Glory!

I can think of no other word with which to respond to the brief description of heaven provided here by the Rev. William Buell Sprague. Having touched earlier this week on the value of funeral sermons, an admittedly overlooked literature, I did want to provide one last example of this literature’s worth. Today’s post is an excerpt from a sermon that Rev. Sprague delivered in 1845 upon the death of the daughter of a prominent lawyer from Albany, New York. His text is taken from Psalm 36:9, “In thy light we see light.” 

In thy light we see light. – Psalm 36:9.

The natural state of man is a state of darkness. His vision is indeed clear enough for the discerning of natural objects; and the sun in the heavens pours his radiance around him, to delight his eye and to illuminate his path. So too he has the faculty of viewing the qualities of the ten thousand objects by which he is surrounded—of looking over the creation with the intellectual as well as the bodily eye—of admiring as well as beholding the beauty, and grandeur, and harmony, which pervade the works of God. And more than that—he has a certain kind of moral discernment, by which he sees the immutable distinction between right and wrong, and the unchanging obligations of man to yield obedience to his Creator, and the fearful recompense of transgression under a wise and righteous government. All great truths, both natural and revealed religion, are, in a certain sense, fairly within the scope of his vision; and he can speak of them, and speak of them honestly, with reverence and admiration.

But notwithstanding all this, the remark with which I began is true—emphatically true—that many is naturally in a state of darkness; else what means that declaration of the Apostle that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned?” The truth is, that man, with the eye of his natural understanding, can look—if I may be allowed the expression—at the exterior of God’s truth; but he is incapable of penetrating beneath the surface. There is in it a depth of spiritual excellence and beauty—an adaptation to meet the inward cravings of the soul, and to exalt and glorify its all-wise Author, of which he has no knowledge. He has not penetrated into the sanctuary of experimental religion. He may talk even in rapture of the spiritual glory of the gospel, and may imagine that he has felt its power; but it is an imaginary experience, and nothing more. The true light has not shined into his soul; for the film that naturally obstructs his spiritual vision has not been cleared away.

But there have been those in every age, whom the Spirit, by His illuminating and all gracious energies, has brought out of darkness into marvelous light. Among these there have been not a few who had been accustomed to view divine truth before, with a strong intellectual vision; and what is more—men who had imagined that the true light had already found its way into their understandings; nay, who had ridiculed the idea of any other light than that which every man enjoys, in the diligent use of his natural powers. But these, as truly as others, have had their views corrected, and have acknowledged with the most grateful admiration of God’s grace, that “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

I say then, the Christian, even in this imperfect state, sees light in God’s light. In the contemplation of His truth, as it is revealed in His Word; in the experience of His grace, as it refreshes and elevates his soul; he walks in the light of the divine countenance. When he contemplates the glory of God’s providence, the glory of Redemption, the anticipated glory of Heaven,—especially when the eye of his faith fastens upon Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, whose presence is the bliss, and whose praise is the employment of, the ransomed,—I say, when these wonderful subjects come before his mind, he seems himself to be walking in an immeasurable field of light, and the illumination of the sun of righteousness well nigh entrance his soul with ecstasy.

In the experience of Christians, the intense joys to which I have here referred, are by no means constant; and many perhaps, may remain strangers to them through life; but all, all without exception, who have been born from above, have some new views of spiritual objects: if there is not the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, there is ordinarily the peace that passeth understanding; and in every case there is a spiritual relish for God’s truth, which develops itself in earnest aspirations after Heaven, and which has in it the elements of heavenly glory.

But we may consider the text, in its ultimate bearing, as looking at the condition of the Christian in a future world rather than in the present; that world in which we are to “see face to face,” rather than this in which “we see through a glass darkly.” There are some beams of spiritual light that bring gladness to the Christian’s soul here; but there it will be light without shade; the sun of righteousness will shine forever in His glory without the intervention of a cloud.

I know, my brethren, that our views of Heaven are at best exceedingly imperfect. There is a depth of meaning in the descriptions which inspiration has given of it, which it might defy even the seraph before the throne to fathom. It were vain for us, for instance, to attempt to decide in what part of the universe will be the city of our God; or to form any adequate conception of that splendid garniture with the Creator has adorned it.

Conceive of a city which is of pure gold; the walls of which are of jasper, and its foundation of all manner of precious stones, and its gates of pearl, and its very streets transparent, so as to reflect every image of beauty and grandeur. Conceive that it is illuminated by the presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb; and that the nations of them that are saved walk in the light of it, and that the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it; and then, if you can analyze this conception, and tell what is included in all this burning imagery, you have some idea of Heaven.

Readers who wish to read the full sermon may click the embedded link provided here: A Sermon preached in the Second Presbyterian Church, Albany, February 9, 1845, the Sabbath immediately succeeding the Death of Mrs. Oliver S. Strong of Jersey City, Daughter of Archibald McIntyre, Esq. of Albany.

Following up on our post from Wednesday, with the opening statement on the value of funeral literature, what follows is another interesting example of the value of reading eulogies and funeral sermons. These are a literature often overlooked, though they are also works which can provide some of the very best pastoral wisdom and insight. The example at hand is drawn from In Memoriam: Rev. John B. Spotswood, D.D., a eulogy delivered by the Rev. William P. Patterson, upon the death of Rev. Spotswood in 1885John Boswell Spotswood, the subject of the memorial, was born Feb. 8th, 1808, in Dinwiddie Co., Va., being the son of Robert and Louisa (Bott) Spotswood.

