March 2020

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Here’s a great sermon illustration, free for the taking.

WITHOUT POSITION
by C. Laing Herald, Ph.D.
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 6-7.]

“Without position” is a nautical term ; it savors of the sea. Years ago, if one sailed the seas on a sailing ship, or wind-jammer, as such vessels were rudely called, one would have become familiar, more or less, with this term. Two vessels at sea, while passing each other within signaling distance, always exchanged the courtesies of the sea by giving their respective nautical positions. Each ship ran her colors to the masthead, thus displaying her nationality; then a board, painted black, was lashed to the shrouds of the mizzen rigging; and on this board was written in large letters, with chalk, the latitude and the longitude each captain thought his ship was in, according to his latest observations. In this way, for the sake of safety, the two captains compared positions. Sometimes, however, especially after a period of heavy or foggy weather, the words written on the board were, “without position.” In other words, the captain of the ship who wrote these words admitted that he did not know where his ship was nautically; that he was really without position; having failed to obtain observations of sun, or the moon, or the stars, so that he might learn from them his latitude and longitude, and being in doubt as to the accuracy of his “dead reckoning,” he was all “at sea” as to his position. Therefore, the words “without position” are significant. 

The science of navigating consists in the knowledge necessary to conduct a ship safely across the ocean, enabling the mariner to determine, from the position of the celestial bodies, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the position of his vessel at any given time. And while navigation is a science to itself, yet, in a practical sense, it must, of course, be supplemented by seamanship.

There are three ways of determining the position of a ship at sea; namely, by piloting or bearings, by dead reckoning, and by observation of the celestial bodies, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The first is simple, primitive, and answered so long as a ship remained in sight of land. In this way the position of the ship is determined from the visible objects along the shore, and from soundings. Dead reckoning consists in keeping an hourly and careful record of the course the ship is steering from a known point of departure, the rate of speed she is making, with due allowance for leeway, caused by drift, ocean currents and tides. This method of navigation is largely guess-work, and is, therefore, far from being accurate and trustworthy. The science of navigation really consists in the observation of the celestial bodies and the consequent calculations of the ship’s latitude and longitude from these observations.

But even this science is subject to interruption, and, therefore, subject to error and consequent danger and loss. Suppose, for example, that a captain, because of cloudy or foggy weather, cannot obtain an observation of any of these bodies for several days; suppose that tides and ocean currents, unknown or misunderstood by the navigator, carry the ship out of her course; and suppose that magnetic influences due to atmospheric conditions, or particular latitudes, or induced by the nature of the ship’s cargo, affect the ship’s compass, even her chronometer; under these conditions what is to be done? The most careful calculations of the navigator will of necessity be affected by one or by all of these conditions, and, as a result, his calculations will be erroneous. Thus the ship may be entirely out of position.

But when I think of a ship at sea without position, my thoughts turn in particular to that large, important and necessary institution, the Christian church. Now be careful, you say. Yes; I shall be careful. Do not lay profane hands on the Ark of the Lord, you warn. No; I shall not, for I have in mind the fate of Urriah, who forgot himself and profaned the Ark. Notwithstanding, the church of to-day reminds me so forcibly of a ship without position that I cannot refrain from the reference and its necessary implications. Although I shall speak as one outside of the church, yet I shall speak with reverence, for I regard the church as the most necessary institution to our existence as a nation and to our well-being as individuals. And although, in my criticism, I may be severe, yet I shall try to be just.

It is to be admitted, gladly and gratefully, that the church is the largest, the wealthiest, the most intellectual, and the most necessary organization in American life. And this being true, it is only honorable, on the part of the church, that she stand true in her obligations to the people she professes to serve and to save. Malfeasance in office is one thing the American people will not stand for—not on the part of church officials. No later than yesterday, one of the professors in the university was in my home, and when asked his opinion of a certain minister, replied at once, “Oh, he is not reliable.” This unreliability was not applicable to the morals of the minister, but to his theology, his teachings; or, in nautical words, to his science of soul navigation. How long would the owners of a valuable ship tolerate a captain who was unreliable in his knowledge of navigation and seamanship, and who would, consequently, run their ship upon the rocks? No, no, it will not do. Then what is one to think of these unreliable ministers, these “sky-pilots,” as they are called, in navigating our souls to the next world?

Account for it as one may, the feeling is abroad in the land that the church at the present time is without position. She does not have her headings; she is off in her dead reckoning; in other words, she is all at sea in her theology. Therefore, she is not capable of saving the souls of men.

What has caused the church to lose her position? Have murky skies, thick fogs, heavy storms, contrary winds, uncertain tides, treacherous currents, been the cause?

There are probably two principle reasons : First, certain men occupying the pulpits of the church, like some college professors, have become too brilliant intellectually; at least they think they have; second, sinful nature is essentially opposed to the fundamental teachings of the Bible; the devil hates the truth like the devil. As to the first reason, nearly all the ministers occupying our pulpits are college-bred. While in college, they were taught to believe that the Bible was such an old Book it was out of date, behind the times, and that modern philosophy and science were far in advance of what the Bible taught. These men, being weak mentally and morally, and without a deep religious experience, accepted the teachings of these professors, and have carried these superficial unreasonable, skeptical and dangerous notions into their pulpits; thus they have turned from the Old Book to their own superficial thinking and irrational conclusions.

