Charles Hodge enters into eternity

Early in July of 1878, on the pages of The Christian Observer, this brief note appeared under the title, “Calvinism and Piety,” :

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

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

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

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

Q. 14. — What is sin?

A. — Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Scripture References: I Jn. 3:4; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 3.23; Rom 2:15.

Questions:

1. What is the Law of God and where is it to be found?

The Law of God is the commandments God has given for man’s rule of obedience. The Law of God is found written in the Word of God though there was a copy of it on the heart of man in his innocence before the fall. The Word teaches that some part of it is still written on the hearts of men, but to a great extent the knowledge of this Law has become marred or obliterated.

2. How does man show want of conformity unto the Law of God?

By not doing all the things written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10).

3. What sins are included in lack of conformity unto the Law of God?

The sins included are (l) Original sin and that natural enmity in the heart against the Law of God. (2) All sins of omission and commission.

4. How can one prove that transgression of the law is sin?

The Bible teaches this in I John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.”

5. Are all the laws mentioned in the Old Testament to be kept today?

No, not all the laws of the Old Testament are to be kept. The ceremonial law is no longer binding since Christ came in the flesh, and many of the judicial laws – as they had reference to the state of the Jewish nation – are laid aside. But the moral law is binding on all mankind (Ps. 119:160).

6. Could you answer the question, “What is sin?” in words I might use in teaching my classes?

You might tell them as Dr. William Childs Robinson states it: “Sin is stepping across one of God’s commandments.” It is not simply a wrong done to one’s fellow man but it includes both guilt and pollution. Sin involves not only outward acts but the thoughts, affections and intents of the heart as well.

THE CHRISTIAN AND SIN

There is a delightful story told of the little boy who heard the thrilling story of Goliath in Sunday School. The next day he came to his Mother and said, “Mother, I am as tall as Goliath.” Naturally his Mother answered him and told him that such would be impossible for Goliath was a giant of a man. But the little boy answered, “But Mother, the Bible says Goliath was six cubits and a span and I made a ruler and I’m six cubits and a span too, so I’m as tall as Goliath!”

Even as the little boy made the ruler himself and could be as tall as he wanted to be, so many Christians make their own yardsticks of measurement in regard to sin. They are very quick to recite what the Catechism says sin is, but in their actions they seem to have an amazing ability to forget God’s definition of sin and make their own standards of right and wrong.

Many Bible scholars throughout the ages have agreed that God’s definition of sin is found in Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Or, as was illustrated so beautifully by J. Sidlow Baxter one time, “The best picture of sin is that of a little girl stomping her foot on the floor and saying, ‘1 want what I want when I want it!’ “

So much for the outward manifestations of sin. What about the inward and negative sides of sin? Dr. James Benjamin Green once said that the inward and the negative sides of sin are too much ignored, too little regarded. As he put it, the absence of right feeling as well as the presence of wrong feeling is sin. So many Christians sin in failing to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” The Christian is constrained to determine every thought, word and deed by the leading of the Spirit through the Word of God. The Christian’s duty is to be constantly conducting himself in the sphere of the Spirit. Otherwise the Christian will be sinning against the Lord.

This is a high standard. This is “walking in the Spirit.” This is our only standard of measurement and it is found in the Word of God. It does not change, it does not suit itself to the environment in which it lives. It leads us to depend solely on Him and such hinders us from “going our own way.” (Rom. 8:1-14)

A Presbyterian Church in the Heart of Anglican Virginia
by David T Myers

There is an expression commonly heard yet misunderstood by mostly every citizen today in our land. It is “the separation of church and state.” Most commonly, it is interpreted as American government should not enter into Christian principles and practices ever! In my area, an individual running for office in the county found out that her opponent actually quoted some Scripture in a personal letter. Why, she reasoned in an open letter, this violated his political position, because of the separation of church and state. I trust that the readers of this website understand that when we talk about the separation of church and state, we simply mean, as our forefathers understood, there is no such entity as a state church. And yet while that is true, it was not recognized to be true until 1786 in Virginia, eleven years after the American Revolution.

When Presbyterians entered Virginia, “the Church of England (Anglican) was the official church of the Virginia colony. Overseen by the Bishop of London, the church in Virginia had the royal governor of the colony as its head. The General Assembly passed laws for the ‘suppression of vice’ and set ministers’ salaries, fixed parish boundaries, required attendance at Anglican churches, and restricted secular activities on Sundays. Heads of households paid mandatory church taxes levied by Anglican parish vestries to pay ministers, to build and repair church buildings, and to assist the needy. Anglican churchwardens reported violators of religious laws to country courts for prosecution. Formal services from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer were the rule in parish churches.” (Quotation from the Colonial Williamsburg Sign on the wall of the Presbyterian Meeting House)

When Presbyterians (and other religious groups) began to enter the Virginia colony over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, at first persecution met the new faith based groups. Gradually, these “dissenters,” as they were called, were the subjects of a more tolerant attitude, in that they were allowed to practice their own convictions. However, they had to obtain licenses for themselves and their meeting houses, and continue to pay Anglican church taxes.

