A Victory in Defeat

The British Parliament member, upon hearing of the “victory” in the colonies by the British army that day of March 15, 1781 has commented “another such victory would ruin the British army.” What did he mean?

In the southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War, Lord Cornwallis was doing his best to defeat the stubborn American forces.  Specifically, he was doing his best to punish those pesky Scot – Irish Presbyterians who  possessed a fervor of opposition to his military units.  Whenever he found a church building connected with them, the psalm books and Bibles would be burned.  That punishment would extend to the church building as well.  It was very much a battle against Presbyterians in the southern colonies.  In fact, they would meet on many a battle field, and one of the more fiercest times was this battle at Guildford Court House, North Carolina.

It was in the morning of March 15, that nineteen hundred British regulars and German allies attacked 4500 American militia members and seasoned Continental men.  The whole battle was fierce by any man’s standards.

The American commander, Maj. General Nathaniel Green, had positioned his troops in three lines.  First, one thousand militia from North Carolina formed the first line.  They were to fire two shots and retire from the battle field.  One half of the British Highlanders fell from that fire.  Green’s second line was composed of Virginia marksmen, both militia and seasoned Continentals.  They twice checked the British line, but eventually retired as well.  The third line of the Americans were fourteen hundred Continentals.  At this point, the fight grew desperate.  Cornwallis himself said, “I never saw such fighting since God made me.  The Americans fought like demons.”

After two and one half hours, Green retreated from the field, seeking to keep his army intact for future battles.  Cornwallis, on the other hand, lost in his “victory” over 25% of his officers and men.  Here he was, in enemy territory, without supplies, and with heavy loss of men.  He quit the area with the remnants of his army, marching to Yorktown.  Exactly seven months later, he would surrender his army to General George Washington.

The soldiers who composed the American army in the field were the members of Presbyterian congregations in the southern colonies.

Words to Live By:  There is a time when Christians must act their part in defense of truth and righteousness, peacefully if they can, with violence if they must.  In such an endeavor, they can with the help of the Lord win the battle.

Our time is short today, and while this particular entry is not quite in synch with the calendar, it remains a very good word from the esteemed Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to his many years of service at Princeton, he was also quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.—[Dr. Archibald Alexander.

Dearly beloved, is this the testimony of your heart? Is the Gospel truly precious in your sight? Do you hunger and thirst after that righteousness which can be yours through Christ alone?

[Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.]

The following is drawn from an autobiography written by the Rev. Daniel Iverson, founding pastor of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida. That church closed its doors some years ago, but the legacy lives on.

The Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in its first twenty-four years under Daniel Iverson grew from seventeen worshipers in an old dance hall (half of them Iversons) to 1664 members with a Sunday School of 1200.  150 went into full-time Christian ministries, 4000 persons made a public profession of faith joining Shenandoah and her missions in this period, and some twenty-one churches were founded through Shenandoah and its pastor, together with its “children and grandchildren.  With the vast shift of population, seventy five years later, the Calle Ocho Church began to replant the church, “Reformed according to the Word of God” in the heart of what is now known as “Little Havana.” This autobiographical sketch in Dan Iverson’s own words best explains the miracle of Shenandoah. It is a simple answer.  Obviously, God did it!

The Work Begins: Sweating in Miami

iversondaniel01In February, 1927, Mrs. Iverson and I began to visit from home to home in the Southwest section of the city to see about prospects.  The people were in such an unsettled condition due to the collapse of the business boom and the terrible hurricane, it looked like a hopeless task. We were greeted with more or less indifference. We did not have a place to worship, and did not know where we could secure such a place; but we felt it was God’s will that we should work as though everything would work out alright, trusting Him every step of the way.

We found some people suspicious, charging that we had an ax to grind.  We found some very receptive and interested, and that most of them had heartaches they were trying to hide.  Having had some experience with people (Dan was about thirty eight years old), we felt it was our duty to penetrate the crust that hid the real self, and be of comfort and service to those in distress.

Having felt it was the time to start the church in the Shenandoah  community, I put notices in the newspapers, inviting those who were interested in establishing a Presbyterian Church to visit us in our home on a Tuesday evening in late February. About eight people attended that meeting, but only one became a member of what is now known as the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church.