In other words, they have become wiser than what is written. Accordingly, they have thrown the Compass overboard, and are navigating the ship in accordance with what they think is the right course to steer. I cannot imagine the captain of a ship being such a blockhead. When the captain of a ship does such an irrational thing as to throw the compass overboard, the ship is doomed and all hands with her. Second, inasmuch as this is a fast, wealthy, pleasure-loving, luxurious period in the history of the American people; and inasmuch as the Old Book calls for self-denial in the things which are harmful, and for simplicity in living, the pulpit has surrendered to this appeal of the age; the pulpit has conceded, yielded, compromised; and now it is deceiving. Ministers enjoy popularity; to many of them, life without this vanity is drab, colorless. Hence they are making the popular appeal by preaching a supposed new doctrine, a doctrine which never entered the divine mind, and which, therefore, is not found in the Book. They have given up the ship; they have struck their colors to the enemy. Nevertheless, they are deceived themselves; for, instead of their preaching being popular, common-sense, thinking men reject it, lose respect for the minister, ignore and neglect the church.

As an outsider, let me say there are men in our pulpits to-day I would not go to hear, neither would I commit the souls of my family to their guidance in spiritual matters. Moreover, there are millions of men who feel just as I do in this matter, for these ministers are just what the university professor said they were—unreliable. They are wreckers. I should hate to cross the ocean with the captain of a ship who did not understand the science of navigation, and shaped his course according to his notion of things. And how true it is that I will not attend a church the pastor of which does not understand the science of theology, and who is likely, therefore, to wreck my soul and the souls of my family. Enter the different churches to-day—there are noble exceptions, thank God!—and listen to the pseudo-sermons. From these sermons does one receive clear and definite directions of the way to glory? Exactly what course to steer in order to reach that Haven of Rest? Indeed not! Compass overboard, chart torn to pieces, the sky overcast, no observations, contrary winds, treacherous currents, uncertain tides, and the church without position!

As I have said, “without position” is a nautical question. In the sense in which I have tried to elucidate it, it may be a naughty question. Nevertheless, one must grant that it is a knotty question.

Wellston, Ohio.

[Robinson’s Ministerial Directory (1898, p. 306) indicates that Rev. Charles Laing Herald was born in Scotland and educated at Queen’s College, Ontario, B.A., 1884 and McCormick Theological Seminary, 1892. Rev. Herald was ordained May 1892 by the Presbytery of Bloomington and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Wenona, IL, where he served from 1892-94. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the Tontogany, Ohio church, beginning in 1894. Apparently he remained in the general Ohio area throughout his ministry.]
Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.
—Dr. Archibald Alexander.

A Story in Short Compass

Often it is helpful to have a brief overview, to get the lay of the land and so to gain some orientation of a matter to be further studied. The Rev. George P. Hays provides us with one such overview—a history in short order—of the Westminster Assembly and its work. The following is from Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of their Origin, Progress, Doctrines and Achievements, published in 1892, quoting from pages 49-51 of that work. Details are skimmed over; many features are not explained, but the broad strokes of the story are here:—

westminsterabbey1647

James died in 1625 and left all his British dominions in a state of religious ferment to his unfortunate son, Charles I. Charles inherited the self-sufficiency of the Tudors through his mother, and the blind egotism of the Stuarts through his father, and illustrated in himself the vices of both. He early fell under the influence of William Laud, and finally made Laud the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so Primate of all England.

James I., in his very earliest dealings with the English Parliament, intimated that the duty of Parliament was to register his will, and was told by Parliament that the rights of the people represented therein was quite as sacred as the rights of the king. Charles followed his father’s policy, only pushing it to the extent of undertaking to do without any Parliament whatever. Archbishop Laud was essentially a Roman Catholic, and with this dictatorialness on the part of the king in civil matters, and Laud’s dictatorialness in religious matters, affairs swiftly came to a struggle for life.

The people would not pay taxes which Parliament had not voted. Parliament would not vote supplies for the king until he had redressed their grievances. The king insisted “supplies first and redress afterward.” The lines were soon drawn throughout the kingdom. One Parliament would be dissolved and another elected, until in the struggle the people grew weary of Episcopacy and finally elected the Long Parliament. It originally had in it a majority favorable to Presbyterianism as against Episcopacy. It was the project of that Parliament to call in Westminster an Assembly “for settling the government and liturgy of the Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrines of said Church from false aspersions and interpretations as should be found most agreeable to the Word of God, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home and near agreement with the Church of Scotland and other reformed churches abroad.” This ordinance was entered at full length on the journals of the House of Lords, June 12, 11643.