On June 17, 1765, a group of Presbyterians successfully petitioned the county court for permission to meet in a house in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seventeen men signed the petitions. They were mostly Williamsburg business men composed of a carpenter, blacksmith, hatter, printer/bookbinder, stay maker, cabinetmaker, wheelwright, two shoemakers and two tailors. Solid members of Williamsburg society, they dissented from the established Church of England to worship as Presbyterians.

Presbyterian ministers were hard to come by in the early days. In 1767, Presbyterians in Pennsylvania and Delaware appointed Andrew Bay and Jacob Ker to minister to their small band of Presbyterians in the town. James Waddel, a newly licensed pastor, was appointed to the town for two Sundays in 1767 by the Hanover Presbytery. Certainly Samuel Davies of nearby Hanover County helped to minister to the little band of Presbyterians.

Sustained effort to change the laws of the Colony continued to keep the issue of religious freedom in the public mind all through the American Revolution. Finally this sustained effort was essential in the change in 1786 to pass the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, written in 1777 by Thomas Jefferson.

Words to Live By:
If you are able to visit Williamsburg, Virginia today, you can visit the Anglican Church on the grounds which is historic to the day and age of the early beginnings of our country. Don’t forget to visit also the plain building which houses the Presbyterian Meeting House of Williamsburg, where the Word of God was preached in all its fullness by faithful men of God in the beginnings of our country.

Tags:

As the PCA’s General Assembly comes to a close today, Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s message remains pertinent.

Truth is rooted in nothing less than the truth that God exists.

The following written address was delivered by Dr. Francis Schaeffer at the 10th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America which met in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 16, 1982. This message continues to be something which needs to be periodically re-read and pondered.

It is a profound privilege to be asked to speak today, as this day we are one church.

It is a day of rejoicing. It must primarily be that. And yet it is also a sober day before the face of our dear Lord—a sober day, for while this is now in one way an accomplished fact, in another way it is only a beginning. Like birth itself—birth is something completed—the human being nine months old emerges into the external world. But then, though this is a completed thing, what then matters is what is done with life. There is a life to be lived.

For us, what matters now, with the rejoicing is the looking to our Lord for the common life which we now have together, to be lived and to be lived well in the light of the infinite-personal God’s existence, in the light of His revelation in the Scripture, in the light of the teaching and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, and in the light of the coming complete restoration of all things.

We must realize that our being one will take looking to the Lord for help. There will be problems of coordination which must be worked out with patience, with being servants to each other. This will not happen automatically. It will take conscious thought, prayer, and a realistic love not to let our egotisms spoil that which God has given us. I would just say to you there are going to be months, there are going to be times, that you are consciously going to have to realize that there are things that have be worked out in love, and it is imperative that as these things are worked out that the things of personal egotism and personal preference which is not principle would not spoil that which God has given us.

We have much to help us: The Lord Himself, and our common heritage. There are differences in our heritage between the Northern and the Southern Presbyterian Churches. And there are divergencies in our histories since we have left those churches. But our common heritage is much greater than the differences.

Our common heritage is rooted in the eternal final objective reality, the infinite-personal Creator, the triune God Himself. Our common heritage is rooted in the unity of all those who have believed God from the Fall onward. Our common heritage is rooted in the New Testament Church from Pentecost onward. Our common heritage is rooted in the Reformation when God’s people threw off the encrustations of the medieval church and returned to authority resting in Scripture only, and salvation resting only in Christ’s finished Substitutionary work in history on the cross. All these things are our common heritage which far outshadow the differences. But more, our common heritage is rooted back to Geneva and to Scotland with our Presbyterian forefathers, and then again closer to us in this moment of history. Our common heritage is rooted in that we take seriously the Bible’s command concerning the purity of the visible church. This is our common heritage or we would not exist as individual churches and now as one church. And, thus, when the denominations to which we have belonged passed the point of not return we—with tears but with loyalty to our Lord—practiced truth and we stepped out from the denominations when there was no return in these denominations after we had patiently tried.

We have no illusions that in this fallen world and with our own finiteness and our own individual sin that we will have a perfect church but we stepped out looking to our Lord to help us have a true church. It will not be perfect, but we believe indeed we have a call to a true church—with a proper preaching of the Word, unmixed with liberalism; the proper sharing of the sacraments, being able to guard the table not having people sitting there who deny the great things of the living God, the Scriptures, and the living Christ; and also the proper administration to discipline in both doctrine and life.

Yes, we do have differences of background but the common heritage eminently overshadows the differences.

As we look ahead I would suggest certain things should be in our thoughts as individuals and as a particular church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive me if I stress what I have stressed before in talks, articles and books. However, we will not know who we are or what lies ahead as a privilege and a duty unless we remember our Presbyterian recent past history. As we cannot understand our young people and the culture which surrounds us unless we understand the 60’s, so we cannot understand the present religious climate in the United States unless we understand the 1930’s. Prior to the 1930’s the Bible believing Christians had stood together as liberalism came in to steal the churches. Then at different speeds the liberals achieved their theft of the various denominations with their power centers of the seminaries and their bureaucracies. At that point and onward the true Christians instead of standing together as had been the case previously divided into two groups: Those who held to a principle of the purity of the visible church; and those who accepted and acted upon the concept of a pluralistic church. There’s a line just like that. It’s a line that began back there in the 30’s, has continued and marks the religious life of the United States excruciatingly in our own day—those who hold to the principle of the purity of the visible church and those who accept the concept of the pluralistic church.