Yet, while we might, the truths spoken here give us opportunity to reflect on some foundational considerations concerning the value of pulpit ministry and how the Lord has always been faithful in providing for the needs of the Church:—

A Fitting Pause

One of the most significant facts regarding the founding and extension of Christ’s Kingdom, in the world, is the use, on the part of God, of human instrumentalities. Infinitely wise, He never errs in the selection of His laborers. In the call of men to the ministry, and in the sanctification of marked and peculiar gifts, we may, very frequently, behold a wonderful exhibition of divine providence. Through the different periods and exigencies, in the history of the Church, God has never left Himself without faithful witnesses. In each successive period the Saviour has remembered His promise, made to the first disciples, and has been indeed ever present with His Church, raising up and commissioning those qualified, both by nature and by grace, to contend with difficulty, and to triumph in all their efforts to be valiant for the truth. And after the good fight has been entirely fought, and the victory won; when these devoted servants of Christ come to the time when it is the Lord’s will that they shall depart out of this world to enter upon the full enjoyment of their reward in glory, it is altogether fitting that the Church should pause a moment to take, at least, a brief glance at their lives and labors, and to place on record her heartfelt appreciation of, and gratitude for, what they have been permitted to accomplish in the service of the Master.

Hence there is laid upon us the performance of a duty which we can not but meet gladly and gratefully, though our hearts yearn after the departed, and are filled with sincere sorrow because of our bereavement.

Meditations of David Brainerd
by Rev. David T. Myers

We turn to the thoughts and words of missionary statesman David Brainerd who wrote in his diary on this day, February 7, the following devotional words.  He said in 1744 that he “was much engaged in some sweet meditations on the powers and affections of the godly soul in their pursuit of their beloved object: wrote something of the native language of spiritual sensation, in its soft and tender whispers; declaring, that it now feels and tastes that the Lord is gracious; that he is the supreme good, the only soul-satisfying happiness: that he is a complete, sufficient, and almighty portion: saying,

‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides this blessed portion.  O, I feel it is heaven to please him, and to be just what he would have me to be!  O that my soul were holy, as he is holy! O that it were pure, even as Christ is pure; and perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect!  These, I feel, are the sweetest commands in God’s book, comprising all others.  And shall I break them!  must I break them! am I under a necessity of it as long as I live in the world!  O my soul, woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, because I now necessarily grieve and offend this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! Oh, methinks, if he would punish me for my sins, it would not wound my heart so deep to offend him: but though I sin continually, yet he continually repeats his kindness to me!  Oh, methinks I could bear any sufferings; but how can I bear to grieve and dishonour this blessed God!  How shall I yield ten thousand times more  honour to him?  What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings?  O that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to his service for ever!  O that I could give up myself to him, so as never more to attempt to be my own, or to have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to him!  But, alas, alas!  I find I cannot be thus entirely devoted to God; I cannot live, and not sin.  O ye angels, do ye glorify him incessantly; and if possible, prostrate yourselves lower before the blessed King of heaven?  I long to bear a part with you; and, if it were possible, to help you. Of, when we have done all that we can, to all eternity, we shall not be able to offer the ten thousandth part of the homage that the glorious God deserves!’

David Brainerd concludes this diary portion with the statement, “Blessed be God, that he enables me to love him for himself.”

Words to Live By:
Oh to make this our prayer language and our life reality, that my soul is holy, as he is holy! that it is pure, even as Christ is pure; and perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect.

“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart.”

We’re not following the calendar today, but digress a bit for some interesting observations. Funeral sermons often offer great insights, yet are some of the most overlooked reading around. Today’s post comes in the context of the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, a small denomination that eventually merged with another and whose churches still later came into the PCA in 1982. The words here are drawn from the opening words of the Rev. Gilbert McMaster’s discourse, The Upright Man in Life and Death: A Discourse delivered, Sabbath evening, November 7, 1852, on the occasion of the decease of the Rev. Samuel Brown Wylie, D.D., pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia; Vice-Provost and Emeritus Professor of Ancient Languages in the University of Pennsylvania. There you have a brief description of Dr. Wylie [1773-1852], while Gilbert McMaster [1778-1854] was an Irish immigrant who had been headed toward a career in medicine, when Samuel B. Wylie and Alexander McLeod convinced him of his call to the ministry. Pursuing that call, upon ordination he was installed in what used to be termed a yoked pastorate, over the Reformed Presbyterian congregations of Galway and Duanesburgh, in New York. He died not seventeen months after delivering the funeral sermon for Dr. Wylie.

[Note: I regret not being able to provide a link for online viewing of this funeral sermon, as it has not been digitized. The PCA Historical Center, thankfully, does hold an original copy. Fifteen other institutions also hold copies, including Geneva College and RTS/Jackson.]

DISCOURSE.

Isaiah LVII. 2.

“He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.”

“Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” [Proverbs 14:34] States usually calculate their strength by their numbers and their resources; too often neglecting to take moral rectitude into the account. And yet the strength of the Governors of Judah is in the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as those inhabitants are in the Lord of Hosts, their God. [Zech. 12:5]

It will be found that as is the righteousness of a people, so will their States be strong; an as the Church is holy, so will she be powerful in doing good. These are the strong rods of the social state. [Ezekiel 19:12]

Their counsels give wisdom, character, and influence, to the Church with which they are connected, and power to the Commonwealth to which they belong. And not only their counsels, but their warnings against evil and against danger, and the example of their lives confer benefits upon all with whom they are related. The influence in the social state that attaches to the friends of God is mighty. Their prayer of faith, sustained by the divine promise, brings down from heaven the almightiness of God, in behalf of that in which it I presented, before the throne of mercy. It was not without reason, that an impious occupant of a throne feared the prayers of a distinguished man of God, more than an army of ten thousand men. When God in his administrations, comes and removes such, either from His Church or from the Commonwealth, it may often be understood as a frowning providence, carrying with it His rebuke; but if not a frowning rebuke, it is a most serious admonition, tendered to those who remain. The latter is the light in which the mournful occasion of our present meeting is contemplated.

“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart.” [Isaiah 57:1] No man layeth it to heart as he ought to do; “none considering,”—few considering duly—“that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come,”—taken away from present evil, and taken away from coming evil. It has often been remarked, that good and distinguished men, in the providence of God, were taken away before great calamities were inflicted upon their countries, or upon those with whom they were associated.

But though the righteous man may be taken away—from present and coming evil—he does not cease to be; his distinct conscious existence does not cease, nor does he cease to occupy in the moral empire of Jehovah a distinguished place. “He shall go in peace,” as promised to Abraham. After informing him of those calamities that for ages would befall his offspring, the Almighty declared unto him: “Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.” [Genesis 15:15] Thus our text—“He shall go in peace; he shall rest upon his bed, the perfect one—the man who walked in his uprighteousness.”

Words to Live By: 
“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart.” There is a doctrine here—which as Rev. McMaster notes, few duly consider—namely “that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come,” which is both to say that death in every instance take us away from present evil, and that in some particular instances, the deceased are taken away from coming evil. In the text above, Abraham serves as his example, while others could be added to the list. McMaster goes on to note that “It has often been remarked, that good and distinguished men, in the providence of God, were taken away before great calamities were inflicted upon their countries, or upon those with whom they were associated.” That last point particularly is what has to be handled carefully, but yet there is a truth in what he says. It is a truth spoken of elsewhere by others, but time does not permit putting additional examples before you just now. Something to ponder perhaps, as we continue to study God’s providence.

Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What are God’s works of providence?
A: God’s works of providence are, his most holy,[1] wise,[2] and powerful preserving[3] and governing all his creatures and all their actions.[4]
[1] Psalm 145:17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
[2] Psalm 104:24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
[3] Hebrews 1:3. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
[4] Psalm 103:19. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
and Matthew 10:29-30. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Job 38-41.

Attempts to found democracies, or rather, true lawful liberty, are doomed to failure unless they are built on a proper foundation. What follows is another article discovered today during my foray into an old dusty volume :

THE FOUNDATION OF TRUE LIBERTY.

Some time since an interesting Sabbath School celebration was held in a town in the interior of this State. On one of the banners borne in the procession, there was a beautiful tree, spreading its tall and stately branches in every direction, and beneath it was a volume, in which its roots were deeply fixed, and from which it derived all its nourishment and strength.—The tree was Liberty, that volume the Bible. The idea was not only beautiful, but true. The Bible is the great protector and guardian of the liberties of man. There never has been on earth true liberty, apart from the Scriptures and the principles of the Bible. This remark is fully sustained by the history of the world. Go to the plains of Babylon, and the entire history of that Empire, until its destruction by Cyrus, is a history of the most absolute despotism. Egypt and Persia were equally strangers to civil liberty. The same was true, with some slight modifications, of Greece and Rome. Facts spread on every page of the world’s history, point to the Bible as the only basis of the temple of freedom.

Where the Bible forms public opinion, a nation must be free. “Christianity,” says Montesquieu, “is a stranger to despotic power.” De Tocqueville, “it is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its claims.” The Abbe de la Mennais, whom the late writer distinguishes as one of the most powerful minds in Europe, speaks eloquently of the Divine author of Christianity, “the great republican of his age.” Everywhere the men whose minds have been imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible, have been the devoted friends of civil liberty. Such were the Lollards in England, the adherents of Luther in Germany, and of Knox in Scotland. Such were the Huguenots of France, who fled their country, or sealed their testimony with their blood on the fatal revocation of the edict of Nantes. Such were the Puritans, who, with the courage of heroes and the zeal of martyrs, struggled for and obtained the charter of liberty which England now enjoys. Hume, with all his hostility to the Bible, says, “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone, and it was to this sect the English owe the whole freedom of their Constitution.

Pass we to the period of the American revolution! Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Who were the men, whose wisdom in council, and whose daring in the field, delivered us from foreign oppression, and made us a free and independent nation? Who was Washington? His character is settled beyond all dispute—his sentiments are known and recorded. The infidel can never refer to him for authority. The Atheist can never enroll him among those who believe the universe is without a Father and a God. His examples and his opinions are to travel down with the richest influence to future ages, and his purity of life in the cabinet and the camp, his reverence for the Bible and the institutions of religion, are to be spoken of with the profoundest regard by millions yet unborn.

