February 2016

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The Early History of Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church, Sparta, IL

wylieSamuelThe history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Randolph County, Illinois, goes back to the year 1818.  To the Rev. Samuel Wylie belongs the credit of the planting of the church.  He was born in County Antrim, Ireland, February 19, 1790; came to the United States in 1807; entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in the class of 1811; prepared for the ministry in the Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, under the care of his uncle, Dr. Samuel Brown Wylie, and was licensed to preach in May, 1815, at Philadelphia, by the Middle Presbytery.

In the summer of 1817 he visited various places in the West, passing through Illinois and continuing his travels as far as Boonville, Missouri.  One his return he again passed through Illinois and spent the winter in supplying the vacancies in Tennessee and South Carolina.

At the meeting of the Synod in Pittsburgh in the latter part of May, 1818, he reported his travels and the prospect for church extension in the West.  Synod ordered the Middle Presbytery to take him on trial for ordination, and he was accordingly ordained in Pittsburgh, PA, on the 2nd of June, 1818, and sent as a missionary to Southern Illinois.  Mr. Wylie reached Kaskaskia the last day of July following and immediately entered upon his work.

The field of operation at first was Randolph county, though it afterward embraced parts of Perry, Washington and St. Clair.  A number of families belonging to the Associate Reformed church in South Carolina had moved into the county early in the [1800’s], and made a settlement near the present town of Preston.  They had been organized into a congregation by Rev. S. Brown, of Kentucky, a number of years before Mr. Wylie’s arrival, and being without preaching from their own ministers, by request, Mr. Wylie made his principal preaching place with them.  Members of the Reformed Presbyterian church began to come in.  James M. Gray was the first to arrive.  He came in October, and was followed immediately by his father-in-law, James Wilson, and family.  They came from near Vincennes, Indiana, where they had lived a number of years after leaving South Carolina.  They first settled near Kaskaskia, but finally located about three miles south of Sparta.

John McDill, Sr., and Hugh McKelvey, from South Carolina, came out in the summer of 1818, and bought land in Township 4—5.  One their way home they stopped in Tennessee with William Edgar, Samuel Nisbet and Samuel Little, who had removed from South Carolina a number of years before, and informed them of the mission begun in Illinois.  They immediately set out for Kaskaskia and purchased land, and Messrs. Edgar and Little moved out in the spring of 1819.  Mr. Nisbet, however, was detained and did not arrive until September.

Mr. McDill did not move out until November, 1819, though his son, John, came in the spring of that year, and began to improve his father’s place.  Mr. McKelvey did not come until 1820.  Mrs. Elizabeth Ritchie came in 1818; John McMillan and family, from Princeton, Indiana, arrived about the close of 1818 or the beginning of 1819, and settled on Plum Creek, near the present town of Houston.  David Cathcart and his son-in-law, William Campbell, from South Carolina, came in the spring of 1819, and settled in the lower end of Grand Cote Prairie.  Alexander Alexander arrived in the spring of 1819, and bought land near the old grave-yard, and after improving his place, returned to South Carolina and brought out his family in the latter part of 1819.  His father-in-law, John McDill, Sr., James Munford and John Dickey, with their families came at the same time.  John McMillan, of the Associate church, also came with them and settled between Eden and Sparta, and Munford and Dickey settled northeast of Eden.  James Strahan, from western Pennsylvania, came in the spring of 1819, and settled first down toward Kaskaskia, but finally in the west end of Grand Cote.

Mr. Wylie continued to preach in Kaskaskia and in the Irish settlement and among the Covenanters, until the arrival of William Edgar and Samuel Little, when the first session was constituted, May 24, 1819, at James McClurken’s, about six miles southwest of Sparta.  William Edgar had been ordained to the eldership in the Rocky Creek congregation, South Carolina, in 1801, and Samuel Little in Hephzibah congregation, Tennessee, at its organization in the spring of 1815.

This may be reckoned the formal organization of Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church.  It is thought by some that the first communion was held at that time.

A call was made soon after for Rev. J. Wylie and forwarded to Synod to meet in Conococheague on August, 1819.  The call itself bears not date, but the letter accompanying it bears date June 7, 1819, and is signed on behalf of the meeting by James Wilson and Samuel Little.

The letter urges the acceptance of the call strongly and skillfully.  Synod referred the call to the Western Presbytery, and at a meeting of that court held in Hartford, Indiana, October 11, 1819, it was presented and accepted, and the Rev. John Kell appointed to install Mr. Wylie as pastor.  For some reason the installation did not take place.

Presbytery met in Bethel congregation in the spring of 1820.  The question of Mr. Wylie’s settlement was again brought up, but it was deemed best to wait another year.  At this time a communion was held at Samuel Little’s, and James Munford and James McClurken were added to the session; the former had been an elder in South Carolina; the latter was formerly a member of the Associate Reformed church, and having joined the Covenanters in 18109, was chosen and ordained to the fellowship at this time.

A second call was made out for Mr. Wylie, May 22, 1821.  It was signed by thirty-five members, who subscribed $208 for his support.  The names on the call show the financial but not the numerical strength of the congregation.  It is probably that the number of the membership at this time was about seventy.  The call was presented to Presbytery on the 24th of May, and at length accepted, Mr. Wylie agreeing to give the congregation half his time, leaving the other half to be employed in mission work.  He was installed pastor on the 28th of May, 1821, over the congregation which he had gathered in the field where he had labored nearly three years as a missionary.

At the division of the Church in August, 1833, he became identified with the New School branch of the Covenanter Church, and many of his former flock remained with him, over whom he exercised pastoral charge until his resignation, on account of the infirmities of age, February 20, 1870. He died at his home in Sparta, Illinois, March 20, 1872. He married twice. First to Miss Margaret Millikin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; second, to Mrs. Margaret (Black) Ewing, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a faithful soldier of the Cross, and did much service for his Master in establishing His kingdom upon earth. He was a very acceptable preacher, and, in early times, large audiences of people waited upon his ministrations. He was not a bitter partisan, but always recognized the step which the body had taken with which he was connected. He was a fearless advocate for the cause of the slave, and enlisted the powers of his voice and pen in their emancipation. He served his Church in many important relations, and was recognized as a man of influence, and an able divine.  He published a “History of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Southern Illinois,” in the Presbyterian Historical Almanac, 1859. He was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Washington and Jefferson College in 1868. Rev. Wylie served as Moderator of the 14th Synod in 1830, and later as Moderator of the General Synod in 1850.

Words to Live By:
Reading such accounts, one is struck by the level of hardship and willing sacrifice routinely exhibited by dear saints of a century or two ago. Where is our sacrifice today? What hardships are we willing to bear for the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ? I’m not suggesting that we impose some artifical hardship upon ourselves. That would be a form of asceticism. But I am suggesting that we discipline ourselves to be alert to the needs around us. Learn the discipline of looking to serve others, to be sacrificial of our time, and if needed, of our physical resources as well. But the greatest need is often met by simply being willing to give of ourselves.

Christian principles should influence American society

William Strong was no mere cultural Christian. Listen to how he answered the question of what he thought of Christ. He said, “He is the Chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely — my Lord, my Savior, and my God.” Far from being a cultural Christian, William Strong was a committed Christian, and a Presbyterian as well.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, William Strong was born in Connecticut on May 6, 1808.  After graduating from Yale University in 1828 with honors as a Phi Betta Kappa, he then moved to Reading, Pennsylvania to begin his legal practice. In 1846, he became a Congressman, serving as an abolitionist Democrat in the House of Representatives. Serving two terms, he did not seek reelection in 1850, but returned to his private practice.

Seven years later in 1857, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as a Democrat but switched to the Republican party soon afterwards. He would serve eleven years on that state bench before returning to a lucrative law practice in Philadelphia.

On February 18, 1870, he was nominated by President U.S. Grant to the United States Supreme Court. Among his many important votes was the resolution of the disputed election of 1876, when the Court ruled in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate, thus ensuring his presidency. He served ten years, and then resigned even while he was in good health, believing that justices should not serve when they are infirm. William Strong would go to be with His Savior on August 19, 1895.

All of the above facts are about his service to the nation. And while true, yet they do not get to the character of this Christian Presbyterian. Listen to his words on what he thought about the Bible. He said, “It is the infallible Word of God, a light erected all along the shores of time to warn against the rocks and breakers, and to show the only way to the harbor of eternal rest.” With such a high view of Holy Scripture, there was no problem for Justice Strong to believe that biblical Christian principles should govern many facets of United States society. In fact, he would even go so far as to declare and work for a constitutional amendment declaring our blessed country to be a Christian nation. This in no way in his own mind meant that an established church or denomination was to be the sole church of the land. He was opposed completely to that idea. He believed in the separation of church and state, but he affirmed the connection between the God of the Bible and our nation. He desired a formal acknowledgement of the Christian foundation in American society.

During his long practice both privately and publicly, he served in many Christian organizations, among them, the American Bible Society and the American tract Society. He is buried in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By: As was his life-long commitment to both the living Word and the written Word, so all Christians today in whatever sphere they are in life, ought to have a similar commitment to Christ and His Word. Let us press today toward the goal of placing Christ and His Word into all areas of our lives.

Honest John Hart — February ?, 1713
by Rev. David T. Myers

There is much which we don’t know about Honest John Hart, as he was known by all. For example, no one seems to know the date of his birth. We know that it was the second month of the year, but the exact day is unknown. So for the purposes of this web magazine, we have chosen this day. Some don’t even know the year of his birth, though we have placed down the generally accepted year of 1713. And as far as the place of his birth, that too is not known. Some say John Hart was born in Connecticut, and others say New Jersey. But what this humble man accomplished for his new country and especially for the Lord God is well known.

His chief accomplishment was that John Hart was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, representing the State of New Jersey. And like his fellow delegate John Witherspoon, who signed the Declaration, John Hart was also a Presbyterian. We know that he was baptized as a child in the Maidenhead Meetinghouse, which is currently the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on December 31, 1713. Fellow signer, Benjamin Rush, also a Presbyterian, described him as “a plain, honest, well meaning Jersey farmer, with little education, but with good sense and virtue enough to pursue the true interests of his country.”

Married to Deborah Scudder in 1739, he settled down on 193 acres near what is presently Hopewell, New Jersey. Eventually, from this marital union, they would have 13 children. John Hart would serve in various offices of local and regional government, until his election to the Continental Congress as one of five delegates from New Jersey. In that office, he was the thirteenth member to put his signature on the bottom of the Declaration of Independence.