As you know, I have stressed over and over again the weakness of what became known as “the separated movement.” It is good to remind ourselves again what God’s calling to us is once we have become Christians. Our calling once we have become Christians is to exhibit the existence of God and to exhibit His character, individually and collectively. God is holy and God is love, and our calling is simultaneously to show forth holiness and love in every aspect of life—parent and child, husband and wife, church, state, everything else—an exhibition of the character of God showing forth his holiness and his love simultaneously. In the flesh rather than the work of the Spirit, it is easy to say we are showing holiness and it only be egotistic pride and hardness. Equally in the flesh rather than the work of the Spirit it is easy to say we are showing forth love and it only be egotistic compromise, latitudinarianism and accommodation. Both are equally easy in the flesh. Both are equally egotistic. To show forth both simultaneously, in personal matters, church and public life can only be done in any real degree by our consciously bowing, denying our egotistic selves and letting Christ bring forth His fruit through us—not merely as a “religious” statement, but with some ongoing reality. When we leave to begin a new denomination for Christ’s sake it is so easy to be proud, to be hard toward true brothers in Christ who differ with us, to those who hold to the Bible’s principles but nevertheless do not think the time is right. It is easy to be self-righteous and to self-righteously think that we are so right on this one point that anything else may be excused—very easy, a very easy thing to fall into. These mistakes were indeed made, and we have suffered from this and the cause of Christ has suffered from this through these now 50 years. By God’s grace as we begin together, let us consciously look to our Lord for His help not to give Satan the victory by making this tragic error.

But equally, let us not allow any place for confusing Christian love with compromise, latitudinarianism and accommodation! The spirit of our age is syncretism in all the areas of life, in all the areas of thought. The spirit of our age is syncretism, and thus accommodation is the rule. The spirit of our age is the age of syncretism in contrast in truth versus error; and this being so, accommodation is the common mentality.

Those in the churches who said they were practicing love but who confused this with compromise and accommodation have not been static in their error. Compromise is never static. It always progresses. Thus what began as ecclesiastical compromise has become the acceptance of a series of tragedies, a series of things which deny truth as truth. A series of tragedies which rest in the loss of the realization that truth as truth demands differen-tiation. Accomodation progresses and it is increasingly forgotten that truth, if it is really truth and not just subjective truth inside of our own head, demands confrontation, loving confrontation, but confrontation. If I lose the concept of confrontation it must be asked, do I believe that truth is truth. We must remind each other that all must be with true love and that the exhibition of God’s holiness must never be confused with hardness. Yet equally we must realize the responsibility to show forth and practice holiness as we go on together filling a great need in the church of Christ today not just in Presbyterian circles but in the church as a whole, and then in our society and in our culture. We have a great responsibility in our Pres-byterian circles, but it doesn’t stop there. It goes on, our responsibility, our duty, our privilege, as we become one, concerning the whole church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then out into the society and the culture.

Those who took the path of accommodation have not stopped on the level of one ecclesiastical unit but have had much to do in shaping that which is known as evangelicalism today.

At this point I would like to repeat a part of the talk I gave earlier this year at the Congress on the Bible in San Diego:

When Dr. Koop, Franky and I were in the midst of the seminars of “Whatever Happened to the Human Race,” one of us received a leter from someone in the evangelical ranks. He holds a good theological position in regard to Scripture and I like him. In his letter, however, he said: “I see the emergence of a new sort of fundamentalist legalism. That was the case in the trust conceiving ‘false evangelicals’ in the inerrancy issue and is also the case on the part of some who are now saying that the evangelical cause is betrayed by any who allow exceptions of any sort in government funding in abortion.” Now, speaking of the abortion issue, of course we would have to give some clarification. I know of no Protestant who does not take into consideration the health of the mother. If with tears the doctor cannot save both of his patients, the child and the mother, this is taken into consideration. It is all the other qualifications which are tacked on to the statement, I am against abortion except for this, that, the other thing, and 20 things more. And when we come to that place we have a question to ask, the question is raised if those who do this understand that it is human life as such that is involved in contrast to some individual’s or society’s concept of their own happiness. And when somebody tacks on all these exceptions one must say, do they understand all that truth means in the area of human life and the tremendous issues involved of human life as human life being important because we are made in the image of God in contrast to human life being able to be destroyed for either the individual’s happiness, the mother who thinks it’s for her happiness, or for society’s good. One must ask, do people really understand this, do they understand what truth means when they indeed forget what the real issue is at the level of human life?

I would like to consider the phrase &quota new sort of fundamentalist legalism&quot in regard to all the areas we have been talking about.

If what is involved in the phrase “fundamentalist legalism” is the loveless thing that some of us have known in the past, we of course reject it totally. The love of God and the holiness of God, as I’ve said before, must always be evident simultaneously. And if anyone has wandered off and later they see their mistake and they return, then surely the attitude should be not one of pride on our part that we have been right, but the attitude must be one of joy, and the playing of joyous music, and the singing of songs, and yes I would even say dancing in the streets because there has been a real return.

