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Two eulogies published upon the death of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. One by a close friend, Dr. Clarence E. Macartney; the other by “S. M. R.”, perhaps the editor of The Presbyterian, in the mid-1930’s. (further research required to confirm).

DR. MACARTNEY’S COMMENT ON THE DEATH OF DR. MACHEN

[as published in The Presbyterian, 7 January 1937.]

When I heard of the passing of Dr. Machen, the words of King David over Abner came to mind: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?”

Dr. Machen was my classmate at Princeton and a firm friend through all the years that have passed since then. I am glad in this public way to testify to my affection for him, my admiration for his superb intellect, his pre-eminent scholarship, his magnificent courage, and his clear discernment of the spread of apostasy in the Christian Church.

He was the greatest theologian and defender of the Christian faith that the Church of our day has produced. More than any other man of our generation, Dr. Machen tore the mask from the face of unbelief which parades under the name of Modernism in the Christian Church.

He was not only a great scholar and thinker, but a man of remarkable power as an organizer. He leaves behind him three noble institutions which are his chief monument–Westminster Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and the Presbyterian Church of America.

To those who did not know him, Dr. Machen may have seemed austere and censorious. But those who had the privilege of his friendship knew him as a man of the widest culture and a delightful companion.

We shall see him no more in the flesh. His eloquent voice will not be heard again in the pulpits of the land. Yet, “he being dead, yet speaketh.” Like Paul, he kept the faith delivered unto the saints, and like Paul’s noble companion, Barnabas, “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost.”

Clarence Edward Macartney.


Dr. J. Gresham Machen

The speedy death after a brief battle with lobar pneumonia which closed the earthly career of Dr. Machen at the age of fifty-five, came to us as a great shock. Dr. Machen was a vigorous personality, a great scholar, yet a very humble and warm-hearted Christian. He endeared himself to his students, among whom the writer is happy to have been numbered at Princeton Seminary. He was the master of all the foremost writings of the destructive critics who did so much to undermine Christian faith, and he taught the riches of the Word with understanding as well as personal belief. He saw the poverty of the general position which was so popular a few years ago, but which has now left its votaries discomfited and bereft in the time of great need. He was a man of Reformation proportions. The Lord’s hand may now appear more plainly with the servant called home, either perpetating [sic] the denomination he started with greater power, or directing these noble men back to our own Church. Certainly we would welcome their return, as we will continue to respect them in their own endeavors.

S. M. R.

 

1925 – Evangelical Students

1929 – WTS

1930 – Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing

1933 – IBPFM

1936 – PCofA/OPC

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News Coverage of the Machen Funeral

This is a bonus posting for this day, using news clippings drawn from the scrapbooks of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.  We had noted that a number of people were reviewing last year’s post on this same topic, and so thought this additional material might be appreciated.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, 3 January 1937., page A9.

Rites Set for TuesdayDR. MACHEN’S RITES SET FOR TUESDAY.
High Presbyterian Officials to Attend Services for Fundamentalist Leader.

With high officials of the Presbyterian Church of America in attendance, funeral services for Dr. J. Gresham Machen, founder of the new fundamentalist denomination, will be held at 3 P.M. Tuesday in the Spruce Street Baptist Church, Spruce and 50th sts.

Dr. Machen, militant first moderator of the denomination who led his followers in a split from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in Philadelphia last June, died in Bismark, N.D., Friday night of pneumonia contracted on a speaking tour.

Notice of the funeral arrangements was received here yesterday from Rev. Dr. Edwin H. Rian, of Philadelphia, general secretary of the Church’s Extension and Home Mission Board, who arrived in Bismark yesterday.

Arrived Too Late.

Dr. Rian and Dr. Machen’s brother, Arthur Machen, of Baltimore, both of whom arrived too late to see Dr. Machen alive will accompany the body to Philadelphia.

The services will be conducted by Dr. Rian, long one of Dr. Machen’s close associates, and by Rev. Dr. R.B. Kuiper, professor of homiletics at Westminster Seminary, of which the late church leader was founder and moving spirit.

Burial will be in Baltimore, Dr. Machen’s birthplace.

A statement deploring the death of Dr. Machen as a loss to evangelical Christianity was issued yesterday by Rev. Dr. John Burton Thwing, moderator of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

“In the death of Dr. J. Gresham Machen,” he declared, “the cause of evangelical Christianity has lost its most trenchant advocate. His books, lectures, sermons and radio talks were always lucid presentations of the old-fashioned faith based upon sound scholarship.

“Brave under fire in France, he was equally brave under persecution by his false brethren in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. God will reward them according to their works.”

