November 2013

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

hollar_abbey1647_03The first Presbytery of English Puritans was held at Wandsworth, on November 20, 1572, the same year as the Bartholomew massacre. The organizer of this first Presbytery, and the leader of early Presbyterianism in England, was the Rev. Thomas Cartwright, a professor of Divinity in Cambridge. In the appendix to Charles A. Brigg’s American Presbyterianism, there is provided a “Directory of Church Government” practiced by the first nonconformists [non-Anglicans] in the days of Queen Elizabeth, called “Cartwright’s Book of Discipline.” In due course of time Presbyterianism came to be quite powerfully organized in the vicinity of London, even in Elizabeth’s day, but it was rather as a church inside of the state church.

When Elizabeth died, James VI. of Scotland ascended the throne as James I. of England. His mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, had been thwarted by the Presbyterians of Scotland, and James himself had been in perpetual conflict with them. He came to the throne of England a natural despot, confident of his ability, intellectually and physically, to carry out his own will. He was a scholarly, skillful, profane, drunken fool. On the way from Edinburgh to London he received the Millenary Petition, asking relief for the Puritans, and held a conference, under his own presiding, between the friends of High Church Episcopacy and the representatives of free Protestantism. The High Church pretensions and flattery completely carried the day with his egotism; and the only outcome was his agreement to the suggestion of Edward Reynolds, of Oxford, spokesman in behalf of the Puritans, that there should be a new and better translation of the English Bible. That gave us King Jame’s Version.

In 1816 he published a book of sports “to encourage recreation and sports on the Lord’s day.” His theory was “no bishop, no king.” Throughout his reign, therefore, while resisting popery, he sought only to make himself pope of the Episcopal Church in England, and that Episcopal Church the only Church in the three kingdoms. He said that “presbytery agreeth with a monarchy as well as God with the devil.

Source:
Hay, George P., Presbyterians, pp. 46-48.

Also on this day in Presbyterian history:
J.J. Janeway1774 — Birth of Jacob Jones Janeway, in the city of New York, the eldest child of George and Effie (Ten Eyck) Janeway. The year 1797 found the young man diligent in the use of the means of grace, and seeking growth in the divine life. “In reviewing my conduct, I felt that my sins were pardoned. In the morning exercise, on Monday, I was somewhat earnest in pleading with God. Towards the end of the week too much absorbed in study.” “This week my soul has been somewhat refreshed. I see that my heart is deceitful and easily ensnared by the world. Though we depart from God in our affections, yet if we strive to return he will accept and help us. Remember, O my soul, the exhortation, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. To this end I must be circumspect in my conduct, diligent and active.”

alexanderJW111849 — Inauguration of the Rev. James W. Alexander, D.D., as professor of ecclesiastical history and church government in the theological seminary at Princeton. Born near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, the eldest son of Archibald Alexander, James was raised in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But by the time that schooling had begun for James, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  Then in 1812, as the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, the Alexander family moved there and Archibald Alexander became the first professor of that new divinity school. Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820. And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822–1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. He died on July 31, 1859.

league1925
— The First Annual Conference of the League of Evangelical Students was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 20-24, 1925. At this conference nineteen schools were represented, eleven theological seminaries and eight Bible schools, and these represented student bodies from Texas to Canada and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Conference, with its keynote on unswerving loyalty to the Bible as the only authoritative rule of faith and practice, was held on the campus of Calvin Theological Seminary and Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke on the theme, “The Church’s Historic Fight against Modernism from Within.” An early 20th-century campus ministry, the League ran its course in a brief fifteen years, overtaken by the wider appeal of InterVarsity.

Harold Samuel Laird1936 — The Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First Independent Church, Wilmington, was elected president of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions [IBPFM], succeeding the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dr. Machen had also retired that same year as Moderator of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America. The IBPFM had been organized in 1933 in response to the failure of the PCUSA to remove modernists from the foreign mission field. In reaction, the PCUSA’s General Assembly had, in 1934, issued a “Mandate” forbidding PCUSA ministers and laity from involvement with the IPBFM. Their refusal to step down from their participation with the IBPFM led to Machen and about a dozen others being defrocked or otherwise kicked out of the denomination.

soltau_addison_sm021952 — Addison Soltau was ordained on this day in 1952 and installed as pastor of the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Memphia, Tennessee. Born in Seoul, Korea, the son of missionary parents T. Stanley and Mary Cross (Campbell) Soltau, Addison came from a long and illustrious line of noteworthy Christians. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1949 and prepared for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary, later earning a Th.M. degree from Calvin Seminary in 1966 and the Th.D. from Concordia Seminary in 1982. Leaving his pulpit in Tennessee, he labored as a missionary in Japan from 1953-1970, served as a professor at Reformed Bible College and at Covenant Theological Seminary, and has, since 1989, served on the pastoral staff of several churches in Florida. He is currently an associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, in Margate, Florida.

Words to Live By:
I suppose we could simply have stretched out the events of this twentieth day of November into the next six years with the six posts listed above, but it seemed good to explore some of the notable events and people for this date all at once. In that way, we behold the Lord’s providence of sovereignly governing both good and bad events on this day in Presbyterian history. James reminds us of the significance of one day when he asks and answers, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 1:14, ESV) To be sure, who among the people and events mentioned above ever wondered what else occurred on their day of November 20?  That is why all of us need to take the words of James to heart when he wrote in verse 15, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live  and do this or that.” (James 4:15 ESV)  Use this last biblical thought as a prayer today as you read this post, and venture out into your world.

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

Two Heroes of Gettysburg Attend a Presbyterian Church

The High Water Mark of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, had been fought that July of 1863. Attending just four months later in the same town of Pennsylvania, was President Abraham Lincoln for the dedication of the new National Cemetery in that town. The president wasn’t the main speaker that day of dedication.  But he  delivered a short pithy message which he thought was a failure, due to its brevity, but which turned into an immortal address which the world will long remember.

One of the residents of Gettysburg Lincoln wanted to meet, after the presentation, was local and later national hero John L. Burns. The latter was the only civilian who grabbed his old War of 1812 flintlock, and exchanging it for a more modern weapon from a wounded Union soldier, joined in the fighting of the Confederate army on July 1, 1863.  His fame immediately after that brief stint in battle, at which he was wounded three times, caused his name to be on every lip, including that of President Lincoln.

burnsIt was on November 19, 1863  that the President of the United States met John Burns at the home of attorney David Wills. The latter had been responsible more than any one else for setting aside the plots of ground which later on became the National Cemetery of Gettysburg. Wills was also a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Gettysburg on Baltimore Street. Together, John Burns and Abraham Lincoln, along with David Wills,  walked south down Baltimore Street to the building of the Presbyterian Church to attend a patriotic service held there that evening.  It was reported that the seventy-one year old Burns slept through much of the service, but Abraham Lincoln was able to be present for most of the service, before duties called him back to Washington, D.C.

