Our post today is excerpted from the Minutes of the 153rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1975), p. 176-177:

The cause of Bible-believing archaeological study today owes more to Joseph P. Free than to any other individual. It is an honor to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, that for 30 years he has been numbered among our teaching elders.

Joseph Free was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 1, 1911, and entered Stony Brook School, Long Island, New York, and received the A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University, New Jersey. In 1935 Dr. Free accepted an invitation to join the faculty of Wheaton College, Illinois, in the departments of French and Spanish. For ten years he studied in the field of Near Eastern history and archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and for nearly 20 years, until 1965, he served as Fred McManus Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton. After a brief period of retirement to his home in the north woods of Minnesota, he resumed his life work in the teaching of archaeology at Bemidji State College, Minnesota, where he was employed at the time of his death, on October 12, 1974. He was a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES), and was its moderator for two years in the 1940’s. He was ordained in 1944 to the ministry of the Bible Presbyterian Church. At his death he was still a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES).

Dr. Free is best known as the excavator of ancient Dothan, in northern Israel, the town near which young Joseph was sold by his brothers (Gen. 37:17) and where the prophet Elisha performed a miracle of deliverance (II Kings 6:13). Professor Free had gained archaeological field experience as a staff member with the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem; and he and Mrs. Free directed ten seasons of excavation at Dothan between 1953 and 1964. Many field archaeologists and teachers, including several on the staff of Covenant Theological Seminary, owe their basic training to his untiring efforts and competent leadership. His vision resulted in the founding of the Near East Archaeological Society in 1960 and the Near East School of Archaeological and Biblical Studies in 1962, under which scores of students were introduced to Bible geography, history, and archaeology. He authored the widely used textbook Archaeology and Bible History, plus more than fifty articles on archaeology for both scholarly and popular Christian journals. He held membership in the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Schools of Oriental Research, American Oriental Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and National Society of Arts and Letters, which he served as National Literature Chairman, 1966-1970.

He was married to Ruby Aldrich on August 20, 1935. In addition to Mrs. Free, he was survived by a daughter, a son, three grandchildren, a foster son, and two sisters. Joseph P. Free was zealous in his defense of the faith and of the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. The same verse that at Princeton honors the memory of one of America’s greatest nineteenth century Reformed scholars of the Old Testament, Dr. William Henry Green, may now with propriety be applied to our brother Dr. Free:

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Deuteronomy 12:3.

For Further Study:
For more on the life and ministry of Dr. Free, see “Joseph P. Free And The Romance Of Biblical Archaeology.” by Timothy Larsen, in the Westminster Theological Journal, 66.1 (Spring 2004): 97ff. To view a portion of this article, click here.

We search the Scriptures in order to find out what the will of the Lord is. And in preaching we endeavor to set before the people what God would have them do, but unless I myself am practicing what I preach, my preaching will be of no value. We must live what we preach if we hope to influence others, if we hope to command the respect of others. We who preach therefore should be constantly on our guard, should be careful ourselves to walk circumspectly in all our ways.”—Rev. Francis James Grimké.

Francis James Grimké, his father a slave owner and his mother a slave, was born in Charleston, South Carolina on November 4, 1850. After a tumultuous childhood, he was able to graduate first from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1870, where he was the class valedictorian, and then subsequently preparing for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating there as part of the Class of 1878.  

Ordained to the ministry by the Presbytery of Washington City on July 7, 1878, he was installed as the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church and served there from 1878-1885. He left that pulpit to serve a term as Stated Supply for the Laura Street Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Florida, 1885-1889 and then returned to again pastor the Fifteenth Street church in Washington, D.C. from 1889 until 1928, when declining health forced his retirement. Rev. Grimké died on October 11, 1937.  Notable among the honors bestowed upon Rev. Grimké during his life was the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by Lincoln University in 1888.

Earlier this year our friends over at the Log College Press—Caleb Cangelosi and his able assistant R. Andrew Myers—published a small book by the Rev. Francis James Grimké, titled MEDITATIONS ON PREACHING (its cover is shown above). Quotations in the book are drawn from Volume III of The Works of Francis J. Grimké, a work published in 1942 and not easily found these days. Additionally, the foreword for the book was written by the Rev. Irwyn Ince, who served as Moderator of the PCA’s 46th General Assembly (2018). If we’ve gained your interest with our post today, you can order the book here. I know that you will profit from its reading. A fuller review of the book can be found on Barry Waugh’s blog, Presbyterians of the Past.

Words to Live By:
“Get hold of the truth, i.e., clearly apprehend it; let the truth get hold of you, i.e., be fully impressed with the value and importance of it. Only thus will you be able to present it effectively to others. The clearer you see it, and the more deeply you are impressed by it, have been brought under its power, the more effective will be your presentation of it. This is one reason why much of our speaking counts for nothing, or for so little: haziness of thought and lack of strong conviction. What we believe thoroughly and feel keenly, we will be able to make others see and feel. We should attempt to speak on no subject which to us is of little value or importance. The estimate that we put upon it is the estimate which others listening to us will be likely to put upon it.”—Rev. Francis James Grimké

The First Battle of the American Revolution
by Rev. David T. Myers

There are two phases of the church which are understood in the Biblical record. One of them is the triumphant church, which are God’s people in heaven.  The other is the militant church, which are God’s people in constant combat with the forces of wickedness on this earth. Primarily, that militancy is a spiritual one, but occasionally the militant church has to do battle in the physical realm.  October 10, 1774 was one of those times.

Some years ago, we looked briefly at the beginning stage of this great battle between the Virginia militia and the Indians of Point Pleasant. That battle occurred on September 11, 1774, just about one month prior to the battle we are looking at today.  (See entry)  Here today is an account of the conclusion of their forced march through the wilderness.  Remember, most of the eleven hundred Virginia militia, led by General Andrew Lewis, were members of the Presbyterian churches of Hanover Presbytery.

Arriving near present day Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the battle began with an attack by the Shawnee chief Cornstalk, with three  hundred to five hundred and possibly even up to one thousand braves behind him.    In fact, there were a series of skirmishes in the all day battle, some of which were hand to hand in nature. It was one of the most vicious battles which the Virginia backwoodsmen up to that point of their existence had to wage.

