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It was on this day, March 26, 1707 that the first overture was presented before the first American Presbyterian presbytery. More on that in a minute. But on that same idea, I just had to go look to see what was the first overture brought before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. I was pleasantly surprised to see a thoroughly evangelistic message and one brought by one of the PCA’s founding fathers, a man who loved the Lord and who also loved capital letters. The Rev. Bill Rose often composed his messages in all caps, a practice now frowned upon in our computer age. But we reproduce below his overture as written.

First Overture presented before the PCA

Overture 1. From Rev. William Rose.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN: To the General Assembly meeting in Macon, Ga., September 17, 1974.

Whereas: One of the greatest needs facing the National Presbyterian Church [ed: the PCA’s original name] is the need for laborers for the great white harvest field of over 3 billion people in the world. THE majority of whom do not know CHRIST, and multitudes have never heard HIS name:

Whereas: CHRIST said in Luke 10:2 THEREFORE SAID HE UNTO THEM, THE HARVEST TRULY IS GREAT, BUT THE LABOURERS ARE FEW; PRAY YE THEREFORE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST THAT HE WOULD SEND FORTH LABOURERS INTO HIS HARVEST.

Clearly letting us know that the way for believers to secure the necessary laborers is to PRAY TO THE LORD OF THE HARVEST TO SEND FORTH LABOURERS INTO HIS HARVEST.

Therefore: The General Assembly is overtured to:

1. Call to the attention of every session this great need of our fellowship.
2. Set aside a day, when the Sessions can bring Luke 10:2 before their people in any way that HE should lead them, the end result being that our people would begin to pray for Labourers, and GOD would call out labourers to work for CHRIST in the harvest field of the world.

William H. Rose, Jr.

And now as to that first overture brought before the first presbytery, on March 26, 1707:

First overtures from an American presbytery
At the second meeting of the first presbytery in the American colonies, meeting on March 11 – March 26, 1707, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the teaching and ruling elders proposed and voted in the affirmative on a series of overtures designed to propagate Christianity.  They were presented by Jedediah Andrews, one of the original seven presbyters, and John Boyd, the first ordained minister in the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

The first overture  instructed each minister in their respective congregations to read and comment upon a chapter of the Bible each Lord’s day, as discretion and circumstances of time and place would admit them.   It is obvious from this first overture that the presbytery believed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were inspired of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, would be the guide for its ministers and laypeople in their respective churches.

The second overture  is interesting because the ministers were recommended to begin and encourage private societies.  In other words, they were to organize and encourage Christians to gather together for various Christian endeavors.  An example of this was the organization of the Fund for Pious Uses, which was the subject of the devotional described  on January 11.  It is clear that they believed that Christianity should set the standard in every sphere of life.   Therefore the Christian faith inside and outside the church needed to be encouraged.

The third and last overture stated that every  minister in the Presbytery was to supply neighboring towns with ministers, especially in desolate places where ministers would be lacking.  They were to take the opportunities granted them to be home missionaries, in other words.

These first overtures of this small but soon to be active Presbytery stated clearly that the message of biblical Christianity was to propagated throughout the new world in obedience to the Word of God.  At subsequent meetings of the Philadelphia Presbytery, it was noted that these first three overtures were being accomplished.

Words to Live By:   Until Jesus comes the second time, all believers are to buy up every opportunity to share His love in word and deed.

Image source: Opening page of Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.
A Stirring Confession of Faith
machen02

On Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen filled the pulpit of the  First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This time period was in the framework of being under indictment for refusing to cease and desist from the support of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission, as the Mandate from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, had stated in 1934. His ordination was thus at stake. His standing in that denomination was at stake. Listen to his profession of faith given on that evening.

“My profession of faith is simply that I know nothing of the Christ proclaimed, through the Auburn Affirmation. I know nothing of a Christ who is presented to us in a human book containing errors, but know only a Christ presented in a divine book, the Bible which is true from beginning to end.  I know nothing of a Christ who possibly was and possibly was not born of a virgin, but know only a Christ who was truly conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not work miracles, but know only a Christ who said to the winds and the waves, with the sovereign voice of the Maker and Ruler of all nature, ‘Peace be still.’  I know nothing of a Christ who possible  did and possibly did not come out of the tomb on the first Easter morning, but know only a Christ who triumphed over sin and the grave and is living now in His glorified body until He shall come again and I shall see Him with my very eyes. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not die as my substitute on the cross, but know only a Christ who took upon Himself the just punishment of my sins and died there in my stead to make it right with the holy God.”

Despite what the ecclesiastical machinery of the Presbyterian Church would do, Dr. Machen’s conviction was settled.  He ended it all by stating that he would “rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoluments as the reward of dishonesty.”

Words to Live By: Can you echo the words of J. Gresham Machen today? Today the attacks continue upon both the written and living Word. Let us affirm this confession today—for the Word of God is true, though all men stand in error—until God takes us home.

For further study:
To read the full message delivered by Dr. J. Gresham Machen that Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, click here.

News coverage of the above event:

PASTOR SCORES MODERNISM AS CAUSE OF TRIAL.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen Defends Beliefs in Sermon At Church Here.

