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With some slight editing, we present today a portion of the text from George P. Hays’s 1892 work, PRESBYTERIANS.

Each in Turn, Briefly Center-stage

By act of Parliament, Presbyterianism was legally established as the state religion of England on this day, June 29, 1647. But before it could be further set up, proceedings in that direction were halted by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. In 1649, King Charles I. was beheaded by the authority of the Rump Parliament, and finally all parliamentary government was destroyed. The tidal wave toward Independency, which rose at the time of Cromwell, began to get ready for its return as the English people saw the Lord Protector’s soldiers dispersing Parliament.

Cromwell was as much opposed to Presbyterianism as he was to Episcopacy. His Latin secretary, the poet John Milton, had quite famously and precisely expressed Cromwell’s sentiments when he said that, “Presbyter was only Priest writ large.” The English nation, however, soon found out that Cromwell, while he was pious and honest, was also a dictator, and had at his back a thoroughly disciplined army. Under him the nation was quiet and orderly and voiceless at home and powerful abroad. The navy swept the seas clear of competitors; and a shake of the head by Cromwell, concerning the persecution of the Waldensians, as expressed in that magnificient poem of his secretary Milton, “Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints,” made even the Duke of Savoy and France’s king Louis XIV. call home from the Alps their relentless bloodhounds, and the Pope to cringe in his palace.

Oliver Cromwell, the absolutist, died in 1658 and he left no viable successor. Social chaos rolled over the kingdom when his son Richard tried to fill his father’s chair. In 1660 General Monk forestalled the movement for a parliamentary contract with royalty by calling Charles II. back to England and by the army putting him on the throne. Charles came, a thorough-going Stuart, without having learned any wisdom from the experience of his father. His return sent the Puritans into retirement and brought the rollicking Cavalliers all to the front. Amusement ran riot over England.

The Episcopal bishops immediately found that their success needed that they should keep still and flatter Charles. The Presbyterians yielded in quiet, in the hope that that the Savoy Conference to adjust religious matters, held in 1661, would secure religious toleration. Instead of that the Act of Uniformity came in 1662, and two thousand non-conformist ministers were forced to leave their pulpits and their worldly support, rather than violate their consciences. In the providence of God, all of this tended to increase emigration out of England and into America.

Words to Live By:
Nothing in the political and social machinations of man ever surprises the Lord of all creation. Jesus Christ remains King of Kings and Lord of lords, sovereign over all the nations of this earth. Great hope was perhaps raised on this day, June 29, 1647, but within a short span of years that hope seemingly came to naught. Then what seemed a great defeat in 1662 was used of God to bring a greater triumph as the Church was established for the next several centuries in a more prosperous and strategic place across the ocean. We may not understand—in fact, in this life we most likely never will understand—but God’s purposes and plan are sure. Surely the Lord God oversees all of human history, and will bring it to His intended conclusion.

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A Plea for Ministers and Money

Most of us can remember Paul’s vision which he experienced on his second missionary journey of a man who called out to the apostle, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (NIV – Acts 16:9)   Well, we don’t have any record of any visionary request for help, but early Presbyterians in this blessed land did correspond with Presbyterians in the mother country just two years after the organization of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1707.  There is a letter written on May 11, 1709 to Presbyterians in London, England from the Presbyterian ministers in the Philadelphia Presbytery appealing for more men and money to help the infant Presbyterian Church get off the ground.  Listen to the pathos in their words:

“Unto whom can we apply ourselves more fitly than unto our fathers, who have been extolled in the reformed churches for their large bounty and benevolence in their necessities!  We doubt not, but if the sum of about two hundred pounds per annum, were raised for the encouragement of ministers in these parts, it would enable ministers and people to erect eight congregations, and ourselves put in better circumstances than hitherto we have been.  We are at present seven ministers, most of whose outward affairs are so straightened as to crave relief, unto which, if two or three more were added, it would greatly strengthen our interest, which does miserably suffer, as things are at present are among us.

“Sir, if we shall be supplied with ministers from you, which we earnestly desire; with your benevolence to the value above, you may be assured of our fidelity and Christian care in distributing it to the best ends and purposes we can, so as we hope we shall be able to give a just and fair account for every part of it to yourself and others, by our letters to you.

“That our evangelical affairs may be the better managed, we have formed ourselves into a Presbytery, annually convened.  It is a sore distress and trouble unto us, that we are not able to comply with the desires of sundry places, crying unto us for ministers.  Therefore we earnestly beseech you to intercede with the ministers of London, to extend their charity to us, otherwise many people will remain in a perishing condition as to spiritual things.”