About one fifth of General Lewis’s men were killed and wounded, which translated out to 75 soldiers killed and 140 wounded. Judging the Indians injuries is difficult, but estimates range from a handful all the way up to two hundred and thirty casualties. When militia reserves came in around midnight, the Indians fled across the Ohio River.  It was at a later date that the native Americans signed a treaty which opened up present day Kentucky and Tennessee. It also opened up both of those future states to the gospel in general, and in particular to the establishment of Presbyterian churches.

When they returned to Virginia, they discovered that the two battles of Lexington and Concord had already been fought up in Massachusetts. The American Revolution had started. Yet, because of all the future battles of that War of independence, this battle has been forgotten by historians. Yet this was the leading battle of the American War of Independence, and Presbyterian members had a pivotal part in it.

Words to live by: On occasion, there may be cause to actually take up arms and fight for your lives.  This was one such occasion.  With continual attacks upon settlements and meeting houses, it was either the Presbyterian inhabitants returning back to the sea-coast towns,  where there was more security, or staying put and fighting for their faith, their families, and their churches.   Certainly Samuel Davies, of the Hanover Presbytery, would preach many a war sermon to encourage the defense of both the faith and their lives from marauding Indians.  And Presbyterian settlers took their life in their hands along with their sacred honor, and stood their ground and rallied on this occasion.  Certainly the cultural mandate demands that we take our stand on biblical principles and against those who would seek to destroy that principles.  Are you praying, and working, in at least one area of this cultural mandate?

Our post today comes from guest author, Rev. David W. Hall, excerpted from chapter 2 of his book, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003). That Zwingli was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation is undeniable, and so it seems appropriate to include this account of him here today on the anniversary of his death.

Zwingli: Patriot Reformer of German Speaking Switzerland
by Rev. David W. Hall

William Farel was the pioneer of the Reformation in Geneva, but closer to Germany another fiery minister preceded him by a few years. Huldrych Zwingli (b. 1484), a Swiss reformer immediately prior to Calvin, also recognized that resistance was legitimate if a civil ruler ordered the squelching of true religion (as in Acts 4-5). However, he qualified that such resistance should only occur with the support of the large majority and without murder or war.  Nonetheless, by the Peasants’ War (1525), Protestant extremists scandalized the movement with their sectarian rebellion against the King of Germany. The Peasants’ War slowed the momentum of Protestant support for resistance, and itself was an instance of experience shaping a theology of the state.

Just prior to Calvin’s surge, Zwingli, a contemporary of Luther, began his work in Zurich. Zwingli studied at universities in Basle, Bern, and Vienna. In 1506, he was selected to be the parish priest in confederated Glarus. Whether he was “an out-and-out democrat”  or not, it is certainly the case that he tried to reform all of society from the church outward. He served as a chaplain in the fateful 1515 Battle at Marignano, a turning point for the Swiss psyche, and later accompanied Protestant troops in skirmishes against Catholics, dying a courageous death in a 1531 battle. Despite his unfortunate demise, later American clergymen could draw on his example and would accompany Colonial militias into battle against the British.

Zwingli first served as a pastor in idyllic Einsiedeln (still the home of one of the most ornate monasteries in the world) for two years (1516-1518), prior to beginning his thundering ministry at Zurich’s Grossmunster church on January 1, 1519, making him one of the earliest declared Protestants in the world. Throughout his tenure, Zwingli labored for a political practice that conformed both religion and politics to the precepts of the Bible.  Although he never held civil office, he frequently advised local magistrates and served on numerous commissions to resolve diplomatic or political matters. However, not all Swiss citizens agreed with him. While his colleague Vadianus convinced St. Gallen of the Protestant cause, and while Bern, Basle, and Zurich created a Protestant alliance, interestingly the Forest states (the three original mountain cantons) preserved their allegiance to Catholicism.  An armed conflict between the two alliances was only narrowly averted by the Peace of Cappel, which legitimized the local choice of religion for each Swiss canton from that time on.

Some historians have suggested that Zwingli changed his views over his life. Recent studies, however, have defended the consistency of his thought over time. Robert Walton vindicates Zwingli from the onerous charge of theocrat as it is used in modern times. Certainly, Zwingli expected cooperation between the two distinct jurisdictions of church and state. That cooperation, much like the practice of colonial America, however, is different from assigning the care of both church and state to the same officers. Rather than confusing the terminology, the more helpful way to understand the Swiss Reformer’s position is to ask, as Robert Walton does: What place did Zwingli assign to the magistrate and to the clergy in order to realize the rule of God?  Instead of attempting to combine the spheres of government, Zwingli simply submitted, as Calvin would later, both sacred and secular jurisdictions to transcendental norms.

Certainly Zwingli and Calvin desired the rule of God over government. That is altogether different, though, from confusing the rule of God with the acts of certain politicians. A separation of legitimate jurisdictions (though not an immunization of the state from religion) is as apparent in these Swiss Reformers as it is in Colonial American pastors a century later. They did not endeavor to submit the city government to the church and its officers. If anything, Zwingli sought to deprive the clergy of the secular authority and wealth it had gained since the end of the eleventh century, because he believed that these secular concerns had diverted the clergy from its God-given function, the preaching of the Gospel.  The clergy’s role was to give God’s counsel, lest the city governors lacked the best wisdom. Earlier attempts to castigate Zwingli as a theocrat, who was bent on the clergy ruling political measures dictatorially, stand corrected in view of recent scholarship.

Zwingli hoped to renew the church from within, and subsequently to have the church reform society. Of the inherent overflow of spirituality into ethics, Zwingli claimed, “Christianity has always served the public justice most powerfully.” In later correspondence, Zwingli would contrast the effect of the spread of biblical truths with those of secular reason, boasting of Zurich as the leading Christian municipality in adapting its laws and political officials to the Christian faith. Zurich’s ethical overflow was noted as follows: “each desires to anticipate the other with kindness, to oblige with gentleness, to share the labor of the other, to lighten his burden, for each cares for all as brothers; blasphemy is abominated, piety is esteemed and is increased among all.”  These Swiss Reformers believed that a view of life which included God’s standards would result in humanitarian action by private citizens. The chief calling of the clergy was not to rule the city council but to reform the conscience.

