The Peaceable Fruit of Biblical Ecumenism

In the Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world, (See December 7) the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (though it was called originally National Presbyterian Church)  had specifically stated that they invited “into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain our principles of faith and order.”  It was at the Fifth General Assembly of PCA, meeting in Smyrna, Georgia, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod sent a communication requesting closer relationship and engagement of cooperative ministries.

Two assemblies later in 1979, a small committee with a long name, namely, “The Ad Interim Committee to Discuss Areas of Agreements, Differences, and Difficulties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America” was constituted by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  They would meet many times in the two years of discussion with representatives of the various Presbyterian churches.

In June of 1980, at the Eighth General Assembly of the PCA, that body issued invitations to the aforementioned denominations to join the PCA.  The invitation was not to be a long courtship but rather a quick “tying of the knot” by simply merging into the PCA by a common commitment to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly and the Book of Church Order.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, citing exclusive psalmody and other considerations, pulled out of the discussions.  The invitation to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church come up to a vote of presbyteries in both bodies.   It failed by a narrow margin to arrive at the necessary vote by both assemblies, first by the PCA and then by the OPC.  Fraternal relations continue between both bodies with each other.

For the remaining two denominations of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, joint General Assemblies were scheduled for their next national meetings at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The pivotal vote of the RPCES on June 14, 1982  accepted the union by a majority vote of 322 – 90.  Elected as moderator was former RPCES scholar and minister, Dr. R. Laird Harris, from Covenant Theological Seminary.

By this union, the PCA received 164 churches, 416 ministers, 20,615 communicant members, 6,139 covenant children, Covenant Theological Seminary, Covenant College, a direct line to the Scottish Covenanters from the Reformed Presbyterian Church branch of the former RPCES, and the God-given experience of  recognized theologians, teaching and ruling elders in both churches.

The “marriage” has lasted now  30  years (as of 2012), with continued prayers and work to make it a lifetime of married bliss.

A Union of Scottish Presbyterians

A noted Reformed Presbyterian theologian was once asked in the early eighteen hundreds in this country to identify his branch of the Presbyterian Church.  He replied that he belonged to no branch of Presbyterians, only to the root of Presbyterianism.  This answer revealed the deep view of history which Covenanter Presbyterians have of their church.

Any article on Scottish Presbyterians must really have an understanding first of the religious  situation  in  Scotland,   to say nothing   of the   Church of Scotland coming out of Romanism in the Protestant Reformation under reformer John Knox.  We don’t have room enough to enter into that topic on this site, but a good perusal or even a scan of any of the books which deal with that history will bring you up to speed on this.   Suffice to say that the American colonies were the happy recipients of countless Scot-Irish immigrants from Scotland through Ireland to this land.  They brought with them their distinctives which were (1)  a perpetual obligation to the Scottish covenants which their spiritual forefathers had signed, many with their blood, (2)  the sole headship of Christ over all, and last, (3) the concept of Christian civil government, where the new nation would be recognized as a Christian nation under King Jesus.

In their Scottish history, there had been many breakaways from the Church of Scotland for alleged errors in doctrine and practice.  One was called the Associate Presbytery, while another breakaway was called the Reformed Presbytery.

The latter was organized in the American colonies on March 9, 1774 as the first Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of Pennsylvania.  In fact, there is a blue historical sign by the state of Pennsylvania which recognizes this religious event beside one of the roads in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It was composed of three ministers: John Cuthbertson, William Lind, and Alexander Dobbins.

The first, John Cuthbertson,  was a missionary who traveled all throughout Pennsylvania, visiting the scattered societies, as they were known, ministering to them by the Word and Sacrament.  Often, their place of worship was under the sky and known as a Tent, such as the Junkin Tent in New Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Rev.  William Lind ministered in Paxton, outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a church.  And  the third minister from Ireland, Rev, Alexander Dobbins, was ministering outside of Gettysburg, Pa.  Thousands eat today as the Dobbins House Restaurant near the 1863 Gettsyburg Battlefield, not realizing that Rev. Dobbins had a pivotal part in the establishment of Presbyterianism in Pennsylvania.

That union of three ministers in the Reformed Presbytery lasted about eight years as another union took place in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 between  the Associate Presbytery and the Reformed Presbytery.  Somehow the Scottish distinctions between the two presbyteries were not as relevant in this new land.  This produced the Associate Reformed Presbytery.

Words to Live By:  Their current membership in the various Scottish Presbyterian Covenanter churches might be small in comparison with other Presbyterian churches, but in their minds and hearts, they are the root of Presbyterianism, never just another branch.  It is good to have a clear sense of history of your church.  In fact, this yearly historical devotional has that as one of its purposes.  This contributor desires that you, the reader,  know from where you have come in the past, so you won’t make the mistakes of the past, but labor effectively in the presence and future for King Jesus.

An Abiding Testimony

What can one person do to stem the tide of evil? What effect can a solitary individual have upon those around them, upon the times and the reigning culture? A great effect, as it turns out, and an abiding testimony, as well, if the Lord is in it. As John Knox said, “A man with God is always in the majority.”

mcleod01Alexander McLeod was born on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, on June 12, 1774, to godly parents. His father, the Rev. Niel McLeod, was a noted pastor in the Church of Scotland, and his mother “a woman of fine mind, solid sense, and fervent piety.” Alexander was among the youngest of twelve children born to this family, eight of whom lived to adulthood.

Devoted to the ministry from his birth, he had already received a competent education by the time that he immigrated to America in the spring of 1792.  Arriving in New York, he moved up along the Hudson to settle in the area near Schenectady, and graduated from Union College in 1798. Here he also joined a Reformed Presbyterian congregation and studied theology under the tutelage of the Rev. James McKinney. He was licensed in 1799, and on the eve of his ordination a year later, was informed that he would be called to a yoked pastorate, to concurrently serve congregations in Coldenham and New York City. But upon hearing that there were slave-holders among the Coldenham congregation, McLeod declared that he would not serve that congregation.

With the matter now brought before the Presbytery, they quickly determined to purge the Reformed Presbyterian section of the Church of the evil of slavery, and enacted a declaration that no slaveholder could be a member in good standing of the denomination. When the Reformed Presbyterian congregation in Rocky Creek, South Carolina, was later informed of the decision, in stunning obedience, they freed their slaves at a cost of not less than three thousand guineas, an amount equal to perhaps $500,000 in today’s value of gold.

For his part, a year or so later, Rev. McLeod wrote an historic explanation and defense of his position in the treatise commonly known as Negro Slavery Unjustifiable.  And his stand against slavery continued to ripple down through history. While Rev. McLeod died in New York on February 17, 1833—the same year that the Reformed Presbyterians split into New Light and Old Light factions—both sides of the split continued to uphold his testimony. Reformed Presbyterians of both stripes were active in opposing slavery and both were active participants with the underground railroad before and during the War.

Some years later, the Old Light “Covenanters” (as they were also known), established a bi-racial church in Selma, Alabama, with an attached school for African Americans. Both the church and Knox Academy continue to this day. Lawrence Bottoms, a covenant child of this church, grew up to become the first African American moderator of General Assembly in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian). More recently, a seminary extension work has also begun at this location.

Words to Live By:
In Christ alone, God has given His children everything they need to live lives of righteousness and courage (Romans 8:31-39). We are called to stand for the truth, and to stand against sin, regardless of the cost. We are called to trust God for the results. It is only as we live in this way that we can be assured of having an abiding testimony before all the world. Remember, “A man with God is always in the majority.”

Background to Current Missions Work

The Mission to the World collection shows how a modern mission sending agency grew from a movement within the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) to become an independent board, a committee within a new denomination and finally a mature, experienced denominational agency. This is a continuing story, and the collection is a dynamic set of active records and correspondence managed by the PCA Historical Center.

The collection begins late in the 1960s as a small group of pastors and laymen within the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF) organized to express dissatisfaction with the teaching and social activism of some missionaries and the “equalization policy” of the PCUS denomination. Under equalization an individual or church did not have the freedom to specifically support missionaries with whom they agreed theologically.
Conservatives’ money was being used to fund a quite-liberal world agenda.

A revival movemnt of the 1950s and 1960s in the PCUS, spread by PEF evangelists, created a new concern for world evangelism. In 1971 this movement culminated in formation of the Executive Committee for Overseas Evangelism (ECOE). Initially ECOE tried to be a liason between conservatives and the Board of World Missions, PCUS. Instead, the Board saw ECOE as a dangerous competitor, and it became a rallying point in the controversies leading to the withdrawal of churches into the National Presbyterian Church [the name initially chosen by the PCA]. In 1973 ECOE became Mission to the World, the sponsoring agency for six missionaries who left the Board of World Missions at the formation of the PCA.