HEARING TOMORROW.

Philadelphia Minister Will Face Presbyterian Court at Trenton.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia, president of the Independent Board of [sic] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, who goes on trial before a special court of the church tomorrow at Trenton, N.J., declared last night: “The Presbyterian Church is in the midst of a conflict between two irreconcilable adversaries–Christianity and Modernism.”

Speaking at the First Presbyterian Church here, Dr. Machen defended his fundamentalist beliefs and accused the Presbyterian Church of spreading “anti-Christian” propaganda.

“I cannot support this anti-Christian propaganda now being furthered by the official board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States,” he said. “I cannot place the shifting votes of general assemblies or any other human councils in place of an authority which rightly belongs only to the Word of God.

Refused to Quit Board

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last year outlawed the Independent Board of Missions and ordered all ministers to resign from it within 90 days. Dr. Machen refused and was ordered to stand trial before the New Brunswick presbytery. Two hearings have been held and the third and final one is scheduled tomorrow.

Dr. Machen last night laid his troubles to “modernists” and asserted: “Christianity is taught in the Bible and the Constitution of the Church; but modernism has grown to dominate the ecclesiastical machine.”

Attacks Auburn Affirmation

Citing the Auburn Affirmation, which he said sets forth the modernist argument and is signed by 1923 ministers, Dr. Machen declared:

“The Auburn Affirmation directly attacks the doctrines of the full truthfulness of the Bible and declares that some of its basic teachings are merely theories among other possible theories and are non-essential.

“It is typical of the conditions in the church that Dr. Cordie J. Culp of New Brunswick, the presiding officer of the commission now trying me in Trenton, is a signer of the modernist document,” he said. “It is also typical that John E. Kuizenga of Princeton Seminary took the lead in the unanimous vote of the commission that all efforts of my counsel to refer to the modernist doument be barred.”

Professor at Seminary

Dr. Machen further declared he is prepared to prove that the board’s orders for him to resign are “contrary to the constitution of the church.”

“I have also offered to prove,” he said, “the Board of Foreign Missions is unfaithful to its great trust. The commission has refused to listen to my evidence or to the arguments of my counsel. Of course, I will be condemned, but I should far rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy even the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoulments [sic] as the rewards of dishonesty.”

Dr. Machen, who spoke in the absence of Dr. C. E. Macartney, is a profess of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

[excerpted from The Pittsburgh Press, 18 March 1935, page 11.]

[Note: The correction name of the organization is the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Too often in news coverage and elsewhere, the name was shown in error, substituting “of” in place of “for”]

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 51-52.

Q.51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

EXPLICATION.

The worshipping of God. –Praying to God, and praising him.

By images. –By resemblances or likenesses of any thing made, by engraving, painting, or carving, or casting in a mould, or by any other method.

ANALYSIS.

The sins forbidden in the second commandment are of two kinds :

  1. The worshipping of God by images. –Deut. iv. 15, 16. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no matter of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb –) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image.
  2. The worshipping of him in any other way not appointed in his word. –Matt. xv. 9. In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Q.52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, are God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath for his own worship.

EXPLICATION.

Annexed. –A smaller thing, joined or added to the end of a greater, is said to be annexed to it.

Sovereignty. ­­–The highest authority or power.

Propriety. –Property  or possession, or chief right to any thing, giving a particular interest in it.

Zeal. –Warm concern for any cause.

ANALYSIS.

The reasons annexed, or added, to the second commandment, are three in number :

  1. God’s sovereignty over us, “I the Lord.” –Psal. xcv. 3, 6. For the Lord, is a great God, and a great King, above all gods. O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
  2. His propriety in us, “Thy God.” –Psalm xlv. 11. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him. Deut. xxxii. 9. The Lord’s portion is his people.
  3. The zeal he hath to his own worship, “I am a jealous God.” –Exod. xxiv. 14. [sic: ed.; Exod. xxxiv. 14.] Thou shalt worship no other God; for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Dr. J.B. Green on Baptism

greenJBJames Benjamin Green was born on May 10, 1871 to parents Curtis and Sarah Hammond Green, and died on September 8, 1967, at the age of 96. He had received his education at the Peabody Teachers College, Nashville, TN (1889-1891) and the University of Nashville (1891-1893, BA), with postgraduate  work there, (1895-96), followed by his preparation for the ministry at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1898-1901.

He was both licensed and ordained in 1901 by Columbia Presbytery, and installed as pastor of the Frierson Memorial Presbyterian church in Columbia, Tennessee, serving there from 1901 through 1903. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Fayetteville, TN, 1903-1907. His third pulpit and longest pastorate was with the Presbyterian church in Greenwood, SC, where he labored from 1908 to 1921. From this pulpit he was then called to serve as professor of Systematic Theology at the Columbia Theological Seminary, 1921-1950. Announcing his intent to retire in 1946, he was that same year elected to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly (PCUS). Other honors awarded during his life included the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by the Presbyterian College of South Carolina (1914) and the Doctor of Letters degree, conferred by Southwest College (1940).

