This is a portion of an interesting review of the 1914 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), written by Columbia Theological Seminary professor, R.C. Reed [1851-1925].

His report is interesting for dating the noted change in the conduct of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly, from that of a more deliberative body to something more akin to a business model. The Assembly had been in the habit of meeting for nine days, and now had been meeting for only six, since 1912. Here Rev. Reed complains of the hurried nature of the Assembly and the resulting lack of patient, reasoned debate. Elsewhere we have noted that on one occasion, the Rev. John L. Girardeau spoke at length for twohours on the floor of the Assembly, in 1880. More remarkable still, the Assembly paid attention to his every word!

From the Union Seminary Review, vol. 26, no. 1 (October 1914)

The General Assembly, reviewed by Rev. Professor R.C. Reed, Columbia, SC.

The fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, met in the Central Church, Kansas City, Mo., May 21, 1914, and was dissolved at 3:30 P.M., Thursday, May 28th. This is the third Assembly in succession which has limited the span of its life to six working days. These precedents will probably have the force of law for the future. Time was when the Assembly had to rush its business toward the close, in order to dissolution by the end of the ninth day from date of organization. The volume of business has increased rather than diminished. The recent Assemblies have shortened the time not by covering less ground, but by increasing the speed. The liberty of speech has been abridged. it has come to pass that by the time a speaker gets fairly launched, the cry of “question,” “question,” warns the speaker that further effort to get a hearing for his views will be useless. Age and distinguished services do not secure immunity from such discourtesy. The Assembly is ceasing to be a deliberative body, and coming to be an organization merely for business routine.

Obviously, our Assemblies are inoculated with the speed-madness of the age. It could hardly be otherwise. The members, who compose the Assembly, are accustomed by the use of the telephone, rapid transit, and other time-saving devices, to dispatch business at a rate that would have made a former generation dizzy. The speed at which we live is constantly increasing, with the result that we are growing more and more restless. The slightest delay is irksome. The train that pulls into the station ten minutes late creates almost a mob-spirit in those who have been constrained to lose so much of their precious time. When men, who live and move and have their being in an atmosphere charged with the frenzy of hurry, come together in a General Assembly, it is not surprising that they should begrudge every minute that does not show a decided progress in the calendar of business. They are not in the habit of having time to spare. Speech-making is not business, rather it is a clog on the machinery, and the less of it the sooner the members can record their votes and get at something else. The moderator is a good moderator in proportion as he rushes the grist through the mill.

May not an Assembly prize too highly the merit of expedition? Is the business entrusted to it of such a character that it can be properly dispatched with little or no deliberation? Are the members so familiar with all the questions with which they have to deal that they do not need to give time and thought to them? Many of these questions demand for their safe solution an extensive acquaintance with Scripture interpretation; many of them involve fundamental principles of ecclesiastical law. Have all our members grown so expert in these departments of knowledge as no longer to need the help of leaders? Does this explain why they are so impatient with all attempted leadership, with all efforts to discuss principles and precedents, with all appeals to the teachings of the fathers who have fallen asleep? A more probable explanation is that things which deeply interested the fathers do not much interest the children. The boast of this age is that it is intensely practical. What we demand is results. We care little for doctrines, theories, principles, precedents–we are for doing things. When we see what we want, why should we be turned aside, or delayed in the attainment of our object by a discussion of some outgrown theories, or some technicalities of law, or some old moss-covered doctrines touching the true nature and functions of the church? Let the past suffice for debate over these things. We have consumed time enough in talk–this is the day for action. Such would appear to be the spirit in which our Assemblies meet and transact their business. A spirit not to be condemned unqualifiedly. Doubtless we have had too much discussion by doctrinairies, and by those who think the church’s mission is accomplished when it has “contended earnestly for the faith.” There are those who prefer to do nothing rather than take the risk of doing wrong. John McNeil says: “Caution and Presbyterians go together, but where do they go?” It is not surprising if some grow impatient of this proverbial caution, nor are they to blame for insisting that we quicken our pace and go somewhere. But we may swing to the other extreme, and for the sake of expedition, sacrifice principles that deserve perpetuation. We are warned against “daubing with untempered mortar.” The sad results of haste are seen in the contradictory deliverances of some of our Assemblies. The Lord’s work is entitled to all the time and thought that we can give it in order to do it in the best possible way.

Image source: Photograph of the Rev. R.C. Reed, as found in Calvin Memorial Addresses. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1909. Photo facing page 14.

