A substantial blessing last year at the PCA Historical Center was the donation of a complete set of a small periodical issued by Dr. William Stanford Reid. The little periodical titled REFORMATION TODAY only ran for about three years, but it contains a wealth of articles, and I would hope to post some of them here in the months to come.  This article is permanently available at http://www.pcahistory.org/findingaids/reidws/historicalperspective.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no better way to introduce the author of the following short devotional than to reproduce this memorial which was spread upon the Minutes of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery (PCA). In my work here at the PCA Historical Center, every once in a long while I hear certain men spoken of with the greatest of respect. Harold S. Laird was one such man:—

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

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


Rev. Harold S. Laird, D.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Everything Be Done Decently and In Order.

When some 260 churches decided to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church), to form the Presbyterian Church in America, that move was not simply formed on a whim or at a moment’s notice. For nearly thirty years, beginning in 1942, efforts by theological conservatives were unrelenting in trying to turn the mother Church back to unswerving orthodoxy.

At last, with the PCUS about to merge with the UPCUSA, it was clear that the time had come to leave. Committees were formed and plans were laid for the establishment of the new denomination. A “Convocation of Sessions” gathered in May of 1973, and this convention in turn authorized the meeting of an “Advisory Convention,” whose purpose was to finalize plans for the meeting of the first General Assembly.

The following letter, under the signature of founding father W. Jack Williamson, explains the process and the thinking behind these plans.

June 15, 1973


We salute you in the precious Name of Jesus Christ and invite you to attend the Advisory Convention for the Continuing Presbyterian Church, Asheville, N. C., August 7-9, 1973.

The Advisory Convention was called by a Convocation of Sessions, assembled in Atlanta, on May 19, 1973. The brethren there officially represented over 260 local congregations and more than 70,000 Southern Presbyterians. In an adopted statement, entitled “The Reaffirmations of 1973,” the Convocation committed itself to the rebirth and continuation of a Presbyterian Church, true to the Scriptures, to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

The Advisory Convention is expected to call for a General Assembly which will formally organize a reborn Presbyterian Church.

It now is clear that a large number of Christians in our Southland sincerely believe that God has called them to form such a continuing church in 1973. They believe that there is an irreconcilable separation between those who hold different idealogies within the Presbyterian Church in the United States. They are convinced that unless two be agreed they cannot walk together. Because God has led them to move, they do so with determination and resolve, but with many tears and profound sorrow for the necessity that is laid upon them.

We honor and respect those who, in good conscience differ with us. We pledge our love as brothers in Christ to all those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, but who in this present situation follow a different course of action. We thus commit ourselves to continued fellowship with all men of good will and like conviction of the truth — all for the Glory of God and the unity of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We enclose an information sheet concerning credentials and registration procedures for the Advisory Convention. If you desire to walk with us into the reborn Church, we invite you to be present.

Please join with us in fervent prayer for the universal Church which consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion and is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and the house and family of God.

Yours in His service,

The Organizing Committee for a Continuing Church

W. Jack Williamson  Chairman, Pro Tem


by Rev. Leonard Van Horn

Q. 21. — Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. — The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

Scripture References: I Tim. 2:5; John 1:1,14; John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11.


Why is the Redeemer of God’s elect called the Lord Jesus Christ?

He is called the Lord because of His sovereignty and dominion (Acts 10:36). He is called Jesus because He is the Saviour of His people (Matt. 1:21). He is called Christ because He is anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost which was given to Him without measure (Acts 10:38). He is fully qualified by God.

2. How does the Lord Jesus Christ redeem the elect of God?

He purchases them by His blood and rescues them by His conquest by spoiling principalities and powers. (I Peter 1:18,19. Col. 2:15)

3. What did the Lord Jesus Christ become in order to redeem God’s elect?

He became man but did not cease to be God. He became Immanuel, God with us.

4. Why was it necessary that He become man?

It was necessary in order that He might be capable of suffering death for man and that He might become their High Priest that could reconcile them to God (Heb. 8:16,17).