After visiting for several weeks, we had interested enough folks, we thought, to jusify our finding a place of worship. There was an apartment on the corner of Southwest 20th Avenue and 12th Street that had stores on the ground floor.  We thought that was the place to begin, and tried to secure one of the stores. The owner of the building said that if we could gain the consent of those in the apartment building, we could use the store for a short time.  After four days, we had the people’s consent, but then the owner of the building decided against it. This was discouraging, for we had tried several places and met with similar rebuffs.

On Tamiami Trail and 20th Avenue there was a wooden building, now very much dilapidated, but then being used as a dance hall. It did not look to be the right thing to start a church in a Dance Hall. I found the building open, and walked in to take a look, and found it ideal as a Tabernacle.  I felt God had led me to this place. There was a little orchestra stand in the center of the building, and I knelt down behind the stand and claimed the building for God, and as I knelt and prayed, I felt God had answered my prayers.  I did every thing I could to secure this building, but failed.  Yet I felt in my heart that it would finally be ours.

I kept looking around the area and found an open air theater, now known as the Trail Auto Parts Company, that had closed its doors as a moving picture concern. I felt it was an unwise move to begin, but feeling it was imperative, I was ready to accept anything.  I secured this building for ten dollars per Sunday, and did not have the ten dollars to pay it.

That week, having  printed ten thousand invitation cards, my two boys, Dan and Ned, and my little girl Ella Lillian, went with me and assisted me in placing under the doors of 1000 homes these cards.  This interested them in the venture, and I found in family prayers they were constantly remembering this effort before God. Having given out one thousand cards, they thought everyone would respond and expected to see a large gathering on that first Sunday, March 13, 1927 at the Kew Garden Theater.

We advertised the Bible School hour at 9:45 A.M. I painted a sign and placed it outside the door, and opened up at 9:00 AM. There were five from our own family present,  At 9:45 there were still just five present, and that was a matter of anxiety for us all. As we were beginning with just our family at five minutes of ten, one person strolled in and asked if this was the place for the service, and wondered where the crowd was. At five minutes after ten, there were possibly ten present, and by 10:15 AM we had our first Sunday School of seventeen people divided into three classes. These classes were led by Mrs. Jennie Anderson, and for the adults  a class by Mrs. Daniel Iverson, and one by Miss Alice France.

shenandoahPCThe open air theater had a concrete floor and sunshine rules very strongly in Miami in March. It was unbearably warm and the glare very hard on the eyes. We found we were laboring under tremendous hardships. After a brief Sunday School session of the three classes, we asked the people to stay for church, and we would not keep them long.  Some people were added to the eleven o’clock service, making the attendance perhaps twenty-five or thirty. The sun was so hot that the people complained about it.  I suggested we hold a short service and someone suggested that they go home and get their parasols and come back.  I was afraid that if I let them go, they would not come back. They were so nice and kind, I gave them their wish and everyone  came back. This was just a little thing, but that was an encouraging thing, and I needed that little encouragement at what seemed to be a very dark moment in the blazing sun.

We had no hymn books, but I found a friend from my home town that was kind enough to make a couple hundred copies of three hymns. We used those hymns for a number of weeks for we had no funds with which to purchase hymn books.  During the following weeks I felt it necessary to get another place of worship, but found it impossible to secure them. So I printed one thousand more cards and with some neighbor children and my own, we placed cards under the doors again. I know we were not as welcome as we ought to have been, but I overlooked that, and went on. In spite of the handicap of a very uncomfortable place, we had a slight increase of both Bible School and Church. On these cards we suggested that people bring their parasols, and they did. We prayed earnestly that God at that time would answer the prayers for the dance hall.  Another week went by with the same disappointment and fear, but again, there was a slight increase in attendance.

Words to Live By:
When the Lord has a work to do, He prepares the way. Nothing will prevent or hinder the accomplishment of His will. It will happen in His time. Our role is to watch, and to faithfully obey, as He leads. The Gospel must be proclaimed. God will do the rest.

