. We stray so easily, and so repentance must become a daily, even constant discipline. Salvation belongs to the Lord. His blessing is upon His people. On that we can rely.

Also on this day, January 4th:
1715 – marks the birth of the Rev. Aaron Burr, Sr.
1947 – the Rev. Peter Marshall was appointed chaplain of the U.S. Senate.

For Further Study:
If you want to dig deeper, the book is available on the Web, here: Fast Day Sermons; or The Pulpit on the State of the Country. (New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1861). It makes for difficult reading, in many parts. For one, arguments on both sides of the debate were deficit. But for an heartening comparison, make a point to also read and compare the Alexander McLeod’s work, Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1802). What would have been different had the force of McLeod’s arguments held center stage? Would history have been any different?

[I have to mention one particular surprise among the editor’s comments—one which caught me completely off-guard—when he says that he saw R.L. Dabney’s message as milder and gentler, and that he saw Dabney more as a minister of the Prince of Peace than a Southern partisan. Knowing just a little of the man that Dabney became, I never would have expected that assessment!]

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Reading from the Minutes of the Synod of South Carolina in 1899, we have the following Memorial for the Rev. Dr. John Bailey Adger, freely edited here for our purposes:

Adger_JBSince the last meeting of Synod our oldest and most honorable member has been taken from us—the Rev. Dr. John Bailey Adger.

Dr. Adger, the oldest son and third child of James Adger, a native of Ireland, and Sarah Elizabeth Ellison Adger, a native of Fairfield County, S.C., was born in Charleston [South Carolina] on the 13th of December, 1810.

Preparing for the ministry, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1829, graduating there in 1833. While at Princeton Seminary, a fellow student called his attention to the work of foreign missions. After long and serious consideration, Adger was convinced that it was his duty to become a foreign missionary, and he offered himself to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was accepted and was assigned to Smyrna and adjacent parts of the Turkish Empire as his field, to labor especially among the Armenians. At that time the Presbyterian Church did not carry out foreign missions on its own, but worked chiefly through the American Board, which was supported jointly by Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

Returning to his home in South Carolina, he spent the rest of 1833 and the first half of 1834 in preaching and delivering addresses throughout the State on the topic of foreign missions. He was ordained by Charleston Union Presbytery in the Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, on April 16, 1834 and sailed from Boston a few months later, on the 2d of August. Rev. Adger reached Smyrna early in October, and at once began his missionary work, which continued with little intermission for twelve years. His industry was untiring. As soon as possible he began to preach in the Armenian tongue; but his chief work was through the press. The Bible had been translated into Armenian centuries ago; but the ancient Armenian had become an unknown tongue to the people of this country. Therefore the first thing to be done was to translate into modern Armenian, so that all could read the Scriptures for themselves. This task he undertook as soon as possible, with skilled assistants. The translation of the New Testament and the Psalms which he thus prepared, was printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Some years ago, more than 300,000 copies of this translation of the New Testament had been circulated among the Armenians in Asia Minor and elsewhere. He also translated and published many other works, as the chief and most valuable of which, though small in size, may be mentioned the Shorter Catechism, and C.C. Jones’s Catechism.

By the year 1846, incessant writing and proof-reading of the trying Armenian letters had so injured Dr. Adger’s eyes that rest was imperatively necessary. Accordingly, for this and other reasons, he came to America, expecting as soon as practicable to return to his work in Asia Minor. But this was not to be. As the time time approached for his return, circumstances arose which led to his final withdrawal from work under the American Board.

Dr. Adger never returned to Smyrna, but remained in South Carolina the remainder of his life, serving notably as a professor of church history at the Columbia Theological Seminary, from 1856 until retirement in 1874. Along with James Henley Thornwell, Dr. Adger had been one of the chief architects of the Book of Church Order that was finally adopted by the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1879. In retirement, Adger composed a lengthy autobiography, My Life and Times, which stands to this day as a fitting cap to a long and illustrious ministry. The Rev. Dr. John Bailey Adger died on this day, January 3rd, in 1899.

For further study:
My Life and Times, originally published in 1899 but solely for private distribution, was reprinted in 2007 by Tentmaker Publications in England. The reprint includes a new preface and a biographical sketch by Dr. C.N. Willborn, pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oakridge, TN, plus an added appendix—a bibliography of Dr. Adger’s published works. In this convenient age of the Internet, the original edition of My Life and Times can also be found on the Web here.

The full, unedited text of this Memorial from the Synod of South Carolina is available on request.

Words to Live By: We see in Adger a life well spent, even exhausted, in the Lord’s service—a life lived in obedience to the words of Scripture: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24, ESV). May that be our purpose and goal in life as well, to live unreservedly for the Lord our Savior.

