Lord, Give Us Faithful, Resolute Pastors, Bold for the Gospel.
by Rev. David T. Myers

Starting with this post today, we begin to look at the Great Ejection of Presbyterian ministers, among others, from Anglican pulpits and schools in the British Isles. This ejection brought great hardship, including death, to those people who had committed themselves to the Reformed faith, and Presbyterianism in particular. Today’s post is the attempt to render powerless those pesky Presbyterian pastors who continued in one way or another to have a godly influence upon their parishes and their people. It took place on August 13, 1663 in Britain, Ireland, and Ulster. This author will focus today on just the kingdom of Scotland.

Known as the Act of Glasgow from which it emanated, it was summarized also as “The Mile Act.” It commanded all Presbyterian ministers to “remove themselves and their families, within twenty days, out of the parishes where they were incumbents, and not to reside within twenty miles of the same, nor within six miles of Edinburgh or any cathedral church, nor within three miles of any royal burgh within the kingdom.” (W. M. Hetherington, “History of the Church of Scotland,” p. 223.) Now for those of our readers who live and move within the confines of these United States, this might be possible, given our wide open spaces. But in the kingdom of Scotland, with its narrow land masses and close population centers, such an act was prohibitive beyond description. As Hetherington points out on the same page, “four hundred spots such as this act describes could not have been found within the kingdom, though all of its lowly wilds had been selected with geographical exactness.” (p. 223) What made the particular act very grievous was that its origin was found in one who used to be a Presbyterian and for that matter, was elected to the Westminster Assembly of Divines. This was the Duke of Lauderdale. He knew Presbyterian doctrine and government from the inside, and now in his authority as an Anglican archbishop, he sought to make his former friends miserable by authoritarian acts to prove to his new-found friends his complete dedication in their efforts to suppress the Presbyterian church.What he and the rest of the Anglican hierarchy failed to realize however was the depth of love to the Reformed Faith among the common folks of the kirk. When their beloved pastors were kept by law away from the parishes, the people simply went to their former pastors as they set up worship anywhere in the kingdom to hear the spiritual message of their hearts and lips. This might mean a worship service in the hills and valleys of Scotland, with a huge rock for a pulpit and stones on the pastures for communion observance. But these circumstances did not matter for the people of God. Soon their very attendance meant fines and even death for their attendance.

Words to Live By:
What was the case there in Scotland has been the experience of many a godly and faithful pastor who was deposed from his ordination vows and driven from the visible church, all because of faithful obedience to the Word of God and opposition to the man-made courts of his denomination. Speaking personally, my pastor-father was one of those Presbyterian ministers who was a minister on the roll of the original Presbyterian Church of America in 1936. He had been deposed from his ordination in the PCUSA in 1936.  Worshipping and serving the faithful people of God, as a result, often meant conducting services in buildings that were less than desirable. One such building was a saloon. I remember my father preached from behind the bar, with the stools and table chairs seating the congregation, while the bar piano was used to accompany the hymns. (Note: My “job” as a young boy was removing all the bottles left from the previous night well before the congregation arrived and worship started!) Other Presbyterian ministers met in one room schools, dance halls, a funeral chapel, a garage — anywhere and everywhere the unsearchable riches of Christ could be proclaimed. The wicked attempts of man, then and now, to crush the gospel witness are never successful, for Christ promised in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of Hades will not overcome (the true church).

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!

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

The Westminster Shorter Catechism – Question 36.

Q. 36
What are the benefits which, in this life, do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits which , in this life, do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

EXPLICATION.

Benefits. –Advantages, privileges, blessings.

Assurance of God’s love. –A sure or certain knowledge, that God delights, or takes pleasure in us, and that it is his will to do us good.

Conscience. –That faculty in the soul of man, which approves or disapproves of any action, according as it is good or bad.

Peace of conscience. –A holy tranquility, or calmness of mind, arising from an assurance of God’s love.

Joy in the Holy Ghost. –A holy gladness, wrought in us by the Spirit of God, arising from the assurance that God is our God, and will be our everlasting portion.

Increase of Grace. –Growing in holiness, or becoming strong in the habit, and abounding in the exercise, of grace.

Perseverance therein. –A constant continuance in the practice of all the duties of a holy life.

ANALYSIS.

The benefits here mentioned, as, even in this life, accompanying, or flowing from, justification, adoption, and sanctification, are five in number :

  1. The assurance of God’s love. –Isa. xxxii. 17. The effect of righteousness, (shall be) assurance for ever.
  2. Peace of conscience. –Rom. v. 1. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Joy in the Holy Ghost. -Rom xiv. 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
  4. Increase of grace. –Prov. iv. 18. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
  5. Perseverance in grace to the end. –1 Pet. i. 5. Who are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

In 1804, Great Britain and her colonies were under threat of attack by French forces. As a call went out for a season of prayer and fasting, the Rev. Archibald Gray delivered the following sermon on this day, August 10th, in 1804. To read the full sermon, click here. The last paragraph shown below in bold print, speaks of the nature of a solemn fast and provides a particularly good and useful definition.

“Shall we despond in the present state of our country? Shall we rashly distrust the care of an overruling Providence, which has upheld her in many a perilous contest? . . . ‘It is good to hope, and quietly wait, for the salvation of the Lord.’ In His mercy the means of our safety will be found.”

A Sermon, preached on 10th August, 1809, the day appointed, by Government, for a General Fast, by Archibald Gray, minister of the Church of Scotland, and pastor of the Protestant Dissenting Congregation, Halifax, Nova-Scotia. Halifax: Printed by John Howe, 1804.

A SERMON.

Psalm CXLVII—12.

“Praise thy God, O Zion, for He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates.”

Among the nations of the East, a disposition has always prevailed to express the sentiments of piety and devotion by some correspondent external act. Thus a sacrifice was offered by the sinner, not as an atonement for his offences, but, as an acknowledgment of his unworthiness and guilt; a tacit confession that he deserved, himself, to suffer that death, which was inflicted on the victim thus substituted in his room. From the altar, reared by the hand of the grateful worshipper, the smoke of incense ascended to heaven, along with the praise of his Creator, for some recent, and signal, instance of divine goodness. And, on occasion of great calamities, or where such appeared to threaten them, nations, as well as individuals, have set apart, in token of their humiliation before God, certain seasons for solemn fasting.

It may not be improper, considering the purpose for which we are assembled, this day, to premise a few words on the nature of a fast. The greatest, and warmest, disputes have ever arisen from the merest trifles. Mankind have often been divided about external ceremonies; yet external ceremonies are of very little consequence. Whether a man should sit, or stand, or bend the knee, in the presence of his Maker, when he addresses Him in the language of praise and adoration; whether or not he should appoint, for periodical and solemn approaches to the throne of grace, some particular day, the twelfth or fourteenth of the moon; whether he should repeat certain prayers, in white garments or black, with his head covered or bare, appear, at first view and while the passions are yet uninflamed by the heat of controversy and the strife of words, matters of the greatest indifference. That the heart should be sincere, and the affections truly devout, see, to a man of plain sense, the only circumstances which, in such cases, demand our serious attention, as what the Almighty will, undoubtedly, require.

In like manner, in fasting, the external observance can be of little consequence, if considered separately from the affections of the mind. An abstinence from our usual indulgences may be a proper expression of humiliation, but it can be nothing more. In itself it has no claim to merit; it can prove of no avail; it can only be acceptable to heaven as it is connected with the sentiments of sorrow for sin, and sincere resolutions of penitence. “To break the bands of wickedness, not to bow down the head like a bullrush,” saith the Spirit of God, by the voice of the prophet, “is the fast that the LORD hath chosen.”

We are called upon as individuals, and as members of society who hold the welfare of their country dear, to confess, with deep and unfeigned contrition, our private and our national sins, which might, long before now, have justly drawn upon us the judgments of heaven. We should be sensible, indeed we cannot but be sensible, that in many respects we have frequently and heinously offended. While we form, therefore, the virtuous resolutions of penitence and amendment for the time to come, let us humbly implore, through the merits of our powerful Mediator, the pardon and remission of the past. Let us pray that the Father of mercies would deal with us rather “according to the multitude of His tender mercies,” than after our own demerits; that He would “still pity us as a father pities his children,” but forbear to “chasten us in His wrath,” or “visit us in His hot displeasure.” What created being, alas! is able to stand before Omnipotence incensed? When the measure of the sinner’s iniquities is full, and he endeavours not, by penitence and reformation, to cancel his transgressions, or to appease the Judge of the world, if that God whom he appears to brave, but raise His voice in indignation, for a moment, certain destruction overtakes him—sudden and fearful as falls the thunderbolt from heaven. Not on us, O Lord, not on us, sinners, we confess, but repentant sinners, let the weight of Thine indignation fall. We confess, with sorrow, our sins and humbly deprecate thy wrath. O Thou First and Last, Thou greatest and best of beings, what are we? Blind, feeble, and erring mortals, creatures of yesterday, who tomorrow shall mingle with the dust from which we sprung; what are we that Thou shouldest chasten us in Thine anger? Is not man but as an atom in Thy universe; and the son of man but as a worm before Thee? Or if our own insignificance be insufficient to shield us from Thy wrath, hear, we beseech Thee, the voice of intercession from Him whom Thou hearest always; and look on the blood that flowed from the cross to wash away the sins of men and of nations.

Abstinence from food is nothing; nor are any outward marks of humiliation of the least importance, but so far as they are undissembled and faithful tokens of the affections which prevail within. We have, this day, assembled to make confession of our sins, and to implore, for ourselves and for our country, the pardon of heaven, and the continuance of that protection and favour, by which, above every other land, ours has been long and eminently distinguished. To the prayer of unfeigned piety the God, whom we serve, refuseth not to listen. But let us beware of deceiving ourselves; of “approaching Him with our lips, while our hearts are far from Him.” No secrets can be hid from His all-searching eye. And though He rejecteth not the sighing of a contrite heart, neither desireth the death of a sinner, though He is ready to aid, by His good Spirit, the struggles of returning virtue, and to receive, like a tender father, with favour and indulgence, His repentant, though prodigal son. He cannot view, without indignation, the presumptuous boldness of those weak mortals who substitute a show of devotion in the room of sincere virtue, of good and holy resolutions, who bow down before Him as it were in mockery, and approach Him “with a lie in their right hand.”

The folly of such an attempt can be surpassed only by its danger. Sensible of guilt and of frailty, we should seek, in all humbleness of mind, some means of expiating our past offences, some prop to sustain our weakness, in time to come, against the temptations which surround and will infallibly assail us. For the faithful disciple of the Saviour, this atonement and support are abundantly provided. Let us come unto God, through Him, and every stain shall be wiped away, with which sin hath polluted our souls. TO all who earnestly solicit it, divine assistance shall be given. To the weak, who are conscious of their weakness yet desirous of persevering in virtue, wisdom and strength shall be imparted from on high. By hypocrisy all our former offences shall be dyed in indelible crimson. Instead of securing an interest in the merits of our Lord, or winning the Spirit of truth to take up His abode in our hearts, by a semblance of piety, while we are strangers to its power and benign influence on our temper and conduct, we shall quench the Spirit of God, crucify our Redeemer afresh, and put Him to open shame. Encumbered with a load of guilt voluntarily incurred, we may “strive to enter,” according to the expression of our Lord, “the strait gate of life, but shall find to our confusion, that we are finally and for ever excluded.

