July 2014

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One biographical entry lists under John Livingstone’s name that of “revivalist preacher.” And there is no doubt, as John Howie put it in The Scots Worthies, that there has been none whose labors in the Gospel have been more remarkably blessed with the outpouring of the Spirit in conversion work than John Livingstone, at least, since the Reformation commenced in Scotland. Who was this man of God?

Born on this day, July 21, 1603 at Monyabroch/Monieburgh in Scotland to a home filled with piety and prayer, his father William was a minister. Later on, young John became a student of Robert Blair at Glasgow University (see post for July 10). The subject of our post today became the assistant minister in Torphichen between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but in 1621 was “silenced” for his Presbyterian views. Moving to north Ireland, or Ulster, he became known as a young man and minister at what has become known as the Kirk O’Shotts Revival. The circumstances of his presence are remarkable for the Spirit’s leading.

John Livinstone had been a domestic chaplain to the Countess of Wigton, Sarah Maxwell. Upon hearing of plans for a Communion observance at Kirk O’Shotts, he went to attend this sacrament. With a huge crowd of both ministers and members in attendance, as W.M. Hetherington put it in his “History of the Church of Scotland, the Communion Sabbath “had been marked with much solemnity of manner and great apparent depth and sincerity of devotional feeling.” (p. 136) When the Monday came, the large crowd had been reluctant to depart without another religious service of thanksgiving to God for His redeeming love. So they begged for another worship service, but the pastor of the church was ill and couldn’t comply with their wishes. So young twenty-seven year old John Livingstone was prevailed upon to take his place.

The latter was so overwhelmed with his insufficiency of spiritual gifts however, that he ran away into the country side. Some accounts state that someone went after him to encourage him to return. Others state that he was taken by a “strong constraining impulse” to return. Which ever it was, he did return and began to preach to the huge multitude. It then began to rain, but for the next hour, the young minister preached the Word in a driving rain storm, outside! Listen to William Hetherington describe it. He said the crowd “was affected with a deep unusual awe, melting their hearts and subduing their minds, stripping off inveterate prejudices, awakening the indifferent, producing conviction in the hardened, bowing down the stubborn, and imparting to many an enlightened Christian, a large increase of grace and spirituality.” (p. 136)

This author cannot help but remark, “Oh for such an awakening and revival in our United States now” as took place on that day back in Ulster! It was said that some 500 people could date either their conversion or a confirmation of their case from that date and place. Livingstone went on to continue to preach the Word of grace in Ulster, with another experience of the Spirit’s falling two or three years after this occasion, when a thousand were brought to Christ.

We will return to his life and times as he was one of four ministers who endeavored to sail to America on the “Eagle Wing” vessel, but had to turn back due to storms. Livingstone, now married, ministered in both Scotland and Ulster, and with increasing persecution of Presbyterians in the lands, moved at last to Holland, where he died on August 9, 1672.

Words to Live By:
 There is perhaps no greater pastoral advice and counsel—Rev. Livingstone wrote the following words to one of his former churches:

“In all things, and above all things, let the Word of God be your only rule, Christ Jesus your only hope, His Spirit your own guide, and His glory your only end.” This could well be written on the inside leaf of your Bible as a reminder, reader, but far better for it to be written upon your heart and life as your belief and behavior.”

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soltau_TStanleyYesterday we looked at the life and ministry of Dr. T. Stanley Soltau, missionary to Korea, pastor, and director of World Presbyterian Missions. Today we turn to Dr. Soltau’s little booklet, Our Sufficiency, for our Sunday sermon.

“OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD”

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God.” — 2 Corinthians 3:5

In this day of want and poverty in so many parts of the world, when even the bare necessities of life are hardly sufficient to meet the needs of millions, and when even in this favored land we have been warned of certain restrictions which we must face in order that in other countries starvation may be avoided; in days like this it is always encouraging to think of one source of sufficiency which never fails and never can fail, and a source which is always accessible.

The Apostle Paul in writing to his friends in the great city of Corinth, says, “Our Sufficiency is of God.” He is writing to Christians who were living in a city whose name was a synonym for vice and immorality, it was also a city famous for its commerce and culture; and when great wealth, and great education and great wickedness go hand in hand, it always makes things difficult for a real believer in Christ Jesus. In spite of that discouraging background however, Paul writes to his friends there telling them that they are an epistle or a letter to Christ, written by the Holy Spirit on their hearts; that is, their lives were so different from what they had been before knowing Christ, and so different from the lives of others, that it was clear to all that the Holy Spirit had made Christ Jesus not only real to them but real through them to others. The Apostle then goes on to say that he has this confidence that the testimony of their lives will continue because God is working in them just as He has worked in Paul himself, and will prove His sufficiency by making them competent in exactly the same way in which He made Paul, and those with him, competent for the work to which He has called them.

The word “Sufficiency” in the Greek includes the idea of being made competent, competent for whatever situation may arise or for whatever task which God may call upon you to perform.

Any man who possesses this conviction has a freedom from anxiety and a quiet peace and assurance in these days of uncertainty and difficulty that will carry him through to victory. I wonder if you can say “My Sufficiency is of God . . . He has made me competent, by the working of His Holy Spirit in me, for every emergency and every responsibility that I shall meet this day.” Can you say it and really mean it? If you can, then thank God for it and begin from this minute to practice it and to experience His sufficiency in your life. If you cannot say so, then ask yourself why.

He has made it possible for all if they will only meet His conditions, which are:

1. A humble and sincere confession of their own sins and helplessness.

2. A grateful acceptance of the Sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on behalf of their sins, and then a joyful submitting of themselves, body, soul and spirit to Him; and a conscientious seeking to put Him first in all things, and a looking to Him for daily guidance and enabling power in all the decisions and activities of their lives.

As soon as that is done, His Spirit begins His gracious ministry in their hearts in order to make them competent and equipped to live victorious and powerful lives to His honour and glory.

It is a very helpful thing at the beginning of each day to remember this, and in faith to claim the equipment from the Lord, which He sees that we will NEED to meet the various temptations and testings which lie ahead of us; and then to start out the days work in assurance that He had prepared us for it. Let us do so now!

Our God and Father, as we bow in Thy presence at the beginning of this day, we ask Thee to equip us with all that we shall need to live for Thy honour and glory, and to please Thee in all things. In the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

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A Distinguished Lineage

“If we as God’s people were only more willing to wait for the Lord, how infinitely great would be the things that He in His graciousness would be delighted to do for us and in us and through us to the blessing of others and to the glory of His Name.” — Dr. T. Stanley Soltau.

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Through a long, useful life, Theodore Stanley Soltau, D.D. served faithfully and well the Lord he loved.

Theodore Stanley Soltau was born in 1890, of missionary parents in Tasmania, and throughout his life was himself a missionary in every sense of the word. The Soltau family had  originally been Plymouth Brethren.  In fact, Stanley’s grandfather, Henry William Soltau, was born in Plymouth, in 1805. Henry authored works which remain in print to this day: The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle and The Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the Offerings.

Stanley received his early schooling in England, but when Stanley’s parents returned from the mission field to the United States in 1904, he remained stateside to obtain his undergraduate training in Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His theological work was done at Princeton Seminary under men whose names are familiar to all in our church.

Shortly after graduation from seminary Dr. Soltau began a quarter of a century of profitable missionary endeavor in Korea. During these years he served under the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., working in pioneer missionary works as well as in the administrative work of the mission in that land. It was while Dr. Soltau was in Korea that the church there suffered much persecution for its faith from the Japanese. Dr. Soltau stood firmly with the Church in resisting the attempts of the government to interfere with its service for the Lord.

Forced, through illness, to return from the foreign field in the late 1930′s, he entered on a new phase of his service. He was pastor in Evanston until 1942 when he was called by the First Evangelical Church of Memphis, Tennessee.

The blessing of the Lord was upon his ministry in Memphis and the church grew in number and service. Dr. Soltau’s life-long interest in missions was reflected in the interest of First Evangelical Church in supporting missions around the world.

After twenty-six years of an active and valuable pastorate, Dr. Soltau resigned in June of 1968. In his “retirement” he was, if anything, more active in his ministry for people and for missions. He traveled extensively in the U.S. and on missionary trips to South America and around the world.