A century later in 1962, the church building was replaced with another building, and all the furnishings with it, with the exception of “the Lincoln – Burns Pew” which can still be seen in the new church at the same location.

Words to live by:  There are “heroes” in church history who have been mentioned in great advances of the Lord’s kingdom and church. In point of reference, this very  historical devotional  is all about Christian, and more specifically Christian Presbyterians who have been used of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of Christ in various periods of time and places. It is as we acknowledge these men and women of the Presbyterian faith that we are more fully appreciate the progress of the church in general, and our local church in particular. So, as you look at your church of your choice, who among them can be found who have in the past or present been instrumental in advancing the cause and kingdom of Christ? After you identify them, why not go up to them and thank the Lord for their spiritual gifts which have been used for God’s glory and His cause?  It will both praise the Lord and encourage their  hearts to know that someone has remembered them for all their hard work.

Tags: , , ,

Saving the Best to the Last

armerdingThis writer was simply transferring his ordination from the Ascension Presbytery, having been called to a congregation within the bounds of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery in 1990.  Being examined on the basic distinctives of the Reformed Faith was expected and welcomed. What was not expected, especially in the field of theology, was being examined by Dr. Hudson T. Armerding, the former president of Wheaton College. Just a year before on November 18, 1989, he had been ordained by this Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America.  And while it is not usual for a person to be ordained one year, and then placed on the committee of examinations the following year, this was an exception because of the spiritual gifts and special ministries of this godly man already in the kingdom of God.

Since this writer’s father was graduated from Wheaton College in the mid twenties of last century, I  made a special point to have several conversations with this man of God. He told me that when he was the president of Wheaton College, there was a rule instituted by him that every new faculty member had to read the Systematic Theology of Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, a former Wheaton College president himself. This Reformed treatment of theology by this Presbyterian author was that important to the future teachers of the College in the mind of Dr. Armerding.

As a resident of the Quarryville Retirement Home, and later officer of that institution, Dr. Armerding was faithful to attend many quarterly meetings of the central Pennsylvania Presbytery, though as a retired minister, he wasn’t required to attend.  From this author’s standpoint, it was a joy to know him and talk about the work of the Lord.  He is now a member of the heavenly general assembly, having passed into glory on December 1, 2009.

Words to live by:  The heart of godly leadership was the theme of at least two of his books which Dr. Armerding wrote for the watching world. As a former Navy officer and college president, he observed the importance of that type of leadership in both the nation and the church. Wherever God has placed you, especially if you have oversight over the hearts and minds of others, study the traits of godly leadership. Those who are under such godly leadership, especially in our local churches, pray and obey  in the Lord such leadership, for one day they will have to give an account to the Lord God about your soul. They desire to do this with joy, and not with grief, for that will be unprofitable for you.

Tags: , , ,

Befitting a long name, a longish sermon on a most important point.

sheddWGTWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd was born in June of 1820 of a distinguished New England lineage. Sensing the call to the ministry, he attended Andover Theological Seminary, and then became a pastor in the Congregational denomination in Vermont. Even though he was Old School Reformed in his thinking, he taught briefly at the New School Presbyterian institution of Auburn Theological Seminary, from 1852-1854. Leaving Auburn, he was professor of church history at Andover from 1853-1862, and then for two years as co-pastor at the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. His life’s primary work occurred while teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was to teach for eleven years, 1874-1892. He died on November 17, 1894.

SIN IN THE HEART THE SOURCE OF ERROR IN THE HEAD

ROMANS i. 28.—”As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”

In the opening of the most logical and systematic treatise in the New Testament, the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul enters upon a line of argument to demonstrate the ill-desert of every human creature without exception. In order to this, he shows that no excuse can be urged upon the ground of moral ignorance. He explicitly teaches that the pagan knows that there is one Supreme God (Rom. i. 20); that He is a spirit (Rom. i. 23); that He is holy and sin-hating (Rom. i. 18); that He is worthy to be worshipped (Rom. i. 21, 25); and that men ought to be thankful for His benefits (Rom. i. 21). He affirms that the heathen knows that an idol is a lie (Rom. i. 25); that licentiousness is a sin (Rom. i. 26, 32); that envy, malice, and deceit are wicked (Rom. i. 29, 32); and that those who practise such sins deserve eternal punishment (Rom. i. 32).

In these teachings and assertions, the apostle has attributed no small amount and degree of moral knowledge to man as man,—to man outside of Revelation, as well as under its shining light. The question very naturally arises: How comes it to pass that this knowledge which Divine inspiration postulates, and affirms to be innate and constitutional to the human mind, should become so vitiated? The majority of mankind are idolaters and polytheists, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that the truth that there is only one God is native to the human spirit, and that the pagan “knows” this God? The majority of men are earthly and sensual, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that there is a moral law written upon their hearts forbidding such carnality, and enjoining purity and holiness?

Some theorizers argue that because the pagan man has not obeyed the law, therefore he does not know the law; and that because he has not revered and worshipped the one Supreme Deity, therefore he does not possess the idea of any such Being. They look out upon the heathen populations and see them bowing down to stocks and stones, and witness their immersion in the abominations of heathenism, and conclude that these millions of human beings really know no better, and that therefore it is unjust to hold them responsible for their polytheism and their moral corruption. But why do they confine this species of reasoning to the pagan world? Why do they not bring it into nominal Christendom, and apply it there? Why does not this theorist go into the midst of European civilization, into the heart of London or Paris, and gauge the moral knowledge of the sensualist by the moral character of the sensualist? Why does he not tell us that because this civilized man acts no better, therefore he knows no better? Why does he not maintain that because this voluptuary breaks all the commandments in the decalogue, therefore he must be ignorant of all the commandments in the decalogue? that because he neither fears nor loves the one only God, therefore he does not know that there is any such Being?