King Charles, two days before the meeting, prohibited by royal proclamation the Assembly to proceed under the bill. He had already revived the “Book of Sports,” and otherwise outraged the moral sentiments of his people. Under the influence of Laud, he had undertaken to re-establish Episcopacy in Scotland, and on the 23d of July, 1637, the Archbishop of St. Andrews and the Bishop of Edinburgh assembled an audience in St. Giles Church to introduce the new liturgy. When the famous Jennie Geddes started the riot that day, by throwing her stool at the reader, Scotland had already organized its form of church government and was anxious for a common system with England.

The English Parliament had invited the General Assembly of Scotland to send delegates to this Westminster Assembly and so Commissioners arrived from Scotland, at the head of whom was the notable Alexander Henderson. In this Westminster Assembly, sitting in defiance of the king, were thus gathered the chief representatives of the British Presbyterians. Close correspondence was maintained with the Reformed Church on the Continent. While the Long Parliament was in session in their House, this Assembly was in session in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey.

The first meeting of the Westminster Assembly was held Saturday, July 1, 1643; its last numbered meeting was held on the 22d of February, 1649, and is marked “Session 1163.” One hundred and twenty ministers, ten lords and twenty commoners were chosen to membership in it by Parliament. Of those thus elected many declined, but at different times ninety-six of them sat as members. Two months after it first met the commissioners from Scotland, four ministers and two laymen, took their seats, yet without the right to vote. On December 6, 1648, Parliament was purged of its Presbyterian membership, leaving just 140 members and the constitution of England was virtually overthrown by Oliver Cromwell and his army. The Assembly was never officially dissolved. Its power waned with that of Parliament, and so vanished. The last pretense of a meeting of the Assembly took place on March 25, 1652.

Words to Live By:

Creeds and confessions, documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, serve to provide unity among Christians. They are in effect a commentary on the Bible, a succinct statement of what we believe the Bible teaches. As we jointly hold this Confession, affirming it together as a faithful representation of what the Scriptures teach on these matters, so we have unity and we uphold the truths of the Scriptures, insofar as we best understand them.  

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” — (2 Timothy 1:13-14, KJV)

The ecumenical body known as the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Conference (NAPARC) held its constituting meeting on October 31-November 1, 1975.  The PCA, OPC, and RPCNA were among its founding Churches. Significant of the importance placed upon the matter, one of the early actions taken by this group was the 1977 Conference on Race Relations, held on March 24 and 25, with the following Statement issued upon conclusion of the Conference.

STATEMENT OF NAPARC CONFERENCE ON RACE RELATIONS

PREFACE

As participants in the NAPARC conference on Race Relations held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 24 and 25, 1977, we have entered in two days of discussion and self‑examination regarding the relationships of the conservative Reformed community to the struggle for racial justice. We have arrived at a consensus on a number of crucial issues and we offer our concerns to the larger NAPARC fellowship for deliberation and action.

None of the NAPARC churches can adopt a position of superiority over the other NAPARC churches in respect to its record on race. Nor can the NAPARC churches in general claim superiority to other churches in respect to problems of race.

We are convinced that we, as Reformed Christians, have failed to speak and act boldly in the area of race relations. Our denominational profiles reveal patterns of ethnic and racial homogeneity. We believe that this situation fails to give adequate expression to the saving purposes of our sovereign God, whose covenant extends to all peoples and races.

We are convinced that our record in this crucial area is one of racial brokenness and disobedience. In such a situation the credibility of our Reformed witness, piety and doctrinal confession is at stake. We have not lived out the implications of that biblical and confessional heritage which we hold in common with each other, with its emphasis on the sovereignty and freedom of grace, on the absence of human merit in gaining salvation, and on the responsibility to subject all of life to the Lordship of Christ.

I. THE UNITY OF MAN WITH RESPECT TO CREATION, SIN, AND REDEMPTION

Although there are marked distinctions and even divisions among men, including those of race, mankind, according to the teaching of the Bible, has a single origin. Later distinctions and divisions are indeed significant and may not simply be pushed aside; nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches that the gospel is universal in its offer and its call. All men are created in the image of God and have fallen into sin, and are in need of redemption. All those who are in Christ are united together with Him as their Head in a new humanity, in which the distinctions and divisions that otherwise separate men are transcended in a new unity. True, the distinctions mentioned in the Bible as having been overcome in Christ are not primarily those of race, nor does the Bible think along lines that correspond with the distinctions of race as we understand them today; nevertheless, racial distinctions and divisions as we know and understand them today certainly fall under those things that have been transcended in Christ. How, then, is the new unity in Christ to be expressed in the communion of the church today as it bears on the question of race?

The description of God’s people in I Peter 2:9, 10, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, reveals the church’s visible oneness as the community of those separated unto the Lord. It is a oneness on the order of the racial, cultic, and national unity of Israel (Exodus 19:6), and it has as its purpose the declaration of the wonderful works of God. Therefore, the church’s identity transcends and makes of secondary importance the racial, national and cultic identities of the world.