Again, if the phrase &quotfundamentalistic legalism&quot means the down-playing of the humanities as unhappily has so often been the case in certain circles, the failure to know that the intellect, that human creativity by Christians and non-Christians, that the scholarly, that the Lordship of Christ in all of life are all important and are included in true spirituality, then my work of 40 and more years and the books and the films, would speak of my denying it totally.

And if the term “a new legalistic fundamentalism” means the confusion of primary and secondary points of doctrine in life this too should be rejected.

But when we have said all that, when we come to the central things of doctrine including maintaining the Bible’s emphasis that it is without mistake an the central things of life, then something must be profoundly considered. Truth carries with it confrontation, loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something profoundly wrong. As what we may call holiness without love is not God’s kind of holiness, so what we may call love without holiness including when it is necessary confrontation, is not God’s kind of love. God is holy and God is love.

This ends the segment that I have taken from the San Diego talk, and now to pick up and go on: That which has come out of the concept of accomodation has indeed grrown and spread. First ecclesiastical accommodation. Then when the Scriptures were with the existential methodology in the evangelical ranks this mentality meant that leadership was not provided in saying that here was a watershed issue which required a line to be drawn between those who held the historic view of Scripture and the new and weaker view. Now this is not to say that htose who hold and held this view are not often brothers and sisters in Christ nor that we should not have warm loving personal relationships with them, but when one is considering the issue of Scripture at this point we should realize that the name evangelical really must be considered here, and the name evangelical was continued to be accepted and used about seminaries and other institutions as though their unscriptural view of Scripture made no real difference. This is real accommodation.

And when the human life issue came upon us, this same mentality of accommodation meant that no leadership was provided in meeting the issue any more than it had been in the scriptural issue. There was a great silence on this issue until some of God’s people stirred themselves—largely and in many places in spite of the leadership that had the sense of accommodation. They had forgotten that the unique value of human life is unbreakably linked with the fact of the existence of the infinite-personal God.

But I would say, the accommodation does not stop; the whole culture has been squandered and largely lost. Eighty years ago there was a Christian consensus in this country; all the most devastating things that have come have come in the last 40 years. Anybody who here is 55 years of age, all the most devastating things in every area of our culture, whether it be art or music, whether it be law or government, whether it’s the schools, permissiveness and all the rest, all these things have come climactically in our adult lifehood if you’re 55 years of age. But, the mentality of accommodation did not raise the voice, it did not raise the battle, it did not call God’s people to realize that this is a part of the task to speak out into the culture and society against that which was being squandered and lost and largely thrown away. An accommodation mentality ecclesiastically in the earlier years led to a lack of confrontation in our culture, society and in the country. As the great loss occurred in sliding from a Christian consensus to a humanistic one from the 40’s onward more and more things were lost, more and more things were allowed to be robbed, more and more things slid away.

And, let us say with tears, if one has the mentality of accommodation we must realize that it will still continue. A mentality of accommodation provides no basis for confrontation with tears concerning the oppression of Christians by those countries that hold the final reality to be merely material or energy shaped by pure chance. This mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a clear and public stand for our brothers and sisters in Christ who know oppression in such a situation. The mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a cry against tyranny as tyranny—not only tyranny against Christians but tyranny against Man, spelled with a capital “M,” who is made in the image of God. The mentality of accommodation provides no basis for fighting tyranny such as our forefathers fought tyranny, as we know the great and flaming names of the Scottish background and the Reformation who really stood not just against tyranny against Christians but understood that a Christian is called upon to stand against all tyranny. The mentality of accommodation provides no basis against not only internal tyranny in such countries as I’ve described but an expanding tyranny to new parts of Europe and the globe. A mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a strong stand in this situation.

This is not our common heritage. As Presbyterians our heritage is with a Calvin who dared to stand against the Dukes of Savoy regardless of what it cost. Our heritage is with a John Knox who taught us, as I’ve stressed in A Christian Manifesto, a great theology of standing against tyranny. Our heritage is with a Samuel Rutherford who wrote those flaming words, Lex Rex—only the law is king and “king” under any name must never be allowed to arbitrary law. Are you Presbyterians? Have we a Presbyterian body? These men are the men who give us our heritage—Calvin and his position, John Knox and his, Samuel Rutherford his, and no less than these in our own country, a John Witherspoon who understood that tyranny must be met and must be met squarely because tyranny is wrong. These who understood that true love in this fallen world often meant the acceptance of the tears which go with confrontation. None of us like confrontation, or I hope none of us do. But in a fallen world there is confrontation, there is confrontation concerning truth, there must be confrontation against evil and that which is wrong. The love must be there but so must the hard thing of acting upon differentiation, the differentiation God gives between truth and falsehood, between what is just, based on God’s existence and His justice, and injustice.