The nature of a solemn fast, then, appears to be the humbling of ourselves in the presence of our Creator, attended with the confession of our sins, an earnest solicitation of pardon, and a faithful and steady determination to amend our lives. As an individual learns, in the hard school of affliction, to reflect on those blemishes in his character, which the dazzling sunshine of prosperity had wholly prevented him from discerning; so societies and nations, who, blessed with a long train of fortunate events, are almost ready to forget God, when calamity overtakes or appears to menace them, call to mind with profound regret, their national iniquities; and the nation, like the individual, conscious of guilt and humbled by chastisement, sinks in the dust before her Judge and seeks by humble supplication to avert or to mitigate the sentence of avenging justice. 

Great blessings in small packages. Some years ago, the PCA Historical Center received the donation of a complete set of a small periodical issued by Dr. William Stanford Reid. The little periodical titled REFORMATION TODAY only ran for about three years. One sample from those rare pages:

“Needed: Historical Perspective”
by William Stanford Reid
[excerpted from Reformation Today —Volume 2, Number 4 (February, 1953), pp. 11, 17.]

History is God’s possession. This is the repeated assertion of the Scriptures. Whether dealing with individuals such as Pharaoh, Cyrus and Judas, or with nations such as the Jews or with kingdoms such as Babylon, Egypt or Rome, this is always the point of view. Every item, every event of history is worked out according to the purpose and plan of God, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Moreover, this plan and purpose finds its culmination in redemption, accomplished by Christ and to be made complete at history’s final day.

The implications of this point of view for the history of the Church since apostolic days are numerous. The most important is, however, that Christ, who is “head over all things to the Church” is guiding and ruling His people. ,He is bringing His elect into the Church and punishing those professing Christians who prove unfaithful. In this way the history of the Church has for the Church a twofold objective. It is a warning of what befalls those who are not obedient. This is mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament. (2 Tim. 3:8; Heb. 3:17-19; Rev. 2,3). At the same time the history of the Church is a means of instruction, whereby it is warned, encouraged and strengthened. (Rom. 4, 9-11; Heb. 11; 1 Cor. 10:11).

For this reason the Christian has a very real obligation to the Church’s history. He, and the Church as a whole, must take it seriously, regarding it as part of God’s means of guiding and directing the Church by the Spirit into all truth. (John 14:26; 16:13). For this reason history is not to be discarded, nor disregarded. It is the revelation of how God deals with His people, which is also the fundamental message of the Bible. The only difference is that the Church does not have since Apostolic days, an inspired record, nor an inspired interpretation,. Therefore, it is the Church’s obligation, not only to understand its own history, but also to evaluate and interpret it in the light of God’s Word.

There are, however, dangers at this point. If one adopts a proper point of view, they may not be great, but there
is always a tendency towards traditionalism and conservativism. Because this, that or the other doctrine has been believed, or because this, that or the other practice has been followed, such must still be the case. This can only lead to aridity and pharasaism which will bring the Church to the grave.

The greatest danger, however, amongst present day Christians, is in the other direction. They tend to disregard the Church’s history. They adopt the attitude that it is unimportant “Let’s not have Calvin or Wesley or Machen,” they say, “But let us get back to the Scriptures. Only then shall we know the truth.” In this way they are adopting the position, that before this age no one has ever really wrestled with problems of the faith, and what is even more important, no one has ever found a solution. They imply that their problems, their needs and their ideas are absolutely new. Therefore history cannot help.

To an historian such a point of view is utterly ridiculous, for in history “there is nothing new under the sun.” The new problems are the old. What Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper and others had to face, we also have to deal with today. We cannot escape from the world in which we live, a world made up of past history.

This anti-historical attitude, however, is very dangerous. Its proponents feel that in a year or two they can achieve the results which the Church has achieved only over 2,000 years. Consequently they often fall into old errors and heresies which could have been easily avoided if they had known some his Moreover, they would be much humbler than they usually are, for they would see how utterly fallible are all Christians.

Today the Church suffers from a rejection of history. This is one of the evangelical’s greatest weaknesses. Therefore, let us study the Church’s history, the history of God’s people,, in order that we may the better know Him who is the Church’s only Lord and King.

William Stanford Reid, 
Reformation Today —Volume 2, Number 4 (February, 1953), pp. 11, 17.

A most timely reminder comes today from the Rev. Harold S. Laird, widely recognized in his day as a stalwart Christian and Presbyterian. There is no better way to introduce the author of the following short devotional than to reproduce this memorial which was spread upon the Minutes of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery (PCA). In my work here at the PCA Historical Center, every once in a long while I hear certain men spoken of with the greatest of respect. Harold S. Laird was one such man:—

MEMORIAL MINUTE FOR HAROLD SAMUEL LAIRD [8 August 1891 – 25 August 1987]

Harold Samuel Laird was born on August 8, 1891, in New Castle, Pa. His father was a faithful Presbyterian pastor who raised him in the nurture of the Lord. Harold Laird was converted at a young age and walked closely with his Lord ever afterward. Upon graduation from Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary he was ordained to the Gospel Ministry and held six successful pastorates.
Harold Laird was an outstanding preacher of the Gospel, a caring pastor, a contender for the faith, and one who was vitally interested in world missions. He had a leading role in the events which led to the formation of one source of the PCA. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Westminster Theological Seminary, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and Faith Theological Seminary. He was willing to suffer for his convictions even to the point of being suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA and being removed as pastor of one of the most prestigious churches of Wilmington, Delaware. Wheaton College honored him with a Doctor of Divinity degree and he was elected as Moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. He also served on the Board of the Quarryville Presbyterian Home.
Dr. Laird was a man who walked with God. All who heard him pray came into the presence of God. His life verse was Matthew 6:33 and his godly spirit evidenced that he practiced it. He was completely content in the providence of God in his life. Harold Laird ran his race well and entered into glory on August 25, 1987.

THE CURE FOR ANXIETY

Rev. Harold S. Laird, D.D.

[The Independent Board Bulletin 7.4 (April 1941): 3-4.]

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6, 7 American Standard Version.)

There is one thing that is abundantly clear from the above verses and that is that God wills that His children should never be anxious. In fact so plainly is His will expressed here in this matter that for one to be anxious is to commit sin. That anxiety is sin is evident not alone from this statement which so definitely forbids it, but also from an understanding of what causes it, or, better still, what anxiety really is.

The simplest definition one can give in the light of the teaching of the Word of God regarding it is that anxiety is a failure to take God at His word. This is nothing but unbelief, and unbelief is sin. The Word of God indicates that unbelief is a very great sin.

Because anxiety is sin, God, through the Apostle, forbids it in the words, “Be anxious for nothing.” But the mercy of God is revealed in the fact that while He forbids anxiety, He at the same time suggests a cure for it in the words which follow: “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” That the prescribed cure will be effective is clear from the words that follow in the next verse: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

Someone has suggested that the whole of verse six may be expressed in three simple phrases: “Be anxious about nothing”; “Be prayerful about everything”; and “Be thankful for anything.” Many, no doubt, will find it easier to “be prayerful about everything,” than to “be thankful for anything.” Surely it is not easy to be thankful for anything unless one learns the secret of this. It is simply childlike faith in the sovereign power of God whose children we are by faith in Christ. Believe that He, who has proven His love for you in the gift of His Son, controls every detail of your life, and thanksgiving for anything will be gloriously possible.

At last, He Had Arrived
by Rev. David T. Myers

You would have thought that he was a king making a royal entrance into his kingdom, so great was the rejoicing among God’s people to his arrival on the shores of the American colonies.  And indeed, John Witherspoon was certainly the man whom God has chosen to lead the infant College of New Jersey in its next steps of Christian education.

The College had some dark providences associated with its leadership.  In the twenty years of its existence, the five leaders who served as its president, had served a few years and then died.  In fact, it was this mortality rate which cause Mrs. Elizabeth Witherspoon, John’s wife  in Scotland, to want nothing to do with the College.  And so there had been four appeals to come over and help them, but all four of them failed to move the Scotchman, but more particularly the Scotch woman to wish to cross over the Atlantic.  Finally, with the aid of Benjamin Rush, who at that time was studying for a medical degree in Edinburgh, Mrs. Witherspoon was convinced that they should go. Despite the three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship named the Peggy, with five children, and three hundred books for the College library might make anyone rethink the invitation, they did not. On August 7, 1768, the family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Calhoun, in his book “Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812 – 1868,” describes John Witherspoon who stepped off the ship as being “a heavy-set man of forty-six, with brown hair, a strong face with large nose and ears, and blue eyes which looked out beneath bushy brows.”

Resting for five days in the city of Philadelphia, and who can blame them for that after such an ocean voyage, they traveled on to the town of Princeton, New Jersey in a horse and carriage.  About a mile from the town, the entire student body of one hundred and twenty students, with the staff,  met them and ushered them into the town and onto the campus.  His family had use of a house, a garden, land for pasture, and firewood.  There was an annual salary equal to 206 pounds sterling.  That night, in every window of Nassau Hall, there was a candle which illuminated the building.  The future Princeton University and Seminary were rejoicing over his safe arrival.

John Witherspoon was installed as the sixth president of the College of New Jersey on August 17, 1768.  And, he was stand the test of time for decade, as well as through some of the most difficult days in the history of America.  John Witherspoon would make his mark for God’s glory during all this time.

Also this day:
The Advisory Convention was held August 7-9, 1973, to set down final preparations for the First General Assembly of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America, when that Assembly met December 4-7, 1973.

Words to live by:  The Scots-Irish Presbyterians of the colonies knew what they had to have when they invited John Witherspoon.  A strong advocate of the doctrines of the Westminster Standards, he had stood for the faith once delivered unto the saints in Scotland.  He was an accomplished preacher,  church leader, and an author.  When a church leader has been bestowed  Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts, then much good for the saints is expected.  When God’s glory is aimed at by that same leader, then much good for the kingdom of God is attained.  Pray that God will sovereignly bestow His gifts upon the church at large, and your church in particular.

Witherspoon’s works have been largely overlooked and forgotten for some time now, or so it seems. Thankfully, however, his works have been reprinted in recent years. Or you could go over to the Log College Press website to view some of his works in digital format.

Today we would like to take notice of recent discussions on the doctrine of the Trinity and offer the following short article by the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, a conservative stalwart who mentored many of the founding fathers of the PCA. This article originally appeared in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL on August 6, 1975. “Dr. Robbie, as he was affectionately known, was professor emeritus of Church history, Columbia Theological Seminary, and living in retirement in Claremont, California at the time that this was written.

The Trinity: God in Action
by William Childs Robinson

The Church’s interpretation of the Trinity, wrote Bethune-Baker of Cambridge in Early History of Christian Doctrine, is that of one God existing permanently and eternally in three spheres of consciousness and activity, three modes, three forms, three persons: in the inner relations of the divine life as well as in the outer relations of the God-head to the world and to men.”

In his current book, The Triune God, E. J. Fortman concludes that God is not dead. “God is, was and always will be the Triune God who has revealed Himself by His inhabitational presence.”

These words emphasize that we must look to God Himself and His acts to keep our beloved Church in the Trinitarian faith; we must not permit the Church to be devoured by a unitarianism such as that which captured so many English Presbyterian and New England Congregational churches. Trinitarian experiences led Horace Bushnell to answer Unitarianism thus: “But my heart needs the Father, my heart needs the Son, and my heart needs the Holy Spirit, and the one as much as the other.”

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Him-self primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament is the preparation for this revelation, the New Testament the product of the revelation—spoken and lived by the Son and brought to believers by the Holy Spirit.

The climax of this record is found in many places: the farewell discourses in the book of John; the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus; the Gethsemane prayer; the Gospel of the forty days before the ascension, with the Christian name of God given by the resurrected Lord in His Great Commission; the account of Pentecost and the acts of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and in the epistles.