In the early 1950′s, Dr. Soltau united with the then Bible Presbyterian Church. His help in the formation of World Presbyterian Missions was great and he served until 1971 as the president of this missions board. He was for a time on the board of the North Africa Missions agency, as well as that of the Greater Europe Mission and also Columbia Bible College.

T. Stanley Soltau, Christian gentleman, scholar, missionary, statesman, pastor, in the midst of an active life, at the age of 82, stepped into the presence of the Lord on the afternoon of July 19, 1972. “Blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord.”

The Lord blessed Dr. Soltau and his wife with children who grew to place their trust in Christ. His daughter Eleanor served in Jordan as a medical doctor; daughter Mary worked with a ministry for the handicapped; George was engaged full-time with prison ministry and Addison served as a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and currently serves as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, Florida.

Words to Live By (once more, for effect):
“If we as God’s people were only more willing to wait for the Lord, how infinitely great would be the things that He in His graciousness would be delighted to do for us and in us and through us to the blessing of others and to the glory of His Name.”

 

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There is much that can be learned from funeral sermons for great men, particularly when delivered by great men. Of course, all men are sinners, and none are great in or of themselves. They are made great by their service to a far, far greater Lord and Master, and it is for their service that we value their lives, as examples of those who gave all glory and praise to the one triune God. Here, the Rev. Charles Hodge delivers the funeral sermon for his long-time friend, the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a distinguished 19th-century Presbyterian. 

A Fond Tribute for a Dear Brother in Christ.

FUNERAL SERMON
BY THE REV. CHARLES HODGE, D.D.

J.J. JanewayFRIENDS AND BRETHREN:—We have assembled to pay our last tribute of respect to a venerable servant of God. After a life devoted with singular simplicity of purpose to the service of his Master, he descends to the grave with a reputation without a blot, followed by the benedictions of hundreds, and by the respectful affection of thousands. A long, prosperous, happy and useful life, has been crowned with a truly Christian death. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.”

Rev. Jacob J. Janeway was born in the city of New York, Nov. 1774. He pursued his academical studies in Columbia College, and graduated with distinguished honour in that institution. His theological education was conducted under the late venerable Dr. Livingston, so long the ornament of the Dutch Church in America. He was ordained in 1799, to the sacred ministry, and installed as an associate pastor with the Rev. Ashbel Green, D.D., over the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In 1818, he was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly, and for many years acted first as Chairman of the Committee of Missions, and afterwards as President of the Board of Missions, an office which he filled at the time of his death. In 1813, he was elected a Director of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, an institution in the origin of which he took an active part, and continued through life one of its most faithful and important friends. He was elected Vice-President of the Board of Directors, and after the death of Dr. Green, was made President of the Board. He was elected a Trustee of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton, in 1813, and at different times served in that capacity thirty-three years. He continued to serve as Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia until 1828, when he was chosen by the General Assembly to fill the Chair of Didactic Theology in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. After resigning that position he was called to the Pastoral office of the First Dutch Reformed Church in this city, in 1830, and in 1833 was made Vice-President of Rutgers College. After his resignation of that office, he devoted his time to the general service of the Church, labouring assiduously in the Boards of Foreign and Domestic Missions, and in the oversight of our Theological and Collegiate Institutions, and in the use of his pen as long as his strength lasted. The numerous offices to which he was elected by the choice of his brethren, and his long continuance in those offices, are proofs of the high estimation in which he was held. These were chaplets placed on his brow by those who knew him best, and they were sustained there by the reverent hand of affection, even after he had become, from the infirmities of age, too feeble to bear their weight. Well may his children and friends contemplate such a life as this with tender reverence, and with sincere gratitude to God. As they gather round his tomb, the voice which each hears in his own heart, Well done good and faithful servant, is only the feeble echo of that plaudit with which his purified spirit has been already introduced into the joys of the Lord.

The extensive and long continued influence exercised by our venerated father, the numerous and important offices which he filled, are sufficient evidence of the estimate placed on his abilities and learning by those with whom he acted. He was eminently a wise man. A man whose judgments were clear and decided, and whose advice always carried with it peculiar weight. His remarkable placidity of temper, his amiable and courteous manners, his uniform regard for the feelings of others, carried him even through the severest conflicts without a scar. So far as we know, he never gave offence or made an enemy. His integrity was unimpeachable. He was truthful, frank, and honest. Always open in the expression of his convictions, no man was ever in doubt where he stood, or which side he occupied on any question of doctrine or policy. He was utterly incapable of chicanery or manoeuvring. He never attempted to attain his objects by any underhand measures. The end and the means were always openly announced and publicly avowed. As a preacher, Dr. Janeway was instructive, earnest, and faithful. As a pastor, he was indefatigable in his attention to the young, the sick, the afflicted and the inquiring. His zeal for sound doctrine was one of the most prominent traits of his character, and had much to do in determining the whole course of his life. His zeal was not unenlightened bigotry, but arose from the clear perception of the importance of truth to holiness. He was satisfied that the salvation of men and the glory of God were dependent on the preservation of the gospel in its purity. He was therefore always on the alert, always among the foremost in opposing every form of error. For this fidelity he is to be had in grateful remembrance. A more consistent man is not to be found in our long-catalogue of ministers. Consistent not only in the sense of being constant in his opinions, but in the correspondence of his deportment with his professions and with his social position and official station. There was nothing worldly in his spirit, or ostentatious in his mode of living. He was an exemplary Christian gentleman. God preserved him from those cancers of the soul, covetousness and avarice, which often eat out the life even of men professing godliness. He was a large and generous giver. It is believed that he regularly gave away the one-fifth of his income. All our benevolent operations can bear witness to the liberality and constancy of his benefactions. All that we have said, however, might be true; our revered father might have been thus amiable and upright as a man, thus consistent and irreproachable in his life, thus zealous for the truth, and thus generous in his benefactions, and yet come far short of what he really was. That which was the groundwork of his character, that which elevated his virtues into graces, was his deep, unaffected piety, not the religion of nature, not merely devout feelings excited by a consideration of the greatness and goodness of God, which so many mistake for Christian experience, but that love of God which flows from the apprehension of his glory in the person of his Son, and from the assurance of his love as manifested in Christ to the guilty and the polluted. Dr. Janeway was not only a religious man, but a Christian, a penitent believer in Christ, living in humble fellowship with God and with his Son our Saviour; living therefore not for himself but for Him who died for him and rose again.

He fought a good fight, he kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give him at that day. Christian brethren, how can we better employ the few moments which we are permitted to spend around the coffin of this faithful soldier of Christ, than in meditating on the nature and reward of that conflict which he so long sustained, and which, by the grace of God, he brought to so joyful an issue ?

To read the remainder of Dr. Hodge’s funeral sermon, click here.

Words to Live By:
Christians love the gift of life as received from the Lord, yet we welcome the approach of death as that which has been conquered by an all-victorious Savior. To die in Christ is to enter into His presence. To die apart from Him is to enter into an endless misery.

“By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 14, paragraph 2. [emphasis added]

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Things For All Men To Do.

green_beriahThe following few paragraphs, below, form the opening portion of a discourse by Beriah Green, Jr. [1795-1874]. A graduate of Middlebury College, in Vermont, Green studied for the ministry at Andover Seminary. After a dozen years as professor at Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio, Green became the president of the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, a manual labor college founded in 1829 by Presbyterians. Rev. Green accepted that post on condition that he could advocate for the immediate end of slavery and could also accept African Americans as students at the school. A number of prominent black leaders, men such as Henry Highland Garnet, were educated at Oneida during Green’s tenure.

In the following address, delivered on a Sunday evening, July 17, 1836, in the Presbyterian church at Whitesboro, New York, Rev. Green delivered a powerful call to end the institution of slavery, under the title of “Things for Northern Men to Do.” Since that time, the intervening years have seen a great deal of turmoil and change in our nation. Yet Green’s message from the text of Jeremiah 7 remains disturbingly appropriate even today. Where he railed against racial slavery, we now see abortion, pornography, sexual slavery, and all manner of addictions running rampant across our nation. “Crimes of all sorts and sizes we are in the habit of committing.” The sins of a former era and those of our own time are linked by a common thread, one which treats men and women made in the image of God as mere objects to satisfy our lusts. What can we as Christians do? Are we powerless?

Rev. Green offers his understanding of the Scriptural imperative:—

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. — Jeremiah 7:3-7, KJV.