We are Presbyterian; we are Reformed. But our being together and our responsibility and opportunity does not stop merely with being Presbyterian and Reformed. As one as we now are, we can in some measure speak with the balance of love and holiness to help to provide help for the poor church of the Lord Jesus Christ as a whole in this country; and then beyond into the world to provide help for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in helping stop this awful slide. This slide in regard to the church, this slide in regard to Scripture, this slide in regard to human life, this slide regarding the oppression of our brothers and sisters in Christ, this slide in regard to tyranny toward others in the world. It is forgotten that a part of the Good News is to take a stand; that is a part of the Good News in a broken, as well as lost, world. The very preaching of the Good News is taking a stand, but it’s forgotten that just as we heard from the former
moderator that there isn’t a dichotomy between the proclamation of the Word and caring for people’s material needs with compassion and love, so also it must be emphasized that there is no dichotomy between preaching the Good News and taking a stand—and in fact, if there is nothing to take a stand upon there is no reason for preaching the Good News.

We are to be Presbyterian and Reformed, but that is not the limiting circle of our responsibility. I would say to you, I plead with you concerning this, we are to be Reformed and Presbyterian but that is not the limiting circle of our responsibility. Our distinctives are not to be the chasm. We hold our distinctives because we are convinced that they are biblical. But God’s call is to love and be one with all those who are in Christ Jesus and then to let God’s truth speak into the whole spectrum of life and the whole spectrum of society. That is our calling. The limiting circle is not to be just that we are Presbyterian and Reformed. We hold these things because we believe indeed they are that which is taught in Scripture. But out beyond that there is the responsibility, there is the call, to be something to the whole church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and out beyond the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole society and to the whole culture. If we don’t understand this we don’t understand either how rich Christianity is and God’s truth is, nor do we understand how wide is the call placed upon the Christian into the totality of life. Jesus could not be said to be Savior unless we also say He is Lord. And we cannot honestly and rightly say He is our Lord if He is only a Lord of part of the life and not of the totality of life including all the social and political and the cultural life.

Our limitation of responsibility is not to be merely, as we being together, within the circle of Presbyterian and Reformed though it is to be this

We begin together. May we ask God’s grace that we may do well in the whole extent of the possibility of our calling. I want to tell you I doubt if many of you realize how great the possibility of your calling is as you sit here today. It is tremendous. There is a tremendous need in our day. We have largely lost our culture. The poor church has not been give a clear direction. You have tremendous opportunity; you have a calling this day; I have a calling this day; we have a calling this day by God’s grace that we may do well in the whole extent of the possibility of our calling.

It is intriguing to me that in the last six months that some important voices in the media and some of those who are pushing for a pluralistic church have been using the designations: “separatist” and “ecumenical,” I’m intrigued because I haven’t heard these terms used like this for a number of years. We do not wish to be separatist in any poor sense and we do not wish to be ecumenical in the bad sense. But whatever terms distinguish the difference, as we begin together because truth is truth, we must be willing ecclesiastically, concerning the Scripture, concerning human life, concerning oppression of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and concerning the spread of tyranny, we must be willing when it is necessary to accept the privilege and the duty of confrontation rather than accommodation. This is the command of Scripture, and it is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us be committed to each other, to the commands of the Scripture and to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ of understanding that truth is truth. We are not opposing these things for abstract doctrinal concepts, but what we are talking about is truth. We are talking about truth, and truth is not abstract. Truth is rooted in nothing less than the truth that God exists. This is the truth and that He has revealed Himself in the Scripture and He has sent His son to die for sinners like ourselves. If these things are really truth then it is not a place for synthesis, it is a place for antithesis. With love it is a place for confrontation and not just a mistaken accommodation which lacks a proper exhibition of God’s holiness.

Dr. Schaeffer’s message was later reprinted in the first issue of Equip magazine, a publication of the Christian Education & Publications Committee of the PCA. The message was reproduced on pages 7 – 9 of the April 1995 issue (Vol. 1, No. 1). Reflecting on the article, the editor asked these questions in a sidebar:

  1. What do we mean when we speak of our common heritage and why is it important?
  2. What is the difference between uniformity and unity?
  3. Schaeffer refers to Christian compromise demonstrated by accomodation and latitudinarianism. Give some examples.
  4. What is a Christian consensus and has that ever prevailed in America?
  5. Is our role more limited or more enhanced because of our common Reformed and Presbyterian heritage? In the church? In the world?
  6. Schaeffer talks about our calling. What is our calling as individuals? As a denomination? As members of the universal church?
  7. Discuss some specfic ways in which we can actually do “loving confrontation.”

An Exceptional Overcoming, in Difficult Times
by Rev. David T. Myers

John Chavis was born in 1763 (or possibly 1762) in Granville County, North Carolina—a sparsely populated area north of Raleigh bordering Mecklenburg County, Virginia. While the details surrounding his early life and ancestry can be hazy, we know that members of the Chavis family were, along with one other family (the Harrises), the first people of African descent to be recognized as free persons in Granville County. John Chavis—whose lineage was a mix of African, American Indian, and Caucasian—came from a distinguished line of free Blacks who owned property and were committed to educating themselves as best they could. A descendant of Chavis later recalled, “My grandmother, mother, and great grandmother were all free people and Presbyterians.”