We see in Revelation 7:9, 10, the chosen race worshipping the Lamb in heaven. They come from different backgrounds, yet worship with one voice. Is not the unity of our worship here on earth to be a copy of that which takes place within the heavenly sanctuary? Should not all those washed in the blood of the Lamb joyously worship together?

II. ON CONFESSION

In repentance we acknowledge and confess that we have failed effectively to recognize the full humanity of other races and the similarity of their needs, desires, and hopes to ours; and thus we have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We see this failure on three levels:

A. Individual church members.

Within the church, our members have exhibited such attitudes and actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

In the broader community our members have shared in attitudes and actions that exhibit hostility and alienation against minority groups, e. g. in housing and job discrimination.

We have thus been guilty of the sins of selfishness in refusing to share material things, of coveting, and in general of failure to love the neighbor as ourselves.

B. Churches

Our churches have not been free from such formal actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups.

They have been guilty of a lack of positive action concerning mission to ethnic groups in their own neighborhoods and to ethnic groups at large.

They have practiced a kind of cultural exclusivism, thinking of the church as “our church” rather than Christ’s.

This involves the sins of pride and idolatry.

C. Social structures

The communities which we reflect and represent have supported or failed to protest against those industrial and economic policies and institutions which are advantageous to our own persons and institutions, but which accentuate the plight of the disadvantaged. In this we have been conformed to the world rather than transformed to the will of God (Romans 12:1, 2).

III. ON SOUTH AFRICA

The NAPARC Conference on Race Relations calls to the attention of the NAPARC churches the turmoil confronting our Christian brothers in the nation of South Africa.

The Conference requests NAPARC to encourage member churches to study the charges that the laws of the South African government deny to God’s people of every race the opportunity to fulfill God’s cultural mandate and covenant responsibility, to wit:

A. Certain laws encourage, if not necessitate, the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children, and, therefore, lead to the disintegration of God’s institution, the family.

B. Certain laws make it difficult for Christians to practice the Biblical principle that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

C. Certain laws requiring separate development of the nations lead to serious conditions of malnutrition especially where there is a large population resettled in lands of minimal productivity.

The Conference also encourages the NAPARC churches which are not members of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod to respond to the request of the RES meeting in Capetown on August 20, 1976, to wit:

1. “To request member churches to give early and serious attention to those problems involved in creating an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and unrest which led to the present riots as matters of great urgency.”

2. “To urge all Christians to reach out to each other in a demonstration of love, thus promoting peace in South Africa.”

The Message of Capetown, p. 5

IV. ON SEMINARIES

We commend the Calvin Theological Seminary faculty for its decision to implement policies calculated to improve preparation for ministry in multi‑racial areas; and Westminster Theological Seminary for its ministerial institute which intends to assist inner-city pastors in their continued training in ministry and Covenant Theological Seminary for its Urban Ministers’ Institute; and request these institutions to communicate to the other NAPARC‑related seminaries both their understandings of the biblical basis for those programs, and also progress reports concerning the accomplishment of the goals of those programs, with practical advice for the seminaries.

V. ON CHANGING COMMUNITIES

A. We encourage congregations to reach out to the entire community around them.

B. We encourage congregations to rise to meet the challenge of racial diversity in changing neighborhoods.

C. We encourage members of our congregations to remain in those communities where there are racially changing patterns.

D. We acknowledge that in order to change our unbiblical profile, we should urge churches in NAPARC to give priority to a vigorous pursuit of evangelism and church planting in racially, economically, and ethnically diverse communities.

E. We encourage NAPARC to sponsor seminars and workshops toward implementing church growth along racially, ethnically, and economically diverse lines.

F. We call upon NAPARC churches to define and incorporate new, small congregations and that provision be made for financial viability.

VI. ON MISSIONS AND EVANGELISM

A. That the grace and righteousness of Christ may be demonstrated by loving, visible, cross‑cultural and multi‑class relationships; it is recommended that creative, vigorous and sacrificial diaconal ministries be developed in the local church, meeting common human need as close to home as is possible, enlarging the opportunities of the less fortunate socially in terms of physical, social, economic, educational, and spiritual needs.

B. We recommend that the fall NAPARC conference on the diaconate take into account the effects of ecclesiastical and institutional racism, so that renewal of the diaconates in our various churches may reflect a consciousness of this specific evil in their efforts to administer mercy in the name of Christ.

C. In reaffirming the great commission, we recommend that:

Cross‑cultural evangelism be encouraged in our churches through preaching, modeling, and discipling, through the elders and pastors, beginning with the use of our covenant families and homes, and house‑to‑house neighborhood outreach;

And that NAPARC form a task force to prepare seminars and institutes for pastors and elders, churches, and seminary professors and students in cross‑cultural evangelism;

And that resource teams be developed to serve NAPARC churches and groups of churches.

VII. GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Our present discussions have been only a small beginning in considering more faithful paths of obedience in the area of race relations. Therefore, we call upon NAPARC and its member denominations to:

A. Convene a conference at which minority brothers and sisters from the other evangelical fellowships meet with NAPARC members for mutual conversation and edification;

B. Appoint a committee to study the feasibility of a NAPARC Institute on Justice and Human Relations;

C. Encourage NAPARC denominations to send representatives to the NBEA conference in San Francisco.

We commit ourselves to working locally and denominationally for these goals.

Further thought and action in these areas is necessary for such reasons as:

1. Scriptural data on the unity of the church and the plan of God to restore the unity of the human race;

2. The need for our Reformed fellowships to avail ourselves of the gifts of members of the Body in minority communions;

3. The need for our denominations, congregationally and corporately, to promote justice for the oppressed, to uphold the cause of the poor. For Christ will not ask us about doctrinal purity or ecclesiastical fellowship; He will ask us about the people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, in jail, and without family.

(End, Statement of NAPARC Conference on Race Relations)

Words to Live By:
We are, in Jesus Christ our Lord, one Body. There is no room for attitudes of superiority one over another. Thinking like that is entirely contrary to the Gospel. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served, and such service and humility should be true of all who call themselves Christians.

Located among the correspondence in the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, the following letter from Dr. H. G. C. Hallock presents us with a valuable lesson in times of trial.

Henry Galloway Comingo Hallock, was born on 31 March 1870, and prepared for ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1893-1896. Upon graduation he immediately took a post as a PCUSA missionary to China. In 1905 he withdrew to independent ministry and teaching, serving later as Professor of Homiletics in the department of theology at the University of China, Chenju, Shanghai, 1925-1927.  For a time he had also been connected with the National Tract Society for China. Among some Princeton alumni information, there is indication that he remained in China up until at least June of 1942. Later returning to the United States, he died on 16 January 1951.

The letter that follows is a powerful testimony from the field of conflict. It is a revealing letter, telling the truth about evil, and a hopeful letter, speaking the truth about our Lord who sovereignly prevails over evil, purifying His Church, raising up a strong testimony to His grace and glory. Today, Rev. Hallock’s “prophecy” of China’s future rings true.

C.P.O.Box No. 1234, Shanghai, China, March 22, 1927.

Dear Friend,

I have written several times about our Bible School and of our work among its students and about our students’ work among the chil­dren and with the people in the country villages, I hope you are inter­ested and that your heart has prompted you to help. There has not been time for a reply from you, as it takes a month each way for letters to go and come; but let me write again and tell you more. We are having very serious troubles in China. Fighting and unrest are all about us. I hear cannon booming and see many houses burning in Shanghai now as I write. Tho’ our Bible School is in the danger zone yet we have not been molested in the least. The militarists have closed a secular school of 600 pupils near us, as the generals feared the students were cutting the telegraph wires, R.R. tracks, and doing other mischief; but our Bible School goes on without interference. We are very glad and thankful to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful also that you have been praying for us.

Pray much also for China. An idea is abroad that a spirit of nationalism is among the people. This is largely a mistake. I do wish there were a spirit of real nationalism abroad, the leaders seeking the real good of their country and people; but I am sorry it is not so. The people are driven about in fear—like a flock of sheep pursued by mad— dogs or wolves—by men in the pay of Bolshevists. Lest these beasts of men be moved by pity for their own people the Bolshevists enlist perfect strangers from a distance to carry on propaganda, terrorize people, stir up strikes and shoot those too poor to strike, initiating a reign of ter­ror, making the workers afraid to work—lest they be killed for working or their wives and children be killed while they work. As soon as ample protection is provided the people are very glad to flock back to work. The so-called Nationalists, led by the Bolshevists, say they are seeking the good of the people; but wherever they go they rob and kill the people and smash up schools, hospitals, churches and Chinese temples. You friends in good old America don’t want them and can largely keep the Bolshevists out; but the Chinese are not able to do so, so these fiends carry on with a high hand. There seems to be no limit to their deviltries. They cry, “Down with imperialists! Give the people freedom!” but they themselves are tyranic imperialists, and crush freedom. They are domineering over­lords making a comparatively free people slaves. Freedom is impossible where they come. Like fierce, wild animals they are over-running the country, and the people, poor and rich alike, are fleeing for their lives.

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before. Pray much, too, for the native preachers and Bible women, and also for the young men in our Bible School. They are staying firm in the school tho’ dangers are all around. — Shanghai just captured. Many Chinese killed. I can’t well flee. God guards. P.O. is closed. If this arrives you’ll know all’s well.

Yours in Christ’s glad service,

(Rev.) H. G. C. Hallock.

[emphasis added]
The School & Family Catechist
by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q.90. How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?

A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practise it in our lives.

EXPLICATION.

Become effectual. –See Explic. Q. 88.

Attend thereunto with diligence. –To make the reading and hearing of the word the chief business of our lives, so that we may never engage in these important duties in a slothful and careless manner.

Attend thereunto with preparation. –To have our minds in a right frame, that is, to have our thoughts collected, and properly fixed, so as to shut out, if possible, every earthly object, and worldly concern, when we read God’s word, or hear it preached. In preparing ourselves for these duties, we ought also to consider that God’s own authority is stamped upon his word, -that it is He himself who speaks to us therein, -that it is an ordinance appointed by Him to be a mean of salvation, -and therefore that it should not be received by us, in the same manner, as the word of man.

Attend thereunto with prayer. –That is, we ought, before reading or hearing the word of God to pray for his blessing on what we may read or hear, so that we may profit thereby.

Receive it with faith. –To believe it with our whole hearts.

Receive it with love. –To fix our affections upon the glorious objects which God reveals in his word, so as to think them far better than the greatest earthly possessions: and to consider the favor of the Lord is more necessary for us than even our daily food.

Lay it up in our hearts. –To commit it accurately to memory, that we may be able always to remember it.

Practice it in our lives. –Always to conduct ourselves in a manner agreeable to the will of God, as revealed in his word, that is, to do what he commands, and avoid, or shun, what he forbids.

ANALYSIS.

The information here received may be divided into seven parts :

1. That, to make the word an effectual mean of salvation, we must attend to it with diligence. –Prov. viii. 34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door.

2. That we must also attend to the word with preparation. -1 Pet. ii. 1, 2. Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. Luke viii. 18. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.

3. That we must likewise attend to it with prayer. –Psal. cxix. 18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

4. That we must receive the word with faith. –Heb. iv. 2. The word preached did not profit them; not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

5. That we must also receive it with love. -2 Thess. ii. 10. They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

6. That we must lay the word up in our hearts. –Psal. cxix. 11. Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. 1 Cor. xv. 1, 2. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel, -by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you.

7. That we must practise it in our lives. –James i. 22. Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.

Rev. George H. Seville

George H. Seville was born on March 19, in 1876, near the town of Bellevue, Pennsylvania. He later graduated from the Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, and lastly from Allegheny Seminary (UPCNA), Pittsburgh. He served as a high school teacher for a brief time before taking additional studies at the Moody Bible Institute, in preparation for ministry in China, with his term overseas beginning in 1902, serving under the auspices of the China Inland Mission. While stationed there, he met and later married a fellow missionary, the former Jessie Maud Merritt Greene, in 1905. [Mrs. Seville was born on October 15, 1874, and she died on January 2, 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware.]

The couple had four children, all born in China. Three daughters, Janet (Mrs. Ralph M. Bragdon), Elsa (Mrs. Roger B. VanBuskirk) and Edith (Mrs. Francis A. Schaeffer), and a son, John, who died in infancy.

The Seville family returned from China in 1919, whereupon Rev. Seville studied at Gordon College and then served as pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian church, Newburgh, NY, from 1923-1930. From 1931-1935, Rev. Seville served in the publishing department of the China Inland Mission, based initially in Toronto, Ontario and later in Philadelphia, PA. It was during this period that his alma mater Westminster College awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree, in 1932. He was next one of the founding professors at the Faith Theological Seminary, teaching Greek and Practical Theology. As he retired from that service in 1955, this was also about the same time that Francis and Edith Schaeffer founded the L’Abri ministry, and Dr. Seville served as treasurer for the L’Abri ministry from 1955 to 1967.  Dr. Seville lived another ten years, reaching the age of 101, and died on March 21, 1977.
The bulk of Dr. Seville’s published writing, so far as I’ve been able to discover, appeared on the pages of The Bible Today, a publication of The National Bible Institute in New York City. These articles appeared during the years when Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. was serving as president of that school. The PCA Historical Center has a complete run of this periodical from May 1941 to September 1951, and is currently searching for issues prior to May 1941. Dr. Seville appears to have written largely on the subject of Christian biography, though with some exceptions, one of which follows:

Minced Oaths
by Rev. George H. Seville, D.D.

A visiting minister was asked to lead in prayer in Sunday school, and when he had finished, a teacher heard one of her girls whisper, “Gosh, what a prayer!” Such an exclamation seems incongruous in expressing one’s appreciation of a prayer, but a little thought will lead anyone to the conclusion that “gosh” is not an appropriate word for a Christian to use on any occasion whatsoever. When we look into the original meaning of such interjections, we may be surprised that even some Christian people are habitual users of expressions which the dictionary terms “minced oaths.”

A very commonly used interjection is “Gee.” It is capitalized in Webster’s New International Diction­ary and given this definition: “A form of Jesus, used in minced oaths.” This derivation is even more ap­parent when the form “Geez,” now frequently heard, is used. Two other common words and their defini­tions are these: “Golly—a euphemism for God, used in minced oaths; gosh, a substitute for God, used in minced oaths.” “Darn, darned, darnation” are said to be “colloquial euphemisms for damn, damned, dam­nation.” Persons who allow their lips to utter “Gosh- darned” quite freely would be shocked if they realized the real meaning of the word.

A certain minister, professor in a sound seminary, when he was a child was not allowed to use “good­ness,” “mercy,” or “gracious” as exclamations. He was inclined to think the restrictions a family peculi­arity, merely a parental overcarefulness, but now he can see that it had a sound Calvinistic basis. The Shorter Catechism asks, “What is required in the third commandment?” and then gives this answer: “The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordi­nances, words, and works.” Certainly goodness is an attribute of God. That this is so is recognized by Webster in the latter part of his definition: “The word is used colloquially as an exclamation, or in various exclamatory phrases, as “for goodness sake! goodness gracious 1”—the reference being originally to the goodness of God.”

The use of minced oaths is quite contrary to the spirit of the New Testament teaching. For example, our Lord Jesus said: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all. . . . But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one” (Matt. 5:34, 37, R. V.). The phrase “whatsoever is more than these” suggests the mean­ing of expletives, or exclamations: an expletive is defined as “something added merely as a filling; especially a word, letter, or syllable not necessary to the sense, but inserted to fill a vacancy.”

James in writing his Epistle repeats almost exactly the words of the Lord Jesus quoted above: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment” (Jas. 5:12). That last word recalls our Lord’s declaration: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). The result of this judgment is given in the following verse, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be con­demned.”

If we try to excuse ourselves by saying that these exclamations slip through our lips unawares, we need to heed the Holy Spirit’s warning in the Epistle of James: “If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth [or, curbeth] not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain” (1:26). Even though we do not intend these minced oaths to bear the meaning the words originally had, we certainly cannot truthfully say that the use of them accords with Christ’s command, “Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.”

James seemed puzzled by the same anomaly that puzzles us, namely, the presence of minced oaths on the lips of Christians. Writing of the tongue as “a restless evil . . . full of deadly poison,” he said: “Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and there­with curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jas. 3 : 8-10).

While no attempt has been made to give a complete list of all the words in the vocabulary of near-pro­fanity, enough has been said to indicate that present- day speech has fallen below that standard which Christ Jesus set for his disciples.

The tendency in the use of expletives is to find the milder ones becoming less expressive of our feel­ings, to discard them, and use stronger ones in their stead. A careless following of others in the use of these common minced oaths will dull our own spiritual sensitiveness, and will weaken our Christian testimony.

To gain the victory in this matter of full obedience to our Lord Jesus, we need to make the prayer of David our daily petition: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19: 14).

Image source : Sixteenth Annual Catalog of Faith Theological Seminary, Elkins Park, PA, Summer 1953, page 7.


No Greater Service
by Rev. David T. Myers

The godly mother believed in taking advantage of all kinds of spiritual opportunities to instruct her second son in the things of the Lord, even if it meant  a long journey home from church by their horse-drawn buggy.  So she would quiz young Henry on the text and have the twelve-year-old summarize  the long sermon by the Rev. Samuel Davies.  And remember, the latter “Apostle to Virginia” usually preached an hour or two sermon at the Presbyterian meeting-house known as The Fork.  Later, when grown up and active in the affairs of the Colony and later state of Virginia,  Patrick Henry would remember those dozen early years under the ministry of Presbyterian pastor Samuel Davies.  He stated his appreciation for sitting under the greatest orator he had ever heard.

Now by no means are we inferring that Patrick Henry was a Presbyterian.  His mother Sarah was a Presbyterian and a member of the church of which Pastor Davies was a pastor.  Patrick’s father, an Anglican, had baptized young Patrick in the Anglican church, and to that early tradition, Patrick stayed faithful all of his life.  But he was especially friendly to the Presbyterians, who helped immensely the cause of liberty in those early days.

At the second political convention of delegates in Virginia, which began this day of March 20, 1775, in Richmond, Virginia, the issue was anything but clear what to do about the declaration of war by the patriots up in Massachusetts.  The question was, should the citizens of Virginia proceed on a similar war footing, or settle it in a more peaceful way.  The convention was divided.  At a key point in the week-long discussion, Patrick Henry made his famous “Give me liberty or death” speech.  With the Presbyterian delegates from the churches of the Valley backing him up, by a mere six vote majority, the convention voted to advance to a war footing, with arms and companies established.

After the final victory in the American Revolution, Patrick Henry would serve as governor of Virginia for five terms.  It can be said that throughout his long life, the emphasis of the Presbyterian faith taught in earlier times and enforced by his mother, had a great effect upon his life and actions.

Words to Live By:  There can be no greater spiritual service than that which takes place from godly parents, or a godly parent, in the things of the Lord.  Pray and labor much for spiritual instruction to be accomplished at that time.  Claim the general promise of Proverbs 22:6 upon your sons and daughters.
He Kept the Faith
by Rev. David T. Myers

Mention the name of William Jennings Bryan, and most students of history will first think of the Scopes Trial and Clarence Darrow.  And our historical figure featured on this day was involved in that trial about whether evolution could be taught in a Tennessee school.   But this blog is about historic Presbyterianism in America.  And the truth is that William Jennings Bryan was a  member and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

Born in Salem, Illinois on March 19, 1860 to Christian parents, William at first attending Methodist  and Baptist churches.   Eventually, he went to a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the area.  It was at age 14 when he attended a revival and gave his heart to Jesus.  He stated that this was the most important event of his life. Later, he would transfer his membership to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Trained as an attorney, he married Mary Elizabeth Baird in 1884. She was also an attorney, and for a while, they practiced the law profession.  Various political issues brought him to the forefront.  He would run for president in 1896, 1900, and 1908 on the Democratic platform.  Twice, he served in Congress from Nebraska.  He even served at Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, but resigned when American headed for World War I.