The moderator of the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was a ruling elder–the Hon. W. Jack Williamson. Since that time, the PCA has established a tradition of alternating between ruling elders and teaching elders in its nomination and election of moderators for the General Assembly. But this practice remains unusual among Presbyterian denominations. Even within our own ecclesiastical heritage, it wasn’t always so, as Rev. R.C. Reed explains in this review of the PCUS General Assembly of 1914 :

“The Assembly elected a ruling elder to preside over its sessions. The law which makes the ruling elder eligible to the moderatorship of all our church courts is but a corollary of a fundamental principle of Presbyterianism–the parity in authority of all Presbyters. Our church did right to put this corollary into the form of law, and it ought not to suffer the law to lapse into a condition of innocuous desuetude. We cannot be accused of working it overtime. The law was enacted in 1886. It was seven years after that date before it received its first practical recognition in the election of Hon. J.W. Lapsley. Only four ruling elders have presided over our Assemblies in the twenty-eight years since the way was open for them to be honored with this responsibility. Always there is good material among the ministerial members to fill the office, as there was in the last Assembly, and there is never any reluctance on their part to serve, but they, as well as others, allow the propriety of occasionally electing a ruling elder in order to do justice to the principle of parity.”

[excerpted from “The General Assembly of 1914” by R.C. Reed, in Union Seminary Review 26.1 (October 1914): 4.]

The Personal Testimony of A.A. Hodge

Browsing through an old periodical, I came across the following testimony by Archibald Alexander Hodge, son of Charles Hodge. I’m not sure if this testimony found its way into some other publication by A.A. Hodge, or otherwise where it came from. Perhaps some alert reader can let us know.

PERSONAL REASONS FOR BELIEVING CHRISTIANITY TO BE A REVELATION.

HodgeAABy Prof. A. A. Hodge, D.D., Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J.

To the question, “Why do I personally believe Christianity to be a Revelation?” I would say:

1.     I recognize the obvious fact that my rational and moral intuitions, and the information they afford, are as valid as my sense perceptions and the discoveries they make of the material world. Personality, freedom, moral responsibility—the eternal, ultimate, universal, and supreme obligation of the Right, are to me the first and most sure of realities.

2.     The light of my own personality, will, intelligence, and conscience, cast upon external nature, and upon the human society which surrounds me, reveals God. He is manifested in the exercise of my own consciousness, and in the phenomena of external nature, as the invisible spirits of our fellow-men are visible in their persons and actions; and I spontaneously recognize Him as certainly as I recognize them. Intelligence, choice, and, therefore, personality, are everywhere visible in the successions of external nature; and the presence of a presiding moral personality is witnessed to by the sense of responsibility and of guilt never absent from my own consciousness. To the extent to which science renders nature intelligible is the latter proved to be the product of an ever-present and acting intelligence. This God is discerned to be immanent in the external and internal world, as distributed through space and time, just as clearly as the phenomena themselves through the medium of which He is manifested. At the same time, He is just as clearly and as certainly discerned as a moral and providential Governor objective to ourselves, transcending all phenomena, and speaking to us, and acting upon us from without.

3.      As thus revealed, it is evident that this God has created me in His own image. Instincts, also, which cannot be denied, testify that He is my Father. As a child of God, unassuagable instinct cries for union with Him. As a subject of His moral government, I know myself to be justly exposed to His wrath because of sin, and that I must have a Mediator to make my peace, else I die. His treatment of the race historically, and of me personally, affords strong presumption that He will sometime reveal Himself to me, and redeem me from the ruin effected by my sin.

4.     I was born in a Christian family, and in a Christian Church. Parents and friends lived before me from the beginning lives which, in strong contrast with the character of the surrounding community, were unmistakably supernatural. Through the subsequent years, I have seen innumerable individuals of many nationalities whose lives and deaths, in spite of all inconsistencies, possessed the same supernatural character. All these referred the mystery of their lives to the facts of an Incarnation of God eighteen hundred years ago, and to the subsequent indwelling of a Divine Person in their hearts. The history of this stupendous event, and the promise of this indwelling, I found recorded in a Book, itself giving, whenever and wherever believingly received, equal evidence of supernatural origin and power.

5.     The Bible and the Church thus present me with Christ. I find His person, life, words, death, and resurrection, and the consequence thereof, to be, when accepted as intended by the evangelists, the key which gives unity to all history, or, on the contrary, when not so understood, an infinite anomaly, neither to be reasoned away, nor explained. The very God immanent in nature und in conscience is revealed in this Christ with a satisfying completeness, solving all problems, and satisfying all needs—expiating human  guilt, sanctifying human life, reconciling the Moral Governor to His sinful subject, and uniting the Heavenly Father to His child.

6.     This objective revelation of Christ in the Bible and in the Church, once accepted as genuine many years ago, has ever since been developed and strengthened in my consciousness, by a religious experience, which, however imperfect, has proved continuous, progressive, and practically real, to this day—a power in my life as well as a light in my sky.

