September 2017

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With One Ministry in Mind, Yet God Had a Greater

When Francis A. Schaeffer was called to serve the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, his first sermon as the new pastor of the church was delivered on 5 December 1943 and was titled “Believing in the Light of His Coming.” But not two years later, in September of 1945, the Session Minutes of the First Bible Presbyterian Church record this note:

Our pastor F.A. Schaeffer brought before us a letter he received from Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft general secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions asking if he would consider or be willing if he felt that the Lord had called him to go to Germany as a missionary to start a work there that would be sound. It was stated that Rev. Carl Straub pastor of the Afton Bible Presbyterian Church might go along as a helper.
There was much discussion about it and it was the general consensus of opinion that the board might have been hasty in the matter and not given it as much thought as it should have, due to the fact that it might have a detrimental effect on the work here in St. Louis.
No concrete action was taken at this time as it was the thought of the session as well as the moderators that the will of the Lord be done and since no one present knew what the Lord would have Mr. Schaeffer do the meeting was brought to a close after a season of prayer asking God for His guidance.

Finally in February of 1947, the Session Minutes record that

“Mr. Schaeffer asked the session for a leave of absence to go to a work located on the continent of Europe for the purpose of starting Bible Presbyterian Churches and getting sound ones to become a part of the American Council and also start children works where possible. After much discussion it was moved and passed to grant Mr. Schaeffer a leave of nine months to go to this work. . .”

Highly reluctant to let him go, when the congregation met to consider the matter, the leave of absence was reduced to three months, to be taken over the summer months. While Schaeffer was gone that summer, the Rev. John Sanderson returned to pastor the congregation in his absence. Then not long after his return, Schaeffer tendered his resignation in December of 1947 , the Clerk of Session noting that the Session “voted to receive it with real regret.” After some time of preparation, the Schaeffers said their farewells. His final sermon before the congregation came on the evening of 25 July 1948—”Man’s Greatest Cause for Rejoicing”—and by the fall of 1948 the Schaeffers were getting established in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Words to Live By:
The Schaeffers came to St. Louis no doubt intending to pastor the church there for many years. But the Lord called them to something greater. And no doubt, Fran and Edith Schaeffer thought they knew what that ministry looked like. They had no idea! It was something far greater and more far reaching than they could have imagined. Strive to obey the Lord in all that He calls you to do. Whether that work may seem great or small, it is in His hands. Rest assured then, His blessing will be in that work, and what is more, it will astound you one day to know how the Lord worked through you, growing His kingdom and bringing glory to His name.

The Westminster Standards are the Standards of the Presbyterian Church
by Rev. David T. Myers

We have already considered the meeting which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which stopped an impending schism in the infant Presbyterian Church by The Adopting Act of 1729, as was presented on September 17. But there was another important commitment made by the infant church as part of this multi-day meeting on this day, September 19, 1729.  And it was the adoption by the presbyters of this American Presbyterian Church of the Westminster Standards (together, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism) as their subordinate standard, behind that of Scripture itself, as their required standard for ordination.

The exact words as taken from the Minutes of that Presbytery meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were the following:  “we are undoubtedly obliged to take care that the faith once delivered to the saints be kept pure and uncorrupt among us, and so handed down to our posterity; and do therefore agree that all the ministers of this Synod, or that shall hereafter be admitted into this Synod, shall declare their agreement in, and approbation of, the Confession of Faith, with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as being in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine, and so also adopt the said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith. And we do also agree, that all the Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate of the ministry into the exercise of the sacred function but what declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of said Confession, either by subscribing the said Confession of Faith and Catechisms, or by a verbal declaration of their assent thereto, as such minister or candidate shall think best.”

It might surprise our readers to think that a full twenty-two years after the first Presbytery in 1707, finally such a doctrinal commitment was made by the infant Presbyterian church.  But this is not to say that the ministers who made up this church did not automatically confess this subscription. Remember, the first page of the 1707 minutes were lost to history.  It well might have been part and parcel of that document.  Further, while not found in subsequent recorded minutes, all of the ministers had confessed their faith in the mother countries by subscription to the Westminster Standards. Up to this time in the colonies, their attention was taken up with church extension and government.  But finally, the historic creed which had fed the faith of the Presbyterian Church for three hundred years is made the foundation of the infant Presbyterian church in America.                                                                                       

Words to live by:  A historic document is made the subordinate standard of an infant church.  All ministers, past, present, and future, are to receive and adopt it before they can be ordained.  The young church is placed on a Reformed foundation.  While members must hold to a credible profession of faith, they know  that the preaching and teaching will be the depth and historical content of  the greatest theological statement ever produced by godly men. This is why we have included the Confession and catechisms in this historical devotional guide.  Read and ponder its words. Memorize its shorter catechism answers.  This writer has done so, and it has enabled him to stand in the test of perilous times.

It was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking.

This appears to be one of Machen’s messages which is now lost. I could not find any title close to “Shall We Obey God, or Man?” among Dr. Machen’s published works, but if I missed something, please bring it to my attention. Like so much of Machen’s writings, this too would have remained a timely message for our own day. Perhaps there are still some notes, an outline, or even a transcript preserved among the Machen Papers at Westminster Theological Seminary?


“Shall We Obey God, or Man?” is the subject to be discussed by Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Masonic Temple. This meeting, the last in the series of three sponsored by a local committee interested in the newly organized Presbyterian Church of America, has been planned to bring before the public some of the outstanding issues before the Presbyterian Church today.

Dr. Machen, who is Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and long identified with the fundamentalist group in the Presbyterian Church, today is a national figure. IN 1928 he headed a group of men that left Princeton Seminary and about four years later was instrumental in the founding of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. It was the establishment of this board that brought to a head the fast growing differences between the two groups, for from this board, termed illegal by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Dr. Machen and others were ordered to resign. Their refusal to do so lead finally this year to their withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America.

Why the matter has been doctrinal rather than administration as claimed by the General Assembly that met in Syracuse last May, in what way the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. has placed the word of man above the word of God and why Conservatives cannot expect to purify the church from within are among the things which will be explained by Dr. Machen.

Acclaimed by his friends and foes alike as the outstanding Greek scholar of the world today, known as an ardent defender of Fundamentalism and the author of numerous well-known books, Dr. Machen will come prepared to state authoritatively the position of the new Presbyterian Church of America.

This same news clipping, pictured at right, can be found in context on the front page of The Westfield, New Jersey Leader, here : . Our copy of this clipping is from the scrapbook collection gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.

Words to Live By:
In every age and era, there are challenges that confront the Christian. There is always the contest, whether to obey God or man. Strive to obey God daily, moment by moment, while the challenges may still be simpler and less painful. Set the habit now. Walk in the light of His Word and make a practice of remembering God’s faithfulness. For one, make a habit of noting His answers to your prayers. Then, when real challenges to obedience come, you should be able to say, “How can I deny Him now, when He has been faithful to me all these years?”

by Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 27. — Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?

A. — Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross, in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time.

Scripture References: Luke 2:7; Phil. 2:6-8; Gal. 4:4; Isa. 53:6; Matt. 27:46; Gal. 3:13; I Cor. 15:3,4.


1. In what things did Christ humble himself?

Christ humbled himself in His birth, in his life and in His death.

2. How did Christ humble Himself in His birth?

Christ humbled himself in His birth in that he was born of a virgin in a manger, becoming man who was the eternal Son of God.

3. How did Christ humble Himself In His life?

Christ humbled himself in His life in subjecting Himself to the law; because he entered into conflict with the devil; because He endured the slander of men who were wicked; because He endured the infirmities of the flesh even those endured by all men.

4. How did Christ humble Himself in His death?

Christ humbled himself in His death by submitting himself to the cursed death of the cross (Gal. 3:13) and undergoing the agony described in the Scripture as happening to Him.

5. What does Christ’s humiliation mean to us as Christians?

Christ’s humiliation assured us of our redemption, through the merits of His sufferings (Eph.1 :7).

6. Was the soul or body of Christ separated from Him during His death?

No, his soul or body could not be separated from him since he was divine and the Scripture teaches us that he i. “the same yesterday, and today, and forever”. (He)). 13:8)


Abraham Kuyper, in his helpful book, “His Decease At Jerusalem”, states, “Even among the most devout only a few are willing to plumb the depths of Golgotha’s real significance. We are mostly occupied with the outward evidences of His dying. That does not disturb us nearly so much. But to endure the heart-breaking, soul-lacerating examination of His conflict with Sin, Satan, and the Sentence of Death, none seem to be willing to do.”

Golgotha! Here our Lord came to the climax of those things done in order that others might live. Nothing was left Him but a cross whereon He could die. And this amid the mocking laughter of His slanderers. Look to the Cross of Christ, where the Christ heard those words of mockery, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” How very true they were, little did those who said them realize what a profound truth they were uttering. For therein was the truth of His dying, in order to save others He could not save Himself! He paid the final price on the Cross and then He knew that the debt for man’s redemption was paid up in full. He was free then to utter the words, “It is finished!” It was a thunderous cry of victory over the prince of the world and his cohorts.

We sing about the Cross and we speak of it—but do we think deeply in considering the humiliation He suffered there? How little are our thoughts directed towards developing heartfelt understanding of His sacrifice on the Cross. What He suffered there for our sakes, what He did there made the precious gift of eternal life for you and for me!

We need to think more of the scene of Golgotha and let it be a continual remembrance to us of the precious blood He shed, we need to see that Cross in which we find our glory.

We need to examine our hearts before Him and ask Him, with the Psalmist of old, “Search me 0 God and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We need to remember what He did for us and ask ourselves the question: “What are we doing for Him?” Are we willing to renounce all for His sake? Are we willing to be humiliated by the world as we testify for Him? Are we willing to give up whatever is necessary in order to walk to His glory? Blessed Redeemer, Precious Redeemer is our cry—what do our lives testify?

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 27 (March 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Through the sixteenth century a few adventurers were settling in America, and stable institutions came with the seventeenth to attract the attention of European Protestants as they searched for some refuge from the persecuting power which they could not resist in France, could not fight in Spain, played see-saw with in England, overthrew in Germany, and displaced in Holland and Scotland.

Theodore BezaIf there had been no persecution in Europe, and the Protestant Church could have had freedom from state interference to fight its own battle before the general reason and conscience, the emigrants to America would perhaps have been more like the first settlers in California, or the first inhabitants in a new oil town. As it was, the intellectual conflict and the physical struggle came on together and intensified each other. Huguenot Synods were held in France, and then suppressed, and then re-allowed. The first regularly organized [Protestant] church [in France] was that of Paris, whose people elected John le Macon pastor, and had a board of elders and deacons, in 1555. In 1559 the first National Synod was held, and according to Calvin’s advice a regular system of Appellate Courts was organized. In September, 1561, Theodore Beza, at the head of twelve Protestant ministers made their plea before royalty. It was claimed that there were then more than two thousand churches and stations. The origin of the name “Huguenot” is not known, but it is believed to have been at first a nickname which grew to honor by the character and conduct of its wearers. They had a stormy history. Francis I. was their enemy. Charles IX. (an effeminate boy in the hands of the Medicis) massacred them at St. Bartholomew. Henry IV., at heart a Huguenot, was a brave soldier and a brilliant man, but he turned Catholic for policy’s sake, and yet protected the Huguenots by issuing the Edict of Nantes. then followed Louis XIII. and Richelieu and Louis XIV. and the revocation of the edict of toleration in 1685. These last events came in the seventeenth century. The sixteenth century had demonstrated the advantage of Protestant emigration, and the seventeenth made it compulsory.

In Holland the struggle was between Protestantism and Phillip II. of Spain. These were the days of the Duke of Alva and William the Silent. To save their religion and their homes and drive out the Spaniards, the Dutch cut the dykes and submerged their farms beneath the sea. But through all this suffering they were organizing a people and defending a country that should, in time, give to the world the Protestant and Presbyterian results of the Synod of Dort. That Synod was the nearest to an interdenominational and ecumenical Synod of any held for the forming of Reformation creeds. It was called to decide the controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism; but the selection of the members made it a foregone conclusion that it would condemn Arminius and support the doctrine of Calvin. As a result the “Canons of Dort” are accepted everywhere as good Augustinian theology, and the Reformed Dutch Church of America, both in the earliest time and in the modern, is thoroughly and soundly Presbyterian. The early Dutch immigrants to this country brought with them their names of Consistory, Classis and Synod, with both ministerial and lay delegates, and between them and the Presbyterians there have never been any controversies in either theology or church government.

But the main center of American interest in European Presbyterians is found in England. Henry VIII. had married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. She was a kinswoman of Philip II. of Spain, and Philip and his nation were close friends of the Pope. When, then, the fickle, handsome, headstrong, and licentious Henry wanted to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, he easily found his English bishops and universities ready to declare his marriage to his brother’s widow unlawful, but he found it very difficult, for political reasons, to get the Pope so to declare against that marriage that he might thereafter have a non-Catholic wife, and that Mary, his daughter by Catherine, should be an illegitimate child.

Henry cut the knot by declaring himself the head of the Church of England, and the English Church in no possible way subject to Rome. During all this time Protestant doctrines were spreading among the people, and this seemed to open an easy solution. But pure religion in England was not what Henry wanted. He and all the Tudors wanted to have their own way, without interference from parliament or the Church or the people. After the birth of Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn was beheaded to make way for the third of Henry’s six wives. The king now had two female children, one a Romanist and the other a Protestant. When he died, in 1547, he left Edward VI. by Jane Seymour, only nine years old, but an astonishingly precocious Protestant king.

knox_card03Under Edward the effort to reform the Church went on vigorously, but everybody was debating, as the chief point of controversy, “What is the scriptural form of government?” John Knox had been a private tutor for Hugh Douglas of Longniddry. The excitement occasioned by the martyrdom of Hamilton and Wishart turned his attention to Protestantism. St. Andrews is a picturesque city, rich in traditions from the Culdee period. At the call of the congregation of that city, Knox began preaching. With the capture of the castle of St. Andrews, Knox was sent a prisoner to the French galleys. After his release he, at one time, became Court preacher for Edward VI.

Romanism, Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and Independency were now up for discussion. The controversy between Protestantism and Catholicism, under Bloody Mary, made all England a charnel house. Mary [Henry VIII.’s first daughter] was a Tudor and a Spaniard and a Roman Catholic; and the task of bringing back the British Islands under the control of the Pope of Rome was the one religious ambition of her life. How far her relentless persecutions [thus her nickname] were made more relentless by the sadness of her natural disposition, the want of an heir to the throne by her Spanish husband, her residence in England while her alienated husband lived in Spain, and her final loss of Calais, that last remnant of English territory on the Continent, may be hard to decide; but her persecutions filled Geneva, and all European Protestant cities, with English refugees and raised everywhere the question of some land where Protestants could have freedom. Just as she was moving, apparently, toward the destruction of her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Mary died.

A Life of Sacrifice for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Robert Waldo Chesnut was a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod (RPC,GS). This was the body which later merged with the larger side of the Bible Presbyterian Synod split in 1965 to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Dr. Chesnut served in the lean years of the denomination when, at its low point, there were just nine churches left on the roster. Eventually the Lord brought renewed vigor and growth, such that by the time of the merger in 1965, there were some 25 churches in the RPC,GS. No doubt the Lord used Chesnut’s sacrificial love for the Church as a great instrument in bringing about some of that later growth.

Reprinted here is a brief biography which originally appeared in The Reformed
 Presbyterian Advocate, 87.4 (April, 1953): 40-42.

chesnutrwOn March 23, 1953 at 8:35 P.M. our Church was deprived of its Pastor Emeritus by the death of Rev. Robert W. Chesnut, Ph.D. He was 94 years, 6 months, 8 days old when he passed on to be with his Lord. Dr. Chesnut had been Pastor Emeritus since his retirement from the active ministry in 1942 after 55 years as a minister. In 1950 he attended his last meeting of General Synod, at the Houston Mission [in Tennessee]. In November of 1952 he reported to work on the new church [in Duanesburg, NY], bringing his hammer and lunch pail. He worked from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. He later said: “I guess I pounded two or three pounds of nails and it helped some.” He was constantly interested in the new church and did all he could to advance its construction. 

Robert Chesnut was born on a farm near Morning Sun, Iowa, on September 15, 1858. His parents had emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a boilermaker.”

He had very little formal education in elementary or high schools. He never attended school during his early years for more than three months at a time. Until his entrance into college he had attended school only a total of twenty months.

In 1869 his family emigrated, by covered wagon, to Kansas and settled in Clay Center. There Dr. Chesnut, his father, and his brothers engaged in farming.

chesnut45yrsHe did not want to enter college or the ministry and, he has reported, fought the call of God to the ministry for some time. Finally one day, plowing in the fields (and he had not enjoyed good health for many months) he stopped his horses, sat down on a plowbeam and settled the matter with God. He said: “Lord, if you will give me health and see me through my education I will serve you in the ministry.” He finished the day’s plowing without being fatigued and God has kept His part of the covenant by blessing His servant with good health and length of days. Anyone who knew Dr. Chesnut knows that he kept his part of the covenant too, serving his God and his beloved Reformed Presbyterian church for sixty or more years.

He entered the Agricultural College of Kansas, at Manhattan, with a trunk containing a few clothes, his Psalm book, his Bible, and his Catechism, and $45 cash to see him through. He paid his way through school by raising a crop of wheat each Summer and selling it in the Fall. He also earned a little extra by tutoring his fellow students in Greek.

His college training was continued and completed at the University of Kansas, at Lawrence.

For theological training he spent a summer studying under his pastor, Rev. James S. Scott and entered the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Philadelphia the following term as a second year student.

He completed the course and was licensed to preach on March 22, 1887 in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

He was ordained on May 10, 1888 and installed the same day as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at Marissa, Illinois. The church is no longer in existence. Dr. Chestnut had been called to a church in New York City, but declined the call because he thought that he, a farm boy from Iowa and Kansas, would not be suited to a city pastorate. After sixteen years in Marissa he went to the church in Cutler, Illinois. In 1910 he accepted a call to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Duanesburg. Here he served as pastor and worked the parsonage farm until 1917. He then moved to the Seventh Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and remained two and one-half years. He then returned to Duanesburg, to save the congregation from disbanding. It was, at that time, a small and discouraged flock in need of a shepherd. From 1919 until his retirement in 1942 Dr. Chesnut served here as Stated Supply, worked the parsonage farm (and another larger farm which he purchased from his meager earnings) and ran a printing plant.

Robert Waldo Chesnut was pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Duanesburg (NY) from 1910-1917, and for forty years he served as Editor and Publisher of the Reformed Presbyterian Advocate (although it was not always known by that name). He also served as Moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery and he served the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, as Assistant Clerk, as Clerk, and as Moderator in both 1903 and 1943.

Dr. Chesnut was survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna Heim Chesnut, who is his third wife. In 1885 he was married to Jennie Hulick, who died in 1896. Their daughter and son died while in their youth. His second wife and an infant also died–the wife just five weeks after they moved to Duanesburg in 1910. Dr. Chesnut was survived by three children, thirteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. 

The Duanesburg congregation, and the whole of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, has suffered a loss by the passing of our friend. But we can have no regrets, for he lived a long and full life and we are assured that he has gone to glory to be forever with his Lord, where there is no more pain, no sorrow, no struggle with sin, no more death, where death is swallowed up in victory.

Truly a Prince has fallen in Israel. How he did love to come to General Synod and we have missed him these last few years. He really loved to preach the Gospel. Many lives have been touched by his long years of service.” [Rev. Robert W. Stewart]

Words to Live By:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”—
Philippians 3:8, KJV.

From the Minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia (PCA), September 14-15, 1984:


schaeffer02The Rev. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, having successfully communicated the Gospel of Christ to the Christian world and to the world in general, and having stressed by his books and verbal proclamation the practical outworking of the Gospel in the daily life of man, is hereby memorialized by the Philadelphia Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America as a true and faithful servant of the Lord.

His recent departure from this life into the throne presence of our God reminds this Presbytery that at the outset of his ministry, after his seminary years, he originally came under care of the Philadelphia Presbytery of the Bible Presbyterian Church which by historic continuity contributed its record and its ordained men to the present Philadelphia Presbytery, PCA. He was licensed, ordained, and began his pastoral ministry in that Philadelphia Presbytery. he was a member of the St. Louis Presbytery, PCA, when he went to be with the Lord.

Dr. Schaeffer’s stand for the truth encourages us all, these years after his original commitment, to teach and preach the contents of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, to stand firmly for all our God has revealed to us, and to spread it through our society and our world effectively as He enables.

Mrs. Edith Schaeffer later wrote in reply, thanking the Presbytery for their formal statement on his life and work, and noting that she was keeping their letter with the many other letters, telegrams and documents received from all over the world, upon Dr. Schaeffer’s death.

Note: While the PCA Historical Center does have preserved among its collections the Minute Book of the Philadelphia Presbytery (BPC), those minutes only begin in 1939, and so we are lacking a copy of the minutes for the meeting at which Dr. Schaeffer was ordained..

Words to Live By:
This author [TE David Myers] can still remember, when as a young boy of eight or nine years of age, Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith came to the Army installation at Dachau, Germany, where my father was the installation chaplain, for a series of evangelistic services.  (And yes, it was that Dachau which was infamous for a World War II concentration camp.)  In the shadows of that place of horrors in the little  chapel which had been built by SS soldiers after the close of the war, the good news of salvation was proclaimed by the fullness of the Spirit to a spiritually hungry body of American occupation troops, with souls and hearts being won to Christ and strengthened in the things of the Lord.  Written memorials are better than nothing, but living memorials which are found in the souls of men and women are the best memorials of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  They will continue on the spiritual legacy which he so faithfully began in days gone by.  Praise the Lord for the ministry of Francis (and Edith) Schaeffer.

Don’t understand the jargon in our title? Then read on:—

Two Organizations Provide Ways for the Denominations to Network
[an excerpt from a longer article by Rev. William Johnson]

When the future leaders of the PCA were still planning for their beginning, they often had contact with and encouragement from leaders in the RPCES, the OPC and the RPCNA. These contacts and continuing turmoil in the larger and liberal denominations lead to the founding of successive organizations which served all the conservative Presbyterians as ways to keep networking and building cooperation and unity. The first, the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (NPRF), was founded in 1971 and counted among its leaders Aiken Taylor of the Presbyterian Journal and Donald Graham, its first executive director. Membership was open to ministers, ruling elders, and other interested laymen. Then in 1975 NAPARC was formed, The North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. It was a more formal organization than the NPRF in that denominations were members – initially, the RPCES, the OPC, the RPCNA, the PCA, and the CRC (Christian Reformed Church). The former group (NPRF) eventually disbanded in the early 1980’s; the latter group (NAPARC) continues still and has been joined by a few other denominations. [Note: The CRC is no longer a member denomination in NAPARC]

Representatives of the closest conservative Presbyterian Churches – the OPC, the RPCES, the RPCNA, and the PCA – continued formal and informal contacts in the later 1970s. Very few if any substantive differences separated them, although history and personality/style differences remained obstacles and all knew that with negotiated merger plans, “the devil was in the details.” A turning point was reached at Covenant College September 13-14, 1979, when representatives of the four churches’ ecumenical committees met. The PCA, being so young, had actually been urged by some at its General Assembly earlier that year not to consider any merger plan for at least five more years (1984!). When Dr. Edmund Clowney suggested on the first day that a way around this PCA reluctance would be for individual churches or even denominations to simply join the PCA, since it was by far the largest of the four bodies, the idea was seized on by Donald J. MacNair the next day and he made a proposal that the PCA consider extending such invitations in the future.

The PCA’s 8th Assembly, meeting in Savannah, GA, voted on June 17, 1980, 525 to 38, to issue those invitations. The RPCNA soon dropped out of consideration (their adherence to exclusive psalm-singing in public worship was still too much of an obstacle) and the PCA presbyteries voted by the spring of 1981 not to approve the invitation to the OPC [a narrow decision – 75% of the 25 presbyteries were needed to vote yes; only 18 approved; one of those PCA Presbyteries defeated the invitation by only 2 votes – so it could be said those 2 votes had effectively closed the door to the OPC]. The plan that came to be known as J&R [i.e., Joining & Receiving] was successfully used to enable the churches, leaders, and members of the RPCES to join and be received by the PCA during their overlapping annual meetings in June, 1982, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The final votes were taken with these results: on June 12th, the RPCES Synod approved J&R by a vote of 322 to 90 (78+% voting in favor). Meanwhile, at some point in the spring of 1982, the point was reached where 75% of the PCA presbyteries had approved the invitation to the RPCES, thus effectively approving the reception of the RPCES. All twenty-five PCA Presbyteries voted in favor of receiving the RPCES, though not unanimously in every case. J&R was officially consummated at the opening of the PCA Assembly in Grand Rapids, June 14, 1982.

Words to Live By: 
Someone in seminary once commented that if Presbyterians had a soup, it would be “Split Pea.”  That has been the sad commentary for far too long.  Of course, we are not talking about just occasions when, with respect to apostate Presbyterianism, it was better for the sake of the gospel and our children, to let our feet do the voting and leave.  But when Bible-believing Presbyterians cannot join together for reasons far inferior to the truths of the gospel, then there is an occasion to weep. Let us pray for biblical union of all far-flung Presbyterian bodies.  Let us work for biblical union of our “split peas.”   And then let us come with a united biblical witness before an increasing secular society.
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in  unity!” (ESV)

J&R01NPRF = National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship
NAPARC = North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
OPC = Orthodox Presbyterian Church [1936-ongoing]
PCA = Presbyterian Church in America [1973-ongoing]
RPCES = Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982]
RPCNA = Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America [1833-ongoing]

Pictured at left, one of three booklets issued in conjunction with the Joining and Receiving effort.

The First Bible Printed in New Jersey, by George S. Mott, D.D.

[excerpted from The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 930]:—

As early as the beginning of the last century [i.e., the early 1700s] laws existed in some of the colonies requiring every family to be furnished with a Bible. This supply continued to be kept up by individual exertion until the meeting of the first Congress in 1777. To that body a memorial was presented on the Bible destitution throughout the country. This memorial was answered by the appointment of a committee, to advise as to the printing of an edition of thirty thousand Bibles. The population of the colonies then was about three millions, and all the Bibles in the entire world at that time did not exceed four millions. This committee reported that the necessary materials, such as paper and types, were so difficult to obtain, that to print and bind thirty thousand copies would cost £10,272, 10s., and in their judgment was impracticable. But they recommended the following:

“The use of the Bible being so universal, and its importance so great, to direct the Committee on Commerce to import, at the expense of Congress, twenty thousand English Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the States of the Union.” The report was adopted and the importation was ordered.

In 1781, when the continuance of the war prevented further importation, and there was no telling how long this obstruction might be protracted, the subject of printing the Bible was again urged on Congress, and the matter was referred to a committee of three. On their recommendation the following action was taken:–

Resolved, That the United States, in Congress assembled, highly approve the laudable and pious undertaking of Mr. Robert Aitken, of Philadelphia, as subservient of the interests of religion, and being satisfied of the care and accuracy of the execution of the work, recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”

This was on September 12th, 1782.

In 1788 Isaac Collins, a member of the Society of Friends, and an enterprising printer of Trenton, New Jersey, and who established the first newspaper in that State, issued proposals to print a quarto edition of the Bible in 984 pages, at a price of four Spanish dollars. The [Presbyterian] Synod of New York and New Jersey, the same year, recommended the undertaking. Dr. Witherspoon, of Princeton, Dr. Samuel Stanhope Smith, President of Nassau Hall, and Rev. Mr. Armstrong, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Trenton, were appointed a committee to concur with committees of any other Denominations, or of our own Synods, to revise the sheets, and, if necessary, to assist in selecting a standard edition. This committee was also authorized to agree with Mr. Collins to append Ostervald’s Notes, if not inconsistent with the wishes of other than Calvinistic subscribers.

In the Spring of 1789 the General Assembly, at its meeting, appointed a committee of sixteen (on which was Mr. Armstrong) to lay Mr. Collins’ proposal before their respective Presbyteries, and to recommend that subscriptions be solicited in each congregation. This recommendation was repeated in 1790 and in 1791. Mr. Collins, in 1788, issued an octavo New Testament. The quarto edition of the Bible, thus sustained, was issued in 1791. There were five thousand copies. Ostervald’s “Practical Observations,” of 170 pages, were furnished to special subscribers, and were bound between the Old and New Testaments. This Bible was so carefully revised that it is still a standard. He and his children read all the proofs. In a subsequent edition, 1793-4, he states in the preface, after mentioning several clergymen who assisted the publisher in 1791: “Some of these persons, James F. Armstrong in particular, being near the press, assisted also in reading and correcting the proof-sheets.” The above interesting facts on this Collins Bible are found in The History of the Presbyterian Church, Trenton, N.J., by Dr. John Hall, the pastor.

The copy before me was presented to the Presbyterian Church in Flemington, N. J., which was organized in 1791. It was used as the pulpit Bible for sixty-six years. It was the gift of Jasper Smith, one of the ruling elders and President of the Board of Trustees. He was an ardent patriot of the Revolution, a devoted Christian, and a strong Presbyterian. At the time he was one of the leading lawyers of the county. To his exertions and his generous contributions was mainly due the organization of the church, which is now approaching the close of its first century. About the beginning of this century Mr. Smith removed to Lawrenceville, N. J., where he died. In his will he bequeathed to the Presbyterian church there the large farm of over two hundred acres, that is now the manse farm. This Bible of Collins is not only the first, but so far as I know, the only edition of the Holy Scriptures printed in New Jersey.

[*According to this web page, only two copies of the 1782 Collins Bible are extant (while copies of the 1791 edition seem readily available, even showing up on eBay from time to time!). We also note that the first Bible produced on American soil was in the Algonquin language, produced by the missionary John Elliott.]

Words to Live By:
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even o the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” — (Hebrews 4:12)

“That the Bible is a self-consistent, self-interpretive book has been the belief of Jews (as regards the Old Testament) and Christians alike throughout the centuries. It is clearly set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the following significant statement: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture in the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one,) it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A distinguished theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge, has expressed it as follows: “If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place any thing which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture.”

What Began as Fifteen Is Now Eighty-Four

The old Delmarva Presbytery, now dissolved, was originally organized as a Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) on October 11, 1969. The name Delmarva is a “portmanteau”, a conflation of two or more words or sounds to create a new word. In this case, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are conflated to become Delmarva. The earliest use of that term appears to date back to 1913, and by the 1920s it was widely used, particularly in commerical or business applications.

At its formation, the RPCES Delmarva Presbytery consisted of fourteen churches and one mission work. Upon checking, it appears that all of these churches either came into the RPCES from the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod (aka, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 1961-65), when it merged with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod in April of 1965, or were added to the RPCES in the short span of years 1965-1968 prior to the creation of Delmarva. By the time that the RPCES was received into the PCA in 1982—in little more than another dozen years—Delmarva Presbytery had more than doubled to a total of thirty-seven churches!

With the Joining & Receiving, a few of the RPCES Delmarva churches went into the PCA’s James River Presbytery, but most continued on into the new PCA Delmarva Presbytery. Gathering at its first Stated Meeting, the new Delmarva Presbytery convened at 9:45 A.M. on September 11, 1982 at the Abbott Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, with a service of worship conducted by the Rev. Stephen Smallman, then pastor of the McLean Presbyterian Church. The service included hymns and a sermon preached from I Timothy 3. The Rev. Franklyn Miller, pastor of the host church, along with Rev. Smallman, led in the administration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

At its formation, Delmarva Presbytery was made up of the following churches, with the six oldest and one other (Munson Hill) originally having come out of the old Southern Presbyterian denomination (the churches are listed by their date of organization):

1844―Aisquith Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1877―Valley Presbyterian Church, Lutherville, MD [org. 1877]
1882―Abbott Memorial Reformed Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD (Armistead Gardens, Baltimore, MD [org. ?]; merged with Abbott, 8/2/1987)
1896―Chapelgate Presbyterian Church, Marriottsville, MD
1907―Forest Park Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1910―Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church, Hyattsville, MD
1936―Faith Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE [previously First Independent & Faith Bible Church]
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Elkton, MD
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Newark, DE
1943―Inverness Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1944―McLean Presbyterian Church, McLean, VA
1951―Munson Hill Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA [joined the RPCES in 1972; dissolved in 1992]
1954―Manor Presbyterian Church, New Castle, DE
1956―Berea Presbyterian Church, Hockessin, DE
1962―Bethany Presbyterian Church, New Castle, DE [now Heritage Presbyterian Church]
1964―Covenant Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE
1964―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Annapolis, MD
1969―Liberty Reformed Presbyterian Church, Owings Mills, MD
1970―Timonium Presbyterian Church, Timonium, MD
1975―Pilgrim Presbyterian Church, Martinsburg, WV
1976―Reston Presbyterian Church, Reston, VA [transferred to EPC in 2000]
1977―McLean Korean Presbyterian Church, McLean, VA
1977―Severna Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Severna Park, MD
1977―Tollgate Presbyterian Church, Owings Mills, MD [became Living Hope PC, now dissolved]
1979―Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church, Frederick, MD
1980―Chinese Christian Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA [now owns the former Munson Hill property]
1980―Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, Relay, MD
1980―Grace Church PCA, Dover, DE
1981―New Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bel Air, MD
1982―Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, Woodbridge, VA [now dissolved]
1982―Loch Raven Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD

In the short space of another seven years, the Presbytery voted its own dissolution by division into the two presbyteries of Potomac and Heritage. Delmarva Presbytery met in its final meeting at the 30th Stated Meeting on November 14, 1989, taking the action to redraw the lines of Presbytery and delegate its churches to new presbyteries. Since Heritage was the primary beneficiary of the churches of the the old Delmarva Presbytery, she was accorded status as the official successor to Delmarva, and so retains the ranking of the PCA’s 26th presbytery, while Potomac is listed as the 48th.

Chesapeake Presbytery, the PCA’s 63d presbytery, was later formed by division of Potomac Presbytery on January 1, 2002. The churches of Potomac Presbytery number 33 in all; Heritage has 18, and Chesapeake now has 33. What began as fifteen now totals eighty-four churches, all descending from the legacy that is the old Delmarva Presbytery.

A Pray for Continued Growth:
The PCA has seen good growth among its churches in the Delmarva region, but there are literally millions of souls in that region who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Taking today’s history as our motivation, pray not just for this region, but for our nation and for the world. Pray for the advance of the Gospel, that pastors would be faithful to the Scriptures and bold in the proclamation of the Good News. Pray that the Word of God would make a real difference in the congregations, that each of our lives would stand out in attractive testimony to the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And may God grant a great harvest of souls to be brought into His kingdom.

Note: The records of Delmarva Presbytery, both RPCES and PCA, from 1969 to 1989, are preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and comprise a total of three cubic feet of documents.

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