It will never do to estimate man’s moral knowledge by man’s moral character. He knows more than he practises. And there is not so much difference in this particular between some men in nominal Christendom, and some men in Heathendom, as is sometimes imagined. The moral knowledge of those who lie in the lower strata of Christian civilization, and those who lie in the higher strata of Paganism, is probably not so very far apart. Place the imbruted outcasts of our metropolitan population beside the Indian hunter, with his belief in the Great Spirit, and his worship without images or pictorial representations;[1] beside the stalwart Mandingo of the high table-lands of Central Africa, with his active and enterprising spirit, carrying on manufactures and trade with all the keenness of any civilized worldling; beside the native merchants and lawyers of Calcutta, who still cling to their ancestral Boodhism, or else substitute French infidelity in its place; place the lowest of the highest beside the highest of the lowest, and tell us if the difference is so very marked. Sin, like holiness, is a mighty leveler. The “dislike to retain God” in the consciousness, the aversion of the heart towards the purity of the moral law, vitiates the native perceptions alike in Christendom and Paganism.

The theory that the pagan is possessed of such an amount and degree of moral knowledge as has been specified has awakened some apprehension in the minds of some Christian theologians, and has led them, unintentionally to foster the opposite theory, which, if strictly adhered, to, would lift off all responsibility from the pagan world, would bring them in innocent at the bar of God, and would render the whole enterprise of Christian missions a superfluity and an absurdity. Their motive has been good. They have feared to attribute any degree of accurate knowledge of God and the moral law, to the pagan world, lest they should thereby conflict with the doctrine of total depravity. They have mistakenly supposed, that if they should concede to every man, by virtue of his moral constitution, some correct apprehensions of ethics and natural religion, it would follow that there is some native goodness in him. But light in the intellect is very different from life in the heart. It is one thing to know the law of God, and quite another thing to be conformed to it. Even if we should concede to the degraded pagan, or the degraded dweller in the haunts of vice in Christian lands, all the intellectual knowledge of God and the moral law that is possessed by the ruined archangel himself, we should not be adding a particle to his moral character or his moral excellence. There is nothing of a holy quality in the mere intellectual perception that there is one Supreme Deity, and that He has issued a pure and holy law for the guidance of all rational beings. The mere doctrine of the Divine Unity will save no man. “Thou believest,” says St. James, “that there is one God; thou doest well, the devils also believe and tremble.” Satan himself is a monotheist, and knows very clearly all the commandments of God; but his heart and will are in demoniacal antagonism with them. And so it is, only in a lower degree, in the instance of the pagan, and of the natural man, in every age, and in every clime. He knows more than he practises. This intellectual perception therefore, this inborn constitutional apprehension, instead of lifting up man into a higher and more favorable position before the eternal bar, casts him down to perdition. If he knew nothing at all of his Maker and his duty, he could not be held responsible, and could, not be summoned to judgment. As St. Paul affirms: “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” But if, when he knew God in some degree, he glorified him not as God to that degree; and if, when the moral law was written upon the heart he went counter to its requirements, and heard the accusing voice of his own conscience; then his mouth must be stopped, and he must become guilty before his Judge, like any and every other disobedient creature.

It is this serious and damning fact in the history of man upon the globe, that St. Paul brings to view, in the passage which we have selected as the foundation of this discourse. He accounts for all the idolatry and sensuality, all the darkness and vain imaginations of paganism, by referring to the aversion of the natural heart towards the one only holy God. “Men,” he says,—these pagan men—”did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” The primary difficulty was in their affections, and not in their understandings. They knew too much for their own comfort in sin. The contrast between the Divine purity that was mirrored in their conscience, and the sinfulness that was wrought into their heart and will, rendered this inborn constitutional idea of God a very painful one. It was a fire in the bones. If the Psalmist, a renewed man, yet not entirely free from human corruption, could say: “I thought of God and was troubled,” much more must the totally depraved man of paganism be filled with terror when, in the thoughts of his heart, in the hour when the accusing conscience was at work, he brought to mind the one great God of gods whom he did not glorify, and whom he had offended. It was no wonder, therefore, that he did not like to retain the idea of such a Being in his consciousness, and that he adopted all possible expedients to get rid of it. The apostle informs us that the pagan actually called in his imagination to his aid, in order to extirpate, if possible, all his native and rational ideas and convictions upon religious subjects. He became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart as a consequence was darkened, and he changed the glory of the incorruptible God, the spiritual unity of the Deity, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Rom. i. 21-23). He invented idolatry, and all those “gay religions full of pomp and gold,” in order to blunt the edge of that sharp spiritual conception of God which was continually cutting and lacerating his wicked and sensual heart. Hiding himself amidst the columns of his idolatrous temples, and under the smoke of his idolatrous incense, he thought like Adam to escape from the view and inspection of that Infinite One who, from the creation of the world downward, makes known to all men his eternal power and godhead; who, as St. Paul taught the philosophers of Athens, is not far from anyone of his rational creatures (Acts xvii. 27); and who, as the same apostle taught the pagan Lycaonians, though in times past he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, yet left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. (Acts xiv. 16, 17).

The first step in the process of mutilating the original idea of God, as a unity and an unseen Spirit, is seen in those pantheistic religions which lie behind all the mythologies of the ancient world, like a nebulous vapor out of which the more distinct idols and images of paganism are struggling. Here the notion of the Divine unity is still preserved; but the Divine personality and holiness are lost. God becomes a vague impersonal Power, with no moral qualities, and no religious attributes; and it is difficult to say which is worst in its moral influence, this pantheism which while retaining the doctrine of the Divine unity yet denudes the Deity of all that renders him an object of either love or reverence, or the grosser idolatries that succeeded it. For man cannot love, with all his mind and heart and soul and strength, a vast impersonal force working blindly through infinite space and everlasting time.

And the second and last stage in this process of vitiating the true idea of God appears in that polytheism in the midst of which St. Paul lived, and labored, and preached, and died; in that seductive and beautiful paganism, that classical idolatry, which still addresses the human taste in such a fascinating manner, in the Venus de Medici, and the Apollo Belvidere. The idea of the unity of God is now mangled and cut up into the “gods many” and the “lords many,” into the thirty thousand divinities of the pagan pantheon. This completes the process. God now gives his guilty creature over to these vain imaginations of naturalism, materialism, and idolatry, and to an increasingly darkening mind, until in the lowest forms of heathenism he so distorts and suppresses the concreated idea of the Deity that some speculatists assert that it does not belong to his constitution, and that his Maker never endowed him with it. How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!

But it will be objected that all this lies in the past. This is the account of a process that has required centuries, yea millenniums, to bring about. A hundred generations have been engaged in transmuting the monotheism with which the human race started, into the pantheism and polytheism in which the great majority of it is now involved. How do you establish the guilt of those at the end of the line? How can you charge upon the present generation of pagans the same culpability that Paul imputed to their ancestors eighteen centuries ago, and that Noah the preacher of righteousness denounced, upon the antediluvian pagan? As the deteriorating process advances, does not the guilt diminish? and now, in these ends of the ages, and in these dark habitations of cruelty, has not the culpability run down to a minimum, which God in the day of judgment will “wink at?”