It is obvious that the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Philadelphia certainly saw that the fields of America were ripe unto harvest.  They also sadly realized that the laborers were few so as to reap that spiritual harvest.  And so they, in a spirit of prayer, asked for both ministers and money to take advantage of the opportunities for a wide and effective service in the American colonies.

It would be at a later date in the history of the American church, indeed several decades from this date,  that the question of where you were trained educationally became an issue in the visible church.  But at this early date in American Presbyterian history, they were at a critical crossroads, as the letter above proves.  They needed more pastors and more money to support those who were present in ministering to the masses.

Words to Live By: Such a prayer and plea as this is never outdated, even in current America.  We might add the adjective “faithful” before the men who are needed in our conservative Presbyterian and Reformed church bodies, but the need is the same.  Will you be a prayer warrior before our Sovereign God and heavenly Father for Him to thrust out faithful  laborers into the harvest fields?

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A Casualty of D-Day

The following account comes from THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, Vol. 10, no. 10 (October 1944): 4-7. This was (and is) the newsletter of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

dieffenbacherAJIn the falling of the Reverend Arthur Johnston Dieffenbacher on the battlefields of Normandy, July 5, 1944, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions has lost its first and one of its best missionaries by death. Few details are known even at this writing but in Arthur Dieffenbacher’s passing his family, the Board, China and a host of friends have sustained a very great loss; yet we know that God’s people should view all things from the standpoint of eternity and therefore we can rest assured that God Who knows all things “doeth all things well.”

Arthur Dieffenbacher was born in Titusville, Pa., April 29, 1909; and thus was but a little over thirty-five years of age when the Lord called him home. His early years were spent at Erie, Pa. where he was graduated from high school at the early age of fifteen. Two years of college work at Erie followed, and two years later in 1927 he was graduated from Grove City College. In 1931 he finished his theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in his possession and also credit toward a post-graduate Doctor’s degree. He had proved himself precocious during his school days, but he was also in advance of his years in the things of the Lord, his deep interest in these things showing itself, for instance, in his spending the first night of his college life away from home in a prayer meeting with a group which was destined to aid him greatly to the clear insight into God’s word which his later years so fully exhibited.

In September, 1932, Mr. Dieffenbacher was appointed a missionary of the China Inland Mission and in company with his intimate friend John Stam, who himself was destined to become a martyr, soon left for China. There, after language study and a brief period of work in Changteh, Hunan Province, he met in 1934 Miss Junia White, daughter of Dr. Hugh W. White, editor of The China Fundamentalist. Miss White and he were soon engaged, but because of illness and other causes they were not married until June 1938, joining at about the same time also and with the good wishes of the China Inland Mission, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions with the principles and purposes of which both were in full sympathy.

dieffenbacherMrMrs_1940All the years spent in China were filled with adventure which included a flight from Chinese communists in 1935; and the summer of 1938 saw battles raging all around Kuling where Miss White and Mr. Dieffenbacher had been married. Indeed China had been engaged for a whole year then in the war which was to engulf eventually so many lands and was, for Arthur Dieffenbacher, to end so tragically upon the battlefields of Nor­mandy. On their way from Kuling this young bride and groom had to pass through the battle zone, just behind the fighting lines, but God gave them protection and enabled Arthur even then to point a sore-wounded and dying Chinese lad, a soldier, to Christ as the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.

This trip led to Harbin, Manchuria, the “Manchukuo” of the Japa­nese, where two years of happy, fruitful work ensued, years which saw the beginning of what despite the hardness of the soil of that great cos­mopolitan city might have developed into a much greater work had it not been for the tyranny of Japan and the war which was so soon to bring to an end so much Christian work both in the Japanese empire and in China. In the testings of those years in regard to Shinto and the Japanese demands upon Christians Arthur and his wife remained faithful.

In the summer of 1940, after eight years in China, Mr. Dieffenbacher returned to America with his wife on furlough. There on June 19, 1941, a little daughter, Sara Junia, was born. As war conditions were gradually spreading it was thought that Mr. Dieffenbacher ought to return alone to Manchuria and so passport and passage were obtained but ere he could sail the events of December 7, 1941, compelled all such plans to be abandoned for the time being, and as it proved in Arthur’s case, forever.

