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Vanguard Presbyterian was organized this day, September 7, 1972. As John Edward Richards wrote, “There were ministers and churches who could not wait for the formation of the new church. Under the Presbyterian system they needed a Presbyterian home.” Richards presented the following report in Contact, the official publication of Presbyterian Churchmen United:

VANGUARD PRESBYTERY

A significant event in the Presbyterian family occurred in Savannah, Georgia on September 7, 1972. A group of ministers and independent Presbyterian churches met and formed Vanguard Presbytery.

Early in August the Reverend Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church of Savannah, contacted the Administrator of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church and requested advice and counsel with reference to his plan for calling a meeting of the representatives of independent Presbyterian churches and their pastors for the purpose of forming a presbytery that would be faithful to the Word of God and the Reformed Faith. The Steering Committee is ever ready to assist Presbyterian churches in uniting for this worthy purpose. The Administrator was glad to be of what service he could, but the credit for the accomplishment of the Vanguard Presbytery must go to the Reverend Todd Allen and others closely associated with him.

The meeting on September 7 was on a high spiritual plane, beginning with a devotional lesson from Philippians 1:1-6. The Communion service which followed was according to the Word of God and the presiding minister reminded the worshipers that the Sacrament commemorated the substitutionary atonement of our Lord for our sins.

In a most orderly fashion a temporary moderator and clerk were elected and four standing committees were “The Constitution and Service for Constituting the Presbytery”, “Naming and Chartering”, “Presbytery Organization and Schedules” and “Committee of Thanks.” The entire group united in intercession to God for His blessing upon these committees.

The feature of the afternoon meeting was an address by Attorney Owen H. Page. Mr. Page was the attorney for the Eastern Heights and Hull Memorial Churches when these churches went independent in 1966. The case went to the United States Supreme Court and was decided in favor of the local churches’ ownership of their respective properties. The case was decided on neutral principles, that is, without reference to church doctrine or government. Mr. Page stated that the vast majority of church property decisions recently rendered in various states had used the Savannah churches as the precedent effecting their decisions. (Incidentally, state laws vary greatly on the matter of church property and any local congregation wishing to assure the ownership of their church property should consult local attorneys to work out the proper legal instruments.)

The standing committees worked during the afternoon and completed their reports.

The people of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church graciously entertained the entire group at supper.

The concluding session of the presbytery was held at 7:00 p.m. All committee reports were unanimously adopted. Rev. Todd Allen was elected Moderator and Ruling Elder Chester Hall of the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky was elected temporary clerk and treasurer. The Presbytery was named “VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed churches uniting.” The presbytery accepted an invitation for their November 14 meeting from the Tabb Street Independent Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Virginia.

The meeting in Savannah was joyously Christian and was without criticism or derogatory remarks concerning any other religious group. The presbytery voted to accept the invitation of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church for its moderator to become a member of that Steering Committee.

Words to live by: The organizing meeting of the Vanguard Presbytery began with a message on the text of Philippians 1:1-6. The central truth of that message is that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
In everything that He does, God unerringly accomplishes His purpose. And here, in this text, the apostle Paul drives home the point that as the Lord has raised you up from death to a living faith in the risen Savior, so He will continue to work in you, bringing you at last to Himself in glory. God’s work is sure, and there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus.

 

 

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Parting Words from the Rev. John A. Van Lear

On a grassy knoll in Virginia, surrounded by scenes of surpassing beauty, stands the Mossy Creek Church. The first settled pastor in the region of the Triple Forks, which included Mossy Creek, was the Rev. John Craig, who was born in August of 1709, in Antrim, Ireland.

Some years later, when the church called the Rev. John A. Van Lear in 1837, the church had by that time grown to be an independent, self-sustaining church. Moreover, the Rev. Van Lear proved to be a faithful pastor, and the people grew under his preaching. He was active in the work of Presbytery as well, serving as Stated Clerk for fourteen years. He even oversaw the construction of a new house of worship for the church.