Who was Patrick Henry, the man who struck the notes of freedom to which this nation responded, and were changed from subjects of a British king to independent freemen? He has not left his religious sentiments in doubt. In his will is found the following passage : “I have now disposed of all my property to my family—there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the religion of the Bible. If they had that, and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

Who was Samuel Adams, on of the brightest stars in the constellation of great names, that adorned that era? “Adams,” says his biographer, “was a Christian. That last production of his pen was in defence of Christian truth, and he died in the faith of the gospel.”

And who was Roger Sherman? His biographer says, “few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention, and a few were more intimately acquainted with its doctrines?” And who does not know that Livingston, and Stockton, and Witherspoon, and Benjamin Rush, bowed with profound reverence to the teaching of the Bible, and drew from its precepts their strongest incentives in their self-sacrificing labors? The Bible, then we say it without the fear of successful contradiction—the Bible, in its influence more than any thing else, has made us what we are—a free and independent nation. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupt public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 442-443.]

Getting up a Revival

We all remember the events which made up the first great awakening in the colonies.  Men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, and New Side Presbyterians took the gospel up the length and breadth of the new land, bringing many to Christ and reviving Christians and churches.  While clearly there were some excesses in emotional outbursts by the people, the essential key in this divine awakening was a stress on total dependence on God’s sovereignty in bringing His elect to Christ.

Fast forward in your thinking to the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds. There was a change going on in the country.  Westward expansion had taken place as hundreds of settlers moved to Kentucky and Tennessee.  Specifically, in what is known as the Cumberland Valley of those latter two and later states, Scot-Irish  filled in the population of the area.  What didn’t increase was the number of trained ministers in the Presbyterian church who were able to travel with these westward church members.  All the ingredients of difficulty were present immediately.

First, there were extensive revivals taking place in SW Kentucky and Cane Ridge, Kentucky.  These were continuous meetings, often preached by 7 and 8 ministers of all denominations, with emotionalism running high and seemingly out of control.   It is not that people were not being converted.  They were, but eastern Presbyterians felt that such emotionalism was too man-centered instead of God-centered.

Then, with converts joining the few churches available and starting  others, the issue of educated men to pastor them became the issue.  The College of New Jersey (later called Princeton) was a long way off from these frontier settlements.   The formal practice of their faith failed to comfort the hardships experienced by the early pioneers.  So the local Presbytery of Cumberland proceeded to ordain large numbers of men without education.  Further, these men were allowed to express dissent from the Westminster Standards, especially chapter 3 which dealt with God’s eternal decrees, or predestination.

The Synod of Kentucky, as the next higher church court, demanded that they be allowed to re-examine all of the ordained men of the Cumberland Presbytery, whom they deemed to be without sufficient training for the pastorate.  When the Presbytery refused their request, the Synod dissolved the Presbytery of Cumberland.  Their action dismissing the Presbytery was affirmed by the General Assembly.

» “The Fathers who formed the first Cumberland Presbytery : Ewing, McAdow & King »

On February 4, 1810, four ministers gathered together near present day Burn, Tennessee, and after a night of prayer, these four former ministers of the PCUSA Cumberland Presbytery, reorganized the Cumberland Presbytery as a separate body outside the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Their names were Samuel McAdow, Ephraim McLean, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King.  They were joined by six licentiates and seven candidates for the ministry.  As they drew others into their fold, this Presbytery became the Cumberland Synod in 1813, which in turn became the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1829.

The issue of education became muted along the way, as the denomination began to sponsor various colleges, and later established the Memphis Theological Seminary. But the issue of Calvinism has been taken out of the picture altogether in this new church, in that the first four points of the “five points” of Calvinism, namely, total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, and efficacious grace is denied by this denomination.  They still hold  to the perseverance of the saints.

A portion of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church re-joined the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the early nineteen hundreds, but not all joined, so that there is in existence today a Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

« The last General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, meeting in Decatur, Illinois, May 17-25, 1906, as they prepared to merge with the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A..

Also on this day :
Robert Dick Wilson was born this day, February 4, 1856, in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection is preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Words to Live By: 
Doctrinal shallowness leads to doctrinal denial.  The whole counsel of God must be proclaimed, letting God’s Spirit  bring people to Himself and training them in doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Comment:
Apart from the fact that four of the five points of Calvinism ARE (were) denied by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, it can hardly be said that the denomination maintains the fifth point since the CPC has become one of the more liberal protestant denominations in America. Furthermore, there is a second Cumberland Presbyterian Church that was formerly known as the Colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was formed in the 1870s. Today, it is known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America and remain separate from the original Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The two denominations considered merging in the 1980s but the plan fell through when the primarily white Cumberland Presbyterian Church refused to approve the plan of union because it provided for equal representation of members of both denominations on boards and agencies of the potential merged church.

I find it interesting that the Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ (Campbellites) originated in the same general area of Kentucky and Tennessee about the same time and for the same reasons as did the Cumberland Church.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST.

Q.5. Are there more Gods than one?

  1. There is but one only, the living and true God.

EXPLICATION.

Living God.—God is styled the living God, because He alone is possessed of life in himself, and because he is the Author of that life which is enjoyed by every created being.

True God.—God is so called, because He alone is infinitely perfect, and also to distinguish Him from the false gods which Heathens worship.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer there are two things asserted:

  1. That there is only one God.—Deut. vi. 4. Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.
  2. That he is the living, and true God.— Jer. x. 10. The Lord is the true God: he is the living God.

 [THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.16 (15 December 1949): 9-13.

Contending Earnestly For The Faith

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander

Jackson, Miss.

This is the eleventh in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

There is a great issue of supreme importance before the Church of our Lord today.

As Dr. J. Gresham Machen, that profound Christian scholar who had such an unusually clear insight into ecclesiastical matters, once stated it:

“That issue is the issue between Christianity as set forth in the Bible and in the great creeds of the Church and a non-doctrinal or indifferentist Modernism that is represented in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (the Northern Presbyterian Church) by the Auburn Affirmation and that is more or less dominant in most of the large Protestant churches of the world.

Three Positions May Be Taken

“With regard to that issue, three positions are possible and are actually being taken today. In the first place, one may stand unreservedly for the old Faith and unreservedly against the indifferentist tendency in the modern Church; in the second place, one may stand unreservedly for Modernism and against the old Faith; and in the third place, one may ignore the seriousness of the issue and seek, without bringing it to a head, to preserve the undisturbed control of the present organization in the Church.”

And in speaking of one of the most prominent figures of our day in the Northern Presbyterian Church, Dr. Machen remarked that this man was one of the leading representatives of this third, or so-called “middle-of-the-road,” group. Of him, as a representative typical of that group, Dr. Machen stated:

“He certainly presents himself not as a Modernist but as an adherent of the historic Christian Faith; yet he takes no clear stand in the great issue of the day, but rather adopts an attitude of reassurance and palliation, according high praise and apparently far-reaching agreement to men of very destructive views.

“It is this palliative or reassuring attitude which, we are almost inclined to think, constitutes the most serious menace to the life of the Church today; it is in some ways doing more harm than clear-sighted Modernism can do.

“The representatives of it are often much farther from the Faith than they themselves know; and they are leading others much farther away than they have been led themselves. Obviously such a tendency in the Church deserves very careful attention from thoughtful men.”

What Jude Tells Us

In the great struggle against that form of unbelief known as Modernism in the Church of our Lord today, the Holy Bible does not give us any authority whatsoever to work side by side with the Modernists in the Church or to tolerate Modernism in the Church.

And this statement is true, regardless of all of the fine-spun arguments to the contrary which are being put forth at the present time by some of the ecumenical enthusiasts in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

In this connection, the Epistle of Jude contains some crystal clear statements:

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Contending Earnestly For The Faith Today

One of the most able Conservative ministers in the Northern Presbyterian Church is Dr. John M. McComb, the Pastor of the Broadway Presbyterian Church of New York City. Dr. McComb graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his M.A. from Princeton University. And he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927, two years prior to the reorganization of that Seminary.

In an address reported in Christianity Today, Dr. McComb very clearly and very forcefully proclaims the message which comes to us today straight from the above-quoted passage of the Epistle of Jude:

“One is almost tempted to believe that Jude had present-day conditions exclusively in mind when he wrote his brief letter, so applicable are his words to the modern world. Of course there have been other spiritual declensions in the history of the church, but it is difficult to imagine a time which fits Jude’s description as well as the present. Many
years ago Cowper wrote of the attitude of men toward Christ in His day, saying:

‘They now are deemed the faithful and are praised,

Who, constant only in rejecting Thee,
Deny Thy Godhead with a martyr’s zeal.’

But Cowper’s words are far more applicable to our day than to his . . .

Who Are To Contend

“Jude makes perfectly clear those whom he urges to do the ‘earnest contending for the faith.’ He addresses his letter ‘To them that are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ’ . . . Jude does not merely address the elders of the church and the other leaders therein; he addresses every member of the body of Christ in his sweeping introduction and urges them ‘to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints’. In short, each one • of us, be we inconspicuous or prominent, be we preachers or occupants of the pew, has a work to do and a part to play in the defense of the Gospel. The work simply cannot be carried on effectively by a few leaders unless
there is wholehearted support from all true believers . . .

In Whose Strength We Are To Contend

“Nor does Jude call upon believers to contend for the faith in their own strength. He knew, as every mature believer knows, that results come not by ‘might nor by power,’ but by the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore Jude wishes that mercy and peace and love might be multiplied or richly allotted to each one of us … The more conscious we are of God’s love the more that consciousness will nerve us to contend earnestly for the Gospel regardless of the cost of such heroism. Men dare much for human love, but the love of God has inspired the greatest heroisms in history.

For What We Are To Contend

“Jude is equally definite in indicating the faith for which he desires believers to contend. He urges them to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.’ He is not asking them to contend for religion, or for a few isolated tenets, but as the Revised Version indicates, Jude means that the Faith was once delivered unto the saints in its complete form. There is no need that anything be added to the faith; it is expressly forbidden that anything should be added or taken away from it. The Faith is perfect as it stands in the Bible. There is no need that God should say more than He has said for He has told us all that we need to know for our salvation.

“Jude means therefore that we should contend for the great body of doctrine contained in the Word of God. This body of doctrine constitutes ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.’ We are to contend for the literal truth and infallibility of the Bible itself; for the belief in a God who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in all His attributes as He has revealed Himself in the Bible; for the fact that man is a sinful fallen creature who has forfeited every claim upon God’s mercy; for the fact that God, out of the mass of sinful humanity has chosen or elected a multitude greater than any man can number to be recipients of His salvation; for the fact that He gave these elect ones to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; for the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, equal with God the Father in Power and Glory, took upon Himself a human body and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, dying there as the substitute for us; wherefore God also hath greatly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father; for the fact that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, applies to believers the blessings which Christ purchased for us on the Cross; for the fact that some day the Lord Jesus will return in visible form to receive the church unto Himself, to raise the dead, to judge His enemies and establish His Kingdom; for the fact that those who believe these things should be careful to maintain good Works. This is a bare outline of the faith once for delivered unto the saints—the faith for which we should contend earnestly.