Accordingly, Zwingli distinguished between the inward thrust of the ministry of the church and the outer containment by the secular magistrate. In so doing, Zwingli circumscribed the domain of the civil officer. While he might supportively protect external matters of the church (e. g., church attendance, performance of duty by the ministers, the offering of the sacraments, the architecture of the building), secular officials “could not force one to believe, for the realm of faith, Christ’s kingdom, had nothing to do with the world. The true church obviously did not depend upon the Zurich government, nor was it confined to the limits of the canton; it was universal.”  Thus, he explained, “if your rulers wish to be Christian, they must allow the clear word of God to be preached and afterward let it work.” Importantly, he also distinguished various jurisdictions, noting that “the authority which the government has over our temporal goods and bodies cannot extend over the soul.”

Several of his Sixty-Seven Articles (1523) directly addressed the role of the civil governor. In these articles, he rejected the notion that ministers should command civil matters, maintained that the good governor could promote measures that comported with biblical practices, and encouraged rulers to support “an externally pious Christian city.”

Prior to Zwingli’s arrival at Zurich, the city was governed by a Small Council of 26 and a Great Council of 212, similar to the form eventually adopted in Geneva.  The Zurich councils were involved in many areas of life, and Christian magistrates were to seek the common good. The magistrates were to maintain the faith, and keep it from reverting to Catholic patterns. As early as 1450, Zurich’s counterpart, Basle, stated its purpose similarly: “Above all, the government of each city is to be established for this: to increase and to consolidate the honor of God and to repulse all evil and especially gross sin and misdeed, according to the regulation of the Holy Christian World.”  With similar words, most Swiss cantons that embraced Protestantism should not be tarred and feathered with the theocrat slur, merely for the customary support of religion, especially if the church was to be protected during its reformation.

Zwingli’s preaching was magnetic, exhibited a strong patriotism, and addressed major problems besetting the entire Swiss Confederacy.  With up to a third of the city attending his preaching, his popularity discouraged civil officers from opposing his ideas. Such moral suasion would prove more lasting, for Zwingli and Calvin, than any theocratic imposition. Like Calvin, his ideas would have international impact.

The effect of his preaching is seen in altered treatment of the poor as Reformation ideas began to be implemented in the city. The Zurich city council refused to give assistance to beggars, pimps, drunkards, and adulterers. Moreover, insisting on the distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor, failure to attend church and other immoral behavior disqualified a poor person from receiving financial assistance.  However, this was, rightly or wrongly, by order of the magistrate, not by pulpit decree. Zwingli would continue to preach guidance for the city council, but that was different from the pulpit directly wielding the civil sword. Of the moral impact of this Reformation preaching, Zwingli’s successor Bullinger wrote, “Before the preaching of the gospel, Zurich was in Switzerland what Corinth was in Greece.”

As an outworking of the Christian faith, Zwingli also called for the end of mercenary excursions, a longstanding tradition associated with the highly skilled native military. Even though the termination of mercenary service might leave the Swiss vulnerable to the French, as well as introduce negative economic impact (higher unemployment and less income in some cantons), Zwingli led his city to lessen its warring ways—a quite radical step for the time. In his 1522 Godly Admonition to the Oldest Confederates at Schwyz, the Zurich reformer desired to persuade the citizens of Schwyz to abandon mercenary tactics and replace those with the ethics of Christ. In that tract, Zwingli hinted that the early Swiss confederates had a unique covenantal relationship with God, much like OT Israel. Sounding like later Puritan American preachers, he indicated that recent defeats such as Marignano  were providential indicators of God’s curse. In the process, he rebuked greed, bribery, violence, sloth, and wrongful war. Robert Walton summarizes Zwingli’s tenets: “The cantons of the Confederacy stand in a covenant relationship with God; they are the Israel of the present. Political stability and national freedom depend upon the proper obedience to the Lord.”  In a May 1522 response that foreshadowed the historic Swiss neutrality, the canton of Schwyz agreed to avoid foreign alliances for the next quarter century. However, supporters of the mercenary system reversed that agreement in August.  In any event, at this early stage it is evident that Zwingli sought social change by preaching and writing, not primarily by political coercion.

On January 29, 1523, Switzerland, and much of the West through her, entered a new age, thanks to Zwingli’s leadership. In a day when elections were rarities, over 600 people gathered to hear a dispute between Zwingli and a Catholic debater. This meeting (the first of many) introduced a virtually new style of decision making: citizens would have free assembly and free speech, and then they would freely choose which course to pursue. What began as a referendum on religion, i. e., whether to be a Protestant or a Catholic establishment, paved the way for many future civic choices.  Once begun, there was no turning back and the West has a fiery preacher to thank in part.

Robert Walton has correctly observed a delicate balance of power in Zwingli’s thought. He writes: “The division of power between the magistrate and the pastor was based upon his doctrine of divine and human righteousness. The magistrate exercised all secular power and had the right to direct the external affairs of the church. The Christian magistrate . . . made possible the preaching of the Gospel by the pastor. The knowledge of the Gospel that the pastor proclaimed prevented the ruler from becoming a tyrant . . .”  Walton has clarified that the Swiss reformers were not strictly theocrats, but believed in each God-ordained sphere of government performing its own duty—and not usurping the jurisdiction of the other.

Zwingli died in the second battle of Cappel on this day, October 9, in 1531, only 47 years old. He was initially injured while attending a wounded soldier, later pummeled by stones, and finally stabbed with a spear. Upon learning that the flamboyant patriot was wounded, the opposing forces rallied to kill him, only after he was given an opportunity to recant of his Protestantism, which he refused with these words: “They may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.”  The same battle took the lives of 500 Zurichers, several pastors, and 10% of Zurich’s ruling Great Council of 200.