“The general sentiment among the Hebrews, with which Jeremiah had almost alone to content, is clearly indicated by a shocking assertion, which they were wont to throw into the face of Jeremiah. Crimes of all sorts and sizes they were in the habit of committing; and then, reeking with corruption and red with blood, of coming and standing before God in His temple, to insult Him with the declaration, that they “were delivered to do all such abominations.” Things had taken such a shape and posture, that they could do no better than to violate the most sacred relations, and break the strongest ties which bound them to heaven and earth. They were connected with a system of abominations which they could not dissolve, and from which they could not break away. With the different parts of this system, the fibres of society had been intertwisted. It was supported by confirmed usages and venerated institutions. What hazards must they not encounter, what risks must they not run, in opposing the sentiment which generally prevailed around them! They thought it better to go with the multitude to do evil, than incur popular odium in resisting it. They could not keep their character and retain their influence, without taking a share in popular iniquity. Their wickedness was a matter of necessity. Still they could not refuse to see that it was driving their country to fearful extremities. Ruin stared them in the face. What could they do? On the one hand, driven by such strong necessities to sin; and on the other, exposed to such exterminating judgments for their iniquities!

“Just here the prophet met them. The difficulties in which they were involved, and the dangers to which they were exposed, they owed to themselves. And if they stoutly persevered in the crooked ways they had so rashly trodden, they were undone. Nothing would then save them from the dishonored graves, which their own hands had been so long employed in digging. Yet they need not perish. If they would avoid presumption, they might escape despair. They might not charge the blame of their iniquities on God. They might not allege, that “they were delivered to do the abominations” they were guilty of. So long as they did so, their repentance and salvation were impossible. The work, which demanded their attention, lay directly before them. This done, and all their perplexities, and difficulties, and embarrassments would instantly vanish. This done, destruction, with its open jaws now ready to devour them, would at once flee away. This done, and benignant heaven would pour upon them the choicest, most enduring benefits. . . .”

To read the remainder of Rev. Green’s discourse, click here.

Words to Live By:
Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful, even to the bringing down of kingdoms and powers raised against it. May the Lord’s people first repent of their sins, and then, humbled, may we come before the throne of grace night and day, seeking the Lord’s mercy and grace upon a people rushing headlong into destruction.

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Some things just need to be repeated. I had another post ready for today, but felt this one to be more important.

A Christian of Exceptional Personality and Evangelistic Appeal

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Charles Woodbridge, born January 24, 1902, was described by his fellow Reformed Christians as being no ordinary General Secretary. From his heritage as the fifteenth generation minister of his family line, dating back to 1493, from his own father who had been a missionary in China, from the fact that he married the daughter of a missionary, Charles Woodbridge would be known as “a man of exceptional personality and evangelistic appeal.” His spiritual gifts made him the perfect architect of a new mission strategy in reaching the world for Christ.

Yet the main line denomination of which he was a part, did not take kindly to this new mission upstart. Within a year, steps were taken to force him to abandon this new missions work, and when he chose not to follow their directives, Charles Woodbridge was censured by the church. He left in 1937 to become a pastor of the First Presbyterian church in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he labored until 1945.

Eventually, he went on to serve as a theological seminary professor and also as an author, always seeking to warn Christians of the danger of compromising the Word of God. He died not all that many years ago, on 16 July 1995, at the age of 93.

woodbridge-ibpfmAs the General Secretary of the Independent Board, Rev. Woodbridge composed, on behalf of the Independent Board, a “Statement as to Its Organization and Program.” The text that follows is a portion of that Statement:—

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions is an agency established for the quickening of missionary zeal and the promotion of truly Biblical and truly Presbyterian foreign missions throughout the world.

It is independent in that it is not responsible, as an organiza­tion, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., or to any other ecclesiastical body.

*      *     *     *

Why Was the Independent Board Established?

Because a great many loyal Presbyterians have lost faith in the official Board of the largest of the Presbyterian churches, which is the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. They cannot in good conscience support an organization which they regard as disloyal to the Word of God; but they are more eager than ever, in view of the growing apostasy throughout the world, to further the cause of Biblical foreign missions to the uttermost ends of the earth.

Why have so many persons lost confidence in the official Board? Because in the last few years the Board, in its official actions, has been compromising with error in a most dis­tressing way.

rethinkingWhen the Laymen’s Appraisal Commission’s Report was issued last year, an attack against the very heart of the Chris­tian message, the Board, instead of swiftly, directly, and uncom­promisingly repudiating the Report, answered it in terms which were most vague and unsatisfactory.

When Pearl Buck offered her resignation to the PCUSA Board of Missions, it was accepted by the Board “with regret,” commending her work in China.

[At right, if you can’t make out the dust-jacket blurb by Pearl Buck, it says, in part, “… I think this is the only book I have ever read that seems literally true in its every observation and right in its every conclusion…” — The effrontery of Mrs. Buck’s statement is impossible to miss. By itself it is proof that the concerns of orthodox Christians were not misplaced.]

Some of the Modernist institutions in China which the Board helps to support are: the “Church of Christ in China”, con­trolled by Modernists, in opposition to which a large group of conservative Christians organized the Bible Union of China; the National Christian Council of China, in whose Bulletin one may read extracts which make the true Christian shudder — for example, in one of its articles, Sun Yat Sen, Lenin and Jesus Christ are treated as figures of comparable grandeur; the Chris­tian Literature Society of China, where Modernist books are often printed; Yencheng University, a hotbed of “liberal” thought; these institutions, all destructive of Biblical Christian­ity, the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. helps to maintain.

At the meeting of the General Assembly in May, 1933, an attempt was made to remedy the situation through ecclesiastical action.

An Overture was presented to the Assembly which, if passed, would have been a real step toward the purification of the Board of Foreign Missions. A document of 110 pages was written in support of the Overture. This document is entitled “Modernism and the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.” by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, and may be had upon request to the office of the General Secretary. In a clear, logical way the author of this pamphlet marshalled his facts. He proved that the Board of Foreign Missions had been tempor­ising in its attitude toward Modernism.

Instead of attempting to answer this document—and there was no satisfactory answer other than the entire reformation of the Board—the Board evaded the issue.

Instead of replying to the specific accusations which were levelled in black and white against its policies—accusations which to this day have never been disproved—The Board took refuge behind the career, character and personality of one of its leading secretaries, rallied the Assembly to the defense of a man, and, in the popular enthusiasm which was evoked, the Overture was lost.

—∞—

Thus some of the events which led up to the formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Dr. Woodbridge served as General Secretary of the IBPFM and also as the editor of the Independent Board Bulletin, from March 1935-June 1937. Some of his more important publications through the remainder of his life included the following:
1935 – “The Social Gospel: A Review of the Current Mission Study Text Books Recommended for Adults by the Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.,” Christianity Today 5.9 (February 1935): 209-211.
1937 – “Why I Have Resigned as General Secretary of the Independent Board,”The Presbyterian Guardian 4.5 (12 June 1937): 69-71. Available here.
1945
 – The Chronicle of Salimbene of Parma: A Thirteenth Century Christian Synthesis. Durham, NC: Duke University, Ph.D. dissertation, 305 p.

1947 – Standing on the Promises: Rich Truths from the Book of Acts.
1953 – A Handbook of Christian Truth, co-authored with Harold Lindsell.
1953 – Romans: The Epistle of Grace.
1962 – Bible Prophecy.
1969 – The New Evangelicalism.

Image sources:
• News clipping [publisher not known] from the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, Scrapbook no. 1, page 34.
 Cover of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions: A Statement As to its Organization and Program, by Charles J. Woodbridge. (1934)
• Dust-jacket of Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry After One Hundred Years. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1932.

 

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Time to Move for a New Church

The evidence was already in, in fact, it was well in.  All of the efforts of the conservatives in the Southern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church U.S.) had failed to stop the tide of liberalism in that once great church.  So after the last General Assembly in 1971, something had to be done.

Gathering together in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 15, 1971, a group of conservative Presbyterians met to discuss the situation.  Realizing that some key elders were not present, they met two weeks later on July 30th at the Airport Hilton in Atlanta, Georgia. This was a meeting which was filled with talk to the heavenly Father as well as to those of like precious faith. They met all together and then in small groups.

By the morning of the next day, some statements were presented to the group.  They were as follows:  “A plan for the continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to Scripture and the Reformed faith: 1. To create a climate of opinion favorable to the continuation of conservative presbyteries and churches loyal to Scripture and the Reformed Faith, by promoting as strong an image as possible of such loyalty through actions taken by synods, presbyteries, and congregations. 2. To identify presbyteries and congregations willing to take such a stand.  And 3. To accept the inevitability of division in the PCUS and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to Scripture and the Westminster Standards.

This intent was breathed in prayer in, in the discussion towards it, and breathed out in prayer at the conclusion of it.  Men who had been through the battle to return the PCUS to the faith of the fathers wept at the very prospect of the future.  And when the vote came in favor of the three points, there were no high fives, or shouts of victory, but rather silence, as one of the men there said, a heavy silence of profound sadness.  They were not merely leaving the southern church.  The southern church had left them and their ordained convictions for a mess of liberal pottage, as Cain had done much earlier in his life.

A timetable was then worked out followed by the organization of a Steering Committee.  The plans were set in motion for a Continuing Church, which in time was named the Presbyterian Church in America.

Words to Live By: 
Thank God for men and women with a firm conviction of the historic Christian faith.  Praise God for Christian leaders who refused to compromise the truth of the gospel for a mixture of theological error.  We need men and women like these in every age, for the Christian church to march on and be the appointed means to bring the gospel to every creature.  Be a part of your local church if it is holding faithfully to the faith once delivered unto the saints.

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websterRichard02Biographer of the Mother Church

Richard Webster was born in Albany, New York, on July 14, 1811, the youngest son of Charles R. And Cynthia (Steele) Webster. He died at Mauch Chunk [now Jim Thorpe], Pennsylvania, on Thursday morning, June 19, 1856, just twenty-five days short of his forty-fifth birthday. A graduate of Union College (1829) and Princeton Theological Seminary (1834), he initially sought service as a missionary under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, but was providentially hindered. Turning to other avenues, he was designated a home missionary by the Presbytery of Albany, and was soon engaged in ministering to those living in and around Easton, Pennsylvania. After a time, he expanded his field of labor northwest of Easton along the Lehigh River, to the region of Mauch Chunk, where coal mining was recently underway. By 1836, a church had been established there, and he faithfully gave the rest of his life to his congregation and to the people of Mauch Chunk.

But Rev. Webster was not simply a small-town pastor of average gifts and ability. His skills and situation combined to direct his attention to the history of the Church. Charles Hodge had some years earlier published his Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church (1839). But that effort was limited in scope. Webster’s work was more ambitious, and upon completion, was the first work ever published by the Presbyterian Historical Society.

One former classmate, the Rev. Benjamin J. Wallace, wrote of Rev. Webster:—

“Richard Webster has never been appreciated. That he bore up so bravely, and, on the whole, patiently and meekly,—that he laboured kindly on in an obscure place for a lifetime, with no more restlessness than was betrayed in an occasional satiric hit at some of our famous men,—is a wonder, attributable partly to the nobleness of his nature, and, we must devoutly add, partly to the grace of God, which was given to him in no common measure. It was his misfortune, as men estimate things, to have a body of most frail and nervous organization; he reminded one of Charles Lamb, only that he was sharper, and thus not so genial. He was very deaf, even at the Seminary; and it grew upon him steadily with increasing years. He was very near-sighted, and he grew prematurely old. A man who always appeared to me young, I found spoken of as old,—almost (partly from his connection with ancient historical documents) as an antique. These defects, especially his deafness, interfered materially with his power as a public speaker. He heard none of the ordinary sounds of nature in the fields or woods; he heard nothing of the mixed sounds of a great city; he heard nothing, he once wrote to me, but ‘the human voice raised more loudly than usual.’

“This comparative isolation from society, and physical unfitness for much of the business of life, drove him to history. Passionately devoted to the Presbyterian church, holding our Faith and Order to be the very primitive form and mould of apostolic truth, he could conceive of nothing more noble and venerable than Calvinism and Presbyterianism. Around the church he poured the wealth of his reverence, his imagination, and his affection; and by how much he was restrained from being a great actor in the present, he determined to chronicle what was great in the past. It was impossible to confine so active, so versatile, so eager and so discursive a mind to one small spot; it lay in his nature to expand itself; and, if he could not be an ecclesiastical statesman, his instincts led him next to be an ecclesiastical historian. Yet, after all,—for we would not allow the partiality of friendship, even over his grave, to lead us from the strict truth,—as he would always and under all circumstances have been rather artist than statesman, so he had not so much the large comprehensiveness and far-seeing sagacity of the true historian, as the keen observation, the acute insight, the delight in an event, the homelike feeling, the fondness for anecdote and incident, which make the biographer. And it is no mean thing to be known to after-times, for how long we may not yet say, as the biographer of the Presbyterian church in America.

Words to Live By:
See how the Lord equips each one of His children with gifts and abilities particularly suited to that person’s place in the Church. Many of life’s frustrations arise from our failure to recognize how (and/or when) the Lord might use these gifts for His glory. We all want to be useful, to bear fruit in service to our God. The Lord has given His promise; it is our place to wait on Him.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

—Psalm 37:3-6, KJV.

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“A Christianity without worship, without God, and without Jesus Christ.”

“Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” was the sermon which started the battle over which brand of Christianity should be accepted by the leadership of the Presbyterian Church.  Preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick at the First Presbyterian Church of New York City on May 21, 1922, this Baptist Associate Pastor  pleaded for tolerance of more liberal views of Christianity.  In reality, he affirmed that it was not necessary to believe in the sovereignty of God in history, or the inerrant Bible, or special creation.  The virgin birth could be denied by pastors and those in the pew without having to leave their churches and positions.  The Bible is not to be thought of as being without error and the supreme judge of all controversies of religion. Evolutionary science could be received by the visible church without harm. Negative sanctions should be placed in the past without hurting the gospel.  And ecumenism is the best way to go, as far as the end times are concerned.

This message, with printing financed by John D. Rockefeller, was sent out to 130,000 pastors and leaders. Its title was changed to “The New Knowledge and the Christian Faith.”

Answering the sermon was the Rev. Clarence Macartney of Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 13, 1922 with a sermon entitled “Shall Unbelief Win?”  If all those points raised by Fosdick were valid, then Christianity would be a Christianity of opinions and principles and good purposes leading to a Christianity without worship, a Christianity without God , and a Christianity without Jesus Christ.  Liberalism was progressively making the church secular, according to Clarence Macartney.  This sermon was published and sent to the nation’s religious leaders as well.

These two questions, and their sermons, were the opening salvos in the modernist-fundamentalist battles of the twenties and the thirties in American Presbyterianism.

Shall Unbelief Win?
A reply to Dr. Fosdick, by Clarence Edward Macartney.

“To sin by silence when we should protest
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The Inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare must speak, and speak again,”
To right the wrongs of many.

"Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" by Harry Emerson FosdickThere appeared recently in a number of the religious papers, and has since been distributed in pamphlet form, the copy of a sermon, entitled, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” preached by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church, New York. The sermon has all the lucidity of thought and outline, and all the charm of word grouping which have won for Dr. Fosdick a well-deserved popularity. It is also free from the intolerance and arrogance which sometimes mar the writings of the so-called “liberal” school of theologians, and whose illiberality and churlishness of spirit speak much more loudly than anything else they say.

This sermon by Dr. Fosdick will be read with varying emotions. Those who agree with the position held by Dr. Fosdick will hail it with delight as a sort of declaration of principles and eloquent setting forth of the Fourteen Points of modernistic theology, a manual by which all on that side can march and drill and fight. Persons who are atheological in their thinking, but who always applaud the revolt against what has been held, taught and believed in the Church, will also rejoice in it. But there are not a few others, who do not think of themselves as either “Fundamentalists” or “Modernists,” but as Christians, striving amid the dust and the confused clamor of this life to hold to the Christian faith and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, who will read this sermon with sorrow and pain. The Presbyterians who read it will deeply regret that such an utterance, so hopelessly irreconcilable with the standards of belief required by the Reformed Churches, could be made by the stated occupant of a Presbyterian pulpit, and apparently without any protest or wonder on the part of the Session of the Church, or the Presbytery to which the Church belongs. I have just read a letter from a minister in the West in which the writer expresses the earnest hope that Dr. Fosdick will awaken to the inconsistency of his position and the non-Christianity of his views, and return, like many another wanderer, to the Cross of Christ. In this pious wish I am sure that all right-minded ministers who differ with Dr. Fosdick will join. One of his own school of thought, in conversation with me, declared that Dr. Fosdick must be retained to the Church because of his splendid emphasis on the social side of Christianity. None would deny that emphasis. But why not keep him for a greater service, for an emphasis upon the redemptive side of Christianity, the truth that takes in all else? We may feel that there are few instances of men who have gone as far from historic Christianity as he has gone ever returning to the faith. But what about Romanes? What about Reginald Campbell and his “New” Theology, now long since recanted? The citation of these names gives on hope that Dr. Fosdick too may yet speak accents which will rejoice the hearts of believers instead of causing them anxiety and sorrow.

But a sincere desire for the return of Dr. Fosdick to evangelical faith, and the sense of pain and anxiety which his sermon occasions, must not be permitted to stand in the way of an emphatic and earnest rejoinder on the part of those who hold the opposite views, and who believe that the views held by Dr. Fosdick are subversive of the Christian faith. The greatest need of the Church today is a few men of ability and faith who are not afraid of being called “bigots,” “narrow,” “medieval” in their religious thought. I do not mean to infer that Dr. Fosdick ever so thinks of those who repudiate his views, for he goes out of his way to rebuke those of his side who indulge in this childish pastime. But more and more there is a tendency to brand as illiberal, medieval and narrow any man who differs from the current of popular religious thought, and declares it to be non-Christian in its tendencies. There is a great discussion in the pulpit and out of it as to what the Church is to do or not to do. The state of opinion on this subject is singularly chaotic at present. But with all the diversity of opinion as to the work of the Church, there seems to be a pretty general agreement as to the one thing which the Church is not to do;
Whatever the Church is to do or not to do, it is not to defend the faith; it is not to point out the errors and inconsistencies of those who stand as the interpreters of Christianity. This amazing agreement would have struck the Christian believers of almost any age in Church history, save our own, as a very extraordinary one. The writer of this articles dissents entirely from this popular view, that when a Christian man hears or reads an utterance of Christian teachers and leaders which he believes to be irreconcilable with the Gospel the thing to do is to do nothing. Certainly this is not the course followed by those who are blasting at the Rock of Ages, and consciously or unconsciously, adulterating distinctive and New Testament Christianity with the conclusions and vagaries of this world’s life and thought. I do not believe in letting them hold the field all to themselves. I believe that in this day one of the greatest contributions that a man can make to the success of the Gospel is to contend earnestly and intelligently and in a Christian spirit, but nevertheless, CONTEND, for the faith.

Whatever one’s theological position may be, one cannot but feel glad that Dr. Fosdick has spoken so frankly as he has. He, at least, cannot be charged with the offense of subtly corrupting Christian doctrines by pretending to honor them, while all the time evacuating them of their meaning. The recent book by Dr. Sterrett on “What Is Modernism?” is a good example of the fog and bog of much of the rationalistic movement in the Church. One is puzzled to know just what the man does believe. As an elder in one of our Presbyterian churches said of his own minister: “I really do not know what our minister believes!” He knew it was something strange, something perhaps out of harmony with historic Christianity, but just why or how, he could not tell. But none can charge Dr. Fosdick with such obfuscation. Both rationalistics and evangelicals, therefore, will rejoice that Dr. Fosdick in this sermon leaves no reader or hearer in the least doubt as to what he believes, or disbelieves, about the cardinal doctrines of the Christian religion.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Fosdick uses the name “Fundamentalist.” It is a grand name, and the man who claims it certainly puts the burden of proof on those who differ from him. But in recent years the name has come to be applied to a group, who indeed hold to conservative views, but whose chief emphasis is upon the premillennial reign of Christ on this earth. In this sense we are not interested in the controversy, for we do not believe that any opinion, conviction or expectation as to the time of t he second Epiphany of Christ is a fundamental of the Christian faith. Historic Christianity has been wisely guided here, for no great body of the Christian Church has ever made an opinion about the TIME of Christ’s advent an article of its creed. In any recent controversy between rationalists and evangelicals there has been a tendency on the part of the former to use chiliasm as a sort of smoke-screen and raise the cry of “premillenarian,” whereas they know that the strongest and most influential currents of thought in conservative Protestantism run in an altogether different direction. The Princeton “school” of theology, for example, as summed up in Charles Hodge’s famous eight reasons against premillennialism, has never had any chiliastic leanings whatever. But, as we shall see, Dr. Fosdick not only, and with some cause, protests against the premillenarian propaganda, but goes far beyond that and reduces the great New Testament teaching of the Second Advent of Jesus Christ to a “glittering generality.”

Let us now take up, one by one, the different Christian doctrines mentioned in the sermon, and see how Dr. Fosdick views them. His claim is that a group of “Fundamentalists” are drawing a “dead line” in theology across which no man may step and live. In stating the views of the so-called “Fundamentalists,” which is of little consequence, Dr. Fosdick states his own views and those of his school of thought, and this is of the greatest consequence, for it clears the atmosphere and let us see the religious chaos which reigns in rationalistic circles. They who, above all others, ought to read this sermon, are not the conservatives and not the rationalists, but the middle-of-the-road people who are fondly hoping that these schools are divided only by a difference in words and names, and that the two positions can and will be reconciled. Dr. Fosdick’s sermon shows the impossibility and the non-desirability of such reconciliation. If Dr. Fosdick is right, his views ought to prevail, and the creed of the Presbyterian Church and of every other Church in Christendom, save the smaller humanitarian bodies like the Unitarians, and which are really creedless, as to either a written or unwritten creed, ought
to be revised. If this is truth, then let it prevail, no matter how many churches sink into oblivion. But whether he is right, or whether the evangelical position is right, one thing all must now admit: both positions cannot be right; one MUST be wrong.

I. The Virgin Birth
Dr. Fosdick does not accept the Virgin Birth as an historic fact. He rejects what he calls “a special biological miracle” as the explanation for the way in which Christ came into the world. The Virgin Birth to him is merely an effort on the part of religious devotion and faith to account for the manifest superiority of the character and person of Jesus. But lest I should do him any injustice in my summary of this paragraph of his sermon, let me quote his own words:

“To believe in virgin birth as a explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority. Many people suppose that only once in history do we run across a record of supernatural birth. Upon the contrary, stories of miraculous generation are among the commonest traditions of antiquity. Especially is this true about the founders of great religions. According to the records of their faiths, Buddha and Zoroaster and Lao-Tsze and Mahavira were all supernaturally born. Moses, Confucius and Mohammed are the only great founders of religions in history to whom a miraculous birth is not attributed. That is to say, when a personality rose so high that men adored him, the ancient world attributed his superiority to some special divine influence in his generation, and they commonly phrased their faith in terms of miraculous birth. So Pythagoras was called virgin born, and Plato, and Augustus Caesar, and many more. Knowing this, there are within the evangelical churches large groups of people whose opinion about our Lord’s coming would run as follows: those first disciples adored Jesus—as we do; when they thought about his coming, they were sure that he came specially from God—as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God’s special influence and intention in his birth—as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modern minds cannot use. So far from thinking that they have given up anything vital in the New Testament’s attitude toward Jesus, these Christians remember that the two men who contributed most to the Church’s thought of the divine meaning of the Christ were Paul and John, who never even distantly allude to the virgin birth.”

This speaks for itself. There was no Virgin Birth. The opening chapters of St. Matthew and St. Luke are pure myth, and the alleged facts and acts of those pages are merely a pious, devout and natural effort of believing men to account for the personality of Jesus, in much the same way that the followers of Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-Tsze and Mahavira tried to account for them. Not only does he repudiate the Virgin Birth, but he states that opinions on the subject are of little importance, in no way affecting vital Christianity. In this connection he makes the stock remark of the rationalists about the two great teachers  of Christianity, St. John and St. Paul, never even distantly alluding to the Virgin Birth. I have often been asked if Dr. Fosdick in the divinity, or better, the deity, of our Lord. I hope that he does, and even if in our New Testament we did not have the accounts of Matthew and Luke, the deity of Jesus Christ would everywhere confront us. We must grant, too, that God becoming flesh is a mystery which the Virgin Birth only partially explains. Nevertheless, that is the explanation given in the Gospels, and the only explanation given. Moreover, if we are to take that part of the Gospels as mere pious
musing and guessing, will it not weaken our regard for the other parts? If for example the stories of the nativity of Jesus are mere human effort to account for a personality who defied human classification, then who can find fault with the man who says that the accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus are merely imaginations on the part of His followers who wished to have Him die a glorious and sacrificial death? Or that the accounts of the Resurrection are merely the tributes of devotion and admiration, not the records of fact, but stories arising out of the conviction that Christ was too great and holy a man to be held of death, and thus in keeping with other tales of the reappearance and reincarnation of great men? And so with the Ascension and the Second Epiphany. The moment we take this view of the account of the Virgin Birth, do we not prepare the way for the repudiation of any other part of the Gospel story by any man who wills to do so?