We answer No: Because the structure of the human mind is precisely the same that it was when the Sodomites held down the truth in unrighteousness, and the Roman populace turned up their thumbs that they might see the last drops of blood ebb slowly from the red gash in the dying gladiator’s side. Man, in his deepest degradation, in his most hardened depravity, is still a rational intelligence; and though he should continue to sin on indefinitely, through cycles of time as long as those of geology, he cannot unmake himself; he cannot unmould his immortal essence, and absolutely eradicate all his moral ideas. Paganism itself has its fluctuations of moral knowledge. The early Roman, in the days of Numa, was highly ethical in his views of the Deity, and his conceptions of moral law. Varro informs us that for a period of one hundred and seventy years the Romans worshipped their gods without any images;[2] and Sallust denominates these pristine Romans “religiosissimi mortales.” And how often does the missionary discover a tribe or a race, whose moral intelligence is higher than that of the average of paganism. Nay, the same race, or tribe, passes from one phase of polytheism to another; in one instance exhibiting many of the elements and truths of natural religion, and in another almost entirely suppressing them. These facts prove that the pagan man is under supervision; that he is under the righteous despotism of moral ideas and convictions; that God is not far from him; that he lives and moves and has his being in his Maker; and that God does not leave himself without witness in his constitutional structure. Therefore it is, that this sea of rational intelligence thus surges and sways in the masses of paganism; sometimes dashing the creature up the heights, and sometimes sending him down into the depths.

But while this subject has this general application to mankind outside of Revelation; while it throws so much light upon the question of the heathens’ responsibility and guilt; while it tends to deepen our interest in the work of Christian missions, and to stimulate us to obey our Redeemer’s command to go and preach the gospel to them, in order to save them from the wrath of God which abideth upon them as it does upon ourselves; while this subject has these profound and far-reaching applications, it also presses with sharpness and energy upon the case, and the position, of millions of men in Christendom. And to this more particular aspect of the theme, we ask attention for a moment.

This same process of corruption, and vitiation of a correct knowledge of God, which we have seen to go on upon a large scale in the instance of the heathen world, also often goes on in the instance of a single individual under the light of Revelation itself. Have you never known a person to have been well educated in childhood and youth respecting the character and government of God, and yet in middle life and old age to have altered and corrupted all his early and accurate apprehensions, by the gradual adoption of contrary views and sentiments? In his childhood, and youth, he believed that God distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked, that he rewards the one and punishes the other, and hence he cherished a salutary fear of his Maker that agreed well with the dictates of his unsophisticated reason, and the teachings of nature and revelation. But when, he became a man, he put away these childish things, in a far different sense from that of the Apostle. As the years rolled, along, he succeeded, by a career of worldliness and of sensuality, in expelling this stock of religious knowledge, this right way of conceiving of God, from his mind, and now at the close of life and upon the very brink of eternity and of doom, this very same person is as unbelieving respecting the moral attributes of Jehovah, and as unfearing with regard to them, as if the entire experience and creed of his childhood and youth were a delusion and a lie. This rational and immortal creature in the morning of his existence looked up into the clear sky with reverence, being impressed by the eternal power and godhead that are there, and when he had committed a sin he felt remorseful and guilty; but the very same person now sins recklessly and with flinty hardness of heart, casts sullen or scowling glances upward, and says: “There is no God.” Compare the Edward Gibbon whose childhood expanded under the teachings of a beloved Christian matron trained in the school of the devout William Law, and whose youth exhibited unwonted religions sensibility,—compare this Edward Gibbon with the Edward Gibbon whose manhood was saturated with utter unbelief, and whose departure into the dread hereafter was, in his own phrase, “a leap in the dark.” Compare the Aaron Burr whose blood was deduced from one of the most saintly lineages in the history of the American church, and all of whose early life was embosomed in ancestral piety,—compare this Aaron Burr with the Aaron Burr whose middle life and prolonged old age was unimpressible as marble to all religious ideas and influences. In both of these instances, it was the aversion of the heart that for a season (not for eternity, be it remembered) quenched out the light in the head. These men, like the pagan of whom St. Paul speaks, did not like to retain a holy God in their knowledge, and He gave them over to a reprobate mind.

These fluctuations and changes in doctrinal belief, both in the general and the individual mind, furnish materials for deep reflection by both the philosopher and the Christian; and such an one will often be led to notice the exact parallel and similarity there is between religious deterioration in races, and religious deterioration in individuals. The dislike to retain a knowledge already furnished, because it is painful, because it rebukes worldliness and sin, is that which ruins both mankind in general, and the man in particular. Were the heart only conformed to the truth, the truth never would be corrupted, never would be even temporarily darkened in the human soul. Should the pagan, himself, actually obey the dictates of his own reason and conscience, he would find the light that was in him growing still clearer and brighter. God himself, the author of his rational mind, and the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, would reward him for his obedience by granting him yet more knowledge. We cannot say in what particular mode the Divine providence would bring it about, but it is as certain as that God lives, that if the pagan world should act up to the degree of light which they enjoy, they would be conducted ultimately to the truth as it is in Jesus, and would be saved by the Redeemer of the world. The instance of the Roman centurion Cornelius is a case in point. This was a thoughtful and serious pagan. It is indeed very probable that his military residence in Palestine had cleared up, to some degree, his natural intuitions of moral truth; but we know that he was ignorant of the way of salvation through Christ, from the fact that the apostle Peter was instructed in a vision to go and preach it unto him. The sincere endeavor of this Gentile, this then pagan in reference to Christianity, to improve the little knowledge which he had, met with the Divine approbation, and was crowned with a saving acquaintance with the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Peter himself testified to this, when, after hearing from the lips of Cornelius the account of his previous life, and of the way in which God had led him, “he opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts x. 34, 35).[3]

But such instances as this of Cornelius are not one in millions upon millions. The light shines in the darkness that comprehends it not. Almost without an exception, so far as the human eye can see, the unevangelized world holds the truth in unrighteousness, and does not like to retain the idea of a holy God, and a holy law, in its knowledge. Therefore the knowledge continually diminishes; the light of natural reason and conscience grows dimmer and dimmer; and the soul sinks down in the mire of sin and sensuality, apparently devoid of all the higher ideas of God, and law, and immortal life.