Change Time for TuesdayBridgeton N.J. News:
CHANGE TIME FOR FUNERAL

Services for Rev. Dr. Machen to be Held Tomorrow Morning–Ministers Pay Tribute.
Funeral services for Dr. J. Gresham Machen, first scheduled for 3:30 p.m. will be held instead at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Spruce Street Baptist Church, Spruce and Fiftieth streets, Philadelphia, it was announced yesterday by officials of the Presbyterian Church of America.

Members of the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary will be honorary pallbearers for the founder of the new fundamentalist denomination, who died in Bismark, N. D., Friday. The service of Scripture reading, prayer and hymn singing, minus a sermon, will be directed by Rev. Edwin H. Rian, general secretary of the Home Mission and Church Extension Board, and Rev. Dr. R. B. Kuiper, professor of homiletics at the seminary.

Immediately after the ceremony the body will be sent to Baltimore for burial.

Pays Tribute

Some of the residents of Bridgeton heard Dr. Barnhouse, pastor of the Tenth Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, pay a tribute to Dr. Machen. He said that he had known Dr. Machen’s pastorate of 10 years in Newark and spoke of his warm personal friendship for the minister.

Dr. Barnhouse referred to his own experience in Europe and paid . . .


Buried after local ritesDR. MACHEN BURIED AFTER LOCAL RITES.
800 Attend Funeral of Fundamentalist at Spruce Street Baptist Church.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen, founder of the Presbyterian Church of America was buried yesterday in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, after impressive services in Spruce Street Baptist Church

Clergymen of all denominations, including several members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, mother church from which Dr. Machen and his followers seceded, joined the more than 800 laymen who packed the flower-decked church during the ceremony.

Dr. Edwin Rian, professor at Westminster Seminary, 13th and Pine sts., which Dr. Machen helped found, presided. Dr. R. B. Kuiper, also a professor at the seminary, preached the sermon. Officers of the student body and the faculty of the seminary acted as pall-bearers and honorary pall-bearers. Dr. Machen’s brothers, Arthur, a Baltimore attorney, and Dr. Thomas Machen, attended the services.

Dr. Machen died in Bismark, N. D., of lobar pneumonia while on a speaking tour on behalf of his fundamentalist denomination.

 

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machen_ShallWeObeyIt was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking.

This appears to be one of Machen’s messages which is now lost. I did not find any title close to “Shall We Obey God, or Man?” among Dr. Machen’s published works, but if I missed something, please bring it to my attention. Like so much of Machen’s writings, this too would have remained a timely message for our own day. Perhaps there are still some notes, an outline, or even a transcript preserved among the Machen Papers at Westminster Theological Seminary?

DR. J. G. MACHEN SPEAKS HERE SUNDAY.

“Shall We Obey God, or Man?” is the subject to be discussed by Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Masonic Temple. This meeting, the last in the series of three sponsored by a local committee interested in the newly organized Presbyterian Church of America, has been planned to bring before the public some of the outstanding issues before the Presbyterian Church today.

Dr. Machen, who is Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and long identified with the fundamentalist group in the Presbyterian Church, today is a national figure. IN 1928 he headed a group of men that left Princeton Seminary and about four years later was instrumental in the founding of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. It was the establishment of this board that brought to a head the fast growing differences between the two groups, for from this board, termed illegal by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Dr. Machen and others were ordered to resign. Their refusal to do so lead finally this year to their withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America.

Why the matter has been doctrinal rather than administration as claimed by the General Assembly that met in Syracuse last May, in what way the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. has placed the word of man above the word of God and why Conservatives cannot expect to purify the church from within are among the things which will be explained by Dr. Machen.

Acclaimed by his friends and foes alike as the outstanding Greek scholar of the world today, known as an ardent defender of Fundamentalism and the author of numerous well-known books, Dr. Machen will come prepared to state authoritatively the position of the new Presbyterian Church of America.

This same news clipping, pictured at right, can be found in context on the front page of The Westfield, New Jersey Leader, here :
http://archive.wmlnj.org/TheWestfieldLeader/1936/1936-09-17/pg_0001.pdf . Our copy of this clipping is from the scrapbook collection gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.

Words to Live By:
In every age and era, there are challenges that confront the Christian. There is always the contest, whether to obey God or man. Strive to obey God daily, moment by moment, while the challenges may still be simpler and less painful. Set the habit now. Walk in the light of His Word and make a practice of remembering God’s faithfulness. For one, make a habit of noting His answers to your prayers. Then, when real challenges to obedience come, you should be able to say, “How can I deny Him now, when He has been faithful to me all these years?”

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The Greatest Divine of the South

ThornwellJH_smWhen the great Southern theologian died on August 1, the South was winning her independence from the Union.  But that was only one year into the War Between the States.  In 1862, James Henley Thornwell finally succumbed to a life-long affliction from tuberculosis, at the age of 50.  Three years later, his beloved Confederacy would be a defeated people.  He did not live to see that defeat and feel that sorrow.

James Thornwell, as our title puts it, was the greatest divine of the South. Biblical philosopher, Calvinistic theologian, and Old School Presbyterian defender—all these descriptions characterized Dr. Thornwell.  He believed in principle rather than expediency.  And his writings continue today in both North and South.

When he was just twenty years old, he came to Christ, making a public profession of faith.  Determined from that time forward to enter into the field of theology, he began to study first up north, and then in his beloved South, where the weather was better suited to his nature.  Due to a scarcity of preachers, even before he finished seminary, he was able to be licensed and ordained two years after his salvation.  Other than a few years in the pastorate, he labored primarily as a teacher at South Carolina College, serving there for the next 18 years, with only a few intervening terms as a pastor, each for only a short time.

Active in the regional and national courts of the Presbyterian Church, he was chosen to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly when he was just 34 years old. His gifts of leadership, wisdom and insight were apparently evident to all, and neither before nor since has anyone that young been called to serve in that capacity. When the General Assembly of 1861 became a political agency in the eyes of Southern Presbyterians, as it voted to swear allegiance to the Federal government, Thornwell became the guiding light for the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America.  He  wrote and published the Address to all Churches, which stated why they as the Old School Presbyterians of the South could no longer be a part of the Old School Presbyterians of the North.  He would pass on to glory  in the next year.

Words to Live By: What saith the Scriptures?  It was said that this question, and the subsequent answer, were together the all-embracing rule of Thornwell’s faith and life.  Regardless of how we stand on the great national issues of the Civil War, that same question must be our own standard for believing and living. How often do you go to the Bible to guide your thoughts, words, and actions? Since it is our rule for faith and life, your answer should be—indeed, must be—all the time. And yet before it can be so, you must know the Bible. That is why we have accompanying this historical devotional, a plan for reading through the Bible. Don’t overlook that column over there on the right!  It is the most important part of this devotional blog.

A Further Note:

The following brief report of the death of the Rev. James Henley Thornwell comes from The Christian Observer in August of 1862. :

DEATH OF REV. DR. THORNWELL

Just as our paper of last week was put to press, a telegraphic dispatch brought the sad intelligence of the death of the Rev. Dr. James H. Thornwell, of Columbia, S.C. He departed this life at the home of his friend, E. White, Esq., of Charlotte, N.C., on Friday, the 1st of August. His removal at this important crisis in the church and country is lamented as a public calamity. The mind of Dr. Thornwell was of high order, richly endowed with intellectual attainments which qualified him for the important position he held in the Church. His talents as an able theologian, accomplished writer and eloquent debater and speaker gave him a wide influence in the church and country.

Dr. Thornwell visited North Carolina about six weeks before his death with the hope of improving his impaired health.—After spending two weeks at Wilson’s Springs he came, to Charlotte, where he had made arrangements for meeting Mrs. Thornwell and setting out with her on a tour among our western mountains. The day after his arrival here, he was taken violently ill with an attack of the dysentery—a disease of which his father, a brother and other relatives died, and to which he had long been subject.

By this afflictive providence, God seems to be saying to his bereaved people—”cease ye from man;”—”Trust not in an arm of flesh; Confide in the Lord Jehovah, the Everlasting strength of his people.”—He will afflict and chasten—but He will never cast off his Church.

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In keeping with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, which began meeting this past Tuesday, and will have concluded either late on Thursday, or not later than noon on Friday.  The following charge brought at the ordination of a young minister, here concluded, seems quite appropriate to the occasion of a General Assembly. There is some wonderful wisdom in this charge. I pray you will be edified.

[As a reminder, it was the Rev. Dr. Aaron Whitney Leland, 1787-1871, who served as the first professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, SC. The Rev. John Francis Lanneau, 1809-1867, who was being ordained on this occasion, later served as a missionary.]

REV. DR. LELAND’S CHARGE, Part 2
(conclusion)

 [excerpted from The Charleston Observer 7.20 (18 May 1833): 77.1-4]

At the ordination of the Rev. J. F. Lanneau, in this city on the 1st of May, the following charge was given by the Rev. Dr. [Aaron Whitney] Leland; and it is now published at the earnest solicitation of may who heard it.

Dr. Leland continued:

Permit me to warn you, my brother, against those hostile influences by which you will be surrounded. If you are a devoted, active servant of Christ, be assured you will encounter opposition. When it comes, be not surprised. Be meek and patient towards open adversaries, cautious and courteous towards secret foes, and doubly guarded against flatterers. If you happen to be popular, your danger will be imminent. You will be placed in the fore-front of the hottest battle. For in that case saints and sinners will unite, and make common cause with the powers of darkness, to destroy you—all vying with each other in presenting to you deadly poison in the most alluring disguise—and all furnishing weapons to the enemies in your own bosom, to pierce you through with many sorrows. If such a hazardous eminence should be allotted you, I charge you to cast yourself down in deep humiliation, at the Saviour’s feet; lay fast hold of the Cross, and cry mightily to God for grace to help you in such a time of pressing need. Clerical popularity is a formidable foe. It has despoiled many a Christian soldier of his armour, and cast him down wounded; and many a proud sun of Levi it hath hurled from the battlements of Zion, down to the depths of perdition. Of this insidious, murderous enemy, I charge you to beware, as you prize your usefulness—as you value your own soul, or the souls of others. Nor would I fail to warn you of an opposite danger, less formidable indeed, but by no means to be disregarded. I allude to the trials and temptations to which you will be liable if you should be unpopular. And unpopular you may be, though you prove a devoted, able, faithful Minister of the New Testament. So was Edwards, the master spirit of his age—the mighty leader of American Theologians; and so was Scott, the excellent Commentator. Should this evil befall you, guard your heart against its influence,. It will prove a severe trial of your graces, and you need all the fortitude and self-denial you can obtain, to sustain with calmness the neglect, or unkindness, or opposition of those fro whom you are laboring and praying continually. Be assured that all the secret and open enemies of religion, will gratify their hatred of the Gospel by pouring the vials of their wrath upon you, and trampling your feelings in the dust. Should this ever be your lot, you will be able to judge whether you have a heart to love your enemies, to bless them who curse you, and to pray for those who despitefully use you. You will also be liable to ascertain whether you possess the spirit of Him, who when he was reviled, reviled not again—who prayed for his persecutors and slanderers, and who laid down his life for those who cried away with him from the earth—not this man but Barrabbas—crucify Him.

While you labor as an Evangelist, you will find your sphere of action attended with many dangers. Among these permit me to mention the neglect of study, and mental discipline, and deficient, desultory preparation for the pulpit. Wherever you are, and whether you feel the necessity or not, it is necessary for you to give yourself to reading and composition, as well as to exhortation and doctrine. I charge you not to neglect the gifts which have been bestowed upon you, but to study to approve yourself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

If you are called to a pastoral charge, new difficulties and new trials will be experienced. When you are preaching as a candidate, with a view to settlement, beware of exciting too high expectations, by giving specimens of ability, which you cannot habitually equal. In his way, many young Ministers fatally impair their usefulness, and prepare for themselves a bed of thorns. They have a few sermons, most elaborately prepared; containing all the ornaments and treasures they have accumulated during their whole preparatory course. These are delivered with great spirit to vacant congregations, and are heard with admiration.—The result is a speedy settlement. But mark the grievous disappointment. When the regular pastoral labors commence, it is evident that the stock is exhausted; and the idol of popular favor, and the prodigy of talent and erudition, sinks down into a very ordinary preacher.—Such a course every wise man will carefully avoid. Let not the preface to your book be greatly superior to all the rest of its contents. Begin no loftier flight, than your strength of pinion can sustain. Always husband your mental resources, and reserve your noblest efforts, to stem that current of reaction, which you will be sure to meet, after a spring-tide of popularity; and which may require all your resources and energies to withstand. And when the excitement of a new pastoral union thus subsides, and the ordinary labours of a parochial charge have really begun; when the people find that their new favorite is a mere mortal man, compassed with infirmity; and he makes a similar discovery in relation to them; then come the real labours, and trials, and temptations of a Minister of the Gospel. Make up your mind to fail in satisfying all your hearers. You will certainly find unreasonable demands, which you cannot gratify. When some require you to speak louder, and others lower—when some expect you always to be in your study, and others always visiting—when some cannot endure to hear a sermon read, and others are disgusted at preaching extempore—amid such conflicting demands, what can you do? Evidently your only course is to go straight forward in the conscientious performance of your duty, and leave the event to God. But I will not, on the present occasion, enter the field of your pastoral duties. That may more appropriately claim attention at your future installation.

I feel it important, however, to give you one or two directions as to your course in relation to this subject. In view of a permanent settlement, I counsel you never to accept a call, when there is an opposing minority, unless you are well assured that such opposition is directly solely against the essential doctrines of the Gospel, and is wholly unmingled with personal dislike. A settlement in a divided Church, with the hope of future reconciliation and harmony, is about as wise, as a marriage between parties mutually offensive to each other, formed with expectation that affection will spring up in after life. On one more point I offer you my counsel. Should you be settled in the ministry, and find dissatisfaction arising, and symptoms of a desire of change exhibited by any considerable portion of hearers; I advise you to demand a separation without delay.—Any five men in a congregation, who resolve to oppose a Minister, and to create dissention, always succeed. A Pastor’s change of success, in such a conflict, is about as great, as that of a man bound hand and foot, against the attacks of half a score of well armed assailants. And even if there be no open opposition, if you perceive that your usefulness has declined, that your preaching is attended with listless indifference, and that, some how or other, your influence is evidently diminished—your path of duty is plain—seek another field of pastoral labour. Immense injury is done to the cause of religion, by the perseverance of Ministers in situations where they cannot be useful, because they find it inconvenient to remove. I beseech you never to be of the number of those who, to preserve a support, or avoid the pain of separation, continue to occupy ground they cannot cultivate, and thus prove an actual obstacle to the prosperity of churches they profess to love. Most evident is it, that there are in our land scores of Pastors, who would do more good, by a change of location, than they ever did in their lives. I charge you, my young Brother, never to hold a pastoral office, after you are convinced that the spiritual interests of the church are not promoted by your ministry.

In maintaining the discipline of the house of God, I charge you to be vigilant and faithful. Entrusted with the seals of the covenant, see to it that you do not desecrate them by an unworthy appropriation.

Ever bear in mind, that it is an important part of your duty, to attend regularly the judicatories of our church, and to fulfill, if possible, all presbyterial appointments. Whenever you are called to examine candidates for the ministry, I charge you to act impartially and conscientiously. Lay hands suddenly upon no man, neither be partaker of other mens sins, keep thyself pure.

With these directions and cautions, and with most affectionate wishes and fervent prayers for the success of your ministry, I bid you God speed. Go forth, my Brother, into the vineyard of the Lord, to watch and labour, to live and die in His service. Work while the day lasts—the night cometh when no man can work. The more laborious and indefatigable you are, the more welcome and delightful will be the rest which remaineth to the people of God.—Adopt as your own, that illustrious motto—“expect great things—attempt great things.” Set your standard high, and press towards the mark to secure the prize of your high calling. Commissioned to watch for souls as one who must give account, cherish a severe conviction that you have one great business in this world—to persuade perishing rebels to be reconciled to God. Wherever you go, let your desires, and prayers, and efforts be concentrated to one point—a revival of religion, an ingathering of souls into the fold of the good Shepherd.—Failing in this, you labour in vain. Whatever else you may accomplish, however high your reputation, or overflowing your assemblies, be assured, that, unless you rouse Christians from apathy, and pierce the hearts of the impenitent with the arrows of conviction, you utterly fail in effecting the great purpose of your ministry. Fix then your heart, with unconquerable desire, upon witnessing a mighty work of grace, a glorious effusion of the Holy Spirit, wherever you are called to labour. Let this be the leading object of all your sermons. Get your whole soul under the influence of eternal things, and address perishing men, as if the judgment bar was full in your view. Strive to realize that Christless souls are on the brink of everlasting burnings; and then you will be in earnest in urging them to escape for their lives, and flee from the wrath to come. And take heed, my brother, when you denounce the terrors of the Lord, and warn the wicked of approaching wrath, that your language and manner be such as to convince them that you are constrained thus to address them by love to their souls, and by a full conviction, that, unless they repent, they must perish. Beware of a reproachful, vindictive manner of uttering such awful truths, as if you loved to utter them. It has a most hardening, injurious influence. Let it be evidently your delight, to beseech men to be reconciled to God.

And now, my dear young Brother, having given you these instructions, and delegated to you this spiritual authority; in the name of the great Head of the Church, and as the official organ of this Ecclesiastical Judicatory, I solemnly charge you to take heed to this ministry which thou hast received, that thou fulfill it. Let no man despise thy youth; but be an example to believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Meditate on these thingsgive thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine, for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good worksin doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sinceritysound speech that cannot be condemned, that opposers may be ashamed, having no evil things to say of you.

Finally—I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearancepreach the wordbe instant in season, out of seasonreprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.Watch in all thingsendure afflictionsdo the work of an Evangelistmake full proof of thy ministry. I give the charge before God who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, that thou keep this commandment, without spot, unrebukable, until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be thou faithful unto death, and thou shalt receive a crown of life.

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His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:

In memory of
THE REV. DR. JAMES LATTA,
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”

lattaJamesHaving read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.

During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.

Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.”  God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.

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