No intelligent Christian is disturbed by the reference that neither John nor Paul “even distantly allude” to the Virgin Birth of Jesus. It partly amusing and partly irritating, the way the rationalists make use of Paul and John. When they are talking on the Virgin Birth of Jesus they cite Paul and John as the great authorities of the Church, and yet men who are silent on this subject. But when they are on a subject such as the Atonement, or the fate of the unbelievers in the next world, there John and Paul appear in an altogether different light. Now no one knows whether John wrote the Gospel that bears his names; probably not; and as for Paul, he took the simple teachings of the Galilean peasant and grafted upon them a mess of doctrines about sin and atonement and justification by faith which are entirely foreign to true Christianity. For this reason it is amusing to hear them cite John and Paul as on either side when it comes to the Virgin Birth. The fact is that both St. John and St. Paul above all other writers of the New Testament teach the Incarnation of God in Jesus and the supernatural manner of the entrance of the son of God into this world. The fact that Paul, for example, while he says that Christ was born of
a woman, does not say that He was born of a virgin, in no way invalidates the authority of Matthew or Luke, or implies that he had never heard of the birth of “that holy thing” in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

J. A. MacCulloch, in the article on Virgin Birth in Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, points out that in the case of Zoroaster and Buddha, to which Dr. Fosdick adverts, actual physical generation through father and mother is implied in the birth stories of Buddha, and in the birth stories of Zoroaster we have his “actual physical generation.” Supernatural elements are added, but as Dr. MacCulloch clearly points out, there is no ground whatever for saying that the stories of the births of Zoroaster and Buddha and comparable to the New Testament account of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. But this is a field into which it is not necessary for me to go, for even if there did exist stories of the births of great religious leaders through a virgin and without ordinary process of generation, this would in no way repudiate or invalidate the sublime account of the conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Birth was universally accepted in the early Church, and it can hardly be denied that to reject the Virgin Belief is to break with historic Christianity. The first denials of the Virgin Birth came mainly from deistical writers in the eighteenth century. This rejection on the part of the deists is now revived by their lineal descendants, the rationalists. It is important to note that while Matthew and Luke are the only Gospels which give the account of the Virgin Birth, these two Gospels are also the only Gospels which profess to record the events of the birth of Jesus. If in John and Mark we had a narrative of the events of the birth of Jesus, and among those events we should find no mention of the Virgin Birth, then the omission would indeed perplex and trouble us. But John and Mark do not profess to record the events of the birth of Jesus, and therefore their omission of the Virgin Birth is insignificant. Certainly no one would be justified in drawing the inference which Dr. Fosdick seems to draw, namely, that because John and Mark are silent on the subject they did not accept the fact of the Virgin Birth.

As for St. Paul, it is well to remember that he makes hardly any reference to the earthly life of Jesus beyond the facts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. In his work on the Virgin Birth of Christ, Dr. J. Orr points out the indisputable fact that St. Paul regarded the entry of Christ into the world as no ordinary event, and that in speaking of it Paul always employs “some significant peculiarity of expression,” such as, “God sending His Son” (Romans 1:3; 5:12); “becoming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7); and the unusual Greek form in Galatians 4:4, “born of a woman.” The simple and yet majestic accounts of Matthew and Luke are integral parts of the narratives and cannot be regarded as interpolations; neither can they be compared, as one would infer Dr. Fosdick compares them, with the pagan myths of miraculous generation. The reader knows that he moving in a different world.

One would gather from Dr. Fosdick’s sermon that belief in the Virgin Birth is of no matter, even to an evangelical Christian, and that it is quite possible to believe in the divinity of Christ without believing in the Virgin Birth. If we put the matter this way, and imagine the New Testament to stand as it is, minus the narrative of the Virgin Birth, that is, that none of us had ever heard of the Virgin Birth, then, of a truth, we could still believe in the divinity of Christ. But when one says, “May I not dismiss the Virgin Birth and still believe in the divinity of Jesus?” the only sensible and logical answer is, “No.” And for this reason: The man who rejects the tremendous miracle given in the Gospels as explanation for the entry into this world of Jesus Christ shows thereby that although he may claim to believe in the divinity of Christ, his idea of that divinity must differ from that of those who accept the Virgin Birth. By their fruits ye shall know them, and the real test is the practical test. Applying this test we discover that the great
number of those who reject the Virgin Birth also reject the divinity of our Lord. Theoretically, the rationalists might argue that they could still believe in the divinity of Christ, although rejecting the Virgin Birth; but as matter of fact and history, the great number of those who repudiate the Virgin Birth also repudiate the divinity of our Lord. If a man really accepts the wonderful fact of the Son of God becoming flesh and entering our humanity he will not stumble at the only New Testament account of the manner of that entry, but will find in it a ground of faith and an instance of the marvellous condescension of the God of all grace. If we had the story of the Son of God without the story of His Virgin Birth, certainly men would outdo the pagans in the wild dreams and guesses as to the manner of His coming. But against all that God has provided by giving us the revelation of the fact that Jesus was “conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.”

Dr. Fosdick is not a Presbyterian, but he stands in a Presbyterian pulpit and gets his bread from a Presbyterian congregation. In view of this fact how can his holding the purely naturalistic account of the stories of the birth of Jesus be in harmony with his preaching in the pulpit of a Church whose Creed, never revoked, declares (The Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII, Article XI), “The Son of God—when the fulness of time was come did take upon Him man’s nature—being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance”? This article of the creed may be impossible for the “modern” mind to hold; it may be myth or rubbish. But myth or fact, truth or rubbish, it is a solemn declaration of the Church from which Dr. Fosdick takes his bread.

II. The Inspiration of the Bible
Dr. Fosdick describes two ideas of the inspiration of the Bible, neither of which, however, are held by a great number of intelligent and devout Christians. On the one side there is what he calls the “static (note the word, for it is the word of the rationalists, and should it go out of currency, we know not what they would do) and mechanical theory of inspiration.” According to the theory, all the parts of the Bible from the Dukes of Edom to the thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians were inerrantly dictated by God to men a good deal “as a man might dictate to a stenographer.” We pass by the irreverence of this statement, with its offense not so much against orthodoxy as against good taste, and remark that those who hold the New Testament idea of inspiration, that holy men of old “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” have never thought of the Holy Ghost dictating to Moses, Isaiah or St. Paul as Dr. Fosdick, for instance, to use his own illustration, might dictate one of his sermons to a stenographer. Nor have the multitudes of Christians ever felt that for Paul to remind Timothy to fetch the cloak which he left at Troas, in the house of Carpus, required the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or any kind of inspiration save that of the gloom and damp of the Mamertine dungeon. But there are places in the writings of St. Paul where he makes the most careful and solemn claim to divine inspiration, and that what he declares, that is, his magnificent interpretation of the Gospel of Christ, has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. Every intelligent Christian knows that it is not correct to say that Christianity depends upon the Scriptures in the historical sense, for Christianity had established itself in the world as a conquering and regenerating power before there was any New Testament. The New Testament was the expression of that Christian life and faith and the record of its establishment. Therefore, every intelligent Christian knows too that while Christianity came before the New Testament, if the New Testament is false, Christianity also must be false. The great question at issue is not any peculiar theory of inspiration, but the credibility and authority of the Bible. Personally, I have never been troubled by the controversies which have raged over the question of inspiration, ranging all the way from harsh, petrified and illogical theories which would make a genealogical catalogue with is
graveyard of names of equal authority with St. Paul’s statement of the redeeming and reconciling love of God in Christ—all the way from that to Dr. Fosdick’s’ rationalistic theory, namely, that God revealed Himself, or rather misrevealed Himself, in crude and false ways in time past, sanctioning and approving much that was false, but gradually drew away from the misrepresentation and gave a clearer knowledge of Himself in the New Testament, but which representation will undoubtedly be much improved on in the future, since there is no reason to believe that this “progressive” revelation came to a sudden stop with St. John or St. Paul. For me the great question is this: Can we rely upon the Bible as giving us the great facts as to what God requires of man, and that plan of redemption which God has revealed through Jesus Christ? Does it contain the way of Life Eternal? If so, it is inspired of God. Theories of inspiration are of little consequence, for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is like the wind—thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.

