England

You are currently browsing articles tagged England.

Westminster Confession Approved by Church of Scotland

You may ask upon reading the title of this contribution, why are we thinking about adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when the whole This Day in Presbyterian History blog deals with Presbyterian history in the United States?  And that is a fair question.  But it is quickly answered by two considerations. First, this Reformed standard—The Westminster Confession of Faith—was, with few changes, the subordinate standard of all the Presbyterian denominations in the United States.  And second, the Scots-Irish immigrants who came over to this country in its earliest days held strongly to this Reformed creedal statement.

The Westminster Confession of Faith was formulated by the Westminster Assembly of divines (i.e, pastors and theologians) in the mid-seventeenth century, meeting at Westminster Abby in London, England.  To the one hundred and twenty divines, primarily from the Church of England, were added nine Scottish divines from the Church of Scotland.  While the latter were seated as non-voting members of that Assembly, still their presence was felt in very effective ways during the six-year study that produced this confessional standard.

When it was adopted by the Parliament in England, it then went to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where it was adopted without amendment on August 29, 1647.  It then became the summary of the teachings of the Old and New Testaments which was “owned” by the officers of the Church—the teaching and ruling elders, as well as the diaconate—in every local congregation. Down through the centuries, some changes in the Confession were made, most notably in 1789, but these have not affected the overall doctrinal content of the Confession. The majority of those changes were made in 1789. You can ask your pastor for more information about those changes.

The historic importance of this document remains relevant to this day as a focal point of our unity as Presbyterians, and so we seek to make our friends more knowledgeable of its magnificent statements.

Words to live by: Most of the Presbyterian denominations do not require their lay members to take vows which speak of their adoption of these historical creedal standards in order to join the church.  Yet a careful study of, and acceptance of this Confession of Westminster will give you a solid foundation for understanding the doctrine and life of the Word of God.  We urge you to do so, perhaps asking for a class in your church on it, or just studying it yourself for your personal and family benefit.

Tags: , , ,

A New Act Brings Mass Resignations

Suppose . . . just suppose now . . . that you as a minister, or your minister, had a certain time period to decide to renounce the ordination vows made at ordination, subscribe to a different set of doctrinal standards, promise to arrange the worship according to a different standard of worship, agree to be re-ordained by another ecclesiastical body, and do all this by a certain day, or be deposed by the spiritual authorities which had the approval of the government. Talk about change! And yet this was the way it was on this day in Presbyterian history, August 24, 1662 in the British Isles.

It was called officially The Act of Uniformity, 1662. Its longer title was “An Act for the Uniformity of Public Prayers and Administration of Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies and for the Establishing the Form of making, ordaining, and consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the Church of England.” It was broken up into five actions; (1) to have a complete and unqualified assent to the newly published book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.  (In passing, most preachers and people had not even seen this newly published book.) (2) to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England; (3) to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant; (4) To renounce any attempt to alter the government of the church or state; (5) to receive ordination at the hands of a bishop in the Church of England.

Combined with other acts of this Church, it excluded anyone who was not in compliance with the above from holding civil or military office. Students at Cambridge or Oxford would not receive any degrees from such study, if they refused this act.

And all this was to take place before August 24, which date was the celebration of St. Bartholomew Day. Students of church history remember, as they did then, that this was the day of the massacre in France when Huguenots were slaughtered by the Roman Catholics. So, this was a day remembered “Black” St. Bartholomew”s Day.

It is estimated that some 2000 ministers were ejected from their pulpits and parishes, including their manses, with Anglican priests put in their place. The majority were Presbyterian (1,816), Independents (194), and Baptists (19). A similar procedure was enacted in Scotland, with 400 ministers ejected from the pulpits and parishes. In future posts, we shall treat some of these ministers who were ejected on that day.

Words to Live By:
Two years ago, in 2012, there was a ministry event of reconciliation by the Church of England at the 350th anniversary of the Great Ejection. We might be glad that such a meeting took place, but the real issue was, as Ian Murray put it, the issue on the nature of true Christianity. Let’s face it. True adherence to the gospel will require sacrifice. That is why all of us as believing Presbyterians need to be more in prayer and watchfulness for our respective Presbyterian denominations and local churches. What has been faithful and true in the past may not be the case for the present and future witness of your church, if church officers and members grow careless about the faith once delivered unto the saints. As Paul put it, “the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Sunday Sermon
Two volumes, Sermons of The Great Ejection (Banner of Truth, 1962) and Farewell Sermons (Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), provide some of the gathered sermons preached by these pastors when torn from their congregations by the Act of Uniformity. The following words are a portion of the sermon brought by the  Rev. John Whitlock on that fateful day. (time and space do not permit the full text)

REMEMBER, HOLD FAST, AND REPENT.

