November 2019

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We Don’t Do Evangelism!

A speaker over the phone actually said the words of our title to a friend of this author. She was shocked, and so was I upon hearing it. Have they snipped out by scissors the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 – 20? The very existence of our Presbyterian Church in America is that of being committed to the Great Commission. Certainly the subject of our post today when he sailed for the New Hebrides in 1846 was for the purpose of evangelism. His name was John Geddie.

John Geddie was born in Scotland on April 10, 1815 to John and Mary Geddie. At the tender age of two, his parents sailed to Pictou, Nova Scotia in Canada. Joining the Succession Presbyterian Church there, the young Geddie was trained in the ordinary schools of that province while joining his father in his clock making business. But his real interest was spent in reading books sent by the London Missionary Society. He was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior through these means at age nineteen. Enrolling in theology courses, he would be licensed to preach the gospel in 1837 and ordained as a Presbyterian minister one year later. Marrying Charlotte MacDonald in 1839, they set about rearing a family which eventually reached eight children.

Having a call to serve the Lord outside of Canada was made difficult in that no Presbyterian church was actively involved in foreign missions. Geddie organized a mission society in his local congregation. Yet even with the organization established, missionary endeavors were slow in coming to fruition. This was all too obvious when the regional synod voted 13 to 12 to select a mission field to even evangelize!  Yet one year later, on November 30, 1846, John Geddie, his wife Charlotte, and two small children sailed for the New Hebrides. Landing on the island of Aneiteum, they set at once to build a ministry among the natives.

For the next fifteen years, they sought to be faithful to the Great Commission in the midst of these heathen tribes. Often John would be assaulted by spears and stones as he traveled from one place to another. Then six years after he landed, several native chiefs converted to biblical Christianity. Thirty-five hundred natives, nearly one half of the population, threw away their idols and avowed the true Jehovah as their God and Savior. Immediately, the converted natives began to obey the Great Commission and send Christian teachers to other islands in the chain of the New Hebrides. Indeed, if you look up the country today (known as Vanuatu), you will see their religion to be Christian.

James Geddie died on December 14, 1872, but not before he had translated the entire New Testament in their language. He was in the process of working on the Old Testament when he was taken home to glory.

The island memorial to John Geddie is stunning to behold. It reads, “when he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen.”

Words to Live By:
A friend of this author had made one rule his guide in his ministerial life. For every milestone he passes, he endeavors to share the gospel with that many strangers in his ministry area. Thus, if he has turned fifty years of age, then he endeavors to witness to fifty unsaved individuals. Now, whether that goal brings 50 conversions is entirely dependent upon the work of the Spirit of God. We Reformed Christians understand that!  But do we recognize the command of the Great Commission is to be carried out by us? Or is it our practice that we do not do evangelism?

As they say, “And now for something entirely different.”

On this Friday following Thanksgiving—hopefully for most a day at home to relax—we hope you will take time to watch this most informative video clip. It runs just under 13 minutes.

This video came to my attention yesterday–a documentary on one of the leading voices in defence of Biblical orthodoxy during the Modernist Controversy in the first several decades of the 20th century—the Rev. J. Gresham Machen. Contemporary to Dr. Machen was the journalist, social critic and agnostic H. L. Mencken, who, despite his disagreements with Machen on the truth of Scripture & even the existence of God, nonetheless highly admired Machen & wrote an obituary for him that pays him great tribute. Pastor Jason Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Magna, UT, who produced this film, asked Chris Arnzen, radio host at Iron Sharpens Iron, to record, in his imagined voice of Mencken (“guided only by the image of a grizzled jounalist holding a cigar in one hand & a glass of bourbon in the other”), Mencken’s obituary for Machen, which dominates this brief documentary. Enjoy.

Time and again, the Lord has shown Himself faithful.

You would do well to take your Bible this Thanksgiving weekend and begin a study on how often throughout the Scriptures the Lord instructs us to remember His works. And why is that? Obviously, that we should not forget Him, that we should be conscious of His faithfulness, that we should be thankful for His daily providences, and all to the end that we should glorify Him and worship Him, as the Lord alone deserves.

The Psalms are, as we might expect, full of such instruction. To give but a few examples:

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. (Ps. 44:1)

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein . . . He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered;… (Ps. 111:2a, 4a)

One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. (Ps. 145:4)

Indeed, this is one of those themes of Scripture, which, once your eyes are opened to it, you begin to see it everywhere. Presbyterian history will take a break today, that you might reflect on your own history, and so praise God for all that He is to you.

John Flavel, in his Mystery of Providence, speaks to our point:

Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them.
Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed.

In his day, Dr. Joseph S. Edie, M. D., was a venerable and esteemed elder of the Presbyterian Church at Christiansburg, Va.

He was born in Brooke county, Virginia on November 27th, 1798, and graduated at Hampden Sidney College in 1825.

About that time he came to Christiansburg as a teacher. Here he entered at once with great energy upon Christian work, and established the first Sabbath School in the place. Subsequently he established another school on Mr. Van Lear’s place on the North Fork of Roanoke, and did much in circulating tracts and religious reading among the people. After the organization of the Church at Christiansburg, in which he exerted a strong influence, he went to teach school in Lewisburg, Virginia, and pursued the study of medicine. During an absence of several years he taught also at Union, Monroe county, and completed his medical course in Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned to Christiansburg in 1832, and continued in the practice of his profession there for the remainder of his life.

He was a member of the Presbyterian church at Christiansburg for over fifty-six years, and a ruling elder for forty-nine years. “It is,” said his pastor, “perhaps enough to add that during all this time the church has never had a more valued or valuable member or officer. His name will be linked especially with the names of R. D. Montague and William Wade, and it is no disparagement to those excellent men and women who have stood with them, to say that to these three men, more than to any others, is due, under God, the success of the church in all its early struggles, and in much of its subsequent history. The church has never had in it men more devoted to its interests, or men of greater piety, weight of character and practical wisdom.”

Words to Live By:
Every good church has those faithful men and women who really are the ones who keep the church operating and who get things done, not for themselves, but selflessly and for the whole congregation. Remember to pray for these saints.

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Parking Space Number 23

You might wonder what in the world is a post about a parking space doing in This Day in Presbyterian History?  Well, if this author tells you that it is the final resting place of Scot Reformer John Knox, as seen in the photo of this post, you will understand.  And yet we don’t really understand or comprehend it.  All right, every church needs a parking lot. Every church needs space for its worshiper’s automobiles. But to pave over a portion of the church graveyard without moving the graves there, especially the grave of a former pastor of the church and Reformation leaders, namely John Knox, that is really crass, in this author’s opinion. But that is exactly what happened sometime in the 1970’s of the last century.

knoxJohn_parkingLot23

His funeral had taken place on this day, November 26, 1572, two days after  he died. Read the words of Thomas M’Cree from the “Life of John Knox” (p. 277):

“On Wednesday, the 26th of November, he (knox) was interred in the church-yard of St. Giles.  His funeral was attended by the newly-elected regent, Morton, by all the nobility who were in the city, and a great concourse of people.”

  1. M. Hetherington in his History of the Church of Scotland on pg 77 continues the story of his burial when he wrote:

“When his (Knox) was lowered into the grave, and gazing thoughtfully into the open sepulcher, the regent emphatically pronounced his eulogium in these words, ‘There lies he who never feared the face of man.’”

Regent Morton knew himself the truthfulness of these final words as John Knox had reproved him to his face, with Hetherington calling the regent later on in his history “that bold bad man.” (p. 77)

It is interesting to this author that, despite searching, he has not found anything of the burial service itself other than these brief remarks around the grave. We in these United States usually have a funeral message, with Scripture being read, and other remarks of comfort and promises  regarding the bodily resurrection of the Christian being buried.

What we do know is that in St. Giles Cathedral parking lot is a parking space with number 23 painted on it, with a blank yellow stone at  its head. Below that yellow stone that can be found written  in a circle of colored bricks the following message, “The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St. Giles graveyard of John Knox the great Scottish divine who died on 24 November 1572.”

Words to Live By:
There are several monuments to John Knox in Edinburgh, one inside St. Giles Cathedral itself. Another one is standing in Geneva, Switzerland. In one sense, all of Scotland is a memorial to this great Reformer. whether they acknowledge it or not. We who are the spiritual Presbyterian heritage of John Knox, have the hope and confidence that one day Parking Space number 23 will be emptied of its remains and John Knox will be reunited with his spirit already up in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus.

An Orphan without a Father Becomes a Son of God the Father
by Rev. David T. Myers

We could say without any doubt that the character of today’s post had early years which were difficult ones. Richard B. Cater was born some date in December of 1791. Before he turned age wise into his teens however, put yourselves into the fact that he experienced both his father and mother passing away in death. His uncle, a military general, took on the task of caring for his relative, but alas, was lost at sea soon after that relationship began. Relatives placed him under a minister by the name of Moses Waddel when he was sixteen years of age.

That so very well known Presbyterian theologian and pastor taught him the basic subjects of learning, but also did not neglect the spiritual ones. Studies in the Christian religion soon gave young Richard the evidences of new birth in his soul. And when he had finished his education, he was led by the Holy Spirit to become a minister,

It was said that he was small in stature, but mighty in words, especially the words of Scripture. His energy never slumbered or faltered under any circumstance. In 1837, he left South Carolina for Alabama, and there was installed the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Selma, Alabama.

It was soon noticed in his preaching that his one sole object was “to persuade sinners to be reconciled to God as well as build up Christians in the most holy faith.” And his subjects for ministry did not neglect the countless slaves then residing in the area. He was a powerhouse for the gospel to both races.

He would go to be with his Heavenly Father on November 24, 1850.

Words to Live By:
Not all of our readers are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to be pastors of the gospel. But all of us as Christians have the same Great Commission, like our subject today, to be evangelists. persuading sinners to be reconciled to God. Question? Who are you, reader, praying for today to come to Christ? A family member? A next door neighbor? A fellow worker at your place of business? A fellow student in your school? You don’t have to be a pastor to do that! In fact, you often have more contacts than those in the pulpit! Pray and witness for Christ this week, following the example of Richard Cater to be a powerhouse for the gospel in your neighborhood.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

The Westminster Shorter Catechism – Questions 63 & 64

Q. 63. Which is the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment is, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” Exod. xx. 12.

EXPLICATION.

Honor thy father and thy mother. –Esteem and love them; obey their commands, when these are not contrary to the commandments of God; and maintain them with a part of the fruit of thy labor, if they be in want, and unable to support themselves.

Q. 64. What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one, in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

EXPLICATION.

Preserving the honor. –Paying every one that respect which is due to them, in their rank and station in life.

Superiors. –Those who are above us in station, such as Parents, Masters, Ministers, Magistrates, &c.

Inferiors. –Those who are below us in rank, such as children, servants, people, subjects, &c.

Equals. –Those of the same rank with ourselves, such as brother, sisters, neighbors, &c.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer we are taught three things:

  1. That there are different degrees or relations among men, such as superiors, inferiors, and equals.
  2. That we are commanded to preserve the honor belonging to every one in their several places and relations. –Rom. xiii. 7. Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
  3. That we are also commanded to perform the duties belonging to every one in their several places and relations; –such as,

(1.) The duty which we owe to our superiors. –Eph. vi. 1, 5. Children, obey your parents in the Lord. Servants, be obedient to those that are your masters, according to the flesh. Rom. xiii. 1. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.

(2.) Those which we owe to our inferiors. –Eph. vi. 4, 9. Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening; knowing that your Master also is in heaven.

(3.) The duties which we owe our equals. –Rom. xii. 10. Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.

The following short article appeared on the pages of The Charleston Observer in 1840, reprinted there from The Presbyterian, a Philadelphia paper.  The article was written in response to actions taken in the Presbyterian Church at that time, correcting the error of disuse into which the diaconal office had fallen

We are pleased to observe that the injunctions of the General Assembly, relative to the appointment of Deacons in our several Churches, has attracted attention, and in many instances, has led inferior judicatories to take immediate measures to supply the glaring defect which is so general, and has been so long continued.  The disuse into which the office has fallen, has arisen from a wrong impression, that it may properly be dispensed with in any Church which has no poor dependent on its charity, or where the Elders without inconvenience, can attend to the poor.  In reply to this, we refer to the requirements of the Church, which are imperative on the subject.  The Deacon is an officer who is spoken of as an indispensable part of a rightly organized Church, and if he may be set aside by such a plea, as the one above alluded to, with the same propriety may the Ruling Elder be dispensed with, on some similar plea.  The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.  Is he under no obligations to accompany these charities with kindly visits, religious conversation, and prayer?  Is he not to give counsel to the widow in her affliction, and instruction to the orphan?–He may be a co-adjutor to the Elder, and aid the Pastor materially in the well-ordering of the Church.  The office of the Deacon was not designed to be a temporary one ; there is not one intimation in Scripture to this effect ; and although it originated in the peculiar wants of the Church at the time, yet those wants will always exist in a degree sufficient to justify its continuance.–The duty of the Churches, therefore, is clear: they should forthwith choose out suitable men to fill this office.–The Presbyterian.

[The Charleston Observer, 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 6]

Principles of the Second Reformation of Scotland (1638)
by Rev. David T. Myers

The readers of these posts should be familiar with the first Reformation in Scotland, featuring John Knox and others who raised the bar of God’s truth to the people and basically led the entire nation out of Romanism. The second Reformation, which began at a General Assembly meeting on November 21, 1638 in Glasgow, Scotland, and continued for ten tumultuous years afterward, was in essence a reformation from Prelacy. [Prelacy is defined as the government of the Christian Church by “clerics of high social rank and power.”]

We have an excellent presentation of the Principles of the Second Reformation presented in a lecture by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Symington, a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Delivered in 1841 in Glasgow under the auspices of the Society for Promoting the Scriptural Principles of the Second Reformation, he gave a long lecture of the six principles of that reformation.  The whole address is much too long for our purposes here, but this writer will give them in succinct form for your reading pleasure. Click here if you wish to read the full lecture.

First, the Second Reformation placed as foremost the universal supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Symington noted that the Lord Jesus “is given to be the head of all things to the church. The church is Christ’s. He has loved her, redeemed her, chartered her, and given  her a constitution, immunities, and laws, and officers.”

Another leading principle is the spiritual independence of the church of Christ. Symington added that “the church receives the doctrines of her faith, the institutions of her worship, her polity, and her discipline from Jesus Christ, independently of all foreign authority.”

The third principle, the supreme and ultimate authority of the word of God in the church, was in effect a summary of the Second Reformation. Its people and adherents, said Dr. Symington, “brought every matter of faith, worship, discipline, and government, to the test of the divine word.”

Next, another principle of the Second Reformation was “the subjection of nations to God and to Christ.”  Rev. Symington was clear that “civil authority should acknowledge Divine Revelation, bow at the footstool of Jesus’ throne, and erect its constitution, enact its laws, and conduct its administration, in subservience to the interests of the kingdom of Christ.”

Fifth, the duties of covenanting with God, and the obligation of religious covenants were important. Historically, that General Assembly meeting in Glasgow in 1638 began with a repetition of the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant.  Such covenanting “united friends . . . in the bonds of truth.”

And last, these Presbyterians of centuries ago, acted upon the principle of holding fast past attainments, advancing in reformation, and extending its blessings to others.”  We Presbyterians in the United States can be thankful that they “cast their eyes abroad, contemplating the enlargement of the Kingdom of the Savior.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Symington stated the obvious when he said that the church of God, since it was first established in Eden, has never had a very lengthy period of prosperity. Yet it is also true that we can reflect on our Savior’s promise to the church in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of Hades will not overpower” the church.  Let us be comforted in this promise even as we seek to extend her witness to the nations around us.

The first Presbytery of English Puritans was held at Wandsworth, on November 20, 1572, the same year as the Bartholomew massacre. The organizer of this first Presbytery, and the leader of early Presbyterianism in England, was the Rev. Thomas Cartwright, a professor of Divinity in Cambridge. In the appendix to Charles A. Brigg’s American Presbyterianism, there is provided a “Directory of Church Government” practiced by the first nonconformists [non-Anglicans] in the days of Queen Elizabeth, called “Cartwright’s Book of Discipline.” In due course of time Presbyterianism came to be quite powerfully organized in the vicinity of London, even in Elizabeth’s day, but it was rather as a church inside of the state church.

When Elizabeth died, James VI. of Scotland ascended the throne as James I. of England. His mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, had been thwarted by the Presbyterians of Scotland, and James himself had been in perpetual conflict with them. He came to the throne of England a natural despot, confident of his ability, intellectually and physically, to carry out his own will. He was a scholarly, skillful, profane, drunken fool. On the way from Edinburgh to London he received the Millenary Petition, asking relief for the Puritans, and held a conference, under his own presiding, between the friends of High Church Episcopacy and the representatives of free Protestantism. The High Church pretensions and flattery completely carried the day with his egotism; and the only outcome was his agreement to the suggestion of Edward Reynolds, of Oxford, spokesman in behalf of the Puritans, that there should be a new and better translation of the English Bible. That gave us King Jame’s Version.

In 1816 he published a book of sports “to encourage recreation and sports on the Lord’s day.” His theory was “no bishop, no king.” Throughout his reign, therefore, while resisting popery, he sought only to make himself pope of the Episcopal Church in England, and that Episcopal Church the only Church in the three kingdoms. He said that “presbytery agreeth with a monarchy as well as God with the devil.

Source:
Hay, George P., Presbyterians, pp. 46-48.

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