It was on this day, August 14, 1957, that The Southern Presbyterian Journal published an article by Dr. Green on the subject of baptism, which we take the liberty of reproducing here in full. Demand for the article was such that the Journal saw fit to issue it in tract form, publishing at least four editions in the years that followed. While this might be a longer post than you care to read right now, it would certainly be worth printing and filing away for future use.

WHY WE BAPTIZE BY SPRINKLING
by Rev. J. B. Green, D.D.
Columbia Theological Seminary Decatur, Ga.

We differ from our immersionist friends not only in our view of the mode, but also in our view of the meaning of baptism. They think  that baptism points to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We object to that in­terpretation:

  1. green_1957_sprinklingBecause it is generally agreed that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper refers to the death and resurrection of Christ. If baptism also signifies the death and resurrection of Christ, then we have two Sacraments which are signs and symbols of the same facts of the life of Christ. Why this double representation of these facts? In that case we have no sign and symbol of the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament it was not so. There the passover pointed to the work of Christ, but cir­cumcision pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit. For circumcision meant the putting away of carnality, the removal of the sinful flesh. This is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. Bap­tism means the same thing; it means the wash­ing away of sin. We object to the immersion- ist’s view of the meaning of baptism for another reason. The burial of Christ has no redemptive value. Christ would have saved the world if he had not been buried. Why should a rite be ordained to signify a fact which is not essen­tial to the accomplishment of salvation?

We think that baptism represents the work of the Holy Spirit. Why do we so think? For several reasons. There are three Bible symbols of the Holy Spirit. One is oil. In 1 Samuel 10:1-6 we have an account of the anointing of Saul by Samuel, setting him apart to the King­ship. The oil was poured on Saul’s head, and in connection with that anointing the Holy Spirit came upon him.

In I Samuel 16th chapter we have an account of the anointing of David by Samuel. The oil ’ was poured upon David’s head and the Spirit came upon him. These passages indicate that the anointing with oil is typical of the anoint­ing with the Holy Spirit.

Another symbol of the Spirit is water. In Ezekiel 36:25-27, the Lord Jehovah says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you . . . And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them.” The gift of the spirit is associated with the sprinkling with water. In Matthew 3:16, there is an ac­count of two baptisms. One with water, one with the Spirit. The water baptism was sym­bolic of the Spirit baptism. In John 7:37-38, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that be- lieveth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that be­lieve on him were to receive.”

The third symbol is fire. In Acts 2:3-4, we * have an account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the first group of believers. “There appeared unto them tongues parting asunder like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

These symbols point to the Spirit and his work, and not to Christ and his redemptive action.

Now by what mode were these symbols ap­plied? The oil was poured upon the head. The water, throughout the Jewish dispensation, was sprinkled or poured, and the fire descended upon the heads of the believers.

There is one other passage to which I must t direct your attention: 1 John 5:8, “There are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.” These three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood agree, says the Apostle. In what re­spect? In meaning for one thing, they all signify cleansing. Do they not agree also in mode? The blood was always sprinkled. The water of puri­fication among the Jews was always sprinkled. And the Spirit, as we shall see, always descended upon.

It thus appears from Scripture that water bap­tism symbolizes the work of the Spirit. If so, it should not be supposed that the mode of baptism is by immersion.

But some — many — say that the question of mode is settled by the word baptizo, the Greek word which gives the name to the rite. We do not think so. The Greek word for the Lord’s Supper, the second Sacrament, does not settle the question of the mode of its administration. The Greek word for the Supper is deipnon, which signifies a full meal; a table spread with sufficient food to satisfy a man’s hunger. The Greek Christians at Corinth, perhaps reasoning from the meaning of that word, misobserved the Lord’s Supper; and the Apostle had to cor­rect them. 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. If reasoning from the literal meaning of the classic word for the second Sacrament leads to error, may not reasoning from the literal meaning of the word for the first Sacrament also lead to error? It not only may, but does.

In the Lord’s Supper we have not a physical feast, as the word for it suggests, but physical signs of a spiritual feast. In baptism we have not a physical bath, but a physical sign of a spiritual cleansing. A small quantity of bread and wine is sufficient to signify a spiritual ban­quet. And a little water is sufficient as a sign of spiritual purifying.

But it is contended by many that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. Not in the Bible.

At the beginning of my ministry in Tennessee I attended a debate on the subject of the mode of baptism between a Baptist minister and a min­ister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Baptist brought many books of authority by which he intended to prove that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. The Cumberland Presbyterian brought only his Bible. He said he proposed to show that baptizo in the Bible does not mean to immerse. What he proposed to do, he did.

Some years ago a Baptist publishing house in the north requested Dr. Edmund B. Fairfield to prepare a book in defense of the Baptist view of the mode of baptism. This man had been a Baptist minister for more than a quarter of a century, and no man was more certain of being right than he was. He said he had no doubt on the subject. For two years he investigated the evidence relating to the mode of baptism. To his surprise, the farther he went in his investigation, the more he saw that the evidence was against the Baptist position. In the presence of his accumulated evidence, honesty required him to surrender his former view. He wrote a book, but it was on the other side of the question.

I will now give you instances of the use of the word in the New Testament where baptizo does not, cannot, mean to immerse. Luke 11:37-38: There we are told that a Pharisee asked Jesus to dine with him; and Jesus went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he mar­veled that he had not first bathed himself before dinner. The word there rendered bathed, is the word baptizo. Was the Pharisee surprised that Jesus did not first immerse himself before sitting down to meat? Impossible!

Hebrews: The author in the 9th chapter is describing the ordinances of divine service in the old sanctuary. “The priest offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot as touching the con­science make the worshipper perfect, being only (with meats, drinks, and divers washings) carnal ordinances.” The word rendered washing is baptizmois. These washings were called bap­tisms. There were many washings, purifyings, among the Jews, but no immersions.

The third instance of the use of the word bap­tizo, where it cannot mean immerse, is in the accounts of the baptisms with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer, (would you say John the Immerser?) says: “I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I; . . .He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Was baptism with the Holy Spirit by im­mersion? Was anybody ever immersed in the Holy Spirit? The idea is foreign to Scripture, foreign to reason. The Spirit was always applied to the person, never the person to the Spirit. The same is true of water in the Bible. It is always applied to the person, and that by sprinkling. The immersionist applies the person to the water, we apply the water to the person, that is the Bible way, there is no exception.

The same is true of the use of blood in the Bible, as we have seen. There is a song we some­times sing:

“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”

I like the music, but not words of the first stanza. The words are thoroughly unscriptural. When was any sinner ever plunged beneath a flood of the blood!

Let Peter tell you how the blood was applied. His First Epistle addressed to the “elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedi­ence and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” And listen to the author of Hebrews: “Having a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water …” 10:21-22. The washing with pure water is a reference to water baptism. In the passage there are two cleansings, the cleansing of the body and the cleansing of the heart. It says that the heart was cleansed by sprinkling. Was the body cleansed by immersion?

Now all will agree that the greater, the better baptism, is the Spirit baptism. John says: “I baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John’s baptism was typical of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit was the real, the important baptism. For the mode of it, read Joel’s prophecy: “It shall come to pass that I will pour out my Spirit in all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions and also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” 2.28-29. Now read the account of the fulfillment of that prophesy in Acts 2:3-4: “There came from heaven tongues parting asun­der like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The tongues of fire and the Holy Spirit came from above, from heaven, upon the be­lievers.

In Acts, the 10th chapter, we are told that while Peter was yet speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. That is the invariable rule, the Spirit always falls upon, descends upon, or is poured upon the subjects. If water baptism is to present a picture of Spirit baptism, it should be in mode like Spirit bap­tism. Well, if the mode is not given in the word which designates the rite, how are we to learn what the mode is? In two ways: 1. By the mean­ing of the rite in Scripture. I have dealt with that already. 2. By the examples of its admin­istration. The passages in the New Testament that relate to the administration of baptism are divided into three classes: First, those which taken by themselves seem to favor immersion. Matthew 3:16. The authorized version says that Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water. The revised version says that he went up straightway from the water. The preposition used is not ex, meaning out of, but apo, which means from the water. He could have gone up from the water without going up out of the water. In Acts 8:38-39, we have an account of the baptism of the eunuch by Philip. The record says that both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he bap­tized him. And when they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. The immersionist says that this language indi­cates that the baptism was by immersion, but t the passage, correctly read, indicates no such thing. If going into the water and the com­ing up out of it were parts of the baptism, then both Philip and the eunuch were baptized; for they both went down into the water and came up out of the water. The passage says that the Baptism took place between the going into the water and the coming up out of the water. And all the lawyers of Philadelphia cannot tell how the baptism was performed. No valid argument can be based on prepositions. In the 8th chapter of the Acts, the preposition en is used several times, but only in the account of the baptism of the eunuch is it translated into. Elsewhere in that chapter it is translated at, by, etc. So I say that this class of Scripture only seems to favor immersion.

Second, there is a second class of passages relat­ing to the administration of baptism from which the idea of immersion is excluded. Under this head belong the accounts of baptism with the Holy Spirit. With this class of passages we have dealt already.

Third, there is a third class of passages which, in themselves, are not decisive, but which are altogether favorable to baptism by sprinkling. First, the baptism of the 3,000 at Jerusalem. Was it by immersion? Where? In what water? Jerusalem’s water supply was mostly in cisterns under the ground, no river flowed by Jerusalem, only a little brook which was a wet weather branch, at other seasons its bed was dry. There was no large pool or lake at Jerusalem. If there had been, it would have been under the control of the Pharisees, who, of course, would have for­bidden it to those despised followers of the crucified pretender to Messiahship. It there had been a body of water sufficient for baptism by immersion and the Apostles had used it for that purpose, the whole body of the water would have been polluted, rendered unfit for use by any Jew fearing defilement. The facts of the situation in Jerusalem are dead against the notion that the 3,000 converts were baptized by immersion.

Take now the baptism of the case of the eunuch, which was down toward Gaza, which was desert. Some tourists were shown the place where it was said the eunuch was baptized. And what did they see? A little stream no bigger than your little finger flowing out of a rock. A Bap­tist in the party exclaimed, “Oh it didn’t take place here, it didn’t take place here, not enough water,” Exactly, not enough water for immer­sion, but a plenty for sprinkling.

Next, the case of Cornelius and his household. While Peter was yet speaking the Holy Spirit fell on all that heard the Word. Did Peter say, “Is there a baptistry here, or a pool convenient where these may be baptized?” No, he said, “Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized?” He then commanded them to be baptized then and there. Was it by immersion?

The case of the jailer at Philippi. His baptism took place without delay at midnight at the jail. Was it by immersion? The case of Paul is pe­culiarly clear and convincing. Ananias was sent to administer to Paul, then called Saul. Laying his hands on him, Ananias said, “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight. And he arose and was baptized. Baptized then and there, standing up. Was it by immersion?

Two points more and I am done.

  1. According to our view of baptism there is unity and harmony in Scripture. There is one method of purification in Both Testaments and that is by sprinkling — sprinkling of water, sprinkling of blood.
  2. Baptism by sprinkling is universally ap­plicable. Universally applicable as to place. Wherever there is water enough to sustain life, there people can be baptized by sprinkling. In World War I there was a large military camp in Greenville, South Carolina. The Baptists complained that no provision was made for ad­ministering baptism by their mode. They seemed to think that the government should run a river into the camp, or create a lake for their con­venience. A distinguished Baptist minister, Dr. Norwood, pastor of City Temple, London, Eng­land, was a Chaplain at the battle front in France. He said the application of the rite of baptism by immersion was out of the question there. He said he did not repudiate that mode of baptism, he simply had no use for it in that situation. He could never again insist that the quantity of water was important in Baptism.

Baptism by sprinkling is universally applicable as to time. It can be safely administered in the frozen North in winter, as in the balmy South.

It is universally applicable as to people. It can be applied to infants as well as to adults; to the sick as well as to the healthy; to the dying as well as to the living.

Remember, according to the Bible, people were baptized with water, not in water; they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, not in the Holy Spirit. The water was applied to the per­son, not the person to the water. The Spirit was applied to the person, not the person to the Spirit. And believers were baptized immediately on the spot.

Reasoning from the use of baptizo in Scripture, from the meaning of the rite of baptism, and from the instances of its administration, we con­clude that baptism was, and should be now, by sprinkling or pouring.

“I will sprinkle clear water upon you,” sayeth the Lord, “and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” “Wherefore, let us all draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our bodies washed with clean water.”

Eighteen Twelve was a Very Good Year
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was clear that something had to be done.  Princeton College was not being the source any longer for Presbyterian ministers, and for that matter, any ministers.  The school had turned into a secular school for careers, like law, politics, and education.


The reason for this was varied,  Some saw the problem in the new president, Samuel Stanhope Smith.  It wasn’t that he had no qualifications for the presidency.  He himself was a graduate of the college.  He had started what later became Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.  He had tutored under his father-in-law John Witherspoon as the Vice-President of Princeton, when the latter was unable physically to do it.  So he had all the academic qualifications.

Of more troublesome however were questions about his lack of Calvinistic distinctives.  It seemed that they were in word only as there were suggestions of an emphasis on free will in man plus scientific suggestions in place of supernatural miracles.  Add to that a student rebellion, the trustees were beginning to have questions on his ability to solve these challenges in the right way.

Pictured at left, Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

With 400 vacant pulpits in the Presbyterian Church, the sentiment began to build for a separate theological seminary separate from Princeton College as early as 1800.  By 1805 and 1808, each General Assembly was being besieged with calls for more ministers, on the mission field and in the congregations of the land.  An overture to decide what kind of school was sent to the presbyteries.  While hardly overwhelming for any one choice, by 1811, over $14,000 had been raised for the prospective seminary.  Any professor would have to subscribe to the Westminster Standards, and the Form of Government of Presbyterianism.

Pictured at right, Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, second professor at the Seminary (with apologies on the poor quality of that image).

On August 12, 1812, while the nation was already at war against Great Britain, people packed the town’s Presbyterian Church for the inauguration of Dr. Archibald Alexander as the first professor of Princeton Theological Seminary.   He had been chosen by the General Assembly.  He preached his inaugural sermon for the worshipers, including taking his vows regarding the confessional standards and the Presbyterian form of Government.  The seminary had begun, with three students.  It would soon pick up and begin to send out laborers into the fields, which were white unto harvest.

Words to live by:  Every reader of this historical blog should read the fine summary of Dr. David Calhoun’s two-volume work on Princeton Seminary, published by the Banner of Truth Trust in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Filled with persons, places, and events from the founding of the school in 1812 to 1929, when it ceased to be a Reformed biblical seminary, this school was the pillar of orthodoxy for the Presbyterian Church.  When we forget the past, we lose hope for the present and the future.  When we study the past, we learn how to live in the present and the future.  You will not be able to put down the two books.  The contributor promises you that!