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.Rev. 3:3.

Beloved, when I entered on this verse in the course of my Friday Lecture, I little thought that I had so short a time to preach among you. I hoped I should have enjoyed some further opportunities for some few weeks, at least as long as the Act of Uniformity allows. But it has pleased God by His wise and holy providence to order it otherwise. I being suspended from preaching here from this day forward, for nonconformity. How far rightly or legally on man’s part, I shall not dispute, but leave to the righteous God to determine. I desire that both you and I may not eye man, but God, in this dispensation. I did not think to have preached my Farewell Sermon to you from these words, but having begun this text, and finding the matter of it so seasonable and suitable to this sad occasion, I shall by God’s assistance proceed in the handling of it.

Since it is probable that I shall preach no more to you, I judge it very seasonable to leave the exhortation in the text with you, to call upon you to remember what and how you have received and heard, and to hold fast those wholesome truths you have heard, and those precious ordinances (at least the remembrance, impressions, and gracious effects of them) that you have enjoyed and been privileged with. Also, to repent of those sins, which have provoked, and may further provoke God to come on us as a thief, to take away many of His ministers from among us. . .

. . . The silence of ministers calls aloud on us all to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. It bids us to repent of our sins, the causes of God’s judgments. It calls on you to prize and improve ministers and ordinances, better, if God shall continue, restore or further afford them to you. Yes, ministers’ silence should cause people to speak the more and louder to God in prayer for the continuance and restoring of ministers and ordinances to them. When you do not hear so much and so often from God in preaching, let God hear the more and oftener from you in prayer. Ply the throne of grace. Give God no rest till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. And as our silence should make you speak the more to God, so also the more and oftener one unto another in holy conference, to provoke to love and to good works. And I beseech you, brethren, pray for us. Whatever God may do with us, or whithersoever we may be driven, we shall carry you in our hearts; and when and while we remember ourselves to God, we shall never forget you, but present you and your souls’ concerns daily unto God at the throne of grace in our prayers. And we earnestly beg this of you, as you would remember what we have spoken to you in the name of the Lord, so you would remember us to God, and let us have a room and share in your hearts and prayers. When you get into a corner to pour out your hearts before God, carry us to God upon your hearts. Do not forget us, but lift up a prayer to God for us, your (we hope we may say) faithful, though weak, unworthy ministers, who have laboured among you in the Word and doctrine.

I shall say no more, but conclude with these two Scriptures: ‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,’ Acts 20.32. The other Scripture is that request of Paul to, and prayer for, the Hebrews in Chapter 13.18-21: ‘Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Tags: , , ,

Our post today is closely adapted from the work by Wm. P. Breed titled Jenny Geddes, or Presbyterianism and Its Great Conflict with Depositism (1869). To read W.P. Breed’s book, click here.

Our Lord Delights to Use the Small and Insignificant in Powerful Ways

Jenny Geddes was a Scotch woman, a native of that land of great minds and heroic champions of Calvinistic orthodoxy. Born perhaps about the close of the sixteenth century, by near the middle of the seventeenth century, she was a resident of Edinburgh. She was no doubt of a human position in life, with her food and clothing earned by the labor of her owns hands.

Whether she was married or not, history does not tell us. She was certainly poor, for in the great cathedral church of St. Giles she had no place among the pews and so went to church with her stool in hand, seeking a place to sit in the aisle or in some other unoccupied spot during the service.

Jenny was also, most evidently, a person who thought on her own and acted on her own, decisively and forcefully. She was a true blue Presbyterian, familiar with the Scriptures, and one who expected orthodoxy from her preachers and others.

It was on the 23d of July in 1637 that Jenny emerged from obscurity to historic celebrity and renown. On that day there was a strange ferment throughout Scotland and a wild excitement in the city of Edinburgh. King Charles had resolved to make Presbyterianism give place to Prelacy throughout the realm. A book of canons [in effect, a Book of Church Order] had been prepared subversive of the whole system of Presbyterian government, and had been enjoined upon the realm by proclamation upon the king’s simple prerogative. Following this book came a liturgy as a law of public worship, and a royal edict had commanded its introduction into all the churches of the realm on this memorable Sabbath day. Notice to this effect had been given the Sabbath before, and hence this intense excitement. For the Scottish people knew that if this measure were carried into effect by the authorities, Presbyterianism was virtually in its grave.

As the hour of Sabbath service approached, the streets of Edinburgh were thronged with crowds of people, full of excitement. There among the crowds, Jenny Geddes made her way to a convenient place, close to the pulpit of the church and there she sat upon her stool.

