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WTJ1938v1The PCA Historical Center was recently blessed with accession of the first four issues of THE WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL (1938-1940). As you might imagine, these issues are rather scarce, and we’re pleased to be able to add them to our research library. Still missing from our collection are Volumes 3 through 17 (1940-1954), but Lord willing, in time we hope to find these as well. 

That accession prompts our post today, and lacking a specific date in this instance, let’s just say that it was probably in that first week of the month, maybe around November 6, in 1938, when pastors, elders and interested laymen would have gone to their mailboxes and found waiting for them the first issue of THE WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL. That first issue—Volume 1, number 1—bears the date of November 1938. Seventy-seven years later, the JOURNAL continues in its mission. That mission was clearly stated on the opening pages of that first issue, and as both the Seminary and its JOURNAL have played an important part in the conservative Presbyterian movement of the 20th and 21st centuries, it seems relevant to present our readers with the commitments, hopes and intentions laid out by the editors at that time :

TO OUR READERS

If we are not mistaken (and editors, like others, sometimes make mistakes), more periodicals are dying than are being born at the present time. The Westminster Theological Journal in sending out its first issue is, therefore, going against the current of the times. It is doing that in a more important sense, however, than merely by the fact of publication. The Journal is founded upon the conviction that the Holy Scriptures are the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and of practice, and that the system of belief commonly designated the Reformed Faith is the purest and most consistent formulation and expression of the system of truth set forth in the Holy Scriptures.

This position is the position of the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, and the Journal is edited by two members of that Faculty on behalf of the entire body.

We stand today in the Christian Church as debtors to nineteen centuries of Christian history, thought, and experience. It would not only be futile but wrong to try to dissociate ourselves from the great stream of Christian tradition. Other men laboured and we have entered into their labours. It is only by thorough acquaintance with and appreciation of the labours of God’s servants in the centuries that have passed that we can intelligently and adequately present the Christian Faith in the present.

But while we cling tenaciously to the heritage that comes to us from the past we must ever remember that it is our responsibility to present the Christian Faith in the context of the present. The position we maintain, therefore, necessarily involves the bringing of every form of thought that may reasonably come within the purview of a theological acuity to the touchstone of Holy Scripture and the defining of its relations to our Christian Faith.

The need for a scholarly theological journal in this country to uphold historic Christianity is very great. Certain periodicals that at one time supplied this need have ceased to exist. Into the breach The Westminster Theological Journal aims to enter.

The policy of the Journal will be:
1. To maintain the highest standard of scholarship;
2. To publish contributions which will promote the study of theology and the interests of the Reformed Faith;
3. To publish reviews of current literature of importance to the Christian Church and to theological study.

The Faculty is undertaking this task with humility and confidence. They do so with humility because they are aware of the responsibility and of their own insufficiency. Yet they do it with confidence because they believe they are on the side of the truth, and in reliance upon divine grace and power. The battle is the Lord’s, and as His is the wisdom and strength so to Him shall be all the glory.

THE EDITORS

[Note: Professors Paul Woolley and John Murray served as editors of the JOURNAL from 1938 until May 1953, at which time Murray resigned. Woolley continued, first as editor and later as managing editor, until May 1967.]

Pictured below: The inside of the front cover, showing the contents of Volume 1, number 1 (November 1938). The Stonehouse article was a print version of his inaugural lecture, upon installation as Professor of New Testament. —

WTJ1938_inside

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Machen’s article only becomes more relevant with the passing years.

What Should Be Done by Christian People Who are in a Modernist Church?
by Dr. J. Gresham Machen

[The following article was originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian, vol. 1, no. 2 (21 October 1935): 22.]

machen03What is the duty of Christian congregations or Christian individuals who find themselves in a church that is dominated by unbelief? Shall they remain in such a church, or shall they withdraw from it and become members of a consistently Christian Church?

That is certainly the question of the hour for the orthodox part of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Various attempts are being made to answer the question. Various considerations are being urged on one side or the other.

If we separate from the existing church organization, it is being said, shall we be able to retain any of our congregational property, or will that all have to be abandoned to the uses of the existing organization?

On the other hand, if we remain in a church that is dominated by unbelief, does that not mean that we are simply heaping up greater resources for the Modernists in future years to use? Will not every gift that we make, every church building that we put up, be turned over ultimately to the uses of unbelief?