Also on this date:
in 1898, Robert Lewis Dabney died at his home in Victoria, Texas, at the age of 77.
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The First American Chaplain to Die in the Service of his Country.

An Irish immigrant, John Rosbrugh was born in 1714, came to the colonies in 1735 with his brother and sister, and married at the young age of 19, only to suffer the deaths of his first wife and infant child just a year later. The next several decades are a mystery, though when his brother William and his wife died, John became guardian of their three children, and these years were likely spent seeing them safely to adulthood.

But by the early 1760’s, John had begun to pursue a calling to the Gospel ministry. He studied theology privately under the Rev. John Blair, then pastor of the Presbyterian church at Fagg’s Manor, PA. He was licensed by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1763 and ordained in 1764, installed as pastor of three small congregations. During these years, he married his second wife and to this marriage were born five children. Then in 1772, he answered a call to serve the Presbyterian church in Allentown, New Jersey.

But Rev. Rosbrugh is remembered in history as the first chaplain to give his life in the service of his country, when he was killed during a portion of the crucial military campaign that first involved Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. Accounts of Rev. Rosbrugh’s death vary, but the most reliable one states that:

“…there was perhaps some confusion in the haste with which General Washington withdrew his army to the south side of the Assunpink [river], when Cornwallis marched into the town. In the haste and confusion that January 2nd, 1777, it seems Rev. Rosbrugh lingered behind the rest of his comrades. Seemingly not fully conscious of the dangers which surrounded him, he remained too long in the town before seeking a place of greater safety with the army beyond the Assunpink. He came to a pub in the city of Trenton. As night was drawing on, he tied his horse under a shed and entered the house to obtain some refreshments. While at the table, he was alarmed to hear the cry “The Hessians are coming!” Hastening out, he found that his horse had been stolen. Hurrying to make his escape, he found that one avenue after another was blocked. He then turned back into a grove of trees, where he was met by a small company of Hessians under the command of a British officer. Seeing that further attempt at escape was useless, he surrendered himself a prisoner of war. Having done so, he offered to his captors his gold watch and money if they would spare his life for his family’s sake. Notwithstanding these were taken, they immediately prepared to put him to death. Seeing this, he knelt down at the foot of a tree and, it is said, prayed for his enemies.” No sooner had he finished praying than he was murdered on the spot. “So died the ‘CLERICAL MARTYR OF THE REVOLUTION,’ at the age of sixty-three, upon a spot not trodden by the busy multitude, and forgotten amid the hum and bustle of commercial life in Trenton.”

“As the shades of that cold and dreary winter evening settled down upon the sad scene, his body lay in the icy embrace of death. The British officer at whose command he had been put to death, repaired to the pub which Mr. Rosbrugh had so recently left, and there exhibited the dead Chaplain’s watch, and boasted that he had killed a rebel parson. The woman of the house having known Mr. Rosbrugh, and recognizing the watch, said: “You have killed that good man, and what a wretched thing you have done for his helpless family this day.” The enraged officer, threatening to kill her if she continued her reproaches, ran away as if afraid of pursuit.”

Such is the account (gently edited) found in John Clyde’s biography, Rosbrugh: A Tale of the Revolution. (Easton: 1880). [available on the Web at http://archive.org/details/cu31924032738407]

Again, the fog of war still clouds much about about the death of Rev. Rosbrugh. The ferocity of his murder, historian William Dwyer contends, may be explained in that he was captured not far from Princeton, where the College of New Jersey was located, and that Rev. Rosbrugh may have been mistaken for the Rev. John Witherspoon, a man who was greatly hated by the Royalists and who had been recently burned in effigy by British troops.  [See Dwyer, William M., The Day is Ours! An Inside View of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, November 1776-January 1777. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1998, page 323.]

There is also a good deal of mystery as to where exactly Rev. Rosbrugh was buried. One grave established in his memory can be viewed here.

Words to Live By: Surely our times are in His hands. Which is to say, our lives are under the sovereign guidance of our Lord, and not one of His children ever dies a moment before God allows. This Scriptural truth affords the Christian great courage at times when others may faint away. At the same time, this fact does not mean that we can tempt God (Mt. 4:7). We should never act in a foolhardy way. In the end, Rev. Rosbrugh may have simply been careless and not kept his wits about him, at a time when he should have remained particularly alert. Each of our actions and choices will have consequences. The spiritual application should be obvious. As Christians, we are engaged in a spiritual battle: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, KJV). Learn the discipline of confessing your sins promptly, in sincere repentance and stay close to the Lord, day by day. The only safe place is by His side.

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