March 2014

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Home Religion was an Important Part of Colonial Presbyterianism

With tens of thousands of Scot –Irish Presbyterians coming to Cumberland County of Pennsylvania, various Presbyterian churches were organized in the seventeen hundreds in central Pennsylvania. One such congregation was Big Spring Presbyterian Church in Newville, just west of Carlisle.

After several pastors filling the pulpit, a call was extended to the Rev. Samuel Wilson on March 21, 1787.  After passing his ordination exams by the Presbytery of Donegal, Rev. Wilson was installed as pastor on June 20, 1787. It was said that his pastorate was one of activity and prosperity for the congregation. He would stay there for thirteen years until 1799.

Evidently, the gift of administration was possessed by Rev. Wilson. He composed long lists, listing the ages of all members and adherents. Dividing them into districts, Samuel Wilson assigned a ruling elder over each district. These elders, among other duties, had the ministry of visiting each family and adherent on an annual basis. These were no social times. Pastor Wilson had given to each elder, and those family members underneath their oversight, various questions of understanding, complete with catechisms to memorize from the Westminster Standards. We have two samples of questions upon which the annual visits would ask and expect answers.

In Ruling Elder John Carson’s district, the first book of the Bible was the focus.  His questions were: 1. Who was the penman of Genesis?  When was it written? What length of time does its history contain?; 2. What are the principal doctrines and events?; 3. What do you understand by creation, and is it a work peculiar to God only?; 4. What seems to be the order of creation and what is the work of each day?; 5. What are those called who do not acknowledge divine revelation?  What objections do they offer against Moses and how are their writing confuted?; 6. What rational arguments can be offered in favor of Moses, that his mission was from God and his writings were of divine inspiration?; 7. What Scriptural prophecies have been fulfilled, and what at present is fulfilling or yet to be fulfilled?  After these questions were to be discussed by each family, there was to be an examination upon the ninth chapter of the Confession of Faith!  Elder Carlson had 24 families in his district.

Elder William Lindsay had seven questions given by Pastor Wilson to his flock of members. They were: 1. What are the different kinds of faith in Scripture?; 2. What are the marks of true faith?; 3. Where does saving faith lie in assent or consent?; 4. What reason would you assign why no actions are acceptable to God, but such as flow from faith?; 5. Will it then follow, that wicked and unregenerate persons may as well transgress the law, as endeavor the observance of it? 6. Must we turn from sin in order to come to Christ by faith?  7. Seeing faith is the act of a believing soul, in what sense is it said to be the gift of God? After these questions were asked and answered, Chapter 8 of the Confession of Faith was discussed.

Biblical Christianity was to be practiced not only within the four walls of the Church, but also inside the houses which made up the homes of Presbyterian families.  And spiritual elders were to be the spiritual overseers of each family.

Words to Live By: Pray for the elders of your church, that they might shepherd aright the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood. How comfortable would you be if similar type questions were asked of your family in an elder’s visitation? Do you feel that such Scriptural exams would be profitable to your family? The local church specifically? What might you do to suggest such an approach to the people of God?

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RutherfordsWalkThe young lad of five years old had been playing with some friends around a well when he tragically fell into it. The other children ran to his parents for help. They came, expecting him to be dead, but he was found cold and wet, sitting on a nearby   hill. Puzzled over his escape, they asked him how he climbed out of the deep well. He answered that “a bonny white Man drew me forth and set me down.” No other explanation was ever given as to who or what  this rescuer was, but his deliverance of young Samuel Rutherford preserved for time one of the stalwarts of the Reformed and Presbyterian faith in Scotland and England.

At right: “Rutherford’s Walk.”

Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 in the village of Nesbit, Scotland, to a prosperous farmer and his wife. Because of this background, Samuel was able to receive a good education, one which culminated at the University of Edinburgh, where he attended from 1617 to 1621. His prowess in Latin enabled him to immediately enter the teaching profession there at the University.

But it was as a pastor that he showed the spiritual gifts which would influence many a Covenanting heart to grow spiritually in the things of the Lord. Going to Anwoth in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in 1627, he began to show his caring approach for the spiritual needs of the people. It was said by the members of his congregation that “he was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying.” To do all this, Pastor Rutherford rose up each day at 3 a.m. to engage in prayer and meditation.

His marriage at a young age brought both happiness and sorrow. His wife was often sick, once for thirteen months. She did eventually die, but not before bearing Samuel two children, though both of them followed their mother to death’s dark door.   He would marry again a “delightful” wife, but the personal sorrows continued, with only one of seven children surviving into adulthood. God clearly allowed these personal sorrows so as to make him a comforter of suffering saints.

Rutherford_in_PrisonThese were perilous times in Scotland. Preaching against the errors of Arminianism did not please the Anglican clergy. On July 27, 1636, Rutherford was barred from ministering to his parish upon the threat of rebellion if he continued. Exiled to Aberdeen, Scotland, and sorrowing over not just his loss of family, but also of God’s family, this was a difficult time indeed. But God often allows a hard experience so as to make one of his children a comforter to others in similar circumstances. It was at this time that Rutherford wrote numerous letters to other Christians, letters which helped them bear up through incredibly difficult times. These letters were eventually published by The Banner of Truth Trust. He was to stay in Aberdeen for 18 months.

In 1638, there occurred a reversal in the political situation, during which Presbyterianism was restored in Scotland.  Samuel Rutherford was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to a Professorship at St. Andrews University. He went there with the condition that he be allowed to preach at least once a week. His heart was in the pastorate. Five  years later, he went to London, England to participate as a Commissioner in the Westminster Assembly, where, along with the other four Scottish commissioners, he influenced that august gathering in a great way, even though he could not vote. [the Scottish commissioners were all of non-voting status in the Assembly.]  It was said of his four years there in London, that he was especially well-remembered by all for his work on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Rutherford’s magnum opus was titled Lex Rex. In this work he dealt with the subject of government and so effectively argued for limited government, that it was judged to be a direct attack on the divine right of kings.  When King Charles II read this book, he ordered it to be burned and a charge of high treason to be laid against Samuel Rutherford. Though summoned to appear before the king, Rutherford was at that time confined to bed with illness. He  turned down the summons, saying “I  must answer my first summons; and before your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks come.”  Samuel Rutherford died March 20:1661.

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This post from last year bears repeating.

A Biblical Stand in a Biblical Way

masonJMThe Rev. John Mitchell Mason [1770-1829] was an Associate Reformed pastor who served for many years in New York City. He was born in New York City on March 19, 1770, and was the son of the Rev. John Mason, D.D., who had emigrated to this country in 1761 to take the pastoral charge of the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church in the New York City. John Mason proved to be a faithful pastor and remained in that pulpit until his death in 1792. William Sprague notes that “one of the noblest tributes which a son ever paid to the memory of a father, is to be found in the Address which Dr. Mason (the son) delivered before the Presbytery, relative to the resignation of his pastoral charge;—a tribute which no one can read without feeling a sentiment of veneration for the parent, and of admiration for the intellectual greatness and filial sensibilities of the son.” [perhaps we can relate some of that Address on another occasion.]

Educated at home and prepared for college by his father, John displayed a brilliant intellect and graduated from Columbia College at the age of 19. More importantly, John had come to faith in Christ at an early age, God having blessed the faithful efforts of his parents. “His mind was imbued with a knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel, as soon as its faculties were sufficiently developed to admit of comprehending them; and these truths seem to have become very early, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the commanding principles of his conduct.”

Stopping on that last note, we relate the following anecdote, in evidence of the point, that the character of a child, established early, often remains fixed through a lifetime. This story was originally published in The Evangelical Guardian in 1846, and it is told by the editor of that magazine, as he relates an account of his travels in New York City that year:—

On Sabbath evening before leaving the city, I paid a visit, in company with Mr. McLaren, to old Katherine Ferguson, a colored woman who became a member of Dr. Mason’s Church about 40 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. The most of what she made by keeping a confectioner’s shop (enough to have placed her now in independent circumstances) she spent in feeding, clothing, and educating destitute colored children. She is warmly attached to the Associate Reformed Church, and remembers Dr. Mason, and the ‘days of old.’ with peculiar delight. Two young persons, members of Mr. McLaren’s congregation, were in her house, being there, as I understood, to read the Bible, and converse with her. This would not fail to make on a mind at all accustomed to sober reflection, a favorable impression as to their piety.—One object of my visit, was to obtain from her lips an account of an occurrence which I had sometimes heard related. Her statement was as follows:

“After Dr. Mason commenced preaching in Murray Street, some ‘gay ladies’ from Pearl Street, said to him: ‘Doctor it will not do for those colored people (Katherine and a male relative of hers who had made a profession of religion) to sit at the same table with the white communicants.—They should be at a Table by themselves at the last.’ The Dr. simply replied, that he would think of it. When the day for the communion came round, and the people were about to take their seats at the Lord’s table, the Doctor came down from the pulpit, and taking the two colored persons by the hands, he said,’This is my brother, this is my sister. He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Greek, nor Jew,—Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,’ and then led them forward to the table and set them down ‘first of all.’ “

This was the result of the Doctor’s reflection on the subject, and it settled the question forever.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, vol. IV, no. 6 (November 1846): 285.]

Words to Live By:
Sin creeps into the Church in myriad ways. We are after all still in this sinful flesh. But racism has no place in the Church. It is at heart a way in which we put ourselves on a pedestal, thinking ourselves better than others. It is, if you will, a form of self-deification, with pride at its root, and as such, becomes a particularly destructive sin. The best stand against such sin, perhaps the only true stand against it, is to peaceably, lovingly demonstrate the objective truth of Scripture, as Dr. Mason did, by living in obedience to the Scriptures.

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all…For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:11013, NASB)

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The Stated Clerk was the Culprit

MakemieStatueThe Presbyterian clergymen had been identified as either ministers and waiting to be called to place of ministry. Through informal talks, it was agreed by these seven ministers to gather for a presbytery meeting, the first to be held in the colonies of America. They did gather in the month of March, 1706 in Philadelphia. We know that it happened before the 28th of that month. But the exact date of this first presbytery is unknown to us because the stated clerk lost all but two paragraphs of the meeting. The stated clerk, unknown in name, was the culprit. Judging however from the date of  later meetings  in the following years, we can estimate that this meeting was held on March 18, 1706, with the Rev. Francis Makemie as the first moderator.

A review of the historic seven names of this original Presbytery might be profitable.  Even before you read the rest of this paragraph, close your eyes and see if you can name any of the seven clergy? They were: Francis Makemie, John Hampton, George MacNish, Samuel Davis, John Wilson, Jedediah Andrews, and Nathaniel Taylor. Their backgrounds show a wide divergence of  traditions. Makemie was Scot-Irish with strong ties to those mother countries of Presbyterian pilgrims.  Samuel Davis came from Ireland and pastored a church in Lewes, Delaware. Three of the ministers were from New England. Jedediah Andrews was a graduate of Harvard.  John Wilson was pastor at New Castle. Nathaniel Taylor was also from New England. The other two, George McNish and John Hampton, had just come over from England in answer to the call of Makemie.  Of the original seven, only three were pastors and the rest were missionaries.

» Statue in Accomack County, Virginia marking the grave of Frances Makemie, unveiled in 1908. »

Now Samuel Davis had sent an excuse to this first meeting. It evidently had something to do with travel time to get to Presbytery.   However the excuse was not sustained by the brethren. They were not going to allow for any variance with what they considered to be both a privilege as well as a duty in attendance at Presbytery.

The purpose of the Presbytery was described later as a meeting of ministers for consultation as to the most proper measures for advancing religion and propagating Christianity in the colonies. A second purpose was listed as furthering and promoting the true interests of religion and godliness. The last reason was for the improvement of the ministerial abilities of teaching elders, which improvement was to be tested by prescribing text to be preached upon by two ministers at every Presbytery meeting.  That performance was subject to the criticism, positive and negative, of the rest of the elders.

Hebrews 1:1-2 was the assigned text for the 1707 presbytery, to be preached  by Francis Makemie and John Wilson.

Philadelphia was the chosen site because it was central to the scattered bodies of Presbyterians which were meeting in churches in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Long Island, and  New England.  Perfect religious freedom was enjoyed in this eastern city of Pennsylvania.

The organization of Presbyterians thus gave them an early advantage over other religious traditions in the colonies. They were ready to press on the inhabitants of this new land the value of holding true to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission.

Words to Live By: In faith and life, let everything be done decently and in order. Especially is this a good rule for the planting of a church. What you do in the beginning days will be central in building the church in succeeding days. So start the church well, according to Biblical principles and practices, and that rule will continue in later years, receiving the blessing of the Lord.

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A Stirring Confession of Faith

machen02On Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen filled the pulpit of the  First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This time period was in the framework of being under indictment for refusing to cease and desist from the support of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission, as the Mandate from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, had stated in 1934. His ordination was thus at stake. His standing in that denomination was at stake. Listen to his profession of faith given on that evening.

“My profession of faith is simply that I know nothing of the Christ proclaimed, through the Auburn Affirmation. I know nothing of a Christ who is presented to us in a human book containing errors, but know only a Christ presented in a divine book, the Bible which is true from beginning to end.  I know nothing of a Christ who possibly was and possibly was not born of a virgin, but know only a Christ who was truly conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not work miracles, but know only a Christ who said to the winds and the waves, with the sovereign voice of the Maker and Ruler of all nature, ‘Peace be still.’  I know nothing of a Christ who possible  did and possibly did not come out of the tomb on the first Easter morning, but know only a Christ who triumphed over sin and the grave and is living now in His glorified body until He shall come again and I shall see Him with my very eyes. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not die as my substitute on the cross, but know only a Christ who took upon Himself the just punishment of my sins and died there in my stead to make it right with the holy God.”

Despite what the ecclesiastical machinery of the Presbyterian Church would do, Dr. Machen’s conviction was settled.  He ended it all by stating that he would “rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoluments as the reward of dishonesty.”

Words to Live By: Can you echo the words of J. Gresham Machen today? Today the attacks continue upon both the written and living Word. Let us affirm this confession today—for the Word of God is true, though all men stand in error—until God takes us home.

For further study:
To read the full message delivered by Dr. J. Gresham Machen that Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, click here.

News coverage of the above event:

PASTOR SCORES MODERNISM AS CAUSE OF TRIAL.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen Defends Beliefs in Sermon At Church Here.

HEARING TOMORROW.

Philadelphia Minister Will Face Presbyterian Court AT Trention.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia, president of the Independent Board of [sic] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, who goes on trial before a special court of the church tomorrow at Trenton, N.J., declared last night: “The Presbyterian Church is in the midst of a conflict between two irreconcilable adversaries–Christianity and Modernism.”

Speaking at the First Presbyterian Church here, Dr. Machen defended his fundamentalist beliefs and accused the Presbyterian Church of spreading “anti-Christian” propaganda.

“I cannot support this anti-Christian propaganda now being furthered by the official board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States,” he said. “I cannot place the shifting votes of general assemblies or any other human councils in place of an authority which rightly belongs only to the Word of God.

Refused to Quit Board

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last year outlawed the Independent Board of Missions and ordered all ministers to resign from it within 90 days. Dr. Machen refused and was ordered to stand trial before the New Brunswick presbytery. Two hearings have been held and the third and final one is scheduled tomorrow.

Dr. Machen last night laid his troubles to “modernists” and asserted: “Christianity is taught in the Bible and the Constitution of the Church; but modernism has grown to dominate the ecclesiastical machine.”

Attacks Auburn Affirmation

Citing the Auburn Affirmation, which he said sets forth the modernist argument and is signed by 1923 ministers, Dr. Machen declared:

“The Auburn Affirmation directly attacks the doctrines of the full truthfulness of the Bible and declares that some of its basic teachings are merely theories among other possible theories and are non-essential.

“It is typical of the conditions in the church that Dr. Cordie J. Culp of New Brunswick, the presiding officer of the commission now trying me in Trenton, is a signer of the modernist document,” he said. “It is also typical that John E. Kuizenga of Princeton Seminary took the lead in the unanimous vote of the commission that all efforts of my counsel to refer to the modernist doument be barred.”

Professor at Seminary

Dr. Machen further declared he is prepared to prove that the board’s orders for him to resign are “contrary to the constitution of the church.”

“I have also offered to prove,” he said, “the Board of Foreign Missions is unfaithful to its great trust. The commission has refused to listen to my evidence or to the arguments of my counsel. Of course, I will be condemned, but I should far rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy even the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoulments [sic] as the rewards of dishonesty.”

Dr. Machen, who spoke in the absence of Dr. C. E. Macartney, is a profess of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

[excerpted from The Pittsburgh Press, 18 March 1935, page 11.]

[Note: The correction name of the organization is the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Too often in news coverage and elsewhere, the name was shown in error, substituting “of” in place of “for”]

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iversondaniel01This past Thursday, we presented a short post on the history of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church, Miami, Florida, founded by organizing pastor Daniel Iverson, Sr.  Today, for our Lord’s Day sermon, we present Rev. Iverson’s teaching on the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, verses 14-22—The Message to Laodicea. This message was part of a larger series on the Book of Revelation, delivered before the Shenandoah congregation in the late winter and Spring of 1951.

 

The Message to Laodicea [Rev. 3:14-22]

Today we come to the last of the seven messages which make up the second division of this book – “The things which are” – the description, we believe, of the course of the entire church age.

We have said before that something of the spirit of all will be in each, but it is particularly true that the characteristics of the last three will be found running concurrently to the end» So we shall find the cold formalism of Sardis hand in hand with the warm loving devotion of Philadelphia 5 but increasingly also the state shown by the description of Laodicea, which depicts the state to which the loss of the first love of Ephesus has brought the chur­ch of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Laodicea is called by our Lord, the “luke warm” church – it shows a state of falling away as warned of by the Apostles. They tell us that these conditions will be the mark of the last days. Especially does the Apostle Paul link it with the coming of Christ in 2 Thess. 2. “Falling away”; “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”; “having a form of godliness but denying the power”; a general carelessness and indifference. Hardly a page of the epistles goes by without the warning underscoring of the Holy Spirit.

With our passage today we see how our Lord sums the whole thing up. The name Laodicea means “Peoples Rights” or “Rule of the People”; it has become very familiar to us in these days. Peoples rights and rule, the most refined form is democracy, its ugliest mob rule, but both spring from one idea, each man thinking his way is the best way and insisting on his rights. That was the spirit in the time of the judges in Old Testament days when God said twice over, “Each man did that which was right in his own eyes” and then, between the two references records instances of the utter anarchy and confusion it brought about in the political, home and religious life of the nation. Think of a Family where every member insists on his own way; carry that out to world dimensions and what do we have – the world of today.

The basic principle of the church of Jesus Christ is that she submits herself to the rule of her glorious Head and follows the leading of the Holy Spirit. Alas, we all know how much of the spirit of “peoples rights” has invaded the church and quenched the working of the Spirit. Just ask ourselves and answer honestly,

“Is the church run to please God or the people in it?” We are not concerned now with the world, except to say the church should in­fluence it, instead of which we find the same spirit of the last days which marks the world, tragically dominating the church. It was so with the Jewish people in the days of Christ; the feasts of the Lord had become “feasts of the Jews” and the Temple of God had become “Your house left unto you desolate”. When “peoples rights” are opposed to “God’s rights”, God allows them their will for the time being, but it is a terrible state, for it cannot but end in disaster and Judgment. So “peoples rights and rule” in the church have made it “luke warm”. What is “luke warm”, which is a state neither cold nor hot, so that it will not (to use a popular form of advertising) ‘’Injure the most sensitive”, shall we say religi­ous feelings. You get that in a state where people are catered to.

Laodicea pictures the popular idea of Christianity of soft music and lights and sweet soothing words – so that no definite • reactions are roused either way. No one is stimulated to action, no one is offended. The Lord said He would have preferred them one way or the other. It is not a state of honest ignorance * but one of willing and willful ignorance. And why? Because they don’t want their beautiful ideas clouded by the stark realities and practical demands of God’s will. It is easier to practice good will in other peoples lives than God’s will in our own. People who hear and know the truth but shut themselves off from it. Not open, honest anta­gonism, but cloud banks, pretty pink and white ones of utter com­placency and indifference. It is of such the Lord says “I am about to spue thee out of My Mouth”.

He introduces Himself by a threefold statement r “These things saith”

(a)      “The Amen”, God’s last word, no matter what men say. The world has failed and so has the church, but He is the perfect ending, He v/ill in His own way complete God’s plan for the world.

(b)      “The Faithful and true Witness”. He bears record of what He sees and knows, of God to man or of man to God,

(c)      “The beginning of the creation of God”, He was the begin­ning of creation; by the time of this passage it has shown its ruin and He will be the beginning of a new creation, after He has brought to a conclusion the affairs of this one. Certainly there is no foundation in these messages, or anywhere else in Scripture, for the prevalent idea of a church making the world into a Utopia of light and glory and peace.

The last of the seven parables of Matt. 13 shows it as a drag net, full of fish its true, but as many if not more, of bad fish as good. Notice it is the net (the church) spoken of. We expect the sea (the world) to hold all kinds; the bad in the net are to be re­jected, cast away thrown back into their true element. So in Rev, 3sl6 the Lord says He will reject these “luke warm” ones who have so rejected Him that He is left outside the door of their hearts and gatherings. He does not mention His coming by a word to them – the way in which He will reject them is by the gathering out of His faithful and leaving the rest to their chosen state. Remember the parable of the ten virgins – as many were left as were taken. The ones who were taken were the ones who had the oil for their lamps, (symbol of the Holy Spirit) and also they went out to meet the Bridegroom. The others slumbered and slept until too late, lost in dreams.

With Verse 17, the Lord describes them at their own evaluation and then at His. He begins by “Thou sayest”. How bold and com­placent, yes, and boastful is man. The Pharisee who said “I, I, I”. “I thank thee God that I am not as other men. I pay tithes of all I possess, etc.” and God says “He prayed with himself”. Do you think God is interested in your carefully drawn picture of self?

There was the rich fool of Luke 12 who said “What shall I do, for I have no room to store my goods. I will pull down my barns and build greater. I will say to my soul”, etc. etc. But God said “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee”. Then what?

So this Laodicean spirit drugged with self opinion, while living on borrowed time says: “I am rich and increased with goods” but the saddest thing is that they say “I have need of nothing”. Perhaps those words stress their need as no others could, what can penetrate such utter self content and satisfaction.

Then the Lord gives the clinical report on true values “poor, wretched, naked and blind”. How self love hates such a statement 5 “thou knowest not”, indeed doesn’t want to know, such things. Then the counsel “Buy of He” – oh, we know salvation is free and cannot be bought, but in a sense the Laodicean spirit has to pay the price of laying aside all it felt so valuable. I suppose the thought here is more “exchange your gold for Mine, your rich clothing for My pure garment0, exchange the mirage for reality, the decaying for the un­fading. Then lastly, perhaps, their deepest need “Anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou mayest see”. If ever the poets’ words were true –

“Oh wad the gift, the gods would gie us,
to see ourselves as others see us”

– they are today in this Laodicean age. The church rich, preening herself on her place, power and possessions, ignorant of real values, not seeing herself as she is before God. We need the Hand of the One who anointed the eyes of the blind to touch all our eyes, so that we may see many things.

The last thing, the last word to the professing church is a plea, a lament, to the blind hearts who can’t, who won’t, see. Yes, truly there are none so blind as those who won’t see. What are our values – the kind of Verso 18 are given to us by the processes of Verse 19. Then He speaks a last gracious invitation – this Lord who in Chapter 2 was standing in His peoples midst, now is outside the door, asking them to allow Him to come in and bless them. All the rich simplicity of the full gospel is seen in these words. Even though they cannot see, maybe some will hear His Voice and open the door – then, marvel of grace, He will come in.

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The Gospel, for All Peoples, Everywhere.

We are privileged to have as our guest author this day John Knox . . . yes, that John Knox . . . of sixteenth century Scotland. Writing in chapter 2 of his History of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland, the Protestant and Presbyterian Reformer of Scotland describes for us the beginnings of “the People’s Bible” on pages 37 and following. It was the day when the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in English were made available to the masses, instead of only been printed in Latin and chained to ancient churches of the realm.  Knox writes:

“Men began to inquire, if it were not as lawful to men that understood no Latin to use the Word of their Salvation in the tongue (i.e. language) they understood, as it was for Latin men to have it in Latin, and Grecians to Hebrews in their languages.  It was answered, that the Kirk had forbidden all kinds of languages but these three, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. But men demanded when that inhibition was given, and what Council  had ordained it, considering that in the days of Chrysostom, he complained that the people used not the psalms, and other Holy Books, in their own languages? And if you say they were Greeks, and understood the Greek language, we answer that CHRIST JESUS HAS COMMANDED HIS WORD TO BE PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS. Now if it ought to be preached to all nations, it must be preached in the language they understand; and if it be lawful to preach it, and to hear it preached in all languages, why shall it not be lawful to read it, and to hear it read in all languages, to the end that the people may ‘try the spirits,’ according to the commandment of the Apostle?

“(After further discussion) the conclusion was ‘by Act of Parliament (15th March 1543) ‘it was made free to all men and women to read the Scriptures in their own language, or in the English language, and so were all Acts made in contrary abolished.’

“This was no small victory of Christ Jesus, fighting against the conjured enemies of his Verity, no small comfort to such as before were holden in such bondage . . . “

Words to Live By: If we are indeed in that period of our history which is being called  post-Christian, where the Biblical principles of ethics can no longer be assumed to be believed and practiced, then it is imperative to have a new emphasis on Bible memorization by all Christian people, young and old alike.  Question: if your Bible was taken away, labeled perhaps as a terrorist book, by the authorities, how much of it could you quote to the edification of your souls, your family’s growth in Christian faith and living, to say nothing of your fellow Christians, and the world at large?

PART II of Today’s Post:

To Treasure that Which Cost So Many Lives and Dear
Reinforcing the above account, the following anecdote in found on the pages of The Charleston Observer on this same date, 15 March, in 1834 (vol. 8, no. 2, page 41, columns 4-5) :—

THE OLDEST ENGLISH BIBLE.
[now preserved at the British Library as “Egerton 617”]
Anecdote of Dr. Adam Clarke.

During his first three years’ residence in London, (from 1795 to 1798,) Dr. Adam Clarke, amidst all his labors, began to amass that choice and valuable library which eventually became second to few private collections in the kingdom. He was eminently skilful in matters of bibliography–as indeed his published works abundantly show–and he spared neither labor nor expense in seeking out and getting possession of literary treasures. One of the literary purchases which Dr. Clarke made during his first London residence deserves to be particularly mentioned, more especially as this propitious acquisition was the nest-egg of his future library, and no doubt greatly influenced that book collecting propensity of which it was itself in part the fruit. The valuable biblical acquisition to which we have alluded, is thus noticed by his biographer.—London Chr. Obs.

“On the publication of the catalogue of the library of the Rev. Mr. Fell, Principal of the Dissenting College at Hackney, Mr. Clarke observed advertised “A black letter Bible.” The day fixed for the sale happening to be on what was termed among the Methodists a quarterly meeting day, which is a time appointed by that body for the adjustment of their accounts, &c., &c., and which required his personal attendance during the very hours of sale; he therefore desired his friend and bookseller, Mr. William Baynes, to attend the auction, and purchase for him ‘the black-letter Bible, if it went any thing in reason;’ he did so, the book was put up, and Baynes had only one competitor, and on a trifling advance, on a moderate last bid, it was knocked down to the bookseller. On inquiry Mr. Baynes found that his opponent was by trade a gold-beater, and that he had bid for the book merely on account of the skins on which it was written, and as soon as he had gone to the extent of their value for the purpose of his calling, he had given up the contest; hence the trifling advanced secured its higher destiny and better fate.

“When Mr. Clarke had concluded the quarterly meeting, he went from the City Road, where it was held, to Paternoster Row, to inquire after the chances of the auction; he found that the book he desired was secured, and on the slightest examination discovered that it was indeed ‘a black-letter Bible,’ but of so ancient a date as to constitute it a great literary treasure; he had it immediately packed up in a parcel (and it made no small dimensions, being an hundred weight) and putting it on his shoulder, walked beneath his burden to his own house in Spitalfields. [Ed.: a distance of about 18 miles!] He lost no time in making a more minute examination of his purchase, the result of which he has inserted with his own hand in the flyleaf.

‘This Bible, the first translated into the English language, and evidently, from the orthography and diction, the oldest copy of that translation, was once the property of Thomas A. Woodstock, youngest son of Edward III, King of England, and brother to Edward the black prince and John of Gaunt. Thomas A. Woodstock was born in 1355, and was supposed to have been smothered between two beds; or others say, causelessly beheaded at Calais, Sept. 8, 1397, in the 42d year of his age, by Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshall of England, at the instance of his nephew, King Richard II. His arms appear on the shield at the top of the first page, and are the same as those on his monument in Westminster Abbey. In many respects the language of this MS. is older than that found in most of those copies which go under the name of John Wiclif. This MS. was once in the possession of the celebrated Dr. John Hunter. It was found in a most shattered condition, and from the hay and bits of mortar that were in it, leads to this most natural conclusion, that it had been hid, probably during the Maryan persecution, in stacks of hay, and at other times built up in walls, and not unfrequently, it would appear, that it had been secreted under ground, as was evinced from the decayed state of many of its pages, especially the early ones.

(Signed) Adam Clarke.

Again we say, hide the Word of God in your heart.

[To read the British Museum’s description of this black letter Bible, and to view a presentation of selected images, click here.]

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Gelukkige Verjaardag
[Dutch for Happy Birthday!]

Vos01When the author of these historical vignettes was studying for his Doctorate of Ministry degree at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the assignments was to read the first seventy-five pages of Geerhardus Vos’s book on Biblical Theology.  This should be a snap, I thought.  Only seventy-five pages of a large treatise.  It was one of my most difficult assignments ever, as Dr. Vos used complex theological words which only a theological  dictionary, my constant companion, would define. So it was slow going all the way through. In frustration I called my father, who had studied under Dr. Vos at Princeton  Seminary in 1929, hoping to receive some comfort about this assigned book. I received none from my dad.  His response was that I didn’t have to sit under Dr. Vos and interpret his “thick Dutch accent” while taking notes, so be thankful for small blessings!

Vos02_mBorn this day, March 14, 1862, in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, Geerhardus Vos grew to become one of the finest and yet one of the last examples of the old Princeton theology. Immigrating to the United States in 1881 when his father answered a call to serve as pastor of a church in Grand Rapids, young Vos prepared for the ministry first at the Christian Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids and then at the Princeton Theological Seminary, before taking his doctoral studies in Berlin and Strassburg.  After about five years teaching at the Seminary in Grand Rapids, he was named as the first Professor of Biblical Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary, taking that post in 1893 and serving there until retirement at the age of 70, in 1932.

When Princeton Seminary was reorganized and modernists put in positions of authority over the Seminary, Vos was within three years of retirement. He chose to remain rather than follow Robert Dick Wilson and J. Gresham Machen as they founded Westminster Theological Seminary. Nonetheless, his convictions were with those faithful men, and upon his retirement in 1932, he left an impressive portion of his library to Westminster.

Vos03His theological works were numerous and interest in his work has only grown through the years. Sadly, few publications noted his death in August of 1949, one notable exception being the September 1949 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian (see page 164)James T. Dennison, Jr. has written a brief biography of Dr. Vos, originally published in Kerux and made available here.  Dr. Richard Gaffin has judged that Vos made his greatest contributions with his work on the kingdom teaching of Jesus [The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church (1903)] and the theology of Paul [The Pauline Eschatology (1930)]. Just remember, that thick Dutch accent went down on paper (so to speak), and his writings are often challenging to read, but always worth the time.

His wife, Catherine Vos, was notable in her own right, particularly as the author ofThe Child’s Story Bible. She preceded him in death by some twelve years.

Words to Live By: An excerpt from “Jeremiah’s Plaint and Its Answer,” by Dr. Geerhardus Vos (1928)

“In taking the comfort of the prophetic promises to our hearts we do not, perhaps, always realize what after the tempests and tumults, in the brief seasons of clear shining which God interposed, such relief must have meant to the prophets themselves. For they had not merely to pass through the distress of the present; besides this they were not allowed to avert their eyes from the terrifying vision of the latter days. In anticipation they drank from the cup “with wine of reeling” filled by Jehovah’s hand. Nor did the prophets see only the turbulent surface, the foaming upper waves of the inrushing flood, their eyes were opened to the religious and moral terrors underneath. The prophetic agony was no less spiritual than physical; it battled with the sin of Israel and the wrath of God, and these were even more dreadful realities than hostile invasion or collapse of the state or captivity for the remnant. In a sense which made them true types of Christ the prophets bore the unfaithfulness of the people on their hearts. As Jesus had a sorrowful acquaintance with the spirit no less than the body of the cross, so they were led to explore the deeper meaning of the judgment to enter recesses of its pain undreamt of by the sinners in Israel themselves.”

Like the prophets, God calls us to weep over the sins of our times. We are not prophets—their time and place has gone—but God calls us still to take up the mind of Christ in this, to pray for His mercy upon a sinful people, to pray our Lord would rain down repentance and bring reformation.

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The following is drawn from an autobiography written by the Rev. Daniel Iverson, founding pastor of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida. That church closed its doors some years ago, but the legacy lives on.

The Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in its first twenty-four years under Daniel Iverson grew from seventeen worshipers in an old dance hall (half of them Iversons) to 1664 members with a Sunday School of 1200.  150 went into full-time Christian ministries, 4000 persons made a public profession of faith joining Shenandoah and her missions in this period, and some twenty-one churches were founded through Shenandoah and its pastor, together with its “children and grandchildren.  With the vast shift of population, seventy five years later, the Calle Ocho Church began to replant the church, “Reformed according to the Word of God” in the heart of what is now known as “Little Havana.” This autobiographical sketch in Dan Iverson’s own words best explains the miracle of Shenandoah. It is a simple answer.  Obviously, God did it!

The Work Begins: Sweating in Miami

iversondaniel01In February, 1927, Mrs. Iverson and I began to visit from home to home in the Southwest section of the city to see about prospects.  The people were in such an unsettled condition due to the collapse of the business boom and the terrible hurricane, it looked like a hopeless task. We were greeted with more or less indifference. We did not have a place to worship, and did not know where we could secure such a place; but we felt it was God’s will that we should work as though everything would work out alright, trusting Him every step of the way.

We found some people suspicious, charging that we had an ax to grind.  We found some very receptive and interested, and that most of them had heartaches they were trying to hide.  Having had some experience with people (Dan was about thirty eight years old), we felt it was our duty to penetrate the crust that hid the real self, and be of comfort and service to those in distress.

Having felt it was the time to start the church in the Shenandoah  community, I put notices in the newspapers, inviting those who were interested in establishing a Presbyterian Church to visit us in our home on a Tuesday evening in late February. About eight people attended that meeting, but only one became a member of what is now known as the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church.

After visiting for several weeks, we had interested enough folks, we thought, to jusify our finding a place of worship. There was an apartment on the corner of Southwest 20th Avenue and 12th Street that had stores on the ground floor.  We thought that was the place to begin, and tried to secure one of the stores. The owner of the building said that if we could gain the consent of those in the apartment building, we could use the store for a short time.  After four days, we had the people’s consent, but then the owner of the building decided against it. This was discouraging, for we had tried several places and met with similar rebuffs.

On Tamiami Trail and 20th Avenue there was a wooden building, now very much dilapidated, but then being used as a dance hall. It did not look to be the right thing to start a church in a Dance Hall. I found the building open, and walked in to take a look, and found it ideal as a Tabernacle.  I felt God had led me to this place. There was a little orchestra stand in the center of the building, and I knelt down behind the stand and claimed the building for God, and as I knelt and prayed, I felt God had answered my prayers.  I did every thing I could to secure this building, but failed.  Yet I felt in my heart that it would finally be ours.

I kept looking around the area and found an open air theater, now known as the Trail Auto Parts Company, that had closed its doors as a moving picture concern. I felt it was an unwise move to begin, but feeling it was imperative, I was ready to accept anything.  I secured this building for ten dollars per Sunday, and did not have the ten dollars to pay it.

That week, having  printed ten thousand invitation cards, my two boys, Dan and Ned, and my little girl Ella Lillian, went with me and assisted me in placing under the doors of 1000 homes these cards.  This interested them in the venture, and I found in family prayers they were constantly remembering this effort before God. Having given out one thousand cards, they thought everyone would respond and expected to see a large gathering on that first Sunday, March 13, 1927 at the Kew Garden Theater.

We advertised the Bible School hour at 9:45 A.M. I painted a sign and placed it outside the door, and opened up at 9:00 AM. There were five from our own family present,  At 9:45 there were still just five present, and that was a matter of anxiety for us all. As we were beginning with just our family at five minutes of ten, one person strolled in and asked if this was the place for the service, and wondered where the crowd was. At five minutes after ten, there were possibly ten present, and by 10:15 AM we had our first Sunday School of seventeen people divided into three classes. These classes were led by Mrs. Jennie Anderson, and for the adults  a class by Mrs. Daniel Iverson, and one by Miss Alice France.

shenandoahPCThe open air theater had a concrete floor and sunshine rules very strongly in Miami in March. It was unbearably warm and the glare very hard on the eyes. We found we were laboring under tremendous hardships. After a brief Sunday School session of the three classes, we asked the people to stay for church, and we would not keep them long.  Some people were added to the eleven o’clock service, making the attendance perhaps twenty-five or thirty. The sun was so hot that the people complained about it.  I suggested we hold a short service and someone suggested that they go home and get their parasols and come back.  I was afraid that if I let them go, they would not come back. They were so nice and kind, I gave them their wish and everyone  came back. This was just a little thing, but that was an encouraging thing, and I needed that little encouragement at what seemed to be a very dark moment in the blazing sun.

We had no hymn books, but I found a friend from my home town that was kind enough to make a couple hundred copies of three hymns. We used those hymns for a number of weeks for we had no funds with which to purchase hymn books.  During the following weeks I felt it necessary to get another place of worship, but found it impossible to secure them. So I printed one thousand more cards and with some neighbor children and my own, we placed cards under the doors again. I know we were not as welcome as we ought to have been, but I overlooked that, and went on. In spite of the handicap of a very uncomfortable place, we had a slight increase of both Bible School and Church. On these cards we suggested that people bring their parasols, and they did. We prayed earnestly that God at that time would answer the prayers for the dance hall.  Another week went by with the same disappointment and fear, but again, there was a slight increase in attendance.

Words to Live By:
When the Lord has a work to do, He prepares the way. Nothing will prevent or hinder the accomplishment of His will. It will happen in His time. Our role is to watch, and to faithfully obey, as He leads. The Gospel must be proclaimed. God will do the rest.

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Hungry for Souls

John WanamakerThe average shopper, at least on the east coast, knows all about Wanamaker department stores. What they may not know is that the name behind the department store was a committed Christian, and a God-fearing Presbyterian at that.

John Wanamaker was gifted in making American business possess a soul. He was first in offering workers at his department stores such benefits as pensions, life insurance, and vacations. He wasn’t shy either about venturing out into big projects. When he bought an old abandoned rail depot, he invited other merchants to come in with him. When they refused to venture into that new idea, he opened his own stores there and created the first successful department store in America. But his interest in how to do business paled beside the Lord’s business.

Devoting the Lord’s day to the Lord’s work, he said once, “If you once have the joy and sweet pleasure of bringing one soul to Christ, you will be hungry to get another.”  And so he had a spiritual hunger to bring every one of his pupils in his Sunday School class, for example,  to the feet of the Savior.  On March 12, 1888, he personally wrote letters to each member of his class about their souls and where they would be spending eternity. The gist of each letter was, “If you are not saved my dear friend — flee to the merciful Savior, as you would fly, into this warm room tonight out of the cold streets and the drifting snow. — If you are saved — humbly trusting in what Jesus did when his love failed not on the Cross — think of others not saved — NOT SAVED — going to the eternal darkness — your near friend, your relative — and do something!”

John Wanamaker knew, as a soul-winner, that he never was alone in this spreading of the gospel. As he said, “when you have faith enough and love enough to start out in the effort to bring a soul to the Savior — God the Holy Ghost joins in your effort, for God . . . works with even the poorest instrument that engages in His work.”

Words to Live By: Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:26 that “not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth (into being called of God.” (NIV)  But as some have pointed out, Paul didn’t say “not any” were called.  Some influential individuals have been  called to do God’s work, and we praise God that these ones used their God-given talents to successfully do God’s work in extraordinary ways. Regardless, none should boast in their own selves, but rather in God. And John Wanamaker did that.

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