The cathedral was filled to capacity with titled nobility and with the nobler untitled nobility of the Scottish Presbyterian masses. There were present archbishops, bishops, the lords of the session, the magistrates of the city, members of the council, “chief captains and principle men,” and Jenny Geddes and her stool.

And as the assembled people waited with tension mounting, the Dean of Edinburgh made his appearance, clad in immaculate surplice, book in hand—that fatal book of the liturgy—the device of English Prelacy for the reform of Scotch Presbytery. The was opened and the service begun.

The cup was now full, though as yet no one pretended to know, no one dreamed, what form of expression the pent-up indignation of the outraged people would assume. The question was soon decided.

No sooner had the first words of the book, through the lips of the Dean, reached the ear of Jenny, the stern prophetess on her tripod, than a sudden inspiration seized her. In an instant she was on her feet, and her shrill, impassioned voice rang through the arches of the cathedral:

GeddesStool03“Villain! dost thou say mass in my lug?”

and in another instant her stool was seen on its way, travelling through the air straight toward the head of the surpliced prayer-reader.

[A lug is an ear]

The astounded Dean, not anticipating such an argument, dodged it, but the consequences he could not dodge. He had laid his book, as he thought, upon a cushion—the cushion proved a hornet’s nest. In an instant the assembly was in the wildest uproar. Hands were clapped; hisses and loud vociferations filled the house, and missiles, such as the hand could reach, filled the air. A sudden rush was made toward the pulpit by the people in one direction, and from the pulpit by the Dean in the opposite direction.

Now, he would be marvellously astray who should suppose that this sudden hurricane at St. Giles was but a passing and unmeaning summer squall. It was in truth the outburst of a national feeling. A mighty ferment at this time pervaded the national mind. Great principles were at stake, and the Scottish masses, well comprehending their nature and the drift of events, were solemnly resolved to vindicate their settled religious convictions in the great controversy at whatever hazard and cost.

When that irregular band of patriots, dressed in Indian attire, marched through the streets of Boston and tossed those tea-chests into the bay, they at the same time virtually tossed British sovereignty overboard; and Jenny Geddes’ party at St. Giles signed the death-warrant of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny in both Scotland and England! The storm had been gathering for nearly forty years, and this bursting of the cloud marked a crisis in a great national revolution. It was the first formidable outbreak against the tyranny of the Stuarts, and Jenny Geddes’ stool was the first shell sent screaming through the air at those merciless oppressors of the two realms, and the echoes of that shell are reverberating to-day among the hills.

A Modern Replica (and a calmer retelling):
[Photo and text from The Journal of Presbyterian History (1903)]—

GeddesStool02The stool pictured at left is intended to represent the so-called “Jenny Geddes Stool,” and was made from a photograph of a model of the same that is on exhibition in the National Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. The model was made under the direction of the Rev. Robert Buchanan for the President of the Historical Society, and was forwarded through his kindness to [Philadelphia].

The history of the stool is well known, and needs but brief mention. Charles I. of England, urged by Archibishop Laud, attempted to impose upon the Presbyterian Church of Scotland a liturgical service similar to that of the Anglican Communion. A service book was prepared, which was popularly known as “Laud’s Prayer Book,” (a copy of which may be seen in the Museum of the Historical Society). By order of the king it was appointed to be used in all the churches. On the day when it was first used in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, a large congregation assembled under a high degree of excitement. Seated near the pulpit was a Scottish matron named Jenny Geddes, who, unable to suppress her indignation, rose from the little stool upon which, as was the custom, she was seated, and hurled it at the head of Dean Hannay, the officiating clergyman, with the exclamation, “Villain! would ye say mass at my lug?” [i.e., ear] This act led to a riotous demonstration before which the ministers fled. This was the beginning of the revolution of 1637 which restored Presbyterianism to Scotland, and of the English revolution, which led to the summons of the Westminster Assembly, the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and finally to the death of Charles I.

It is not pretended that the stool exhibited in the Scottish Museum is the precise one which Jenny Geddes threw at Dean Hannay, but simply that it is one of those typically in use in the cathedral at that time. The model in the Historical Society’s Museum, therefore, accurately represents an implement of domestic use that, humble as it is, had a most important part in one of the greatest movements, both civil and ecclesiastical, of modern times.

Tags: , , , ,

The Most Advanced of All the Covenanting Manifestos

It was known simply as the Queensferry Paper, primarily because it was found on the body of a Covenanter in South Queensferry, Scotland on June 4, 1680.  Henry Hall was his name.  He had been traveling with another Covenanter by name of Donald Cargill.  Government officials had attempted to arrest both of them, but Cargill had been able to escape.  Hall was wounded and later died from his wounds.  Searching him, they found the six thousand word document known ever afterwards as the Queensferry Declaration.  It, as Alexander Smellie stated in  his book “Men of the Covenant,” was “the most advanced of all the covenanting manifestos.”

