June 2019

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As we enter the season of General Assemblies and Synods—June being the month when most of the American Presbyterian denominations convene in their national meetings—this seemed a good time to look over a little tract from the late 1840’s titled “Ten Reasons for Being a Presbyterian. We ran this text some years ago over a series of ten days, but will this time give only the summary statements for each of the ten points offered by our anonymous author. An original copy of the tract is preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and its front cover is pictured below on the left.

Additionally, on the cover of the tract is this quote from the great Swiss historian, J.H. Merle d’Aubigne, captured here as an excellent summary statement:—

“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.

1. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that in Doctrine, in Discipline, in Government and Worship rests so entirely on the Word of God.

2. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of Persons therein—the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall—the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer—the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner—the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Grace through Faith alone—the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment—the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked—these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God;—the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace,—the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God.—(Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

3. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because the form of Church Government, which we call Presbytery, is founded on the Word of God. The office-bearers in our Church are Scriptural in their offices and authority. In each of our congregations there is a Minister, whose special office it is to preach the Word and dispense the Sacraments. There is no difference of rank among these Ministers or Presbyters. All are equal as brethren, having one Master and King, even the Lord Jesus.—(Matt. xxiii. 8, 9, 10.) This is what we mean by Presbyterian parity. All our ministers are alike bishops or overseers, not of other ministers but of their own flocks; not prelates but pastors, as in apostolical times.

4. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because there is no form of Church Government that so combines the two great principles, Order and Liberty—the Order of Government and the Liberty of the People.

5. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that so secures the rights and privileges of the Christian people. The people, that is, the members of the Church, choose their pastor, their elders, and deacons. Those only can be chosen and called to the pastoral charge of our congregations who have been educated under the superintendence of some Presbytery, and been admitted, after examination and trials, as probationers of the Church; all means being used to provide a well qualified and suitable ministry for the supply of our Church.

6. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church whose form of worship is so simple and so scriptural. Not any other book but God’s book is made to claim the attention of the people. Every Sabbath-day the Word of God is read, expounded, and applied. In the devotional services, those who cannot worship the Father in spirit, will find no substitute of form and ceremony to delude them.

7. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because the Sacraments are in our Church administered agreeably to the Word of God. We baptize adults on profession of their faith in Christ, and we baptize the infants of such as are members of the visible Church.—(Acts xvi. 33; Gen. xvii. 7, with Colossians ii. 11, 12; 1 Cor. vii. 14.)

8. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I love and pray for unity; not uniformity at the expense of truth, but unity based on truth and charity. Our Presbyterian Church has its congregations knit together in mutual dependence and sympathy, as one body in the unity of the Spirit, having one Lord and Head, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. And all are united under one superintendence and government, holding the same standards, and maintaining the same principles, the strong helping and bearing the burden of the weak, the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel. We thus enjoy a visible, as well as a spiritual unity, according to the scriptural idea of the Church, the body of Christ.—(Ephesians iv. 8–16.)

9. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because the Church of Christ was Presbyterian in her earliest and purest times. Ecclesiastical history tells me by what steps came the predicted falling away from apostolical doctrine and order (2 Thess. ii. 3); how the primitive Episcopacy (which we still hold) was supplanted by Prelacy and Popery; and how those Churches which were God’s faithful witnesses in the midst of the Anti-Christian apostasy, the Waldensian, the Albigensian, and other martyr-Churches were Presbyterian. And when the time of Reformation came, when men stood, and saw, and asked for the ancient paths, then the good old way of Presbyterianism, with its Evangelical truth, its apostolical order, its wholesome discipline, and primitive worship, was with one consent resumed by the Reformed Churches. In England alone it was not so; but for this we satisfactorily account in the assumption of the headship of the Church by Henry VIII.—the indecision of Cranmer and the early Reformers—the limited extent to which the work of Reformation could be carried—together with other later events in England’s national history.

10. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that has been so valiant for the truth, or that has been honoured to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ on earth. None can show a more goodly company of confessors, a more noble army of martyrs, than the Presbyterian Church. Let history testify this, from the earliest times, through the dark ages of Popery, down even to our own day, when the Free Church of Scotland, in her noble stand for truth, and in the sacrifices made by her ministers and people for Christ’s sake, has displayed a spirit worthy of olden times, and shown that living faith and high principle are yet to be found on the earth. While maintaining in common with other Protestants the truths relating to the Prophetical and Priestly offices of the Redeemer, the Presbyterian Church has especially been called on to testify and to suffer in defense of the Kingly office of Christ; that He is the only Head of the Church, visible and invisible, (Colossians i. 16, 17, 18,) that Christ alone is king in Zion—(Psalm ii. 6.)

The Mother of All Schisms in Presbyterianism
by Rev. David T. Myers

Old School Presbyterians . . . New School Presbyterians. You were either one or the other in the early to mid-nineteenth century in the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  And the issue was not at all a light one. The fundamentals of the faith were at stake.

First, the Old School Presbyterians held to strict subscription to the church standards, such as the Westminster Standards, with church discipline for any dissenters.  The New School Presbyterians were willing to tolerate lack of subscription if evangelism was being accomplished.

Second, the Old School Presbyterians were opposed to the 1801 Plan of Union with the Congregational church, while New School Presbyterians were committed to it.

Next, the Old School Presbyterians were opposed to the false gospel methodology of a Charles Finney, for example, while the New School Presbyterians did not wish to hinder revival, regardless of a less than theological basis for revivals.

Last, there was the matter of theology. Influencing the New School Presbyterians were two “isms” like Hopkinism and Taylorism from New England, which denied original sin and gospel redemption. Old School Presbyterianism held to the Westminster Standards on both of these essentials of the faith.

For several General Assemblies, there were more New School Presbyterian delegates than Old School Presbyterian delegates.  But on June 5, 1837, that majority was reversed, with the Old School Presbyterians in strength. In the assembly that week, the Assembly was able to abrogate the 1801 Plan of Union with the Congregationalists. They then proceeded to expel four largely New School synods from the church, composed of 28 Presbyteries, 509 ministers, and 60,000 members! In one swift vote, they were no longer members of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

But Presbyterian polity demanded that two General meetings approve of an action like this.  And here the operation took on more of a shady spirit to it than would otherwise be proper for any Christian group. At the 1838 assembly in Philadelphia, Old School Presbyterian delegates arrived early and took every seat in the convention hall of Seventh Presbyterian Church. When the New School Presbyterian elders arrived, the Moderator, who was an Old School elder, simply would not recognize them as legitimate delegates. The “we don’t know you” phrase was used a lot. When attempts were made to appeal his ruling, the appeal was put out-of-order by the moderator.

Soon the New School Assembly of Presbyterians were meeting at the back of the church, setting up their own assembly. Eventually they went down to the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia for a separate assembly. An appeal by the New School Presbyterian Church was eventually made to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which declared the abrogation by the Old School Presbyterians as “certainly constitutional and strictly just.”

Presbyterian churches all over the land were in schisms. One Presbyterian church in Carlisle Pennsylvania  epitomized the false principle of “the ends justifies the means.” The session of First Presbyterian Church (Old School) voted out of love to give $10,000 to the departing New School Presbyterians of the new Second Presbyterian Church in the same town. When the check had cleared the bank, the Session of Elders of First Presbyterian who had voted to give the money, promptly went over to the New School Presbyterian session! Another church literally cut in two the building between the Old and New School sides. All over the land, churches were being divided or left over these important issues.

Words to Live By:
Scripture commands us to use biblical means to accomplish His will. Certainly, in hindsight, there was a real apostasy in the Presbyterian church in the early nineteenth century. But Bible believers should have dealt with it according to Scriptural principles, not man’s principles.

