November 2017

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Two recollections on the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The first of these is found on page 1 of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, vol. 48, no. 45 (10 November 1869), though the author of the piece is identified solely by the pseudonym “Memor.” The second account is drawn from RECOLLECTIONS OF USEFUL PERSONS AND IMPORTANT EVENTS, by S.C. Jennings, D.D. (1884), pp. 99-100.

For the Observer and Commonwealth

Dear good old Dr. Alexander! How we loved him in New Jersey! Many a time have I seen people stop and look at him as he passed—even those who had never seen him loved and admired. The true Christian knew why. In the pulpit he was very different from many of the present day, but we all felt that he was indeed a minister of Jesus Christ unto us, and in the sacred desk, and at the communion table we seemed to be brought near to God and to Heaven. In this respect few were his equals and this power is a great gift. Many living servants of God know that they feel his influence to this day and thank God for it. Sabbath afternoon we met in the lecture room for conversation up on some subject before announced. Any student said what he wished, and they spoke freely, moderately and well. But our spiritual feast was when Dr. Alexander and Dr. Miller, and young professor Hodge, as he was then, sitting in their chairs would give us the essence of their matured thoughts. At the time I admired and relished it, but in riper years only could I really appreciate our privilege. There was no apparent effort, but the spring of living thought seemed to pour forth spontaneously. In this exercise Dr. Alexander excelled, and I thought could condense more ideas in a few sentences than any man I ever met. He was so devout and spiritual and earnest that we felt his words. “Pray”—on one occasion, he said, “pray on. And if in the closet alone with God you desire to remain longer and God seems indeed to be there,—Pray on; and if your heart inclines you to tarry longer—pray on and hour after hour—hour after hour. It is a heavenly gale, and you may make more advances than you have in a year, ‘Pray on.’ ”  —Memor.

The Christian Observer 48.45 (10 November 1869): 1.

“Between the years 1824 and 1827, Drs. Alexander and Miller and Professor Hodge were (in the Presbyterian Church) the only public instructors of theological students. Dr. Alexander commenced this work in 1812. Twelve years afterward he was still vigorous in mind. In body he was rather small, with some gray hairs. As he sat in the recitation room, reclining his head upon his hand, small, piercing eyes looked upon the students, ready to approve their performances; or, when need be, to correct their mistakes. He appeared rather reserved, and yet in private was very paternal, exercising his thorough knowledge of human nature with great skill.

“A peculiarity in him was the clearness of his style in teaching and preaching. His great learning enabled him to use the very wordsmostly of Saxon originby which his hearers comprehended the truth easily. This example of his should be imitated by young ministers of our time. While he adapted language to his subject, as when he wrote his volume on the Canon of Sacred Scriptures, and that on the Evidences of Christianity, his manner of preaching was more like his admirable book of Christian Experienceclear, practical and searching. There was no going outside of the themes of the Bible to find something new and entertaining. He condemned unprofitable speculations in the class room, and never practiced them in the pulpit. In his lectures on pastoral care to the students, he recommended special seasons of labor to promote revivals, wisely chosen, with the choice of proper persons to give aid in the preaching. I remember when there was a revival at Princeton, he went to give instruction to the young.”

Jennings, S.C., Recollections of Useful Persons and Important Events within Seventy Years. Vancefort, PA: J. Dillon & Son, 1884. Pp. 99-100.

The following short article appeared on the pages of The Charleston Observer in 1840, reprinted there from The Presbyterian, a Philadelphia paper.  The article was written in response to actions taken in the Presbyterian Church at that time, correcting the error of disuse into which the diaconal office had fallen. This was a noted problem in the first half of the nineteenth century that only began to be seriously addressed in the period following the Civil War. 

We are pleased to observe that the injunctions of the General Assembly, relative to the appointment of Deacons in our several Churches, has attracted attention, and in many instances, has led inferior judicatories to take immediate measures to supply the glaring defect which is so general, and has been so long continued.  The disuse into which the office has fallen, has arisen from a wrong impression, that it may properly be dispensed with in any Church which has no poor dependent on its charity, or where the Elders without inconvenience, can attend to the poor.  In reply to this, we refer to the requirements of the Church, which are imperative on the subject. 
The Deacon is an officer who is spoken of as an indispensable part of a rightly organized Church, and if he may be set aside by such a plea, as the one above alluded to, with the same propriety may the Ruling Elder be dispensed with, on some similar plea. 
The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.  Is he under no obligations to accompany these charities with kindly visits, religious conversation, and prayer?  Is he not to give counsel to the widow in her affliction, and instruction to the orphan?—He may be a co-adjutor to the Elder, and aid the Pastor materially in the well-ordering of the Church. 
The office of the Deacon was not designed to be a temporary one ; there is not one intimation in Scripture to this effect ; and although it originated in the peculiar wants of the Church at the time, yet those wants will always exist in a degree sufficient to justify its continuance.
The duty of the Churches, therefore, is clear: they should forthwith choose suitable men to fill this office.—The Presbyterian.

[The Charleston Observer, 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 6]

Words to Live By:
Rev. James B. Ramsey wrote one of the best short articles I can point you to on the office of the deacon. You can read that article, here. Among other things, he said:

But, it may be asked, of what use are deacons to take care of the poor in churches where there are no poor, or but two or three ? That, indeed, is a sadly defective state of the church where there are no poor ; there must be something very deficient in its zeal and aggressiveness, if amidst the multitudes of poor around us, and mingling with us, there are none in the church itself. . . . Is it not evident that any church that fails to gather in the poor, fails in accomplishing one great design of the Gospel, and in presenting to the world one of the most convincing proofs of the truth and power of Christianity ?

Always a Timely, and Needed, Reminder

[from The Charleston Observer 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 5-6.]
by “Y.E.K.”

Called to a great work he needs your prayers; “He is an ambassador for Christ; a steward of the mysteries of God, to declare his course; to preach the Word, instant in season, and out of season.” he stands in the place of the Divine Redeemer, to publish His message of mercy, and to urge its acceptance upon mankind. He is appointed to proclaim the mind of the Most High, to declare His law, to utter His threatenings, to speak His promises, to press His claims, to do it truly and faithfully. To accomplish this, he “must give attendance to his preaching, to exhortation, to doctrine, not neglecting the gift he has received with prophecy and the laying on of hands of the Presbytery, meditating continually on these things, that no man may despise his attainments.  This is to be done too, in opposition to the views of many who would have him always among his people; and in preaching a thorougly extemporaneous man, and also in the midst of multiplied and various calls upon his time and attention. He must also “be an example to the flock in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; in doctrine, showing uncorruptness; in meekness, instructing them that oppose themselves, holding fast the faithful word.”

What knowledge, wisdom and grace, are requisite for all this? How must the heart glow with the love of God! What humility, and patience, and kindness are necessary!  What firmness and decision, tempered with what meekness and love! How must the minister be rooted, and grounded in the truth! What spiritual discernment ppossess, what unquenchable love to souls! What a heavenly mind—a Christ-like temper and a holy life; and who shall possess these without large measures of the Spirit of truth and grace? and this is a gift bestowed in answer to prayer.

Then Christian, pray for that gift to thy minister. Remember too, his work is trying. He is tried, among other things, by the carelessness and inaction of the church—by the apathy and unbelief of his impenitent hearers. Perhaps at the very moment some are complaining of his lifelessness, and look abroad for foreign aid, he is mourning in his closet the spiritual dearth among his people, and beseeching the God of heaven to revive his work, and to render his labors, though he feels personal unworthiness, more efficient and successful.  As he surveys the fruitlessness of his field of labor, his heart almost faints within him. What need of supporting grace.  Christian, seek it in his behalf by prayer.

Think too, of the diversity of opinion and feeling among his people. Lift up your eye. Behold the eager anxieety to catch at something new and strange.  Mark the jealousy and suspicion which exist between brethren. What shall he do? How keep his heart right, and pursue the right course? How stand amid conflicting views, unawed by fear; unwarped by prejudice; meek though bold, and speak the truth as it is in Christ? Who needs your prayers, if he does not need them?

Then think he is a man, liable to the errors, and frailties and sins of men. He is not infallible. He is not all-wise, nor all-prudent, nor all holy. A human being, is he called to these duties and trials. An angel might sink under them, what shall he do?—How much grace does he need? Then what need of prayer in his behalf? Christian, cease to dwell upon his imperfections and proclaim his foibles; go to your closet, and if you can pray, pray that God would anoint him anew for his work. Should you and your brethren do it, you might expect him to be far holier, far wiser, far more efficient and successful. Then, too, your own improvement and happiness call upon you to do this. The connection between the labors of your pastor, and the welfare of the Church is intimate and obvious. You in fact allow it. Therefore you provide for those labors. You erect houses of worship, you employ preacher, you attend to hear. To build up the Church what need that preaching be correct, spiritual, discriminating, earnest; that it be in demonstration of the spirit and with power.