Summing it up by eight principles, number one covenanted with and acknowledgement was made of the Trinity and for the Bible as the rule of faith.  Consider the words!  “We acknowledge and vouch the only true and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be our God and that we close with his way of redemption by his Son Jesus Christ, and rely upon his righteousness, as that righteousness only  whereby a man can be justified before God.”  Any of our readers would easily say “Amen,” to these words.  It went on to speak of their conviction that the Bible was by divine revelation and the only object of our faith and the rule of our life in all things.

The second section spoke of advancing God’s kingdom and freeing the church from both prelacy and Erastianism.  The latter was removing the belief that the state was the ruler of the church in ecclesiastical matters.  They desired that the members of the church would be able to serve God in holy ways without fear and possess their civil rights peaceably without disturbance.

Number three covenanted to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with her standards, government, worship — all independent of the state.  They boldly confessed with their mouths and believed with their hearts the teaching of the reformed churches, contained in Scripture and summed up in the confession of faith.  They pledged to persevere in them to the end.

The kingdom of darkness was to be overthrown, by their fourth declaration.  The aforementioned kingdom was Romanism, the Anglican church, and that system of Erastianism.   They spoke of being bound by the Solemn League and Covenant.

Next, and this was the primary part of the Queensferry document, they indicated their desire to discard the royal family and set up a republic in their stead.  Of the 6000 words in the paper, this point occupied about 2100 words.  This was revolutionary in the British Isles.  And it was sadly used to paint all Covenanters as being disloyal to the throne of England.  The writers of this covenant wrote that in the light of Exodus 18:21, they could rule themselves.

Sixth, the paper spoke to those who in their minds had compromised the Scottish covenant by receiving the various deals of the government of England.  They pledged not to listen to such any more in the pulpits of the kingdom.

Seventh, the covenant promised to refuse the ministerial function unless they were duly called and ordained.  Thus, there were not promises of a new church, but rather a return to the true church of the past.

And the last resolution was that its adherents will defend their God-given worship and liberty.  They who would assault them could be assaulted in return.  In short, this was the basis for the battles some of  the Covenanters fought in Scotland.

This declaration was never published by the Covenanters themselves.  It was stolen off Henry Hall’s body and passed off as the real purpose of all Presbyterians in the kingdom, who never signed it as they had signed previous Covenants.

Words to Live By: There is certainly nothing wrong with advocating positions for prayer and action.  But we must be careful to do so in the light of God’s Word always.  From Ephesians chapter 6, our weapons are to be spiritual, never carnal.  We will never know how many of Scottish Presbyterians would have signed this covenant, as in God’s permissive will, it was hindered from being presented to them nation wide.  But it is still part of the overall testimony of Scotland’s spiritual history, and so we include it in Today in Presbyterian History.

Tags: , , ,

Who am I?  Born in 1602 in Glasgow, Scotland, I graduated from the University there.  Through hard work, I gained a working knowledge of thirteen foreign languages.  Ordained into the Church of Scotland, I  came heartily into the Covenanters.  I served as a Presbyterian pastor, an Army chaplain, and a professor of divinity at Glasgow University.  I was a member of the Glasgow Assembly when Presbyterianism was reintroduced in Scotland.  Especially I enjoyed my time-serving as a non-voting member of the Westminster Assembly.  Through all of these experiences in my life, I wrote letters which today are studied by many to gain an  understanding of my times. Who am I?

If you, the reader, answered Robert Baillie, you are correct.

Robert Baillie was born on this day, April 30, 1602.   We could write many things about  his accomplishments in the churches in Scotland, but what stands out to this author is the informative letters which he wrote, not only describing Scottish life and times, but also his description of the Westminster Assembly, of which he was a non-voting attendee from Scotland.

Consider his graphic description of the appearance of the assembly as they held their discussions (Note: the term “prolocutor” means a chairman.)

“(The commissioners) did sit in Henry VII’s chapel, in the place of convocation; but since the weather grew cold, they did go to Jerusalem chamber, a fair room, in the abbey of Westminster, about the bounds of a college forehall, but wider.  At the one end, nearest the door, and on both sides, are stages of seats . . . . At the upmost end, there is a chair, set on a frame, a foot from the earth, for the master prolocutor Dr. Twisse.   Before it, on the ground, stand two chairs, for the two master assessors Dr. Burgess and Mr.  White; before these two chairs through the length of the room, stands a table, at which sit the two scribes, Mr Byfield and Mr Roborough.  Foranent the table, upon the prolocutor’s right hand, there are three or four ranks of forms.  On the lowest, we five (ie. Scottish commissioners) do sit; upon the other at our backs, the members of the Parliament deputed to the Assembly.  On the forms foranent us . . . the divines sit as they please, commonly they keep the same place.  The lords of Parliament used to sit on chairs in that end about the fire.  We meet every day of the week, except Saturday.  We sit commonly from nine to two or three afternoon.  The prolocutor, at beginning and end, has a short prayer . . . .”

As to the content of the Standards, this came in by parliament procedure, as is seen in the following descriptive paragraph by Mr. Baillie.  He writes:

“When, upon every proposition by itself, and on every test of Scripture that is brought to confirm it, every man who has said his whole mind, and the replies, the duplies, and triplies are heard, then the most part call ‘to the question,’ Byfield, the scribe, rises from the table and comes to the prolocutor’s chair, who, from the scribe’s book, reads the proposition, and says, ‘As many as are in opinion that the question is well stated in the proposition, let them say Ay;’ when Ay is heard, he says, ‘As many as think otherwise say No.’  If the difference of ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ be clear, as usually it is, then the question is ordered by the scribes, and they go on to debate the first Scripture alleged for proof of the proposition. . . No man contradicts another expressly by name, but most discreetly speaks to the prolocutor, and, at most, holds to general terms, ‘As the reverent brother who lately or last spoke on this hand, on that side, above, or below . . . .”

Now to some of our readers, the above is boring, boring, boring!  But remember the momentous issues of theology were being carefully considers in these difficult days in England and Scotland.  Such carefulness was demanded by those times.

It is interesting that at the close of the Assembly, the Parliament of England made a handsome present of silver plate for Robert Baillie, with an inscription on it speaking of their great respect for him, even though by his own testimony, he did not participate in the verbal parts of the Assembly.

What is also interesting is that though firmly attached to Presbyterianism and against prelacy, he was a member of the Covenanter faction known as Resolutioners, and not the Protesters.  The latter two parties of Covenanters had separated from each other over the issue of how much power should be given to the king of England in the ordering of church affairs.  To the Protester Covenanters, the answer was simple — there is no king but King Jesus.  For that position, they were to suffer countless deaths at the hands of the government.  And yet Robert Baillie was featured in the book of Scot Worthies by John Howie.

Words to Live By: Reformed Christianity would not be privy to his detailed portrait of the Westminster Assembly were it not for his observations written and preserved for us online.  No man, and certainly not any minister, is perfect.  And neither was Robert Baillie.  This author does not agree with his stance in being a Resolutioner.  But we can rejoice in this seventeenth century  journalist in giving us a record of the makings of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

 

Tags: , , ,

A True Portrait of the Man

Mention the name of John Knox, and what comes to your mind?  Founder of Presbyterianism, the land of Scotland, Protestant Reformer, author, rigid leader, ever ready to prove his preaching orthodox by “apostolic blows and knocks”? Such is the picture which we have of this sixteenth century individual.

We always could expect negative views of him from his enemies in those centuries in assailing the character of this leader. They didn’t want his brand of Reformation truths and practices to become the norm in the Kingdom of Scotland. But often his friends in both those  years and today have felt that they must apologize for his fierce statements and actions, where and when no apology was needed. Of course, what doesn’t help is the familiar picture of John Knox, so familiar in all our minds, where his expression and especially his beard makes the present day characters of Duck Dynasty tame by comparison. And then there was that sermon written overseas entitled “First Draft of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women,” which diatribe was against the female rulers of England. All this causes us to be thankful for the result of the establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and our country, but sometimes apologetic about the instrument used to bring it about.

Yet all these negatives were challenged by the discovery of four unpublished papers of John Knox in a collegiate library in London near the close of the nineteenth century. These papers were not originals to be sure, but transcripts from the originals written in the sixteenth century. And from them, we get a true portrait of the character of John Knox.

In addition, they reveal a little more of his ministry spent—are you ready for this?—in England. In fact, half of his ministry was spent either in England, or among English exiles in Germany and Geneva. Further, today in April 7, 1549, we remember his license being issued as a priest of the Church of England.

John Knox himself in his great work, The History of the Reformation in Scotland, describes his time in the Church of England with a very succinct paragraph on page 98. He said, “The said John Knox was first appointed Preacher to Berwick; then to Newcastle; last he was called to London and to the south parts of England, where  he remained to the death of King Edward the Sixth.” His whole five years of ministry was reduced to thirty-seven words.