War Sermons of Samuel Davies
by Rev. David T. Myers

Samuel Davies was known as the apostle to Virginia, so effective was he in being the instrument to call a people out of darkness into light.  Beyond the evangelistic emphasis of his ministry there, he also often  had to challenge  his people to stand up and defend themselves against the Indians of that area.  This was especially needful as countless settlers were withdrawing to safer areas of the colonies, thus reducing the number of parishioners of the Presbyterian churches in the area.

On the Sabbath day of  July 25, 1755, in his home parish of Hanover, Virginia, the Rev. Samuel Davies spoke on this theme of standing up and fighting for your family, your church, and your country.  Listen to his words:

“Let me earnestly recommend to you to furnish yourselves with arms and put yourselves in a position of defense.  What is that religion good for that leaves men cowards on the appearance of danger?

“I am particularly solicitous of you that you should act with honor and spirit in this, as it becomes loyal subjects, lovers of your country, and courageous Christians.  I am determined to not leave my country while there is any prospect of defending it.  Certainly he does not deserve a place in any country who is ready to run from it upon every appearance of danger.

“Let us determine that if the cause should require it, we will courageously leave house and home and take the field.”

A voluntary company of riflemen was immediately formed as a result of this sermon by Samuel Davies.  In fact, during the progress of what later on became known as the French and Indian War, the war sermons of Samuel Davies persuaded more men to enter the field of battle as soldiers than any other means used.

Words to Live By: Samuel Davies was resolute about this issue.  His point was that the church of the Lord was being devastated by this danger, as more and more colonists returned closer to the safety of larger towns in the east.  Stand up and defend your home, your church, and your country, was his watchword.  There is a sacred right to defend oneself and the country to which you belong.  Let there be careful study that the cause is just, according to the Scripture.  Then with that basis, stand strong in the Lord.

Please note: Just a few years ago PCA pastor Dewey Roberts published Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia. Click the embedded link to examine the book further and/or purchase. From the book blurb:

Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia is the first full-scale biography ever produced on Samuel Davies, America’s greatest ever preacher. It is a meticulously researched work which presents the story of Davies’ life from cradle to grave. With the publication of this biography, the great Samuel Davies will no longer be an obscure figure from the past. It deserves a place on the bookshelves of those who have read the biographies of Whitefield, Spurgeon, McCheyne, Edwards, Lloyd-Jones, and other great Christian ministers.

Charles Hodge enters into eternity

hodgeCharles_grayIt was on this day, June 19, in 1878 that Dr. Charles Hodge died. Early the next month, on the pages of The Christian Observer, this brief note appeared under the title, “Calvinism and Piety,” :

“The Christian Union, which has no friendship for Calvinism, closes its article on the death of Dr. Hodge, as follows:

“Dr. Hodge, who was the foremost of the old Calvinists in this country, was, in character, one of the sweetest, gentlest and most lovable of men. His face was itself a benediction. We doubt whether he had any other than a theological enemy in the world. Curiously too, the peculiar tenets of his theology were reserved for the class-room and for philosophical writings. In the pulpit he preached a simple and un-sectarian gospel; his favorite texts were such as ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;’ and his sermons were such as the most successful missionaries delight to preach in foreign lands. In Princeton he is regarded as without peer in the conduct of the prayer meeting. His piety was as deep and as genuine as his learning was varied and profound. The system of theology of which he was the ablest American representative seems to us, in some points, foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, but the life and personality of the man were luminous with the spirit of an indwelling Christ.”

Words to Live By: May we all—those of us who name the name of Christ and who also claim that same biblical faith commonly called Calvinism—so find our maturity in Christ as to live in a similar way, luminous with the spirit of the indwelling Christ, pointing all men and women to the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Image source: Frontispiece photograph of Charles Hodge, D.D., from The Right of Presbyteries Not to Be Annulled by Any Assumed Authority of the General Assembly: Their Relations to Each Other Defined by Dr. Hodge in the Princeton Review. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Co., 1896. The caption beneath the photograph, “That good gray head that all men knew.” is a line taken from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, written originally in memory of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (nicknamed “the Iron Duke”), and the poem subsequently is found used on behalf of a number of statesmen and others. Presumably as it was here used of Dr. Hodge, the point was to stress Hodge’s fidelity. The photo of Hodge on the front covers of these pamphlets is the last known photograph of Hodge.

Pamphlet War: The Rights of General Assembly versus the Rights of Presbyteries

The PCA Historical Center has another pamphlet, which, except for the title, appears identical, judging by the cover. It even has the same photograph, though the caption beneath the photo is taken from the next line of the poem, “That tower of strength Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew!” The title of this second pamphlet is The Rights of General Assembly Not to be Annulled by Any Assumed Authority of the Presbyteries: Their Relations to Each Other Defined by Dr. Hodge in the Princeton Review, published in New York by E. B. Treat, 5 Cooper Union. Office of the Treasury Magazine, and also published in the same year, 1896. There is mention of a third pamphlet that was part of this pamphlet war, but we have not been able to locate a copy of that third item yet.

Tennyson’s poem, used in part to caption those two pamphlets:

“The statesman-warrior, moderate, resolute,
Whole in himself, a common good;
Mourn for the man of amplest influence,
Yet clearest of ambition’s crime,
Our greatest, yet with least pretence,
Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common-sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime.
Oh, good gray head which all men knew!
Oh, fallen at length that tower of strength
Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew!”

Tales of a Traveler

ramseyJames Beverlin Ramsey was born in Cecil county, Maryland on May 20, 1814. His collegiate education was secured at Lafayette College, a school in Easton, Pennsylvania founded in 1826 and which began holding classes in 1832. Thus Mr. Ramsey was apparently in the first class of graduates in 1836, where he was also valedictorian. He immediately entered Princeton Theological Seminary and remained there four years, which would entail the standard three year curriculum plus an additional year of post-graduate work. One of his professors at the Seminary, the eminent linguist Dr. J. Addison Alexander, stated that when Ramsey left the Seminary, he was qualified to teach any class in the institution.

Ordained by the Second Presbytery of New York on February 2, 1841, Rev. Ramsey was installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in West Farms, New York, a neighborhood in New York City, where he remained from 1841-1846. He remained in West Farms in 1846 while preparing for missionary work with the Choctaw Indians and also served as principal of the Spencer Academy, which was connected with that work, from 1848-1849.

From 1950 to 1853, he was Stated Supply for several New York churches, until he received a call in 1853 to serve the Presbyterian church in New Monmouth, Virginia, first as Stated Supply and then as pastor, 1854-1858. His final labors were spent as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lynchburg, Virginia, 1858-1870. Declining health forced his resignation and he died in Lynchburg on July 23, 1871.

It may be interesting to note that the Old School/New School split of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. occurred during Ramsey’s first year at Princeton Seminary, that his first dozen years in ministry were spent in that region where the New School was strongest, and that his last two pulpits—the final eighteen years of his ministry—were in the South, in churches that were on the Old School side of the split.

Dr. Ramsey is today primarily remembered as the author of a commentary on the first eleven chapters of the Book of Revelation, which has been reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust. Included are a brief memoir of the author and an introduction by Dr. Charles Hodge. Published posthumously, the commentary was originally titled The Spiritual Kingdom (1873)Some of his other published works include The Deaconship: An Essay (1858); True Eminence Founded on Holiness: A Discourse occasioned by the death of Lieut. Gen. T.J. Jackson(1863); How Shall I Live? (1861-65); Questions on Bible Doctrine (1869); and Questions on Old Testament History (1879). A number of these can be read online, here.

Words to Live By:
We should, all of us, be constantly open to the Spirit’s leading as He may bring opportunities to witness to others of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. Our witness to a dying culture matters more now than ever. The following, from Dr. Ramsey’s short treatise How Shall I Live?, gives an excellent example of how a mundane situation can be turned into such an opportunity:—

THE STRICT SEARCH

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? BE not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, not covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

A traveler in his journey crossed the frontier, and had to pass through the custom-house. The officers said to him, “Have you any contraband goods?” “I do not think I have.” was the answer. “That may be true,” said the officers, “but we cannot let you pass without examination. Permit us to search.” “If you please,” said the traveler, “but allow me to sit down while you perform your duty.”

They then began their search; and first examined his portmaneau. Afterward they turned to his person, and searched his pockets, his pocket-book, his boots, and his neck-cloth.

The examination being over, the traveler thus addressed the officers: “Gentlemen, will you allow me to tell you what thoughts this examination has awakened in my mind? We are all traveling to an eternal kingdom, into which we cannot take any contraband goods. If you had found any prohibited articles upon me, you would have taken them from me, and have fined me for it. Now, think how many careless travelers pass into eternity, laden with sins which are forbidden by the heavenly King. By these forbidden things, I mean deceitfulness, anger, pride, lying, covetousness, envy, evil-speaking, and similar offences, which are hateful in the sight of God. For all these, every man who passes the boundary of the grave is searched, far more strictly than you have searched me. God is the great searcher of hearts; and although the number of transgressors is very great, and their rank and station very different, yet not one can escape, for ‘every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.’

“The King of heaven, not willing any of us should perish, sent His only begotten Son to become our substitute to make a reconciliation for transgressors, and to clothe us with His righteousness, without which we cannot see His kingdom. This Messiah, or sent one, is Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who came down on earth on purpose to bear ‘our sins in His own body on the tree,’ to save all that believe on Him, to wash us from our spiritual pollution, and to clothe us with the spotless robe—the wedding-garment of His righteousness. And ‘they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,’ are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.’”

The custom-house officers listened with attention, and when he had finished, expressed the hope that they should be permitted to see and hear him again.

“Gentlemen,” continued the traveler, “whether we shall meet again on earth is uncertain. God only knows; but, as I am about to leave you, I will tell you something more—it is about TWO PLANKS. A preacher wishing to explain to his congregation what a dangerous delusion those persons are in, who seek salvation partly from the righteousness of Christ, said to them: ‘Supposing it is needful for you to cross a river, over which two planks are thrown. One is perfectly new, the other is completely rotten. How will you go? If you walk upon the rotten one, you are sure to fall into the river.

If you put one foot on the rotten plank, and the other on the new plank, it will be the same—you will certainly falll through and perish. So there is only one safe method left—Set both your feet upon the new plank.”

Brethren, the rotten plank is your own unclean self-righteousness. He who trusts in it must perish without remedy. The new plank is the eternal, saving righteousness of Christ, which came from heaven, and is given to every one who believeth in Him. Trust on this righteousness and you shall be saved; for the Scripture saith, “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”

To read more of How Shall I Live?, click here. An alternate edition is posted on the web, here.

April is coming on fast, and thoughts begin to turn to General Assemblies. Well, indulge the policy wonks if you would please, and hopefully others will find this somewhat interesting. The following concerns why or how it is that we have the safeguard in place, that says a man coming from another denomination cannot become the pastor of a church until he has first met with and been approved by the Presbytery. Why do we have that rule? Where did it come from? Well, as they say, here’s the rest of the story:—

The PCA’s Book of Church Order, in the first paragraph of the chapter treating of the ordination and installation of ministers, states in part that

Ordinarily a candidate or licentiate may not be granted permission by the Presbytery to move on to the field to which he has been called, prior to his examination for licensure or ordination. Likewise an ordained minister from another Presbyterian Church in America Presbytery or another denomination, ordinarily shall not move on to the field to which he has been called until examined and received by Presbytery.

Where does that requirement come from? Why is it important? Well, history is what we do here, so a bit of background seemed important as I came across it recently.
As the PCA’s Book of Church Order is based directly on the polity of prior denominations, this history is also directly relevant.

The setting of this story is the meeting of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern). It is the third day of their General Assembly, and the report comes that an entire Presbytery wants to join the denomination. There is testimony that these men are entirely orthodox. But they would rather not suffer the pain of a theological examination by the receiving body. At which point the Rev. E. Thompson Baird rose to address the issue:

Rev. Dr. Baird sketched the history of the origin of the rule requiring the examination of ministers passing from Presbytery to Presbytery. Dr. Lyman Beecher came to a Presbytery in New York from some Congregational Association, and was admitted without examination, and immediately took a letter of dismission to an Ohio Presbytery, and was received, and subsequently stated that he had never signified his adoption of the Confession of Faith. The late Dr. Alexander therefore advocated the adoption of the examination rule, for without it a single Presbytery might deluge the church with heretical ministers. The rule was not directed especially against the New School Church, for at the time of its adoption that church had no existence. Nor had it been suspended in the case of the United Synod.—They had examined the Old School and the Old School had examined them, and it was not until they were thoroughly satisfied as to one another’s soundness that they came together. Nor could it be reasonably objected to. He was not ashamed to proclaim anywhere what he believed as to the great doctrines of religion, and he was not willing to alter our whole system to open the door to a few who were not willing to come in the same way that others had been received. The importance of it is increased at this time—it is more necessary than ever in these days of fanaticism that we should have such a rule. Even in the case of old ministers he thought it a good thing to talk over our views occasionally. When a venerable father in the church comes to be examined, if we cannot find any heresy in him, we can at least learn a great deal from him about the great doctrines of grace. The speaker continued that if the rule is absolute, nobody’s feelings can be hurt by it. He therefore saw no necessity for its repeal.

And apparently he made his case well, for when the report was adopted, the Assembly refused to repeal the rule requiring the examination of all ministers entering a Presbytery. So our Book to this day still expects and requires a Presbytery to examine and receive a minister before he can be allowed onto the field of ministry within that Presbytery.

A Presbyterian Woman of Uncommon Courage
by David T. Myers

Lady Anna (some say Anne) Cunningham was a Scottish woman of Christian conviction and courage. Born into a family of distinguished Scotch Reformers and yes, Presbyterians, she was reared with biblical principles and Presbyterian doctrine in the days of John Knox. The fact that she was in economic wealth only added to the influence of her important place in the history of Scotland.

Of her early life, we possess no information, except a cherished commitment to Presbyterianism. We do know that in 1603, she married on January 30 the heir of the Marquis of Hamilton. That meant in those days and years an opposition to the crown of England and Scotland who actively fought for the establishment of Anglicanism in the realm. This was a spiritual battle, and at times a military one.

One of her grown children, James, sided with the king against the Presbyterians. He joined the English army as they attempted to militarily conquer the kingdom of Scotland by force in 1639. His mother, the Lady of this post, appeared on horseback with a troop of cavalry, wearing two pistols, with home made silver bullets, which she said would take care of these invaders, including her wayward son! The king’s army and navy did not land on Scotland’s shore, considering that they were outnumbered by these fierce Scottish forces. Eventually, a pacification was concluded between the king and the Presbyterians after the Battle of Berwick.

Lady Cunningham died in 1647 in Scotland.

Words to Live By: Our faithful subscribers may conclude that she had all of the advantages that a wealthy and influential woman could have in her upbringing and sub sequential life. But there are some historical figures which had those and out of fear of losing them, compromised their testimony of faith. This Christian woman did not do so, but out of a living faith and hope, threw herself and all her wealth and position into the fray of supporting Christian Presbyterian doctrine and life in difficult times. Wherever God has placed you, Christian women, use your circumstances to stand strong for the Lord Jesus in your home, church, and society.

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