The Rev. Van Horn was born in 1920, educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, and pastored churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and New Mexico. He also served as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. His work on the ruling elder remains in print, but his series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism has, regrettably, never been published. It was originally issued in the form of bulletin inserts, and the PCA Historical Center is pleased to have a complete set of these inserts. Last week we completed another series by Rev. Horn, and will now return to his larger series, this on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. 

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

Scripture References: I Cor. 10:31Psalm 73:24-26John 17:22,24.

Questions:
1.    What is the meaning of the word “end” in this question?
The word means an aim, a purpose, an intention. It will be noted that the word “end” is qualified by the word “chief”. Thus it is noted that man will have other purposes in this life but his primary purpose should be to glorify God. This is in keeping with the purpose for which man was made. It is when we are alienated from God that we have the wrong end or purpose in view.

2.    What does the word “glorify” mean in this question?
Calvin tells us that the “glory of God is when we know what He is.” In its Scriptural sense, it is struggling to set forth a divine thing. We glorify Him when we do not seek our own glory but seek Him first in all things.

3.    How can we glorify God?
Augustine said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds repose in Thee.” We glorify God by believing in Him, by confessing Him before men, by praising Him, by defending His truth, by showing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, by worshiping Him.

4.    What rule should we remember in regard to glorifying God?
We should remember that every Christian is called of God to a life of service. We glorify God by using the abilities He has given us for Him, though we should remember that our service should be from the heart and not simply as a duty.

5.    Why is the word “glorify” placed before “enjoy” in the answer?
It is placed first because you must glorify Him before you can enjoy Him. If enjoyment was placed first you would be in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of men for God. If a person would stress the enjoying of God over the glorifying of God there would be danger, of simply an emotional type of religion. The Scripture says, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy. . . .” (Ps. 16:11). But joy from God comes from being in a right relationship with God, the relationship being set within the confines of Scripture.

6.    What is a good Scripture to memorize to remind us of the lesson found in Question No. 1?
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: …” (Ps. 42:1,2a). This reminds us of the correct relationship for the Christian, looking unto Him. It is there we find our ability to glorify Him and the resulting joy.

THE PRIMARY CONCERN OF MAN
It is a fact to be much regretted that the average Christian who gives allegiance to the Westminster Standards is a Christian that many times leaves out the living of these Standards in the daily pursuits of life. It is good to believe, it is good to have a creed in which to believe. But there is much harm that can result from believing in a creed and not living it day by day. From such an existence we arrive at a low tone of spiritual living and the professing believer becomes cold, formal, without spiritual power in his life.

We should always recognize that the first lesson to be learned from our catechism is that our primary concern is to be of service to the Sovereign God. Our Westminster Shorter Catechism does not start with the salvation of man. It does not start with God’s promises to us. It starts with placing us in the right relationship with our Sovereign God. James Benjamin Green tells us that the answer to the first question of the Catechism asserts two things: “The duty of man, ‘to glorify God.’ The destiny of man, ‘to enjoy Him.’ ”

It is to be regretted that though we have inherited the principles of our forefathers, in that their Creed is still our Creed, so many times we have failed to inherit the desire to practice their way of living. Many people will attempt to excuse themselves here by stating that we live in a different age, that the temptations and speed of life today divert us from spiritual things. But no matter what excuses we might give, the Catechism instructs us right at the outset that our duty is to glorify God, such is our chief purpose in life. All of us need to note the valid words of J. C. Ryle in regard to our Christian living: “Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the high tone of conversation, the patience, the humility that marked so many of our forerunners . . . ?”

May God help each of us to stop right now, read again the first question and answer of our Catechism, and pray to God that in the days to come our primary concern might be that we will live to His glory. It is not difficult for us to know the characteristics of such a life. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are plain enough.

The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 1 No. 3  January, 1961
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Harold Samuel Laird was born on August 8, 1891, in New Castle, Pennsylvania. His father was a faithful Presbyterian pastor who raised him in the nurture of the Lord. Harold Laird was converted at a young age and walked closely with his Lord ever afterward. Upon graduation from Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary he was ordained to the Gospel Ministry and held six successful pastorates.