As a young man, Chavis received an excellent education, likely under the tutelage of the Rev. Henry Pattillo, who would have instructed him in Greek and Latin. Around 1780, Chavis enlisted in the Fifth Virginia Regiment, fighting for the Patriot cause, as many of his relatives did, in the Revolutionary War. In 1792, as an older “non-traditional” student, Chavis was admitted to Princeton using scholarship money from something called the Leslie Fund. In order to be admitted to Princeton, a student had to be tested in English grammar, orthography, punctuation, composition, geography, United States history, Latin grammar, Greek grammar, and mathematics. Chavis was well educated and a quick learner. While at Princeton, he received private instruction from John Witherspoon (which is why I first became interested in Chavis). In 1793 or 1794 Chavis left Princeton (because of Witherspoon’s death?) and later finished his academic studies at Washington College (Virginia) in 1802.

While in Virginia, Chavis was picked out as a suitable candidate for the ministry. In particular, many Southern whites were eager to see Chavis evangelize other Blacks. On October 19, 1799, Chavis was received under the care of Lexington Presbytery. A year later, one of the elders of the presbytery argued that the work of evangelization was too important to prolong Chavis’s trials any further. After a unanimous vote to sustain his exams, Chavis was granted a license to preach. By some accounts, he was the first Black in America ordained by the Presbyterian Church, though technically he only received his licensure, never final ordination.

Chavis was commissioned as a “riding missionary under the direction of the General Assembly,” first under Lexington Presbytery, then Hanover Presbytery, and finally Orange Presbytery. Although his mission was to preach to other Blacks, records indicate that he preached to more whites, up to 800 at a time. Chavis desired to preach to “his own people,” but slaves were often not allowed to worship in white churches. Chavis’s missionary trips were mostly preaching tours, but he also assisted with the Lord’s Supper and performed some pastoral duties.

In addition to a well-received preaching ministry, Chavis was an exceptionally gifted educator, opening a classical school in Raleigh in 1805. At first, the school was integrated, but later white parents insisted that Chavis instruct Blacks and whites separately. At full strength—Chavis was often sick and suffered from debilitating arthritis—the school in Raleigh was home to many of North Carolina’s leading families. Chavis taught a future governor, future lawyers, future pastors, and was especially close throughout his life to the future U.S. Senator Willie Mangum.

After three decades of successful teaching and preaching—and, it seems, a measure of prosperity from dabbling in real estate—Chavis saw his ministry (and his money) dry up in the 1830s. In 1832, in response to Nat Turner’s Rebellion of August 1831, the North Carolina legislature made it unlawful for any free person of color to preach or exhort in public or to officiate as a preacher. Chavis pleaded with the Presbytery for financial support, but the collection they took was little more than $50. In an effort to pay his bills and provide for his wife and children (about whom we know next to nothing), he requested in 1832 that the Presbytery publish his Letter Upon the Doctrine of the Extent of the Atonement of Christ. The Presbytery denied the request, arguing that the subject had already been dealt with by others and there was little chance the short pamphlet would produce much income. No doubt, the Presbytery also demurred because Chavis had drifted from confessional Reformed orthodoxy. In the Letter, Chavis argued that the free offer of the gospel was inconsistent with limited atonement and that the eternal decrees of God were based on “nothing more nor less than his foreknowledge.” Judging by his Letter, Chavis was a passionate gospel preacher who aligned with the New School wing of the Presbyterian controversies of the 1830s.

During his lifetime, Chavis remained a committed Presbyterian, an ardent Federalist, and a critic of racism and slavery. Though these criticisms were, by necessity, often more private than public, he did not hesitate to implore his friend and one-time student Willie Mangum to stand against the tyrant Andrew Jackson. He also informed Mangum that though the insurrection was abominable, he thought Nat Turner was an innocent man.

On June 15, 1838, John Chavis passed from this world into the next, his obituary noting that “his christian character gave comfort to his friends.” Later that fall, the Orange Presbytery resolved to provide Chavis’s widow with a lifelong pension of $40 a year.

Although I wish his theological thoughts were more in line with the Old School side of things, my greater wish—if that’s the right word—is to wonder how much more his ministry might have been had it not be hampered, and then silenced, by the growing rumbles of racial animus and fear. I doubt many of us have heard of John Chavis, but his impressive learning, his itinerant preaching, and his successful teaching mark him out as an important leader in the Old South, particularly among Presbyterians.

Information for this post was taken from Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Volume One (1607-1861), and especially from Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor (1763-1838).

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.

Words to Live By:
Here is true biblical ecumenism.  We ought to unite together on the basis of the Word of God and the Westminster Standards with all churches which have that common basis.  By it, the Church is strengthened to meet the secular challenges of the age in which we live; the divisive character of too many a religious body in the eyes of the watching world is removed, and God’s people are built up in the holy faith.  Work where God has placed you to make this a reality more and more.

This brief message originally appeared in an old publication titled THE PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, and was later reproduced on the back cover of a tract titled TEN REASONS FOR BEING A PRESBYTERIAN. An image of that back cover is show at right.

TENDENCIES OF PRESBYTERIANISM.

tendencies_of_presbyterianismALL the tendencies of the Presbyterian system of doctrines and government have been often demonstrated to be good, adapted in the highest degree to promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of individuals, families, communities, and nations. The evidence of this fact is found in its effects in all parts of its history, in ancient and in modern times. Wherever Presbyterianism unadulterated by foreign influences has prevailed, there have morality, purity, industry, intelligence, virtue, and piety been found shedding a hallowing and purifying efficacy upon the people. For the correctness of this statement we appeal to the earliest days of the church, to the churches of the valleys of Piedmont, to the Reformed churches of France and Switzerland, and to the churches of Scotland. It is true that most of the governments under which these saints lived, recognized not their character, and desired to exterminate their teachers. Against them were arrayed power, prejudice, fraud, craft, the sword, the faggot, and red-hot chain. But in spite of all these, their characters came forth only the more eminently precious for their trials, and more clearly vindicated from all charge of wrong. Their virtue, faith, patience, and love of freedom were too precious to be consumed by the fire of persecution, and their history stands a blessed illustration of the influence and tendency of our religion.—Presbyterian Advocate.

Adoption Act of Subscription Exceptions Added to PCA Book of Church Order
by Rev. David T. Myers

Can a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America be permitted to honestly express his reservations with  sections of the Westminster Standards to his Presbytery which do not strike at the essentials of religion before ordination? That was the question raised in the denomination, with some presbyteries allowing it and others not providing liberty for it.  The issue was settled with the following section being added upon favorable vote to the Book of Church Order’s Form of Government on June 12, 2003 at the Thirty-first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

“While our Constitution does not require the candidate’s affirmation of every statement and/proposition of doctrine in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, it is the right and responsibility of the Presbytery to determine if the candidate is out of accord with any of the fundamentals of these doctrinal standards and, as a consequence, may not be able in good faith to receive and adopt the Confession of  Faith and Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. (cf. BCO 21:5, Q.2; 24:5, Q. 2).

“Therefore, in examining a candidate for ordination, the Presbytery shall inquire not only into the candidate’s knowledge and views in the areas specified above, but also shall require the candidate to state the specific instances of which he may differ with the Confession of Faith and Catechisms in any of their statements and/or propositions.  The court may grant an exception to any difference of doctrine only if in the court’s judgment the candidate’s declared difference is not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion.”

The key phrase of this Adoption Act is in the last sentence “. . . only if in the court’s judgment the candidate’s declared difference is not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion.”  Time will tell, in this contributor’s opinion,  whether “the court’s judgment” of our presbyteries will defend the faith once delivered unto the saints or allow all sorts of various doctrinal differences to slide in unnoticed into the church.

Words to Live By: How important it is to pray for the teaching and ruling elders of our Presbyterian churches that they will hold solidly to the Reformed faith, not allowing any weakening of “the vitals of religion.”  We have with sadness watched the gradual slide of other mainline Presbyterian churches into departures from the faith.  Let us not imitate them, but resist the temptation of the world, the flesh, and the devil and  stand firm and hold true “the vitals of religion.”

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

Q. 13. — Did your first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?

A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.

Scripture References: Gen. 3:6-8,13; Eccles. 7:29; II Cor. 11:3; Ps. 5:4.

Questions:

1. What was the “estate” in which man was created?

The estate was innocence, the state in which God had placed man and in which he had pure fellowship with God.

2. What is meant by the freedom of the will?

The freedom of the will was a liberty to choose or refuse of its own accord, without any constraint or force from anyone.

3. Were our first parents able to follow the way of perfect obedience unto God?

Yes, they had perfect knowledge and were holy in their hearts for God had made them in this way.

4. How was it then possible for man to sin?

It was possible because at creation man had a freedom both to good and evil. His natural disposition was to good but because he was a mutable (subject to change) creature he, through temptation, submitted himself to evil.

5. What is man’s state today in regard to freedom of will?

A distinction must be made as to the type of man. Unregenerate man “by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation” so that he can neither “convert himself, nor prepare himself thereunto.” (Confession of Faith, IX, 3). Regenerated man, by God’s grace, has the freedom to do that which is spiritually good, but he does not do it perfectly for he is sometimes inclined toward evil. (Rom. 7: 15, 19, 21).

6. Who was responsible for the first sin?

Man was responsible for he freely yielded to the temptation of the devil. When our first parents willfully chose to obey the word of Satan rather than the word of God, they were guilty of sinning against God. Man had been put on trial, the trial of simple obedience, but man failed the test. It should be recognized that God is not the cause of sin. This can be proven from the testimony of Scripture, (Gen. 1:31. Ps. 5:4).

This can also be proven by the facts taught by Scripture that God is perfectly good and holy and that God punished all sin severely. The fall of Adam is the efficient cause of original sin both in himself and in his posterity.

SINNING AGAINST GOD

One of the greatest dangers facing the church of today is the trend toward emphasizing sin as being against men rather than the fact that sin is first and foremost against God. This is especially noticeable in the prayers of many ministers and laymen. Their prayers are full of the fact that men sin against men, especially in a social sort of way, but are almost void of the primary fact that men sin against God. If you will read once again the great Episcopal General Confession [see below] you will note that the thrust of the confession is aimed at offending the holy laws of God.

