June 2019

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The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 27.

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

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


A low condition. –A poor and mean state in this world.

Under the law. –Obliged to do all that the law of God requires, and to satisfy all its demands.

The miseries of this life. –Reproach, temptation, hunger, thirst, weariness, sweating, bleeding, &c. even all the ills of life, that are without sin.

The wrath of God. ­–The anger of God, which the sins of men had kindled.

Cursed death of the cross.  –So called, because the Scriptures declare every one “cursed, that is hanged on a tree ;” and because it was both a shameful, and an exceedingly painful death.

Under the power of death for a time. –Being dead for some time.


  1. His being born, and that in a low condition. –Luke ii. 7. She brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.
  2. His being made under the law. –Gal. iv. 4. God sent forth his Son—made under the law.
  3. His undergoing the miseries of this life. –Isa. liii. 3. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
  4. His suffering the wrath of God. –Matt. xxvii. 46. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, –My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Psal. lxxxix. 38. Thou hast been wroth with thine Annointed.
  5. His submitting to the cursed death of the cross. –Phil. ii. 8. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
  6. His being buried. –Matt. xxvii. 59, 60. When Joseph had taken the body (of Jesus) he wrapped it in a clean linin cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.
  7. His remaining for a time under the power of death. -1 Cor. xv. 4. He was buried, and—rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.

An Exceptional Overcoming, in Difficult Times
by Rev. David T. Myers

John Chavis was born in 1763 (or possibly 1762) in Granville County, North Carolina—a sparsely populated area north of Raleigh bordering Mecklenburg County, Virginia. While the details surrounding his early life and ancestry can be hazy, we know that members of the Chavis family were, along with one other family (the Harrises), the first people of African descent to be recognized as free persons in Granville County. John Chavis—whose lineage was a mix of African, American Indian, and Caucasian—came from a distinguished line of free Blacks who owned property and were committed to educating themselves as best they could. A descendant of Chavis later recalled, “My grandmother, mother, and great grandmother were all free people and Presbyterians.”

As a young man, Chavis received an excellent education, likely under the tutelage of the Rev. Henry Pattillo, who would have instructed him in Greek and Latin. Around 1780, Chavis enlisted in the Fifth Virginia Regiment, fighting for the Patriot cause, as many of his relatives did, in the Revolutionary War. In 1792, as an older “non-traditional” student, Chavis was admitted to Princeton using scholarship money from something called the Leslie Fund. In order to be admitted to Princeton, a student had to be tested in English grammar, orthography, punctuation, composition, geography, United States history, Latin grammar, Greek grammar, and mathematics. Chavis was well educated and a quick learner. While at Princeton, he received private instruction from John Witherspoon (which is why I first became interested in Chavis). In 1793 or 1794 Chavis left Princeton (because of Witherspoon’s death?) and later finished his academic studies at Washington College (Virginia) in 1802.

While in Virginia, Chavis was picked out as a suitable candidate for the ministry. In particular, many Southern whites were eager to see Chavis evangelize other Blacks. On October 19, 1799, Chavis was received under the care of Lexington Presbytery. A year later, one of the elders of the presbytery argued that the work of evangelization was too important to prolong Chavis’s trials any further. After a unanimous vote to sustain his exams, Chavis was granted a license to preach. By some accounts, he was the first Black in America ordained by the Presbyterian Church, though technically he only received his licensure, never final ordination.

Chavis was commissioned as a “riding missionary under the direction of the General Assembly,” first under Lexington Presbytery, then Hanover Presbytery, and finally Orange Presbytery. Although his mission was to preach to other Blacks, records indicate that he preached to more whites, up to 800 at a time. Chavis desired to preach to “his own people,” but slaves were often not allowed to worship in white churches. Chavis’s missionary trips were mostly preaching tours, but he also assisted with the Lord’s Supper and performed some pastoral duties.

In addition to a well-received preaching ministry, Chavis was an exceptionally gifted educator, opening a classical school in Raleigh in 1805. At first, the school was integrated, but later white parents insisted that Chavis instruct Blacks and whites separately. At full strength—Chavis was often sick and suffered from debilitating arthritis—the school in Raleigh was home to many of North Carolina’s leading families. Chavis taught a future governor, future lawyers, future pastors, and was especially close throughout his life to the future U.S. Senator Willie Mangum.

After three decades of successful teaching and preaching—and, it seems, a measure of prosperity from dabbling in real estate—Chavis saw his ministry (and his money) dry up in the 1830s. In 1832, in response to Nat Turner’s Rebellion of August 1831, the North Carolina legislature made it unlawful for any free person of color to preach or exhort in public or to officiate as a preacher. Chavis pleaded with the Presbytery for financial support, but the collection they took was little more than $50. In an effort to pay his bills and provide for his wife and children (about whom we know next to nothing), he requested in 1832 that the Presbytery publish his Letter Upon the Doctrine of the Extent of the Atonement of Christ. The Presbytery denied the request, arguing that the subject had already been dealt with by others and there was little chance the short pamphlet would produce much income. No doubt, the Presbytery also demurred because Chavis had drifted from confessional Reformed orthodoxy. In the Letter, Chavis argued that the free offer of the gospel was inconsistent with limited atonement and that the eternal decrees of God were based on “nothing more nor less than his foreknowledge.” Judging by his Letter, Chavis was a passionate gospel preacher who aligned with the New School wing of the Presbyterian controversies of the 1830s.

During his lifetime, Chavis remained a committed Presbyterian, an ardent Federalist, and a critic of racism and slavery. Though these criticisms were, by necessity, often more private than public, he did not hesitate to implore his friend and one-time student Willie Mangum to stand against the tyrant Andrew Jackson. He also informed Mangum that though the insurrection was abominable, he thought Nat Turner was an innocent man.

On June 15, 1838, John Chavis passed from this world into the next, his obituary noting that “his christian character gave comfort to his friends.” Later that fall, the Orange Presbytery resolved to provide Chavis’s widow with a lifelong pension of $40 a year.

Although I wish his theological thoughts were more in line with the Old School side of things, my greater wish—if that’s the right word—is to wonder how much more his ministry might have been had it not be hampered, and then silenced, by the growing rumbles of racial animus and fear. I doubt many of us have heard of John Chavis, but his impressive learning, his itinerant preaching, and his successful teaching mark him out as an important leader in the Old South, particularly among Presbyterians.

Information for this post was taken from Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Volume One (1607-1861), and especially from Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor (1763-1838).

A number of letters by Rev. Chavis have been located on the web and can be read or downloaded over at the Log College Press web site—click here.

The Peaceable Fruit of Biblical Ecumenism

In the Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world, the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (originally named the National Presbyterian Church)  had specifically stated that they invited “into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain our principles of faith and order.” It was then at the Fifth General Assembly of PCA, meeting in Smyrna, Georgia, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod sent a communication requesting closer relationship and engagement of cooperative ministries.

Two assemblies later in 1979, a small committee with a long name, namely, “The Ad Interim Committee to Discuss Areas of Agreements, Differences, and Difficulties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America” was constituted by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). They would meet many times in the two years of discussion with representatives of the various Presbyterian churches.

In June of 1980, at the Eighth General Assembly of the PCA, that body issued invitations to the aforementioned denominations to join the PCA.  The invitation was not to be a long courtship but rather a quick “tying of the knot” by simply merging into the PCA by a common commitment to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly and the PCA’s Book of Church Order.

Within abut a year, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America withdrew from the discussions, citing their adherence to exclusive psalmody, along with some other considerations. The invitation to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church came up to a vote of presbyteries in both bodies. It failed by a narrow margin to arrive at the necessary vote by both assemblies, first by the PCA and then by the OPC.  Fraternal relations continue between both bodies.

For the remaining two denominations—the Presbyterian Church in America and the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod— joint General Assemblies were scheduled for their next national meetings at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  In the pivotal vote of the RPCES on June 14, 1982, they accepted the union by a majority vote of 322 in favor to 90 against.

By this union, the PCA received 164 churches, 416 ministers, 20,615 communicant members, 6,139 covenant children, Covenant Theological Seminary, Covenant College, a direct line to the Scottish Covenanters from the Reformed Presbyterian Church branch of the former RPCES, and the God-given experience of  recognized theologians, teaching and ruling elders in both churches. Elected as moderator of the PCA General Assembly that year was former RPCES scholar and minister, Dr. R. Laird Harris, from Covenant Theological Seminary.

The “marriage” has lasted now 34 years (as of 2016), with continued prayers and work to make it a lifetime of married bliss.

Words to Live By:
Here is true biblical ecumenism. We ought to unite together on the basis of the Word of God and the Westminster Standards with all churches which have that common basis.  By it, the Church is strengthened to meet the secular challenges of the age in which we live; the divisive character of too many a religious body in the eyes of the watching world is removed, and God’s people are built up in the holy faith. Work where God has placed you to make this a reality more and more.

A Man of Many Gifts

Born this day on June 13, 1786 in Lebanon, Connecticut in the home of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Ezra Styles Ely possessed many spiritual gifts in the service of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Named after the president of Yale University to signify his family’s attachment to that educational institution, Ezra followed the tradition of his ancestors by becoming the seventeenth member of his extended family to attend and graduate from that school, as he did in 1803.  Studying under his minister father for a year,  he eventually was ordained by West Chester Presbytery.  For two years, he pastored the people of God at Colchester Congregational Church in Connecticut, laboring as we would say today, “out of bounds.”

Leaving the pastorate there, he traveled to New York City to become the chaplain of the City Hospital and Almshouse.  He soon found himself ministering the Word of God to prostitutes.  Drawing upon this ministry, he eventually wrote a book entitled “Visits of Mercy,” which became a best seller, elevating both himself and his ministry to national recognition.

Returning to the pastorate, he took the pulpit of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1813.  In so doing, he replaced the first professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Archibald Alexander.  Standing for the truth of the gospel and historic Christianity, Rev. Ely began to stand against the teachings of Hopkinsianism, with its denial of the imputation of sin, particular redemption, and other Scriptural truths.  Whether it was the content of his preaching, or simply the manner in which he denounced this heresy, we don’t know now.  This author thinks it may be the latter as Alfred Nevin in his Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church stated that he was “mercurial” in his demonstrations of language, with the result that “no one ever fell asleep under his preaching.”  In other words,  he was animated in his speech, both in the pulpit and out of it.  Whatever was the case, the Presbyterian congregation suffered a schism.

It was in 1827 on July 4 that Rev. Ely called for “Christian freemen to elect Christian rulers.”  He went on to advocate for a “Christian party in politics,” to keep unorthodox liberals and deists out of office.  The underlying concern of this Presbyterian pastor was against the secular policies and practices of President John Q. Adams.  President Adams in turn simply denounced Rev. Ely as “the busybody Presbyterian clergyman.”  So Pastor Ely called upon Presbyterian Andrew Jackson to run for that highest office. Mobilizing Christian workers, Andrew Jackson was elected in 1828.  The good pastor told President-elect Jackson to avoid the judgement of the Lord’s wrath by not traveling on the Lord’s Day to Washington, which Jackson obeyed.  However, their association did not long continue on a favourable basis, as the President grew wary of this outspoken Presbyterian minister.

While Pastor of Pine Street, Rev. Ely joined the trustee board of newly formed Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  While it struggled financially to say afloat, the Presbyterian minister was able to contribute some $50,000 ( a considerable sum in those early days) to keep it operating, even purchasing the lot and raising up a building on that lot. The Medical School, still in operation today, owes a great deal to this early benefactor.

What is more important than physical buildings, however, was the spiritual growth experienced within God’s kingdom.  Alfred Nevin estimates that some 2, 200 people came to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus and were converted as the results of the Rev. Ezra Ely’s faithful proclamation of the Gospel. He would go to his  heavenly reward on June 18, 1861.

Words to Live By: The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is God Who causes the growth of His church. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5 – 9). At the same time, the Lord stoops to use His redeemed people, weak and sinful as we are, to share that good news of the gospel with others. So we do not exalt those who proclaim the message, as if they were anything, but rather we glorify the one true God Who gives His Spirit to bring repentance and saving faith to sinners.  Praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

Click here for a more complete biographical sketch of Rev. Ely.

Click here for access to a dozen works by the Rev. Ely.



Last week we posted a summary of a little tract entitled Ten Reasons for Being a Presbyterian, Appended to that work is this little essay, which caught our eye.


The Presbyterian system is essentially Republican, and secures to all, both laity and clergy, the rights and privileges which are guaranteed in the freest and purest governments on earth. These principles give to the governed a voice in the formation of their own laws and rules of administration, the choice of their own preachers and other officers, and the right to hold and distribute their own property. How absolutely these principles are opposed by Romanism, and even by some Protestant sects, we need not stay to illustrate. No Presbyterian can be oppressed, unless he agree to oppress himself. All the rights of the humblest member of the church are fully secured; no church can be required to receive an unacceptable minister, nor can any power above the church remove one from his charge while he and his people are satisfied to remain together. No power can require a church to pay its minister any sum but such as it may itself choose to promise. No individual minister or member is above the reach of the discipline and government of the church, as exercised by its constituted judicatories. It is thus at once a scriptural, free, and republican body, in which all its parts are duly arranged, all its duties enforced, and all rights secured.

Hence Presbyterians have ever been, and must be, if they act out their principles, the earnest and zealous advocates of a learned, wise, and pious ministry, and of the general diffusion of education and knowledge among all classes of the people. They can never tolerate for a moment, the Roman Catholic dogma, that, “ignorance is the mother of devotion.” Here our position needs no proof. Wherever the banner of our religion is unfolded, there beneath its shade are found the school-house and means of instruction. Light, intellectual and religious, is the great instrumentality through which, under God, we hope for the renovation and salvation of the world.—Presbyterian Advocate.

William Andrew McIlwaine was born on April 24, 1893 in Kochi, Japan. He attended Davidson College, graduating with the AB in 1915 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1919 with the BD degree. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained in May of 1919 and from 1919 until 1942 served as a missionary to Japan, including six months in detention immediately following the outbreak of the war. He returned to the US on an exchange ship in the summer of 1942.

Rev. McIlwaine was then commissioned on June 11, 1943, attending US Army Chaplain School at Harvard University, graduating there in July, 1943. Duty assignments included Station Complement, Camp Ellis, IL, July 1943 to Feb. 1945; Percy Jones Hospital Center, Battle Creek, MI, Feb. to Aug. 1945; special Projects Division, Provost Marshall General’s Office, with duty in Washington, D.C. and Prisoner of War Camp, Huntsville, TX, August 1945 to April 1946. On May 14, 1946 he was separated from active service with the rank of Major.

Dr. McIlwaine then returned to service as a missionary in Japan from 1946 until 1963. He later served as Stated Supply for the McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church of Pensacola, Florida from 1969 to 1971. In 1976 he served as moderator of the 4th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He died on November 30, 1985, at the age of 92.

Aurine Wilkins McIlwaine was born on January 14, 1904 in Hopkinsville, KY; educated at Bethel Women’s Academy and College, obtaining her BS from Cumberland University in 1926. She then graduated from the PCUS Assembly Training School in 1929 and was appointed a missionary on Feb. 13, 1929. On September 3, 1931 she sailed for Korea and remained in faithful service there until 1939.

She married the Rev. William A. McIlwaine on December 28, 1939 in Kwangju, Korea and then went with him to Japan, where together they served as evangelistic missionaries. With only the war years of 1942-1946 interrupting, they served there until their retirement on December 31, 1963.

Mrs. McIlwaine died on December 20, 1982, at the age of 78, following a brief illness. She is buried in Bayview Memorial Park in Pensacola, FL.

What follows is a tribute paid to the McIlwaine’s, in light of their long lives of service to the glory of our Lord and Savior. Above, you have the basic facts of their lives. Below, the substance of their lives, lived out in the reality of redemption which comes through Jesus Christ alone.

by Benson Cain

June 11, 1963

Kobe Station with Osaka Station
at Mikage, Cain’s Residence

Tonight we are gathered together to say farewell to Will and Aurine. I dare not say farewell really because surely we shall be seeing each other on furlough, and perhaps even in Japan – and certainly in God’s good time, in Heaven. I dare not speak from a personal point of view because then I must expose to the rest of the Station some things that only the McIlwaines and I know. I dare not recall all the personal aspects of our friendship of over ten years lest I not finish here tonight. But I will point out some general facts which we all can recall and appreciate. No matter what I say, I’m sure I’ll have not said enough, and no matter how well I try to say it, the matter won’t really be touched upon at all.

First, I’m going to say that we are saying goodby, for a time at least, to True Servants of God. I’m sure that not a day passes that the McIlwaines don’t serve the Lord in service to others. I can recall, as many of you can, the long nights spent in the office getting ready for the next day’s classes because during the day company had come;—a couple they had known before the war wanted to get started again in the Lord’s service. The sick were visited. Milk was distributed to the pastor’s emaciated children. The new language students had to be housed. As many as could stayed with the McIlwaines and then houses had to be rented. Rugs, desks, food, notebooks and many other little necessities had to be purchased. The thousand and one small services were all done as service unto God by servants of God. Therefore, these small services were always, as now, done cheerfully. They show as much zeal locating an old trunk that must be forwarded to someone as they do in the more spiritual aspects of the work.

Secondly, we are saying goodbye to Personal Friends of each of us regardless of other ties. These servants of God have the particular gift of being able to command the respect of all peoples and therefore all members of our Station and Mission have at one time or another confided in them. It may have been about where to work or the merits of a two-story or one-story house, the dangers of drinking well water or the problems of bachelors or single ladies, or the rigours of married life and rearing children. You can take your pick. They have counseled most of us on most of these problems.

Thirdly, we are saying goodbye to a couple who are Widely Loved beyond the narrow bounds of our Station and Mission. Recently near the Seminary about one-hundred twenty Christians from all over the General Assembly of the Reformed Church gathered to pay tribute to them for their years of faithful service among them. We also claim them, but not exclusively. The seventy graduates of the Kobe Reformed Seminary claim them. The four-hundred graduates of the Kobe School of the Japanese Language are proud to have known them. The Language School itself acknowledges Will as its founder. The Yodogawa Christian Hospital claims them both from the kitchen to the out-patient department, from the early days to today with its increased use­fulness. The Kobe Union Church claims them with many long years of faithful service there. The Motomachi Evangelistic Hall, the Chinese work, the other Reformed Churches in Kobe and some from other denominations all claim them for one reason or another. Many have expressed this gratitude in Kobe as well as in Kochi, Kagawa, Aichi, Gifu, Sendai, Tokyo, and other cities and prefectures where they have recently been honored. Then, there are the other institutions that claim them. Kinjoin Nagoya for many years had Will as a leading figure on the Board of Trustees. Seiwa in Kochi has had Will active in the life of the institution for all these years, not to mention Shikoku Christian College which Will, L.W. Moore, and Jim McAlpine were instrumental in starting in the early days after the war. I could go on and speak about the Inter-Varsity Movement in Japan of which Will is an advisor, the Japan Protestant Conference which elected him as its first president to celebrate the Protestant Centennial in Japan,—then the Japan Protestant Centennial. There must be a dozen more organizations that claim them, but let them do so. At least we are among them.

Fourthly, we are saying goodbye to Educators. I will not dwell on this. Many of you know of Japanese pastors who speak almost perfect English, taught by Aurine; and of Bible-believing and preaching pastors, taught by Will. Canadian Academy, the Kobe Reformed Seminary, and a half-dozen other schools in Japan are indebted to them for their educational services. I once heard someone say that she was never around Will that she didn’t learn something new.  He is not only an authority on the Bible but also on many other subjects.

Fifthly, we are saying goodbye to Evangelists. Lest I separate these two categories of Education and Evangelism too sharply and be criticized—I’ll pass on through this point saying—not separated by any facet of life—all of life is evangelism for them. Scarcely a prayer meeting passes that we don’t sense this by their prayer requests and prayers. I’ve worked some of the Nagoya area where Will was for fifteen years and have seen the fruit which lives on in the churches founded under his leadership. It doesn’t matter if it is the ex-soldier, scrap-dealer at Kaigan dori whose life Will saved after the war, or the shoe-repair man at Mikage—all have been touched by them and I’m sure even yet these too will believe. I’m sure many more will yet believe due to the seed sown by these faithful evangelists.

So tonight we say goodbye to faithful, true servants of Jesus Christ, to personal friends of each of us, to widely loved missionaries beyond our Mission and Station, to Educators among many institutions, to first and last and always evangelists to bring the glad tidings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to Japan.

Yet, in all of this we haven’t mentioned the wonderful sense of humor, the ability to listen with empathy, the doggedness to keep at something until it is accomplished, the wisdom to see God’s hand working in seeming adversity, and the grace to give the other man his way even if he is not due it—just BIGNESS and LOVE. We don’t touch all of this. In fact, all I say is so inadequate that the words of Paul speak best of them in Christ in this way:

“Love suffereth long, and is kind;
love envieth not;

Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth…”

                                                                  I Corinthians 13:4-8a.

Machen as Seen by a Methodist

In 1926, J. Gresham Machen received nomination to the chair of apologetics and ethics from the Board of Directors at the Princeton Theological Seminary.  In the normal course of things, this nomination would have been routinely approved by the General Assembly as it met later that same year.  Machen, however, had previously opposed in 1920 the Philadelphia Plan for merging nineteen Presbyterian denominations into a single federated body.  He had published two books, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1920) and Christianity and Liberalism (1923), both of which presented strong arguments against modernism and unbelief.  In short, Machen had become a very public voice raised against modernism, and so he had enemies.  A campaign of opposition was raised against his nomination and the matter remained unresolved up until the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the departure of Dr. Machen and other faithful professors.

In a brief series, we will present a few of the articles which appeared in defense of Dr. Machen during this troubling time.

This particular article is especially interesting for two reasons.  First, it is, I think, the earliest example in print of someone describing J. Gresham Machen in terms of Bunyan’s famous character from Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Valiant-for-Truth.  Ned Stonehouse, in his Biographical Memoir of J. Gresham Machen, popularized this description, but apparently Rev. Lipscomb was perhaps the first to draw the association. Second, the manner in which Machen is described by comparison with other outstanding men of his era provides some unique insights into his character, though our modern ignorance of the men referenced saps the full force of the comparisons.

An Appreciation of Dr. J. Gresham Machen

By Rev. T.H. Lipscomb, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 96.36 (9 September 1926): 9, 18.]

After five days of listening to sermons and addresses by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, we heartily endorse the statement in THE PRESBYTERIAN of June 10, that he is unsurpassed in his ability to impart knowledge to others, and that he is or should be one of the chief glories not only of Princeton Theological Seminary, but of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

Dr. Machen has been lecturing before a Methodist “Seashore Divinity School” at Biloxi, Mississippi, on “What is Christianity?” and preaching twice on Sabbath also.  We had expected to find him a thorough scholar and a thorough Christian, with what super-additions of genius and grace we know not.

To our delight and unceasing joy we find him endowed with an intellectual clarity and felicity of expression which causes to flow forth into the minds of even unlearned hearers a sparkling stream of pure truth, quickening and convincing out of a mass of detailed knowledge from which most scholars bring forth only negations or inconclusive theories.  His mental idiosyncrasy in this regard is quite marked—hitting the nail on the head, causing the sparks to fly ; and in the light of vindicated truth driving error from the field.

We recall, as we think of him, Bunyan’s Mr. Valiant for Truth, and we would that the ten thousand silver trumpets might sound to do him honor—they will some day if not now, as he, too, crosses over into the Celestial City. Then woe to those who have said, “Let not such light of truth which also refutes and condemns error shine among us.  We must be tolerant and considerate of error nowadays.”

A graduate of a Northern theological seminary myself (Drew ’03), and having heard many of the ablest scholars of Europe and America, we affirm frankly and sincerely that we now of no man in any church so eminently qualified to fill a chair of “Apologetics and Christian Ethics,” provided you want that chair filled, the Christian faith really defended and Christian ethics elucidated and lived.  For, let me add that Dr. Machen is an humble saint, as well as a rare scholar, not a “saint of the world,” who stands for nothing and against nothing, but a saint of God who loves truth, seeks truth, finds truth, and upholds truth against all adversaries, however mightily ; in this respect like Paul, Peter and John, and following our Lord Jesus Christ, who “to this end was born” “to bear witness to the truth.” You rightly say in an editorial, “The toleration of error within the churches means the persecution of truth.”

But we have seen Dr. Machen in social life, sharing with him the hospitality of a Southern home ; we have been with him on a pleasure trip to Ship Island, and we must confess that we have silently looked for those terrible “tempermental idiosyncrasies” which the General Assembly branded him with as questioning his fitness for a chair in the seminary which he has served for twenty years, and which his name to-day and the name of R.D. Wilson now make illustrious among believers the world around.  We say frankly the “tempermental idiosyncrasies” do not exist in any other sense or degree than they exist in every man.

We have had two other prominent believers at Biloxi : one a Southern Methodist Bishop of renown, the other the dean of one of our theological seminaries.  They each have “idiosyncrasies” in speech, in gesture, in manner, in personality fully as pronounced as any that Dr. Machen may possess. Dr. Machen has something of the crisp, almost snappy vocalization of S. Parkes Cadman ; he has something of the serious dignity of Marcus Dods; he has at times, when a truth is shining radiantly in his mind and he is sending it home, something of the fire of Olin A. Curtis. He has something of the spiritual elevation of W.L. Watkinson. We scarcely think it defensible, however, to say that unique qualities of personality disqualify a man for a position. There have been German theologians of highest renown, so eccentric as to go to a class room in a night gown, or stand on a corner reading while car after car passed, until the students came, found their professor, and took him to his desk. The story is told of a prominent American Church historian that in arranging passage for Europe he forgot to include one of his own children and hurried back to the city to correct his mistake. Yet for over twenty years he has continued in a professorship for which he is eminently qualified. We have not heard that Dr. Machen has been accused of such eccentricities.

Dr. Machen we have found to be indeed, meeting him for the first time, a genial, cultured, Christian gentleman; modest and almost diffident by nature, and quite considerate of his opponent in all the obligations of Christian courtesy and fairness.  In social conversation he is quite free and at perfect ease. I saw him sit for an hour on shipboard, surrounded by young ministers, answering kindly and well a running fire of questions to the satisfaction of all.

We cannot understand the action of your General Assembly. If it ultimately “repudiates” J. Gresham Machen, we can only interpret the shout in the camp of the Modernists already heard as the shout of the Philistines, in anticipation of the defeat of the armies of the living God.  What are orthodox words when deed belie them?

West Point, Mississippi.

by Rev. William Smith (1834)

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 26

Q. 26.
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.


Subduing us to himself. –Changing our hearts from a love of sin, to a love of holiness, and giving us minds inclined to obey his laws.

Ruling and defending us. –Directing us by his laws, and guiding us by his Spirit, in the ways of holiness ;  and preventing us, by his power, from being again brought under the bondage of sin and Satan, as in former times.

Restraining all his and our enemies. –overruling them in all their plans, disappointing their wicked designs, and confining their malice and ill-will within due bonds.

Conquering all his and our enemies. –Depriving them entirely of all their power, and punishing them, when he thinks fit, according to their deservings.


Here we have five points of information :

  1. That Christ, in executing the office of a king, subdues his people to himself. –Psal. x\cx. 3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.
  2. That he rules over them. –Isa. xxxiii. 22. The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our law-giver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.
  3. That as a king, he also defends them. –Isa xlix. 25, 26. Thus said the Lord –I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children: –And all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and they Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Zech. ii. 5 I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire.
  4. That Christ likewise restrains all his and our enemies. Psal. lxxvi. 10. Surely, the wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
  5. That in executing his kingly office, he also conquers or overcomes all his and our enemies –1 Cor. xv. 25. He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

Understanding the Covenanters
by Rev. David T. Myers

The young man needed a service project in order to become an Eagle Scout. What Nathaniel Pockras of Ohio eventually chose and finished became a great service not only to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America ministers and members, but also to historic Presbyterians in general. He printed on-line the 788 pages of the Rev. W. Melancthon Glasgow’s History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, which was long out of print and extremely rare for any current minister or member to own one.

[pictured at left is the cover of Glasgow’s book, brought to press by two RPCNA pastors. Rev. Glasgow is pictured below]

The original book was written with the approval of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of America and by a resolution passed in its Session at Newburg, New York on June 8, 1887.  It was copyrighted by the author in 1888.  Its subtitle was “with sketches of all her ministers, congregations, missions, institutions, publications. etc, and embellished with over fifty portraits and engravings.”  Who said long titles are not in vogue?

Reader, you don’t have to worry.  I am not going to suggest that you read this huge book as part of this day’s devotion.  But to the history buffs among you, you know that elements of the Scotch Covenanters can be found among the  Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., Presbyterian Church in America, and the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church, to say nothing of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.  So there is profit here for your reading, particularly if you are a pastor or member in one of the above denominations.

How many of you know that Covenanter slaves were sent to these colonies, with conditions on the slave ships as bad as those which brought the Africans to our shores?  Rev. Glasglow brings you the background of that story now long forgotten by most Christians in the United States. In fact, it was that sorry history which caused the Reformed Presbyterian Church to be the first Presbyterian denomination which condemned slavery in our land. [See for instance Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, by Alexander McLeod]

The presence of banished Covenanter slaves in the colonies alongside those of the black race stolen from Africa have another possibility beyond those mentioned here.  This prompts us to ask where did the old negro spirituals arise from? They did not come from pagan Africa, that is for sure.  Did the circumstances of their plight in the American colonies as slaves come face to face sovereignly with the Light of the World, even Jesus?  Certainly, that took place.  But Jock Purves, in his book, Fair Sunshine, (published by Banner of Truth Trust but currently out of print), writes of another possibility, when he says,  “there are seeming traces of time and melody in these lovely spirituals which are reminiscent of the music of the old metrical Psalm-singing.” (page 49)  Did banished men and women of  Covenanter stock carry the gospel of redeeming love in both words and music to their companions in hard labor among the African slaves? (italics that of the author) It is an interesting thought. [For more on this theory, see the work of Yale professor Willie Ruff.]

And while Covenanters rose to grapple with the issues of the American Revolution and supported the fight for independence, do you realize that they did not accept the Constitution of the United States because it nowhere spoke of the kingship of Jesus Christ as Lord of this nation? For many years afterwards, Reformed Presbyterians would not vote, serve on juries, or held office. Only slowly did they moderate those convictions, at least in terms of practical outworkings.

Are you also aware of the fact that in their worship, they only sing the psalms without musical accompaniment? To their spiritual benefit, the local congregations of several other Presbyterian denominations have included RPCNA Psalters as an additional hymnbook in their pew racks. The PCA’s own Psalter is itself a cooperative work based in large part upon the RPCNA Psalter.

Words to Live By: While a small denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America continues to have a vital place in the American Presbyterian tradition. Let us pray that their “tribe may increase,” for that can only be of benefit to us all.


It is easy enough to criticise the language of the Westminster Divines ; but it is not so easy to write formulas on the same subjects, which will command as general an assent throughout the Church.


Criticism Is Easy; Real Work Is Hard. Tread Lightly Here.

For some time I’ve known of a little volume titled OUGHT THE CONFESSION OF FAITH TO BE REVISED?, a slim paperback acquired a few years ago by the PCA Historical Center. [Click on the embedded link to view a digital edition of this work.] The historical context for this book is the effort led by Henry J. Van Dyke and Charles A. Briggs to bring about a revision of the Westminster Standards as adopted by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., while men like Benjamin B. Warfield and W.G.T. Shedd, along with Rev. John DeWitt, opposed the campaign to revise the Westminster Standards.  Their denomination had officially adopted the Standards in 1789, albeit with some changes to suit the American political situation. The matter was debated openly in the Presbyterian newspapers of that day, and the campaign begun by Van Dyke and Briggs eventually won acceptance by a sufficient number of Presbyteries, with the PCUSA General Assembly later voting to adopt a number of changes to the Westminster Standards in the early years of the 20th century, changes that arguably furthered denominational decline.  

But looking back to when the matter was being debated, this little book of papers begins with a powerful opening argument presented by the Rev. John DeWitt and dated on this day, June 7th, in 1889

Rev. Dr. John De Witt, D.D. [10 October 1842 - 19 November 1923I. LETTER OF DR. DE WITT.

The subject of the Revision of the Confession will now come before the Presbyteries in a form which will enable our ministers seriously to consider it. One does not need to express the hope that they will bring to its study an adequate appreciation of the importance of rightly answering the Assembly’s questions, or of the magnitude of the task they will impose on the Church if they shall decide in favor of Revision. This may safely be taken for granted.

There is, however, a suggestion which any minister may properly take on himself to make at the outset. This is, that if a Presbytery shall express a desire that the statements of the Confession on a particular subject be amended, this desire should be given not only a general and negative form, but a positive and constructive form also. Let us know exactly the words which a Presbytery may wish to substitute for the present words of the Confession.

It is easy enough to criticise the language of the Westminster Divines ; but it is not so easy to write formulas on the same subjects, which will command as general an assent throughout the Church. This is a fair suggestion. I do not know whether a committee was appointed by the General Assembly lately in session, to receive the Presbyterial replies ; but it is clear to me that such a committee might quite properly eliminate as valueless, and leave unreported, any reply which does not give a confessional or symbolical form to a Presbytery’s proposed amendment. Let us have samples of the new or revised statements. If any one wants revision on any subject, let him try his hand at a formula correlated to the formulas which he does not want revised. Why not? If the present confessional declarations are made to stand up for critical inspection in the fierce light of the open day, why should the proposed future confessional declarations be suffered to half conceal themselves in a sort of dim moonshine ? It is possible that some of our ministers have, or suppose they have, formulas in their heads better than those in the Confession. Let us see the formulas. Let them be subjected to the criticism that can be offered only after they shall have been printed. Let no one be permitted to suppose that he is doing anything for Revision by simply saying, “The sections on Predestination should be amended,” but compel him to write out a section which he is prepared to defend as better.

Respectfully yours,

John De Witt.
McCormick Theological Seminary, June 7, 1889.

Words to Live By:
Our Confession of Faith does itself clearly imply that it is capable of revision:

  1. “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are
    not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”—Westminster Confession of Faith, 31.3.

But as Rev. DeWitt has said above, such work is quite difficult and those who would propose such changes should, to use the vernacular, “put up or shut up.”

The table of contents for the above volume are as follows:

I. Letter of Dr. De Witt (New York Evangelist, June 7, 1889)
II. Response of Dr. Van Dyke (New York Evangelist, June 27, 1889)
III. Dr. De Witt’s Response to Dr. Van Dyke (New York Evangelist, July 11, 1889)
IV. Dr. Van Dyke’s Rejoinder to Dr. DeWitt (New York Evangelist, July 18, 1889)
V. Dr. De Witt on Dr. Van Dyke’s Rejoinder (New York Evangelist, July 25, 1889)
VI. Replication of Dr. Van Dyke to Dr. DeWitt (New York Evangelist, August 1, 1889)
VII. Prof. Warfield’s Paper presented to the New Brunswick Presbytery, June 25, 1889
VIII. Dr. Van Dyke on the Action of the New Brunswick Presbytery (Herald and Presbyter, July 31, 1889)
IX. Prof. Warfield in reply to Dr. Van Dyke (Herald and Presbyter, August 21, 28, September 4, 1889)
X. Dr. Van Dyke’s reply to Prof. Warfield (Herald and Presbyter, September 11, 18, 25, 1889)
XI. Letter of Prof W. G. T. Shedd (New York Evangelist, September 5, 1889)
XII. Dr. Van Dyck on Prof. Shedd’s Letter (New York Evangelist, September 26, 1889)
XIII.—Further Remarks by Prof. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 10, 1889)
XIV.—Dr. Van Dyke in reply to Prof. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 17, 1889)
XV.—A Note from Dr. Shedd (New York Evangelist, October 24, 1889)
XVI.—God’s Infinite Love to Men. Dr. Van Dyke. (The Presbyterian, October 5, 1889)
XVII.—God’s Infinite Love to Men and The Westminster Confession. Prof. Warfield. (The Presbyterian, 2 Nov. 1889)
XVIII.—The Confession and God’s Infinite Love to Men. Dr. Van Dyke. (The Presbyterian, November 16, 1889).


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