Harold Laird was an outstanding preacher of the Gospel, a caring pastor, a contender for the faith, and one who was vitally interested in world missions. He had a leading role in the events which led to the formation of one source of the PCA. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Westminster Theological Seminary, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and Faith Theological Seminary. He was willing to suffer for his convictions even to the point of being suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA and being removed as pastor of one of the most prestigous churches of Wilmington, Delaware. Wheaton College honored him with a Doctor of Divinity degree and he was elected as Moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. He also served on the Board of the Quarryville Presbyterian Home.

Dr. Laird was a man who walked with God. All who heard him pray came into the presence of God. His life verse was Matthew 6:33 and his godly spirit evidenced that he practiced it. He was completely content in the providence of God in his life. Harold Laird ran his race well and entered into glory on August 25, 1987.

THE PROMISE OF
SUPERNATURAL GUIDANCE

by Rev. Harold S. Laird, D.D.

[The Independent Board Bulletin 7.3 (March 1941): 3-4.]

1 will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: 1 will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8.)

The thirty-second Psalm describes two methods of supernatural guidance. Both methods, of course, are employed only on behalf of those who are ordained of God unto eternal life.

The first is that employed with those of His children who have a desire to know and to do His will. To them, and to them alone God speaks when He says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” The second method is that used with those who are self-willed, stubborn, and wayward. It is of this group that He speaks when He says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Thus God does guide many, in order that, in spite of their self-willed waywardness, they may at last be brought unto Himself.

It is, of course, the first of these two methods that we have in mind when we speak of “the promise of supernatural guidance.” Happy is the man or woman who has the assurance of this guidance, rather than the other.

It is the PATH OF PEACE. We can not guide ourselves, nor can we trust others to guide us, though they be the wisest and the best. Jeremiah testified to this when he wrote, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). But when we put ourselves under the care and leading of the Lord, we know that all is well, and great peace is ours. The Apostle testifies to this in Philippians 4:6-7.

It is also the PATH OF COURAGE. What courage it gives us to know that God guides us, that He leads and goes before! “He knoweth the way that I take. . . .” This was the secret of Joshua’s courage. Again and again God bade Joshua, “Be of good courage,” simply on the ground of His promised guidance.

It is also the PATH of HOPE. God purposes that our hope for the future should be the result largely of our experience of His guidance in the past. How we ought to trust Him to fulfill in us all His purpose as we reflect upon the supernatural manner in which He has directed our steps in the days that are past.

There was a good deal of serious scholarship which arose from among the early leaders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Synod. And of the many who accomplished so much in their study and defense of the Scriptures, the Rev. Dr. R. Laird Harris was easily among the most notable of these scholars.

harris02Robert Laird Harris was born on 10 March 1911 in Brownsburg, Pennsylvania. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Delaware in 1931, a Th.B. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1935 and a Th.M. from Westminster in 1937. He was licensed in 1935 by the New Castle Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and ordained in June 1936 in the Presbyterian Church of America [the original name of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)] at that denomination’s first General Assembly.

He left the OPC late in 1937 to join the newly formed Bible Presbyterian Church. Harris then received an A.M. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941, and was later part-time instructor in Hebrew there from 1946 to 1947. He obtained his Ph.D. from Dropsie in 1947. Biblical exegesis was Dr. Harris’s field and he taught this for twenty years at Faith Theological Seminary, first as instructor (1937 – 1943), then as assistant professor (1943 – 1947) and finally as professor (1947 – 1956).

Dr. Harris served as moderator of the Bible Presbyterian Synod in 1956, the year in which the denomination divided. Harris defended the validity of church-controlled agencies against those who insisted on independent agencies, and he was one of many faculty members to resign from Faith Seminary that year. He became at that time one of the founding faculty members of Covenant Theological Seminary. He was professor there and chairman of the Old Testament department from 1956 until he retired from full-time teaching in 1981. He remained an occasional lecturer at Covenant, and was also a lecturer in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and a visiting professor in India, Hong Kong and Germany following his retirement, while also working on further revisions to the New International Version translation of the Bible.

He remained active in church leadership, serving as chairman of the fraternal relations committee of the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod during the late 1950s, when discussion began concerning union between the BPC, Columbus Synod and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod. He remained on that committee through 1965, seeing the effort through to the culmination of ecclesiastical union with the creation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). In 1982, the RPCES joined the Presbyterian Church in America and Dr. Harris was elected moderator that year for the 10th General Assembly of the PCA.

