Ashbel Green

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“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

THE SUBJECT : Biblical Tolerance

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Matt. 12:30; Matt. 6:24; Matt. 6:16; I Cor. 15:34; Isa. 55:7.

REFERENCES TO THE STANDARDS : Confession of Faith : I.10; XVIII.3; XXX; XXXIII.3; Larger Catechism : Q. 5; 75; 81; 109; Shorter Catechism : Q. 3; 36.

The attitude of Biblical tolerance is one of the most difficult to cultivate today. In this land the idea of toleration for religion, especially as it applies to the religion of the other person, is the popular belief to follow. Constantly it is proclaimed in the media that one religion is as good as another. Even within the evangelical realm we sometimes hear the stereotyped words : “After all, we’re all trying to get to the same place.”

Those who are committed to the Reformed Faith hear the same refrain, only it is a bit different. “Toleration,” to those not committed to the Reformed Faith, takes on the cloak of, “You Calvinists must be tolerant of those that disagree with you.” This even comes at times from those who give lip service to the Reformed Faith. It is as if there are two different truths, two different ways to believe, and one is almost as good as the other. 

It must be recognized that there is a wrong kind of intolerance. This is the type that is without compassion, without concern for those who disagree. This has been practiced by many throughout the ages. It has even reached that of hate for one’s opponents. This is not Biblical. This is sin.

There must be both a positive and negative testimony for the Truth. We must be positive as we proclaim the Doctrines of Grace. We must be faithful to all the doctrines. We must be faithful to proclaim the doctrines in all their magnificence. We must be careful we do not overemphasize one or two to the exclusion of others. We must be positive, not only in our beliefs regarding the Doctrines of Grace, but also in our practice of them. Our doctrine and our polity must be consistent.

There is another side and we dare not ignore it. Our proclaiming of the Truth will also be negative. There are many who will denounce this thought. Their approach is that we will turn people off with a negative approach. Though they would not accept the theology of “Positive Thinking” they will insist upon the practice of it when it concerns doctrine.

The problem with this type of thinking and resulting practice is that it is not Biblical. Note Question 109 of the Larger Catechism :

Q. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion . . .”

There is no way we can stand for the truth of God’s Word and not oppose whatever stands in opposition to it. Truth is not Truth until it is distinct from error. Therefore, it is necessary to point out the error. Many times it is not easy to do so. Especially it is not easy when the title of “trouble-maker” or “narrow-minded” is branded on you by those who have sold out to a tolerance that is not Biblical.

We must be as narrow-minded as the Bible itself. Therefore we who believe the Reformed Faith is the correct interpretation of Biblical truth will not be quiet regarding positions taken that are contrary to it. As we discover error we must refute error.

Our Lord was intolerant about many things. He would not tolerate such things as hypocrisy or self-centered living. Without doubt he was intolerant regarding sin. And unbelief is sin. When it is uncovered by the searchlight of the Word of God it must be faced.

The facing of error in love is a difficult task. It is difficult because priorities become involved. Some say love should rule over defending the faith and therefore we must be tolerant. Others say defending the faith should rule over love and therefore we must be intolerant. Is it not possible that both are wrong?

Our Lord Jesus Christ defended the faith in love. He knew it must be defended. He knew His Bride would have to be militant before it could be triumphant! But the responsibility of His children to be militant must be saturated with love. Not love for the error involved, but love for those involved in the error. But that love must never motivate us to compromise in any way as we stand for God’s Word.

The point to be made is that we are to defend the faith we say we believe. We have already drawn the line by our profession. Part of our being true to our profession is being intolerant of error. That is Biblical tolerance.

 

 

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Pride the Great Enemy of My Soul

Our post today comes from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, who served as associate pastor alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green at the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, beginning in 1799 and remaining at that church until 1828. I have found some pastoral diaries to be among some of the richest Christian reading, and I hope you will 

February 1, 1801. Sabbath.