We have thus considered the truth which St. Paul teaches in the text, that the ultimate source of all human error is in the character of the human heart. Mankind do not like to retain God in their knowledge, and therefore they come to possess a reprobate mind. The origin of idolatry, and of infidelity, is not in the original constitution with which the Creator endowed the creature, but in that evil heart of unbelief by which he departed from the living God. Sinful man shapes his creed in accordance with his wishes, and not in accordance with the unbiased decisions of his reason and conscience. He does not like to think of a holy God, and therefore he denies that God is holy. He does not like to think of the eternal punishment of sin, and therefore he denies that punishment is eternal. He does not like to be pardoned through the substituted sufferings of the Son of God, and therefore he denies the doctrine of atonement. He does not like the truth that man is so totally alienated from God that he needs to be renewed in the spirit of his mind by the Holy Ghost, and therefore he denies the doctrines of depravity and regeneration. Run through the creed which the Church has lived by and died by, and you will discover that the only obstacle to its reception is the aversion of the human heart. It is a rational creed in all its parts and combinations. It has outlived the collisions and conflicts of a hundred schools of infidelity that have had their brief day, and died with their devotees. A hundred systems of philosophy falsely so called have come and gone, but the one old religion of the patriarchs, and the prophets, and the apostles, holds on its way through the centuries, conquering and to conquer. Can it be that sheer imposture and error have such a tenacious vitality as this? If reason is upon the side of infidelity, why does not infidelity remain one and the same unchanging thing, like Christianity, from age to age, and subdue all men unto it? If Christianity is a delusion and a lie, why does it not die out, and disappear? The difficulty is not upon the side of the human reason, but of the human heart. Skeptical men do not like the religion of the New Testament, these doctrines of sin and grace, and therefore they shape their creed by their sympathies and antipathies; by what they wish to have true; by their heart rather than by their head. As the Founder of Christianity said to the Jews, so he says to every man who rejects His doctrine of grace and redemption: “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” It is an inclination of the will, and not a conviction of the reason, that prevents the reception of the Christian religion.

Among the many reflections that are suggested by this subject and its discussion, our limits permit only the following:

1. It betokens deep wickedness, in any man, to change the truth of God into a lie,—to substitute a false theory in religion for the true one. “Woe unto them,” says the prophet, “that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” There is no form of moral evil that is more hateful in the sight of Infinite Truth, than that intellectual depravity which does not like to retain a holy God in its knowledge, and therefore mutilates the very idea of the Deity, and attempts to make him other than he is. There is no sinner that will be visited with a heavier vengeance than that cool and calculating man, who, because he dislikes the unyielding purity of the moral law, and the awful sanctions by which it is accompanied, deliberately alters it to suit his wishes and his self-indulgence. If a person is tempted and falls into sin, and yet does not change his religious creed in order to escape the reproaches of conscience and the fear of retribution, there is hope that the orthodoxy of his head may result, by God’s blessing upon his own truth, in sorrow for the sin and a forsaking thereof. A man, for instance, who amidst all his temptations and transgressions still retains the truth taught him from the Scriptures, at his mother’s knees, that a finally impenitent sinner will go down to eternal torment, feels a powerful check upon his passions, and is often kept from outward and actual transgressions by his creed. But if he deliberately, and by an act of will, says in his heart: “There is no hell;” if he substitutes for the theory that renders the commission of sin dangerous and fearful, a theory that relieves it from all danger and all fear, there is no hope that he will ever cease from sinning. On the contrary, having brought his head into harmony with his heart; having adjusted his theory to his practice; having shaped his creed by his passions; having changed the truth of God into a lie; he then plunges into sin with an abandonment and a momentum that is awful. In the phrase of the prophet, he “draws iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart-rope.”

It is here that we see the deep guilt of those, who, by false theories of God and man and law and penalty, tempt the young or the old to their eternal destruction. It is sad and fearful, when the weak physical nature is plied with all the enticements of earth and sense; but it is yet sadder and more fearful, when the intellectual nature is sought to be perverted and ensnared by specious theories that annihilate the distinction between virtue and vice, that take away all holy fear of God, and reverence for His law, that represent the everlasting future either as an everlasting elysium for all, or else as an eternal sleep. The demoralization, in this instance, is central and radical. It is in the brain, in the very understanding itself. If the foundations themselves of morals and religion are destroyed, what can be done for the salvation of the creature? A heavy woe is denounced against any and every one who tempts a fellow-being. Temptation implies malice. It is Satanic. It betokens a desire to ruin an immortal spirit. When therefore the siren would allure a human creature from the path of virtue, the inspiration of God utters a deep and bitter curse against her. But when the cold-blooded Mephistopheles endeavors to sophisticate the reason, to debauch the judgment, to sear the conscience; when the temptation is addressed to the intellect, and the desire of the tempter is to overthrow the entire religious creed of a human being,—perhaps a youth just entering upon that hazardous enterprise of life in which he needs every jot and tittle of eternal truth to guide and protect him,—when the enticement assumes this purely mental form and aspect, it betokens the most malignant and heaven-daring guilt in the tempter. And we may be certain that the retribution that will be meted out to it, by Him who is true and The Truth; who abhors all falsehood and all lies with an infinite intensity; will be terrible beyond conception. “Woe unto you ye blind guides! Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell! If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.”

2. In the second place, we perceive, in the light of this subject, the great danger of not reducing religious truth to practice. There are two fatal hazards in not obeying the doctrines of the Bible while yet there is an intellectual assent to them. The first is, that these doctrines shall themselves become diluted and corrupted. So long as the affectionate submission of the heart is not yielded to their authority; so long as there is any dislike towards their holy claims; there is great danger that, as in the instance of the pagan, they will not be retained in the knowledge. The sinful man becomes weary of a form of doctrine that continually rebukes him, and gradually changes it into one that is less truthful and restraining. But a second and equally alarming danger is, that the heart shall become accustomed to the truth, and grow hard and indifferent towards it. There are a multitude of persons who hear the word of God and never dream of disputing it, who yet, alas, never dream of obeying it. To such the living truth of the gospel becomes a petrifaction, and a savor of death unto death.

We urge you, therefore, ye who know the doctrines of the law and the doctrines of the gospel, to give an affectionate and hearty assent to them both. When the divine Word asserts that you are guilty, and that you cannot stand in the judgment before God, make answer: “It is so, it is so.” Practically and deeply acknowledge the doctrine of human guilt and corruption. Let it no longer be a theory in the head, but a humbling salutary consciousness in the heart. And when the divine Word affirms that God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son to redeem it, make a quick and joyful response: “It is so, it is so.” Instead of changing the truth of God into a lie, as the guilty world have been doing for six thousand years, change it into a blessed consciousness of the soul. Believe_ what you know; and then what you know will be the wisdom of God to your salvation.