The footnote under that quotation reads on the same page, “In this modest sentence John Knox disposes of his English residence of five years, making no reference to his appointment as a Royal Chaplain to Edward the Sixth, before whom he frequently preached at Windsor, Hampton Court, St. James’s and Westminster, nor to the share he took in preparation of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles to the Church of England, nor to his declination first of the Bishopric of Rochester, and afterward of the vicarage of All Hallows in London. His appointment as preacher to Berwick and Newcastle was made by the Privy Council of England.”

As the English Reformer, the papers referenced above reveal the true character of Knox as exhibiting “a combination of tenderness with strength, of playful humor with the profoundest seriousness, of all genial sympathies with fervor of devotional and burning zeal for truth.”  (p. 443)  Knox is shown as a guide of souls in trouble, with remarkable wisdom and moderation. To be sure, John Knox did not compromise his divine calling as a pastor in the Church of England. He stood fast by his conviction that Scripture alone must command his actions as a servant of God.

Suffice to say, while this author rejoices in the Scottish Reformation, with no little gratitude that his ancestors were members of the Church of Scotland on his mother’s side, we must also rejoice in the influence that John Knox had on the English Reformation, where, preaching from the Word of God, he proclaimed the unsearchable riches of God’s grace, while defending the historic Christian faith from those who would seek to destroy it.

Then too, in cooperation with those Reformed members of the Church of England, Knox was a powerful influence in framing the Book of Common Prayer and the English Articles  of Religion. It was only with the death of Edward the Sixth that Mary Tudor came to the throne with the intention of restoring Romanism to the realm, which in turn forced Knox to flee to the Continent with countless other Protestants.

Words to Live By: And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness, God may perhaps grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” — 2 Timothy 2:24 – 26, ESV.

Tags: , , ,

Any number of our cultured readers might be upset if someone called them a “redneck.” And for good reason as this name speaks of someone in a disparaging way. But when you consider the origin of the word, our readers, especially those from a Scotch-Irish background, might to proud of to have someone speak of them in that way.

In 1643-1644, all over the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, Presbyterian people signed “the Solemn League and Covenant.” We won’t deal with it in its full form by a separate post until September 26 of 2014, but its first section set the tone for the whole. Paraphrased by PCA Ruling Elder Edwin Nisbet Moore, in his book “Our Covenant Heritage,” (and used by permission), this first part solemnly pledges, with uplifted hands before God, that the signers would endeavor “. . . the preservation of the Reformed religions in the Church of Scotland . . . [and] the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland . . . according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed Churches: And shall endeavor to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religions . . . .”

In so all over Scotland in 1643, Presbyterian people signed this covenant. The next year, Presbyterian ministers were sent to Ireland so that the Scottish transplants in Ulster could sign the Solemn League and Covenant also. Scottish people in some 26 towns signed it. On this day, April 4, 1644, one thousand soldiers and people signed it at Carrickfergus Castle, which still exists today approximately 11 miles north of Belfast, Ireland.

So, where does the figure of “redneck” comes from this historic occasion? The people who signed it knew that their act of signing identified them as taking a solid stand on the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. They knew also that their signatures could mean persecution and death for them in the future. A number of them signed their names in their own blood, much like the signers of the National Covenant in 1638. Countless wore red pieces of cloth around their necks, further identifying themselves unashamed of their commitment to the Reformed faith. Red pieces of cloth? They were known as “rednecks” at that time, a slang term for a Scottish Presbyterian.

The next time you are derisively called a “redneck”, don’t get mad, but simply reflect on the long spiritual line which stood the test of time in their adherence to the Word of God as summarized up in the Westminster Standards.

Words to Live By: There would come a day when religious promises signed in blood or displayed by red pieces of cloth meant persecution and death in the British Isles in the 17th century.  We may not be at the stage in our blessed country, but when businesses are shuttered for Biblical convictions by the courts of the land in the early 21st century, then the other may not be far behind. The cultural war for Christian principles and practices is slowly but surely lost in America. How we need to pray for a biblical revival among Christians and churches followed by a spiritual awakening in our land. In a single night, our Lord can turn the world upside down. Pray believing in His sovereign power, and look expectantly for how the Lord may work. Jesus Christ is King over all the nations of this world.

Tags: , , ,

Come Over and Help Us

The first two Presbyterian ministers to come to the middle parts of the American colonies were Francis Doughty and Matthew Hill. The former had immigrated from Massachusetts in 1637 where his Presbyterian and Reformed convictions brought him into difficulty with the Independents in that colony. He, his elder, and some of the Presbyterian adherents found refuge among the Dutch in Long Island, later New York, where they sought to establish another Presbyterian church. It was successfully begun in 1642, but a war with the Indians caused the whole congregation to move to Manhattan for safety.  Francis Doughty became the first Presbyterian pastor to minister in the city of New York. For the next five years, he would minister not only to Presbyterians on that island, but also to tiny groups of Presbyterians in Maryland and Virginia.  It was said that he carried on his Master’s work in spite of difficulties of every kind.

Matthew Hill later continued the work that Doughty began. Born in England, Rev. Hill labored there after college until the Church of England forced him out of the ministry. Moving to the colonies with a Bible,  a concordance, and a few clothes, he began his ministry in Maryland in 1669.  On April 3 of that same year, he wrote a letter to Richard Baxter in England with a plea regarding  the wide and effective door for ministry in the new land.  Listen to some of his words:

“Divine providence hath been pleased to land my foot on a province of Virginia called Maryland. Under (this) government, we have enjoyed a great deal of liberty. We have many of the Reformed religion who have a long while lived as sheep without a shepherd.  We have room for more ministers because we are where the people and the plantations are the thickest. It is judged by some, that two or three itinerant preachers with no dependence on the people for maintenance would be eminently instrumental among them. We cannot but judge it (as a ) duty to come over and help us. Sir, I hope your own inclination will be advocate enough to plead the cause of this poor people and engage you to improve your interest on our behalf with some of our brethren in the work of the Lord.”

Pleading in words similar to the original “Macedonian call,” Matthew Hill evidenced the heart of a true missionary in asking this influential Reformed pastor in England to send all the ministerial help they could use. And speaking from the advantage hindsight, knowing the history that effort, we know that much help did come in the way of both ministers and members to advance the cause of Christ through the Presbyterian faith.

Words to Live By:  Our Lord Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (ESV)  Each of us should be earnest in prayer, but we would particular invite those among our readers who are now retired to take up a special concern, praying that the Lord will literally thrust out laborers into the spiritual fields which are white unto harvest.

Tags: , , ,

A Story in Short Compass

Often it is helpful to have a brief overview, to get the lay of the land and so to gain some orientation of a matter to be further studied. The Rev. George P. Hays provides us with one such overview—a history in short order—of the Westminster Assembly and its work. The following is from Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of their Origin, Progress, Doctrines and Achievements, published in 1892, quoting from pages 49-51 of that work. Details are skimmed over; many features are not explained, but the broad strokes of the story are here:—

westminsterabbey1647

James died in 1625 and left all his British dominions in a state of religious ferment to his unfortunate son, Charles I. Charles inherited the self-sufficiency of the Tudors through his mother, and the blind egotism of the Stuarts through his father, and illustrated in himself the vices of both. He early fell under the influence of William Laud, and finally made Laud the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so Primate of all England.

James I., in his very earliest dealings with the English Parliament, intimated that the duty of Parliament was to register his will, and was told by Parliament that the rights of the people represented therein was quite as sacred as the rights of the king. Charles followed his father’s policy, only pushing it to the extent of undertaking to do without any Parliament whatever. Archbishop Laud was essentially a Roman Catholic, and with this dictatorialness on the part of the king in civil matters, and Laud’s dictatorialness in religious matters, affairs swiftly came to a struggle for life.

The people would not pay taxes which Parliament had not voted. Parliament would not vote supplies for the king until he had redressed their grievances. The king insisted “supplies first and redress afterward.” The lines were soon drawn throughout the kingdom. One Parliament would be dissolved and another elected, until in the struggle the people grew weary of Episcopacy and finally elected the Long Parliament. It originally had in it a majority favorable to Presbyterianism as against Episcopacy. It was the project of that Parliament to call in Westminster an Assembly “for settling the government and liturgy of the Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrines of said Church from false aspersions and interpretations as should be found most agreeable to the Word of God, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home and near agreement with the Church of Scotland and other reformed churches abroad.” This ordinance was entered at full length on the journals of the House of Lords, June 12, 11643.

King Charles, two days before the meeting, prohibited by royal proclamation the Assembly to proceed under the bill. He had already revived the “Book of Sports,” and otherwise outraged the moral sentiments of his people. Under the influence of Laud, he had undertaken to re-establish Episcopacy in Scotland, and on the 23d of July, 1637, the Archbishop of St. Andrews and the Bishop of Edinburgh assembled an audience in St. Giles Church to introduce the new liturgy. When the famous Jennie Geddes started the riot that day, by throwing her stool at the reader, Scotland had already organized its form of church government and was anxious for a common system with England.

The English Parliament had invited the General Assembly of Scotland to send delegates to this Westminster Assembly and so Commissioners arrived from Scotland, at the head of whom was the notable Alexander Henderson. In this Westminster Assembly, sitting in defiance of the king, were thus gathered the chief representatives of the British Presbyterians. Close correspondence was maintained with the Reformed Church on the Continent. While the Long Parliament was in session in their House, this Assembly was in session in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey.