Four centuries after his birth, Zwingli’s influence was honored with a bronze statue prominently displayed at the foot of the Wasserkirche in Zurich. The statue, designed by a Roman Catholic sculptor,  commemorated Zwingli with Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. As late as a century ago, a full century after the American Revolution, Zwingli was still revered by his countrymen as a force for education, democracy, and courage. His bold opposition to tyranny was a lasting icon for both American and Swiss patriots, until the rise of an age that thought itself too enlightened to be associated with a brave clergyman who changed the West. In the spring of 1999, the statue was removed from its prominent position, long a tourist site, under a program of “cleansing.” In the process, vestiges of the historical impact of Protestant Christianity on a nation, a continent, and a hemisphere were eradicated.

Walton notes that although Zwingli pursued goals informed by the Bible, he did not seek them by theocratic measures. Both minister and magistrate were to do their own jobs, and the clergy were not to “interfere with the Christian magistrate’s performance of the duties that God had assigned him.”  He is also correct that Zwingli only initiated certain trends. The growth of his ideas, however, was stunted both by military conflict and by counter-reactions. It would remain for William Farel and Calvin to revive reform measures in the French speaking part of the Confederacy a decade later.

What Matters Most in This Life?

The following testimony was written by the wife of the Rev. Samuel Blair. It is dated October 8, 1763:—

My Dear Children–It is my concern for your souls’ welfare, as well after my decease as whilst I am present with you, that I seem to be irresistibly urged to leave you a few sentences to peruse; and if it should please a gracious God to bless them to you

My design at this time shall not be to give you a narrative of diary of what I have experienced, of as I trust, the Lord’s gracious dealings towards me, for that would be too great; and as I did not prosecute that begun work in my young days, I could not now recollect without adding or diminishing. What discourages me now, was that the same reason when I first attempted, is, that I believe the Lord did not give me such enlargement of judgment that I should be useful to any but such as I am nearly connected with, who, I hope, will make no bad use of any thing that may not appear with such embellishments as the public would require. However, that now is for my design in these few lines.

When I was about fifteen, or soon after, it pleased a gracious God to stop me in my career of youthful follies, and to make sweet religion to appear the most noble course a rational creature could pursue. And what first brought me to reflect was: that summer I was visited with one affliction after another; first, the measles, and then the intermitting fever, and then the whooping cough–all to no great purpose, until by my being brought so low I apprehended myself in a decay, which put me to think I should set about reformation, a work which I thought only consisted in growing serious, and praying often, with other duties. When having an opportunity of hearing Messrs. Gilbert and John Tennent, they engaged me more, and strengthened me in my resolution to devote myself to religion. But the bed was too strait for me. I was often allured into my former vain company to the wounding of conscience and the breach of resolutions; was like a hell upon earth, and put often to think that the day of grace was over, and I might as well give up with all. However, it pleased a gracious God again to strengthen and encourage me to wrestle and cry for free mercy, and that in myself I could do nothing, nor keep the least resolution I could make.

But soon after the way of salvation in and through Christ, was clearly and sweetly opened to me in such a point of light that it appeared to me I had not lived or breathed or known what pleasure was before then. I then got victory over sin and the devil. But oh! how soon Satan came with another hideous temptation, which was blasphemy. This, as I had never felt or heard of before, filled me with such horror, that I was near being overcome with an unnatural sin. But as the distress was great, the deliverance was greater, which made me loathe myself, and almost life, and say with Job: “I would not live always.” I was then persuaded by my dear minister, John Tennent to join in communion with the people of God in the precious ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Which, though I could scarcely be prevailed on to venture, and though with trembling, lest I should meet with a salutation of “Friend, how comest thou hither?” I know not whether ever I had a greater discovery of the dying love of a dear Redeemer. It appeared so clear to the eyes of my understanding that for a little while I saw nothing of the world besides. Then I went on my way rejoicing, singing in the Psalmist: “Return unto thy rest, O! my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” I thought then I should never sin more; never indulge sloth or inactivity, or wandering thoughts, for sin had got such a dash it would no more have any access to my spirit; but sad experience soon made me wiser, and I was left, not many days after, to go mourning without the sun. So my chariot wheels moved slowly for many days. Though, blessed be God, a sense of religion, and my deep obligations still remained with me, and I was assiduous for the good of poor sinners; taking such opportunities as fell in my way, and such of my acquaintance as I had access to. And in the way of my duty I suffered much reviling, but was not suffered to be moved thereby, though young, and religion at that time an uncustomary thing, and not much of morality only among the aged.

And now, my dear children, let me enjoin this duty on you, to make conscience of your conversation and words. You may be apt to excuse yourselves with, that you are young, and it does not become you to talk of religion, and that is the minister’s part. But if you have received the grace of God, have you received it in vain, or only for yourselves? Has not the Lord deposed a trust in your hands–His glory and honor–and should you not every way strive to advance it? At that time I was much perplexed with my own heart; spiritual pride seemed as if it would undo me, for I concluded at some times as if it was the spring of all my actions. This I groaned under; but sometimes was tempted to cast away all for my ignorance of divine life. And the depth of Satan made me conclude that there never was a child of God that had ever the least rising of such a horrid feeling, and so much akin to the devil. But conversing with a humble, honest woman, I found that she was wrestling under the same, and so I got new courage to fight this Apollyon, and so from time to time I was helped. As I let down my watch, and grew cold and formal, and to backsliding from Him, the Lord left me to such exercises as cost me broken bones before I was restored to a sense of His favor. As I informed you, I cannot recollect the particular exercises at such a distance; if I can but say:

“Here, on my heart, the impress lies,
The joys, the sorrows of the mind.”