It was through the Joining-and-Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) that a new component was added. The Committee on Mission to the World was merged with World Presbyterian Missions. WPM was born on June 11, 1957 as the sending agency of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Its origins were in the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which was itself the central point of contention in the heresy trials and subsequent division of the Presbyterian Church in the USA during the 1930s. In WPM’s 25th anniversary year, 1982, it was absorbed by MTW. This now larger organization immediately had to cope with a conflict of management styles. The RPCES had used an agency approach, while the PCA utilizes a committee structure. There also were differences in philosophy and strategy. MTW had more joint agreements with non-Reformed groups and an urban church-planting approach.

From an historical perspective, the MTW collection is of immense value since it provides a detailed account of the problems and thinking unique to late-20th century missions as a new organization was founded and then incorporated into a new denomination. Particularly noteworthy is the determination of such leaders as Jimmy Lyons, Ben Wilkinson, and William E. Hill. There is an immense body of correspondence from these men which candidly presents their philosophy and goals. Interaction between these men and the Board of World Missions also shows the lack of common ground available in the PCUS for conservatives and moderate/liberals.

The assembled materials also document how the organization grew as a business and the problems and potential which data processing advances brought in the 1970s. There also are significant indiations of the lfie and ministry of the MTW missionary in the field and policies and criteria for fielding missionaries.

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

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

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

Scripture References: Zech. 8:16; I Pet. 3:16; Acts 25:10; III John 12; Prov. 14:5, 25; Eph. 4:25.

Questions:

1. How can we maintain and promote truth between man and man? We must speak the truth, the absolute truth to one another if we are to promote truth with each other. Further, we must speak truth of one another in all situations.

2. What does this commandment require in regard to our own good name?

This commandment requires, in regard to our own good name, that we must at all times act in such a way that we deserve our good name. Further, we must always defend our good name.

3. How can we deserve a good name before men

We can deserve it by always acting in accordance with the Word of God. We must live a holy life, showing forth the fruits of the Spirit in our actions, words and thoughts.

4. How can we defend our good name before men?

We can defend our good name by clearing ourselves from all false accusations. This is a responsibility before God as taught in His Word (Acts 24:10-13), We can also defend our good name by giving God the glory for anything we have done which is praiseworthy in the sight of God. (l Cor. 15:10).

5. How can we maintain and promote our neighbor’s good name?

We can help our neighbor’s good name by:
(1) Recognizing his good qualities;
(2) By rejoicing with him over his acts of goodness;
(3) By refusing to listen to those who would seek to slander him and speak evil of him;
(4) By giving honor to him as it is due;
(5) By reproving him before others only when there is need to do so and then showing mercy towards him.

A GOOD NAME

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16). There is, in the Word of God, a responsibility presented to the believer to maintain before all a good name. However, there is a false approach abroad in the world of today that has made its way into the realm of the camp of the believers in Christ. This false approach is the worldly emphasis to be accepted of men and forgetting that we only have a “good name” when our actions are consistent with the principles of the Word of God.

Somehow today there is a confusion among believers in this area. They seem to think that it is important to keep their name free from any sort of condemnation even though to do so they keep quiet when they should speak; they compromise when they should not; they negotiate when they should be on the offense. So many times believers in Christ are heard saying, “I’m not going to have any black mark against my name and have it hurt my reputation before men.”

What reputation are we to keep as those saved by grace? The only reputation we are to be concerned about is our reputation before God, as to whether or not we are dishonoring the cause of the Christian religion before men. We do not deserve, before God, to have any other kind of good name. We have been saved by grace and we recognize that whatever we are, we have reached that place by the grace of God. But there is one area about which we are to have a good name and that area is our standing before God, all to His glory.

We should have a good name in regard to standing for the truth. Nothing should cause us to be quiet when we should speak out for the truth. We must defend the faith at all times, even if it means standing up when to stand up and speak means our speaking will bring dishonor on our name among the world.

We should have a good name in regard to the position we take, making sure that the thought of compromise never enters into our actions. We cannot compromise the Truth at any time even if it means reaping coals of fire on our heads by the world.

We should have a good name in regard to being sure we are not willing to negotiate in order to keep the black marks of the world against our names. A good plan of living for the believer in the area of having a good name can be found in Philippians 2:12-16. As this is followed, God will bless us, all to His glory, and our name will be good before Him.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 5 No.7 (July, 1966
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Faithful and Beloved
by Rev. David T. Myers

Last year on this date, this author found no Presbyterian person, place, or thing, so he wrote on one of the Shorter Catechisms.  This year however, the person and ministry of the Rev. Dr. James Crowell comes into This Day in Presbyterian History as a result of the Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin.  And in that volume, we are told that Dr. Crowell was born on June 9, 1827 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a druggist and apothecary shop owner.

Nevin doesn’t give us much in the matter of his early years in either the home or the church, but there must have been a commitment to the Presbyterian church at some time.  He attended the College of New Jersey in 1848, graduating fourth in a class of eighty students.  He taught for one year at West Chester Academy after graduating, but soon found his next training at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1851.  His faculty during his student days were Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, James Addison Alexander, James Waddel Alexander, and William Henry Green.  With spiritual mentors like these, he would be adequately trained for his life calling to the pastorate.

For six years, Rev. Crowell served the Lord as pastor of the Upper Octorora Presbyterian Church in present day Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.  Nevin says that “he was greatly loved by the congregation and prospered in his labors.”  [Note: It is one of the early buildings of this congregation which which we have chosen for the masthead (see above) of This Day in Presbyterian History.]

Continuing his pastorate, James Crowell served for twelve years as pastor of Seventh Presbyterian Church in his home town of Philadelphia.  Again it was stated that he labored there as the preacher and pastor of the flock with great fidelity.

Two years were spent at St Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, where his spiritual labors were once again blessed by the Lord.

His last pastorate, from 1870-1882, was again taken up in his home town of Philadelphia, at the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, where he was described as being faithful in his ministry, and beloved by his flock.

What stands out to this author is that here we have a man of God committed to his pastoral calling, faithful, and as a result, fruitful in leading men and women to saving faith in Christ.  He was universally loved by the people of the Lord in these Presbyterian congregations.

Nevin concludes his treatment of James Crowell by stating that “he was a cultivated gentleman, an exemplary Christian, a good preacher, and highly esteemed by all who knew him.” (p. 167)

Words to Live By: 
To those followers of This Day in Presbyterian History who are called to be pastors of the flock of God, the focus of our post today, the Rev. James Crowell, stands out as an exemplary undershepherd who obviously loved the Word of God, who preached that Word in all its fullness to edify the hearts and minds of the people of God, and most importantly, who lived out the eternal principles and practices of the Word of God before the watching world.  Oh for teaching elders today to have such a zeal for the God’s Word in their present ministries.

Understanding the Covenanters
by Rev. David T. Myers

The young man needed a service project for his church or community to become an Eagle Scout.  What Nathaniel Pockras of Ohio eventually chose and finished will be of great service not only to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America ministers and members, but also to historic Presbyterians in general.  He printed on-line the 788 pages of the Rev. W. Melancthon Glasgow’s History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, which was long out of print and extremely rare for any current minister or member to own one.

The original book was written with the approval of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of America and by a resolution passed in its Session at Newburg, New York on June 8, 1887.  It was copyrighted by the author in 1888.  Its subtitle was “with sketches of all her ministers, congregations, missions, institutions, publications. etc, and embellished with over fifty portraits and engravings.”  Who said long titles are not in vogue?

Reader, you don’t have to worry.  I am not going to suggest that you read this huge book as part of this day’s devotion.  But to the history buffs among you, you know that elements of the Scotch Covenanters can be found among the  Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., Presbyterian Church in America, and the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church, to say nothing of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.  So there is profit here for your reading, particularly if you are a pastor or member in one of the above denominations.

How many of you know that Covenanter slaves were sent to these colonies, with conditions on the slave ships as bad as those which brought the Africans to our shores?  Rev. Glasglow brings you the background of that story now long forgotten by most Christians in the United States. In fact, it was that sorry history which caused the Reformed Presbyterian Church to be the first Presbyterian denomination which condemned slavery in our land. [See for instance Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, by Alexander McLeod]

The presence of banished Covenanter slaves in the colonies alongside those of the black race stolen from Africa have another possibility beyond those mentioned here.  This prompts us to ask where did the old negro spirituals arise from? They did not come from pagan Africa, that is for sure.  Did the circumstances of their plight in the American colonies as slaves come face to face sovereignly with the Light of the World, even Jesus?  Certainly, that took place.  But Jock Purves, in his book, Fair Sunshine, published by Banner of Truth Trust, writes of another possibility, when he says,  “there are seeming traces of time and melody  in these lovely spirituals which are reminiscent of the music of the old metrical Psalm-singing.” (page 49)  Did banished men and women of  Covenanter stock carry the gospel of redeeming love in both words and music to their companions in hard labor among the African slaves? (italics that of the author) It is an interesting thought. [For more on this theory, see the work of Yale professor Willie Ruff.]

And while Covenanters rose to grapple with the issues of the American Revolution and supported the fight for independence, do you realize that they did not accept the Constitution of the United States because it nowhere spoke of the kingship of Jesus Christ as Lord of this nation? For many years afterwards, Reformed Presbyterians would not vote, serve on juries, or held office. Only slowly did they moderate those convictions, at least in terms of practical outworkings.

Are you also aware of the fact that in their worship, they only sing the psalms without musical accompaniment? To their spiritual benefit, the local congregations of several other Presbyterian denominations have included RPCNA Psalters as an additional hymnbook in their pew racks. The PCA’s own Psalter is itself a cooperative work based in large part upon the RPCNA Psalter.

Words to Live By: While a small denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America continues to have a vital place in the American Presbyterian tradition. Let us pray that their “tribe may increase,” for that can only be of benefit to us all.

One of the Old Historic Philadelphia Churches

archStPCThe Arch Street Church is the successor of the Fifth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. This latter church was in turn a daughter-church of the Second Presbyterian Church, worshiping initially in a chapel on Locust Street on property occupied by the Musical Fund Hall. The first pastor of the Arch Street church was the Rev. George Cox, who was installed as pastor in April of 1813.  Next came the Rev. James K. Birch who was installed July 19, 1813 and released November 5th, 1816.

Rev. Thomas H. Skinner was called from the pastorate of the Second Church and installed December 1st, 1816. He remained Pastor, with the exception of a brief interregnum, until called to the chair of Sacred Rhetoric in Andover Seminary in 1832.

The present church, pictured at right, was built and the first service held in it on June 7th, 1823. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D., of Princeton. In the choice of Dr. Skinner’s successor, Rev. George Duffield, D.D., was installed as pastor on April 5th, 1835, but this brought about a division within the congregation and a large number withdrew and formed Whitefield Chapel.

Dr. Duffield was succeeded within a short time by Rev. Thomas Waterbury, who was installed in December, 1837, and released in March, 1843; Rev. M. P. Thompson was pastor from 1844 to February 15th, 1848. The Fifth Church was dissolved, and on February 6th, 1850, a committee of the Philadelphia Presbytery, of which Rev. Drs. Boardman and Lord were members, met in the Seventh Church on Broad Street to deal with that closure. The historical account is unclear at this point,  but apparently a merger of the Fifth and  Arch Street congregations  was effected, thus creating a new iteration of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and so the church building was purchased by this newly formed organization. It called as its first pastor the Rev. Charles Wadsworth, D.D. He was installed March 20th, 1850, and continued as pastor until April 3d, 1862. The chapel in the rear of the church was added in 1852. The Sabbath-school was organized in 1850. Rev. N.W. Conklin, D.D., was pastor from 1863 to 1868. Rev. John L. Witherow, installed December 27th, 1868, continued until September 22d, 1873. Rev. John S. Sands was installed September 19th, 1880, and his relation dissolved May 6th, 1890. The pastor at the end of the nineteenth-century was the Rev. George P. Wilson, D.D., who was installed on April 26th, 1891.

Dr. Samuel Miller on Church Buildings:
At the service of dedication for the building in 1823, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller brought A sermon delivered June seventh, 1823, at the opening of the New Presbyterian Church in Arch Street in the city of Philadelphia, for the public worship of God. The text of Dr. Miller’s sermon was 2 Chronicles 6:41.

Denying, in this sermon, that to any place or edifice can now be attributed intrinsic holiness, and disapproving, therefore, of the idea that a church can be “consecrated;” Miller commends, however, “the practice of opening houses of public worship with appropriate religious exercises”—that is, their “dedication;” and on the ground of the “association of ideas,” he maintains that after a house has been so opened, “it is not desirable or proper, in ordinary cases, to employ it for any other purpose,” than the worship of God. As to church-building in general, he remarks,

“To expend millions upon a single place of worship now, while thousands of poor around us are suffering for bread, and while a great majority of our race are still covered with Pagan darkness, and perishing for lack of knowledge,—appears so unreasonable and criminal, that I hope we are in no danger of going to that extreme. But another, and, perhaps, a much more common extreme, especially in our church, taken at large, is, contenting ourselves with mean and uncomfortable houses in which to worship God. No worshipper ought ever to be willing to live in a better house than that which he, with others, has devoted to his Maker and Redeemer. And while, on the other hand, that splendour and magnificence of architecture, which is adapted to arrest and occupy the mind, and to draw it away from spiritual objects, ought carefully to be avoided; and avoided, not merely on the score of expense, but of Christian edification; so, on the other hand, that simple tasteful elegance, on which the eye is apt to rest with composed satisfaction; that studious provision for perfect convenience and comfort, which is calculated to place every worshipper in circumstances favourable to tranquil, undivided and devout attention, ought to be always and carefully consulted by every congregation, that is able to accomplish what is desirable in these respects.”

In a note on the passage quoted above, Dr. Miller stated that,

“It is a law of our mental, as well as of our physical nature, that two classes of emotions cannot be in a high, certainly not in a governing, degree of exercise at the same time. Whenever, therefore, we assemble for the worship of God in situations in which we are constantly surrounded and addressed by the most exquisite productions of art, which arrest and engross the mind, we are plainly, not in circumstances favourable to true spiritual worship. Would any rational man expect to find himself really devout in St. Peter’s at Rome, even if the most scriptural service were performed within its walls, until he should have become so familiar with the unrivalled specimens of taste and grandeur around him, as to forget or cease to feel them? Or, would any one be likely to “make melody in his heart to the Lord,” while the most skillful and touching refinements of music saluted and ravished his ears? Thrilled and transported he might be; but it would rather be the transport of natural taste, than the heavenliness of spiritual devotion. There never was a sounder maxim than that delivered in the plain and homely, but forcible language of the celebrated Mr. Poole, the learned compiler of the Synopsis Criticorum,–“the more inveiglements there are to sense, the more disadvantage to the spirit.” No one, of course, will consider this maxim as intended to teach, that, in order to promote the spirit of true devotion, it is necessary or desirable to be surrounded with that which is mean, irregular, or disgusting to the mind of taste. On the contrary, the fact is, that such mean and disgusting objects tend to arrest and draw away the mind in an opposite and painful manner; and are thus, perhaps, with respect to many persons, quite as unfriendly to the exercises of calm piety, as the utmost fascinations of art can be.” [pp. 21-23]

Image Source: photograph of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, facing page 39 in The Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia: A Camera and Pen Sketch of Each Presbyterian Church and Institution in the City. Compiled and edited by Rev. Wm. P. White and William H. Scott. Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott, 1895.

An Opportunity for Vindication
by Rev. David T. Myers

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>The letter is still preserved at the state history building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Written to the Rev. William Marshall on June 6, 1786, it states simply that he, the pastor of the Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had infringed on the rights of several members of the congregation. The letter continued on to state that he had a right to answer their complaints by appearing before these men, and this is the interesting part of the letter, his appearance was “for his own vindication.”

Whether such a meeting ever took place, the records of the church do not say. But we do know that the alleged confrontation between the pastor and several men of the congregation did take place against the backdrop of a schism in that local church. It seems that half of the congregation wished to separate from the mother synod in Scotland and united with the American Presbyterian denomination.  The dissenters who desired the latter must have had the majority as Rev. Marshall and his followers were forced out of the pulpit and pew.  They relocated to another place in Philadelphia and built their church.

The original majority continued on at their place of ministry, seeking fellowship with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1822. It was said that they desired this union as there would be “more catholicity of communion and more liberty of worship.” As they were closely aligned with the covenanting side of the Scottish Presbyterian church, this contributor assumed that they wished to have more fellowship as well as not being bound by exclusive psalmody.  From 1866 to 1884, the church was without a pastor and for all intents, closed. In 1883, the remaining congregation was merged with the young South Broad Street Presbyterian church, under the Scots Presbyterian name. Pictured at right is the building constructed in 1886 for the recently merged congregation. Eventually this church merged with the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, which today now has the oldest pre-Revolutionary Presbyterian building still in use in Philadelphia.  It is associated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Words to Live By: Christians in general need to think twice about how they approach the teaching elder, or pastor of their church with a critical spirit. Scripture is clear on this. Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (NASB)  And 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 reads, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB) Pastors need prayer more than criticisms by the congregation. When there are serious, real problems, invest much time in prayer and then follow Matthew 18:15.

For further reading : Scots Presbyterian Church, Old and New, 1766-1887, by John C. Thompson. [copies of this history may be found preserved at the PCA Historical Center (St. Louis); the New York Historical Society Library (New York City); the American Antiquarian Society (Boston); and at the Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia).]

American independence has been achieved. The colonies have taken their place as free and independent States among the nations of the earth. In bringing about this the most momentous political event of the last century the ministry and laity of the Presbyterian Church bore an essential and a conspicuous part. These men were the descendants of the Huguenots whose blood, shed in the cause of religious freedom, had baptized almost every acre of France; of the Dutch, who under William the Silent, had struggled and fought against civil and religious despotism amidst the dikes of Holland; of the Scotchmen who signed the Covenant with the warm blood of their veins, and who had fought to the death under the blue banner of that Covenant; of the heroes whose valor at Londonderry turned the scale in favor of the prince of Orange and secured the Protestant succession in England—sons of the women who, during that memorable seige, carried ammunition to the soldieres, and in the crisis of the assault, sprange to the breach, hurled back the assailants and turned the tide of battle in the critical, imminent moment of the conflict.

These were not the men to be dazzled by specious pretexts, or to stand nicely balancing arguments of expediency, when issues touching human freedom were at stake. These were not the men to barter away their birthright for pottage. They who had endured so much in the cause of freedom in the Old World, who, for its sake, had left all and braved the perils of an unbroken wildernes, were not the men tamely to submit their necks to the yoke, how smoothly soever it might be fitted for them by the deft hands of king, Church or Parliament. Consequently, the Presbyterians in the colonies were almost to a man, and to a woman, patriots “indeed, in whom there was no guile.”

In a Presbyterian community not far from the spot where the first blood of the Revolution was shed, in a Presbyterian convention which had for its presiding officer a ruling elder, was framed and promulgated the Mecklenburg Declaration, which embodied the spirit and the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and which antedates that document by the space of a year and more; and even earlier than this, within the bounds of old Redstone Presbytery, the “Westmoreland Declaration” was made at Hanna’s Town, in Western Pennsylvania.

None in all the land better understood the nature of the struggle, or more thoroughly appreciated the importance of the issue, than those men. They saw in the impending conflict more than a tax on tea or a penny stamp on paper—more even than “taxation without represention.” In addition to political tyranny they perceived the ominous shadow of spiritual despotism, which threatened to darken the land to which they had fled as an asylum, and they esteemed their fortunes and their lives a cheap sacrifice at which to purchase for their posterity in succeeding generations the blessings of religous freedom.

Into the struggle, therefore, they threw themselves heart and soul. WIth enthusiastic devotion, they put at the service of their coutnry the last penny of their substance and the last drop of their blood. Wherever a Presbyterian church was planted, wherever the Westminster Confession of Faith found adherents, wherever the Presbyterian polity was loved and honored, there intelligent and profound convictions in regard to civil and religious liberty were developed as naturally as the oak grows from the acorn, and there, when the crisis came, strong arms and stout hearts formed an invulnerable bulwark for the cause of human freedom. As the Spartan defended his shield, as the Roman legions fought for their eagles, as the chivalrous knight leaped to the rescue of his sweetheart, so our Presbyterian ancestors, with a prodigal valor and an unquenchable ardor, sprang to the defence of their sacred rights.

“From the Adoption of the Presbyterian Form of Government to the Present Time,” by the Rev. Samuel J. Wilson, D.D., pages 151-215 in Centennial Historical Discourses, delivered in the City of Philadelphia, June, 1876, by appointment of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1876.

https://archive.org/details/centennialhistor00pres

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