7.     This confidence grows more entirely satisfying through every renewed examination I am able to make of the historical monuments by which the fundamental facts of Christianity are certified. The authenticity of the records, the definite certainty of the facts, the miracles wrought, and the prophecies fulfilled, are among the best established events in history. If these be denied, there will be nothing left of which we can be sure. The supernatural birth, life, death, and resurrection of the God-man, and the miraculous growth of the early Church are all to me certainties, implicated in all rational views of the past or present state of mankind.

8.     This is corroborated by all I have learned, as for years the pupil of Joseph Henry, of the genuine results and tendencies of modern science. Instead of stumbling at special and transient collisions, I have seen it to be true, as in all other healthy, open-eyed vision, that the worlds of matter and spirit, and the revolutions of Scripture and science gloriously supplement and interpret each other. As the body is organized to the uses of the spirit, and the shrine to its resident divinity, so science is evermore unveiling the Temple which none other than the Triune God of Christianity can fill with His presence and crown with His glory.

9.     The conviction of the truth of Christianity is greatly confirmed by the violent contrasts afforded by all other religions, by the miserable failures the best of them achieve; in their historical records; in their representations of God, of nature, and of man; in their provisions for the needs of the human reason, conscience, or affection; in the relation of their cosmogonies to the results of modern science; and in their influence upon human character and life, individual and collective.

10.     Finally, my satisfaction with Christianity is consummated by the sorry plight presented by all the various parties who deny its truth, or rebel from its authority. Uncertain, inconsistent, inharmonious, instable, unfruitful, they take refuge in negations, and nowhere dare confront Christianity with positive, coherent counterpositions of creed, of evidence, or of practical results.—Ex.

[excerpted from The Pulpit Treasury, vol. 3, no. 8 (October 1885): 371-373.]

“He Did Not Die Too Soon; No Christian Ever Does.”

I remember what a shock it was, back in 1993, to hear of Ray’s death. A beloved friend and professor was seemingly snatched away in the prime of life. It is almost as jarring to realize that twenty-six years have now passed. The following obituary was written by J. Alan Groves and appeared as an insert page in the Westminster Seminary Bulletin, volume 32, no 3 (Fall 1993).

Raymond Bryan Dillard, Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Westminster Theological Seminary, died on this day, October 1, in 1993, while working in the woods near his home. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he was 49 years old at the time of his death.

Professor Dillard graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1969 and completed his Ph.D. at Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning in 1975. He did other post-graduate work at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and Tel Aviv University. His teaching career spanned 24 years, all of it at Westminster. He held adjunct positions at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary and served as guest lecturer in numerous other institutions.

An exacting and careful scholar, a revered teacher, Professor Dillard was a master of classroom drama. Sought after for his lecturing gifts, he spoke throughout the United States, Europe, Israel and the Far East. Over the past five years he led lay seminars in the U.S. and Britain on the significance of the Old Testament.

The author of numerous articles and monographs, Dillard’s earliest scholarly work was as a translator of the New International Version of the Bible, the most widely selling Bible in the English language today. He was the author of a commentary on 2 Chronicles in the Word Biblical Commentary as well one on the book of Joel in the Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Baker). At the time of his death he was working on the book of Esther for the Biblia Hebraica Diplomatica, a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible being produced (under the auspices of the United Bible Societies) by an international team of biblical scholars. He was also the co-author, with Professor Tremper Longman of Westminster Seminary, of the forthcoming Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan).

Chairman of the faculty for much of the past 12 years, Dillard had the respect and esteem of his colleagues older as well as younger. He was an ordained minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church in America and preached regularly in their churches. His professional memberships included the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Besides his academic interests, he loved the outdoors and hunting. Dillard was a master cabinetmaker and handyman. One was as likely to find him with a hammer in his hand as with some tome. A pilot, sometimes judo instructor and radio broadcaster, Professor Dillard still found time for raising three boys and for listening to students.

Professor Dillard was the son of Raymond Eugene and Ruth Wallace Dillard of Fayetteville, North Carolina who survived him. Also surviving him are his wife Ann Albrecht Dillard, with whom he celebrated their 27th anniversary in June of 1993, and his three sons, Joel B., Jonathan B. and Joshua A. Dr. Dillard is survived by a brother Bruce of Raleigh, North Carolina, three nieces, one nephew, and his aunt Madeline Wallace of Louisville, Kentucky.

Words to Live By:
We will all come to that moment when this life must end. Are you prepared for what will follow? Are you prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord of all creation? Have you learned to welcome each day as if it might be your last? So pray and so live as to stay ever close to your Lord and Savior.

 

For Further Reading:
The Death of a Christian, a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon.

Let This Be Our Reminder to Pray for the Church in China!

On the Spirituality of the Church—A Real-Life Example.

