June 2019

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The Strange Testimony of an Irish Presbyterian
by Rev. David T Myers

When my fellow editor, Wayne Sparkman, asked me to present this biographical post of a character from the eighteenth century, and sent me some material from which to write it, one sentence jumped out of the sentences about this Presbyterian minister.  That sentence was that “he was suspended for contumacy.”

Now, lets face it, the word “contumacy” is not a word which we use every day, or even every month.  According to Webster, it comes from the Latin which means “rebellious.”  Thus, it is “stubborn resistance to authority, specifically  willful contempt of court.”  And the “court” here means the church court, like the Presbytery.  In that sense, it is found in the PCA Book of Church Order, in the  Rules of Discipline, chapter 32:6 and 33:2, 3 to speak of those who refuse to either appear or answer the charges of a church court.  And that is what  happened to our character today, the Rev. James Martin.

The facts are that James Martin was born in Ireland in 1725, educated in Scotland, studied theology in the Antiburger Divinity Hall, class of 1749, and ordained in Bangor,  Ireland, in 1753, and received by the Presbytery of Pennsylvania, at Pequea, Pennsylvania, on August 1, 1775.

Certainly  he was not known then as a contumacious minister.  The certificate which accompanied his transfer to America stated that “he was for many years a member of the Associate Presbytery of Moira and Lisburn, in Ireland, and behaved soberly and inoffensively, suitable to his character as a minister and Christian.”  The written draft went on to state that “he departs with an unblemished reputation” with nothing to hinder his admission as a member of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania..

And so he ministered the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ in the counties of Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, and Northumberland in Pennsylvania.  He also ranged far south in the “states” of Virginia and North Carolina.

From what little we can ascertain, he declined the spiritual authority of the Presbytery in 1777.   They disciplined him with suspension of his ministry credentials.   Yet it is odd that  we read of his continuing ministry with spiritual profit to  members in Presbyterian churches until his death on this day, June 20, 1795.  What gives?

Words to Live By:
We can only surmise that his continuing ministry after his suspension by the Presbytery meant that there was a spiritual repentance and restoration as a Presbyterian undershepherd.   That is possible, given biblical repentance, but as our Book of Church Order states, “he (must)  exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heal the wound made by his scandal.” (Rules of Discipline, 34:8.)  While the court which brought about the censure has the ultimate responsibility to do that,  all of us Christians need to be ready as Paul puts it in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (KJV)  The case of “overtaken” speaks of being overtaken suddenly by a sin.  In addition, the word “restore” is a medical one.  It spoke of a bone out of joint, which was to put back tenderly and resolutely by those  who are spiritual.   Are you available and able to become that kind of spiritual helper to restore a sinner who is repentant to the visible church of Jesus Christ?

This year marks the 255th anniversary of the Bethel Presbyterian Church of Clover, South Carolina. Bethel was also, in 2974, one of the founding churches of the Presbyterian Church in America, and the church remains to this day one of the oldest constituted churches in the PCA, having been organized in 1764. An anniversary volume on the history of the church, edited by Helen Grant and Janice Currence, remains available (I think) and if so, can be ordered from the church.

Rev. George Gray McWhorter, 4th 
Pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clover, South Carolina, 1796 – 1801.
BethelPCA_CloverSC_250thThe Rev. George Gray McWhorter served Bethel from July 7, 1796 – September 29, 1801. Bethel had united with Beersheba Presbyterian Church in calling Rev. McWhorter and he served both congregations for the same period of time.

George Gray McWhorter was born in 1762.  One source states that his parents were possibly Jacob McWhorter and Elizabeth Gray McWhorter.  He was married to Eliza Drusilla Cooper  and they were the parents of eight children.  One child, James Miller McWhorter, died while Rev. McWhorter was the pastor at Bethel.  This child died January 15, 1800 at the age of 4 years 11 months and 1 day and is buried in Bethel Cemetery.

Little is known about Rev. McWhorter’s education except that he was trained for the ministry under Dr. James Hall.

After serving Bethel and Beersheba for five years, he resigned the charge in 1801, moved south, and served several different churches in South Carolina.  At a later period he moved to the state of Alabama.  Historical accounts state that in about 1823 Rev. McWhorter reorganized Lowndesboro Presbyterian Church, Lowndesboro, Alabama.  Then later about 1825 Rev. McWhorter became the first pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.

Rev. McWhorter was a Patriot in the Revolutionary War.  At the sight of his grave he has a DAR marker that reads:

“Revolutionary Soldier George Gray McWhorter
1775 – 1783
Placed by William Bibb Chapter D.A.R.”

In his fading days he remained strong in faith and hope.  Like most of God’s ministers he was poor.  Although destitute of the luxuries and almost all of the necessities of life, he continued to preach the gospel to the destitute with all the vigor of youth.

Rev. McWhorter died June 18, 1829 in Washington (Autauga County), Alabama.  He is buried beside his wife in Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.  The inscription on his tombstone reads:

“He was a Patriot and soldier in the Revolutionary War . . . Sacred to the memory of Rev. George Gray McWhorter – he was a minister of the Gospel of the Presbyterian order forty years . . . Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord . .  Let angels trim their lamps and watch his sleeping clay till the last trumpet bid him rise to bright celestial day . . . Also, Mrs. Eliza McWhorter . . . Born February 4, 1769 . . . Died February 3, 1810”

Though never a member of the PCA, Dr. Strong was an influential voice among theologically conservative Presbyterians in the mid-20th century. 

People Loved to Hear Him Preach

strongRobertFrequently we have heard pastors speak about how they love to preach the Word of God. And that is great.  But to hear that God’s people love to hear their pastors preach, well, that is less heard today.  Yet it was the case that people loved to hear the Rev. Dr. Robert Strong preach the Word.  Who was he?

Robert Strong was born in the windy city of Chicago on June 13, 1906. He moved to California to attend college soon after his graduation from high school.  He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1920 with honors.  He studied next at the University of Southern California for his Master of Arts and Master of Theology degrees in 1930 – 1932.  Returning east, he attended the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, from which he earned his Bachelor of Theology degree.  A Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Temple University finished out his educational experience.

At some point prior to 1936, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  But in that pivotal issue confronting the Presbyterian Church in the mid thirties, Robert Strong took his stand with  Bible believers and joined the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936.  He was to stay in that new church and later on through the name change to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church until 1949.

Part of his initial pastoral ministry took place in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, when he led 225 members out of the PCUSA in 1936.  For three vital years, Pastor Strong met with the members of this beginning church in the American Legion post.  The church continues today as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Dr. Strong joined the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in 1949.  Why the change?  Students of Presbyterian history realize that there was a schism in  the Orthodox Presbyterian church in that year of 1949 between the views on apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark.   Robert Strong left the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and joined the Southern Presbyterian church, indicating his position on the topic.

Two Presbyterian churches down south were  sites for his pastorates.  The first was the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia.   And the second was Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  Both churches are presently in the Presbyterian Church in America.

In 1973, Dr. Strong left the pastoral ministry to become Homiletics and Practical Theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaching there until his retirement in 1978.  After a life time of service for Christ, he would enter glory in June 17, 1980.

Words to Live By:
From the Journal of the  Evangelical Theological Society, the following memoriam was written:  “Robert Strong was a model Christian scholar, possessed of a keen mind that he used well.  He read widely and had varied interests, one of them being the relation of Christianity, the Bible, and science.  He was a highly gifted preacher who loved to preach, and people loved to hear  him preach.  He enjoyed greatly the opportunity to participate in the equipping of young men for the gospel ministry.  He was a man of many gifts who used those gifts well in the service of our Lord.”  Using gifts well in the service of the Lord!  Are not all Christians in general, and Christian ministers in particular, to use their God-given abilities well? May God grant that it be so.

Chronology for the Life of Dr. Robert Strong—
Born 13 June 1907 in Chicago, IL to Walter Wills Strong and his wife Genevieve Kipley Strong.
Educated at UCLA, 1926-30, AB; University of Southern California, 1930-32, AM, Th.M.; Westminster Theological Seminary, 1933-34, Th.B.; Temple University, 1936-38, S.T.D.
Married Roberta Kirkpatrick, Long Beach, CA, 27 May 1933. Children born to this marriage included Patricia (Mrs. Harry Gould Barrett, Jr.); and James Walter Strong..
Licensed in May and ordained on 1 June 1934 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia [PCUSA]
Installed as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church [Independent], Willow Grove, PA, 1933-1949
Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA, 1949-59.
Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973.
Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1973-1980.
Died on 7 June 1980 in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida.

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.

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