“It is important to note again that this faith was ‘delivered once and for all unto the saints.’ It was not delivered to the theologians alone, nor to church councils alone, nor to church commissions, but unto the saints, and their duty it is to defend it.

Why We Are To Contend

“Jude also states why it is so urgent that we contend earnestly for the faith. ‘There are certain men crept in privily (unnoticed) even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God unto lasciviousness and denying our Only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.’

“There could be no more accurate description of what has taken place in the church than this. While God’s People slept, certain men have crept into the pulpits of our churches, into the secretaryships of our boards, into the directorates of our colleges and theological seminaries, into the professorships of the same, into our various missionary enterprises at home and abroad, until the whole professing church of Christ is honeycombed with unbelief and scorn for ‘the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.’

“Jude describes the characteristics of these men for us: they are ‘ungodly men’; they do not, in other words, worship the God of the Bible. They do not recognize a God who is infinitely Holy and infinitely Powerful and infinitely Just. Their God is like themselves—fallible, able to overlook sin, unjust. The sooner we come to recognize the truth of what the Christian Century once said, that the Fundamentalists and Modernists worship a different god, the better off we will be, and the closer to an understanding of what Jude means and of the urgency of his appeal.

“These men are not only ‘ungodly’; they also turn ‘the grace of God into lasciviousness.’ If they themselves are not actually immoral, they encourage immorality in others by denying the great doctrinal truths that alone can form a basis for morality. We cannot have Christian morality without Christian doctrine, for ‘truth is in order to Holiness.’ These men, by destroying Christian doctrine and modifying it to suit themselves are actually perverting God’s grace into sin and encouraging sin. That they themselves are given to evil ways is sometimes painfully evident. I met not long ago a prominent critic of the New Testament, noted for his opposition to orthodoxy. He had recently divorced his wife and married another woman almost immediately. He gave a lecture in which he described his
visits to many European monasteries in search of manuscripts, and in which he actually boasted of his carousels with the monks! Even if these unbelievers happen to be respectable, they by no means refute God’s Word. A personally respectable saloonkeeper who runs a house that corrupts men is an encourager of sin. Just so, a respectable Modernist who preaches unbelief is a minister of Satan.

“These men are also characterized by denial of the only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. They are agreed on their opposition to His claims. They refuse to believe in His Deity or in His saving Work on the Cross, or in His bodily resurrection, though they profess to cling lovingly to His moral teachings in many instances. They are one in contradicting all His claims about Himself. “This is Jude’s description of them, and their existence and activity are the reasons for his plea to us that we should earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

How We Are To Contend

“Jude does not go into great detail as to hew we are to contend for the faith, although the word he uses—’epagoniomal’—is most expressive. As one Greek Lexicon puts it, it means to fight, standing upon a thing that is assaulted which the adversary desires to take away. What a picture that gives us of our duty! We are to take our stand upon the Word of God and fight for it like soldiers defending a mighty rock or an impregnable citadel.

“Perhaps Jude did not go into greater detail regarding the various ways in which we should contend for the faith, because those ways are indicated elsewhere in God’s Word with sufficient clearness for all who are truly eager to have part in the work.

“The first requisite, if we would contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints, is a thorough knowledge of the faith itself. It is useless to contend for beliefs with which we are not familiar . . .

“We Christians must so familiarize ourselves with our own position and with that of the enemy that we can be of service in the great conflict to which Jude calls us. We would have been more qualified contenders for the faith if we had had more doctrinal preaching during the last generation.

We Must Speak Out Boldly

“Then, too, if we would contend for the faith, we must seize upon every opportunity to let people know where we stand. When the Word of God is under fire, every silent Christian is counted with the enemy. Psalm 107:2 says: ‘Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so.’ God honors such testimony in surprising ways. It bears more fruit than we have any idea it will. Too often the people in the pews take the attitude that the minister is paid to do the testifying and that there is no need for them to exert themselves in that direction. It is a great privilege to speak a word for Christ, and we must avail ourselves of the privilege in the home, in the circle of friends, in the office, in the church—wherever God gives an opportunity. If the Redeemed of the Lord would testify to their faith a little more frequently, perhaps it would be found that the true church of Christ is far larger than it seems, and that Modernism has not gained the ground it supposes it has gained . . .

We Must Argue For The Faith

“Then, too, if we would contend for the faith, we must argue for it. I used to be very much afraid of argument in the cause of religion, but God tells us to argue, and how we are to do it. He tells us in I Peter 3:15 that we are to be ready always to give every man that asks us a reason for the hope that is in us, with meekness and Godly fear. We read that Paul ‘reasoned’ out of the Scriptures and that he ‘confounded’ the Jews. The Christian must of course be mild and gentle and humble, but this does not mean that he is to avoid controversy. I think on the other hand he is to be ready continually for it. Humbly, but nevertheless with clearness and force, he is to argue for the truth, giving a reason for the hope that is in him. We must not shun controversy, for Christianity has had and will have continual conflict with those who do not believe and with those who are ignorant. Instead of fleeing controversy, we must contend earnestly for the faith. There has not been enough logical reasoning out of the Scriptures in these last years—not enough clear-cut presentations of what the Bible actually teaches. It has been easier to describe sunsets and current events and to have musical concerts on Sunday evenings than to ‘contend for the faith.’ No wonder God has sent leanness into our souls.

We Must Teach The Children

“Then, too, if we would contend earnestly for the faith, we must teach our children what the faith is. God stresses the necessity of child training in His Word . . . The best place to teach Christian doctrine is in the home. A child, at a very early age, can comprehend the substitutionary Work of Christ, the truth of God’s Word, the power of God, the necessity of faith and the other great truths. If we are to contend effectively for the faith, we must forestall the Modernists with our children by instructing them from infancy in the great truths of our faith. I believe in the Shorter Catechism, and I also believe in simple, straightforward explanations of the great doctrinal truths which illumine the meaning of the Catechism and the Scriptures. We ought to read the Bible to our children before they can themselves read. They ought to be filled with a love of the Book and its teachings to such a degree that no scoffing professor can shake their trust in the faith. A general who neglects to defend his home is foolish in the extreme, yet many Christians are neglecting the home front altogether and are leaving the work of fortifying their children against unbelief to incompetent Sunday School teachers, who may have no deep understanding of the Truth themselves.

We Must Oppose Those Who Would Alter The Gospel

“If we would contend for the faith, we must be unhesitating and open in our opposition to anyone, be he preacher or teacher, or missionary or secretary, or whatever he is, who in any wise alters the gospel message or countenances those who do attempt to alter it. Those believers who find themselves in churches with unbelieving ministers should make it their constant duty to testify publicly against the false teaching. When congregational meetings for the calling of ministers are held, those who are believers should not absent themselves for fear of opposition, but should go prayerfully determined to testify publicly against all candidates whose beliefs are not sound. The prophets of old did not countenance idol worship, nor did they hesitate to preach against it. It is not difficult to learn where a man stands in regard to the Bible truths. It is the duty of Christians to find out and to publish to the congregations the facts they have learned. There would be fewer Modernists called if those who know the faith once for all delivered to the saints would insist on orthodoxy as well as personality and executive ability, and a wife capable of being a pack horse for the Ladies’ Aid.

We Must Continue Instant In Prayer

“Lastly, if we would contend for the faith, we must continue instant in prayer. To say that is obvious, and yet obvious as it is, there is too little of it. Paul urges the people of Philippi ‘to strive together for the faith of the gospel,’ and I am sure he means striving in prayer. In the Letters to the Thessalonians, he requests prayer for himself and his work. How wonderful it would be and how effective it would be if every Church had in it a group of fundamental believers who would pray systematically together for the triumph and maintenance of the Gospel and would continue instant in prayer for the same objective. We would have more triumphs to rejoice in. The faith would be honored, believed, and professed openly; barriers would fall, and attacks against our leaders would crumble, to the discomfiture of the enemies of the Truth.

The Result Of Contending For The Faith

“These are some of the many ways that the Bible points out we can effectively contend for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. We can do so by gaining a thorough knowledge of the faith; by seeking every opportunity to testify of it; by arguing for it with meekness and Godly fear; by teaching our children faithfully; by testifying fearlessly against those who teach another gospel which is not another; by refusing to support those boards and agencies which tolerate Modernism; by continuing instant in prayer for the maintenance and triumph of the faith.

“I repeat that if God’s People were willing to do these things continually, the gains of the Modernists would soon disappear, and many who have been brought under the spell of unbelief would be recovered to Christ.

The Appeal Is To Us

“Jude appeals to you and to me—to all whom God has called into the fellowship of His Son—to all who are beloved of the Father and are being kept for Christ, to contend thus for the faith. “He reminds us that He promises grace abundant to make possible effective service.

“He urges us thus because God has given us a glorious body of doctrine in His Word, which is true and shall ever remain so, and which has been the source of eternal blessing to all who receive it

“He urges us to contend for the faith because there are ungodly men who have slipped in unawares—men who are undermining the faith and are seeking to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, even denying the Only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.

“Will you students in your preparation, you teachers in your presentation, you ministers in your preaching, you individual believers in your daily round of duties, heed Jude’s words and seek by every means God gives you to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’?

“Actually the words are not Jude’s. They are the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jude was but the mouthpiece through whom this urgent message has come to us. It is Christ Himself who commands us to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.’ Will we obey Him?”

May God’s own Holy Spirit so move our hearts and minds that every Southern Presbyterian will stand loyally and unreservedly for the Christian Faith, and vehemently and unreservedly against the indifferentist tendency and against Modernism!

In this time of crisis in our denomination may every one of us have the courage to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints!”

What shall every Southern Presbyterian, as a Bible-believing Christian who is determined to fight soul-destroying Modernism in its every form, say with reference to the proposed union with the Northern Presbyterian Church which has permitted Modernism to flourish triumphantly in its very midst?

Thou Shalt Say, No!

A Miraculous Interposition of God’s Providence
by Rev. David T Myers

It reads like an adventure novel. But it was not fiction for Presbyterian minister John Hill Aughey during the opening days of the Civil War in 1861 in the state of Mississippi. His state was the second state to vote out of the United States of America, following South Carolina, to join the Confederacy. Soon joined by other Confederate states, the War Between the States made it impossible to live in support of the Union. And pastor-evangelist John Aughey was a Unionist and outspoken opponent against slavery.

John Hill Aughey was born on May 8, 1828. Educated up north, he was licensed and ordained as a Presbyterian minister, after which he moved with his wife Mary and young daughter Kate, to Tupelo, Mississippi in 1861. He was an evangelist in that state as well as the pastor of three Presbyterian congregations. But with the political situation calling for disunion by speeches and actions, he stood squarely on the side of the Union, arguing the case in the pulpits of his three congregations. Finally, he was jailed for his opposition, along with other Unionists in the state. Escaping once, he was recaptured and sentenced to death by hanging. He escaped again, two days before his scheduled death penalty, to go north for safety.

In his book Iron Furnace (available online), we read in his entry for February 1, 1863, that his escape required “the miraculous interposition of divine providence,” as our title puts it, to give success to his plans to save his life. First, there was a Confederate force of one hundred thousand soldiers stationed around the prison. Second, he was in “enemy” territory. Third, there was a large reward of one hundred thousand dollars for his capture. Fourth, the authorities had planned for the use of blood hounds to track him. And last, there was a distance of two hundred miles to the Union outpost at Reinzie. It would be a miracle for him to make it safely to Union lines. And yet, that is exactly what happened. John Hill Aughey escaped safely to Union lines.

He joined the Union Army as an Army chaplain, ministering to the spiritual needs of Union soldiers. After the Civil War, he returned to his family in Mississippi, and took up the cause of Christ in Presbyterian churches in South Carolina. He would go to be with the Lord in 1911.

Words to Live By: Our Confessional Standards reminds us in Chapter 5, section 1 that “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things. . . .(Chapter 5, section 1). Our hero today was able to state “Amen” to that statement in his life and ministry. Take time today to recount similar evidences in your life, and give praise to God for His providential care.

On the Death of a Christian.

Jacob Jones Janeway was a noted Philadelphia pastor in the first half of the nineteenth century, an author, and a close friend of the early Princeton Theological Seminary faculty (Alexander, Miller and Hodge). Here, from the closing pages of his biography, is an account of how he himself faced death, early in 1858:—

J.J. JanewayOn Sabbath, January 31, [1858] he was confined to that bed, from which he never arose. Five months of wearying sickness passed away till all was over. He never complained—always said he did not suffer, though it seemed to his attendants almost impossible that he did not. The coloured man who had long lived in his house nursed him faithfully. His children were much with him. At times his disease appeared so violent that it seemed impossible that he could survive. But he rallied again. He insisted that morning and evening worship should be performed in his chamber, and readily detected the absence of any of his servants. Worship was ordinarily performed by one of his sons. If at any time their own duties compelled them to be absent, he would be propped up in his bed, and utter his usual fervent prayers.

Disease obscured his mind, and caused confusion and wandering. But on the subject of religion, or any exposition of the Scripture, he was clear as ever. Not one syllable is he remembered to have uttered which betrayed confusion, where the interests of Christ’s kingdom were concerned. When any of his grandchildren approached him who were not in communion with the church, he faithfully conversed with them—bade them meet him at the judgment-seat, on the right hand. He was remarkably earnest in his appeals, and enforced them with urgency. The ruling passion was strong in death.

When he was told of the occurent revivals of the noon-day meetings for prayer, and of the general interest manifested everywhere in religion, his countenance beamed, and he said there were more glorious days at hand, and that the Redeemer’s kingdom would be ushered in by such displays of grace. Towards the close, he said to his eldest son : ” I am tired of eating—I want to go home!” But still the strong man of his constitution struggled with disease; pin after pin seemed loosening in the tabernacle; symptom after symptom developed unfavourably, but his frame did not succumb. The nature of his disease was such as to prevent such exhibitions as are often seen in God’s dying children. This was the appointment of God, and a life of such eminent holiness did not require any other illustration of the grace of God. At the close of June, he became unconscious, and lay for two or three days without any communion with the outer world. His children were with him, hourly waiting for his departure, and at last, on Sabbath, June 27th, just before the setting of the sun, he entered on his eternal Sabbath, and doubtless, as a good and faithful servant, was received by his Lord, whom he had served earnestly, in as far as the imperfection which cleaves to our nature permitted.

His funeral was attended in the First Presbyterian church, when the Rev. Dr. Hodge, who had been received by him, in the dew of his own youth, into the communion of the church, preached his funeral sermon, full of affection, and replete with memorials of his deceased  and venerable friend. Devout men carried him to his tomb—Christian ministers who had come at the summons, from their homes, to see the last of one whom they venerated when living, and mourned when removed. After the death of his wife, he had built for himself a family tomb, and was anxious that it should be of capacity sufficient to accommodate the remains of his family, and of his children to the fourth generation. He seemed to take pleasure in the thought that their dust should repose together till the morning of the resurrection, and rise, he trusted, an unbroken family, to the right hand of his Saviour.

[Excerpted from The Life of Dr. J. J. Janeway, pp. 260-261.]

Words to Live By:
May we all die well; which is to say, may we all die in Christ, our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; may we all, in this life and while there is life, seek Christ as our only Savior and Lord, for none of us know when we must answer that call to go Home.

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