The Most Advanced of All the Covenanting Manifestos
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was known simply as the Queensferry Paper, primarily because it was found on the body of a Covenanter in South Queensferry, Scotland on June 4, 1680.  Henry Hall was his name. He had been traveling with another Covenanter by name of Donald Cargill. Government officials had attempted to arrest both of them, but Cargill had been able to escape. Hall was wounded and later died from his wounds. Searching him, they found the six thousand word document known ever afterwards as the Queensferry Declaration. It, as Alexander Smellie stated in his book Men of the Covenant, was “the most advanced of all the covenanting manifestos.”

Summing it up by eight principles, the first principle covenanted with, and acknowledgement was made, of the Trinity and for the Bible as the rule of faith.  Consider the words! “We acknowledge and vouch the only true and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be our God and that we close with his way of redemption by his Son Jesus Christ, and rely upon his righteousness, as that righteousness only  whereby a man can be justified before God.” Any of our readers would easily say “Amen,” to these words. It went on to speak of their conviction that the Bible was by divine revelation and the only object of our faith and the rule of our life in all things.

The second section spoke of advancing God’s kingdom and freeing the church from both prelacy and Erastianism. The latter was removing the belief that the state was the ruler of the church in ecclesiastical matters. They desired that the members of the church would be able to serve God in holy ways without fear and that they might possess their civil rights peaceably without disturbance.

Principle number three covenanted to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with her standards, government, worship — all independent of the state. They boldly confessed with their mouths and believed with their hearts the teaching of the reformed churches, contained in Scripture and summed up in the confession of faith.  They pledged to persevere in them to the end.

The kingdom of darkness was to be overthrown, by their fourth declaration. The aforementioned kingdom was Romanism, the Anglican church, and that system of Erastianism.   They spoke of being bound by the Solemn League and Covenant.

Next, and this was the primary part of the Queensferry document, they indicated their desire to discard the royal family and set up a republic in their stead. Of the 6000 words in the paper, this point occupied about 2100 words.  This was revolutionary in the British Isles. And it was sadly used to paint all Covenanters as being disloyal to the throne of England. The writers of this covenant wrote that in the light of Exodus 18:21, they could rule themselves.

Sixth, the paper spoke to those who, in their minds, had compromised the Scottish covenant by receiving the various deals of the government of England. They pledged not to listen to such any more in the pulpits of the kingdom.

Seventh, the covenant promised to refuse the ministerial function unless they were duly called and ordained. Thus, there were not promises of a new church, but rather a return to the true church of the past.

And the last resolution was that its adherents will defend their God-given worship and liberty. They who would assault them could be assaulted in return.  In short, this was the basis for the battles some of the Covenanters fought in Scotland.

This declaration was never published by the Covenanters themselves. It was stolen off Henry Hall’s body and passed off as the real purpose of all Presbyterians in the kingdom, those who in fact had never signed it, as they had signed previous Covenants.

Words to Live By:
There is certainly nothing wrong with advocating positions for prayer and action. But we must be careful to do so in the light of God’s Word always. From Ephesians chapter 6, our weapons are to be spiritual, never carnal. We will never know how many of Scottish Presbyterians would have signed this covenant, as in God’s permissive will, it was hindered from being presented to them nation wide. But it is still part of the overall testimony of Scotland’s spiritual history, and so we include it in Today in Presbyterian History.

It is Simply Known as Old Tennent
by Rev. David T. Myers

Would you join a church congregation if the original members of the church were branded on their faces with a “T” for traitor?  Or had their ears “cropped” and disfigured as a permanent sign of their rebellion? I dare say most modern Christians might hesitate for a moment, wondering about the background of these members. But what if you discovered through investigation that these members had resisted the government’s attempting to overturn their Presbyterian convictions with those of the official state church?  I dare say that we who are true and faithful to the Word of God—the Bible—would quickly stand by their side and declare ourselves to be faithful adherents in such a church.

Such were the original members of what is simply known as Old Tennent Church, a  hardy group of Covenanters who came to these American shores in the late seventeenth century. More specifically, they came to Monmouth County, New Jersey, in 1685, where they had been sent by the Crown as indentured servants.  As they worked off their “punishment,” they established in 1692 on a small acre of ground, a tiny log church, about the size of a cabin, as their worship center.  They called it “Free Hill.”

Fast forward to when the small group of believers, under the spiritual oversight of Ruling Elder Walter Ker, aligned themselves with the newly begun Philadelphia Presbytery, of which we have written before in these posts. In fact, there is some discussion as to whether that Presbytery actually met at Old Tennent rather than in the Philadelphia area.  Elder Walter Ker, who was known as “the Father of Old Tennent”, believes it did meet at Old Tennent.

It was on this day, June 3, that the steadily growing church was organized as a particular church in the Philadelphia Presbytery. Its first pastor was the first Presbyterian pastor ordained in the colonies, namely, John Boyd. Later, two of the Tennent brothers, John and William Tennant filled the pulpit, with the latter occupying that pulpit for several decades.  Under the leadership of William Tennent the church was a central part of the Great Awakening, that wide-spread revival then filling the land. As a result, men like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, and Jonathan Edwards were also there on occasion to fill the pulpit at Old Tennent. In one instance, the Presbyterian missionary David Brainerd administered the Sacrament to a number of Indian converts in its sanctuary.

The original structure has been restored at various times, but its sanctuary continues to be active with members, friends, and visitors, being a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church, USA.

Words to Live By:
Whether Old Tennent Church was the location where the Presbytery of Philadelphia began or not, we still can rejoice in this church’s founding and subsequent early history for the faith once delivered unto the saints. This author wishes he could state that this church is now part of the Presbyterian Church in America, but that is not the case. Let us however not simply rejoice in the early history of Presbyterian churches, but every day and with all our heart and mind, continue the Reformed faith—the clear proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord—in our families, to our fellow members in evangelical and Reformed churches with which we are affiliated, and in the communities in which we live. Point them to Christ as our only Hope and our sure Salvation.

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

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 25

Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

EXPLICATION

A priest. –A person appointed by the law of Moses, to offer sacrifices to God, and to pray to him in behalf of the people.

Offering up himself. –Giving up, or resigning, himself.

A sacrifice. –An offering for sin. In general, a sacrifice signifies some living creature slain, and offered up to God, to satisfy him for offences committed by those for whom it was offered.

To satisfy divine justice. –To make amends, or to answer to God, for the dishonor done to his infinite Majesty, by the sins of mankind.

To reconcile. –To join again in friendship those who have differed. To bring us back again to the favor of God.

Intercession. –One pleading, or praying for another.

ANALYSIS.

We are taught, first, that Christ, as a priest, offered himself in sacrifice. –Heb. ix. 26. He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

  1. That this sacrifice was only offered once. –Heb. ix. 28. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.
  2. That it was offered to divine justice. –Eph. v. 2. Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor.
  3. That the design of this sacrifice, was to reconcile us to God. –Heb. ii. 17. In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high-priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
  4. That Christ makes continual intercession for his people. –Heb. vii. 25. He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

 

The following is from a news clipping on file here in the PCA Historical Center, part of the Manuscript Collection of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.

From The Syracuse Herald of June 1, 1936, dateline Sunday, May 31, 1936:—

J. Gresham Machen spoke at the First Ward Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, NY, criticizing what he termed “the church’s demand that we ministers submit our consciences to a living and shifting human authority.”

“Fundamentalists,” he said, “believe in the permanency and universality of truth, that they should obey God rather than man.”

“We believe that a thing true in one generation is true in all generations,” he said. “So we believe that the Bible is as true now as when it was written, and that the true interpretation of it is forever true. God has told us once and for all in His Holy Word.”

The lawlessness of the Judicial Commission’s decision [to defrock Dr. Machen and about a dozen others] is no isolated thing, Dr. Machen declared.

“On the contrary,” he said, “it is quite in accord with the world’s spirit of our times. All over the world today there is a tendency to run rough shod over guarantees of liberty and to regard solemn contracts public and private as mere scraps of paper.”

“That tendency has given us Mussolini; it has given us the Soviets; it has given us Hitler; it has given us in this country certain phenomena which I am not going to mention.”

“I think that tendency is going to bring about persecution of the Christian religion.”

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