What reason have I this day to praise my heavenly Father, who is a Father to the fatherless, in providing for me such a companion in life, when my fond fancy would sometimes have led me to choose one that had little or no religion! Oh! the goodness of God in preventing me then, and at other times, when I had formed schemes to ruining myself. This, my dear children, I would have you carefully to ponder and beg for direction in before proceeding in such an affair in which your happiness for this world, if not the next, depends. Let the words of the inspired apostle be the moving spring of all your actions: “the glory of God.”…

My care for your immortal part never left me in the midst of all my own perplexities and fears; and when I had freedom for myself, your happiness was next to my own. Before your entrance into the world, (or before you drew the vital breath of life) my concern for you came next, which prompted me at one time to spend some time more than common to implore heaven in your behalf. It pleased God by His gracious influence to smile upon me and encourage my faith and trust for you. Now let this be an excitement to you, to be earnest for the salvation of your own souls, and, as it were, to storm heaven–offer violence to your carnal selves. For though none can win heaven by all they can do, yet the command is, “Give all diligence.” He that sows sparingly, shall reap so. Otherwise it shall avail nothing that you have so many petitions put up for you….

Words to Live By:
There are many duties that we encounter in this life. What a wonderful exercise, to write your testimony for your children (and their children). Most likely such an exercise would first be a witness to you yourself. But what a blessing and comfort, to leave a testimony to future generations! And by that document, to be reminded to pray often for them, for their salvation, and for their place and role in God’s kingdom.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. – (2 Timothy 1:5)

Source: Sketches of Virginia, by Wm. Henry Foote (1856), pp. 81ff.

We regret having passed over this portion of Rev. Van Horn’s treatment of the Shorter Catechism a few weeks ago, and so present it here today.

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

Q. 99
 What rules hath God given for our direction in prayer?

A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer, which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.

Scripture References: II Timothy 3:16-17; I John 5:14; Matthew 6:9.

Questions:

1. How can the whole Word of God be used to direct us in prayer?

The whole Word of God can be of use to us in prayer in that it instructs us of our duties regarding our relationship to God. If we did not have general principles of the Word of God in our minds it would be impossible for us to pray aright (Rom. 10:14).

2. Could you give one example as to how a principle of doctrine helps us in our prayer life?

Yes, a good example would the offices of Jesus Christ. The knowledge He is our prophet helps us to have the wisdom from Him we need; the knowledge He is our priest enables us to have an intercessor for our prayers; the knowledge He is our King teaches us we should live in submission to Him and this certainly includes our disciplining ourselves in prayer.

3. Why do we need direction in our prayer?

We need direction in prayer because even though the disposition of our souls has been turned into holiness by the Holy Spirit we are still sinners and would not seek after God if left to ourselves.

4. Why is it called “The Lord’s Prayer” in our doctrines?

It is called “The Lord’s Prayer” as it was in answer to the disciple’s plea of “Lord, teach us to pray.”

5. Does the prayer contain all necessary parts of prayer?

No, it does not contain the confession of our sins and thankfulness of God’s mercies.

6. Is this the form of prayer our Lord would have us use?

No, this is simply a pattern of prayer, a direction of how we should pray.

ELEMENTARY PRAYER

One of the difficulties of the prayer life on the part of many is that they attempt some of the more advanced patterns of prayer before becoming well-versed in elementary prayer. What is elementary prayer? The simple procedure of making of requests and giving thanks.

There are higher patterns of prayer. There are such things as adoration, communion, spiritual warfare, intercession and contemplation. But so many times the young believer — and many times the believer of many years — will attempt some of these higher patterns, become discouraged, and the prayer life will continue to suffer. How can we train ourselves to reach the higher patterns some day?

One of the simple methods is to keep a “Prayer Card” in your pocket or in your Bible or in your purse and keep an orderly list of things for which you can pray. As new things come to your attention, add them and you will be amazed at how your list will grow. You will also be amazed at the increase in urgency in prayer on your part.

This urgency in prayer is one of our greatest needs. So many times we seem to feel we can only pray when we are in the right mood. We should remember that our Sovereign God knows all about our moods and will give us the grace, as we cast ourselves on Him, to rise above our moods and be regular and urgent in our prayer lives.

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman tells the story of Praying Hyde (John Nelson Hyde) coming to his room for prayer. Dr. Chapman stated, “He came up to my room, turned the key in the door, dropped on his knees, waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips. I could hear my own heart thumping and his beating. I knew I was with God. Then with upturned face, down which tears streamed, he broke out with “O, God!’ For five minutes he was still again. When he knew that he was talking with God, there came from the depths of his heart such petitions for men as I have never heard before. I rose from my knees knowing what real prayer is.”

We need more Praying Hydes today. Will you join with me with some elementary prayer? (Luke 18:1).

Published By THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches

Vol. 7 No. 4 (April 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

“We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did not require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of his personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But He made no such plea. Sabbath by Sabbath even He was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?”

Concluding today with our review of Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield’s address, The Religious Life of Theological Students, we close with a section of his message which is highly applicable to us all.

I am not counseling you, you will observe, to make your theological studies your sole religious exercises. They are religious exercises of the most rewarding kind; and your religious life will very much depend upon your treating them as such. But there are other religious exercises demanding your punctual attention which cannot be neglected without the gravest damage to your religious life. I refer particularly now to the stated formal religious meetings of the Seminary. I wish to be perfectly explicit here, and very emphatic. No man can withdraw himself from the stated religious services of the community of which he is a member, without serious injury to his personal religious life. It is not without significance that the apostolic writer couples together the exhortations, “to hold fast the confession of our hope, that it waver not,” and “to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together.” When he commands us not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together,” he has in mind, as the term he employs shows, the stated, formal assemblages of the community, and means to lay upon the hearts and consciences of his readers their duty to the church of which they are the supports, as well as their duty to themselves. And when he adds, “As the custom of some is,” he means to put a lash into his command. We can see his lip curl as he says it. Who are these people, who are so vastly strong, so supremely holy, that they do not need the assistance of the common worship for themselves; and who, being so strong and holy, will not give their assistance to the common worship?