[Footnote 1: “There are no profane words in the (Iowa) Indian language: no light or profane way of speaking of the ‘Great Spirit.'”—FOREIGN MISSIONARY: May, 1863, p. 337.]

[Footnote 2: PLUTARCH: Numa, 8; AUGUSTINE: De Civitate, iv. 31.]

[Footnote 3: It should be noticed that Cornelius was not prepared for another life, by the moral virtue which he had practised before meeting with Peter, but by his penitence for sin and faith in Jesus Christ, whom Peter preached to him as the Saviour from sin (Acts x. 43). Good works can no more prepare a pagan for eternity than they can a nominal Christian. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius could no more be justified by their personal character, than Saul of Tarsus could be. First, because the virtue is imperfect, at the best: and, secondly, it does not begin at the beginning of existence upon earth, and continue unintermittently to the end of it. A sense of sin is a far more hopeful indication, in the instance of a heathen, than a sense of virtue. The utter absence of humility and sorrow in the “Meditations” of the philosophic Emperor, and the omnipresence in them of pride and self-satisfaction, place him out of all relations to the Divine mercy. In trying to judge of the final condition of a pagan outside of revelation, we must ask the question: Was he penitent? rather than the question: Was he virtuous?]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Concluding our coverage of the second General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which was in the first several years of its existence known as the Presbyterian Church of America. That Assembly was in session from November 14-16, 1936. The news clipping transcribed below is from the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, preserved at the PCA Historical Center. At the end of this post, we have provided image scans of the program bulletin from that Assembly. The text of Dr. Machen’s sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 can be found here. For an interesting exercise, compare Dr. Machen’s sermon with that of Robert Murray McCheyne, on the same text. Click here for the McCheyne sermon.


Philadelphia Inquirer, November 16, 1936, page 2:

PCofA_2dGA_Buswell_farewellFAREWELL GIVEN BY DR. BUSWELL.

Places New Presbyterian Group in Van of Fight for Old Faith.

In a farewell message to members of the second General Assembly, Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., moderator for the duration of the sessions, last night placed the new Presbyterian Church of America in the forefront of the battle to preserve the ancient evangelical standards of the reformed faith.

Taking as his text a portion of an epistle to St. Paul to the Corinthians, Dr. Buswell declared “salvation of souls” to be the main business of the denomination and, among others, quoted a passage from the Apostle that “we are ambassadors for Christ.”

The sermon, delivered in the auditorium of the Manufacturers’ and Bankers’ Club, was the final event on a four-day program during which the assembly adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith as its doctrinal standard, elected committees and took steps toward acquiring a form of government.

It followed a series of devotional services at individual churches during the morning, when various visiting ministers addressed the congregations. The new Church was formed after a split from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. last June over the question of modernism.

Declaring that the Bible alone was recognized as ultimate authority in the present denomination, Dr. Buswell scored efforts to substitute for that authority the official interpretation of Church councils and of men.

Words to Live By:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

program01sm

program02sm

program03sm

program04sm

Tags: , , , , ,

Keeping in mind that any news coverage inevitably has its own slant or perspective, we present with that caveat the following newspaper reports on the close of the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America [Orthodox Presbyterian Church], which met November 14-16, 1936:

From the Brooklyn, N.Y. Eagle:–

Government Form For New Church Is Assembly Aim

Philadelphia, Nov. 14. — The second general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America tabled all discussion today on interpreting its doctrinal standards and undertook to establish a form of government for the church founded here five months ago.

The assembly which adopted the historic Westminster confessions and catechisms as its doctrinal standards yesterday, tabled two motions today which would interpret the doctrines on the question of the second coming of Christ. Church leaders interpreted the action as assuring eschatological liberty within the church on the question.

The constitutional form was discussed at the afternoon session.

It became known today that the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths of Philadelphia has resigned as a member of the church.

The Rev. Mr. Griffiths was ecclesiastical counsel for the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, first moderator of the new church, in his trials on charges of insubordination to the authority of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Dr. Machen was suspended from the church after the general assembly upheld his conviction.

His [Griffiths’s] resignation became known when an inquiry was made from the floor why he was not attending the assembly. The Rev. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, moderator, did not explain the reasons for his resignation. At his home the Rev. Mr. Griffiths confirmed his resignation, but said he preferred not to make any statement.

In adopting the Westminster confessions yesterday, the delegates votes against including amendments which were adopted in 1903 by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

and from the Philadelphia Inquirer, November 15, 1936:—

Fundamentalists Stick Close to Law of Pre-Split Body

Tentative Rule Adopted; Griffiths-Machen Rift Mars Session

A tentative form of government closely following that of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., from which it split last June, yesterday was adopted by the Presbyterian Church of America in the closing business session of its four-day second General Assembly.

The 100-year old constitution was accepted as the provisional working basis for the new fundamentalist order until a permanent basis can be formulated at the next assembly in Philadelphia, June 1 to 5.

In substance, the form grouped the individual churches into presbyteries, but eliminated provision for synods; arranged for the administration of local congregations and outlined requirements for admission into the denomination’s ministry.

Titles Are Guaranteed

Among major changes was a passage guaranteeing each congregation title to its property and specifically denying the “right of reversion to the Presbyterian Church of America, unless the particular church should become extinct.”

Fundamentalist clergymen pointed out that the question of property ownership was a sore point under jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and that the passage should clarify the issue. They insisted that under the old regime congregations were bereft of their “right” to hold title to church buildings and lands.

A discordant note in the closing hours of session came with the revelation of a rift between Dr. J. Gresham Machen, retired moderator, and Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, his associate in forming the church as a protest against Presbyterian modernism.

Renounces Jurisdiction

The split between the two former leaders was learned when commissioners demanded an explanation of Dr. Griffiths’ failure to appear at any meetings of the Assembly. Reached at his home, the former editor of the Presbyterian Guardian, militant fundamentalist paper, admitted that he had sent a letter to the stated clerk of the Philadelphia Presbytery renouncing jurisdiction of that body.

“I have completely severed all connection with the Presbyterian Church of America,” declared Dr. Griffiths, who took a leading part in defending several clergymen ejected by the parent body. “I am an independent minister.”

Except to say that Dr. Griffiths had “performed great service to the church,” Dr. Machen refused comment, while Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., moderator, announced he had no intention of speaking on the matter.

Women’s Proposal Defeated

Adoption of the form of government followed by a report by the constitutional committee, headed by Rev. Ned B. Stonehouse, of Westminster Theological Seminary.

Vigorous opposition to admitting women to the board of trustees of local congregations defeated the committee’s recommendations that “other communicant members of the church may be elected trustees” in addition to elders and deacons. Several ministers who asserted that the change would make women eligible to office, murmured fervent “Thank God’s” when the proposal was defeated.

A charge that the assembly had side-stepped” the issue of pre-millennialism was made by Rev. J. U. Selwyn Toms, of Wenonah, N. J., yesterday afternoon after resolutions expressing the denomination’s attitude on the doctrine had been tabled in the morning. Dr. Toms declared the “covering up of the question will be a source of danger.”

Protest against the church’s refusal to guarantee tolerance of the doctrine was recorded in the minutes by Rev. Milo Jamison, of Los Angeles, Calif. “Nothing short of some such constitutional safeguard,” he declared, “could set at rest rumors that pre-millennialists are not welcome in the Presbyterian Church of America.”

Words to Live By:
It would be remarkable in our own day and time if the PCA, the OPC, or any of the conservative Presbyterian denominations were to merit news coverage by a major newspaper. It seems that only scandal sells. Valiant stands for righteousness and the glory of God are boring in the eyes of the world. Moreover, too few have the courage to take such stands, and so we are seen as unimportant. But by the grace of God, that will change. It is God and God alone who brings true change. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and as His people seek His face, He will yet again turn to favor His Church. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

 

Tags: , , ,

In the last years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, preparations were underway on several fronts, laying the groundwork for a new denomination. Providentially, two critical legal cases in the 1960’s had established the property rights of congregations. Then by the early 1970’s, churches that were leaving the PCUS knew that they could not properly leave to independency. Thus the need for a Presbytery structure led to the formation of Vanguard Presbytery. Vanguard began its existence some fifteen months before the organization of the PCA, and continued to serve as a Presbytery of the denomination until 1977, when its churches were received into more geographically proximate PCA Presbyteries.

The PCA’s First Presbytery, Before There Was a PCA.

On September 7, 1972, 16 persons representing 10 churches which had already withdrawn or were planning to sever their connection with the Presbyterian Church U.S. met at Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

In a unanimous vote they adopted this resolution:
WHEREAS, We, the undersigned have met together to study the situation in the Church of Jesus Christ, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of Doctrine declared in the Scriptures, and
WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1934 edition) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED,

1. That we the undersigned do covenant together to form an Association to be known as VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, INC., a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed Churches uniting, and
2. That this Association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it was proclaimed in the Southern Presbyterian Church prior to the year 1938.

Read at the meeting was a letter which the Rev. Arnie Maves, a Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship evangelist, wrote to the Rev. Todd Allen who convened the meeting:

” … This is to confirm our telephone conversation on Monday evening concerning the upcoming meeting in Savannah, Georgia. I want to say on paper what I said on the phone, that I stand ready and willing to become a part of the Vanguard Presbytery which hopefully will be formed very soon. I want to be counted as one of the charter members of that Presbytery as soon as it is officially formed.

“I am presently a member of Cherokee Presbytery of the P.C.U.S. and have never changed in my beliefs as first stated some years ago upon my ordination. I still believe the Bible to be the Word of God written, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and I still adhere to the Westminster Confession with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms as the best interpretation of the Scriptures that I know.

“I feel that my denomination has changed and left me. I have not changed my views … nor my vows. Therefore, I can no longer hold to nor adhere to what the PCUS is now doing. I am in disagreement with them in most points … although I love them and do pray for them.

“Therefore, as you gentlemen come to do an historic work … I simply want to say, I am with you … and I want to become a part of this continuing Presbyterian work called Vanguard Presbytery. I don’t know who chose that name . . . but it’s a good one. Praise the Lord.”

Vanguard Presbytery was formally organized at a meeting held in Tabb Street Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Va., on November 14, 1972. It was reported that their plan was to adopt the Confession of Faith and Book of Church Order which were in effect in 1933 (before the liberals started tampering with them) except for one very significant change, namely that the Book of Church Order would provide explicitly that the local congregation has sole ownership and control of its own property.

The Rev. Todd Allen, who was elected Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery, also served on the Steering Committee for the Continuing Church. Chester B. Hall whose church, First Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Ky., had renounced the jurisdiction of Louisville-Union Presbytery earlier that same year, was elected Clerk and Treasurer.

Words to Live By:
More than anything else, unbelief was the reason these churches left their old denomination. The unbelief of modernism was not necessarily a problem in the pews, but among the prevailing leadership of the old denomination, it was a different story. The crux of the problem was, as the patriarch Abraham said, “There is no fear of God in this place.” (Gen. 20:11). And more than anything else, these churches left to protect and preserve their ability to faithfully preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their purpose was to remain, as the long-standing motto says, Loyal to the Scriptures; True to the Reformed Faith; Obedient to the Great Commission.

Trivia Question: Who did come up with that name for the Presbytery?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Day Two of their Second General Assembly The following materials are drawn from the scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Initially organized as the Presbyterian Church of America, the denomination we now know as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met in its second General Assembly, beginning on Thursday, November 12 and adjourned on Saturday, November 14, 1936. As the retiring moderator of the first Assembly, the Rev. J. Gresham Machen had opened the proceedings with a sermon on 2 Cor. 5:14-15, and the assembled delegates then celebrated the Lord’s Supper. The Rev. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and the Rev. J. Burton Thwing were nominated for Moderator of the Second General Assembly, and Rev. Buswell was elected to serve, the Rev. Cornelius Van Til and the Rev. Carl McIntire escorting Rev. Buswell to the platform. The election of Rev. Buswell as Moderator was, for one, seen as a way to minimize the possibility of friction over the issue of pre-millennialism, Buswell himself being a pre-millennialist. Ultimately that gambit did not succeed, and the young denomination suffered a split in 1938, with the formation of the overtly pre-millennial Bible Presbyterian Synod.

PCofA_2dGA_Buswell Caption for the news clipping photo at right: At the left is Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., president of Wheaton College, who was elected at the opening business session of the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America here yesterday. he succeeds Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Philadelphia, show at the right, who was one of the leaders in the revolt of Fundamentalists from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The revolt let to the formation of the new church at the first General Assembly, June 11.

PCofA_2dGA_05NEW CHURCH ACTS FOR POPULAR RULE

Presbyterian of America Goes on Record Against Interlocking Committees.