In his History of Columbia Theological Seminary, William Childs Robinson wrote:

DuBose, HampdenC_02Among the sons of Columbia sent out by the Southern Presbyterian Church, perhaps none has a deeper hold on the affectionate memory of the church than Hampden C. DuBose—the biographer of Dr. J. L. Wilson. Dr. DuBose was a South Carolinian, a Confederate Soldier—and for almost fifty years a soldier of the Cross, claiming for his King the city of Soochow, China (1872-1910). He preached indefatigably in the market and the street. He used his pen in translating and in writing a religious literature for the Chinese. Among these works he translated a book by his old Seminary professor, Dr. Wm. S. Plumer The Rock of Our Salvation. He was made President of the Chinese Anti-Opium League, and wrought so effectively in that endeavor that the movement to suppress the opium traffic became “the strongest movement in China.” Rev. DuBose died on September 30, 1910.

The Minutes of the China Mission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), provide many interesting insights into that work and time. We find one particularly noteworthy feature in their Minutes for 1899, when a stand was taken by the Mission in regard to the Mission’s relationship with the Chinese government. This would just prior to the time of the Boxer Rebellion, perhaps even only in the months prior.

The paper adopted by the PCUS China Mission, while a response to the pending crisis that faced them, also provides a good insight in the practical outworking of the doctrine of the spirituality of the Church, at least as held by Southern Presbyterians:

“This Mission overtures other Presbyterian bodies laboring in China to meet in conference the day previous to the General Missionary Conference, in 1901 [I presume here they were looking ahead two years to this then future meeting], to discuss the following questions: (1) Presbyterial union. (2) The establishment of a Presbyterian theological seminary. (3) The establishment of a weekly Presbyterian newspaper in Chinese. (4) The observance of the Sabbath.”

But, next to the division of the Mission, perhaps the most important action taken by the Mission was that defining the political status of missionaries. This paper is as follows:

“With regard to the political status of missionaries in China, and the regulations which should control their intercourse with Chinese officials,

Resolved, That the members of the Southern Presbyterian Mission ask nothing more than the rights of private citizens of the United States.
“This resolution is based upon the following considerations:

“1. That functions of a missionary are spiritual. His great work is to care for souls. To assume political power in reality, or even in appearance, is inconsistent with the nature of his office.

“2. Right relations between church and State forbid missionaries to claim ‘equal rank with viceroys and governors,’ ‘demand interviews,’ with them, and with them ‘negotiate and conclude affairs.’ The missionary is not an officer of the State. The United States’ Minister and the Consuls are in China to protect, and do protect, all their fellow-citizens, and the missionary must not usurp or disregard their authority. For a missionary to interfere int he government of China is wrong in principle and pernicious in practice.

“3. Whatever rights of appeal to local officials, or to officers of high rank, may be secured for all citizens of the United Stats, may, with propriety, be used by missionaries, who should, in exercising their rights, be on an equality with other private citizens, and in no way claim to be officers of the United States, or to be equal in rank with any Chinese officials.

/signed/

J.W. Davis,
S.I. Woodbridge,
J.L. Stuart.
Committee.”

Source: The Missionary, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1900): 81-82.

Words to Live By:
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ ”—John 18:36, ESV.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 47-48

Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?

A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God ; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other which is due to him alone.

EXPLICATION.

Denying God. –Doubting if there be, and desiring that there were no God ; neglecting to improve our minds by obtaining a proper knowledge of the character and perfections of God, as made known in his word ; and committing sin as if there were no God to see and punish us for it.

Not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God and our God. –This means both a total neglect of prayer to God, and also the pretending to honor and serve him with our lips in public, while our hearts are far away from him.

Due to him alone. –Which ought to be paid to God, and to none else.

ANALYSIS.

From this answer, we learn that the sins forbidden in the first commandment, are of four sorts :

  1. The denying of the true God –Psalm xiv. 1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

2. The not worshipping and glorifying of him “as God.” –Rom. i. 20, 21. So that they are without excuse, because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.

3. Neglecting to honor him as “our God.” –Psalm lxxxi. 11. But my people would not hearken unto my voice, Israel would none of me.

4. The giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. –Rom. i. 25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.

Q. 48. What are we especially taught by these words “before me,” in the first commandment?

A. These words, “before me,” in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.

EXPLICATION.

Much displeased. –Highly offended, or very angry.

The sin of having any other God. –Having any other object which we prefer to God, and love better than him.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer we are informed of three things :

  1. That God sees all things. –Heb. iv. 13. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
  2. That he takes notice of the sin of having any other God. –Psalm xliv. 20, 21. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out?
  3. That he is much displeased with this sin. –Deut. xxxii. 16. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods.

FAREWELL LETTER OF REV. WM. S. PLUMER, D. D.TO THE CENTRAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ALLEGHENY, PA.
Read September 28, 1862.

FAREWELL LETTER. _______

The following Farewell Letter of Rev. Dr. Plumer, to the Central Presbyterian Church of Allegheny, Penna., having been read from the Pulpit on Sabbath, September 28th, 1862, is printed for the use of the congregation, at their special request, by

THE SESSION.