Needful as common worship is, however, for men at large, the need of it for men at large is as nothing compared with its needfulness for a body of young men situated as you are. You are gathered together here for a religious purpose, in preparation for the highest religious service which can be performed by men—the guidance of others in the religious life; and shall you have everything else in common except worship? You are gathered together here, separated from your homes and all that home means; from the churches in which you have been brought up, and all that church fellowship means; from all the powerful natural influences of social religion—and shall you not yourselves form a religious community, with its own organic religious life and religious expression? I say it deliberately, that a body of young men, living apart in a community-life, as you are and must be living, cannot maintain a healthy, full, rich religious life individually, unless they are giving organic expression to their religious life as a community in frequent stated diets of common worship. Nothing can take the place of this common organic worship of the community as a community, at its stated seasons, and as a regular function of the corporate life of the community. Without it you cease to be a religious community and lack that support and stay, that incitement and spur, that comes to the individual from the organic life of the community of which he forms a part.

In my own mind, I am quite clear that in an institution like this the whole body of students should come together, both morning and evening, every day, for common prayer; and should join twice on every Sabbath in formal worship. Without at least this much common worship I do not think the institution can preserve its character as a distinctively religious institution—an institution whose institutional life is primarily a religious one. And I do not think that the individual students gathered here can, with less full expression of the organic religious life of the institution, preserve the high level of religious life on which, as students of theology they ought to live. You will observe that I am not merely exhorting you “to go to church.” “Going to church” is in any case good. But what I am exhorting you to do is go to your own church—to give your presence and active religious participation to every stated meeting for worship of the institution as an institution. Thus you will do your part to give to the institution an organic religious life, and you will draw out from the organic religious life of the institution a support and inspiration for your own personal religious life which you can get nowhere else, and which you can cannot afford to miss—if, that is, you have a care to your religious quickening and growth. To be an active member of a living religious body is the condition of healthy religious functioning.

I trust you will not tell me that the stated religious exercises of the Seminary are too numerous, or are wearying. That would only be to betray the low ebb of your own religious vitality. The feet of him whose heart is warm with religious feeling turn of themselves to the sanctuary, and carry him with joyful steps to the house of prayer. I am told that there are some students who do not find themselves in a prayerful mood in the early hours of a winter morning; and are much too tired at the close of a hard day’s work to pray, and therefore do not find it profitable to attend prayers in the late afternoon: who think the preaching at the regular service on Sabbath morning dull and uninteresting, and who do not find Christ at the Sabbath afternoon conference. Such things I seem to have heard before; and yours will be an exceptional pastorate, if you do not hear something very like them, before you have been in a pastorate six months. Such things meet you every day on the street; they are the ordinary expression of the heart which is dulled or is dulling to the religious appeal. They are not hopeful symptoms among those whose life should be lived on the religious heights. No doubt, those who minister to you in spiritual things should take them to heart. And you who are ministered to must take them to heart, too. And let me tell you straight out that the preaching you find dull will no more seem dull to you if you faithfully obey the Master’s precept: “Take heed how ye hear”; that if you do not find Christ in the conference room it is because you do not take him there with you; that, if after an ordinary day’s work you are too weary to unite with your fellows in closing the day with common prayer, it is because the impulse to prayer is weak in your heart. If there is no fire in the pulpit it falls to you to kindle it in the pews. No man can fail to meet with God in the sanctuary if he takes God there with him.

How easy it is to roll the blame of our cold hearts over upon the shoulders of our religious leaders! It is refreshing to observe how Luther, with his breezy good sense, dealt with complaints of lack of attractiveness in his evangelical preachers. He had not sent them out to please people, he said, and their function was not to interest or to entertain; their function was to teach the saving truth of God, and, if they did that, it was frivolous for people in danger of perishing for want of the truth to object to the vessel in which it was offered to them. When the people of Torgau, for instance, wished to dismiss their pastors, because, they said, their voices were too weak to fill the churches, Luther simply responded, “That’s an old song: better have some difficulty in hearing the gospel than no difficulty at all in hearing what is very far from the gospel.” “People cannot have their ministers exactly as they wish,” he declares again, “they should thank God for the pure word,” and not demand St. Augustines and St. Ambroses to preach it to them. If a pastor pleases the Lord Jesus and is faithful to him,—there is none so great and mighty but he ought to be pleased with him, too. The point, you see, is that men who are hungry for the truth and get it ought not to be exigent as to the platter in which it is served to them. And they will not be.

But why should we appeal to Luther? Have we not the example of our Lord Jesus Christ? Are we better than He? Surely, if ever there was one who might justly plead that the common worship of the community had nothing to offer him it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But every Sabbath found Him seated in His place among the worshiping people, and there was no act of stated worship which He felt Himself entitled to discard. Even in His most exalted moods, and after His most elevating experiences, He quietly took His place with the rest of God’s people, sharing with them in the common worship of the community. Returning from that great baptismal scene, when the heavens themselves were rent to bear Him witness that He was well pleasing to God; from the searching trials of the wilderness, and from that first great tour in Galilee, prosecuted, as we are expressly told, “in the power of the Spirit”; He came back, as the record tells, “to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and”—so proceeds the amazing narrative—”He entered, as His custom was, into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day.” “As His custom was!” Jesus Christ made it His habitual practice to be found in His place on the Sabbath day at the stated place of worship to which He belonged. “It is a reminder,” as Sir William Robertson Nicoll well insists, “of the truth which, in our fancied spirituality, we are apt to forget—that the holiest personal life can scarcely afford to dispense with stated forms of devotion, and that the regular public worship of the church, for all its local imperfections and dullness, is a divine provision for sustaining the individual soul.” “We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did not require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of his personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But He made no such plea. Sabbath by Sabbath even He was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?” Is it necessary for me to exhort those who would fain be like Christ, to see to it that they are imitators of Him in this?

Words to Live By:
Your brothers and sisters in Christ hope to see you gather together with them to worship our risen Lord and Savior. See you in Church this Sunday!
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—
Hebrews 10:25.

Beware of Becoming Weary of God!

Continuing today our mini-series in review of B.B. Warfield’s address, THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THEOLOGICAL STUDENTS. Regrettably, our time is short today, and without introductory comment we must simply place before you another excerpt from Dr. Warfield’s message:

 

There is certainly something wrong with the religious life of a theological student who does not study. But it does not quite follow that therefore everything is right with his religious life if he does study. It is possible to study—even to study theology—in an entirely secular spirit. I said a little while ago that what religion does is to send a man to his work with an added quality of devotion. In saying that, I meant the word “devotion” to be taken in both its senses—in the sense of “zealous application,” and in the sense of “a religious exercise,” as the Standard Dictionary phrases the two definitions. A truly religious man will study anything which it becomes his duty to study with “devotion” in both of these senses. That is what his religion does for him: it makes him do his duty, do it thoroughly, do it “in the Lord.” But in the case of many branches of study, there is nothing in the topics studied which tends directly to feed the religious life, or to set in movement the religious emotions, or to call out specifically religious reaction. If we study them “in the Lord,” that is only because we do it “for his sake,” on the principle which makes “sweeping a room” an act of worship. With theology it is not so. In all its branches alike, theology has as its unique end to make God known: the student of theology is brought by his daily task into the presence of God, and is kept there. Can a religious man stand in the presence of God, and not worship? It is possible, I have said, to study even theology in a purely secular spirit. But surely that is possible only for an irreligious man, or at least for an unreligious man. And here I place in your hands at once a touchstone by which you may discern your religious state, and an instrument for the quickening of your religious life. Do you prosecute your daily tasks as students of theology as “religious exercises”? If you do not, look to yourselves: it is surely not all right with the spiritual condition of that man who can busy himself daily with divine things, with a cold and impassive heart. If you do, rejoice. But in any case, see that you do! And that you do it ever more and more abundantly. Whatever you may have done in the past, for the future make all your theological studies “religious exercises.” This is the great rule for a rich and wholesome religious life in a theological student. Put your heart into your studies; do not merely occupy your mind with them, but put your heart into them. They bring you daily and hourly into the very presence of God; his ways, his dealing with men, the infinite majesty of his Being form their very subject-matter. Put the shoes from off your feet in this holy presence!

We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him, because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in his goodness who makes his sun to rise on him, though he is evil, and sends rain to him, though he is unjust; so you may come to handle even the furniture of the sanctuary with never a thought above the gross early materials of which it is made. The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, and inflections, and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. God’s stately stepping in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to the production of social and religious conditions, and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space, which may come to your notice. It is your great danger. But it is your great danger, only because it is your great privilege. Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world’s work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!

Words to Live By:
Become weary of God? Weary of worshiping the One who made us, who sent His Son to save us from our sins, that we might have eternal fellowship with Him? Weary of His presence? How could that ever be? And yet, in full display of our sinful nature, all too often it can happen. May our Lord deliver us from falling in that way. The Scriptures repeatedly talk of how God has made His works to be remembered, and this is key, I think, to helping us from falling into such a weariness, as we practice a daily remembrance of His grace, His many blessings, His many mercies, both as they are recorded on the pages of the Bible and as they are displayed in the lives of His children. Remembering His works serves to keep our hearts fresh and tender before Him.

For our next several posts, we will be reviewing a powerful address by Benjamin B. Warfield, titled THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THEOLOGICAL STUDENTS. Dr. Warfield, who was himself a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (class of 1876), served as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology there from 1887 until his death in 1921. His address on the religious life of seminary students was originally delivered before the Autumn Conference at Princeton, on October 4, 1911. Today our post will look at an opening portion of the address, in which he discusses what is called the doctrine of vocation, and while his focus is on seminary students and their call to the ministry, this same doctrine of vocation is fully applicable to the rest of us, whatever our calling in life.

 

Perhaps the intimacy of the relation between the work of a theological student and his religious life will nevertheless bear some emphasizing. Of course you do not think religion and study incompatible. But it is barely possible that there may be some among you who think of them too much apart—who are inclined to set their studies off to one side, and their religious life off to the other side, and to fancy that what is given to the one is taken from the other. No mistake could be more gross. Religion does not take a man away from his work; it sends him to his work with an added quality of devotion. We sing—do we not?—

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see—
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

If done t’ obey Thy laws,
E’en servile labors shine,
Hallowed is toil, if this the cause,
The meanest work divine.

It is not just the way George Herbert wrote it. He put, perhaps, a sharper point on it. He reminds us that a man may look at his work as he looks at a pane of glass—either seeing nothing but the glass, or looking straight through the glass to the wide heavens beyond. And he tells us plainly that there is nothing so mean but that the great words, “for thy sake,” can glorify it:

A servant, with this clause,
Makes drudgery divine,
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that, and the action, fine.

But the doctrine is the same, and it is the doctrine, the fundamental doctrine, of Protestant morality, from which the whole system of Christian ethics unfolds. It is the great doctrine of “vocation,” the doctrine, to wit, that the best service we can offer to God is just to do our duty—our plain, homely duty, whatever that may chance to be. The Middle Ages did not think so; they cut a cleft between the religious and the secular life, and counseled him who wished to be religious to turn his back on what they called “the world,” that is to say, not the wickedness that is in the world— “the world, the flesh and the devil,” as we say—but the work-a-day world, that congeries of occupations which forms the daily task of men and women, who perform their duty to themselves and their fellowmen. Protestantism put an end to all that. As Professor Doumergue eloquently puts it,

“Then Luther came, and, with still more consistency, Calvin, proclaiming the great idea of vocation, an idea and a word which are found in the languages of all the Protestant peoples—Beruf, Calling, Vocation—and which are lacking in the languages of the peoples of antiquity and of medieval culture. Vocation—it is the call of God, addressed to every man, whoever he may be, to lay upon him a particular work, no matter what. And the calls, and therefore also the called, stand on a complete equality with one another. The burgomaster is God’s burgomaster; the physician is God’s physician; the merchant is God’s merchant; the laborer is God’s laborer. Every vocation, liberal, as we call it, or manual, the humblest and the vilest in appearance as truly as the noblest and the most glorious, is of divine right.”

Talk of the divine right of kings! Here is the divine right of every workman, no one of whom needs to be ashamed, if only he is an honest and good workman. “Only laziness,” adds Professor Doumergue, “is ignoble, and while Romanism multiplies its mendicant orders, the Reformation banishes the idle from its towns.”