In America Mr. Dieffenbacher proved to be a good and effective mis­sionary speaker. He also rendered efficient aid at his Board’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Later he held a brief pastorate in the Bible Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. But when the American Council of Christian Churches obtained for its member Churches a quota of Army chaplaincies, Mr. Dieffenbacher applied for a chaplaincy and was appointed and joined the Army on July 18, 1943.

In the Army Arthur Dieffenbacher won recognition for two things. For one, he took with his men, for example, the whole system of training including the dangerous and difficult “infiltration” course and other things which were not required of chaplains, but which he did that by all means he might win some. This ambition to win men to Christ was the second notable trait of which we speak. Indeed it showed itself not alone while he was in the Army but also throughout all his life. He always preached to convince, convert and win. On his way to England with his unit he with two other God-fearing chaplains, won eighty-four men to Christ. A brief letter home, mentioning this asked, “Isn’t that great?” Truly it was great and not merely in the opinion of his friends, we believe, but also in the sight of the Lord. Some of his friends are praying that from among those eighty-four after the war some may volunteer to take Arthur Dieffenbacher’s place in China. God is able to bring such things to pass.

The time from April to June 24, 1944, was spent in England. There, too, Arthur Dieffenbacher was constantly on the search for souls and also for that which would bring inspiration to his men and to his family and friends at home. Some of the poems he found and sent home testify at once to his love for good poetry and for the things of the spirit, especially for the things of the Lord. He believed thoroughly that he was in God’s will. He longed to see his wife and child and mother again but assured them that “no good thing would the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He rejoiced in full houses of soldiers to whom to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was often tired after a long day of duties done, but preached and lived that we are “More than Conquerors” through Christ. With it all he learned to sew on buttons and patches and to wash his own clothes and his good humor bubbled over into his letters when he said, “Oh, boy, you should see the result!” Up at the front large at­tendances at services were the rule, men searching for help, for strength, for God, as they faced the foe. Perhaps a premonition was felt of what was to come. He wrote, “There are so many chances of getting hurt in war or in peace that which one affects you is by God’s permission. Hence I don’t worry, but take all reasonable precautions and trust the rest to God. His will is best and His protection sufficient.” On July 3, he wondered how they would celebrate the Fourth, and knew not that on the morrow of that day he would celebrate humbly but joyfully in the Presence of God. When killed by German artillery fire his body was recovered by his senior chaplain, Chaplain Blitch, and later an impressive funeral service was held.

Words to Live By:
“Faithful unto death” are words which characterized the whole life of Arthur Dieffenbacher. The realization of that fact brings an added meas­ure of consolation to his mother, Mrs. Mildred J. Dieffenbacher, to his wife and will, in time, to his little three-year-old daughter as she comes to understand what her father was and what he did. It brings consolation also to The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to all his friends. But as Arthur Dieffenbacher himself would have been the first to say, all he was and did he owed to Christ in whom he was called, chosen and empowered and made faithful till that day when surely he heard the welcome “well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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A Full Defense of his Opinions

knoxJohn02In February 1549, after an imprisonment of 19 months, Knox obtained his release from the French galleys. Since he probably obtained his freedom due to the intercession of King Edward VI or the English government (they had been negotiating for the release of English and Scottish protestant prisoners in exchange for French prisoners), he came to London, and was favorably received by Archbishop Cranmer and the lords of council. He remained in England for five years, during which time he was first appointed preacher to Berwick, then to Newcastle.

At Berwick, where he labored for two years, he preached with his characteristic fervor and zeal, exposing the errors of Romanism with unsparing severity. Although Protestantism was the official position of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII, there were many loyal Roman Catholics (papists), even in the high ranks of the clergy. The bishop of John Knox’s diocese, Dr. Cuthbert Tunstall, was an avid Catholic. Knox was accused of asserting that the sacrifice of the Mass is idolatrous, and was cited to appear before the bishop to give an account of his preaching. On April 4, 1550, Knox entered into a full defense of his opinions, and with the utmost boldness proceeded to argue that the mass is a superstitious and idolatrous substitute for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. (vol. 3 of History 54,-56). The bishop did not venture to pronounce any ecclesiastical censure.

The fame of the preacher was only extended by this feeble attempt to restrain his boldness. From a manuscript discovered in the 1870’s titled, “The practice of the Lord’s Supper used in Berwick by John Knox, 1550,” we now know that the very beginning of Puritan practice in the Church of England in the administration of the Lord’s Supper is to be found in the practice followed by Knox at Berwick, inasmuch as he substituted common bread for the bread wafers, and gave the first example of substituting sitting instead of kneeling in the receiving of communion.

