Donegal Presbytery

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buswellportraitOn February 2, 1977, Dr. James Oliver Buswell Jr. was called to his heavenly home. It can truly be said of him, he had fought a good fight, he had finished his course, and he had kept the Faith.

At the age of 82 he could look back upon a life of dedication and service to his Master, Who had endowed him with many gifts, great wisdom and outstanding leadership. He has been taken.from our midst, but his labors stand as a testimony of praise to God, Who was pleased to use him in many and varied ministries.

As a seminary student he entered the military service of his country as a Chaplain in the First World War, where he ministered to soldiers even in the thick of battle. He was wounded in the line of duty and was cited in General Orders and received the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

After the war he took up a pastorate in the Perseverance Presbyterian Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin—1919 to 1922. His next pastorate was in the Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., from 1922 to 1926.

In the fall of 1925 he delivered a series of evangelistic messages at Wheaton College, Wheaton, 111. Shortly after that Dr. Charles A. Blanchard, the President of Wheaton College, died. Dr. Buswell was called to be the third president of Wheaton and was installed in April of 1926. He served there for 14 years in a most effective manner. During his administration the College grew numerically, its financial position was strengthened, new facilities were added, and it became fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. It was during his administration that the Wheaton Graduate School was established. He remained at Wheaton until 1940.

Following this he taught for a short time at Faith Seminary. In January of 1941 he was called to the presidency of the National Bible Institute of New York City, which, under his leadership became Shelton College. The school also grew and developed under his 15 years of able leadership.

In 1956 he was called to be Dean of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, where he served for 14 years until his retirement in 1970. He and his wife moved to The Quarryville Presbyterian Home as guests, but here too he continued his ministry of speaking and writing.

He is known for his writings, especially the two volumes of Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, which is widely used today.

In 1936 Dr. Buswell, together with Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Dr. Harold S. Laird, and others, took his stand fearlessly for the Word of God in opposition to the forces of modernism in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. There was a great price to be paid from a human standpoint but, like Paul, he counted not his life dear to himself that he might finish the course God had given him. He, with the others mentioned, became the leaders of a new movement committed uncompromisingly to a loyalty to God and the Scriptures.

He helped form the Presbyterian Church of America in June of 1936, which then changed its name to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In the of 1937 he was a leader in the group which became the Bible Presbyterian Church and later changed its name to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In all of this trying and developing experience of the church his leadership was evident and greatly respected.

buswellchopsPictured at left: Dr. Buswell engaged in his favorite form of exercise, chopping wood!

He served on the Fraternal Relations Committee used to bring about the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1965. This resulted in the formation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

One of the key issues which evidenced departure from the Word of God was that of the Foreign Missions Board of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Out of this arose the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Dr. Buswell was one of the founders under the leadership of Dr. Machen. In the developing Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the same urgency of missions continued under Dr. Buswell’s leadership and the Board of World Presbyterian Missions was created and continued to serve as the missionary arm of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Dr. Buswell served on this board until his death.

Dr. Buswell served on many boards, agencies and committees of the Re¬formed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. When the denomination was newly established, he had the joy of having a great input to its growth and development.

A great man has fallen, but God’s course continues—“He being dead, yet speaketh.” He has left the challenge to those who continue under the same Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Buswell was survived by his dear wife, a faithful helpmeet for 59 years, and four children, all active in God’s work: Jane (Mrs. Philip Foxwell), Ruth (Mrs. Edward Noe), Dr. James Oliver Buswell III, and Dr. John Buswell. There are also ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren as well as a host of friends, both in heaven and in all parts of the world.

As a member of the Philadelphia Presbytery, our Synod, numerous boards and agencies, Dr. Buswell deserves the thanks to God which we all join in giving for this our fellow Christian. We thank God upon every remembrance of him. Our prayers and sincere sympathy are with his dear wife and all the members of his family. Joshua 1:23: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.”

Words To Live By:
The challenge is for us to arise and possess that which God has promised us as His people. There remains yet much to be possessed for God’s kingdom.

[The text above, with a few minor edits, was the text of the Memorial for Dr. Buswell, as published in the Minutes of the 155th General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.]

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Home Religion in Colonial America

In the years prior to the American Revolution, Presbyterians were already emigrating into Western Pennsylvania with their families. This was no easy move on their part. Native Indian tribes were resistant to this westward expansion. The further these Presbyterians moved away from civilization, the fewer helps and conveniences moved with them. More than that, these pioneers often left behind the anchor of an ordained ministry of the gospel.

In 1772, the Presbytery of Donegal appointed the Rev. David McClure to take a spiritual tour of Presbyterians west of the Allegheny mountains.  We know very little about him as a person.  He was from Ulster, or northern Ireland as we know it today.  Some said he was from Londonderry, Ulster.  He had traveled to Rhode Island, and then come down to the middle colonies.  First sent to the Delaware Indians, they had rejected his message of salvation.  So he became an itinerant minister and thus was open to the trip west for the Presbytery.

Writing a remarkable diary, he observed once that “truly the people here in this new country are as sheep scattered upon the mountains without a shepherd.  May the good Lord raise up and send forth faithful laborers into this past of His vineyard.”   He didn’t have long to wait for the fulfillment of that prayer.

Notice his words on April 8, 1773.  He comments in his diary, “The inhabitants west of the Appalachian mountains are chiefly Scotch-Irish Presbyterians.  They are either natives of the north of Ireland, or the descendants of such and removed here from the middle colonies. There are some Germans, English, and Scotch. The Presbyterians are generally well indoctrinated in the principles of the Christian religion.  The young people are taught by their parents and school masters, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and almost every family has the Westminster Confession of Faith, which they carefully study.”

Along with the Bible and the Westminster Standards, usually the Scotch-Irish families of the wilderness possessed Thomas Boston’s Fourfold State, and one of the commentaries, such as Matthew Henry.  With these within their grasp, time in the morning and evening of each day would be set aside for reading and prayers and memory work.  When a traveling pastor would come through, like David McClure, he would spend time asking the family members questions from the Bible and the Standards. Those who answered faithfully would be given communion tokens, upon which they would turn in and receive communion on the Lord’s Day.  Those who failed in their spiritual understanding would not receive the token and would be sufficiently warned to do better in their Christian experience the next time a minister would visit.

It was serious business being a Christian in colonial times.

Words to Live By:  What place does the Word of God and the Westminster Standards have in your home?  Are they strangers to the members of your family?  Do they have just a nodding acquaintance with you?  Or do they form the backbone of your faith and life?  It is not without purpose that our historical devotionals in this year’s reading include both Scripture and Standards on a day-by-day basis.  Apply them to your family members and their age groups, so as to bring back the early Presbyterian practice of being trained up in the fear of the Lord.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Samuel 16 – 18

Through the Standards:  (Note: in our last question and answer on the degrees of sin, continue to examine yourself and see if this sin is found in you.  If it has this past week or month, confess and forsake it.  If you are free from it, be aware of it so as to avoid it in your Christian life)

WLC 151
“Sins received their aggravations 4. From circumstances of time and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages; if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.”

Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers :

Image sources:
1. Reverse side of a communion token from the Newington Parish Church, Edinburgh, Scotland. Undated. Burzinski no. 5523.

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