Harris was not only a teacher and church leader, but a prolific author as well. He published an Introductory Hebrew Grammar, the prize-winningInspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, and additional works such as Your Bible and Man–God’s Eternal Creation. He was editor of The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament and a contributing editor to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, and wrote articles for the Wycliffe Bible Commentary and Expositor’s Bible. Also, as noted above, Dr. Harris served as chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation that produced the New International Version of the Bible .

Dr. Harris’ first wife, Elizabeth K. Nelson, died in 1980. He later married Anne P. Krauss and they resided for some time in Wilmington, Delaware before declining health prompted a move to the Quarryville Retirement Home in Quarryville, PA. Dr. Robert Laird Harris entered glory on 25 April 2008. The funeral service for Dr. Harris was conducted on 1 May 2008 at the Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church, Quarryville, PA, and internment was on 2 May 2008 in the historic cemetery adjacent to the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By:
For those who enter upon the study of the Scriptures, especially at the academic level, there is a hidden pitfall. It is a deadly danger which ultimately springs from pride and the imposition of human intellect upon the very Word of God. By God’s grace, Dr. Harris avoided this pitfall and to his dying day, his heart remained humble before the Lord his God. The Puritan theologian John Owen, in his Biblical Theology, gives an excellent summary of both the problem and the proper, necessary approach that any scholar must maintain in the study of the Scriptures:

“Wherever fear and caution have not infused the student’s heart, God is despised. His pleasure is only to dwell in hearts which tremble at His Word. Light or frivolous perusal of the Scriptures is a sickness of soul which leads on to the death of atheism. He who would properly undertake the study of the Bible must keep fixed in his memory, fastened as it were with nails, that stern warning of the Apostle in Hebrews 12:28-29, ‘Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.’ Truly, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ If this fear is not experienced in the study of the Word, it will not display itself in any other facet of life.’
— 
Biblical Theology, by John Owen (Soli Deo Gloria, 1996), pp. 699-700.

Let’s Take a Quiz

Who am I? I have been called the father of American revivalism . . . the forerunner of everyone from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham . . . and still, living in the Vineyard movement to the Church growth movement . . . a darling of both the religious right and the Christian left, or both to the late Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis . . . envisioned in the church as an agent of change to both individuals and the social gospel? Have you identified me yet? If you chose Charles Grandison Finney, you have passed the test. Finney lives on in all these men and movements today.

Charles G. Finney was a Presbyterian minister whose dates are 1792 to 1875.   A product of the New England states, he taught in his early life and later became an attorney in New York state.  One day, he decided to find God in the woods behind his law practice. He came back to his office claiming to have a baptism of the Holy Spirit which he could barely describe, so wondrous was it.  Giving up his law practice, he refused to attend Princeton Seminary, or for that matter, any seminary, and still was ordained into the Presbyterian church.  He began to conduct revivals then and there. What transpired was what has become known in American church history as the second great awakening.  Only this awakening was diametrically different from the first great awakening.

In examining Finney’s theology and subsequent preaching, listen to the words of Michael Horton. He summed up Charles Finney’s theology and subsequent preaching, as believing that God is not sovereign, that man is not a sinner by nature, that the atonement is not a true payment for sin, that justification by imputation is insulting to reason and morality, that the new birth is simply the effect of successful techniques, and that revival is a natural result of clever campaigns.  He consistently held all these positions in both his campaigns and his books. In short, whatever it was that Charles Finney accomplished, his efforts were rooted in an aberrant theology known as Arminianism. And while any real spiritual results were fleeting, his methods persist to this day.

How different was this from the first great awakening which was rooted in Calvinistic theology?  What you would find in the first great awakening was the teaching that God was sovereign in salvation, that every human being was sinful by nature, that Jesus Christ took on human flesh to stand in our place, bearing our sin and achieving a righteousness for us which is ours by faith, that this new life in Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit, and that revival is brought about by that same Holy Spirit Who is not dependent upon human means for the accomplishment of His work.