“It was during this time [1553] that John Knox developed a theology of resistance to tyranny. He began smuggling pamphlets into England. The most significant of these was the Admonition to England. With this move, he had stepped into new territory, going further than any Reformer had previously gone.”–Francis Schaeffer, from A Christian Manifesto

Words to Live By:
We Presbyterians owe much to John Knox and we would profit greatly from taking up a fresh study of his life and writings. 2014 was the 500th anniversary of his birth, and so we had many posts last year on facets of his ministry. In his time, he stood resolutely for the Scriptures and was greatly blessed of God to bring about real change in his nation. Even now God has placed among us those who can and are speaking with bold testimony to the eternal truths of the Gospel. We need not name them. We cannot name them all. But we can all remember to pray for those whom the Lord will use for His glory in these trying times. May the Lord give us strong voices to faithfully declare His Word.

Psalm 20
The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble;
the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Send thee help from the sanctuary,
and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Remember all thy offerings,
and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
Grant thee according to thine own heart,
and fulfil all thy counsel.
We will rejoice in thy salvation,
and in the name of our God we will set up our banners:
the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed;
he will hear him from his holy heaven
with the saving strength of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen:
but we are risen, and stand upright.
Save, Lord:
let the king hear us when we call.

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“Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy”

The day is lost to history, even church history. Not one book has it listed down. But we know the month and the year. It was April in 1661 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland.

On some day of that month of April then, in the year of 1661, faithful and godly Presbyterian ministers in what we know as Northern Ireland, or Ulster, were ejected from their pulpits, their manses,  and their salaries by the Church of England. They were the first Presbyterian  ministers to suffer this ejection in the three kingdoms of Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. Why were they thrown out first? Some have answered that the old form of church government, to say nothing of worship, were still the norm in Ulster. It was just a matter of time before the Anglican church would lay down the law, so to speak, and eject Presbyterian ministers from its pulpits. In both England and Scotland, that church form and worship had been abolished by the Parliament, with even the Common Book of Prayer replaced, at least for a time.

But on one day in April, 1661, close to seventy Presbyterian ministers were ordered to obey the crown of England, or leave their pulpits. There was no gratitude for what they had accomplished for the Savior in previous years. In many cases, they and their Scottish followers had come into the area, reworked the barren fields into plots of industry and farming, repaired the churches which had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect, and even revived the people of the land to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But with all this material and spiritual success, the thought of Presbyterian doctrine and government being preached and lived in Ulster didn’t set right with the Anglican folks. So these faithful ministers were banned from five separate Presbyteries and their local churches, and their parishes. Only seven Presbyterian ministers conformed to prelacy and kept their pulpits, their parishes and their incomes.

It was a sad day for the Presbyterian church in Ireland.

Words to Live By:
The names of those who were ejected from Ulster’s churches and presbyteries are still recorded in the record books of the Presbyterian Church. Their witness for the truths of God’s Word still stands. Beloved, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you obeyed the Gospel call and put all your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ? Then know too that if you truly are now a Christian, that God has called you to a life of holiness, set apart to His glory. There may well be a great cost some day for obeying this Gospel call, but that cost will pale in comparison to all that God has in store for His dear children.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”—Philippians 2:12-13

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Take Care How You Stand Against Error.

The following letter requires some introduction and explanation. The Rev. Gilbert Tennent was a prominent Presbyterian in the middle of the eighteenth-century. He took a strong stand against formalism and what is often termed “dead orthodoxy.” Gilbert Tennent had become one of the leading lights in what historians now call the Great Awakening. He favored the practice of revivals, but was opposed by some among the Presbyterians in the colonies. Eventually there was a division in the still rather young Presbyterian denomination, a division between the Old Side and the New Side, with Tennent one of the leaders of the New Side faction. But no sooner had this split occurred, than Rev. Tennent began to regret the division. For one, there were other, greater errors afoot.