5. How could Christ be both God and man?

Christ is God and man by a personal union. Both His natures are distinct, the divine nature is not subject to change and the human o nature is not omnipotent.

6. Could some compact statements be given regarding the constitution of the Redeemer’s person?

J. B. Green has probably put it in the most concise way:
“1. The reality of the two natures.
2. The integrity of the new natures.
3. The distinctness of the two natures after the union.
4. The oneness of the personality.”


The fact that Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer of God’s elect is one for which we should ever thank God. Though it is difficult for us to understand the intricacies of how He could be both God and man; of how the two natures are distinct and yet He is one; we can certainly thank and praise God He that did purchase us by His own blood and thus become the only Redeemer of God’s elect.

The fact is a wondrous fact and yet the question must be asked and answered by all: Are we certain that we are among those He purchased and saved? The hymn writer puts it very well when he says, “Be very sure, Be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One, This Rock is Jesus, The only One.” (Mrs. Ruth Caye Jones). For indeed, as the title of the hymn so aptly puts it, “In Times Like These” we need a Saviour.

To be able to discuss, and have an understanding of, theology is a good and healthy thing. The church needs this discipline, the church needs to have a better understanding of what the Standards teach. It is a sad fact that many Presbyterians could not even name what makes up the Standards. We repeat, it is good to have theological knowledge. But as we approach in this Catechism Question another theological fact, that of the Redeemer of God’s elect, it is even more important to have a personal knowledge of the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ.

As you read this short article, two questions are in order. First, Do you know Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Joseph Alleine puts it very plain when he says, “Though of yourselves you can do nothing, yet you may do all through His Spirit enabling you, and He offers assistance to you. God bids you ‘wash and make you clean.’ God invites you to be made clean and entreats you to yield to Him. O accept His offers, and let Him do for you, and in you, what you cannot do for yourselves.” (Prov. 1:24, Rev. 3:20). Second, If you believe Christ has saved you, are you acting as if He has saved you? Has your life changed, are old things passing away, are all things becoming new?
To have the theological knowledge that He is the Redeemer of God’s elect is good. Do you have the Heart knowledge? Isa.47:4.

In these United States, we are accustomed to seeing various historical figures from the early days of our country on our paper currency. From 1997 to 2009, the people of Scotland were used to seeing the picture of a Presbyterian missionary by the name of Mary Slessor on their ten pound bank-note. On one side of the bill, Mary Slessor was seen holding a child and literally surrounded by other children from that nation of Nigeria. On the other side of the legal tender, there was a map of her mission station in what is now eastern Nigeria. It is still legal tender in Scotland, even though her picture on the ten pound note has been replaced by someone else.

Mary Slessor was born into a family of seven children in 1848. Her father, who was an alcoholic, passed away, which left her mother struggling to support the large family. To help out, Mary, at age eleven, worked in the local mill. She is described by Dr. David Calhoun, professor emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary, as “a tough, street smart girl, with striking blue eyes, red hair, and a flaming temper.” At age fifteen, with just a few short hours of sixty hours a week as a “mill-lassie,” she also taught a Sunday School class in her local Presbyterian church, supported a youth group composed of tough local kids, and became “an angel of mercy in miserable homes” in Dundee, Scotland.

As a result of the influence of her mother, who made available to the family the stories of missionary exploits from the Missionary Record magazine of the United Presbyterian Church, Mary received a call from the Lord to be a missionary in Calabar, Nigeria. Sailing on August 5, 1876 on the SS Ethiopia, she reached her target area.

After centuries of slavery in the area, human life was cheapened, tribes were divided, and the culture, such as it was, perverted. Especially was this so whenever African couples would bring twins into the world. One of the two children was looked upon as a child of the devil, but because no one would identify which one was demoniac, both were killed, or left to die in the jungle. Enter Mary Slessor into this whole scene. She literally rescued hundreds of these castaway children. One could not enter her missionary home without finding a dozen or so children in it.