_______
BURLINGTON, N. J., September 24, 1862.

To the Central Presbyterian Church, Allegheny, Pa.

DEAR, DEAR FRIENDS AND BRETHREN: Many among you have expressed a desire to hear from me. I do not regard such wish as unreasonable. Oh, that I could say something that would edify and comfort you all. God is my record how I long for you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. I often, in the dead hours of the night, carry your case to a throne of grace. I never loved any charge more than I have loved you. I could have freely laid down my life for you, if it would have done you any good. I know you love me and confide in me. As it may be some time before I shall see many of you, I venture, with the approval of the Session of your Church, to address to you some friendly, farewell counsels and salutations. I do this specially because I had no opportunity of doing so before leaving you.

PITTSBURGH:
PRINTED BY BARR & MYERS, CORNER OF FIFTH AND WOOD STREETS. 1862.

1. I beseech you to see to it that ye be real, genuine Christians. Dig deep, and lay your sure foundations on the Rock, Christ. Make Him all in all. The longer I live the more I marvel at the greatness of Christ’s love to us and the feebleness of our love to him. Without Christ you can do nothing.

2. Try to be not only real but eminent Christians.“Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my Disciples.” In order to enjoy religion, we must be truly engaged and zealous. God can cause you to abound more and more in all that is lovely and gracious. Look to Him. Walk with Him. Trust Him in the darkest hour. Obey Him in all things.

3. I specially urge you to guard against all malicious feelings. Bear no grudges. Indulge no hatred. Be truly kind and pitiful. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Bless and curse not. Let all men see that you have a Christ-like temper. Try to be more and more gentle.“The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Malevolent feelings are a great torment. They are a great hindrance to a close and comfortable walking with God. They are a great sin.

4. I earnestly advise you to cling together. Be united. Be of one mind. Let no root of bitterness spring up among you and trouble you. Do not forsake the dear Church, where we have so happily worshiped God. The Lord will bless you richly, I doubt not. You must not be discouraged by any thing. Faithful is He that has promised a rich blessing to all that call upon Him.

5. I wish to thank you for all the love and confidence you have shown me. I beg a continued remembrance in your prayers. But I request that you do not allow your hearts to be crushed with care for me. I am indeed desolate, distressed, perplexed. I am without home or field of labor, or usual means of comfort. But I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be therewith content. I am happy, very happy, in Jesus. My cup overflows. All is well. Jesus reigns. I fare better than my Master did when on earth. True, I have no certain dwelling-place, but neither had thousands of primitive Christians and preachers. Do not brood over my trials. I have not yet resisted unto blood.

6. I beg you to love and care for all the little children of the congregation. I love them. I know they love me. Ask them sometimes to pray for me. Do not let them forget me. But, above all, teach them to love the Saviour. He is the friend, the best friend, the almighty friend, the unchanging friend, of all little boys and girls who put their trust in Him. He says, “I love them that love me, and those that seek me early will find me.”

7. Among you are some who are peculiarly children of sorrow, and all of you are liable to become so at any time. To all such let me say, the promises of God are sure and ample. Never distrust God’s goodness. I will venture to ask you to read a little Tract of mine called “Comforts and counsels for the afflicted.” It may be had at the Presbyterian Book Rooms.

8. To such of the congregation as do not yet love the Lord Jesus Christ, I wish to say a few words: Dear friends, forgive me that I spoke to you so coldly of the love of Christ; so languidly of the bliss of Heaven; so tamely of the horrors of an undone eternity. I beg you now to give your hearts to Christ. Oh! that you would at once repent and believe the Gospel. With many tears falling, I beseech you to be reconciled to God. Oh! flee to Jesus.

9. As I had no opportunity of saying any parting words to the congregation, I say them now. I choose the words of Scripture. [Here read Psalm 37, 3-7.] The hardest word I ever said was Farewell. I never said it on a sadder occasion, or with a tenderer heart than I do now. Farewell, you dear little boys and girls. Farewell, you honored fathers and mothers in the congregation. Farewell, ye young men and maidens, who have been so pleasant to me. Farewell, ye honored elders and deacons. Farewell, my dear spiritual children, whom I have begotten in the Gospel. Farewell, old and young, rich and poor. I expect to pray for you with my dying breath. Once your pastor, I love you still.

Ever and affectionately yours,

WM. S. PLUMER.

Our post today consists of an excerpt from an address delivered on this day, September 27, in 1874, by the Rev. Dr. Charles Hodge, on the occasion of the re-opening of the chapel at the Princeton Theological Seminary. This discourse was delivered in the same year that saw the publication of Dr. Hodge’s brief work, What is Darwinism?, and just two years after the appearance of his monumental three-volume Systematic Theology. The occasion was also less than four years before his death in June of 1878. We note too that almost certainly among the gathered students that day in the chapel was the young Benjamin B. Warfield, who had entered the Seminary the year before. In his wonderful history of the Princeton Theological Seminary, my dear friend and esteemed professor Dr. David Calhoun sets the scene:

hodgeCharles_grayIn 1874 the seminary chapel was remodeled—”Victorianized” with stained glass windows, carpeting, and upholstered pews—through the gift of trustee John C. Green, a generous benefactor of the seminary who died the following year. At the seminary’s opening in September Charles Hodge gave the sermon. Hodge noted that over 3,000 ministers of the gospel had been trained at Princeton. “With rare exceptions,” he said, “they have been faithful men. They have labored in every part of our own land and in almost every missionary field.” He told the present students that they had assumed “grave responsibilities in coming to this place,” “Your first duty,” he said, “is to make your calling and election sure.” It is important that you seek the ministry, he told them, with pure and honest motives—”love to Christ, zeal for his glory, and a desire to save your fellow men.” “Your second duty,” Hodge said, “is to throw your whole heart into the work and, while here, into the work of preparation and into the life of the Seminary, whether in the classroom, the chapel, the conference, or prayer meeting.” Finally, in the name of his colleagues Hodge made a request of everyone.

“It is a small matter to you, but a great matter to us. We beg that each of you, as long as he lives, would daily pray that the officers and students of this Seminary may be full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Let others believe and say what they please, we believe and know that God is the hearer of prayer. If each of the two thousand surviving alumni of this Institution would daily offer that prayer, what a place Princeton would be!”
[Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. Banner of Truth, 1996, p. 42.]

What a place any seminary would be, if so invested before the throne of Glory with such prayer! Let this be your exhortation to so pray!

The full text of Hodge’s discourse can be viewed by clicking here, but for our purposes today, we will limit our excerpt to his opening words which form at once a brilliant summary of the core of Christian theology and a beautiful presentation of the Gospel of saving grace. 

Princeton Theological Seminary. A Discourse delivered at the re-opening of the chapel, September 27, 1874, by Charles Hodge, the Senior Professor.

It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.—I Cor. 1:21.

The Bible assumes all primary truths—whether principles of reason or facts of consciousness—and by assuming, authenticates them.

It assumes
1. That man has a soul capable of conscious existence and activity without the body; and that the soul is the man—that in which his personality and identity reside. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, and are now the same persons as when they dwelt on earth.

2. It assumes that man is a free moral agent; dependent, responsible and immortal.

3. It assumes that the well-being of all creatures depends on their preserving their normal relation to God.

4. It assumes that man has by sin lost his normal relation to God, and that by no effort of his own, and by no aid from any creature, can he be restored to the divine fellowship and favor.

These are among the assumptions of the Bible; and they are all self-evident truths. They enter into the convictions of all men in all ages of the world.

The Bible teaches concerning fallen men :
1. That it pleased God, out of His mere good mercy, to determine not to leave them in their estate of sin and misery but to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

2. That the only Redeemer of men is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continues to be both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

3. That Christ effects our redemption by exercising in our behalf the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He is Prophet or teacher, not only as He is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer, the effulgent image of God, but specially as He reveals to us the will of God for our salvation. He is our Priest in that He offered Himself unto God as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and in that He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is our King because He subdues us unto Himself, rules in, and reigns over us, and conquers all His and our enemies.

4. The Bible further teaches that the divinely appointed means for applying to men the benefits of Christ’s redemption is “the foolishness of preaching.” It is so called because, so far as the method of salvation is concerned, the wisdom of men is foolishness with God; and the wisdom of God is foolishness with man. In the beginning the gospel was a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek. We ought not, therefore, to be either surprised or concerned when, in our day, we hear the hierarchs of science proclaiming from their high places, that the supernatural is impossible, and that all faith is superstition. It has always been so and always will be so. Nevertheless in spite of the opposition of the Jews and of the contempt of the Greek, the gospel was, is, and will continue to be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.

To read the entire discourse, click here, It is well worth your time.

God Will Surely Provide

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]It was on this day, September 26th, in 1759, that the Rev. Samuel Davies was installed as President of the College of New Jersey. [It was upon the occasion of its sesquicentennial celebrations in 1896, that the school’s name was changed to Princeton University.]  How did the Lord prepare Samuel Davies for such an important position? One part of that story is told on the early pages of his Memoir:—

During the first part of the eighteenth century, religion was, perhaps, in a lower state of declension, throughout the British dominions, than at any other period since the reformation. The concurrent testimony of churchmen and dissenters establishes this fact. Many clergymen of various denominations had become very lukewarm, and in many instances exceedingly corrupt; and the people were ready enough to follow the steps of their spiritual guides. It was in this season of darkness that several men were born, who, afterwards, were burning and shining lights in the world. The names of Tennent, Blair, Edwards, Davies, and Whitefield, may suffice to illustrate this remark. Since their day, vital piety has gradually increased, and the spiritual condition of the church of Christ has become more prosperous. The subject of this memoir was powerfully instrumental in producing the happy change.

Samuel Davies was born in the county of Newcastle, Delaware, November 3, 1724. The Christian names of his parents are unknown to us; nor can we say anything of the origin of the family, or trace it beyond the immediate progenitors. The father is represented to have been a plain farmer, in very moderate circumstances; the mother a very sensible and judicious woman; both were pious. Their son was a child of prayer; and was from the birth devoted to God by the name of Samuel.

It is known that the religious declension, of which mention was made above, extended to Virginia. About the year 1740, some individuals in the county of Hanover were awakened to a deep concern for their eternal interests in a very extraordinary manner. A few leaves of Boston’s Fourfold State fell into the hands of a wealthy planter, and made so deep an impression on his mind, that he never rested until he procured a copy of the work. This book it is believed, was instrumental in affording light to his mind, and peace to his heart. Another gentleman, Mr. Samuel Morris, derived similar advantages from Luther on the Galatians. The books that had been so useful to these persons were read to others, and produced very great and happy effects. So deep was the sensation, that multitudes were accustomed to assemble for the purpose of hearing Morris read. His house was in a short time too small to contain them; and a meeting-house was built for the purpose, long known by the name of Morris’s reading room. In this state of things, the Rev. William Robinson, a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, was sent on a mission to the frontier settlements. On his tour, he entered Virginia, and preached with great acceptance among the Scotch and Irish, who had made settlements in the counties of Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Campbell.

At Cub Creek, in the county of Charlotte, he was heard by some of the young people from Hanover who had gone to visit their friends, and who soon sent back word what manner of man was among them. On receiving this intelligence, two messengers were immediately dispatched from Hanover for Mr. Robinson. He had left the place, but they followed in his tract and at length overtook him. He was prevailed on to consent to visit Hanover, and at the appointed time he came. For four days he continued among them, preaching to the crowds that had assembled at the reading room. This is described as a very remarkable season.

On Mr. Robinson’s taking leave, some of the gentlemen presented him with a considerable sum of money, not merely as a compensation for his faithful labors among them, but principally as an expression of that gratitude they felt towards Mr. Robinson, as the honored instrument of so much good to them. But he modestly declined their liberality, assigning for the reason of his refusal, not only the delicacy of his and their situation–that the enemies of the cause of religion might, should he receive it, endeavor to represent him as a mere mercenary, and thus wound and injure the infant flock; but chiefly because he did not need it, the Lord having blessed him with independence as to fortune; and being thus able, he wished to labor without being burdensome to those among whom he went preaching the gospel. These reasons, though strong and unanswerable, could not silence the pleadings of their heart-felt gratitude–a gratitude which found no other way of exercising itself towards its object but by some offering of this kind. They therefore repeatedly urged its acceptance, but he constantly and firmly declined the offer.

Seeing no hope of his receding from the determination he had taken not to receive their money, the committee entrusted with it put it into the hands of the gentleman with whom he was to lodge the last night of his stay in the county, with directions to convey it privately into his saddle-bags, not doubting but when, after his departure, he should find himself in possession of the money, he would appropriate it to his own use. This was accordingly done. And in the morning Mr. Robinson, having taken an affectionate leave of his kind friends, took his saddle-bags to depart; but he found them much more ponderous than when he came there. Searching for the cause, like Joseph’s brethren of old, he found the money in the sack’s mouth. Pleased with the benevolent artifice, he smiling said, “I see you are resolved I shall have your money. I will take it. But, as I have before told you, I do not need it. I have enough. Nor will I appropriate it to my own use. But there is a young man of my acquaintance, of promising talents and piety, who is now studying with a view to the ministry; but his circumstances are embarrassing; he has not funds to support and carry him on without much difficulty. This money will relieve him from his pecuniary difficulties. I will take charge of it and appropriate it to his use. And so soon as he is licensed, we will send him to visit you. And if you should be pleased with him, and he should be pleased with you, it may be that you may now, by your liberality, be educating a minister for yourselves.” The proposition was immediately accepted, and the money faithfully appropriated to the benefit of young Davies while pursuing his theological studies.

“And that is the reason,” said a pious old lady who communicated this, “that Mr. Davies came to Hanover; for he often used to say that he was inclined to settle in another place; but that he felt under obligation to the people of Hanover.” — This anecdote is not only told by aged persons who were cotemporary with Davies, but is handed down by tradition, and related in terms of the same import with those used above, by the grandchildren of some of Mr. Davies’s people.

Words to Live By:
It is delightful, from the present time, to look back to an occurrence apparently so trivial as the discovery of a few leaves in an old book, and trace the many important events connected with it; to see the workings of Providence accomplishing his purposes, and carrying on his great designs of mercy in our favored land. It is delightful to think on the ways of the Almighty, and contemplate the dealings and dispensations of the God of our Fathers.

“Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them. Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed. ‘My Father, thou art the guide of my youth’ (Jeremiah 3:4).”—excerpted from chapter nine of The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel.

The Assembly Subscribes the Solemn League & Covenant [1643]

Dr. Will Barker, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary and professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, has written of “The Men and the Parties” that comprised the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The full text of this article can be found here: http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/creeds-confessions/the-men-and-the-parties-by-william-s-barker/, but our post today focuses on the first portion of that article, where Dr. Barker provides a very helpful overview of the five groups which played a role in the history of this great Assembly.

I.  The Parties

Discussions of the Assembly tend to focus on the different parties, often to the neglect of the great unity that existed among the members.  It must never be forgotten that their first concern was for the gospel of Christ and for the unity of all who truly belong to him.  One of the most beautiful chapters in the Confession, “Of the Communion of Saints”, begins: “All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head by His Spirit and by faith have fellowship with Him…: (WCF XXVI/1).  Further, as teachers they were all Calvinists in theology and could all be called Puritans, depending on the definition of that controversial term.  The main controversy among them was church government and the related matter of church discipline, including the role of the state.  The parties, therefore, are perceived along the lines of church polity:  episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregationalist, with two additional categories being relevant – the Erastians and the Scottish delegation.

EPISCOPALIANS

All of the Westminster divines appointed by the Long Parliament in 1643 were ordained ministers in the Church of England, although many had refused to conform to some Anglican practices and some had temporarily gone into exile in the Netherlands.  This means that they had entered the ministry in an episcopal system, and many still favored a moderate episcopacy.  Men such as James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, did not attend the Assembly because it did not have the approval of King Charles I.  Others dropped out in the early stages.  But all were opposed to prelacy, that is, the functioning of bishops like secular princes rather than as the teaching and preaching ministers of the New Testament.  Some who favored a moderate episcopacy remained in the Assembly and were gradually persuaded to prefer the presbyterian position.

PRESBYTERIANS

The Presbyterians, who favored a system with parity of the clergy, but with a graded system of church courts so that local congregations were bonded together and in submission to a regional presbytery, and presbyteries were in submission to a national general assembly, were in the majority in the Assembly.  They were of two persuasions, however:  those who believed in presbyterianism by divine right – i.e., that it is the only system prescribed by the New Testament – and those who believed presbyterianism was simply the system most consistent with the principles of church government taught in the New Testament.  The latter was the prevailing view among the English divines at Westminster.

CONGREGATIONALISTS OR INDEPENDENTS

Those who favored congregational church government were led by a very able and vocal group that became known as “the five dissenting brethren.”  These five had all gone into exile in the Netherlands in the 1630’s and had close relations with the congregationalists in New England.  These were non-separating Puritans who wanted local church autonomy while still maintaining an association among churches and with the state.  Although the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay enforced the New England congregational way through the civil magistrate, the English congregationalists were led by circumstances to prefer toleration.

ERASTIANS

The Erastians, whose name is derived from a 16th-century Swiss theologian, were not in favor of any particular church polity – episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational – by divine right, but were mainly concerned that church discipline be finally carried out only with the approval of the state.  This view was upheld in the Assembly by a small but learned group and was supported by many in Parliament, which had called the Assembly and whose approval was necessary for the implementation of the Assembly’s decisions.

THE SCOTTISH DELEGATION

As a result of the Solemn League and Covenant, approved by the Scottish Parliament on August 17, 1643 and subscribed by the English Parliament and the members of the Westminster Assembly on September 25, four Scottish ministers joined the Assembly in September of 1643.  These were not voting members but had the right to speak.  In exchange for the assistance of the Scottish army to the Parliamentary forces in the Civil War against the King, the Solemn League and Covenant sought to bring the churches of England and Ireland into conformity to the Reformed religion in Scotland in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government.  The Scottish commissioners, with almost a century of presbyterian history behind them, favored presbyterianism by divine right.

Such were the parties that emerged as church government proved to be the most controversial issue in the Assembly.  Again we should remember that all of the Westminster divines were Calvinists.  As we look back to the Assembly with gratitude primarily for the setting forth of the Reformed faith in the Confession and Catechisms, we should celebrate the doctrinal unity which it had.  Where there was diversity, there was also a spirit of accommodation on the part of many.  Richard Baxter, a contemporary Puritan but not a member of the Assembly, had immense appreciation of its members and its accomplishments.  He later commented that if all Episcopalians had been as Archbishop Ussher, all Presbyterians as Stephen Marshall (the great preacher of the Assembly), and Independents as Jeremiah Burroughs, the divisions of the church might soon have been healed.

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