Born in 1797, by the time Rev. Van Lear reached his fifty-second year, his health began to decline. He had spent himself for the sake of the Gospel. On August 14, 1850, just four days before his death, the Rev. John A. Van Lear wrote the following letter to his brethren of Lexington Presbytery:

Dear Brethren:—I have indeed greatly desired that it might be permitted me to meet once more upon earth a body of which I have been for so many years a member, in whose society I have enjoyed so much happiness, and for which I cherish the strongest affection. But such is not the will of God, and I am content. My days are nearly numbered, and my last remove is directly before me. I record it to the praise of the glory of His grace that God ‘hath counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.’ I have loved the work. I have preached, as I believe, in sincerity and truth, His gospel of salvation. I have tried to bring others to a like precious faith. I rejoice that I have been enabled to do this. But this is not the foundation of my hope. I trust in no labor of my hands. I fly to the cross and the covenant. There is my only hope. There I rest my soul, and my heart has peace. This is my testimony.

“It would give me please to send kind messages to you all by name, but I have not strength. I have come down now quite to the banks of the Jordan of death; but He who has passed through it for sinners has met me on this side of its dark waves, and all is well. My flesh and my heart faileth me, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. I leave you, hoping for a happy and eternal reunion in that heaven to which we have pointed so many of our fellow men.

“It is my parting prayer, that our faithful, covenant-keeping God may ever be with you, bless you, keep you in peace and love among one another, and send down His Holy Spirit upon all our churches, and fill the earth with His glory.

“Accept, dear brethren, my final farewell.

“Yours in the gospel of Christ, our Saviour.”

John A. Van Lear.

He died on the 18th of August, four days after writing his farewell words, in great peace of mind. On the 22d of August, at Goshen Church, nestled away among the hills of Highland county, this letter was read. Many were the tears its sweet and loving words called forth. His memory was duly honored by Session and Presbytery, with resolutions of respect well befitting the memory of this good man, who was a model character in all the relations of life.

[Slightly edited from The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 553-554.]

Words to Live By:
There are perhaps no more challenging and appropriate words for pastors than what we find from the pen of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, withgreat patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:1-8, NASB)

Preaching upon that same text, the Rev. J. R. Miller observed, “Life is very serious. We are always standing before God who is our Judge. Our commonest days—are judgment days. We should learn to do everything ‘in the presence of God.’ This makes every word and act serious. If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity—we would live better!

Rev. Van Lear’s gravestone is pictured here.

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soltau_TStanleyOn Friday of this week, July 19th, we looked at the life and ministry of Dr. T. Stanley Soltau, missionary to Korea, pastor, and director of World Presbyterian Missions. Today we turn to Dr. Soltau’s little booklet, Our Sufficiency, for our Sunday sermon.

“OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD”

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God.” — 2 Corinthians 3:5.

In this day of want and poverty in so many parts of the world, when even the bare necessities of life are hardly sufficient to meet the needs of millions, and when even in this favored land we have been warned of certain restrictions which we must face in order that in other countries starvation may be avoided; in days like this it is always encouraging to think of one source of sufficiency which never fails and never can fail, and a source which is always accessible.

The Apostle Paul in writing to his friends in the great city of Corinth, says, “Our Sufficiency is of God.” He is writing to Christians who were living in a city whose name was a synonym for vice and immorality, it was also a city famous for its commerce and culture; and when great wealth, and great education and great wickedness go hand in hand, it always makes things difficult for a real believer in Christ Jesus. In spite of that discouraging background however, Paul writes to his friends there telling them that they are an epistle or a letter to Christ, written by the Holy Spirit on their hearts; that is, their lives were so different from what they had been before knowing Christ, and so different from the lives of others, that it was clear to all that the Holy Spirit had made Christ Jesus not only real to them but real through them to others. The Apostle then goes on to say that he has this confidence that the testimony of their lives will continue because God is working in them just as He has worked in Paul himself, and will prove His sufficiency by making them competent in exactly the same way in which He made Paul, and those with him, competent for the work to which He has called them.

The word “Sufficiency” in the Greek includes the idea of being made competent, competent for whatever situation may arise or for whatever task which God may call upon you to perform.

Any man who possesses this conviction has a freedom from anxiety and a quiet peace and assurance in these days of uncertainty and difficulty that will carry him through to victory. I wonder if you can say “My Sufficiency is of God . . . He has made me competent, by the working of His Holy Spirit in me, for every emergency and every responsibility that I shall meet this day.” Can you say it and really mean it? If you can, then thank God for it and begin from this minute to practice it and to experience His sufficiency in your life. If you cannot say so, then ask yourself why.