For that, his life incurred a great degree of personal and family suffering, as the British and Hessian forces destroyed all that he owned in Hopewell. During this time after his signing of that historic document, his wife was sick unto death. And even though there was a price on his head, John Hart would not leave his sick wife. Finally after her death, he sent the children to live with relatives and friends, while he became a fugitive, living in barns and caves, always one step ahead of the British authorities. There is online a sign which speaks of John Hart’s cave. With the end of that Revolutionary War, he was able to return to his farm.

Though he was Presbyterian, John Hart knew that the local Baptist church was looking for ground to build their church. He gave part of his land for the building of that church and cemetery. Today both John and his wife are buried in that Baptist church cemetery in Hopewell, New Jersey, with appropriate monuments indicating his place in the history of our republic.

Words to Live By:
Let us be known for our godly conversation and conduct before both believers and unbelievers alike. Let us remain faithful to Him, regardless of the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil have for us in the present, and whatever the future holds. Peter says in 2 Peter 3:17 “You therefore, beloved, . . . be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”(NASV)

February 16 – 17, 1973 — A momentous date in the history of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America.

Quoting from Paul Settle’s book, To God All Praise and Glory:

“Perhaps the most significant meeting of the entire movement convened on February 16 at the Airport Hilton in Atlanta. All the executive committees of the four conservative organizations were present with the Steering Committee. Jack Williamson brought the news from Dallas, where the Plan of Union Committee had met, that the liberals had lied: there was no plan of union! The committee scrapped teh work that had been done and asked the PCUS and UPUSA General Assemblies to allow the committee to continue its work and bring a report in 1975. Williamson said that “it was extremely unlikely that any future plan would include a belateral escape clause.” As before, in August, the men sank to their knees to pray with many tears. They now knew that there was no turning back: they must leave the PCUS, in order to exercise, as Francis Schaeffer has said, “discipline in reverse.” The season of prayer strengthened them immeasureably. John Richards told Georgia Settle: “We had…men of great power in prayer…we prayed around the table…and the prayer formed in us a kind of exhilaration;”

[To God All Praise and Glory, page 43. This book is available from the Christian Education and Publications bookstore]

News of this event was reported to the people of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod through the Bulletin News Supplement, printed by Joel Belz [back before he became editor of World Magazine]. The February 20, 1973 edition of the News Supplement stated:

“Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church U.S. (popularly known as the Southern Presbyterian Church) have responded officially to the power plays and liberalism of the hierarchy of their denomination, and laid plans for the forming of a new denomination.

A steering committee for a continuing church met in mid-February in Atlanta to lay specific plans for the new church, and did not immediately release those details. But the scope of the new move was apparent because of the broad base of participation at the Atlanta meeting. Included were leaders of Concerned Presbyterians and of Presbyterian Churchmen United, two protest groups within the Southern denomination, as well as the leaders of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and the Presbyterian Journal.

Many of those represented had looked forward to the possible union of their denomination with the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), because that union–even though it was with a liberal denomination–included an escape clause through which local churches could leave and keep their properties. But in early February, that union plan was scrapped by the liberal leaders of the Southern church. Conservatives believe the plan was abandoned because of a fear that too many congregations would exercise their rights through the escape clause.

With no prospects left of being able to leave the denomination with their properties, conservatives gathered and voted unanimously to leave the church and begin anew. They will do so with no guarantees at all with respect to the numerous church properties involved.

Several Reformed Presbyterians participated in the Atlanta meetings, and indicated a genuine desire on the part of the churchmen involved to extend fellowship between themselves and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.”

[excerpted from the Bulletin News Supplement, vol. 17, no. 8, February 20, 1973]

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“Ministerial Piety”

hogeMosesWe first visited the life of the Rev. Moses Hoge a few years back on December 13. Our intent today is to quickly glance in review over Rev. Hoge’s life, but then to sample from one of his sermons, in hopes that you might want to read more.

Moses Hoge was born on February 15, 1752. He studied at the famous Liberty Hall Academy during the time that William Graham was headmaster and later studied theology under the tutelage of Dr. James Waddel. Hoge was licensed to preach in 1781 and ordained a year later, being installed as the pastor of a congregation in Hardy, Kentucky.

Health concerns for both he and his wife prompted several moves over the years, with his wife succumbing to illness in 1802. From 1807 until his death in 1820, Rev. Hoge was president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

A year after his death, a volume presenting thirty-two of his sermons was published, edited from his manuscripts. The Rev. W. S. Reid wrote of Hoge, that “As a preacher, his manner was ungraceful, even uncouth; but there was so much depth and originality of thought, such richness and force of illustration, and such clear and cogent reasoning, that the awkwardness of his manner was very soon quite overlooked or forgotten.

For considerations of space, we will draw from just one sermon, “Ministerial Piety,” drawn from the above mentioned book, Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of the late Moses Hoge, D.D. (1821):—

(p. 23) : “A minister of the Gospel must not withhold from his people, any doctrine, or truth, which he shall judge necessary for their edification, because it may be unpopular, nor may he connive at any sinful custom, because it may be fashionable, where Providence has cast his lot. It is, indeed, far from being my wish to recommend any unnecessary strictness, in opposition to the customs and manners of the age in which we live. The attempt, however, which has so often been made, and always without success, to reconcile religion with the predominant manners and customs of the world, must ever be found impracticable. Equally far am I from recommending an attention to the unessential peculiarities of a party in the pulpit. For a preacher to put off his people, who are either hungering, or famishing, for the bread of life, with the dry husks of controversy, and that about matters confessedly not essential to their edification, is in my opinion a miserable prostitution of his sacred office.”

