“He fought and preached alternately”

John Craighead was the second son of John and Rachel R. Craighead and the grandson of the Rev. Thomas Craighead. His great-grandfather was the Rev. Robert, a Scotsman who immigrated to Ireland around 1657 and served as pastor of churches in donoughmore and Londonderry. Robert later moved to Dublin and is noted for having authored several works on the Christian life. Thomas Craighead, the son of Robert, came to New England in 1715 and preached for about eight years near Fall River, Massachusetts, before moving to Delaware, where he was installed as the pastor of the White Clay Creek church. In 1733, Thomas answered a call to serve the congregation at Pequea, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and his last pulpit was in Hopewell, PA.

John was born in 1742, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, his parents having relocated from Lancaster in 1742. He graduated from Princeton College in 1763, where he had been a classmate with Robert Cooper, then studied theology with Dr. Robert Smit, of Pequea. John was ordained by the Presbytery of Donegal and installed, on April 13, 1768, as pastor of the Rocky Spring church, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. His salary, upon accepting this call, was L100 per year.

Rev. Craighead continued his ministry at the Rocky Spring church until 1789, when, on account of declining health and mental derangement, his pastoral relation was dissolved. Apparently he was prone to fits of deep depression which made ministry difficult, if not impossible. Yet by 1791 he was noted as being in regular attendance at the meetings of the Carlisle Presbytery and was even appointed to serve the Presbytery as its commissioner to General Assembly that year.  He served as commissioner to General Assembly again in 1793. Finally on April 9th, 1799, the Presbytery was compelled to dissolve his pastoral relation “solely due to inability,” and his death followed soon after. He died on April 20, 1799, and was buried in the Rocky Spring graveyard.

Mr. Craighead is noted in history for his earnest and patriotic appeals to his people during the struggle for American Independence, and for his services as captain and chaplain to a company formed from his own congregation in response to his patriotic appeals, at a solemn crisis in the war, when the whole male portion of the congregation rose to their feet in token of readiness to embark in defense of the country.

The old church at Rocky Spring was still extant as late as the 1880’s. Though somewhat altered, it retained substantially the original main features. The aisles were paved with brick; the pews were straight-backed and unpainted oak; the pulpit was narrow, with its sounding board painted a light blue; the elders’ bench was a simple thick slab of wood; the communion service was made of pewter, imported from London, but black with age. Two ten-plate stoves, of a very primitive form, were used to warm the building, with their stove pipes ascending through holes cut in the ceiling, where the smoke released into the attic and escaped, without any chimneys, the best way it could. The side door was still there, where Mr. Craighead stood and cajoled the men assembled in the churchyard, and so stirred their patriotic passions that they soon organized themselves into a company and went through the Revolutionary War with their pastor as captain and chaplain.

One biographer of Rev. Craighead wrote that he preached “in glowing terms, Jesus Christ, the only hope of salvation, and after the delivery of his sacred message, in eloquent and patriotic strains exhorted the youth of his congregation to rise up and join the noble band, then engaged under the immortal Washington, in struggling to free our beloved country from British oppression,” and that “On one of these occasions, the patriot preacher declaimed in such fervid and powerful terms respecting the evils his country was enduring, and presented such a description of each man’s duty that ‘the whole congregation rose from their seats and declared their willingness to march to the conflict.’ “

Words to Live By:
Having read that last account, the obvious question by comparison is, What does it take to get a congregation to rise up for the cause of Christ? When so many endeavors so easily obtain our whole attention, what does it take for the Lord Jesus Christ to have first place in our hearts and minds? Or what does it take just simply for the congregation to regularly, faithfully go to their knees in prayer?

Lord, may we be a praying people, intent upon doing Your will, ever watching to see Your hand at work, waiting upon your every provision.

Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle, vol. 2, pp. 47-48; Nevin’s Encyclopedia, p. 162.

The following appeared on the pages of THE PRESBYTERIAN in 1937. There was no obvious association with any adjoining articles. If the editor had any ulterior motive in adding this brief quote, it was perhaps in reflection on the recent departure of conservatives from the PCUSA, since none of those who left were able to leave with their congregational property. Maybe it was intended as a reflection on their plight. Maybe it was just an editor’s filler. Either way, it remains a thought provoking quote.

[The Presbyterian, 107.13 (1 April 1937): 18.]

“Property is not an arbitrary and vicious product of an effete civilization; it is an outcome of forces which are always at work in human nature and life; it is a formation, it is a deposit which human industry is always accumulating; it is an original result of the terms on which men, at once industrious men and free men, live together as members of society. It has its duties, no doubt, as it has its rights. Its duties are not merely matters of choice, any more than its rights are matters of sentiment; but if property is in any sense imperiled, if communism is ever destined to get the upper hand in this our modern Europe, it will be because the holders of property have thought only or chiefly of its rights and have forgotten its duties. Nevertheless, while its rights may for high moral purposes be surrendered voluntarily, they are rights which may be retained and insisted on, and they cannot be violated without doing violence to the very nature of things, without, in Christian language, breaking the eighth commandment of the Decalogue.”

—Canon Henry P. Liddon, in a sermon preached at St. Paul’s, London, April 2, 1882.

Words to Live By:
“Thou shalt not steal.”—Exodus 20:15 (KJV)

We tend to think of stealing as taking material things that don’t belong to us. But there is much more to the Lord’s command, when fully understood:—

Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 141
Q. 141. What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
A. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to every one his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depredation; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

The world is indebted to the church for everything noblest and best in her free institutions.  Freedom is under perpetual obligations to her.  Enforcement of organic law must exist, whether in church, state or nation; otherwise, everything rushes to ruin in all society.  It is the glory of the Calvinistic church, and not her reproach, that she “enforced” her denominational law in favor of Presbyterian “doctrine, order and worship,” giving thereby to the nations their most precious inheritance.

“By these,” says Mr. Buckle, “the dying spark of freedom was kindled into a blaze.”  “To John Knox,” says Froude, “England owes a debt for liberty it cannot pay.”  “Calvin’s principles,” says Henri, “are immortal and immovable in both government and doctrine.”  “Thousands were debtor to him,” says the judicious Hooker, “as touching divine knowledge, yet he to none but only to God—a founder of the French Church, incomparably the wisest it ever had since the hour it enjoyed him.”  “Geneva,” says Montesquieu, “is the mother of modern republics, and should celebrate with festivity the day on which Calvin entered the city.”

“Calvin,” says Bunsen, “spoke for all times and all men;” and in the language of Motley, “Europe owes her political liberty to Calvinism.”  “The Institutes,” says Guizot, “are one of the noblest edifices ever erected by men.”  Bancroft declares that “Calvin, bowing to no patent of nobility, but that of the elect of God, made Geneva the impregnable fortress of popular liberty;” and adds that the very “first voice” raised for liberty in this land, both civil and religious, “came from Presbyterians,” and that “he who will not honor the memory and influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”

Is it in John Calvin we glory?  God forbid; but in God we glory, who gave us John Calvin.  What kind of an argument is it that would impeach all this glorious record as an “oppression of the conscience” through “sectarian law.”—Foreign paper.

[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter 15.4 (April 1877): 113.]

On April 17, 1966, because of extreme liberal trends in their parent church, two Savannah Presbyterian churches, Hull Memorial and Eastern Heights, led by their pastors Clifford Brewton and Todd Allen, voted to sever all ties with the Presbyterian Church U. S. denomination. This action resulted in the Presbytery attempting to take control of the property, and a court case, settled first by a local jury that ruled unanimously in favor of the two congregations. Rev. Todd Allen comments that:

“Savannah Presbytery then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court who approved the Jury decision unanimously in favor of the two congregations. The case was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court who remanded the case back to the Georgia Supreme Court giving neutral principles of law for that court to use in adjudicating the case. The Georgia Supreme applied the neutral principle enunciated by the United States Supreme Court and by a  unanimous  decision awarded the two local churches their church properties. The presbytery again appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case and that ended litigation after 3 ½ years of litigation in January of 1970. It should be noted that all court decisions were unanimous.”

The Savannah court case was an unprecedented, history-making event that overturned nearly 100 years of inequitable law practices in the United States and changed the way the civil courts in the future could deal with church property disputes. The case caused major church denominations to study their administration, relations, and rules relating to their connection with local church congregations. The specific and immediate effect of the case was a means for a somewhat peaceful withdrawal in 1973—with their properties—of some 250 churches from the Presbyterian Church U. S.  The case was a crucial element in the success of the Continuing Church movement that resulted in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).


The significance of the historic event was, at least in that immediate historical context, that no longer could church tribunals exercise property takeover tactics to force compliance to certain disputed doctrines, or for any other reason the denomination may choose: Ended was the practice of stealing church property in the name of organized religion. This case liberated those local churches in the PCUS from denominational tyranny.|


The heart of the Supreme Court ruling in the Savannah case was in favor of what are termed neutral principles of law, as opposed to the civil court being guided or even ruled by the doctrines (including bylaws and constitution) of the denomination.


During the time that the property issue continued to be debated and was sent to the Georgia Supreme Court, Pastor Brewton accepted an appointment as an aide to Governor Lester Maddox, resigned the pastorate at Hull Memorial, and moved to Atlanta. Meanwhile Pastor Todd Allen was at the forefront in the property struggle through the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled for the local churches, and the case then went onward to the U. S. Supreme Court. Allen also was a leader in organizing Vanguard Presbytery in 1972, a new presbytery established for churches withdrawing from the PCUS, thus providing them a Presbytery to join while awaiting the formation of the new denomination.

A friend asked a question recently about the Rev. Arthur J. Diffenbacher, a Grove City College and Dallas Seminary graduate who spent six years on the mission field in China and another two in Manchuria before WWII drove him from the field. After a time back in the States engaged in ministry, he entered the service as an Army chaplain in the summer of 1943. His approach to the chaplaincy was to be always with the troops in everything they endured. So it was perhaps not surprising when he became one of the early casualties of D-Day, dying on the battlefields of Normandy on July 5, 1944.

As I’ve recently been compiling an author-title index for THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, I came across an obituary for Rev. Dieffenbacher, published in the October 1944 issue of the BULLETIN. But I also noticed that just a few months earlier, in the April issue, there was published this short article by Rev. Dieffenbacher—

Chaplain Arthur J. Dieffenbacher

“Now is Christ risen from the dead.” — I Cor. 15:20.

What but such a miracle could cause pious Jews, with fifteen centuries of tradition and the command of God Himself, to cease observing the seventh day of the week, and suddenly begin to worship on the first day?

What but such a manifestation of power could transform the disheartened, fearful apostles into courageous, powerful protagonists of One Who had but a few days before died a shameful death on a cross ; and what else could produce similar transformations in heart-broken, wrecked lives for the last 1900 years?

What but such a victory over death could prevent that cross from being more than the final failure of another self-styled messiah, and produce a faith in millions, that through His death there is forgiveness of sins?

What but the actual event can keep Christ Himself, who offered only His resurrection as a sign and proof, from being a fake, or His apostles from being liars, who based their preaching on the fact that, contrary to their expectations and hope, they had seen Him after death, and talked with Him, and touched His nail-pierced, spear-riven body? What but the fact itself can prevent Christianity from being a colossal hoax?

What but the assurance that His resurrection is a sample of that of all who die trusting Him could cause martyrs to go to death for their faith in Christ, steady and unafraid, as they did in the days of the early church, in the middle ages, and as they do even today under the Japanese rule? And what but this could give hope to a soldier who dies on the field of battle trusting in Christ?

What but such a conclusive triumph of right can, in the midst of injustice, give the assurance held out in the Scriptures that Christ will yet reign in righteousness and peace on the earth?

A Yankee Chaplain In the Union Army
by Rev. David T Myers

stewartAM_02My favorite story about the military chaplaincy was that of an unnamed Union chaplain who must have been tired of marching with his troops. So upon entering the Confederate states, he stole the first horse he found on a farm. The Southern farmer, upset about the loss of his horse, complained to the Union Colonel. The latter ordered the chaplain to explain himself about this horse. He answered by saying that Jesus Christ had borrowed a donkey to go to Jerusalem! Whereupon the Colonel made four short points back to the chaplain. One, he wasn’t Jesus Christ. Two, a donkey is not a horse. Three, the regiment was going to Richmond, not Jerusalem. And last, the sooner he returned the horse, the better it would be for him. The horse was returned in short order.

Our post today deals with a Yankee chaplain who was considerably more righteous than the one in our first paragraph. Alexander Morrison Stewart, of whom we have posted before on February 24 in 2013 regarding his civilian ministry in five Presbyterian churches, joined the 13th Pa. Volunteer Regiment (designated in the middle of that civil war as the 102nd Pa. Volunteer Regiment) with a letter to its commander on April 15, 1861.  The letter read:

Dear Sir: As it is the praiseworthy custom of Christian countries to afford their soldiers during military service the means and consolations of religions, I therefore offer myself. The present war is in many of its aspects a religious one.  It is a battle for truth and righteousness, for liberty against despotism.  Of these things, our soldiers should be constantly reminded.  My proposed service is, by the grace of God, to make of those under your command better men and hence better soldiers; to comfort the sick and wounded, and to console the dying; and yet if a strait comes, and you would require of me to wield the sword or handle the rifle, I would have no hesitancy.”

The Rev. Stewart was received into the regiment as a Protestant chaplain, and served the entire time with the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. As an aside, he was commissioned to send regular columns back to his hometown paper  in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, telling of his experiences.  Later, in 1865, these columns were published into a book titled  Camp, March and Battle-field; or, Three years and a Half with the Army of the Potomac, which can be found here.

One of his reports was descriptive of the first prayer meeting in camp. He wrote “At the close of public worship last, intimation was given, that a prayer meeting would beheld in the tent at eight o’clock that same evening. (Despite rain at the appointed hour) the tent was completely jammed. Some of the officers readily took part in the exercises. It was a most refreshing as well as an encouraging meeting; an indication that much is to e hoped for in time from this our Bethel in camp.”

Words to Live By:
There are still godly and faithful chaplains in our nation’s military services. Each of our Presbyterian and Reformed churches should adopt a military chaplain, to pray for,  encourage, and help in any way for him to fulfill God’s ministry among the troops. Pray for wisdom in this day of political correctness to stand up for truth and righteousness. Contact the Presbyterian and Reformed Chaplaincy of the Ministry to North America, found on line, to find out how you can support those on the front lines of the gospel in the military.

I have just recently become aware of the commentary or “elaboration” on the Westminster Shorter Catechism prepared by the old Puritan author Joseph Alleine. The fuller title of the work is A most familiar explanation of the Assemblies shorter catechism wherein their larger answers are broken into lesser parcels, thereby to let in the light by degrees into the minds of the learners : to which is added in the close, a most brief help for the necessary but much neglected duty of self-examination to be daily perused : and to this is subjoined a letter of Christian counsel to a destitute flock. / by Jos. Allaine. (London : Printed for Edw. Brewster, 1674),. First printed in 1674, it was reprinted in Ulster in 1700 and again a short time later, but has never been reprinted in the modern era. Thankfully, we have it readily available in electronic form (see the above embedded link).
Alleine was not alone in this method, of taking the Catechism and then further explaining it with additional questions and answers. To give a sample of his treatment, let’s look at how he expounds on Question 25 of the Shorter Catechism:—

First the Catechism Question,
Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the Office of a Priest?

A. Christ executeth the Office of a Priest in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfie divine Justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

And then Alleine’s elaborations, 

Q. Who doth execute for us the Office of a Priest?

Q. Is Christ our only High Priest?

Q. What be the parts of Christs Priestly Office?
They are two, viz. His offering himself a sacrifice, and his making intercession.

Q. What did he offer up as a Priest to God?
A. Himself.

Q. In what way did he offer up himself?
A. As a Sacrifice.

Q. Was he offered up by some other against his own will.
A. No.

Q. Did he of his own accord offer up himself?
A. Yes.

Q. What, was Christs body and soul the sacrifice that was offered up?
A. Yes.

Q. Was the Cross the altar on which he offered himself a sacrifice?
A. No.

Q. Was his Divine nature the altar that sanctified the gift of the Humane nature, and made it an acceptable Sacrifice for the end for which it was offered?
A. Yes.

Q. How often did Christ offer up himself a sacrifice?
A. Only once.

Q. Is he to be offered up no more?
A. No.

Q. Was his sacrifice, and oblation finished at his death?
A. Yes.

Q. To what end did Christ offer up himself a sacrifice?
A. To satisfie Divine Justice.

Q. And for what else?
A. To reconcile us to God.

Q. What do you mean by Divine Justice?
The Justice of God.

Q. What do you mean by reconciling us to God?
Making God and us Friends.

Q. Is Christs once offering up of himself, sufficient for these ends? viz. to satisfie Gods Justice and make God and us Friends?

Q. What doth Christ do for us as a Priest, besides his offering up himself as a sacrifice?
He maketh intercession for us.

Q. What do you mean by Christs making intercession for us?
His praying, and making request to God for us.

Q. Is Christs intercession part of his Priestly office, as well as his oblation, or offering up himself a sacrifice?

Q. Did Christ interceed for us on earth?

Q. Doth be continue to make intercession for us now he is in Heaven?

Q. Doth he interceed for us, by presenting his sacrifice, and merits for us before his Father?

Q. And by presenting his will before his Father for us?

Q. Doth he not pray for us vocally then?

Q. But virtually?

Q. Hath he finished his intercession, together with his sacrifice?

Q. To which of Christs offices doth it belong to offer sacrifices, and make intercession for us?
To his priestly office.

I would love to hear from our readers, what you think of this teaching tool. Was it helpful? Do you think it could be used effectively in a Sunday School class, perhaps for middle school aged children and older,, as well as with adult classes?

Sometimes You Just Need to Copy Someone.

A long week with a tiring end. And so today we turn to Alfred Nevin’s account of the Rev. Robert Wilson James…:

…who “was born in Williamsburg District, South Carolina, June 3d, 1793. His father, Captain John, and grandfather, Major John James, were distinguished for their patriotism in the war of the Revolution, and were also consistent members of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated at the South Carolina College in 1813. His theological studies, which were commenced and prosecuted for a time under Rev. James W. Stephenson, and Rev. Dr. M. Wilson, were completed at Princeton Seminary, in 1817. On the 3d of June, of the same year he was licensed by Concord Presbytery (in North Carolina), to preach the gospel, after which he labored for several months, as a missionary within its bounds, in company with the venerable Dr. Hall.”

“In May, 1819, he was ordained and installed over the churches of Indian Town and Bethel, in Williamsburgh District, S.C., where, during a pastorate of nine years, the work of the Lord, to some extent, was made to prosper in his hand, and particularly among the blacks, many of whom became hopeful subjects of grace under his ministry. He subsequently became pastor of Salem Church, in which relation he continued, faithful in labor, for over thirteen years. He died on April 13th, 1841.”

“As a minister, Mr. James was both doctrinal and practical. In his public ministrations he gave special attention to the African American portion of his flock. As a theologian, he was much respected by his brethren. As a member of the judicatories of the Church, his opinions were highly valued, and often determined the most important questions. His mouth and his purse were ever open to advance the institutions of religion and learning. As a man, he was truly benevolent, gentle and urbane, and possessed that kind of magnanimity  which led him cordially to despise everything that was envious, little, or selfish. As a Christian, he was exemplary, and enjoyed the comforts of that religion which he preached to others. His death was one of triumph.”

It should also be mentioned that Rev. James was the uncle of John Leighton Wilson, and that he had a very formative influence on John’s decision to pursue the ministry and more, to pursue the work of missions in Africa. From the Memoir of the Rev. John Leighton Wilson, we read that Rev. James was one of the eminent pastors in South Carolina, and of his influence on young John Leighton, that

“what more natural than that his uncle, so well known for learning and piety, should be to him a pattern he might safely imitate? He visited frequently at his home, had access to his rare and ample library, sat under his ministry, listened to his counsels, and spent one winter under his roof. The nephew was the minister’s friend and young companion. Blessed relationship !”

The Rev. Thomas R. English gave the funeral sermon for Rev. James. A Sermon: Preached in Salem Church February 6th, 1842 in Commemoration of Its Late Pastor Rev. Robert Wilson James. (A. E. Miller, 1842), 23 p.

To view pictures of his grave site, click here.

Words to Live By:
The relationship of mentor to student does not always have to be a formal one, in order to be effective. Discipleship not only can take place in informal settings, but is probably all the more effective in the more real situations and places of everyday life. Growth in your own Christian walk is but one benefit of discipling or mentoring a younger believer. Pray that the Lord would give you the opportunity to share your faith in Christ.

“The Little Moses”

James Muir was a son of the Rev. Dr. George and Tibbie (Wardlaw) Muir, and he was born on the 12th of April, 1757, in Cumnock, Scotland. Both his father and grandfather were highly respected ministers in the Church of Scotland, and the town of Cumnock was where his father served as pastor.

Little is known now of his early years. He studied at the University of Glasgow, and then studied theology at Edinburgh, completing his preparation in London. James was there licensed to preach by six clergymen who called themselves “dissenting ministers in the city of London” and who were loyal to the Church of Scotland. James then worked as a teacher in London until, in 1781, this same Presbytery ordained him and he answered a call to serve a congregation of Scotch Presbyterians on the island of Bermuda.

Rev. Muir’s story becomes rather complicated to tell from that point on until his death in Alexandria, Virginia, August 8th, 1820. The details are more than can be easily related in our small space here. It has been noted that Rev. Muir and his wife are two of  the very few buried inside the city limits of Alexandria, despite an 1809 restriction on cemeteries there.

When the Rev. William Buell Sprague was gathering biographies of various pastors, the Rev. Elisha Harrison replied to his request with a good account of Rev. Muir’s life. In part, he related that

“Dr. Muir was a severe student. He could not tolerate the idea of addressing immortal souls on the most momentous of all concerns, without having prepared himself for it by careful study as well as earnest prayer; and few things would put down a ministering brother in his estimation more than to be told that his discourses were either almost or altogether unpremeditated. I rarely ever saw him more out of temper than he was with a young licentiate, who, burning with what he regarded as holy zeal, remarked that it seemed to him a waste of time to study and write sermons. The Doctor could not be called an active man, though he was always regular in visiting his people, and ministering to the sick and afflicted; and when he made an engagement eiher to preach or perform any other duty, it was never his own fault if it was not fulfilled.

“But for nothing was he more distinguished than an exemplary Christian life. I lived with his family and was in close proximity with him, for more than three years; and, during the whole of that time, was never able to detect a word, an action, or even a feeling, which I would dare to pronounce decidedly wrong. And yet, during that period, his church was rent with factions, many of his congregation inflamed with bitterness and wrath, and in the issue, about half of the number separated and constituted a new church. Against all these untoward influences, he struggled hard and prayed much; and the result was that he sustained himself throughout with the utmost Christian forbearance and good will. He was often called, in reference to his large share of gentleness and meekness, in connection with his smallness of stature,–“the little Moses.”

“Dr. Muir enjoyed, in a high degree, the good opinion and affectionate regards of his brethren in the ministry, and great weight was given to his counsels in the judicatories of the Church. The whole community in which he lived, reverenced him for the purity of his life, and the memory of his exalted virtues is still dear to many, though he has long since passed away.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Muir clearly had learned to bridle his tongue. In this age of blogs and email, one constant problem is the ease with which we can address people and issues. Too often we speak without thinking, or hit Send before re-reading what we have written. If I may offer one guideline which would eliminate many of the problems we so often see in those settings–always speak or write from a context of true Christian humility, and in that context, strive to never say anything for which you might later have to apologize.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1, KJV)

If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26, KJV)

For Further Reading:
McGroarty, William Buckner,  “Reverend James Muir, D.D., and Washington’s Orphan Wards,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Second series, Vol. 20, no. 4 (October 1940): 511-523.

See also McGroarty, William Buckner, The Old Presbyterian Meeting House at Alexandria, Virginia, 1774-1874, particularly pages 18-26.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27, KJV)

One hundred seventy years ago, Presbyterian congregations were largely ignorant of the Church’s own Standards.  Are we much better off today?

“The Presbyterian Board of Publication have issued a correct edition of the Confession of Faith, and they are now selling it at the lowest possible rate, without any regard for pecuniary profit ; their principal aim being to circulate it widely through the Church.—It will be readily admitted that every Presbyterian should be at least partially acquainted with the standards of his own church, and yet how many are there who have never made these the subject of a days study?  It is wholly inexcusable in pastors to have families under their care who are not provided with the Confession, especially when a little exertion on their part, might supply the defect.  Will not Pastors and Sessions at once resolve that every family in the Presbyterian Church in the United States shall, before the expiration of two years, be provided with the Confession of Faith of our Church?”

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 14.8 (11 April 1840): 2, col. 3.]

And on that note, let me direct you to an article by my friend Barry Waugh. All through 2017, Mr. Waugh is writing a monthly article for his church’s website, in observation of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The April entry is on the importance of catechism for the Reformation. He begins:—

The books that would most likely come to miAn illustration of Martin Luther teaching Catechism in schoolnd for those with some knowledge of the literature of the Reformation might be Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will, his translation of the Bible into German, or his work on the New Testament book of Galatians. In the case of John Calvin one might think of Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was published in several editions and languages, or possibly his commentaries on many of the books of Scripture would come to mind. These works by both Luther and Calvin were written primarily for ministers, teachers, and those involved in the debates about doctrine in their era, but one of the most influential types of publications for reform was the catechism. The word “catechism” comes from the Greek language and it describes a text used for oral instruction which most often followed a question and answer format to teach essentials. In conjunction with Bibles translated into the common languages of the nations, catechisms were used to train believers in the fundamentals of faith, salvation, and Christian living. In the picture accompanying this article, Martin Luther is teaching his catechism to children in a classroom to provide them with doctrinal instruction.

In 1529, Martin Luther wrote his small catechism. It was a simple edition that included among its subjects the Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, other prayers including one for grace at the table, and some additional important topics for Christians. In his preface, Luther said that he wrote the catechism because during a visitation of churches in area towns he found that the people knew “nothing about Christian doctrine” and even some of the pastors were “quite unfit and incompetent to teach.” He encouraged ministers to use the catechism to teach adults but “especially … the young.” Luther’s catechism provided a concise and simple way to bring reform to a considerable portion of the people. The doctrine in Luther’s catechism is not in full agreement with that of Presbyterians today, so it is not the best source for teaching their children. In the Presbyterian Church in America (P.C.A.), the catechisms composed by the Westminster Assembly provide essential truths. However, Luther’s catechism is historically important because it provided basic instruction for the people, and it was the first catechism written by a married former Catholic priest who had children that could learn from its teaching.

To read the rest of Barry’s post, click here.


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