There are a number of political “firsts” which originated by Bryan.  At a time when political people stayed at home when running for president, he instituted the first national speaking tour.  He was the “first” to campaign in a car.  But none of these innovative ways to “do” politics won him any national  elections.

There came a time when, in looking at his efforts in the political realm, he realized that his true calling of life was in the spiritual sphere.  As a Presbyterian ruling elder, he began to see the increasing higher criticism of the Bible in Presbyterian churches.  He saw a watering down of the historic Christian faith in the missions arm of the Presbyterian church.  He saw  Darwinism, or evolution, which he characterized one as a “string of guesses” about the origin of the world, and mankind, take hold in Presbyterian colleges.  Campaigning to become the moderator of the General Assembly in 1923, and thinking that he could turn around this downward departure from the faith,  he was defeated even for that post of influence.

Two years later, he was cast as the great defender of fundamentalism at the Scopes Trial against the high school teacher who wished to teach evolution in his class.  While he technically won, even though it was reversed later, he died five days afterwards in his home.

Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, his gravestone reads, “He kept the faith.”

Words to Live By: We need to beware that a passion for politics or any other sphere of life on this earth does not divert us from our passion for biblical Christianity, first and foremost.  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.”

Caveat Emptor (“Let the buyer beware”) : If you’ve ever watched the movie “Inherit the Wind”—the Hollywood version of the Scopes Trial—remember that not everything is as it seems. An interesting exercise is to get a copy of the trial transcript, easily obtainable through interlibrary loan, and  compare that content with the movie. It is remarkable how far Hollywood strayed from the accurate account of what actually happened during the trial.
America’s Westminster Abbey
by David T. Myers

The title of this post came from a remark made in the latter part of the eighteen hundreds describing the Cemetery of Princeton, New Jersey. And that description is justified by the saints who make up the “inhabitants” of this historic cemetery.

This author has chosen the birthday of March 18, 1837 of the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president of the United States, Grover Cleveland, as our introduction to our post today. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he was the only President from New Jersey And while he was a Presbyterian during his time in the White House, by his own admission he did not focus on that religious affiliation, like Benjamin Harrison did when he was the president between Cleveland’s terms. After his role as the chief executive in our nation’s capitol, Grover Cleveland returned to New Jersey, and specifically Princeton, New Jersey for eleven years until his death. The White House still sends a wreath and a military escort to place on his grave on this day of his birth.

But he is just one of the many notable persons who are buried in this “Westminster Abbey”. For our purposes, we are much more interested in the spiritual “greats” of Princeton Theological Seminary, that great school of the prophets, from its beginning in 1812 up until 1929, when it was still the bastion of Biblical and Reformed theology in the Presbyterian church.
warfieldbbgrave

Think about these theological giants of the faith who are buried in this cemetery which began in 1757. To name just a few, they are Archibald Alexander (1772 – 1851), James Waddel Alexander (1804 – 1859), and Joseph Addison Alexander (1808 – 1860).

Of this one great family, A. A. Hodge once said, “I never go to Princeton without visiting the graves of the Alexanders – father and sons – and I never think of them without having my poor staggering faith in God and in regenerated humanity strengthened. Let us uncover our heads and thank God for them.”

Continuing the Presbyterian notables, Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716 – 1757), who was the first to be buried in the cemetery, Samuel Davies (1723 – 1761), Jonathan Edwards (1703 –1758), Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878), Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823 – 1886), Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851 – 1921) [that’s Warfield’s grave pictured  above], and John Witherspoon (1723 – 1794).

The cemetery, which is still receiving burials, is under the oversight of Nassau Presbyterian Church, PCUSA, in Princeton, NJ.

Here is a quiz for our readers: J Gresham Machen and Geerhardus Vos are NOT buried in this Westminster Abby of the United States. Where are they buried? (And you cannot Google it!)

Words to Live By:
Countless newer churches in our Presbyterian and Reformed denominations do not set aside land for a cemetery. Of this omission, we are sad, for church cemeteries are spiritually uplifting sites. Yes, there are humorous stones, like one on a tombstone in Princeton’s Cemetery, “I told you I was sick!” But primarily, Christian memorials are witnesses to the grace and glory of God. As we read them, our poor staggering faith in God and in regenerated humanity is strengthened. Yes, we can have monuments of grace in city cemeteries, like that of Edward and Eleanor Kellogg’s monument in Leesburg, Virginia, which states at its bottom, “Saved by Grace.” That is a continuing witness to all who pass by. But so are those monuments in church cemeteries. Press for a cemetery for your church.

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