(p. 24) : “A minister of the Gospel must deny himself the pleasure and advantage of literary pursuits and theological researches, when the ignorant among his people are to be instructed, when the sick are to be visited, when the dying are to be assisted in their last conflict; or when in any other way he can render more essential service to the great cause in which he is engaged than by the studies of the closet. Nor is he permitted to consider any service too humiliating, or any toil or suffering, too great for him to undergo, for the honour of his Lord, and the best interests of his fellow-men.—Not that he should, without evident necessity, wear out his constitution and shorten his days, by oppressive labours or services of any kind. Quite the reverse. But when duty calls, let him never count the cost, never shrink from any toil or any sufferings. No, not even though his life were to be spent in the service of his Lord and Master. For he who thus loseth his life shall find it.”

(p. 33) : “And now, my brethren, before I take my leave of you, permit me to request you to turn your attention to the people committed to your care. See what a large proportion of them are perishing in sin. And are we sure that we have done every thing in our power to prevent their destruction?—that no more effectual measures can be adopted than those already employed, for their salvation? Let us not be too hasty in concluding that we have exhausted all the treasures of Divine mercy, either with respecdt to ourselves, or our people,—that no superior assistance for ourselves in the discharage of ministerial duty, or more effectual grace for them, is within our reach. The hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. I will venture to affirm there is one thing which we might do for them more than we have yet done. We might pay greater attention to ourselves—to the state of our own souls. Ah! did we feel for ourselves as we ought, we should soon see a glorious change in the state of our people. We should then feel for them, preach to them, pray for them, and live for them, in a way that would scarcely fail to be attended with the happiest effects.”

And for our Word to Live By, Rev. Hoge concludes:
(p. 36) : “Look around you, my Christian brethren, and behold the ignorance, the impiety, the profligacy of the world still lying in wickedness—behold the multitudes everywhere perishing in sin, and say, Is it not time to awake from your guilty slumbers? is it not time to seek the Lord until he come and rain righteousness upon us, upon our churches, and our country? Ah! would only all the friends of Zion of every name, laying aside their most unnatural animosities, and disputes of little importance, thus unite with one heart and one soul in the great cause of our Common Christianity, we might soon expect to see better times—times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Yes, we might then, confidently expect that our heaven would shower down righteousness and our earth bring forth salvation.”

Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of Moses Hoge, D.D. was published in 1821, and to my thinking should be reprinted. But in the meantime, thankfully, it is available here.

Our series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn will resume next week. We are missing from our collection his material on Question no . 65, and that material is being supplied to us very soon by a dear friend of this ministry. So in the meantime, we present today a sermon by Rev. Van Horn, a message which seems only all the more relevant today.

“THE LORD REIGNETH!”
A Sermon preached at The First Presbyterian Church, Port Gibson, Mississippi, October 8, 1961,
by the minister, The Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn.

Scripture — I Chronicles 16:7-36.

One night last week I was in the midst of that malady known as “insomnia.” It was in the early hours of the morning, everything was very quiet. My thoughts turned to the conditions of the world in which we live. As I thought of the danger spots of the world — the places where war is going on, the places that could erupt into war at any moment, the fact that at any moment an all-out war could start — as I thought of these things my heart was heavy within me. Suddenly the quietness was broken by a roaring sound, the sound of planes up in the sky. There must have been many of them for the roar was loud and the roar lasted a long time.

I thought: Up above in the sky, in those planes, are men who are guarding those of us below. They are spending their night “out” and are forced to do so by the world in which we live.

Some moments passed. Suddenly a new sound filled the air. A sound of a train. It was not the regularly scheduled train that comes through each night. This was at a different time and was much longer. A man told me the next day that many of the cars had military supplies on them. (I did not ask him what he was doing up at that hour!)

I thought: That is probably a train of military supplies, maybe even troops. I remembered the day when I would look out the window of a train filled with soldiers, see a small town in the early hours of the morning, and wish I was back home. Men carrying military supplies, spending their night “out” and forced to do so by the world in which we live.

As I thought about the world in which we live, I thought about the statement I read one time by Lenin, the Russian communist, who said, “First we will take Eastern Europe, then the masses of Asia, then we will encircle the United States, which will be the last stronghold of capitalism. We will not have to attack. It will fall like an overripe fruit into our hands.” He made this statement in 1924.

In 1955, Khrushchev had this to say, “If anyone thinks that our smiles mean the abandonment of the teachings of Marx, Engles, and Lenin, he is deceiving himself cruelly. Those who expect this to happen might just as well wait for a shrimp to learn to whistle.”

I thought: This is our world. A world in which Communism is making rapid strides. A world that could well have before it a “Doomsday” — a day in the near future when men would destroy each other. A day when there would be no place safe, no place to which we might flee from killing rays of an atomic attack.

To make it even worse, I thought of the men in our country who are advocating the policy of “peaceful coexistence”, the men who are playing right into the hands of the enemy. Men who do not seem to realize that the tyranny of Communism is easily extended where there are those who are always trying to find something good about it. Men who do not seem to realize that the forces of evil have always made their gains in the following way: 1. They ask for tolerance — and there are men in this country today who are absolutely advocating a doctrine of tolerance for Communist nations. 2. They request equality — and there are men in this country today who are absolutely advocating a doctrine of equality for Communist nations. 3. They demand supremacy — and who knows when this will come? These are the men who want us to get along with everyone and are men who do not really stand for anything and so they fall for everything.

These are the men who put pressure on to admit Red China into membership in the United Nations. After all so goes their argument, Red China is there, and we had better be realistic about it. Congressman Walter Judd has a good answer for them: There are gangsters in Chicago and we had better be realistic about that too, but does it mean we should now add them to the police force?

Even in the church this philosophy is running rampant. Men who are professing Christians, ministers, who look with displeasure upon those who will stand firm for the faith, upon those who will insist upon allegiance to The Word of God rather than to the dictates of the organized church. The time has already come in many of our denominations, including our own, when anyone who has the courage to stand for his convictions, who contends earnestly for the faith, this person runs the risk of being branded as “uncooperative” or as a “fanatic.”

What we need today are more men like Lord Lawrence. In Westminster Abbey I saw a monument to him. Inscribed on it are his name, the date of his death, and these simple but significant words, “He feared man so little, because he feared God so much.”

At this point in my thinking, in the midst of my insomnia, things indeed looked black. It would be enough for a man to call his druggist in the middle of the night and ask for three different kinds of tranquilizer. What a world! What a trend is taking place! It is enough to make us call back to the generation before and ask, “What kind of a world did you give us?” It is enough to make a man a pessimist.

But then some words of Scripture came to me: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; and let men say among the nations, The Lord reigneth.” (I Chron. 16:31). Without such words sleep would have been impossible, without such words a man could worry himself to death.

The next day when I arrived at my Study and was preparing this message, another verse came to my attention: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Prov. 18:10). In the midst of this world in which we live, in the midst of the fact that men have decided on “peaceful coexistence” as the means to their end, I should like to present to you a few thoughts.

First, The Character of God Furnishes the Righteous Man With an Abundant Security. The character of God, the Almighty, Sovereign God Himself, is the refuge of the Christian in opposition to other refuges which godless men have chosen. I would like to remind you of the seven pillars of the house of sure salvation. Seven pillars given to us by the Sovereign God. Seven pillars found in the Word of God that should enable any child of God to take heart, even in the midst of this difficult and trying world. Listen to them, take them into your hearts and be thankful: HIs wisdom, His truth, His mercy, His justice, His power, His eternity, and last but not least, His immutability. The world may change. The world may involve itself in war after war. Men may be wiped off the face of the earth. But He is not capable of change! This is indeed a strong tower. With pillars uch as these we can be sure that The Lord Reigneth!

Second, He Has Proven His Security Time and Time Again to His People. I know that this is a matter of experience — and some will say we can’t use “subjective experience” for a proof — but no matter what name you give it, it is true. The poet put it this way and how wonderful a thought it is:

“There is a safe and secret place
Beneath the wings divine,
Reserved for all the heirs of grace;
That refuge now is mine.

The least and feeblest here may hide
Uninjured and unawed;
While thousands fall on every side,
I rest secure in God.”

You see, Brethren, no matter what your tribulation might be; no matter what your trouble might be; no matter how difficult things might be; He is there. If your trial in life is want, the Lord indeed will provide. His Word is filled with promises. Listen to one: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19). If your trial is loneliness, the Lord is there with you. His Word is filled with promises to be with you. Listen to one: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5). If your trial in life is war and the rumors of wars, The Lord will give you His peace. Listen again to The Word: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27). If your trial in life is sin, remember that the Lord is your righteousness. God’s Word says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1;9). Brethren, we can defy, in God’s strength, tribulations of every sort and size!

Third, The Righteous Avail Themselves of the Strong Tower by Running to It. Such is the teaching of Proverbs 18:10. I think this is very important for us in this day and age. It is an old saying and very true, “You do not parley with evil.” You do not try to find how you can get along with it, you run from it. Your attitude toward evil should be the same as the attitude of Norm Van Brocklin, the former All-Pro Quarterback. When asked why he ran with the ball in a game he stated, “I only run out of sheer terror!” And so should the Christian’s attitude toward evil be one of not wanting anything to do with it. We should not want anymore to do with evil than Norm Van Brocklin wanted to do with running the ball.

Somehow or other there is a new teaching making itself felt today. This new teaching, when coming face to face with evil, (and Brethren, evil is anything contrary to the standard of the Word of God whether it is in politics or in the work of the church), teaches us to see how we can get along with it. This teaching motivates us to have peaceful coexistence with evil. Brethren, if a thing is wrong, it is wrong and we have no right to tolerate it, to give it equality, for then someday we shall live under it. The teaching of the Word of God is that the Christian flees to his God. The teaching is “Flee!” Let someone call you a coward! Let someone tell you that you are not having the right attitude of love toward a thing, or a person, by not having the right attitude of love toward a thing, or a person, by not having anything to do with it. Let them persecute you for having nothing to do with those who would usurp The Word. Such is evil and we are to flee from it, and to the refuge of the Almighty, Sovereign God, and He will be our strong tower!

Yes, Brethren, it is true that we live in a dangerous, terrible world. It is true that there are things making their way to and fro in the world of today that seek to destroy us. It is true that “Doomsday” could be just ahead. It is true that many sitting here this morning may well be fighting on the fields of battle a year from now. It is true that sickness and pain and misery are all here with us. But take heart! The Lord reigneth! The Bible says, “Our life is hid with Christ in God.” We are in the hands of Christ. We are under the wings of the Deity. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life — if we have asked Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and save us from our sins. No one can erase them. We have a strong tower and we are safe, by His grace.

Spurgeon once told his people — and he can say it far better than I am able to say it — “I see no reason for us to stay down in the dungeons; let us go up to the very top of the ramparts, where the banner waves in the fresh air, and let us sound the clarion of defiance to our foes again, and let it ring across the plain, where yonder pale white-horsed rider comes, bearing the lance of death; let us defy even him. Ring out the note again; salute the evening, and make the outgoings of the morning to rejoice.”

“Munitions of stupendous rock,

Thy dwelling-place shall be;

There shall thy soul without a shock

The wreck of nature see.”

Brethren, may I remind you once again? May I announce it to you in a way that you will never forget it? May I sound forth the answer to anything the world might have to offer with its wars, tribulations, bombs, evil? The Lord Reigneth!

Today being Saturday, we return to our Election Day Sermon Series written by the Rev. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. Today Dr. Hall looks at the sermon brought by the Episcopal minister Jasper Adams on this day, February 13, in 1833.


Election Day Sermon Series : “The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States”

delivered on February 13, 1833, by the Rev. Jasper Adams.

The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United SThe Rev. Jasper Adams was an Episcopal Minister and President of the College of Charleston when he preached this 1833 message to the Diocese of South Carolina at St. Michael’s church in Charleston, South Carolina. This sermon occurred a little over a half century after the American Revolution. In it, Adams argued at length that Christianity (Protestantism in the main) rested at the foundation of American political order. This sermon may be found on pp. 39-50 of Religion and Politics in the Early Republic, Daniel L. Dreisbach, ed. (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1996).

Adams based his sermon on 1 Peter 3:15, Prov. 14:34, and Rev. 11:15. His first trumpet note was: “As Christianity was designed by its Divine Author to subsist until the end of time, it was indispensable, that it should be capable of adapting itself to all states of society, and to every condition of mankind.” He summarized the intersection of religion and politics toward the beginning of his sermon in this fashion:

According to the structure of the Hebrew Polity, the religious and political systems were most intimately, if not indissolubly combined: and in the Mosaic Law, we find religious observances, political ordinances, rules of medicine, prescriptions of agriculture, and even precepts of domestic economy, brought into the most intimate association. The Hebrew Hierarchy was a literary and political, as well as a religious order of men. In the Grecian States and in the Roman Empire, the same individual united in his own person, the emblems of priest of their divinities and the ensigns of civil and political authority. Christianity, while it was undermining, and until it had overthrown the ancient Polity of the Jews on the one hand; and the Polytheism of the Roman Empire on the other; was extended by the zeal and enterprise of its early preachers, sustained by the presence of its Divine Author and accompanied by the evidence of the miracles which they were commissioned to perform. It is not strange, therefore, that when, under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity came into the place of the ancient superstition, it should have been taken under the protection, and made a part of the constitution of the Imperial government.

While warning against the flagrant abuses of Constantinianism, he also noted that most early American colonies united faith with franchise. Here is how he raises the establishment question: “In thus discontinuing the connection between Church and Commonwealth—did the people of these States intend to renounce all connection with the Christian religion? Or did they only intend to disclaim all preference of one sect of Christians over another, as far as civil government was concerned; while they still retained the Christian religion as the foundation of all their social, civil and political institutions?” And on the federal level, he asks: “Did the people of the United States, when in adopting the Federal Constitution they declared, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ expect to be understood as abolishing the national religion, which had been professed, respected and cherished from the first settlement of the country, and which it was the great object of our fathers in settling this then wilderness to enjoy according to the dictates of their own consciences?”

Rather than the view “that Christianity has no connection with the law of the land, or with our civil and political institutions,” Adams reviews the actual record and finds the following:

  1. The originators and early promoters of the discovery; and settlement of this continent, had the propagation of Christianity before their eyes, as one of the principal objects of their undertaking.
  2. We shall be further instructed in the religious character of our origin as a nation, if we advert for a moment to the rise and progress of our colonial growth.
  3. To examine with a good prospect of success, the nature and extent of the changes in regard to Religion, which have been introduced by the people of the United States in forming their State Constitutions, and also in the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. In perusing the twenty-four Constitutions of the United States with this object in view, we find all of them recognizing Christianity as the well-known and well-established religion of the communities.

He reports these epiphenomena as well: “In our Conventions and Legislative Assemblies, daily Christian worship has been customarily observed. All business proceedings in our Legislative halls and Courts of justice have been suspended by universal consent on Sunday. Christian Ministers have customarily been employed to perform stated religious services in the Army and Navy of the United States.” He continued to note: “In administering oaths, the Bible, the standard of Christian truth is used, to give additional weight and solemnity to the transaction. A respectful observance of Sunday, which is peculiarly a Christian institution, is required by the laws of nearly all, perhaps of all the respective States. My conclusion, then, is sustained by the documents which gave rise to our colonial settlements, by the records of our colonial history, by our Constitutions of government made during and since the Revolution, by the laws of the respective States, and finally by the uniform practice which has existed under them.”

[Ed. : An epiphenomenon (plural: epiphenomena) is a secondary phenomenon that occurs alongside or in parallel to a primary phenomenon.]

Adams not only thought this to be the accurate history but also a salutary relationship. Neither he nor his audience seems to tremble before this history as if it were a theocratic incursion. On the contrary, a half century after the Revolution, Adams (and others) advocated a healthy, clothed public square.

This Episcopal bishop warned against the encroaching system of unbelief that ushered in “the ruin of hundreds of thousands of estimable families, unexampled distress of nations, general anarchy and convulsions, and in the devastation of much of the fairest portion of the earth? Encouragement of the infidel system among us will dissolve all the moral ties, which unite men in the bonds of society.” “Circumvention and fraud,” he warned, “will come to be esteemed wisdom, the sacred mystery of ‘plighted troth’ will be laughed to scorn, wise forbearance will be accounted pusillanimity, an enlightened practical benevolence will be supplanted by a supreme regard to self-gratification and an insensibility to the welfare of other men, the disregard of Almighty God will be equaled only by a corresponding contempt of mankind, personal aggrandizement will be substituted for love of country, social order and public security will be subverted by treason and violence—these, and all these have been, and may again be the fruits of the infidel system.”

Believers today might still wish to consider his exhortation:

No nation on earth, is more dependent than our own, for its welfare, on the preservation and general belief and influence of Christianity among us. Perhaps there has never been a nation composed of men whose spirit is more high, whose aspirations after distinction are more keen, and whose passions are more strong than those which reign in the breasts of the American people. These are encouraged and strengthened by our systems of education, by the unlimited field of enterprise which is open to all; and more especially by the great inheritance of civil and religious freedom, which has descended to us from our ancestors. It is too manifest, therefore, to require illustration, that in a great nation thus high spirited, enterprising and free, public order must be maintained by some principle of very peculiar energy and strength—by some principle which will touch the springs of human sentiment and action. Now there are two ways, and two ways only by which men can be governed in society; the one by physical force; the other by religious and moral principles pervading the community, guiding the conscience, enlightening the reason, softening the prejudices, and calming the passions of the multitude.

Such stirring rhetoric and such passionate patriotism from an early 19th century Episcopalian pulpit may surprise many descendants of the diocese of Charleston. But Adams’ sermon is well worth hearing again.

This sermon appears in the 2012 Kindle edition of Election Sermons (pp. 45-64) or click here or here to read it on the Web.

by Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

An Auspicious Date Indeed

It was on this day, February 10th in 1645 that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland officially adopted the Westminster Assembly’s document titled The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government.

In Charles Hodge’s Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church, he states “In this directory it is declared, that the ordinary and perpetual officers of the church are pastors, teachers, and other church governors and deacons.” Certainly the Presbyterian form of government was already in place and practiced in Scotland before this date, but by the adoption of this Westminster document, the Kirk of Scotland endeavored to bolster a uniformity of church government among the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland.

While not exactly easy reading, here below is the text of the 1645 General Assembly’s resolution:

The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>ASSEMBLY AT EDINBURGH, February 10, 1645, Sess. 16. 
ACT of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the KIRK of SCOTLAND, approving the Propositions concerning Kirk-government, and Ordination of Ministers.

THE General Assembly being most desirous and solicitous, not only of the establishment and preservation of the Form of Kirk-government in this kingdom, according to the word of God, books of Discipline, acts of General Assemblies, and National Covenant, but also of an uniformity in Kirk-government betwixt these kingdoms, now more straitly and strongly unite by the late Solemn League and Covenant; and considering, that as in former time there did, so hereafter there may arise, through the nearness of contagion, manifold, mischief to this kirk from a corrupt form of government in the kirk of England: like as the precious opportunity of bringing the kirks of Christ in all the three kingdoms to an uniformity in Kirk-government being the happiness of the present times above the former; which may also, by the blessing of God, prove an effectual mean, and a good foundation to prepare for a safe and well-grounded pacification, by removing the cause from which the present pressures and bloody wars did originally proceed: and now the Assembly having thrice read, and diligently examined, the propositions (hereunto annexed) concerning the officers, assemblies, and government of the kirk, and concerning the ordination of ministers, brought unto us, as the results of the long and learned debates of the Assembly of Divines sitting at Westminster, and of the treaty of uniformity with the Commissioners of this kirk there residing; after mature deliberation,, and after timeous [i.e., in good time or sufficiently early] calling upon and warning of all, who have any exceptions against same, to make them known, that they might receive satisfaction; doth agree to and approve the propositions aforementioned, touching, touching Kirk-government and Ordination; and doth hereby authorized the Commissioners of this Assembly, who are to meet at Edinburgh, to agree and to conclude in the name of this Assembly, an uniformity betwixt the kirks in both kingdoms, in the afore-mentioned particulars, so soon as the same shall be ratified, without any substantial alteration, by an ordinance of the honourable Houses of the Parliament of England; which ratification shall be timely intimate and made known by the Commissioners of this kirk residing at London. Provided always, That this act be no ways prejudicial to the further discussion and examination of that article which hold forth, That the doctor or teacher hath power of the administration of the sacraments, as well as the pastor; as also of the distinct rights and interests of presbyteries and people in the calling of ministers; but that it shall be free to debate and discuss these points, as God shall be pleased to give further light.

Words to Live By:
God has ordained that the Church should be overseen, first at the local level, by spiritually mature men. Local congregations in turn are connected one to another and represented by these same elders, first regionally, and then on a wider scale, most commonly nationally. See Acts 15 for an example of this wider court of the Church. Pray for the Church. Pray that our leaders in the Church would study to carefully maintain God’s intended order for the Church. Pray that both we and our elders would remain humble and obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ, in all things seeking His will and not our own.

And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. — (Acts 14:23, KJV)

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— (Titus 1:5, ESV)

What follows is an interesting example of the value of reading eulogies and funeral sermons. These are a literature often overlooked, though they are also works which can provide some of the very best pastoral wisdom and insight. The example at hand is drawn from In Memoriam: Rev. John B. Spotswood, D.D., a eulogy delivered by the Rev. William P. Patterson, upon the death of Rev. Spotswood in 1885John Boswell Spotswood, the subject of the memorial, was born Feb. 8th, 1808, in Dinwiddie Co., Va., being the son of Robert and Louisa (Bott) Spotswood.

Yet, while we might, the truths spoken here give us opportunity to reflect on some foundational considerations concerning the value of pulpit ministry and how the Lord has always been faithful in providing for the needs of the Church:—

A Fitting Pause

One of the most significant facts regarding the founding and extension of Christ’s Kingdom, in the world, is the use, on the part of God, of human instrumentalities. Infinitely wise, He never errs in the selection of His laborers. In the call of men to the ministry, and in the sanctification of marked and peculiar gifts, we may, very frequently, behold a wonderful exhibition of divine providence. Through the different periods and exigencies, in the history of the Church, God has never left Himself without faithful witnesses. In each successive period the Saviour has remembered His promise, made to the first disciples, and has been indeed ever present with His Church, raising up and commissioning those qualified, both by nature and by grace, to contend with difficulty, and to triumph in all their efforts to be valiant for the truth. And after the good fight has been entirely fought, and the victory won; when these devoted servants of Christ come to the time when it is the Lord’s will that they shall depart out of this world to enter upon the full enjoyment of their reward in glory, it is altogether fitting that the Church should pause a moment to take, at least, a brief glance at their lives and labors, and to place on record her heartfelt appreciation of, and gratitude for, what they have been permitted to accomplish in the service of the Master.

Hence there is laid upon us the performance of a duty which we can not but meet gladly and gratefully, though our hearts yearn after the departed, and are filled with sincere sorrow because of our bereavement.

 

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 63 Which is the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 64 What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 5:21-22; 6:1, 5, 9; Romans 12:10; 13:1.

Questions:


l.
What is meant by “father and mother” in this commandment?

The terms “father and mother” mean not only the natural parents of a person, but also those in authority over him in age and in gifts.

2. Does that mean there are superiors and inferiors and equals in the sight of God?

Yes, the terms “father and mother” indicate those who are superior in their gifts from God whether it be in the realm of age or ability. The term “inferiors” indicates there are those who must subject themselves to the authority of others. The term “equals” indicates there are those brethren that are equal in ability, age, place or dignity.

3. Do the things taught in this commandment extend to other realms?

Yes, not only does it mean parents and children but it extends to husbands and wives, to masters and servants, to rulers and their subjects, to ministers and congregations, to older and younger. Although the commandment speaks specificially our answers following are primarily concerning the parent-child relationship, its requirements are applicable in other relationships as well.

4. What are the duties of the inferiors to their superiors?

The duties of inferiors toward superiors are to honor them, inwardly and outwardly; to listen to their instructions; to obey their commands; to meekly accept their reproofs; to love them; to care for them when necessary.

5.
What are the duties of superiors towards inferiors?

The duties of superiors toward inferiors are: To love and care for them; to train them in the knowledge of the Scriptures; to pray for them; to keep them under subjection; to encourage them by kindness and reproof; to prepare them for the future.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AUTHORITY
A cardinal rule that ought to regulate society: authority involves responsibility! The greater the authority, the greater the responsibility. It makes no difference whether the authority is exercised in the realm of the family or the realm of the church or the realm of the state. The responsibility goes with it and it is a heavy burden. God, in His wisdom, and for His own reasons, hands out to certain of His people the mandate to be the “superiors”. These people have been given by God certain abilities, certain gifts that put them over their fellow men. With these abilities, these gifts, naturally comes authority. This is something that must be present in our society whether it be in the family or church or state. With this authority there is the ever-present responsibility to use these abilities, these gifts, all to the glory of God.

It is sufficient to say here that there are certain basic responsibilities. There the responsibility of the superior to have an attitude of love, backed up by constant prayer, toward those under him. There must be a real interest in them. There can never be the attitude of detachment.

There is the responsibility of training, teaching that the person in authority always has. He must “instruct, counsel and admonish them” at all times. This includes the warning of those under him of evil. Especially in the church today there is too little of this being done. The people are being taken down roads plainly marked “Disaster” and very few seem to be raising a cry of warning.

There is the responsibility of the superior to recognize well doing on the part of the people under him. This comes under the area of encouragement, a very necessary part of the ablllty of a person to go on in this life.

There is the responsibility of correction no matter what it might cost the superior in the way of friendship, economic advancement, success. The superior must be fair in his correction but he must correct. This again is sadly lacking today in our land.

In I Samuel 12 :23 God teaches those in authority of their responsibility before Him and before those with whom they have to do.

Published By: The Shield and Sword, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 4 No. 58 (October, 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Hom, Editor

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