OPPOSE OFFICIAL CLIQUE

Resolutions placing the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America on record as against “interlocking committees and putting power into the hands of a few men” were adopted today. [i.e., Friday, Nov. 13th]

This action was taken at sessions in the Manufacturers and Bankers’ Club, Broad and Walnut Streets. The Rev. Martin Luther Thomas, of California, in proposing the resolution said such precautions would prevent the church being controlled by a few men at headquarters and guard against “maladministration.”

Members of the new denomination before its formation constantly asserted that the parent Church, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., was controlled by an official clique.

Several commissioners opposed the resolution on the ground that it would create suspicion, but Mr. Thomas said: “It is better to avoid the abuse of power int he beginning than have trouble stemming it later.”

The resolutions were carried by a large majority.

Another resolution calling for a staggering of appointments to committees so as to prevent self-perpetuation of the governing heads, was defeated, when it was pointed out that the organizers of the new church should be given a free hand to carry out their work without interruption.

Wording of the actual resolution:  “In order to avoid interlocking committees, it is the desire of this General Assembly that no man be allowed to serve at the same time on more than one standing committee, board, or agency, except where an emergency exists.” [Minutes, pp. 12]

Words to Live By:
I recall that at a certain meeting of my presbytery, a candidate for the ministry was asked what he liked about the Presbyterian Church in America. With this candidate having grown up in an independent church fellowship, his reply shocked all of us elders at its first sound when he replied, “our Book of Church Order!” What we groaned at, with its very specific ways of doing things, was the very thing he rejoiced in, finding a supply of godly guidelines with which to “do church.” Elder representatives at the above described General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America wanted to profit from the past, especially even from the negative examples of those liberal churchmen and apostate churches where biblical input had been strangled in past PCUSA church assemblies. So important rules were added to the constitution of their newly formed church. Once adopted into practice, the more important outreach of the church could be accomplished with God’s blessing.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

An Assembly of Great Blessings

With over four hundred attendees, the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America met in the large auditorium of the Manufacturers’ and Bankers’ Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning on Thursday, November 12, 1936.  Present were 64 teaching elders and 26 ruling elders, with numerous guests. [It was in 1938 that the Presbyterian Church of America changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.]

PCofA_2ndGAThe first Moderator of the new denomination, J. Gresham Machen, preached from 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.  The text reads, “for the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”  Speaking on the love of Christ being a constraining force, Dr. Machen, in a message not soon forgotten by those who heard him, stated that Christians should not live to themselves but live unto Christ.

Taking the position of Moderator was the Rev. J. Oliver Buswell, D.D., president of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.  He was to moderate the meeting in good fashion as a moderator should do, without fear of discipline or the ridicule of biblical positions.

This General Assembly adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as they stood before the 1903 additions enacted by the P.C.U.S.A. general assemblies.  Thus the Presbyterian Church of America put itself on record as being a truly Reformed church.

Various reports came on this day and over the next two days, from committees set up by the previous Assembly in June of 1936. These included Home Missions and Church Extension, with report of 13 home missionaries already at work in the field.  Present among them was one home missionary to South Dakota, the Rev. David K. Myers, this writer’s father. The Committee on Foreign Missions also reported, encouraging support for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. However, it also spoke about the establishment of an official  Board  of  Foreign  Missions  from the denomination at the next General Assembly.

Westminster Seminary was recommended to the pastors and congregations as worthy of their prayers and financial support. Held over to the next General Assembly was the adoption of a Form of Government, Book of Discipline, and Directory for Worship. The assembly was dissolved on Saturday evening, November 14, 1936

Words to live by:  This writer can read the minutes of the Second General Assembly, as he has a copy of them before him, but the spirit of the meeting was only to be enjoyed by those who were actually present.  It must have been a joyous meeting to realize that since just that previous June of 1936, the number of ministers had increased from 35 pastors to 107 ministers in the Presbyterian Church of America.  God was doing a great work in this spiritual successor to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Take time to look at your church choice, and if it is an Evangelical and Reformed Church, rejoice in what is happening in it as a sign of God’s blessings.  Indeed, support it with your tithes and offerings.  It probably is not perfect.  No church this side of glory is perfect. But if it is committed to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission, then give thanks for it, pray for it, and support it.

Also on this day, November 12, in 1886,
Archibald Alexander Hodge died in Princeton, New Jersey.

Tags: , , , ,

Covenanters Begin with Colorful Ceremony

Following the first schism of the Presbyterian Church in 1741, Rev. Alexander Craighead in 1742 argued that the New Side Presbyterian branch should renew the historic Scottish National Covenant of 1581 and also the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, thus committing themselves to be in opposition to the British government. When the New Side Presbytery responded with opposition to the proposed covenant, and stated that Craighead’s views were full “of treason, sedition, and distraction,” Craighead and his congregation, the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, withdrew  from the New Side Presbyterians on November 11, 1743.  They then renewed these covenants themselves with four swords pointing to the four winds.

In their declaration, they professed their adherence to the true Reformed Presbyterian religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as it is contained in the Word of God and summed up in the Westminster Standards, along with the book of church order, which included the directory of worship and the covenants of the mother church.

Further protestations were made against the Adopting Act of 1729, which gave allowance to the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church in America to declare exceptions to the subordinate standards of the church. They charged that the present adoption act was “contrary to the true Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Christ.:

Last, they protested against the rulers of England as  having any legal right to rule over the colonies. The leaders of the New Side Presbyterians were not ready to do that in 1743, but a bare three decades later, that is exactly what American Presbyterians did, when they supported the Revolution.

The significance of the drawn swords was to remember the heritage of their Covenanter forefathers, who adhered to a true Reformation.  The swords were a pledge to defend their lives and their religion rather than relinquish it.  They wanted to stand body and soul with their spiritual forefathers in this matter.

> Gravesite of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, at the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Words to live by:   One of the reasons why this historical devotional is being published by the PCA Historical Center is that Presbyterians in our pews, and even some behind our pulpits, often do not know the history of our Church. And in not knowing it, they can fail to appreciate the valiant stands for righteousness and against wickedness which our forefathers took at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.
Reader, you need to make the PCA Historical Center’s pages a “favorite” on your computer, and check with it frequently to read the resources and frequent new additions there. You might also send some financial help to the Historical Center regularly, and have your church put the Center in their annual benevolences. If we forget the past, we will continue to make mistakes in our church faith and life in the present and future.

27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 
28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
30 experiencing the sameconflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
—(Philippians 1:27-30, NASB)

Tags: , , , , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: