January 2020

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In His Time, the Lord Will Raise Up a Man.

There is so much that could be told here about our subject today. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was born in Pennsylvania, near what is now the city of Harrisburg, in 1746. His parents were godly Scots-Irish settlers who raised their children in the fear of the Lord. When Samuel was just nine, his parents moved the family to North Carolina where they settled a 300 tract of forested land and with great labor, turned it into a farm. The family also became members of the historic congregation that would later be known as the Thyatira Church, not far from Salisbury, NC.

Samuel excelled at learning and even taught his brothers and sisters before going off to the College of New Jersey, where he studied under Dr. John Witherspoon. Upon graduation, he studied theology with his uncle in New Jersey, and then began to seek ordination and a pastoral call to serve a church. In God’s providence, he returned to the Thyatira Church to serve there as pastor from 1777 until his death on January 21, 1811.

But what particularly caught my eye as I read through one account of his life was the following paragraph, which brought back a professor’s lesson in seminary. Teaching a course on “The Introduction to Theology” at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in the late 1970’s, Professor John Frame noted how often the Lord raises up one man to stand against the tide of unbelief and opposition. Besides some of the obvious Biblical examples of Moses and Daniel, he cited Athenasius and Martin Luther, among others. It is in that same vein that this following account seems so important. Here we have a picture of early America that we may not have seen before, but it is also a picture in many respects much like today:

During the Revolutionary war, and especially from the summer of 1780, when the South became the theatre of conflict, the country was in a state of utter confusion, and vice of almost every kind prevailed to an alarming extent. The civil character of the war, too, gave it a peculiar ferocity, and produced a licentiousness of morals, of which there is scarcely a parallel at the present day. The municipal laws of the country could not be enforced, civil government was prostrated for a time, and society was virtually resolved into its original elements. Mr. McCorkle came out in reference to this state of things in his utmost strength. He preached, prayed, reasoned, and remonstrated–nor were his labours in vain. From the close of the Revolutionary war, and especially from the breaking out of the Revolution in France,—North Carolina, in common with other parts of the country, was overrun with French infidelity. Here again, he stood forth the indomitable champion of Christianity : he not only preached but published in defence of Divine Revelation; and infidelity quailed before him. It has been confidently asserted that more was done, in that part of the country, by his efforts, to arrest this tide of evil, which threatened at one time to sweep every thing before it, than by any or all other opposing influences.

Words to Live By:
Surely our times today are no worse than what you read pictured in the quote above. Then should we think that the Lord’s arm is now too short to save? (Num. 11:23; Isa. 59:1). Surely not! God can still work a mighty work, as great or greater than He did in McCorkle’s day. The only question is, are we waiting on Him in expectant prayer?
Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

For Further Study:
A biography of Rev. McCorkle, titled The Prophet of Zion-Parnassus, was written by James F. Hurley and Julia Goode Eagan, and can now be read on the Web, here.

Rising out of a Sunday School class here in St. Louis, with reflection upon the life and ministry of Francis A. Schaeffer, our post today departs from our normally calendar-tied postings. Schaeffer was clearly a man who understood the times, and that recognition easily paired up with some recent reading in J.C. Ryle’s book, HOLINESS. 

I pray you will find this profitable in a day when the Church is often sorely tried and test.

Executive Summary — Chapter 19

[excerpted from Holiness, by J.C. Ryle. Banner of Truth, reprinted 2016, pp. 391-413.

Men that had understanding of the times. — I Chron. 12:32.

“These words were written about the tribe of Issachar, in the days when David first began to reign over Israel. It seems that after Saul’s unhappy death, some of the tribes of Israel were undecided what to do. ‘Under which king?’ was the question of the day in Palestine. Men doubted whether they should cling to the family of Saul, or accept David as their king. Some hung back, and would not commit themselves; others came forward boldly, and declared for David. Among these last were many of the children of Issachar; and the Holy Ghost gives them a special word of praise. He says, ‘They were men that had understanding of the times.’

I cannot doubt that this sentence, like every sentence in Scripture, was written for our learning. These men of Issachar are set before us as a pattern to be imitated and an example to be followed: for it is a most important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to know what those times require. The wise men in the court of Ahasuerus ‘knew the times’ (Esther 1:13). Our Lord Jesus Christ blames the Jews because they ‘knew not the time of their visitation’, and did not ‘discern the signs of the times’ (Matt. 16:3; Luke 19:44). Let us take heed lest we fall into the same sin. The man who is content to sit ignorantly by his own fireside, wrapped up in his own private affairs, and has no public eye for what is going on in the Church and the world, is a miserable patriot, and a poor style of Christian. Next to our Bibles and our own hearts, our Lord would have us study our own times.

Consider what our own times require at our hands:

I. First, and foremost, the times require of us a bold and unflinching maintenance of the entire truth of Christianity, and the Divine authority of the Bible.

II. In the second place, the times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine.

III. In the third place, the times require of us an awakened and livlier sense of the unscriptural and soul-ruining character of Romanism.

Here Ryle can easily be seen speaking to a major concern of his day, and for this third point we might easily reduce his point to the soul-ruining character of unbelief in all its many forms.

IV. In the fourth place, the times require of us a higher standard of personal holiness, and an increased attention to practical religion in daily life.

V. In the fifth and last place, the times require of us more regular and steady perseverance in the old ways of getting good for our souls.

a. Let us pray more heartily in private.

b. Let us read our Bibles in private more.

c. Let us cultivate the habit of keeping up more private meditation and communion with Christ.

Practical application:

(1) Would you understand what the times require of you in reference to your own soul?

(2) Would you understand what the times require of all Christians in reference to the souls of others?

(3) Would you understand what the times require of you in reference to the Church?

No doubt you live in days when our time-honored Church is in a very perilous, distressing, and critical position. Her rowers have brought her into troubled waters. Her very existence is endangered without by all manner of unbelief. Her life-blood is drained away by the behavior of traitors, false friends, and timid officers within.. Nevertheless, so long as the Church sticks firmly to the Bible, the Standards, and the principles of the Protestant Reformation, so long I advise you strongly to stick to the Church. When the Standards are thrown overboard and the old flag is hauled down, then, and not till then, it will be time for you and me to launch the boats and quit the wreck. At present, let us stick to the old ship.

Why should we leave her now, like cowards, because she is in difficulties and the truth cannot be maintained within her pale without trouble? How can we better ourselves? To whom can we go? Where shall we find better prayers? In what communion shall we find so much good being done, in spite of the existence of much evil? No doubt there is much to sadden us; but there is not a single visible Church on earth at this day doing better. There is not a single communion where there are no clouds, and all is serene. ‘The evils everywhere are mingled with the good’; the wheat never grows without tares. But for all that, there is much to gladden us, more Evangelical preaching than there ever was before in the land, more work done both at home and abroad.

If old William Romaine, of St. Anne’s, Blackfriars, who stood alone with some half-a-dozen others in London last century, had lived to see what our eyes see, he would have sharply rebuked our faintheartedness and unthankfulness. No! the battle of the Reformed Church is not yet lost, in spite of unbelief, semi-idolatry and scepticism, whatever jealous onlookers without and melancholy grumblers within may please to say. As Napoleon said at four o’clock on the battlefield of Marengo, ‘There is yet time to win a victory.’ If the really loyal members of the Church will only stand by her boldly, and not look coolly at one another, and refuse to work kthe same fire-engine, or man the same lifeboat–if they will not squabble and quarrel and ‘fall out by the way,’ the Church will live and not die, and be a blessing to our children’s children.

Then let us set our feet down firmly and stand fast in our position. Let us not be in a hurry to quit the ship because of a few leaks; let us rather man the pumps, and try to keep the good ship afloat. Let us work on, and fight on, and pray on, and stick to the Church. The Churchman who walks in these lines, I believe, is the Churchman who ‘understands the times.’

A good sentence found on Page 287 in McCrie’s Lives of the Scottish Reformers, which might be used as an opener on some post:

“The year 1596 is memorable in the history of the church of Scotland. “It had,” says James Melville, “a strange variety and mixture; the beginning thereof with a shew of profit in planting the churches with perpetual local stipends; the midst of it very comfortable for the exercise of reformation and renewing the covenant; but the end of it tragical in wasting the Zion of our Jerusalem, the church of Edinburgh, and threatening no less to many of the rest.”

James Melville (26 July 1556 – 1614) was a Scottish divine and reformer, son of the laird of Baldovie, in Forfarshire. He was educated at Montrose and St Leonard’s College, St Andrews.

In 1574 he proceeded to the University of Glasgow. There his uncle, Andrew Melville, the reformer and scholar, was principal. Within a year James became one of the regents.

When, in 1580, Andrew became Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews (then called New College), James accompanied him, and acted as Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages. For three and a half years he lectured in the university, chiefly on Hebrew, but he had to flee to Berwick in May 1584 (a few months after his uncle’s exile) to escape the attacks of his ecclesiastical enemy, Bishop Patrick Adamson. After a short stay there and at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and again at Berwick, he proceeded to London, where he joined some of the leaders of the Scottish Presbyterian party.

The taking of Stirling Castle in 1585 having changed the political and ecclesiastical positions in the north, he returned to Scotland in November of that year, and was restored to his office at St Andrews. From 1586 to his death he took an active part in Church controversy.

In 1589 he was moderator of the General Assembly and on several occasions represented his party in conferences with the court. Despite his antagonism to James’s episcopal schemes, he appears to have won the king’s respect. He answered, with his uncle, a royal summons to London in 1606 for the discussion of Church policy.

The uncompromising attitude of the kinsmen, though it was made the excuse for sending the elder to the Tower, brought no further punishment to James than easy detention within ten miles of Newcastle-on-Tyne. During his residence there it was made clear to him by the king’s agents that he would receive high reward if he supported the royal plans. In 1613 negotiations were begun for his return to Scotland, but his health was broken, and he died at Berwick in January 1614.

Melville has left ample materials for the history of his time from the Presbyterian standpoint, in (a) correspondence with his uncle Andrew Melville (MS. in the library of the university of Edinburgh), and (b) a diary (MS. in the Advocates Library, Edinburgh). The latter is written in a vigorous, fresh style, and is especially direct in its descriptions of contemporaries. His sketch of John Knox at St Andrews is one of his best passages. It is an original authority for the period, written with much naïveté, and revealing an attractive personality.

As a writer of verse he compares unfavourably with his uncle. All his pieces, with the exception of a libellus supplex to King James, are written in Scots. He translated a portion of the Zodiacus vitae of Palingenius, and adapted some passages from Scaliger under the title of Description of the Spainyarts naturall. His Spiritual Propine of a Pastour to his People (1598), The Black Bastill, a lamentation for the kirk (1611), Thrie may keip Counsell, give Twa be away, The Beliefe of the Singing Soul, Davids Tragique Fall, and a number of sonnets show no originality and indifferent technical ability.

The Diary was printed by the Bannatyne Club in 1829, and by the Wodrow Society in 1842. Large portions of it are incorporated in David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) History of the Kirk of Scotland (first printed in 1678). For the life and times, see Thomas McCrie’s Life of Andrew Melville.


Page 350 – death of Melville, January 19th, 1614.

“A letter from Sir James Fullerton, which he received in the month of April, 1614, gave a shock to his feelings which it required all his fortitude to bear. His dearest friend, and most affectionate and dutiful nephew, James Melville, was no more. His health had for some time been in a state of decline, which was accelerated by grief at the issue of public affairs in Scotland, which his extreme sensibility disposed him to brood over with too intense and exclusive an interest. In consequence of the importunity of his friends and an apparent earnest invitation from archbishop Gladstanes, he set out for Edinburgh, in the beginning of the year 1614, to arrange matters for his return to Kilrinny, or, if this was found impracticable, to resign his charge and make permanent provision for that parish. But he had not gone far when he was taken so ill as to be unable to proceed on the journey, and with difficulty returned to Berwick. The medicines prescribed by the physicians failed in arresting the progress of the distemper, which soon exhibited alarming symptoms. He received the intimation of his danger with the most perfect composure, and told his friends that he was not only resigned to the will of God, but satisfied that he could not die at a more proper season. On Wednesday the 19th of January, he “set his house in order;” and all his children being present, except his son Andrew, (who was prosecuting his theological studies at Sedan,) he gave them his dying charge and parental blessing. His friend Joshua Drury, minister of St. Andrews, and Patrick Hume of Ayton, a gentleman who had shown him great kindness during his residence at Berwick, waited by his bed-side. The greater part of his time was spent in prayer. When he mentioned the Church of Scotland, he prayed for repentance and forgiveness to those who had caused a schism in it by overturning its reformed discipline; and, addressing those around him, he said: “In my life I ever detested and resisted the hierarchy, as a thing unlawful and antichristian, for which I am an exile, and I take you all to witness that I die in the same judgment.” He made particular mention of his uncle at Sedan; gave him a high commendation for learning, but still more for courage and constancy in the cause of Christ; and prayed that God would continue and increase the gifts bestowed on him. In the midst of the acute pain which he endured during that night and the succeeding morning, he expressed his resignation and confidence chiefly in the language of Scripture, and often repeated favourite sentences from the Psalms in Hebrew. Being reminded by some of his attendants of the Christian assurance which the apostle Paul had expressed in the prospect of his death, he replied: “Every one is not a Paul; yet I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, and I am assured that I shall enter into glory.” — “Do you not wish to be restored to health?” said one of the attendants. “No; not for twenty worlds.” Perceiving nature to be nearly exhausted, his friends requested him to give them a token that he departed in peace; upon which he repeated the last words of the martyr Stephen, and breathed gently away.

[McCrie, Life of Andrew Melville, pp. 350-351; cf. Calderwood, MS. vii. 505-513.]

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by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 78.

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s good names.


Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth. –Every thing that is opposite, or contrary, or hurtful to the truth; such as, lying, flattery, dissimulation, &c.

Whatsoever is injurious to our own good name. –Every thing that is hurtful to our own character in the world; such as, sinful and imprudent speech, and improper conduct of every kind.

Whatsoever is injurious to our neighbor’s good name. –Every thing that may hurt the character of our neighbor among men; such as, speaking evil of those who, we think, may have done us wrong, taking pleasure to make known the real faults of another, and such like.


The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment, are three-fold:

  1. Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth. –Rom. iii. 13. With their tongues they have used deceit.  Col. iii. 9.  Lie not one to another.
  2. Whatsoever is injurious to our own good name. –Job xxvii. 5. God forbid that I should justify you; till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me.
  3. Whatever is injurious, or hurtful, to the character of our neighbor. –Psalm xv. 3. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor.  Exodus xxiii. 1.  Thou shalt not raise, or receive, a false report.

A nice long post for a cold winter’s day. Find a cozy chair and set aside some time to read:



It seems strange to speak of unevangelized people in this great Christian country of ours. And yet there are multitudes, amounting in the aggregate to millions, who never hear the Gospel preached, who make no claim to be in any true sense Christians, and who, practically considered, are as truly heathen as if they were in the heart of Africa or China. When we come to look more closely into the condition of these unevangelized people we find them falling naturally under two great classes: first, those who by reason of geographical isolation are beyond the reach of the stated means of grace; and second, those who by reason of social or spiritual isolation fail to come under the influence of the means of grace that are ready at hand.

As an illustration of the former class we have multitudes of people in secluded mountain hollows and out on the broad prairies who have no church edifice of any Christian denomination, or other place of stated religious worship, within twenty or thirty miles of their homes. They are practically without the opportunity of hearing the Gospel or of being taught the way of life. As illustrative of the latter class we have in all our great cities communities of the under classes of society, congregated by thousands in attics, basements, tenement-houses, and flats, who are within five minutes’ walk of churches and mission chapels whose doors are freely open to them, in which they are invited to seats without cost, in halls lighted, warmed, and supplied with the best services of ministry and choir; and yet who, from long-cherished prejudices and misconceptions, from a social ostracism real or imagined, refuse all invitations to enter, and live and die within sound of church bells, “so near and yet so far.” We suppose ourselves to have gotten a hearing. The unevangelized people are before us; how shall we preach?

I do not know how to answer this question better than by giving a concrete case. A few weeks since I had the opportunity, which I had long coveted, of hearing for the first time the most successful preacher to the unevangelized masses that I know. Going to the nearest railway station, hiring a horse and riding thirty miles across two mountain ranges, I came at sunset to the little county-seat in whose court-house the services were being held, there being no church edifice of any denomination in the place. It was in the latter part of May, when the people were all in the midst of the busiest season with their crops, and when it was most difficult to secure a congregation. As we entered the court-house at the hour of service I was astonished to find it packed to its utmost capacity, with many outside who could not get in. The dingy and uncomfortable court-room was only dimly lighted by one or two flickering coal-oil lamps. There were no musical attractions beyond the presence of a brother with a good voice who, accompanied by a small organ, led very simply in the singing of the most familiar Gospel hymns. It was evident that the preaching was what had gathered this great crowd of people, most of whom rarely if ever heard the Gospel preached. I had, therefore, full opportunity to study the preacher and the sermon—a sermon which, admirable from beginning to end, produced so profound an impression upon the people that I was not surprised when one of the rude mountaineers told me, after the service, that if that man preached a few days longer the court-house yard would not hold the people that would gather to hear.

Taking this sermon as a model of the kind of preaching needed, the following conclusions, I think, may be safely reached:

First, as to subject-matter, it is not necessary that we should select any out-of-the-way themes, or sensational topics, or subjects different from those that we would preach to one of our ordinary congregations of unconverted people. The text selected was John xii. 21, “We would see Jesus;” the theme, the threefold one, Jesus as a Friend; Jesus as a Savior; Jesus as a Brother. The sermon was as evangelical as possible—a simple setting forth of Christ in His varied relations to men. It is a common mistake to suppose that people who are not accustomed to attend church will not be interested in the simple story of the cross. On the other hand, if we will reflect a moment, we will see that there are reasons why they should be more interested in a simple Gospel sermon than those who are constant attendants upon the sanctuary, and yet who have not yielded their hearts to Christ. Because men never hear preaching it is not to be supposed for a moment that they do not think, and think profoundly, on the subject of religion. Many of them are the children of pious parents. They have drifted away from their early moorings, but have retained to a greater or less degree the influence of early religious impressions. All of them are, in the light of conscience, self-convicted sinners, however they may strive to close their ears to the verdict of the inward and spiritual monitor whose voice they can not altogether hush. Hence the story of the cross, of One who died for sin, of One whose blood cleanses from guilt, is just the story that they need to hear; and it comes home to them with all the more power because they have not been case-hardened by its frequent repetition in their ears, as those have who all their lives have been sitting under the sound of the Gospel. It is the dictate of the highest spiritual philosophy, as well as a conclusion from the largest experience and observation, that the subject-matter of our preaching to the unevangelized should be preeminently Christ in His person and His work; that in a stricter sense than under any other circumstances we should hold ourselves to the law of the great Apostle, and “know nothing among men save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

But passing to a second point, when we come to the manner of the preaching, we may learn much from the study of the sermon to which I have alluded. Taking it again as my guide, I lay down as my first principle that the preaching shall be sympathetic in tone. One of the first rules laid down for the orator is, “ Make much use of sympathetic emotion.” A great writer on sacred rhetoric pronounces it “the orator’s right arm.” This is particularly true where those whom you are to address are, from causes already alluded to, disposed to regard themselves as outcasts from Christian sympathy. It is indispensable that there shall be constituted between preacher and hearers at the earliest possible moment the bond of a common sympathy. Unfortunately, the attempts to do this are often exceedingly unwise. There is sometimes a maudlin assurance of profound and pitiful concern that is so patronizing and so condescending in its tone that it offends and provokes. There is with a certain class of self-styled evangelists a species of demagogism that seeks to ingratiate itself with the non-churchgoing masses by pandering to the spirit of opposition to the churches. Men of this class denounce the churches as cold and proud and seclusive. They endeavor to make of the indifference of Christian people in general toward outsiders the dark background on which their own yearning solicitude and affectionate regard may stand conspicuously forth. There are no greater enemies to the community than these mountebanks, whose chief stock in trade consists of abuse of the churches, and who conceive it to be their mission to widen the breach between the churches and the masses of the people, and thus undermine the power of the church to do them good.

The sermon of which I speak was entirely free from both these faults. The speaker in the treatment of his first head—Christ as a Friend—set forth with wonderful power and beauty Christ’s philanthropic interest in men—all men. He dwelt upon and illustrated His sympathy with the toils, cares, sicknesses, and sorrows, especially of those in the humbler walks of life. While the preacher made no reference to his own sympathy with men, yet, from beginning to close, you were impressed with the thought that the disciple had caught the spirit of the Master, and that there was in his bosom, tho not expressed in words, something of the same divine love for the souls of men, and the same tender sympathy with them in their troubles, which he was showing to be so conspicuous a feature in the character and life of Christ. No wonder then that long before he had concluded this first head he had that great throng of rough children of the forest so completely under his power that he could move them to tears at will. And this is and must always be the first element of power in dealing with these unevangelized people. We must get hold of their sympathies. We must get into their hearts.

A second principle to be laid down is that the preaching must be candid and thoroughgoing in its dealing with sin. When our mountain evangelist had presented fully under that first head what might be called the humanitarian view of Christ in His relations to men, he passed with all the momentum of the sympathy awakened to his second thought—that men need something more than a friend—they need a Savior from sin. And never in my life did I hear a more terrific arraignment of sin, not sin in the abstract, but sin in the concrete, the sin of the men and women before the speaker as it stood out in the light of their own memories and under the scourge of their own consciences while he spoke. But for the hold which he had gotten upon them in the first head of his discourse, his hearers would have revolted against the strong arraignment; but, with that hold, his sharpest rebukes were but the faithful woundings of a friend. The arrow went home, armed with the resistless power of love.

And so I contend that in all our preaching to the unevangelized, we must deal closely and faithfully with these great questions of guilt and depravity. We must presuppose the presence and power of conscience. We must expect the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That was an unevangelized man before whom Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” until the man trembled. Those were for the most part unevangelized people before whom John spoke of “the ax laid at the root of the tree,” and of “the chaff to be consumed with unquenchable fire.”

A third principle illustrated in the sermon is that the preaching should be characterized by great fulness and circumstantiality of Scriptural narrative. Persons who have been trained from childhood to listen to preaching may be held for three quarters of an hour to a train of logical reasoning or doctrinal exposition; but for those without this training it will be found that a large proportion of the sermon must be occupied with incident and illustration. Fortunately for the speaker the Scriptures are a great storehouse of incidents and illustrations, supernaturally preserved, and fitted to his hand. And there is this advantage in addressing the class to whom the true evangelist goes, that these stories come to them with a freshness and with the charm of a novelty that they do not possess for those to whom they have been repeated over and over again. It was exceedingly interesting to look into the faces of the simple-hearted mountain people and watch the play of emotion as the speaker, in his inimitable way, would tell the story of Christ’s dealing with some penitent or suffering soul while He was on earth. These were the passages of his sermon that were most replete with power, and so I contend that one characteristic of all preaching to these unevangelized masses should be fulness of Scripture narrative. I have also added circumstantiality, for the preacher is apt to forget that these people are not as familiar with the details of the Gospel narratives as ordinary sermon-hearers are. In our customary preaching we may and ought to presume upon a certain familiarity with the details of the more prominent incidents in the life of our Lord. In narrating them it is sufficient to. touch upon certain salient points, to give, as it were, mere outline sketches, trusting to the memory to fill in the rest; but in speaking to those who have not had the advantages of our ordinary hearers, the Scriptural narrative needs to be presented in its minuter details, and much of the strength and impressiveness of the narration will depend upon the graphic and vivid way in which the details are presented. One great secret of success in strictly evangelistic preaching is found in this power of Scriptural narration. Mr. Moody has it to a wonderful degree. Let any one read Mr. Moody’s sermons and he will soon discover that this is one of the marked elements of his power.

But we pass on from this to a last principle to be laid down, and one upon which it will not be necessary to enlarge, because it is applicable to all speaking. It is that the illustrations drawn from actual life shall be taken from spheres of life with which the hearers are familiar. In speaking to children we draw our illustrations from child-life, because the children can understand them better and enter into fuller sympathy with them. And so it will be apparent in a moment that there are multitudes of illustrations to be drawn from the Christian fireside, the family altar, and the inner life of the church with which the class of non-churchgoers would be entirely out of sympathy. A young friend of mine, desiring to illustrate the uncertainty of all earthly possessions, took as an illustration the breaking of a bank. He prepared the sermon for a city congregation, and, telling the story in a very pathetic way, it produced a profound impression. Preaching the sermon shortly afterward in a little country church, instead of using as an illustration a sudden frost, or blight, or mildew, he repeated pathetically his story of the fraudulent cashier and the broken bank, and was very much crestfallen when an old farmer said to him, coming out of church, “I didn’t take much stock in that bank story of yours; I think if people has got no more use for money than to hoard it up in bank, some rascal ought to come along and git it and scatter it where it will do some good.” There is a certain range of experiences with which the unevangelized people can not enter into sympathy, and illustrations drawn from these will meet the fate of the very admirable illustration of the young preacher from the broken bank.

If the principles which I have laid down are the correct ones it ought not to be so difficult a matter to reach the outlying masses. If a few men of warm hearts could go among them, not alas, as many of the so-called evangelists now do, as the antagonists of the churches, but as their representatives, not to reproach the church in the hearing of these men for its imagined coldness, but to assure them of the warm sympathy pulsating in the heart of the church for them, they might be won back from their condition of religious isolation, and made to feel at home in our churches, where their spiritual interests can be conserved as they can not possibly be by street-preachings, Salvation Armies, or any other rescue methods, however valuable in themselves they may be.

