August 2019

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At last, He Had Arrived
by Rev. David T. Myers

You would have thought that he was a king making a royal entrance into his kingdom, so great was the rejoicing among God’s people to his arrival on the shores of the American colonies.  And indeed, John Witherspoon was certainly the man whom God has chosen to lead the infant College of New Jersey in its next steps of Christian education.

The College had some dark providences associated with its leadership.  In the twenty years of its existence, the five leaders who served as its president, had served a few years and then died.  In fact, it was this mortality rate which cause Mrs. Elizabeth Witherspoon, John’s wife  in Scotland, to want nothing to do with the College.  And so there had been four appeals to come over and help them, but all four of them failed to move the Scotchman, but more particularly the Scotch woman to wish to cross over the Atlantic.  Finally, with the aid of Benjamin Rush, who at that time was studying for a medical degree in Edinburgh, Mrs. Witherspoon was convinced that they should go. Despite the three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship named the Peggy, with five children, and three hundred books for the College library might make anyone rethink the invitation, they did not. On August 7, 1768, the family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Calhoun, in his book “Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812 – 1868,” describes John Witherspoon who stepped off the ship as being “a heavy-set man of forty-six, with brown hair, a strong face with large nose and ears, and blue eyes which looked out beneath bushy brows.”

Resting for five days in the city of Philadelphia, and who can blame them for that after such an ocean voyage, they traveled on to the town of Princeton, New Jersey in a horse and carriage.  About a mile from the town, the entire student body of one hundred and twenty students, with the staff,  met them and ushered them into the town and onto the campus.  His family had use of a house, a garden, land for pasture, and firewood.  There was an annual salary equal to 206 pounds sterling.  That night, in every window of Nassau Hall, there was a candle which illuminated the building.  The future Princeton University and Seminary were rejoicing over his safe arrival.

John Witherspoon was installed as the sixth president of the College of New Jersey on August 17, 1768.  And, he was stand the test of time for decade, as well as through some of the most difficult days in the history of America.  John Witherspoon would make his mark for God’s glory during all this time.

Also this day:
The Advisory Convention was held August 7-9, 1973, to set down final preparations for the First General Assembly of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America, when that Assembly met December 4-7, 1973.

Words to live by:  The Scots-Irish Presbyterians of the colonies knew what they had to have when they invited John Witherspoon.  A strong advocate of the doctrines of the Westminster Standards, he had stood for the faith once delivered unto the saints in Scotland.  He was an accomplished preacher,  church leader, and an author.  When a church leader has been bestowed  Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts, then much good for the saints is expected.  When God’s glory is aimed at by that same leader, then much good for the kingdom of God is attained.  Pray that God will sovereignly bestow His gifts upon the church at large, and your church in particular.

Witherspoon’s works have been largely overlooked and forgotten for some time now, or so it seems. Thankfully, however, his works have been reprinted in recent years. Or you could go over to the Log College Press website to view some of his works in digital format.

Today we would like to take notice of recent discussions on the doctrine of the Trinity and offer the following short article by the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, a conservative stalwart who mentored many of the founding fathers of the PCA. This article originally appeared in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL on August 6, 1975. “Dr. Robbie, as he was affectionately known, was professor emeritus of Church history, Columbia Theological Seminary, and living in retirement in Claremont, California at the time that this was written.

The Trinity: God in Action
by William Childs Robinson

The Church’s interpretation of the Trinity, wrote Bethune-Baker of Cambridge in Early History of Christian Doctrine, is that of one God existing permanently and eternally in three spheres of consciousness and activity, three modes, three forms, three persons: in the inner relations of the divine life as well as in the outer relations of the God-head to the world and to men.”

In his current book, The Triune God, E. J. Fortman concludes that God is not dead. “God is, was and always will be the Triune God who has revealed Himself by His inhabitational presence.”

These words emphasize that we must look to God Himself and His acts to keep our beloved Church in the Trinitarian faith; we must not permit the Church to be devoured by a unitarianism such as that which captured so many English Presbyterian and New England Congregational churches. Trinitarian experiences led Horace Bushnell to answer Unitarianism thus: “But my heart needs the Father, my heart needs the Son, and my heart needs the Holy Spirit, and the one as much as the other.”

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Him-self primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament is the preparation for this revelation, the New Testament the product of the revelation—spoken and lived by the Son and brought to believers by the Holy Spirit.

The climax of this record is found in many places: the farewell discourses in the book of John; the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus; the Gethsemane prayer; the Gospel of the forty days before the ascension, with the Christian name of God given by the resurrected Lord in His Great Commission; the account of Pentecost and the acts of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and in the epistles.

Mindful that much of God’s self-revelation has come through divine- human encounters—Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Paul—we agree with Frederick Gogarten that “faith is the concrete meeting with the triune God.” We also agree with Rahner that “the immanent Trinity as such confronts us in the experience of faith, a constitutive component of which is the word of Scripture itself.”

Through revelation man perceives revelation. “In His light we see light.” By being in God the Holy Spirit, we behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God’s self-revelation as the Trinity is no impersonal system of hypostases in an essence. As Hodgson wrote, “It is the living, loving communion of Father, Son and Spirit into which we have been adopted in Christ.” That is, we have been adopted to share in the “family life of God.”

God the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that God the Father has accepted us as His children and bids us call upon Him as “Abba,” our dear Father, because of the merits of God the Son. The Trinity represents the concept of God involved in the Christian life, and the Christian shares by adoption in the sonship of Christ. Thus the Christian looks out upon the world from within the divine social life of the Trinity.

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Himself primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

We are brought into this life by the threefold actions of God in the riches of His grace. God is before all and above all that He has created, and He has given to and for us His only begotten Son, the unspeakable gift of His love, for love came to earth in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This Son, of His own will, came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. His kind lips rang with the gracious invitation, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” with the reassuring promise that “him who comes to me I will in nowise cast out.”

We accept the Father’s gift and the Son’s invitation. We come to Christ and we cast ourselves upon Him; we entrust ourselves to Him. Yet we do this only as we are drawn by the Father, persuaded and enabled by the effectual calling of the Spirit. It is in the tripersonal experience of the presence of the Father, and of the presence of the Son, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit that God reveals the glory of His grace in saving us sinners.

The Anglican scholar, Bishop K. E. Kirk of Oxford, has said this: “The doctrine of the divine personality of the Spirit emphasizes what has been called the prevenience of God in the aspirations of the human heart, just as that of the divinity of the Son emphasizes that same prevenience in the work of human redemption, and that of the divinity of the Father—which is the doctrine of the existence of God— His prevenience over all the forces and powers in the creation and sustenance of the universe.”

Professor Claude Welch put the truth this way in his book, In This Name: “God is present to us in a threefold self-differentiation. He makes Himself known as the one who stands above and apart, the one to whom Jesus points as His Father and therefore our Father. At the same time, He is the one who confronts man in Jesus Christ as the objective content of revelation, i.e. the Son. And He is the one who seizes and possesses man so that he is able to receive and participate in revelation, new life, salvation, viz, the Holy Spirit.”

It may be that the religious experiences of some denominations or congregations focus more upon one person of the Trinity than another. Certainly it is true that a person will find peculiar satisfaction in the contemplation of one person on one occasion and another in a different situation. But in the course of a normal life span, each Christian avails himself of the complete revelation of the holy Trinity.

As our propitious heavenly Father, the creator, who has life in Himself and gives life to all His creatures, has graciously revealed Himself in the gift and mediation of His only begotten Son. He bids us call upon Him as the Jewish toddler cried out to his parent, “Abba,” dear father. In hours of stress, uncertainty, anxiety and loneliness, we draw close to the everlasting arms and nestle nearer to the heart of Him who makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, those whom He has called into His family.

The guilty soul finds the answer to the most poignant question life ever poses in Him, who is the eternal reason, the light of the under-standing, and the source of all knowledge. “The work of Christ in relation to sin,” wrote J. Denney, “is the culminating point in revelation; not the insoluble problem, but the solution of all problems.” We do have an advocate with the Father; He is Jesus Christ, the righteous, the propitiation for our sins.

When the meanness, the wickedness, the littleness—the sin that does so easily beset us—threaten to engulf the soul in the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, and the machinations of Satan, we then cling to the Holy Spirit, the author of all goodness, wisdom, love, mercy and purity that bless this sin-cursed world. In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “Holiness is entirely the work of God’s Spirit.”

The living God dispenses the riches of His grace in this threefold way not just in our daily living; He also has “dying grace” for His people, for the triune God is sufficient for Himself and for His people. In their last hours God is present with those who are His, so that each is enabled to say with confidence, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” Our gracious God refreshes our memory with the promises of the many mansions in our Father’s house, echoing back the final words of the Saviour Himself: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” 

Our heavenly Father in three persons stays with His people in life and in death

A Highly Religious Man with Strong Presbyterian Beliefs.
by Rev. David T. Myers

We might more readily suggest any number of men and ministers of whom this title might describe.  But when it is known that this description was given to a man, indeed a minister, by the name of Richard Denton in the early sixteen  hundreds residing in Long Island, New York, most, if not all of our readers might reply with at statement like “I never  heard of  him.”  And yet, he established the first Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Richard Denton was born in 1603 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated at Cambridge in 1623, he ministered in Halifax, England for some years in the parish of Owran.  Emigrating to Connecticut, he worked first with the famous preacher Cotton Mather.  The latter said of him that “Rev. Denton was a highly religious man with strong Presbyterian views.  He was a small man with only one eye, but in the pulpit he could sway a congregation like he was nine feet tall.”

When religious controversies, like which church government the  congregations should follow, threatened to disrupt the Connecticut group, Denton and a group of families moved to what is now Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  He settled there in a large Dutch colony.  Because there were some English settlers also there, that was enough for a congregation to be organized.

Back in those early days, his salary came from every inhabitant of the area.  In fact, you could be fined for not attending worship, and that fine was aggravated each week to a higher level for succeeding absences.  The church he began, today called Christ Presbyterian Church, was so successful with Rev. Denton in its pulpit, that Dutch people began to attend it as well.

On August 5, 1657, a letter was written by two Dutch settlers to the Classis of Amsterdam, saying: “At Hempstead, about seven leagues from here, there lives some Independents.  There are also many of our church, and some Presbyterians.  They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything.  The Independents of this place listen attentively to  his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of (Dutch) parents who were not members of the church, they rushed out of the church.”

As time went on, the salary of Rev. Denton began to be collected sporadically by the citizens.  As a result, he planned to go back to England.  After all, he did have a large family of seven children. And it was said that his wife was sickly in constitution.  Another letter was written two months later on October 22 in which the same two writers stated, “Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways.”  They were not successful, and he returned to England.  He died in 1662.

Words to live by: The date of the presence of Presbyterians boggles our minds and hearts.  Since that time, countless servants of the gospel have labored in difficult fields where money has been tight.  The New Testament more than once urges the members in the pews to share all good things, including remuneration, with those who teach them the Word.

A particularly timely question in our day.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35

Q.35. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

EXPLICATION.

Work of God’s Spirit. –Sanctification is called the work of God’s Spirit, because it is done gradually, or is a work of time, in which respect it differs from justification, which is called an act, because it is made perfect at the very first.

Renewed. –Made anew, or changed from the love and the practice of sin, to the love and the practice of holiness.

Whole man. –That is, our thoughts, memory, will, affections, and all our faculties.

After the image of God. –This means that, by the work of sanctification, we are made, by degrees, in some measure to resemble God himself, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.

To die unto sin. –To forsake, or to cease from sin, both in heart and life.

To live unto righteousness. –To love and to practice holiness, in our thoughts, in our words, and in all our actions.

ANALYSIS.

The information here given respecting sanctification, may be divided into six parts :

  1. That it is a work of God’s Spirit. –2 Thess . ii. 13. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit.
  2. That by this work we are renewed in the whole man. –Eph. iv. 23. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. –1 Thess. v. 23. The God of peace sanctify you wholly.
  3. That we are renewed after the image of God. –Eph. iv. 24. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  4. That by this work of the Spirit, we are enabled to die unto sin. –Rom. vi. 2. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
  5. That by it we are also enabled to live unto righteousness. –1 Pet ii. 24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.
  6. That this dying to sin, and living to righteousness, is accomplished gradually, “more and more.” –Rom. vi. 6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed. –2 Cor. iv. 16. Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Presbyterian Journal used to sponsor an annual event called Journal Day. In the summer of 1972, the lead speaker that year at Journal Day was the Rev. Dr. Edmund Clowney, who brought a message titled “Hear Him!”  That message is reproduced here for your edification this Saturday morning. It is a longer post than most, so pour a second cup of coffee and settle in for a most enjoyable read. 

Behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! —

Hear Him!

clowneyEPThe author is president of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa. This is the substance of his message on Journal Day.

Smog has become a national hazard in industrial America. The evening news report includes a pollution index, made graphic by a gray veil drawn halfway across the city pictured on the television screen. Smog is the more dangerous, of course, because we take for granted the smoke of the city along with its noise and dirt. In the grayness we have forgotten the glory of sparkling sunlight.

A more deadly smog pollutes the atmosphere in America’s Churches, a noxious miasma that is the more lethal when we take it for granted. It is the smog that obscures the difference between truth and error, between the faithfulness of God and the wiles of the devil. The light of glory has departed from contemporary theology, and the experts warn against its return. Doctors of theology tell us that final answers spell disaster, because they close our minds to the changing shapes of truth for today.

Half a century ago controversy raged in the major American denominations as those dubbed “fundamentalists” contended for the faith against the ecclesiastical power of theological liberalism. Today we are assured that this struggle was not only hopeless but meaningless. Imagine the naivete of arguing about whether the virgin birth of Jesus is essential to Christian faith!

Did Jesus have a human father, or was He conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary? Both the old-fashioned liberal and his contemporary successor seek to avoid that question. An unequivocal answer would make all too clear who confesses the historic Christian faith and who denies it. Liberalism old and new has therefore sought to make the question irrelevant. Religious truth, we are told, does not communicate objective matters of fact. It is a structure of symbolism, “a human expression in propositional language of some deeper pre-positional or not-yet-thematized level of experience . .

The older liberalism rather baldly found the meaning of the symbols in religious consciousness. The newer liberalism seeks a more ambiguous point of reference in the existential encounter of the individual (or, perhaps, of society) with the “ground of being.”

Modern Ambiguity

Inhaling this new formula of truth, the contemporary liberal both affirms and denies the virgin birth. As religious symbolism it is “true.” In the Hellenistic age it was understood literally, for such things could happen in the ancient world. In the modern age it is a myth which must be translated if its religious meaning is to be interpreted. There is no need to deny that it could have occurred; after all, anything can happen in an open universe. But there is also no need at all to affirm that it did happen, since its meaning is religious, not scientific.

In the darkening twilight of our age it is easy to be persuaded that the old antitheses are gone, that truth changes with the times, and that we should be grateful to those who offer a believable version of the Gospel to modern man.

Then we turn to Scripture and our dimmed eyes are dazzled by the glory. Neither poets nor philosophers, the apostles were eyewitnesses to glorious events. On the mount of transfiguration Jesus was praying while Peter, James and John kept watch. The scene was monotonously familiar to the disciples, and mystic ecstacy was far from the experience of these fishermen. No existential angst troubled their hearts. In fact, they were almost asleep.

Peter’s Confession

Suddenly their heavy eyes were wide with amazement. Jesus stood before them as they had never seen Him before, His robe white with unearthly brilliance and His face shining with the glory of God. They saw His glory, and the light of that cloud of glory still dispels the smoke of our doubts. In this day when the glory has departed from the Church of Christ, the command comes again: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is upon thee” (Isa. 60:1). To see the glory now we must behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The mount of transfiguration stands in the midpoint of Christ’s ministry. Jesus had refused to lead Israel’s revolution and the crowds were leaving Him. Peter confessed the distinctive faith of the Christian Church in sharp contrast to the flattering unbelief of the crowds. The people called our Lord a prophet, Peter called Him the Christ; the people hailed Him as the greatest of God’s servants, Peter worshiped Him as the Son of the living God. When the Church says of Jesus what all men will say of Jesus, it denies Him. When it says what flesh and blood cannot conceive, then it confesses Him whom only the Father in heaven can reveal.

The disciples who confessed the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ were thereby prepared to hear the heavy tidings of His sufferings and death. Here was the acid test of the obedience of their faith. Jesus was not to be the political messiah of worldly hope. Instead, He was the suffering servant of Old Testament prophecy. Whoever would follow Him must take the path to the cross. Peter promptly failed the test. He dared to rebuke Christ for taking the cross. Peter, who had been taught by the Father in heaven, became the mouthpiece of the devil. Called to be an apostolic rock of foundation, he became a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

But what the Father had revealed in illumining Peter’s mind had to be manifested before the apostle’s eyes. The glory of heaven shone from the Saviour as He turned to the cross. A week after Peter confessed Christ by revelation of the Father, the Father himself confessed His Son before the three apostles. The glory of the mount calls us to worshiping faith, to receive the Lord on His terms, not ours, to confess Jesus Christ as the divine Son fulfilling in His life the will of the Father, displaying in His person the nature of the Father. From the cloud of glory came the voice of God, “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him! This command must pierce our ears and our hearts and shape our obedience to Jesus Christ. We must hear Him who is the prophet of glory, the priest of glory, the king of glory.

The Prophet of Glory

The scene on this mount of revelation attests the glory of the prophetic authority of Jesus Christ. True faith in Christ cannot reject the revelation on the mount. One of the confusions of contemporary theology is to set Jesus Christ as the living Word against the Bible as the written Word. However, no such contrast is possible when the real Jesus of the Bible is taken seriously. He is not an enigmatic Christ-event to which various witnesses point with fallible and conflicting utter-ances.

No, He is the living Son of God and He speaks the words given Him by the Father. No man receives Christ the living Word who does not receive His spoken words. Hear ye

Him! God who spoke of old by the prophets has now spoken by His Son, and that which was spoken by the Lord was confirmed to us by them that heard, God bearing witness with them (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3-4).

The mount of transfiguration revealed Christ as the final prophet. Moses and Elijah, the two pivotal prophets of the Old Testament history of redemption, appeared with Him in glory. The great model of God’s revelation was the giving of His covenant on Mount Sinai. The living God kept His promise to Abraham when He redeemed Israel from Egypt and assembled the people before Him to hear all the words of His gracious covenant.

When the people could not bear to hear the voice of God, the Lord called Moses alone up into the mountain to receive the words of God’s covenant, spoken in His ears and written on tablets of stone by the finger of God (Exo. 24:18; 31: 18).

Moses, the mediator, receiving the words spoken and written by God, provided the pattern for the office of the prophet. When the prophets said, “Thus saith the Lord . . . they were doing what Moses had done: receiving the words of God and giving them to the people. Moses, with whom God spoke “mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:8), towered above all the prophets who were like him — until the promised prophet came.

Warning, Loving

With Moses was Elijah. He, too, had heard God speaking on Mount Horeb. Jealous for God’s holy name, Elijah was bitter because the fire that fell at Carmel did not consume all the idolaters. But God revealed Himself to the prophet, not in the fire or the storm, but in the whispered word of His counsel. God’s Word appointed Jehu, Hazael and Elisha as instruments to destroy the worship of Baal.

Moses and Elijah on the mount with Jesus again heard the word from the cloud, but God did not speak ten words nor promise the coming of other prophets. Rather, He said: “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him, for the Word of the Father is spoken by the beloved Son in glory and in grace.

Hear Him as He declares the holy will of His Father: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven . . Hear Him, too, as He warns, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Hear Him, for “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard . . . See that ye refuse not him that speaketh” (Heb. 2:3, 12:25).

Hear Him as He calls “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Hear Him, for the words that He has spoken are spirit and are life (John 6:63).

The wind and the sea hear Him: “Peace be still!” The deaf hear him: “Ephphatha” “Be opened!” (Mark 7:34). The dead hear Him: “Lazarus, come forth!” Whoever has ears to hear must hear Him, for He who speaks is the Word of God alive.

Do not divide between Christ and the Bible. He who turns from the words of Christ turns from Christ the Word. See Him in His glory, standing between the prophets and the apostles, and you see the speaking Lord who unites the apostles and the prophets in the Amen of His mighty word. The Bible is one because Christ is one, and He fulfills all things that are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms concerning Him (Luke 24:44). Whoever does not believe Moses’ writings will not believe Christ’s words (John 5:47).

No Choice

The Bible is not primarily a human witness to God’s redemptive acts. It is God’s own witness, God who spoke from the cloud, from the lips of prophets and apostles through the Spirit of His Son, and from the lips of the Lord of glory. It is true that prophets and apostles bear witness to what they have seen and heard, but they do so as they are borne along by the Holy Ghost. Even the prayers and praises given by the Spirit are part of God’s testimonies, given as His witness to His people (Deut. 31:19; II Sam. 23: 1-2).

To describe Scripture as the product of the reflection of the “faith-community” evolving from its experience and approved in its use is to substitute reflection for revelation, the word of man for the word of God, the faith of the community for the authority of the Son of God. Between the apostles and the prophets stands Jesus Christ, and God says, “Hear HimI”

To suggest that after God’s final word in Christ we are to hear as God’s word the sentences of Chairman Mao or the ancient darkness of the Bhagavad Gita is to reject the voice of the living God. God is jealous for His name. He will not give His glory to another, and there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

No doubt much more than we imagine is at stake when men refuse to believe that God can speak words to men. We begin to see the corrosion in our literature when words are cut off from ultimate meaning. Fabricated truth, formed for the day, cannot undergird the mind of man or establish his heart. But we are not adrift in empty galaxies babbling verbal signs without meaning. We are God’s creatures, lost in our rebellion, vain in our thoughts, but to us God says, “This is my Son, hear Him!”

Priest of Glory

Yes, hear Him, for the Son of God is the priest of glory. Moses on the mountain was the great mediator between God and the people. When Israel sinned, Moses stood before God to intercede for a rebellious nation. Elijah built an altar on Carmel, and after the fire fell kept vigil in prayer until the promised rain came. These great servants of God fulfilled priestly roles as they stood between God and the people.

When Jesus was transfigured He was praying. He who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek poured out the agony of His soul as He looked from the mount of transfiguration to the mount of Calvary. Made like His brethren, Jesus prayed then as He prays now, the representative priest. What Moses and Elijah prefigured, Christ fulfilled.

The glory was given not only for the disciples’ sake, but as part of Christ’s strengthening for the conflict. As angels ministered to Him after the temptation in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, so the heavenly glory came to refresh His human nature on the way to the cross.

Hear Him as He talked with Moses and Elijah. They spoke of His death and resurrection, for toward this their ministries had pointed. They could not join in His priesthood. Theirs was a passing ministry and it was over. Christ is the abiding priest who ever lives to make intercession for them who come unto God by Him. Priest and sacrifice, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. There is one God and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus.

King of Glory

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high (Heb. 13). Hear Him, for He is the king of glory.

The radiance of the Saviour’s face was not like the luster of Moses’ countenance when he came down from Mount Sinai. That glory had so dazzled the people that Moses had put a veil over his face. Yet for all of its brilliance it was reflected glory, the afterglow of encounter with the glory of the Lord. The glory of Christ on the mount was His own glory, a bursting forth of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was. The glory of God did not first appear in the cloud, as on Sinai, and then by reflection on the Saviour’s face. Instead, it shone forth like the sun from Christ himself, the true light who came into the world.

God’s glory came down in the cloud to rest upon the tabernacle in the wilderness. Glory dwelt among the people, but Israel rebelled in the land of the promise, and Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord departing from the temple. Yet the glory dawned again with the coming of the Lord, and the disciples were witnesses of the presence of the Lord of glory. Who is the king of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.

Moses had prayed on Mount Sinai “Show me, I pray thee, thy glory.” He knew that when God’s glory was manifested all the blessings of the covenant were secure. On Sinai God passed by Moses, covering him in the cleft of the rock, but Moses who once saw the glory of God’s back in the theophany later saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus

Christ. The glory of the true tabernacle streamed forth from the light of the world.

Reflecting on Christ’s kingship, we better understand the tabernacles Peter proposed to build. The feast of booths or of tabernacles was the last great feast of the sacred year, the harvest-home of God’s salvation. Peter may have concluded that the time for the feast of the kingdom of God had come.

The king had come in His glory, but it was not time for the feast of glory. From the mount of transfiguration Jesus went to the cross. Have you reflected on the testing of Christ on this mountain? It was completely different from the temptation, when Satan had taken Christ into a high mountain to show Him the glory of the kingdoms of this world. Yet in another way, Christ’s dedication to the path of His kingship was searched out more deeply. Christ was tasting the glory of heaven. How He must have yearned to return with Moses and Elijah to the glory of the Father! Chariots of fire had carried Elijah to heaven.

Could not the Son of God have ascended from the mount of transfiguration rather than from the Mount of Olives? We catch something of Christ’s yearning when He came down from the mount to confront His disciples who could not perform a healing because of their little faith. “O faithless and perverse generation,” said Christ, echoing the words of Moses, “how long shall I be with you, and bear with you?”

Peter Knew

Jesus might have returned to heaven from the mount, but not with Moses and Elijah. Christ is the way to heaven for Moses and Elijah, as well as Peter, James and John. Only because the king of glory went willingly to the cross is there salvation for any man. Moses and Elijah departed, but the king remained. He descended the mount of transfiguration and climbed the mount of Calvary where the superscription on the cross read, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Only after Calvary’s conquest did the cloud again appear. Christ was lifted up on the cross before He was lifted up to the throne of heaven. Yet the glory of His transfiguration is a pledge of the glory that will be revealed when Christ comes again as He promised.

Listen to the witness of Peter as he knows his death is near: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (that word is “presence” — parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to Him by the majestic glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount” (II Pet. 1:16-18).

No, these are not fables. God speaks to us and we have the word of prophecy made more sure. He says concerning His Son: “Hear ye Him!”

Have you heard and heeded the Word of Christ? Have you heard Him as He speaks of His death and the glory to follow? Will you hear Jesus, Jesus only, forever? For your life, for your Church there is one Lord who rules by His revealed Word in the power of His present Spirit.

His Word is not gray, not a yes and no. His Word is truth and glory, the light of heaven to our path. “For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (II Cor. 1:20).

Presbyterians may have been too restrained to say, “Amen” in the past. But the time has come when we must confess Christ by saying, “Amen” to His revealed Word. In our lives and in our Church, we must hear and obey Him who is the Lord of the Word and who speaks to us the Word of the Lord. Not counting the cost, we must obey God rather than men, and hear Him, the final prophet, the eternal priest, the returning king of glory!

[excerpted from The Presbyterian Journal, 31.19 (6 September 1972): 7-10.]

The First Presbyterian Pastor in Vermont

From Volume 10 of THE PRESBYTERIAN REMEMBRANCER AND HISTORICAL ALMANAC (1868), comes this account of an Associate Presbyterian minister, born in 1749, who immigrated here from Scotland in 1788, and who was soon called to serve a church in Vermont. 

In June of 1789, a delegation from the town of Barnet, Vermont, came to Cambridge, New York, performing a journey of one hundred and fifty miles, through a mountainous and unsettled country, to have an interview with Mr. Beveridge, then settled there, to represent to him, and through him to the Church, their spiritual destitution, and their desire to have a pure gospel proclaimed to their countrymen beyond the Green Mountains. They were encouraged by him to write to Mr. Goodwillie, then at New York City, informing him “that the congregation of Barnet would be exceedingly glad to have a visit from him as a minister of the Associate Church; that there were about forty Scotch families in Barnet, with a number in Ryegate, an adjoining town; that some of them had heard Mr. Goodwillie preach in their native land, and would be well pleased to have him settle among them as their minister.” The session, in connection with a committee of the town, afterward petitioned the Presbytery “for supply of sermon,” and particularly a hearing of Rev. David Goodwillie.”

In this connection it is worthy of note, as something very remarkable in the history of Presbyterianism, and, as far as we are aware, the only instance in this country, that the movement for preaching at Barnet was made by the town. Three years before this the town had voted to apply to the Associate Synod of Scotland for preaching, promising a salary and payment of expense of a minister’s passage to this country. Then, in 1789, the town voted to apply to the Presbytery of Pennsylvania. It set apart three lots of land to be given to the first minister of the gospel who should settle in the town. Four acres of one of these lots were cleared—each quarter of the town clearing one acre—and on this spot a meeting-house was erected. The town voted to raise money by subscription to finish it, and subsequently voted that the meeting-house was town property and subject to town rules; and in the town records of July 5, 1790, is the following minute: “The committee appointed by the town February 4th last, for the purpose of applying to the reverend the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania for a moderation of a call agreeable to the vote of that day for procuring a settled minister, having petitioned said Presbytery for one of their number to moderate in the election of a minister, said Presbytery having granted the petition by appointing Rev. Thomas Beveridge, of Cambridge, New York, for the purpose mentioned in the petition, and Mr. Beveridge having, agreeable to appointment, come to this town and declared his instruction to said committee, and the public being duly notified, and the people being met at the meeting-house this day for the aforesaid purpose; after sermon the moderator proceeded by calling for nominations, when the Rev. Mr. David Goodwillie being nominated by one of the elders, and upon the question being put, ‘Do the people of this town make choice of Rev. David Goodwillie for there minister?’ when there appeared upward of forty for the affirmative; and the question, ‘Who are against Rev. David Goodwillie?’ being put three several times, and none appearing, the moderator was pleased to declare Rev. David Goodwillie duly elected.” In 1805 the pastoral relation between the minister and the town was dissolved by mutual consent, the laws of the State having been essentially modified.

In this congregation Mr. Goodwillie labored for forty years. The congregation of Ryegate received one-sixth of his pastoral services for thirty-two years, when it became a separate charge. During his ministry nearly six hundred persons were enrolled members of these two congregations. That he should not only maintain his position for so many years as an acceptable pastor in the heart of New England, where his principles received little outside sympathy, and subject as he was to many trials and isolated from his brethren, but that he saw his flock steadily increasing, on to the day of his death, when it numbered between two and three hundred members, is certainly an evidence of his ability and faithfulness.

It was his custom on Sabbath mornings to deliver expositions or lectures on the Scriptures in regular course; in this way he went over all the New and most of the books of the Old Testament, drawing inferences and observations both doctrinal and practical from the passages expounded. In the pulpit he was grave and solemn in his appearance, calm and deliberate in delivery, having no aspirations for popular applause, but with great plainness of speech preached the glorious gospel of the grace of God. So deeply was his own soul impressed with the power of divine truth that he often shed tears while holding it up to others and urging sinners to accept of it. His sermons were sound and substantial rather than showy; probably their chief excellence was the admirable arrangement of the material of which they were composed and the clear and full expression of thought in every part. No man could remain long his enemy, for throughout his life, he observed that excellent rule, Speak evil of no man. When he was defamed he generally made no defence, unless he thought the interests of truth demanded it, following a more excellent way, “when he was reviled he reviled not again but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously;” and obeyed the injunction, “with well doing to put into silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Even when he deemed severity necessary, his manner of reproof was so open and free from personal malice as to disarm resentment.

His last discourse was preached to his own congregation on Sabbath, July 18, 1830, from the words, “There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” During the following week he seemed to be overcome by the heat, which was very oppressive, accompanied with debility and symptoms of congestion of the lungs. He grew gradually worse till August 2d, when, after exhorting his children present to walk in the faith, and sending messages to the absent ones, and then acknowledging God’s great goodness to himself and his church, he entered upon that rest in the 81st year of his age and 52d of his ministry. A suitable monument marks his resting-place in the beautiful burying-grounds among the green hills of Barnet, where he so long held forth salvation to the worshipers in Zion.

Words to Live By:
Sharing with those who have need:—What would church be like if, when we meet, we actually worked at encouraging one another in the faith? If instead of passing the time of day with idle conversation, we instead sought to point one another to Christ our Lord? For some of us, it may not be easy; it may even be hard work—to discipline ourselves in that way. But it can be as simple as being peaceable, considerate, and forgiving. When you meet together, try to consciously work at using your speech in such a way that you have something edifying to share with your brother or sister. If you are a Christian, they deserve that much from you. I know you will be blessed if you do.

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, NASB)

Today’s post comes from chapter 6 of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE (1883), by the Rev. Robert P. Kerr:

PRESBYTERIANISM OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

In the process of time the desire—ever found in the minds of men—for authority and preeminence asserted itself in the pastors of large churches claiming authority over those in small parishes. Being resorted to for advice and assistance by country churches in securing pastors, these city ministers gradually came to believe that they had a right to appoint, and at last to consecrate, men to the ministry. This was the germ of episcopacy; but of course it required many years for this innovation to pervade any large portion of the world, and to secure its recognition as a part of the constitution of the Church. At last, however, it became the general rule; though, as Bishop Lightfoot says, “there were large exceptions.” While some churches, by their remoteness from the great cities and through other causes, were protected in the enjoyment of their Presbyterian liberty, the larger part of the Christian world recognized the episcopal form which had grown up.

But the tendency of which episcopacy was the outgrowth continued to develop until it culminated in the establishment of two great ecclesiastical empires, corresponding to and having their two head-bishops in the two principal cities of the world, Rome and Constantinople. The Church power which before had existed in solution throughout all the body of believers at last crystallized around these two centres, and episcopacy found its complete development in the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope of Rome. These two pastorates, by gradual encroachments extending through a period of several centuries, had gained authority over nearly the whole Christian world. Then came the “Dark Ages,” when the Church was held in the chains of ecclesiastical tyranny and lulled to slumber by the opiate of beautiful forms and ceremonies superadded upon the simplicity of apostolic worship. But, as in the Old-Testament period, God still reserved to Himself a remnant who were faithful and refused to recognize the two Antichrists who had usurped the crown rights of Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King over His people.

In the valleys of Southern France and under the shadow of the Italian Alps the Waldenses—noble name!—kept themselves free. Behind those natural fortresses they took refuge, defying the power of the pope, and from those Alpine heights the pure light still shone through that awful night whose hours were measured by centuries. In the isles of Western Scotland—or Caledonia, as it was then called—there was a little flock, named Culdees, who maintained a pure Presbyterianism. On one of these isles (Iona) are still to be seen the ruins of the seminary whence Columbanus and his brethren sent missionaries (of whom St. Patrick was one) into Ireland, into Scotland, into England and to the northern shores of Europe. The Culdee Church maintained its independence from the early ages of the Christian era to the close of the thirteenth century. The Waldenses were never suppressed, but have had an independent existence up to the present day, and now form a constituent part of the great confederation of Presbyterian and Reformed churches throughout the world. But when their delegates made their first appearance in the General Council, they said, “We do not call ourselves Reformed, for we have never been deformed,” and it was true.

The history of the Presbyterian principle of self-government has thus been rapidly traced from the days of Moses down to our own time. We hold that it has a divine warrant, and that through the ages God has defended it in a marvelous manner. We believe that the application of this principle tends to the development of man to his grandest possibilities, and that under it he attains his highest earthly happiness.

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