It was in 1831 that Charles Finney began a six month revival in the Presbyterian Church of Rochester, New York.  He would preach close to a hundred sermons, complete with all the emotional excesses of a man-centered gospel, ending it on March 9, 1831.  It was these meetings which were the zenith of his evangelistic career.  He went on to other churches and revival, but would come back to Rochester two more times.

Words to Live By: There are two approaches to the gospel which distinguish between the First and Second Great Awakenings. So the question is a simple one : Which do you side with — a God-centered awakening or a man-centered awakening? It was this same question which American Presbyterians had to answer in the early nineteenth century.  Old School Presbyterians answered clearly in the theology of the First Great Awakening.

Set a watch over it!

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” — Psalm 141:3. [KJV]

One of the jewels of 19th-century Presbyterian literature that seems to have been overlooked by many is the little set titled Presbyterian Tracts. These volumes were compiled beginning around 1840 and continued to be published into the 1860’s. There were ultimately at least 13 and perhaps 15 volumes. The PCA Historical Center has volumes 1 through 11 preserved as part of its research library. An author-title index is posted here.

Among those many “tracts” [some were fairly lengthy treatments, particularly in the first several volumes]. Shorter works followed in succeeding volumes and the seventh volume contains a 28 page treatise on “The Sins of the Tongue” by William Swan Plumer, which merits our attention. In concluding that tract, Plumer offers these seven guidelines or resolutions for keeping the tongue, timely advice for our era with its social media:

1. I will steadily keep in view my latter end, and remember that soon I must stand before my Judge. I would not live a day or an hour in forgetfulness of the truth that all my thoughts, words, and deeds are to undergo the scrutiny of Him, who is so holy as to hate all sin, and so great as to know all things, and so just as never to clear the guilty.

2. I will endeavour often to ask myself, How would Jesus Christ speak were he in my circumstances? He has left me an example that I should follow his steps. His life is the law of God put in practice. If I walk in his steps I shall not err.

3. I will rely more and more on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to preserve me from sins of the tongue. I have too much relied on the strength of my own virtue and perseverance, and so I have failed. “O Lord, undertake for me.”

4. I will constantly strive to have a deep sense of the importance of making a right use of my tongue. I will endeavour to avoid levity of mind, and so escape levity of speech and behaviour. By God’s grace I will be serious.

5. I will often call myself to an account for my words during the day, and when I have erred, I will not spare myself from these severe, yet salutary answers, which my sins deserve. I will not justify, excuse, or extenuate the sins of my lips.

6. I will labour to have my mind stored with valuable information and reflections, that I may not be tempted to deal in gossip, and scandal, and idle news, and that my words may be instructive to those with whom I mingle.

7. I will endeavour to be more impressed with a sense of the amazing grace and mercy of God to me a sinner, in bidding me hope for his favour, notwithstanding all my offences. Thus I shall have alacrity and joy in resisting evil and seeking holiness.

8. I will labour to have a proper view, not only of the meanness, mischief and troubles of a loose tongue, but also of its great sinfulness in the sight of God. As an unbridled speech is a wickedness, I would avoid it, even if it brought me no temporal evil.

9. Above all things, I will seek to be thoroughly renewed by the power of the Holy Ghost. If he will make his abode with me, I shall be able to resist all sin, and overcome all evil habits. To change my nature is beyond my power, but not beyond the power of the Sanctifier. My power is but another name for feebleness; his energy is irresistable.

Here’s to our Stated Clerks!

Back Creek Presbyterian Church, located in Mount Ulla, Rowan county, North Carolina, was organized in 1805, and is now a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. In the same year that the church was organized, church members George and Catherine (Barr) Andrews welcomed a child into their family, with the birth of Silas Milton Andrews on March 11, 1805.  Young Silas later took his college education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, graduating in 1826. He worked as a teacher for several years before entering the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1828 and was regularly graduated in the Fall of 1831.

Mr. Andrews was licensed to preach by the New Brunswick Presbytery on February 2, 1831. Shortly after graduating from Princeton, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on November 16, 1831 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Doylestown, PA, with concurrent duties over a congregation still remaining at Deep Run, PA. The Doylestown church had originally begun in Deep Run, organized by the efforts of the Rev. William Tennent, and this church was first mentioned in the records of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1732.  For forty-nine years Rev. Andrews labored in this one charge, without interruption, until the day of his death. The succession of pastors preceding him included William McHenry, Hugh Magill, James Latta, James C. Greer, Uriah DuBois and Charles Hyde.

One source tells us that Rev. Andrews was single-minded in his focus, “concentrating all his efforts on his charge, and taking very little part in outside affairs, gathering in from time to time large numbers of converts, and training and edifying his people in the way of truth, holiness and duty.” Perhaps to make ends meet during those early years when the congregation was smaller, Rev. Andrews also operated a private classical academy in addition to his pastoral duties. Rev. Andrews died on March 7, 1881.

This was a quiet and unassuming man, not one who sought attention for himself, not one given to pride or ostentation. He was a good scholar, fair and even-handed in his judgment, and he was a rather good preacher who knew the Scriptures well. From mid-October, 1848 until the reunion of the Old School and New School wings of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in 1870, Rev. Andrews served as the Stated Clerk of the Synod of Philadelphia. He brought both care and attention to detail to his work, and had excellent penmanship as well.

Words to Live By:
Now here’s something you don’t think about often : We might from time to time be reminded to pray for our pastors, but when was the last time someone exhorted you to pray for our Stated Clerks? The record of the Church that they help to create is particularly crucial in future years, and each of them must exhibit that same character of meticulous care and accuracy if they are to do their work properly. Clearly this is not a work that just anyone can do, and do well. They are a rare breed.

For Further Study:
Apparently Rev. Andrews only wrote one work that was ever published, The Sabbath at Home, which was issued by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1836 and then reprinted twice, in 1837 and 1840. That book can be read online, here.

There was also a student’s journal which was preserved and later transcribed and published in 1958 as Mister Andrews’ School, 1837-1842. Transcribed and illustrated by Ellen Swartzlander and published in Doylestown, PA by the Bucks County Historical Society. The book is about 126 pages in length, and some 58 libraries around the country hold copies, so it should be easy to obtain via interlibrary loan.

How Many of You Know . . .

Mention the name of Pearl Buck and countless Americans will immediately think of the award-winning book “The Good Earth.”  And indeed Pearl Buck did write that famous work and many other novels which earned her both a Pulitzer prize as well as a Nobel prize for literature.  But how many Americans, and even church folks, know that she was instrumental in bringing about the original Presbyterian Church of America in 1936?  And yet she was.

Born of missionary parents in China associated with the Southern Presbyterian church in West Virginia, Pearl Buck returned with her husband to China as missionaries under the Board of Foreign Missions of the northern Presbyterian Church.

In 1932, the book “Rethinking Missions” was published. It stated that its aim was to do exactly what the title suggested, namely, to change the purpose of sending foreign missionaries to the world.  Its aim was to seek the truth from the religions to which it went, rather than to present the truth of historic Christianity.  There should be a common search for truth as a result of missionary ministry, was the consensus of this book.  Pearl Buck agreed one hundred per cent with the results of this book.  She believed that every American Christian should read it.

To her, Jesus ceased to be the divine son of God, virgin born, and conceived by the Holy Spirit.  There was no original sin in her belief structure.  All these truths of historic Christianity made the gospel to be a superstition, a magical religion, and should be done away with by the church, and subsequent mission boards.

Obviously, with beliefs like this, Pearl Buck became the focus of men like J. Gresham Machen, who published a 110 page book on the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That treatment was freely presented to the congregations of the Northern Presbyterian Church.  The result was that Pearl Buck was forced to resign from the China mission, though the Presbyterian Board accepted that resignation with regret.

Eventually, the situation of the China Mission was a powerful basis for forming the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933. True Bible-believing Presbyterians needed to have one board which would only send missionaries to foreign lands who believed that Jesus was the only way, truth, and life to God.  Pearl Buck did not believe this biblical truth.

Pearl Buck passed into eternity on March 6, 1973.

For further study: 
“Pearl Buck’s Comments upon the death of J. Gresham Machen.”

Words to Live By: The New Testament author,  Jude, writes about those who “creep in unnoticed” into the church, who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  As long as the church is on earth, there will be a need for Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints.” (ESV  – James 3, 4)

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