He has made it possible for all if they will only meet His conditions, which are:

1. A humble and sincere confession of their own sins and helplessness.

2. A grateful acceptance of the Sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on behalf of their sins, and then a joyful submitting of themselves, body, soul and spirit to Him; and a conscientious seeking to put Him first in all things, and a looking to Him for daily guidance and enabling power in all the decisions and activities of their lives.

As soon as that is done, His Spirit begins His gracious ministry in their hearts in order to make them competent and equipped to live victorious and powerful lives to His honour and glory.

It is a very helpful thing at the beginning of each day to remember this, and in faith to claim the equipment from the Lord, which He sees that we will NEED to meet the various temptations and testings which lie ahead of us; and then to start out the days work in assurance that He had prepared us for it. Let us do so now!

Our God and Father, as we bow in Thy presence at the beginning of this day, we ask Thee to equip us with all that we shall need to live for Thy honour and glory, and to please Thee in all things. In the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

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A Christian Statesman.

Francis Rawn Shunk was born at the Trappe, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, on August 7th, 1788. He became a teacher at the young age of fifteen, and in 1812 received an appointment as Clerk in the Surveyor General’s office, serving under General Andrew Porter. In 1814, he marched, as a private soldier, to the defence of Baltimore. This  would have been not long after the burning of Washington, D.C. in what is commonly called the War of 1812, a war alternately called the second war of independence, and a war which did not end until 1815.

In September of 1816, Francis was admitted to the practice of law. He filled the position of Assistant, and then Principal Clerk of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for several years. He next became Secretary to the Board of Canal Commissioners, and in 1839, Pennsylvania’s Governor Porter appointed him Secretary of the Commonwealth. In 1842, Shunk removed to Pittsburgh, to engage in the practice of law, and presumably to prepare for his next career advancement. Then in 1844, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, winning reelection in 1847.

Governor Shunk was an honest public servant, and he filled the various offices to which he was called with marked ability and fidelity. On July 9th, 1848, as Executive of the State, he issued the following proclamation:

“To the People of Pennsylvania:

“It having pleased Divine Providence to deprive me of the strength necessary to the further discharge of the duties of your Chief Magistrate, and to lay me on a bed of sickness, from which I am admonished by my physicians and my own increasing debility, I may, in all human probability, never rise, I have resolved, upon mature reflection, under a conviction of duty, on this day to restore to you the trust with which your suffrages have clothed me, in order that you may avail yourselves of the provision of the Constitution to choose a successor at the next general election. I, therefore, hereby resign the office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and direct this my resignation to be filed in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

“In taking leave of you, under circumstances so solemn, accept my gratitude for the confidence you have reposed in me. My prayer is that peace, virtue, intelligence, and religion may pervade all your borders; that the free institutions you have inherited from your ancestors may remain unimpaired till the latest posterity; that the same kind Providence which has already so signally blessed you may conduct you to a still higher state of individual and social happiness, and when the world shall close upon you, as I feel it is soon about to close upon me, that you may enjoy the consolations of the Christian’s faith, and be gathered, without a wanderer lost, into the fold of the Great Shepherd above.”

Governor Shunk died on the 30th of July, 1848, and at the time of his decease was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Harrisburg, then under the care of his particular friend, the Rev. W. R. DeWitt, D.D.

Words to Live By:
Christians can, and should, seek and hold elected office at all levels of governement, local, state and national. But if that is God’s calling on your life, do all in your power to conduct yourself honorably and intelligently. Do your work as unto the Lord. Only then will you rise above being a mere politician and merit the honor of being called a statesman. May God give us honest, virtuous leaders.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6, KJV)

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greenAshbelBorn in Hanover Township, New Jersey on July 6, 1762, Ashbel Green grew to become one of the more notable Presbyterians in the early years of this nation. During the Revolutionary War, he served with the New Jersey militia. Following the War, he studied theology under the Rev. John Witherspoon and graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1783.  From 1792 to 1800, he served as Chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives. And from 1812 to 1822, he served as President of the College of New Jersey. Rev. Green, who was closely tied to the establishment of the Princeton Theological Seminary, died on May 19, 1848.

Today’s sermon comes from a volume of Rev. Green’s, titled Practical Sermons, published in 1834.

SERMON.

CHRIST A ROCK.

1 Cor. 10:4 – “For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.

By figurative representations some of the most important instructions of divine revelation are communicated. Under the typical dispensation of Moses especially, there was scarcely any public act, occurrence or institution, which did not import more than at first appeared; and while it served some obvious present purpose, did not point also to some more remote and hidden, but yet more spiritual and important object or end. This spiritual signification of the ancient Jewish symbols, though it was often perceived, and was highly beneficial to the believing Israelites, was not intended merely, nor perhaps principall, for their benefit. It is under the gospel dispensation that the intention of all the types is most clearly unfolded; so that by viewing them in retrospect, and with the advantage derived from the light of the gospel, more may be discovered by a Christian than could be known to a Jew.

To aid us in this useful investigation, the inspired writers of the New Testament often become our teachers and guides. They frequently advert to the Hebrew scriptures for the illustration and enforcement of what they deliver: and thus by a kind of double revelation, the wisdom of God is most conspicuously displayed, the faith of believers most powerfully confirmed, the beauty of sacred truth most engagingly exhibited, and its whole design most fully accomplished. Among innumerable passages which show the truth of this representation, the text [1 Cor. 10:4] is one of the most striking.

The apostle labours in the context to excite a holy circumspection in the Corinthian Christians, lest slighting or misimproving their peculiar privileges, they should lose the blessings which these privileges were calculated to convey. With this view, he points their attention, both for encouragement and warning, to the history of the people of Israel under the conduct of Moses in the wilderness. Speaking, in this connexion, of the miraculous supply of water which followed them on their journey, he denominates it “spiritual drink;” and then to explain the reason of his giving it this appellation, he says—”For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” By a figure of speech, too frequent in its use and too obvious in its import to be misapprehended, the people are here said to have drunk of the rock that followed them, instead of the water which flowed from it; and comprehensive metaphor which is used, when the apostle affirms that this rock was Christ.

To unfold the intention of this metaphor, and explain and apply the design of the whole expression, is the object of the present discourse. In doing this, it will be useful, in order to avoid the danger of torturing the figurative language of the inspired penman to a meaning foreign to his own, to consider attentively the spiritual truth intended to be conveyed; to state this truth distinctly and summarily at once; and then to recall the sensible images, only for the purpose of illustration or enforcement. Agreeably to this, let it be carefully remarked, that there are three distinct things comprehended in the type we consider. First,—The rock, which was the source, or fountain, from which the water flowed: Secondly—The streams themselves, by which the thirst of the people was allayed, and their strength invigorated: Thirdly—The ultimate object for which the whole was done; namely, to conduct the Israel of God to the promised land. Now, as the apostle asserts that this rock was Christ, I think the propositions of evangelical truth corresponding to the sensible and temporal things just stated, are plainly the three following—

I. That the believer’s hope of salvation must derive its very origin from Christ Jesus, or be placed on him alone.
II. That a resort must constantly be made to the never-failing fulness of the Saviour, for all those supplies of grace and strength, which are necessary to refresh and invigorate the Christian, in his passage through the world.
III. That the ultimate design, and the sure result of all, is, that the faithful disciple of Christ shall at length possess the heavenly inheritance. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Presbyterian Board of Publication was created, with its first work being the publication of a number of tracts and treatises. As more and more tracts were published, they were eventually gathered together and issued as bound volumes, best known by their spine title, PRESBYTERIAN TRACTS. [The contents of these volumes have been indexed, here.] In volume 5 of these PRESBYTERIAN TRACTS, we find Tract no. 65, a sermon extract from one of George Whitefield’s sermons, and this will be our sermon post for this Lord’s Day. While Whitefield was himself an Anglican, his work in the American colonies figured closely with some of the early ministry of Presbyterians in this country. We might even note that upon his death, he was buried in a crypt at the Old South Presbyterian Church, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Regrettably, no further information is given in the book as to the source of this particular sermon portion:—

JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Thy beauty was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.”—Ezekiel xvi. 14.

Give me leave to ask you one question: Can you say, The Lord our righteousness? Were you ever made to see and admire the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness, and excited by the Spirit of God to hunger and thirst after it? Could you ever say, My soul is athirst for Christ, yea, even for the righteousness of Christ? O when shall I come to appear before the presence of my God in the righteousness of Christ! Nothing but Christ! nothing but Christ! Give me Christ, O God, and I am satisfied! my soul shall praise Thee for ever.

Was this ever the language of your hearts? and, after these inward conflicts, were you ever enabled to reach out the arm of faith, and embrace the blessed Jesus in your souls, so that you could say, “My beloved is mine, and I am His?” If so, fear not, whoever you are. Hail, all hail, you happy souls! The Lord, the Lord Christ, the everlasting God, is your righteousness. Christ has justified you, who is he that condemneth you? Christ has died for you, nay, rather, is risen again, and ever liveth to make intercession for you. Being now justified by His grace, you have peace with God, and shall, ere long, be with Jesus in glory. For there is no condemnation to those that are really in Christ Jesus. Whether Paul, or Apollos, or life, or death, all is yours, if you are Christ’s, for Christ is God’s. My brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! O think of the love of Christ in dying for you! If the Lord be your righteousness, let the righteousness of your Lord be continually in your mouth. Talk of, O talk of, and recommend, the righteousness of Christ, when you lie down, and when you rise up, at your going out and coming in! Think of the greatness of the gift, as well as of the giver! Show to all the world, in whom you have believed! Let all by your fruits know that the Lord is your righteousness, and that you are waiting for your Lord from heaven! O study to be holy, even as He who has called you, and washed you in His blood was holy! O think of His dying love! Let that love constrain you to obedience; having much forgiven, love much. Be always asking, What shall I do to express my gratitude to the Lord, for giving me His righteousness? Let that self-abasing, God-exalting question, be always in your mouths, “Why me, Lord? why me?” why am I taken and others left? why is the Lord my righteousness? why is He become my salvation, who have so often deserved damnation at his hands?

But I must turn a little from congratulating you, to invite poor Christless sinners to come to Him, and accept of His righteousness, that they may have life. Alas, my heart almost bleeds! What a multitude of precious souls are new before me! how shortly must all be ushered into eternity! and yet, O cutting thought! were God now to require all your souls, how few could really say, The Lord our righteousness?

And think you, O sinners, that you will be able to stand in the day of judgment, if Christ be not your righteousness? No, that alone is the wedding-garment in which you must appear. O Christless sinners, I am distressed for you! the desires of my soul are enlarged. O that this may be an accepted time! That the Lord may be your righteousness! For whither would you flee, if death should find you naked? O think of death! O think of judgment! Yet a little while, and time shall be no more; and then what will become of you, if the Lord be not your righteousness? Think you that Christ will spare you? No, he that formed you, will have no mercy on you. If you be not of Christ, if Christ be not your righteousness, Christ Himself shall pronounce you damned. And can you bear to think of being damned by Christ? Can you bear to hear the Lord Jesus say to you, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Can you live, think you, in everlasting burnings? Is your flesh brass, and your bones iron? What if they be? hell-fire, that fire prepared for the devil and his angels, will heat them through and through. And can you bear to depart from Christ? O that heart-piercing thought! Ask those holy souls, who are at any time bewailing an absent God, who walk in darkness, and see no light, though but a few days or hours; ask them, what it is to lose a sight and presence of Christ? See how they seek Him sorrowing, and go mourning after Him all the day long! And, if it be so dreadful to lose the sensible presence of Christ for a day, what must it be to be banished from Him for all eternity?

But this must be, if Christ be not your righteousness. For God’s justice must be satisfied; and unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed and applied to you here, you must hereafter be satisfying divine justice in hell-torments eternally; nay, Christ Himself shall condemn you to that place of torment. And how cutting is that thought? Methinks I see poor, trembling, Christless wretches, standing before the bar of God, crying out, Lord, if we must be damned, let some angel, or some archangel, pronounce the sentence; but all in vain. Christ Himself shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, let me persuade you to close with Christ, and never rest until you can say, “the Lord our righteousness.” Who knows but the Lord may have mercy on, nay, abundantly pardon you? You need not fear the greatness or number of your sins. For are you sinners? so am I. Are you the chief of sinners? so am I. Are you backsliding sinners? so am I. And yet the Lord (for ever adored be His rich, free, and sovereign grace!) the Lord is my righteousness. Come, then, O young men, who (as I acted once myself) are playing the prodigal, and wandering away afar off from your heavenly Father’s house, come home, come home, and leave your swine’s trough. Feed no longer on the husks of sensual delights; for Christ’s sake arise, and come home! your heavenly Father now calls you. See, yonder the best robe, even the righteousness of His dear Son, awaits you. See it, view it again and again. Consider at how dear a rate it was purchased, even by the blood of God. Consider what great need you have of it. You are lost, undone, damned for ever, without it. come then, poor guilty prodigals, come home; indeed, I will not, like the elder brother in the gospel, be angry; no, I will rejoice with the angels in heaven. And O that God would now bow the heavens and come down! Descend, O Son of God, descend; and, as Thou hast shown in me such mercy, O let Thy blessed Spirit apply Thy righteousness to some young prodigals now before thee, and clothe their naked souls with Thy best robe!