The Rev. Robert W. Childress passed into glory on this day, January 16, 1956.

childressRobertWhen the Master has a big work to do, He raises up a big man to do it. The Lord does not always choose a man from places such as those where men would look. Such a man, from a most unlikely place, is the subject of this story. This man of God’s choosing was born in the mountains of Patrick County, Virginia, not far from the present Blue Ridge Parkway. He was born in a one-room mountain cabin, born into a large family, his people the direct descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants, and born into deep poverty and ignorance.

Robert W. Childress once said that he did not know when he was given his first drink of liquor. Sundays were spent in gambling, shooting and drinking parties. Schools were little thought of. A church was seldom visited, and the thought of Sunday school was anathema to the people of his community.

But out of this lawless backwater, God saved Robert. He used a young lady who later became his wife, but who died not long after two children were born to this couple. Even in death, his wife continued to live as a powerful influence. Childress said the devil threw him sixteen times, but Christ triumphed in the end, and Robert began to look to how the Lord might use him. Against all odds, he began to pursue an education and before long, now married again and in his thirties, the Lord at last brought him to seminary to prepare for the ministry.

childress_biographyA bunch of the boys dropped in with guns at one of Preacher Childress’ first services in the Virginia mountains. They told him to leave the country, or else.

“They were a little wrought up,” Childress explained. “I’d said something about their making whiskey and naturally it insulted them. They’d wanted me to apologize, and I hadn’t. I’d told them I could be just as crazy as they were.”

“So of course they were upset. They were drinking when they came to the service, and they didn’t know what they were doing. We had a little prayer,” he smiled, “and they let me off.”

“Some folks were a little rough,” he admitted, when he started work in the stretch of rugged country in Floyd, Carroll, and Patrick counties in Virginia.

“They were the best-hearted people in the world, but they just didn’t behave. There was a lot of killing, a lot of drinking, a lot of feuding. But they’ve changed.”

Time was, he recalled, when they said the politicians were afraid to come through the section, “even to solicit votes.” But no more. “There’s hardly any fighting now. There’s less drinking. The homes are better. People are happier.”

Words to Live By:
The Lord raised up Robert Childress to do a big work. He lifted him up out of incredible poverty and spiritual depravity and made him a useful vessel for His service. The faithful preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ brings real change to the hearts and lives of an otherwise lawless people, the world over.

Dust jacket of the biography, The Man Who Moved a Mountain, by Richard C. Davids :

One of the Twelve Signers
by Rev. David T. Myers

Many Presbyterians know that the Scotch-Irish had a pivotal part in the birth of our country.  But they may not be aware that there were twelve Presbyterians who put their names on the line as well as their sacred honor to actually sign their name on the Declaration of Independence.  Philip Livingstone was one of those signers.

Livingstone came from a distinguished family.  His grandfather had been a minister in the Church of Scotland; refusing to take an oath of allegiance to King Charles II, he fled to Holland where he was pastor of a Presbyterian Church. Livingstone’s father, Robert, came to the colonies where Philip was born on January 15, 1716.  At age 17, Philip graduated from Yale College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business.  Moving to New York City, he soon made his mark as a merchant and importer.  In 1740, he married Christina Ten Broeck, with whom he would father nine children.

His time in New York City would be spent in both political and civic organizations, serving as an alderman and as a governor of New York Hospital, participating in the founding of what later became Columbia University, and in the founding of a library.  The national scene of the colonies did not escape his spiritual gifts as he was selected as one of the delegates from New York state to the First Continental Congress.

After signing the Declaration of Independence, he  suffered financially for his stand for liberty.  His house on Long Island became a barracks for British troops and his country estate a  hospital.  Yet he continued to serve in Congress, even as he developed dropsy in the chest.  Despite being diagnosed with this death sentence, he fled Philadelphia for York, Pa. with the rest of the Congress. At the sixth Continental Congress, he died and was buried in York, Pennsylvania.

Congress as a body attended the funeral of one of their own, each member wearing a black crepe around his arm, mourning their loss of a compatriot for a month.  His funeral was conducted by the Rev. George Duffield, Presbyterian chaplain of the Congress.

It was said of Philip Livingstone that he was a firm believer in the great truths of the Christian system, and a sincere and humble follower of the divine Redeemer.  That faith and life was evident in his support for independence until his death at age 62.

Words to Live By: Like Joseph and Daniel of Old Testament times, Christians can and should serve the Lord through  government.  We need to pray for all such believers today in that sphere, that God would give them wisdom to serve rightly.

A Most Solemn Season of Prayer
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was on January 14, 1744 that Presbyterian missionary David Brainerd recorded in his famous diary a personal prayer session he had with his God and Father.  Meditate on his words:

“This morning I enjoyed a most solemn season in prayer: my soul seemed enlarged, and assisted to pour out itself to God for grace, and for every blessing I wanted, for myself, my dear Christian friends, and for the church of God, and was so enabled to see him who is invisible, that my soul rested on him for the performance of everything I asked agreeable to his will.  It is then my happiness, to ‘continue instant in prayer,’ and  was enabled to continue  in it for nearly an hour.  My soul was then ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’  Longed exceedingly for angelic holiness and purity, and to have all my thoughts, at all times, employed in divine and heavenly things.”

 “Oh how blessed is a heavenly temper (i.e. spirit)!  Oh how unspeakably blessed it is, to feel a measure of that rectitude, in which we were at first created!  Felt the same divine assistance in prayer sundry times in the day.  My soul confided in God for myself, and for His Son.  Trusted in divine power and grace, that He would do glorious things in his church on earth, for his own glory.”

As you read over this marvelous prayer, you can see how thoroughly saturated Brainerd was in the Word of God.  He wanted only to pray for requests which were “agreeable to His will,” as Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10. (NIV)  He was able to “continue instant in prayer,” as Roman 12:12 commands.  As a result of such prayer, he was able to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” as Ephesians 6:10 (KJV) enjoins the people of God. David Brainerd was able to guide his prayers through the language of Scripture.

Words to Live By: Take any of the prayers of Paul in his letters, like Ephesians 1:17-19, or 3:14-21, and personalize them.  In so doing, you will be brought closer to your God, as you use the inspired Word of God to approach Him in prayer.

Under the Sovereign Eye of a Merciful God.

The following letter to Rev. John C. Lowrie was penned upon the occasion of the death of his brother, the Rev. Walter M. Lowrie, who had gone to Shanghai, China, as a member of the committee for the translation of the Bible. As he was returning to Ningpo, the Chinese junk on which he had taken passage was attacked by pirates, and the young and gifted missionary was thrown overboard and drowned, on August 19, 1847, about twelve miles southeast of Chapoo, in the Hangchow Bay.

From the Rev. J. L. Wilson, of the Gaboon Mission, Africa.

Mount ClioJanuary 13th, 1848.


MY DEAR BROTHER:—The papers brought us yesterday the astounding intelligence of the death of your dear brother. If it is the slightest alleviation of the grief that you must all feel, be assured of our most cordial sympathies, and I have no doubt but thousands of other Christian hearts feel equally as much.

Your honored father must have been almost overwhelmed by this event. And yet, why should he? It was under the sovereign eye of a most merciful God that this deed of violence was perpetuated; and as inexplicable as it may be to us, I have no conviction more firmly made on my mind, than that this very event will be overruled, so as to subserve the cause of missions and the salvation of the heathen more effectually even than the life of your brother.

My own aged father, who could more easily enter into the feelings of your father than most persons, could scarcely compose himself to sleep last night after hearing the painful intelligence read; and if such were his feelings, what must have been those of your own family? God grant you all grace to recognize his hand in this event, and to exercise the most cheerful resignation of his holy will!

Accept of my sincere sympathies, and believe me, as ever,

Your affectionate brother in Christ,


Words to Live By:
Truly our lives are in His hands. Every breath we take is by the grace of God. How can we not praise Him for His mercy and grace? But so very much more, because in love He sent His only Son to die for an elect people, how then can we not strive to live each and every day for His greater glory? To give our very lives in His service is no sacrifice, but only a fitting tribute of thanks.

by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 76 & 77.

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Exod. xx. 16.

Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own, and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.


Bear false witness. –Tell what we know to be a lie.

Maintaining and promoting truth. –Defending the truth when it is opposed and denied, and otherwise exerting ourselves to forward, and carry it on.  

Witness-bearing. –Giving evidence, or testimony upon oath, or making known the truth when called upon to do so.


The duties required in the ninth commandment, are four-fold:

  1. The maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man. –Zech. viii. 16. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor.
  2. The maintaining and promoting of our own good name. –1 Pet. iii 16. Having a good conscience, that when as they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed, that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
  3. The maintaining and promoting also, of our neighbor’s good name. –Psalm ci. 5. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off.
  4. That this is especially to be attended to, in witness-bearing. –Prov. xiv. 5, 25. A faithful witness will not lie. A true witness delivereth souls.


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