December 2019

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From Trash to Treasure.

Presbyterian pastors love to rumage through old books. Browsing through a used bookstore in Houston, Texas, in 1902, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney noticed a bound stack of papers set aside in a corner of the store. His curiosity piqued, he asked the store owner and found that the papers were going to be thrown out. Glad to be relieved of what he considered trash, the owner gave the pile of papers to Rev. Tenney, who then carried his prize home for closer inspection.

Back in his study, Rev. Tenney dusted off the papers and began to examine them closer. To his great surprise, he found these were class notes and other papers from around 1845 which had once belonged to Robert Lewis Dabney, from when Dabney was a student in Seminary. Dabney, as most know, went on to become one of the leading theologians of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. “Is this the way our Church treats her great men?,” Tenney asked himself.

This “chance” discovery became the inspiration that led Rev. Tenney to a lifelong obsession to preserve the history of his denomination. His 1902 discovery then led to his founding the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Synod of Texas, which later came to be located in Texarkana. Working without other support, Tenney spent the next twenty-five years gathering an impressive collection of records and memorabilia.

Then in 1926, when the 66th General Assembly of the PCUS met in Pensacola, Florida, that Assembly voted to establish a denominational archives, utilizing Rev. Tenney’s collection as the core of their new archives. The next year, the archives was given its official name, operating as the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Relocation of the archival collections from Texarkana to denominational property in Montreat, North Carolina followed shortly thereafter.

Rev. Tenney continued as director of the Historical Foundation until his death on December 23, 1939.

When the PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1983, the merged denomination now had two archives, the other being the Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia. Both institutions continued on, operated by the Presbyterian Church (USA), until early in 21st century, when the decision was made to close the Montreat location. So ended a great cultural institution. The major collections of the old Historical Foundation were relocated to Philadelphia, while arrangements were made to house the congregational history collections at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was founded in 1973, there were subsequent discussions about housing our denominational records and archival collections at Montreat, under a cooperative agreement. Thankfully that arrangement was never realized. Instead, in 1984, Dr. Morton Smith, then Stated Clerk of the PCA, stood before the Twelfth General Assembly and made his case for a PCA Archives. The Assembly approved his motion. This was at a point when the PCA still did not have central denominational offices for its agencies, and so Dr. Will Barker, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, offered free space for the Archives in the Seminary’s library. We’ve been there ever since, though we’ve nearly outgrown our current facility, and are looking ahead to where the Lord might next take us. Pray with us for His provision of a suitable, larger facility.

Words to Live By:
There are a number of reasons why a denomination needs to maintain its own archive. But far and away, the most important is that these records stand as a testimony to what the Lord has done in our midst. I like to think of the Historical Center as a “Hall of Testimonies,”— witnesses to the reality of the Gospel and the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” — (Psalm 111:4a, KJV)

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” — (Psalm 145:4, KJV)

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 71 & 72.

Q. 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behaviour.

EXPLICATION.

Chastity. –An abhorrence of all uncleanness, whether in the body, or in the mind and affections.

Chastity in heart. –Purity of thought, or freedom from wanton desires.

Chastity in speech. –Modesty in our language and conversation.

Chastity in behavior. –Modesty in our outward conduct, and in all our actions.

ANALYSIS.

The duties required in the seventh commandment, are five in number:

  1. We are required to preserve our own chastity. –1 Thess. iv. 4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.
  2. To preserve the chastity of our neighbor. –Eph. v. 11, 12. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them; for it is a shame even to speak of whose things which are done of them in secret.
  3. We are required to do this in our heart. –2 Tim ii. 22. Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity.
  4. To preserve our own and our neighbor’s chastity also in our speech. –Col. iv. 6. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. Eph. iv. 29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.
  5. To do the same in our behavior. –1 Pet. iii. 2. While they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear.

    The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

Q. 72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

EXPLICATION.

Unchaste. –Immodest, wanton, unclean.

ANALYSIS.

The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, are of three sorts:

  1. Unchaste thoughts. –Matt. v. 28. Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
  2. Unchaste words. –Eph. v. 4. Neither filthiness nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.

3. Unchaste actions. –Eph. v. 3. Fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you. Rom. xiii. 13. Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness.

Bookplates

Here’s a great quote that would be well suited for a bookplate:

“I have a peaceful study, as a refuge from the hurries and noise of the world around me; the venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me, and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.” — Samuel Davies

Another quote that I’m particularly fond of, reputedly by Ben Franklin:

“Only a fool loans books; half the books in my library were loaned.”

But apparently memory is a poor servant, or I heard wrong, for this site indicates the author of that quip was instead Anatole France:

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other people have lent me.
– Anatole France

I think I like my version better. Anyway, all that by way of introduction and an excuse to present some bookplates from a few of the volumes in the research library at the PCA Historical Center:

Bookplates affixed inside a volume of the works of Jonathan Edwards.
This volume was originally owned by James H. Thornwell and then by
Rev. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, whose papers are preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

Another for Rev. T.D. Witherspoon, his bookplate for book #489, dated 1859 and affixed inside Volume I of a Latin edition
of Calvin’s Institutes, affixed about the time he was installed in his first pastorate:

And one last plate from Witherspoon’s library, this time from his copy of
The History of the Church of God, by C.C. Jones, apparently acquired while
Witherspoon was pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee:

From a book formerly owned by Henry H. Meeter, noted Calvin scholar:

And a bookplate from a volume previously owned by Dr. Robert G. Rayburn,
founding president of Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary:

A plate from a book formerly owned by the Rev. Harry H. Meiners, Jr.,
founding pastor of several churches in New Mexico.

A bookplate used by the Rev. R.W. Chesnut, an early 20th century
patriarch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod:

A plate from historic Maryville University in Tennessee:

A bookplate used by the Rev. Clarence Read Lacy, a Southern Presbyterian
pastor who had an active ministry in Appalachia:

[the Latin motto in the above plate can be translated as “Prepare what needs to be done.”]

Then one from a man with an unusual first name :

Below, a portion of a bookplate from the church library of the Grand Cote Reformed Presbyterian
church. Book #34 in this case was Traditions of the Covenanters:

A plate from another church library, that of the Grace Street Presbyterian Church:

From the library of R.H. Reid:

An ink stamp used for the library of Christopher A. Clark,
stamped inside a copy of Buck’s Theological Dictionary:

And lastly, a bookplate inside a copy of
The Dead of the Synod of Georgia
by John S. Wilson:

Beginnings can be Interesting
by Rev. David T. Myers

Beginnings of anything can be interesting. And I’ve noticed that it is in those times that the Lord’s blessings are particularly notable. This author once planted a mission church in a sizeable Midwest city. He had done all the preliminary preparation for the mission. Several families committed themselves to the endeavor. The first worship service was planned in a spacious worship center of an evangelical church, rented for the occasion. We all went with expectations of a good beginning, but only one family showed up for the beginning worship time.  It is true that God did some extraordinary things in the first six years of our ministry there. I rejoice that this established church is progressing ahead by means of being a mother church to several congregations.

In 1560, a Scottish Reformation Parliament abrogated and annulled the papal jurisdiction for Scottish churches, ending all the authority flowing from Rome.

This set the grounds for the establishment of the Church of Scotland that same year. Let W. M. Hetherington in his History of the Church of Scotland pick up the account. He writes on page 53,

“They (the Reformation Parliament) enacted no ecclesiastical jurisdiction whatever in its stead. This it left the reformed Church to determine upon and effect by its own intrinsic powers. And this is a fact of the utmost it cannot be too well known and kept in remembrance. It is, indeed, one of the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Scotland, that it owes its origin, its form, its jurisdiction, and its discipline, to no earthly power. And when the ministers and elders of the church of Scotland resolved to meet in a General Assembly, to deliberate on matters, which might tend to the promotion of God’s glory and the welfare of the Church, they did so in virtue of the authority which they believed the Lord Jesus Christ had given to the Church. The parliament which abolished the papal jurisdiction made not the slightest mention of General Assembly. In that time of comparatively simple and honest faith, even statesmen seem instinctively to have perceived, that to interfere in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, so as to appoint ecclesiastical tribunals, specify their nature, and assign their limits, was not within their province. It had been well for the kingdom if statesmen of succeeding times, certainly not their superiors in talent and in judgment, had been wise enough to follow their example.”

The first meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held on this day, December 20, 1560. Forty delegates were in attendance. For that number, only six were ministers. They were John Knox (Edinburgh), Christophere Gudman (St. Andrews), John Row (Perth), David Lindesay (Leith), William Harlaw (St. Cuthberts), and William Christesone (Dundee). While their names, with the exception of Knox and possibly Row, are unknown to many of our readers, Hetherington remarks that “they were men of great abilities, of deep piety, fitted and qualified by their Creator for the work which He had given them to do.” (p. 53)

Words to Live By:
Not only had the Creator fitted and qualified them, but so had their Great Redeemer fitted and acquired them to raise up a Church faithful and true to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It may have been small in man’s estimation at the beginning, but the Spirit of God judged it otherwise. He would bring the increase in His time. So be faithful, dear reader, in the place where God has planted you. Keep looking to Him, for He will accomplish His will through you, in the work and place where you have been planted to serve our Lord and Savior.

The Prince of Scottish Hymnists
by Rev. David T. Myers

Among the Presbyterian hymn writers of the Church, none stand higher than that of Horatius Bonar. Born on this day December 19, in 1808, Horatius Bonar came from two centuries of ministers, a total ministerial ancestry of 364 years of ministry.  When Horatius was just twelve years old, death took his father, James Bonar.  His saintly mother, Marjory, and his elder brother James, took over his spiritual upbringing.  Attending Edinburgh University, the beneficial influence of Dr. Thomas Chalmers added to that training.

Horatius  Bonar entered the ministry of the Church of Scotland, being ordained in 1837.  His first charge was that of mission work in Leith at St. John’s parish, and then at Kelso, Scotland.  In 1843, he married Jane Catherine Lundie, with five of their nine children dying in succession.  Taking his stand with the Bible-believers in the church, he joined the Free Church of Scotland and then began to display his gift of hymn writing.  Moving to Edinburgh, he ministered in a church named after his former professor, Chalmers Memorial Church.  He was honored by his colleagues by being elected as Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland in 1883.  He died on May 31, 1889.

Such are the facts of his life.  What is more interesting to our readers may be to think upon many of his hymns which have blessed the church world ever since.  Those who come to this site with their worship rooted in the Blue or Red Trinity hymnal will find 19 hymns in the blue Trinity and 14 hymns in the red Trinity hymnal.  We are blessed by them all.

It is clear that his hymns included the state of the sinner outside of Christ.  “I was a wandering sheep,” he wrote in hymn number 464. “I would not be controlled,” he added. Does not that describe our condition before Christ found us? “I was a wayward child, I once preferred to roam,” was our sad testimony.

Then came the wonderful words of life. “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest.’” And then our testimony, “I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and he has made me glad.” No. 304. Is this your testimony?

In his life, Bonar was a soul-winner, with a special interest in the salvation of the Jews. He was sent to Palestine in 1839 to visit the principle points of their existence. He visited again in 1856. It is interesting to this author that his eschatology was pre-millennial, with God’s future for Israel upon his heart.

He certainly lived the words of “Go, Labor on” on page 584. Verse 5 should describe you and me when it says, “Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray; be wide the erring soul to win; go forth into the world’s highway, compel the wand’rer to come in.”

Words to Live By:
There may be great spiritual profit to gather a few Christian friends together around a piano, or at a Sunday evening service, to sing the hymns of Horatius Bonar. Let the pastor and/or song leader do more study on his life.  After each song is sung, discuss what doctrines or duties are found in the words. Share how his words speak to your heart and are seen in your actions.

A Life, and Death, Surrendered to the Lord

This day, December 18th, in 1928, marks the birth of Cecil John Miller. Raised in California, he earned his BA at San Francisco State College in 1953 and a doctorate in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1966, but by an uncommon arrangement had previously been ordained by the OPC some seven years earlier, in October of 1959, whereupon he was then engaged in church planting work in Stockton, California from 1959 to 1963. He later began serving as pastor of the Mechanicsville Chapel in Pennsylvania a year before graduating from Westminster, serving that pulpit from 1965 to 1972.

Jack Miller was my pastor when I was a student at Westminster Seminary in the late 1970’s. The church at that time was still meeting in the rented gymnasium of a local YMCA. Every Sunday we’d get there early to set up folding chairs, and then prepared for a time of worship, typically up to two hours in length and including a sermon from Dr. Miller which might easily run up to 60 minutes long. But we never noticed the clock. We simply went home for lunch and spent the afternoon dwelling on all we had heard. Then we’d go back at the end of the day for more. Dr. Miller was the pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church from 1973 to 1990, and a number of other New Life churches sprang from the model he established. But his greatest legacy came from his heart for missions, which led him on frequent trips to several countries, most notably Uganda, and from this work, World Harvest Mission began, and Dr. Miller served as director of WHM from 1991 until his death, April 8, 1996. World Harvest is now known as Serge, a name change which was announced just this past summer.

Without recounting here his many books, which have been a great blessing to so many, I will simply note today a “new” work issued in 2012 under the title Saving Grace. I say “new” because the book consists of 366 excerpts drawn from Dr. Miller’s sermons, portioned out for daily devotional reading. It makes for most interesting reading. 

As a sample of the entries in this book, the following is the entry for December 18:

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)–John 21:18-19.

How do we develop character in ourselves and others? We can’t teach character unless we have it, and that’s a problem because the church often lacks character. We can only get it as we learn about Jesus’s holy, powerful, transforming love. But we want so many other things besides the love of Christ : an easy life, popularity, acceptance, good principles, and even sound theology. But without love to Christ forming the character, all of it is only self-will. And without the love of Christ shaping our will and character, even good things become demonic, divisive, and cruel.

So Jesus ends his message to Peter by saying, “Follow me. Follow me to your death and you will glorify God. Follow me and I will make you great.” Peter desired to be great and God is going to do that through his death. The heart of love for God is surrendering our will to him. Peter surrendered to Christ and became great. As we surrender to God’s love, our character is formed like Christ, and we also become great in God’s kingdom.

To find out more about the book and how to order from the publisher, New Growth Press, click the title here: Saving Grace.

For a further look at the life and ministry of Dr. C. John Miller, see the finding aid (index) for the C. John Miller Manuscript Collection, preserved at the PCA Historical Center. The collection consists of twelve cubic feet of materials from the academic and ministerial career of the Rev. Dr. C. John (Jack) Miller, with the bulk of the collection focusing on his career at Westminster Theological Seminarythe planting of the New Life Presbyterian Church, Jenkintown, PA, and the later organization of World Harvest Mission. A subseries under Westminster Theological Seminary concerns the justification controversy at that school, 1975-1982, which centered on the teachings of Professor Norman Shepherd.

“The Henry” —

Consider how he was described by his contemporaries and historians in general. He was a reserved quiet man, with great gentleness, courtesy of manner, reserved, and an  unselfish genius. We could add that he was a Christian. And we could add a Presbyterian.

Joseph Henry was the foremost scientist of the nineteenth century. Born on December 17, 1799 in Albany, New York, he came from a poor family background. He was able through generous friends to attend an academy, but essentially most of his education was self-taught. But what a personal education. Through reading of text books in the scientific field, he was able to make contributions in the fields of electricity, electromagnetism, meteorology, acoustics, as well as in several branches in physics. Soon, he knew more than his instructors did, and he wound up teaching their classes in the academy in New York.

Princeton University asked him to come there and teach, though he had no educational degrees to speak of, which would add to the lustre of the academic status of the school.  But his scientific mind and his accomplishments were a considerable substitute for that intellectual learning.

Consider that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, states that he never would have made any progress on that invention were it not for Joseph Henry. A short section of the telegraph had been invented by Joseph Henry, really on a dare when some scientist said it was impossible. Samuel Morse received the credit for it, when he was able to commercialize the product, but Henry had done it first. Then the electric motor was invented by him, while others received the historical credit of it. He also invented what was called the standard electronic unit of indirective resistance, and his name was attached to it.  It is called “the henry.”

Joseph Henry went to meet his Lord on May 13, 1878, with  his funeral three days later at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, of Washington, D.C., where he had been a member.  On this solemn occasion, the President of the nation, Rutherford Hayes, was in attendance, as were the Vice President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, members of the cabinet, with leading officials of every branch of the government, with representatives in science, literature, diplomacy, professional, and business life in America.

His pastor said at that time, “while human learning and science are pressing forward to do honor to him who was known and loved as a leader, I come, in the name of the Christian church, and in the name of my Savior, to place upon this casket a simple wreath, forming the words ‘JOSEPH HENRY, THE CHRISTIAN.’”

Words to live by: People can be recognized by the world, and that has its place. But better than that is to be recognized by the Savior of mankind, as a spiritual child, a brother in Christ, and an adoptee into God’s forever family. The former may be remembered by the world for a time. The latter is remembered for time and eternity. For which one will you, dear reader, be remembered?

Did you know, that in a manner of speaking, the official archives of the Presbyterian Church in America—the PCA Historical Center—began with a devastating fire?!

Let me explain. The PCA Historical Center began its existence in January of 1985. At that time the PCA did not have central offices for its agencies, so the president of Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Will Barker, offered to host the newly founded archives. The PCA had just a few years before received another denominationthe Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES)and with that merger, Covenant College and Covenant Seminary both became PCA schools. It made sense to put the Historical Center at the Seminary, too, because the RPCES archives were already there.

But back to that fire: The RPCES was itself a merger of two denominations, a merger which took place in April of 1965. One wing of that merger was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, so named between 1961-1965. Prior to that it had been named the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod [1956-1960]. This was the larger portion of a split of the old Bible Presbyterian Church [1938-1955]. The other side of the merger creating the RPCES was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]. This group was also one portion of a prior split, the other side being the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. That latter group is still with us, and they are the denomination that operates Geneva College.

“So where’s the fire?”

duanesburgNY_02I’m getting to that (It takes patience to be a Presbyterian!): The General Synod, or “New Light” RP’s were a denomination that began shrinking in numbers during the last part of the 19th-century and the first part of the 20th. At their low point, there were only nine General Synod churches. Then, around the 1940’s and 1950’s, with the addition of some new pastors, they began to plant new churches. By the time of that 1965 merger, there were twenty-eight RP, General Synod churches. One of their oldest churches, Reformed Presbyterian Church, was located in Duanesburg, New York. It had been founded in 1795 and still exists today, as a member congregation of the PCA. Rev. Ken McHeard is the pastor there now. But in 1951, the pastor of the Duanesburg church was the Rev. Waldo Chesnut, one of the older RP pastors at that time. It was he who almost single-handedly held the little denomination together in the first half of the 20th-century, serving as Stated Clerk and editor of a small denominational magazine, The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate.

Rev. Chesnut finally retired as pastor in 1942, but he could already see the Lord’s blessing and that the little denomination was actually starting to grow again. That meant it was important that future generations should know their history; they needed to know where they came from as a denomination; they needed to be reminded of the convictions, hopes and prayers of their founding fathers. If these things were preserved, then they would have a guiding standard for the future. And so Rev. Chesnut devoted much of his retirement years to building an archives for the General Synod group. He put out a call to other members of the denomination, soliciting donations of various materials. Notices like this began to appear in their various publications:

We have added some more valuable material to our collection of books and other literature, and added more case room and are now ready to receive antiques or valuable historical matter for the benefit of the coming generation. Have you anything to spare that would soon be lost, or valuable to the church for future reference? It will be in safe keeping for years to come. What we want, may be of no value to you, but very valuable to others in later years.

Slowly the collection began to develop. As added materials arrived, they were carefully stored away at the Duanesburg church by Rev. Chesnut. Then it was all lost in one night, when fire destroyed the church building. Rev. Harry Meiners, pastor of the church at the time of the fire, gave this account:

It was early evening, December 16, 1951. We were just getting our Sabbath evening supper on the table when Miss Bertha Wilber and Miss Charlotte Knowles burst into our front door with the exclamation: “Did you hear the fire siren? Our church is afire!” I believe I made the fastest trip from home to church that I had ever made.
When I arrived the fire was just breaking through the west windows and the firemen were fighting the flames. My first thought was to save something, especially having in mind the Historical Repository. As I opened the front door and tried to go in, the smoke drove me back and made it impossible to go in to get anything. Two other men had previously tried to get in, but were prevented by smoke.
A few minutes later the fire company ran out of water. In the country the trucks carry a tank of water and whenever possible pump water from a well or fire-pond. Neither was available near the church, so after the water supply in the tanks was exhausted there was nothing more that could be done. Firemen, church members, neighbors could only stand helplessly watching it burn. Our church, built in 1837, which we loved so well and had started to redecorate, was burned to the ground. There was nothing left standing but the chimney we had erected a short time ago.
As I left the scene to break the news to Dr. Chesnut, I went with a heavy heart. I was afraid the news would be a very great blow for him. But I was wrong—he encouraged me and immediately began talking about building a new church. His words: “Don’t be discouraged, Mr. Meiners, and tell the people not to be discouraged. With God’s help we can do anything,” are still ringing in my ears.

So, those things that were lost in the Duanesburg fire, had they been saved, would eventually have come to be part of the RPCES archives, and then later, with the Joining and Receiving of the RPCES in 1982, would again have become part of the PCA archives in 1985.
And that’s why I said that, in a manner of speaking, the PCA archives began with a devastating fire.

Words to Live By:
On December 23, following the fire, Rev. Meiners preached before his congregation from the text of Philippians 1:12—”But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.” And so he concluded, “This is our prayer, that our calamity will be a means in God’s hands to further the Gospel of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

As Christians, we must pray in this way, even though we perhaps only rarely know why the Lord allowed somethings to happen they way they did. As to archival collections, we work to preserve these things for so long as the Lord will allow. They are not forever, but for so long as we have them, they stand as a testimony to how the Lord has been at work among this small portion of His Church. In all things, may God be glorified!

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 69 & 70.

Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

EXPLICATION.

Unjustly. –Without any good, or lawful reason for doing it.

Whatsoever tendeth thereunto. –Whatever leads to the unjust taking away of life ; such as, sinful anger, hatred, envy, revenge, drunkenness, gluttony, excessive care, sinful fighting, &c.

ANALYSIS.

The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment, are of three kinds:

  1. We are forbidden to take away our own life. –Acts xvi. 28. Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm.
  2. To take away the life of another, unjustly. –Gen. ix. 16. Whoso, sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.
  3. Whatosever tendeth thereunto. –Prov. xxiv. 11, 12. If thou forebear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it?

Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment is, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” Exod. xx. 14.

A reflection worth reconsidering, time and again, any day of any month or year.

Upholding God’s Holy Name —

We begin on this day of December 14, by considering our Confessional Fathers explanation of the familiar petitions of that which is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. Question? Do you really understand Christian, what you are saying when you utter the Lord’s Prayer during your worship service or during a private moment?

Shorter Catechism answer 101 teaches us that “in the first petition, which is, Hallowed by thy name, we pray that God would enable us, and others, to glorify Him in all that whereby he makes himself known, and that he would dispose all  things to his own glory.”

After drawing near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, indeed as the children of God to our heavenly Father, believing that He is able and ready to help us, we begin with this upward direction of adoration. Hallowed be Your name, we pray.

The word “hallowed” is the same root as “holy,” or “sanctify.”  Set Your Name apart in our hearts, heavenly Father. Enable us to glorify You in creation, in providence, and in redemption. In everything whereby You make Yourself known, may we daily give you all praise and glory. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (KJV)—so the Psalmist commands in Psalm 96:89. Remember, from that magnificent first catechism answer, this is our chief and main duty in life, to “glorify God.”

Then since He is in control of all things, and nothing occurs outside His powerful sovereignty, we pray that He will by His upholding, directing, and governing all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, dispose everything to His own glory.

Words to live by:  Make it a challenging spiritual exercise to cause the Name of God to be set apart in all that you do in life. Indeed, make it a challenging discovery to find  how God has set apart His own name in His divine actions on this earth. Either spiritual exercise will add to your spiritual growth. Seek to magnify the name of God in a world which doesn’t care to even acknowledge His existence, and watch to see how God will bring opportunities for witness to your unsaved family and friends. Let us set the Lord always before us. Hallowed be Thy Name.

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