Further, this missionary lady obviously believed the text of 1 Corinthians 9:22 where Paul writes, “I have become all things to all . . . so that I may be all means save some.” And so this Scot lady became African in all things, in eating their food, in dressing in their clothes, and learning their language. She wanted to become an African to win Africans to Christ!

It wasn’t long before the British government recognized her ability to minister to Africans. She was appointed a vice-consul – the first ever woman to be so appointed in the whole of the British Empire — by the new consul-general of her territory. David Calhoun states that she “could prevent battles, out-shout chiefs, and stop riots merely by walking into the middle of them.”

Weakened by fever throughout her life and service in the country, she finally succumbed on January 13, 1915.

Words to Live By:
Our focus has been on this remarkable servant of Christ, but consider how her mother, in circumstances less than ideal, influenced Mary’s life for the mission field. She did it by subscribing to a mission magazine which was reading material in her home. Other ideas would be the reading of missionary biographies to our children. Having visiting missionaries in your home for rest and recreation on their furlough would be a wonderful help for them and a vital example for your family. And certainly, when your covenant children grow into their teen years, participation on a short-term mission trip might indeed inculcate a mission heart all of their life. But most important, the frequent prayer of Matthew 9:38 ought to be practiced in the home, namely, “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.:

For Further Study:
There is a chapter on Mary Slessor in the recent work by William W.J. Knox, Lives of Scottish Women: Women and Scottish Society. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006). Other works on her life and ministry include Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneering Missionary, by W.P. Livingstone (1915); The Expendable Mary Slessor, by James Buchan (1980); and Mary Slessor, by E. Robertson (2001).

The “Moses” of the Scotch-Irish in America – James McGregor
by Rev. David T Myers

We post today on the Rev. James McGregor (sometimes with two “g’s”) of Northern Ireland, or Ulster. James was born in 1777 in Londonderry, Ireland. Along with many other Irish families, he as a lad endured the siege of Londonderry, and indeed, was rumored to be the young man who fired a signal gun that the terrible siege was over. A solid Christian, he both studied for the ministry as well as becoming a Presbyterian minister, assuming the call to the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in Aghadowey, Ulster, after having been ordained in 1701.

Living in Ulster in those days was rough. Not only did you have the normal difficulties of being a pastor, but nationally, Presbyterian pastors and people were not allowed by the English authorities to hold office, teach, or conduct civil ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. Coupled with that was the high rents on land expected from the governing authorities, to say nothing of Roman Catholic persecution. It was obvious that something had to be done for Irish Presbyterians.

That “something” was to leave Ulster for the new world. On the Sunday before the long trip, Pastor McGregor stated, “We must say farewell to friends, relations, and our native land so that we may withdraw from the communion of idolaters and have the opportunity of worshiping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of His inspired book.”

Thus, in 1718, two hundred Presbyterians members of Aghadowey church left Ireland’s shores to sail aboard a ship named “Robert” for Boston, Massachusetts. There were 16 families, from babies to a couple in their nineties, on board.

After a rough passage, they sailed into Boston harbor on this day, August 4, 1718 to less than enthusiastic welcome from the Puritans in the city. They went to Maine where they suffered a long cold winter existence, during which time they might have died were it not for one hundred bushels of corn sent from the Massachusetts General Council. When spring arrived, they were allowed to go to Nutfield, a disputed portion of land both claimed by Maine and New Hampshire. It was so named due to the presence of walnuts and pecans trees. Each family unit was given 100 acres of land. Within fifteen years, the town of Nutfield had grown to 700 inhabitants. It was soon renamed Londonderry, New Hampshire, and is still in existence today.

One of the highlights of their presence were seed potatoes brought by the Presbyterians to the new frontier. Pastor John McGregor is remembered as planting the first Irish potatoes in American. But he planted more than potatoes. He planted in those early days a Biblical Presbyterian people with convictions which are grounded firmly in God’s Word, the Bible. He would go to be with the Lord on March 5, 1729.

Words to Live By: Be familiar with the beginnings of your Presbyterian churches in which you have your membership. Learn from the lives of the original members and if alive still, grant them respect for their labors in building your congregation. (You are also encouraged to send a history of your church to the PCA Archives headed by Wayne Sparkman. Its address is the same as Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.) But above all, carry on the work of testimony in the area in which God’s Spirit has called you to occupy, for His glory and the good of God’s people.