J.J. Janeway “I perceive that pride is the great enemy of my soul. Often it prevents the enjoyment of God, and enlargement of heart. I must be emptied before I am filled. Alas, that my soul is so foolish and sinful as to indulge in pride. Were I more humble, I should have more communion with God, and more comfort. I think He is humbling me. Blessed be His name, that I, in any measure, see the sin of pride, and the importance of humility, and that I labour in any degree to suppress the rising of pride, and pray with any ardour for humility. I feel my insufficiency for the work of the ministry. But I look to Him, who hath promised:        

‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’

Blessed be God, that I feel a confidence that Jesus will aid me, and teach me how to preach His precious gospel.   I thank Him for past aid.”

Rev. Janeway’s biographer continues:

He frequently complains of his insufficiency for his great work, and seems ready to sink beneath the burdensome responsibility. He clings to the promise, and holds to the anchor. “I feel my insufficiency for my ministerial labors. How shall I go in and out before my people?” are remarks often occurrent.

About this time, a painful trial disturbed, and for years harassed his mind. Bitter and deep seem to have been his sorrows—painful his exercises. In the excess of his conscientiousness, and the lowliness of his humility, he doubted his standing in the affections and esteem of his people. He was young, and stood along side of an accomplished veteran in the service of Christ. His shrinking spirit doubted his qualifications for his great work, in a great city.

We shall not interrupt the narrative, by such large quotations from different years in his journal, which exhibit these painful struggles. They are noted here, in their chronological order, and will occur again, in recitals from his journal, and quotations from letters received from esteemed and distinguished friends, until years after God’s providence made his duty plain, and released the bird from the snare of the fowler.

“My mind is sometimes troubled with thinking about my standing in the affections of my people. I at times, think that I occupy the place of one better qualified for this important station.”

In the second church of our communion on the continent, with such distinguished men for his hearers, his well-known modesty shrunk. But when Philadelphia ceased to be the capital of the Union, and these notables removed, he still doubted his acceptance with the mass of the people; and yet, even then, had he won his way to the hearts of the people, and in a subdued sense, like his gracious Master, it might be said, “the common people heard him gladly.” His kindness to the poor, his open-handed charity, gave him, though he knew it not, a vigorous hold on their love. We shall have frequent occasion to recur to this again, and see it as it doubtless was presented, as part of the discipline of his life, to quicken the graces of his meek and quiet spirit.

Words to Live By:
Here was a true proof of real humility, to have won his people’s hearts by way of honest, real ministry as a faithful shepherd of the Lord’s people. It is the discipline of a faithful pastor’s life, that he will strive to possess and exhibit a servant’s heart, freely spending himself for the lives of his people. In this, Christ is glorified.

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The Means for Revival at a Presbyterian College
by Rev. David T. Myer

Ashbel Green [1762-1848]In the Life of Ashbel Green, available on-line, we have a summary of the means of a biblical revival which took place at the College of New Jersey, of which Ashbel Green was its president. Prior to this revival, only twelve students out of one hundred and five were counted as professors of the Christian faith in the college. The report to the trustees of the college is too long to be reproduced here, but a succinct summary can be given to the divine means used, which means are remarkably up-to-date for professing Christians in our day and age. They are:

          1. The revival came “chiefly, in the study of Scriptures,” which were “accompanied with comments on the portion read, and a practical application of the leading truths contained in it.”

          2. Dr. Green continued to write that “under the divine blessing, it has served to enlighten and instruct the youth in their duty; it has rendered their minds solemn and tender beyond what they were themselves aware of at the time, it has given them a deep reverence for the truth of divine revelation, it has gratified them to hear preaching with advantage, and at length, revealed truth has, we trust, been powerfully and effectually applied to their consciences, by the Spirit . . . .

          3. The Presbyterian clergyman/college president went on to write of “their attendance at public worship” for the second means, as “favorable to their religious improvement.” He went on to state “the modes of conducting public worship must be considered as being a powerful instrumental cause, both in producing an awakened attention to religion at first, and in cherishing it through the whole of its progress.

          4. The effect of moral discipline, Dr. Green observed in this report to the trustees, “has been manifestly favorable to this revival.” Evidently, three students had been dismissed from the student body for conduct unbecoming to the biblical base of the college. The effect of that was used by the Spirit of God to impress upon the students the importance of godly living.

          5. Lastly, Dr. Green commends the few pious youth (remember only 12 students in the whole college) who prayed for revival and then happily sought to impress upon their fellow students the claims of Christian living upon their lives.

The entire report is a remarkable survey of revival in the early eighteen hundreds at this Presbyterian college. What stands out to this author is that there is nothing new under the sun, so to speak, for their day or for ours. All of our Presbyterian entities – colleges, seminaries, local churches, sessions, boards of deacons, presbyteries, and yes, even general assemblies, have access to the same means mentioned in this report to the college trustees.

Words to Live By:
The Psalmist David gave us our marching orders via a prayer for revival of ourselves and those of our relationships in Psalm 85:6 “Will You not Yourself revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?” Personalize this text . . . by praying it for yourself, for your family, for your local congregation, for your Presbytery, and yes, for your General Assembly!

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Ashbel Green’s Editor and Friend

Joseph Huntington Jones, D. D., the brother of Judge Joel Jones, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on August 24th, 1797. He graduated at Harvard University, in 1817. For a time he was employed as Tutor in Bowdoin College, Maine. He completed his theological studies at the Princeton Theological Semi­nary; was licensed as a probationer, September 19th, 1822, by the Presbytery of Susquehanna, and was, by the same Presbytery, ordained as an evangelist, April 29th, 1824.

On June 1st, 1824, he began his labors in the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury, New Jersey, and was soon installed as pastor of that church. Here he labored with very great success. At the same time he also supplied the feeble church at nearby Blackwoodtown, which shared the blessing enjoyed by that of Woodbury. In 1825 he was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church at New Brunswick, New Jersey. Here he remained for thirteen years, proving himself to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” His ministry was honored of God by at least three seasons of religious awakening.

In 1838 he became the pastor of the Sixth Presbyterian Church, in Phila­delphia, and continued so for twenty-three years, his efforts being crowned with a manifest blessing. From 1861 to 1868 he was Secretary of the Relief Fund for Disabled Ministers, in which capacity he did a noble work, for which he deserves the lasting gratitude of the Church. He died on December 22d of 1868.

Dr. Jones was an exemplary Christian, an in­structive preacher, a faithful pastor, an interesting writer, and a gentleman of great urbanity of manner and suavity of disposition.

Of his principal work, often referred to as The Effects of Physical Causes on Christian Experience,’’ Dr. J. W. Alexander wrote, “It is a valuable and entertaining book.” Rev. Jones must have been a close friend and associate of the Rev. Ashbel Green, for it was to Jones that Green turned for the task of bringing Green’s autobiography to the press. Rev. Jones also wrote a history of the 1837 revival at New Brunswick, and several sermons of his were published as well. These are his works found on the Internet:

Something to Ponder:
The great Princeton professor, Samuel Miller, wrote a brief introduction or testimonial for that earliest work of Rev. Jones, Outline of a Work of Grace. In addition to our interest in Miller’s basis thesis here unveiled, it is also important to note the honesty of his method, with an expressed readiness to receive evidence “either for or against the affirmative of this question.”

“There is one question which you may, possibly be better able to answer now, than you were during the delightful excitement of that memorable scene. And that is, whether the solemn dispensations of Providence, experienced by the inhabitants of New Brunswick some time before, had any perceptible connexion with the spiritual benefit then enjoyed? I refer to the severe visit of cholera which you suffered in 1832, and the tremendous tornado, which did no much mischief in 1835. I have for many years taken much interest in the inquiry, whether seasons of great sickness and mortality, and other extraordinary and overwhelming seasons of temporal calamity, are ordinarily employed by a sovereign God as a means of reviving religion. Every new fact, either for or against the affirmative of this question, is highly interesting to me.”

What do you think of Dr. Miller’s question, whether God ordinarily uses seasons of great sickness and mortality as a means of reviving religion? Have you seen evidence of this, or have you seen evidence to the contrary? Answers may well hinge on Miller’s use of that word, “ordinarily.”

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Ashbel Green [1762-1848]The Danger of Education without Christian Orthodoxy & Piety

Chosen to serve as the eighth president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), Dr. Ashbel Green left the Philadelphia church which he had served for twenty-five years and moved in October of 1812 into the president’s house on Nassau Street in Princeton. His inaugural address in November dealt with “The Union of Piety and Science.”

Green had become firmly convinced that education, in itself, could be dangerous if it were not securely rooted in Christian orthodoxy and piety. Like Samuel S. Smith, his immediate predecessor in the office of president, Ashbel Green was loyal to John Witherspoon’s legacy; but, unlike Smith, he believed that the heart of Witherspoon’s commitment was his doctrinal views and his concern for revivals and Christian conduct. Green gathered the three faculty members for a day of prayer on November 16 and wrote down a list of goals for himself. The first three of his resolutions were:

1st … to endeavour to be a father to the institution. . . .

2d. To pray for the institution as I do for my family . . . and especially that [God] may pour out his Spirit upon it, and make it what its pious founders intended it to be.

3d. To watch against the declension of religion in my own soul . . . to which the pursuits of science themselves may prove a temptation.

The Presidents of Princeton University, 1747-1902

Colonial Era:

Jonathan Dickinson, 1747
Aaron Burr, Sr., 1748–57
Jonathan Edwards, 1758
Samuel Davies, 1759–61
Samuel Finley, 1761–66

Revolutionary War Years:

John Witherspoon, 1768–94

Nineteenth Century:

Samuel S. Smith, 1795–1812
Ashbel Green, 1812–22
James Carnahan, 1823–54
John Maclean, Jr., 1854–68
James McCosh, 1868–88
Francis L. Patton, 1888–1902

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A Desire to Effect a Reformation

J.J. JanewayThe Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

When the new year of 1800 opened, the Rev. J. J. Janeway was found on its threshold with a strong desire to “effect a reformation” in his heart and life. He wrote in his diary, “On examination, it is found that early rising, fervency in devotion, religious reflections in company, humility, courage, disinterested benevolence, and much engagedness are particularly worthy my attention in this reformation. May God enable me to reform. Amen.”

It was not a short-lived expectation or goal for Rev. Janeway. He persisted. On June 26th of that same year, he wrote in his diary:

“This day I spent in fasting and prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on my ministry. I have read the Scriptures; meditated and prayed. Confession of sins has been made. I have entreated God to bestow on me courage, wisdom, prudence, ardent piety, circumspection, a feeling sense of the importance of divine truth, compassion for the souls of men. I have prayed that I may propose divine truth with clearness, illustrate it with wisdom, and urge it with affection and energy; that I may be furnished for my work abundantly; that I may be a wise, faithful, able and successful minister of the Lord Jesus.”

Words to Live By:
An able, effective, and pointed prayer for any pastor. And in a similar way, for any and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. May each of us press closer to know the Lord, to seek His face, to draw near to Him day by day. Read the Scriptures. Dwell upon their meaning and pray. Confess your sins and ask God to give you what is needed for this day, to live to His glory.

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It seems good to change the pace every now and then. For one, these posts need not be lengthy, particularly when they are as substantive as this that follows. Today’s post is a communion meditation drawn from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858], who was first associate pastor under Dr. Ashbel Green and later pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Janeway also served for many years as a director of the Princeton Theological Seminary. This is a brief entry, but powerful. I hope you will read it over more than once.

J.J. JanewaySabbath, February 18, 1809.

“This day, in company with many of my fellow-Christians, I commemorated the dying love of our Lord Jesus Christ. I endeavoured, though imperfectly, to make preparation for the ordinance. During the first part of Divine service this morning, I felt dull and unaffected, but by seeking the Spirit’s aid, my heart began to be moved. At the table, my thoughts were collected, and I felt ability to meditate on the sufferings of my Lord. I was enabled to confess my sins, and mourn over them, and ask pardon. I trust that I transacted in faith, and had communion in the body and blood of Christ, as I received the sacred symbols as his body broken for me, and his blood shed for me, and entertained a comfortable confidence that I should derive nourishment and strength from this heavenly meat and drink. I enjoyed the presence, I think, of my Lord, and felt some strong emotions of admiration at his condescending to suffer for me, an unworthy and hell-deserving wretch; and I presented my requests with a holy freedom and earnestness. My prayers embraced a variety of objects, and related to my several wants, to my wife, family, relatives, ministry, people, country. On the whole, it was good for me to be at the Lord’s table; and I trust that my soul has received nourishment and strength. Blessed be my Lord and Saviour! Oh, pardon the sins of my holy things !”

[Memoir of the Rev. Jacob J. Janeway, D.D., (1861)p. 153-154.]

Words to Live By:
Does your heart hunger and thirst to know the Lord and to know Him better? When your thoughts are dull and unaffected, seek the Spirit’s aid. Draw near to the Lord and enjoy His presence. Let your mind dwell upon all that He has done for you. Let your prayers be full of praise to the King of glory.

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The following short quote comes from the Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway, a biography compiled by Janeway’s son, Thomas L. Janeway. Jacob Jones Janeway was a noted Presbyterian pastor, situated in Philadelphia in the first half of the nineteenth-century, serving first as associate pastor under Ashbel Green. A close friend of Dr. Samuel Miller, Rev. Janeway was also a key supporter of Princeton Seminary in its early years.
Much of this biography is drawn from diaries kept by Rev. Janeway, and in this particular quote, we find him reflecting on the close of the year and looking forward to the new. His reflections are made the more poignant in that during that year past, he and his wife had suffered the death of a child. By God’s grace and mercy, most of us have probably not lost loved ones in the past year, but the sum of the quote is otherwise an admirable reflection, worthy of review.
So often we conclude a post with a “Words to Live By” comment. Lest we take away from the impact of his words, his reflection is so labeled:—  

J.J. JanewayWords to Live By:
SABBATH, January 6, 1811. ” It has pleased the Lord to prolong my life. How many thousands have died during the last year! but my life has been spared. How many thousands have languished in sickness! but I have enjoyed health. How many millions have lived the year out under thick Heathenish darkness! but I have enjoyed the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. How many who, although they hear the gospel calls and invitations, yet have been living in a state of sin and condemnation! But I have. I trust, been enabled, by free and sovereign grace, to spend the year in a state of peace and friendship with God, and in hope of a blissful immortality. Oh, to grace, how great a debtor! I mourn over the sins of the last year, and beseech grace to spend this more than any heretofore to the glory of God. This year finds us one less in family. It has pleased Almighty God to remove our dear babe from us. We bow to the stroke of Divine Providence.”

[Excerpted from Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway (1861), pp. 177-178.]

Afterthought: The above quote, excepting perhaps the last few sentences, might be a good one to write out on a card and place in your Bible, for frequent reflection through the year.

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Learning to Wait Upon the Lord.

The Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

In October of 1829, Dr. Green decided to accept a call to serve as president of Princeton College, and the people in his Philadelphia congregation, out of respect to his views of duty, made no opposition. Along with this pastoral bond, a union of the colleagues of thirteen years was to be dissolved. Never had there been variance, but always peace, friendship, and harmony. The junior pastor invoked God’s blessing upon his departing friend, and thus it was that Rev. Janeway wrote in his diary:—

October 25, Sabbath.

J.J. Janeway“This day I stood before my people as their sole pastor. Last Tuesday, Dr. Green was dismissed from his charge. Thus a connection which has subsisted between him and me for almost fourteen years has been dissolved. My burden is great, my station very responsible. I feel its importance and my own insufficiency. I am meditating on the promises, and endeavour to trust in God for all needed aid. He hath said, ‘Lo, I am with you always! My grace is sufficient for you. I will never leave nor forsake you!’ Precious promises ! May my faith be strong! What may be the Lord’s will, I know not. I am praying to know it. Sometimes I think of retiring from this place, in the expectation of becoming more useful by having more time for study. The Lord direct me and preserve me from error. When I touched on the dissolution of our connection, my soul felt, and my voice faltered. I have loved my colleague, and he has loved me. May our friendship be perpetual!”

A separation of the two churches was under discussion. As the one in the Northern Liberties had increased, and was now able to sustain the gospel, Dr. Janeway was in favour of the movement. It drew from the people in the new church, expressions of the most ardent attachment, and they urged as their chief objection, their unwillingness to leave his pastoral care. The Presbytery confirmed the separation, and dissolved the pastoral relation. Dr. Janeway was appointed to organize the First Presbyterian church in the Northern Liberties. Fourteen years and more had he served them, and he was honoured of God in building up the church, by increase in the number of their worshippers, and in bringing souls into his kingdom. When he announced to them that he was no longer their pastor, a great sensation was produced, and in the afternoon he laboured to show that the new arrangements were for their good; and finally, to soothe their feelings, it was required by them, that he should continue to preach with them, in exchange with the minister whom they might call. Deeply gratifying to his feelings was the affection manifested, and long was his memory precious among those who heard the gospel from his lips.

” God has given me,” he writes about this time, ” a very conspicuous station. But my ambition is to have a people that love me, and if it were the pleasure of God, I think I could without reluctance, retire from my present charge to one in the country. What avails being known, except deriving from it opportunity for doing good? May I be humble, active, diligent, successful, useful.” So much was his mind exercised on the subject, that after much prayer, it seemed to him to be his duty to resign his charge, though he decided to wait until the ensuing spring. As far as he could see, his mind decided, for reasons which satisfied him then, to seek a place more retired, and where he hoped to live in the hearts of a rural population. He did not fail to confer with his venerable preceptor, and lay his heart bare. In reply, he received the following letter [from Dr. Green], which, for its excellent spirit and Christian friendship, and as exhibiting a specimen of that excellent and holy man, we insert:—

” With much attention and tender concern I have read your last esteemed letter. I enter fully into your meaning, and I think I know your feelings and views. They are, I hope, correct and proper. The desire you cherish may be well founded; and as such, it will meet with the Divine approbation. But let me remind you, that it is usual with the Lord in His divine providence, to make His children wait for the accomplishment, even of those designs which He Himself has excited. In this way, they learn to live by faith, and exercise patience, which last is one of the most difficult to learn and practise, of all the Christian graces. Let what passes in your mind remain there undisclosed, at least for the present; what you impart to me is sacred and secret, but it will not be advisable as yet, to intimate any fixed design of this kind to your people, because it might alienate your best friends, and until the Lord opens another door it would expose you to very unpleasant consequences. Wait for the Lord and upon the Lord in his time, which is always the best. He will help and provide for you, and perhaps sooner than you may anticipate. In the meantime be not discouraged nor uneasy; read the 37th Psalm, exercise trust and confidence in your covenant Lord—all will be well. But remember, a good place is better than a bad change; but, if a change for the better can be effected, it will be a matter of praise and gratitude. It is sufficiently known among your faithful friends, that you contemplate, if practicable, a removal; they will be mindful of you, and do all they can to meet your wishes.”

[excerpt from The Life of Dr. J. J. Janeway, D.D., pp. 185-186.]

Words to Live By:
A pastor once counseled another, “If you don’t know what you should do, stay where you are until you do. I am convinced that God has important work where you are; see it and enter into it zealously until God clearly shows you the next move.”
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

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It was on September 24th, in 1757, that Jonathan Edwards made his decision to accept the offer to become the third president of the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University). While the school was decidedly Presbyterian in its affiliation, Edwards was commonly known as a Congregationalist. But two separate accounts exist, contending that Edwards did in fact affirm the Presbyterian form of government.

The first of our articles appeared in an issue of the Philadelphia-based newspaper, The Presbyterian. In this letter, the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green had originally written to R. J. Breckinridge, editor of the Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine. Our access to the letter comes from its republication on the pages of The Presbyterian. 

Ashbel Green, “President Edwards a Presbyterian,” The Presbyterian (12 January 1839): 201.

Philadelphia, Nov. 12th 1838

EdwardsJonathanRev. and Dear Sir:—I have recollected, since I last saw you, that the fact has already been published, which I then mentioned to you in conversation;—and in regard to which you requested me to furnish you with a written statement. In the Christian Advocate, the 10th volume–the volume for the year 1832, and in the No. for March of that year, page 128—after having mentioned a class of Congregationalists, who, in my estimation, were eminent for genuine piety, I added as follows:—”We should have put down here, the name of the great President Edwards; but he was, in sentiment, a decided Presbyterian, and left a manuscript in favor of Presbyterian church government; as his son, the second President Edwards, distinctly admitted to us not long before his death. Beside, the elder Edwards was either a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, at the time of his death, or would soon have been so, if his lamented decease, shortly after his becoming President off the College at Princeton, had not prevented.”