But although there is such a thing as accepting the inspiration of the Bible and not being sure as to how it was inspired, that is an altogether different thing from a theory of inspiration which breaks down the whole authority of the book. Whenever we hear men speak as Dr. Fosdick does about the Bible, the question of a mode of inspiration sinks out of sight, and the greater question emerges: Do these men believe that the Bible has any special authority? Do they believe that God spake in times past by the prophets to the fathers in any clearer note than He did to Socrates, Confucius or Buddha? Do they really believe the prophets, to quote the words of Dr. Gore in his recent and notable book, “Belief in God,” “were in touch—as other men were not—with reality, with the real God; and that in a long and continuous process, more or less gradual, He was really communicating to them the truth by which men could live, both about the Divine nature and purpose and about human nature?” The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church commences with a declaration about the Scriptures which says: “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness,
wisdom and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased God to reveal Himself and declare His will unto His Church.” One puts down a sermon of Dr. Fosdick and all his school with the impression that the light nature was sufficient for the salvation of men, and that the Bible is but a reflection of that light of nature, coming from man only, and not from God.

I am sure that even the most emancipated modernists will regret Dr. Fosdick’s unhappy comparison of the Bible with the Koran, and all believers in the Bible, and who not only talk about it but read it, will indignantly repudiate his assertion that most of the repulsive ideas which are taught in the Koran are taught somewhere in the Bible. I deny that the Bible teaches that “God is an Oriental monarch, fatal submission to his will men’s chief duty, the use of force on unbelievers, polygamy and slavery.” When we come to appalling statements such as this, the best plan is not to argue but to deny.

PART II
III. The Second Advent
I have already intimated that I do not adhere to the premillennial school of the New Testament interpretation. I do believe that the Church has been inexcusably silent and negligent in its teaching as to the future chapters in the drama of Divine redemption, and that this wide neglect has prepared the way for much of the extravagance of the popular premillenarian. Thoughtful conservatives are not a little perplexed over the attitude of some premillenarians, and sometimes feel that their defense of historic Christianity is not altogether a helpful one; and when we hear our premillenarian brethren dwell with more emphasis and zeal upon the mechanism of the temporal kingdom that is to be set up here upon this earth than they do upon the redeeming love of Christ and the conquest of human nature through the mild reign of the Holy Spirit, we are tempted to become impatient with them and to cry out as the princes of the Philistines did, when, about to campaign against Israel, they saw David and his men in their ranks, and said to Achish, “What do these Hebrews here?” But there is one thing about the premillenarian concerning which there is no doubt, and that is his loyalty to the Person and the claims of
Jesus Christ. However much he may be tempted to write history before it has been made, his absolute loyalty to the Deity of Jesus, His Atonement, and His reign of righteousness and judgment, is never questioned. This far more than we can say about the rationalists. And the modernists. We feel that it is but a poor Christ that they have left us, and only a shadow of the tremendous personality of the New Testament.

If perchance the premillenarian has been a little too sure in his exegesis and in casting the horoscope of the Church and the race, the rationalist has gone to the other extreme and has reduced the great doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ to a mere figure of speech. So Dr. Fosdick regards it, for he says, “They” (that is, the rationalists and modernists) “they, too, say ‘Christ is coming!’ They say it with all their hearts, but they are not thinking of an external arrival on the clouds. They have assimilated as part of the Divine revelation the exhilarating insight which these recent generations have given us, that development is God’s way of working out his will. Man’s music has been developed from the rhythmic noise of beaten sticks; man’s painting from the crude outlines of the cavemen; man’s architecture from the crude huts of primitive men. And these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that slowly it may be, but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and
institutions, until He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied!” The best possible comment on this idea of the Second Advent of Christ and the final jurisprudence of our species is to set it alongside the mysterious yet mighty utterances of Jesus in the last part of Matthew’s Gospel, or the equally mysterious and tremendous utterances of St. Paul and of St. Peter. Whatever Christ or Paul or Peter mean or do not mean, we can be sure of this, that they imply a process of progress and arrival at perfection which is something far different from Dr. Fosdick’s mild working out of the tangles of life. The Bible teachers progress and development and a final arrival at a state of universal peace and righteousness, but it also teaches that crisis and cataclysm play their part in bringing the great goal which seers, prophets and poets have saluted afar off and contemplated through their tears. The first advent of Christ was not accounted for by any long-drawnout natural development, although it did come in the “fulness of time,” and it is quite possible that the Second Advent will be just as much of an intervention and interruption as the first advent was. The rationalists do not do justice to this plain portion of the eschatological teaching of the Bible. And even were their absurd dream to come true, even should the world by the slow working out of the powers and principles now lodged in humanity arrive at moral perfection, still the goal would not have been reached, for there would yet remain a fearful contrast between this perfect creature and his environment. So Father Tyrrell, a much more thoughtful modernist than those who today are so vocal, asks: “Shall progress ever wipe away the tears from all eyes? Prolong life as it will can progress ever conquer death, with its terrors for the dying, its tears for the surviving? Can it ever control the earthquake, the tempest, the lightning, the cruelties of a nature indifferent to the lot of man?” What Father Tyrrell meant by these questions was that not only man, but man’s environment, the platform of his civilization and life, must be changed and reconstructed. Have Dr. Fosdick and his fellow-rationalists any prescription for the securing of that great end? They have not, and they know that they have not. Thus, even if it had not been revealed in Scripture, common sense and common experience would demand some such intervention and summing up of human affairs as is
involved in the doctrine of the Second Advent.

Then we shall have not only a Messianic race of redeemed men, but a Messianic world, in which there shall be complete and blessed peace not only between man and God, and between man and man, but between man and the beast and between man and the earth. This was the age saluted by rapt Isaiah when he sang, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the sucking child shall lay on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

The great error of the Rationalists in their sketch of the future and in their dealing with the New Testament teaching of the coming of Christ, is that they confine themselves to laws and principles, and forget that there is something beyond this. “And these Christians,” writes Dr. Fosdick, meaning himself and other Rationalists, “when they say that Christ is coming, mean that slowly it may be, but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and institutions, until He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” Evangelical, New Testament Christians, believe that too. But they believe that the coming of Christ means more than just the establishment of justice in the earth. To them it means also the beatific vision; it means the Presence and the companionship of Him Whom, not having seen, we yet love; on Whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable. This and scores of passages like it in the New Testament can have only one meaning, namely, that rich and precious though the present relationship of the believer with Jesus Christ is, there is something yet greater in store. When, according to the old legend, Jesus appeared to Thomas Aquinas and said to him, “Thomas, thou hast written well of Me; what wouldst thou have?” the great schoolman replied, “Thyself, Lord!” “Thyself, Lord!” that is the consummation of the Christian life and experience. Here we have it in faith and anticipation, but when Christ comes the second time we shall have it in glorious reality. Righteousness is to come, and the Church is to be vindicated, and sinners are to be judged, and crooked ways made straight, and rough places plain; but it ought not to be necessary, yet apparently is, to remind the rationalists that Christ is more than a principle of righteousness and justice, and that the coming of Him upon Whose breast John leaned at the Supper, Who said to the fishermen of Galilee, “Follow Me!” to Peter, “Lovest thou Me?” and to Paul, “Why persecutest thou me?”—the coming of this Christ must mean nothing less than a personal and blessed and glorious manifestation of Himself to those who have believed on Him, and who, amid the shadows and trials of this world, have followed Him as Lord and Master. To the Rationalists this blessed consummation of the Christian experience seems to mean nothing. They talk about Christ as if He were only a name for a principle, and seem not to know that Jesus to Whom Thomas cried out, “My God and my Lord!” And when Christ comes, how shall they greet Him who in this life, and even as His minister, have spoken of Him in such a way as to
lead men to believe that He was not conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary; that He did not take our place and bear our sins on the cursed tree; that He did not rise again from the dead, and that He will not come again in glory? How shall they greet Him, and what shall they say to Him? To talk acceptably to skeptical university boys, or persons inclined to unbelief, and write for rationalistic papers, is one thing; it is another thing to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Now those great swelling words about “progressive” revelation, “dynamic” Christianity, “the modern mind,” etc., etc., sink and shrivel and disappear. No minister should preach or write a sermon which he would not be willing to place in the hands of Jesus should appear in person. Could the authors of these rationalistic sermons, sermons which tend to destroy men’s faith in the Eternal Son of God as their alone Redeemer, meet Christ with confidence, and would they feel like placing in His hands the sermon which has denied Him before men?