No doubt such considerations on one side or the other of this question are very interesting. I am bound to say in passing that the considerations in favor of separation seem to me to be much stronger than the considerations on the other side.

But I propose to the readers of this page that we should now approach the question in an entirely different way. I propose that we should see what the Bible has to say about the matter. Does the Bible permit Christian people to live year after year, decade after decade, in a church that is so largely dominated by unbelief as is the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.?

The answer to that question is surely not difficult. I am not thinking just now so much of individual texts directly bearing on the question, though those texts are not difficult to find and though they are not really balanced by any texts on the other side; but I am thinking of the Bible’s whole teaching about the Church and what the Church ought to mean in the individual’s Christian life. If we read what the Bible says about the Church and then examine the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., can we really put our hands upon our hearts and say in the presence of God that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. even approximates being what the Bible says a church of Jesus Christ must be or provides that nurture which the Bible says every Christian ought to have?

Now I know very well that we ought to be careful when interrogating the Bible on this point. Sometimes, when the Bible speaks about the Church, it is speaking about the Church as it will finally be when it appears without blemish before Christ. We have no right to demand of the Church militant a perfection that will belong only to the Church triumphant to the Church in its final, glorious state. When the Bible speaks of the Church militant, the Church as it actually appears upon this earth, it detects always the presence of error and sin in that Church, and it does not permit a Christian to withdraw from that Church or any branch of that Church just because that Church or that branch of it is not perfect.

All this is true. But it really does not apply to the situation in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The point is that that Church is very largely dominated by unbelief. It does not merely harbor unbelief here and there. No, it has made unbelief, in the form of a deadly Modernist vagueness, the determinative force in its central official life.

Such a body is hardly what the Bible means by a church at all. The Bible commands Christian people to be members of a true church, even though it be an imperfect one. It represents the nurture provided by such a true church as a necessity, not a luxury, in the Christian life. There must therefore be a separation between the Christian and the Modernist elements in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That is perfectly clear. The only question is how the separation shall be effected.

Unquestionably the best way would be the way of reform. If Modernism should be removed from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., and that church should be brought back to conformity with its constitution and with the Word of God, all would be well.

The other way is the way of separation from the existing organization on the part of the loyal part of the church. Only, if the separation comes, it ought to come in such fashion as to make perfectly clear the fact that those who are separating from the present Modernist organization are not founding a “new church,” but are carrying on the true, spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.

Something will no doubt be said regarding both of these possibilities on this page in future issues of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:
It should always be a fearsome thing to propose division or separation, even for reasons such as stated above. And I am quite certain that separation was never a light matter in Dr. Machen’s consideration. In our daily prayers, we ought to regularly pray for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church. As long as we are in this sinful flesh, there will always be divisions, for our understanding of God’s Word is imperfect. But the way to greater unity rests not in pushing aside the truth of God’s Word, but rather, in pressing forward to know more and more of God’s will, as revealed in the Scriptures.

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kerr_robertPWe return today to our Saturday visits with a little book by the Rev. R.P. Kerr, titled PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE. Today’s section is chapter three of that book, covering the earliest examples in the Bible of the Presbyterian system of government.

Rev. Kerr was the author of some eight other books and numerous articles. Born in 1850, he began his ministerial career in 1873 as pastor of a church in Lexington, Missouri. Kerr served churches in both the old Southern Presbyterian Church [1873-1903] and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. [1903-23]. Honorably retired and in ill health in 1915, he died on March 25, 1923.

Presbyterianism for the People.
by Robert P. Kerr
(1883)

CHAPTER III.
THE BIBLE ORIGIN OF PRESBYTERIANISM.

We claim that whereas no kind of Church government is commanded, yet Presbyterianism was practiced from the earliest times. There is no command to change the Sabbath from the last to the first day of the week, but the Christian Church observes the first day because it was the practice of the apostolic Church so to do.

The Church existed first in the family, the father being the head. As families multiplied, their several heads, or elders, would naturally form a ruling assembly; but because a body composed of all the heads of families in an extensive community would be too large for general efficiency, the people would elect from the number of older men certain ones conspicuous for piety and wisdom to be their representative rulers. They would then have a Presbytery. In a simple state of society this body would have charge of both religious and secular affairs, but as society advances a necessity arises for the separation of the affairs of Church and State. In Old-Testament times they were united, but were separated under the New Dispensation.