On August 3, 1936, newspapers in and around Wilmington, Delaware ran the following article covering the closure of the Head-of-Christiana Presbyterian Church, where the Rev. Henry G. Welbon was pastor at the time.

Pastor Ignores Church Locking

Defies Presbytery In Church ‘Lockout’

Unfrocked Pastor Holds Former Pulpit

Rev. H.G. Welbon Uses Own Key at Head-of-Christiana. 
Has Services in Spite of Ban.

The Rev. Henry G. Welbon, fundamentalist pastor recently unfrocked by the Presbytery of New Castle for his refusal to bow to that body in the fundamentalist-modernist conflict, found himself locked out of Head-of-Christiana church when he went there yesterday to conduct Sunday services.

After consulting an attorney, he opened his church with his own key and conducted services as usual, ignoring a notice that had been tacked on the door by four trustees forbidding the use of the building except with their permission.

The notice was also signed by a committee of four established by the Presbytery to act as the church Session. The four trustees are a majority of the board who side with the Presbytery.

The trustees acted to exercise their authority over the church property, now in dispute between Presbytery and the seceding group led at Head-of-Christiana by Mr. Welbon.

“It is now up to this (seceding) group to prove their right of possession of the church and their right to enter it,” one of the four trustees said today.

The notice text was: “To whom it may concern: We the undersigned members of the Board of Trustees of Head-of-Christiana Church and the committee appointed by the Presbytery of New Castle to exercise the function of the session do hereby declare this church building to be closed and to be opened and used only by special permission until such time as this notice is withdrawn.”

Mr. Welbon said he acted upon advice of his attorney in opening the church. His attorney, Mr. Welbon said, stated that so long as Mr. Welbon had the key he could not be locked out. The four trustees obtained a key which they believed to be the only one to the church, from the sexton’s home.

*    *    *    *

Dating back to legal cases set down in the 19th-century, local church property in the PCUSA legally belonged to the PCUSA Presbyteryies Thus, when conservative Presbyterians left the PCUSA in the 1930’s, in almost every case they lost their church buildings. 
The loss of those buildings was a substantial setback, particularly in the midst of an economic depression. So this was one major reason for the slow initial growth of both the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church, as leaving congregations had to start over and finance new buildings. That in turn may have been one very pragmatic reason why more conservatives did not leave the denomination.
By contrast, when the Presbyterian Church in America was formed in 1973, certain legal precedents had been established in the 1960s  which allowed most of the leaving congregations to retain their property. So these PCA congregations were on a better  footing to begin with, plus it can be argued that the economic times were better. There were substantial costs of leaving in both the ’30’s and the ’70’s, though the costs were somewhat different in each instance.

Words to Live By:
The church is not a building. Not a physical building, anyway. The  visible church consists of all those people and their children that have entered into a covenant with the one true God by way of His Son and the sacrifice that He paid on behalf of a chosen people.

“So then you are no longer dstrangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, ESV)

The Notice pinned to the church’s front door:


As a Christian, None More Sincere
by Rev. David T. Myers

There is some doubt as to whether James Wilson was a Presbyterian. That he was a Christian, no one doubts, but there is doubt that he was Presbyterian in his convictions.  So who was James Wilson, you ask? James Wilson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Wilson was born in Scotland in 1742. Studying at three educational institutions in his native land, he never did earn a degree from any one of them. But he did emigrate to the America colonies in 1766 with good recommendations, which enabled him to teach at the College of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, upon his arrival. Studying law while he was doing that enabled him to be admitted to the profession of law. Moving around in the colonies eventually brought him to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

With his marriage to Rachel Bird in 1771 in an Anglican Church, it is here that the claim was made that his religious connection was with what we know as the Episcopal Church.  However, raising a strong contention that he was Presbyterian, is the fact that he was one of twelve appointed to form a Society of Presbyterians on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church on the square in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. That commitment to Presbyterianism never faltered, even when he moved to Philadelphia.  He  was faithful to maintain a pew, for which he paid pew rent, to the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.

It was on August 2, 1776 that James Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence.  Why was there this delay from July 4 when many of the others signed it?  Wilson, being a good representative of the people in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, wished to know what his constituents desired.  So he traveled back to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to find out their sentiments for independence from England were strong in favor of declaring independence.  So he signed the historic document.  He was also an key member of the Constitution of the United States.

George Washington nominated him as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  But because of risky land purchases, he would die  in poverty in 1798 while on a court case down in North Carolina.

Words to Live By: 
It is true that his religious affiliation is strong argued by two Protestant churches.  The overwhelming evidence seems to be with the Presbyterians, given his financial support of that Presbyterian church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, Pa.  More important than that is the assessment that as a Christian, none was more sincere.  We must make sure our election and calling, brothers and sisters, that we are a member of God’s kingdom by sovereign and saving grace, first and foremost.  Then, and only then, being a Christian Presbyterian, is strongly recommended!

W. Stanford Reid was a professor of history at McGill University and the University of Guelph; in retirement, he taught briefly at Westminster Theological Seminary. Both he and his father were ministers in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The following is from W. Stanford Reid’s little magazine, REFORMATION TODAY, a Canadian Presbyterian magazine which was published in the early 1950’s. Back before “Calvin against the Calvinists,” I guess people were asking this question:

Was Calvin a Presbyterian?
by William Stanford Reid
[Reformation Today (Montreal, Canada), 1.10 (July-August 1952): 11-12.]

Calvin a Presbyterian? Why of course, many will say, he was the founder of the Presbyterian Church. Therefore, when you quote Calvin, you are quoting, not a Protestant theologian, you are quoting a denominational apologist. We have even had this said to us concerning quotations in articles in this magazine. Consequently we feel that it is time that Calvin was somewhat better understood.

In order that we do this properly, it must be remembered that Calvin was, first and foremost, a Biblical expositor. His chief interest was in bringing men back to a proper understanding and application of the Word of God. He wrote commentaries on all but two of the books of the Bible. At the same time, he realized that only as men understood the teachings of the Word of God as a whole, could they be thoroughly furnished. He therefore, was the first of the Christian writers to set forth systematically what the Word of God had to say concerning God and man’s relation to Him. He did this in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Since Calvin’s day, his views have been accepted most completely by the Reformed and Presbyterian churches throughout the world. But they have done this, not because Calvin was Frenchman, nor because he wrote well, nor because he built up a strong church in Geneva. They have done this because they believed that his views were the most thoroughly Biblical of any so far set forth. Calvin was not a Presbyterian, but real Presbyterians are fundamentally Calvinists.

In the same way Evangelical Anglicans, if they adhere to their Thirty-Nine Articles, are also basically Calvinists. A study of the history of the formulation of the Articles will show quite clearly that Calvin’s was the dominant influence in the statement of doctrine prepared for the Elizabethan church. One man has made the comment that Calvin’s Institutes was the best known theological work in England during the last half of the sixteenth century. What is more, if one follows the history of Evangelical Anglicanism down through the succeeding years, he will find that Calvinism was its very motive power: George Whitefield, Hannah More, the Earl of Shaftesbury and many others were all strong Calvinists. It would seem that real Anglicans are also fundamentally Calvinists.

The same might be said of the Baptists. Some ten years after the formulation of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the present confession of the Presbyterian Church, the Baptists in the Savoy articles accepted the Calvinistic position, by adopting the Confession, although rejecting the doctrine of infant baptism and Presbyterian government. So down through the years Calvinistic Baptists have been numerous and a power for God in their communion: John Bunyan and Charles Haddon Spurgeon are but two who might be mentioned.