Milton Coalter, in his book, Gilbert Tennent: Son of Thunder, explains:

Tennent was convinced that the Moravian system represented the greatest challenge to the Awakening’s integrity to date because it threatened to capsize the revival’s previous balance between a fervent experimental piety and sober theological reflection. But many Awakening supporters did not see these dangers in the Moravians’ theology. Indeed, they regarded the Unitas Fratrum as the truest expression of the movement.
The growing success enjoyed by Zinzendorf’s followers in attracting revival converts soon threw Tennent into a period of soul searching. The Awakening leader began to ask himself if the movement he had promoted was not the spur to doctrinal error and emotional enthusiasm that his opponents had claimed it to be from the start. Tennent expressed his inner turmoil over this question in a letter to Jonathan Dickinson during February 1742:

“February 12, 1742.

TennentG_02“I have many afflicting thoughts about the debates which have subsisted in our synod for some time.  I would to God the breach were healed, were it the will of the Almighty.  As for my own part, wherein I have mismanaged in doing what I did, I do look upon it to be my duty, and should be willing to acknowledge it in the openest manner.  I cannot justify the excessive heat of temper which has sometime appeared in my conduct.  I have been of late, since I returned from New England, visited with much spiritual desertion and distresses of various kinds, coming in a thick and almost continual succession, which have given me a greater discovery of myself than I think I ever had before.  These things, with the trial[2] of the Moravians, have given me a clear view of the danger of every thing which tends to enthusiasm and division in the visible church.  I think that while the enthusiastical Moravians, and Long-beards or Pietists, are uniting their bodies, (no doubt to increase their strength and render  themselves more considerable,) it is a shame that the ministers who are in the main of sound principles in religion should be divided and quarrelling.  Alas for it!  my soul is sick for these things.  I wish that some scriptural methods could be fallen upon to put an end to these confusions.  Some time since I felt a disposition to fall on my knees, if I had opportunity, to entreat them to be at peace.

“I remain, with all due honour and respect, your poor worthless brother in the ministry.

“P.S.—I break open this letter myself, to add my thoughts about some extraordinary things in Mr. Davenport’s conduct.  As to his making his judgment about the internal states of persons or their experience, a term of church fellowship, I believe it is unscriptural, and of awful tendency to rend and tear the church.  It is bottomed upon a false base,—viz.:  that a certain and infallible knowledge of the good estate of men is attainable in this life from their experience.  The practice is schismatical, inasmuch as it sets up a term of communion which Christ has not fixed.  The late method of setting up separate meetings upon the supposed unregeneracy of pastors is enthusiastical, proud, and schismatical.  All that fear God ought to oppose it as a most dangerous engine to bring the churches into the most damnable errors and confusions.  The practice is built upon a twofold false hypothesis—infallibility of knowledge, and that unconverted ministers will be used as instruments of no good in the church.  The practice of openly exposing ministers who are supposed to be unconverted, in public discourse, by particular application of times and places, serves only to provoke them instead of doing them any good, and declares our own arrogance.  It is an unprecedented, divi-sial, and pernicious practice.  It is lording it over our brethren to a degree superior to what any prelate has pretended, since the coming of Christ, so far as I know, the pope only excepted; though I really do not remember to have read that the pope went on at this rate.  The sending out of unlearned men to teach others upon the supposition of their piety in ordinary cases seems to bring the ministry into contempt, to cherish enthusiasm, and bring all into confusion.  Whatever fair face it may have, it is a most perverse practice.  The practice of singing in the streets is a piece of weakness and enthusiastical ostentation.

“I wish you success, dear sir, in your journey; my soul is grieved for such enthusiastical fooleries.  They portend much mischief to the poor church of God if they be not seasonably checked.  May your labours be blessed for that end!  I must also express my abhorrence of all pretence to immediate inspiration or following immediate impulses, as an enthusiastical, perilous ignis-fatuus.


[1] This letter was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, and can also be found reprinted in Hodge’s History of the Presbyterian Church.

[2] Brainerd to Bellamy, March 26, 1743, writes as follows—“The Moravian tenets cause as much debate as ever; and for my part I’m totally lost and non-plussed about ‘em, so that I endeavour as much as possible to suspend my judgment about ‘em, for I cannot tell whether they are eminent Christians, or whether their conduct is all underhanded policy and an intreague of Satan.  The more I talked to Mr. Noble and others, the more I was lost and puzzled; and yet Mr. Nobel must be
a Christian.

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Written by Smectymnuus

Smectymnuus! What? Who? What rational parent would give his kid this confusing name? Yet it wasn’t a birth name. It was rather the nom de plume framed by the initials of five authors to a book against episcopacy in seventeenth century England. To be exact, this was 1641 and the book itself had a title which may well be one of the longest titles in existence, ever!  It was “An Answer to a Book entitled, An Humble Remonstrance in which, the original of Liturgy and Episcopacy is discussed: and Queries proposed concerned both. The Parity of Bishops and Presbyters in Scripture demonstrated.  The Occasion of their Imparity in Antiquity discovered. The Disparity of the Ancient and our modern Bishops manifested. The Antiquity of Ruling Elders in the Church vindicated. The Prelatical church bounded.” It would seem to this writer that the outline of the book was put into the title thereof!  Oh yes, and it written by Smectymnuus or S(tephen) M(arshall), E(dmund) C(alamy), T(homas) Y(young), M(atthew) N(ewcommen), and W(illiam–rendered as “UU“) S(purstow).

calamy_edwardOur attention  today in Presbyterian History is on the “E” and the “C” of the title, or on Edmund Calamy, known as Calamy the Elder. Born in London, England, in February 1600, day unknown, he was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. England.  He pastored and lectured at three Anglican churches from 1626 to 1639 when he was chosen to serve as the pastor of the London church of St.Mary Aaldermanbury.  In most of these parishes, he conformed to some of the ceremonies of the Anglican tradition, like bowing when the name of Jesus was mentioned, but resisting other practices of the Anglican liturgy.  Indeed, he was a Presbyterian delegate at the Savoy Conferences between April and July in 1661, attempting to find some compromise in the liturgy of the Anglican Church.  He, along with the other authors of the above title, were members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines from 1643 onward.  With the passing of the  Uniformity Act of King Charles II, the Rev. Edward Calamy was one of 2400 Presbyterians and Puritans who were ejected from his pulpit.   He preached his farewell sermon to his congregation at St. Mary’s on August 17, 1662.

Calamy continued to worship at the services of his old church. Once the appointed preacher did not attend the worship service, he was prevailed upon by his old congregation, and so took the pulpit and preached “with some warmth,” it was reported. Arrested for disobeying the Uniformity act, he was imprisoned for a time on January 6, 1663. He was freed later by the king and closed out his public ministry.

He survived to witness the terrible fire of London in 1666, which catastrophe contributed to his death when he saw his last congregation in ruins from the fire. He died on this day, October 29, 1666, and was buried in the ruins of the church as close as his mourners could guess was the place of the pulpit.

Words to Live By:
Where there had been earlier compromises of Presbyterian principles in his early life and ministry, he ended well with a firm commitment to Presbyterian principles and practice. Let that be our resolve as Christians, that we will end well in commitment to Biblical principles and practices. As Scottish pastor John Livingstone put it: “Let God be your only rule; Christ your own hope; The Holy Spirit your only guide, the Glory of God your only end.” 

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Ejected by Man but Not by God
Thomas Manton was yet another Presbyterian clergyman who was ejected by the Church of England in 1662, but who continued to “preach” through various opportunities given his way. Born in the early part of the seventeenth century, Thomas Manton was baptized on March 31, 1620 in the south west part of England. Attending typical schools of his day as well as formal education at Wadham College at Oxford,  he graduated in  1639. He was ordained a deacon, but refused orders as a priest in the Anglicanism of his day.
He began his ministry as a lecturer in 1640 and soon was ministering as a rector at Westminster Abby and St. Paul in London. He was one of three scribes who took down in writing the discussions of the divines at Westminster Abby in the assembly of the same name. He wrote the preface to the second edition of the Confession and Catechisms. A member on the Presbyterian side at the Savoy Conference, he sought and failed to get amendments to the Book of Common Prayer. Refusing to take re-ordination vows of the Anglican Church, he was ejected in 1662 along with 2000 other Puritans and Presbyterians. Taking opportunities to preach in various places to his leaderless congregation, he was caught and spent six months in prison. Like some others, he took the declaration of indulgence in 1672 from the king so that he could preach in his home. He died on this day, October 18, 1677.
Such are the bare facts of his life and ministry. However, no less than J. C. Ryle of a later century would commend his life and ministry from the books which he had written, all published after Manton’s death. Listen to Ryle’s commendation of Manton’s Calvinism. He says, “There is a curiously happy attention to the proportion of truth. He never exalts one doctrine at the expense of another. He gives to each doctrine that place and rank given to it in Scripture, neither more nor less, with a wisdom and felicity which I miss in some of the Puritan divines.”
Further writing of Manton, J.C. Ryle states that he “held strongly to the doctrine of election.” Manton believed in “the need of preventing and calling grace. But that did not hinder him from inviting all men to repent, believe, and be saved.” Another example of the proportion of truth is that Manton “held strongly that faith alone lays hold on Christ, and appropriates justification.” And then, “Manton held strongly the perseverance of God’s elect. But that did not hinder him from teaching that holiness is the grand distinguishing mark of God’s people, and that he who talks of ‘never perishing,’ while he continues in willful sin, is a hypocrite and a self-deceiver.”
We can be thankful that publishing companies like the Banner of Truth Trust have reprinted the Collected Works of Thomas Manton.
Words to Live By:
Thomas Manton was a Bible expositor. Happy is that Christian reader who attends a congregation where the man in the pulpit opens up the Scripture in an expositional way. Those in our Reformed pulpits are to “preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole and fervent love of God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.” (Larger Catechism No. 159 Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms)

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He Went About Doing Good

Thomas Gouge is not a household name to countless American Presbyterians today, but maybe he should be, considering his ministering of good to all. Born September 19, 1605 (and some say September 29, 1609) in England, he was the oldest son of celebrated William Gouge, member of the Westminster Assembly which produced our Confession and Catechisms.

Educated in the finest institutions of his day (Cambridge), Thomas graduated in 1626. After a time of three years, and marrying the daughter of a prominent family of that day, Thomas was called to the St. Sepulchre’s Church in London, England, where for the next twenty-four years he preached and pastored the membership and surrounding area. Not only did he minister to their spiritual needs, but also to their material needs.

Catechizing the people every morning of the week, Thomas Gouge would distribute gifts among the aged poor on varying days of the week so as to encourage regular attendance upon his catechism studies. These monies came out of his own pocket. To those abled-bodied among the poverty-stricken members, he distributed flax and hemp for them to spin, paying them for their yarn to be worked into cloth. Often in selling them later, he took the financial loss himself.

All of these benevolent work, including his proclamation of the Word of God, came to an end when the Great Ejection of 1662 took place. Hundreds of Presbyterian clergy were ejected from their Anglican pulpits, including Thomas Gouge. Unlike many others, he simply entered another ministry instead of continuing on to minister in secret to  his pastor-less flock. With two or three other ministers, he raised a considerable annual sum of money, to make provision for the ejected ministers then in desperate need. Even when the Great Fire of 1666 devastated London and brought a considerable loss to his income, he still continued to live on less and distribute to those in real need. He believed full the promise of the Psalmist when the latter wrote in Psalm 37:26, “He is ever merciful and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.” (KJV)

Looking to minister in ever widening circles, he had a heart for Wales.  Traveling there, he went from town to town to find out whether there would be interest in teaching willing children to read and write in the English language, and—oh yes—be catechized, no doubt using the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly.  Great droves of children came under the influence of the Scriptures, along with their families. Rev. Gouge began to preach regularly to the families, until the prelates of the Anglican church forbid him to preach the Word.  So in addition to the catechism classes, he arranged for the Word of God to be translated and printed into Welsh to be given freely to  Welsh families.  Added to the Scriptures were Christian books in Welsh which he freely handed out.

He entered heaven on October 29, 1681, remembered widely for his character and conduct in times of persecution.

Words to Live By:
And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season, we shall reap if we faint not.  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith.”  Galatians 6;9, 10 (KJV)

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Stepping outside of American Presbyterian history for a moment, here is an interesting interpretation as to how persecution worked to the advance of the Church in at least one chapter of church history. This particular passage is also a masterful summary of early Presbyterian history, drawn from the late 19th-century volume, Presbyterians, by George P. Hays (1892), pp. 42-44 :

Through the sixteenth century a few adventurers were settling in America, and stable institutions came with the seventeenth to attract the attention of European Protestants as they searched for some refuge from the persecuting power which they could not resist in France, could not fight in Spain, played see-saw with in England, overthrew in Germany, and displaced in Holland and Scotland.

France
Theodore BezaIf there had been no persecution in Europe, and the Protestant Church could have had freedom from state interference to fight its own battle before the general reason and conscience, the emigrants to America would perhaps have been more like the first settlers in California, or the first inhabitants in a new oil town. As it was, the intellectual conflict and the physical struggle came on together and intensified each other. Huguenot Synods were held in France, and then suppressed, and then re-allowed. The first regularly organized [Protestant] church [in France] was that of Paris, whose people elected John le Macon pastor, and had a board of elders and deacons, in 1555. In 1559 the first National Synod was held, and according to Calvin’s advice a regular system of Appellate Courts was organized. In September, 1561, Theodore Beza at the head of twelve Protestant ministers made their plea before royalty. It was claimed that there were then more than two thousand churches and stations. The origin of the name “Huguenot” is not known, but it is believed to have been at first a nickname which grew to honor by the character and conduct of its wearers. They had a stormy history. Francis I. was their enemy. Charles IX. (an effeminate boy in the hands of the Medicis) massacred them at St. Bartholomew. Henry IV., at heart a Huguenot, was a brave soldier and a brilliant man, but he turned Catholic for policy’s sake, and yet protected the Huguenots by issuing the Edict of Nantes. then followed Louis XIII. and Richelieu and Louis XIV. and the revocation of the edict of toleration in 1685. These last events came in the seventeenth century. The sixteenth century had demonstrated the advantage of Protestant emigration, and the seventeenth made it compulsory.

dortHolland
In Holland the struggle was between Protestantism and Phillip II. of Spain. These were the days of the Duke of Alva and William the Silent. To save their religion and their homes and drive out the Spaniards, the Dutch cut the dykes and submerged their farms beneath the sea. But through all this suffering they were organizing a people and defending a country that should, in time, give to the world the Protestant and Presbyterian results of the Synod of Dort. That Synod was the nearest to an interdenominational and ecumenical Synod of any held for the forming of Reformation creeds. It was called to decide the controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism; but the selection of the members made it a foregone conclusion that it would condemn Arminius and support the doctrine of Calvin. As a result the “Canons of Dort” are accepted everywhere as good Augustinian theology, and the Reformed Dutch Church of America, both in the earliest time and in the modern, is thoroughly and soundly Presbyterian. The early Dutch immigrants to this country brought with them their names of Consistory, Classis and Synod, with both ministerial and lay delegates, and between them and the Presbyterians there have never been any controversies in either theology or church government.

England
But the main center of American interest in European Presbyterians is found in England. Henry VIII. had married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. She was a kinswoman of Philip II. of Spain, and Philip and his nation were close friends of the Pope. When, then, the fickle, handsome, headstrong, and licentious Henry wanted to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, he easily found his English bishops and universities ready to declare his marriage to his brother’s widow unlawful, but he found it very difficult, for political reasons, to get the Pope so to declare against that marriage that he might thereafter have a non-Catholic wife, and that Mary, his daughter by Catherine, should be an illegitimate child.

Henry cut the knot by declaring himself the head of the Church of England, and the English Church in no possible way subject to Rome. During all this time Protestant doctrines were spreading among the people, and this seemed to open an easy solution. But pure religion in England was not what Henry wanted. He and all the Tudors wanted to have their own way, without interference from parliament or the Church or the people. After the birth of Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn was beheaded to make way for the third of Henry’s six wives. The king now had two female children, one a Romanist and the other a Protestant. When he died, in 1547, he left Edward VI. by Jane Seymour, only nine years old, but an astonishingly precocious Protestant king.

knox_card03Under Edward the effort to reform the Church went on vigorously, but everybody was debating, as the chief point of controversy, “What is the scriptural form of government?” John Knox had been a private tutor for Hugh Douglas of Longniddry. The excitement occasioned by the martyrdom of Hamilton and Wishart turned his attention to Protestantism. St. Andrews is a picturesque city, rich in traditions from the Culdee period. At the call of the congregation of that city, Knox began preaching. With the capture of the castle of St. Andrews, Knox was sent a prisoner to the French galleys. After his release he, at one time, became Court preacher for Edward VI.

Romanism, Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and Independency were now up for discussion. The controversy between Protestantism and Catholicism, under Bloody Mary, made all England a charnel house. Mary [Henry VIII.’s first daughter] was a Tudor and a Spaniard and a Roman Catholic; and the task of bringing back the British Islands under the control of the Pope of Rome was the one religious ambition of her life. How far her relentless persecutions [thus her nickname] were made more relentless by the sadness of her natural disposition, the want of an heir to the throne by her Spanish husband, her residence in England while her alienated husband lived in Spain, and her final loss of Calais, that last remnant of English territory on the Continent, may be hard to decide; but her persecutions filled Geneva, and all European Protestant cities, with English refugees and raised everywhere the question of some land where Protestants could have freedom. Just as she was moving, apparently, toward the destruction of her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Mary died.

[more from Dr. Hays next week!]

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