And what shall I say to you of a middle age, you busy merchants, you cumbered Marthas, who, with all your gettings, have not yet gotten the Lord to be your righteousness! Alas! what profit will there be of all your labour under the sun, if you do not secure this pearl of invaluable price? I see, also, many hoary heads here, and perhaps the most of them cannot say, The Lord is my righteousness. O grey-headed sinners, I could weep over you! your grey hairs which ought to be your crown, and in which perhaps you glory, are now your shame. You know not that the Lord is your righteousness; O haste then, haste ye, aged sinners, and seek an interest in redeeming love! Alas, you have one foot already in the grave, your glass is just running out, your sun is just going down, and it will set and leave you in an eternal darkness, unless the Lord be your righteousness. Flee, then, O flee for your lives! Be not afraid. All things are possible with God. If you come, though it be at the eleventh hour, Christ Jesus will in no wise cast you out. Seek then for the Lord to be your righteousness, and beseech Him to let you know how it is that a man may be born again when he is old!

But I must not forget the lambs of the flock. To feed them, was one of my Lord’s last commands. I know He will be angry with me, if I do not tell them that the Lord may be their righteousness; and that of such is the kingdom of heaven. Come, then, ye little children, come to Christ, the Lord shall be your righteousness. Do not think that you are too young to be converted. Perhaps many of you may be nine or ten years old, and yet cannot say, The Lord is our righteousness; which many have said, though younger than you. Come, then, while you are young. Perhaps you may not live to be old. Do not stay for other people. If your fathers and mothers will not come to Christ, do you come without them. Let children lead them, and show them, how the Lord may be their righteousness. Our Lord Jesus loved little children. You are His lambs; He bids me feed you. I pray God make you willing betimes to take the Lord for your righteousness.

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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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Today’s entry comes from E.H. Gillett’s HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES. I found his account of Indian missions under the Rev. Peter Bullen an enjoyable read, and hope you will too. What a picture of the cost of such missions in the early days of this country!

In 1804 the Synod of Carolina directed the Presbytery of Orange to ordain James Smylie, who had been laboring at Natchez in the Louisiana Territory, with a view to his returning thither to engage in missionary labor. This region of the Southwest, rapidly filling up after the Louisiana Purchase, was for the most part under the supervision of the Synods of Virginia and Carolina.

The way had been prepared for the labors of Mr. Smylie by that veteran in the cause of Presbyterianism at the South, Rev. James Hall, of North Carolina. In the autumn of 1800, under a commission of the General Assembly, he commenced a mission to Natchez. Two other brethren whom the Synod appointed accompanied him. This was the first in the series of Protestant missionary efforts in the lower valley of the Mississippi. The report of the mission was made to Synod in 1801, and, as published in the papers of the day, excited a very general interest throughout the Southern country. The Presbytery of West Tennessee, erected in 1810, had this field under its care; but it was not till 1815 that, by a division of it, the Presbytery of Mississippi was formed.

In 1817 this body consisted of five ministers and had under its care eight congregations. At the head of its list stood the name of the venerable Joseph Bullen, verging upon his threescore years and ten, a pioneer in the cause of Indian missions. Soon after the formation of the New York Missionary Society, it was determined to attempt the establishment of a mission among the Chickasaws of “West Georgia” and Mr. Bullen was selected as the man to conduct it. He was a native of Vermont, and had already reached his forty-seventh year when he commenced the undertaking. At New York he received his public charge from the venerable Dr. Rodgers, and set out March 26, 1799, on his journey to the Southwest. He was accompanied by his son, a youth of seventeen years, who it was thought might render important aid in acquiring the language and giving instructions as a teacher of Indian children.

His route led him through Philadelphia, where he received the friendly attentions not only of Dr. [Ashbel] Green, but of Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, and other distinguished persons. Thence he proceeded westward, by way of Lexington, Va., to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. Here he was two hundred and seventy miles distant from his point of destination, and his friends urged him to delay his journey for several weeks, in order to secure company. Such were the dangers of the way that it was quite unadvisable to attempt the journey without guides. But the zeal of the missionary would not allow him to pause. He had already had experiences of hardship, exposure to storms, and perils from swollen streams, sometimes crossing “waters almost to the horse’s back.” Unappalled by the representations made to him, he resolved to press on. “Trusting in divine goodness to direct” their way, the travelers set out for the Indian country. Their horses were encumbered with baggage, and their movements were slow. But, provided with food, blankets, an axe, and a gun, they made such progress as they were able. Their lonesome way was occasionally cheered by meeting traders from Natchez and New Orleans, returning to Kentucky. Sometimes they were impeded by the rains and the swollen streams. The waters of the Tennessee were high, and places of entertainment were few and far between. The food which they could procure was not of the best kind,—sometimes hominy or damaged meat. A bed of bear-skin was a luxury for the night’s lodging.

At length Mr. Bullen reached his destination, worn, weary, and almost an invalid. The Chickasaws he found “without any kind of religious observance, and without temple and priest,” except that a few of their enchanters had images, the use of which was little understood among the people. He preached and conversed as he had opportunity, witnessed their frolics and their “mysteries,” their “singing, yelling, and running,” gained their confidence, and, with alternate experience of encouragement and disappointment, prosecuted his work. From one town he journeyed to another, distributing his labors among the Indians and whites, and coming in frequent contact with the hundreds of traders who, after their trip down the Mississippi, returned by land to their homes. His greatest success was among the slaves, five of whom he baptized on one occasion. Daunted by no difficulties or hardships, wet, hungry, shelterless oftentimes, he labored at all seasons to prosecute the missionary work in which all the sympathies of his soul were enlisted.

Worn out with labors, Rev. Bullen returned to the North in the fall of 1800. On his way he stopped at Maryville {TN], where Gideon Blackburn ministered to a church of over three hundred communicants. The two men, kindred in missionary zeal and devotion, conferred together; and, though we have no record of the themes upon which they conversed, we can scarcely doubt, from our knowledge of the men, that the subject nearest to Mr. Bullen’s heart claimed their attention. This, at least, we know, that within a few months of that meeting, Mr. Blackburn threw his whole soul into the work of Indian missions, and pleaded their cause with a glowing eloquence in the Eastern cities, both North and South.

Mr. Bullen soon returned to his field of labor, accompanied by his family, resolved thenceforth to make his home in the Southwest. Deacon Rice, who was employed as his assistant, proved unacceptable to the Indians, who forced him to leave the country. But Mr. Bullen remained; and ere long we find him disconnected with the Indian mission, and one of the original members of the Presbytery of Mississippi,–indeed, the patriarch of the body.

At last the Rev. Peter Bullen rested from his labors and entered his eternal reward, on March 26, 1825.

[excerpted from History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, by E. H. Gillett (1864), pp. 367-370.]

Words to Live By:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4, KJV)

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Train Up a Child

Robert Baird [6 October 1798 - 15 March 1863]Concerning the Rev. Robert Baird, we read in Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia, that he was born on October 6th, 1798, in the neighborhood of Uniontown, Fayette county, Pennsylvania,; that he graduated from Jefferson College with high honors in 1818 and then studied theology at Princeton Seminary. In his final year there, he was a tutor in Nassau Hall. Immediately upon graduation in 1822, he took charge of an Academy which had just been established in Princeton and oversaw that work for five or six years. He had been licensed to preach in 1822, and in 1828 was ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunwsick and called to serve as an Evangelist. A year later, he accepted a post to serve as General Agent for the American Sunday School Union, a post which he held for six years. Finally, in 1835, he began the work which consumed the remainder of his life, seeking to advance the cause of the evangelical Christian faith in various countries in Europe. For twenty-eight years this was his life’s passion. Finally, returning from London in 1862, his last year was spent at home in New Jersey, and on March 15, 1863, he breathed his last.