Now, as students of theology your vocation is to study theology; and to study it diligently, in accordance with the apostolic injunction: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord.” It is precisely for this that you are students of theology; this is your “next duty,” and the neglect of duty is not a fruitful religious exercise. Dr. Charles Hodge, in his delightful auto-biographical notes, tells of Philip Lindsay, the most popular professor in the Princeton College of his day—a man sought by nearly every college in the Central States for its presidency—that “he told our class that we would find that one of the best preparations for death was a thorough knowledge of the Greek grammar.” “This,” comments Dr. Hodge, in his quaint fashion, “was his way of telling us that we ought to do our duty.” Certainly, every man who aspires to be a religious man must begin by doing his duty, his obvious duty, his daily task, the particular work which lies before him to do at this particular time and place. If this work happens to be studying, then his religious life depends on nothing more fundamentally than on just studying.

You might as well talk of a father who neglects his parental duties, of a son who fails in all the obligations of filial piety, of an artisan who systematically skimps his work and turns in a bad job, of a workman who is nothing better than an eye-servant, being religious men as of a student who does not study being a religious man. It cannot be: you cannot build up a religious life except you begin by performing faithfully your simple, daily duties. It is not the question whether you like these duties. You may think of your studies what you please. You may consider that you are singing precisely of them when you sing of “e’en servile labors,” and of “the meanest work.” But you must faithfully give yourselves to your studies, if you wish to be religious men. No religious character can be built up on the foundation of neglected duty.

Words to Live By:
Why complicate the matter? Dr. Warfield cuts through all the clutter and puts the simple truth before us: “You cannot build up a religious life except you begin by performing faithfully your simple, daily duties. . . No religious character can be built up on the foundation of neglected duty.” Here it might be important to note that when Dr. Warfield uses the word religious, we might instead use the word spiritual today. But the point stands, and should be taken to heart. More on this as Dr. Warfield continues, tomorrow.

For another examination of this message from B.B. Warfield, see the brief essay from 2014 by Dr. L. Michael Morales, chair of biblical studies at Reformation Bible College..

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Optimally, I Think We Can Say He Was a Transformer.

The Rev. Ebenezer Prime was born at Milford, Connecticut on July 21 of the year 1700. He graduated from Yale College in 1718, the same year that the school was first so named. Following graduation, he became the assistant to the Rev. Mr. Eliphalet Jones, the Pastor of the Church at Huntington, and was later ordained collegiate pastor of this Church on June 5, 1723. Rev. Prime continued in this charge until his death, on October 3, 1779.

Rev. Prime carefully kept a record book for the next fifty-six years of his ministry. He began with a full account of his ordination. After that, he wrote out in full his own confession of faith, and it strikes this writer that this sort of thing would be a good exercise for any new pastor. For one, in later years a review of his own confession would display how he had matured, or perhaps would evidence where he had changed his views. A sample paragraph from Rev. Prime’s confession of faith:

“I believe that the Saints of God shall persevere in Holiness, and never totally or finally fall away from Grace; he who hath begun a good Work in them will carry it on until the Day of Jesus Christ. All that were given to the Son in the eternal Covenant of Redemption shall come to him & none shall be able to pluck them out of his Hands. But he will keep them By his mighty Power thro Faith unto Salvation.”

The remainder of Rev. Prime’s Record consists of membership rolls, baptisms, marriages, and miscellanea, including records of meetings. In sum, it is a remarkable display of diligent record keeping over a protracted period of time, and as such it reveals a great strength of character. Moreover,  Prime’s Recordtells the story of a pastor and his congregation, though admittedly we have to do some reading between the lines. Prime was also careful to make a record of the sermons he preached before his congregation, recording the sermon texts and the date of delivery, though for whatever reason, this record of his sermons was not included in the printed edition of his Record.

A few interesting observations drawn from Prime’s Record by the editor, Moses L. Scudder:

After noting that the First Church of Huntington was organized at about the same time as the town itself, namely, about 1660, and that originally the church was Independent, or Congregational, but became Presbyterian in 1748, Mr. Scudder then says:–

“At Mr. Prime’s ordination the membership of the Church was only 15 men and 27 women, although the assessment lists of earlier time show more than a hundred resident tax payers. It is plain that only a small proportion of the citizens formally professed religion and belonged to the church. Of the fourteen persons chosen at the town meeting in May of 1724, as is shown on the town records, as trustees, assessors, collector, constable and other town officers, only two appear by Mr. Prime’s Record to have been members of the Church; and one of these, Jeremiah Wood, a Trustee of the Town, and consequently a person of good repute among his neighbors, appears in Mr. Prime’s Record to have been ‘Under Censure of Admonition.’ “

“Another curious fact may be observed. Nearly all the male members of the Church at [the time of] Mr. Prime’s ordination have “senr.” opposite their names. This indicates that they were old men, probably the sons of the original settlers. It may be inferred that the third generation were not generally members of the Church. Whether these facts tell of a low state of religious interest and a reaction form the strictness of the primitive Puritans I will not attempt to inquire.”

“Nevertheless this was during nearly all of Mr. Prime’s pastorate the only church in Huntington, and it is probable that all the respectable inhabitants were regular attendants at its services and contributors to its support. Consequently, the record of the marriages solemnized by its pastor comprises practically all the marriages of the residents of the town during those years.”

“It was the practice to have infants baptized a few days after birth, apparently whether the parents were members of the church or not. Hence the pastor’s record of baptisms is approximately a record of births in the families resident in the town. Unfortunately in this record the names of the parents of the children baptized are rarely set down.”

Words to Live By:
A long, faithful pastorate in the same church is unusual enough. What the long-term effects of that pastorate on the congregation and on succeeding generations, might be, is perhaps impossible to tell. But that God did bless the pastor with such tenure, is it then too much to hope, or even expect that the Lord will also bless that congregation commensurately? Someone has said that a people get the pastor they deserve. What greater motivation to pray for your pastor, to encourage and assist him where you can, and to yourself live as a Christian, walking humbly and faithfully each day before your Lord.

To read the whole of Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723-1779, by Rev. Ebenezer Prime, click here.

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