Could the preacher come each Sabbath laden with knowledge, imbued with love, and attended by the Holy Ghost—could he go thus from house to house, and meeting to meeting, how much might be accomplished. Souls would be fed and nourished. The thoughtless be aroused, the fearful encouraged, the doubting confirmed.  Many would arise to new activity in the divine life. Sinners too must feel its influence. God hath constituted the preaching of the Gospel His power and wisdom unto salvation.  Infinite consequences are depending. That Gospel is a savor of life or of death. With God’s blessing it may raise the soul from sin to holiness. It may save it from hell and bear it to heaven. Here is the grand reason after all, to pray for ministers. Their personal difficulties and trials are of small account.—It is that the Gospel may have free course and be glorified; that it may hasten on its way, making glad the city of our God, and bearing salvation to the lost.

If you would love that Gospel, if you would see it triumph, if you love the souls it was given to save, and him who gave it, never forget to pray for your minister. “Finally brethren, pray for us;” then the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.

She was Called “Stockade Annie”
by Rev. David T Myers

The woman had run off two surveyors with a shotgun. But one cannot stop the federal government from possessing your land to make it an Army installation, even if your family had owned it since 1835. They took possession of it and in 1942, Fort Campbell was quickly set up and in business on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. Anna Barr may have lost that fight, but eventually she was in control of Fort Campbell! But we are getting ahead of ourselves in this remarkable true story.

Anna Barr was born on this day of November 7, 1875. One of twelve children, she was tutored at home until age twelve, when she transferred to a “public” school. The popular, but headstrong young Southern belle, met and married at age 31, John Christy Barr, of New Orleans. The latter had been called into the ministry and specifically the Presbyterian ministry in his home town. For the next thirty years, both of them would serve the Lord as pastor and pastor’s wife at Presbyterian churches in that town.

While the church experience would sour her on “organized religion,” nothing could take away her love of God and the good news of salvation which she had received in her heart and was desirous of spreading that good news of eternal life around her. And this is where she began to be known as “Stockade Annie,” of our title. Bereft of her husband by death in 1942, and without children, her “family” would be the soldiers of Fort Campbell in either the stockade or hospital for the next several decades.

To accomplish that, she stated to the commanding general that she needed a pass into the installation. When one did not come readily, she demanded one. And eventually she received it, from him and all succeeding commanders. For the next twenty-three years, she witnessed by means of gospel tracts, Bibles, and most of all, by her personal presence beside her military family. It might mean holding the hands of a soldiers all night in the hospital, or reaching through the bars of the jail of those in trouble with the life changing message of the gospel.

When the Vietnam War came upon our country, she stood at the airport handing out Bibles and New Testaments to her “boys” as they headed over to that war torn country. Opposed to the war, she once tried to see President Nixon to influence him to stop the war, but an open door to the White House was not granted to her. Every Fort Campbell commander knew who she was though.

At the ripe old age of 90, Mrs Barr went to meet her Savior and Lord. It was said that a military funeral was granted to her, with military honors, even though she was only a member of the army of the Lord. Today, in the Don F Pratt Museum just outside of the installation, there is a special remembrance of Stockade Annie’s (Anna Barr) ministry to spiritual needy military men and women at Fort Campbell.

Words to Live By:
Calling all mothers of our subscriber list, don’t think that your ministry is gone in your retirement years. Consider Anna Barr’s example. Talk to your pastor regarding any ministry inside or outside your local congregation which needs your loving and faithful service for Christ. Then prayerfully, give of your spiritual gifts and time to that ministry. Far from simply building a remembrance on earth of your time and talents, your loving service for Christ will be remembered in eternity.

We are honored today to draw our text from the opening chapter to Dr. Kim Riddlebarger’s 1997 doctoral dissertation, B.B. Warfield: The Lion of Princeton, which has since been published in book form and is available here. Our thanks to Dr. Riddlebarger for granting permission to post this excerpt.

“The Pugilist”

Princeton College alumni who remembered Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield’s student days at Princeton recall that on November 6, 1870, the young Warfield and a certain James Steen, “distinguished themselves by indulging in a little Sunday fight in front of the chapel after Dr. McCosh’s afternoon lecture.” Warfield, it seems, “in lieu of taking notes” during Dr. McCosh’s lecture, took great delight in sketching an “exceedingly uncomplimentary picture of Steen,” which was subsequently circulated among the students.[1]  The resulting fist-fight between the two young men ultimately didn’t amount to much, but it earned Warfield the nickname—”the pugilist.”[2]

B. B. Warfield’s earliest days at Princeton, as well as his last, were characterized by a passionate defense of his personal honor. Princeton Seminary colleague, Oswald T. Allis, tells the story about Dr. Warfield’s encounter with Mrs. Stevenson, the wife of the Seminary President, shortly before Warfield’s death and during the height of the controversy at Princeton over an “inclusive” Presbyterian church. When Mrs. Stevenson and Dr. Warfield passed each other on the walk outside the Seminary, some pleasantries were exchanged, and then Mrs. Stevenson reportedly said to the good doctor, “Oh, Dr. Warfield, I am praying that everything will go harmoniously at the [General] Assembly!” To which Warfield responded,

“Why, Mrs. Stevenson, I am praying that there may be a fight.”[3] As the late Hugh Kerr, formerly Warfield Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary reflects, “from the very beginning to end, Warfield was a fighter.”[4]  B. B. Warfield was not only a fighter, he was also a theological giant, exerting significant influence upon American Presbyterianism for nearly forty-years. John DeWitt, professor of Church History at Princeton during the Warfield years, told Warfield biographer Samuel Craig, that . . . he had known intimately the three great Reformed theologians of America of the preceding generation—Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd and Henry B. Smith—and that he was not only certain that Warfield knew a great deal more than any one of them but that he was disposed to think that he knew more than all three of them put together.[5]

Unlike many of today’s “specialists,” B. B. Warfield was fully qualified to teach any of the major seminary subjects—New Testament, Church History, Systematic or Biblical Theology, and Apologetics.[6]  One of Warfield’s students, and an influential thinker in his own right, J. Gresham Machen, remembers Warfield as follows: “with all his glaring faults, he was the greatest man I have known.”[7]  Hugh Kerr, though critical of Warfield’s “theory of the inerrancy of the original autographs,” still told his own students a generation later that, “Dr. Warfield had the finest mind ever to teach at Princeton Seminary.”[8]

[1.]  Hugh Thomson Kerr, “Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” Annie Kinkead Warfield Lecture
for 1982, at Princeton Theological Seminary, ed. William O. Harris (1995), p. 21.
[2.]  Ibid., pp. 21-22.
[3.]  O. T. Allis, “Personal Impressions of Dr Warfield,” in The Banner of Truth 89 (Fall 1971) pp. 10-14.
[4.]  Kerr, “Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” p. 22.
[5.]  Samuel G. Craig, “Benjamin B. Warfield,” in B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies. (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1986), p. xvii.
[6]  Ibid., p. xix.
[7]  Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir (Philadelphia: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1977), p. 310.
[8]  Recounted in personal correspondence of February 25, 1995, from William O. Harris, Librarian for Archives and Special Collections at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Words to Live By:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.—Jude, verse 3 (KJV)

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.—1 Timothy 6:12 (KJV)

by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 34 — What is adoption?

A. — Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.

Scripture References: 1 John 3:1; John 1:12; Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:10.


1. What is the difference between adoption in the sight of men and
in the sight of God?

Adoption, according to man, is simply a taking into the family a child because of some qualification on the part of the child or because of some need of the adopting parent. God adopts those who are strangers, the children of wrath, those in whom there is nothing commendable and gives them all the rights and privileges as children of God.

2. What is involved in this new relationship?

A. A. Hodge states, “Adoption presents the new creature in his new relations – his new relations entered upon with a congenial heart, and his new life developing in a congenial home, and surrounded with those relations which foster its growth and crown it with blessedness.” (Confession of Faith, Pg. 192.).

3. Are all children of men adopted by God?

No, only those who believe on Christ. (John 1:12).

4. Who specifically does the act of adopting?

The act of adoption belongs to God the Father. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.” (I John 3:1)

5. What are the privileges to which the adopted children of God are entitled?

The list could be endless. Primarily the privileges are:
(1) Protection from evils of all kinds (Ps. 121:7).
(2) The bearing of his likeness (Col. 3:10).
(3) The access to God the Father (I In. 5:14, 15).
(4) The provision of the needs of the believer (Ps. 34:10).
(5) A surety of entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Rom. 8:17).


“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph.2:19). The hymn writer spoke the truth when he said, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, Since Jesus came into my heart.” Because we have been adopted by God we are different, we are no longer aliens or those who do not rank as citizens, but are fellow citizens with the saints.

This new relationship brings the believer into at least two links with the Father. The first is a privilege, that of having within himself a spirit becoming the children of God. This spirit is a free spirit as it is free from the sense of bondage and of guilt and of death itself. This spirit is a royal spirit. The Bible teaches us that the believer is “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (a People of God’s own possession).” This spirit is the spirit of glory, one that means the believer is blessed.

The second link with the Father is a responsibility. The Bible teaches, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” (Heb. 12:5). As children of God, as adopted children of God, the Bible teaches us that we are prone to punishment when we do wrong in the sight of our Heavenly Father. This link is as important as the link mentioned above, the link of privilege.

The relationship as adopted children of God is one we should accept with all seriousness. We should ever keep this relationship in our minds in order that we might act as children. A child has respect for his parent. A Christian child should have the utmost of respect (fear is pertinent here) for his heavenly Father. A child is to obey his parent. A Christian child should live In the very atmosphere of obedience toward his heavenly Father. A child is to love his parent and show that love in pleasing his parent. A Christian child should adore his heavenly Father and strive to please him, no matter what the situation might be. A child should accept discipline. A Christian child should literally pray for the discipline of the heavenly Father. (Eph. 5:1).

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol 3 No. 34 (October, 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor


Another in a series that we’ve gathered on this subject, the following article is one of two penned by Dr. William Childs Robinson.  The context was the proposed merger between the PCUSA and the PCUS [aka, Southern Presbyterian Church].  Dr. “Robbie” wrote here in direct response to an editorial in THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER. For more on the Auburn Affirmation, including both the text of that document, links to other conservative Presbyterian responses and a short bibliography, click here.


By the Rev. Wm. Childs Robinson, D.D.
[excerpted from The Christian Observer 132.44 (1 November 1944): 6.]

In the October 11 issue of The Christian Observer, Dr. Walter L. Lingle makes a mild case for the Auburn Affirmation based in part upon a letter in which Dr. Henry Sloan Coffin asserts that the contention of the affirmation was constitutional and not doctrinal. As our Church faces the question of union with the U.S.A. Church, our concern, however, is not with what may have been the intention of the affirmationists. It is rather with the effect that the Auburn Affirmation has had upon the U.S.A. Church and will have upon our Church if we unite without an adequate safeguard against the liberal theology which the affirmation protects.

Since Dr. Lingle goes back to the period of 1923-1928 for his argument, I shall go back to the same period for my answer. In that period Dr. Coffin, the leader of the liberal majority in New York Presbytery, used the Auburn Affirmation to protect the licensure and ordination of his students who did not accept the virgin birth of Christ. In due process these cases came before the Synod and the Assembly. The U.S.A. Assembly of 1925 condemned New York Presbytery for licensing two students who were unable to affirm their belief in the positive, definite statements of the Gospels on the virgin birth. That Assembly remanded the case to New York Presbytery for appropriate action.

Speaking for the liberal majority of New York Presbytery, Dr. Coffin took the floor and declared the action of the Assembly null and void. Other Auburn Affirmationists threatened to split the Church if the action against New York Presbytery were consummated. In the face of this Auburn Affirmation declaration of nullification and threat of secession, the moderator appointed a committee which so compromised the matter that nothing was ever done by the U.S.A. Assembly against either the Presbytery or the students. By this action and by continued pressure at the ensuing Assemblies, the Auburn Affirmationists prevented the General Assembly from requiring candidates to accept the virgin birth of Christ.

The rejection of the virgin birth logically involves the rejection of the pre-existence of Christ. The logic of the position is to regard our Lord Jesus Christ as a temporal, human person rather than as a divine, eternal person. And those who reject an article of the Apostles’ Creed, the virgin birth, are not likely to sit very firmly on the decisions of the ecumenical councils that Christ is God the Son, co-eternal with the Father though this is the clear teaching of the Westminster Confession.

In “Liberal Theology: An Appraisal,” Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, one of the students whose licensure was condemned by the Assembly of 1925, states his doctrine of Christ. Of this statement, Dr. James D. Rankin, a veteran United Presbyterian scholar, says: For Dr. Van Dusen, Christ “was man at his highest. Of course, this denies His divinity and the value of His atonement.” Of the same statement, Dr. S. M. Zwemer, of Princeton, says “His (Van Dusen’s) Christology is not that of the Westminster Confession.” For Dr. Van Dusen, Christ serves man primarily, not as a reservoir; “but the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is the only reservoir.” According to Dr. Van Dusen, “God was a fully present in Jesus of Nazareth as it is possible for Him to be in a genuine human being.” In and through Jesus the life of God spoke and acted as fully “as the Sovereign of reality could find expression through a man of Nazareth in the days of the Caesars.”

For Dr. Van Dusen there is an identity of Jesus with God only of outlook, purpose, will and compassion. For the Church of the ages our Lord Jesus Christ is one with the Father in substance, essence, being. Though he uses the term, “the divinity of Christ,” he does not use it in the same sense as does the Confession of Faith. For the Confession, Christ is “very and eternal God” who became also man for us men and for our salvation. For Dr. Van Dusen’s liberal theology, He is “a man of Nazareth in the day of the Caesars” in whom God was personally present. Thus, the effect of the Auburn Affirmation has not been the con amore acceptance of the Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, but the enfranchisement in the U.S.A. Church of a liberal Christology which is not that of the Westminster Confession. Moreover, it has meant the setting aside of the trustworthiness of those passages of the Holy Scriptures which teach the virgin birth and the pre-existence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If space permitted, it could be shown by specific cases that the effect of the Auburn Affirmation has been to open the doors of the U.S.A. Church to ministers who reject the other doctrines challenged by the Auburn Affirmation. It could be shown that an Easter sermon rejecting the historicity and the objectivity of the resurrection of Christ and an article rejecting the doctrine of the atonement which is set forth in the Shorter Catechism have been published in papers of the U.S.A. Church.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States adopted an in thesi deliverance maintaining the eternal deity and saving work of Christ in unambiguous and wholly confessional language. Every part of our statement is expressed in the language of either the Confession or the Catechisms, which the Church accepts as standard expositions of Scripture in regard to doctrine. This deliverance was unanimously passed by the 1939 Assembly, it was interpreted and reaffirmed by the 1940 Assembly, and in effect was reaffirmed by the 1942 Assembly when that body unanimously passed the Lilly resolution. Let our committee write this Declaratory Statement into the Plan of Reunion in such a way that it will not be limited or curtailed by the Declaratory Statement of the U.S.A. Assembly, and we shall have a safeguard against the liberal theology which the Auburn Affirmation protects in the U.S.A. Church.

Decatur, Ga.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer 132.44 (1 November 1944): 6.]

The in thesis deliverance noted by Dr. Robinson in his final paragraph above, came before the Seventy-ninth General Assembly of the PCUS initially as a Resolution from Judge Richard V. Evans [M79GA, p. 37.], which resolution was then referred to the Standing Committee on Bills and Overtures. That Committee then reported several days later and issued the following, which was adopted by the Assembly:

Your Committee recommends that the Resolution of Judge Richard V. Evans which was referred by the General Assembly to your Committee be answered as follows:

The General Assembly hereby declares that it regards the acceptance of the infallible t truth and divine authority of the Scriptures, and of Christ as very and eternal God who became man by being born of a virgin, who offered Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, who rose from the dead with the same body with which he suffered and who will return again to judge the world, as being involved in the ordination vows to which we subscribe.

The text of the resolution from Judge Evans is not itself provided in the Minutes.

In 1940, the Presbytery of Lexington overtured the Assembly to clarify its action, by stating whether this action is to be interpreted as a doctrinal deliverance on the part of the General Assembly which defines the doctrinal content of the ordination vows. [M80GA, p. 25.]

The Report of the Standing Committee on Bills and Overtures then recommended:

2. In answer to overture No. 2, from the Presbytery of Lexington, asking for a deliverance of this Assembly, clarifying the action of the General Assembly of 1939, in which it declared that the acceptance of certain truths contained in the Confession of Faith are involved in the ordination vows to which we subscribe, we would reply that this was merely an in thesi deliverance, interpreting a part of the content of the ordination vows without any intention of changing the whole substance of them. [M80GA, p. 45.]

Finally, in 1942, the Rev. Edward G. Lilly presented a resolution which was unanimously adopted by a rising vote, and is as follows:


The vote of the General Assembly on recommendation eleven of the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations concerning certain doctrines of faith shall not be construed as a denial of any of these doctrines nor as indicting a relaxation of belief in any of them.  [M 82GA, p. 94-95]

The Prayers of a Pious Mother

If this devotional began with a simple question, namely, to identify the greatest preacher ever produced in this land of America,   this writer is sure that he would receive a bevy of names, both from colonial days as well as modern times. The reader might be quick to offer the name of  your particular pastor, the one you hear every Lord’s Day. Or maybe it would be some preacher from your past, whom you consider the greatest expositor of the Word to your heart.

As famous as the great English pastor, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, was, he was convinced that we Americans did not even know that the most eloquent preacher the American continent ever produced was Samuel Davies.  Some of you might respond with a “Who is Samuel Davies” question. But for the regular readers of this historical devotional, having made reference to Samuel Davies on April 14, July 6, July 25, and October 3,  he was the Apostle of Virginia. And it was on this day of November 3, 1723 that he was born near New Castle, Delaware.

His parents were deeply religious, both of Welsh descent. They were members of the Pancader Presbyterian Church in Delaware. Especially his mother was to make a deep spiritual impression on young Samuel.  Afterward he commented that he was a son of prayer, just as the biblical Samuel was a son of prayer. Further, he acknowledged that everything he accomplished for the Savior in his life and ministry, he looked upon as immediate answers to the prayers of a pious mother.

It was in his early teens that Samuel had a clear assurance of justification by faith.  He then joined the Presbyterian Church.  Educated at the famous Faggs Manor Presbyterian classical and theological school in Cochrinville, Pennsylvania, he received his spiritual marching orders to become the Apostle of Virginia in bringing the gospel to this part of the new world.

Words to live by: There is a general  promise in Proverbs 22:6 for parents to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  Dads, Moms, are you praying for a son or a daughter who is now in the process of turning away from the faith of his or her parents?  Many are the sorrows of such an experience.  Our hearts grieve with you. We encourage you to continue to pray and by your example and exhortation (when the Lord presents an open door) to continue  to claim Proverbs 22:6.  Many have come back to Christ at a time of trouble or temptation. Be there when they do and give thanks to the God of providence at that time.

Our good friend, the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway, has reminded us this morning of the hymn “Great God of Wonders,” the words of which were composed by Samuel Davies. This hymn is included in the revised edition of the Trinity Hymnal as hymn #82. You can also listen to it here. There is also an Indelible Grace tune for the same lyrics, here.

1 Great God of wonders! all thy ways
are matchless, godlike and divine;
but the fair glories of thy grace
more godlike and unrivaled shine,
more godlike and unrivaled shine.

Who is a pard’ning God like thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

2 In wonder lost, with trembling joy
we take the pardon of our God;
pardon for crimes of deepest dye,
a pardon bought with Jesus’ blood,
a pardon bought with Jesus’ blood. [Refrain]

3 O may this strange, this matchless grace,
this God-like miracle of love,
fill the whole earth with grateful praise,
and all th’angelic choirs above,
and all th’angelic choirs above. [Refrain]

A Few Appropriate Remarks
by Rev. David Myers

The thirty-two year old attorney for the state of Pennsylvania had been asked by Andrew Curtin, the governor of Pennsylvania, to purchase some ground, collect the dead from the battle of Gettysburg, and dedicate the whole at a special day in 1863. The first two assignments had been accomplished by David Wills. Seventeen acres were purchased for the National Cemetery. The fallen heroes of that great pivotal battle of Gettysburg had been collected for burial. And an early date in November had been set aside to dedicate the whole cemetery.

The main speaker was to be orator Edward Everett. He had a reputation in holding an audience’s attention. Battlefields always were his favorite choice for orations, having augmented the fame of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. So he was chosen for this early date, except he begged off for an early November date, saying he had to write his speech and memorize it. So Everett chose November 19th at the earliest date he could be there. And it was agreed by Wills that this would the date for the dedication.

As a special courtesy, the young lawyer also wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, asking him to make “a few appropriate remarks” after Edward Everett. To all students of history, you realize that no one remembers anything from the two hour address of over 13,000 words from Everett, but everyone remembers, and some have even memorized the two hundred and seventy words of President Lincoln, called the Gettysburg Address. It starts “Four score and seven years ago. . . .”

But our emphasis today is not on Edward Everett or even Abraham Lincoln, but on the young attorney who was responsible for planning and executing the Dedication Day on November 2, 1863. His name was David Wills. And he was a Presbyterian ruling elder!

Born in 1831, in Adams County, Pennsylvania, David stayed on his father’s farm until age 13 when he entered what is now Gettysburg College, graduating with high honors. He was admitted to the bar in 1854 and opened a law office in Gettysburg. Two years later, he married Catherine Jane Smyser, fathering seven children by her.

His home was prominent on the main diamond of Gettysburg, and it was at this home that Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before his memorable address on the 19th of November. In fact, he wrote the final draft of that famous speech at Will’s home. The house is now a museum in Gettysburg.

David Wills was a member and ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church of Gettysburg. Later in his life, he would represent the church and denomination at regional and national Reformed conferences. He went to be with the Lord in 1894.

Words to Live By:
In 1 Timothy 5:17, the apostle Paul wrote, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (NASB) This is the text that Presbyterians use to distinguish between teaching elders (or ministers) and ruling elders. The church makes much of the the teaching elder, and well should we, for there is nothing better than faithful and godly ministers of the Word. But the ruling elder is to be respected and honored and prayed for as well, as he watches over the spiritual welfare of the flock of God (Hebrews 13:17).

Both a Lawyer and a Pastor

Robert Reid Howison was born on 22 June 1820.  His parent’s names are not recorded in the PCUS Ministerial Directory.  Howison studied at the Fredericksburg Academy and then studied law privately before being admitted to the bar in 1841. He then entered the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, attending there from 1841-1843. Robert was licensed to preach on 27 April 1844 by East Hanover Presbytery and then ordained to the ministry on 4 October 1844 by Lexington Presbytery, being installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Staunton, Virginia, where he served from 1844-1845.

Ill health prompted him to be divested of office at his own request in October of 1845, and he resumed his legal practice, serving in that capacity from 1846-1870. He practiced law for many years in Richmond in the years leading up to the Civil War, and was engaged in a case held in the old capital building, when the floor of the building collapsed, and he was buried beneath the rubble. That injury left him recuperating for about three years, and it was 1873 before he returned to legal practice. He continued in that capacity until 1880, at which time re-entered the ministry, with renewal of his license to preach, under the authority of East Hanover Presbytery, in April of 1880.

He was re-ordained on 15 April 1881, also under the authority of East Hanover, and installed as pastor of the Samuel Davies Presbyterian Church, serving there from 1881-1883. He next answered a call to serve the Third Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA, from 1883-1889, and then served as Stated Supply for the churches of Culpepper, Orange and Milder, 1889-1894,, and the Presbyterian church in Ashland, 1894 until retirement in 1903.

Rev. Howison was also a professor of American history at Fredericksburg College from 1894 until his death in 1906. He died on Tuesday morning, November 1, 1906 at his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the age of 87. Honors bestowed during his life include the LL.D. degree, conferred by Hampden-Sydney College in 1897. He was as well an accomplished historian, having written a valuable history of Virginia and many other works of literature.

Chronological bibliography—
A history of Virginia : from its discovery and settlement by Europeans to the present time (Philadelphia : Carey & Hart, 1846-1848), 2 v. ; 22 cm.  Contents include: vol. 1. Containing the history of the colony to the peace of Paris, in 1763; vol. 2. Containing the history of the colony and of the state from 1763 to the retrocession of Alexandria in 1847, with a review of the present condition of Virginia.  Imprint of v. 2: Richmond : Drinker and Morris ; New York ; London : Wiley and Putnam, 1848.  [HP #1533]
Vol. 1 online at;view=toc;idno=31735054780162
Vol. 2 online at;view=toc;idno=31735054780204

Reports of criminal trials in the circuit, state and United States courts, held in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond, Va.: G.M. West & Brother, 1851), 120 p. Reprinted, New York, 1937. And again reprinted as Howison’s Criminal trials of Virginia. Buffalo, N.Y.: Dennis, 1950, 1851. Online at

Cowan, Virginia M., An essay on “The world as it is” S.l.: s.n., 1857. Written by Virginia M. Cowan of Memphis, Tennessee, and read by R.R. Howison, Esq., at the commencement of the Richmond Female Institute, June 26th, 1857.

“History of the War.” 1834-1864, Article [v. 1-2, chapter 1], appearing in The Southern Literary Messenger. Richmond, Va.: 1834ff.

Mutual Benefit Life In. Co. vs. Atwood’s administratrix. D.M.–31 A. Richmond, Va., 1871.  33 p.

Fredericksburg: past, present and future. Fredericksburg, VA: R.B. Merchant, 1880. 52 p.  Reprinted, Fredericksburg, VA: J. Willard Adams, 1898. New ed., with supplement, 80 p.

God and Creation. Richmond, VA: West, Johnston & co., 1883.  578 p.

“The New Testament Plan of Educating Candidates for the Christian Ministry,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 34.4 (October 1883): 651-682.

Howison, Robert R., George D. Armstrong and Hugh Blair, Historical sketch of the Presbytery of East Hanover, Virginia. Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson, 1887.  17 p.

A history of the United States of America. Intended for students in schools, academies, colleges, universities and at home, and for general readers. Richmond, VA: Everett Waddey Co., 1892.  936 p.

Posthumous Publications—
“Fredericksburg: Her People and Characters,” in The William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd Series, 2.4 (October 1922): 221-238.

“Dueling in Virginia,” in The William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, 2nd Series, 4.4 (October 1924): 217-244.

Works concerning Robert R. Howison—
Stephens, Trina A. Jr., Twice Forty Years Of Learning: An Educational Biography of Robert Reid Howison (1820-1906); Ph.D. dissertation, available online at

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