The first meeting of the Westminster Assembly was held Saturday, July 1, 1643; its last numbered meeting was held on the 22d of February, 1649, and is marked “Session 1163.” One hundred and twenty ministers, ten lords and twenty commoners were chosen to membership in it by Parliament. Of those thus elected many declined, but at different times ninety-six of them sat as members. Two months after it first met the commissioners from Scotland, four ministers and two laymen, took their seats, yet without the right to vote. On December 6, 1648, Parliament was purged of its Presbyterian membership, leaving just 140 members and the constitution of England was virtually overthrown by Oliver Cromwell and his army. The Assembly was never officially dissolved. Its power waned with that of Parliament, and so vanished. The last pretense of a meeting of the Assembly took place on March 25, 1652.

Words to Live By:
Creeds and confessions, documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, serve to provide unity among Christians. They are in effect a commentary on the Bible, a succinct statement of what we believe the Bible teaches. As we jointly hold this Confession, affirming it together as a faithful representation of what the Scriptures teach on these matters, so we have unity and we uphold the truths of the Scriptures, insofar as we best understand them.  

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” — (2 Timothy 1:13-14, KJV)

Tags: , , ,

RutherfordsWalkThe young lad of five years old had been playing with some friends around a well when he tragically fell into it. The other children ran to his parents for help. They came, expecting him to be dead, but he was found cold and wet, sitting on a nearby   hill. Puzzled over his escape, they asked him how he climbed out of the deep well. He answered that “a bonny white Man drew me forth and set me down.” No other explanation was ever given as to who or what  this rescuer was, but his deliverance of young Samuel Rutherford preserved for time one of the stalwarts of the Reformed and Presbyterian faith in Scotland and England.

At right: “Rutherford’s Walk.”

Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 in the village of Nesbit, Scotland, to a prosperous farmer and his wife. Because of this background, Samuel was able to receive a good education, one which culminated at the University of Edinburgh, where he attended from 1617 to 1621. His prowess in Latin enabled him to immediately enter the teaching profession there at the University.

But it was as a pastor that he showed the spiritual gifts which would influence many a Covenanting heart to grow spiritually in the things of the Lord. Going to Anwoth in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in 1627, he began to show his caring approach for the spiritual needs of the people. It was said by the members of his congregation that “he was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying.” To do all this, Pastor Rutherford rose up each day at 3 a.m. to engage in prayer and meditation.

His marriage at a young age brought both happiness and sorrow. His wife was often sick, once for thirteen months. She did eventually die, but not before bearing Samuel two children, though both of them followed their mother to death’s dark door.   He would marry again a “delightful” wife, but the personal sorrows continued, with only one of seven children surviving into adulthood. God clearly allowed these personal sorrows so as to make him a comforter of suffering saints.

Rutherford_in_PrisonThese were perilous times in Scotland. Preaching against the errors of Arminianism did not please the Anglican clergy. On July 27, 1636, Rutherford was barred from ministering to his parish upon the threat of rebellion if he continued. Exiled to Aberdeen, Scotland, and sorrowing over not just his loss of family, but also of God’s family, this was a difficult time indeed. But God often allows a hard experience so as to make one of his children a comforter to others in similar circumstances. It was at this time that Rutherford wrote numerous letters to other Christians, letters which helped them bear up through incredibly difficult times. These letters were eventually published by The Banner of Truth Trust. He was to stay in Aberdeen for 18 months.

In 1638, there occurred a reversal in the political situation, during which Presbyterianism was restored in Scotland.  Samuel Rutherford was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to a Professorship at St. Andrews University. He went there with the condition that he be allowed to preach at least once a week. His heart was in the pastorate. Five  years later, he went to London, England to participate as a Commissioner in the Westminster Assembly, where, along with the other four Scottish commissioners, he influenced that august gathering in a great way, even though he could not vote. [the Scottish commissioners were all of non-voting status in the Assembly.]  It was said of his four years there in London, that he was especially well-remembered by all for his work on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Rutherford’s magnum opus was titled Lex Rex. In this work he dealt with the subject of government and so effectively argued for limited government, that it was judged to be a direct attack on the divine right of kings.  When King Charles II read this book, he ordered it to be burned and a charge of high treason to be laid against Samuel Rutherford. Though summoned to appear before the king, Rutherford was at that time confined to bed with illness. He  turned down the summons, saying “I  must answer my first summons; and before your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks come.”  Samuel Rutherford died March 20:1661.

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: