May 2015

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An Odd Juxtaposition of Dates

The First General Assembly Held in America:

To Presbyterians, the American Revolution had been a holy war.  And now with its winning, Christian Presbyterians could get back to growing the church.  And that growth took place in a period of spiritual progress.  From New York all the way south to the Carolinas, new settlements were begun, with Presbyterian missionaries and ministers being sent throughout the whole length of the land.

But as the churches and  the presbyters  became more and more distant from one another, there was a concern about attendance.  In all the synods put together, over one hundred ministers were absent in any given year with only six of the churches presented by elders.  In one synod, a new moderator was elected, and then excused when it became known that he had not been present for the previous eleven years.  Clearly something had to be done.

The sixteen Presbyteries were organized into four separate synods in 1785.  They were: Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, Virginia, and the Carolinas.  Numerically, this meant that there were four synods, sixteen presbyteries, 177 ministers, 111 licentiates, and 419 churches.

It was on May 21, 1789, that the first General Assembly was held in the original city of Presbyterianism, Philadelphia.  John Witherspoon was chosen to preach the first sermon of that assembly.  The delegates chose the Rev. John Rodgers to be the first moderator.  He had been trained back in the Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church under New Side Minister Samuel Blair.

Some housekeeping had to be done in light of the separation from England.  No longer could the civil magistrate be considered to be the head of the church.  So chapters in the Westminster Standards which put him as the head of the church were re-written in the light of the American victory in the American Revolution.  No one denomination would any longer be considered a state church, whether it was Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian.  There was a separation of church from state.

And Denominational Deathknell:

Then, moving into a later century, we note that in “1918 three churches united to form First Presbyterian Church, New York City. They called as pastor Rev. Mr. George Alexander, D.D., and as associate pastor, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist. On Sunday morning May 21, 1922, Dr. Fosdick preached a famous sermon titled: “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In this he contrasts the conservative and liberal views on the Virgin Birth, the inspiration of Scripture, the Atonement and the Second Advent of Christ and pleads for tolerance of both views within the church. In 1923 Dr. Fosdick gave the Lyman Beecher lectures on preaching before the Yale Divinity School, which were later published under the title: “The Modern Use of the Bible.” This material clearly sets forth the liberal beliefs of Dr. Fosdick which are at complete variance with clear Scriptural teaching.”  [Historical Background and Development of the RPCES, by Thomas G. Cross, 1968]

Words to Live By:
We may never know whether Fosdick chose that specific date for the delivery of his infamous sermon, whether he intended with some note of irony, but clearly that sermon serves as a marker for all the many changes that have come since. As it is true for denominations and for local churches, so too every Christian is each day faced with decisions that may steer us in one direction or another. A decision to follow Christ or to follow self and its desires, which will it be?

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate.”—Psalm 1:1-2, KJV.


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Hezekiah James Balch graduated with the A.M. degree from the College of New Jersey (later, Princeton University) in 1766. While a student, he helped to found the Cliosophic Society. After leaving college, he studied for the ministry and was licensed to preach the Gospel in 1767 by the Presbytery of Donegal.

In 1769, he took charge of two congregations in North Carolina, Rocky River and Popler Tent, which he continued to serve until his death. He was ordained in 1770 by the Presbytery of Donegal. Together with Dr. Ephraim Brevard and William Kennon, graduates themselves of the College of New Jersey, he drew up the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, on 20 May 1775, and on this occasion Rev. Balch was one of the speakers before the assembled delegates and one of the signers of the declaration.

But the greater story is that of his ministry to his congregation. It seems amazing that a man, so moved of the Holy Spirit to minister so effectively, could so impress a congregation in the space of but seven short years, so as to elicit such admiration and love. Clearly it was the Lord’s work, and not man’s.


“The first Pastor was among the first, whose mortal remains were laid to rest in Poplar Tent grave yard. We know not that the Minister had ever followed the sable hearse of any of his beloved people to that sacred repository of the dead, as no memorial stone is there dating further back than 1783; but we do know that a weeping congregation gathered round the grave of their revered pastor cut down in the strength of manhood, and rolled the clods upon his coffin lids. That he might sleep in the midst of his flock in death, as he had moved and labored among them in the active duties of life, they buried him in the centre of the sacred ground. I heard the faithful Elder tell his venerable Pastor, Dr. Robinson, as the two sat by a newly opening grave, that when Mr. Balch died, his people struck diagonal lines across the yard, and where they crossed in the centre, they buried him, that they might sleep around him, dust guarding dust, and rise with him in their midst in the morning of the resurrection. The first burying ground was enclosed by a ditch, the vestiges of which are still visible. In 1849, two persons instituted a search for the grave; the lines were run as they had been 73 years before, from corner to corner, and in the centre a small stone was discovered in the grass almost covered with earth; and this humble memorial was all that remained to mark the grave of Balch. Some years later, in 1855, a handsome monument was placed over the unconscious remains of Hezekiah James Balch. On it is the following inscription:

First Pastor of Poplar Tent Congregation and one of
The original members of Orange Presbytery,
He was licensed a Preacher of the everlasting Gospel,
By the Presbytery of Donegal in 1758, ordained to the full
Work of the Holy Ministry in 1769, and rested from his
Labors, A.D. 1776, having been the Pastor of the united
Congregations of Poplar Tent and Rocky River about 7 years,
He was distinguished as one of the Committee of Three,
Who prepared that Immortal Document, the Mecklenburg
Declaration of Independence:
And his eloquence, the more effectual from his acknowledged
wisdom, purity of motive and dignity of character, contributed
much to the unanimous adoption of that instrument, on the
20th of May, 1775.

[excerpted from The Davidson Monthly, Vol. III, No. 1 (March, 1871): 21-22.]

Words to Live By:


PCUS_1879_BCOOne of the most significant signs of promise for the BCO in the 1870s was that it lost its original association in PCUS opinion with centralization.. Few commented on the localist tendency of the recent revisions.

However, except for an occasional muted expression by the Christian Observer, 177 fear of centralization ceased to be a major concern in the constitutional debate. Even leaders of the independent Missouri synod, by the time they joined the PCUS in 1874, felt assured that the Church and its constitutional projects were in accord with their view that “the Presbytery under the Constitution is supreme. Significantly, none of the seven controversial issues considered separately in 1877-78 was a centralization issue.

Instead, the most articulate opponents of the BCO in the late 1870s were a few leaders, such as Plumer, who rejected the jure divino polity theories while they were gaining currency in the Church as a whole.179 By 1877 Plumer, increasingly isolated on the question, was inveighing against the BCO on the grounds that it was a disruptive change of the established system, without addressing the merits of its  provisions. His opposition to constitutional change was entangled with his personal conflict with most of his Columbia colleagues, who had been Thornwell’s close associates.181 That kind of opposition, removed from the anti-centralist onslaught of 1867, would not indefinitely forestall adoption of the new constitution. The canvass of presbyteries in 1877-78 showed that the end of the constitutionmaking process was finally at hand. Now, American Presbyterians twenty-nine of the sixty-two responding presbyteries were ready to enact the BCO.

In their votes on the seven separately-submitted issues, the presbyteries showed revisers the combination of provisions which would command maximum support.

The 1878 Assembly used the presbytery recommendations to prepare a new text, and submitted it for action.182 Welcoming the prospect of consensus, the presbyteries ratified the draft constitution by 56 votes to 8. Appropriately, church leaders then fell into a last-minute dispute about the powers of the Assembly and the presbyteries. Some argued that the Assembly still had discretion to decide on the merits of the BCO, but others considered the presbytery actions determinative in themselves. On May 19,1879, acting on the latter interpretation, the General Assembly declared the Book of Church Order in force.

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The Reformed faith and Modern Substitutes

It is one thing to take a strong stand for the fundamentals of the faith and come out from that denomination which denies them.  It is quite another thing to stand for the essentials of the Reformed faith in the new denomination which you have started with others of similar convictions. This latter matter was the issue facing the early years of the Presbyterian Church of America.

For that reason, Professor John Murray wrote a whole series for the Presbyterian Guardian in 1935 – 1936 (its archival material is on-line now) on The Reformed Faith and Modern Substitutes. The latter part of the title dealt with two: Arminianism and Modern Dispensationalism.  Readers desiring to get a biblical view of the first substitute are urged to read the Feb 17 and March 16, 1936 issues (Vol 1, numbers 10, 12). The second Modern Substitute was dispensationalism, as it was then being taught and practiced by the Scofield Reference Bible and all kinds of Bible institutes and churches. Professor Murray would deal with this substitute in the  May 18, 1936 (Vol. 2 No. 4) issue of the Presbyterian Guardian.

[click here to read the 18 May 1936 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian.]

Murray’s point could hardly be missed in the article.  He wrote, “What we are intent upon showing is that the system of (i.e. dispensationalism) interpretation widely prevalent in this country . . . is inconsistent with the system of truth embodied in our Presbyterian standards.”

Why was this emphasis needed to these Presbyterian pastors and people in the mid-thirties in our Presbyterian church scene?  Arminianism may not have been a problem in the infant Presbyterian church, though this false belief can weave its way into many a congregation. Of far greater issue was modern dispensationalism. The fact that there was a concern with  their reader’s misunderstanding about the series of articles  led one reporter of the Presbyterian Guardian to seek to clarify what was and what was not being said by Professor Murray.

What was not being said was that all pre-mils in the church were contrary to the Reformed Faith.  It was pointed out that pre-mils could be found on the board and faculty of Westminster Seminary, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and the Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. There was no inconsistency between the Reformed Faith and a belief in the premillennial return of Christ.  There was to be a wide area of liberty in the doctrine of last things as it dealt with millennial issues.

However, what was being said was that the dispensational viewpoint regarding the unity of the Scriptures, the unity of salvation, and the unity of the church was contrary to the Reformed faith.  The new church wanted to be in reality as well as in name a Reformed church. And this would come into the forefront of the Presbyterian Church of America with the tragic division of the young church  in less than two years in 1938.

Words to Live By: Suppose one of your friends, neighbors, work associates would ask you what do you believe about the teachings of your church?  How would you answer them?  First Peter 3:15 reminds us to “be ready to give an answer.” That word “answer” is where we get our word “apologetics.” It speaks of a defense of the hope which lies within us. But to to do this, you must first know the Scriptures. Read them faithfully and daily. Meditate upon them—dwell upon the meaning of the words and their application, to you, to those around you, to the Church, etc. And most importantly, live out what you have learned. Living according to God’s Word is essential to your deepening understanding of His Word, and thus to your ability to give a faithful defense in testimony of God’s work of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 19. — What is the misery of the estate whereinto man fell?

A. — All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Scripture References: Gen. 3:8,24; Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:14; Rom. 6:23.


1. Of what does man’s misery in the fall consist?

It consists of three things: (a) What man has lost. (b) What man is brought under. (c) What man is liable to.

2. What was the communion with God lost by man because of the fall?

This communion was the presence and favor of God, together with the sweet fellowship and enjoyment of God in the garden of Eden.

3. Does this loss of communion with God extend to this day as far as man is concerned?

Yes, it extends to today. Mankind comes into the world today alienated from God. Mankind lives today alienated from God unless he comes to know God through faith in Jesus Christ.

4. What is man brought under by the fall?

Man is brought under God’s wrath and curse by the fall and this is a great misery. The favor of God is better for man than life itself. Man is wretched and miserable without fellowship with God.

5. Are the miseries in this life external or internal as a result of the fall?

The miseries are both external and internal. Such things as calamities, sicknesses, losses of homes, jobs, families are all external miseries that could result from the fall. The internal miseries that result from the fall are such things as living under the domination of Satan, the spiritual blindness of mind and hardness of heart, vile affections, perplexities and distresses of the mind.

6. What is the punishment which man is liable to by the fall?

The punishment is death itself at the end of his life. This punishment could be simply physical if a man was born again by the Spirit of God. This punishment could be eternal-an eternity in hell—if man is not born again.


A certain portion of this Catechism Question deals with the place known as “Hell”. The question is asked, “Do Christians Believe in Hell?” In spite of the fact that hell is mentioned in our Standards and is therefore a part of our belief, it seems that some of our people do not believe in everlasting torment.

A man once said that there could be no Christian geography unless Heaven and hell were included on the map, for the real meaning of life is not here, but there. And it is so true that so many Christians want to keep Heaven on the map, but they prefer to ignore the existence of hell. But Jesus Christ, in Matt. 25:46, put both Heaven and hell in the Christian geography and Bible-believing people cannot push it aside.

A fair question would be, “How do Bible-believing people push this doctrine aside?” The doctrine is pushed aside not so much by a lack of belief in the doctrine—for all Bible-believing people will affirm the doctrine—but in the setting aside of the doctrine in their relationships with the unbelievers. Somehow or other we have forgotten that a person outside of Jesus Christ is on his way to hell and everlasting punishment.

Last year a Christian friend told me of his experience. He was in a restaurant and sitting at the next booth were four people who were having a time of mirth and merriment. He told me they asked him a question and thereby drew him into their conversation. He said there was nothing wrong with the conversation, it had a high moral note, it was simply foolishness. After some time they left and went on their way. He finally left and started down the highway in his car. A wreck had taken place and four people were in it. Three of them were killed. The question burned into his mind and heart: Are they now in hell?

Our Standards teach the doctrine. Do we believe it? If so, are we bending every effort to tell others of Jesus Christ who died on the Cross of Calvary to save sinners from the everlasting torment of hell?

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The Westward Expansion of Presbyterianism

As Presbyterians, all Presbyterian history is our history. Those who have gone before, regardless of their denomination, have had an effect and have left a testimony which affects the work of ministry today. Whether they sowed the good seed of the Gospel or whether they turned their hand from the plow, we today work that same soil. The faithful proclamation of the Gospel will always be difficult, but what others have done before us can and does affect the work today. Thus the importance of history–to know the work done before and to build upon that work in the wisest ways.

mcmillanJohnThe Presbytery of Redstone was an historic PCUSA Presbytery, the first court of that denomination west of the Allegheny mountains. The organization of this Presbytery marked the beginning of the Church’s occupation of the great valley of the Mississippi. The field actually occupied was, geographically, the key to the great westward expansion. This was the section of the country extending from the base of the mountains westward to Fort Pitt and the Forks of the Wheeling, comprising the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, together with an adjoining section of West Virginia. It can rightly be said that it was from this Presbytery that the PCUSA began to expand across the nation until at last it reached the Pacific ocean.

Pictured at right, the Rev. John McMillan, one of the leading ministers in the Presbytery of Redstone.

The Presbytery of Redstone was organized on May 16th, 1781, by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, in answer to a request from missionaries who were then serving west of the Alleghenies.  1781 was the closing year of the Revolutionary War and the Presbytery was formed but a month before the surrender of British forces at Yorktown.

After the division of what was termed the Old Synod inn 1788, the Presbytery of Redstone formed part of the Synod of Virginia, up until 1802, at which time the Synod of Pittsburgh was formed. With rapid growth, the Presbytery then divided in 1793 to create the Presbytery of Ohio. A later division in 1830 created the Presbytery of Blairsville.

The men who formed this Presbytery were Scotch-Irish settlers who were used to hardships and wilderness life, yet who were also resolute in their Reformed faith. The pastors numbered among the first members of Redstone were all well-educated men, most of whom had graduated from Princeton College. “Taken collectively, they were a body of well disciplined, orthodox and devoted ministers.” Among them, Thaddeus Dod, James Dunlap, Thomas Marquis, Elisha McCurdy, John McMillan, Joseph Patterson, and James Power. Among Redstone’s first ruling elders, many were notable men in business, government, and education.

Cumulatively, their influence was such that in most of the churches of western Pennsylvania, and in many churches throughout the western States in later years, a large part of the effective membership of those churches consisted of the descendants of those first ministers and elders whose names are found in the early records of the Presbytery of Redstone.

A history of the Presbytery was published in 1854, under the title of Old Redstone. And in 1878, the minutes of the Presbytery up to that point were gathered together in a published volume of over 400 pages. In 1881 the Presbytery held a centennial celebration, an occasion held jointly with some of the surrounding PCUSA Presbyteries of Pittsburgh, Washington, Blairsville and West Virginia.

There are actually a good number of published histories for Presbyteries in both the PCUS (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church, 1861-1983) and the PCUSA [1789-1958]. By comparison, we have preserved at the PCA Historical Center a few brief sketches that have been written for some of the PCA presbyteries. But the PCA is still a young denomination and I am sure that more such work will be done in the coming years. Off-hand I don’t know of any histories that may have been written for OPC or ARP presbyteries, outside of larger denominational histories.

Something to Consider:
For all the practical value of church history, at the root of it all, we value our history as a record of what God has done in our midst. The history of the Church in all its parts is a testimony to our risen Lord who has redeemed us and who has employed us in His kingdom, to His greater glory.

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A Tale of An Unusual Providence

schaeffer02It was on this date, May 15th, in 1984 that Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer died. We have previously written of his death, and separately have posted a letter he wrote to Dr. Robert Rayburn during the time when both men were battling cancer.

But today, in observation of Schaeffer’s passing, we want to speak not of his death, but of his new life in Christ—some interesting archival evidence of his coming to faith in Christ. This is a bit of an unusual story, admittedly with some reading between the lines, with some previously unseen details of Schaeffer’s coming to faith in Christ.

About ten or twelve years ago, as I was leaving the PCA Historical Center for the day, a seminary student ran to catch up with me and asked if I had any samples of Dr. Schaeffer’s handwriting in the Archives. I indicated that we did, but inquired further. Often when people ask a question, that question doesn’t really get at what they’re actually after. As he began to explain further, the story became more interesting.

It was the habit of this particular student–I wish now I had made note of his name–when studying in the library, when he would get tired of sitting after an hour or so, he would get up and browse through the stacks of the books in the library. Notably, and to his credit, he said he tried to be methodical in his browsing, moving from one shelf to the next, range by range, in his review of the library’s holdings. Then one day, he came to a new shelf and as was his habit, began pulling down various books to inspect them closer. This particular day, in the book he opened, he was surprised to see the signature of Francis A. Schaeffer, with a date of 1929. [the comment “Not Sound” is in a different hand]:


None of the other books on that shelf had that same signature, but there was a small slip of paper tucked into this book, with some writing on it. Putting the book back, the student had the presence of mind to seek out someone who might help confirm the signature as Schaeffer’s. On a following day, we met again and confirmed the handwriting from other examples in the Historical Center, and the student happily returned to his studies.

What is remarkable to me about this story is the background information. The book in question was a small hardback published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses! And there on the shelf with other JW publications, was another volume with an inscription from Aunt Mabel and Uncle Harrison, a couple who were in fact Schaeffer’s aunt and uncle.


From this it is easy to surmise that as Fran Schaeffer began to be interested in spiritual matters (he is usually noted as having become a Christian in 1930), others in his family might have been aware of those stirrings. This aunt and uncle had probably heard that he had begun to read the Bible, and so looked around for something they could contribute. It might be a stretch to conclude that they were themselves JW’s, but it is at least curious that they apparently continued to gift several JW publications over the years.

And that slip of paper. Was this among Schaeffer’s earliest testimony to his new-found faith? Perhaps so. It reads:


If you can’t read it, this side of the paper reads:

“Studying his word, and doing his work is the only thing I enjoy now”

“The boy him-self must choose, no one can do any-thing but guide him”

“I don’t know what I will do, but I” [incomplete–there might have been a second piece of paper.]

On the back of this paper there is this:


The writing here is easier to read:

“All have sinned and must accept Christ to be saved.”

An evangelical confession of belief, to be sure.

Finally, it is remarkable to realize that Dr. Schaeffer had these books in his possession for some years, but most likely chose to leave them behind at his St. Louis church when he moved his family to Switzerland in the late 1940’s, beginning the ministry that would become L’Abri. Some seven years later, the church relocated to the suburbs, and when Covenant College was formed a few years later, these books must have been donated to the fledgling school’s library. The books were catalogued, labeled and placed on the shelf. Students must inevitably have looked at them from time to time. Someone might have even checked them out. And yet that little slip of paper stayed tucked in that book all those years until the seminary student at the top of our story came across the book.

Words to Live By:
To think that Francis Schaeffer could have been led astray by well-meaning relatives might be quite shocking. But the Lord has given us a promise. He knows those who are His, and He will never lose even one of His dear children.

This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”–John 6:39-40, NASB.


The Piano Playing Pastor 

miladinGeorge01Let’s be clear about this post. This post is the story of God’s sovereign grace in transforming a self-seeking nightclub piano player into a grateful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ known as the piano playing pastor. His name? George Miladin.

His musical ability began early . . . at five years of age. When his mother discovered that he had “perfect pitch,” she “pitched” him onto a piano bench. Trained by his aunt, who was a professional musician, he learned to play heavy classics, like Chopin’s Polonaise, though at times, there was a desire for baseball and a more masculine instrument like the trumpet!
George’s next period in his life, from ages 12–20, was spent in rebellion. No more piano, no more attendance at Sunday School, no more thinking about God, was the way he summarized it all up. From now on, it was going to be about him. So he took up the trumpet, and became so good at it, that he played with the Lawrence Welk band at the Aragon Ballroom, “tooting” his arrangement of Stardust. Graduating from high school, he traveled to Michigan with his trumpet. He contracted pneumonia there and in the process of recovery from it, he lost his “lip”. Returning to California,  one of Hollywood’s best piano teachers took him on, and he practiced two hours a day, not in the classics of his youth, but in pop music. He came to the notice of a disc jockey of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, known at the mayor of Hollywood, who invited him to join his band to travel oversees to the Far East for troop entertainment. He made five such trips with that entertainment troupe. Pretty heady stuff, he acknowledged later, for an  eighteen year old. When a contract could not be finalized for him to continue this dissolute life in Japan, he continued in his studies at U.C.L.A.  In God’s providence, two events took place at this time.
miladinGeorge02First, a young starlet for whom he played the piano, tried and failed to commit suicide. George Miladin began to think on the things of eternity at that time.  Second, God sent a young man with a Bible and an heart filled with love for the Lord Jesus into his life. After a few months of studying the Book of John with him, and attending worship at his church, the University  Bible Church, George Miladin bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The pastor of that congregation was Milo Jamison who then encouraged the young convert to play the  music for the worship services. 
On or about the middle of May, in 1962, George Miladin was introduced to Reformed theology, and accepted it with his mind and heart.  At the invitation of Dr. Robert Rayburn, he went to Covenant Theological Seminary. After graduation, with his wife Londa, whom  he had married in 1958, he was ordained and served a number of Presbyterian Churches, including his last congregation in San Diego, where he would minister for 27 years. He continues today in the field of music, desiring to bring glory to God who has been so gracious to him. (Those who use the Trinity Hymnal in their worship, check out his musical arrangement for the Apostle’s Creed, at number 741 in the Hymnal.) 
Words to Live By:
The good news is that God’s saving grace is not over. The Holy Spirit continues to arrest people in their downward sinful paths and bring them to Christ. It may be that this post will be used by that same Spirit of God to reach someone who is living for the world, as George Miladin was living at one time in his life. Let his story of redemptive grace speak to your heart and bring you to the Savior.

A few of the published works of Rev. Miladin:

Is this really the end?: A Reformed Analysis of The Late Great Planet Earth.

The Reformed Faith For the World Today and Tomorrow.

Getting it together in the home : a how to do it manual on family devotions.

Revolution, martyrdom, flight and reconstruction : a timely study of today’s Christians and their relationship to the “powers that be” (1976)

Knowing and Growing: A 5-Part Study Manual for New (and Old) Believers. (1980’s?)

Personal Evangelism Made Less Difficult. 


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Ninth Oldest Educational Institution in the Nation

The history and tradition page on the college’s web site is very thorough about the various changes which have come in the time the educational school has been in existence.  Our readers know it as Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia.  The latter part of its name was added in 1870 when General Robert E. Lee, late of the Confederacy, died as its president in that year.  Before that from 1813 and 1796, it was simply known as Washington College and Washington Academy.  The father of our country had come in a time of financial struggle to give a grant of 20,000 shares of James River Canal stock.  And so in honor  of him, they gave his name to the school.  Before that still, it was named on May 13, 1776,  as Liberty Hall Academy in that same location. Ruins from that school are still to be found on a hill looking over the area.  Originally, it was called from 1749, Augusta Academy, so named after the county in which it found itself in Virginia.

Yet missing from this whole description of the founding and re-naming of the educational institution is that the Presbyterians of Virginia had begun this school.  As early as 1771, the Hanover Presbytery expressed its intention to begin a seminary of learning within the boundary of the Presbytery. Its early leaders, supporters, and faculty were all Presbyterians from the Shenandoah Valley.  And its purpose was to give a religious and moral education to the students who would come to study under its oversight.  It is true that they did not desire to make Presbyterians of all who came there, but the denominational basis of the school was clearly known by all who were to attend.  Its board members were all Presbyterian ministers and members of the Presbyterian churches in the valley.  Its first president was the celebrated Presbyterian minister William Graham, who studied under John Witherspoon at the College of New Jersey.

It was said that Liberty Hall Academy owed its foundation, first, to the pious zeal of  Presbyterian clergy, second, to the contributions of the Presbyterian people of the valley, third, to the energy and talents of Presbyterian minister and leader, Rev. William Graham, and last, to the attention by the Presbyterian trustees and gratuitous aid of members of the Presbyterian churches of said valley.  Yet it is all this which is missing on the present history and traditions page of the University on-line.

Words to Live By:  A Christian man and woman this writer knows has taken remarkable  incidents out of their lives when God has been powerfully present and accounted for in those lives, and remembered them by marked stones in a dish.  It is a reminder that we are too apt to forget what God has accomplished in the past.  That is why a key word in Scripture is the word “remember.”  Let us remember God’s dealings in our lives, and in the lives of our institutions.

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Born in Rendham, Massachusetts on March 13, 1918, Thomas G. Cross was educated at Hampton Sydney College and went on to prepare for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary. In a ministerial career that spanned fifty years, the Rev. Thomas G. Cross was instrumental in establishing forty churches across the United States. He was ordained by the Bible Presbyterian denomination in 1943 and from 1948 to 1953, served as General Secretary for the National Presbyterian Missions agency. Among his published works is a concise history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

The last years of his life were devoted to developing a pleasant and affordable retirement center primarily for the widows of Calvary and Palmetto Presbyteries. Bailey Manor, as it was named, in Clinton, South Carolina, was created from a former hospital. The Rev. Thomas G. Cross passed away on May 12, 1994.

Dr. Cross was survived by his widow, four sons and a large extended family including three brothers, David, Howard, and Walter G., Jr., all of whom also became PCA teaching elders. David, the youngest of the Cross brothers, has graciously supplied us today with his own recollections of his brother Thomas:—

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Cross – March 13, 1918 – May 12, 1994
by his youngest brother, David Cross.

Tom was almost 24 years old and had been married to Jane for almost 2 years when I was born, so my earliest recollections of Tom are of his visits to our parents’ home in Scranton, PA. We sat around the kitchen table as he told stories about driving the length and breadth of the United States and even into Canada to help small groups of people who wanted to form a Bible Presbyterian Church. Many of those churches are now part of the Presbyterian Church in America. The skills in business affairs that he learned from our father were valuable assets in the things he did for those churches.

Tom was the General Secretary (Chief Operating Officer) of National Missions, the church planting agency of the denomination. As the ministry grew, Tom moved it to St Louis, where Covenant College and Seminary were starting and at the time was the center of the country based on population.

Soon after that move increasing tinnitus exacerbated by air travel and the needs of a family of four boys, motivated him to accept a call to the Bible Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. But his interest in church planting never dimmed. He became the founding pastor of Mitchell Road PCA as well as encouraging the planting of several other churches in that part of the state.

When he retired from Mitchell Road he moved to Columbia, SC to start yet another church. Then returned to Greenville where he helped a struggling church to get moving.

For years he, and some like-minded men had been working on the idea of having a retirement home for people of average means. The right location seemed to elude them until a redundant hospital building became available in Clinton, SC. Tom and Jane sold their lovely home and moved into one of the first available apartments converted from old hospital rooms in Bailey Manor, which at the time was still a building site.

My last recollection of Tom was his visit to England in 1993. I was serving there with Mission To the World. He came for the 350th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Westminster Assembly. He preached in the tiny church we were planting in Chelmsford and he wanted to know about things, even the small businesses that operated from trailers and sold tea and sandwiches alongside the highways.

Tom never lost his enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel, nor his interest in the people who surrounded him. His example has been a challenge to me for my whole life.

Words to Live By:
Tom Cross never lost his enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel.  Do you, as a reader of this post, have an enthusiasm for the spread of the gospel?  After all, that is what the Great Commission is all about, starting in your  home town (your Jerusalem), going to your county or state (your Judea), including parts of your living area which may be on the adverse side of life (your Samaria), and going through support of foreign missionaries, or going yourself to the other parts of the world.  May we all have Tom Cross’ testimony, that of being on fire for the spread of the gospel.

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