January 2019

You are currently browsing the archive for the January 2019 category.

What was Meant for Harm Turned Out for Good
by Rev. David T. Myers

Reared into a family of twelve children on a farm in New Jersey, Thomas Dewitt Talmage had the blessings of Christian parents.  Four of the children in this family, as a result, would become ministers and missionaries of the gospel, including Thomas, who was born on this day on January 7, 1832.  Graduating from what is present day New York University, Thomas at first studied law, but eventually received the calling in becoming a minister of the gospel. Graduating from a Dutch Reformed seminary, he pastored three churches in what is now the Reformed Church in America. In 1869 however, he transferred into the Presbyterian Church and was called to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York.

[» Dutch Reform Church, Philadelphia. This picture shows the church where Dr. Talmage was pastor previous to his call to Brooklyn »]

Preaching without notes, without a pulpit to hold him in place, with the fervor of a George Whitefield, and the rhetoric of Shakespeare and Milton, the church congregation began to grow with the faithful preaching of the Bible,  with the result that  many were turned away.  Building a larger building brought them masses of additional people, which only caused more to be turned away because of lack of space.  Eventually, area ministers in Brooklyn, jealous at his success, began to spread rumors, which were in turn picked up by the news media.  These sinful slurs upon his ministry and person became hot news for the reading public.

The following Sunday after the slanderous remarks hit the front pages, reporters showed up for the worship service, expecting Rev. Talmage to respond publicly to the personal attacks.  That hope would make great news copy.  But Talmage didn’t respond at all to the verbal attacks. In fact, he didn’t say one word about the newsy stories of the previous week.   He chose instead to proclaim the unadulterated gospel.  That one sermon was printed word for word in countless newspapers in New York. and even around the world.  In fact, this policy of printing his sermons by the public media became the standard practice, as some 3000 newspapers eventually came to be used by the Lord in this way to deliver the good news of eternal life.

It is estimated that twenty five million people read his biblical sermons around the world, with thirty thousand souls won to Christ as a result.  He was faithful in word and practice to the calling of Christ to be an ambassador, representing King Jesus to the world of lost men and women.

Words to Live By: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)  It is always easier to respond in kind to those who attack by their words and actions, but God demands of us a different response.  In fact, it is often that “softer word” which is used by the Lord to convict both the one who attacks our character, as well as a tremendous example to those outside the immediate situation.  Jesus told us to bless those who say all kinds of evil against you.  Let us be faithful to do that, and leave the outcome to God.

Rev. Talmage is buried at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. To view his gravesite and to learn a bit more about him, click here.


Our friend Walt Aardsma writes to add this note:

The Talmadge Memorial Reformed Church in Philadelphia was named for Rev. Talmadge.

In 1969 it merged with the 4th Reformed Church producing the Talmadge Memorial – 4th Reformed Church.

By the 1980s this church and one other were the only congregations in Classis Philadelphia that believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. (Classis Philadelphia, the most liberal one in the R.C.A., does not exist any more and was merged with another classis.)

Pastor Barry Traver took Talmadge Memorial – 4th out of the R.C.A. and they became the Pilgrim O.P.C. I chatted with Rev. Traver when this was going on, he had already left the ministry and was working at Radio Shack. Presently cannot find the congregation under this name. My notes say that the O.P.C. received the congregation in 1984, but when i chatted with Rev. Traver it was 1981 or ’80 and i thought that they had already joined the O.P.C.

Have asked for more info. on what happened to the congregation.

Editor: The OPC Ministerial Register indicates that Rev. Barry Traver retired in 2005. To make the story more interesting, come to find out that Talmadge/4th, which became Pilgrim OPC in 1984, later transferred into the PCA in 2005. Suddenly Rev. Talmadge has become all the more relevant!

Lastly, since Walt has raised this issue, I’ve searched out the succession of pastors for Pilgrim Presbyterian Church [formerly Talmadge, then Talmadge/4th]:

[Fourth RCA, org. 1862]: Gustavus E. Gramm, 1862-67;

[Talmadge RCA, org. 1891]:

Elias W. Thompson, 1892-94;
William J. Skillman, 1894-96;
Henry C. Willoughby, 1896-1903;
William Schmitz, 1904-07;
William H. Giebel, 1908-09;
William R. Rearick, 1909-22;
Marion G. Gosselink, 1922-38;
Martin Hoeksema, 1938-45;
Dorr L. Van Etten, 1945-50;
Cornelius Lepeltak, 1950-52;
Lester Justice, 1952-55;
James Phingstel, 1956-64;
Frederick R. Kruithof, 1964-68;
John H. Ludlum, Jr., 1969-73;
Barry Traver, stu p, 1974-76, p, 1976-85; Traver apparently remains on there in the status of “teacher”

Robert Minnig, 1985-96;
William Clair Krispin, 1997-2001;
Edward N. Gross, 2002-05;

Edward N. Gross, 2005-10;
Erik Ludvig Larsen, 2009-2019f.

The School & Family Catechist.

SmithThis new year brings us to some “new” material on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Each Sunday this year we will be drawing from a work by the Rev. William Smith of Glasgow, published in 1836. The full title of the work is The school and family catechist, or, An explication and analysis of the Assembly’s Shorter catechism; : with appropriate passages of Scripture, attached to each division of the analysis, proving the doctrine or precept, and showing it to be founded on the word of God. From what we’ve been able to find, it was popular enough in its day, but appears now to be something of a rare work, with no more than five copies to be found worldwide, one of which is thankfully at the PCA Historical Center. It has been equally difficult to find out anything about the author, the Rev. William Smith (a common name makes the search more difficult!). He was at least an author of some note in his own era, having published at least four or five other works, and this particular work seems to have met with some success, going through at least three editions in Scotland and one in North America. As he opens this little volume in a Preface, I’m struck by true words which remain timely even today:

An acquaintance with the principles of our holy religion is a matter of high importance, both to our present happiness, and to our future welfare. It is always in a religious community that the best members of society are to be found, whether man be contemplated in the capacity of a magistrate, or of a subject, as filling the higher, or as occupying the more subordinate stations of human life. In those countries where true religion is unknown, or, which amounts to nearly the same thing, where it has little or no hold upon the minds of the people at large, crimes the most shocking, and the most revolting to humanity, are perpetrated without remorse. If then, a religious education be highly advantageous to us, even as members of civil society, and as beings appointed to act a part on the stage of time, how does it rise in importance, when we consider that it is essentially necessary, and indispensable, to our preparation for eternity, and for entering upon that state of being, in which our everlasting happiness or misery shall, as we are assured, greatly depend upon the habits we have formed in the present life. If we be desirous of reaping the proper fruit, let us take care that the soil be well cultivated, and the seed sowed in due time. If we are anxious, that our children should act their part in life in such a manner as to promote their comfort and respectability here, and their eternal happiness hereafter, let us be careful to have their minds stored, as early as possible, with sentiments of religion and of virtue. This is the only sure foundation that we can lay for their future usefulness and comfort in life, and for their welfare in another world. If a religious education is thus important, it must then be evident, that an acquaintance with the principles of religion is indispensably necessary, since without this no real progress can be made in spiritual knowledge. Hence the evident utility of those publications in which these princples are laid down clearly and distinctly, divested of all extraneous matter. [emphasis added]

Smith’s approach is similar to that of Fisher in his Catechism, where additional questions and answers are added to explain and expound those found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Rev. Smith however is careful to note that his approach is to remain succinct and to keep the whole work short, thus the more likely to be used with some profit.

But for today, here is our first entry, in which Rev. Smith briefly deals with the first question of the Shorter Catechism. You will quickly note that his treatments are briefer than those which we ran last year by Rev. Van Horn. But I trust a more succinct handling of each question will in turn allow our readers more time to reflect on what is said here:—

Quest. by  1. WHAT is the chief end of man?
Ans. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.


Chief end.—The principle purpose or design for which man was made, and to which he should, above all things, labor to attain.

To glorify God
.—To do honor to his name, by loving him, and trusting in him, believing his word, and keeping his commandments.

To enjoy him for ever
.—To have God’s favor, and the influences of his Spirit in this world, and to share in the happiness of his immediate presence in heaven hereafter.

Here we learn that the principle design of every man’s being sent into the world is twofold:

1. To glorify God.—1 Cor. x. 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

2. To enjoy God.—Psalm lxxiii. 25, 26. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.—God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

What The Northern Presbyterian Church Did To Dr. J. Gresham Machen

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander
Jackson, Mississippi

This is the seventh in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.


The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was incorporated in December of 1933, with Dr. Machen as its President. “And for its general secretary and most active worker,” Time reported, in its April 23, 1934, issue, “they chose no grizzled Presbyterian die-hard, but a keen, quick-smiling young missionary named Charles J. Woodbridge.

The Board’s General Secretary

“Princeton students, and especially soccer players, of a decade ago remember Charley Woodbridge well. They remember him carrying trays in Commons as he worked his way through. They remember his antic agility on the soccer field where he more than held his own in the forward line against much heavier men. He had learned the game from the English at school in China, where he was born in 1901 in a family which counts 14 generations of ministers, back to 1493. They remember that, without being a ‘greasy grind,’ Charley Woodbridge was always near the head of his class in studies and that without being a meddlesome ‘Christer’ he was quietly, sincerely, and it seemed merrily, pious.

“Charley Woodbridge emerged from Princeton Seminary untouched by its liberalism, studied at Berlin and Marburg, took a pastorate in Flushing, L.I., where he married a missionary’s daughter. When he went as a missionary to the French Cameroun in 1932 it was to replace a man who had been fatally stung by an insect. Studying the local dialect, Missionary Woodbridge evangelized for six months in the malaria-ridden jungle, then took charge of 110 evangelists covering 5,000 sq. mi. A firm bible-believer, he learned to deplore the ways of the official Presbyterian Board, such as when a member on an inspection tour addressed 3,500 naked Cameroun heathens who had never heard of the Gospel, on the subject: ‘The Power of the Personality.’ When informed of his election as secretary of the upstart Board, Missionary Woodbridge resigned his post, returned in January with his pretty wife and two daughters.”

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions got off to a flying start. Many Bible-believing Presbyterians volunteered to go immediately as foreign missionaries through the agency of the new Independent Board. And very shortly some of these volunteers began to be placed in the foreign mission fields. The prospects for the future of the Independent Board were bright and promising.

The Northern Presbyterian “Machine” Gets Under Way

So much interest was shown by Bible-believing Presbyterians in this new Independent Board that it aroused to action some of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the Northern Presbyterian Church who held positions of great power and influence, and they began to use that power and influence.

As a result of their efforts, the General Assembly of 1934 directed “that all ministers and laymen affiliated! with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. who are officers, trustees or members of the ‘Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions’ . . . sever their connection with this Board,” that in case of their refusal so to act, the presbyteries to which they were subject should institute disciplinary proceedings against them.

When the Presbytery of New Brunswick called upon Dr. Machen to resign his membership in the Independent Board, his reply was a positive and determined refusal. Then the Presbytery preferred charges against Dr. Machen. for disobeying the order.

The Trial Of Dr. Machen

Dr. Machen was tried as charged, and the Presbytery of New Brunswick found him guilty and brought in a verdict that he should be suspended from the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church. This took place in 1935.

Immediately following the announcement of the Presbytery’s judgment, Dr. Machen issued a statement, part of which is quoted here (the emphasis is added) : “The Special Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of New Brunswick has simply condemned me without giving me a hearing. I am condemned for failing to obey a lawful order; but when my counsel, the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, offered to prove that the order that I had disobeyed was not lawful but unlawful the court refused to hear a word of argument. I am condemned for making false assertions about the Modernism of the official Board of Foreign Missions but when my counsel offered to prove that those assertions were not false but true, the court would1 not hear a ‘word of the evidence that we were perfectly ready to produce. It is not too much to say that a trial conducted in that fashion is nothing but a farce.”

Nor was Dr. Machen the only person who felt that the trial did not offer him an opportunity to get to the heart of the problem and present the evidence in his defense. In an interview published in The New York Times shortly after the judgment in Dr. Machen’s case was announced, Dr. Daniel Russell, Moderator of the Presbytery of New York—the outstanding liberal Presbytery of the entire Northern Presbyterian Church—remarked: “. . . there must be a widespread feeling of sorrow together with something of sympathy for the accused in that, after thirty years of distinguished service to religion, this famed scholar, whether through his own fault or otherwise, has been condemned by his Presbytery, and that his denomination, if the condemnation is sustained, can find no place in which his brilliant gifts may be utilized.

“This is the more regrettable because Dr. Machen has steadily upheld those doctrines which, historically, have stood central in reformed theology. In an age of loose thinking, of vague conjecture in the areas of Christian faith, his position has been clear-cut, definite; the fruit of intellectual insight and passionate conviction . . .

“Was Dr. Machen’s trial a fair one? Ecclesiastical lawyers may maintain that no question of doctrine is involved. In the more adequate view there are doctrinal differences which run into the heart of the entire problem. These the accused was not permitted to discuss in his defense.” (The emphasis is added.)

The Judgment Is Affirmed

Immediately after the judgment of the Presbytery of New Brunswick was announced, Dr. Machen appealed to the Synod of New Jersey; and the Synod affirmed the judgment of the Presbytery. Then Dr. Machen appealed to the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church; and the General Assembly affirmed the judgment of the Synod of New Jersey.

Thus, in 1936, Dr. Machen was kicked out of the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church because he had helped) establish and run a foreign missions board which would not tolerate Modernism or give it support in the foreign missions work! And Dr. Charles Woodbridge, the General Secretary of the independent Board (who is now the distinguished Pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia), and other associates of Dr. Machen in the Independent Board enterprise were likewise tried and kicked out of the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Cause For Very Serious Thought

Right at this very point every Southern Presbyterian, who hitherto may have had very little concern about the proposed union of our denomination with the much larger Northern Presbyterian Church, should pause for some very serious thinking.

That which should give him occasion for serious thought is the striking contrast between how the Northern Presbyterian Church treated Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen and Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, on the one hand, and how it treated Dr. Charles Woodbridge and Dr. Machen, on the other.

Dr. Van Dusen And Dr. Woodbridge

Dr. Van Dusen is a graduate of Princeton University and of Union Theological Seminary of New York City. He is a Modernist and at present he is the President of Union Theological Seminary of New York. He is also a member of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Woodbridge is a graduate of Princeton University and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. He is widely known as a Bible-believing Christian.

Now when Dr. Van Dusen was licensed as a minister, he did not affirm belief in the Virgin Birth. But the Presbytery of New York licensed him anyhow. The General Assembly of 1925 directed the Presbytery of New York to correct this improper licensure, and it issued a formal judicial decision to that effect. But this judicial decision was ignored, and Dr. Van Dusen was ordained.

Dr. Van Dusen flatly refused to accept the formal ruling of several General Assemblies that the Virgin Birth was a doctrine essential to proper ministerial licensure. Now what treatment has Dr. Van Dusen received since that event? Why, he has been accorded the high honor of representing the Northern Presbyterian Church at the Madras Conference in 1938 and at the World Council of Churches meeting in Amsterdam in 1948!

Dr. Woodbridge, on the other hand, was ordered to sever his connection with the Independent Board for Foreign Missions (which came into being because of the Modernism existing in the missions activities of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Northern Presbyterian Church). Dr. Woodbridge flatly refused to obey this order.

Dr. Woodbridge thus ignored an “in thesi” deliverance (which does not have the force of a formal judicial decision) of the General Assembly of 1934. Now what treatment did Dr. Woodbridge receive after that? Why, he was booted out of the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church!

Dr. Coffin And Dr. Machen

Let us consider, briefly, another contrast.

In the General Assembly of 1925, Dr. Coffin, one of America’s leading Modernists and a signer of the heretical Auburn Affirmation, deliberately defied the General Assembly. He openly declared his nullification of the action of that General Assembly in condemning the Presbytery of New York for licensing Dr. Van Dusen—and this nullification carried in such a. way that it in effect set aside the judicial decision of the 1925 Genera) Assembly, which decision is actually recorded in the official Minutes of the Assembly for that year.

What happened to Dr. Coffin after this? He was elected to the high office of Moderator of the General Assembly of 1943!

Dr. Machen, on the other hand, like Dr. Woodbridge, disregarded an “in thesi” deliverance of the General Assembly of 1934.

What happened to Dr. Machen as a result? He was kicked out of the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church!

In the interest of closer acquaintance with the Northern Presbyterian Church, we Southern Presbyterians have a right to demand an answer to this question: Why did the Northern Presbyterian Church sacrifice the two ministers who valiantly defended the historic’ Christian Faith and at the same time reward and honor the two ministers who have consistently rejected it?

Mrs. Buck’s Opinion Of Dr. Machen And His Opponents

Among the thousands of persons who followed with close attention the trial and suspension from the ministry of Dr. Machen in 1936 was Mrs. Pearl S. Buck. When Dr. Machen died on January 1,1937, Mrs. Buck wrote the following comments in The New Republic. As Dr. Machen had been instrumental in bringing about Mrs. Buck’s resignation under pressure as a missionary of the Northern Presbyterian Church, naturally she could be expected to say some sharp things, and even some very unfair things, about him. But what is really unexpected in the following quotation is the opinion that Mrs. Buck, herself a Modernist, expressed about the Modernists and some of the so-called “middle-of-the-road” group who hold high places in the Northern Presbyterian Church. She remarked (the emphasis is added) :

“I admired Dr. Machen very much while I disagreed with him on every point. And we had much the same fate. I was kicked out of the back door of the ‘Church and he was kicked out of the front one. He retaliated by establishing a Church of his own. The Mother Church was called the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, but he gave his Church a bigger name—the Presbyterian Church of America. Of course what he did not realize was that he could never have lived in a Church. As soon as it had become an entity he would have had to compromise with this opinion or that, or more impossible still to him, with a majority opinion, and he would have had to break again with them all. One might say death was merciful to him, except I have an idea he enjoyed his wars.

“The man was admirable. He never gave in one inch to anyone. He never bowed his head. It was not in him to trim or compromise, to accept any peace that was less than triumph. He was a glorious enemy because he was completely open and direct in his angers and hatreds. He stood for something and everyone knew what it was. There was no shilly-shally in him. His attacks were intelligently conceived and logically executed, with a ruthlessness that was extraordinary in its consistency. In another age he would have burned people at the stake in serene confidence that he was serving God truly. And so he would have been, for his God was a jealous God, and he served with a whole-heartedness of which only a few great spirits are capable. In a present world of dubious woven grays, his life was a flaming thread of scarlet, regardless and undismayed. He was afraid of nothing and of no one. Fortunately he was called to the limited field of Protestant religion. In the Catholic Church he might have become a dangerously powerful figure, and had he found his expression in politics, our country might have chosen him as the first candidate for dictatorship. It was therefore a comparatively mild matter that he merely hounded from the Church those who held a creed different from his own.

“The Church has lost a colorful figure and a mind which stimulated by its constant contrary activities. He added life to the Church, and it needs life. And we have all lost something in him. We have lost a man whom our times can ill spare, a man who had convictions which were real to him and who fought for those convictions and held to them through every change in time and human thought. There was a power in him which was positive in its very negations. He was worth a hundred of his fellows who, as princes of the Church, occupy easy places and play their church politics and trim their sails to every wind, who in their smug observance of the conventions of life and religion offend all honest and searching spirits. No forthright mind can live among them, neither the honest skeptic nor the honest dogmatist. I wish Dr. Machen had lived to go on fighting them.”

A Fairer View Of Dr. Machen’s Endeavor

At the same time that Mrs. Pearl S. Buck was writing her comments, an opinion free of any and all prejudice, either for or against Dr. Machen, was being written by a completely disinterested commentator, Albert C. Diffenbach, himself a Unitarian, who is the brilliant Religious Editor of The Evening Transcript of Boston, Mass. Writing in that paper he stated (the emphasis is added)

Now all that Machen ever did was to hold fast to the faith and insist that those of his denomination who had taken their vows should do likewise. He was unwilling to yield an inch to the trend of modern thought. That in his sight did not touch the eternal Word of God, unchanging and unchangeable. He had the scholarship to make himself read and heard . . .

“Whatever the developments may be, one must salute the great spirit of Machen who knew the height and depth and breadth of religion. Differ from him as one will, he was a Christian of apostolic ardor. He believed in the infallible Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the final and complete redemptive authority of God. Machen was not intolerant in the harsh sense. He was a lover of his fellows, a companion of the greatest charm, and he fought for ‘what he believed was the truth always/ in the Christian spirit. Of course he did not tolerate what he felt was wrong, and no real person does. Tolerance after this manner is immoral and mean. Machen was a fundamentalist in the sense that he would make his doctrines prevail if he could, but though he was a formidable protagonist^ and stood defiant and sometimes vehement against actions that to him were ethically evil and intellectually subversive to Christianity, it is hazarding little to say that in all of his embattled career he did not forget his cause or himself.”

What All This Means To Us

There are thousands upon thousands of Southern Presbyterians, including myself, who do not have even the remotest idea of uniting: with, the Modernist-honoring Northern Presbyterian Church. We are perfectly willing to consider merging with any church which fully and truthfully accepts all of the Holy Bible as its final authority. ‘But, unfortunately, the Northern Presbyterian Church is definitely not in that classification.

We feel that when Dr. Machen was put on trial in the Northern Presbyterian Church, in principle we were put on trial also, for what he believed, we believe, and what he opposed, we oppose.

If there was no room for Dr. Machen in the Northern Presbyterian Church, then there is certainly no room in it for us.

When Dr. Machen was put on trial, actually, in our eyes, it was the Northern Presbyterian Church Which was being put on trial. And after examining its actions, and that for which it now stands, all of the evidence in the case clearly indicates that the only verdict possible is contained in these words: “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!”

Who The Real Trouble-Makers Are

Yes, we have heard it charged that Dr. Machen was “just a trouble-maker.” That has been said many times .before, and it will probably be said many times again. But that charge was fully and completely answered, once and for all, by the Editor of Christianity Todaywhen he wrote: “Dr. Machen has frequently been spoken of as a troublemaker in the Church but it should be clear to all genuine Christians that the real troublemakers were and are the advocates of this other gospel which is not another.”

We, too, the Bible-believing Christians in the Southern Presbyterian Church who adhere to the Christian Faith as it is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, have been called trouble-makers in our own denomination.

But it should be perfectly clear to all genuine Christians that the real trouble-makers in the Southern Presbyterian Church are “the advocates of this other gospel ‘which is not another!”

What shall every Southern Presbyterian, as a Bible-believing Christian who vehemently opposes merging with a denomination which kicks out of its ministry such great Conservatives as Dr. J. Gresham Machen while at the same time it honors and exalts such extreme Modernists as Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, the former President of Union Theological Seminary of New York City—what shall every Southern Presbyterian say with reference to the proposed union with the heresy-tainted Northern Presbyterian Church?

Thou Shalt Say, No!

Repentance a daily, constant discipline.

Fast Day Sermons; or The Pulpit on the State of the Country is a collection of sermons which were delivered on January 4, 1861, in answer to a proclamation from President James Buchanan, setting that day “apart for fasting, humiliation, and prayer throughout the nation.” When that day arrived, across the nation special services were held in churches, public buildings were closed, and many businesses were shuttered for the day. Later these sermons were gathered as representative of the divisions splitting the nation apart.

The unnamed editor of the volume, in his introductory Preface, sets out the purpose of the book,

The following Discourses are collected in a volume in the belief that they will have a historical interest. These are Revolutionary times. The country is profoundly agitated, not on a question of party, but of National existence. On the very brink of dissolution, we are led to pause and review the causes that have brought us to this. While the people attend eagerly to the appeals of their leaders, thoughtful men will listen silently to the calm voices of the Pulpit, from which they will expect a clearer statement of the principles which underlie all this popular turbulence.

Even after all these years, the editor’s approach seems surprisingly academic and sterile. Disturbingly so. For our purposes, the book is noteworthy because Presbyterians are well represented on both sides of the terrible debate. Our little blog isn’t the appropriate place to try to lay out an understanding of how we might appreciate the bulk of a man’s teaching while at the same time entirely rejecting what is sinful in his life. Nor do we have space here to wonder at how otherwise seemingly good men can be so misled by their culture, or to ponder how has our own culture may have blinded us to sins that an earlier generation would never have tolerated?

From among the sermons, this one quote from “The Union to be Preserved,” by Robert J. Breckinridge will have to suffice, to give a flavor of the book and to give some words of comfort, as we in our own day strive to trust in God in the face of trials and troubling times:

After all, my friends—after all, we have the great promise of God that all things shall work together for good to them that love Him. I do not know but that it may be the mind of God, and His divine purpose, to break this Union up, and to make of it other nations, that shall at last be more powerful than it, unitedly, would have been. I do not know, I do not pretend to say, how the Lord will use the passions of men to glorify His name. He restrains the remainder of wrath and will cause the wrath of man to praise Him. We have His divine assurance that all nations that have gone before us, and all that will follow us, and we ourselves, by our rise, by our progress, and alas! by our decay and ruin, are but instruments of His infinite purpose, and means in His adorable providence, whereby the everlasting reign of Messiah, the Christ of God, is to be made absolute and universal.

Great then is our consolation, as we tremble for our country, to be confident in our Lord! Great is our comfort as we bewail the miseries which have befallen our glorious inheritance, to know that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Infinitely precious is the assurance, amidst the trials now impending, and the woes which threaten us, that the heroic self-devotion with which our personal duty is discharged, is one part of our fitness to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light!

Words to Live By: As true today as ever, we need humility and repentance as we stand before our Lord. We stray so easily, and so repentance must become a daily, even constant discipline. Salvation belongs to the Lord. His blessing is upon His people. On that we can rely.

A Living Martyr
by Rev. David Myers

Upon first glance, the title of our post seems to be a contradiction. When we think of martyrdom, it speaks of death. But it was possible for our person in today’s post to be exactly what our title speaks of, namely, a “living martyr.” And so was Rev. Andrew Brunson, recently of Turkey and now a free man in our blessed land.

This author had followed his trials and imprisonment in Turkey, prayed for him and that of his wife, asking God to deliver him from that jail and false sentence. It wasn’t until he was released that the full story came out to me, namely, that he was a Christian Presbyterian.

Reared in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) from his parents, missionaries themselves in Mexico under that church’s Mission Board, Andrew, who was born on January 3, 1965, went to Wheaton College in Illinois. He aced, we would say today, his studies and graduated in three years instead of the normal four years. He had enough time however to marry another Wheaton student, Norine, who had a similar background to him in being a missionary “kid.” The new married couple went to Erskine Seminary, the flagship seminary of the ARP. They originally set off for Turkey under this Reformed church, but transferred to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church mission board, World Outreach, in 2010. Their place of ministry was Biblical Smyrna, or Izmir in modern times, where Pastor Brunson ministered as a pastor/evangelist.

The Biblical description of the town in Revelation 2:10 is plain from the Word of God. It reads, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested.” And Andrew Brunson was arrested on trumped up charges by the government on December 9th, 2016. Thrown into an over-crowded cell with all Muslims for fellow inmates, the first year was an emotional hardship for him. But the second year was a spiritual growth year for him. Eventually, he was set free by the providential grace of God.

The entire story, too long to treat here, is recorded in the Christian magazine, WORLD, November 24, 2018 issue, written by Mindy Belz, Senior Editor.

Words to Live By:
Tell me, dear reader, if you were imprisoned for the cause of Jesus, and His saving grace, would you be able to stand strong for the Lord, as Andrew Brunson did? Your answer would surely be “by the grace of God, we would.” What about beginning memorizing key Bible texts and passages today, which would keep you in good stead for such a time as this?

A Mystery Solved by God’s Providence

The little girl found the dead Union sergeant on Stratton street in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. To find a dead soldier on a street was not unusual on the days following the first three days of July in 1863. He was just one of seven thousand soldiers, both Confederate and Union, who had died in and around that small northern town after that Civil War battle. What made his death unusual was his last gaze upon a tin-type photo of his three small children, which he held tight in her hands in death. Who were these children, and who was this deceased soldier? That was the question which would occupy the nation’s conscience for two years.

Carrying the tin photo back to her inn-keeper father, the picture provided a steady stream of conversation among the patrons of that inn eight miles west of Gettysburg. When a medical doctor, Dr. John Bourns, came to treat the wounded from the pivotal battle, his wagon broke down near the inn. Waiting for its repair, he too went into the inn, and heard the story of the three unknown children. Convincing the inn keeper that he could better help in their identity by advertising through a city newspaper, he took the photo back to Philadelphia after his months of treating the wounded.

When the news story was published in the October 19, 1863 Philadelphia Inquirer, the story of the “Children of the Battlefield” became a national story.  The article was picked up by other news media, including The American Presbyterian magazine, on November 19, 1863.  That issue went to a subscriber in Portville, New York, where it was read eventually by all the citizens of the small town, including Mrs. Philinda Humiston. Contacting Dr. Bourn, she was visited by the medical doctor, along with her pastor, the Rev. Issac Ogden, of the Portville Presbyterian Church, on this day of January 2, 1864. Shown the blood-stained photo of her three children, she realized what she had feared all along in not hearing from her husband, that she was a widow, and her three children Frank, Freddie, and Alice were orphans. Her husband was Amos Humiston, of the 154th New York regiment, killed on July 1, 1863.  A monument stands today next to the fire station on Stratton Street near the site of his death. And the tin type photo can still be seen at the Visitor’s Center of the National Battlefield Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By: There is no luck, chance, or fortune which allowed or ordained all these actions. “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least. Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5, section 1.

This Year, Be More in the Scriptures, for they are the very Word of God.

With appreciation of the Rev. Ryan Laughlin’s sermon this Sunday at The Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, I would press upon us all our great need to spend more time in the Bible.

Rev. Laughlin used an outline drawn from his background with the Navigators, and here I add a few comments to that basic structure:

a. Read the Word—It takes just twenty minutes out of your day to read through the Bible in one year. There are a lot of Bible reading plans published every year on the Web by various ministries. We even have a dedicated tab at the top of our page here on This Day in Presbyterian History, with links to a host of plans. Something to suit everybody.

b. Hear the Word—Take time to be with the Lord’s people on Sunday. Worship the Lord and and pay attention to the sermon. Paying attention–that’s what the Westminster Confession means when it talks of the “conscionable hearing” of the Word (WCF 21.5).

c. Study the Word—All manner of questions and problems come up all the time. Turn to the Scriptures and seek out their application. “What does the Bible have to say about….?”
And if you can’t find the answer, go to your pastor or your elders and see how they would direct you through the Scriptures.

d. Memorize the Word—This is not as hard as it may sound, though it is easier when you are younger. I would suggest just a verse a day, and at that rate, as one possible goal, you could memorize the first twenty-eight Psalms over the course of a year! Or you could apply that same discipline to some other book(s) of the Bible. Whatever you choose, the benefits for your life as a Christian will be immense.

e. Meditate on the Word—And here is the real reason for Scripture memory, to allow you to then meditate on those texts of Scripture. The Word of God is like a rare jewel. Hold it up before the eyes of your mind and examine it; turn it as you examine its many facets and see how the light comes through to illumine your understanding and to show you the path that the Lord would have you to walk.


Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: