October 2016

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That is the word which comes to this author when he thinks of the testimony of Salem Presbyterian Church in Fairfield County, South Carolina. This church celebrated its two hundredth anniversary back on this day October 21, 2012, and continues to count forward its biblical witness each additional year. As such, it stands as the 30th oldest church in the Presbyterian Church in America denomination.

The characteristic of faithfulness describes God’s faithfulness and His people’s faithfulness in both beginning and maintaining this Bible-believing congregation. Certainly He was the One who brought “Covenanters” of Scots-Irish descent from Scotland through Ulster to the new world at that time. All of them were of the Presbyterian or Reformed faith and by that faith traveled the dangerous way across the Atlantic Ocean in wind-driven vessels. They settled down in rude cabins, but didn’t forget the Reformed faith which undergirded their very existence as a people. Ministered to by circuit-riding preachers in the early days of its testimony, it was officially instituted a church by Congaree Presbytery in 1812.

salempca_blairscThe site for the church buildings and church cemetery was again ascribed to divine faithfulness as the great God and Savior moved in the hearts of one of its families named Means. As early as 1826, this family granted five acres of land to the people of God. And again, it was not a money transaction even as this church family simply desired to give the land on occasion of the love they had for this congregation. You don’t hear of such self-sacrifice much in our day, but it was found in that day.

There have been three buildings in the long history of the congregation built, added to, destroyed by fire, and rebuilt to the glory of God. On one occasion, like their Covenantal forefathers, they worshiped outside and beside their burnt building under the massive White Oak trees which still are found today on the property.

In 1973, in faithfulness to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission, they became charter members of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Words to Live By:
The Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 writes, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (KJV) There are four generations mentioned in this one text: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others. This is the Scriptural formula for the continuance of a faithful church. It obviously was the testimony of Salem Presbyterian Church in years gone by, as well in its present ministry. May all of our readers undergird in prayer the current pastor/teacher the Rev. Richard Hodges, its present and future ruling elders and deacons, and its faithful members to always stand for the faith which has been delivered unto the saints.

Our date is off by a few, but this is a classic that you should at least be aware of. A link is provided at the end of this post to a 1953 recording of Dr. Macartney bringing this same message. He would have been about 74 years of age when this recording was made, and about four years before his death.

Come Before Winter

Macartney, Clarence EdwardHave you ever had the experience of  having your pastor preach the same sermon to your congregation of which you are a member, every fall of the year, for 37 years? And here’s the second part of the equation—was this request to the pastor eagerly given by your fellow members to do this very thing? Or Pastors, have you ever had your congregation vote to have you preach the same sermon every fall for as long as you were in the church? It must have been a dynamite sermon in every case.

And yet, that was exactly the case with Dr Clarence Edward McCartney, senior pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On October 18, 1915, he preached a famous sermon entitled “Come Before Winter” from the text in 2 Timothy 4:21. It reads in the King James Version, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Paul was in prison. He was on the eve of his life and ministry. The great apostle was giving his last report to the church through his disciple Timothy. He urges Timothy to capture the moment and take the opportunity presented, to come to  him. Listen to his words:

“Before winter or never. There are some things which will never be done unless they are done ‘before winter.’ The winter will come and the winter will pass. The flowers of the springtime will deck the heart of the earth and the graves of some of our poor families, perhaps the grave of a dearest friend. There are golden opportunities on this autumn day and next October, they will be forever shut.”

The emphasis of the celebrated Presbyterian pastor was to make haste when you consider the work of the Lord. The word “diligence” speaks of being especially conscientious in discharging an obligation. It is to be zealous, eager, take pains, make every effort, and doing your best. In short, do what you need to do without delay.

Perhaps now we can see why the congregation asked him to preach this every fall. They saw that their spirits needed to be reminded to not be procrastinators in the things of life, to say nothing of the work of the Lord. And so, the pastor had the urging by the congregation to preach the same message every year. And he did so, for forty consecutive years!

Words to live by: There are some things which we can put off without a great deal of problems.  But procrastination has painful effects for God’s kingdom. Satan and his host are going full speed to tear down God’s kingdom and hinder His work. There is no delay in his evil designs. But some of God’s people believe that they have all the time in the world to put off the doing of God’s work. They are wrong. Don’t be one of them. Many of the commands in the Bible are set in a tense which speaks of doing something and doing it now. We are not to put off to tomorrow what must be done today. One day we will give an account of our times to the Lord. Let us be busy in the work of the Lord.

Sermon Portion:
To give a fuller sample of the sermon, here are the opening paragraphs. The sermon can otherwise be easily found on the Internet:—

Come Before Winter
by Clarence Macartney
[18 September 1879 – 20 February 1957]

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me…. Do thy diligence to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:9, 21)

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Apostle Paul are the most renowned prisoners of history. One was in prison because the peace of the world demanded it; the other because he sought to give to men that peace which the world cannot give and which the world cannot take away. One had the recollection of cities and homes which he had wasted and devastated; the other had the recollection of homes and cities and nations which had been blessed by his presence and cheered by his message. One had shed rivers of blood upon which to float his ambitions. The only blood the other had shed was that which had flowed from his own wounds for Christ’s sake. One could trace his path to glory by ghastly trails of the dead which stretched from the Pyrenees to Moscow and from the Pyramids to Mount Tabor. The other could trace his path to prison, death, and immortal glory by the hearts that he had loved and the souls that he had gathered into the Kingdom of God.

Napoleon once said, “I love nobody, not even my own brothers.” It is not strange, therefore, that at the end of his life, on his rock prison in the South Atlantic, he said, “I wonder if there is anyone in the world who really loves me.”

But Paul loved all men. His heart was the heart of the world, and from his lonely prison at Rome he sent out messages which glow with love unquenchable and throb with fadeless hope.

When a man enters the straits of life, he is fortunate if he has a few friends upon whom he can count to the uttermost. Paul had three such friends. The first of these three, whose name needs no mention, was that One who would be the friend of every man, the friend who laid down his life for us all. The second was that man whose face is almost the first, and almost the last, we see in life — the physician. This friend Paul handed down to immortality with that imperishable encomium, “Luke, the beloved physician,” and again, “Only Luke is with me.” The third of these friends was the Lycaonian youth Timothy, half Hebrew and half Greek, whom Paul affectionately called “My son in the faith.” When Paul had been stoned by the mob at Lystra in the highlands of Asia Minor and was dragged out of the city gates and left for dead, perhaps it was Timothy who, when the night had come down, and the passions of the mob had subsided, went out of the city gates to search amid stones and rubbish until he found the wounded, bleeding body of Paul and, putting his arm about the Apostle’s neck, wiped the blood stains from his face, poured the cordial down his lips and then took him home to the house of his godly grandmother Lois and his pious mother Eunice. If you form a friendship in a shipwreck, you never forget the friend. The hammer of adversity welds human hearts into an indissoluble amalgamation. Paul and Timothy each had in the other a friend who was born for adversity.

Paul’s last letter is to this dearest of his friends, Timothy, whom he has left in charge of the church at far-off Ephesus. He tells Timothy that he wants him to come and be with him at Rome. He is to stop at Troas on the way and pick up his books, for Paul is a scholar even to the end. Make friends with good books. They will never leave you nor forsake you. He is to bring the cloak, too, which Paul had left at the house of Carpus in Troas. What a robe the Church would weave for Paul today if it had that opportunity! But this is the only robe that Paul possesses. It has been wet with the brine of the Mediterranean, white with the snows of Galatia, yellow with the dust of the Egnatian Way and crimson with the blood of his wounds for the sake of Christ. It is getting cold at Rome, for the summer is waning, and Paul wants his robe to keep him warm. But most of all Paul wants Timothy to bring himself. “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me,” he writes; and then, just before the close of the letter, he says, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Why “before winter”? Because when winter set in the season for navigation closed in the Mediterranean and it was dangerous for ships to venture out to sea. How dangerous it was, the story of Paul’s last shipwreck tells us. If Timothy waits until winter, he will have to wait until spring; and Paul has a premonition that he will not last out the winter, for he says, “The time of my departure is at hand.” We like to think that Timothy did not wait a single day after that letter from Paul reached him at Ephesus, but started at once to Troas, where he picked up the books and the old cloak in the house of Carpus, then sailed past Samothrace to Neapolis, and thence traveled by the Egnatian Way across the plains of Philippi and through Macedonia to the Adriatic, where he took ship to Brundisium, and then went up the Appian Way to Rome, where he found Paul in his prison, read to him from the Old Testament, wrote his last letters, walked with him to the place of execution near the Pyramid of Cestius, and saw him receive the crown of glory.

Before winter or never! There are some things which will never be done unless they are done “before winter.” The winter will come and the winter will pass, and the flowers of the springtime will deck the breast of the earth, and the graves of some of our opportunities, perhaps the grave of our dearest friend. There are golden gates wide open on this autumn day, but next October they will be forever shut. There are tides of opportunity running now at the flood. Next October they will be at the ebb. There are voices speaking today which a year from today will be silent. Before winter or never!

I like all seasons. I like winter with its clear, cold nights and the stars like silver-headed nails driven into the vault of heaven. I like spring with its green growth, its flowing streams, its revirescent hope. I like summer with the litany of gentle winds in the tops of the trees, its long evenings and the songs of its birds. But best of all I like autumn. I like its mist and haze, its cool morning air, its field strewn with the blue aster and the goldenrod; the radiant livery of the forests — “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.” But how quickly the autumn passes! It is the perfect parable of all that fades. Yesterday I saw the forests in all their splendor, and Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But tomorrow the rain will fall, the winds will blow, and the trees will be stripped and barren. Therefore, every returning autumn brings home to me the sense of the preciousness of life’s opportunities — their beauty, but also their brevity. It fills me with the desire to say not merely something about the way that leads to life eternal but, with the help of God, something which shall move men to take the way of life now, today. Taking our suggestion, then, from this message of Paul in the prison at Rome to Timothy in far-off Ephesus — “Come before winter” — let us listen to some of those voices which now are speaking so earnestly to us, and which a year from today may be forever silent.

[the sermon continues on from there. To listen to Dr. Macartney delivering the full message in 1953, click here.]

A Disagreement Offered in Christian Love

machenJG_01buswellpresIt was on this, October 19th, in 1936 that Dr. J. Gresham Machen composed a letter to the Rev. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., then president of Wheaton College. Machen’s letter was in response to an article that Buswell had written and sent to Machen, requesting his comments. While we don’t have Buswell’s article at hand, it obviously had some discussion of the Scofield Bible, which in turn prompted this portion of Machen’s reply. At four pages in length, Machen’s letter is too long to present in full here, but an excerpt will suffice to present something of Dr. Machen’s views on the Mosaic Law, a subject which has been tossed around of late, as you may know.
We note too that both men in their correspondence with each other as well as with others, were models of Christian civility, even when they disagreed with one another. Our transcription is from the original letter by Dr. Machen, as preserved among the Papers of the Rev. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.

“. . . on page 3, you differ from Charles Hodge, and you cite the Westminster Shorter Catechism. But is not the view of Charles Hodge plainly taught in the Confession of Faith, Chapter VII, Sections 1, 2 and 3? According to Section 2 of that chapter life was promised to Adam and in him to his posterity upon condition of perfect obedience. When Adam was placed upon probation, and when a federal relationship was established between him and his posterity, that was a gracious act of God. If Adam had successfully stood in the probation, then the possibility of sinning would have been removed and he would have received eternal life beyond the possibility of loss of it. In that blessed result all of his posterity would have shared. The probation for Adam and for all mankind would have been over.

God did not, in other words, place Adam in that probation with everything to lose and nothing to gain. Quite different was the nature of that Covenant of Works or Covenant of Life. I do think that is plainly brought out in the Confession of Faith as well as in Charles Hodge.

But what ought to be clearly observed is that that Covenant of Works or Covenant of Life did not offer “salvation.” The word “salvation” implies something from which one is saved. Adam was not lost when that Covenant of Life was given him. On the contrary he had knowledge, righteousness and holiness. The Covenant of Works was not given as a way by which a sinner might get rid of his sin and merit eternal life.

Neither was the Mosaic Law given for any such purpose. It was not given to present, even hypothetically, a way by which a sinner, already eternally under the condemnation of sin, could by future perfect obedience merit the favor of God. And Dr. Charles Hodge surely does not regard it as given for any such purpose.

The root error, or one of the many root errors of the Dispensationalism of the Scofield Bible seems to me to be the utter failure to recognize and make central the fact of the Fall of man. I know that there are salutary inconsistencies in the Scofield Bible. I know that in the notes on the fifth chapter of Romans there is taught, not indeed the orthodox doctrine of imputation, but still some recognition of the universal corruption that has come from Adam’s sin. But by what a back-door even that much of the central Biblical teaching is brought in! As one reads Dr. Scofield’s notes one does not for the most part get the slightest inkling of the fact that anything irrevocable took place when Adam fell. After his Fall man continued to be tested in successive dispensations. See for example the definition of a dispensation which Dr. Scofield gives at the beginning. That is one of the things that seems to me to be so profoundly heretical in this commentary.

It is contrary to the very heart of the Augustinian and Calvinistic view of sin. According to that view — and surely according to the Bible — the guilt of Adam’s first sin was imputed to his posterity. Adam being by divine appointment the representative or federal head of the race. Thus all descended from Adam by ordinary generation are guilty. They are guilty before they individually have done anything either good or bad. They are under the penalty of sin when they are born. Part of that penalty of sin is hopeless corruption, from which, if there is growth to years of discretion, individual transgressions spring. How utterly absurd would it have been therefore for God to offer the Mosaic Law, to such an already condemned and fallen race, as something which, if only obeyed by that already condemned and fallen race, would bring salvation and eternal life!

Thus Dr. Scofield’s view of the Mosaic Law is rooted in a wrong view of sin — a wrong view which is against the very heart and core of the Reformed Faith.

Blessed inconsistencies in some parts of the Scofield notes do not prevent the main impact of the Dispensational teaching from being extremely bad.

. . . My letter is a good deal longer than I started out to make it. I just feel that in you I have a really sympathetic correspondent. It is so refreshing to be able to differ from someone about some things and not have the differences made a matter of personal resentment. Still greater is my joy in the large measure of agreement in which I stand with you. I fully understand, even with regard to the Scofield Bible, that although you differ from me in your general estimate of the book, there are very important matters with regard to which you agree, against the Scofield Bible, with me.

Cordially yours,

J. Gresham Machen

Words To Live By: (for your review)
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7 – Of God’s Covenant with Man.
Section 1.
The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.[1]

[1] I Samuel 2:25; Job 9:32-33; 22:2-3; and 35:7-8; Psalm 100:2-3; Psalm 113:5-6; Isaiah 40:13-17; Luke 17:10; Acts 17:24-25.

Section 2.
The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,[1] wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity,[2] upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.[3]

[1] Galatians 3:12.
[2] Romans 5:12-20; Romans 10:5.
[3] Genesis 2:17; Galatians 3:10.

Section 3.
Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,[1] commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;[2] and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.[3]

[1] Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 42:6; Romans 3:20-21; Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:21.
[2] Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16; Romans 10:6, 9; Galatians 3:11.
[3] Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 6:44-45.


robinson_wm_c_72dpiIs God constrained? Will He yet again work in powerful ways? Are we expectantly watching and praying for Him to yet again walk among His people? In 1859, there were mighty acts of God observed and recorded world-wide, with great numbers brought to saving faith in Christ. Much of this occurred notably in the United States and throughout Great Britain. See for instance the sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones delivered on the centennial anniversary of the 1859 revival, here. And yet another account that I have just come across quite unexpectedly, in an address given by the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson. Dr. Robinson, or “Doctor Robbie” as he was affectionately known by his students, was professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary from 1926 until his death in 1982. This is an excerpt from his Centennial Address delivered before the Synod of Alabama (PCUS) in 1961, as reported on the pages of The Presbyterian Journal, vol. 20, no. 25 (18 October 1961), pages 5-6, 8, 18.


girardeauDespite the fanfare and cavalcades for evangelism, this last year saw the lowest increase on professions of faith in five years, the greatest number of losses, and the lowest net gain. These shocking statistics ought to send us to our knees that we may know God’s way with His people today. Perhaps, there is a word for this year in the account of the revival God granted through John L. Girardeau’s ministry in the Anson St. Presbyterian Church of Charleston where nine-tenths of the 500 members were Negroes.

“The greatest event in his ministry was the revival in the later eighteen fifties. This began with a prayer meeting that constantly increased until the house was filled. Some of the officers of the Church wanted him to commence preaching services, but he steadily refused, waiting for the outpouring of the Spirit. His view was that the Father had given to Jesus, as King and Head of the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus in His sovereign administration of the affairs of His Church, bestowed Him upon whomsoever He pleased, and in whatever measure He pleased. Day after day, therefore, he kept his prayer addressed directly to the mediatorial throne for the Holy Spirit in mighty reviving power.

“One evening, while leading the people in prayer, he received a sensation as if a bolt of electricity had struck his head and diffused itself through his whole body. For a little while he stood speechless under the strange physical feeling, then he said: “The Holy Spirit has come; we will begin preaching tomorrow evening.” He closed the service with a hymn dismissing the congregation, and came down from the pulpit, but no one left the house. The whole congregation had quietly resumed its seat. Instantly he realized the situation. The Holy Spirit had not only come to him — He had also taken possession of the hearts of the people.

“Immediately he began exhorting them to accept the Gospel. They began to sob softly, like the falling of rain, then with deeper emotion to weep bitterly, or to rejoice loudly, according to their circumstances. It was midnight before he could dismiss his congregation. A noted evangelist from the North, who was present, said, between his sobs, to an officer of the Church: ‘I never saw it on this fashion.’ The meeting went on night and day for eight weeks. Large numbers of both black and white were converted and joined the various churches of the city. His own was wonderfully built up, not only in numbers, but also in an experience that remained in the Church. It is in such events that ‘Our God is marching on.’ “

A Secular Analysis of Marriage and Divorce

Time Magazine in its October 17, 1927 issue had an article on how Presbyterians view the grounds of divorce.  Listen to its report:  “Presbyterian rules have held that only desertion and adultery are legitimate grounds of divorce.  In this, Presbyterians have been more liberal than most Christian denominations. Most admit only adultery as a divorce cause. A Presbyterian minister might properly marry a divorce[d person, but] only if the person were the innocent derelict of discretion to judge marital innocence. Amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his [the pastor’s] good will.”

As usual, when the secular press tries to understand church matters, they usually err in that matter. The Presbyterian “rule” on the grounds of adultery is none other than the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 24, sections 5 and 6. We treated of that passage in the Confession some years ago, on the October 8, “Through the Standards” section. It can hardly be interpreted as being “more liberal,” seeing that this creedal standard was formalized in the early seventeenth century.  Presbyterians find a specifically defined allowance for divorce in the texts of both Matthew 19:8-9 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. The part about the “amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his good will” is true. The only word this writer would dispute in that quote is the word “occasionally.”

But it would be far better if the Christian church would ramp up its teaching on Christian marriage. That is what needs to be the focus from the pulpit, in the Sunday School rooms, on marriage retreats, and in the counseling room. This retired pastor preached  a yearly marriage series on Sunday mornings every Lord’s Day between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day during his 38 year ministry. Each year, attention was given in the Christian education curriculum to some aspect of married life. Sometimes this discussion occurred during Sunday School and sometimes during a weekday study. Weekend marriage retreats were also planned and held regularly.  And most importantly, there was a firm policy that the pastor would not officiate at a marriage without the couple having first attended several sessions of required biblical counseling.

Far better to get the facts on the grounds of divorce, not from the secular main-line media, but from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Words to live by: The statistics of divorce are much too high for our evangelical and Reformed churches. We need to be more faithful to our marriage covenants, made not only to God, but also to our spouses. The marriage covenant is a picture of our covenant with God through Christ our Savior. Accordingly, both covenants should be seen as unbreakable.

For Further Study:
In 1992 the PCA concluded a lengthy study on divorce and remarriage, which can be found here.

by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?

A. In the sixth petition, which is, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray, that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Scripture References: Matt. 26:41; I Cor. 10:13; Ps. 51:10, 12; Matt. 4:3.


1. What do we mean when we speak of being tempted to sin?

We mean we are strongly enticed to the evil of sin.

2. From where do these temptations come?

They come from within us and without us. From within us they come because the heart is prone to wickedness. From without they come from Satan, who is called the tempter in the Word of God. (Matt. 4:3).

3. Is it possible for Christians to be tempted and drawn into sin?

Yes, it is possible for Christians to walk in the flesh and not be on guard against the wiles of the devil and not recognize the foulness of their hearts.

4. Are we able to resist temptations to sin in and by ourselves?

No, we are unable to resist it by our own power. We must trust in the power of the Lord and ask Him for grace to resist the devil in our lives.

5. Are the temptations of Satan irresistible on the part of believers?

No, his temptations are not irresistible. We are told in the Word of God that we can resist them and there are examples in the Bible of believers who have been enabled, by the grace of God, to resist his temptations.

6. What do we mean when we ask God to keep us from temptation?

We are asking Him to keep us from falling into the temptation, if it be His will to do so. However, if we do fall into the temptation we are asking Him to recover us from it and that He might overrule in our lives and cause our fall to be turned into something for His glory.


In I Thess. 2:18 Paul states, “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, but Satan hindered us.” Paul was a man that was always in a struggle with Satan. And Paul was a Christian saved by grace. Yet so many Christians seem to have the idea that there is no such thing as a devil, no such person as Satan going to and fro in this world. Such deluded believers are even given to sing:

“And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim—
We tremble not for him; his rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.”

However, even while singing that wonderful hymn (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) with all their might, so many believers refuse to recognize that there is a “Tempter” and that he is busily engaged in his attempted overthrow of victorious Christianity day after day.

The Word of God is full of advice to God’s children regarding Satan. He is described as an adversary (Rev. 12:10; I Pet. 5:8). He is described as seeking to sift believers as wheat (Luke 22:31). He is described as tempting Christians (Matt. 4:3-11). Thomas A. Kempis says: “Know that the ancient enemy doth strive by all means to hinder thy desire to be good and to keep thee clear of all religious exercises. Many evil thoughts does he suggest to thee, that so he may cause a weariness and horror in thee, and to call thee back from prayer and holy reading.”

It is so important for the believer to recognize that Satan is! How often he wins his battles by simply convincing believers there is no such thing as a personal devil—and this leaves him free to establish his strongholds. Further, it is so important for the believer to know that the power of Satan is not supreme! His power is limited. It was so in the case of Job. It is so today with every believer.