Mindful that much of God’s self-revelation has come through divine- human encounters—Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Paul—we agree with Frederick Gogarten that “faith is the concrete meeting with the triune God.” We also agree with Rahner that “the immanent Trinity as such confronts us in the experience of faith, a constitutive component of which is the word of Scripture itself.”

Through revelation man perceives revelation. “In His light we see light.” By being in God the Holy Spirit, we behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God’s self-revelation as the Trinity is no impersonal system of hypostases in an essence. As Hodgson wrote, “It is the living, loving communion of Father, Son and Spirit into which we have been adopted in Christ.” That is, we have been adopted to share in the “family life of God.”

God the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that God the Father has accepted us as His children and bids us call upon Him as “Abba,” our dear Father, because of the merits of God the Son. The Trinity represents the concept of God involved in the Christian life, and the Christian shares by adoption in the sonship of Christ. Thus the Christian looks out upon the world from within the divine social life of the Trinity.

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Himself primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

We are brought into this life by the threefold actions of God in the riches of His grace. God is before all and above all that He has created, and He has given to and for us His only begotten Son, the unspeakable gift of His love, for love came to earth in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This Son, of His own will, came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. His kind lips rang with the gracious invitation, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” with the reassuring promise that “him who comes to me I will in nowise cast out.”

We accept the Father’s gift and the Son’s invitation. We come to Christ and we cast ourselves upon Him; we entrust ourselves to Him. Yet we do this only as we are drawn by the Father, persuaded and enabled by the effectual calling of the Spirit. It is in the tripersonal experience of the presence of the Father, and of the presence of the Son, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit that God reveals the glory of His grace in saving us sinners.

The Anglican scholar, Bishop K. E. Kirk of Oxford, has said this: “The doctrine of the divine personality of the Spirit emphasizes what has been called the prevenience of God in the aspirations of the human heart, just as that of the divinity of the Son emphasizes that same prevenience in the work of human redemption, and that of the divinity of the Father—which is the doctrine of the existence of God— His prevenience over all the forces and powers in the creation and sustenance of the universe.”

Professor Claude Welch put the truth this way in his book, In This Name: “God is present to us in a threefold self-differentiation. He makes Himself known as the one who stands above and apart, the one to whom Jesus points as His Father and therefore our Father. At the same time, He is the one who confronts man in Jesus Christ as the objective content of revelation, i.e. the Son. And He is the one who seizes and possesses man so that he is able to receive and participate in revelation, new life, salvation, viz, the Holy Spirit.”

It may be that the religious experiences of some denominations or congregations focus more upon one person of the Trinity than another. Certainly it is true that a person will find peculiar satisfaction in the contemplation of one person on one occasion and another in a different situation. But in the course of a normal life span, each Christian avails himself of the complete revelation of the holy Trinity.

As our propitious heavenly Father, the creator, who has life in Himself and gives life to all His creatures, has graciously revealed Himself in the gift and mediation of His only begotten Son. He bids us call upon Him as the Jewish toddler cried out to his parent, “Abba,” dear father. In hours of stress, uncertainty, anxiety and loneliness, we draw close to the everlasting arms and nestle nearer to the heart of Him who makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, those whom He has called into His family.

The guilty soul finds the answer to the most poignant question life ever poses in Him, who is the eternal reason, the light of the under-standing, and the source of all knowledge. “The work of Christ in relation to sin,” wrote J. Denney, “is the culminating point in revelation; not the insoluble problem, but the solution of all problems.” We do have an advocate with the Father; He is Jesus Christ, the righteous, the propitiation for our sins.

When the meanness, the wickedness, the littleness—the sin that does so easily beset us—threaten to engulf the soul in the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, and the machinations of Satan, we then cling to the Holy Spirit, the author of all goodness, wisdom, love, mercy and purity that bless this sin-cursed world. In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “Holiness is entirely the work of God’s Spirit.”

The living God dispenses the riches of His grace in this threefold way not just in our daily living; He also has “dying grace” for His people, for the triune God is sufficient for Himself and for His people. In their last hours God is present with those who are His, so that each is enabled to say with confidence, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” Our gracious God refreshes our memory with the promises of the many mansions in our Father’s house, echoing back the final words of the Saviour Himself: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” 

Our heavenly Father in three persons stays with His people in life and in death

A Highly Religious Man with Strong Presbyterian Beliefs.
by Rev. David T. Myers

We might more readily suggest any number of men and ministers of whom this title might describe.  But when it is known that this description was given to a man, indeed a minister, by the name of Richard Denton in the early sixteen  hundreds residing in Long Island, New York, most, if not all of our readers might reply with at statement like “I never  heard of  him.”  And yet, he established the first Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Richard Denton was born in 1603 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated at Cambridge in 1623, he ministered in Halifax, England for some years in the parish of Owran.  Emigrating to Connecticut, he worked first with the famous preacher Cotton Mather.  The latter said of him that “Rev. Denton was a highly religious man with strong Presbyterian views.  He was a small man with only one eye, but in the pulpit he could sway a congregation like he was nine feet tall.”

When religious controversies, like which church government the  congregations should follow, threatened to disrupt the Connecticut group, Denton and a group of families moved to what is now Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  He settled there in a large Dutch colony.  Because there were some English settlers also there, that was enough for a congregation to be organized.

Back in those early days, his salary came from every inhabitant of the area.  In fact, you could be fined for not attending worship, and that fine was aggravated each week to a higher level for succeeding absences.  The church he began, today called Christ Presbyterian Church, was so successful with Rev. Denton in its pulpit, that Dutch people began to attend it as well.

On August 5, 1657, a letter was written by two Dutch settlers to the Classis of Amsterdam, saying: “At Hempstead, about seven leagues from here, there lives some Independents.  There are also many of our church, and some Presbyterians.  They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything.  The Independents of this place listen attentively to  his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of (Dutch) parents who were not members of the church, they rushed out of the church.”

As time went on, the salary of Rev. Denton began to be collected sporadically by the citizens.  As a result, he planned to go back to England.  After all, he did have a large family of seven children. And it was said that his wife was sickly in constitution.  Another letter was written two months later on October 22 in which the same two writers stated, “Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways.”  They were not successful, and he returned to England.  He died in 1662.

Words to live by: The date of the presence of Presbyterians boggles our minds and hearts.  Since that time, countless servants of the gospel have labored in difficult fields where money has been tight.  The New Testament more than once urges the members in the pews to share all good things, including remuneration, with those who teach them the Word.

A particularly timely question in our day.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35

Q.35. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

EXPLICATION.

Work of God’s Spirit. –Sanctification is called the work of God’s Spirit, because it is done gradually, or is a work of time, in which respect it differs from justification, which is called an act, because it is made perfect at the very first.

Renewed. –Made anew, or changed from the love and the practice of sin, to the love and the practice of holiness.

Whole man. –That is, our thoughts, memory, will, affections, and all our faculties.

After the image of God. –This means that, by the work of sanctification, we are made, by degrees, in some measure to resemble God himself, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.

To die unto sin. –To forsake, or to cease from sin, both in heart and life.

To live unto righteousness. –To love and to practice holiness, in our thoughts, in our words, and in all our actions.

ANALYSIS.

The information here given respecting sanctification, may be divided into six parts :

  1. That it is a work of God’s Spirit. –2 Thess . ii. 13. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit.
  2. That by this work we are renewed in the whole man. –Eph. iv. 23. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. –1 Thess. v. 23. The God of peace sanctify you wholly.
  3. That we are renewed after the image of God. –Eph. iv. 24. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  4. That by this work of the Spirit, we are enabled to die unto sin. –Rom. vi. 2. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
  5. That by it we are also enabled to live unto righteousness. –1 Pet ii. 24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.
  6. That this dying to sin, and living to righteousness, is accomplished gradually, “more and more.” –Rom. vi. 6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed. –2 Cor. iv. 16. Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

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