American Bible Society

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Not the Optimus Prime, but Maybe Close.

PrimeSIBorn in Ballston, New York on this day, November 4, 1812. He obtained his college education at Williams College, graduating there in 1829. After a brief delay, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary as part of the Class of 1833 and was later ordained by the Presbytery of Albany, June 4, 1835, being installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in his home town of Ballston. Rev. Prime remained in this pulpit, 1835-36, and then answered a call to serve the Presbyterian church in the town of Matteawan, New York, about one hundred twenty miles south of Ballston.

Prime remained at Matteawan from 1837-1840, when the opportunity arose to serve as the assistant editor of The New York Observer. This paper was one of many Christian newspapers published in that era, and here Rev. Prime truly began his life’s work. In this capacity he labored from 1840-1848, stepping away from the post only for a few years, 1848-1849, to serve as Secretary of the American Bible Society. Thereafter, Prime took on the role of lead editor of The New York Observer, and remained at this post from 1850 until his death in 1885. By that time the paper had become something of a family business, with his brother and his son running the paper after his death.

Rev. Prime proved to be a prolific author and a valuable contributor to the wider culture. He founded the New York Association for the Advancement of Science and Art, served as president and trustee of Wells College and also as a trustee of his alma mater, Williams College. Honors conferred upon him during his lifetime included the Doctor of Divinity degree from Hampden-Sydney College (1854). Rev. Prime passed away on July 18, 1885, while residing in Manchester, Vermont. Time does not today permit me to list his many publications, some of which can be found on the Web, here.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes we start out in life headed off in one direction, only to find that the Lord brings our way, entirely unexpected, a change for the better. It was a common expression among the Puritans that the Lord never removes one blessing, but what He gives a greater. The God whom we serve purposes only to bless His children. There are times when that blessing may not seem like a blessing, but God always has in view what is best for us, and we can find rest in knowing that He is good and that He loves us, not for who we are, but for who we are in Christ our Savior.

 

 

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Isaac Van Arsdale Brown was born in Pluckamin, Somerset county, New York, on November 14, 1784. Little seems to be known of his parents or his early years. He graduated at Nassau Hall, as Princeton University was known in those days, and then studied theology privately under the tutelage of Dr. John Woodhull, of Freehold, New Jersey. He was licensed and then later ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1807, being installed as the pastor of the church at Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Three years later, in 1810, Rev. Brown established the Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial Boarding School, located near Princeton, and up until 1833 Rev. Brown remained the head of this school. The school has continued to this day and is one of the oldest private boarding schools in the nation. Then in 1833, both his wife and his son died, and it seems likely that their deaths led to his decision to leave Lawrenceville. In 1834, he sold the school and relocated to Mount Holly, New Jersey to plant a church there, while also preaching at Plattsburg, NJ and working to establish another church there. The last two decades of his life were spent preaching in the areas around Trenton and New Brunswick.

Dr. Brown was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society and also an original member of the American Bible Society. He died on April 19, 1861. (for historical reference, Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and the Civil War thus began, a week prior, on April 12, 1861)

Dr. Isaac V. Brown is noted as the author of several works, but most importantly, that of A Historical Vindication of the Abrogation of the Plan of Union by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (1855). This is a careful treatment in defense of the Old School position on the 1837-1869 Old School/New School split in the PCUSA. It can be read online, here.

To read about the efforts of the Lawrenceville School in relocating Rev. Brown’s grave to a more appropriate location, click here.

Words to Live By:
In all likelihood, Rev. Brown started the school in Lawrenceville simply as a way to make ends meet. Pastors were not well paid in those days, and it was quite common for a pastor to turn to teaching in order to augment his salary. Nonetheless, the works that you do may live well beyond your own life-time. God will use what He will use. It is our part to be faithful in doing what He calls us to, and to do all things as unto the Lord.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ASV)

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Mr. Polity.

Polity is a fancy word for government, and in the nineteenth-century, when it came to church government, the Rev. S. J. Baird was one of the most knowledgeable men around.

Samuel John Baird was born at Newark, Ohio, in September, 1817. His parents were the Rev. Thomas Dickson Baird and Esther Thompson Baird. Samuel began his education at Jefferson College, but poor health interrupted his studies. In 1839 he took charge of a school near Abbeville, South Carolina and subsequently opened a Female Seminary [essentially a college for women] at Jeffersonville, Louisiana. Returning to college, he graduated from Central College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1843. Somehow he managed to concurrently graduate from the New Albany Theological Seminary, in Indiana, that same year.

After being licensed to preach in August of 1843 by the Presbytery of Transylvania, he devoted three years to the missionary work in the Presbytery of Baltimore, in Kentucky, and in the southwest. Then in 1846, he was ordained by Potomac Presbytery, and installed as pastor, first at Bladensburg, Maryland, and later at Georgetown, Kentucky. He also served churches in Clarksville, Tennessee and Batesville, Arkansas. During his time in that latter charge, Rev. Baird was also instrumental in laying the foundation for Arkansas College. From there, he served as pastor in Muscatine, Iowa, 1854-57 and Woodbury, New Jersey, 1857-65.

After resigning this last charge, Baird began work under a joint commission from the American Bible Society and the Virginia Bible Society, laboring as their agent in Virginia. His name first appeared on the rolls of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1869, and he answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Waynesboro, Virginia in 1870. For four years he served the Third Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, 1874-78, and his final pastorates were in West Virginia. The Rev. Samuel J. Baird died in Clifton Forge, Virginia on April 10, 1893.

Baird is perhaps best remembered as the author of The Assembly’s Digest, or Baird’s Digest as it most commonly known. This work is a compilation of the acts and deliverances of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., covering the years 1789-1855. It is a particularly valuable work for anyone wanting a resource on the actions and history of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The full title is A Collection of the Acts,Deliverances and Testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church from its origin in America to the present time : with notes and documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history (1856). Copies of this work are rare today in print form, but thankfully it is available on the Internet, here.

Words to Live By:
Another work by Dr. Baird was a catechism, titled The Church of Christ. A sampling of questions and answers from that book follow:

Q. 261. What are the rights of individuals with reference to personal religion?
A. It is the right and duty of every individual for himself, to read and study the Word of God, and ascertain the way of salvation therein set forth [1],—by faith, to lay hold of and appropriate to himself that salvation and all the promises [2],—and to come before the throne of God with boldness, in the name of Christ, and independent of all human instrumentalities and mediators, and there make his confessions and offer his prayers and praises, with assurance of acceptance and salvation. [3]
[1] John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19-21;
[2] Rev. 22:17.
[3] Rom. 10:12-13; Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10:19-22; Ps. 50:23; John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5.

Q. 264. What are the duties of private Christians toward others?
A. It is the duty of private Christians to be ready always to give to every one that asketh them, a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear; to watch for and use all suitable occasions to press upon the impenitent the free grace of Christ; to employ their means in relieving the temporal wants of the destitute; and, as they have opportunity, to do good to all men.
1 Peter 3:15; Rev. 22:17; Heb. 13:16; Gal. 6:10.

Q. 270. What are the principal religious duties of parents toward their children?
A. It is the duty of parents to dedicate their children to God [1],—to bring them early to baptism, to teach them to know God, to pray to him, to read His Word, and to attend upon the public ordinances of the sanctuary [2], to exercise government and discipline upon them in love; and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; maintaining the stated worship of God in the house [3].
[1] Gen. 17:18; Mark 10:13-14.
[2] Gen. 18:19; 2 Tim. 3:14-15.
[3] Prov. 13:24; 22:15; Eph. 6:4; Gen. 12:7; 13:4, 18; 21:33; 35:1-4, 7; Deut. 6:7; Job 1:5.

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