As we are tempted towards evil we are to recognize who our foe is and fight the battle in the armor of God. We are soldiers, we are at war, our strength is found in the armor of God. May God help us, the next time we are tempted, to turn to the “sword” in our possession, the Word of God, and use it. May we turn to the sixth chapter of Ephesians, take stock of our armor, and ask God for His grace to use it against the devil!

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 7, No. 11 (November 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

Less than a month to go at this point, and I trust you are all praying for the Lord’s will to be done.

“The Bible and The Sword”
by John Fletcher (Dec. 6, 1776)

Despite having been born near John Calvin’s Geneva (Nyon) and having attended the University of Geneva, John Fletcher (1729–1785) later relocated to England and threw all in with the Wesley brothers. He was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1757 but his sympathies were all with the upstart Methodist movement. He served in several Anglican parishes, and his sympathies not only conflicted with Calvinism but also with Anglicanism.

John Wesley spoke glowingly of Fletcher, even esteeming him above Whitefield in holiness and conversation. This 1776 sermon reveals its Wesleyan sympathies, even hinting that God was on the side of the British in tamping down the colonists.

Nevertheless, Fletcher began his sermon with a stinging rebuke about the state of religion in England. While the American colonists might be labeled fanatics, they at least, he noted, were sincerely religious.

. . . we are ridiculing them as fanatics, and scoffing at religion. We are running wild after pleasure, and forgetting every thing serious and decent at masquerades. We are gambling in gaming houses; trafficking for boroughs; perjuring ourselves at elections; and selling ourselves for places. Which side then is Providence likely to favour? In America we see a number of rising states in the vigour of youth, and animated by piety. Here we see an old state, inflated and irreligious, enervated by luxury, and hanging by a thread. Can we look without pain on the issue?

He raised a legitimate question: would God favor one nation in his providence that was so Laodicean? He queried: “If the colonists throng the houses of God, while we throng play-houses, or houses of ill fame; if they croud their communion-tables, while we croud the gaming table or the festal board; if they pray, while we curse; if they fast, while we get drunk; and keep the sabbath, while we pollute it; if they shelter under the protection of heaven, while our chief attention is turned to our troops; we are in danger—in great danger.” He measured the question this way, invoking Theodore Beza’s division of the Mosaic law: “To disregard the king’s righteous commands, as the colonists do, is bad: But to despise the first-table commandments of the King of kings, as we do, is still worse.”

Fletcher was responding in no small measure to a prior sermon by a Dr. Price, who roundly castigated the spiritual climate of England. And Fletcher in large portion agreed. That, however, was not the only question. While conceding the grand ad hominem, still he disagreed that Price “was fighting the Lord’s battles, and that opposing the king and the bishops, was only opposing tyranny and a prophane hierarchy.” Fletcher warned that the Americans were reviving Cromwellianism, and suggested that “the best way to counter-work the enthusiasm of patriotic religionists, is to do constitutional liberty and scriptural religion full justice; by defending the former against the attacks of despotic monarchs on the right hand, and despotic mobs on the left; and by preserving the latter from the opposite onsets of prophane infidels on the left hand, and enthusiastical religionists on the right.”

This Methodist preacher then defended the notion that Parliament should be a holy one:

Would to God, that by timely reformation, and solemn addresses to the throne of grace, we might convince Dr. Price and all the Americans, that in submitting to the British legislature, they will not submit to libertinism and atheism; but to a venerable body of virtuous and godly senators, who know that the first care of God’s representatives on earth—the principal study of political gods, should be to promote God’s fear, by setting a good example before the people committed to their charge, and by steadily enforcing the observance of the moral law!

Fletcher welcomed the Ruler’s recent call for a day of Fasting, championing the British cause in these exhortations:

The sovereign acts herein the part of a Christian prince and of a wise politician. As a Christian prince, he enforces the capital duty of national repentance; and as a wise politician, he averts the most formidable stroke which Doctor Price has aimed at his government. May we second his laudable designs by acting the part of penitent sinners and loyal subjects; tho’ mistaken patriots should pour floods of contempt upon us on the occasion.

He then drew on Judges 19 (The Levite concubine at Gibeah) to suggest a precise parallel to American travesties. Fletcher applied the OT passage very strictly to his enemies as follows:

Certain sons of Belial, belonging to the city of Boston, beset a ship in the night, overpowered the crew, and feloniously destroyed her rich cargo. The government was informed, that this felonious deed had been concerted by some of the principal inhabitants of Boston, and executed by their emissaries; and being justly incensed against the numerous rioters, it requested the unjust city to make up the loss sustained by the owners of the plundered ship, or to deliver up the sons of Belial who had so audaciously broken the laws of the land; and a military force was sent to block up the port of Boston, till the sovereign’s just request should be granted. The other colonists, instead of using their interest with the obstinate inhabitants of Boston to make them do this act of loyalty and justice, gathered themselves together unto Boston to go out to battle against the sons of Great-Britain, and by taking up arms against the king to protect felons, made themselves guilty both of felony and high treason.

This, Fletcher preached, was a close analog to Judges 19; however, Judah lost 22,000 soldiers! So, he thought, “will the revolted colonies one day bemoan the perverseness, with which their infatuated leaders have made them fight for the sons of Belial, who beset the ship in the inhospitable harbour of Boston.” Fletcher then drew these applications:

(1) That God allows, yea commands the sword to be drawn for the punishment of daring felons, and of the infatuated people who bear arms in their defence, as the Benjamites formerly did, and as the revolted colonies actually do.
(2) That, in this case, a sister-tribe may conscientiously draw the sword against an obstinate sister-tribe; much more a parent-state against an obstinate colony, and a king against rebellious subjects:
(3) That Providence, to try the patience of those who are in the right, may permit that they should suffer great losses:
(4) That whilst the maintainers of order and justice draw the sword to check daring licentiousness, it is their duty to go up unto the house of God, and to weep and fast before the Lord:
(5) That God makes a difference between the enthusiastical abettors of felonious practices, who fast to smite their brethren and rulers with the fist of wickedness; and the steady governors, who, together with their people, fast to smite the wicked with the sceptre of righteousness:

Many moderns might be wary of Fletcher’s close appropriation of OT passages for his enemies, but a sample of his fiery rhetoric is worth hearing:

But till this happy time come, when one nation, or one part of a nation unjustly rises up against another, as the men of Boston did against our merchants, it will be needful to oppose righteous force to unrighteous violence. It is absurd therefore to measure the duty of the christians who live among lawless men, by the duty of the christians, who shall live when all lawless men shall have been destroyed.

If Michael and his angels could fight in heaven against the dragon and his angels, I do not see why general Howe could not fight on earth against general Lee. And if the Congress unsheathes the sword to protect felons, to redress the imaginary grievance of an insignificant tax, and to load thousands of the king’s loyal subjects with grievances too heavy to be borne; it is hard to say, why he and his parliament should not use the sword to redress these real grievances, and to assert the liberty of our American fellow-subjects, who groan under the tyranny of republican despotism.

In Fletcher, we have an example of two perennial truths: (1) Christians may differ vehemently on the sides they choose in political battles; and (2) caution to make sure that one is not eisegeting [i.e., mid-interpreting] Scripture should cause us to be careful in political sermons.

This sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and on the web at: http://consource.org/document/the-bible-and-the-sword-by-john-fletcher-1776-12-6/

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

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.


D. L. Moody is reported to have said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man wholly committed to him.” With all due respect, I think Mr. Moody overlooked a fair number of men, sold out to the Lord, wholly committed in all their labors. George Whitefield was one such man. It was on this day, October 14th, in 1770 that the Rev. James Sproat brought a memorial address occasioned by the then recent death of Rev. Whitefield. While Whitefield was himself an Anglican, his influence among Presbyterians in the American colonies was extensive. To read the full text of Rev. Sproat’s sermon, click here. What follows is but a small excerpt from that sermon:—

Rev. George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield departed this life (according to our public accounts) on the 30th of September last, at Newbury Port, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New-England, by a sudden and violent fit of the asthma.

I am very sensible, my brethren, of my incapacity of doing justice to the memory of this truly great, and excellent personage. It really needs a genius like his own; and that eloquence, which was peculiar to himself; fully to delineate his character, and describe his virtue. I know not one character in the sacred pages, in which there is a great similarity, than the words of the text. He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith. And much people was added to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)

As to his person, we have all of us had frequent opportunities of admiring his graceful countenance and manly deportment; which commanded reverence and respect; excited esteem and affection in persons of every rank and quality.–His birth, parentage, and education, the world has long ago been favoured with accounts of, in his printed journals.—He early discovered a singular taste for science, joined with a sprightly and florid genius. His education was completed at Oxford, one of the most illustrious universities in Europe.–It pleased God, who designed him for very great and eminent services in his church, early to change his heart by the power of Divine grace; and by a thorough and remarkable conversion, to turn him from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that he might receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Thus all the powers of his mind became strongly engaged to the study of divinity. The important doctrines of grace, and the admirable scheme of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ;—the condemned, miserable state of sinners;—free justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith alone;—the powerful operations of the holy and blessed Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the human heart, were subjects of his most solemn and delightful contemplation. Under the lively impression of those things, his pious heart was turned to the great work of the Gospel ministry. In this important business he engaged, and to this glorious work he devoted himself, as soon as the rules of that church, of which he was a member, would permit.

Being good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; fired with a flaming zeal for his Lord and master; filled with bowels of tender compassion to immortal souls; and favoured with more than Ciceronian eloquence;—he soon became the wonder of the world as a preacher. The attention of persons of all ranks, sects, and denominations, was attracted by him. And the hand of the Lord was with him in such a powerful manner, that great numbers were presently joined to the Lord by his ministry. Though he always manifested a peculiar regard for the Church of England, in which he had been educated; yet as he set out in the ministry upon principles truly catholic and noble, so he steadily and vigorously retained them to his expiring moments.

Pursuant to these principles of catholicism, he was determined not to know any thing among the people, but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Upon this plan he let out; and upon this plan he prosecuted the great work of preaching the gospel to all sorts of people that would give him an hearing. To Jews, infidels, freethinkers, as well as to all denominations of Christians without exception. And this grand business of publishing the gospel of peace he pursued for a great number of years with the most indefatigable assiduity, prodigious eloquence, and flaming zeal, through England, Scotland, Ireland, and the widely extended dominions of British America.

As a speaker, he was furnished with such admirable talents, with such an easy method of address, and was such a perfect master of the art of persuasion, that he triumphed over the passions of the most crowded auditories, with al the charms of sacred eloquence.—He was of undaunted courage and heroic resolution, in the cause of his divine Master. Nor the frowns, nor the flatteries of the world; with all its insults and outrages, its allurements or charms, could ever turn him aside from endeavouring to win immortal souls to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We urge you to read on. This is but an excerpt, pp. 16-18, from A discourse occasioned by the death of the Reverend George Whitefield, A.M., late Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Countess of Huntingdon : delivered October 14, 1770, in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia. (1771), by the Rev. James Sproat [1722-1793].

Called to Be Faithful to God
by Rev. David T. Myers

Oh no, another post on yet another minister, you the reader might say. But this pastor was different. Yes, he pastored two churches in the south in the eighteen hundreds. But this shepherd of souls was unique in many ways. His name? James Power Smith.

Born in New Athens, Ohio on July 4, 1837 to a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Joseph and Eliza Smith, he had the example of his father on the challenges of being a shepherd of souls. It is not surprising that he felt called to that same profession. Attending Jefferson College in 1854 – 57, (and other sources say Hampden-Sydney College), he graduated and went to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia in 1858. However, his studies there were interrupted by the War Between the States, or Civil War. Like many other young men, this Northern boy joined the Confederate Army, and specifically the Rockbridge Artillery of the Confederate States of America, which was filled with many other theological students. He would fight in it until 1863, when he would be asked to report to a Lt. General by the name of Jackson, Thomas J Jackson, Stonewall Jackson. For the rest of that “rebellion,” as the North would call it, he would find himself as Aide-de-camp of that command, and as such involved in the important scenes of the war.

Captain Smith was present when he heard that General Jackson was mistaken in the early morning darkness in Chancellorsville, having been shot by his own Confederate troops. Captain Smith became a litter bearer seeking to get the wounded officer to neutral ground. It was a harrowing move as several litter bearer were shot. Finally, they moved slowly but surely to an ambulance and finally to a military hospital, in a tent east of the battle field. Jackson’s left arm was amputated by Dr. Hunter McGuire with the light held by James Smith. Later on May 3rd, Captain Smith accompanied the wounded Jackson twenty-five miles by wagon to Guiney’s Station, where seven days later, the great general succumbed to his wound and died.

Captain Smith remained in the Confederate corps, serving under Richard Ewell, until the end of the war. Then returned to Union Seminary to resume his preparation for the ministry. Ordained upon graduation on this day, October 13, 1866 by Montgomery Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S., he served one Presbyterian Church in what is now Roanoke, Virginia, before going to the Fredericksburg, Virginia Presbyterian Church for the next 23 years. During those years, he also served as an evangelist two years for the Synod of Virginia, was editor of the Central Presbyterian newspaper for 17 years, and Stated Clerk for the Synod of Virginia from 1871 to 1920. He went to be with the Lord in 1923, becoming the last soldier of the Stonewall Brigade staff to die.

Words to Live By:
Some of our readers, including this author, may not have agreed with his choice of country in those perilous days, yet we can rejoice for the years of his shepherding of souls during his long life and ministry. After all, that will be the record remembered in heaven when eternal rewards are handed out. Let us be faithful, wherever God’s Spirit calls us, to serve our Lord and Savior.

“The Distinctive Doctrines and Polity of Presbyterianism,” is the title of an address delivered by the Rev. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, on the occasion of the Joint Centennial celebration of the Synods of Kentucky, 12 October 1883, at Harrodsburg, KY. First published in 1883, it was later reprinted in 1933 as part of the volume Centennial of Presbyterianism in Kentucky, 1783-1883. Addresses delivered at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, October 12, 1883. For now, we will skip over the other addresses brought on that occasion, and give you here today the crux of Rev. Witherspoon’s address.



Every denomination of Christians has certain distinctive principles, which serve to differentiate it from other branches of the visible Church, and which constitute its raison d’etre—the ground more or less substantial of its separate organic existence. In proportion as these principles are vital and fundamental, they vindicate the body that becomes their exponent from the charge of faction or schism, and justify its maintenance of an organization separate and apart from that of all who traverse or reject them.

We are met today as Presbyterians. We have come to commemorate the first settlement of Presbyterianism in Kentucky. You have listened to the eloquent addresses of those who have traced the history of our Church in this commonwealth for a hundred years. They have told you of the first planting in this Western soil of a tender branch from our old and honored Presbyterian stock, of the storms it has encountered, of the rough winds that have beaten upon it, and yet of its steady growth through summer’s drought and winter’s chill, until what was erstwhile but a frail and tender plant, has become a sturdy oak with roots deep-locked in the soil, with massive trunk and goodly boughs and widespread branches overshadowing the land.

You have heard also, the thrilling narratives of the lives of those heroic men by whose personal ministry the Church was founded; of the toils they underwent, of the perils they encountered, of the hardships they endured that they might plant the standards of Presbyterianism in these Western wilds.

The question arises with especial emphasis under circumstances like these : What are the peculiar principles of the denomination whose centennial is celebrated with so much enthusiasm today? Is there anything in these principles that justifies such sacrifices and toils as were made by the noble men whose biographies have been read?  Is there anything in the distinctive doctrines and polity of this Church to render its settlement in Kentucky a hundred years ago, and its perpetuation and development through a century of conflict and struggle, a matter worthy of such joyous, grateful commemoration as we give today? Is there anything in these creeds and symbols, venerable with years, which we have received from our forefathers, which makes them an inheritance meet to be transmitted in their integrity and purity, with increasing veneration, to our children and to our children’s children forever?

These, Christian friends, are the questions that, through the kindness and partiality of my brethren, I am to endeavor to answer today. And in the fulfillment of my task, I invite you to walk with me for a little while about this, our ancestral Zion, to “mark well her bulwarks and consider her palaces that ye may tell it to the generation following.”

And first, let us endeavor to get a clear idea as to what constitute the distinctive principles of Presbyterianism, as to what there is that is peculiar in its doctrine and polity.  Confining myself strictly under the head of doctrine, to the department of ecclesiology or the doctrine of the Church, and viewing the polity of Presbyterianism in its only proper light as basing itself distinctly upon, and adjusting itself most accurately to that form of doctrine delivered in Scripture, I may say that, just as in our doctrine of Redemption, there emerge the historical five points, over which controversy has waged since the days of the Synod of Dort, so in our doctrine of the Church there are five points, constituting five distinctive principles of Church government, each one of which places our Church polity in sharp contrast with that of other Churches around us, and all of which together make up a system as unique as it is beautiful, as scriptural as it is complete, having nothing comparable to it in any other organization in the world.

Let us take up these five points of Presbyterianism successively, and endeavor to engrave them as clearly as possible upon our memories and upon our hearts.

  1. The first fundamental principle of Presbyterianism is that Church power is vested not in officers of any grade or rank, but in the whole corporate body of believers. Our doctrine is that Christ, who is the great Head of the Church, the alone fountain and source of all its power, has not vested this power primarily in a single officer who is the visible head of the Church and the vicar of Christ, as in the Roman Catholic Church, or in the body of Bishops or superior clergy as in the Episcopal Church, or in the whole body of the clergy as in the Methodist and  some other churches, but in the people, the whole body of the people, so that no man can attain to any office, exercise any authority, or wield any power in the Church, except he is called to that office, invested with that authority and clothed with that power by the voice of the people. Here, then, is a grand, fundamental difference between the Presbyterian Church and all those churches that are prelatical or hierarchical in form, in that ours is a government in which Christ rules through the voice of his people, his whole redeemed people, and not through any privileged class, any spiritual nobility, or aristocracy of grace.
  2. The second fundamental principle of Presbyterianism is that this power, though vested in the people, is not administered by them immediately, but through a body of officers chosen by them, and commissioned as their representatives to bear rule in Christ’s name. The offices that are to be filled have been ordained of Christ, and none may be added to those which he has ordained. The officers who fill these offices are chosen by a vote of the whole membership of the Church over which they are to rule, and yet are to be chosen under such special prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church, that whilst the outward vocation to office is from the Church, the inward call and commission to each officer is to be recognized as from Christ Himself, the great invisible and spiritual head. The only power, therefore, immediately exercised by the people is this most important and fundamental power, that of vocation. They choose those who shall administer the government over them. These rulers act as their representatives and so the government is a representative government, as distinguished from a pure democracy or a government of the people by themselves. This principle separates us from all churches that are congregational in form, as the first from all that are prelatic or hierarchical. This last distinguishes us, therefore, from the Congregational churches of England and of this country, from all churches of the Baptist faith and order, and from those churches around us that call themselves the Christian, or Reformed, in all of which questions of doctrine and discipline are decided by a direct vote of the whole congregation, whilst in ours these questions are settled by the voice of those officers who are chosen to bear rule.
  3. The third fundamental principle of Presbyterianism is that the whole administration of government in the Church has been committed to a single order of officers, all of whom, though having in some respects different functions to perform, are of co-ordinate and equal authority in the Church. It is true that the Presbyterian Church, after the pattern of Scripture, has two orders of officers, the elder and the deacon; but the deacon is not a ruler. He has no spiritual oversight or authority.  His office is purely executive.  He has charge only of the secular concerns of the Church. Its government is committed to a single order of officers, the presbyters or elders. These elders are of two classes. There is first a class who, not having been called of God to be preachers of the Gospel, but recognizing His call through the Church to bear rule, continue in their secular avocations, devote such portion of their time as they can spare from their business to the oversight and care of the flock, and exercise full authority as rulers over the house of God. These are called Ruling Elders, because their office is simply to rule.  There is a second class who, in addition to the call to bear rule, recognize a divine voice summoning them also to the work of preaching the Gospel, and this function of preaching, which is the highest and most honorable in the Church, demands their whole time, so that they give up secular callings, and are specially set apart of the Church to this higher function, and so are known as Teaching Elders or Ministers of the Word. But whilst this ministry of the Word entitles them to special honor, it confers no higher rank and invests with no superior authority. The minister in our church courts has no more authority than the ruling elder, so that we not only have in the Presbyterian Church the “parity of the clergy,” of which we hear so much, but the parity of the eldership, of the ruling elder with the teaching elder, a principle not to be found under any other form of church government.
  4. The fourth distinctive principle of Presbyterianism is that these Presbyters rule not singly but jointly in regularly-constituted assemblies or courts. This is a principle upon which I would lay particular emphasis; for in it the admirable genius of our system especially appears. Whilst there are functions that are purely administrative, such as preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, etc., which a Presbyter may, when so commissioned, perform separately and individually, yet all legislative and judicial functions are to be administered by assemblies or courts alone. And no one of these assemblies is competent to the transaction of any business unless representatives of both classes of Presbyters, ministers and ruling elders, are present.  There is no exercise of any several authority, as by a bishop or a presiding elder, in any part of the field.  There is no possibility of any one man power, for all authority must come with the sanction of a church court.
  5. The last distinctive principle of Presbyterianism is that these church courts are so subordinated to one another that a question of government or discipline may be carried by appeal or complaint or review from a lower to a higher court, representing a larger number of congregations, until every part of the Church is, through this due subordination, brought immediately under the supervision and control of the whole.  Thus our Church Sessions, which constitute the lowest order of assemblies, are, as many lie within a certain district, subordinated to a higher court or Presbytery, constituted of representatives from each of these Church Sessions, meeting twice every year and oftener if necessary.  The minutes of the Church Sessions all pass under the inspection of the Presbytery by way of review and control.  There is the right both of appeal and complaint to the Presbytery from any action of any of these Church Sessions; and Presbytery has in such cases all the right of a higher court or court of appeals.  The same is true of the Synods in relation to the Presbyteries, and of the General Assembly in reference to the Synods—so that the authority and oversight of the whole Church is brought to bear upon every part, and the right of appeal belongs to the humblest member of the Church, by which he may carry his cause through all intermediate courts to the General Assembly, the highest of all.

Here, then, to recapitulate, is our system of government—power vested in the great body of Christ’s people; administered through officers chosen by the people and commissioned of Christ; administered by a single order of officers equal in authority and rank; administered not severally but jointly, in duly organized assemblies or courts, and in assemblies or courts so subordinated to each other as to bind the whole mass together in a unity of mutual oversight, government, and control.

Such, in brief, is the system of church polity which we hold. It differs, as you will readily perceive, in its essential features from that of every other denomination. It is the system held by that great Presbyterian body, which is composed not only of the various branches of the Presbyterian Church in this country, in Canada, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, but also of what are known as the Reformed Churches of Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France, etc., comprising in all a constituency of nearly if not altogether fifty millions of souls.




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