The same could be said of the Congregationalists, who were at variance with Calvin only on the point of church organization. But what about people like Methodists who hated a great number of his teachings? Even they, whether they realized it or not, were heavily indebted to Calvin. The stress upon the doctrine of Justification by Faith, upon the sovereign righteousness of God and upon similar doctrines was largely owing to the work and teaching of Calvin. Even their individualism, high-lightng the doctrine of man’s individual relationship to God could really be based only upon Calvin’s doctrine of covenant-election. Their one difficulty was that they allowed their reason at times to sit in judgment on God’s Word.

Now, we would not have it thought that Calvin was always right, but we do believe that basically he was closest to the Word of God, of any thinker who has written since the days of the Apostle Paul. He had his failings, he made his mistakes as any other man, net blessed with prophetic or apostolic power, might do. Yet he stands so far above all others who have written since the days of the inspired writers that we feel no shame in quoting and referring to him. For we believe that God raised him up at a special time, endowing him as he has few other men since apostolic days, with insight into the meaning of His Divine Revelation. Let none of us, therefore, forget the rock from which we were hewn.


The Lord’s Slave
by Rev. David T. Myers

Were you, dear reader, aware that the man of the hour in Scotland, John Knox, once rowed a galley ship? No, it wasn’t for exercise. No, it wasn’t for some national pride of the fastest galley ship in a sailing contest. Simply put, John Knox was enslaved on that ship.

Some years earlier, Knox had entered St. Andrews Castle with three young children in tow. Their parents had entrusted him as a tutor. When events following the murder of a Roman Catholic cardinal went badly for anyone even remotely suspected of being part of that deed, Knox was urged to flee to that Protestant bastion for safety purposes. He was not one of the individuals who had killed the cardinal, but he did go there for safety. While residing at the castle, the chaplain to the soldiers at the chapel was urged by the congregation to extend a pastoral call to Knox, recognizing his spiritual gifts. At first, Knox resisted, but finally gave in to the invitation. He began to preach boldly on themes familiar to the Protestant reformation then beginning in the land of Scotland.

At the end of June in 1547, the French fleet besieged St Andrews Castle. On this day, July 31, 1547, the French gained victory over the defenders inside the castle walls. Promises were given to spare their lives, and an offer made to enter the service of the French king, but if declined, then they were to be conveyed to any country they wished, provided it was not Scotland. Upon arrival in France, immediately the terms of surrender were annulled, and they became prisoners of war. John Knox became a galley slave for nineteen months.

While there were months in which the slave ship did not sail due to weather and cold conditions, in warmer months Knox labored under cruel conditions, of which he writes in many a book and sermon afterwards. He was loaded with chains.  He spoke of the sobs of his heart during the imprisonment, in great anguish of mind and vehement affliction. These were the torments he sustained in the galley ship.

Amidst all of the physical mistreatment, there came also attacks upon their faith. Daily, the Romanist mass was offered, with expected reverence by the prisoners.  As soon as it began however, the galley slaves would cover their heads so they wouldn’t hear the words of the service.  Daily, there were efforts to get the prisoners to confess the Romanist faith. Once, a figure representing the Virgin Mary, was pressed between the chained hands of a slave, with a command to kiss the figure. The slave, who many believer to be John Knox himself, threw the figure overboard into the sea, loudly proclaiming the Virgin to save herself by swimming! After this, there were no more attempts to convert the prisoners.

John Knox gradually wore down physically from this experience, with a fever near the end of it.  Rowing close to the Scottish coast, they raised the feverish Reformer up when the spires of St. Andrews came into view, asking him if he recognized it. He answered, “I know it well; for I see the steeple of that place where God first opened my mouth in public to  his glory; and I am fully persuaded, now weak I now appear, that I shall not depart this life, til my tongue shall glorify His godly name in that same place.”

Whatever means was used (and even Thomas M’Crie was not sure what it was),  after 19 months in harsh conditions, John Knox was freed and he returned to continue his ministry in England and Scotland.

Words to Live By: 
It wasn’t God’s will that Knox should be kept forever as a galley slave. It was God’s will to free him so as to allow him to continue his ministry in the Reformation. All of us ever live within the scope of God’s will throughout all our lives. Let us submit to that will, in large areas as well as small areas.

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