IV. The Atonement
Dr. Fosdick does not dwell at length on this central doctrine of Christianity, but in the very sentence in which he caricatures the traditional evangelical belief in the Atonement, he reveals his complete and profound aversion to the New Testament teaching on that great and mysterious subject. He thus describes the theory of the Atonement as held by the Evangelical School: “That the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.”

Every Christian knows that there is a difference between the fact of the Atonement and any theory of it. But it is inconceivable that any man should receive the fact of the Atonement, the death of Christ for sin, and not be interested in the explanation of that fact. The rationalists now write of the theology of St. Paul as an intelligent man’s honest effort to give some rational explanation of how he is saved, and how it is that the death of Christ makes possible the forgiveness of sin. Why, may we ask, are the rationalists not interested in giving some explanation of the Atonement? If the great primary fact of Christianity, the death of Christ for the remission of sins, is the rock upon which their feet stand, their refuge and their hope, why are they not more interested in the meaning of that fact? Why is it that the only time they talk about the Atonement is when they are assailing the traditional views of historic Christianity? Why is it that the only interest they betray in the Atonement is to deny the explanations of other believers? St. Paul, whom Dr. Fosdick quotes as one of the two great Christian teachers, made the death of Christ, and substitutionary and vicarious explanation of that death, the one grand theme of his preaching. To the Corinthians he said, “I delivered unto you, first of all, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Is there in the whole world today a rationalist or a modernist who can say that to any city or church where he has preached?

At the close of his sermon Dr. Fosdick says, “It is almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith.” He thus likens the question of the Virgin Birth of our Lord, the Inspiration of the Bible, the Second Advent of Christ, and the Atonement to mint, anise and cummin. To me this seems an almost unpardonable flippancy on the part of one who speaks as a teacher of Christianity. Especially astounding it is to hear a man so speak of opinions about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Francis Turretin, whom Dale calls the greatest of Calvinistic theologians, evidently thought differently about the Atonement, for he wrote of it as “the chief part of our salvation, the anchor of Faith, the refuge of Hope, the rule of Charity, the sure foundation of the Christian religion, and the richest treasure of the Christian Church. So long as this doctrine is maintained in its integrity, Christianity itself and the peace and blessedness of all who believe in Jesus Christ, are beyond the reach of danger; but it if is rejected, or in any way impaired, the whole structure of the Christian faith must sink into decay and ruin.”

Our chief complaint against the rationalist and modernist is not their writings and saying about the Deity of our Lord, the Bible, the Second Advent, but their rejection of the one great truth of Christianity, that through His death we have remission of our sins and are justified with God.

Dr. Fosdick contends against a conspiracy on the part of those whom he calls “Fundamentalists,” and who perhaps so name themselves, to put out of the Church all those who do not agree with them in every particular. I have not heard of such a conspiracy and have never been asked to join it. At the same time, I believe that as long as the Presbyterian Church has not abandoned and repudiated its Confession of Faith, any man in any of its pulpits holding and declaring the views of Dr. Fosdick occupies an anomalous and inconsistent position. Their “New” Theology seems to carry with it a “new” morality also. As for putting them out, that could easily be done, for they are a small minority in the Church; although at present the vocal minority. But I am coming to think less and less of excision and excommunication as means of preserving the Church from false teaching, not because of any base and ignoble fear on the part of those who might so proceed of being called “heresy hunters,” “medieval,” etc., but because I am convinced that the far more useful course to pursue is to declare the whole counsel of God so clearly and fearlessly that the whole world may know that there is a difference between what is Christianity and what is not Christianity. However Dr. Fosdick and his companions may worry about processes of excision and ecclesiastical trial, and so being put out of the Church, the sad thing is that in the minds of thousands upon thousands of Christians they are already out of the Church, and no act of an ecclesiastical court could make the fact more real. Our duty is to pray that they may brought back into the Church and help to build up and adorn where hitherto they have only wounded His mystical Body, which is the Church.

In his celebrated Autobiography, John Stuart Mill, in describing the attitude of his father towards Christianity, says that he looked with indignation upon the identification of the worship of the Christian God with Christianity. The son confesses the same aversion, and thinks the day will come when we shall have a Christianity with God left out. For me this sums up better than anything I have ever read the menace of the rationalistic and modernist movement in Protestant Christianity. The movement is slowly secularizing the Church, and if permitted to go unchecked and unchallenged, will ere long produce in our churches a new kind of Christianity, a Christianity without worship, without God, and without Jesus Christ.

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Testify.

It was in 1751 that the Rev. Samuel Davies, then a resident of Hanover, Virginia, decided to journey to Roanoke for the purpose of preaching. Somewhere along his journey, he became acquainted with a young man by the name of Henry Pattillo. It was a providential meeting.

Henry had been born in Scotland, of Christian parents who arranged for him to apprentice with a local merchant. In time, seeking a better situation, Henry immigrated to America and settled in the Province of Virginia. Working first for a merchant, and later as a teacher, Henry was increasingly under conviction of his sins and sought the Lord.

He began to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Prayer became “his very breath” and mediation on the Scriptures brought great joy. “I used, when along, to speak out in mediation, and do esteem it an excellent medium to fix the heart on the work.” Further, “Thus I went on my way rejoicing and serving God for the space of a year and half; I was generally full of warmth, nor could I take the Bible or any religious book into my hand but I would find something suited to the present state of my soul…”

So this was the young man whom Rev. Davies met on his journey. Impressed with his character and gifts, he invited him to return and study for the ministry under his tutelage. Finally on July12th of 1758, Mr. Pattillo was ordained in Cumberland, and the following September was installed as pastor of the churches of Willis Creek, Byrd, and Buck Island. So began a ministry of some forty years.

And while we could write further of his long career, what I find notable of Rev. Pattillo is the will that he drew up when he realized, in 1800, that death was near:

“I adore the blessed Providence that more especially watched over me and wonderfully governed my steps; that at the commencement of my manhood rescued me from the ways of sin and the paths of the destroyer; that made it good for me to bear the yoke in my youth; that after many discouraging disappointments which I afterwards found were merciful interpositions of divine goodness, my way was opened to an education, and I was carried through it, though poverty and a melancholy constitution darkened my prospects, and threatened to stop me at every turn. The same divine goodness and free mercy that had thus far indulged my ardent wish and daily prayer, that I might be qualified both by heaven’s grace and human learning to preach the everlasting gospel, was graciously pleased to call me thereto, and set me apart by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. Having, therefore, obtained help of God, I continue to this day, having nothing to complain of my adorable Master, for goodness and mercy have followed me all my life long; but have to accuse myself that in ten thousand instances I have come short of the glory of God, and have been a very unprofitable servant, in not promoting to the utmost my own salvation and that of others. And a great aggravation of this guilt is, that wherever I have preached the gospel God has honored me with such a share of popularity and the favor of mankind, as have opened a door for much more usefulness than I have had a zeal and diligence to improve. Look, gracious God, on a creature all over guilt and imperfection, through the all-perfect righteousness, wonderous sufferings and glorious resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ, on whom I cast myself for time and eternity.

“As to my mortal part, let it return, when He that built it pleaseth, to the dust from whence it was taken, and in the next burying-place to which I may die. I commit it to him who perfumed the grave for his people’s calm repose; who acknowledges his relation to them even in the dust, and I am sure will new create it by his power divine.”

Words to Live By:
Have you ever thought that your will could and should itself be a witness, a testimony to the grace of God in your life? Perhaps it is time to re-draft that essential document. Everything in your life should serve to give glory to the Lord. So too, let everything in your final days give praise to God.

This God is our God, for ever and ever; He will be our guide, even unto death.”—Psalm 48:14, KJV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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