We find this presbyterial government in operation among the children of Israel in Egypt when Moses came upon the stage of history. God told him to go and call together the “elders of Israel” and lay his business before them. He was to be their leader in the exodus from Egypt and in the journey to Canaan; but, through divinely appointed to this office, he did not undertake it without calling together the elders of the people and explaining God’s purpose to them. In the Presbyterian Church of to-day, if a man feels called of God to be a pastor and to preach the gospel, the Presbytery must sit in judgment upon his credentials and qualifications. Moses afterward organized a higher court, or assembly—very like a General Assembly—of those whom he knew to be elders, to preside over the government of the whole Church. This body was composed of seventy elders, and was in alter times called “the Sanhedrim.” Beginning with Exodus iii. 16, the word “elder” (signifying “ruler”) is used in the Old Testament about one hundred times, and over sixty times in the New. Their duties were the same as those of elders now—administrative and judicial, to administer the government and to decide cases. This is a simple statement of the functions of elders in all ages, growing out of the very nature of things and having God’s endorsement. The administrative function is seen in their coming together to receive Moses; the judicial (Deut. xix. 11), where they were instructed to try men for murder. These two cases are selected as typical of the large number, which may be seen by referring to any concordance of the Bible, under the word “Elder.”

The introduction of the priesthood interfered not with the office of elder. The priesthood was part of the ceremonial system of worship, of which the temple was the representative. The business of the priest was to offer sacrifices and to intercede for the people, as a type of Christ. But when Christ came the great sacrifice was made, and there was no further use for sacrifice or priest to remind men that Christ was coming; so the veil of the temple was rent when Christ said, “It is finished!” Then priestly sacrifices and gorgeous ritual passed away, God destroying, through the agency of Rome, every vestige of the temple where so long they had served. But there still remained untouched the old government of elders. In each synagogue there was a bench of elders and a “minister.” In Luke iv. 20, Christ “gave the book to the minister and sat down.” The synagogue elders were responsible to the Sanhedrim in Jerusalem, as we learn from The Life of Josephus (section xii.) and from other sources.

This was a government on the great principle of representative assemblies; which is Presbyterianism. The men who administered the government were often corrupt, but the principle was sound and was never called in question in the Scriptures.

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The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was organized on a Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1837 by the Reverend Peter Donan and four persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton, and John Robb and his wife, Marion.  The organization meeting was held in “the Old State House,” Mississippi’s first capitol, a small two-story structure on the northeast corner of E. Capitol and N. President Streets.   Peter Donan continued as the church’s pastor for four years.  There were no elders for two years, no deacons for six years, nor a Presbyterian house of worship for nearly nine years.  In the first two years of its existence, the church had but three new members.

In 1841, Reverend Donan was followed by Reverend  S. H. Hazard, who was pastor for little more than one year.  He was succeeded by the Reverend  Leroy Jones Halsey, a dynamic man and preacher, under whose ministry the congregation commenced to grow.  Halsey spurred the building of the first sanctuary on the northwest corner of North State and Yazoo Streets.  When Dr. Halsey resigned in 1848, the pulpit was supplied until February 22, 1849. The congregation then called as pastor the Reverend Isaac James Henderson, who served until he was succeeded by the Reverend L. A. Lowry on December 3, 1853.   Mr. Lowry was a fine pastor and effective preacher, but died of Yellow Fever after but two years service.  The pulpit was supplied from March, 1855, until a call was extended to the Reverend John Hunter on January 24, 1858.

[For more on the history of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, see the church web site.]

Words to Live By:
Blessed Zion: First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, 1837-2012, is a wonderful church history, written by Dr. Sean Lucas and published early in 2013. The book’s preface alone would be worth the purchase price, in my estimation. There Dr. Lucas summarizes several lessons drawn from the writing of this history:

1. It only takes one generation for a church to die. The reasons may vary: “a poor pastoral choice; a failure to continue to preach God’s Word faithfully; a transition in the church’s understanding of mission; an inability to see and adapt to the neighborhood around it.” By the grace of God, First/Jackson has been blessed in making many right choices over the many years.

2. The quality of the ruling elders who serve the church. These men who form the Session of the church must be talented, godly men.

3. The value of long-term pastorates, allowing for great stability, space for godly pastors to “to shape the theological and experiential perspective of the congregation in favor of the grand, winsome, evangelical truths of Reformed Christianity,” and enabling pastors to earn the long-term trust of their congregation.

4. What Dr. Lucas calls “The Road Not Taken,” i.e., knowing that mistakes, even disastrous ones, can be so easily made, we must recognize and rely upon God’s mercy and blessing. We note that Rev. Peter Donan, the founding pastor of First/Jackson, later departed from the Reformed Faith, but in God’s providence, that was some years later and by that time he had no influence on the life of this congregation. “Churches that stand faithful through the generations are those that seek men who are faithful to the Scripture, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”

5. The blessings of evangelical Presbyterianism. A great church will not “major in the minors” but will focus on proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.

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What Should Be Done by Christian People Who are in a Modernist Church?
by Dr. J. Gresham Machen

[The following article was originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian, vol. 1, no. 2 (21 October 1935): 22.]

machen03What is the duty of Christian congregations or Christian individuals who find themselves in a church that is dominated by unbelief? Shall they remain in such a church, or shall they withdraw from it and become members of a consistently Christian Church?

That is certainly the question of the hour for the orthodox part of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Various attempts are being made to answer the question. Various considerations are being urged on one side or the other.

If we separate from the existing church organization, it is being said, shall we be able to retain any of our congregational property, or will that all have to be abandoned to the uses of the existing organization?

On the other hand, if we remain in a church that is dominated by unbelief, does that not mean that we are simply heaping up greater resources for the Modernists in future years to use? Will not every gift that we make, every church building that we put up, be turned over ultimately to the uses of unbelief?

No doubt such considerations on one side or the other of this question are very interesting. I am bound to say in passing that the considerations in favor of separation seem to me to be much stronger than the considerations on the other side.

But I propose to the readers of this page that we should now approach the question in an entirely different way. I propose that we should see what the Bible has to say about the matter. Does the Bible permit Christian people to live year after year, decade after decade, in a church that is so largely dominated by unbelief as is the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.?

The answer to that question is surely not difficult. I am not thinking just now so much of individual texts directly bearing on the question, though those texts are not difficult to find and though they are not really balanced by any texts on the other side; but I am thinking of the Bible’s whole teaching about the Church and what the Church ought to mean in the individual’s Christian life. If we read what the Bible says about the Church and then examine the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., can we really put our hands upon our hearts and say in the presence of God that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. even approximates being what the Bible says a church of Jesus Christ must be or provides that nurture which the Bible says every Christian ought to have?

Now I know very well that we ought to be careful when interrogating the Bible on this point. Sometimes, when the Bible speaks about the Church, it is speaking about the Church as it will finally be when it appears without blemish before Christ. We have no right to demand of the Church militant a perfection that will belong only to the Church triumphant to the Church in its final, glorious state. When the Bible speaks of the Church militant, the Church as it actually appears upon this earth, it detects always the presence of error and sin in that Church, and it does not permit a Christian to withdraw from that Church or any branch of that Church just because that Church or that branch of it is not perfect.

All this is true. But it really does not apply to the situation in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The point is that that Church is very largely dominated by unbelief. It does not merely harbor unbelief here and there. No, it has made unbelief, in the form of a deadly Modernist vagueness, the determinative force in its central official life.

Such a body is hardly what the Bible means by a church at all. The Bible commands Christian people to be members of a true church, even though it be an imperfect one. It represents the nurture provided by such a true church as a necessity, not a luxury, in the Christian life. There must therefore be a separation between the Christian and the Modernist elements in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That is perfectly clear. The only question is how the separation shall be effected.

Unquestionably the best way would be the way of reform. If Modernism should be removed from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., and that church should be brought back to conformity with its constitution and with the Word of God, all would be well.

The other way is the way of separation from the existing organization on the part of the loyal part of the church. Only, if the separation comes, it ought to come in such fashion as to make perfectly clear the fact that those who are separating from the present Modernist organization are not founding a “new church,” but are carrying on the true, spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.

Something will no doubt be said regarding both of these possibilities on this page in future issues of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:
It should always be a fearsome thing to propose division or separation, even for reasons such as stated above. And I am quite certain that separation was never a light matter in Dr. Machen’s consideration. In our daily prayers, we ought to regularly pray for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church. As long as we are in this sinful flesh, there will always be divisions, for our understanding of God’s Word is imperfect. But the way to greater unity rests not in pushing aside the truth of God’s Word, but rather, in pressing forward to know more and more of God’s will, as revealed in the Scriptures.

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The hour being late, today’s entry is drawn directly from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (p. 333), with just a little elaboration.

Third in an Illustrious Line of Medical Doctors

H. Lenox Hodge was born in Philadelphia, July 30th, 1838. His father was the eminent physician, Dr. Hugh L. Hodge. [His uncle was the equally eminent Princeton Seminary professor, Dr. Charles Hodge]. Lenox received a collegiate education, which terminated in 1855, in his native city, and afterwards studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1858.

In the Fall of the same year he became resident physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital, retaining that office till the Spring of 1860, when he opened an office for the practice of medicine in Philadelphia. He was appointed Demonstrator of Surgery in the University of Pennsylvania, and, in 1861 commenced giving instruction to private classes, on Chestnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, and subsequently lectured in Chant Street, on Anatomy and Operative Surgery. During the Civil War, Dr. Hodge served at West Philadelphia’s Satterlee Hospital, and he was also attached to the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps of Surgeons, serving as a field surgeon at Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In 1870 he was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania, and was, for nearly ten years, attending surgeon at the Children’s Hospital. At the opening of the Presbyterian Hospital, in 1872, he was appointed attending surgeon to that institution.

Dr. Hodge, by his talents, industry, integrity and energy, attained a high rank in his profession. He was a gentleman of polished address and peculiar benevolence. For a number of years he was an exemplary, active and useful ruling elder in the Second Presbyterian Church. Removed by death, in the midst of his years, June 10th, 1881 [surviving his uncle by not quite three years, Charles Hodge dying in 1878], he bore his last and lingering illness with marked resignation, and left the record of one who had adorned all the relations of life by his cultivated intellect, kind disposition, and exemplary Christian character. At the time of his decease he was a member of many medical societies and associations.

Words to Live By:
When we think of Christians who are, or were, medical doctors, the easy association is to the New Testament author, Luke, who wrote one of the four Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts. Next to the pulpit ministry, the medical profession is perhaps preeminently an appropriate one for Christians, focused as it is on the art and science of healing. As much as we need to be reminded to pray for our pastors, don’t we also need to be praying for doctors and other medical professionals? In a culture that seems fixated on death (Prov. 8:36), Christians in the medical profession face unique challenges today.

For Further Study:
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia maintains an archival collection of Dr. Hodge’s case notebooks. The finding aid for that collection can be viewed here.

H. Lenox Hodge was buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. His gravesite, with an accompanying photograph, can be viewed here.

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Every once in a while we will dispense with people and events tied to the calendar. I think this particular piece warrants your attention.

The following article is from among the Papers of the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway (graciously donated at this recent PCA GA), and it was the lead article in a  1935 publication of the National Union of Christian Schools,an effort largely connected in those years with the Christian Reformed Church. And since today is a work day, for your convenience a shorter, edited version (with emphasis added) is posted “above the fold.” Please come back later when you have time to read the full article (posted below the fold).

Time has proven Kuiper’s words to have indeed been so very accurate and true, and still so very applicable.

kuiperRBTHE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL A NECESSARY WITNESS IN THE MODERN WORLD.

by R. B. Kuiper

It is sometimes possible to characterize an age in one word. The antediluvians, for example, lived in practical atheism. They went about their pursuits as if there were no God. Soon after the flood men turned to polytheism, and for many centuries the human race remained steeped in this sin. I believe that antitheism describes today’s world as accurately as any one word can. At the very least it may be asserted of our age that it indisputably manifests a strong strain of antitheism. Modern man is not merely forgetting God, or even wilfully ignoring Him, but he emphatically denies God. He hates God and is eager to express his hatred. He flies in God’s face.

More fully expressed, it is characteristic of the modern world to cast overboard God and His Word and, consequently, His answer to the question what is true as well as His norm of goodness. The world will have nothing of God, the Absolute, nor of His objective standard of truth and morality.

The inevitable outcome is here. Modern man has lost his moorings. He finds himself at sea, surrounded by the thick mist of doubt and uncertainty and enveloped in the black darkness of hopeless pessimism. “Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus,” said the Athenian comic poet Aristophanes. “Whirl is King, having driven out the Absolute” describes the wicked and adulterous generation in which divine providence has cast our lot.

*     *     *

Small wonder that the modern man finds no satisfying answer to the question what truth is. Divine revelation has been thrown into the discard and science has come to take its place, but the knowledge proffered by science differs so radically from that received by revelation that it hardly deserves to be called knowledge at all. I well recall when I began the study of physics at the Morgan Park Academy. In the very first lesson we were taught certain axioms. One of them was the indestructibility of matter. Now Webster defines an axiom as “a self-evident truth.” But modern science is by no means sure of the self-evident character of this proposition. The following quotation from Walter Lippmann is as true as witty. I find it most delightful. Says this modern sage: “One can by twisting language sufficiently ‘reconcile’ Genesis with ‘evolution.’ But what no one can do is to guarantee that science will not destroy the doctrine of evolution the day after it has been triumphantly proved that Genesis is compatible with the theory of evolution.—The reconciliation which theologians are attempting is an impossible one, because one of the factors which has to be reconciled—namely, the scientific theory, changes so rapidly that the layman is never sure at any one moment what the theory is which he has to reconcile with religious dogma.”


*     *     *

If he who denies the absolute God and His Word has no reply to the question what truth is, neither can he say what is good.

The modern man does not know what is right and what wrong, and, as has been aptly remarked, he is giving himself the benefit of the doubt. Modern youth revolts against the restraint of God’s law and passionately lends its ear to the siren song of Freud. The divine institution of marriage is unblushingly violated even in the first family of our land. Supposedly Christian Italy seems eager to follow the example of pagan Japan in carrying out a selfish program of imperialism through ruthless and bloody conquest. Not only numberless individuals, but whole civilized nations, have lost the sense of financial obligation and are laughing just debts out of court. Capital continues to exploit labor, while fanatic reformers and windy demagogues are applauded by hosts for their communistic dreams. “All thine is mine” might well be called the slogan of our generation.

But human beings must be held in restraint somehow. Even man himself realizes that. And so it comes about that modern man, having turned his back on the law of God, which is the law of liberty, yields to a multiplication of human laws, which is tyranny. The great war was fought avowedly to make the world safe for democracy. But the post-war period is one of dictatorships. Despots are crushing whole nations under their heels. Everywhere governments are trampling upon the sacred rights of individuals. The totalitarian state is in the ascendancy. Democracy is rapidly becoming a huge joke, personal liberty a relic.

*     *     *

What is our duty as Christians in this present evil world? If that question were to be answered in one word, I should choose the word witness. Just before His ascension our Lord said to His disciples: “But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That is a succinct statement of the Christian’s task in the world.

Christianity is not merely a theology; it is also a cosmology. Christianity tells man the truth, not only concerning God, but also about the universe. It is more than the true doctrine of salvation; it is also the one correct interpretation of life and the world. It is a comprehensive system of all revealed truth—not only the truth of God’s special revelation, the Bible, but of His general revelation in nature and history as well. And this system derives its unity from God, who is Himself the Truth as well as the Revealer of truth. Christianity is theism.

God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.

*     *     *

All we can do is witness. While doing so, we hope and pray that our witness may find response in the modern world. But whether this will actually occur we cannot say. Nor are we responsible for results. Dean Inge once said: “The strength of Christianity is in transforming the lives of individuals—of a small minority, certainly, as Christ clearly predicted, but a large number in the aggregate. To rescue a little flock, here and there, from materialism, selfishness, and hatred, is the task of the Church of Christ in all ages alike, and there is no likelihood that it will ever be otherwise.” This is not a good statement of the task of the Christian Church. Reference to the preaching of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is altogether too obscure. Nor is anything said about the Church’s being the salt of the earth. But who will deny that there is a great deal of sanity in the apparent pessimism of these words? Perhaps the witness of the Christian school too, like that of the Christian Church, is destined to fall in large part on deaf ears. But witness we must. And our witness should ever be clear and strong, and winsome withal.

And who will gainsay that the witness of the Christian school is precisely the witness which is needed by the modern world?
Modern man has forsaken God and His Word. He has turned antitheistic. He has cast overboard the absolute and put the relative in its place. For the objective he has substituted the subjective. In consequence he is hanging between heaven and earth. Nothing is certain save uncertainty. He asks questions innumerable but finds no answers. He is ever seeking but never finding. He hungers and has no food. He thirsts and finds no water. His soul is a great void. And the world is in turmoil. “Whirl is King.”

But the Christian school is characterized by theism, by recognition of God, by submission to the absolute and the objective. It not only asks questions but also solves the most fundamental problems of life. Accordingly it is marked by the calmness of certainty, the tranquillity of power, the serenity of the eternal.

The Christian school offers the troubled world certainty for bewildering doubt, rest for unspeakable weariness, peace for terrifying turmoil, order for maddening confusion, liberty for abject slavery, hope for black despair,—God for utter chaos. Read the rest of this entry »

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As is our habit this year on TDPH, on each Lord’s Day we look to post a sermon (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).  Also, since it is Sunday, hopefully our readers will have more time to read these longer entries, and we trust you will find them profitable.  The text of today’s post is permanently posted in PDF format at the PCA Historical Center’s web site, here.

THE CERTAINTY OF THE WORLD’S CONVERSION.
BY REV. J. L. WILSON,
Missionary at the Gaboon, W. Africa.

[excerpted from The Southern Presbyterian Review, vol. 2, no. 3 (December 1848): 427-441.]

Rev. John Leighton Wilson “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  This stern declaration wrung from the disciples of Christ the earnest inquiry, “Who then can be saved?” To this the Saviour replies, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In this reply, there is no abatement of the real difficulties of being saved.  The impressions of the disciples, on this particular point, were correct, and no effort is made to change or remove them.  The kingdom of heaven, if taken at all, must be taken by violence, and none but the violent shall ever enter.  It has a straight gate and a narrow way; and it is only those who enter the one and walk in the other that shall ever attain to everlasting life.  The immu­table terms of discipleship are, that we must take up our crosses and follow Christ, through evil as well as good report. Those who shine in the upper courts with most lustre, are those who have come out of great tribulation and made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb.

The impressions of the disciples, therefore, are rather confirmed than removed.  According to their previous views, and those of the young man with whom the Saviour had just been conversing, it was not possible to be saved. Both were indulging fundamental errors on the most important of all subjects, and it was essential to their salva­tion that those errors should be corrected.

But whilst the foundation upon which they were standing is thus torn away, they are not given over to despair.  A surer and better way is pointed out.  That which they could never attain by their own exertions or morality, can easily be effected by the grace of God.  In other words, what is impossible with men is possible with God.  What we can never effect by our own unaided efforts, may easily be achieved by throwing ourselves upon the almighty power of Jehovah.

This doctrine accords with the experience of Christians in all ages of the world.  There is no lesson more thoroughly taught in the school of Christ than this.  Chris­tians who have had even but little experience, are fully aware that they can make no advances in holiness, except so far as they are aided from on high.  A clear view of the number and power of their spiritual enemies, if not attended by equally clear views of the all sufficiency of divine grace, never fails to awaken apprehensions about their final salvation; whilst a lively appreciation of the promises and assurances of the Bible, and right apprehen­sions of the power of God, as seldom fail to inspire them with courage and resolution.

Nor is this principle of dependence upon God, more important or indispensable in our personal conflicts with sin, than it is in every enterprise in which we engage for the benefit of others.  “Without me,” says the Saviour, “ye can do nothing.”  But then again it is said with equal emphasis, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

Guided by this principle of dependence, there is no enterprise, however great or difficult, provided it is in accordance with the Divine will, upon which we may not enter with confident assurance of success.  It matters not what human probabilities may be arrayed against it,—it matters not what disproportion there may be between the means and the end to be effected,—it matters equally little whether we are able or not to trace all the intermediate steps by which it is to be brought about,—nor are we to be discouraged or intimidated because unforeseen difficulties rise and threaten to frustrate our work.  It is enough for us to know that we are engaged in a cause that has been authorised by God, and that we pursue it in a manner that he approves.  Having settled these fundamental principles, we may press forward in any good work, with confidence that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

These general remarks have been made for the pur­pose of introducing our general subject, the certainty of the world’s conversion.

There are multitudes in the Christian church, at the present moment, who are pressed with difficulties in relation to this matter, not unlike those which the disciples once felt in relation to the salvation of their own soul.  And who is there among us, Christian hearers, who does not in some measure, at least, participate in feeling these difficulties.

No doubts are entertained in relation to what the Bible teaches on this subject.  The mass of Christians believe, or profess to believe, that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.”  But the overwhelming magnitude of the work fills the mind with doubts and skepticism, and leads many to abandon the missionary cause, as a visionary and hopeless work. Read the rest of this entry »

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