It is true that when our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden they certainly sinned against each other in that their sin affected one another. And their sin certainly affected the whole human race as it was naturally passed down to all. But the important point of our Catechism Question is that Adam and Eve sinned against God. This is the message we should keep in our minds. This is the message we need to remember as we live our daily walk before God as Christians saved by grace.

Probably our difficulty is that though we know our sins are against God, we do not make enough effort to resist, to overcome temptation. A faithful preacher of God’s Word used to tell his people time and time again, “Brethren, you must practice being careful of how you live before the Almighty, Sovereign God!” Thomas Goodwin gave four rules to the Christian regarding keeping away from sinning against God:

1. Keep thyself from evil thoughts, for they defile the man (Matt. 15:18-20).
2. Keep thyself from evil speeches, because “evil words corrupt good manners” (I Cor. 15 :33).
3. Take heed of ill company, for that will defile the man.
4. Take heed of all occasions of evil abuse of things lawful, even they also will make thee impure, because it is a means to draw out the impurity of thy heart.

Such thoughts are excellent for us as we strive to live to the glory of God. It is also excellent for us to realize and to remember that our sins are against the Holy God, He who sits on the Throne of Heaven. (I Cor. 10:12-13)

Episcopal General Confession:
The original form in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is:

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father;
We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

Some of our past posts published here on This Day in Presbyterian History have given us portions on the life and ministry of Francis McKemie, in the context of the beginnings of the Presbyterian church in America.  What informed Presbyterians know is that this founder of American Presbyterianism was ordained in Ireland as a Presbyterian minister, which itself was formed in 1642.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Under King James I, large numbers—literally tens of thousands—of Scottish Presbyterians emigrated in 1610 to the region now known as Northern Ireland. What they found was a barren land, laid waste by the Irish wars in the late 1500’s. These Scottish immigrants must have taken a deep breadth as they viewed their new surroundings, and wondered what they had gotten themselves into when they decided to leave Scotland.  But James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery, the two founding fathers of the Ulster Scot movement, knew that these Scot immigrants were just what was necessary to populate and transform the land. With courage and determination, they plowed, planted, and eventually built the region into an agricultural and industrial nation. They also rebuilt some 15 churches which had been destroyed in previous decades. These were a people who lived out their biblical faith; they were a people whose convictions equipped them to meet great challenges.

The first Presbyterian minister to Ulster was the Rev. Edward Brice who came over in 1613.  Others would join him, even as the early church in Ireland would be more Prescopalian, to coin a word, than Presbyterian.  Presbyterian ministers labored within the confines of Episcopal churches at first.  Such a combination could not continue forever however, which was made clear on August 4, 1621, when the Five Articles of Perth were passed in the old country, and applied there and in Ulster.  It was simply an attempt to conform Scottish worship to the Anglican pattern of worship.  The attempt did not go well!

God’s Spirit was also at work during these times.  There were three religious revivals which renewed the graces of Christ in believers, thus bringing God’s elect into the kingdom. These three revivals were known as the Stewarton Revival, the Six Mile Water Revival, and the Kirk O’Shotts Revival. Each in turn served to prepare Church members for some hard trials in later decades.

The first time of trial took place in 1639.  The Black Oath was introduced in Ulster on May 21.  It specifically rejected the National Covenant of Scotland, which had been signed in 1638. Those who were asked to sign the Black Oath were to reject the National Covenant, and swear loyalty to King Charles I.  Some of the Ulster Scots signed the Black Oath, but most refused.

That trial continued on until October 23, 1641 when there was literally an “open season” for the persecution of Irish Protestants and Presbyterians carried out by Roman Catholics.  This author chose not to amplify the gross details of the massacre, but it is horrible to the extreme.  Estimates of those murdered were from 40,000 to 300,000.  Finally, someone thought it best to call for military help from Scotland.  Major General Robert Monro came with a Scottish army of 2500 soldiers to defend the harried residents of the Kirk.

But our post ends on a positive note, for from this Scottish army came the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church.  Each Scottish regiment had a Presbyterian chaplain.  Further, in each regiment, could be found what we would today call ruling elders. Then on Friday, June 10, 1642, in Carrisckfergus, Ireland, a meeting was held to constitute this Presbytery.  Present were Presbyterian chaplains Hugh Cunningham, Thomas Peeples, John Baird, John Scott, and John Aird.   Four other elders joined them to establish Sessions of Elders.

Rev. John Baird preached the first Presbytery sermon from Psalm 51:18, “By your favor do good to Zion, Build the walls of Jerusalem.”  Rev. Thomas Peeples was elected as Stated Clerk, a position he held for the next 30 years.   A flood of applications came from all of Ulster to join the Presbytery.  By 1660, there would be 80 congregations, 70 ministers, 5 Presbyteries, and 100,000 members.  And from them would come countless people immigrating to the land in which you and I live today.

Words to Live By: What stands out to this author is how the Lord prepared His people by not only heaven-sent revivals of the church,  but also through His preserving and sustaining care, in raising up His church despite terrible persecution of it.  How we can be thankful that this same God is still the God of providence, who guides and guards His people today.

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