Baird’s greatest work was most likely his treatment on Religion in America. Written while he was residing in Geneva, it is a work which remains quite useful to this day. The full title of the work is Religion in America; or an account of the Origin, Progress, Relation to the State, and Present Condition of the Evangelical Churches in the United States. With notices of the Unevangelical Denominations. First published in 1842, Baird continued to rework and expand the book, and the final 1856 edition is the most complete.

Some three years after his death, Baird’s son, the Rev. Henry Martyn Baird, wrote a biography of his father, and in the following passage, Henry speaks of Robert’s childhood and how he was raised in the Christian faith by a father who was careful to catechize his children:

“His father was a man of staunch integrity and of exemplary deportment; and, as such, he had won the esteem and confidence of all his neighbors. Unostentatious, but with very decided views, which he never avoided expressing on all suitable occasions, he was a man who left his imprint upon all with whom he came in contact. His habits of industry and thrift, formed in youth, he strove to inculcate in connection with the higher obligations of religion. Often did his children, in later years, advert with pleasure to the instruction given to them in the Westminster catechism under the parental roof. On Sabbath evenings, when the entire family was gathered around the blazing hearth, the father was accustomed to hear his children recite that admirable summary of the great truths of the Gospel. His memory was extraordinarily tenacious, and he had himself been so thoroughly drilled in his childhood, that he experienced no difficulty in conducting the exercise, and never required a book in order to recall either the form or the order of the questions. He always began at the very commencement of the catechism, and went regularly through it to the last answer with those of the older children who had advanced so far. His son Robert often blessed God for the familiarity which he thus acquired with the matchless compendium of Biblical theology of the Westminster divines; and expressed regret that Christian parents generally are not more faithful in laying in the minds of their offspring, at an early age, the foundations of an intimate acquaintance with the all-important doctrines of the Christian religion.”

Words to Live By:
Catechising your children may not always be easy, but it can be enjoyable, if conducted lovingly and in a firm yet patient way. Start when they are very young, and build a family habit around the time, whether over the dinner table, at bed time or in the morning. Any discipline involves effort, but this is something which will bear a good—even an eternal—blessing.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14-15, NASB)

For Further Study:
Last October 6th, we first looked at the life of Robert Baird. To review that post, click here.

To read The Life of the Rev. Robert Baird, by Henry Martyn Baird, click here.

To read the review of Religion in America written by James W. Alexander, click here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Practice of Repentance

With little action by Presbyterians in America on this day, we turn on this day, September 15,  to Shorter Catechism No. 87 which asks and answers “What is repentance unto life?  A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

The last catechism we considered, which was on September 4, and dealt with the definition of saving grace, and this one on repentance, are linked in that they are twin graces.  Faith must precede repentance however in the order of nature. The writer to the book of Hebrews said in chapter 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (ESV) Saving faith comes first, but repentance unto life is so closely connected with it in the sinner’s experience, that we may not be able to separate them in a concise way.

Repentance is unto life. The Messianic Jews in Acts 11:18 rejoiced that as a result of Peter’s ministry to the Gentiles, “God had granted repentance that leads to life.” (ESV)  Further it is “a saving grace,” in that it is the free gift of God. The previous text in Acts 11 speaks of “God granting repentance.”  He is the author of repentance.

Repentance comes first from the knowledge of sin and in particular his sin.   It is “out of a true sense of his sin” that repentance comes. A true repentant, under the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, views sin, and his sin, not only dangerous to his soul, but also odious because it is contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God.  Further, repentance  is followed by “an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.” Because of who Christ is, and what He accomplished in our redemption, we as sinners can have the mercy of God upon us.

The two ingredients of repentance include first “a grief and hatred of sin,” and our sin in particular. The godly sorrow of the penitent is for his sin committed against God, as rebellion against his rightful authority, as a violation of His holy law, and certainly as an ungrateful return for all His goodness. It includes a hatred of sin. The Psalmist David stated in Psalm 119:128 that he hated “every false way.”  As a result of this, the repentant person “returns from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”  True repentance results in actions which are now pleasing to God.

Words to live by:  Repentance includes small sins and great sins. It includes general sins and particular sins.  We need to include confession of sins in every prayer we pray to the heavenly Father. Confession attests the sincerity of repentance. There must be a complete change of mind and manner of life in biblical repentance.

Through the Scriptures: Ezekiel 15 – 18

Through the Standards:  The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Shorter Catechism.

WSC 104 — “What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A.  In the fourth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) we pray, that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.”

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