The admission referred to in the foregoing extract, was made in consequence of an inquiry put, by me, to Dr. Edwards, as he and I were walking together to the place of meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, then in session in this city. I do not recollect the year. I had heard a report, which I think must have come either from my father or from my colleague Dr. Sproat,–both of whom were contemporaries and admirers of the first President Edwards–that he had written a tract, or an essay, in favor of Presbyterian church government; and I was glad to take the opportunity which at this time offered, to ascertain from his son the truth or fallacy of the report. The inquiry resulted in the distinct admission that the report which I had heard was true.

I spoke to Dr. Edwards, of printing the tract or essay, in question; but he did not seem to favor the idea, and I forbore to press it. He said, that the manuscript referred to, was among several other unpublished papers of his father, which, as I understood him, were then in his hands. Into whose hands they have passed, since the death of Dr. Edwards, is unknown to me.

Respectfully and affectionately, Yours,

Ashbel Green

*     *     *     *
The second item appeared on the pages of The Christian Observer, in 1850. It relates a letter that President Edwards wrote to Dr. Ebenezer Erskine, of Scotland and provides a quotation from that letter, thus: 
PRES. EDWARDS, A PRESBYTERIAN.

In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Erskine of Scotland, President Edwards , (whom Robert Hall calls, “the greatest of the sons of men,”) gives the following statement of his views in respect to Presbyterianism :—

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian Form of Government. As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to Presbyterian Government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of Church government in this land, and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things.”

Such were the views of many pastors in New England, twenty-five years ago—and such we presume, are the views of many at this time, notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Bacon, the Independent and others, to create and waken up prejudice against Presbyterianism.—It is very natural for an agitator, a man of progress, or of loose views in theology, to prefer some type of Independency. Without a Session to advise with him in the spiritual oversight of the Congregation, he can (if a manager) have his own way in controlling everything in his church. If a careful and discreet ruler, he may acquire more power in his charge as an Independent, than he could hope to gain as a Presbyterian minister.—Amenable to no permanent judicatory for the doctrines which he teaches, he can follow the impulses of his own nature, and teach all the contradictions and transcendentalism found in Dr. Bushnell’s book without losing his place or influence in his church and association.

But if it be desirable that the members of the Church should be duly represented in the administration of its spiritual government,—if the pastor should have responsible counselors, well acquainted with the Church, and all its interests and peculiarities, to aid him in this work, the Presbyterian form of government is to be preferred. It is equally important as a shield to the minister in many cases of discipline, as well as to render him duly responsible for his personal and official conduct, teaching, and character.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX, No. 38 (21 September 1850): 150, columns 2-3.]

A Small Learning Opportunity:
On occasion you may hear the term jure divino Presbyterianism. That phrase is a short-hand for the idea—or better, the doctrinal conviction —that the Presbyterian form of church government is the only form of church government taught in the Scriptures.

In the history of the Christian Church, there have been basically only three forms of church government found, though with some variations within each form.
The Episcopal form of church government is hierarchical, and typically has one or more archbishops overseeing bishops, who in turn oversee rectors, who are placed over congregations. Some of the Episcopal variations include the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church and the Methodist Church
With the Congregational form of government, each congregation is autonomous. Though congregational churches often form associations, the local church always retains its autonomy. Variations on this type include Baptist, Congregational, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.
And finally, the Presbyterian form of church government, which is distinguished by a series of courts, rising from the local level to the national level: Session – Presbytery – Synod – General Assembly. At each of these levels, both teaching elders (ministers) and ruling elders (non-ordained laity) sit as equal members.
Session: The pastor(s) and ruling elders of a congregation comprise the Session and govern an individual congregation.
Presbytery: Pastors and a representative number of ruling elders from each of the Presbyterian churches in a specified region comprise the Presbytery, and conduct the business of the Church on a regional level.
Synod: This court is comprised of several Presbyteries, and thus covers a larger region. Smaller Presbyterian denominations do not typically have the Synod structure, or may only meet nationally as a Synod, in which case they do not use the General Assembly structure.
General Assembly: The highest court of a Presbyterian denomination, this body meets as a national or trans-national court, with its members again consisting of elders, both ruling and teaching, sitting as representatives of the churches in the denomination.

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